Cleaner Indoor Air Quality Can Help You Sleep Better

Cleaner Indoor Air Quality Can Help You Sleep Better 01

The key to a healthy indoor environment is clean air, but many of the finishes and furniture in a typical home or office off-gas pollutants that can compromise air quality. While opening a window might help, it also could make matters worse by introducing auto exhaust and other noxious emissions in. So, what’s a clean air lover to do about keeping the indoor environment safe?

Change Your Filters

For starters, it can’t hurt to change the filters on your furnace and air conditioner(s) on a regular, scheduled basis. Manufacturers recommend changing out furnace filters every three months, but mileage may vary depending on square footage and other factors. (When you install a new filter, write the date on it when it should be changed to keep yourself honest.) Also, getting your HVAC air ducts cleaned once every few years—or more frequently if you have pets or lots of people using the space in question.

Scrub The Air With Houseplants

Another way to help filter your indoor air is the all-natural way: with house plants. While humans have always had a special relationship with the plants around them, it wasn’t until NASA published research in the 1980s that we knew just what an important role house plants could play in ridding indoor environments of noxious chemical pollutants. Plants scrub particulates from the air while taking in carbon dioxide and processing it into oxygen, thereby creating more clean air for us to breathe. Garden mums, spider plants, dracaenas, ficus, peace lilies, Boston ferns, snake plants and bamboo palms are great choices given their especially powerful air purifying abilities.

Get An Air Filter

Yet another relatively easy indoor air quality fix would be to purchase an air purifier that plugs into the wall and uses carbon filtration or other methods for filtering contaminants out of the indoor environment. The Coway Mighty and Winix 5500-2 share top rankings from leading consumer review service, Wirecutter, while the Dyson Pure Hot+Cool Link gets kudos for great air cleaning with style.

Re-Paint In Low-VOC Style

If you really want to go all out, think about repainting interior walls with paint formulations that use little or no volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that have been linked to respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue, among other health worries. AFM Safecoat is the industry leader in low- and no-VOC paints and finishes, but the big players like Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore now also have healthier formulations for a quickly increasing number of eco-conscious home improvement customers.

Refurnish

Another easy albeit more costly way to improve indoor air quality would be to get rid of those old couches, mattresses and other furniture which were required by law to contain flame retardant chemicals before we knew how harmful they could be to our indoor environment and health. Now that California has mandated that new furniture products cannot contain these noxious chemicals, more and more manufacturers (including Ikea and Pottery Barn) are starting to phase them out, so it’s a great time to replace that old mattress with a new one that won’t off-gas carcinogens every time you plop down onto it.

Written by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Mark Solarski

Environmental Heroes LaDuke, McKibben and Fox Inspire Millions To Take Action

Environmental Heroes LaDuke McKibben and Fox Inspire Millions To Take Action 01

Thoreau, best known for his book Walden taught us how to live a simple life and take pleasure in nature’s splendor all around us. Leopold’s 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, encouraged us to respect the land and its inhabitants and manage it with future generations in mind. And Carson, whose book Silent Spring is credited with advancing the global environmental movement, taught us that the world would be sick, let alone way too quiet, without the soundtrack of wildlife. While these voices from the past still guide our conservation ethic, a new generation of visionaries is reimagining what it means to be an environmentalist in response to the new existential challenges facing our species and our planet.

One of them is Winona LaDuke, who cut her activist teeth in the 1980s when she helped launch the Indigenous Women’s Network and campaigned for tribal land claims in Minnesota. In 1993 she partnered with the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls to launch Honor the Earth, which raises awareness and support for Native environmental issues and develops resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities. Honor the Earth uses music, the arts and the media to spread awareness about our dependency on a clean, healthy planet. Most recently, LaDuke set up her tipi at one of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps; she has been outspoken about the need to reject such projects and the oil slated to run through them.

Many Americans first learned about the potential perils of climate change from Bill McKibben’s 1989 book The End of Nature. McKibben has subsequently penned more than a dozen books on related topics, and in 2006 crossed over into activism, helping lead a five-day walk across Vermont calling for action on global warming. He went on to launch 350.org, a global climate organizing effort named after climate scientist James Hansen’s contention that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide above 350 parts per million would be unsafe for humanity and the planet. Pioneering the use of social media to grow its ranks, the group coordinated 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries as part of its “International Day of Climate Action” in October 2009 and rallied hundreds of thousands more people at subsequent events. 350.org is currently gearing up for the People’s Climate Mobilization on April 29, 2017 and is hoping for a record turnout in Washington DC and at other simultaneous rallies around the world. McKibben remains an outspoken critic of both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline projects.

While McKibben worked his way into our hearts through his writing, Josh Fox did it with video. The filmmaker’s 2010 documentary _Gasland_ focused on the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of shale formations to recover natural gas deposits. The Oscar-nominated film became a key lever in the anti-fracking movement and Fox went onto become a vocal opponent of fracking. In 2016, Fox traveled the country on behalf of Bernie Sanders’s campaign for President and helped pen a historic climate amendment to the Democratic Platform calling for the institution of a national carbon pricing system, the phase out of gas-fired power plants and higher efficiency standards for federal energy projects. Fox currently works as Creative Director for Our Revolution, a non-profit Sanders launched following the 2016 Democratic primaries to get more Americans involved in the political process and organize and elect progressive candidates.

Of course, the work of LaDuke, McKibben and Fox is nothing if not inspiration for others to become part of the solution to our environmental problems. Cut down on your own emissions, tell your neighbor, and show up at the next big rally to fight global warming. We will all be glad you did!

Written by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Rodion Kutsaev

Saving Our Soils and Climate with Biochar

Saving Our Soils and Climate with Biochar 01

Biochar is a naturally occurring, fine-grained, highly porous form of charcoal derived from the process of baking biomass and it’s been associated with fertile soils for some two thousand years. “Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices,”� reports the International Biochar Initiative (IBI), a trade group representing the world’s burgeoning biochar industry. “Intensive study of biochar-rich dark earths in the Amazon has led to a wider appreciation of biochar’s unique properties as a soil enhancer.”

Indeed, researchers have been hard at work perfecting their own methods for manufacturing biochar by baking biomass in giant oxygen-free kilns. The resulting biochar can then be used as a soil amendment to help restore tired, compromised farmland, not to mention contaminated industrial sites, all the while taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. A liquid by-product of the biochar production process can also be converted into a carbon-neutral “biofuel” that can displace other carbon intensive fuels.

