I've hiked, skied, and paddled across a lot of Glacier National Park, yet somehow have avoided a visit to likely the park’s top attraction – the Highline Trail. What makes the trail special? Well, it starts at Logan Pass, which already is poplar. It gives a birds-eye view of much of the western half of the park. The first half-mile or so has been chipped into vertical rock – with hose-wrapped chains bolted to the rock to offer help. At the end of the trail is the spectacularly-sited and atmospheric Granite Park Chalet, where you can grab a drink or spend the night. Oh – and unlike most other trails in the park, this one is nearly flat for 7 miles then downhill for 4! Since the trail is popular it’s unlikely you’ll have it to yourself, but crowds do space out and solitude is not impossible to find. I started the hike under sunny skies that soon clouded and then downpoured. With a girl I huddled under a rock outcrop while the most intense showers passed. When the rain stopped fog set in, and I made it to the chalet before another storm began. The chalet was steamy and full of hikers escaping the rain, so soon I left and headed downhill, arrived back at the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and caught a free shuttle back to Logan Pass. Home a few hours later I turned the camera on and looked at the photos. Already it was hard to imagine such beautiful places exist.
Through the southernmost part of Kauai (appropriately nicknamed the Green Island), Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail is a path to enjoy the cliffs off the coast. The walk is a real treat for geologists because of its fascinating history of formations, erosion, and limestone. For those who are lazy and puss up outdoor excursions, you can reach the idyllic beach by car, following Poipu Road all the way to the end (but you will pass a checkpoint with opening and closing times).
That morning we woke up pretty late, and it started raining early (which was common since we had arrived on the Green Island). We went straight to the ABC Store in Kappa Town for to get an American French vanilla coffee, which became a habit rather than a vice. There wasn't a single morning where we were able to pass up these stores to recharge and have this sweet and irresistible dose of caffeine. That morning, we chose the southern route and drove to Poipu, looking for a beach called Shipwrecks. My pre-trip notes indicated that there was a path that would take us to a beach called Mahaulepu. We parked the car near the Brenecke Beach pavilion, because we thought there would be some indication of a path there…but there was nothing. We returned to our car to get back onto Poipu Road (the road that had brought us there) to see if there were any signs with directions, until we finally found one that would lead us to Mahaulepu.
We seemed like we were looking for some kind of hidden treasure because the road was horrible (it had many potholes). Our beloved rental car was not fully insured, so we took our time on this crappy road in order to avoid any damages that we would end up needing to pay for. Finally, after a long drive we found a fence that had some huge signs on it warning: NO TRESPASSING, PRIVATE ROAD. ONLY WITH SPECIAL PERMIT. (Violators will be prosecuted).
We turned back to return to Poipu road and found out just where it ends. There is a detour that appears to take you to a big resort, but it actually leads you to Shipwreck Bay (the locals call it Shipwreck Beach because of a wrecked fishing boat from 1970) which is where the trail begins. It was worth getting lost and experiencing this sublime two-mile journey which took us through sandy soils, dunes, strange zurcando succulents and to a dirt road that was marked red where we discovered the amazing coastline of this beautiful cultural heritage (which was horribly interrupted midway by a misplaced golf course). We arrived at the deserted beach from my notes, carrying our snorkel goggles a bag, with the full intention of watching fish, but the sea was rough, with lots of waves and it seemed too difficult a task to perform. However, we still got the dressed and put on the flippers, put our heads under the water but….ZERO, nothing. It was very windy to lay on the beach, so we headed back to Shipwreck Beach, where we witnessed a beautiful wedding taking place.
