February 07, 2016

Squeezing through Siltstone: Slot Canyons in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Palm Wash Slot Canyons - This trail is located just inside the state park boundary. Palm Wash is a shallow drainage through arid and dusty hills. It has three main forks (South, Middle, North) and some tributaries which form short slot sections. Picture taken in the Middle Fork of Palm Wash Slot Canyon in July 2014.

Detailed hiking map (distance 2.9 miles):


Further Reading: Borrego's calcite mine trail holds desert wonders

January 04, 2016

Test: What are the best Hiking Guidebooks?

Admittedly, this article's title is a bit misleading because there is no "best hiking guidebook" as such. Every outdoor enthusiast is different and hence there can only be a best hiking guidebook for a the individual, also highly depending on the kind of outdoor activity: family walks, easy to moderate day hikes, strenuous backcountry hikes, multi-day treks, camping week-end etc.

To find out what is the best hiking guide for YOU, we've compiled a list of six publishers which offer a series of outdoor, hiking or camping guidebook, analyzed their books and came up with a recommendation. Here's list with the publishers: Lonely Planet, Moon, Fodor, National Geographic (all pictured above), FalconGuides, Frommer.


1) Lonely Planet
Publisher's statement: Lonely Planet authors are experienced, insightful travel experts. They personally research the places they write about - both in the first and in subsequent editions - and provide essential travel details along with a wealth of insider information and first-hand tips. [...] All Lonely Planet books provide context and advice on travelling sustainably and responsibly.

2) Moon
Publisher's statement: "Moon Outdoors guidebooks provide adventure travelers, day hikers, cross-country RV campers, and weekend campers with well-researched information, trusted advice, insider tips, and all of the necessary tools to head outdoors. Experts on recreation and adventure travel, our authors make outdoor travel a cinch."

3) Fodor
Publisher's statement: "Fodor's helps you unleash the possibilities of travel by providing the insights and tools you need to experience the trips you want. [...] Resources that you'll want to read as well as reference, our guide books and website offer current and discerning shopping, dining, hotel, and culture recommendations [...]."

4) National Geographic
Publisher's statement: National Geographic is a global nonprofit organization with a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world.

5) FalconGuides
Publisher's statement: For more than 30 years, FalconGuides have set the standard for outdoor recreation content. With contributions by top outdoors experts and enthusiasts, we invite readers to experience the endless adventure and beauty of the great outdoors. [...] With books and content covering the entire spectrum of outdoor activities, ranging from hiking and rock climbing guides to environmental preservation and wildlife identification, our objective is to outfit your mind with the best possible information on where to go, how to get there, and what to see once you arrive"

6) Frommer
Publisher's statement: We at Frommer's want to help you explore your travel destinations the way locals do. Whether you're venturing close to home or across the globe, whether your budget is limited or limitless, we strive to live up to your discerning approach to travel by delivering the most candid and reliable information on this Web site and in our guidebooks and products.

Evaluations to come:
- availability of online resources
- apps
- # and kind of guides
- writing style
- price





January 03, 2016

Sneaking off to a former Hideout: Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a desert landscape representing the transition zone between two distinct desert ecosystems: Colorado Desert and the higher, cooler Mojave Desert, where the park's eponymous trees, Joshua trees, grow. The trees were named by Mormon settlers who saw the branches as reaching up toward heaven.

One unique section within the national park is Hidden Valley. It's fair to say that today it's barely impossible to literally sneak off to Hidden Valley because of Joshua Tree's popularity among hikers and rock climbers. However, legend has it that the rock-enclosed valley had been used as a secret hideout by cattle rustlers in the late 19th century.


The Hidden Valley area comprises a campground, picnic area and a trail to explore the former hideaway: Hidden Valley Nature Trail. It's a moderate, one-mile loop. Below is a trail map which offers all necessary details like elevation data and points of interest.


 

Apart from Hidden Valley, there are several other unmissable sights in Joshua Tree NP but you really have to get away from your car to appreciate the psychedelic rock formations, twisted Joshua trees and unlimited horizons.

Opening Hours and Permits:
The park is always open. The entrance fee is $20, covering a 7-day vehicle permit. The good news is that there's no permit required for day hiking in the backcountry. Overnight hiking, which includes camping, is also free of charge but hikers need to register at a backcountry registration board.

