TREK AMERICA | A GUIDE TO: THE HIKES

THE HIKES: WHAT TO EXPECT


My favourite part of the Trek America adventures were all the hikes I had the opportunity to go on in the national and state parks. 

Now, I am not by any means athletically fit (I'm working on it), and you don't have to be super sporty to do these. Don't be put off any treks because of the hikes.

Some were more difficult than others. I managed some challenging ones, as well as easier ones, and you always have the option to pick and choose what you do. You never have to do a hike if you don't want to, which is another positive of travelling with trek.

I didn't know much about hiking, elevation and elevation gains before Trek America but I learnt a lot. All you really need to know is; the higher the elevation the harder your body has to work and the harder your breathing is. This also happens with the bigger an elevation gain or change, I could definitely feel myself working harder at the higher elevations but it was all manageable. 

Most of the time you can go at your own pace as well. In some parks you can hike with your trek leader, in others you can't. Your trek leader may say you are going to be in a National Park for a certain number of hours and give you different hike options you could do. 
In Yosemite my trek group spilt up, some people did the longer more difficult hike, some did a medium hike combined with trails and others wandered around different areas of the park, rather than hardcore hiking.

There are other times when you will walk as a whole group, we did this on our first big hike, which was in Yellowstone. After about ten minutes, some of our group decided they didn't want to hike, so they headed back to the van. When we had finished, our tour leader drove them to some viewpoints that we saw whilst walking so they could still take in the great views!

You also get given park maps and newspapers when you get to different parks, with information to help you navigate, which is particularly handy when you're hiking without your tour leader.

All the trails and hikes are really well signposted, with water filling points and usually toilets nearby. They are also well used so you'll see lots of other hikers and sometimes park rangers, everyones really friendly, encouraging and willing to help out if you need anything. There was only one hike (Slough Creek Trail) where we didn't see any other hikers, but thats probably because we started it very early in the morning!

We also got driven to many other places for amazing views in the parks, you don't have to walk everywhere, like Olmsted Point and Glacier Point in Yosemite NP.


So I thought i'd list all the hikes (including shorter easier trails that didn't feel like hikes) that I did on my two treks, with the details and what I thought about them, to give you an idea of what to expect.

NORTHERN BLT

1 | Taughannock SP:      GORGE TRAIL
Distance:  1.5mi / 2.4km     Elevation:  820ft / 250m     Elevation Gain:  40ft     Difficulty:  Easy
This was an easy hike. Flat most of the way with wide paths, shaded with the trees and cool because its by the river. As you get close to the falls you cross a bridge and get a stunning view looking up at the 215ft falls. We sat at the edge of the bank and got the spray and mist from the falls reaching us which was nice after the walk. This was our first hike and a great introduction, it took us about 40 minutes.


2 | Badlands NP:      WINDOW TRAIL
Distance:  0.25mi / 0.40km    Elevation:  2,500ft / 762m    Elevation Gain:  10ft    Difficulty:  Easy
This wasn't really a hike at all, it was more of a short walk. I wanted to include it because it was the only walk we did in the Badlands. Apart from a short walk the next morning for sunrise, with the watch out for snakes sign! We walked round a large circular boardwalk over about 20 minutes. There was a small area with some information about the rocks we were seeing. This walk was fun after walking round the boardwalk we walked across the road and off track a bit to climb some of the rocks. This is definitely the easiest National Park to walk around as although the ground is bumpy it is mostly flat and up to you if you want to climb some of the mounds for different views!

3 | Yellowstone NP:UNCLE TOMS POINT (CLEAR LAKE/ARTISTS POINT/SOUTH RIM)










-3 | Yellowstone NP:UNCLE TOMS POINT (CLEAR LAKE/ARTISTS POINT/SOUTH RIM)
Distance: 5mi / 8km   Elevation: 7,784ft / 2,372m   Elevation Gain: 350ft   Difficulty:  Moderate
On this hike we combined trails making it longer overall, you could just go to each point and back from the trailhead but we did a bigger loop starting and ending at Uncle Tom's Point. It took about 3 hours. We covered Clear Lake Trail made a cut through up to Artists Point then followed the South Rim Trail back to Uncle Toms Point. There were large flatter field areas to walk at the beginning before it got a bit steeper as we headed towards the edge of the cliffs. This hike didn't get too steep though and was manageable. Artists Point was incredible for views across both sides. After Artists Point on our way back to Uncle Toms Point some of our group went onto Uncle Toms Trail which took you down to near the bottom of the Falls.
Even though it was longer combining trails it was good that we did this so we got different views along the whole walk. Some trails go to Artists Point and back but you get a much better view of Yellowstone by walking a loop. The clear lake area was a pretty hidden gem you wouldn't see if you just walked to view the falls and river. This hike was worth the effort for the views. There were lots of areas to stop for great views of the river.

