Category Archives: Hiking

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Location: Alamosa, Colorado
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Tallest dunes in North America, scenic views
Strenuosity: 6 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free in winter
Additional considerations: High elevation, strenuous climbing
Description: We saved our favorite National Park for last in 2016. Tiff came here as a child from nearby Pueblo, Colorado and we first climbed 750-foot tall Star Dune together in 2007.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Location: Mariposa, California
Length of visit: half day to multiple days
Major draws: Iconic granite, scenic views, wildlife
Strenuosity: 0 to 6 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $30 per vehicle or free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: High elevation, steep trails
Description: Giant sequoia trees, massive waterfalls, and miles of hiking trails make this one of the most heavily-visited National Parks in the world, but it was fairly quiet the week before Thanksgiving.

Fort Bowie National Historic Site

Fort Bowie National Historic Site
Location: east of Wilcox, Arizona
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Ruins of a fort, scenic views
Strenuosity: 3 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: 3-mile roundtrip hike to visitor center
Description: There aren’t any other NPS sites we can think of that require a 1.5-mile one-way hike to access the visitor center, but as a bonus when you arrive you’ve earned an I Hike for Health pin. This fort dates from the Civil War and late-1800s Apache Wars.

Tonto National Monument

Tonto National Monument
Location: Roosevelt Lake, Arizona
Length of visit: 1 hour
Major draws: Ruins, scenic views
Strenuosity: 3 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $5 per adult or free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: Steep but short hike to ruins
Description: Not far east of Phoenix is this beautiful cliff dwelling ruin, which makes for a great half day trip and scenic drive past Roosevelt, Apache, and Canyon Lakes.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Location: Molokai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Scenic views, historic buildings
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $249 per person from Honolulu
Additional considerations: Nobody under age 16 allowed, public only allowed into Kalaupapa while on a guided tour
Description: This isolated peninsula on the island of Molokai was selected as a quarantine zone for those suffering from Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in the 1800s. There are still about 20 patients living here today even though they are no longer forced to segregate from society due to effective medical treatments.

Diamond Head State Monument

Diamond Head State Monument
Location: Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Scenic views, popular trail
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $1 per person walk-ins or $5 per vehicle
Additional considerations: Very limited parking, people jams on trail
Description: Diamond Head is an internationally recognized landmark standing above bustling Waikiki Beach. A continuous line of humanity climbs the 1.5-mile roundtrip trail to the top all day every day.

Alakai Swamp

Alakai Swamp—Koke’e State Park
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Scenic views, unique species
Strenuosity: 7 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Muddy and steep trail
Description: The wettest spot on the planet (averages 452 inches of rain per year) takes time to drain, so it naturally creates a swamp with plant and animal species unique on the island. There is boardwalk in the swamp, but to access that we hiked miles of muddy, slick trails.

Hanakapi’ai Falls

Hanakapi’ai Falls
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: 300-foot waterfall
Strenuosity: 9 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Multiple waist-deep stream crossings, flash floods, trail slippery when wet (all the time)
Description: This trail follows the treacherous Kalalau Trail for the first 2 miles then heads up the soggy valley an additional 2 strenuous miles to reach the impressive falls. It is incredibly difficult to photograph due to the spray at its base, so be sure your equipment is waterproof.

 

Kalalau Valley

Kalalau Valley
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: multiple nights
Major draws: Uninhabited beach, scenic views, birding
Strenuosity: 10 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $20 per person per night
Additional considerations: Permits limited to 60 people per night and they sell out months in advance, feral goats but no chickens
Description: The trail to Kalalau is hell, but the place itself is paradise—the most beautiful place in all the Hawaiian Islands. Two nights is the minimum amount of time we would recommend staying.

Napali Coast State Wilderness Park

Kalalau Trail—Napali Coast State Wilderness Park
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: multiple days
Major draws: Scenic views, uninhabited coastline
Strenuosity: 10 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Sheer cliffs, trail slippery when wet (all the time)
Description: The only access to the idyllic Kalalau Valley is via this 11-mile one-way treacherous trail along the stunningly beautiful Napali Coast. Several deep stream crossings and deep mud require shoes or sandals that can get wet and not destroy your feet as you ascend and descend each of the numerous valleys.