Desolation Wilderness

Desolation WildernessDes­o­la­tion Wilder­ness strad­dles near­ly six­ty-four thou­sand acres across the Lake Tahoe Basin between Lake Tahoe and the Eldo­ra­do Nation­al For­est. Inside it, you’ll find back­pack­ing des­ti­na­tions through alpine and sub-alpine forests stud­ded with gran­ite peaks and glacial lakes.

Though still in recov­ery from the clear-cut­ting of the major­i­ty of the Jef­frey pines and fir trees essen­tial to the explo­sive growth of Vir­ginia City fol­low­ing the Com­stock Sil­ver Strike in 1859, the region’s rel­a­tive acces­si­bil­i­ty and unde­ni­able beau­ty still draws vis­i­tors from around the country.

Day Vis­it Permits
As a result, there are a num­ber of man­age­ment tech­niques in use to pre­serve the region’s wild her­itage, although only two of these apply to vis­i­tors: per­mits, and quo­tas. Folks who’d like to vis­it for the day—maybe to take the easy and pop­u­lar one-mile hike from the Eagle Falls trail­head to sparkling, pop­u­lar Eagle Lake—require a day use permit.

Day per­mits can be self-issued at most major trail­heads or picked up at Pacif­ic Ranger Dis­trict (for west-side trail­heads, man­aged by the Eldo­ra­do Nation­al For­est) or the Tay­lor Creek Vis­i­tor Cen­ter or Lake Tahoe Basin Man­age­ment Unit For­est Super­vi­sor’s Office (for east-side trail­heads, which are man­aged by the Lake Tahoe Basin Man­age­ment Unit). These day-use per­mits don’t require reser­va­tions and aren’t sub­ject to quotas.

Desolation WildernessMul­ti-Day Permits
On the oth­er hand, back­pack­ers with a mul­ti-day itin­er­ary in mind do require per­mit reser­va­tions, which you can make up to six months in advance through recreation.gov. The 30% of per­mits reserved for first-come, first-serve use must be picked up in per­son from the Pacif­ic Ranger Dis­trict in the Eldo­ra­do Nation­al For­est or at the Lake Tahoe Basin Man­age­ment Unit For­est Super­vi­sor’s Office up to four­teen days pri­or to begin­ning your trip.

If you’re vis­it­ing between Memo­r­i­al Day and the end of Sep­tem­ber, you’re also sub­ject to wilder­ness quo­tas. These are deter­mined by the region in which you plan to spend your first overnight, and some of them are quite small—the Grouse Lakes and Tri­an­gle regions each have a total quo­ta of two!—so be sure your intend­ed itin­er­ary can accom­mo­date your entire party.

Once You’re In
Once you’ve spent your first night in your des­ig­nat­ed des­ti­na­tion zone, you’re free to move about the wilder­ness. Prac­tice good out­door ethics by stay­ing on the devel­oped trails between des­ti­na­tions, and check out the inter­ac­tive vis­i­tor map to scope out pos­si­bil­i­ties for con­nect­ing those trails into longer loops.

Des­o­la­tion offers any num­ber of peaks to bag, from bossy 9,983-ft Pyra­mid Peak to the south­west to Mount Tal­lac, eas­i­ly the most icon­ic as it soars 3,500 feet above Lake Tahoe. If you’d rather get wet than high, there are a num­ber of pris­tine back­coun­try lakes just wait­ing for you. Try them out one by one, or string a few togeth­er for near­ly twelve miles of a loop tour of Gran­ite, Dick’s, Vel­ma, and Eagle Lakes.

Desolation WildernessIf You Can’t Get Enough, Thru-hike!
If you’re look­ing for a reward­ing chal­lenge that offers a lit­tle bit of every­thing the Tahoe Riv­er Basin has to offer, def­i­nite­ly con­sid­er the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail thru-hike. You’ll still have to pick up a per­mit for the por­tions of the trail that pass through Des­o­la­tion Wilder­ness, and these thru-hik­er per­mits aren’t sub­ject to the same wilder­ness quo­tas. Cin­der cones and hard­ened lava flows, wild­flow­ers and mead­ow vis­tas, stark reminders of the region’s his­to­ry as a resource extrac­tion point for tim­ber and sil­ver, aspen groves and dense pine forests, high gran­ite pass­es and ridges, canyons, and river­side, and end­less wildlife-watch­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties are just a few of the nat­ur­al won­ders you can expect to expe­ri­ence along the way.

Oh, and one last thing to woof about: Des­o­la­tion Wilder­ness is open to vis­i­tors of the four-foot­ed vari­ety, so no need to leave your best dog­gy friend at home for this campout!

Mount Kenya

Pris­tine coast­lines and majes­tic safaris are prob­a­bly the first things that come to mind when you think of Africa. The con­ti­nent is wide­ly known for its beau­ti­ful scenery and exot­ic wildlife—but did you know it also plays host to some of the world’s best-hik­ing des­ti­na­tions? The east­ern coast of Africa has some par­tic­u­lar­ly won­der­ful hik­ing trails. Here are a few you will want to check out next time you’re on the continent!

Hanang MountainHanang Moun­tain, Tanzania
While no Kil­i­man­jaro, Hanang Moun­tain still pro­vides plen­ty of sweep­ing views of the sur­round­ing plains, mak­ing it the per­fect alter­na­tive to those who can’t take a week to tack­le the country’s most well-known behe­moth. Hanang is Tanzania’s fourth largest moun­tain with a steep climb that takes rough­ly 10 hours to tra­verse. Along the way you’ll come across a vari­ety of wildlife you won’t find any­where else. Numer­ous native tribes live in the area, which is also home to a vol­canic crater.

Mount KenyaMount Kenya, Kenya
Whether you’re in town for five days or five hours, Mount Kenya is a must for any hik­er vis­it­ing the coun­try. The Naro Moru Hike, begin­ning at the park gate and con­tin­u­ing to the Met Sta­tion at 10,000 feet, offers some of the most unique land­scape in Africa. Along the way, you’ll pass ele­phants, colobus mon­keys, and buf­fa­lo, as well as tus­sock grass and Senecio plants. If you’re will­ing to head anoth­er hour north to the alpine zone, you’ll be reward­ed with awe-inspir­ing views.

Mgahinga Gorilla ParkMgahin­ga Goril­la Park, Uganda
The Mgahin­ga Goril­la Park is a some­what com­pact region of the coun­try that offers an abun­dance of explo­ration, includ­ing some of the country’s best hik­ing trails. Many of the hikes in the park can be com­plet­ed in half a day but if you choose to tack­le any of the three vol­canic sum­mits it can take between 6 and 10 hours apiece. The Bat­wa For­est Trail is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a close-up of the native Bat­wa Pyg­mies. Of course, most of the hikes offer fan­tas­tic chances to see some of the country’s majes­tic goril­las and the near­ly extinct gold­en monkeys.

Simeon GeladasSimien Moun­tains, Ethiopia
The Simien Moun­tains are a range with numer­ous sum­mits above 4,000 meters. Hik­ing here can take days or weeks, depend­ing on how much ter­rain you’re will­ing to tack­le. One of the best hikes is to the sum­mit of Ras Dashen, the high­est peak in the range and the fourth high­est in Africa. The hike to the top cross­es sev­er­al gorges and streams and is home to local wildlife like the Walia ibex and gela­da baboon. At 14,901 feet you’ll prob­a­bly need at least a full day to get to the top, so be pre­pared to rest on some pret­ty rough terrain.

Mount MulanjeMount Mulan­je (Mulan­je Mas­siff), Malawi
Mount Mulan­je is the crown jew­el of Malawi and is eas­i­ly one of the most breath­tak­ing spec­ta­cles on the African con­ti­nent. Sheer cliff walls rise dra­mat­i­cal­ly out of the sur­round­ing val­ley and climb to over 10,000 feet. Climb­ing to the top isn’t for the faint of heart, but those up to the chal­lenge are reward­ed with tru­ly spec­tac­u­lar views of the region. Some of the endem­ic draws of the area include the Mulan­je cedar, klip­springers, vervet mon­keys, and black eagles. The moun­tain has earned the nick­name “Island in the Sky” due to the fact that the cliffs seem to burst through a cot­tony haze on a misty day.