Climbing Lessons: Apart from hiking, Joshua Tree NP is also a rock climbing and bouldering paradise. For a day or week-end of instruction or a private guided climb, locally based Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School is a good choice.

Gear Rental: There's no gear rental as such on the location but in the nearby town of Joshua Tree, Nomad Ventures and Coyote Corner offer gear to buy. If you consider buying your gear online, we recommend the following retailers as they have a vast selection of hiking and climbing equipment:
10% Back in Reward Points at Moosejaw Free 2-Day Shipping at Backcountry.com Free Shipping On US Orders Over $35 125x125

Lodging: There's a large number of reasonable priced (chain) hotels in Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms. The Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Twentynine Pines has the best rating for accommodation near Joshua Tree National Park according to TripAdvisor.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Twentynine Palms

Map:


Travel Guides:

December 07, 2015

Explore the Underrated: Hiking and Rafting in Kings Canyon


The often underrated Kings Canyon National Park is a spectacular 8,000-foot (2,400 m) deep glacial valley and is pervaded by Kings River. Kings River is the mightiest of California's famous whitewater rivers and has its source high in the Southern Sierra Nevada, consisting of three forks.

The Middle and South Forks start in Kings Canyon National Park, while the North Fork starts in the John Muir Wilderness. Kings River passes 125 miles (201 km) through a breathtaking landscape of narrow canyons and scenic meadows.

Watch the video below and listen to the river's mighty roar to sense the overwhelming power that shaped beautiful Kings Canyon. This video was taken from Junction View, where the Middle and South Forks of the river converge to form the main Kings River that divides the Sierra and the Sequoia National Forests.


Hiking near Kings River:
Zumwalt Meadow, a well-known hiker's delight in Kings Canyon National Park, offers something rare in the parks, namely a fairly level hike! The 1.5-mile Zumwalt Meadows Trail passes high granite walls, lush meadows and the Kings River.

Rafting on Kings River:
Pine Flat Reservoir
Put-in: Garnet Dike Campground
Take-out: Kirch Flat Campground
Difficulty: Class III
Length: 9.5 miles
(Find more details on this and other whitewater rafting in California at C-W-R and California Creeks)

November 02, 2015

Mobius Arch at Alabama Hills Arch Trail

The Alabama Hills Recreational Area is a beautiful scenic area of the Eastern Sierra Nevada just west of Lone Pine. Most people tend to ignore it on their way to Mammoth Lakes or the east entrance of Yosemite National Park. Hundreds of movie scenes have been filmed here, hence the nickname "Movie Road". Over 400 arches are said to have been spotted with Mobius Arch, picture below from August 2014, being the most famous one. Most of these arches face east/west which allows for a perfect frame of Mount Whitney looming through the arches or over the hills.



On the trail (distance 1 mile) there are plenty of rocks to climb around, over and through:



Even IMDb has a list of movies with scenes filed at Alabama Hills, the following articles offers more information about this topic: Alabama Hills Adventure: Travel "The Movie Road"

Meander the Grand Canyon: Tonto Trail Backcountry Hike


The Tonto Trail is a transcanyon route that crosses the Tonto Platform approximately 3900 ft (1200m) below the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail is unique because it does not descend from rim to river but runs parallel to the course of the River Colorado. With a length of 95 miles (150 km), the Tonto Trail is usually done as a multi-day trek, broken down into several sections.

Be aware that the trail is a rough wilderness route. The major part of it unmaintained, not signed and reliable water sources are extremely rare. However, don't be intimidated by these conditions because on the other hand the Tonto Trail offers an unbeatable perspective on the Grand Canyon's geological magic off the beaten track and far away from the notorious "Rim Trail Tourists".

Trail Details: Below is a suggestion how to approach the trail in eight sections. Depending on the hiker's physical condition, some of the sections can of course be merged: Bass Trailhead is located in a remote area approx. 30 miles northwest of Grand Canyon Village.
  • Section 1: Bass Trailhead to Bass Rapid (7.8 miles/12.6 km)
  • Section 2: Bass Rapids to Serpentine Canyon (3.7 miles/6 km)
  • Section 3: Serpentine Canyon to Turquoise Canyon (10.5 miles/17 km)
  • Section 4: Turquoise Canyon to Slate Canyon (9.3 miles/15 km)
  • Section 5: Slate Canyon to Boucher Rapids (4.9 miles/7.9 km)
  • Section 6: Boucher Rapids to Hermit Camp (7.5 miles/12 km)
  • Section 7: Hermit Camp to Horn Creek (11.9 miles/19.2 km)
  • Section 8: Horn Creek to Grand Canyon Village (7.5 miles/12 km)
Click here to open KML file to view the Tonto Trail in Google Earth

Opening Hours and Permits: Hiking the entire Tonto Trail takes several days so opening hours can be neglected at this point. However, a backcountry permit is mandatory for all overnight hiking and must be obtained from the Backcountry Information Center. The permit is $10 per permit plus $8 per person, all the details can be found on the NPS website.

