Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Hiking Hall of Fame: Fifteen Unique, Charming Hikes To Love!

#1 most asked question about our RV travels: "What's the coolest hike you've done?"
(Runner-Up:  "Who dumps the sewer?")


That's a complicated question, because there is obviously no shortage of ahhhh-mazing hikes throughout the country, and great apps like AllTrails makes it easier than ever to find them.  But because everyone loves a good hike, and everyone loves a good list, here is a good list of good hikes, in no particular order, that have really stuck in our minds over the years!


Our most memorable hikes have these in common: 

(1)  not too hard ... but also not too easy! ... that elusive "sweet spot" where you're sweaty and tired, but not completely destroyed; 
(2) (mostly) dog friendly!  Because we hate leaving Sprinkles behind ... although some of these hikes are just TOO cool to skip, even though dogs can't go; and 
(3) unique experiences, and some of them perhaps unknown to you ... until now!

Tahhhhhhhhhhh .... dummmmmmm .... presenting a dozen charming hikes to love!

1. Utah:  San Rafael Swell

Little Wild Horse Canyon

Located on BLM land, Little Wild Horse is a strange and playful sandstone canyon. This is a wonderful slot canyon that was So! Much! Fun! to go over, under, around and through.  It can be hiked out-and-back for 2-3 miles to get the best of the narrows, or combined with Bell Canyon for an 8-mile total loop. It’s just wildernessy enough to make you feel super adventurous like the cool kids, but nothing too technical that the average (semi-in-shape) Joe can’t handle.   A little hiking, a little scrambling, a little sucking in your gut and squeezing, a whole buncha photo taking, and bragging rights for doing one of the best slot canyons in Utah … what more could you want? 

Round-trip length: 8 mile loop, or do out-and-back of any length

Pet-friendly?  Mostly.  Dogs are allowed, but between very narrow areas and a few 8-foot tall natural dry falls that you’re gonna have to be able to hoist Fido up, it’s best if your dog is on the smaller side. 

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/little-wild-horse-bell-canyon-trail

Also Cool In The Area:  Goblin Valley State Park

Nearby RV Camping At:  Great boondocking all around this area, or consider nearby Goblin Valley if you prefer an actual site.  For full hookups, Duke’s Slickrock RV Park about 30 miles away in Hanksville is the place to be.







2. North Carolina: Chimney Rock State Park

Four Seasons Trail + Hickory Nut Falls

The 7,500-acre Chimney Rock State Park is seriously gorgeous ... and a serious trek! Getting there is half the fun on a remote, meandering scenic drive. Enjoy amazing hiking, a 404-ft. waterfall, and the huge Chimney Rock, formed 535 million years ago. If you don’t want to hike, how about taking the 26-story elevator up?  Of course that’s cheating, but if you want to see one of the filming locations for the movie The Last of the Mohicans, that is certainly one way to do it!   Of course, hiking aficionados prefer trekking the 1.9 mile Four Seasons Trail, and THEN taking the 491 wooden steps (that’s right! 491!) from there to the tippy top!  Enjoy fabulous 75-mile views of Lake Lure, the Piedmont area of NC, and the Foothills; catch your breath and take a selfie with the American Flag perched atop the legendary boulder.  From there, descend the 491 steps and add another 1.2 miles to go to the must-see Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot stunner.  Dogs are allowed, except not in the elevator.

Round-trip length: 5.0 miles

Pet-friendly?  Yes, except not in the elevator, and of course they must be willing to climb stairs.

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/north-carolina/chimney-rock-state-park

Also Cool Nearby:  The nearby Lake Lure Flowering Bridge converted an abandoned bridge into a gorgeous horticultural showplace, maintained by volunteers. 

Nearby RV Camping At: Mama Gertie’s RV Park outside Asheville is one of our favorite all-time camping locations, about 25 miles away.  Closer in, there are a few RV campgrounds around Lake Lure.







3. Arizona:  Lake Mead Recreation Area

Ringbolt Hot Springs Loop

Hot springs in Arizona?  Almost unheard of – and yet, here they are!  Starting in flat desert, transitioning to rocky mountainous paths, and then through sandy washes and canyons, this strenuous hike packs a lot of variety into the 3 mile (one-way) route, finally ending in a series of small pools, nestled into canyon walls as narrow as 6 feet apart, with temps ranging from merely warm to blistering hot.  Take a nice soak, chat with other visitors (likely, you’ll be sharing the fun with people ranging from fully clothed to naked-as-the-day-they-were-born), and return via the path you came.  Though difficult, it was one of the most memorable and unique adventures we’ve had hiking in Arizona!  Plan on about 5 hours total for this adventure. Trail closed from May 15 to Sept 30 due to extreme heat.