Farmers can layer biochar into their fields where it becomes part of the soil matrix and helps retain water and essential agricultural nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. “You can basically think of it as a soil reef upon which abiotic and biotic phenomena happen,” says David Shearer, CEO of Full Circle Biochar, one of a handful of U.S. based biochar start-ups working to commercialize the age-old “technology.” Farmers like the fact that using biochar can lower their water and fertilizer bills as well as yield more and better quality agricultural products — leading to better market performance overall. “This is really a hedge for farmers,”� reports Shearer. “It really helps them manage their financial risk and it helps them manage risk into the future around production.”

Beyond agriculture, biochar can also be used to clean up polluted land. “For example, if you have a mine that has contaminated soil adjacent to it, biochar … will allow you to remediate soils,”� says Shearer. He adds that biochar also makes for an excellent filtration medium: “We know that activated charcoal has been used for millennia as a filter mechanism, and so there is discussion in the biochar community that maybe the first step is we’ll use it as a filtration media, and then we’ll move to agriculture as the cost of production of biochar comes down.”

As far as environmentalists are concerned, the greater the demand for biochar the better, given the fact that it is a potent storage mechanism for carbon dioxide that would otherwise head into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. “The carbon in biochar resists degradation and can hold carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years,” reports IBI. “We can use this simple, yet powerful, technology to store 2.2 gigatons of carbon annually by 2050. It’s one of the few technologies that is relatively inexpensive, widely applicable and quickly scalable. We really can’t afford not to pursue it.”

Written by EMagazine for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Manuel Sardo

Small Ways to Save Big

Small Ways to Save Big 01

The recession may be officially over, but it doesn’t feel that way for anyone still out of work or working for less. With retirement savings still looking shaky, banks still reluctant to give loans and employers continuing to tighten belts and lay off workers, it’s essential that we all start saving.

Fortunately, money-saving tips are frequently planet-saving tips, as smart conservation, wise stewardship of resources and future planning work together. Some of these tips may at first seem like putting the proverbial band-aid on the gaping wound—but remember that California’s serious blackout crisis of 2000 and 2001 was largely solved (and in short time) by individuals and businesses ramping up energy conservation, not by bailout packages or government maneuvering.

Also, if you talk to folks who weathered the Great Depression, they"ll tell you that they got through it primarily by saving pennies, growing their own food and stretching what they already had.

It can seem overwhelming, but we’re here to help you get started.

1. Spend Less on Gas

Yes, it’s true that gas prices have fallen somewhat with the rest of the economy, but they remain much higher than in years past. One of the most immediate ways to reduce your bills is to drive less. Sound too easy? Consider starting a local carpool with your friends, neighbors or coworkers. Combine errands and walk around town.

Take extra junk out of your trunk and unused racks off your roof. Drive the speed limit, use cruise control, keep tires inflated and forget jackrabbit starts. Don’t idle your savings away. Take public transit when possible, and maybe you can eliminate a whole set of wheels in your family—leading to big-time savings.

2. Reduce Those Utility Bills

Next on the list come the things you love to hate: bills. You have to pay your service providers, but why pay more to the folks at the other end of the wires?

Turn off lights when you leave a room, or better, install motion sensors and timers. Use low-flow showerheads and toilets (the former will also save you money on water heating). Speaking of that, turn your water heater down (experiment with how far you can go before your family members mind). Get an energy audit to asses air leaks and trouble spots—either by hiring a pro (call your utility) or going DIY and doing a walk-through yourself.

Make sure your HVAC equipment is properly maintained, with clean filters, and boost insulation anywhere you can. Put draft snakes under leaky doors and windows, and install (practically invisible) plastic film over windows. Make sure you use storm doors/windows and shutters if you have them. Fix any water leaks and winterize your castle.

3. Make Your Own Cleaning Products

Every little bit helps, so avoid plunking down hard-earned cash on fancy store-bought cleaning products when you can easily make your own. Did you know that most messes can be cleaned up with a combo of baking soda, borax, salt, vinegar, lime juice and elbow grease? It’s true! For glass and mirrors, put a mixture of distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray away (it’s a bonus if you love the smell of vinegar). Plus, you can sleep easier knowing you aren’t leaving toxic chemical residues over your sacred abode (or leaving nasty things under sinks for kids or pets to find).

4. Relearn Your Grandparents" Wisdom

Chances are your grandmother did not have an electric dryer in her basement. Instead, she likely strung up the laundry on something called a clothesline, maybe between leafy trees in the backyard or across an alley in a city. You can do the same, and save a nice chunk of change (your linens may even ultimately smell fresher, depending on where you live).

You can also take up canning, start a little root cellar (you only need a dark, dry place, like under some stairs), compost your waste, sow some vegetables, rediscover hand-me-downs, use rags for cleaning, and much more. Give your grandma a call for more ideas—she’s probably hoping to hear from you anyway.

BRIAN CLARK HOWARD is the author of Green Lighting (McGraw Hill Professional) and the Home and Eco-Tips Editor of The Daily Green (www.thedailygreen.com).

Written by Editors of E Magazine for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Daiga Ellaby

How Blue Are You?

How Blue Are You 01

June 8 is World Oceans Day—a day meant to celebrate the oceans of the world and to recognize our connection to them. Originally proposed by the Canadian government at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the day was unofficially celebrated every year since. In 2008, World Oceans Day was officially recognized by the U.N.

With the help of the Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network, events happen all over the world to commemorate the day, in schools, businesses, organizations, aquariums, and other places. Events include beach parties, sand castle competitions, parades, book signing, cleanups and pledge drives.

This year’s theme is "Oceans of Life," where people are encouraged to build a connection with their favorite ocean species. Whether you’re dressing up as a marine creature to clean up beaches in Hermanus, South Africa or attending a screening of the Coral Sea Dreaming documentary in Queensland, Australia, find an event near you to celebrate.

SOURCE: World Oceans Day.

Written by Rebecca Webster for EarthTalk.

Featured image provided by Silas Hao

Weston Ski Track – Cross Country Skiing

Weston Ski Track

Intro

Weston Ski Track has great cross-country skiing for the whole family and beginners. Weston Ski Track offers a variety of trails. It has 9.3 miles of natural-snow trails, weather permitting, and 1.3 miles of trails in the snowmaking area. Here you will find four different tracks with various trail where you can enjoy, practice, and even take lessons on cross-country skiing without having to travel far from Boston. You won’t want to miss out on all the fun this place has to offer!