Try­ing to fit in your clothes after a long trip can be mad­den­ing. It’s easy to give your­self a pass when it comes to your fit­ness the sec­ond you pass through secu­ri­ty. The ear­ly flight left you no time to have break­fast and the gold­en arch­es are call­ing you. After all, you’re on vaca­tion, what’s the harm? That first deci­sion rolls into a snow­ball of poor health choices.

We sat down with fit­ness com­peti­tor, ER nurse and fel­low trav­el enthu­si­ast, Yomi­ca Wolfe, to see what advice she has about stay­ing fit on the road. She zeroed in on six main focus points to increase or main­tain your stel­lar fit­ness while gallivanting.

Be Active

The most impor­tant thing is to stay active. Whether trav­el is your vaca­tion or your lifestyle, the best way to see and expe­ri­ence the coun­try you’re in is to be active in it. If you’re in a place long enough, sign up for a local race and train for it (for you nomads). Or if you’re not a race per­son, pick out a chal­leng­ing moun­tain to climb and work towards con­quer­ing it.

“I have run in every sin­gle coun­try I’ve vis­it­ed. From Italy and Greece to Egypt and Israel! Run­ning has shown me so many local shops and neigh­bor­hoods I would have oth­er­wise missed! There are plen­ty of times I’ve run into an art show or exhib­it or some­thing super fun I would’ve missed out on had I slept in or stayed at the hotel. No mat­ter where you’re explor­ing, look into rent­ing bikes, swim­ming, snor­kel­ing, ski­ing, run­ning, or hik­ing. Do what­ev­er you can to stay active and dig deep­er into the cul­tur­al and nat­ur­al assets a place has to offer. By the end of the day you’ve had a com­plete work­out and it did­n’t take you away from enjoy­ing the coun­try!” ~ Yomi­ca Wolfe

Plus, as you explore via bike and foot you move at a pace that allows you to absorb your sur­round­ings. Rid­ing in a car is like watch­ing a movie in fast forward—you’re going to miss a lot.

Eat Well

“I always stay close to my low-fat low carb diet no mat­ter where I am. When I splurge, It’s on alco­holic bev­er­ages, a liq­uid dessert.” ~ Yomi­ca Wolfe

Whether you’re at the air­port, on a train or road trip­ping in your trusty four-wheeled machine, think ahead about what will make you feel good and get the most out of your expe­ri­ences. Foods high in carbs and refined sug­ars are going to make you crash and give you a sug­ar hang­over. Most trav­el venues sell bananas, apples, grape and cheese cups, nuts, and var­i­ous oth­er healthy options. Also, if you can, pack a lunch with some healthy snacks. Your adven­tures will be bet­ter enjoyed and your friends and fam­i­ly will appre­ci­ate your lack of moody behav­ior that famous­ly accom­pa­nies a sug­ar crash. Many peo­ple don’t know you are per­mit­ted to bring a brown bag onto planes.

Water Break

Stay­ing hydrat­ed is every­thing. Fly­ing in planes, alti­tude and humid­i­ty changes, and increased activ­i­ty can each sin­gu­lar­ly dehy­drate you. Togeth­er, they can anni­hi­late you. Car­ry a water bot­tle with you and drink at least half your weight in ounces dai­ly. While on the plane, drink a glass of water each time they bring the drink cart out. If you have a headache, drink more. The most com­mon cause of headaches is dehy­dra­tion. If your urine isn’t faint in col­or then you’re dehy­drat­ed: drink up!

Rest/Me-Time

Rest­ing is impor­tant too. While being active is key, don’t over­do it by set­ting out to run a marathon every day, or push­ing the enve­lope with the nightlife. Sched­ule blocks of time when you can do noth­ing, or some­thing that will re-ener­gize you such as: sun­bathing, stretch­ing by the ocean, med­i­tat­ing, read­ing, jour­nal­ing, and any­thing else that sounds good to you in the moment. Let this serve as your “me” time. If you’re trav­el­ing as a cou­ple or group, let this be the time when you break apart to do your own thing so that your needs are the only ones on your mind.

Bed­time

Every­one trav­els dif­fer­ent­ly, but if you spend your entire time avoid­ing sleep because “you can sleep when you get home,” you’ll have one grog­gy and poten­tial­ly grumpy expe­ri­ence. Try to get extra rest the first few days to accom­mo­date the jet-lag you may expe­ri­ence. Then, make sure you get suf­fi­cient sleep each night. If you have trou­ble sleep­ing in a new bed, try play­ing a guid­ed med­i­ta­tion from your smart­phone off of YouTube. Pack earplugs in case your hotel ends up being too close to a dis­co-tech or you land a trav­el-mate who snores. Also, if nightlife is a big part of your desired trav­el expe­ri­ence, pack an eye mask so that you can sleep in a few extra hours to make up for the late night arrival to REM.

Get Cre­ative

“I know a lot of peo­ple who trav­el with resis­tance bands. My whole rou­tine is based on my out­doors runs no mat­ter the weath­er: push-ups, high knees, sprints, and hill work (if it’s an option). I have one friend who even trav­els with his road bike.” ~ Yomi­ca Wolfe

Your options to stay active and healthy on the road are as lim­it­ed as your cre­ativ­i­ty. Fig­ure out what you like to do and incor­po­rate that into your trav­el expe­ri­ence. Even in the dead of an Alaskan win­ter, you could exer­cise to a P90X video you’ve saved on your iPhone or go snow­shoe­ing if the weath­er allows. If you take care of your­self, your body will take your expe­ri­ences to a whole new level.

Fun Fact: Did you know you can burn up to 40 per­cent more calo­ries snow-shoe­ing than you do run­ning or walk­ing at the same rate?

fall hike foliage

fall hike foliageAcross the coun­try, leaf peep­ers every­where live for that time of year when the temps cool off just enough to make the trees come to life with col­or. Here’s our picks of a few of the most stun­ning hikes to view fall foliage.

Geyser Val­ley, Olympic Nation­al Park, Washington
While there are no actu­al gey­sers, you will find the recent­ly undammed Elwha Riv­er lined in stun­ning red and gold dur­ing the fall. This 7.8 mile out and back low ele­va­tion stroll takes you through a bril­liant for­est of vine maple, cot­ton­wood and alder, back­dropped by the mut­ed ever­green hills. As a bonus, Roo­sevelt elk sight­ings are com­mon in fall on these pro­tect­ed lands.

Bell Moun­tain, Mark Twain Nation­al For­est, Mis­souri (and Arkansas)
Autumn col­ors on the Ozark Trail are wide­ly known as wild­ly gor­geous and the 8.4 mile Bell Moun­tain sec­tion is the must hike route. The climb up the forest­ed ridge among the blaz­ing orange, yel­lows and reds of oak, hick­o­ry and sumac is oth­er­world­ly. Once you reach the sum­mit you’ll be reward­ed with out­stand­ing views of the St. Fran­cois Moun­tains. This trek can be done as an out and back, but the shut­tle option is even better.

Red Pine Lake, Lone Peak Wilder­ness, Utah
Aspens—golden aspens—are why peo­ple flock to the Wasatch in fall, and Red Pine Lake is one of the best hikes to see them. Just shy of sev­en miles roundtrip to Low­er Red Pine Lake, gor­geous­ly set in a cirque, you’ll find broad stroke views of the gild­ed canyon below. Addi­tion­al trails lead to the upper lake and the off-trail excur­sion to 11,326 foot Pfeif­fer­horn is just 1.5 miles of seri­ous climb­ing away.

Camel’s Hump, Camel’s Hump State For­est, Vermont
There are sev­er­al routes avail­able to sum­mit Ver­mon­t’s high­est peak (with­out a struc­ture on top) and all will take you on a spec­tac­u­lar­ly col­ored path. The mod­er­ate 6.6 mile climb on the Mon­roe trail is straight­for­ward, while a detour on the Alpine Trail will take you by the wreck­age of a WWII plane. If you don’t mind scram­bling and expo­sure the Dean Trail is the adven­tur­ous route up. Regard­less of the path you choose, the real show is at the sum­mit where you’ll find a breath­tak­ing view of fiery red and burn­ing orange rem­i­nis­cent of embers in a campfire.

Chapel Loop, Pic­tured Rocks Nation­al Lakeshore, Michigan
Pos­si­bly Michi­gan’s most pic­turesque day hike peri­od, as Chapel Falls and Beach are wor­thy des­ti­na­tions any time of year. In autumn the crim­son and amber hues high­light the impres­sive sand­stone sculp­tures and pic­turesque beach­es of this 10.4 mile loop on Lake Supe­ri­or. For a longer trek, the 42.4 Lakeshore Trail from Grand Marais to Munis­ing is a fan­tas­tic fall back­pack­ing trip.