Round-trip length: 6 miles

Pet-friendly?  The trail is, but the hot springs are not.  You'll have to wade (quickly!!) through the hottest/deepest of the hot pools to get to any of them, and dogs wouldn't go for that.

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/arizona-ringbolt-hot-springs-trail

Also Cool Nearby:  Kayaking to the bright-green waters of Emerald Cove

Nearby RV Camping At: Willow Beach Campground and RV Park (15 miles away)






4. Maine:  Acadia National Park

The Beehive Loop Trail

While this trail is NOT for those with fear of heights, or for the faint of heart, the adrenaline rushes and jaw-dropping views of Acadia NP and the Atlantic Ocean shoreline make for a memorable time!  A short trail, you’re gonna have it done in record time, since its popularity means people are on your tail and pushing you along throughout.  You’ll be stomping up granite staircases, clinging to iron rungs drilled into the rock, crossing shored-up sections of exposed cliffs, averting your eyes from the steep drop-offs on either side of you, and scrambling over boulders to reach the summit.  All while feeling the pressure from the perky, gorgeous 20-somethings, fully made up and smelling like Chanel, on their way to Instagram glory at the top of knobby Beehive Mountain.  Engage your adventurous side for 520 feet elevation gain over a mere 3.2 miles, and claim bragging rights for a lifetime for this iconic trail!

Round-trip length:  1.4 mile loop (can be combined with other trails for longer distances)

Pet friendly?  Though most of Acadia is dog-friendly, no dogs allowed on this trail due to treachery and human traffic (not to be confused with human trafficking)

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/maine/the-beehive-loop-trail

Also Cool In The Area:  If you like this hike, you’ll also love The Precipice Trail in Acadia … like the Beehive but steeper and longer!

Nearby RV Camping At: Campgrounds inside Acadia are mostly for smaller campers; a great full hookup park outside Acadia is Narrows Too Camping Resort in Trenton.






5. New Mexico:  El Morro National Monument

Inscription Trail/Loop Trail

El Morro means “The Headland,” a this 2–mile loop includes the Inscription Trail with hundreds of Spanish and Anglo inscriptions from travelers coming through the area, as well as pre–historical petroglyphs.  Continuing onto the Loop Trail up 250 feet elevation gain to the top of the bluff, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Zuni Mountains, the volcanic craters of the El Malpais area, and the El Morro Valley.   Here, you’ll find the Ancestral Puebloan ruin, Atsinna, or “place of writings on rock,” where between 1275-1350 AD, up to 1500 people lived in this 875 room pueblo.

Round-trip length:  2 mile loop

Pet-friendly?  Leashed dogs

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/new-mexico/el-morro-national-monument-loop-trail 

Also Cool In The Area: Ice Cave and Baldera Volcano, El Malpais National Monument

Nearby RV Camping At: El Morro RV Park & Campground, Ramah, NM. A very unique and cool (or strange, depending on your outlook) place.  Kinda like a hippie commune that just happens to have an RV park.  Loose dog "Guido" who runs amok 24 hours a day.  Chickens and turkeys loose too, "don't bother them because they provide eggs to the restaurant."  You get the idea.






6. Idaho:  Elk Bend

Goldbug Hot Springs

We lovvvve hot springs --- it’s just something about that extreme relaxation! --- and this is our favorite one of all time, perhaps because you can ONLY reach this remote destination via a beautiful hike!  Goldbug Hot Springs is near Elk Bend, about 20 miles south of Salmon.  A review of Goldbug Hot Springs noted:  "if steep hikes, rocky paths, morning baptists, or evening hippies will deter you, then please, by all means, be deterred!" and THAT is pretty much what you’re gonna get!  Go super early to get a parking spot in the residential road leading to the trailhead, and to beat the crowds that will plague this place later in the day.  The 1.7 mile trail starts with switchbacks and then meanders along the creek, later getting rockier and requiring a little scrambling. Up at the top, try to avoid gawking at the nude and semi-nude; there are lots of little pools of different temperatures, so you can find the one that suits you best.  With amazing views looking over the valley below, trickling waterfalls, and lots of interesting people-watching, you’ll never want to leave!

