North and South America have breathtaking lakes, pristine beaches, and towering mountains. Here are five of the best hiking spots in North and South America.
One of the wonderful things about being a hiker in the Americas is just how many amazing hiking venues there are on the two continents. The trouble with being so spoilt for choice is that it’s all too easy to miss out on some real gems. With that in mind, here are five hiking spots that you should consider the next time you are planning a bit of an adventure; from north to south, they will not disappoint.
Five Of The Best Hiking Spots In North And South America
The view from Moraine Lake…pretty phenomenal.
1 – Valley Of The Ten Peaks
The first great hike is a jaw-dropping five-mile walk in the Canadian Rockies.
Arrive on the shores of Moraine Lake, in Banff National Park, early, for two reasons – firstly, parking spaces fill up quickly.
Secondly, you’ll want to spend every minute possible on this trail. Grab your picnic, check the bear notices and head off, breathing in the sappy scent of Douglas fir.
At some point, you’ll round a corner, look up and – boom! Ten tall peaks will rise up in front of you, with Moraine Lake standing guard in regal blue. Walking is easy to moderate and it’s a great family outing.
A look over towards the cables on half dome. Photo via unsplash.
2 – Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
The second hike is further south, in California, and a lot more challenging. In fact, it’s literally a lottery. Half Dome rises 4,800 feet above Yosemite National Park, to a combined height of 8,844 feet, and is a 10 to 12 hour hike for most people.
You’ll need a permit – several hundred feet of the walk involves you hanging on to cables to make progress. The cables are seasonal, so check online when planning your trip. And here’s a thing: these permits are awarded in a pre-season lottery, with a limit of 300 per day.
This is a truly limited-edition hike to the top. It’s roughly a 17 mile round trip, so you had better be fit. If you want to make use of shuttle buses, they start at 7am.
I did this back around 1995 and was blown away. The cables are full of people and seem to go straight up with long, long drops off to the sides. Climbing up the cables was sketchy, exciting, and totally worth the amazing views from the top.
Rocky Mountain National Park is awesome:) Photo via unsplash.
3 – Mount Ida, Rocky Mountain National Park
Next, head east to the Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike that doesn’t involve cables (but does involve fabulous views). Your elevation gain is only 2,100 feet – but the summit is 12,865 feet above sea level, so expect thin air and wear those layers.
A lot of that elevation is gained in the first mile or so and, by the time you pop out of the trees, you’ll have done a big slice of the day’s work. The rest of your trip is a reward; full of amazing views, the odd bighorn sheep and (if you are botanically inclined) wildflowers.
Then you will hit the boulder field. It’s easier to hike around the boulder field, though more direct to push on through. Either way, you will be greeted by endless views of the Rockies, as well as Longs Peak and several lakes.
Machu picchu. Photo via unsplash.
4 -Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu
The fourth great hike takes us deep into South America. Yes, it ends at Machu Picchu but it’s not the Inca Trail.
The Salkantay trail is different, taking in an amazing variety of conditions along the way; from lowland jungle and railway lines, to alpine highlands and possibly even snow. The journey is full of treats, including Nevada Salkantay, after which the trail is named.
There’s a bonus to be had on July 2nd, 2019, when you’ll be able to see a partial solar eclipse, with about 50 per cent of the Sun obscured.
A little further south in Chile, a total eclipse will be visible.
Places such as the clear-skied Elqui Valley will be booked up rapidly, so act now if you want accommodation for a hiker’s eclipse.
Torres del Paine…a hiking spot that is out of this world. Photo via unsplash.
5 – W Trek, Torres Del Paine
The final choice is way south in Patagonia: the W Trek, named after the shape the route takes as it makes its way up three valleys.
Punta Arenas is your starting point. It’s the world’s most southerly city and it’s a bit of an adventure just to get there. But the scenery on this hike defies description, and the Torres del Paine towers have to be seen to be believed.
The park has restricted opening times, so plan to go in spring for four or five days. And decide whether you want to camp or take advantage of the lodges (refugios) along the route.