What Makes It Great

Weston Ski Track offers 1.5 miles of trails for a great cross-country skiing adventure in their snowmaking area. However, the trails expand to 9.3 miles of fun in their natural-snow trails with a good snow fall and with the help of their master groomers. When the entire ski area is open, there are four tracks in total. These tracks include John Hart Track, Red Tail Track, Coyote Track, and Fox Track. Each track is filled with different trails that loop and connect with one another. While on the tracks you can enjoy not only the fantastic activity of cross-country skiing, but also the beauty of the Charles River.

The track offers both adult and kid lessons. Adult lessons are 75 minutes classical or skate-skiing. During a classical lesson you will learn the basics of motions, turning, and negotiating small hills. During skate-skiing lessons you will learn the basics of weight transfer, edging, and V1 timing. There are also 75 minute kid lessons for age 6-10 where they will be introduced to the fun gliding on snow. Lessons are offered most weekends and holidays. Reservations recommended for the 10:30 am and 11:30 am lessons. Private lessons for children and adults are available as well. Weston Ski Track truly offers it all!

Who is Going to Love It

Families and friends will absolutely love cross-country skiing at Weston Ski Track. Skiers have four tracks to choose from and the various trail within them. The terrain in these tracks are fairly easy-moderate. Adding to the fun, the adult and kid lessons continue to make this place extremely beginner and family friendly. Or, if you want to learn in a more private setting, you can enjoy the private lessons offered by Weston Ski Track. There is truly something for everyone her and a lot to love about this place!

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Boston, Take the Mass Pike to exit 15. Stay left after the tollbooth. At the end of the ramp, turn left onto Park Road, following a sign for Route 16. Weston Ski Track is a quarter mile down the road on the left.

Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 9 pm, Friday 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 6 pm. Parking is free, however, lessons and trail passes are $33 for adults, $29 for children ages 13-16, and $20 for children ages 11-12.

 

Written by Danielle LeBlanc for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Elizabeth Lloyd

Weston Ski Track – Cross Country Skiing

Weston Ski Track

Intro

Weston Ski Track has great cross-country skiing for the whole family and beginners. Weston Ski Track offers a variety of trails. It has 9.3 miles of natural-snow trails, weather permitting, and 1.3 miles of trails in the snowmaking area. Here you will find four different tracks with various trail where you can enjoy, practice, and even take lessons on cross-country skiing without having to travel far from Boston. You won’t want to miss out on all the fun this place has to offer!

What Makes It Great

Weston Ski Track offers 1.5 miles of trails for a great cross-country skiing adventure in their snowmaking area. However, the trails expand to 9.3 miles of fun in their natural-snow trails with a good snow fall and with the help of their master groomers. When the entire ski area is open, there are four tracks in total. These tracks include John Hart Track, Red Tail Track, Coyote Track, and Fox Track. Each track is filled with different trails that loop and connect with one another. While on the tracks you can enjoy not only the fantastic activity of cross-country skiing, but also the beauty of the Charles River.

The track offers both adult and kid lessons. Adult lessons are 75 minutes classical or skate-skiing. During a classical lesson you will learn the basics of motions, turning, and negotiating small hills. During skate-skiing lessons you will learn the basics of weight transfer, edging, and V1 timing. There are also 75 minute kid lessons for age 6-10 where they will be introduced to the fun gliding on snow. Lessons are offered most weekends and holidays. Reservations recommended for the 10:30 am and 11:30 am lessons. Private lessons for children and adults are available as well. Weston Ski Track truly offers it all!

Who is Going to Love It

Families and friends will absolutely love cross-country skiing at Weston Ski Track. Skiers have four tracks to choose from and the various trail within them. The terrain in these tracks are fairly easy-moderate. Adding to the fun, the adult and kid lessons continue to make this place extremely beginner and family friendly. Or, if you want to learn in a more private setting, you can enjoy the private lessons offered by Weston Ski Track. There is truly something for everyone her and a lot to love about this place!

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Boston, Take the Mass Pike to exit 15. Stay left after the tollbooth. At the end of the ramp, turn left onto Park Road, following a sign for Route 16. Weston Ski Track is a quarter mile down the road on the left.

Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 9 pm, Friday 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 6 pm. Parking is free, however, lessons and trail passes are $33 for adults, $29 for children ages 13-16, and $20 for children ages 11-12.

 

Written by Danielle LeBlanc for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Elizabeth Lloyd

The 20 Best Hikes in the United States

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From the Smokies to the Rockies, and the Everglades to the highest point in Maine—and everywhere in between—the United States is full of world-class hikes. Whether you’re a hardcore peak bagger, out for an ambitious day hike, or are obsessed with the panoramic views for your Instagram feed, there’s always something thrilling to lace your hiking boots up for. Here, we tapped RootsRated editors for intel on some of the best hikes in the United States. Use them as inspiration for your next outing—or as a reason to plan a trip.

Teton Crest Trail, Wyoming

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The Teton Crest Trail epitomizes the splendor of the West.

John Strother

There are a lot of really great hikes on this list, but Wyoming’s Teton Crest Trail might just take the cake as being the most epic. For 35-45 miles (depending on your route), this slender singletrack path cuts a dwarfed, serpentine figure as it slices through the heart of one of America’s most stunning mountain ranges, linking together its very best features along the way. Over the course of two to five days, hikers will pass through wildflower-filled meadows, over airy mountain passes, past glacially-fed tarns, and across expansive basins that swallow up hikers and spit them out as tiny, inconsequential specks against the jagged backdrop of the Tetons. In short, this trail will skew your perception of what constitutes a bucket-list worthy hike. Pro tip: Permits are hard to come by, but because the trail weaves in and out of national parklands and national forestlands, if you camp in national forest designated areas, obtaining a permit isn’t necessary.

Roan Mountain, Tennessee

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The 14-mile traverse of the Roan Mountain Highlands is one of the best hikes in the Southeast.

Joe Giordano, mods made

Ask any Southeastern backpacker what the best overnight trek in the region is, and the majority will tell you: the 14-mile traverse of East Tennessee’s Roan Mountain Highlands via the Appalachian Trail is a true standout. Not only is it home to one of the most unique shelters on the entire A.T. (the Overmountain Shelter, better known as "the barn" because it’s, well, a two-story barn), but it also offers up some of the best grassy “bald” hiking in America. Think of it almost like the Southeast’s version of ridgeline hiking: You’re above the trees, surrounded by a sea of billowing grasses in the foreground and a sea of bluish-gray mountains sprawling into every direction in the background, with nothing in the way to obstruct these views. The only downside? Cameras rarely do Roan justice.