Round-trip length: 3.5 miles

Pet-friendly?  Yes, and there will be lots of dogs up there

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/idaho/goldbug-elk-bend-hot-springs

Also Cool Nearby:  "Dick's Dugouts," with a single remaining cabin as the only remnant of a colony of beloved Idaho hermits from yesteryear. During his 63 years living off the grid on the banks of the Salmon River, Richard "Dugout Dick" Zimmerman eked out a simple existence in hand-dug caves and structures built with cast-off junk.

Nearby RV Camping At: Elk Bend RV Park is just a few miles away, with crazy-friendly owners, big spaces, very nicely kept, and a fun bar across the street.  





7. New York:  Watkins Glen State Park

Glen Creek Gorge Trail

Gorge Trail, how do we love thee, let us count the numbers: 832 rock steps … 19 waterfalls …380 million year old sandstone and shale, all nicely compacted into a tidy, damp stroll!  Throw in some stacked stone bridges, dripping rocks, babbling brooks, cool pools, and lots of people … you’ll want to go early for sure! But who can blame everyone for wanting to come here … Watkins Glen is “gorge”ous --- get it?  J  Nicely situated in New York’s Finger Lakes region, with luscious farm fields, wineries galore, gorges and waterfalls a’plenty, this is a fun hike for the whole family – easy and fun!

Round-trip length:  4.2 miles

Pet friendly?  Not on the Gorge Trail, but you can take your furry friend on the Indian Trail and South Rim Trail, though they are not nearly as wonderful.

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/new-york/glen-creek-gorge-trail

Also Cool In The Area:  Don’t miss the Corning Museum of Glass, part history lesson, part science and learning center, part photographer’s playground, and part hands-on arts experience!

Nearby RV Camping At: Watkins Glen State Park has on-site campgrounds with large wooded sites, partial hookups and even an Olympic-sized swimming pool.






8. Utah:  Moab

Corona Arch

The 140-foot Corona Arch, also called Little Rainbow Bridge, is one of the largest and most spectacular mostly-freestanding arches in the Moab area (and it's not even inside Arches). Though the hike is a fairly easy route through Bootlegger Canyon, it does involve a few portions of scrambling over slickrocks, and a couple of chain-rails and ladders … all the more fun! Getting closer and catching first sight of the arch, you may find yourself thinking, well that’s a disappointment! But wait … don’ give it! It's a psych-out … all in the scale and perspective. Get closer, and it's .... HUUUUUUGE! This is an easy, accessible, short trail that almost anyone can handle.

Round-trip length:  2.8 miles

Pet friendly?  Yes. Since you can’t take Fido on any of the trails in nearby Arches NP, this is a good dog-friendly option!

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/corona-and-bowtie-arch-trail  

Also Cool In The Area:  Canyonlands National Park has all of the scenery of Arches, but none of the crowds!






9. New Mexico:  Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Tent Rocks Slot Canyon Trail

Kasha Katuwe literally means “white cliffs” in the Pueblo language Keresan, and this slot-canyon beauty is 3 miles round-trip, trekking through the beautiful white cliffs and tent rocks formed in a volcanic explosion 6 million years ago, into a narrow canyon with a steep 630-ft climb to the mesa top for excellent views of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia mountains and the Rio Grande Valley.  Just 36 miles west of Santa Fe!

Round-trip length:  2.8 miles

Pet friendly?  No dogs allowed

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/new-mexico/tent-rocks-slot-canyon-trail

Also Cool In The Area:  Fore!  Swing your clubs at the surprisingly posh public Cochiti Golf Course.

Nearby RV Camping At: Cochiti Lake Area Campground, Pena Blanca, NM.  Nice hiking trails around the campground, the world's best Verizon and TV signal, extremely quiet, really cool picnic structures with copper roofs.






10. Utah:  Moab

Fisher Towers

Fisher Towers are a series of soaring, sandstone pinnacles on BLM Land, 25 miles northeast of Moab. The scenic drive to get there along SR 128 runs alongside the Colorado River, then sends you on a short, graded dirt road to a trailhead with a small, primitive campground. Along the way, your jaw will drop at the gorgeous, rugged red-rock scenery, but don’t forget to look up, or you’ll miss the are-they-awesome-or-are-they-crazy people known as “big-wall climbers,” tiny dots at the top of impossibly tall pinnacles above you. The closest the average person will probably come to climbing on this trail is a (required) 10-foot metal-rung ladder in the middle of the route. Highlights along the hiking trail include Titan (the tallest of the towers), views to Castleton Tower and an end-point that’ll make you glad you brought that picnic lunch in your backpack. Find the crudely carved “Trail End” sign perched on one of the huge boulders and take a picture to prove you’re awesomesauce! Head back the way you came, and enjoy the majestic views all over again!

