Hiking | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Thu, 18 Jan 2018 23:21:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Hiking | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park https://moon.com/2017/12/jamaica-blue-john-crow-mountains-national-park/ https://moon.com/2017/12/jamaica-blue-john-crow-mountains-national-park/#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 18:32:54 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61462 Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park covers the highest and steepest terrain in Jamaica. This alpine terrain is the last known habitat for the endangered giant swallowtail butterfly, the second-largest butterfly in the world, which makes its home especially on the northern flanks of the range.

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Consisting of nearly 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) in the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Mary, St. Thomas, and Portland, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP, tel. 876/920-8278) covers the highest and steepest terrain in Jamaica. This alpine terrain is the last known habitat for the endangered giant swallowtail butterfly, the second-largest butterfly in the world, which makes its home especially on the northern flanks of the range.

Several endemic plant and bird species reside in the park as well, and many migratory birds from northern regions winter there. Among the most impressive of the native birds are the streamertail hummingbirds—known locally as doctor birds—and the Jamaican tody, the Jamaican blackbird, and the yellow-billed parrot. The Blue Mountains generally are the source of water for the Kingston area, one of many reasons it is important to disturb the environment as little as possible. The BJCMNP has the largest unaltered swath of natural forest in Jamaica, with upper montane rainforest and elfin woodland at its upper reaches.

The Blue Mountains offer respite from the heat and bustle of Kingston. Photo © Nandeno Parkinson/iStock.

Blue Mountain Peak

The pinnacle of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Blue Mountain Peak can be reached by a variety of means, depending on the level of exhaustion you are willing to endure. Generally, hikers leave before first light from Whitfield Hall at Penlyne, St. Thomas, after having arrived the previous day.

For ambitious hikers, there’s a 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) trail from Mavis Bank to Penlyne Castle, which is pleasant and covers several farms and streams. This option also obviates the need to send for a 4WD vehicle. From Penlyne Castle, follow the road to Abbey Green (3.2 kilometers/2 miles), and from there to Portland Gap (3.7 kilometers/2.3 miles). At Portland Gap a ranger station, sometimes staffed, has bunks, toilets, showers, and campsites. These facilities can be used for US$5 by contacting the JCDT, which asks that visitors register at the ranger station. From Portland Gap to the peak is the most arduous leg, covering 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles). Warm clothes, rain gear, and comfortable, supportive footwear are essential. Blue Mountain Peak is also a mildly challenging three- to four-hour hike from Whitfield Hall, a rustic farmhouse with a great stone fireplace.

From Portland Gap westward along the Blue Mountain range, there are several other lofty peaks along the ridge with far less traffic. These include Sir John’s Peak, John Crow Peak, and Catherine’s Peak. Guide to the Blue and John Crow Mountains by Margaret Hodges has the most thorough coverage of hiking trails throughout the national park. Otherwise, local people are the best resource.

early morning light sets Jamaica's Blue Mountains aglow

Hikers typically set out early to be at the top of Blue Mountain Peak for sunrise. Photo © Oliver Hill.

Getting There and Around

The Blue Mountains are accessible from three points: from Kingston via Papine; from Yallahs, St. Thomas, via Cedar Valley; and from Buff Bay, St. Mary, on the North Coast, via the B1, which runs alongside the Buff Bay River. The B1 route is a very narrow road barely wide enough for one vehicle in many places.

There are two main routes to access the south-facing slopes of the Blue Mountain range. The first, accessed by taking a left onto the B1 at the Cooperage, leads through Maryland to Irish Town, Redlight, Newcastle, and Hardwar Gap before the Buff Bay River Valley opens up overlooking Portland and St. Mary on the other side of the range. The second route, straight ahead at the Cooperage along Gordon Town Road, leads to Gordon Town, and then taking a right at the town square over the bridge, to Mavis Bank. Continuing beyond Mavis Bank requires a 4WD vehicle, and you can either take a left at Hagley Gap to Penlyne, or straight down to Cedar Valley and along the Yallahs River to the town of Yallahs.

Getting to and around the Blue Mountains can be a challenge, even if keeping lunch down on the way isn’t. Only for the upper reaches, namely beyond Mavis Bank, is it really necessary to have a 4WD vehicle; otherwise the abundant potholes and washed-out road is only mildly more challenging to navigate than any other part of Jamaica due to the sharp turns.

A hired taxi into the Blue Mountains will cost upward of US$30 for a drop-off at Strawberry Hill, and at least US$100 for the day to be chauffeured around. Route taxis travel between Papine and Gordon Town (US$3) throughout the day, as well as to Irish Town (US$4); you’ll have to wait for the car to fill up with passengers before it departs.

To reach Whitfield Hall, the most common starting point for hiking up Blue Mountain Peak, 4WD taxis can be arranged by calling Whitfield Hall.

Many travelers find letting a tour operator take care of the driving is the easiest, most hassle-free way to get around the island. One of the most dependable and versatile tour companies on the island is Barrett Adventures (contact Carolyn Barrett, cell tel. 876/382-6384). Barrett can pick you up from any point on the island and specializes in off-the-beaten-path tours.


Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Jamaica.

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7 Places for Incredible Hiking in Colombia https://moon.com/2017/12/incredible-hiking-in-colombia/ https://moon.com/2017/12/incredible-hiking-in-colombia/#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 00:08:24 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61215 Rainbow rivers, lush jungles, volcanic lakes, and stone steps leading to a lost city: hiking in Colombia is the best way to drink in the wonders of this beautiful country.

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Rainbow rivers, lush jungles, volcanic lakes, and stone steps leading to a lost city: hiking in Colombia is the best way to drink in the wonders of this beautiful country. So lace up your hiking boots and pack your backpack to tackle these seven beautiful Colombian hiking destinations.

Carpuganá and Sapzurro

Head to Carpuganá and Sapzurro for a guided hikes into dense, beautiful jungle. Each walk is overflowing with vibrant flowers and plants and home to howler monkeys, tropical birds, and colorful frogs. Remember to wear a bathing suit under your clothes to take advantage of natural swimming holes on many of the hikes!

Laguna Verde

Hike up to the sulfurous Laguna Verde (3,800 meters/12,500 feet), a dazzling, emerald green crater lake on the north side of the dormant Volcán Azufral, a sacred site for the Pasto indigenous people. Surrounded by stark mountainous terrain and birds of prey hovering above, you can see all the way to the neighboring Galeras volcano on a clear day.

Cano Cristales has bright magenta-colored algae in a Colombia river surrounded by lush vegetation

Caño Cristales is well worth the trek. Photo © Agap13/Dreamstime.

The River of Five Colors

Make your way to the remote area of Llanos and you’ll be rewarded as you trek through the stark lowland hills of the Serranía de la Macarena, with its unusual dry tropical vegetation, and behold the vibrant purple, fuchsia, goldenrod, and green Macarenia clavigera plants swaying in the gushing streams of Caño Cristales.

The Archipelago of San Andrés

Providencia and Santa Catalina, two of the islands in the archipelago of San Andrés, are simple and simply enjoyable. Take a 1.5-hour hike up to The Peak (El Pico), the highest point (360 meters/1,181 feet) on Providencia, for impressive 360-degree views.

view from below of steep stairs from La Piedra Penol in Colombia

Climbing the steep steps of La Piedra Peñol rewards hikers with 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. Photo © piccaya/iStock.

La Piedra Peñol

The 360-degree views from the top of La Piedra Peñol over the Guatape reservoir and Antioqiuan countryside are worth the toil of the death-defying climb up over 600 steps on a ramshackle brick and concrete stairwell that is stuck to the rock, to the top.

El Cerro de las Tres Cruces

Engage in the weekend ritual of many Caleños and hike up El Cerro de las Tres Cruces (Three Cross Hill). The climb will get your blood pumping, and at the top and along the way, you’ll have some good views of Cali, especially early in the day.

Stone steps along the Ciudad Perdida trek.

