Been hibernating

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I’ve been busy with work and other commitments, so Trails+Travels has been hibernating. We’ve been on some great adventures in the past year, though, and I’ll be catching up soon.

For now, here’s a gallery of photos of a grizzly bear I watched eating breakfast at Two Dog Flats on the shore of St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park in the summer of 2016:

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Back on the run in Hells Canyon

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The Hells Canyon Adventure Run in March marked the start of my trail-running season this year and represented a return to form after a winter ankle injury.

The three-day weekend over the spring equinox was also the beginning of warm-weather recreation for us and our puppy Gus’ first camping trip.

With mostly sunny skies and wildflowers on the hillsides, we pitched our tent at Pittsburg Landing on the Idaho side of the Snake River on Friday, surrounded by several friends from Missoula.

In January, I had to stop running and see a physical therapist for several weeks after it became painful walking even a few blocks on my injured ankle. I started running again in February, going only 1.5 miles on a level, paved trail, but by the weekend before Hells Canyon was up 17 miles and back  in the hills.

The unofficial, self-supported Adventure Run along the Snake River National Recreation Trail has 15- and 25-mile options, so I was able to wait until that morning to decide on a distance.

When I woke before sunrise Saturday, I was feeling confident so boarded the boat for the longer ride upriver – and longer run back.

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After being dropped off below Granite Creek Rapids, several other Missoulians and I started running the rolling trail to the northeast, crossing creeks and passing historic homesteads in the first 15 miles.

As our group reached the bigger climbs of the day, we began to split into twos, threes and fours. At about 17.5 miles, Suicide Point offered the always-scenic view of the Snake winding upriver from 400 feet above the water.

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Up the steep switchbacks past the Kirkwood Historic Ranch at about mile 20, I met Jen, Josey and Gus as they descended to their turnaround spot and a stop for water. At the end of the day, Gus had about 11 miles on his paws – not bad for a 7-month-old.

After a high traverse across a steep hill and a couple of stretches on the edge of a cliff, we finished back at the trailhead with a total of about 25 miles and 4,300 feet of elevation gain.

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As has become tradition, the Missoulians staying a second night gathered for a potluck dinner and stories around a campfire before bed and the drive home Sunday.

Here are more photos from the Hells Canyon Adventure Run.

Dark start, dark finish on the Rim to Rim to Rim run

The view from the North Kaibab Trail on the 46-mile R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

As we ran over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in the dark early last November, I knew better than the rest of the group the risk presented by patches of packed snow and ice left from a storm earlier in the week.

The others arrived at the canyon by van the night before after flying from Missoula to Las Vegas, while Jen and I drove south and spent most of the week there hiking and sightseeing. Two days before the run – the morning after it snowed – it was clear that a slip or a step too far to the side of the South Kaibab Trail could result in a fall down a cliff.

I don’t think snow was on anybody’s mind back in Missoula months earlier, when we received the invitation to run the well-known double crossing of the canyon by email. Certainly, the distance (about 46 miles), the elevation gain (more than 10,000 feet), heat and water availability were.

Fortunately, the snow and ice lasted only a few switchbacks into the run, and the worse trail conditions higher on the North Rim were encountered at midday.

In the end, everybody made it out of the canyon safe – some completing the full R2R2R, some going Rim to River, some turning around early and one getting a ride back from the North Rim.

Sunrise crossing of the Colorado River on the 46-mile R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

After being dropped off about 5 a.m. at the intersection of Desert View Drive and Yaki Point Road, where a gate keeps private vehicles from reaching the South Kaibab trailhead, we set out by headlamp.

About half a mile beyond the gate, we entered the canyon at 7,260 feet.

At Skeleton Point about 3 miles down to the north, another runner and I found ourselves out ahead of the main group with a faint glow backlighting the top of the canyon to the east. I had never met him before and was concerned about the pace the rest of the day, so slowed a bit in the hope of letting the others catch up.

The other runner pulled away as the bottom of the canyon grew lighter, and I was on my own when I stepped out of the tunnel onto the Black Bridge crossing the muddy Colorado River at 2,480 feet.

About a third of a mile west, I crossed Bright Angel Creek and and went through the lush green Bright Angel Campground at 7 miles before returning to the east side at Phantom Ranch. Taking a cue from people in the camp and at the ranch, I ate some food as I walked through the area.

