Trail Reports

Biltmore Estate Grounds, Gardens and Conservatory – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Mar 14, 2020 @ 6:54 am in Hiking Blog, Inspiration, North Carolina, Photo Essays | 0 comments

Biltmore Estate Grounds, Gardens and Conservatory – A Photo Essay

While a walk around the 250 rooms of Biltmore House will thrill you with art and craftmanship and history and architecture, your visit to Biltmore Estate isn’t done until you get outside and explore the gardens and Conservatory, and the 20 miles of hiking and biking trails available. Because my brother and I were there on gift passes, we weren’t able to visit during peak bloom season, but we still got a hint of what you can expect. On the day we were there, March 9, 2020, there were dozens of species of orchid in the Conservatory...

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What Do You Mean You Haven’t Been to Biltmore Estate Yet?

Posted by on Mar 13, 2020 @ 8:34 am in Hiking Blog, Inspiration, North Carolina, Photo Essays | 0 comments

What Do You Mean You Haven’t Been to Biltmore Estate Yet?

Hard to believe I’ve lived in Western North Carolina for 15 years now, and had never visited the world famous Biltmore Estate. My brother managed to score a couple of gift passes, so we decided it must be about time to go after all these years. Now I might actually spring for the price of admission just to go back some day. Built by George Vanderbilt, heir to the Vanderbilt railroad and shipping fortune, this majestic 250 room French chateau style architecture was completed in 1895. It was a family home for George, his wife Edith, and...

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Snowy Balds at Roan Highlands – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Mar 4, 2020 @ 8:50 am in Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Roan Highlands, Tennessee, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Snowy Balds at Roan Highlands – A Photo Essay

There was a snowstorm over Roan Mountain the last Friday in February, 2020. Seeing Roan Highlands covered in a blanket of snow is always a highlight of WNC winter. So on Sunday, March 1st I set out for this glorious destination high above the little town of Bakersville. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to do in winter. This makes three in a row now. As usual I was not disappointed. To be honest, it couldn’t have worked out better. The road crews had done a fabulous job of clearing all the back country mountain roads...

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Jones Gap Trail to Jones Gap Falls, Jones Gap State Park

Posted by on Feb 20, 2020 @ 9:55 am in Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountain Bridge Wilderness, Rated Easy Hikes, South Carolina, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Jones Gap Trail to Jones Gap Falls, Jones Gap State Park

Jones Gap State Park sits on the Blue Ridge Escarpment in upstate South Carolina very near the state line with its neighbor to the north. Along with Caesars Head State Park, these two share an area known as Mountain Bridge Wilderness. The Jones Gap Trail follows the Middle Saluda River from the park visitor center along an old roadway built by Solomon Jones in the 1850s. In this cove backcountry the river is quite wild with many waterfalls and rapids that add exciting sights and sounds to a pristine mountain woodland. A couple miles up from...

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Hiking Above the Clouds at World’s Edge – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Feb 10, 2020 @ 10:37 am in Chimney Rock State Park, Hickory Nut Gorge, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Hiking Above the Clouds at World’s Edge – A Photo Essay

August 2005 saw the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (now Conserving Carolina) and The Nature Conservancy purchase a 1,568-acre tract of land south of Lake Lure known as “World’s Edge” for $16 million with the intention of transferring the land as the first to be added to the new Chimney Rock State Park. World’s Edge contains a mile-long set of steep slopes on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, with more than 20,000 feet of streams and waterfalls. From an overlook point, the land falls away to the southeast...

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Rocky Ridge and Stone Mountain Trails, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Feb 4, 2020 @ 9:06 am in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Rocky Ridge and Stone Mountain Trails, DuPont State Forest

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of DuPont State Forest in Western North Carolina, Stone Mountain is the highest point in the state forest at 3,620 feet. Appropriately named for the exposed granite slab that traverses its summit, Stone Mountain offers a near 270° view of the surrounding terrain to winter hikers. Since the first time I went, nearly 12 years ago, the pines are taking over the summit, so views are harder to come by. Especially in summer, the leaf cover makes it even more difficult. This hike occurred on Monday,...