Backpacks in the Mountains

Backpacks in the Mountains

Min­i­mal­ist hik­ing. Light­weight back­pack­ing. Dirt­bag­ging. What­ev­er you want to call it, hik­ers have recent­ly been eschew­ing the tra­di­tion­al ethos of pack­ing heavy in favor of some­thing that’s a lit­tle kinder on the back. Small­er packs, lighter gear, and few­er clothes are becom­ing com­mon­place along the world’s longest thru-hikes. If you’re look­ing to jump on the band­wag­on and embrace min­i­mal­ism, here’s what you need to do.

Choos­ing gear
You should not be hik­ing in order to use gear. That phi­los­o­phy is key to min­i­miz­ing the amount you take with you on both short and long hikes. When you place the empha­sis on what’s nec­es­sary, rather than what sounds fun to use, you’ll find that many of the items you pack don’t serve many purposes.

So what do you take? For starters, aim for a small­er back­pack that’s designed for long trips while also help­ing to pre­vent you from stuff­ing in things you don’t real­ly need. One that includes a built-in hydra­tion pack will let you lose the water bot­tle. Alter­na­tive­ly, pack a water fil­ter that you can use to pull out sus­te­nance from lakes and rivers. You can also reduce the size by focus­ing on inflat­able gear like pil­lows rather than the stuffed variety.

Instead of a change of clothes for each day, bring a small bot­tle of soap so you can watch your clothes each evening. This’ll reduce the load immense­ly and help keep you smelling fresh.

Choos­ing a tent
Unless your goal is to sleep out direct­ly under­neath the stars every night – and you’re not afraid of a lit­tle rain – you’ll still want to pack a tent. A light­weight, two or one-per­son tent like the Mar­mot Tung­sten UL is a great option that weighs under three pounds and fits snug­ly into any backpack.

Ham­mocks are also a reli­able and com­pact choice that can be tak­en out onto any hike in warmer weath­er. Sim­i­lar­ly, an all-pur­pose rain fly won’t take up much room but will still pro­tect you from the rain, if you must forego a tent entirely.

Choos­ing food
Food is an essen­tial fac­tor to con­sid­er when pack­ing for a min­i­mal­ist hike. Rather than stuff your pack with hefty pieces of meat and chick­en that need to be cooked over a fire, opt for small­er fare like grains and nuts. Pas­ta is also a quick, easy choice that doesn’t take up much room and can be fixed over a fire rel­a­tive­ly quick­ly. Ide­al­ly Vac­u­um com­press­ing food is a grow­ing solu­tion to the prob­lem of bulk and is a great way to reduce the space your fruits and veg­gies take up in your pack while also keep­ing them fresh for a long trip.

Don’t pack for your fears
One of the things that bogs hik­ers down is the sub­con­scious need to pack for our fears. Mean­ing, we wor­ry so much about what might go wrong that we stuff every­thing we can into our packs in order to be pre­pared for it. The real­i­ty is that we should be learn­ing how to sur­vive in the wild through train­ing and expe­ri­ence rather than rely­ing entire­ly on tools to help us out in a pinch. One of the best things you can do to become a min­i­mal­ist hik­er is to take a wilder­ness sur­vival course, a first aid class and learn as much as you can about nav­i­ga­tion. This knowl­edge will help you much more than a back­pack stuffed with the gear you don’t real­ly have expe­ri­ence using.

 

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

There are nat­ur­al havens all over North Amer­i­ca, many of which are con­cen­trat­ed along the Pacif­ic Coast. Sum­mer is here, and these six Pacif­ic camp­grounds are not to be missed!

Leo Car­ril­lo State Beach

pacific campground beach

Tide pools, sea caves, coves, dog-friend­ly, surf, sun, and shad­ed camp­sites that are tucked away in a calm cor­ner on the cusp of the buzz of Los Ange­les. Giv­en the acces­si­bil­i­ty, this spot begs to be men­tioned in a list of pacif­ic campgrounds.

Pis­mo State Beach

Pismo Beach campground

It’s like Lord of the Flies here (with­out the vio­lence). Most Cal­i­forn­ian beach­es are lit­tered with rules: no camp­ing, no fires, no dogs, no dri­ving on the beach… Not so, here. It’s true that hol­i­days and long week­ends can get crowd­ed here, but for most of the year, you’re total­ly safe to dri­ve up and find a spot.

Julia Pfeif­fer Burns State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

How often do you see an actu­al water­fall land on the sand? Exact­ly one time, that’s how often, and it’s here. While you can’t access the beach, you can enjoy this mag­i­cal view from var­i­ous look­outs along an easy and short hike.

Cape Per­pet­ua

Oregon pacific campground

If you can’t decide between camp­ing in the for­est or on the ocean, stop try­ing! This is your place. Enjoy the shel­ter from the wind and peace afford­ed to you by giant cedars in this pic­ture-per­fect camp­ground and enjoy a five-minute walk to the ocean, toes-in-sand!

Olympic Nation­al Park

Second Beach - Pacific campground

Anoth­er fan­tas­tic spot where you’ll find mul­ti­ple great camp­grounds, where you can enjoy the for­est and the ocean in the same space! Here, how­ev­er, you can also enjoy watch­ing whales as they migrate past you (sea­son-depen­dent), hike to water­falls, and enjoy a soak in a hot spring.

Porteau, British Colum­bia, Canada

Porteau Cove Provincial Park campground

A fairy­tale cove in a sleepy town amongst a sur­re­al moun­tain-scape. Some of the most beau­ti­ful sun­sets in the world are viewed here. Also, when the con­di­tions are right you can observe the north­ern lights here.

In 2017, the num­ber of folks who report­ed hav­ing gone hik­ing or back­pack­ing in the Unit­ed States tal­lied a whop­ping 47.2 mil­lion. That’s a lot of boots on the trail, and a lot of poten­tial ground to cov­er when it comes to our expec­ta­tions for polite behav­ior. Whether you’re brand new to the out­door lifestyle or would just like a quick refresh­er, here are our tips for basic hik­ing etiquette.

Right-of-Way
Fig­ur­ing out who yields to whom on the trail can be a lit­tle com­pli­cat­ed, espe­cial­ly since the rules typ­i­cal­ly aren’t as hard-and-fast as, say, the rules of the road. The first thing you’ll want to be aware of is with whom you’re expect­ed to share the trail. Some per­mit foot traf­fic only, but oth­ers are mul­ti-use trails designed for hors­es and moun­tain bik­ers too, and come snow sea­son you may also be look­ing at the pos­si­bil­i­ty of skiers, snow­shoers, and snow­mo­biles. As a gen­er­al rule, vehi­cles, bik­ers, and snow­mo­biles always yield to hik­ers, and every­body yields to hors­es. Addi­tion­al­ly, down­hill hik­ers yield to uphill hik­ers. This is a cour­tesy that allows uphill hik­ers to main­tain their pace and momen­tum. Yield by step­ping just off the trail on the down­hill side where pos­si­ble, or to the right if the ground is even.

A quick note about groups: if you’re lucky enough to hike with a group of bud­dies — when it is safe to do so — it’s impor­tant to go sin­gle-file on estab­lished trails. This gives oth­er hik­ers room to pass on your left, whether they’re out­pac­ing your group or sim­ply com­ing from the oppo­site direc­tion. And while more may be mer­ri­er, keep in mind that larg­er groups tend to be nois­i­er, so take extra care to keep the vol­ume low so that both you and your fel­low out­door recre­ation enthu­si­asts can appre­ci­ate the nat­ur­al sounds of the wilder­ness around you.

