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

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.

Picacho Peak kicked our butts!

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From the Tucson area we moved west, stopping at Casa Grande, AZ.  After arriving there, we did our usual investigation for places with good hiking.  We didn’t find anything in the immediate area, but we discovered that beautiful Picacho Peak, which we had admired from I-10 west of Tucson, is located within a state park about 33 miles from Casa Grande.

Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak as seen on I-10

This striking peak has been a navigational point for ground and air travelers for decades.  It rises 1500 feet from the desert floor and has several hiking trails of various difficulties.  At first, we weren’t sure we would try for the summit, as it was rated “difficult” and we are more into “moderate.”  It is recommended that hikers take gloves to assist with “holding onto the cables”.  Oh, that sounds interesting!

We parked at the Sunset Vista trailhead on the west end of the mountain and decided to check out the first couple of miles.  What a fantastic trek it was!  This trail was an easy walk with beautiful scenery on the south side of the mountain which got us warmed up for an attempt on the summit.  This is now one of Steve’s favorite hikes, with sweeping views of the mountain and 30+ miles of valleys all around.  Gorgeous!

Sunset Trail

Sunset Trail

A quick break to take in the view

A quick break halfway up the mountain to take in the view

After the first 2 miles, the trail became more difficult, and soon we were faced with either climbing steep rock faces using the steel cables, or turning onto the Hunter Trail to descend on the north side of the mountain.  We decided to give the cables a try and guage ourselves (me primarily).  It went OK, and as we continued along the climb got steeper with some narrow ledges actually fenced in to prevent folks from plummeting down several hundred feet.  We trudged on slowly and carefully until we reached the top.

After two and a half hours of tough climbing we were there.  We made it – whew!  We were richly rewarded with a sublime 360-degree view of the Sonoran Desert.  We took a break, soaked in the view and grabbed some lunch to renew our energy.

 Picacho Peak

Pose at the Peak

Picacho Peak summit

Southside view

After lunch we descended 1.5 miles via the strenuous Hunter Trail to its trailhead at a parking lot.  Since we had parked at the other end of the mountain, we needed to walk an additional 2 miles back to our car.  It was a long 7-mile day of walking and climbing, but we were surely glad we did it.

As we soaked our sore muscles in the spa (luckily our RV park had one), we were happy to have accomplished this challenging climb, and we’re looking forward to the next one!