4 | Yellowstone NP:      PORCELAIN BASIN TRAIL
Distance:  1.6mi / 2.5km     Elevation:  7,520ft / 2,292m     Elevation Gain:  40ft     Difficulty:  Easy
This trail was an easy walk. You walk down to the hot springs and then it is a fairly flat walk around the basin on the boardwalk. There Is another area you walk back up to near the beginning that gives you views down into and across the basin. Theres no real cut throughs on this walk so you will have to walk the loop or turn back on yourself to get back.







5 | Yellowstone NP:      BACK BASIN TRAIL
Distance:  2mi / 3.2km     Elevation:  7,520ft / 2,292m     Elevation Gain:  40ft     Difficulty:  Easy
This trail was another easy walk. There is a fairly flat walk to begin before it drops down into the basin. It is another flat walk around the basin and even though this walk was longer it didn't feel it as there were so many different springs to see. You walk down to the hot springs and then it is a fairly flat walk around the basin on the boardwalk. There are different areas where you can look out across a lot of the trail. There is also a cut through half way across this loop so you don't have to walk the whole thing and could just cover half.


6 | Yellowstone NP:      SLOUGH CREEK TRAIL 
Distance: 2mi / 3.2km   Elevation: 6,279ft/1,913m   Elevation Gain: 400ft   Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
We walked to the first meadow, which took about 45 minutes each way. The weather was cloudy when we started and cleared a bit by the time we finished the trail. It is a fairly easy walk with a few steeper areas but nothing too challenging and you walk down into the meadow. There are usually a lot of wildlife and bear sightings on this trail. We didn't see any but we did see some animal tracks near the meadow. There were some amazing views here and it was really atmospheric with the low fog in the early crisp morning. The full trail is 25 miles and goes all the way up to Montana, so it was nice to walk part of it and realise how big Yellowstone is on the way.



7 | Yellowstone NP:      MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS
Distance:  1.75mi / 2.8km     Elevation:  6,735ft / 2,053m     Elevation Gain:  300ft     Difficulty:  Easy
This was one of my favourite trails! We were dropped off by our tour leader in the van at the top of this trail and walked the boardwalk down to meet the van again at the bottom. This didn't feel like a hike and was downhill all the way. The elevation wasn't an issue at all, although we walked this route quite slowly because there was so much to look at. The colours of the the hot springs and this hydrothermal area were amazing. The views and vistas made you forget you were walking nearly 2 miles, there was always something new too look at around every corner.

8 | Yellowstone NP:      EXCELSIOR GEYSER & GRAND PRIMATIC SPRING
Distance:  0.8mi / 1.3km     Elevation:  7,270ft / 2,220m     Elevation Gain:  30ft     Difficulty:  Easy
This area of the park is in the Midway Geyser Basin. This was another walk that wasn't really a hike. It was a 30 minute walk around a large circular boardwalk, taking in the hot spring of Yellowstone and one of the most famous, the grand Prismatic Spring. It was a flat walk and goes really quickly whilst you take in the springs. Well worth the visit.
There was great view as you walked by the Excelsior Geyser. It was particularly amazing sight as it ran off into the Firehole river with the different colours that were created as the water ran down the rock into the river.