Have you ever been afraid of bears when out hiking or camping?
Wildlife fears can keep people from hiking or even going into the great outdoors. Don’t let your wildlife fears keep you from experiencing something, including hiking or camping.
Like most people I have my own fears, those things that I’m afraid of or scare me. Personally, I am afraid of heights, the dark, and tight spaces. Despite my fear of heights I had a period in my life where I did a lot of rock climbing. I found it better to face my fears and live my life rather than to let my fears keep me from experiencing life. All people have things that we’re afraid of. We can’t let those fears dictate to us how to live our lives and cause us to miss out on some great things.
Wildlife Fears – It’s Normal To Be Afraid Of Wildlife
This is just my opinion, but it seems that it’s perfectly normal to have some wildlife fears. A fear of being maimed, injured, or killed by wildlife is normal. It’s what helped our ancestors survive.
Being human means that we were and still are part of the food chain.
It may be normal to be afraid and have some fears. However, we can’t let those fears keep us from doing things and living our life. We need to be able to do things and face up to those fears. Often once we face our fears we find out that there wasn’t actually as much to be afraid of as we first thought.
Thus, while it’s normal to have wildlife fears, we can’t let those fears keep us from getting outdoors. Those feelings in your body are just your bodies way of helping you be aware and ready for whatever may happen.
Most Wildlife Is Not Dangerous Or Wants To Be Left Alone
It is important to keep in mind that while there may be lots of animals in the outdoors, most of those animals are nothing to fear. Many of the animals can’t harm us because they’re herbivores.
Even those animals that could harm or hurt us generally want nothing to do with us. They are afraid we could hurt or kill them (think about hunters).
Don’t let your fears keep you from something amazing, like this.
One good thing to keep in mind is that western rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal. They are venomous and their bites can be super, super painful.
There are some fatalities from the thousands of snake bites a year in the US. The severity of the bite depends on many things, including how much venom is injected, the size of the person (kids will have worse reactions), and how long until you can get to a hospital. Baby rattlesnakes are not actually more dangerous than adults.
A majestic grizzly bear is a common Rocky Mountain animal.
Be Safe When Hiking In Bear Country
Another big animal that causes a lot of anxiety and fear among people is bears. Many of the most beautiful parts of the country, such as Montana and Alaska, are prime bear country. Those areas are beautiful and seeing a bear in the wild is super exciting.
Spring is a good time to be extra aware of western rattlesnakes.
Do you know how to be safe around western rattlesnakes? Here are 5 important tips to keep in mind when you are out exploring the Rockies, especially in likely rattlesnake habitat.
I’ve spent a good amount of time hiking, camping, fishing, and climbing in the Rockies. During my explorations I’ve come across a western rattlesnake only a handful of times. Luckily for me none of those resulted in a bite. Once the snake was off the side of the trail and I didn’t see it until I literally stepped right next to it. It rattled its tail and raised its head and caused me to freak out, but nothing happened. Here are some important, simple tips to be safe around western rattlesnakes, a common reptile of the Rockies.
5 Tips To Be Safe Around Western Rattlesnakes
Pay Attention To Where You Put Your Feet And Hands
When you are hiking or climbing you need to really look at where you are placing your hands and feet. If you are walking in grass or climbing on rocks try to make sure you don’t put your hand or foot on a rattlesnake.
Give The Rattlesnake Plenty Of Space
If you see a rattlesnake be sure to give it plenty of space. If you see one, don’t go approaching it to get a better look. Western rattlesnakes are not aggressive, so for the most part they just want to be left alone. They may shake their rattle and lift their head just to warn you to keep away from them.
Keep Your Children Close
If you are out hiking with young children you should be sure to keep them away from the snake. Use a calm, authoritative voice to get your children to stay near you. Then warn them about the dangers of the snake. You may even pick up small children to be sure they don’t go near the snake.
Be sure to keep your dogs near you if you see a western rattlesnake.
