Lake loop through the Rattlesnake Wilderness

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After my final long run before a 55K race turned into a trying day, I decided to break my taper with a 29-mile loop through the Rattlesnake Wilderness with a friend.

Clear skies and lakes – and a trail mostly free of downed trees – were just what I needed.

Like the routes to Stuart and Mineral peaks, the Lake Creek loop starts on Trail 515 at the main trailhead at the Rattlesnake National Recreation. About two-thirds of a mile north, we turned northwest on Trail 517.1 along the shadier side of Spring Gulch.

At 2.4 miles, we crossed the creek and continued on Trail 517, passing junctions with the Wallman Trail and the trail back to Curry and Sawmill gulches. We rose steeply at first then more gradually as the trail switchbacked through thinner forest to the wilderness boundary at about 7 miles.

After rounding the top of the East Fork Grant Creek drainage – passing the Twin Lakes overlook and skipping the side trip up Stuart Peak – we reached the junction for Trail 534 at 9.8 miles.

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From there, we turned east and ran down into the Lake Creek drainage – all new trail to me.

In the next 2.4 miles, we passed McKinley Lake, an unnamed pond, a historic cabin and Carter Lake, looking back up to the rocky ridges to the west.

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After the lakes, we refilled our hydration packs at a creek crossing, then left the wilderness as we switchbacked down to a junction with Trail 502 at about 14.8 miles. From there, we continued half a mile over a bridge where Rattlesnake Creek makes a narrow cut through rock, then reconnected with Trail 515.

From the junction with Trail 515, it was a long, hot and dusty 13.6 miles south and west along the creek back to the trailhead – and by the time we were done, I was feeling more confident about my upcoming race.

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Here are more photos from the Lake Creek loop.

Long run from canyon to canyon run in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness

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What was supposed to be a final long run – up one canyon and down another in the Bitterroot Mountains – before a 55K race turned into a day of navigating cold stream crossings, flattened forest and snow-covered trail last month.

While trying at times, the 27 miles between Fred Burr Creek and Mill Creek northwest of Hamilton offered plenty of Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness beauty.

After a couple of days of trying to check trail conditions that yielded few facts, two friends and I set out about 7 a.m. from the Fred Burr trailhead.

Not even half a mile down the trail to the west, we were surprised when a young bear fled up the brushy slope next to us. While it was the only wildlife we’d see all day, we’d find plenty of evidence other animals were around.

The trail continued above Fred Burr Creek on an old forest road, then diverted to the south side of it around private property and rejoined it again to cross the Bitterroot National Forest boundary at a gate.

From there, we continued up to the dam at the lower end of Fred Burr Reservoir at about 4.5 miles, the smooth surface of the water reflecting the surrounding mountains and clouds above.

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After a short break, we followed the trail through the trees on the north side of the reservoir, reaching the first of four creek crossings at its upper end. Determining there was no way to stay dry, I forded the cold water and my friends soon followed.

On the south side of the creek, we came to our first downed trees of the day. While getting past them slowed us slightly, it was nothing compared to what we’d find farther up the trail.

Just before entering the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness at about 6 miles, one friend who was rehabilitating an injury turned around. He planned to shuttle the truck to the other trailhead, go for a short run there, then wait for the two of us who were continuing on.

After the wilderness boundary, it was a short distance farther up the trail to the next creek crossing, which was wider but shallower than the first. Back on the north side, we occasionally encountered downed trees as we made our way up through the forest.

About 6.75 miles up, the canyon opened and revealed views of the surrounding ridges at the first of several meadows left from fires in the late 1980s.

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The next couple of miles were made easier by the meadows, though we still found a few downed trees in the forest. We also found two large, fresh piles of bear scat and tracks in the trail.

After two more creek crossings – the first cold and deep to the south side, and the second high and dry on a log back to the north side – the rock wall of the Bitterroot Divide rose directly to the west of us.

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At about 9 miles, we turned south with the creek and canyon and entered the forest again.

