Tag Archives: climbing

Rocky Mountain National Park

Overview

This truly is a National Park for all seasons.  In the summer, it is worth the extra time it takes to drive eleven miles up the unpaved curves of one-way Old Fall River Road to Alpine Visitor Center at 11,796 feet.  Elk bulls spar and bugle in the autumn, when aspen trees briefly turn the mountainsides gold.  Winter is a wonderful time for outdoor recreation if you come prepared for the cold and snow.

Highlights

Bear Lake, Dream Lake, Trail Ridge Road, Adams Falls, Ouzel Falls,

Must-Do Activity

From the famous Trail Ridge Road, you do not even have to get out of your car for amazing panoramas.  If you want to walk, the one-mile Toll Memorial Trail at Tundra Communities Trailhead is paved and flat enough to not be too strenuous at 12,000 feet in elevation.  Elk, pikas, and yellow-bellied marmots frequent the parking area around Rock Cut. 

Best Trail

If you are looking to climb straight up the side of a mountain, there are plenty of options, including popular Flattop Mountain and the strenuous climb up Longs Peak.  For a less busy trail, head to Ypsilon Lake and continue up the hillside, scrambling over boulders all the way to spectacular Spectacle Lakes.

Instagram-worthy Photo

In Grand Lake on the west side of the park, hiking or snowshoeing past Adams Falls up the East Inlet Trail is breathtaking in all seasons.

Peak Season

Summer is the busiest, but winter brings opportunities for snowshoeing.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$35 per vehicle ($25 for one day) or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Almost all roads are paved; one-way Old Fall River Road is gravel and only open a few months in the summer.

Camping

There are multiple campgrounds within the park and Glacier Basin is open year round.  Several National Forests surround the park and provide opportunities for dispersed camping, although around Grand Lake it does get crowded on summer weekends.

This design we created to celebrate Rocky Mountain National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How do the winter survival strategies differ between pikas and yellow-bellied marmots?

This photo from Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is for sale on Imagekind

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Mount Rainier National Park

Overview

Only 3 hours from Seattle, 14,410-foot tall Mount Rainier dominates the skyline in all directions.  It spends many days cloaked in clouds, so your best view might be out a tiny airplane window before landing at Sea-Tac Airport.  It is an active volcano, uncomfortably close to a population of millions, but it provides recreational opportunities year round.  The park truly contains the wonderland for which its 93-mile circumnavigating trail is named.

Highlights

Paradise, Sunrise, Grove of the Patriarchs Trail, Wonderland Trail

Must-Do Activity

Despite receiving an average of 680 inches of snow annually, the road to Paradise is open all year.  Even in July, you should pack your snowshoes to follow the 5.5 mile Skyline Loop or the 1.2 mile long Nisqually Vista Trail.  This is the jumping off point for most mountaineers attempting to summit the volcano.

Best Trail

A really fun (or scary) swinging footbridge grants access to the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail (1.2 miles roundtrip), where giant Douglas-fir trees tower to more than 300 feet in height.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Reflection Lake is right off the main park road east of the Paradise turnoff.  When there is no wind, it offers a stunning mirror view of Mount Rainier.

Peak Season

Summer, but expect heavy snowpack through July and at least 9 months a year.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$30 per vehicle or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The main roads to Paradise and Sunrise are paved, though the latter is closed October to July, as is the dirt road that accesses Mowich Lake.  The Carbon River Road in the northwest corner was washed out in 2006, but is still walkable for 5 miles one-way to access Ipsut Creek Campground.

Camping

There are several large campgrounds that accept reservations, but White River Campground near Sunrise has 112 sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. 


This design we created to celebrate Mount Rainier National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How many different glaciers cling to the sides of the Mount Rainier volcano?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Bandelier National Monument

Overview

One of 13 national monuments in New Mexico, this archaeological site is located in a beautiful forested canyon at 6,000 feet elevation outside Los Alamos.  Ancestral Puebloans inhabited Frijoles Canyon from AD 1150 to 1550, building villages and carving rooms out of the soft volcanic tuff, much like in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Bandelier

Highlights

Ruins, cavates, Alcove House, Upper Falls, Painted Cave

Must-Do Activity

Climb 140 feet up ladders and steep steps to Alcove House cliff dwelling for superlative views of the canyon.