There’s a lot of hype about this hike because of the potato chip-looking rock at the end, but it’s really much cooler in photographs than in person. Still, it’s a good hike for aficionados and anyone looking for a moderately strenuous hike. There are two trails leading to potato chip rock: one that’s about a four-mile round trip and one that’s between seven to eight miles round trip. The latter of these is longer but is easier because the incline is not as steep. (I only hiked the long trail but was told it is easier by someone who did both.) It’s probably a good idea to hike early because there’s limited shade throughout the trail and it gets ridiculously hot as the day progresses, which will likely prolong your hike time. Also, by the middle of the day, there tends to be a line for the potato chip rock, so an early hike may save you 30 minutes or so. Plan for four to five hours for this hike. For the longer trail, parking is found in Lake Poway Park for $5. Highly recommend this hike! Just keep an open mind. Even though the rock isn’t as exciting in person, it’s still fun to take photos while on it.
This is smooth, fun, totally empty single track just 30 minutes from downtown Misosula! Lolo National Forest has marked and mapped bike routes north of the historic Ninemile Ranger Station on a combination of little-used single track and mostly quiet dirt roads. Though the routes are not marked on the Lolo's web page, they do appear on a mountain bike booklet the forest has published and which is available in bike shops in Missoula. Park at the Ninemile Ranger Station then head north and west toward Kreis Pond, then west toward Butler Creek, and finally south and east along the main Ninemile Valley road, looking for diamond-shaped bike signs along the way. Plan on a 19-mile loop with a bit more than 2,000 vertical feet of total climbing -- pretty mellow for these parts. The single track is smooth and non-technical, and winds through rarely-seen forests, some of which have been selectively logged. On a hot day you can cool off in Kreis Pond or in swimming holes along the Ninemile road.
Richland Creek Greenway is a footpath that runs around a golf course. It's ideal for running, cycling or simply strolling about. It's lined with many trees and is easy to see squirrels and birds along the way.
Sentinel is indeed the sentinel for Missoula – a stark open peak rising 2,000 feet of the valley floor, a backdrop for most photos of the city and a much-loved open space and recreation area. This is where Missoulians come to mountain bike in the morning, hike in the afternoon, and star-gaze at night. The peak itself is accessible by trails which start from the campus of the University of Montana, at the east end of South Avenue, from the Kim Williams Trail along the Clark Fork, and from two trailheads in Pattee Canyon. Yes – it’s steep. Plan on a heart-pounding hike, but in reality most trails get you to the top in just about an hour. Allow a few minutes on top and bring your camera to catch the afternoon views.
If you only take one hike while in Missoula, this will probably be it – and if you've just moved here, chances are you’ll be on this trail before your bags are unpacked. The “M” Trail climbs a series of switchbacks from the campus of the University of Montana to the M – the white painted concrete insignia of the university. The trail climbs nearly 700 vertical feet and has been the scene of much huffing and puffing, but all the same don’t be surprised at how many people pass you while they are jogging. The “M” itself has a storied local history, and plaques at the base of the trail describe it and also tell you how many calories you can expect to burn. You can continue past the M to climb Mt. Sentinel; note that just above the M is the high-water mark of Lake Missoula, which filled the valley and much of the Inland Northwest during the last ice age.
This short, fun and moderately easy hike is a definite favorite of mine. You don't have to be a serious hiker to complete this trail, it only takes about 45 minutes both ways. The trail winds its way around some small stream beds before reaching a giant ladder which hikers must clamber up to continue the trail. This part of the trek was good fun and made a nice change from normal hikes. The trail comes to an end at a fantastic lookout called The Notch. This provides unspoiled views of the flat plains and grasslands below, it also gives you a side on view of The Wall (separating the low and high areas of badlands). Just make sure to take your camera!!
For many people this is their first taste of Badlands National Park - and it couldn't provide a better taster...This short, extremely easy hike is a perfect alternative to the more strenuous Notch Trail. It provides a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with the area's famous rock formations. The trail starts off on an easy boardwalk and continues down and though the 'Door' revealing the moon-like landscape below. At the end of the hike there is an option to get off the trail and explore the area yourself, something we took advantage of and definitely recommend doing. Look out for chipmunks!