Gear: Please make sure you wear proper trekking outfit for this strenuous multi-day tour and are appropriately equipped. If you consider buying new gear online, we recommend the following retailers:
Free 2-Day Shipping at Backcountry.com

Lodging: During this multi-day hike you obviously need to camp during the nights (see "Opening Hours and Permits" above. For the night(s) before and after your trekking adventure on the Tonto Trail we recommend to stay in one of the lodges in Grand Canyon Village (South Rim). The picture below shows the Bright Angel Lodge.
Bright Angel Lodge

Map:


Travel Guides: While the information in this post is only meant to be a snapshot of the Tonto Trail and the Grand Canyon, below are recommended guidebooks for this region which an abundance of information about this trail and, of course, a lot of other outdoor activities.

October 05, 2015

South Tufa Trail at Mono Lake

If you can, try to witness sunrise on Mono Lake, when the strange mineral tufa glow fiery orange above the water's mirrored surface. The most impressive grouping of tufa lie at the South Tufa Reserve on the lake's south rim. The South Tufa Trail is an interpretive trail which winds along the lakeshore and is outlined in this post's hiking map. The picture below was taken in August 2014.


Hiking map for South Tufa Trail (Distance 1.6 Miles):



Mono Lake suffers significantly from the current drought in California. Here's a suggested reading with the latest environmental information about this unique hiking region: Mono Lake's ecological crisis is a blow to wildlife, L.A. water supply

Hiking the Wave: The surreal Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Utah & Arizona)

West of Lake Powell and the city of Page on the state border of Arizona and Utah lies the Vermilion Cliffs Winderness Area. It encompasses the Paria Canyon - Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area. This rugged area is a geologic wonderland with breathtaking sandstone formations, deep slot canyons and high cliffs, towering up to 120m (400 ft) from the ground to the plateau.

The unquestioned highlights of Vermilion Cliffs are Buckskin Gulch (a side canyon of Paria Canyon and the world's longest slot canyon), Coyote Buttes and The Wave. The latter is America's best hiking secret, a famous, red-coloured geological formation resembling a gigantic wave (hence the name) with very thin white stripes. Due to its narrow and deep corridors, canyoneering is also extremely popular in the Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch. Visit Climb Utah to read all the details about canyoning in the Buckskin Gulch.

Trails: The whole wilderness area is a (backcountry) hiker's paradise and offers three of the most pristine and remote trails in the United States:
  • White House Trail, or Paria Canyon Trail, the central trail through the Paria Canyon
  • Buckskin Gulch Trail
  • Wire Pass Trail, the trailhead to the Wave

Opening Hours and Permits:
There are no opening hours as such but hiking in Coyote Buttes North requires a permit for day use. The fee is $7.00 per person per day (or $5.00 if you try it through lottery application). It can only be obtained online on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This website is also your best choice for all the nitty-gritty about the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, from history to geology to driving directions.

Gear Rental: This may sound like a no-brainer but make sure you wear proper hiking outfit and are appropriately equipped - especially if you plan to go canyoneering in Buckskin Gulch. If you consider buying new gear online, we recommend the following retailers as they have a vast selection of hiking and canyoneering equipment:
Free 2-Day Shipping at Backcountry.com

Lodging: Try this search for accommodation options in nearby Page. If you prefer it a little more remote, check out Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed and Breakfast.
Dreamkatchers Lake Powell Bed & Breakfast

Map:


Travel Guides:

September 07, 2015

Lukens Lake from Tioga Road (Yosemite)

A gentle, quick jaunt to a green meadow and a peaceful lake edged by shaded forest and surrounded by colorful wildflowers. Even small children can do this walk with ease. The mirroring panorama below was taken in a late afternoon in August 2014 when literally nobody was around.