Stone steps along the Ciudad Perdida trek. Photo © Jesse Kraft/123rf.

The Ciudad Perdida Trek

A highlight for many visitors to Colombia is the four- to six-day, 52-kilometer (32-mile) round-trip trek to The Ciudad Perdida high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This ancient city was built over a thousand  years ago by the ancient Tayrona, and is one of the best preserved and restored ruins of its kind.

Explore the diversity of nature in South America while challenging yourself with these 7 destinations for incredible hiking in Colombia.


Find more South American adventure with Moon Colombia.

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4 Easy Hikes Near Seattle for a Rainy Day https://moon.com/2017/12/easy-hikes-near-seattle-rainy-day/ https://moon.com/2017/12/easy-hikes-near-seattle-rainy-day/#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 00:45:37 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61995 When Seattle's rainy season kicks into gear, it's tempting to hang up your hiking boots and hibernate. But there's a lot to love about being outdoors in drizzly weather.

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When Seattle’s rainy season kicks into gear, it’s tempting to hang up your hiking boots and hibernate. But there’s a lot to love about being outdoors in drizzly weather. Drenched ferns and mosses glow with a kryptonite-green hue, rivers and waterfalls puff up with spectacular power, and the air feels fresh, cool, and invigorating.

There’s a therapeutic benefit, too. According to Dr. Stephen Ilardi, professor of clinical psychology and author of the book The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs, exposure to light boosts our mood and resets our body clock, which aids sleep, even on cloudy days. The catch? When it’s cloudy out, the light intensity is lower than on sunny days. In order to reap the benefits, we must spend 2-3 hours outside on a cloudy day versus 10-30 minutes when it’s sunny.

view of Rattlesnake Ledge and mountains from the shore of Rattlesnake Lake

Rattlesnake Ledge and a snowcapped Mount Si and Mount Teneriffe from the shore of Rattlesnake Lake. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

So what are some good strategies for hiking in the rain? Check weather, road, and trail conditions and be prepared for unexpected showers, ice, snow, downed trees, and washouts. Invest in a waterproof jacket, pants, shoes, and gloves to help stay warm and dry. Gaitors will keep rain out of your shoes and give your legs an extra layer of warmth. Underneath your rain gear, fabrics like merino wool will draw moisture away from your body and help protect against hypothermia. Traction devices, such as microspikes, are also handy on icy trails. Before hitting the trail, line the inside of your backpack with a garbage bag to keep valuables dry.

Remember, it doesn’t rain 24/7! With the right gear and a positive mindset, you can get outside in the rainy season, and give yourself a nature bath while you’re at it.

Here are four easy hikes (and a bonus wintry option) for less-than-ideal weather.

1. Bridle Trails State Park, Kirkland

3.5 mile loop, 450 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, Discover Pass required, map

Bridle Trails State Park is a great option for squeezing in solid trail time in an oasis of greenery. The wide, established, and gently rolling trail system winds through the 482-acre park, showcasing verdant undergrowth, sprawling tree canopies, interpretive signs, and wildlife.

path through trees in Kirkland Washington's Bridle Trails

Bridle Trails in Kirkland. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

2. Licorice Fern Trail, Cougar Mountain

3.8 miles round-trip, 200 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map (PDF)

The Licorice Fern Trail showcases a pleasant, fertile forest. The undulating trail descends through trees dripping with feathery moss before crossing over Far Country Creek on a wooden bridge to continue northwest on the Indian Trail to Far Country Falls.

ferns clinging to a tree trunk on Cougar Mountain Washington

Licorice Fern Trail is named for the ferns that grow on tree trunks and branches. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

3. Rattlesnake Lake Trail—Cedar River Watershed Education Center, North Bend

1.5 miles round-trip, 30 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map (PDF)

Rattlesnake Lake provides a beautiful green getaway with mostly paved, ADA-accessible paths and lakeside views of the Cascade foothills. Make a loop around the Cedar River Watershed Education Center and visit the rain drum garden for a delightful drum symphony.

4. Twin Falls, North Bend

2.6 miles round-trip, 500 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, Discover Pass required, map

Twin Falls is especially beautiful when water levels rise in winter and spring. Views of the South Fork Snoqualmie River greet the trail, which leads to a powerful view of a 135-foot waterfall from the lower falls viewpoint. Visit the 80-foot wooden bridge spanning the gorge for a misty view of the upper falls.

Snoqualmie River rapids surrounded by dense forest in North Bend Washington

View of South Fork Snoqualmie River at the start of the Twin Falls Trail in North Bend. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

BONUS: Bullion Basin Snowshoe, Crystal Mountain Resort

4.5 miles roundtrip, 1500 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map

When it’s raining in Seattle in the wintertime, it’s snowing in the mountains! Head to Bullion Basin for a quiet, tree-lined snowshoe without the bustle of ski resort crowds. When you’re finished, take a scenic, wintry gondola ride (no dogs allowed in winter) and sip a cup of hot cocoa at the Summit House.

snow covered trees and mountains in Washington

View of the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort from the Bullion Basin Snowshoe trail. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.


Don't let inclement weather keep you from heading outdoors! These five easy hiking trails near Seattle, Washington are perfect for an outdoor adventure in rain or snow!

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Jamaica Nature Itinerary: Hidden Beaches and Hillside Hikes https://moon.com/2017/12/jamaica-nature-itinerary-hidden-beaches-and-hillside-hikes/ https://moon.com/2017/12/jamaica-nature-itinerary-hidden-beaches-and-hillside-hikes/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 23:10:09 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61144 Hikes, bird-watching, secluded beaches, and mangrove tours are indispensable to a greater appreciation of Jamaica’s natural wonders. This 8-day itinerary was developed with Jamaica's nature attractions in mind.

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Hikes, bird-watching, secluded beaches, and mangrove tours are indispensable to a greater appreciation of Jamaica’s natural wonders. This 8-day itinerary was developed with Jamaica’s nature attractions in mind.

Transportation is an important consideration when planning an eco-vacation, as many of the less-visited sights are remote and require a rental car or car and driver. Excursions into remote parts of Cockpit Country and the Blue Mountains require a 4WD vehicle, but for most places, SUVs are not necessary and the extra expense is not justified.

Harmony Cove private beach in Jamaica

Harmony Cove. Photo © Oliver Hill.

Day 1

Arrive in Montego Bay and head directly to your rental villa at Good Hope Plantation or Silver Sands in Trelawny. Spend a few hours at Good Hope’s private beach in Bounty Bay or at Harmony Cove in nearby Braco before a relaxing dinner back at the ranch.

Day 2

Explore Cockpit Country on horseback in the morning or go tubing down the river with Chukka Caribbean, followed by lunch back at the villa. Head to Sea Castles in the afternoon for kiteboarding before a casual dinner at Far Out Fish Hut in nearby Greenwood.

salt water pool at Tensing Pen in Jamaica

Tensing Pen on the West End. Photo © Oliver Hill.

Day 3

Depart in the morning for Negril, stopping at Half Moon Beach for lunch and a dip. Continue on to Tensing Pen to spend the afternoon jumping off the cliffs and relaxing by the pool.

Day 4

Depart for Belmont, stopping at Brighton’s Blue Hole Mineral Spring before heading to Blue Hole Gardens for a refreshing dip and walk through the gardens. Catch the sunset at Bluefields Beach and overnight in Belmont at the Luna Sea Inn.

secluded swimming hole at ys falls in Jamaica

YS Falls join the Lower Black River Morass. Photo © Oliver Hill.

Day 5

On your way to the Blue Mountains, make a stop in Black River for a morning kayak or pontoon boat safari to see the crocs, and then stop by YS Falls for an early afternoon dip. Push on through Kingston to overnight at Forres Park in Mavis Bank, Lime Tree Farm, or Whitfield Hall, if you can make it that far before dark.

Day 6

Rise early to hike up to Blue Mountain Peak. Descend by early afternoon stopping at Crystal Edge for lunch before checking in to Woodside for your last two nights.