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Tarklin Branch Trail to Wintergreen Falls and Thomas Cemetery Trail, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Jan 24, 2020 @ 4:28 pm in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Tarklin Branch Trail to Wintergreen Falls and Thomas Cemetery Trail, DuPont State Forest

Located in the Guion Farm region of DuPont State Forest, this hike will take you to one of the lesser known, but equally memorable, of the exciting DuPont waterfalls. You are surrounded by majestic pine forest nearly throughout, with a walk along Grassy Creek for good measure. Most of the way is excellent double track surface, but that means you should listen for the sound of mountain bikes coming up behind you. Keep your eyes on the map and the markers as you will change trails several times to finish this easy loop. My brother and I hiked...

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An October in Western North Carolina – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Nov 2, 2019 @ 12:23 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Forest Hikes, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 0 comments

An October in Western North Carolina – A Photo Essay

Throughout the month of October, I traveled and hiked the high country of Western North Carolina seeking the seasonal change and corresponding forest color. One of the great things about the mountains is how you can follow the change as it lowers in elevation, starting with the highest peaks and ending in the lowest river valleys. My brother has been in the process of moving from Colorado to WNC this fall, so we’ve been revisiting some of our favorite trails and overlooks in between searching for a house for him. The first week of...

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That Day Tropical Storm Barry Came to Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jul 15, 2019 @ 11:07 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 0 comments

That Day Tropical Storm Barry Came to Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Cloudy and very windy. That’s what greeted me the morning of July 14, 2019 as I first stepped from my car at Pounding Mill Overlook (milepost 413). Those who know me also know that I’ve been picking up trash and otherwise maintaining this overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway for each of the last 10 years. As I walked around to survey the accumulated trash since my last visit, it was everything I could do to stand. Seriously! If you’ve been to Pounding Mill you know it is exposed to the elements on a near horseshoe curve that...

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Overnighting in the High Country on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jun 15, 2019 @ 12:32 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 0 comments

Overnighting in the High Country on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

There’s not much more beautiful than the high country along the Blue Ridge Parkway in June. The days are long. The forest has completed its greening and the heath bushes are in bloom. If you catch the sights in the evening or very early morning you can even avoid the crowds. I’ve been on the shelf for a few weeks with an ankle injury while hiking, and was really suffering fear of missing out anguish. I can’t do much walking, so I came up with a plan that would enable me to combine my volunteer work on the Parkway with a...

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Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on May 18, 2019 @ 1:08 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Linville Gorge Wilderness, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Located at milepost 316.5 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls moves in several distinct steps, beginning in a twin set of upper falls, passing through a small twisty gorge, and culminating in a high-volume 45-foot plunge. The Linville River flows from its headwaters high on the steep slopes of Grandfather Mountain and cascades through these falls as it begins a nearly 2,000 foot descent through this rugged and spectacularly beautiful gorge. Linville Falls has the highest volume of any waterfall on the northern edge of the Blue Ridge...

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Schoolhouse Gap and Chestnut Top Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on May 1, 2019 @ 11:00 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee | 0 comments

Schoolhouse Gap and Chestnut Top Trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sure, there are lots and lots of wildflowers in April at Whiteoak Sink and on the hillside at the Townsend Y to make this hike seriously entertaining. But there is a lot more to the Schoolhouse Gap/Chestnut Top combination hike than abundant spring flowers. The views into Townsend from the Chestnut Top ridge are notable, and the forest that surrounds you throughout is enchanting. Since this would be a very lengthy hike as an out and back, my brother and I did it as a shuttle hike, parking a car at each end. We hiked the Schoolhouse Gap and...

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Meigs Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Apr 27, 2019 @ 6:14 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee | 0 comments

Meigs Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

With the perpetual crowd at The Sinks location in the Smokies, it was surprising to me that hardly anyone hikes this trail that starts at the popular waterfall along Little River Road. Another surprise was the abundance of spring ephemeral wildflowers found along the trail. I counted more than a dozen varieties, and plenty of each. Once you reach Meigs Creek, it’s time to change to your water shoes as you will be crossing the creek frequently. My brother and I hiked Meigs Creek Trail to the first crossing on Tuesday, April 17, 2019...

