It is a simple-enough hike at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah for even children, from infants to teenagers. The hike goes through two slot canyons, Little Wild Horse being the longer and more dramatic of the two. If you don’t have the four to six hours to complete the full loop, then definitely hike Little Wild Horse.
The canyon starts about a half-mile from the trailhead. It starts as a wide, scenic canyon with high walls littered with rock formations and crevices. As the hike goes on, it meanders along the creek bed, where there can be 2 to 3 feet of standing water, depending on the time of year. But it was never higher than our ankles.
Conveniently, rocks stick out of the first puddle to use as stepping stones to cross, but not the second. You will end up just walking through the water, which wasn’t too bad. For the most part, shoes and socks dry out quickly between water spots. Some of the water cavities can be avoided by straddling the walls alongside.
The pattern that erosion has created in the rock is amazing to watch change along the way. The layers of different colors wave you through to the next awe-inspiring scene around every corner. The light, the rock and the color constantly changes. The hike moves in and out of open space and several spots are only 2 or 3 feet wide. At times the trails become just the rock.
The Dolomites were inspiring. Venice, the third time around, was as hauntingly beautiful as ever. And is there a more perfect blend of history, scenery, sun and good wine than Tuscany?
Yet, the bucket list item that most excites is hiking a portion of the cliff trails of the Cinque Terre, the five medieval fishing villages carved from the jagged bluffs on the Ligurian coast.
Since the villages are available only by sea or by rail, hiking is an expeditious, as well as sublime, way to experience this heavenly slice of rugged coastline in northwestern Italy.
National Geographic anointed the Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Trail, among the world’s best 20 epic trails. Though the UNESCO World Heritage Site was incorporated into a national park in 1999 — some say to gouge visitors with trail fees — the paths have existed for 1,000 years. The persevering residents of the five villages etched them from the incredibly steep hillsides to access their vineyards and olive groves, and to reach neighboring towns.
Like the enterprising Venetians, people here knew how to make the most of seemingly impossible space. It’s all a heady panoply — crashing azure sea, pastel-colored villages and terraced vineyards on impossibly steep hillsides — all visible at once.
Maybe it was guilt over alarming her parents when she inadvertently dialed 911 from the Appalachian Trail, but Caitlin Belcher wishes she could ditch her cell phone for the rest of the 2,180-mile hike.
“It would really be cool to not have it. I just want to be out in the woods, isolated,” said Belcher, 23, who has called home to Fredericksburg, Virginia, twice weekly since her journey began in April and gets constant texts from her parents, who even call her hiking partner’s phone as well.
Hiking the AT, the famous path from Maine to Georgia, once meant cutting off communication with civilization for much of the six months it typically takes to complete the route. Today camping gadgets such as a twig-fueled stove that can charge a smartphone while it heats baked beans, and online tips such as using an empty foil-lined potato chip can to boost Wi-Fi signals, mean there is no need to go off the grid while on the trail.
Over-reliance on wireless devices has led to a dangerous lack of preparedness by hikers, who fail to pack maps and compasses, expecting cell phone apps to do it all, she said.
But the Internet can enhance the experience with apps that identify bird calls, constellations, wildlife tracks and even scat. And up-to-the-minute warnings about problems on the trail such as shutdowns are posted to appalachiantrail.org.
Hundreds of hikers trek the Appalachian Trail every year, but rarely do you find one like Nan Reisinger. “I’m really slow. The only time I pass somebody is when they’re sitting down,” she laughs.
Pace, though, is not getting in the way of her dream to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one trip, all 2,180 miles of it. Nan has hiked the trail before, in pieces. It took her six years. When she finished she found out the oldest woman to hike the whole thing was 71 years old, and that got her thinking. “I thought that might be my only opportunity for a record of any sort,” she says.
If all goes well, she will walk her way into the Appalachian Trail records books as the oldest woman to thru-hike at 74 years old.