This trail makes up one of three easy/moderate hikes in the area, Notch and Door being the other two. All three are definitely worth hiking although in my opinion, this gives the best and most striking overview of the rock formations in the area. The short trail follows a boardwalk until you reach a natural 'window' in the rocks, where visitors can peer through and be wowed by the spectacular views. Dusk is the perfect time to be hiking in the area, the setting sun really brings the place to life.
To do this fun little hike, start at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, and follow the paved trail through the historic Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, down to the rugged tide pools to see several unique natural features. Thor's well and Spouting Horn are both naturally formed holes in the rocky surface that cause geyser-like spectacles when waves hit in certain ways. Thor's wall is more immense (20 feet deep!), while spouting horn is smaller and spraying fountain-esque. High tide is the best time to see them if you can time it right. Be on guard of huge waves splashing in, though. Low tide is also a fun time to check out the area to see all the tide pool creatures. After you explore the tide pools, and take in the scenery surrounding the area, you can loop back up to the visitor center. The hike is a little under a mile; so it's easy- but allow time to explore the natural formations of this magnificent spot on the Oregon coast.
At only a 1/4 mile long, this super short and easily accessible trail is one for all the family. The level boardwalk takes visitors around a small section of the park which in renowned for its high fossil content. If you look closely at the rock faces you can see shell beds and more. The main attraction though is the fossil replicas and exhibits which gives an insight to what it was like to roam these plains millions of years ago. The replicas are good quality and the information provided is fascinating, definitely worth 30 minutes of your time.
Stretching over 100's of miles, the Badlands Wall is a huge natural barrier that separates the high plains form the low. The result of millions of years of erosion have caused the wall to be sculpted into a series of sharp pinnacles, gullies and ridges. The Saddle Pass Trail follows one of these natural gullies, from the low plain it winds its way up through the steep terrain giving a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with these fantastic rock formations. After about 45 minutes to 1 hour the trail suddenly levels off - you've done it, you've climbed the Badlands Wall. Now turn around and make sure you take in the incredible views of the low plains.
Don't try this hike in wet weather, the path can get extremely muddy and slippery so take care.
The Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway winds across 57 paved miles in Northern MN along the coast of Lake Superior. It begins at this point in Grand Marais and heads north from there.
It's the entrance to the boundary waters at the northern point and is paved all along the way. A great place for biking, hiking and walking in the summers. In the winter the trail is well kept for cross country skiing or snow shoeing enthusiasts.
Break out early in the morning and be the first on the trail for a truly unforgettable experience! Bring your camera along- you never know what you'll find behind the next bend!
When the trail is not busy it's likely that you will see a wild animal or two. A big red fox perhaps?
Lolo Peak stands guard over the Missoula Valley, and motorists on Brooks Street headed south see it fill their windshield when the peak is out. The mountain is accessible year round, but the Mormon Peak Road (a dirt road passable to all motor vehicles), which gives the best access to the mountain, is only open from mid-May to the end of November. From the end of the road, a trail climbs 4 miles to an overlook of the peak; many turn around here but the trail continues on to a reservoir before tackling the peak itself. Plan on 8 miles one-day to the summit, and note that the true summit is not visible until you are on what you think is the high point – but in fact is the slightly lower north summit. The trail is usually snow free by mid-June; up to then it’s a popular back-country ski trip. Wildflowers are best in July.
The Bitterroot Mountains become steadily larger and craggier as you head south from Florence, and they reach near-Alp status by Darby, with Trapper Peak the highest and perhaps craggiest of them all. The 10,157 foot peak is a spectacle when seen from U.S. 93 south of Darby, but despite its fearsome look it’s actually a fairly easy hike. The easiest way to the summit is from the Baker Lake Trailhead, which can be reached by most vehicles once the snow melts. Follow Baker Creek to Baker Lake on a good trail; near the outlet of the lake leave the trail and head left (south) up a steep gully to the ridge, then follow the ridge to the summit. For fit climbers it’s a half-day walk.