Woodside cabin in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica with access to nature trails in Holywell

Woodside is located on a 3-acre coffee farm and offers a base for hiking in Holywell Recreational Park. Photo © Oliver Hill.

Day 7

Hike the trails of Holywell, or up to Cinchona Gardens in the morning. Afterward, visit the Twyman’s Old Tavern Coffee Estate for a tour and to pick up some beans to carry home. Dine at The Gap Café, Strawberry Hill, or back at Woodside.

Day 8

Rise early for the drive back to Montego Bay, stopping in Ocho Rios for a dip in the White River or at One Love Trail by the sea, or take a garden tour at Konoko Falls. Leave Ochi in time for an evening departure from Mobay’s Sangster International Airport.

Spend 8 days in nature, exploring Jamaica with hillside hikes, birdwatching, secluded beaches and swimming holes, and mangrove tours.


Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Jamaica.

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Parque Nacional Torres del Paine Hiking and Climbing https://moon.com/2017/12/parque-nacional-torres-del-paine-hiking-climbing/ https://moon.com/2017/12/parque-nacional-torres-del-paine-hiking-climbing/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 18:06:24 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=11057 Some of the Andes’s youngest peaks, the Torres del Paine are among the most emblematic in the entire range. Here's everything you need to know to explore hiking trails and climbing opportunities,.

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Some of the Andes’s youngest peaks, the Torres del Paine are among the range’s most emblematic sights. Some 10 million years ago, a magma intrusion failed to reach the earth’s surface, cooling underground into resistant granite. In the interim, water, ice, and snow have eroded softer terrain to liberate the spires as one of the world’s most dramatic landscapes.

So strong a draw are the Torres that some visitors pressed for time settle for day tours that allow only a few hours in the park. Others walk to their base from Hostería Las Torres, a relatively easy day hike where it’s hard to avoid the crowds. A longer and more tiring alternative, up the steep Río Bader canyon, provides a different perspective and the Andean solitude that many hikers seek.

spiries of Torres del Paine in Patagonia

The Torres del Paine are among the most emblematic sights in the Andes. Photo © Paiphoto9/Dreamstime.

Cuernos del Paine

On a 10-day trek over the now-famous Paine Circuit, this author met only three other hikers.Many park visitors misidentify the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine) as the Torres. Located almost immediately south of the Torres proper, the saw-toothed Cuernos retain a cap of darker but softer metamorphic rock atop a broader granitic batholith that, like the Torres, never reached the surface before cooling. It’s the contrast between the two that gives the Cuernos their striking aspect.

As with the Torres, day-trippers can admire the Cuernos from the park highway. The best views, though, come from the “W” trail along the north shore of Lago Nordenskjöld, between Hostería Las Torres and Lago Pehoé.

Hiking

Paine Circuit

Nearly three decades ago, under a military dictatorship, Chile attracted few foreign visitors, and hiking Torres del Paine was a solitary experience. On a 10-day trek over the now-famous Paine Circuit, this author met only three other hikers. Parts of the route were easy to follow, while others were barely boot-wide tracks on steep slopes, or involved scrambling over granite boulders and fording waist-deep glacial meltwater.

Today, much has changed. At peak season, hikers are so numerous that the route can approach gridlock (hyperbole intentional). Rudimentary and not-so-rudimentary bridges make water crossings easier. In addition to the lean-tos that once sheltered shepherds, there are enough comfortable refugios (shelters) and organized campgrounds that it’s theoretically possible to complete most of the circuit without a tent or even a sleeping bag. Still, hikers must remember that this is rugged country with unpredictable weather and come well-prepared.

Most hikers tackle the circuit counterclockwise from Guardería Laguna Amarga, where buses from Puerto Natales stop for passengers to pay the park admission fee. An alternative is to continue to Pudeto and take a passenger launch to Refugio Pehoé, or else to the park’s Administración (involving a longer and less interesting approach). Both of these mean doing the trek clockwise.

A trail along Lago Nordenskjöld’s north shore provides access to the Torres’s south side, offering easier access up the Río Ascencio and Valle del Francés on the shorter “W” route to Lago Pehoé. The circuit follows the river’s west bank south to Laguna Amarga. (A Laguna Azul, exit or entrance is feasible as well by crossing the Río Paine by a cable raft at the river’s Lago Dickson outlet, with help from the staff at Refugio Dickson.)

The full circuit takes at least a week to complete. Before beginning, hikers must register with park rangers. Camping is permitted only at designated sites, a few of which are free. Purchase supplies in Puerto Natales, as only limited goods are available within the park, at premium prices.

The W-Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park. Photo © Scott Biales/iStock.

The “W” Variant

From Guardería Laguna Amarga, a narrow undulating road crosses the Río Paine on a narrow suspension bridge to the grounds of Estancia Cerro Paine, at the foot of 2,640-meter Monte Almirante Nieto. The estancia operates a hotel, refugios (shelters), and campgrounds, and the staff also shuttles hikers back and forth from Laguna Amarga (US$5.50 pp).

From Estancia Cerro Paine, a northbound trail parallels the route from Guardería Laguna Amarga, eventually meeting it just south of Campamento Serón. The estancia is more notable, though, as the starting point for the “W” route to Lago Pehoé, a scenic and challenging option for hikers lacking time for the full circuit. On the western edge of the grounds, the footbridge crosses the Río Ascencio to a junction where a northbound lateral trail climbs the river canyon to Campamento Torres, where a short but steep trail ascends to a nameless glacial tarn at the foot of the Torres proper. Weather permitting, this is a recommended day hike from the estancia, though many people prefer to camp or spend the night at the refugio.

From the junction, the main trail follows Lago Nordenskjöld’s north shore, past another refugio and campground, to the free Campamento Italiano at the base of the Río del Francés valley. While the main trail continues west toward Lago Pehoé, another northbound lateral trail climbs steeply up the valley, between the striking metamorphic Cuernos del Paine to the east and the 3,050-meter granite summit of Paine Grande to the west, to the free Campamento Británico.

Hikers in search of peace and quiet can make a strenuous detour up the Valle Bader, a steep rugged river valley that’s home to a climber’s camp at the Cuernos’ base. The route is mostly unmarked, but experienced cross-country walkers can handle it.

Other Trails

After heavy runoff destroyed the once-sturdy bridge at Lago Paine’s outlet in the early 1980s, the Río Paine’s north shore became isolated from the rest of the park. A good road, though, still leads from Guardería Laguna Amarga to Laguna Azul’s east end, which has a campground and cabañas, as well as the Sendero Lago Paine, a four-hour walk to the lake and a simple refugio (shelter). A trekkers’ alternative is the Sendero Desembocadura, which leads north from Guardería Laguna Amarga through open country to Laguna Azul’s west end and continues to Lago Paine, but this takes about eight hours. From the north shore of Lago Paine, the Sendero Lago Dickson (5.5 hours) leads to the Dickson Glacier.

Several easy day hikes are possible near Guardería Lago Pehoé, directly on the road from Laguna Amarga to the visitors center. The short Sendero Salto Grande trail leads to the thunderous waterfall, at Lago Sarmiento’s outlet, that was the circuit’s starting point until unprecedented runoff swept away the iron bridge to Península Pehoé in 1986. From Salto Grande, the Sendero Mirador Nordenskjöld is a slightly longer but still easy walk to a lakeshore vista point, directly opposite the stunning Cuernos del Paine.

From Guardería Lago Grey, 18 kilometers northwest of the visitors center by road, a short footpath leads to a sandy beach on Lago Grey’s south shore, where steady westerlies often beach icebergs from Glaciar Grey. The longer and less visited Sendero Lago Pingo ascends the Río Pingo Valley to its namesake lake (5.5-6 hours). A basic refugio and two free campgrounds are along the route.

Lago Grey and the Patagonian ice field in Torres del Paine national park

Lago Grey is located on the western side of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Photo © davidionut/iStock.

