My top hikes of 2014 are a diverse group that includes places in the west of the United States such as national parks and also locales more closely located to home in Colorado. They range from strenuous to moderate in difficulty level and from arid deserts to lush alpine forests. It was another fantastic year for hiking indeed! May 2015 bring even more exploration!
Number 10: Angels Landing/West Rim Trail, Zion National Park, Utah
Angel’s Landing is perhaps the most iconic hike in Zion National Park. Beginning from The Grotto, the trail ascends steeply in a series of long switchbacks before finally arriving at the engineering marvel of Walter’s Wiggles, which is a series of 21 extremely steep switchbacks in a row. Upon reaching the top of the landing, the trail extends another 0.5 miles along a very narrow and steep trail with 1000 foot drop-offs.
Number 9: American Lakes, Fort Collins, Colorado
The American Lakes Trail starting in the Colorado State Forest up the Poudre Canyon from Fort Collins, Colorado is a high altitude hike full of rich vistas and panoramic views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains. The 11 mile round trip starts at Cameron Pass and climbs 1520 feet to just over 11,000 at the lakes themselves.
Number 8: Devil’s Garden, Arches National Park, Utah
The Devil’s Garden at the far end of the road in Arches National Park is a magical hike that takes you through some very interesting terrain and a diverse array of rock formations and landscapes. There are arches, sandy stretches, scrambling up huge boulders and long-lasting vistas.
Number 7: Hanging Lake Trail, Colorado
The Hanging Lake Trail is a short, yet quite steep trail located running off the Colorado River in the Glenwood Canyon just east of the town of Glenwood Springs, CO. We did the hike in the snow, which added an extra aura of beauty to the hike and added an extra layer to the beautiful lake, which does seem to ‘hang’ on the edge of the cliff.
Number 6: The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
The Narrows, in Zion National Park is one of the classic hikes of the park. The trail itself is in the North Fork of the Virgin River as it travels in the canyon it has carved out of the solid rock over the ages. The eerie light filtering down into the canyon brings brilliant colors out of the rock walls and the clear water underneath you.
Number 5: Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Beginning on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, the Bright Angels Trail is a perfect blend of natural and engineering marvel. The trail switchbacks its way from a high of 6860 feet down to 2500 at the Colorado River, although it’s ill advised to go all the way to the river and back in one day, which amounts to nearly 20 miles.
Number 4: Fourth of July Trail, Nederland, Colorado
The Fourth of July Trail near Nederland, Colorado retained its snow pack in places into July, when we hiked it this year and in fact, there was a snow storm raging as we hiked it. Starting from the Hessie Trailhead up from the Eldora Ski Resort, the hike begins at a lofty 10,160 feet and ascends through healthy pine forest crisscrossed by bubbling creeks.
Number 3: Fern Lake to Bear Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
At 9.2 miles, this trail gains 1500 feet to top out at nearly 10,100 feet at the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. When we hiked it in July, large swaths were still solidly packed in several feet of snow, which made micro-spikes a necessity, but providing ample amounts of excitement and exhilaration.
Number 2: Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, California
A relatively short hike, the Mist Trail in Yosemite is a wonder to behold. Featuring two waterfalls-the Vernal and Nevada falls, the 1000 foot gain is often partially shrouded in mist near the falls, yet includes magnificent views as well, as such as this one from the return on the John Muir Trail.
Number 1: Fairyland and Navajo/Beekaboo Trails, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
The Fairyland and Navajo/Beekaboo Loop Trails in Bryce Canyon National Park does give one the sense of walking in another world. The massive hoodoos and other geological formations seem to go on endlessly in every direction. We hiked these glorious trails during and the day after a snow storm, which added even more to the magical experience and provided an other-worldly experience.