Woman Hiking With Dog

Leave No Trace
Some of the most basic hik­ing eti­quette requires adher­ence to the prin­ci­ples of Leave No Trace. Remem­ber the say­ing “take only pic­tures, leave only foot­prints”? That’s the gist of it. Remem­ber that you’re a vis­i­tor in that wild blue yon­der, and take care not to leave evi­dence of your pas­sage. This means no graf­fi­ti, includ­ing scratch­ing your sweetheart’s name into pic­nic tables or tree bark. Also, no lit­ter­ing, includ­ing uneat­en food and bags of dog poo you total­ly intend to come back for lat­er. And speak­ing of poo, if you’ve got to go and you’re not in an extra-sen­si­tive area where you’re expect­ed to pack it all out, dig your cathole about forty paces off the trail. Oth­er­wise, stay on the path. Cut­ting switch­backs might save you time, but it’s not worth adding trail ero­sion to somebody’s main­te­nance back­log. Leave cairns as you found them, espe­cial­ly if they’re mark­ing trails, and don’t build new ones. If you’re back­pack­ing or in trails-what-trails back­coun­try, walk and camp on durable sur­faces to avoid dam­age to vegetation.

Leave Wildlife Wild
If you’ve ever been dive-bombed by an over­ly-aggres­sive gull at the beach, you’ll under­stand why some folks get irate when oth­er folks just can’t help but feed the adorable squir­rels. Look, we get it, the siren call of Insta­gram love for pics of cute crit­ters eat­ing right out of the palm of your hand is mighty tempt­ing. Just keep in mind that those adorable squir­rels are prob­a­bly laden with han­tavirus, and those grey jays are prob­a­bly car­ry­ing sal­mo­nel­la. Deer kick, chip­munks bite, and by def­i­n­i­tion, no wild ani­mal is “safe.” Feed­ing them just embold­ens them to approach and harass hik­ers, back­pack­ers, and pic­nick­ers. Also, the food you’re giv­ing them is prob­a­bly bad for them anyway.

Be Friend­ly
Last but not least, say hel­lo! You’re not required to become BFFs with every­one you meet on the trail, but par­tic­u­lar­ly on more seclud­ed or less well-trav­eled routes, it can make the out­doors feel just that lit­tle bit friend­lier when folks are will­ing to see one anoth­er and offer a kind greet­ing. Plus, if you find your­self in need of res­cue, those folks just may be the last peo­ple to have known your where­abouts, so it pays to make a good impression.

Palu­ose Falls, Washington

With the melt­ing snow and increased pre­cip­i­ta­tion asso­ci­at­ed with spring, there are few bet­ter times in the year to admire an immense water­fall or two. From the Cas­cades out west to the Blue Ridge Moun­tains in the east, mas­sive and scenic water­falls are surg­ing to catch your atten­tion. Access to these bril­liant dis­plays of grav­i­ty vary from road­side park­ing spots to longer hikes and each water­fall is always sur­round­ed a lush scenery aid­ed by plen­ty of water. While the list below is only a frac­tion of all the water­falls to find in the Unit­ed States, each one guar­an­tees a healthy dose of fast-mov­ing sys­tems and ver­ti­cal attraction.

Palouse Falls
Palouse Falls State Park, Washington
Locat­ed with­in a state park of its own name, Palouse Falls plum­mets near­ly 200 feet into the undu­lat­ing canyon envi­ron­ment known as the Palouse Prairie region of south­east Wash­ing­ton. A slight­ly less­er-known adven­ture out­post in a state stacked with stun­ning nat­ur­al land­scapes, Palouse Falls became the offi­cial water­fall of Wash­ing­ton per 2014 state leg­is­la­tion. Vis­it the water­fall at the 105-acre state park and you can see the falls from three dis­tinct van­tage points. Make sure to uti­lize the first-come, first-serve tent camp­ing space for extend­ed stays.

High Falls
Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota
Abut­ting the Cana­di­an and U.S. Bor­der in north­ern Min­neso­ta, Grand Portage State Park received its name thanks to its 120-foot water­fall that served as a great has­sle when trav­el­ing by boat down the Pigeon Riv­er. Trav­el­ing to the High Falls of Grand Portage is a lit­tle eas­i­er in cur­rent times. Inter­est­ed spec­ta­tors can check out the gush­ing water with an acces­si­ble half-mile board­walk trail and obser­va­tion deck. For the more ath­let­i­cal­ly inclined, a five-mile loop trail takes vis­i­tors over a more rugged path to check out the equal­ly inspir­ing Mid­dle Falls.

Low­er Yel­low­stone Falls

Upper and Low­er Falls
Grand Canyon of the Yel­low­stone, Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park, Wyoming
At up to 1,200 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide, the Grand Canyon of the Yel­low­stone Riv­er is one of many awe-inspir­ing ele­ments of Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park. Con­tain­ing two daz­zling water­falls with­in sight of each oth­er (the Upper and Low­er Falls), vis­i­tors to the Grand Canyon of the Yel­low­stone Riv­er have many ways to appre­ci­ate the frothy scene. The Brink of Low­er Falls Trail lends a great view of the Low­er Falls before it plunges 309 feet below. Artist Point, Grand View, and Inspi­ra­tion Point Trails all live up to their high-expec­ta­tion names.

Upper White­wa­ter Falls
Nan­ta­ha­la Nation­al For­est, North Carolina
Near the bor­der of North and South Car­oli­na, the Upper White­wa­ter Falls is one of the largest water­falls east of the Rock­ies. I sits on the edge of the Nan­ta­ha­la Nation­al For­est, 60 miles from Asheville. The rugged escarp­ment that lends to the water­falls stature also makes explor­ing the area dif­fi­cult to do. Vis­i­tors can access view­ing plat­forms for the falls by a paved jaunt from a park­ing area that costs $2 to park. A foothill trail from there can get you to the base of the falls, but all vis­i­tors are encour­aged to not wan­der far from the well-worn path.

The Broad­moor Sev­en Falls
Col­orado Springs, Colorado
Col­orado has a lot of nat­ur­al won­der to choose from, includ­ing a wide array of water­falls through­out the state. One of many daz­zling dis­plays can be found on the grounds of the His­toric Broad­moor Resort in Col­orado Springs. Cel­e­brat­ing its cen­ten­ni­al in 2018, there are many great rea­sons to vis­it the Broad­moor and spend the night. The resort includes its own per­son­al canyon and water­fall, the Sev­en Falls water­fall, which snakes its way 181 feet down a nar­row box canyon. Vis­i­tors can take stairs all the way to the top to track its journey.

Mult­nom­ah Falls, Oregon

Mult­nom­ah Falls
Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge Nation­al Scenic Area, Oregon
The Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge, sit­ting at sea-lev­el between Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, uti­lizes its low posi­tion to catch plen­ty of water through­out the year. Along the 80-mile stretch of the des­ig­nat­ed gorge, there are hun­dreds of water­falls to scout out and see. Mult­nom­ah is per­haps the most pop­u­lar of all the falls. It con­sists of over 600 feet of ver­ti­cal drop on dis­play between its two steps. The Mult­nom­ah Lodge* is accessed right off the high­way and is a good hub for embark­ing on the short trail to the view­ing plat­form of the falls.

Falls Trail
Rick­etts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania
Tout­ed as one of the most scenic areas in Penn­syl­va­nia, Rick­etts Glen State Park occu­pies over 13,000 square miles in the north­east part of the state. The park deliv­ers a dense selec­tion of pic­ture-wor­thy water­falls. Rang­ing from 12 feet to 94 feet, Rick­etts Glen State Park fea­tures 21 dif­fer­ent water­falls along the 7.1‑mile lol­lipop-loop with­in the Glens Nat­ur­al Area. Wear prop­er shoes (san­dals are pro­hib­it­ed) and find which fall is your favorite on this fam­i­ly friend­ly trek. 

Ruby Falls
Look­out Moun­tain, Chat­tanooga Tennessee
Ruby Falls pro­vides an inter­est­ing water­fall expe­ri­ence that can be found at few oth­er places in the world. The falls have a sub­ter­ranean sta­tus which can only be dis­cov­ered via a guid­ed tour. Orig­i­nat­ing as a road­side attrac­tion, over the last 100 years Ruby Falls and the sur­round­ing cav­ern have grown into a tourism sta­ple in the south­east today. Reg­u­lar tours, lantern-led pro­grams, and spe­cial pro­mo­tion pack­ages all allow patrons to get a glimpse at the under­ground show. For an addi­tion­al unique expe­ri­ence dur­ing your vis­it to Ruby Falls and Thun­der Moun­tain, check­out the Look­out Moun­tain Incline Rail­way which takes patrons on a one-mile, 72.7% grad­ed incline, scenic ride to the top of Look­out Mountain.

 

*Note: The Mult­nom­ah Falls Lodge is open amidst the dam­age done by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, but as of 1/22/2018, the view­ing plat­form is closed to the public.