Climbing

Though popular, hiking is not the only recreational option. Despite similar terrain, Paine attracts fewer climbers than Argentina’s neighboring Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, perhaps because fees for climbing permits have been high here. At present, permits are free of charge; before being granted permission, climbers must present Conaf with climbing résumés, emergency contacts, and authorization from their consulate.

When climbing in sensitive border areas (meaning most of Andean Chile), climbers must also have permission from the Dirección de Fronteras y Límites (Difrol) in Santiago. It’s possible to do this through a Chilean consulate overseas or at Difrol’s Santiago offices or, preferably, online. If you arrive in Puerto Natales without permission, it’s possible to request it through the Gobernación Provincial (tel. 061/241-1423), the regional government offices on the south side of Plaza Arturo Prat. The turnaround time is 48 hours.

While climbing and mountaineering activities may be undertaken independently, local concessionaires can provide training and lead groups or individuals with less experience on snow and ice. Big Foot Adventure Patagonia (tel. 061/241-4611 in Natales) has a Refugio Grey base camp, where it leads half-day traverses of Glaciar Grey’s west side (US$140) and 2.5-hour kayak excursions (US$90). It also operates guided three-day, two-night descents of the Río Serrano (US$795-1,090 pp, depending on group size). Except for weatherproof clothing, the company provides all equipment.

What better way to explore the natural beauty of Chilean Patagonia than on foot? Learn about hiking and climbing in Torres del Paine National Park.


Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Patagonia.

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Visiting the Glaciers of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares https://moon.com/2017/11/visiting-the-glaciers-of-parque-nacional-los-glaciares/ https://moon.com/2017/11/visiting-the-glaciers-of-parque-nacional-los-glaciares/#comments Thu, 30 Nov 2017 22:32:45 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=11357 Whether you're a day visitor, a hiker, or a mountaineer, there are plenty of sights in Argentina's Parque Nacional Los Glaciares to enjoy. Read on for information about the park's many lakes and glaciers, plus hikes and tours.

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On the eastern Andean slopes, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares comprises over 750,000 hectares, where slowly flowing ice gives birth to clear frigid rivers and vast lakes, interspersed with Magellanic forests, along the Chilean border west and north of El Calafate. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s famous for the Glaciar Perito Moreno, which draws thousands of visitors as well as scientists absorbed in glaciology and climate studies. The northern sector draws those seeking to spend several days in vigorous exercise, for either trekking or the riskier technical climbing.

Hugging the Chilean border, the elongated park stretches well over 100 kilometers from north to south. There are four significant access points, but just two of those get the great majority of visitors.

Since nearly all visitors come to see Glaciar Perito Moreno, most stay at El Calafate, 80 kilometers east by paved highway; the only accommodations closer to the glacier are expensive ranches and lodges just outside park boundaries with small capacities. At the Río Mitre entrance, this main Glaciar Perito Moreno approach, the Administración de Parques Nacionales (APN) collects a US$22 admission fee (payable in pesos only) from nonresidents of Argentina. Lake excursions into the park leave from Punta Bandera, a short detour north from the Moreno Glacier road. Passengers on lake excursions from Punta Bandera must also pay the fee.

The other main access point is the village El Chaltén, 220 kilometers to the northwest by a paved but roundabout route, with abundant accommodations in all categories and easy trail access even for those without their own vehicles. This northernmost sector—a three-hour bus trip from El Calafate by paved highway—attracts hikers and serious mountaineers. Backpackers should note that no campfires are permitted within the park. Carrying a camp stove is obligatory for cooking. This southern approach includes the APN visitors center (tel. 02962/49-3004, 9am-5pm daily, occasionally until 8pm), which has natural history exhibits, provides a decent trail map (scale 1:75,000), and also issues climbing permits (free).

There is additional park access at Lago Roca, southwest of El Calafate, and at little-visited Helsingfors, to the northwest. Accessible by gravel road, the Lago Roca sector has campgrounds and some ranch accommodations, but few trails. To the northwest, on the south shore of Lago Viedma, reached from El Calafate by a roundabout combination of paved and gravel routes, the park’s Helsingfors sector has limited but scenic hiking and private accommodations at its namesake lodge. There is no public transportation.

At present, the Lago Roca, Helsingfors, and El Chaltén sectors remain fee-free.

the icy glacier of Perito Moreno in Patagonia's Parque Nactional Los Glaciares

Glaciar Perito Moreno is one of South America’s greatest sights and sounds. Photo © Renan Greinert/Dreamstime.

Glaciar Perito Moreno

Where a low Andean pass lets Pacific weather systems cross the cordillera, countless storms have deposited immeasurable meters of snow that, over millennia, have compressed into Glaciar Perito Moreno, a rasping river of ice that’s one of the continent’s greatest sights and sounds. Fifteen times during the 20th century, the advancing glacier blocked Lago Argentino’s Brazo Rico (Rico Arm) to form a rising body of water that eventually, when the weight became too great for the natural dam, triggered an eruption of ice and water toward the lake’s main glacial trough.

The last event took place on March 10, 2016, but the avalanche of ice and water could easily have been a metaphor for the flood of tourists that invaded El Calafate in anticipation. On any given day, massive icebergs still calve off the glacier’s 60-meter face and crash into the Canal de los Témpanos (Iceberg Channel) with astonishing frequency.

Perched on newly modernized catwalks and overlooks, many visitors spend entire days either gazing at or simply listening to this rumbling river of ice. Descending to lake level is prohibited because of the danger of backwash and flying ice chunks.

Sights and Tours

Hielo y Aventura (Av. Libertador 935, El Calafate, tel. 02902/49-2205) offers full-day “mini trekking” excursions onto the ice (US$140 pp includes transportation from El Calafate). Other options include the more strenuous Big Ice trip (US$152 pp with transporation) and a passive Safari Náutico navigation (1 hour, US$23 pp, transportation not included) that approaches the glacier’s face.

Organized tours to the glacier, 80 kilometers southwest of El Calafate via RP 11, leave every day, as does scheduled transport. Transportation is usually extra for everything except bus tours.

In addition to regularly scheduled transportation, guided bus tours are frequent, but both are less frequent in winter. Competent operators include Aventura Andina (Av. del Libertador 761, Local 4, tel. 02902/49-1726), Cal Tur (Av. Libertador 1080, tel. 02902/49-1368), Cordillera del Sol (25 de Mayo 43, tel. 02902/49-2822), Eurotur (Av. del Libertador 1025, tel. 02902/49-2190), Mundo Austral (Av. Libertador 1114, tel. 02902/49-2365), and Rumbo Sur (9 de Julio 81, Local 2, tel. 02902/49-2155).

El Calafate’s Hostel del Glaciar runs its own guided minivan excursions (US$40 pp), leaving about 8am daily and returning around 5pm. These include more hiking and a navigation for a waterside view of the lake.

tourist on a boat gazing at Upsala glacier in Los Glaciares national park

Take a boat tour to Glaciar Upsala. Photo © Melissa Schalke/Dreamstime.

Glaciar Upsala

Even larger than the Glaciar Perito Moreno, 50 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide at its foot, Glaciar Upsala is impressive for its sheer extent, the sizable bergs that have calved off it, and their shapes and colors. It’s accessible only by crowded catamaran trips from Punta Bandera via Lago Argentino’s Brazo Norte (North Arm).

Tours

At midday the boat anchors at Bahía Onelli. Bring a bag lunch (skipping the restaurant) to hike to ice-clogged Lago Onelli. The land portion of this excursion is regimented, and the guide-suggested pace—30 minutes from dock to lakeshore—is appropriate for those on crutches. Smoking is prohibited on the forest trail.

Visitors should realize that this is a mass-tourism excursion that may frustrate hikers accustomed to freedom of the hills. If you take it, choose the biggest available ship, which offers the most deck space to see the Spegazzini and Upsala Glaciers. On board, the freshest air is within the cabin of the ALM, whose seats are cramped but where smoking is prohibited; on deck, desperate smokers congregate even in freezing rain. Reasonably priced cakes, sandwiches, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are available on board.