Sunrise on the North Kaibab Trail, on the 46-mile R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

Running northeast from the ranch, I crossed the creek several times as I followed it upstream through a narrow section of the North Kaibab Trail known as The Box. High above, I could see the first sunlight reaching rocky points.

Out of The Box, I passed Ribbon Falls off the west side of the creek and continued up the trail to Cottonwood Campground, about 7 miles from the ranch. Looking back, I still couldn’t see the rest of the Missoula group, and a handful of other runners I encountered along the way said it had been a while since the one person ahead of me passed.

The view from the North Kaibab Trail on the 46-mile R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

Almost 1.5 miles beyond the campground and after a few small cascades, I crossed the creek at the Pumphouse Ranger Station and the trail began to climb steeply northwest into the Roaring Springs drainage. As the trail rose along sunny cliffs, I passed a group running Rim to Rim from north to south.

Supai Tunnel on the North Kaibab Trail, on the 46-mile R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

After crossing a bridge and ascending several switchbacks, I reached Supai Tunnel, about 1.7 miles below the North Kaibab trailhead. Above the tunnel, the trail left the cliffs and entered the shade of the forest, where the final switchbacks were covered by a thick layer of snow and ice.

As I reached the trailhead at 8,241 feet and 21 miles from the start, I caught up to a couple of other runners and we chatted as we ate and refilled our hydration packs from an icy spigot.

Just as I was getting ready to follow the other runners back down the trail, three friends from Missoula reached the top, so I waited – it would be nice not being alone on the way back across.

Turnaround at the North Kaibab trailhead on the R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

As the four of us started back down the North Kaibab Trail, we passed all the other runners from Missoula who would reach the rim above Supai Tunnel. At the bridge below the tunnel, we passed a few more who turned around based on the time of day.

After that, we descended quickly, one person dropping off as we backtracked through the canyon.

The three of us who remained followed a short side trail across Bright Angel Creek to Ribbon Falls, and as we bushwhacked back we found two other Missoula runners who were extending their Rim to River route.

Across the creek on the main trail again, our group of five continued down through The Box to Phantom Ranch, where we met other Rim to River runners from Missoula and stopped to eat – and drink one of the best cups of lemonade in memory.

Phantom Ranch, on the 46-mile R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

After departing the ranch and campground, one Rim to River runner stayed with the three of us making the double crossing as the others outpaced us up the Bright Angel Trail.

A short distance downriver, we crossed the Silver Bridge to the south side of the Colorado and continued to River Resthouse, 1.5 miles from the campground. There, the trail began to climb.

Sunset crossing of the Colorado River on the 46-mile R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

As the daylight faded, we moved steadily up the trail for the next 3.2 miles, through the cottonwoods and cliffs of the Garden Creek drainage to Indian Garden Campground. Noticing I had a signal on my cellphone, I sent Jen a text message updating her on our progress.

Above the campground, we began the arduous ascent of the final steep switchbacks up the cliffs to the South Rim.

After passing the Three Mile and Mile and a Half resthouses, we stopped to put on our headlamps as darkness set in. Looking over the edge of the cliff, a line of lights along the trail below turned our way – we had inadvertently shown other hikers and runners how far up they still had to go.

The final mile was slow, but we still passed numerous hikers on the popular trail. And I pulled ahead slightly at the end, officially becoming the second R2R2R runner from the Missoula group to reach the Bright Angel trailhead, about 46 miles and 13 hours 12 minutes after starting.

Sunset on the Bright Angel Trail on the 46-mile R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon

Jen greeted me with news that she made it to the river and back on a toe she broke before our trip, then gathered the four of us who made the final climb out together for a photo.

To our surprise, one friend who we thought would be the final person from Missoula to complete the double crossing was there, too. He had done the run before, and realizing his slow progress this time, got a ride back from the North Rim on one of the last shuttles of the season – which conveniently arrived there about the same time he did.

The next few hours were spent greeting other runners at the trailhead, getting cleaned up in our nearby cabins, and celebrating the day with dinner and drinks at the Bright Angel Lodge.

After breakfast the next morning, Jen and I started driving back north while the others returned to Vegas and celebrated another night before flying home. Talk of making a destination run an annual tradition started soon after we arrived back in Missoula.

Here are more photos from the Rim to Rim to Rim run.

 

Rain, snow and sun on South Rim of Grand Canyon

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After two days of driving and a stop to hike a slot canyon, we arrived on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon last fall just as the sun was setting. We took in the expanse from the Desert View Visitor Center as the last light of day faded over the rim to the west and darkness overtook the Colorado River below.