Pacific Rim National Park

If you think of hik­ing as some­thing you only do in the moun­tains, think again. These rugged coastal hikes will stretch your per­cep­tion of what life on the beach can mean.

Shi Shi BeachShi Shi Beach to Rial­to Beach, Olympic Nation­al Park, WA
Dis­tance: 35 miles, 5–7 days
Part of Olympic Nation­al Parks, this hike takes you along beach­es, over rugged head­lands on rope lad­ders, and around points that can only be round­ed dur­ing low tide. Sea otters, whales, and col­or­ful tide­pool crit­ters abound along with spec­tac­u­lar sun­sets and sea stacks. You’ll need: a tide chart, a reser­va­tion, and a bear can­is­ter for keep­ing your food away from the aggres­sive raccoons.


Lost Coast, CaliforniaMat­tole Beach to Shel­ter Cove, The Lost Coast, CA
Dis­tance: 25 miles, 3 days
In North­ern California’s fog­gy, “Lost Coast,” this hike through the King’s Range is less rugged than its pre­de­ces­sor, but more iso­lat­ed. Don’t miss the Pun­ta Gor­da Light­house, and enjoy long sandy beach­es with occa­sion­al riv­er cross­ings. A per­mit is required to camp overnight in the Kings Range Wilderness.


Channel Island National Park, CASan­ta Bar­bara Island, Chan­nel Island Nation­al Park, CA
Dis­tance: 5 miles or more
To hike San­ta Bar­bara Island, you first have to get there, which involves a boat ride from main­land south­ern Cal­i­for­nia to this rugged lit­tle nation­al park of scat­tered islands that are home to Ele­phant Seals, sea cliffs, and arch­es. Once you make your way up the steep cliffs from the beach, you’ll find rolling land­scapes and stun­ning vis­tas of a great blue world stretch­ing off into the horizon.


Pacific Rim National ParkThe West Coast Life­sav­ing Trail, Pacif­ic Rim Nation­al Park, B.C.
Dis­tance: 47 miles, 6–8 days
The great-grand­dad­dy of Pacif­ic coastal trails, the West Coast Life­sav­ing Trail from Pachena Bay to Port Ren­frew on Van­cou­ver Island’s west coast, has been described as gru­el­ing, remote and as “an obsta­cle course for adults.” It involves scram­bles over impass­able head­lands, riv­er cross­ings on hand-cranked cable cars, and scram­bles up and down lad­ders. Orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed to pro­vide an egress to sailors strand­ed by the many boats that wrecked in the “grave­yard of the Pacif­ic,” it fol­lows a road­less, rugged, and reward­ing stretch of the British Colum­bia Coast.

 

Solo Hike

There are many rea­sons to do a solo hike. Some peo­ple choose to hike alone because they crave the silence and being away from the crazi­ness of every­day life. “Oth­ers like to be self-reliant,” accord­ing to Eliza Hatch, direc­tor of guest ser­vices for Adven­ture­Women. “You’re out there by your­self with no one else to talk to, and you are rely­ing on your own feet and what you can carry.”

Solo hik­ing also gives you qui­et time to reflect, which is some­thing that very few peo­ple take the time to do, accord­ing to Hatch. “Even when you sit at home alone, you’re dis­tract­ed by oth­er things – get­ting out into the woods leaves you alone with your thoughts,” Hatch says.

Plan For Everything
If you’ve nev­er been hik­ing, it’s prob­a­bly not a good idea to start with a solo hike. Instead, join a group so you can learn the basics, what to pack and how to deal with the unex­pect­ed. “Prac­tice being out­side before­hand in lots of dif­fer­ent weath­er so you can test out your lay­ers; for exam­ple, try out your rain gear in the show­er – you should be dry when you get out,” says Hatch. “And take a map and com­pass class so you can nav­i­gate with just these tools – GPS isn’t always reliable.”

It’s also a good idea to pack an emer­gency med­ical kit that includes rehy­dra­tion salts, a brace, and ban­dages, says Kel­ly Lewis, founder of the Go! Girl Guides and of the annu­al Women’s Trav­el Fest. “If you’re a fre­quent hik­er, it’s also a good idea to cre­ate a back­up med­ical plan,” Lewis adds. “Using a ser­vice like Med­jet can help get you to the near­est hos­pi­tal if some­thing real­ly bad does hap­pen.” Emer­gency ser­vices like Med­jet offer med­ical trans­port and cri­sis response so you don’t end up stuck in a tiny clin­ic in the mid­dle of nowhere with­out access to bet­ter facil­i­ties or no way to get home.

“It all sounds like com­mon sense, but you’d be sur­prised at how many peo­ple you find in the woods who don’t know how far away they are from their cars with no warm lay­ers or rain gear,” Hatch says. “Be smart and over-prepared.”

Put Safe­ty First
One of the most impor­tant things you can do before you leave for a solo hike is to make sure some­one knows where you are. Always share your itin­er­ary with a friend and tell them when you’re expect­ed to be back.

In addi­tion, Lewis rec­om­mends basic things such as stick­ing to well-marked trails, not hik­ing in extreme weath­er, prepar­ing for the worst and expect­ing the best. “Hik­ing solo is an incred­i­ble way to recon­nect with nature and with your­self, but if you’re new to trails and hik­ing, start with an eas­i­er trail and then work your way to more advanced treks,” Lewis adds.

When in doubt, Hatch rec­om­mends always mak­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive deci­sion. “Hik­ing in the rain is fine as long as you have the right lay­ers, but if you hike in a light­ning storm, you need to know to ditch your pack and your poles and crouch in the trees,” Hatch says.

Deal­ing With Loneliness
Hik­ing solo has many chal­lenges and per­haps one of the most dif­fi­cult ones to deal with is being by your­self. “On a longer hike, like a mul­ti­ple day or week trip, the first cou­ple of days are the hard­est,” Hatch says. “After a day or two, you get used to the silence, and you are thank­ful when that nice chat­ty per­son on the trail goes the oth­er way.”

“Bring­ing a dog is great on a one- or two-day hike, but more than that and you’re car­ry­ing your food as well as your dog’s,” says Hatch. No dog? Hatch sug­gests bring­ing a book that you’d be will­ing to read over and over (more than one book is too much extra weight for a long hike) or a jour­nal where you can write down your thoughts.

 


 

San Luis Obispo County’s (SLO CAL) stunning scenery is best taken in slowly. Whether you prefer to take in the sights on foot or in the saddle, SLO CAL has no shortage of opportunities for every experience level.

 

SLO CAL’s abun­dant hik­ing trails pro­vide end­less oppor­tu­ni­ty for expe­ri­enc­ing the land­scape up close. The rolling hills are a vibrant green in spring, and turn to gold in the sum­mer. A chain of vol­canic peaks, known as the 9 sis­ters, tran­sect SLO CAL’s most promi­nent val­ley and paint a strik­ing land­scape from San Luis Obis­po to Mor­ro Bay. Many of them have well-kept trails and we high­ly rec­om­mend you take advan­tage of the bird’s eye view! 

For south-coun­ty hik­ers that want to gain some ele­va­tion and ocean views, you can’t beat the Avi­la Ridge trail or the new­ly-opened Pis­mo Pre­serve. Avi­la Ridge starts in Shell Beach and climbs the tow­er­ing oak-filled hill­side that sep­a­rates the small beach towns. For those will­ing to make the trip to the peak, the tree swing at the top will make you feel like you’re swing­ing on the edge of the world. The Pis­mo Pre­serve to the south offers hikes that will take you through some of the most pris­tine coastal hill­sides. While it’s cur­rent­ly only acces­si­ble with a guide, the expe­ri­ence  is well worth it and expect­ed to be open-access in the near future.

If moun­tain bik­ing is more your style, you’re in luck. SLO CAL is home of some of the most awe-inspir­ing sea-side moun­tain bik­ing trails in the coun­try. Take a dri­ve just south of Los Osos & Bay­wood Park to Mon­taña de Oro State Park and you’ll find your­self climb­ing hills of sage and descend­ing with sweep­ing views of dra­mat­ic seas. The mel­low bluff-top trails pro­vide great options for begin­ners and those seek­ing an up-close view of the crash­ing tides below. Pack a lunch, you’ll have a hard time tear­ing your­self away from this dreamy single-track.