Puerto Bandera is 45 kilometers west of Calafate via RP 11 and RP 8. For information and reservations, contact concessionaire Solo Patagonia (Av. Libertador 867, El Calafate, tel. 02902/49-1155 or 02902/491428). The full-day trip costs about US$110 per person, US$65 ages 8-16, with a four-course lunch and open bar; it does not include transfer to Puerto Bandera or the US$22 park fee.

On its small cruiser Leal, Cruceros Marpatag (9 de Julio 57, Local 10, El Calafate, tel. 02902/49-2118) offers a full-day excursion, with a six-course gourmet lunch (wine included), to the Spegazzini and Upsala glacier fields (US$270-340 pp, including transfers and park admission). The triple-deck 22-cabin catamaran Santa Cruz now offers three-day, two-night cruises to Upsala and Spegazzini (US$1,785-3,900 s, US$3,360-5,680 d), with a final day’s lunch facing the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Lago Roca

Also known as La Jerónima, the park’s little-visited southwesterly sector along Lago Roca’s Brazo Sur (South Arm) offers camping and cross-country hiking. There are no formal trails, only routes such as the one from the campground to the summit of Cerro Cristal, 55 kilometers from El Calafate. The most striking feature is the high shoreline, dry from the days when the lake backs up behind the advancing Glaciar Perito Moreno. Unlike other sectors, Lago Roca charges no admission fee.

clear green glacial water at the foot of Cerro Fitz Roy in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares

The spires of the Fitz Roy range match those of Torres del Paine. Photo © Michal Jastrzebski/Dreamstime.

Sector Fitz Roy

In the park’s most northerly sector, the Fitz Roy range has sheer spires to match Torres del Paine. Even if you’re not a top technical climber, trails from the village of El Chaltén to the base of summits such as Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre make for exhilarating hikes. It’s even possible to traverse the southern Patagonian ice fields. Visitors seeking a sedate outdoor experience will find a handful of former sheep ranches, onetime Patagonian wool producers that have reinvented themselves as tourist accommodations.

Hiking and Trekking

From a signposted trailhead at El Chaltén’s north end, the Sendero Laguna Torre is an 11-kilometer track gaining about 200 meters in elevation as it winds through southern beech forests to the climbers’ base camp for Cerro Torre; figure 3 to 3.5 hours. At the lake, in clear weather, there are extraordinary views of Cerro Torre’s 3,102-meter summit, crowned by the so-called ice-and-snow “mushroom” that technical climbers must surmount. While Italian Cesare Maestri claimed that he and Austrian Toni Egger reached the summit in 1959 (Egger died in an avalanche, taking the camera with him), Italian Casimiro Ferrari made the first undisputed ascent in 1974.

From the Madsen pack station, the more demanding Sendero Río Blanco trail rises steeply at the outset before leveling out through boggy beech forest and continuing to the Fitz Roy base camp, climbing about 350 meters in 10 kilometers. About midway to Río Blanco, a signed lateral trail leads south to Laguna Capri, which has backcountry campsites.

From Río Blanco, a vertiginous zigzag trail ascends 400 meters in just 2.5 kilometers to Laguna de los Tres, a glacial tarn whose name commemorates three members of the French expedition—René Ferlet, Lionel Terray, and Guido Magnone—who summited Fitz Roy in 1952. Truly a top-of-the-world experience, Laguna de los Tres offers some of Patagonia’s finest Andean panoramas.

From the Río Blanco campground (reserved for climbers), a northbound trail follows the river’s west bank north to Laguna Piedras Blancas, whose namesake glacier continually calves small icebergs. The trail continues north to the Río Eléctrico, beyond the park boundaries, where a westbound trail climbs the river to Piedra del Fraile and a possible circuit of the Campo de Hielo Sur. This is only for experienced snow-and-ice trekkers. At the Río Eléctrico, it’s also possible to rejoin the road from El Chaltén to Lago del Desierto.

From the park visitors center, a short ascent (about 45 minutes) leads to the Mirador de los Cóndores, for good views of El Chaltén and the confluence of the Río de las Vueltas and the Río Fitz Roy.

From the same trailhead, the hike to Loma del Pliegue Tumbado is a 500-meter elevation gain that yields some of the area’s best views. Weather permitting, the panorama takes in Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre, Cerro Solo, Glaciar Torre, and Lago Torre, but the wind at the overlook can be overpowering. Four hours is about right for an average hiker, but the truly fit can do it in three. The descent takes about 2.5 hours.

Glaciar Viedma

From Lago Viedma’s north shore, south of El Chaltén, the park’s best lake excursion is the Viedma Discovery’s full-day catamaran to Glaciar Viedma, which can include an ice-climbing component. The less ambitious can settle for just a boat trip.

Sailing from Bahía Túnel, the vessel rounds the ironically named Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn) to enter an iceberg-cluttered area before anchoring in a rocky cove. After disembarking, visitors hike to an overlook (the glacier is Argentina’s largest, though its lakeside face is small) with additional views of 2,677-meter Cerro Huemul. Those who want to can strap on crampons and continue onto the glacier for about 2.5 hours (even some sedentary city-dwellers do so).

The bilingual guides know glaciology. While the price here does not include lunch, they do provide an aperitif on the glacial rocks.

Departure time from El Chaltén is 8:30am, while the boat sails from Bahía Túnel at 8:15am; the cost is US$160 pp, including transportation from El Chaltén. The more demanding “Viedma Pro” version, which involves ice climbing, costs US$200. The twice-daily “Viedma Light” boat trip alone is US$55 pp. For details, contact Patagonia Aventura (Av. San Martín 56-B, tel. 02962/49-3110, El Chaltén).

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares map in Argentinean Patagonia

Map of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentina


Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Patagonia.

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Best Haleakala Hikes https://moon.com/2017/11/best-haleakala-hikes/ https://moon.com/2017/11/best-haleakala-hikes/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 20:10:22 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=22158 If you’re an outdoors enthusiast, no trip to Maui is complete without tackling at least one of Haleakala’s trails. With that thought in mind, here’s a rundown of the most popular hikes, listed from shortest to longest.

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Thanks to the colorful cinder cones and trails that crunch underfoot, anyone who hikes across Haleakala Crater will swear they could be on the moon. Covering a total of 19 square miles, the crater basin is a vast wilderness with 30 miles of trails. It’s a place of adventure, mythology, and silence—and home to Maui’s best hiking. If you love the outdoors, no trip to Maui is complete without a spending a day on the crater floor.

Hikers need to be prepared, however, as temperatures can range from 30°F to 80°F over the course of a single day. The hiking is at high elevation, 7,000 to 10,000 feet, and hiking back up generally takes twice as long as the hike down. Hike Maui (808/879-5270, $179) is the only company that offers commercially guided hiking tours. Should you go on your own, here’s a rundown of the most popular hikes, listed from shortest to longest. All mileage is round-trip.

landscape view of Haleakala National Park, home of the best hiking in Maui

No Maui trip is complete within a visit to Haleakala National Park. Photo © mdlart/iStock.

Pa Ka‘oao

0.4 mile
If you don’t feel like watching the sunrise with 200 other people, huff your way up the five-minute Pa Ka‘oao Trail that leaves from the Visitors Center parking lot. The view from the top looks down toward the crater, and it’s better than from the parking lot. Bring a flashlight for the walking the trail before sunrise.

Leleiwi Overlook

0.5 mile
Running late for sunrise? Consider hiking to Leleiwi Overlook (8,840 feet). Located by mile marker 17.5, Leleiwi has smaller crowds and is usually warmer. The view looks down on the crater floor and the sheer multihued cliffs, although since the lookout faces east, it isn’t as good for sunset.