The brief view would have to suffice until the next morning as we continued on to our hotel in Tusayan, Arizona, just south of the national park’s boundary. Our trip was several months in the making, so one more night wouldn’t matter.

The planning started when I received an invitation to run Rim to Rim to Rim with a group from Missoula. Jen had been to the Grand Canyon before, but only briefly – and no way would I be going for the first time without her, she said. So while the rest of the group bought plane tickets for a four-day weekend, we opted for a weeklong road trip.

Arriving ahead of the rest of the group, we went hiking and did some sightseeing early in the week – in fact, our hikes ended up being the only time I saw some sections of the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails in daylight, as the run started and ended in the dark. We also got some on-the-ground updates for the group about trail conditions and water availability on the North Rim.

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We planned to keep costs down by sleeping in a tent for a few nights before staying in a cabin on the rim at Bright Angel for the run. Instead, we ended up in the hotel because the temperature was too cold – we even had a day of snow.

Below are the hikes we went on before others arrived; the run will come in a separate post.

Bright Angel Trail

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Our first morning in the park – crisp with partly cloudy skies – we started down the Bright Angel Trail from 6,860 feet on the South Rim.

As we descended switchback after switchback northwest between Maricopa and Grandeur points, the temperature rose and we soon removed jackets and pant legs until we were in shorts and T-shirts.

Past the Mile and a Half and Three Mile resthouses, where tourists took breaks in numbers, the switchbacks ended and the trail straightened and became less steep as it reached the Indian Garden Campground at 4.8 miles.

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Crossing to the west side of the creek just below the campground, we left behind the crowded main route and continued out a mostly level trail to Plateau Point at 6.3 miles and about 3,100 feet below the trailhead.

The point overlooks the Colorado River as it winds from the confluence with Bright Angel Creek on the east out of sight around a bend to the west. Across the river, many points, buttes and temples – Sturdevant, Johnson, Schellbach, Hillers, Clement Powell, Buddha and Manu – rise to the North Rim.

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As we hiked back up from the campground, clouds closed in and rain began to fall. We kept our coats off, however, as the climb kept us plenty warm.

Here are more photos from the Bright Angel Trail.

Distance: 12.6 miles round trip.

Trailhead: The trail begins a couple of hundred yards west of the Bright Angel Lodge, next to a restroom and mule corral.

Rim Trail

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The next morning was considerably colder and the weather was expected to deteriorate, so we decided to take the shuttle bus west to Hermits Rest and walk back to Bright Angel on the mostly level Rim Trail.

Soon after we stepped off the bus, we saw our first snowflakes, and they continued intermittently most of the day.

Walking east on the wide, paved path, we passed plenty of other people in the first 2.8 miles from Hermits Rest to Pima Point then the Monument Creek Vista.

Other hikers became fewer and farther between as the trail narrowed and turned to dirt and gravel, and after about another mile we reached The Abyss, where the rim drops off and the view of the Monument Creek drainage opens up.

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As we arrived at Mohave Point, a little more than a mile east, it began snowing in earnest, with flakes “falling” up the canyon wall on gusts of wind. A sign titled “Diminishing View” at Hopi Point about 0.8 miles farther couldn’t have been more accurate, though it refers to air quality rather than precipitation.

From the memorial to Colorado River explorer John Wesley Powell at Powell Point, another 0.3 miles east, we watched as the clouds broke and revealed Maricopa Point.

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Returning to the paved path, we continued half a mile to Maricopa Point, then 0.7 miles to Trailview Overlook with its views of the Bright Angel switchbacks and the iconic rooftop of the El Tovar Hotel.

After another 0.7 miles and a couple of hundred yards, we finished at the shuttle stop and Bright Angel trailhead.

Here are more photos from the Rim Trail.

Distance: 7.8 miles one way.

Trailhead: We boarded the shuttle bus at the stop a couple of hundred yards west of the Bright Angel trailhead, rode it west to Hermits Rest and hiked back from there.

South Kaibab Trail

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Waking to mostly sunny skies and snow on the ground the next day, we took in the panoramic view at Mather Point before riding the shuttle east to the South Kaibab trailhead at 7,260 feet.

When we started down the trail, the first short switchbacks in the shady canyon were an icy, gravelly mix – both a little slick and offering some grip. Half a mile down, the trail melted as it met the sun and straightened to the north below Yaki Point.

