I’ve been a hiker all my life and have seen a lot of the world on my own two feet. So far I’ve been hiking in 49 states, with only Alaska yet to go. When people ask me for my all time favorite hike, I’m usually at a loss. Every place in every state is unique and beautiful in its own way and trying to rank hikes in far flung places like Maine and Montana is like comparing apples and oranges.
After much difficulty I’ve narrowed down all the trails I’ve ever traveled to these top five:
1. Mary’s Peak in the Oregon Coast Range- When I lived in Oregon, I hiked to the top of Mary’s Peak, the highest mountain in the Coast Range at least once a week. The trail winds through old growth forests before emerging into a summit meadow with view of the Pacific to the west and the Cascade Volcanoes to the east. This trail may be short – 1.5 miles round trip – but it’s one of the sweetest I’ve ever seen.
2. Tent Rocks, New Mexico- This hike just south of Santa Fe has everything you could want in a desert trek: slot canyons, wicked rock formations and incredible views. The first half of the trail winds through a slot canyon so narrow you can touch the walls on either side, then the canyon opens up beneath the 90-foot conical hoodoos that give this National Monument its name. Finally, the trail switchbacks up to the top of the mesa to an overlook of the slot canyon and tent rocks as well as sweeping views of the Rio Grande River Valley to the east and the Jemez Mountains to the west. This is southwest hiking at its best.
3. Virginia’s Triple Crown– This is my favorite long-weekend backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. Running between Roanoke and Blacksburg in southwest Virginia, this 28-mile section hits the AT highlights of Tinker Cliffs, McAfee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth in 3 days. I’ve heard the views from McAfee Knob are among the best on the entire AT, but all three times I’ve done this hike, it has been pouring down rain on McAfee Day.
4. Blodgett Canyon, Montana- Blodgett is the crown jewel of the many river canyons that drain into the Bitterroot River Valley in western Montana. The trail follows the Blodgett River west through a spectacular canyon enclosed by 2,000-foot granite walls for 12 miles to Blodgett Lake, a magnificent alpine lake right on the Idaho border. This is stunning, wild country. On this hike I saw mountain goats, nearly got trampled by a mother moose and caught one of the biggest trout I’ve ever seen in my life.
5. Angels Landing Traverse, Zion National Park, Utah- This was by far one of the more reckless hikes I’ve ever taken in my life. In good weather, Angels Landing is not for the faint of heart, but I hiked it in January, when everything was covered in ice and snow. After a murderous set of switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles, the traverse takes you over a narrow fin of sandstone with 2,000 foot drops on either side. The park service has bolted a chain to the rock to give you something to cling to, but one slip and geology will be your destiny. The views along the traverse (if you can stand to look down) are incredible and the vantage of Zion Valley from the Landing is legendary.
What’s your all time favorite hike?