Patricia's Top Ten (or so) Favorite Hikes

To the NBA stuff

To the Mavs stuff

To the non-bball stuff

May 2009
So while I was talking to my parents about how wonderful the Ice Lake hike was, I mentioned that it was a top 10 all-time hike. Which got me to thinking that I've never actually done a Top 10 listing and what hikes would I put on that list. So here is what I came up with. Some of the hikes are beautiful all the way through and some are wonderful destinations. Some are short and some are long. For these hikes and places, I wouldn't hesitate given the opportunity to repeat the hike (and all have been hiked more than once). I cheated with Glacier National Park in just listing the park as otherwise it would be over represented with 5 individual hikes (and I'd have trouble taking any of them off the list) - Glacier is the best day hiking park. It seems strange not listing the Grand Canyon, but the views are almost as spectacular from the rim as hiking into the canyon (where as the views are much better and different hiking into Bryce than just from the rim) and hiking the canyon is more of an accomplishment hike (and I haven't done any partial hikes (non-river reaching) of the canyon). So here's my Top 10 (or so) list. Except for the first 2, not ordered (the variety makes it too difficult to rank, but the first 2 are my favorite places) - first listed is the beaches/ocean areas, then mountains and mountain lakes, and last is desert areas (plus one more mountain area for honorable mention).

Fern Canyon

Prairie Creek Redwood State Park
north of Eureka, California

Ahh. My favorite place on earth. It's a short hike, but the canyon is so beautiful and peaceful. It's a narrow (about 10 to 15 feet wide) canyon with 30-foot walls covered with ferns and a small stream going down the middle of the canyon floor. There are some fallen redwoods in the lush green canyon and the pleasant sound of the stream is constant. There is a fallen redwood in the middle that I always sit on and can (and have) sit there for hours. My perfect day involves starting out with barefoot walking the Trinidad beach, a crab omelette breakfast at the restaurant at the Trinidad harbor (with leftovers made into an omelette sandwich for lunch), head over to Prairie Creek and enjoy Fern Canyon for an hour or two, then hike through the majestic redwoods for a couple of hours, rest at the large rocks next to the beach before barefoot walking the surf for a couple of hours and trying to refrain myself (and usually failing) from picking up pretty small rocks, and then a return long visit to Fern Canyon, and sunset either at the beach there, Klamath Overlook, or Trinidad beach. Dang, now I got the strong itch for a return visit soon (and, yes, I did pull out a map to try to figure out how much time it would take for a "side trip" to California for my 2009 trip).

Hidden Beach

Redwood National Park
north of Eureka, California

Ahh. My second favorite place - though it probably helps that it's so close to my favorite place. There are 3 ways to reach Hidden Beach - 2 are pretty hikes and 1 is just the quickest and blah way to reach the precious small beach. The hike from the Klamath Overlook is the longest way, but probably the prettiest with great ocean views from above. But I have a tendency to take the route from the Yukon Loop parking area as it is still pretty and gets me to the beach faster. The 1 mile hike from the Yukon spot also has the best views of Hidden Beach from above. The small smooth black sand beach beach is in a cove and has rocky areas at the north and south ends and you can usually see colorful starfish on the rocks. At the south end is a very large rock mound just off the coast (or next to the rocky area around low tide) with a solitary tree at the highest point. The beach does disappear in high tide, so some planning does have to be done to make sure you don't arrive then. It's just a beautiful peaceful spot.

Kalalau Trail - Na Pali Coast

Kauai, Hawaii

On my second visit to Hawaii (first was mostly spent on Maui) there were many great hikes and places visited, so it says something that I can point to one place that was by far the highlight of that trip. The Na Pali coast is as beautiful as you have heard it is. I over did it on my first visit to the Na Pali coast in hiking 6 miles along the trail and nearly skipped the side trip to the Hanakapiai Valley. The coast trail is up-and-down-up-and-down-... on a sometimes rocky trail, so it wears you out more than a simple up-and-down hike. But the clash of the bright blue ocean and lush bright green of the rugged coast makes you want to see as much as you can. 2 miles into the trail is the Hanakapiai Valley. A short walk to the right is the nice but unimpressive Hanakapiai Beach. A 1 3/4 mile hike to the left up the valley along a narrow trail ends at the impressive 300-foot tall Hanakapiai Falls. There is a large deep pool in front of the falls and plenty of rocks to rest on and feet soak. The water was icy cold, but I was determined to swim under the falls. Approaching the falls in the water takes energy because the falls themselves produce a current and then going through the falls literally took my breath away - I couldn't breath during the time it took to get behind the falls. There is a rock ledge (an inch or two below water) behind the falls to sit on and enjoy view from behind the falls (room for 3 or 4 people). After sitting for a bit, I stood up and dove through the falls and then turned on my back and backstroked away, giving me an outstanding view of the tall falls up close - just a "Wow!" moment.

Waipio Valley

Big Island, Hawaii

Most people who visit the Big Island stop at the Waipio Valley Overlook to view the very pretty 1-mile wide green valley that is topped with a black sand beach. The industrious park at the overlook and hike a mile down the steep road to the valley and then over to the beach (with the road, the knees complain on the hike down and the rest of the body complains on the hike up). The smart save themselves the torture and rent a 4-wheel drive car and drive down the 4-wheel drive only narrow road and park at the beach. Unlike most black sand beaches, the Waipio Valley's beach is smooth sand with no rocks or pebbles. To enjoy the full beach, the valley's river has to be forded near the ocean - it can be difficult with the current and mossy stones and a hiking stick will make things a lot easier. Since most people who go to the beach don't ford the river, I had the larger section of this wonderful beach to myself on both visits. I took off my shoes and surf walked the entire length of the beach. On my first visit, I had intended to hike the trail up the far wall of the valley, but I fell so in love with the beach that I skipped that hike and stayed at the beach and alternated between resting and playing in the ocean (but not going far out). On my second visit, I did head up the far wall (helped by having rented a 4-wheel drive car and not having to hike the road). The trail itself isn't that exciting, but the views down on the valley and beach are wonderful. At the top of the far wall, the trail continues through the trees parallel to the ocean for 6 miles. There is a neat looking tree just past the valley top. I hiked about a mile along the trail through the trees and was a little disappointed there there were no ocean views and turned around as the magnificent beach was pulling me back.

Glacier National Park


I first visited Glacier National Park in 2004. I returned again in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. That tells you something about the park. It is the best hiking park I've ever been to with a high number of trails worthy of hiking. I have 5 favorites that I couldn't imagine visiting the park without hiking - and even limiting my listing here to 5 leaves off several other wonderful hikes that would be highlights in other parks.

My favorite is one that most people don't do - Gunsight Lake. It is a 6 mile hike to the lake and most people think that 12 miles is too long of a hike. But it only gains 500 feet (and another 500 feet for the, grumble, climb back to the road at the end). The trail drops for a mile before reaching the river (and there's a pretty spot near the bottom to the right where the water flows swiftly through a red rock area). After crossing the river on a bridge, the trail is fairly mild and not exciting for about 3 1/2 miles - the full prettiness of this hike was damaged in 2007 when excessive rain killed a lot of the trees in the valley. The bad news is that the climb is ahead. The good news is that it is picture taking time. As the trail heads up and around the mountain, the views of the top of the valley and Jackson and Blackfoot Glaciers are outstanding. I can't hike through that section without taking at least 5 pictures, even though I've been there 6 times (including the return leg from Sperry Chalet). After the climb, the trail curves into the side valley and is mild for about a mile to Gunsight Lake. The good-sized electric blue lake is just absolutely gorgeous as it is set in a mountain bowl with several waterfalls cascading down and the red and white ribboned mountainside above the top of the lake. I can (and have) sit for hours at the small beach and enjoy the view. Enhancing the experience is continuing the hike towards Gunsight Pass - it is 3 miles further and a lot of up to the pass, but a partial hike to the pass also gives different grand views of the lake and mountains. I've often encountered the mountain goat (once with a kid) that likes the area along the pass trail.
Gunsight Lake Pictures

For a completely beautiful hike, you can't beat Grinnell Glacier. Most take the boat shuttle across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, but I'm there to hike so I take the extra 3 miles hiking around the lakes. If I get going early enough, I can beat the boats and may have a beautiful reflection on Lake Josephine. Once you get your first view of the electric blue Grinnell Lake from above, the views the rest of the way are outstanding. You can see Morning Eagle Falls in the distance up the pretty valley to the left. But the valley that captures your eyes is the Grinnell valley with the large waterfall feeding Grinnell Lake and two glaciers high up on the mountain side (the third glacier is lower and not visible until you near it [note that the glaciers are shrinking - it used to be just one glacier and they may have declassified the small one up to the left as no longer being a glacier]). The trail is open and the views are grand all the way to the glacial lake. I like taking a long rest on a rock ledge shortly after I get my first view of Grinnell Lake and again a long rest right next to the waterfall that crosses the trail and enjoy the magnificent views (going through a lot of adjectives here). After the final huff-and-puff climb is the good-sized glacial lake with a number of small icebergs in it. The glacier itself is to the far left of the shelf with another glacier above with a pretty, thin waterfall dropping between the two. Don't stop at the rock mound where the trail ends - make your way down the steep slope and sit and rest lakeside. If you have an eagle eye, you can look high up to the right corner and may spot tiny specks of people peering down from the Grinnell Overlook branch from the Highline Trail on the other side of the ridge. My favorite spot in the area involves hiking all the way across the rocks to left to the outlet flow and then making my way down besides the outlet a little bit to where I have a view of both the ice cold looking water swiftly flowing down and the waterfall and glacier above.
Grinnell Glacier Pictures

Another must in the park is a hike to the beautiful Iceberg Lake. The climb is at the start of the hike and then it is mild the rest of the way. After the climb, there are some nice valley and top of valleys views (but no lakes visible) of both Swiftcurrent and Ptarmigan (the one the trail is in) Valleys. After 2 1/2 miles, the trail reaches the unimpressive Ptarmigan Falls [note that on my 2008 visit there was actually a better view of the falls from the trail than in past visits - not sure if they cleared a viewing spot or if it was due to the heavy 2008 snow and the trees not being in full leaf]. But as the trail rounds the top of the falls, there is a nice resting spot and feet soaking spot - even if I'm not tired, I now stop there going and coming (and can't tell you how many people have joined me feet soaking once I took off my shoes). A short ways ahead is the Y-junction for Ptarmigan Tunnel and the way to Iceberg Lake is straight ahead and the lake is 2 mild miles further. The trail soon comes out of the trees and there are wonderful views of the side valley and a wide waterfall. As the trail approaches the lake, there is a pretty pond (not the lake) and if you are lucky the wildflowers are in full bloom with a variety of shades of Indian Paintbrush (including, my favorite, bright pink). At the sign for the toilet (to the left), to the right is a grand view down on Iceberg Lake - the best full picture taking spot of the lake to including the granite walls and a touch of sky are from this area. And then it is a short walk down to the lake. The smaller sized Iceberg Lake is set in a large granite bowl with massive mountains directly above it. There is a constant iceshelf at the far end of the lake and usually there are a number of icebergs in the lake (though I have been there when there were no icebergs). It is a beautiful place, but popular. If you make your way some through the trees to the left, you may find a nice spot on the rocky shore with a little bit of solitude.
Iceberg Lake Pictures

The only problem with the hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook is the crowds. It along with Avalanche Lake are the two most hiked trails in the park. But there is a reason for that. The trail starts as pavement and then boardwalk with steps from the Logans Pass Visitor Center (go early or late or use the free park shuttle as the parking lot is full midday). The distinctive Clements Mountain looms above as the trail heads up. The grassy fields along the trail may be filled with yellow mountain lillies and a herd of big horn sheep is sometimes in the fields. Near the end of the boardwalk is a pretty area under Clements Mountain with some small cascades falls and often pretty pink flowers. Just ahead is a small pond that I really like and sometimes there are great reflection views on the pond of the distant peaks. From the pond the trail is mild and it is not much further to the overlook. The view from the overlook is magnificent. The large deep blue L-shaped Hidden Lake lies below Bearhat Mountain with Reynolds Mountain to the left - above the end of the lake to the left you may be able to see Sperry Glacier. A little past the overlook spot, there are better views down on the lake and most of the crowds stay behind. My favorite spot is a nice comfy big rock (about 3 1/2 foot tall) where I can sit and look down on the lake. There are often mountain goats in the overlook area - this is the trail I recommend to those who want to see wildlife.
Hidden Lake Pictures

The shortest hike on this list is just 1/4 mile on a nature trail (wheelchair accessible) to Running Eagle Falls. But the wide falls are unique in that it comes out of a hole the rocky hillside - really pretty with the granite peak of Rising Wolf Mountain above. When the snow melt is still heavy, there can be a double fall with a thinner falls coming over the top of the hillside in addition to the falls through the hole. I especially like the area in the morning light and often have breakfast there. Though the Two Medicine area is out of the way from most of the rest of the park, it is well worth the visit.
Running Eagle Falls Pictures

And that's without mentioning the wonderful Highline Trail (aka Garden Wall) and the stunning Grinnell Overlook sidetrip, Swiftcurrent Pass, Cracker Lake, Ptarmigan Tunnel, No Name Lake, Siyeh Pass, Piegan Pass and Morning Eagle Falls, and Otokomi Lake.

Wall Lake

Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

It just doesn't seem right that a beautiful spot such as Wall Lake can be reached after such an easy hike. After a mandatory short visit to the beautiful large Cameron Lake (try going there without taking a picture), drive a short distance down the road to the trailhead for Wall Lake. The trail starts ugly as an old dirt road and heads up for about 1/2 mile to Akamina Pass (not a high pass). At the pass is actually the information board for Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park (the lake is actually in that park, but the trailhead is in Waterton). From there the trail heads a short down and soon passes the backcountry campground and a short bit ahead is the left junction for Wall Lake. From there it is about 2 miles of hiking through the trees at a mild up to the lake. As nice as the first view of Wall Lake is, don't stop there as the views get better as you continue around to the right of the good-sized lake. If you are lucky (doesn't happen often, though) the lake is still and you get a picturesque reflection of the rugged mountain walls on the lake. The lake is tree surrounded around half (though you can find nice resting spots) and mountain surrounded around the other half. There is often a snow patch (even in the late summer) at the far right edge of the lake. If you search carefully along the mountainside, you may spot the mountain goat that lives in the area.

Ice Lake

Silverton, Colorado

I was expecting a pretty hike to a pretty mountain lake but what I got was a stunning hike that was so enticing that I came back and did the hike again a mere 3 days later. Adding to the beauty of the hike was that the wildflowers were in full bloom. There is a lot of up to the hike, but it is well worth it. The trail starts heading up through the forest and soon crosses a creek with a pretty view of a waterfall high above. There are more glimpses of the falls as the trail heads up and then a short side trip to the right comes out near the top of the falls for a pretty (even though early) resting spot - I stopped there both going and returning. Soon after, the trail goes up through an open avalanche slope with some wildflowers. The trail then goes into the trees for a while, still heading up and there is a pretty waterfall along the way. The trail goes through a small meadow filled with wildflowers and then a larger meadow with more colorful wildflowers. Ahead was a rock section with a number of clumps of the largest columbines I've ever seen. The light blue and white flowers were fist-sized. The Lower Ice Lake Basin is pretty with a number of waterfalls coming down and a small lake in the middle. The trail heads mildly through the basin before crossing a creek - another resting place I like as there were lots of wildflowers (including more columbines) and pretty waterfalls all around. Plus there is a long and hard up just ahead. The trail heads steeply up alongside one of the falls and then more up with more columbines (soon left behind though) and then heads to the right with more up. After finally reaching the ridge, it is a short mild walk through the alpine meadows with pink Indiana paintbrush to Ice Lake. The good-sized beautiful Ice Lake is an electric blue with distinctive peaks 180 degrees above. I like heading over to the outlet spot of the lake and sitting there and enjoying the views. A side trip to Fuller Lake is worth the views from above down on Ice Lake (Fuller Lake itself isn't that exciting).

Canyon Creek Lakes

Trinity Alps
near Weaverville, California

At 8 miles one-way, the Canyon Creek Lakes trail is the longest on this list. It is a long day hike, but it is all together beautiful with 4 waterfalls along the trail before reaching 2 mountain lakes. The first 3 miles of the hike aren't that exciting but when you reach the first waterfall, you think it is a really pretty falls - it turns out that it is the least pretty of the 4 falls. From the first falls on the trail is very pretty the rest of the way. The Middle Canyon Creek Falls (the second falls) is my favorite of the 4. After 7 miles is the Lower Canyon Creek Lake, a smaller sized mountain lake set in a rocky bowl with some trees in the area. There is a really pretty spot at the south end of the lake to sit and feet soak and enjoy the view of the lake and rugged peaks of the Trinity Alps (including the tallest, Thompson Peak) [the lower lake is actually my favorite of the two lakes]. A mile further is the Upper Canyon Creek Lake with its distinctive sheer wall along half of the topside of the larger lake. On the return, I always have shouts of joy of "My car, I see my car!" after finishing this very long day hike. Yet even knowing how tiring of a hike it is, I'd go again in a heartbeat.

The Narrows

Zion National Park, Utah

I'm not a desert person, but two desert places are special enough to make this list. First up is The Narrows. The Narrows is a long section of the Virgin River that goes through a slot canyon that is about 20-foot wide with yellow and orange canyon walls of 1500 feet on both sides (width and height vary at spots, of course). Walking through the river in peaceful solitude is just awesome. Unfortunately, you won't find that solitude during the summer as it does get crowded. My first visit was is September and I was one of the first on the hike and did experience the full splendor of The Narrows. My second visit was in July and I was amazed at all the people that were there - the crowds and noise did detract from the beauty of The Narrows (the shade from the canyon walls and coolness of the water makes this a doable hike in the summer despite Zion's 100 degree temperatures). The hike starts as a paved trail for a mile before the canyon proper. The next 2 miles involves a mixture of hiking through the river and along sections of shore - good water shoes are a must on this hike. Not too much farther past the pavement is a waterfall coming down the canyon wall. After a little under 2 miles of hiking in and out of the river is Orderville Canyon to the right (some hike that canyon, but I haven't as it involves some rock climbing). Ahead is the true Narrows - there is little shore for the next 2 miles. But it is just awesome with the narrower width and the sheer canyon walls and the play of light on the canyon walls. After another 2 miles is Big Springs - a pretty springs that create a 15 foot tall, wide waterfall in a mossy, fern green area. The canyon is a little wider at Big Springs and there is a backcountry campground just next to the area. This was as far as I went and you need a hiking permit to go further. Even though it is level, it is not fast hiking due both to the wonderful views and the current of the river (plus being careful to make sure you don't fall). The full Narrows can be hike with a fee shuttle (private) (and park permit - they give out 80 per day for day use) to Chamerlain's Ranch and then hiking 16 miles down the river to the park shuttle.

Bryce National Park


Bryce National Park is the most photogenic park - I was only in the park for about 24 hours in 2008 and took over 50 pictures (and could have taken more). There are several trails that head into Bryce's main amphitheater and you can't go wrong hiking any of them - a hike (or several) into the amphitheater is a must as the many orange and white hoodoos look much more impressive up close than at a distance. Hoodoos are sandstone natural sculptures that have been formed by erosion. There are four trails in the main amphitheater: Fairyland Loop, Queens Garden Trail, Navajo Loop Trail, and Peekaboo Loop Trail. The Fairyland Loop is the longest and involves first hiking 2 1/2 miles along the rim edge before heading into the amphitheater and then gives a full taste of the variety of the hoodoos, natural arches, and windows (holes in the sandstone). The loop is most known for the London Bridge hoodoo (which looks like its namesake), but to me that is one of the lesser hoodoos along the trail and the last mile isn't as pretty as the rest of the trail. The Queens Garden Trail includes a hoodoo that looks like Queen Victoria - it's also the mildest of the trails into the canyon. The south half of the Navajo Loop Trail is called Wall Street and the trail switchbacks (and switchbacks) down a slot canyon and is really pretty - I have fun going up that trail and seeing the looks on peoples' faces thinking I'm crazy for going up that way. But to me the gem of the park is the second half of the Peekaboo Loop Trail with The Windows. The Windows are two holes near the top of a white wall and I actually said, "Oh, wow!" when I first saw them. I really liked the half-hike I did in 2008 - started off with the sunrise at Bryce Point, took the connector trail (which was really pretty with a number of neat hoodoos in the morning light) from there down to the Peekaboo Loop, did the back half of the loop, went up Wall Street, and then took the park shuttle back to my starting point. [A return visit to Bryce was a bonus on that long 2008 trip and I didn't plan on a long stay since I had hiked all the trails on my previous visit (also repeated the Fairyland Loop in 2008)]. Note that Bryce is at a higher elevation so the temperatures are cooler than Zion and Bryce cools down at night, even in the summer.
Fairyland Pictures
Peekaboo Pictures
Navajo Picture