9 | Grand Teton NP:      JENNY LAKE LOOP TRAIL (HIDDEN FALLS)
Distance: 3mi / 4.8km  Elevation: 6,800ft / 2,067m  Elevation Gain: 550ft  Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
This was a fun hike that started by walking round the banks of Jenny Lake. As we hike higher away from the lake we got a great panoramic view of the huge lake below and the mountains above. The views on this hike reminded me of some parts of the UK, there was lots of greenery. This hike was a slow gradient so it wasn't as steep as the other hikes despite climbing quite high.
We reached an area with a hidden waterfall and small clearing with space to sit. We had lunch here, although this area was very busy. We then started the hike down to the lake via a different route. There was a dock at this part of the lake where we could catch a boat back to near where we started. If we had hiked the whole of Jenny Lake it would be about a 5mile hike.
This hike took about 2 hours (with the boat ride back) and was a great hike because you got all different kinds of views of the lake and was one of the easier longer hikes I did on trek.



10 | Yosemite NP:      TUOLUMNE GROVE OF GIANT SEQUOIAS
Distance:  2.5mi/4km    Elevation:  6,200ft / 1,860m    Elevation Gain:  400ft/120m    Difficulty:  Easy
This was a walk downhill to the giant sequoia trees which were spectacular. As we got to the base of the trail the trees where huge and part of the trail went through one of the sequoias with pretty amazing views through the tree. There were huge pinecones scattered everywhere which I've never seen anywhere else. The hike back up to the trailhead was only challenging due to the steepness of the trail, it is a wide and fairly shaded trail with all the trees which helps with the hike back up. We finished this hike quicker than expected in just under 1 1/2 hours.

11 | Yosemite NP:      HIGH SIERRA LOOP TRAIL (VERNAL FALL FOOTBRIDGE)
Distance: 2mi / 3.2km   Elevation: 4,000ft / 1,200m   Elevation Gain: 3/400ft   Difficulty: Moderate
This trail is the first part of the Vernal and Nevada Falls trail. This trail is very busy and you will pass lots of people and move out of the way of other hikers. A small group of us decided we didn't want to do the full trail so hiked up to the footbridge. This was one of the harder hikes for me. Although not a huge distance, the terrain was quite steep in places and the constant climbing was the issue rather than the distance. It was still worth it though as the views were amazing even just from the footbridge. This round trip hike took about 1 1/2 hours. This is one hike where I wish I had gone a bit further onto the Mist Trail, where you get more amazing views of Vernal Falls. Some of our trek group went to the top of Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. The rest of my small group didn't want to go further and as it had been quite strenuous, I didn't want to hike alone, and I wanted to explore other areas of the park I turned back with them. This is one hike I really want to come back to and go further on!


12 | Yosemite NP:      MIRROR LAKE TRAIL
Distance:  2.4mi / 3.8km     Elevation:  4,000ft / 1,220m     Elevation Gain:  100ft     Difficulty:  Easy
Everyone in our group that didn't go on the long hike in Yosemite walked this trail. Its a really easy flat trail in Yosemite Valley. It takes in forrest areas, rivers and ends up at Mirror Lake. There is a further trail you can take to Tenaya Canyon and loop around, but we went back after Mirror Lake as we wanted to visit some other areas of Yosemite. Even with bright sunshine it was a cool walk with the trees shading you most of the time. We saw a North Face photoshoot near the lake. The views you get at Mirror Lake are great but probably the least awe inspiring that we saw in Yosemite. Its known as Mirror Lake as it is a very clear lake reflects the rocks around it. You get very close to the base of half dome here and get a more unusual view by looking up to it. This walk probably took us just under an hour.


13 | Yosemite NP:      BRIDALVEIL FALL TRAIL
Distance:  1.2mi / 2km     Elevation:  4,000ft / 1,200m     Elevation Gain:  200ft     Difficulty:  Easy
Me and one other trekker use the park bus system to get to the trailhead from Yosemite Valley. This was one of the shortest trails we did. It was an easy walk and not very steep. As we were there in May the fall was till running but there wasn't much water flowing and it was more of a mist that blew about in the breeze. It was pretty to see but its probably better earlier or much later in the season when its flowing well. If you want an easy trail this is it and before you start you are also near the base of El Capitan so you also get a great view looking up at it before and after you finish your trail on the other side of the road to the falls.