Round-trip length: 4.5 miles

Pet-friendly?  While dogs are allowed on leash, there is that small ladder about 1.5 miles into the trail, that may be difficult to pass with a larger dog.

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/fisher-towers-trail

Also Cool Nearby:  Ummmm, it’s Moab!  Everything is cool in Moab!  But of course, Arches National Park is a must-do for hikers.

Nearby RV Camping At: There are many choices in Moab; for full hookups, check Moab Valley RV Resort. If you're coming from the north, consider Ballard RV Park in Thompson Springs.







 

11. Logan, Ohio: Hocking Hills

Old Man’s Cave Trail

Never heard of Hocking Hills? Join the crowd … even friends who come from Ohio questioningly scratch their heads when we mention it. We’re not really sure why, because Hocking Hills State Park is really cool, with lots of dog-friendly hiking and surprisingly lush scenery in otherworldly tones of green and orange. The most popular hike to Old Man's Cave is a steep downward descent, but oh-so-worth-it to experience a fairyland of hobbit-like bridges, moss-covered rocks and trickling waterfalls. Since it’s only a 1 mile moderate trail, you’ll want to add on via multiple trails that traverse the park, including Cedar Falls, Cantwell Cliffs, and Rock House. The Rock House is the only "true cave” here, 200 feet long and 25 feet tall. It was hideout to many throughout history, including bandits which led this to be called "Robbers Roost" for many years. Carvings of names in the rocks and mortars of the Rock House date back nearly 200 years. But down below, gorges and canyons and cliffs .... plus lots of thigh-burning stairsteps!

Round-trip lengths:  Old Man’s Cave 1.2 miles; Cedar Falls 0.9 miles; Rock House 0.9 miles; Cantwell Cliffs 1.8 miles

Pet friendly?  Yes

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/ohio/hocking-hills-state-park

Also Cool In The Area:  Ummm … pencil sharpener museum, anyone?  The Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum contains over 3,000 sharpeners.  Plan on at least, oh, say, 5 minutes for this stop. 

Nearby RV Camping At:  Choose the state park campground located right next to Old Man's Cave Visitor Center for location and convenience.  It’s very basic and not gonna rock your world, but you’ll be riiiiight there close to all the outdoor beauty.





12.  Oregon:  Silver Falls State Park

Trail of Ten Falls

Nestled in the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, the 9,000-Silver Falls State Park is the largest and most popular of all Oregon state parks.  One of the main draws is its spectacular hiking on The Trail of Ten Falls.  Where else can you walk behind, around, over, under and (if you’re adventurous, through) TEN breathtaking falls in a 7 mile hike?  Not just your everyday waterfalls, either … ten beauties up to 177-feet tall! Like practically everything up here, this landscape was created by volcanoes “duh”, namely basalt lava flows.  Softer layers of the basalt eroded over time and created natural pathways behind many of the falls.  So cool!  You’re gonna get a little wet … and a lot tired … but for waterfall-y fun, this is the place to be!

Round-trip length:  Moderate 8.7 miles

Pet friendly?  No …  boo, hiss.

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/oregon/trail-of-ten-falls-canyon-trail

Also Cool In The Area:  It’s not exactly “in the area,” but you’ve got to hit Crater Lake National Park while in Oregon!  Spectactular scenery and the bluest water you’ll ever set your sights upon!

Nearby RV Camping At:  Camp right in Silver Falls State Park. Great, huge campsites (ours was literally 80' long), water and electric hookups, decent showers, friendly people and families everywhere, kids having fun but not being obnoxious, and a short bike ride or walk away from the main lodge area and the start of the Trail of Ten Falls and many other hiking trails.  







13. Minnesota:  Gooseberry Falls

Fifth Falls and Superior Hiking Trail Loop

 Near Two Harbors, Gooseberry Falls State Park is a spectacular but heavily visited state park. Known as the “Gateway to the North Shore,” Gooseberry is on the banks of Lake Superior, with five waterfalls within the park.  Three of them are particularly large, awe-inspiring and loud, where the water of the Gooseberry River travels three miles through the park and charges through a dramatic rocky gorge before dropping 240 feet to Lake Superior. Various trails take you to the park's Upper, Middle, and Lower Falls, where no guardrails, fences, warning signs, or armed guards at all make you responsible for your own safety but also let you feel the mist on your face. The Fifth Falls and Superior Hiking Trail Loop is an easy stroll with gorgeous scenery, but if you’re there on a weekend it’s going to be jammed with crowds.  You’ve been warned!  Also worthy, the River View Trail is a 2.5 mile loop that lets you walk up to the falls from the campground.