Adja­cent to Mon­taña de Oro is Mor­ro Bay’s South Jet­ty. The long sand­spit is home to oth­er-world­ly dunes and is a must-see if you’ve nev­er had the expe­ri­ence. Sev­er­al trails wind between the bay and the sea and are acces­si­ble only by foot or kayak. This human-pow­ered expe­ri­ence is one you won’t for­get any­time soon.

Of course there are more than enough impromp­tu-oppor­tu­ni­ties to stretch your legs and enjoy the SLO CAL beau­ty. The north coast of High­way One is flush with all-access board­walks. Pull off near the famous Piedra Blan­cas Light Sta­tion and take a walk around the 19th cen­tu­ry grounds, or make a stop just north of Cam­bria at the Fis­call­i­ni Ranch Pre­serve. The untouched bluffs and drift­wood sculp­tures offer a unique view of the entire coastline.

Wher­ev­er the trail takes you, from the hill­tops to the sea, we’re sure you’ll find what you’re look­ing for. 

 

G e t t i n g    T h e r e
Now with direct flights from Den­ver, San Fran­cis­co, Seat­tle, Los Ange­les and Phoenix, get­ting to SLO CAL is eas­i­er than ever. Come stay and hang out, we dare you to get bored in this explorer’s paradise.


Shi Shi Beach

From Sun­set Cliffs to Cape Ara­go, some of the best hik­ing trails run along the coasts of Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, and Wash­ing­ton. Here are sev­en must-hike trails along the West­ern coast.

Shi Shi BeachShi Shi Beach, Washington 
The hike on this beach could be one of the most gor­geous walks you will ever take. Sit­u­at­ed on the Wash­ing­ton coast, this stretch of sand fea­tures tide pools, sea stacks, and head­lands, all sur­round­ed by coastal forests. This eight-mile hike round trip starts at the trail­head near the fish hatch­ery on a new­ly refur­bished part of the trail. You’ll even­tu­al­ly cross bridges and board­walks as you descend deep­er into the Olympic Nation­al For­est, Even­tu­al­ly, the sand will dis­perse. After walk­ing anoth­er mile you will arrive at Point of Arch­es, a mile-long parade of rocky sea stacks. Be sure to check in at the ranger sta­tion for park­ing and permits.

Ecola State ParkEco­la State Park, Oregon
This Ore­gon State Park has a net­work of trails includ­ing an eight-mile seg­ment of the Ore­gon Coast Trail, and a two-and-a-half-mile his­tor­i­cal inter­pre­tive route called the Clat­sop Loop Trail. Whichev­er you choose, you’ll encounter tide pools, surfers, elk, bald eagles and drift­wood bleached white by the sun and the salt water. Views are breath­tak­ing and be sure to watch out for migrat­ing whales in the win­ter and spring.

Lost Coast, CaliforniaThe Lost Coast, California
The Lost Coast is so named because of the dif­fi­cul­ty of putting a road through, and even walk­ing over the cliffs and the beach below is a slow-go. For­tu­nate­ly, there are some trails along the coast­line that will get you down to the beach where the sand is both soft and rocky at points. The trail stretch­es 25 miles, from Mat­tole Beach in the north to the vil­lage of Shel­ter Cove in the south. You can walk small stretch­es of the trail in an after­noon or grab your back­pack and take your time. Be sure to watch the tides and the weath­er, because both can put a damper on your hike if you don’t pay attention.

Point ReyesPoint Reyes Nation­al Seashore, California
Just a 90-minute dri­ve from the city of San Fran­cis­co in near­by Marin Coun­ty is Point Reyes Nation­al Seashore. After cross­ing the Gold­en Gate Bridge, you’ll find your­self wind­ing through farm­land with dairy cows and folks sell­ing organ­ic milk by the side of the road. All along the road the trails are marked, and there are plen­ty of them; the nation­al seashore has about 150 miles of hik­ing trails, so there’s a path for every lev­el of hik­er. If you’re up to it, con­sid­er hik­ing the Toma­les Bay Eco­log­i­cal Reserve, a 9.5‑mile trail with 482 acres of salt marsh and tidal flats con­sist­ing of pick­le­weed, arrow grass, gum plant, salt­bush, and salt grass, as well as plen­ty of birds includ­ing Osprey. This is only one of the trails at the nation­al seashore, so if you have a month to wan­der the shores of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, this is the place to be.

Salt Point Bluffs State ParkSalt Point Bluffs Bluffs State Park, California
The panoram­ic views of this 20-mile trail will take your breath away. Pound­ing surf, mas­sive kelp beds, and open grass­land forests can be enjoyed by hik­ing, horse­back rid­ing, and camp­ing. The trail boasts six miles of rugged coastal trails that lead to the ocean. Sand­stone from these bluffs were used to make the streets of San Fran­cis­co back in the 1800s. The weath­er in San Fran­cis­co is always unpre­dictable, and even more so along this trail, so pack for cold and wet weath­er even if the sun is shin­ing as you set out for your hike.

Cape FlatteryCape Flat­tery, Washington
This trail is found at the fur­thest north­west tip of the con­tigu­ous Unit­ed States and is a won­der to behold. It starts on a grav­el road, and quick­ly leads into a for­est and then onto a board­walk so that hik­ers won’t be stuck in the mud. Make sure you check in at Washburn’s gen­er­al store for a per­mit, which is run by the Makah Tribe. This area is one of the most pop­u­lar on Wash­ing­ton State’s Olympic Penin­su­la and this trail, while short at 1.5 miles, is worth run­ning into a few oth­er hik­ers to enjoy this coastal beauty.

Tillamook HeadTillam­ook Head, Oregon
Like many trails in this area, the Lewis and Clark expe­di­tion was here and the men were awestruck by the grandeur of the Pacif­ic North­west. Upon arriv­ing at Tillam­ook Trail, Clark mar­veled, “I behold the grand­est and most pleas­ing prospect which my eyes ever sur­veyed.” For the best hikes at Tillam­ook Head, it’s best to start at the Indi­an Beach pic­nic area, which is clear­ly marked. After walk­ing 1.2 miles, you will find an area for back­pack­ers with open sided shel­ters and bunk beds. You will also pass a World War II bunker cov­ered in dark green moss, and even­tu­al­ly, end at an aban­doned light­house nick­named “Ter­ri­ble Tilly.” You can return the same way, fol­low­ing some switch­backs that will take you past Clark’s favorite viewpoint.

Hik­ing is a fan­tas­tic pas­time; it is relax­ing, fun and a great form of exer­cise. But if you don’t pre­pare prop­er­ly you could end up haul­ing an unnec­es­sar­i­ly heavy bag. If you find that your back­pack is always heav­ier than you want it to be, use these five tips to help you on your next light­weight hik­ing trip.

1. Break Up The Weight
It doesn’t mat­ter if you are going for a quick day hike or an overnight trip; either way, you will need to bring a few heavy items. From water to tents, lots of items can be fair­ly heavy, and the best way to pack lighter is to dis­trib­ute the heavy items among the group equally.

If you are hik­ing with a part­ner, ask them to car­ry a cou­ple of heavy items so that nei­ther of you has to car­ry too much. This is even eas­i­er in a big group as every­one only has to car­ry one or two heavy things, which real­ly light­ens the load!

2. Choose Lighter Equipment
If you are think­ing about buy­ing a new tent, a new sleep­ing bag or even a new water bot­tle, con­sid­er the weight of the item before mak­ing a pur­chase. The lighter items are more expen­sive than the heav­ier ones so it can be tempt­ing to go for a cheap­er option, but be aware that it is like­ly that the item will be heav­ier and hard­er to carry.

This is not to say you light­weight hik­ing is only for those who can afford to splurge on high-cost items. In addi­tion to shop­ping at The Clymb, there are plen­ty of hacks you can use to light­en your load on a bud­get.

It can also be use­ful to buy a light back­pack with wide straps, as this will reduce the weight even more (and the wide straps help to dis­trib­ute the weight even more).

3. Be Stingy With Clothing
One of the most com­mon mis­takes that ama­teur hik­ers make is pack­ing too many clothes. If you are going for an overnight hike it can be tempt­ing to pack a few dif­fer­ent out­fits to wear, but in real­i­ty, this is total­ly unnec­es­sary. You don’t actu­al­ly need a clean out­fit for every new day; if you’re going on a light­weight hik­ing trip it is much more prac­ti­cal to reuse your cloth­ing, espe­cial­ly if your out­fit has layering.