After another set of switchbacks, we arrived at Cedar Ridge, where weathered snags overlook O’Neill Butte at 1.5 miles.

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We continued down the ridge, rounding the eastern side of the butte and hiking out to Skeleton Point, at 3 miles and 2,000 feet into the canyon our destination for the day.

From the point, we could see west across to the Bright Angel Trail and Plateau Point and north down to the bottom of the canyon, where a patch of green indicates the location of Phantom Ranch.

Back at the top of the trail, the ice retreated as the sun reached switchbacks. And before leaving that night, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset outside the El Tovar Hotel – with wispy clouds highlighted pink over the North Rim.

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Here are more images from the South Kaibab Trail.

Distance: 6 miles round trip.

Trailhead: The South Kaibab trailhead is closed to private vehicles, but is easily reached by riding a shuttle bus a few minutes east from Grand Canyon Village.

We spent most of the next day sightseeing east along the South Rim, waiting for the group of runners from Missoula to arrive. Then it was early to bed before the dark start of the Rim to Rim to Rim.

Slot canyons on the way to the Grand Canyon

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On our second trip to Arizona last fall – my first time to the Grand Canyon – we drove and took the opportunity to stop in southern Utah on the way.

Zion National Park is about the halfway point between Missoula and the South Rim, so we stopped there to camp for the night. The next morning, we left shortly after sunrise without hiking in the park because we planned to try a slot canyon between Kanab and Page, Arizona.

After stopping at the Bureau of Land Management office in Kanab to check conditions, we continued south to the Wire Pass trailhead in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

There, we hiked through the through the Wire Pass slot canyon to Buckskin Gulch – which is said to be the longest and deepest slot in the Southwest at 13 miles and, in places, 400 feet, respectively.

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The first mile of the Wire Pass trail is rather plain – west down a dry wash surrounded by orange sandstone hills. Half a mile from the junction with Buckskin Gulch, however, the canyon walls soon close in.

As we entered the slot canyon, we passed a couple who turned back disappointed after finding a 15- to 20-foot drop a short distance inside that likely requires a rope to descend. After a little looking around, however, we easily found a route over the top marked by rock cairns.

That one drop must prevent many people from continuing, as we saw only one other person beyond that point.

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Before reaching the junction with Buckskin Gulch, we passed through the narrowest section of slot canyon we would encounter – a few feet wide, at most, with a sliver of sky visible high above us. At 1.7 miles, the canyon widens again at the junction. With GPS for the most part useless, we explored Buckskin Gulch based simply on time since we still had to drive to the Grand Canyon that day.

We followed Buckskin north first, the canyon walls varying from about 5 to 15 feet wide. Along the way, we found interesting patterns and pockmarks on the otherwise smooth sandstone, as well as a snake and a lizard.

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After returning to the junction and following Buckskin east, it became apparent we should have gone that direction first – the canyon there is much narrower and more dramatic than the northern section. Unfortunately, we weren’t able explore much since we had to continue on our trip.

On the way out, we stopped to inspect rock art on a wall at the junction before making our way back up the Wire Pass trail.

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Before reaching the trailhead, we encountered a group coming out of the Coyote Buttes area, where the well-known Wave feature can be found – but with permits required even for day use, we’ll have to return another time.

Here are more photos from Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch.

Distance: The Wire Pass trail is 3.4 miles round trip to Buckskin Gulch. From the junction, the Buckskin Gulch Trail travels 4.5 miles north and 11.3 miles east; we explored a short distance in both directions.

Trailhead: The Wire Pass trailhead is 8.3 miles south on the rough House Rock Valley Road, of U.S. Highway 89 about 38 miles east of Kanab, Utah, and 34 miles west of Page, Arizona.

Red rocks and hot hiking in Arizona

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The first of two fall trips to Arizona allowed us to get out in the Sedona and Scottsdale areas – both of which offer easy access to trails.

It’s been several years since we’ve met relatives in the Phoenix area, and in the past we’ve taken the opportunity to drive north to Sedona’s red rock country or south to Saguaro National Park and Tucson.

This time we arrived a day earlier than others, so spent the first night in Sedona. There, we went on short hikes to a natural bridge and around a spire to a rocky promontory. After that, we stayed in Scottsdale, which provided fairly easy access to parks. We hiked to the top of a peak on the edge of the valley one day, then I ran up the highest mountain in Phoenix the next morning.