Buckskin Gulch, Utah

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Buckskin Gulch highlights the beauty of slot canyon hiking in Utah—just make sure to do your homework before venturing out.

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In a region as labyrinthine and loaded with slot canyons as Southern Utah, it’s difficult to say that Buckskin Gulch is the definitive best slot canyon hike in the region. But it’s certainly the longest and the deepest … and, yeah, probably the best, too. For 13 miles, these narrows snake through a mazy tunnel of towering red rock walls, often no more than a wingspan’s width apart and so tall that they block out sunlight. Some hikers choose to link up with nearby Paria Canyon for an overnight 20-mile trip, but for day hikers, it’s just as rewarding to park at the Wire Pass Trailhead and embark on an out-and-back distance of your choosing. The important things to remember with this hike are largely water-related: First, flash floods are a very real threat, so be sure to check the forecast and plan accordingly. Second, bring more water than you want to carry; the dehydration creeps up quick in the desert.

Mount Katahdin, Maine

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A lucky hiker summits Mount Katahdin, the tallest mountain Maine, on a rare day without fog.

Foxcroft Academy

The tallest mountain in Maine and the North Star, northern terminus of the famed Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin is truly legendary. It juts upward out of the sprawling expanse of lakes, ponds, and deep woods that define Baxter State Park and towers over the land with a commanding presence. The most iconic way to reach the summit is via the vertiginous spine of the 1-mile Knife’s Edge Trail. Along its impossibly narrow and serrated saddle, hikers scramble from Pamola Peak across Chimney Peak to South Peak and finally to the 5,267-foot summit of Katahdin. Once the (likely fog-shrouded) summit photos have been snapped, a roughly 5-mile descent via the Appalachian Trail will take hikers back to the Katahdin Stream Campground trailhead 4,100 feet below.

Grayson Highlands, Virginia

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Wild ponies will be your companions on a hike in the Grayson Highlands of Virginia.

Virginia State Parks

In a word, the Grayson Highlands of Virginia are breathtaking. In 19 words, they are an almost make-believe land of high mountain meadows, 5,000-foot peaks, thick rhododendron tunnels, and mystical wild ponies. Like most state parks, there’s a large variety of activities to pick from (camping, bouldering, fishing, and horseback riding), but arguably the best way to get a comprehensive taste of the park’s character in a condensed snapshot is to hike the 8.5-mile out-and-back to the summit of Virginia’s highest point: Mount Rogers. The route starts out from the Massie Gap parking area along the Rhododendron Trail. It links with the Appalachian Trail, traveling through grassy pastures sprinkled with boulder outcroppings, and then eventually connects to the Mount Rogers Spur Trail, which twists through a lush, mossy forest to the summit.

Clouds Rest, California

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Clouds Rest backs up its dreamy name with views to go along with it.

John Strother

The 14.2-mile round-trip hike to the Clouds Rest summit offers an exceptional taste of what Yosemite National Park is all about. As you’re standing atop its 9,926-foot perch, high above Yosemite Valley from a less-witnessed vantage point than the famous Half Dome buttress, with a giant sea of granite and coniferous pines and sequoias below, it’s hard to feel anything but utter awe and respect for your surroundings. The trailhead is located in the northeast corner of the park. From here, it’s a 7-mile mostly uphill trek whose elevation chart vaguely resembles a healthy year in the stock market—a few spikes up steep ridges here, a few dips into gullies there, but with a pretty consistent uphill hockey stick growth toward the summit. What the chart won’t illustrate, however, are all the glorious intangibles along the way—babbling snowmelt streams, sequoias so stout you’d need a group of five to fully hug them, ever-expanding panoramas as you ascend, the tranquillity at the summit, and of course, the icy plunge in Tenaya Lake as a refreshing reward once you return to the trailhead.

Wheeler Peak, New Mexico

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Wheeler Peak will challenge your quads, but the panoramic views at the summit make it worth it.

Jake Wheeler

It’s weird to think that the tallest peak in New Mexico would be overshadowed by anything within the immediate vicinity. But with Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park some two hours to the north, and the cultural hotspot of Taos about 45 minutes to the south, that’s kind of what happens to Wheeler Peak. Don’t let this lack of regional recognition fool you, though: The 8.2-mile round-trip hike to this lofty summit in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is one of the best in New Mexico and a true lesson in uphill slogging. Averaging about 800 vertical feet per mile, this trail takes hikers through lung-expanding evergreen forests and then up lung-crushing climbs above treeline. What you’ll remember other than the impressive summit panorama will be the near endless collection of switchbacks that seem to pinball you back and forth, side to side, and up-and-up through a seemingly infinite sea of scree. Patience—and quad-strength—are both virtues on this hike.

Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

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Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a thru-hiker, the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is an unforgettable hike.

Kevin Stewart Photography

For Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, the 72 miles of the A.T. within the Smokies represent one of the most revered sections of the entire 2,200 mile route. For long-weekend backpackers, this stretch represents one of the most efficient and spectacular ways to get an intimate taste of America’s most visited national park. Whichever way you slice it, the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is a spectacular hiking experience teeming with old-growth forests, incredible biodiversity, challenging climbs, sprawling mountain vistas, and a booming population of fearless and curious black bears. You can’t go wrong with any day hike section you choose along this route, but to really maximize the experience, a 4-5 day excursion that covers the entire 72 miles is your best bet. Overnight permits are required, so make sure you plan in advance.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

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You’ll almost certainly be in a long line waiting to officially hike Half Dome. And yes, it’s worth it.

John Strother

You don’t need climbing skill or equipment to scale Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome. Using steel cable handrails, hikers can ascend 400 feet up the backside of this granite monolith to reach its summit of 8,840 feet, with panoramic views of the Sierra Mountains in all directions. From the Yosemite Valley floor, Half Dome is a strenuous, 12- to 14-mile round-trip hike. Break up the journey by hiking 4.7 miles to Little Yosemite Valley to camp. Then, hike 3.5 miles to Half Dome and hit the cables early before they’re super crowded. Usually, the cables are accessible May through October, and permits are limited, so set a reminder to snag one as soon as they open on March 1. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and bring sturdy gloves.

Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park

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The 41.4-mile Rae Lakes Loop is a popular hike in the High Sierras, with stellar lake views.

Kirk Y.

The 41.4-mile Rae Lakes Loop showcases some of the most stunning scenery in the High Sierra. Beginning at 5,041 feet in a forest of pines, cedars, and cottonwoods, the trek requires nearly 7,000 of climbing for hikers to visit emerald meadows and cobalt lakes surrounded by mammoth granite towers. While the hike includes the heart-pounding, 2.1-mile ascent of Glen Pass at 11,998 feet, grades are generally moderate and water is plentiful along the way. To avoid several intense climbs, do this hike clockwise. Due to high demand for permits, book as early as possible to March 1, when permits are released, and hike in May to avoid summer crowds.

Appalachian Trail, Georgia section hike

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The Georgia section of the AT stretches for nearly 80 miles and is an eye-opener for many would-be hikers about the challenge ahead.

Alan Cressler

Northbound AT thru-hikers begin their 2,200-mile journey in Georgia, where the trail climbs high, exceeding 4,000 feet of elevation, to offer epic views from rock outcrops and sublime walks through emerald forests of rhododendron, mountain laurel and moss-covered boulders. Stretching 78.6 miles, the Georgia portion of the AT is not only beautiful but also challenging, with steep, rugged terrain that strains less-seasoned hikers and causes some to abandon their dreams of hiking to Maine. If a thru-hike is a little too ambitious for you, the Georgia AT includes many access points, so several day hikes and short trips are possible. If you begin at Neels Gap you can visit the Mountain Crossings gear store to mingle with thru-hikers and see the only point where the AT passes through a manmade structure. From there, make the steep climb to the summit of Blood Mountain to explore a unique stone trail shelter and enjoy a remarkable view of Appalachian ridges rolling to the horizon.

Florida National Scenic Trail

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The Florida National Scenic Trail runs from the state’s Panhandle through its southern reaches.

National Forests in Florida

One of the most iconic trails in the Southeast, this 1,300-mile route stretches from the state’s Panhandle all the way to Big Cypress National Preserve at the southern end of the state. But you don’t have to tackle the whole thing to savor some of its highlights, from serene marshland to spectacular wildlife viewing. Take your pick from a number of excellent section hikes: A few recommended routes include the 11-mile stretch from Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs, one of the trail’s oldest sections, and hikes around Hopkins Prairie, where you’re likely to see sandhill cranes and eagles. Campgrounds, both primitive and traditional, are interspersed along the way, so you can easily turn your day hike into an overnighter.

The Dipsea Trail, Marin County, California

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The Dipsea Trail in Marin County, north of San Francisco, is home to the oldest trail run in the country.

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Don’t let this trail’s whimsical name fool you: The approximately 7-mile stretch is a doozy, with nearly 688 steps—in the first mile—and long uphill stretches for nearly 2,000 feet in total elevation gain. Even so, doing the Dipsea is a must for any Bay Area hiker or active-minded visitor, with forests that look like they’re lifted from a fairytale book, flowy single-track through majestic redwoods, and a finish at the Pacific Ocean. The trail is also home to one of the most infamous trail races in the country (and the oldest): The Dipsea Race, which has drawn hardy runners to battle its roots, ruts, and other ankle-twisting obstacles since 1905. Whether you run it or hike it, you must do it.

Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, Santa Cruz, California

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The Skyline-to-the-Sea trail is net downhill, making for an especially rewarding finish at the Pacific Ocean.

Miguel Vieira

You can hike its sections separately, but to really experience the essence of this 31-mile trek, one of the best in the San Francisco Bay Area (if not all of California), it’s best to make a true adventure of it, with two overnighters on trailside campgrounds. Built over seven years by a local nonprofit, the trail treats hikers to roaring waterfalls and towering coastal redwoods and passes through two excellent state parks, Castle Rock and Big Basin, before culminating at the Pacific Ocean. Another big plus? With a start in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the trail is all net downhill. No surprise, then, that reservations fill up fast, so plan ahead and be patient—it’s well worth the effort.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, New Hampshire

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This eight-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Mount Washington is a year-round favorite in New England.

Annes Travels

The iconic 6,288-foot Mount Washington in the White Mountains is a challenging and worthy summit, especially in the winter. While many are drawn to its eastern slopes to ski Tuckeman’s Ravine, a select few hike the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail on the western side to the mountain’s peak. This demanding, approximately eight-mile round-trip route challenges hikers with steep and exposed sections, icy scrambles, and the threat of erratic weather and strong winds. But the stunning views, frozen waterfalls, and exhilaration of standing atop New England’s highest peak make the cold toes, burning lungs, and treacherous trek worth it.

Longs Peak, Colorado

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Navigating the famous boulder field is just one part of the adventure of this iconic Rockies hike.

Katie Dills

Longs Peak’s 14,255-foot summit looms over Colorado’s northern Front Range, a mountainous beacon summoning the adventurous. A journey to the top of Longs is a truly epic undertaking—even for fit hikers. The standard ascent route via the Keyhole is a 15-mile outing with more than 5,500 feet of elevation gain and is usually done in a single 10-to-14-hour push. Most begin in the darkness around 2 am, catching the sunrise above treeline about five miles in at the famous boulder field. Crossing through the Keyhole dramatically changes the character of the hike from a steady, class-2 cruise to a wild, exposed, class-3 scramble along well-marked ledges. A tough push up a loose gully called "The Trough" grinds up to 14,000 feet, where there is still work to do. A steep scramble through the “Home Stretch” exits atop the surprisingly flat, broad summit block. After all that work, there’s still the challenge of getting down safely. Big, bold, and tough, Longs is one of the most amazing adventures in the Rocky Mountains.

Mount Frissell, Connecticut/Massachusetts

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Mount Frissell is one of the most stunning hikes in New York’s Taconic Mountains.

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At 2,454 feet, Mount Frissell stands in the heart of southern New England and New York’s rolling Taconic Mountains. When the full force of the changing seasons paints the trees in hues of red, yellow, and orange, this hike makes a strong case as the most beautiful in the region. A modest, 1-mile trail start from Mount Riga Road in Massachusetts and gently climbs through scrub oak to the summit of 2,289-foot Round Mountain before continuing to the top of Mount Frissell. Unlike most hikes, however, you’ll get the best views beyond the summit. Passing into Connecticut, hikers come across the highest point in Connecticut at 2,380 feet on the south slopes of Mount Frissell—keep going! At 0.5 miles past the highpoint pin is the Connecticut-New York-Massachusetts tri-point marker, and roughly another mile past that are the panoramic views of rolling farmland and distant Appalachian mountains from 2,311-foot Brace Mountain. Return the way you came for excellent views of neighboring mountain domes to the north.