Best Trail

After exploring the ruins, be sure to hike 1.5 miles to Upper Falls downstream from the visitor center.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The National Park Service has installed some awesome, authentic-looking ladders to access the cavates.

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Peak Season

Summer when a shuttle is required from Los Alamos, New Mexico due to limited parking

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/band/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$25 per group or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Paved, but visitors are required to take a shuttle from Los Alamos between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the summer (May 17 – October 17)

Camping

Juniper Campground has 94 sites, running water, and is open most of the year.  Its 70 miles of trails also make the park popular for backpacking, which requires a zoned camping permit.

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Scott at the entryway for a large dwelling
Scott inside a cavate

Tiff a few rooms down
Tiff inside a cavate

Tiff climbing down

16-May New Mexico 247

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The tuff looks like Swiss cheese; maybe that’s what attracted Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier.

Waterfall
Upper Falls is only a 1.5 mile hike downstream from the visitor center

Explore More – When did the giant volcano erupt that created the 16-mile wide Valles Caldera and deposited hundreds of feet of volcanic ash that formed tuff?

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Catoctin Mountain Park

Overview

This park was purchased in 1935 during the Great Depression as part of a demonstration program to rehabilitate poor agricultural land under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  They worked on a visitor center, campground, rental cabins, and 25 miles of trails now run by the National Park Service.

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Highlights

Chimney Rock, Blue Blazes Whiskey Still, hiking, camping

Must-Do Activity

Hiking.  Also consider a stop just south of Highway 77 at Cunningham Falls State Park (entrance fee) on your visit to Maryland’s mountains.

Best Trail

A loop hike can hit both Chimney Rock and Wolf Rock, though the views from the latter are not quite as sweeping.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Chimney Rock offers a stunning overlook of Maryland’s forests.

Chimney Rock

Peak Season

Summer for camping and autumn for changing foliage.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/cato/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Stay at the historic CCC campground or south of Highway 77 at Cunningham Falls State Park.

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Blue Blazes whiskey still
Tiff at the historic Blue Blazes Whiskey Still from the Prohibition Era

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Some fall colors above 1,400 feet elevation
On top of Wolf Rock

 

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Don’t miss a stop at Cunningham Falls State Park on your visit to Maryland’s mountains.

Explore More –What famous presidential retreat is located within the boundaries of the park, but is not shown on maps and includes plenty of warning signs about stopping anywhere near its driveway?

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Appalachian National Scenic Trail

Overview

The Appalachian Trail (or A.T.) is one of only three National Scenic Trails that the National Park Service (NPS) includes in its total of 417 units, despite there being many other affiliated trails (some with their own Visitor Centers).  The trail stretches 2,185 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine, crossing 14 states, 6 NPS sites, 8 National Forests, and countless other parks.

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Highlights

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Mount Washington State Park, Baxter State Park

Must-Do Activity

Even if just for a short stretch, gets a taste for the A.T. by following the white rectangular blazes going north or south anywhere along its length.  The trail through Newfound Gap in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is especially popular.

Best Trail

The last stretch of the trail ascends Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park.  My impression from the surly park employees is that they would rather not be the official end of the Appalachian Trail.  For instance, they fined record-setting Scott Jurek for public alcohol consumption and littering when he spilled some champagne celebrating his accomplishment atop Katahdin in 2015.  The funny thing about the A.T. is that it ends (or begins) on top of a mountain where you have to turn around and hike out.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The views on top of Katahdin are unsurpassed and you might get to celebrate with a thru-hiker finishing the 2,185-mile journey.

At the top!  The mountain looks similar to many of the 14ers in Colorado

Peak Season

Most thru-hikers go in the summer due to snow.  Baxter State Park closes in the winter, but most of the trail is accessible year round.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/appa/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

Free to hike, but some parks (like Shenandoah National Park) charge for admission and camping.

Road Conditions

Trailhead access can be both paved and dirt (which is the case in Baxter State Park).  The trail is only paved in a few portions like atop Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Camping

There are more than 160 trail shelters along the A.T. and in some places like Great Smoky Mountains National Park backpackers are required to utilize them.  Otherwise dispersed camping is mostly allowed along the entire length of the trail.

Raven flyover
Raven about the Katahdin summit!

At the peak and end of the AT

Group shot!

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A view of the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
A view looking east at the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Explore More – Approximately how many steps must a human take to cover 2,185 miles?

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