Devil’s Bridge

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Devil’s Bridge is the largest natural arch in the Sedona area, and there are multiple routes leading to it. Because we were only in the area for one night, we chose the shortest trail to get a second hike in before leaving.

Starting from the Dry Creek Vista trailhead, we walked 1 miles northeast on the dusty, rutted Forest Road 152 to the official Devil’s Bridge trailhead. The road traveled up and down slightly with mountains of the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness rising to the southeast.

At the Devil’s Bridge trail, we turned east and continued uphill into the trees. After a final steep section, we reached the top of the 50-foot arch just inside the wilderness.

Devil’s bridge is sturdy enough to walk on and provides views across the canyon – it’s also a popular spot, and you won’t be alone. After waiting our turn to take photos of the arch, we hiked back to the trailhead the same way.

Here are more photos from Devil’s Bridge.

Distance: About 3.6 miles round trip.

Trailhead: From the intersection of Arizona Highway 179 and U.S. Highway 89A in Sedona, drive 3.2 miles west on 89A, 2 miles north on Dry Creek Road and 0.2 miles northeast on Forest Road 152 to the Dry Creek Vista trailhead. (If you have a high-clearance vehicle, you can continue 1.1 miles out the rough forest road to the Devil’s Bridge trailhead.)

Chimney Rock-Sugarloaf

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Our second hike before leaving Sedona linked several trails below the mountains on the north side of town.

Starting from the Thunder Mountain trailhead, we hiked uphill to the northwest along the base of three-spired Chimney Rock and past two junctions. At a third junction at about 0.3 miles, we continued north for 0.5 miles, then turned east at a junction and climbed to Chimney Rock Pass, briefly entering the Red-Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness.

Down from the pass at about 1.2 miles, we continued west for 0.7 miles on the fairly open Thunder Mountain trail with Capitol Butte rising to the north. At a junction with the Adante and Teacup trails, we continued east on Teacup for 0.3 miles.

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After crossing a wash, we turned southeast on the Sugarloaf Loop trail then again on the Sugarloaf Summit trail, climbing to the open top of the rock formation at 2.7 miles. The outcrop provided excellent views of town and the surrounding mountains, including Coffee Pot Rock.

Backtracking down Sugarloaf and west on the Teacup trail for 0.8 miles, we returned to the junction with the Adante trail and followed it west, slightly south of the Thunder Mountain trail, for 0.6 miles. Just past the Adante trailhead, we turned south along the base of Chimney Rock and continued about 0.5 miles back to where we started for 4.6 miles total.

Here are more photos from Chimney Rock and Sugarloaf.

Distance: About 4.6 miles round trip.

Trailhead: From the intersection of Arizona Highway 179 and U.S. Highway 89A in Sedona, drive 2.5 miles west on 89A, 0.6 miles north on Adante Drive, and 0.3 miles west on Thunder Mountain Road, then turn north into the Thunder Mountain trailhead.

Sunrise Peak

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In Scottsdale, temperatures reached the mid-90s – on the high end for us – but they didn’t keep us from getting out as long as we carried plenty of water.

On our first full day there, we hiked to the top of 3,069-foot Sunrise Peak in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve to the northeast of the city. Even starting mid-morning, it was already well into the 80s.

From a parking area in a neighborhood at the east end of the trail, we climbed steeply and steadily northwest up a cactus-filled canyon. A ridge line above switchbacks at about 1.2 miles provided views across the Phoenix metropolitan area to the west.

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Another 0.6 miles up, we reached a second viewpoint and a junction with the trail west to the top. After the final 0.25 miles of switchbacks to the top, we found shade under a small tree and views all around – the metro area to the west, farther into the preserve to the northwest, the Fountain Hills to the northeast and the Superstition Mountains in the distance to the east.

The route continued west to another trailhead, but with the temperature rising, we descended southeast back to our air-conditioned car.

Here are more photos from Sunrise Peak.

Distance: About 4.1 miles round trip.

Trailhead: From North Scottsdale Road, drive 8 miles east on East Shea Boulevard, 0.5 miles north on North 136th Street and 1.4 miles east on East Via Linda to the Sunrise trailhead.

Piestewa Peak

The run up 2,608-foot Piestewa Peak, the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains

Before anyone else woke the next morning, I went on a sunrise run up Piestewa Peak in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. At 2,608 feet, it’s the highest in the metropolitan area.

(The morning before, I tried the same run, but unknowingly started on the wrong trail and ended up on top of the wrong mountain. It was still fun.)