Peak One, Colorado

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The challenging hike to the summit of Colorado’s Peak One includes spectacular views.

Todd Powell/ Frisco

At 12,933 feet, Peak One is more than 1,400 feet lower than Colorado’s highest peak, but what it lacks in elevation it makes up for in unmatched views. Access is easy, with the trailhead located right off highway I-70. Hikers climb past the ruins of an old mining town before breaking treeline. A class-2+ ridgewalk reveals the depth and beauty of Colorado’s high country. Dillon Reservoir sits at the foot of the peak to the east, where the mighty Front Range 14ers stand in the distance. The northern views are dominated by the mysterious and challenging Gore Range, while far-off Sawatch Range mountains decorate the western horizon. A fun, brief scramble ascends the summit. Turn around at that point for an 8-mile out-and-back with more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain—or keep traversing along the Tenmile Range to Tenmile Mountain and beyond. Hiking from Peak One to Peak Ten is one of Colorado’s big point-to-point testpiece adventures.

Humphreys Peak, Arizona

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Arizona’s highest point, Humphreys Peak boasts fascinating history along with its views.

Coconino National Forest

The highest point in Arizona, 12,633-foot Humphreys Peak is an ambitious peak to bag, with an impressive history to ponder as you conquer it. Geologists speculate this strato-volcano once stood much higher until it experienced a Mount St. Helens-style eruption that resulted in its trademark bowl and diminished height. The Arizona Snowbowl ski area is set on the flanks of the peaks San Francisco Peaks, of which Humphreys is the tallest. A hike to the top travels through pine forests and out of treeline along a well-maintained trail through chunky volcanic rock. Admire the power that shook the land as you take the final steps to the airy summit, where views span out into the lowlands that transform into far-off deserts and canyons. It’s about nine miles round-trip, with 3,000 feet of elevation from the standard route on the Humphreys Peak Trail.

Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royale National Park

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Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royale National Park.

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Located on an island in Lake Superior that’s 45 miles long and just nine miles wide, this national park is so remote you’ll have to take a ferry or seaplane to access it. But once you do, you’ll have your pick of 165 miles of hiking trails that cover spectacular terrain, including the ruins of an old copper mine and a lighthouse that dates back to the late 1800s. Many hikers flock to the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which runs along the spine of the island, but the Minong Trail is a 52-mile trek that’s slightly harder, but with far fewer people and just as stunning views, wildflowers, and up-and-close wildlife viewing. Choose from several out-and-back routes, or make it a point-to-point overnight trip (there are 36 first-come, first-serve campgrounds) and you just might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Written by Selena Makrides for RootsRated Media in partnership with RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Jake Wheeler

Why Kremmling Is an Awesome (Even If Underrated) Destination for Water Lovers

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Colorado may be best known for its Rocky Mountains, but it’s also called the "Mother of Rivers" and the “Headwaters State.” More major rivers start in Colorado’s snowy high country than any other state. Is it any wonder that water lovers from around the world head to north-central Colorado for water sports and recreation?

Nowhere is this more apparent than Kremmling. Located just two hours from Denver in Grand County, this diamond-in-the-rough town is a hidden gem for water lovers. For a romantic weekend getaway, adventurous corporate retreat, or affordable family vacation, Kremmling may be Colorado’s best-kept secret.

Water, Water, Everywhere

The Colorado River stretches 1,450 miles through seven states and into Mexico, carving out the Grand Canyon in Arizona and filling Nevada’s Lake Mead. This mighty waterway begins in Colorado with its headwaters located at La Poudre Pass, roughly 40 miles (as the crow flies) northeast of Kremmling. Snowmelt flows freely southwest from the pass to form the Colorado River in Rocky Mountain National Park before meeting the Blue River and Muddy Creek at Kremmling. These three waterways fill the Williams Fork, Green Mountain, and Wolford Mountain Reservoirs, respectively. Kremmling’s rivers, rapids, and reservoirs provide an endless supply of wet and wild adventures.

Unlike the nearby trendy ski towns, Kremmling’s a place for laid-back comfort and the perfect destination for value-minded travelers. You’ll feel right at home with the Old West history and culture that make this town as natural and familiar as your favorite pair of blue jeans or cowboy boots. There’s no pressure here—just warm folks and old-fashioned hospitality. So slip into the town of Kremmling and get ready for a wet summer of adventure.

Hit the Rapids

Kremmling offers a healthy sampling of water sports, and there’s something for everyone. Take the family on a leisurely float along the upper Colorado River, the "Upper C," as it’s known to locals. Enjoy whitewater thrills on class I to class IV rapids, by kayak or raft. Experienced paddlers pump up the adrenaline with a mad dash through big class V rapids in Gore Canyon, where the river drops 400 feet in a mere five miles.

Local outfitters like Liquid Descent, AVA, Mad Adventures, and Adventures in Whitewater provide raft and kayak gear for groups, families, couples, and individual trips. (Most outings come with tasty meals included.) Guided half-day, full-day, and overnight trips are available, or you can rent a raft, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard and make your own adventure. Wetsuits, splash jackets, personal flotation devices, helmets, and booties are also provided for guided trips and available for rent for private outings.

Your outfitter shuttles you to nearby access points along the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the Upper Colorado River Recreation Area. For "paddle-it-yourselfers," the BLM’s Kremmling field office can answer questions and point you to the nearest boat launches including Radium, State Bridge, and Pumphouse Recreation Site. Tent and RV camping, picnic tables, shelters, grills, fire rings, and vault toilets are available at some launch sites.

Enjoying a Sportsman’s Paradise

Dubbed "The Sportsman’s Paradise," Kremmling is also the perfect basecamp for fishing, boating, and camping. For fly fishing, cast your line in the deep pools and coves of the Colorado River, Blue River, and Muddy Creek. Enjoy lakeside or boat fishing at three nearby reservoirs—or extend your stay and check them all out. Anglers revel in year-round fishing at these reservoirs for kokanee salmon, northern pike, roundtail chub, and rainbow, lake, and brown trout.