The trail outlined in the hiking map (distance 2 miles) in the one starting from Tioga Road (an alternative 2.3-mile trail leads to the lake’s west side from White Wolf Lodge):



Tioga Road was opened hundred years ago, here’s comprehensive information on the 2015 celebrations: Celebrating a Century on Tioga Road

List of US National Parks

This post is a comprehensive list of all 59 US National Parks (as of 2016). In addition, the following National Parks are featured on this website with insightful abstracts, detailed descriptions of hiking trails and scenic pictures that make you want to put on your hiking boots right away.
  • Grand Canyon: The second-most visited National Park in 2014 (4.7 million visitors).
  • Kings Canyon: The deepest canyon in the United States at over a mile and a half deep.

Below is the complete list sorted in alphabetical order:

1. Acadia
2. American Samoa
3. Arches
4. Badlands
5. Big Bend
6. Biscayne
7. Black Rock of the Gunnison
  • Character:
  • Fun Fact: Name relates to the fact that in parts of the canyon daylight only reaches the bottom for 33 minutes a day.
  • State: Colorado
  • Founded: 21st October 1999
  • Size: 32,950.03 acres (133.3 km²)
  • Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
  • Further Reading: Hiking Colorado
8. Bryce Canyon
9. Canyonlands
  • Character:
  • Fun Fact: In 2003, Aron Ralston became trapped alone in a slot canyon near the Maze district and cut off his own arm to save his life. He wrote a book about the incident which was made into the movie "127 Hours" in 2010.
  • State: Utah
  • Founded: 12th September 1964
  • Size: 337,597.83 acres (1,366.2 km²)
  • Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
  • Further Reading: Hiking Canyonlands and Arches National Parks
10. Capitol Reef
11. Carlsbad Caverns
12. Channel Islands
13. Congaree
  • Character:
  • Fun Fact: The National Park is actually not a swamp but a floodplain forest that floods about ten times a year.
  • State: South Carolina
  • Founded: 10th November 2003
  • Size: 26,545.86 acres (107.4 km²)
  • Maps: From Rand McNally or National Park Service
  • Further Reading: Hiking South Carolina
14. Crater Lake
15. Cuyahoga Valley
16. Death Valley
17. Denali
18. Dry Tortugas
19. Everglades
20. Gates of the Arctic
21. Glacier
22. Glacier Bay
  • Character:
  • Fun Fact: The transborder park system Kluane-Wrangell-St. Elias-Glacier Bay-Tatshenshini-Alsek (comprising all four parks named) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
  • State: Alaska
  • Founded: 2nd December 1980
  • Size: 3,224,840.31 acres (13,050.5 km²)
  • Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
  • Further Reading: Lonely Planet Alaska
23. Grand Canyon

24. Grand Teton
Character: Alpine mountains (Teton Range), which surround a plain with pristine lakes (Jackson Lake) and a meandering river (Snake River) perfectly suited for boating, canoeing and kayaking.
Fun Fact: The name refers to 19th-century French-speaking trappers, les trois t├ętons (the three teats) and was later anglicized and shortened to Tetons.
State: Wyoming
Founded: 26th February 1929
Size: 309,994.66 acres (1,254.5 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

25. Great Basin
Character: A cold desert due to elevation and latitude, surrounded by a chain of peaks (Wheeler Peak).
Fun Fact: The famous oldest living organisms, bristlecone pines, can be seen growing in groves within the national park grounds.
State: Nevada
Founded:27th October 1986
Size: 77,180.00 acres (312.3 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

26. Great Sand Dunes
Character: Sand dunes in a very windy region.
Fun Fact: The tallest sand dunes in North America, up to 750 feet (230 m).
State: Colorado
Founded: 13th September 2004
Size: 42,983.74 acres (173.9 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

27. Great Smoky Mountains
Character: Part of the Appalachian Mountain chain with high humidity and precipitation and 95% occupied by forest.
Fun Fact: The ubiquitous trees exude large amounts of water and hydrocarbons and hence produce the gauzy "smoke" that gives the mountains their name; the most visited National Park in 2014 (more than 10 million visitors).
State: North Carolina, Tennessee
Founded: 15th June 1934
Size: 521,490.13 acres (2,110.4 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

28. Guadalupe Mountains
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Texas
Founded: 15th October 1966
Size: 86,415.97 acres (349.7 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading: Hiking Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains

29. Haleakala
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Hawaii
Founded: 1st August 1916
Size: 29,093.67 acres (117.7 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

30. Hawaii Volcanoes
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Hawaii
Founded: 1st August 1916
Size: 323,431.38 acres (1,308.9 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

31. Hot Springs
Character:
Fun Fact: The smallest National Park (6 thousand acres = 24 km²)
State: Arkansas
Founded: 4th March 1921
Size: 5,549.75 acres (22.5 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

32. Isle Royale
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Michigan
Founded: 3rd April 1940
Size: 571,790.11 acres (2,314.0 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

33. Joshua Tree
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: California
Founded: 31st October 1994
Size: 789,745.47 acres (3,196.0 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

34. Katmai
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Alaska
Founded: 2nd December 1980
Size: 3,674,529.68 acres (14,870.3 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

35. Kenai Fjords
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Alaska
Founded: 2nd December 1980
Size: 669,982.99 acres (2,711.3 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

36. Kings Canyon
Character:
Fun Fact:  The deepest canyon in the United States at over a mile and a half deep.
State: California
Founded: 4th March 1940
Size: 461,901.20 acres (1,869.2 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

37. Kobuk Valley
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Alaska
Founded: 2nd December 1980
Size: 1,750,716.50 acres (7,084.9 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

38. Lake Clark
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Alaska
Founded: 2nd December 1980
Size: 2,619,733.21 acres (10,601.7 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

39. Lassen Volcanic
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: California
Founded: 9th August 1916
Size: 106,372.36 acres (430.5 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

40. Mammoth Cave
Character:
Fun Fact: Mammoth Cave National Park is the longest cave system known to the world, with more than 400 mapped miles of caves.
State: Kentucky
Founded: 1st July 1941
Size: 52,830.19 acres (213.8 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

41. Mesa Verde
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Colorado
Founded: 29th June 1906
Size: 52,121.93 acres (210.9 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

42. Mount Rainier
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Washington
Founded: 2nd March 1899
Size: 235,625.00 acres (953.5 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

43. North Cascades
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Washington
Founded: 2nd October 1968
Size: 504,780.94 acres (2,042.8 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

44. Olympic
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Washington
Founded: 29th June 1938
Size: 922,650.86 acres (3,733.8 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

45. Petrified Forest
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Arizona
Founded: 9th December 1962
Size: 93,532.57 acres (378.5 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

46. Pinnacles National Park
Character:
Fun Fact:  The newest one, upgraded in 2013.
State: California
Founded: 10th January 2013
Size: 26,605.73 acres (107.7 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

47. Redwood
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: California
Founded: 2nd October 1968
Size: 112,512.05 acres (455.3 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

48. Rocky Mountain
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Colorado
Founded: 26th January 1915
Size: 265,828.41 acres (1,075.8 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

49. Saguaro
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Arizona
Founded: 14th October 1994
Size: 91,439.71 acres (370.0 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

50. Sequoia
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: California
Founded: 25th September 1890
Size: 404,051.17 acres (1,635.1 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

51. Shenandoah
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Virginia
Founded: 22nd May 1926
Size: 199,045.23 acres (805.5 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

52. Theodore Roosevelt
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: North Dakota
Founded: 10th November 1978
Size: 70,446.89 acres (285.1 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

53. Virgin Islands
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: United States Virgin Islands
Founded: 2nd August 1956
Size: 14,688.87 acres (59.4 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

54. Voyageurs
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Minnesota
Founded: 8th January 1971
Size: 218,200.17 acres (883.0 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

55. Wind Cave
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: South Dakota
Founded: 9th January 1903
Size: 28,295.03 acres (114.5 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

56. Wrangell-St. Elias
Character:
Fun Fact: The largest National Park (8 million acres = 32,000 km²)
State: Alaska
Founded: 2nd December 1980
Size: 8,323,147.59 acres (33,682.6 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

57. Yellowstone
Character:
Fun Fact: The first National Park, signed into law in 1872.
State: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
Founded: 1st March 1872
Size: 2,219,790.71 acres (8,983.2 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

58. Yosemite
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: California
Founded: 1st October 1890
Size: 761,266.19 acres (3,080.7 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading:

59. Zion
Character:
Fun Fact: 
State: Utah
Founded: 19th November 1919
Size: 146,597.60 acres (593.3 km2)
Maps: From National Geographic or National Park Service
Further Reading: