Tag Archives: climbing

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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City of Rocks National Reserve

Overview

In the high desert of southeast Idaho stands a collection of granite spires that served as a welcome rest stop along the California Trail.   At the height of the gold rush in 1852, some 50,000 pioneers passed this site in a single year.  Many left their names painted in axle grease, still legible on Camp Rock and Register Rock.  Today it is a popular destination for rock climbers from around the world, but also has 22 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

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Highlights

Rock climbing, Register Rock, Window Arch, primitive camping

Must-Do Activity

Rock climbers flock here from around the world to take on the granite spires that inspired emigrants on the California Gold Rush Trail to name it City of Rocks.  The grippy granite is fun for any skill level to clamber around on and easily accessible from all campsites.

Best Trail

Trails snake through this area leading to different climbing routes, especially around Elephant Rock, which is a great place to watch other climbers.  Keep watching the skies, too, as a variety of raptors (and pigeons) enjoy the thermals here.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Window Arch is a great place to watch the sun come up, just try not to wake up campers in the neighboring sites.

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Peak Season

Summer, since it is very cold at this elevation (7,000 feet) in other seasons.  Autumn briefly turns aspen leaves yellow.

Hours

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

Fees

Free to enter and only $12.72 to camp per night (so bring exact change)

Road Conditions

A dirt road winds through the park and is accessible to passenger vehicles.

Camping

78 primitive campsites located off the dirt Emery Canyon Road, with several nice sites sit right next to Window Arch.  For more upscale accommodations try the Lodge and Bunkhouse at nearby Castle Rocks State Park.

Lots of fins

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One of the more famous inscriptions
Emigrants on the California Trail passed right through here.

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Explore More – How many billions of years ago did the oldest granite here form?

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