It’s spring break time in the states and most people I know are leaving gray-brown / no-leaves-on-the-trees / not-warm-enough-for-shorts Minnesota for tropical locales with warm beaches and plenty of sun. Meanwhile, our family is prepping and packing for an epic road trip through Utah and Arizona. The forecast is not-warm-enough-for-shorts, and there are times I have questioned our spring break plans. Until I remember why:
Because hiking. We love it. Besides family togetherness and lots of driving, we plan to hike the hell out of some national parks.
The blog has taken a backseat as we prep for this trip and wrap up our nine-to-fives before we leave. But I’m sitting on a goldmine of hiking porn and I thought I would release some to the masses before I go. I asked the travelblogosphere to share some amazing day hikes with me (day hike = no camping necessary = my kind of hike) and the response was . . . well, . . . AMAZING. Hikes through forests, hikes past waterfalls, hikes to precarious heights. Hikes in places I’ve never even heard of. So here you have it: Travel Bloggers Share Their Most Amazing Day Hikes:
Iceland: Svartifoss Waterfall Hike, Vatnajökull National Park
In a country filled with stunning natural beauty, Svartifoss may be one of Iceland’s most beautiful spots. One of our favorite things to do in Iceland was hiking. One of the more notable day hikes is to the Svartifoss waterfall within the Vatnajökull National Park. In contrast to many of the waterfalls in Iceland, Svartifoss is small – both in terms of height and water flow. But what makes Svartifoss unique is that the water falls off cliffs composed of black, basalt columns. It is a surreal contrast. It’s worth noting that the columns provided the inspiration for the Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik.
Distance: About 2 miles (4km) round-trip
Time: Approximately 2 hours
Difficulty: We would rate the hike as easy, but it is not accessible for disabled travelers and children should be observed closely due to the sharp rocks near the waterfall.
United States (Colorado): Mount Berstadt, Idaho Springs
Mt. Bierstadt is a quick 1.5 hour drive from Denver, CO – located on the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway. This hike is perfect for anyone wanting to take a break from the city and explore one of Colorado’s 50+ peaks that is above 14,000 feet (4300m). Mt. Bierstadt is also known for being one of the easier peaks to summit, it is great for first-timers that want to get a ‘14er’ under their belt. Situated in Pike National Forest, the trail head is easy to spot as there will most likely be several cars in the parking lot and along the road. The first mile takes you through fairly flat terrain; crossing creeks and passing small lakes. Then the switchbacks start and it is all uphill; be on the lookout for moose, big horned sheep, and mountain goats. The last section is the most daunting with having to navigate large boulders and lose rock. But it is all worth it once you reach the summit, the views are impeccable – mountains for as far as the eye can see.
Distance: 7 miles (11km) round-trip
Time: 6+ hours
Difficulty: Intermediate to Difficult
Norway: Hiking the Reinebringen, Lofoten Islands
Reinbringen is perhaps the most iconic hike in the Lofoten Islands in Norway. It rises 1500 feet (448m) from sea level with steep and sometimes slippery terrain for a trail. While not the highest in the Moskenesøya, the short hike to the top combined with the most iconic view of the fishing village of Reine make it one of the most popular hikes in the Lofoten. You can reach the trail just west of the fishing village of Reine following the highway E10 towards the town of Å. Just past the tunnel (Ramsvikstunnelen) and to the right you should be able to see the trail. There are also arrows on the pathway directing you towards the trail.
Distance: Roughly 2 miles (3-4 km) to the top
Time: Approximately 2 hours
Tip: There are some parts where you are pulling yourself up on a rope. If you have any fear of heights this is the place to get your heart pumping. The ridge-line up top is surrounded by steep drops. The views up there are well worth the effort.
Peru: Lake 69, Huaraz
Located 15,000 feet (4600m) above sea level, Lake 69 is breathtakingly beautiful and a complete contrast to other popular Peruvian treks (such as Colca Canyon or the Inca Trail). The vibrant turquoise water, in stark contrast against the alpine mountains, brings travelers from all over the world. To get to Lake 69, first head to Huaraz, 7 hours north of Lima. Although you can take an overnight bus and arrive in in the morning well rested, plan to spend a few days in town before hitting the trails. You’ll need time to acclimate; the trek to Lake 69 starts at over 4000m and the altitude can surprise even experienced hikers. While in town shop around for an organized tour. It is possible to do the trek on your own, but you’ll pay more for transport; the trip from Huaraz to Lake 69 takes about 3 hours (be prepared for bumpy, unpaved roads!)
Distance: Approximately 7.5 miles (12km) to the top
Time: Allow 5+ hours for the round-trip hike, plus some time to enjoy the lake
Difficulty: This is a difficult hike because of the altitude and not everyone reaches the top (turn around if you feel sick), but you’ll still enjoy the stunning scenery along the way
United States (Utah): Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park
Angel’s Landing is one of Zion National Park’s most iconic hikes. Initially, you’ll follow the river along a paved path and then start your ascent among sets of switchbacks. At about halfway to Scout’s Lookout you’ll start to head to the backside of the trail not visible from the canyon where you’ll reach Walter’s Wiggles – a series of steep switchbacks. After climbing Walter’s Wiggles, give yourself a pat on the back because you’ve reached Scout’s Lookout. From here you can see part of the canyon, the remaining half a mile, narrow and chain lead path to the Landing. The last half mile has extremely steep drop-offs on both sides and will require some upper body strength and covered shoes with good grips. After reaching the top of this portion of the trek, you will have reached Angel’s Landing and can overlook the canyon like the other “angels”.
Distance: 4.8 miles (12km) round-trip
Tip: Since there is only one set of chain to accommodate those going to and coming from the Landing I would advise stepping in with a pack of people so you can handle the traffic patterns together. The last half mile can be the most time-consuming of the hike.
Japan: Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park, Nagano
When we traveled to Jigokudani Yaen Kōen (aka Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park) in Japan, our thoughts were entirely on viewing the infamous snow monkeys. While the snow monkeys did live up to their adorable reputation, we were pleasantly surprised to discover the surrounding area was just as charming. We knew reaching the monkeys involved a short hike. What we didn’t know was that the path was a beautiful forest trail. As our visit was during February, everything was covered in snow. We set out early enough in the morning that we never even encountered anyone else – it was our own personal winter wonderland. Although the walk was a bit slippery and the temperature a bit cold we found the walk quite pleasant. The trail was clearly marked and spotting the steam from the hot springs kept us excited for the snow monkeys at the end. During warmer months, snow monkeys can be spotted along the way as well. To reach the area near Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park from Tokyo, take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano followed by a local train (Nagano Dentetsu Line Limited Express aka Snow Monkey Express).
Distance: 1 mile (1.6km) to the hot springs
Time: 30 minutes each way
I hope these hikes inspire you to get outside and hike – wherever you are! There are amazing views everywhere, and you don’t need to summit a mountain (or camp) to enjoy a great trail.