Hosmer’s Grove Nature Trail

0.5 mile
Unlike other trails in the park, the Hosmer’s Grove Nature Trail is at the park’s lower boundary just after you enter the park. The short trail loops through a dense grove of trees, planted in 1910 as part of an unsuccessful experiment to test the viability of the lumber industry. Surrounded by sweet-smelling pine and fir, grab a fleece and go for a stroll through the 20-plus species of trees, listening for forest birds that flit around in the treetops. To reach the trailhead, make a left on the road pointing toward the campground immediately after entering the park. The walk, over mostly level ground, should take 30 minutes. To extend the trip, hike the Supply Trail for 2.3 miles to where it meets with the crater rim.

Halemau‘u Trail (Switchback Trail)

7.5 miles
Beginning from an altitude of only 7,990 feet, the first 1.1 miles of the Halemau‘u Trail meander through scrub brush before bringing you to the edge of a 1,000-foot cliff. The view down into the Ko‘olau Gap is better here than from the summit, and although the trail is well-defined, the drop-offs can be a bit disconcerting. After 3.7 miles—and a 1,000 foot drop—the trail passes Holua Cabin, where you can turn around. Tack on another mile by continuing to Silversword Loop, a section of the crater known for its numerous ‘ahinahina, or endangered silversword plants.

the barren landscape of the Sliding Sands hiking Trail in Haleakala National Park

The 8-mile Keonehe‘ehe‘e (Sliding Sands) Trail is barren and windswept, but offers sweeping views of cinder cones. Photo © photo75/iStock.

Keinehe‘ehe‘e Trail (Sliding Sands Trail)

8 miles
Starting at the summit visitor center at 9,800 feet, Keonehe‘ehe‘e descends 2,500 vertical feet to the crater floor below. This trail is barren, windswept, without shade, and a stunning conduit to the cinder cones. You can turn around anytime you want to hike out. Continuing to Kapalaoa Cabin adds 3.5 miles round-trip.

Sliding Sands-Switchback Loop

12.2 miles
If you’re in good shape and have a full day to devote to exploring the crater, this is hands-down the best day hike in the summit area. Park at the Halemau‘u trailhead, then hitch a ride to the top, where you’ll hike down to the crater floor on the Sliding Sands Trail. Follow the signs toward Holua Cabin and the Halemau‘u Trail, where a leg-burning, switchbacking, 1,000-foot climb leads back to the car.

If you really want an island adventure that you’ll never forget, consider hiking the trail at night in the light of a full moon. For this night hike, bring a backpack of extra clothing, carry extra water and a flashlight, and dress for windchill that can drop below freezing any time of year.

Kaupo Gap

Of all the hikes in Haleakala Crater, none are more legendary, or more extreme, than “shooting” the Kaupo Gap, a two-day trip, with a stay at Paliku campground, that drops 9,500 vertical feet over 17.5 miles. Permits are required for camping at Paliku, in the crater’s remotest corner, 9.2 miles from the Sliding Sands trailhead.

On the second day of the hike, you’ll descend from Paliku outside the national park boundary, and legally continue across private land until you reach Kaupo Store. Along the trail, keep an eye out for goats and deer that roam the windswept grasslands. When you finally finish the hike in Kaupo, it’s best if you’ve prearranged a ride. If not, you may have to convince the rare passerby to shuttle your sweaty body all the way to the other side of the island. Despite the logistical challenges and the grueling backcountry terrain, this is a unique and memorable hike.

Map of Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

Haleakala National Park


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Hawaii.

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Thanksgiving Hikes: 6 Family-Friendly Trails Near Seattle https://moon.com/2017/11/thanksgiving-hikes-family-friendly-trails-near-seattle/ https://moon.com/2017/11/thanksgiving-hikes-family-friendly-trails-near-seattle/#respond Fri, 17 Nov 2017 23:28:11 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=61526 A Thanksgiving hike is a wonderful way to reflect and spend time with loved ones. Whether taking your pup for a breath of fresh air, enjoying the waterfront with the whole family, showing out-of-town guests Seattle's emerald forests, or conquering a peak with your uber-athletic sibling, Seattle has plenty to offer close to home.

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A Thanksgiving hike is a wonderful way to reflect and spend time with loved ones. Whether taking your pup for a breath of fresh air, enjoying the waterfront with the whole family, showing out-of-town guests Seattle’s emerald forests, or conquering a peak with your uber-athletic sibling, Seattle has plenty to offer close to home. Layer up, check the weather, and choose your own adventure. Now go outside and enjoy the crisp November air—I’ll see you on the trail!

Here are six family-friendly hikes within 40 miles of Seattle.

pedestrian bridge leading to Carkeek Park Beach

Need a beach break? Take a walk over the pedestrian bridge in Carkeek Park to get a bit of fresh salt air. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

Carkeek Park

3.5 miles roundtrip, 800 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map

Located in northwest Seattle, Carkeek Park is a woodsy escape into a lush canyon, with breezy beachside views of Puget Sound and the Olympics from the western edge of the park. Get your heart pumping with a lollipop loop along Carkeek’s forested perimeter trails, or make a beeline to the beach via Piper’s Creek Trail. Visit historic Piper’s Orchard to learn about and wander among Andrew W. Piper’s apple trees.

brightly colored leaves littering the pavement on the Cedar River Trail

Cyclists and families with strollers will love the smooth Cedar River Trail. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

Cedar River Trail

17.4 miles one way, 820 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map (PDF)

The Cedar River Trail, stretching from the southern end of Lake Washington to Landsburg Park, is a mostly paved, bicycle- and stroller-friendly hike to views of the Cedar River, spawning salmon, King County parks, and trestle bridges. Riverview Park, located 2.8 miles southeast of Lake Washington, makes a lovely turn-around point.

Fall on the Lincoln Park waterfront trail with a distant view of the Olympics

Take a waterfront hike in Lincoln Park to stare out at the Olympics. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

Lincoln Park

1.85 miles roundtrip, 160 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map

Lincoln Park, located near the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle, is a refreshing hike to views of Puget Sound, the Kitsap Peninsula, and the Olympics. The wind-whipped waterfront is lined with a wide, ADA accessible trail, a rocky beach, and plentiful benches, while a playground and towering Douglas fir inhabit the interior trails. If you can nab a spot, the tiny south parking lot provides easy sidewalk access to the waterfront.

Little Si offers expansive views and a great way to work off the Thanksgiving feast. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

Little Si

4.7 miles roundtrip, 1300 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, Discover Pass required, map (PDF)

Little Si, located 35 miles east of Seattle in North Bend, is a great option for a Thanksgiving workout to panoramic views of Mount Washington, Cedar Butte, and Rattlesnake Mountain. A side trip on the Boulder Garden Loop offers a quiet detour as well as access to the Old Si Trail for a steeper, more challenging option. Consider an early start: the Little Si parking lot is popular and can fill quickly, especially on sunny days.

stairs on a path in Meadowdale Beach Park in Washington State

Head to Meadowdale Beach Park for a quiet, secluded wonderland escape. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

Meadowdale Beach Park

2.5 miles roundtrip, 425 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map

Meadowdale Beach Park, located in Edmonds, is a tranquil trail of soft gravel surrounded by beautiful red alder, bigleaf maple, and western redcedar. Benches line the trail, and the sound of Lunds Gulch Creek makes it feel like you’re in a quiet, green, secluded wonderland. On the western edge of the picnic area, a seasonal aluminum walkway—removed each fall for spawning salmon—leads under the train tracks to Meadowdale Beach. Bring a book for the Little Library, and keep your eyes peeled for chum salmon in late November.

wooden bridge crossing a creek at O.O. Denny Park

Find some peace and quiet in the hidden gem of O.O. Denny Park. Photo © Melissa Ozbek.

O.O. Denny Park

2.5 mile loop, 420 feet elevation gain, leashed dogs allowed, no parking pass required, map (PDF)

O.O. Denny Park located on the northeastern shore of Lake Washington in Kirkland, is a hidden gem. The large, green picnic area hosts a shallow, pebbly beach, picnic tables, and a playground. Across Holmes Point Drive, a short but sweet trail system winds along Denny Creek, past a 600-year-old tree trunk named Sylvia, and across three finely-crafted wooden bridges.