Honorable mention: Moraine Lake area

Banff National Park, Canada

I love the Moraine Lake area, but hate the crowds (small parking lot full by 11 am) and the common bear restrictions for the trails, which have prevented me from doing hikes. You can take a postcard worthy picture on the short Rockpile Loop trail - in fact a friend of mine sent me an e-card once with a Moraine Lake picture (she had selected it from a list of photos, not taken it herself) and I sent her a note back telling her that not only did I recognize the lake but I knew exactly where the photo had been taken (and had taken similar pictures myself). This view of Moraine Lake was once on the Canadian $20 bill. The large lake is an electric blue and surround by what they call the Ten Peaks (as in 10 different rugged mountains).
Rockpile Pictures

If the bear restrictions are in effect, then you have to get a group of 6 or more together to hike any of the longer trails in the area. But despite the trouble, both the Sentinel Pass and Eiffel Lake hikes are worthy hikes. Both start at the same point and head up through the trees for 2 miles (only slight views of Moraine Lake) to the junction. Heading straight is the way to Eiffel Lake and taking a right goes to Sentinel Pass (both can be done together in a longer day hike). The way to Eiffel Lake is mild and soon comes out of the trees and there are grand views down on Moraine Lake (no Moraine Lake views on the Sentinel Pass hike). Eventually those views go away, though. The small Eiffel Lake is in a rocky bowl and involves a steep, non-trail sidetrip to get lakeside. But it is a pretty spot with some of the Ten Peaks looming in the distance. The Sentinel Pass trail is a milder up from the junction and soon reaches the Larch Meadows. Not too much further ahead is the pretty Upper Minnestimma Lake. I walked around to the backside of the lake (no trail) and had a stunning view of the lake with the Ten Peaks behind it. It is an up from the lake to the pass, but the views are worth it. There are views both to the south of the Ten Peaks area (though still no Moraine Lake view) and to the north into the Paradise Valley area. The north view also has a few granite hoodoos, from which the pass gets its name.
Sentinel Pictures
Eiffel Lake Pictures

Since I only hiked it once, Paradise Valley could not be included in the Top 10 list, otherwise it might have cracked the list. I tried hiking it 3 times previously (1st closed for trail work, 2nd bear restrictions and couldn't get a group, 3rd poor weather) before finally being able to do the hike in 2008. It is a beautiful hike and I hope to one day repeat it. The trail starts about 4 miles north of Moraine Lake (it's a valley between Moraine Lake and Lake Louise). The first couple of miles are through the trees and nothing exciting. Once the trail reaches the first bridge over the river you get a taste of how special this trail is - just a beautiful view of Mount Temple to the left and a hint of how pretty the rest of the valley is. There are two more bridge to cross before the trail starts its climb to Lake Annette. Lake Annette is pretty, small lake with Mount Temple looming above. The trail continues a hard up before finally reaching a scree field. The views from the open rock field are outstanding (and the path through the field is mild) with Mount Aberdeen across the way and some views of the majestic top of the valley. After a tree area is a boulder field - taking a hard left at the start of the field is the way to Sentinel Pass from this valley and you can see more hoodoos on the way up than from just at the pass. The valley trail continues straight through the boulder field (again, still a mild path) and then into the trees as it starts to head down. The trail comes out of the trees and then there are two bridges across the river of the open valley floor. I sat for a while in the middle of one of the bridges and simply enjoyed the majestic view of the top of the valley, which includes several snow capped granite peaks and a large wide waterfall in the not too far distance.
Paradise Valley Pictures

Patricia Bender
Not affiliated with or representing anyone besides myself