Keep Your Dog Or Pets Under Control
It is crucial that you keep your dogs under control if you see a rattlesnake. Dogs may see the snake and want to investigate or harass it. That may lead to the snake biting the dog or even the dog killing the snake. Neither of those is a good outcome. The best outcome is to keep your dog under control so your dog and the snake are safe.
Be More Aware Of Snakes In The Spring And Fall
Remember, western rattlesnakes, like all reptiles, are ectotherms. That just means that they can’t control their own body temperature, but rely on their surroundings for their temperature.
Thus, if it is too cold they are slow and can’t be active. In the winter rattlesnakes go into a state or rest and stay in a hibernaculum with many other snakes. Then as the temperature warms up in the spring they come outside to sit in the sun and warm up. The ideal temperature for them is between 60s and 80s. Once it’s too hot they seek shade.
This all means that the spring and fall are the times of year when you are most likely to see or encounter a snake when out hiking.
Some people like to use an umbrella hiking, but I never do. Photo via Flickr.
I never take an umbrella hiking in the Rocky Mountains or elsewhere. Read the 4 reasons why I don’t take an umbrella hiking when I go exploring the mountains.
I love hiking throughout the entire year, summer, fall, winter, and spring. Each season is so different than the others, making for a very different hiking experience. In the summer the heat and sun are challenging. During the winter you have to worry about snow and keeping warm enough. During the spring you have to worry a bit about everything, cold, heat, and even rain. I’ve never taken an umbrella hiking with me and have no plans to do so.
The 4 Reasons I Never Take An Umbrella Hiking
I never take an umbrella hiking. Instead I prefer to wear a good rain coat and rain pants.
A quick google search of hiking umbrellas revealed that there are quite a few people out there who like to use an umbrella for hiking. Read my reasons for not using one and check out others reasons to use them and then decide for yourself.
I Want To Keep My Hands Free
Personally, I like to hike with hiking poles. I know not everyone wants to use hiking poles, but if you’re like me then you want to use them. Thus, I’m always holding hiking poles in my hands and don’t have a free hand to hold an umbrella. I especially need them when the trail is muddy and slippery due to rain.
My wife doesn’t use hiking poles, but she likes to have her hands free for other reasons. She likes to take photos, so wants to be able to easily access her camera. Or she just wants to be able to pick up or touch something along the trail.
Walking with an umbrella around other people can be challenging.
I Don’t Want To Bother Other People
Personally, I find it a bit challenging to walk with an umbrella anywhere there are other people, say a city street. I like using the umbrella as it keeps me dry, but it presents challenges around others.
When I pass people I end up holding the umbrella high over my head so that it doesn’t hit anyone else walking. I don’t want to hold it just over my head and then have the spokes hit someone else in the eye as they’re walking.
Besides hitting other people walking on the trail that aren’t in your group you are also obstructing the views of members of your own group. Anyone walking behind you would be stuck with the great view of your big umbrella and can’t see anything in front of them…super annoying.
Difficult To Walk Because Of Hitting Overhead Obstacles
Hiking along a trail out in the open may not be an issue with an umbrella, but a trail in a forest would be a different story. A narrow trail with obstacles overhead, beside the trail, and underfoot is hard enough with a small or big backpack. Adding an umbrella seems to be asking for extra problems.
If you are hiking with an umbrella you would constantly be hitting things that were overhanging the trail, such as vegetation, branches, or rocks. Hitting vegetation would be super annoying because it would knock your umbrella around, slowing you down, and it would knock more water off onto you.
I’d rather just wear rain gear and be able to see where I’m going than deal with the umbrella hitting stuff.
Parents, check out this great eBook on Hiking with Kids to help you get your kids out hiking with you today:
Strong Winds Destroy Umbrellas
The first few times I walked my kids to school on a stormy day was a bit tough. I brought an umbrella for the rain, but the wind was so strong that my umbrella was quickly broken. The wind blew it, flipped it inside out, and broke the arms of the umbrella. That happened to me twice. Now I know I can use an umbrella if there is no wind, but I don’t use one if it’s windy.