The ide­al hik­ing out­fit has base lay­ers, mid­dle lay­ers, and an out­side shell. The base lay­ers should be leg­gings, vest tops, thin T‑shirts, pants and socks; the mid­dle lay­er should be jumpers or items with long sleeves, and the out­side shell will be a coat or a jacket.

Real­is­ti­cal­ly you only need to change the base lay­er of cloth­ing as this will keep you clean (and you should only need to change the top two lay­ers if they get wet or very dirty). For this rea­son, it is best to pack spare tops and spare hik­ing socks, but extra jumpers and jack­ets tend to be unnecessary—unless you are expect­ing the weath­er con­di­tions to change halfway through the hike!

4. Be Reasonable
Lots of hik­ers pack more than they need as they are being over­ly cau­tious, but this means that they spend days car­ry­ing around items that don’t get used once. This adds weight to your back­pack and takes up space, so next time you go on a hike make sure you only pack the items that you need to make your pack lighter.

Of course, you can pack a few lux­u­ry items (such as extra food) if you want, but be aware that this will increase the weight of your back­pack. If you con­stant­ly over-pack, take a good look at your pack after you get home from a trip; what did you not use that you can get rid of? Don’t keep pack­ing things that you might need to use only once a trip.

5. Use Items With More Than One Purpose
Savvy hik­ers fill their back­packs with items that have more than one use, such as camp­ing tools that include can open­ers, scis­sors, knives, and oth­er use­ful tools. This should help to reduce the weight of your back­pack for your light­weight hik­ing adventure!

You’ve done your research and found the per­fect hike for this week­end. It has every­thing! A riv­er, water­fall, for­est canopy, and the much-need­ed soli­tude to reset your mind and soul. Sat­ur­day final­ly rolled its way to you and you’re ready. The car is fueled, hik­ing snacks packed, camel pack filled, and off you go!

One thing often over­looked, is that the soli­tude we des­per­ate­ly crave and trav­el great lengths to find often serves as a cat­a­lyst for dan­ger. With great soli­tude and remote­ness comes great vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. Below are five sce­nar­ios and the prepa­ra­tion you have for them.

The Lone Wolf
It’s an unfor­tu­nate truth that some indi­vid­u­als prey on the vul­ner­a­ble. When you’re an hour from the car hik­ing by your­self, you’re inher­ent­ly vul­ner­a­ble. I’ve observed numer­ous “out of place” indi­vid­u­als that are at least 30 min­utes from the car along a trail appear­ing to be up to no good. After liv­ing in Cos­ta Rica I start­ed hik­ing with a small machete. Once I moved back to the US I real­ized that my machete did a lot more than help me clear jun­gle and man­age snakes. It was a clear and strong mes­sage that I’m not an easy mark and to leave me be. I’ve been very hap­py to have had the machete rest­ing in its sheath on my hip in clear view when I encoun­tered a group of men on a trail that looked like they were look­ing for a vic­tim. Not today…

Bears
Remote­ness = wilder­ness (and all that comes with it.) Bears are a nec­es­sary piece of the for­est of which you find reprieve. In most instances, bears have lit­tle to no inter­est in you. How­ev­er, if you’re car­ry­ing food, smell par­tic­u­lar­ly deli­cious, or run into a mama bear, then your expe­ri­ence will like­ly be much more dra­mat­ic. Unless you’re versed in Kendo, I doubt your machete will help you much with a bear. Instead, make sure you’re equipped with a bear whis­tle and/or bear spray* so you can deter the bear from a greater dis­tance away. Remem­ber to make your­self big and use a strong voice, “No bear, back up bear!” One clever trick to man­age a bear that approach­es your vehi­cle in a car camp­ing sit­u­a­tion is to waft dirty hik­ing clothes near any vents/cracked windows.

Cougars
This one’s tricky. If a cougar wants a human snack they can stalk then attack and we wouldn’t know what hit us. That being said, there are ways to iden­ti­fy cougar coun­try and best prac­tices if you’re one of the rare ones to come face to face with a big cat. There are often warn­ing signs at trail­heads if cougars have been spot­ted in the area.

Keep cog­nizant of tracks as you hike. Cougars leave a four-toe print with­out claw marks (since they’re usu­al­ly retract­ed). Also, they often scratch trees to sharp­en their claws and to climb the tree. In fact, cougar spot­tings are often tree­top. Try to make noise while you’re hik­ing. Star­tling cougar isn’t a good intro­duc­tion. Make sure if you do run into a cougar that they’re not backed into a cor­ner, but rather have an escape path. Also, make your­self as big as pos­si­ble while slow­ly back­ing up. Show your teeth and main­tain eye con­tact. Be think­ing of what weapons you can use if they attack (a walk­ing stick, near­by rock, your machete, etc). Hope you have some good kar­ma to see you through. Keep alert after an encounter since they have a ten­den­cy to stalk their prey.

Injury
Yes, even healthy 20 some­things get injured hik­ing. A sim­ple ankle sprain can be life-threat­en­ing if you’re not prepared.

Step 1—Tell some­one where you’ll be hik­ing and when you should be home. This is a must. Imag­ine your­self hik­ing in a gor­geous state park when while admir­ing the intri­cate canopy above you mis­step and roll your ankle from the count­less vari­a­tions along the trail. You hear a pop on your way down into agony. No prob­lem, you can reach your phone, right? Nope, no ser­vice. If no one knows where you are, then no one will know when you should be home and where to search and res­cue you.

Step 2—Carry one of the count­less GPS nav­i­ga­tion tools that come equipped with an emer­gency res­cue fea­ture that will send out an S.O.S. to author­i­ties along with your exact GPS location.

Step 3—Carry the essen­tial wilder­ness first aid items, such as mole skin, emer­gency blan­ket, life straw, gauze, wound dress­ing, Benadryl, up to date epi-pen (if you’re aller­gic to bee stings), ace wrap, and a tri­an­gle bandage.

Ele­ments
Always wear/pack lay­ers. Puff jack­ets with omni-heat are insane­ly light and com­pact these days. Pack them in your day pack and expect not to use it. It’s far bet­ter to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Car­ry a plas­tic pon­cho and emer­gency blan­ket (as men­tioned above) in your day­pack. There’s zero chance you will stay warm if you’re wet. Wear reflec­tive cloth­ing and keep an LED head­lamp in your day­pack. This will make it much eas­i­er for res­cue work­ers to locate you from air or ground. Keep a lighter and knife in your day­pack as well. Fire can save your life as can a knife that in com­bi­na­tion with a rock can help make kin­dling, gut a fish, cre­ate your shel­ter, and defend you from poten­tial predators.

* Make cer­tain you’re versed in the laws per­tain­ing to bear spray in the park or state you wish to trav­el to. Bear spray is ille­gal in Canada.

water purification

water purification

It doesn’t mat­ter if you’re hik­ing in your local area or if you have trav­elled hun­dreds of miles to check out a new hik­ing trail; either way, you need to know about the dan­ger­ous bac­te­ria that could be liv­ing in the water.

Some of the most com­mon water pathogens and bac­te­ria are E.coli, Sal­mo­nel­la, Pro­to­zoan cysts, and virus­es includ­ing hepati­tis A. Most of these bac­te­ria can live off human waste, includ­ing food, soap suds, and sweat, so they can be dif­fi­cult to avoid—but you will def­i­nite­ly want to try and avoid them, as they can cause nau­sea, sick­ness, cramps and seri­ous infection.

Thank­ful­ly you can make water safe for drink­ing by using a water purifi­ca­tion sys­tem. A water purifi­ca­tion sys­tem will kill bac­te­ria, Pro­to­zoa and virus­es such as polio and hepati­tis A, as well as neu­tral­is­ing any dirt.

If you want to find the per­fect water purifi­ca­tion sys­tem for you, here are some of the most pop­u­lar options for you to choose from.

Boil­ing The Water
Boil­ing water is one of the most pop­u­lar types of water purification—it’s cheap, easy, and effec­tive. Boil­ing water will kill off the path­o­gen­ic organ­isms and you only need a pan and some form of fire, but it’s impor­tant to boil the water for at least 5 min­utes to ensure that all the pathogens and bac­te­ria have died.

