(This page is a work in progress as I consolidate our great hikes from over the years…)
Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks National Park, Cochito Pueblo, New Mexico
This was a great find when exploring the Santa Fe surrounding area! Take I-25 south, exit 264, and follow the signs. (It’s about an hour west of Santa Fe.) If you like Bryce Canyon, you’ll like this one.
There are two segments to this trail, both of which begin at the designated parking area for the national park. Both trails share the same entrance, which begins off to the side of the restrooms in the parking lot. When the trail splits, the trail to the left is the Cave Loop Trail. This trail is a 1.2 mile loop and is classified as easy, with portions being ADA accessible. As you would expect from the name, this trail has a cave to explore! While anyone loves a good cave, being footloose and child-free on this trip, we decided to take the more strenuous Canyon Trail to the right.
The Canyon Trail is a moderate trail, about 3 miles round trip, and best attempted during the morning hours if you’re visiting during the summer. (A hard learned lesson, after a leisurely breakfast before a hike on the previous day.) The mixed sand and gravel trail starts with an easy stroll through some low-lying woodlands, which
leads to the mouth of the slot canyon. The cool slot canyon with its high cliff walls provides a lot of great photo ops and is fun to explore. Remember the cool part when you’re climbing the steep 630 foot incline to the mesa top later! But the climb is well worth it for the outstanding views of the Sangre De Cristo, Jemez, Sandia Mountains, and the Rio Grande Valley below. There are some great rock formations along the way (formed by volcanic ash), with the most notable being the toadstool hoodoos. If you’re looking for a brief escape from the heat, there’s a small slot canyon with a shady shelf, right before you get up close and personal with the hoodoos. Otherwise, bring sunscreen and lots of water. The trail requires scrambling over a few rocks, but nothing strenuous. Overall, a highly recommended hike with interesting terrain and a great workout!
($5 entrance fee; restrooms and picnic area in the parking lot; no place to buy water or food)
The White Dome Trail, Valley of Fire State Park, 55 miles NE of Las Vegas, Nevada (1 mile loop)
This trail is a one mile easy loop, over fine sand and rock. Expect to see colorful sweeping vistas, a slot canyon, caves, and the remains of a 1966 western movie set. Without a doubt, one of the coolest places we visited in our Grand Canyon Circle trip. My biggest regret is that we didn’t allot more time to explore. So, at a minimum, carve out at least a half day slot for this park.
The State Park’s website description… “The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.” Basically, this translates to a truly unique landscape experience with a lot of fun rock scrambling/climbing opportunities.
($10 admission fee; restroom facilities at Welcome Center)
Annaly Bay Tide Pool Hike, Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (About 4 miles round trip)
Once we got used to driving on the left side of the road, we found that Saint Croix was a lot of fun to explore! This hike starts on the outskirts of the Renaissance Carambola Resort (though I’m told there’s a shortcut on the beach at the hotel). Our carefully packed bag of amphibian shoes were left in our hotel room a few miles away, so we rented water shoes from the scuba center at the Carambola. Once you get to the tide pools, you’ll have to do some climbing, so you’ll definitely want some type of amphibian shoes.
The entrance to the hike is past the resort (the resort will give you a map). Take the asphalt drive to the left of the lobby and follow it to the power plant and small footbridge on the right. After you park, cross the footbridge to head up the trail. The initial ascent is a short, somewhat strenuous climb to a lookout,
which reveals beautiful views of the mountain ranges and coast line. The trail winds through lush vegetation before it opens to waist-high grass leading to a dirt road used by the jeep tours. At the dirt road, take a right to head down to the beach. At the beach, take a left, and climb over the rocks into one of the two tide pools (the second pool is through the first pool and over some more rocks). I’ve seen beautiful shots of water rushing into the tide pools, but it was relatively calm when we were there. We were also there later in the day, so we only saw a few other hikers.
A great hike easily done with a 10 and 13 year old in tow. (Plus, there were quite a few golf ball sized hermit crabs on the trail!)