Strong winds just destroy an umbrella and that is the last thing I want to happen when I’m out hiking. I don’t want to be relying on an umbrella to keep me dry only to have it break!
Watch for the spring courtship display of the Red Tailed Hawks.
Signs of spring in the Rocky Mountains range from flowers to animals. Here are some of the common animals to look for in the spring.
I always find spring to be such a blessing after a long, cold winter. It’s so great to see spring wildflowers adding some color to the landscape. The warmer temperatures means that I can feel comfortable exploring the mountains again without freezing. People aren’t the only animals that become active in the spring. Here are some other common animals and behaviors that are signs of spring in the Rockies.
Signs Of Spring, 4 Rocky Mountain Animals To See
These lovely, small birds become a common sight in the springtime. They are between a sparrow and robin in size. They are commonly seen in wide open areas up to the alpine zone.
Red Tailed Hawks
These are the most common hawk in North America and can be found in the Rocky Mountains. In the springtime the Red Tailed Hawks put on an impressive courtship display. The two birds will be seen soaring in wide circles, higher and higher. The male will dive down and then swoop back up. Finally, he’ll come to the female from above her, grab her and mate. As the two hawks are mating they will plummet towards the earth before letting go and flying again before they hit the ground. It’s a pretty crazy way to mate and unforgettable if you see it!
Look for elk that are migrating and shedding their winter coats.
Elk are one of the big animals of North America that can still be seen in the wild. These magnificent animals spend the winters at lower elevations so that they can graze and have food to eat. Then in the spring they begin to migrate back up to higher elevations. You may also see them shedding their thick winter coats. In the spring they sometimes look very bedraggled with long loose hairs hanging off of them.
A rattlesnake is a common animal of the Rockies.
Rattlesnakes start to come out in the spring and become active. Of course, when they do this depends on the outside temperature. It there’s still snow and it’s cold they don’t come out. The reason temperature dictates when they come out is because they are ectotherms, which means that they can’t regulate their own body temperature. Thus, as the temperature warms up their body warms up and they become active. They will start to come out when the temperature is around 60 degrees and then they’ll be more and more active as the temp gets into the 70s.
Spring wildflowers are always a welcome sight in the Rocky Mountains. These early blooming flowers bring color and life back to the mountains after a long winter.
Lower elevations and foothills are the best places to explore in the spring because that is where you can see wildflowers for the first time this year. Wildflowers begin blooming at lower elevations and then slowly creep up higher and higher into the mountains. Here are 4 of my favorite spring wildflowers that I love seeing every year.
4 Spring Wildflowers
Summer has begun for me when I go out in the mountains and see certain flowers. These early bloomers are a truly welcome site. It is like seeing some old friends that you haven’t seen for a long time, but as soon as you see them you are flooded with memories of all the good times you have spent together. Here are 4 of my favorites that I always look forward to seeing.
This small flower is a Lewis or Blue Flax.
Height: 1 to 2 feet
Bloom time: May – August
Habitat: plains, and foothills
Light: full sun
Notes: Each flower lasts only one day! The flower opens in the morning, blooming during the day and the petals fall off by evening. Each flower has five petals. The flower grows at the top of a tall, frail looking stem. It is native to the Rocky Mountains and grows from Alaska all the way down to California.
There are many different species of Penstemons that come in various colors.
Color: Blue, purple, or red
Height: 1-3 feet
Bloom time: May, June
Habitat: subalpine to valley sagebrush and conifer forest
Light: part shade
Notes: This has a few stems rising nearly straight up. This is an early spring bloomer. There are hundreds of different kinds of penstemons. Some of the more common ones include the Rocky Mountain Penstemon (a purple flower – in picture above), and the Firecracker Penstemon (red flower).
The Yellow Glacier Lily is a lovely spring flower.