LAS VEGAS - GRAND CANYON (HOTELS)

1 | Zion NP:      ANGELS LANDING TRAIL
Distance:  5.2mi / 8.3km   Elevation:  4,000ft / 1,219m   Elevation Gain:  1500ft   Difficulty:  Difficult
This was the toughest hike I did across both treks! It didn't help that we didn't get here and start hiking until mid afternoon, so it was the hottest part of the day. It must have been between 30/40 degrees celsius. I took a lot of water and used most of it. There were also rangers on the trail checking if people had enough water. There were lots of other hikers and the encouragement was great. There were also some areas of shade where we went past the switchbacks and further up and into the rocks. These switchbacks were some of the most difficult I have ever walked it was pretty steep.
I was hoping to make it to Scouts Lookout (The main viewpoint before Angels Landing - 2.1 miles and 1,070ft), but was overheating way to much and was a lot slower than the rest of the group. Knowing there were another set of switchbacks before Scouts Landing put paid to that aim for me! I had to stop I waited in the shade while our tour leader went on to tell the rest of the group at Scouts Landing that we would be turning back. I was so grateful to the tour leader, he stuck with me the whole way and although I felt bad that he wouldn't get the amazing views because I couldn't manage it we took a slow walk back down and walked down to the river to cool off and take it the views from there.
So I made it to just before the wiggles and still got great views from a place called Refrigerator Canyon. My shorter trek must have been just short of 2 miles and just under 1,000ft - still not bad going!
It still turned out to be a great hike even though I was hugely disappointed I didn't make it to Scouts. If it had been earlier in the day or if we had had more time for the hike I would have made it. We didn't have too much time as we had a long drive to Bryce Canyon after we finished. Not everyone made it to Angels Landing and despite my disappointment I did still get some great views from over halfway up…and at least it gives me a reason to go back again when I'm a bit fitter right!


2 | Bryce Canyon NP: QUEENS GARDEN/NAVAJO LOOP TRAIL (SUNSET POINT)
Distance: 3mi / 4.8km   Elevation: 9,100ft / 2,778m   Elevation Gain: 521ft   Difficulty: Moderate
This was my favourite hike across both treks. We walked from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point. It took a couple of hours and we were pressed for time again here as we had a long drive afterwards. This was the downside to a mini trek there was not really enough time for doing big hikes but these places were the most beautiful of the trip so we pushed ourselves. The colours were amazing.
This hike suited me as we started it early morning after sunrise and breakfast so it was much cooler in the day and I managed it all! We walked down into the Canyon on a loop trail and it was steep coming back up with more switchbacks than I managed at Zion. It was tough on the thighs. But it was worth it for the views. It was amazing to walk between and through the orange hoodoos and get some amazing views. The push for time made the switchbacks and the end of the hike particularly tough but I had a huge sense of accomplishment and the views were so amazing I forgot to film any of it!Photos do not do this place justice. Im so glad Bryce was included in this trek it was my favourite place.
I definitely want to go back to Bryce on another trek where I have more time to explore!

3 | Grand Canyon NP:      SOUTH KAIBAB TRAIL (OOH AHH POINT)
Distance: 1.8mi / 2.89km   Elevation: 7,260ft / 2,212m   Elevation Gain: 600ft   Difficulty: Moderate
We had the choice to walk some of the south rim trail but all of our trek group chose to hike into the Grand Canyon to reach Ohh Ahh Point where there were some amazing panoramic views. Hiking into and out of the Grand Canyon is bucket list business!
This trail is fairly busy and you get encouragement from all the hikers on your way back up. The hike down to the point was great, all downhill, although with it being so steep it did hurt the legs a little. We stayed at Ohh Ahh Point for a good 45 minutes before hiking back up. It took us about 1 /12 - 2 hours including the 45 minute break at Ohh Ahh Point. The hike back up is the hard part, theres no real let up, its the steepest trail I walked on trek. There were lots of switchbacks but there are also some parts that flatten out. We took short breaks every now and again on the way back up for water breaks and to catch our breath. The main problem with the hike back up this trail is that theres no real shaded areas, you'll need quite a bit of water for the hike back up. Its totally worth it though for the view and we did hike quicker than we expected so had a big sense of achievement when back at the top and looking at the views back down into the canyon!
 




I also wanted to make this list to see all the hikes I went on during trek, and what I achieved. We walked a lot...no wonder I was so tired!
There's nothing better than being rewarded with amazing views that you have earned by working for them.

Let me know in the comments if this is useful guide!

Are you going on a trek or trip that will take in any of these places? or have you been on some of these hikes, what did you think of them?

© CAROLAND

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