Soon, we found ourselves making our way over and around downed trees, zigzagging across the trail. At times, we stood on logs stacked 20 feet above the forest floor, and we twice waded up the creek because it was easier to go under the trees spanning it.

By the time we were through what clearly was a swath of forest flattened by wind – possibly in the big storm last August – we had covered just 2 miles in 1 hour 35 minutes. While we knew we’d have a couple of slow miles over the pass ahead of us, we weren’t turning back.

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After a break along the creek to eat and refill our hydration packs, we started up the canyon again through alternating stretches of forest and meadow.

At about mile 12, we turned up the western wall of the canyon and ascended the steep switchbacks to Fred Burr Lake, reaching snow as the trees thinned. After nearly a mile, we arrived at the lake, set in a rocky basin and still frozen.

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Standing near the lake, we could see mountains for miles around – as well as the flattened forest below.

The next section was the riskiest of the day as we continued west up a steep ridge to about 7,800 feet and traversed a snowy shelf to the south, the trail buried beneath us. The angle of the snow increased as we approached another ridge, and we decided it would be safest to scramble up and over the rocks above us rather than continue across to a notch where we thought the trail must be.

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Once over the ridge – in the Mill Creek drainage – we were on rocky ground again, but saw no clear trail. We made our way south, down to the shore of the frozen Lockwood Lake at about 14 miles, then continued across moose-tracked snow and down farther to the melting Heinrich Lake.

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At Heinrich Lake, we could see the open water of Mill Lake below us to the south, across boulder fields and rocky slabs interspersed with brush. A topographic map saved on my cellphone, however, showed the trail going over another snowy shelf.

Not having seen the actual trail for a while, we decided to continue off it and down the rocks.

After hopping across the lower part of a waterfall and descending through beargrass, we reached the trail again at about 15.5 miles, just above the junction leading to Mill Lake. We stopped here to eat and refill our water again, then started east down Mill Creek.

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The clouds above us darkened and it rained for a while, but the next few miles went by much more quickly as we were able to really run again.

At about mile 18, we slowed, however, as we started to encounter a lot of trees across the trail. Thankfully, it was nothing like the flattened forest of Fred Burr Creek, and four hikers we passed told us the trail would clear when it crossed out of the wilderness with five miles to go.

Near mile 23, my phone found a cellular signal and buzzed with text messages when we stopped in a rocky clearing left by the fires of 2000.

Our friend who was waiting at the trailhead was concerned – justifiably, as we had been out for 10 hours and were long overdue. We were all right, we assured him, but would likely be another hour.

With the sun shining again, we continued down the trail, skipping a stop at the small cascade and pool with three miles to go. After crossing Mill Creek on a new bridge, we quickly covered the final mile to the trailhead, glad to see our friend and the truck.

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In the end, we covered 27 miles with about 4,500 feet of elevation gain in 11 hours. On the way home, we stopped for dinner and a beer – and to explain our delay.

Here are more photos from the Fred Burr Creek-Mill Creek run.

On – and off – the Lolo Trail

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Memorial Day weekend started with a misadventure for me and a couple of friends.

After seeing a photo of another friend on the Lolo Trail – a section of the Nez Perce and Lewis and Clark national historic trails – we decided to try to run up to Lolo Pass and back as part of our training for the upcoming Beaverhead Endurance Runs 55K.

While our friend only ran a few miles of the trail, a U.S. Forest Service website and brochure, and a Missoula hiking guide all refer to it being 14 miles from Grave Creek southwest to the pass. Noting that the trail was described as “primitive” and “original historic tread,” and that it crossed a couple of forest roads near Lolo Hot Springs, I called the Lolo Pass Visitor Center for more information and was told it was well-marked.

If we started at Howard Creek, we thought, we could turn around at the pass after about 13 miles and make a 26-mile run out of it.

Long story short: The trail was miles longer than listed and appeared to lack markers in the middle, and  I should have asked when it was cleared last.