Work up an appetite, walk off that stuffing, or make a quick escape to solitude with these 6 Thanksgiving hikes in the Seattle area.

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Hiking Sierra de la Laguna, Mexico https://moon.com/2017/10/hiking-sierra-de-la-laguna-mexico/ https://moon.com/2017/10/hiking-sierra-de-la-laguna-mexico/#comments Tue, 24 Oct 2017 18:53:31 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60516 The Sierra de la Laguna is one of the most beautiful and least-explored areas of Los Cabos. Hike any of these trails to experience it for yourself.

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The Sierra de la Laguna is one of the most beautiful and least-explored areas of the peninsula. UNESCO designated the 11,600 hectares of this mountain range a biosphere reserve in 1994. There are more than 900 plant species in the sierra, ranging from cacti to palms. Over 20 percent of them are endemic to the peninsula. As a microclimate, the Sierra de la Laguna receives far more rainfall than any other part of the peninsula, providing a drastic change in scenery from the desert below. The highest peak in the range, Picacho de la Laguna (elev. 2,161 m), is also the highest peak in all of Baja California Sur.

The Sierra de la Laguna is approached either from the East Cape or from the West Cape, depending on the final destination. All sierra access from the East Cape is self-guided, while most tours and guided hikes depart from the West Cape.

The mountains experience heavy rains July-October. November through early spring is the most popular time for hiking. Temperatures can drop below freezing at night during the winter.

There are three access points into the sierra from the eastern side: Cañon San Dionísio from Santiago, Cañon San Bernardo from Miraflores, and Cañon San Pablo from Caduaño. Most hikes use an assortment of trails, canyons, and cow paths that wind through the sierra.

dirt road bending around a cactus leading toward a mountain in Los Cabos

The road through Sierra de la Laguna to Cañon de la Zorra. Photo © Jennifer Kramer.

Sierra de la Laguna Hiking Trails

The Cañon San Dionísio trail begins at Rancho San Dionísio, in the mouth of the canyon, 23 kilometers from Santiago. Inquire in town about how to get out to the ranch. Cañon San Bernardo is the easiest cross-sierra hike, beginning in Boca de la Sierra on the east side of the range and ending with Santo Domingo on the west side. There are permanent water pools that provide drinking water throughout the 22.5-kilometer hike that takes three days to complete.

The most popular overnight hike is to Picacho de la Laguna; the lake in the name is now a meadow instead of a pool. This hike is best approached from the western side of the sierras from La Burrera ranch near Todos Santos. This is the only trail in the Sierra de la Laguna that is shown on topo maps. Allow three days for the full round-trip hike.

Trails in the Sierra de la Laguna can be difficult to find and follow. If you aren’t an expert or a local who knows your way around, it’s better to go with a guide. Baja Sierra Adventures (tel. 624/166-8706) leads guided treks through the sierra with a range of day trips and overnight trips.

Map of Sierra de la Laguna Hiking Trails in Mexico

Sierra de la Laguna Hiking Trails


Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Los Cabos.

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Top Things to Do in Cali, Colombia https://moon.com/2017/09/top-things-to-do-in-cali-colombia/ https://moon.com/2017/09/top-things-to-do-in-cali-colombia/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:12:48 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=60128 From salsa dancing to exploring colonial architecture to trekking around a lake in a volcano's crater, here are the top things to do in Cali, Colombia.

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Hiking boots and dancing shoes are essential in southwestern Colombia, an unsung destination chock full of natural adventures. From salsa (both doing and watching) to exploring colonial architecture to trekking around a lake in a volcano’s crater, here are the top things to do in Cali, Colombia.

Salsa in Cali

In Cali, there are many ways you can experience (and very likely get hooked on) salsa.

On the first Saturday night of the month, go to Salsa al Parque (4pm-midnight, free, fculturalatina@gmail.com). This friendly and open-air freebie, held in different areas of the city, is known as an audición, which is a chance for coleccionistas, enthusiasts who collect salsa albums, to play their favorites for the crowd. People young and old, and visitors and locals from all walks of life, gather for these events, with the common denominator being a love of salsa. The event is organized by the Fundación Cultural Nuestra Cosa Latina; check its Facebook page to see what it has planned.

A live band plays at salsoteca Punto Bare in Cali, Colombia.

Head to salsoteca Punto Baré for great live music. Photo courtesy of Punto Baré.

Salsotecas

No matter where you go on a Saturday night, there’s a good chance that you’ll hear some salsa. But there are some places—salsotecas—where it’s all about salsa and nothing more. Most are open from Wednesday until Sunday, closing at around 2am. Big salsotecas, like Tin Tin Deo (Cl. 5 No. 38-71, tel. 2/514-1537, 8pm-3am Thurs.-Sat., cover COP$15,000, with ladies usually getting a discount), will have a cover. Many of the famous spots are in the south of the city, clustered along Calle 5. While two women dancing together is generally accepted, two men together may not be; however, some places, such as La Topa Tolondra (Cl. 5 No. 13-27, cell tel. 314/664-1470, 6pm-1am Wed.-Thurs., 6pm-3am Fri.-Sat., COP$10,000), are pretty open-minded.

Other recommended places to check out are: Punto Baré (Cl. 5 No. 13-15, cell tel. 316/446-4544, 9pm-2am Wed.-Thurs. and Sun., 9pm-4am Fri.-Sat.); Zaperoco Bar (Av. 5N No. 16-46, tel. 2/661-2040, 8pm-3am Thurs.-Sat., cover COP$20,000); Cuba Libre, the house band at Rincón Don Heberth (Cra. 24 No. 5-32 Local 6, cell tel. 310/409-7229); and The Casa Latina (Cl. 7 No. 27-38, tel. 2/556-6549, cell tel. 316/555-0412, no cover).

Dancers move into the audience at a Delirio salsa show in Cali, Colombia.

Delirio puts on lively salsa performances that combine dance, music, and circus. Photo courtesy of Delirio.

Salsa Shows

A number of flashy (and pricey) salsa shows take place in Cali, during which you can sit back in amazement (and vicarious exhaustion) at the fast and fancy footwork of the salsa dance troupes. The talented and high-energy dancers range in age from 4 to 40. Shows sell out quickly, so reserve a week or two in advance.

Delirio (Centro de Eventos Valle de Pacífico, Cra. 26 No. 12-328, tel. 2/893-7680, COP$190,000) is a sort of Cirque du Soleil—a la Cali—that combines dance, music, and circus, and it has delighted audiences all over the world. The group is constantly updating its shows, creating segments on different themes that inspire them (for instance, a Michael Jackson tribute). During intermission, audience members are invited to dance on stage. Performances go from about 8pm to well after midnight, and are generally held Fridays between April and December. Minors under the age of 18 are not allowed inside the big tent.

Another popular ongoing show is Ensálsate (cell tel. 313/585-7616, COP$120,000), which takes place the second Friday of each month and during the Feria de Cali at the Salón Ritz of the Hotel Dann Carlton (Cra. 2 No. 1-60, tel. 2/893-3000). It’s a three-act show with a mix of music and dance, with salsa, music from the Caribbean, tango, and even some hip-hop added to the mix. Tickets can be obtained at Tu Boleta.

A white three story belltower in Popayan, Cauca.

The White City of Popayán. Photo © Andrew Dier.

Centro Histórico in Popayán

The temperate capital of the Cauca department, Popayán is known as the White City. It is a dignified city, proud of its place in history as the home of presidents, poets, and priests. It retains some colonial charm despite earthquakes and modernization. One of the most enjoyable things to do in Popayán’s is to amble along its beautiful historic center.

Museums abound in Centro Histórico, and feature heavily on Colombian art and nature.