Nan found a hiking partner in Carolyn Banjak, and together they are now more than halfway finished with the trail. Since they set out in March, they’ve encountered rain and rattlesnakes, hunger and hail. Still, Nan is determined to overcome any obstacle because this challenge is one she’s always wanted to try.
Visitors from across the country and throughout the world make the journey to Maine to hike the Appalachian Trail, and they have volunteers from just as far afield to thank for the trail’s upkeep.
“If you are hiking, you’d rather not have mud up to your ankles every step you are taking,” stated Ron Dobra, a sort of volunteer district manager for a sixty mile section of the AT. “You’d rather not be falling down in this slop.”
Dobra, who also volunteers to maintain his own three mile section of trail for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, is helping to oversee work being done by a trail crew on the trail towards the summit of Barren Mountain.
“These guys are hardening the trail so that it doesn’t wash away anymore than it has,” he explained. “A lot of people have never done this kind of thing at all, and it is tough work up there.”
The trail crew, which consists of a couple paid seasonal staff and a team of volunteers, will spend three weeks on this section of trail, building steps to keep hikers from having to trudge through mud.
The Maine Appalachian Trail Club helps protect and maintain 267 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The all-volunteer organization helps coordinate several trail building projects each year with the help of nearly 400 volunteers.
You’re standing 7,500 feet up an Austrian mountainside, attempting to imitate an Alpine aria as performed by the love child of Mariah Carey and a demented Siamese cat in heat. The man tasked with taming your tortured yelps into a melodic yodel – not an oxymoron, apparently, when it’s done right – is Christian Eder, founder of the Königsleiten Jodelwanderweg, the first Yodel Hiking Trail in the Alps. You’re probably doing a forehead slap right now, wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Well, that’s possibly because you didn’t read about a yodeling course in the local newspaper, as Eder did, and become besotted with this Alpine tradition. Now, he’s on a mission to bring yodeling to the masses by establishing an eight-station hike that winds downhill from a mountaintop cable-car stop to the village of Königsleiten below.
At each station, wanna-be yodel-meisters can press a button, blasting a song from the speakers. Then it’s your turn to copy it. If you choose to do this on your own you shouldn’t have a difficult time locating the yodeling stations. Each is marked by a massive plastic sculpture, such as a round of cheese with a slide and lederhosen so big, they can fit half a dozen people.
Eder, clad in decidedly smaller leather shorts, explains that yodeling began as a means of coded communication between the mountains and valleys. Of course, that was in the days before mobile phones and texting, if anyone can remember back that far.
Come explore the 502-acre Saddle Mountain, part of the Mitchell River Game Lands, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 222 on Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 11:30AM. The trail forms a loop on Saddle Mountain and also leads to the Horn of Saddle Mountain, providing the first marked hiking trail to this dramatic point on the crest of the Blue Ridge rising 2,000 feet above the Piedmont below. At the summit of Saddle Mountain hikers can view the Mitchell and Fisher River valleys, Sauratown Mountain, Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain.
Hosts: Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Piedmont Land Conservancy, and Blue Ridge Conservancy
To RSVP, call Rebecca at 919-828-4199 ext. 17 or email [email protected]
The National Park Service has announced that Graveyard Fields, located at Milepost 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, has now reopened; equipped with a new comfort station and 40 new parking spaces. Thanks to partners who helped conceive and fund this project, the U.S. Forest Service, Federal Highways Scenic Byways Program, and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
Just a reminder, that only parking in paved spaces is permitted. If the lot is full, please park at an overlook to the north or south and walk back to the Graveyard Fields area. Ticketing for illegal parking in grass and on road shoulders will be enforced.
There’s a small thrill that comes along with walking somewhere out of the ordinary. Stepping near steep drop-offs or moving just above rushing rivers or violent waves creates an adrenaline rush and offers the chance to see the world from a unique viewpoint. Some human-made walkways are extreme, consisting of nothing more than narrow boardwalks hundreds or even thousands of feet above the ground. However, these paths also provide views that just can’t be matched by easier-to-reach places.