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From the parking area at Howard Creek, off U.S. Highway 12 about 18.5 miles west of Lolo, the trail climbed steeply up singletrack past a switchback then just below the ridgeline for about 3 miles. Wildflowers were in bloom and and views down to Lolo Creek and across the Bitterroot Mountains were abundant.

The farther west we ran, the fainter the trail became – but the route was easy to find for the most part, with numerous new-looking markers nailed to trees.

At 4 miles, the trail descended to the south, crossing a couple of old forest roads and switching back several times until we were at the highway. There, not even 6 miles in, we stood confused.

According to maps in the hiking guide, the trail was supposed to parallel the highway on its north side. Private property signs were posted there, however, so the best we could figure was the highway is the trail at that point.

After 1.75 miles southwest on the highway, we came to Spring Gulch, where, again according to maps in the guide, the trail turned west. Finding no trail, we ran up a nearby forest road that it crossed on the maps.

About a mile later, we found an old road where the trail was supposed to re-enter the forest. Comparing the map from the guide to a topographic map downloaded to my iPhone, it appeared to be the right way. About a quarter-mile south, however, the route disappeared in a tangle of downed trees.

Using the topo on my phone, we continued to the south until we reached Fish Creek Road, crossed a bridge and rejoined the trail. After about 1.7 miles along the ridge west of the Lolo Hot Springs, we crossed Fish Creek Road again, just off the highway, and followed the markers back uphill.

The return to the official trail was short-lived, however, as we could see numerous downed trees obscuring the way again.

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We made our way back downhill, crossed to the south side of the highway and followed it half a mile to the Lee Creek Campground, where we could run up the Wagon Mountain Trail and rejoin the Lolo Trail to Packer Meadows and the pass. Already about 11.5 miles in, though, it was clear we wouldn’t be returning.

From the campground, we followed the trail southwest up an old road for about 4 miles – over, under and around downed trees. The route was always apparent, and we saw markers again where the official Nez Perce and Lewis and Clark trails rejoined before the top of the mountain, but there were always more trees in the way.

At the high point on the trail, just below the 5,728-foot top of Wagon Mountain, we ran south down a singletrack trail through an area that previously had been logged and provided views west to the still-snowy peaks of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

After crossing the state line into Idaho, we navigated a short stretch of old road to Packer Meadows at 17.5 miles. There, we saw several varieties of wildflowers along Pack Creek, but were too early for the big bloom of blue camas.

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From the meadows, we ran the final mile of forest road west to the Lolo Pass Visitor Center.

After about 5 hours 40 minutes and 18.5 miles – and low on food and water – we stopped briefly in the visitor center before going out to the side of the highway to hitchhike back to our truck at Howard Creek.

The full, official Lolo Trail may exist, but I doubt we’ll try to follow it again.

Here are a couple of more photos from our run up the Lolo Trail.

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.

Year on the run, from races to RATBOB to R2R2R

Last year was a fairly big running year for me – not in terms of total distance or race times, but simply in overall experience.

As in 2014, I raced at 11 Miles to Paradise between St. Regis and Quinn’s Hot Springs, finishing with a small PR, and at the 52-mile Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run at Dayton, Wyoming, and The Rut 50K at Big Sky Resort, coming in a little slower than previously at both.

I also ran the Missoula Marathon as a member of the Pacer Corps – and since I don’t race marathons very often, my finish just under 4 hours and 10 minutes ended up being my second fastest.

Aside from races, my training partners and I ran some local favorite landmarks – Blue Mountain, Stuart Peak and Point Six (all about 20 miles) and Sheep Mountain (about 26 miles).

I also joined local groups on a few destination runs – the Hells Canyon Adventure Run (about 25 miles), Run Across The Bob (aka RATBOB, about 50 miles), and Rim to Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon (R2R2R, about 46 miles).

In the end, I ran about 2,334 miles in 2015 – nearly 100 less than in 2014, but still plenty. And along the way, I was honored to be named Male Masters Runner of the Year by the local club, Run Wild Missoula.

What makes all of this possible is the great running community in Missoula, so thank you to my training partners, other road and trail friends, and RWM!

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.

 

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.