From the west side of the 40th Street trailhead parking area, I ran south across the desert floor on Trail 8 as first light reached the mountains to the west, passing a couple of junctions. Over a small saddle, I turned west then southwest, passed another junction and intersected Trail 304 at a pass at 2.7 miles

The run up 2,608-foot Piestewa Peak, the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains

About 0.5 miles down the canyon from the pass, and past another junction and a trailhead, I turned onto Trail 302 and continued southwest. About 0.6 miles farther down the canyon, Trail 302 merged with Trail 300 – and I merged into a crowd – just above a popular trailhead for Piestewa Peak.

After the junction, the trail widened and was paved in places with steps. My pace slowed as I climbed, occasionally waiting to pass people.

The trail continued a short distance then turned north and split at about 0.5 miles. From there, I followed Trail 300 northeast, rounding a ridge line and scrambling up the final rocks to find a U.S. Geological Survey marker at 4.9 miles.

The run up 2,608-foot Piestewa Peak, the second highest point in the Phoenix Mountains

After taking in the surrounding view from the sunny summit and eating some food I brought along, I retraced my route back across the preserve in mid-80s heat.

Here are more photos of Piestewa Peak.

Distance: About 9.8 miles round trip.

Trailhead: The 40th Street trailhead is 4 miles east of North Scottsdale Road on East Shea Boulevard, the 1 mile south on North 40th.

Back to day hiking in Glacier National Park

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After several years of point-to-point backpacking in Glacier National Park, we returned to day hiking last summer, largely due to the forecast.

While a rainy day isn’t out of the ordinary for our late-July trips to the park, the forecast this year was for much more precipitation. And it delivered – a couple of our hikes were the wettest we’ve been on outside of Olympic National Park, Scotland or Iceland. Fortunately, we’ve learned that good rain gear – jacket, pants, pack cover – is worth the expense.

This year, we also visited parts of the park that we don’t usually get to – the North Fork of the Flathead, the less crowded Poia and Cracker lakes in the busy Many Glacier area, and Firebrand Pass outside East Glacier.

It was the first time I’d been to the North Fork, where we camped at Bowman Lake and made the obligatory stop at the Polebridge Mercantile for baked treats. On the east side of the park, we camped at Rising Sun, which along with the St. Mary campground we’ve always found to be good staging areas for getting out.

Numa Ridge Lookout

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The morning after arriving at the Bowman Lake campground, we hiked to the Numa Ridge Lookout, which provided good views over the North Fork despite gray clouds overhead.

From the boat launch, the we followed the trail northeast along the shore of the lake for a relatively flat three-quarters of a mile, then turned north at the Numa Ridge junction. From there, the trail rose to a small, forested lake – which we didn’t see until we were above it – at about 3.5 miles.

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After the lake, the trail climbed the ridge in earnest, on increasingly shorter switchbacks. As we approached the lookout, the trees grew smaller and the views opened up.

At 5.7 miles, we arrived at the lookout, on a grassy, 9,960-foot high point that offered views of the North Fork Valley below, the Whitefish Range to the west and, eventually, the Livingston Range above the top of Bowman Lake.

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Light rain began as we ate and took photos, so we turned back downhill. At the small, forested lake, the rain began to fall harder and thunder boomed overhead, so we picked up our pace back to camp.

Here are more photos from Bowman Lake and the Numa Ridge Lookout.

Distance: 11.4 miles round trip.

Trailhead: The trailhead is at the boat launch at Bowman Lake. From Apgar, the lake is about 11.5 miles northwest on the Camas Road, 13 miles northwest on the North Fork Road, about two miles west then north on Polebridge Loop and Glacier Drive, one-quarter mile north on the Inside North Fork Road, then 5.5 miles northeast on Bowman Lake Road.

Poia Lake

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After a second night at Bowman Lake and a day crossing the park and setting up camp at Rising Sun, we decided to hike to Poia Lake from the Many Glacier area.

From the road into Many Glacier, two trails lead to Poia Lake, connecting near Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake. Since we were starting in hard rain, we chose the shorter cutoff trail that begins next to the Many Glacier entrance station.

From the entrance station, we climbed steeply and straight to the northwest for about 1.1 miles, through aspen stands and wildflower meadows, then met the longer trail from the Apikuni Falls area. At the junction, we turned northeast, passing Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake and crossing the ridge itself about three-quarters of a mile farther.