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December Walking on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Dec 20, 2018 @ 2:53 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest | 0 comments

December Walking on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

The Blue Ridge Parkway frequently closes for snow and ice in late Fall and Winter. While it’s disappointing you can’t traverse the roadway by vehicle, the fun news is that you can still access your favorite overlooks on foot, without any traffic. It is so peaceful. Most access roads to the Parkway are maintained during snow season, so you can get to the Parkway, you just can’t drive on it. I chose Scenic Hwy 276 from Brevard for my trip to the Parkway on December 18, 2018, just a few days before the Winter Solstice. I parked...

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Halloween at Max Patch – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Nov 4, 2018 @ 9:38 am in Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Halloween at Max Patch – A Photo Essay

Few places in the Southern Appalachians are more scenic than Max Patch along the Appalachian Trail on the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee. Even more so when the magic of Fall coloring surrounds the mountaintop. You can see my complete trail report for Max Patch and Buckeye Ridge, and learn about an unexpected adventure I had a few years ago on my first visit. This time, rather than going straight up to the top, I took the path that goes around the mountain, then ascends the Summit Trail from the west side. It takes a little...

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The Year That Fall Never Arrived – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Oct 13, 2018 @ 11:15 am in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays | 0 comments

The Year That Fall Never Arrived – A Photo Essay

Like a child anticipating Christmas, this year has had us waiting… waiting… waiting for the leaf peeping season to begin. Combine a very wet summer with a September where the warmth never ended, and it’s like the year that fall never arrived. This day, October 12, 2018, was the first day all autumn where the overnight temperature dropped into the forties. Unheard of. The trees don’t know how to react. The hummingbirds and butterflies don’t know whether to migrate. The tourists who regularly come to cruise the...

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Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 @ 4:37 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Cosby section of the Smokies park is mostly known for its long, arduous treks to high country destinations like Mt. Cammerer and Inadu Knob. But there is another trail there that is more moderate in difficulty. A good day hike on Gabes Mountain Trail is the 4-mile round trip to Hen Wallow Falls, a 90-foot, multi-tiered cascade. This is cool, dense forest, some of it old growth, that is nourished by creeks reaching like fingers down the slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains. I hiked the Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls on Monday,...

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A Day with the Azaleas at Andrews Bald – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Aug 6, 2018 @ 7:12 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays | 0 comments

A Day with the Azaleas at Andrews Bald – A Photo Essay

Andrews Bald is the highest bald in the Smokies, standing just under 6,000 feet. Every year in the month of June, the flame azalea and rhododendron show arrives for all those willing to hike a couple miles to see. You start at Clingmans Dome and take the Forney Ridge Trail to reach Andrews Bald. Here is a complete trail report that describes the hike. In addition to the heath flowerings at Andrews and an abundance of blackberries and raspberries later in the season, Andrews Bald is also known for one of the mysterious disappearances within...

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Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag, Ozark National Forest

Posted by on Aug 2, 2018 @ 10:53 am in Arkansas, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Ozark National Forest, Rated Easy Hikes | 0 comments

Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag, Ozark National Forest

The hike on Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag is one of the most popular in Arkansas. Aside from the remarkable views of the Buffalo River Gorge, it’s a nice, easy four-season hike that offers wildflowers in spring and summer, and the bright crimson and gold leaves of fall. It takes a little work to get to due to the very remote nature of the location, but once found it is likely to draw you back again and again. I hiked the Whitaker Point Trail on Friday, June 8, 2018 beginning at 8:00AM and finishing about 10:00AM. My plan was to...