Round-trip length:  5 miles for Superior (3 miles) + Fifth Falls Trail (2 mile loop)

Pet friendly?  Yes

AllTrails Link:  https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/minnesota/gooseberry-falls-state-park

Also Cool In The Area:  The Gitchi-Gami Trail, despite its super weird name (and not to be confused with the Gitchi-Gummi Snowshoe Trail), is a great bike path leading right out from the campground along the coast of Lake Superior, running along its steep cliffs, beaches and crystal clear waters.

Nearby RV Camping At:  Gooseberry Falls State Park has a nice campground but sites are very small and short; check sizes carefully before reserving.




14:  Stanley, Idaho

Alpine Lake via Iron Creek Trailhead

Even though Stanley's population is only 63, it swells into the tens of thousands during the summer, as travelers come for the beauty and the outdoor recreation, including high-altitude hikes to Alpine Lake and Sawtooth Lake.   It kinda has it all … woods, switchbacks, a little bit of rock scrambling, a beautiful picnic-friendly lake, and an optional trek a few miles further (and a wee bit harder) to an even MORE beautiful lake!

Round-trip length:  7.4 miles (10 miles if you continue all the way to Sawtooth Lake)

Pet friendly?  Yes

AllTrails Link:  https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/idaho/alpine-lake-via-trail-640-and-alpine-way-trail

Also Cool In The Area:  Start with a restful ferry ride ($14) across the lake from Redfish Lake Lodge and then take the hike to Bench Lakes!  This trail climbs rapidly through a variety of switchbacks and gives you an excellent sweat-inducing workout up the mountain.

Nearby RV Camping At:  Stanley RV + Camp is a hip/cool full-hookup park about 5 miles north of Stanley.




15. Alberta, Canada:  Lake Louise

Lake Agnes Tea House Hike

Wow all your friends:  “Whatcha do today?” “Oh not much, just hiked up to a 120-year-old family-run tea house for some soup…”  Head out from the shores of gorgeous, natural Lake Louise, with emerald water color and glaciers in the background that make you feel like you’re living in a cliché. Make sure to pack your trusty bear spray … though you won’t be alone, this is truly the wilderness!  Along the way, going up-up-up, you’ll see amazing views of Lake Louise, pass through thick forests, past Mirror Lake, and finally arriving at a small cabin which is now a family-run tea house.  Choose from 100 loose-leaf teas, homemade soup, sandwiches, cookies, and more, on their outdoor patio gazing at the mirror reflection of Lake Agnes.  If you’re really feeling your oats, you can continue hiking to the top of the Little Beehive or Big Beehive.  Or, more likely, return down the mountain for a well-earned nap, your belly full of homemade apple crumble.  Now that’s a good day!  The staff is responsible for trekking all supplies and materials up and down the mountain on foot, so be sure to thank them for their service. Only open June through October. 

Round-trip length:  4.7 miles

Pet friendly?  You betcha … as long as you buy you pet his own scone when you get there.  He earned it, after all!

AllTrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/canada/alberta/lake-agnes-trail?u=i

Also Cool In The Area:  Moraine Lake is possibly even more beautiful than Lake Louise. The relatively large town of Banff, 35 miles away, is the “place to be” in this area.  Check out the Johnston Canyon trail, where a series of cliff-hugging catwalks lead you to multiple sets of various falls.

Nearby RV Camping At:  Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court just outside Banff has the only full hookup camping in the area.  







And there you have it ...
just a few more additions to your growing hiking bucket list!



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3 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Tessa! Jam-packed with info, photos and tips all in one place and opinions at no extra charge - thank you! Just for the record, who DOES dump the sewage? Best wishes for a safe, healthy and happy holiday season to both of you and your family, too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was fun to read! And your photos are gorgeous. I know how hard it is to choose favorites. You did a great job...many hikes we recognize (and also loved) and you added a few 'I wanna go there' to our list, so thanks! I appreciate your campground tips, too.
    Hope you all are enjoying the holidays. Here's to many more adventures in 2021!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Backpacked with my brother for years on vacations in the Missouri/Arkansas Ozarks. And now that my wife and I are on the road we constantly look for hiking opportunities. So far have not found a bad spot. Last year our vote for the best area was clearly the Black Hills near Custer SD. Can't wait to discover more spots. Thanks for the detailed post on yours!

    Mark

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