These perilous walkways are not ideal for those with vertigo or a fear of heights, but anyone able to overcome the basic human instinct to stay away from precarious places will be rewarded with a combination of excitement and beautiful panoramas.
Here are several extreme walkways that provide an experience and view worth the effort…
Discover one of the best kept secrets in Connecticut—the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. This 825+ mile network has been a hiker’s paradise since CFPA and its volunteers established it in 1929, but unless you own a Connecticut Walk Book, it can be a challenge to find the best places to access the trails.
Not anymore. You can now locate trailheads and find parking through an improved BBHT Interactive Map found at www.ctwoodlands.org/BlueTrailsMap.
Click on the trail lines to learn trail names and length. Select the new “Show Parking” option in the top right corner to see trailhead parking locations. Use the Zoom and Street View (person icon) tools on the left to see more area details. Click on specific parking locations (P icons) to view more details like the number of parking spaces, and link to driving directions.
Created by the nonprofit Connecticut Forest & Park Association, the interactive map is a free public service to make it easier for people to get outdoors and enjoy nature. As stewards of the BBHT System, CFPA and hundreds of the organization’s volunteers work tirelessly to add signage, paint blazes, clear and repair walking paths, and sometimes reroute the BBHTs.
Spotting black bears in Cades Cove. Hiking atop some of the tallest mountains in the eastern USA. Viewing cascading waterfalls and vast vistas overlooking the southern Appalachian Mountains. It’s easy to see why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the nation’s most visited, with more than 9.3 million people last year.
But the Smokies are so much more. The park is one of the top three in the National Park Service system for research. The park has about 170 active research permits. “We are charged with making the best management decisions on behalf of the American people to protect and conserve all the natural resources of this park,” says Paul Super, research coordinator.
The Smokies are home to 20,000 different species, and park officials have 500,000 records on where they are located. That is a valuable baseline, not only for park officials, but also for researchers studying climate changes, Super says.
Jim Renfro is an air resources specialist for the park. He has worked in the Smokies since 1984, back when on the haziest summer days, visibility was so poor, the mountains couldn’t even be seen. “People come here to view the scenery, and we want to improve that,” he says. Now, on average, visibility on the haziest days is 50 miles, up from just 8 miles in the 1990s.
Two years after the town held a formal dedication of the Cutler-Spalding Conservation Area, a new parking lot and trail head opened to the public last month at Skyview Estates to give hikers easier access to hundreds of acres of Pelham, Massachussetts conservation land.
John Gargasz, who owns the hilltop development at the end of Spaulding Hill Road amidst 600 acres of conservation land, is helping the town spread the word about the official opening of both the Cutler-Spalding Conservation Area trail-head parking area and the newly created Seavey Hill Trail.
Both trails off-shoot from the development’s property, including 40 acres of conservation land that Skyview has dedicated for use by the town and public, Gargasz said. From Skyview Estates you have a view of the Prudential Center in Boston to the south and the Monadnock region to the southwest.
On the opposite, western side of Aspen Drive lies the start of the recently created Seavey Hill Trail. “The trail goes behind a number of our houses and people can enjoy hiking, snow-shoeing or whatever it may be,” Gargasz said. “This particular section of (the Seavey Hill) trail is a half-mile, and connects to the town’s trails that you can hike all day long.”
Join Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy for a summer celestial show atop CMLC-conserved Bearwallow Mountain near Gerton, NC on Saturday, July 12th, 2014. Hike to the summit in time to first watch the full moon-rise followed by sunset 30 minutes later.
At 4,232 ft. above sea level, Bearwallow Mountain stands as the highest peak in the widely-visible Bearwallow Highlands range. Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide, it makes up part of the Blue Ridge Escarpment as well as the western rim of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Crowned with a grassy meadow at its summit, the mountain features a nearly 360 degree view that encompasses some of the southern Appalachians highest peaks including Mt. Mitchell in the Black Mountains and Mt. Pisgah in the Great Balsams range. Its breathtaking vista also includes a birds-eye view of Hickory Nut Gorge, as well as downtown Hendersonville. A historic fire lookout tower occupies the summit, as do grazing cattle who call the mountaintop home.