  • The Casa Museo Edgar Negret and Museo Iberoamericano de Arte Moderno de Popayán—MIAMP (Cl. 5 No. 10-23, tel. 2/824-4546, 8am-noon and 2pm-6pm Wed.- Mon., COP$2,500) is in the home of Edgar Negret, a Colombian artist best known for massive abstract iron sculptures that adorn public spaces in cities throughout Colombia and museums throughout the world.
  • The Museo de Historia Natural de la Universidad del Cauca (Cra. 2 No. 1A-25, tel. 2/820-9861, 9am-noon and 2pm-5pm daily, COP$2,000) was founded in 1936 and highlights the astounding variety of species, both plant and animal, that are found in Colombia.
  • Museo Nacional Guillermo Valencia (Cra. 6 No. 2-69, tel. 2/820-6160, 10am-noon and 2pm-5pm Tues.-Sun., COP$2,000) is an 18th-century house near the Puente del Humilladero that was the home of Popayán poet Guillermo Valencia.
  • The Museo de Arte Religioso (Cl. 4 No. 4-56, tel. 2/824-2759, 8am-noon and 2pm-6pm Mon.-Fri., 9am-2pm Sat., COP$6,000) has 10 rooms of religious art from the colonial era in an 18th-century neoclassical house covering Quiteño, Popayán, and Spanish styles.

There are several colonial churches dating from the 17th to 18th centuries to visit in Popayán. Most of them have been restored following earthquakes over the years.

  • The Iglesia San Francisco (Cl. 4 and Cra. 9, tel. 2/824-0160) is one of the most beautiful churches and dates to the late 18th century. You can ask at the church to see the mummies that were found here following the earthquake.
  • The Iglesia La Ermita (Cl. 5 and Cra. 2, tel. 2/820-9725) is older, dating to the 16th century. It has some fine woodcarvings and paintings.
  • The Iglesia Santo Domingo (Cl. 4 and Cra. 5, tel. 2/824-0536) is where the Good Friday procession begins every year.
  • The neoclassical cathedral (Cl. 5 and Cra. 6, tel. 2/824-1710) on the Parque Caldas was completed in the early 20th century. The cathedral’s official name is Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Popayán, but it is always referred to as “la catedral.”

Tierradentro

The Tierradentro Archaeological Park (91 km east of Popayán, 8am-4pm daily, COP$20,000) comprises five sites spread across four hills, straddling Vía San Andrés de Pisimbalá-El Crucero. This is the site of a major indigenous necropolis that includes monumental funeral statues and hypogea (underground burial chambers). These chambers, some 12 meters wide, are decorated with intricate red and black anthropomorphic and zoomorphic geometric designs, some of which are in relief. They were first excavated and studied in the 1930s. This archaeological park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

These awe-inspiring burial chambers, believed to have been built between AD 600 and AD 900, reveal the existence of a rich and complex society that devoted significant time and effort to preparing the way to the afterlife. There is also an intriguing symmetry to be found between these ornate underground chambers and the houses of the living above ground. A high-quality flashlight is a must for getting a good look at the interior paintings of the tombs and some of the elaborate artwork decorating them.

An ancient stone statue of a figure playing a flute in San Agustín Archaeological Park.

A statue in San Agustín Archaeological Park. Photo © DC Colombia/iStock.

San Agustín

The small colonial town of San Agustín, nestled within the folds of the southern Colombian Andes and west of the Río Magdalena, would probably be an attractive destination in its own right. At an elevation of 1,800 meters (5,900 feet), it is set in a place of enormous natural beauty and has wonderful springlike weather. However, its fame comes from its location near the largest pre-Columbian archaeological site south of Central America and north of Perú.

The excellent Parque Arqueológico de San Agustín (San Agustín Archaeological Park, 8am-4pm daily, COP$20,000) covers 80 hectares (200 acres) of what was one of the most important ritual areas of the San Agustín culture. Some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southeast of Popayán, it was established in 1937 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The park contains over 130 statues with striking human and animal-like features, as well as carved tombs and monumental stone tables, or dolmens. The park is easy to navigate: Plan on a couple of hours to stroll it at leisure and absorb the beauty. The park is two kilometers (1.25 miles) west of the town of San Agustín and can be reached on foot or by bus. A ticket here is also valid at the Parque Arqueológico Alto de los Ídolos.

Near the entrance to the park is the highly recommended Museo Arqueológico (free). It contains pottery, tools, jewelry, and some smaller-scale statues. It’s a good educational stop to learn more about the San Agustín culture before visiting the sites themselves.

Don’t rush your stay in San Agustín, as it is a pleasant and peaceful place to visit, with several options for hiking and rafting amid spectacular mountain landscapes. This little town has surprisingly good restaurants and accommodations.

Laguna La Cocha

The lakeside fishing village of Encano, on the shores of Laguna La Cocha, is home to about 200 families who mostly make their living as trout farmers. The cheerfully painted wooden A-frames, the flower boxes, and the colorful lanchas (wooden boats) waiting at the ready will remind you of someplace—but probably not Colombia! There are many simple restaurants in Encano, all specializing in La Cocha trout, served in a multitude of ways.

From Encano, you can hire a boat to take you to the sanctuary on tiny Isla de la Corota, not far away (about a 10-minute ride). It’s a lovely excursion, one that won’t take long: The island covers only about 16 hectares (40 acres) of land. This excursion costs about COP$25,000 per boat; the boat’s owner will wait for you and take you back to the mainland. On the island, you’ll have to pay an entry fee (COP$1,000) and sign in at the ranger station. From there you’ll walk through the virgin rainforest on a wooden walkway. Although the vegetation is tropical, with 500 species of plants including ferns, bromeliads, orchids, lichen, and siete cueros trees, the climate is actually quite cool. It’s nice to go on a weekday when there are few visitors, so that you can enjoy the wonderful peace that the island brings.

Surrounding the lake are more than 50 private natural reserves managed by local farmers through the Asociación de Desarollo Campesino. Many of these offer accommodations for visitors. One such reserve is El Encanto Andino (Vereda Santa Teresita, cell tel. 321/263-2663 or 311/634-7635, COP$65,000 pp including meals; transportation COP$70,000 per group). Here you can take walks through the jungle, visit an orchid farm, and do some bird-watching, among other activities. Food is produced at the reserve, and it is all organic. To get to this peaceful spot, you’ll have to take a boat across the lake, but the reserve will make those arrangements for you. You can also visit as a day trip.

Laguna Verde is a brilliant emerald lake in Colombia.

On the path to Laguna Verde in Colombia’s Reserva Natural Azufral.

Laguna Verde

The hike up to the sulfurous Laguna Verde (3,800 meters/12,500 feet), a dazzling, emerald-green crater lake on the north side of the dormant Volcán Azufral, is easy to make from Pasto. A sacred site for the Pasto indigenous people, the volcano is part of the Nudo de los Pastos mountain range, which serves as a natural border between Colombia and Ecuador. The vegetation in the páramo (highland moor) is sparse, with low shrubs, wildflowers, moss, and lichen. There is little fauna to be seen, except for the occasional gavilan
(vulture) gliding through the air. From here on a clear day you can see as far as the Galeras volcano in Pasto.

The Reserva Natural Azufral is managed by a community organization, the Asociación Azufral los Andariegos Túquerres (Cra. 6A No. 16D-50, tel. 2/730-8955, cell tel. 316/713-3823). From the park’s ranger cabin, it is a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) hike to Laguna Verde and Laguna Negra. Hikers are requested to register at the cabin and pay a small entry fee (COP$2,000). It is an easy, gradual ascent as the path follows a dirt road all the way up the mountain. This can take 3-5 hours. It is hard to get lost, especially on weekends and holidays when there are many fellow hikers.

Travel map of Cali and Southwest Colombia

Cali and Southwest Colombia

From salsa dancing to exploring colonial architecture to trekking around a lake in a volcano's crater, here are the top things to do in Cali, Colombia.


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Colombia.

The post Top Things to Do in Cali, Colombia appeared first on Moon Travel Guides.

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