Yellow Glacier Lily
Height: 4 – 16 inches
Bloom Time: May to July
Habitat: Moist areas, often by melting snow
Light: Full sun
Notes: This is another beautiful spring wildflower of the Rocky Mountains. This flower is most often seen growing right along the edge of a retreating snow bank. As the snow melts the ground next to it is very moist. Then this flower grows from a bulb and pops up near the retreating snow bank. Read 7 facts about the Yellow Glacier Lily here.
Spring hiking can be great, just don’t head up too high or you’ll hit that snow…unless of course you want to.
These 3 spring hiking tips will help you find the best places to go hiking at this great time of year. Spring in the Rocky Mountains is a wonderful, albeit brief time of year.
Spring is always such a joyous time of year. After a long, cold winter it is time to get outside in something other than long pants and a jacket. Spring brings so many great things to the Rocky Mountains, such as flowers blooming, and birds chirping. However, just because it’s warmer and flowers are beginning to bloom it doesn’t mean you can go charging up those mountain peaks yet. These spring hiking tips will help you find the best places to go.
3 Spring Hiking Tips
Stay At Lower Elevations
In general when you go hiking in the spring you’ll want to stay at lower elevations because there is still snow higher up. Spring is the perfect time to go hiking in the foothills and other lower areas that get too hot in the middle of summer.
The south facing slopes are good places to go hiking in the spring because the snow will have melted off of them faster than the shady or north facing areas.
We used to do a lot of hiking in Mill Creek Canyon in Salt Lake City. That is where I really learned this lesson. During spring the trails on the south facing slope were always snow free and warm as the sun soaked them up. Across the narrow canyon the trails on the other side (north facing) were always much colder and snowier.
Plan Trips To Stay At Lower Latitudes In Early Spring
This may sound like kind of a strange tip, but this is aimed at helping those of you planning trips. If you are planning a trip to do some camping or hiking then you need to keep this in mind.
Our hiking trip to Glacier National Park in the summer was a bit chilly.
One year my family and I took a trip to Glacier National Park in the middle of summer (early July). We went from 90 degree, sunny days in Salt Lake City to cold, spring days in Glacier. It was a bit of a shock and did not feel like we were on our summer holiday. There was still lots of snow on many of the trails and it was cold!
These spring nature facts cover birds, babies, flowers, and more in the Rocky Mountains. I hope these fun facts get you excited about this wonderful time of year.
Spring officially arrives in the Rocky Mountains on March 20. I always find that ‘official’ date kind of arbitrary. Some years it feels like spring arrives sooner than that and other years it feels like winter until late May. Regardless of when it arrives, spring is a great time to be in the Rocky Mountains. Here are some cool spring nature facts to get you excited about this time of year.
A mourning cloak is an early butterfly to see in the spring.
In addition to birds and mammals, you may see butterflies in the spring. The Mourning Cloak butterfly is commonly seen in the spring. This butterfly has a unique winter survival strategy that makes it one of the first ones to be seen in the spring. It actually lives all winter in its adult form. Then when it’s warm enough, it comes out and looks for a mate.
Leaf buds opening up on a maple tree. Photo via Flickr.
It’s common to talk about how the trees are all budding. Did you know that the buds are on the trees all winter long? Yes, those buds are on the ends of the twigs all winter long. They protect the tree. Then in the spring, when the days are warming up, the buds open up and the new leafs start growing again.
Here are the top 5 early spring Utah destinations down in the deserts of the central and southern parts of the state. The shoulder seasons are the best time to visit the desert.
I love Utah, especially the fact that it’s easy to visit these amazing spots in the shoulder seasons. The shoulder seasons, early spring and fall, are the best times to get to the deserts of southern and central Utah. Most people are in school or not traveling at that time, leaving these primo spots less crowded. I’ve had some great days hiking, camping, and exploring these spring Utah destinations.
5 Top Spring Utah Destinations – Think Desert
This is the ultimate hikers and mountain bikers destination. There are a huge number of cool trails to explore. Some of our favorites for hiking include Fisher Towers, Corona Arch, Delicate Arch, and the Fiery Furnace (inside of Arches National Park).
At sunset make sure you head up to either sand flats or to Deadhorse Point Statepark. Both of those places are up high and have stunning views.