CMLC acquired a conservation easement on 81 acres at the summit of Bearwallow in 2009, forever protecting it from mountaintop development. An additional 85 acres were placed into a conservation easement on Bearwallow Mountain’s ridgeline in 2012. CMLC is working toward the total conservation of more than 480 acres at Bearwallow Mountain.
Total hiking distance is 2.0 miles with a total elevation gain of 537 feet. Attendance is free and open to the public. The hike will begin at 7:30 pm. Moonrise will be at 8:52 pm and sunset will be at 8:47 pm. Return to the trail head by 9:30 pm.
Seasons in the Smokies, the second in the Smoky Mountain Explorer Series from Great Smoky Mountains Association, will make its first appearance on the big screen during a premiere showing of the film Thursday, July 17, 2014.
Gary Wilson, GSMA’s award-winning filmmaker, will discuss what it took to make this project during an hour-long exclusive premiere event at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on July 17.
Wilson spent countless hours hiking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s backcountry, filming, editing and writing to produce a film that takes viewers effortlessly through the calendar from a frigid winter high atop Mt. LeConte to a balmy summer day in Cades Cove to the stunning fall landscape seen everywhere in the Smokies each October.
“Gary’s willingness to carry his substantial equipment six or seven miles up a steep mountain trail and climb out of his sleeping bag at 3:30 a.m. to shoot time lapses of sunrise sets his images apart,” said Steve Kemp, GSMA’s interpretive products and services director.
The Thursday, July 17, viewing of Seasons of the Smokies is open to the public free of charge. Following his talk, Wilson will be available to autograph copies of both his Smoky Mountain Explorer films. Funds generated through sales of Seasons of the Smokies support the national park.
On Saturday, July 5, 2014 author Maryann Gaug will visit The Next Page Books & Nosh in Frisco, Colorado to speak about and sign her Falcon Guide, “Best Hikes Near Breckenridge and Vail.” Gaug said the book is an enhancement of her previous book, “Hiking Colorado’s Summit County Area.”
“That book was 17 hikes in Summit County and eight in the surrounding counties,” she said. “Falcon wanted a book that covered more trails, so we added Vail and a few hikes near Glenwood Springs. As one of the ‘Best Hikes Near’ series, all hikes are within an hour’s drive of either Breckenridge or Vail.”
There are 40 hikes in the new book: 18 in Summit County, 18 in Eagle County and four near Glenwood. Gaug said combining the Vail and Breckenridge areas into one book made sense. Adding a few hikes near Glenwood gives people alternatives when Vail and Breckenridge are still covered in snow, Gaug said, and also gives the book more variety.
Gregory Bald, one of the most visited high elevation meadows in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has been temporarily closed due to a high number of bears feeding on wild cherries at the site.
At least a dozen bears have been seen at the bald in recent days. Park officials say the situation has led to several close encounters between hikers and bears, creating an unacceptable safety risk.
The bears are expected to leave when the food source runs out. In the meantime, biologists will be monitoring the area.
Nearby trails to Gregory Bald that are temporarily closed include the Gregory Bald Trail and Wolf Ridge Trail from Parson Bald to Gregory Bald.
Here is a complete list of bear related temporary closings in the Smokies as of July 3, 2014:
Bear Closures – areas that are closed due to bear activity.
• Gregory Bald Trail
• Wolf Ridge Trail between Parson Bald and the junction of Gregory Bald Trail
• Twin Creeks Trail
• Noah Bud Ogle Nature Trail
• Noah Bud Ogle Cabin and Parking area
• Spence Field Shelter
• Backcountry Campsites 13,18, 21, 113
Bear Warnings – areas where bears are active.