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Gore Creek Trail, White River National Forest

Posted by on Jul 29, 2018 @ 11:04 am in Colorado, Eagles Nest Wilderness, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, White River National Forest | 0 comments

Gore Creek Trail, White River National Forest

This trail climbs from East Vail into Eagles Nest Wilderness alongside Gore Creek. There are some short steep sections that wind through meadows and aspen groves which change to spruce-fir stands as the elevation increases. Also look for a wide variety of wildflowers in season. Particularly during spring runoff, Gore Creek rages down the drainage with its series of fast moving cascades. A short hike along the creek can provide pleasant picnic spots or great fishing opportunities. My brother Dave and I hiked the lower Gore Creek Trail on...

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Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park

Posted by on Jul 24, 2018 @ 11:17 am in Capitol Reef National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, Utah, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Cassidy Arch Trail, Capitol Reef National Park

Named for Butch Cassidy, the late-19th century western outlaw who hung out in these parts, Cassidy Arch stands on a precipice overlooking the Grand Wash in Capitol Reef. Cassidy Arch Trail climbs 670 feet from the wash to a slickrock bench high above the canyon. Iconic landmarks like Capitol Dome are visible along the trail that hangs on the canyon ledge. Better wear your sturdiest boots for this hike. The terrain is rocky and rugged and just waiting for you to take a misstep. My brother Dave and I hiked the Cassidy Arch Trail on Monday, June...

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Being a Tourist at Bryce Canyon National Park – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jul 22, 2018 @ 5:10 pm in Bryce Canyon National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Photo Essays, Utah | 0 comments

Being a Tourist at Bryce Canyon National Park – A Photo Essay

The mornings were spent hiking at Bryce Canyon, but the afternoons and evenings we played tourist just like thousands of others. We rode the shuttle. We checked out all the overlooks. We oohed and aahed. We took lots of pictures. The first three miles inside the park is where you will find Bryce Amphitheater. The most iconic — but also most popular — views are found along the canyon rim here. Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunrise and Sunset Points all have breathtaking viewing of the hoodoos that populate the amphitheater. We...

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Swamp Canyon Trail, Bryce Canyon Wilderness

Posted by on Jul 20, 2018 @ 12:00 pm in Bryce Canyon National Park, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Utah | 0 comments

Swamp Canyon Trail, Bryce Canyon Wilderness

You can’t really tell from the overlook, but there’s a lot to like down in Swamp Canyon. For one, this is part of Bryce Canyon Wilderness, so it is definitely less crowded than the majority of the national park. There are great views of Wightman Bench and Swamp Canyon Butte from down in the canyon. Wildflowers and wildlife are abundant during the green seasons. For a quiet adventure off the beaten path, give Swamp Canyon a try. My brother Dave and I hiked the Swamp Canyon Trail on Sunday, June 3, 2018 beginning at 1:00PM and...

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Bristlecone Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Posted by on Jul 18, 2018 @ 6:38 am in Bryce Canyon National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Easy Hikes, Utah, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Bristlecone Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Bristlecone Loop, accessible from Rainbow Point at the southern-most end of Bryce Canyon National Park, meanders through a spruce-fir forest atop the highest portion of the park, reaching elevations over 9,100 feet. This short and easy stroll passes by bristlecone pines up to 1,800-years-old and experiences vistas reaching into Dixie National Forest and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. While still popular, this far end of the park is not nearly as crowded as the primary amphitheater area, but no less beautiful. My brother Dave and...

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Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Posted by on Jul 15, 2018 @ 11:35 am in Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyon Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, Utah, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Golden hour is special for any place with picturesque scenic beauty, especially if you also happen to like photography. There aren’t many places more stunning during the golden hour — that time right after sunrise and right before sunset — than Bryce Canyon. There are even viewpoints named for these wonderful times… Sunrise Point and Sunset Point. So how about a trail that goes from one to the other while also diving down amidst the wondrous hoodoos and pine forest that give Bryce Canyon its majesty and character? That...

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Mossy Cave Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Posted by on Jul 13, 2018 @ 9:55 am in Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyon Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Easy Hikes, Utah | 0 comments

Mossy Cave Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Arriving at Bryce Canyon mid-afternoon, Dave and I headed for the short Mossy Cave Trail to get our feet wet among the majestic hoodoos. This trail actually begins outside the park at the far northern reaches, then enters the park boundary on foot. The trail is a streamside walk up to a mossy overhang and small waterfall. Mossy Cave isn’t a cavern, but is a grotto, created by an underground spring. We hiked to Mossy Cave on Saturday, June 2, 2018 beginning at 3:00PM and finishing about 4:00PM. Our plan was to explore this northern...

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Snowy Range Scenic Byway, Medicine Bow National Forest – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jul 8, 2018 @ 11:38 am in Hiking, Hiking Blog, Medicine Bow National Forest, Photo Essays, Wyoming | 0 comments

Snowy Range Scenic Byway, Medicine Bow National Forest – A Photo Essay

The Snowy Range Scenic Byway crosses the Medicine Bow Mountain Range and includes nearly 30 miles of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest portion of Wyoming Highway 130. It passes between the towns of Centennial and Saratoga, but it’s what is in between that is spectacular. Originally a wagon road built in the 1870s, the road was paved in the 1930s and designated as the nation’s second Scenic Byway in 1988. Snow usually closes the highest section of the road early to mid-November and snowplows traditionally open the road in May right...

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Devils Tower National Monument – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Jul 6, 2018 @ 11:41 am in Black Hills National Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Inspiration, Photo Essays, Wyoming | 0 comments

Devils Tower National Monument – A Photo Essay

Devils Tower, an important landmark for Plains Indians tribes long before the white man reached Wyoming, was called Mateo Tepee or Grizzly Bear Lodge by the Sioux. A number of legends describe the origin of Devils Tower. “One legend tells of seven little girls being chased onto a low rock to escape attacking bears. Their prayers for help were heeded as the rock carried them upward to safety. The claws of the leaping bears left furrowed columns in the sides of the ascending tower. Ultimately, the rock grew so high that the girls reached...

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Castle Trail and Medicine Root Loop, Badlands National Park

Posted by on Jul 4, 2018 @ 11:50 am in Badlands National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Easy Hikes, South Dakota, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Castle Trail and Medicine Root Loop, Badlands National Park

The Castle Trail is the longest in Badlands National Park, but can be broken up with three distinct trailheads. Medicine Root connects with Castle Trail at Saddle Pass and Old Northeast Road creating a loop of about five miles. The terrain is mixed grass prairie and arroyo, with views of the Badlands pinnacles throughout. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. It is abundant. Hope for a dry day when hiking in the Badlands. Mud is quick to form and very goopy. My brother Dave and I hiked this loop on Monday, May 28, 2018 beginning at 8:30AM and...

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Hell Canyon Trail, Black Hills National Forest

Posted by on Jul 1, 2018 @ 11:56 am in Black Hills National Forest, Canyon Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Moderate Hikes, South Dakota, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Hell Canyon Trail, Black Hills National Forest

I think of the Hell Canyon Trail in Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota as two hikes. There’s the stroll through the canyon with lush trees and bushes and a wide assortment of colorful wildflowers. Then, there’s the path along the canyon rim that exposes the devastation of the 2000 Jasper Fire, the largest in Black Hills history. The undergrowth is recovering nicely from the wildfire, but the trees may be gone for a century or more. One can only imagine the beauty that must have once existed here. My brother Dave and I hiked...

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Cathedral Spires to Black Elk Peak, Black Elk Wilderness

Posted by on Jun 27, 2018 @ 11:03 am in Black Hills National Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, South Dakota, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Cathedral Spires to Black Elk Peak, Black Elk Wilderness

This is the hard way to get to the summit of 7,242′ Black Elk Peak, the highest in South Dakota. But, it affords you the opportunity to hike through the incredible Cathedral Spires, massive granite pinnacles that dominate the landscape in the Black Hills National Forest. Between the spires and the summit you pass through the rugged Black Elk Wilderness, named for an Oglala Sioux holy man. Craggy peaks and rocky slopes mixed with ponderosa pine, spruce and fir trees make for a varied ecosystem. My brother Dave and I hiked this demanding...

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