If your into mountain biking then you need to check out the world famous slick rock trail.
Entering a slot in Little Wild Horse Canyon.
Goblin Valley and Little Wildhorse Canyon
Wow! That is about all that I can say about this area. Goblin valley is super fun to wander around and amidst the hoodoos. Then when you tire of that, head down the road to Little Wild Horse Canyon. This canyon is a super fun, easy introduction to slot canyons.
The San Rafael Swell has some neat, less known spots.
San Rafael Swell
The swell is so big and has too many cool places to mention all of them! You can find slot canyons, big canyons, sandstone cliffs, and pictographs. One of the best parts of the swell is that if you take your time you can find some desolation and quiet.
Deep down inside Bull Valley Gorge.
Grand Staircase Escalante NM
Speaking of big, this is another huge area that is full of possibilities. There are a couple of main roads that head down into the Grand Staircase from which there are many canyons to explore.
One of my favorites to explore is Spooky and Peekaboo canyons (great, short slot canyons). Another cool one to check out is Bull Valley Gorge.
Zion National Park
This park has some great trails to explore, both in the main canyon and on the benches. The benches get more sunlight so are nicer to check out if it’s too cold in the bottom of the canyon.
The world is full of amazing natural wonders. Here are 5 of the most stunning rock climbing spots in the world (including the Rocky Mountains) that you need to see to believe.
The world provides a whole host of natural adventures. For some, the rock formations and mountains found around the world are challenging obstacles to conquer. What awaits those who love such climbing journeys is a breath-taking experience – some of the best views can be found high up on the slopes and a lot can be learnt from these remote places. I’ve picked five of the most stunning climbing spots worth visiting some time.
Himachal Pradesh, India
Accurately described as a “mecca for adventure seekers,” Himachal Pradesh is high in the north of India, right near Kashmir and the disputed border with Pakistan. The landscape is unlike anywhere else in the world – soaring peeks and deep valleys make up the view each way you look. Not only can you try rock-climbing, you could do white-water rafting, trekking and skiing.
Photo via Flickr.
Indian Creek, Utah, USA
The red rock cliffs in Utah attract climbers from all around. There are striking sandstone desert towers, as well as splitter crack climbing – one for the experienced climbers out there. As one contributor says, if you get bored around these parts, you’re doing something wrong. After all, Utah is one of the US’s most underrated states. It also boasts the densest concentration of Jurassic-era dinosaur fossils ever discovered – start your exploration by hiking to 185-million-year-old dinosaur footprints in Kanab.
Indian Creek, Photo via Flickr.
Banff National Park, Canada
Banff National Park is Canada’s first and most famous National Park – and for good reason. It’s beautiful. But people don’t come just to sightsee. They come from all over to hike, raft, ski, scramble – and climb. Of course, the chance for alpine and ice climbing is a huge draw.
But if you’re after rock climbing, according to the Mountain Project, the best quality rock is found in the quartzite of Back of the Lake at Lake Louise. Looking for somewhere with a view? Big, aesthetic routes can be found in places like Castle Mountain, Mt. Louis and the Tower of Babel.
There’s a climbing school, with classes on rock climbing, mountaineering, and ice climbing, or you can set off by yourself. Lumpy Ridge has climbs for all experience levels, while Longs Peak (the park’s highest point) has some challenging routes that require nerves of steel.
Last but not least, is a climbing spot with loads of scenic appeal. The Frankenjura area is a dense forest – but head in and you’ll find limestone crags, cliffs and free-standing towers. It easily makes Buzzfeed’s list of places to go rock climbing around the world, but they might have been swayed by the potential German pint nearby. After all the fresh air, you deserve it.
For most adventure-seekers, part of their love of rock climbing comes from the connection with nature. With any route, be mindful not to cause damage to susceptible rocks. For example, by climbing on sandstone in wet conditions or using a wire brush to clean soft rocks.
Where are your favorite climbing spots? Share your recommendations with me in the comments below.