• Appalachian Trail from Shuckstack to Doe Knob
• Bull Head Trail
• Rainbow Falls Trail
• Old Sugarlands Trail
• Baskins Creek Trail
• Trillium Gap Trail
• Curry Mountain Trail
• Laurel Falls Trail
• Mollies Ridge Shelter
• Backcountry Campsite 24
“Why in the world would you want to visit the Smokies in March??”
After a few days, the reasons become abundantly clear. The ability to walk a mountain trail and hear only birds, to contemplate a waterfall in solitude, and to drive the winding roads at your own pace without encountering traffic jams—these are priceless experiences. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most heavily visited of all the parks (at right around 9 million annually, as of last count), which means you should be prepared to rub shoulders with your fellow travelers in peak seasons.
Sure, you’re not going to see the colorful spills of laurel and rhododendron or the riotous fall colors, but that just makes you appreciate the shoots and tiny flowers that peep out all the more. Everyone seems to move at a slower pace. And you can stop and talk to a fellow visitor or a ranger and get to know their stories.
The only way to get to this island that lies ten miles off the coast of Maine is by boat. Three ferry lines operate daily in high season, roughly June through August, one line running all year. No cars are allowed. Monhegan Island is approximately one-and-three-quarters-miles long and half-mile wide and features seventeen miles of rugged hiking trails that traverse private lands that meander across meadows, onto natural bogs, through tall spruce and fir woods and out to dramatic headlands on the east side of the island.
Do you enjoy the wind whispering through a forest, or love standing on high, rocky headlands above the open Atlantic? Hiking trails out to Burnt Head and White Head are within easy distance for a day visitor and these cliffs tower 160 feet above the ocean. Birds and wild flowers abound but so do the bugs, so bring bug spray.
Monhegan Associates preserves and protects the wild lands; their trail map is available online and from island shops. Because most of the woodlands are thick and uncut, visitors need the map to follow designated trails. Most of the eighteen trails are marked by small numbers on trees and sometimes on rocks at the beginnings and intersections of trails. Trails passing over ledges and cliffs are often marked only with cairn.
More than 2 million visitors a year hike on the Appalachian Trail, from short hikes on day visits to months-long escapes as they traverse the sometimes rugged expanse from Georgia to Maine. The impact of their recreational experiences on the natural resources along the way is largely unknown.
In 2015, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher will lead a team from Virginia Tech and North Carolina State to create the most comprehensive data set about trail and campsite conditions in the Appalachian National Scenic Trail’s more than 90-year history.
The field survey work will apply a comprehensive set of measurements to assess the conditions and sustainability of the trail tread, shelters and campsites, creating a spatially referenced database to conduct statistical modeling and geographic information system analyses.
Trails in the Northeast — New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine — were largely created by early hikers, not designed by trail professionals, so they tend to go straight up and down slopes rather than weave across the landscape, which is a more sustainable design.
This is a banner year for two Western North Carolina land trusts: Asheville’s Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) celebrates 40 years of land protection, while Hendersonville’s Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) reaches its 20-year milestone.
Fittingly, the two organizations are partnering in 2014 on a project that gives hikers, bikers, birders, and other outdoor enthusiasts their own reason to celebrate. The awe-inspiring beauty of the Hickory Nut Gorge (HNG)—starting at the Eastern Continental Divide about 20 minutes southeast of Asheville and running through the communities of Gerton, Bat Cave, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure—has drawn visitors for centuries.
Now a partnership between CMLC and SAHC will seek a Recreational Trails Program grant to construct three miles of public, sustainable hiking trail along the Eastern Continental Divide. The section will connect Hickory Nut Gap to the summit of Blue Ridge Pastures, a grassy peak with dramatic views.
After this section, the conservancies will collaborate on the final segment to complete a 15-mile loop circumnavigating the upper gorge, connecting lands conserved by both trusts, highlighting Tater and Ferguson Knobs, and linking the gap to CMLC’s Florence Nature Preserve.