Iodine Based Water Treatments
Iodine based water treat­ments are also a very pop­u­lar option as they’re fair­ly easy to use, and they tend to be the most effec­tive way to kill all pathogens. How­ev­er it’s worth not­ing that the treat­ment should be left for a while to work prop­er­ly, and you should avoid this option if you’re preg­nant or have thy­roid prob­lems. The treat­ment also makes the water taste a lit­tle strange!

Water Neu­tral­is­ing Tablets
If you used an iodine based treat­ment you may also want to use water neu­tral­is­ing tablets. The tablets must be used with anoth­er fil­tra­tion method, such as a water purifi­ca­tion liq­uid or an iodine based treat­ment, and the tablet will help to remove the taste of iodine from the water. This makes the water taste much bet­ter (but they’re not essential).

Water Purifi­ca­tion Liquid
Water purifi­ca­tion liq­uid is often used by campers, as you can add the liq­uid to a tank of drink­ing water to kill bac­te­ria. This option is very cheap, as nor­mal­ly one 250ml bot­tle can be used to treat over 600 litres of water—impressive! This is per­fect for campers, but not ter­ri­bly effi­cient for back­pack­ers and hik­ers as it means car­ry­ing a large quan­ti­ty of water around with you as you hike.

Water Purifi­ca­tion Tablets
Water purifi­ca­tion tablets are a great option for hik­ers as they’re easy to pack and they don’t take up much room, and one tablet can puri­fy around 25 litres of water. This means that one pack of tablets will be more than enough for a week-long trip, so you may want to con­sid­er this option if you like to go on long hikes.

You can also buy spe­cif­ic tablets for cer­tain areas, such as tables that can specif­i­cal­ly remove chlo­rine from the water.

A Water Fil­ter Unit
A water fil­ter unit’s anoth­er pop­u­lar water purifi­ca­tion option that’s often used by hik­ers and campers. The unit’s sim­ply a fil­ter bot­tle that you can use to fil­ter water in a mat­ter of min­utes. This is a great option as it’s fair­ly easy to car­ry and it can puri­fy water for your whole trip, but it’s impor­tant to be aware of how big the bot­tle should be.

If you’re hik­ing alone you will only need a small bot­tle, but if you’re hik­ing with friends or fam­i­ly you will ide­al­ly need a bot­tle with a 10 litre capac­i­ty. This may be too heavy to car­ry around with you, so if you’re trav­el­ling in a group you may want to con­sid­er anoth­er water purifi­ca­tion option.

While thru-hik­ing the 2,600-mile Pacif­ic Crest Trail comes with plen­ty of high­lights, there are a few select loca­tions along the way that tend to real­ly stick out long after the hike is complete.

It’s the com­bi­na­tion of epic scenery and trail mile­stones that cre­ate the ulti­mate highlights—whether it’s the tallest peak in the low­er 48 or the entry­way into a whole new state, there’s dai­ly high­lights to be found on the PCT, but only a hand­ful of places that leave foot­prints in your mind forever.

South­ern Terminus—Campo, California
While it’s not much more than GPS coor­di­nates on the map, the South­ern Ter­mi­nus of the PCT holds spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance. Locat­ed in the small com­mu­ni­ty of Cam­po, Cal­i­for­nia, and erect­ed only feet away from the U.S.-Mexico bor­der, for the major­i­ty of thru-hik­ers attempt­ing the trail this is where their jour­ney begins. For the rest of thru-hik­ers, those head­ing south along the route, this mark­er denotes the end to an epic adventure.

Hik­er Heaven—Agua Dulce, California 
After trekking near­ly 500 miles through South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and con­quer­ing obsta­cles includ­ing intense heat, sparse water, and the ver­ti­cal gain of San Jac­in­to and Mt. Baden-Pow­ell, north­bound hik­ers arrive to a lit­tle place sim­ply called Hik­er Heav­en. Locat­ed in the qui­et com­mu­ni­ty of Agua Dulce, Hik­er Heav­en is offered and main­tained vol­un­tar­i­ly by trail angels Dona and Jeff Saufley and pro­vides tired hik­ers with a break from the trail, a place to rest up, and is an embod­i­ment of the PCT community.

Kennedy Mead­ows Gen­er­al Store 
A cou­ple hun­dred miles after Hik­er Heav­en in Agua Dulce, and after near­ly 700 miles of arid South­ern Cal­i­for­nia trav­el, north­bound hik­ers arrive at the small com­mu­ni­ty of Kennedy Mead­ows, known best as the gate­way into the Sier­ra Moun­tains. Trad­ing in the desert land­scape for an alpine envi­ron­ment with reli­able water sources is a great feel­ing for most hik­ers head­ing north, and the excite­ment res­onates through­out the Kennedy Mead­ows community—especially at the Kennedy Mead­ows Gen­er­al Store, which serves as a com­mon stopover for just about every hik­er on the PCT.

Mt. Whit­ney Summit
Serv­ing as the tallest peak in the con­tigu­ous Unit­ed States, Mt. Whit­ney stands impres­sive­ly not far off the tra­di­tion­al PCT route. Tech­ni­cal­ly a side-trip off the trail, near­ly all PCT hik­ers attempt the sum­mit of Mt. Whit­ney from the west­ern approach, and it’s no small feat to do so. For north­bound thru-hik­ers, Mt. Whit­ney is just the begin­ning to the 200-plus mile John Muir Trail ahead of them, mak­ing for a 14,505-foot intro that can’t be forgotten.

Sono­ra Pass
As beau­ti­ful as it’s sig­nif­i­cant in the jour­ney, Sono­ra Pass winds up and down through gor­geous Sier­ra scenery, all the while ush­er­ing hik­ers either out of or into the heart of the Sier­ra Moun­tains. For thru-hik­ers head­ing north, Sono­ra Pass comes right after fin­ish­ing the John Muir Trail and marks a qua­si-pas­sage­way into a new sec­tion of the trail (North­ern Cal­i­for­nia). For those head­ing south, Sono­ra Pass sets a high bar for expec­ta­tions con­tin­u­ing into Yosemite and through­out the rest of the Sier­ra Nevada.

Crater Lake Nation­al Park
Locat­ed in the noto­ri­ous­ly dry region of south­ern Ore­gon, Crater Lake Nation­al Park is a rein­vig­o­rat­ing sight to behold. High above the ancient caldera, thru-hik­ers can opt for the alter­na­tive Rim Trail for the best views. With hun­dreds of miles of the PCT stretch­ing north and south from the shores of Crater Lake, no mat­ter the direc­tion you’re head­ing, the sparkling blue waters are a much-deserved sight to see.

Cas­cade Locks / Bridge of the Gods
To cross between Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, hik­ers must cross the Colum­bia Riv­er along the Bridge of the Gods. Not only is the sur­round­ing Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge that sep­a­rates these two Pacif­ic North­west States filled with enough beau­ty to cre­ate a post­card busi­ness, but the feel­ing of cross­ing into a new state is excite­ment enough to make this charm­ing town and mas­sive struc­ture a total high­light on the trail.

Goat Rocks Wilderness
With full 360-degree views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams and Pacif­ic North­west alpine scenery, the Goat Rocks Wilder­ness with­in the Gif­ford-Pin­chot Nation­al For­est in south­west­ern Wash­ing­ton pro­vides some of the best views found on the PCT. With the right weath­er, an option­al route can take hik­ers up and above “Old Snowy,” lend­ing toward unpar­al­leled views of what makes both the Cas­cade Moun­tains and the entire Pacif­ic North­west region so special.

Ste­hekin
Less than 100 miles south of the Cana­di­an bor­der, the small com­mu­ni­ty of Ste­hekin lies deep within—and lends access to—North Cas­cades Nation­al Park, and is only acces­si­ble by boat, sea­plane or foot trav­el. Hik­ers along the PCT, espe­cial­ly those going north­bound, are no strangers to hik­ing by now, and can find much enjoy­ment from the serene set­tings of Ste­hekin. While it’s the last stop for many north­bound­ers, it’s just the begin­ning for those head­ing south, and either way, no one can leave with­out sam­pling the fares pro­vid­ed by the Ste­hekin Bakery.

North­ern Terminus—Washington/Canadian Border
Locat­ed in a small patch of woods des­ig­nat­ing the U.S. and Cana­di­an bor­der, for the major­i­ty of thru-hik­ers attempt­ing the trail this is where their jour­ney ends. But for those head­ing south, this marks the begin­ning of an epic adven­ture, and com­pletes two ends of an inti­mate­ly con­nect­ed circle.