Ten minutes north on U.S. 40, the 1,550-acre Wolford Mountain Reservoir offers a marina, boat launch, boat rentals, and a beach for swimming, plus tent and RV camping at Wolford Campground. East of Kremmling on U.S. 40 and County Road 3, the 1,600-acre Williams Fork Reservoir has a boat ramp, picnic area, and RV and tent camping. South of Kremmling on CO 9, visit the 2,125-acre Green Mountain Reservoir for picnicking, the Heeney Marina, seasonal rustic camping at Cataract Creek, Prairie Point, McDonald Flats, Cow Creek North, Cow Creek South, Elliott Creek, and Willows Campgrounds, and year-round dispersed camping in the White River National Forest. Visit recreation.gov to reserve a campsite or see which ones are first-come/first-served. Many of the campgrounds are dry, so bring your own water.

Use your own boat or rent one for your stay. Choose from jet skiing, water skiing, canoeing, kneeboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, pontoon boating, knee boarding, fly fishing, bait fishing, ice fishing, and more. You’ll never run out of ways to enjoy the water in Kremmling.

Stick Around for the After Party

Kremmling’s budget-friendly lodging, restaurants, and breweries keep you happy, comfortable, and well-fed during your downtime. Take a daytime walking tour through historic Kremmling, visit the Heritage Park Museum, or book a "fun shoot" at the local shooting range. If you’re in town for the weekend, spend an evening with live music at Grand Adventure Brewing. Drop by the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center for more ideas and be sure to check out their online calendar of events for annual celebrations like Kremmling Days, July 4th’s Fire Up the Cliffs, and the Middle Park Fair & Rodeo.

Day Trips Within an Hour of Kremmling

Kremmling’s location at the junction of U.S. 40 and CO 9 provides quick access to oodles of out-of-town adventures for day-tripping. North of town, Steamboat Springs offers hot springs soaking, rafting, kayaking, and tubing on the Yampa River, and fishing, boating, and water skiing on Steamboat Lake, Pearl Lake, and Stagecoach Reservoir.

South of Kremmling, Summit County is home to iconic ski towns like Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone, and Silverthorne. These mountain meccas aren’t just for snow sports. You’ll find plenty to do in the summertime, from sailing at Lake Dillon to hydro-biking at Copper Mountain, and disc golf at Frisco Adventure Park.

Southeast of Kremmling, check out Winter Park for hiking, biking, and zip-lining. Then head northeast to Grand Lake, the biggest, deepest natural lake in the state, or visit Rocky Mountain National Park for miles of hiking trails, sparkling lakes, waterfalls, and stunning mountains like 14,259-foot Longs Peak.

With so much to do and see around Kremmling, you’ll be tempted to make your Grand County vacation an annual tradition. Give in to the temptation—getaways like this, with people you care about, make memories that last a lifetime.

Written by Susan Joy Paul for RootsRated Media in partnership with RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Patricia Henschen

10 Must-Do Hikes in the Mountain West

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From Montana’s Livingston Range to the Lechuguilla Desert of southern Arizona, the U.S. region known as the Mountain West is brimming with top-caliber hiking destinations. Narrowing down a list of 10 standouts is no small feat, but we took a stab at it anyway, choosing from the eight states that make up the U.S. Census Bureau’s Mountain West zone.

Take note: These aren’t the 10 best hidden hikes in the Mountain West; none of these routes are particularly obscure. In fact, several rank among the most celebrated trails in the country—and for good reason. A journey into the maw of one of the world’s most sublime canyons, backcountry skylines gloriously rock-torn, adventures in wide-open heights and close-hemmed halls of stone: These destinations highlight the scenic punch and variety characteristic of this outdoor playground and its seemingly infinite opportunities for adventure.

1. The Chinese Wall, Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, Montana

As you might expect from a mighty watershed frontier, the Continental Divide in North America comes mantled in some pretty heady scenery along most of its length. And one of its most dramatic expressions comes in the heart of one of the largest roadless areas in the Lower 48, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex of northwestern Montana. Deep within the "Bob"—named for an early champion of the federal wilderness area and a hardcore long-distance hiker—about a dozen miles of the Divide between Larch Hill Pass and Haystack Mountain separates the Flathead and Sun basins in the guise of a slanted, east-facing limestone ledge 1,000 feet high: the famous Chinese Wall.

Hike in the lee of this great pale escarpment via the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail from the Benchmark Trailhead, or climb to its spine at Haystack Mountain. Whichever way you go, be sure to keep an eye out for grizzly bears, a suitably majestic beast to go along with the big terrain.

2. The Thorofare, Greater Yellowstone, Wyoming

You’ll also be walking in the shadow of the grizzly on this legendary backpacking route into the roadless wilds of far southeastern Yellowstone National Park and the adjoining Teton Wilderness. You’ll tramp down the eastern shores of Yellowstone Lake—the largest above 7,000 feet in the U.S.—to its southeast arm and the willow-clad delta of the Yellowstone River, then upstream along the meandering channel between the Two Ocean Plateau and the Absaroka Range. Somewhere on the National Forest land beyond the park’s southeastern boundary is the anonymous chunk of turf farthest from a road in the Lower 48 states. But the entire high-elevation valley is deliciously remote and charged with the presence of the silvertip bear, equally cantankerous moose, and those aforementioned grizzlies.

3. Big Sandy Trail, Wind River Range, Wyoming

This heavily used trail to the iconic Cirque of the Towers in the southern Wind Rivers serves as a classic gateway to Wyoming’s vast uncrowded high-country wilderness. Like the similarly breathtaking Titcomb Basin to the north, the gray battlements of the Cirque—one of the emblematic mountain vistas in the West—are worth seeing even if you’ll likely have company.

Reached by a long-slog blacktop-to-dirt drive from U.S. 191 near Pinedale, the Big Sandy Trail, an old American Indian route, follows the Big Sandy River to Big Sandy Lake, then on a steepening track past North and Arrowhead lakes to 10,800-foot Jackass Pass. Here you’ll gain your introductory prospect of the Cirque of the Towers, which cradles Lonesome Lake (which is not particularly lonesome in summer and fall) in its hard granite embrace. These prongs, spires, and prows—which include Warbonnet, Wolf’s Head, Pylon Peak, Warrior, Shark’s Nose, Lizard Head (at 12,842 feet, the high point of the Cirque of the Towers), and gloriously standoffish Pingora—create some of the most esteemed climbing walls in the Rockies.

Keep soaking in the granite garden by trekking farther to Shadow Lake on the "back side" of the Cirque of the Towers.

4. Alice Lake, Sawtooth Range, Idaho

The jags, towers, and cliffy brows of the Sawtooths represent a pinnacle (so to speak) of Idaho’s prodigious mountain scenery, and Alice Lake—one of 300-plus tarns chiseled by glaciers into this snarled-up range—makes a fabulous introduction. Set at about 8,600 feet, Alice Lake reflects the west face of 9,902-foot El Capitan and a ripsaw rampart southward.

