Our Top 10 Favorite Hikes – 1st Anniversary Post

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A year ago today (March 1st, 2012), Steve and I made the final move into our RV and began our adventures on the road.  Wow, how time flies!  One of our goals is to continue to be active and exericse whenever we can.  As you might guess, in this lifestyle it can be easy to just sit, blog, eat, blog, read, blog and fail to get our blood flowing and pumping.  To commemorate our first year of full timing, we thought it would be fun to share our favorite hiking and biking trails.  Who knows, you might find yourself in the neighborhood of one of these locales and decide give it a try.

This review covers the states we’ve visited during the past year (CA, AK, WA, OR, NV, AZ, NM, TX, LA), and includes 40 hikes and 19 bike rides.  Of course, we did a lot of additional walking, but we consider these hikes to be more like mini-adventures.  Each hike had a unique characteristic that we enjoyed, but after debating all of them we agreed that the ones below are our favorites so far.  We chose them based on enjoyment of the scenery, level of effort and the reward we received on each heart pumping journey. Click on the red links for more details about each place.

Drum roll please….here it goes:

10. Cliffs/Mesa/Slot Trails – China Ranch,  Tecopa, CA  : We ended up hiking 7 miles of  overlapping trails because, well, ok – we got lost 🙂   But it turned out to be a pleasant surprise and we enjoyed the diversity of the landscape, from rock formations to colorful mountains and we also learned of the area’s historical railroad and mining significance.  As a bonus, we found a waterfall in the middle of the desert!

China Ranch

9. Lizard Peak Trail – Lake Havasu, AZ : A strenuous 4 mile hike with climbing, long steep slopes (600 ft. elevation change) to the top, ending with a beautiful 360-degree view of Lake Havasu and the surrounding area.

Lizard Peek Trail

8. Eagle Creek Trail – Columbia River Gorge, OR : A moderate 4.2 mile trek along the Columbia River, recognized as one of Oregon’s most spectacular paths.  We traced the line of Eagle Creek through the forest and along paths carved into basalt cliffs.  On this hike we saw two waterfalls along the way, Metlako Falls and Punch Bowl.

Eagle Creek Trail

7. Lower Trailhead on Mt Whitney – Lone Pine, CA : A 4 mile climb that begins at the west end of Lone Pine Campground, starting at elevation 5,640′ and ending at over 7000′.  Beautiful views of Mt Whitney, Alabama Hills and Owens Valley along the way.

Mount Whitney

6. Romero Pools – Catalina State Park, AZ : A 5.6 mile hike beginning on the flat desert floor, this one winds steeply up into the mountains amid rock formations.  It then drops down into an idyllic area of trees, pools and waterfalls at the bottom of a canyon where we took a break and enjoyed a quick lunch near the flowing water.

Romero Pools

5. Echo Canyon Loop – Chiricahua Mountains, AZ  : A 3.3 mile loop that follows a rocky ridge past many huge eroded boulders and balanced rocks and hoodos. This place rocks!

Chiricahua Mountains

4. Alpine Trail – Denali National Park, AK : A short (just over 1 mile) but strenuous hike that rises more than 1,000 to the top of Thorofare Ridge.  The path was dotted with beautiful wildflowers and the reward was a spectacular vista of mountain ranges, although Mt Mckinley was hidden by the clouds that day.

Alpine Trail, Denali National Park

Denali National Park

3. Picacho Peak – Picacho, AZ : The first time we hiked here was the most difficult we have done, for it involved very steep sections with steel cables to assist.  We began with the Sunset View Trail to the summit, then climbed back down via Hunters Trail.  This became a 7 mile hike due to the additional 2 mile walk back to our car which was parked at the Sunset View trailhead.  We loved this one so much that we came back again to try out the remaining trails!

Then a few more...

Just a few more cables to go…

2. Mt. Healy Overlook – Denali National Park, AK : A strenuous 5-mile round trip hike starts at the visitors center and rises 1,700 feet to the summit of Mount Healy, a small ridge that offers sweeping views of the surrounding area.  During our descent we were excited to come across a moose grazing near the path, our closest encounter with a moose.

Mt Healy overlook

Mt Healy overlook


Moose Sightings

And finally, our top favorite…

1. Portage Pass Trail – Whittier, AK : We began the hike from the town of Whittier, near the tunnel that allows vehicle and train access to the port.  The trail climbs steadily and fairly steeply along the flank of the mountain.  Up, up you go for just over a mile, finishing at an elevation of 750′ that offers views of Portage Glacier, Passage Canal to the east, and the surrounding mountains.  Spectacular!

Passage Canal, Whittier, AK

View of Passage Canal near Whittier, Alaska

Portage Glacier

Admiring Portage Glacier

How about you – do you have a favorite hike to share?  We’re not talking about summiting McKinley or Everest here, just an enjoyable moderate trek.  We’d like to hear your suggestions and try to take it on when we’re in the area.

Next: Our Top 7 biking trails.

Waterfalls Heaven – Columbia River Gorge Part 1

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Steve is smiling for he can now check one off from his bucket list, the Columbia River Gorge.  The Columbia River Gorge is an impressive river canyon carved by the Columbia river as it flows into the Pacific Ocean. It stretches over 80 miles and is shared by the states of Washington and Oregon.  Mt Adams to the north and Mt Hood to the south flank the gorge and the mighty Columbia River runs through its middle.  The bridges that connects the states are:  The Dalles to the east, the Hood River in the middle and the Bridge of the Gods to the west.  The Gorge is recognized as a destination for exploring the natural beauty and cultural richness of the Pacific Northwest.  Geologists must love this place with all its cliffs, rock formations and rugged terrain.

Columbia Gorge

The only wildlife seen on the highway on our way to the Gorge.

We spent a whole week exploring and enjoying the gorgeousness while staying at White Salmon on the WA side as our base camp.  During our stay, we weaved in and out of Washington and Oregon through their $1.00 toll bridges and drove from east to west by taking highway 14 on the Washington shore and 84 on the Oregon side.  We had an action-packed week and we loved it despite some hazy and smoky days.

What did we learn and enjoy? Plenty ! and so we will have more than one post  to talk about the gorgeous gorge.

Lets start with the waterfalls.  Oregon has 77 waterfalls and the Gorge contains the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America.  These spectacular waterfalls are all within approximately a 15-mile stretch!  Traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway 30 on the Oregon side of the Gorge, we were able to view five different waterfalls cascading over the walls of the Gorge.

Our trek began at the Latourell Falls which is usually the first waterfall seen along the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway if coming from the west.  The falls plunge 224 feet over a massive wall of columnar basalt – some of the best formations in the Pacific Northwest – before cascading hastily towards the Columbia River.

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

What was distinctive to this fall is the large patch of bright yellow lichen adorning the cliff face to the right of the falls, and maybe because of this we saw several photographers in the area.

Close up of yellow lichen , Latourell Falls

Close up of yellow lichen

Close up of Columnar Basalt,Latourell Falls

Close up of Columnar Basalt

Next stop was the Shepperds’ Dell Falls.  Though looking straight down from the bridge will allow one to see the two final drops, only the 45 foot tier and a pair of the small cascades above it are clearly visible.

 Sheppards Dell Falls

Sheppards Dell Falls

3.5 miles later we park our car and hiked for about 2.2 miles roundtrip to get to the base of the Bridal Veil falls, considered as the most pristine among the waterfalls in the area. This two tiered falls are the only in the area which occurs below the historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway – the base of the falls standing probably no more than 20 vertical feet above the Columbia River.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Continuing on the drive the next stop was Wahkeena falls.  At 242 feet, it can be seen from the Wahkeena picnic area across the Historic Highway and is the most scenic waterfall along the historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway.  It is unique among the major waterfalls in this section of the Gorge in that it possesses a significant alluvial fan in both size and elevation.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls

Then about half a mile later  is where  the most visited natural attraction in Oregon is located, the Multnomah Falls.  It is the highest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge with a total drop of 620 feet.  We did a 2.5 mile hike up to the top of the falls with 11 switchbacks and a 650 foot elevation gain.  Although the top was not as spectacular as we expected, the hike was a good workout.

Multnomah Waterfalls

Multnomah Waterfalls

Multnomah Falls

Top of Multnomah Falls, spot the tourists looking up, can you see them?

Our final viewing of waterfalls along the historic highway was the Horsetail Falls.  This one is considered  pretty much the epitome of the Horsetail form with views from 180 degrees around the falls.

HorseTail Falls

HorseTail Falls

The above beauties were all accessible from the highway, two other waterfalls that we located and viewed required quite a hike.  Both Metlako Falls and Punchbowl are located along the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area.  Metlako Falls drop out of a narrow, calm pool, and thunder into an impressive gorge.

Metlako Falls

Metlako Falls

The Punch Bowl falls occur where Eagle Creek cuts through a narrow channel flanked by cliffs, and shoots powerfully into a large bowl.  The falls’ name is a very descriptive one, as it’s easy to see it’s resemblance to an actual bowl you’d pour punch into.

Punchbowl Falls

Punchbowl Falls

And we viewed what we can in one long day, but did we see them all ? Nope, we missed two along the historic highway Oneonta and Elowah Falls (not sure why we overlooked them). Are they not all beautiful?