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From the forested ridge, we switchbacked north down the muddy trail to Kennedy Creek, where we crossed paths with a couple of hikers from the East Coast and came upon a relatively fresh set of bear tracks at about 2.75 miles. As they had never encountered a bear before and were planning to hike farther than us, we advised them to be noisy.

At the creek, we turned west and climbed again, through a boulder field and back into the trees above a bend in the creek to the outlet of Poia Lake at about 4.5 miles.

We stopped for a few photos, but didn’t stay long because of the the rain – and there’s something about hiking with your hood up after just seeing bear tracks …

Here are more photos from Poia Lake.

Distance: 9 miles round trip.

Trailhead: We started from the Many Glacier entrance station, about 7.5 miles southwest of Babb on Many Glacier Road. Another trailhead, which also provides access to Apikuni Falls, is about 3 miles farther into the park.

Cracker Lake

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Mostly sunny weather the next day was the best of our trip, so we chose the longer hike to Cracker Lake, one of the most well-known lakes in the park because of its striking turquoise water.

While the fairly popular trail wasn’t as crowded as the High Line or Grinnell Glacier, the dozen or so hikers we encountered were the most we saw on any outing during our trip.

We started west from the Many Glacier Hotel parking lot, passing a turn to Piegan Pass shortly after leaving and dropping to the junction with the Cracker Flat loop at about 1.5 miles. This first section was well-trod by horses, so watching where we walked was necessary, but it also provided views across Lake Sherburne to Altyn Peak and Apikuni Mountain.

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Past the Cracker Flat junction, we switchbacked south up into the forest, with occasional openings in the trees offering glimpses of Swiftcurrent Lake and Mount Wilbur. At the top of the switchbacks, we continued climbing above Canyon Creek, eventually reaching a crossing at about 3.5 miles.

After the crossing to the east side of the creek, we continued up the valley as the forest thinned and the trees grew shorter. At about 5 miles, we came out of the trees and got our first real view of the lake, Siyeh Glacier and Mount Siyeh above it and Allen Mountain on the west bank of the creek.

Out in the open, the wind picked up, so we stopped briefly for Jen to fly a kite, then continued along the bluffs above the east shore of the lake.

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At about 6 miles, a rocky outcrop above the campground offered a place to stop and eat, and views all around. A trail down from the camp allowed us to explore the shore at the top of the lake and see the milky turquoise water – created by suspended silt from Siyeh Glacier – up close.

After backtracking to the trailhead, we took advantage of Many Glacier Hotel’s Swiss Lounge, stopping for beer and an appetizer before driving back to camp.

Here are more photos from Cracker Lake.

Distance: 12.5 miles round trip.

Trailhead: The trail starts at the southwest corner of the parking lot at Many Glacier Hotel, about 12 miles southwest of Babb on Many Glacier Road.

Firebrand Pass

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On our way home the next day we drove around the southern border of the park, stopping along U.S. Highway 2 and the train tracks of the Hi-Line west of East Glacier to hike to Firebrand Pass.

Aside from a handful of train whistles and the whipping of the wind at the pass, the hike was the quietest of our trip. We saw nobody along the trail, but later learned one of the two other vehicles at the trailhead belonged to friends.

After crossing the tracks, we passed through a fence marking the park border and hiked steadily uphill to the northwest through grassy fields and aspen stands.

In the forest at about 1.75 miles, we turned north onto the Autumn Creek Trail. Half a mile later – out of the forest and in tall, thick vegetation – we turned northwest again and climbed the Firebrand Pass trail.

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As we rounded the north flank of Calf Robe Mountain, we left the thick vegetation behind, crossed a small snowfield and continued up the trail into a subalpine basin above the Railroad Creek drainage. Ghostly white snags – remnants of the 1910 fires that gave the pass its name – stand where the final switchbacks begin.

After traversing talus and a longer snowfield, we reached the 6,951-foot pass between Calf Robe and Red Crow mountains at about 4.7 miles. Just over the pass, the Ole Creek drainage opened up with views of the Barrier Buttes and beyond.

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A long drive back to Missoula ahead of us, we turned back here rather than continuing on.

Here are more photos from Firebrand Pass.

Distance: About 9.5 miles round trip.

Trailhead: The trail to Firebrand Pass begins at a small, unmarked pullout along U.S. Highway 2 about 6.5 miles west of East Glacier or 5.2 miles east of Marias Pass.