Reach this rockery tarn via the Tin Cup Trailhead at Pettit Lake. The trail muscles some 5.5 miles upslope through mixed conifer woods and high glades, making multiple stream crossings en route. Alice Lake is a popular day hiking or overnighter destination, but can also serve as a springboard for longer adventures in the southeastern Sawtooth high country. You can undertake a memorable 19-mile loop by journeying on to Twin Lakes, up and over a high pass, and dropping down to big Toxaway Lake.

5. Highline Trail, Uinta Mountains, Utah

The Uintas are geographic trivia—one of the only west-east-trending mountain ranges in the Western Hemisphere—and also one of the country’s conterminous grandest alpine expanses, rivaling Colorado’s San Juans, the burliest range in the Southern Rockies, for sheer extent of alpine territory. The Highline Trail shows off the storm-licked splendor of the High Uintas Wilderness on a week-plus, nearly 100-mile trek between Hayden Pass and U.S. Route 191, much of it above the 10,000-foot contour.

Lonesome tarns, rusty Precambrian pyramids and fins, windswept tundra passes, staggered canyons—oh, and did we mention the thunderstorms? This is a Rocky Mountain roof-of-the-world traverse of the highest order.

6. The Maroon Bells, Elk Mountains, Colorado

Geographically speaking, the Elk Mountains lie close to the heart of the Southern Rockies, and two of their half-dozen fourteeners—the Maroon Bells—form arguably that skyscraping region’s scenic culmination. Given the paired loom of 14,156-foot Maroon Peak and 14,014-foot North Maroon, plus the eye-catching red of their capping Maroon Formation sedimentary layers, and it’s no surprise they’re said to be the most photographed summits in Colorado.

They’re also plenty well-loved, so don’t come here seeking solitude; treat it as a pilgrimage to one of the great landmarks of the American Rockies. The hike to Crater Lake puts you at the very foot of the Maroon Bells, but the views just keep expanding if you trek up to Buckskin Pass, which can also be strung together with West Maroon, Frigid Air, and Trailrides passes in a roughly 30-mile backpacking loop.

7. Wheeler Peak, Snake Range, Nevada

The crown of relatively little-visited Great Basin National Park, of the Snake Range and essentially of Nevada (though Boundary Peak in the White Mountains on the California line modestly outranks it), 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak is a special mountain. The Snakes are their own sky-island range, loftiest in the eastern Great Basin, and rising from the sagebrush sea of that cold desert to subalpine aspen forests and wizened bristlecone-pine groves. (In 1964, a bristlecone 4,844 years old was chopped down on a Wheeler Peak moraine.) Wheeler Peak is also known for its small glacier, one of the southernmost in the U.S.

An 8.6-mile round-trip hike from the trailhead above Wheeler Peak Campground takes you to the rubbled summit with its head-spinning Basin-and-Range panorama. It’s not a demanding hike, but well worth doing.

8. The Narrows, Zion Canyon, Utah

North Fork Virgin River’s world-famous gorge and its domeland surrounds are so knock-you-over-the-head scenic that any trail in Zion National Park verges on the unreal. Two, though, attract the lion’s share of attention: Angel’s Rest—the up-top, vista-rich one (strictly for non-acrophobes)—and the Narrows, the shadowy, amphibious, down-low one through the twisty, high-walled slot forming the head of Zion Canyon.

You can join the masses wading upstream into the Narrows from the end of the popular Riverside Trail at the Temple of Sinawava, or drop down from Chamberlain’s Ranch on a more adventurous 16-mile trek. The latter requires a permit; from the Temple of Sinawava, you don’t need one as far upstream as Big Spring.

There are countless quieter slot canyons in the Colorado Plateau, but the Narrows is legitimately wondrous, and if you combine it with remoter adventures (including those farther up its course), you might even enjoy the oohing-and-aahing camaraderie of it all. It’s a communal National Park experience on par with watching Old Faithful erupt or staggering all scenery-drunk around Yosemite Valley.

Accessible and well-visited though the lower portion of the Narrows may be, it’s also dangerous given the potential for flash floods. Check in at the Zion Canyon Visitor Center for the most up-to-date forecast and flood hazard rating, and don’t play the odds.

9. North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon, Arizona

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Hike from montane woods to hot desert in one 14.2-mile swoop on the North Kaibab Trail, the only maintained route connecting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. It’s popular but not as much as its South Rim counterparts (the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails), and given the "Big Ditch’s" one-of-a-kind topographical breadth, it serves up mega-scale scenery not many hiking trails can match.

The North Kaibab Trail drops from the Kaibab Plateau’s conifers at 8,241 feet to the Colorado nearly 6,000 feet below. From Coconino Overlook less than a mile down-trail, it descends southeastward to Supai Tunnel and Redwall Bridge in Roaring Springs Canyon—named for a weeping limestone cliff reachable by a 0.3-mile spur—then cants southwestward into Bright Angel Canyon (Cottonwood Campground, 6.5 miles and 4,200 feet down from the trailhead, offers a good first-night stopover). A mile past that, a side trail leads to Ribbon Falls. Near its end, the North Kaibab Trail traverses the tight Vishnu Schist confines of the Box before attaining Phantom Ranch and the bridge to Bright Angel Campground at the bottom of the canyon.

After a night or three down here, you can retrace your steps back to the North Rim or add a "Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim" feather to your cap by climbing the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim.

10. Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon Loop, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Braving grizzlies at the Chinese Wall, you’re within easy reach of the Canadian border. On the very opposite side of the country, this short but mesmerizing walkabout in the heart of the Sonoran Desert shows off rugged scenery that is, ecologically speaking, more Mexico than the U.S. Remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument lies in an awesome, sparsely settled expanse of the Sonoran that also includes the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Mexico’s desolate Pinacate backlands.

This 3.5-mile loop links the Bull Pasture and Estes Canyon trails on the western flanks of the Ajo Mountains. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to admire the eccentric namesake cactus, which barely makes it north of the border, as well as the Sonoran Desert’s defining species, the monolithic saguaro, plus a whole slew of other desert plants. The impressive stature of both the organ pipe and saguaro cacti complements the burliness of the Ajos’ craggy bosses. And the views from the Bull Pasture leg unfurl far south across the Sonoyta Valley into Sonora, Mexico.

Written by Ethan Shaw for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by John Strother