5 of My Favorite National Park Hikes

I thought it would be fun to share my 5 favorite National Park hikes that I have completed. All of these are great and if you are an avid hiker you should put on your bucket list.

1) The Highline Trail in Glacier National Park. This trail delivers breathtaking beauty around every turn. Starting at the Continental Divide at Logan Pass it follows the Garden Wall through the highest elevations in the Park. Read more about my hike here.

2) Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. This trail was named when an early explorer exclaimed that only an Angel can get up there. This trail is not for those with a fear of heights (or falling!). Read more about my hike here.

3) The High Peaks Trail in Pinnacles National Park. Scampering up and around the High Peaks of this National Park while surrounded by California Condors, what’s not to like! Read more about my hike here.

4) The Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park. Technically this is a non technical climb as much as it is a hike. The views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean are unparalleled. Read more about my hike here.

5) The Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park. You haven’t truly experienced the Grand Canyon until you reach the Colorado River. Beautiful and extremely difficult trail. Read more about my hike here.

Next up, I will share the 5 National Park Hikes that I haven’t completed but are at the top of my list to do.

Thanks for reading. rk

Picture of the Day: Sunrise at Logan Pass

Logan Pass is in the heart of Glacier National Park and is the highest point on the Going To The Sun Road.

It’s also a beautiful place to watch the sun rise, while brewing some coffee. I caught these pictures before hiking the Highline Trail one morning. rk

The 5 Best National Parks for Instagram Pictures

It seems that your vacation of a lifetime nowadays isn’t complete without a picture posted to Instagram, Twitter or your favorite social media app that day.  Well all the National Parks are beautiful and have great opportunities for that perfect social media picture, but a few stand out from the rest.   Let’s see if you agree with my list.

5)  Glacier National Park:   Number 5 on our list is magnificent Glacier National Park in Montana.   This National Park has stunning glaciers, bright blue lakes, gushing waterfalls, and ample wildlife.  The opportunities for that perfect photograph are nearly endless.

23viewsAmazing view in Glacier National Park

4)   Crater Lake National Park:   Next up on our list is breathtaking Crater Lake National Park in the fine state of Oregon.   The contrasting colors of deep azure water, evergreen trees, and snowcapped volcanic caldera make for amazing photos that you won’t forget.

img_5048Wizard Island in Crater Lake National Park

3)   Arches National Park:   Sitting nicely at number 3 on our list is Utah’s Arches National Park.  The clear blue sky matched up with gravity defying arches and rock formations makes for fabulous photograph opportunities.   Your surely amp up your notifications with pictures from Arches National Park.

2016-iphone-pictures-406Broken Arch in Arches National Park

2)  Dry Tortugas National Park:  Number 2 on our list is the difficult to get to Dry Tortugas National Park.   Only accessible by boat or seaplane, this National Park is located 60 miles west of Key West, Florida.   What makes the photos so amazing here is the brick walls of Fort Jefferson and the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  You’ll get some extra likes when you post a picture from here.

img_3360View out of a Fort Jefferson “window” out onto the beach.

1)   Yellowstone National Park:  America’s first National Park is also first on this list.    The opportunities here for an iconic photo are nearly endless.   The abundant wildlife, the shockingly vibrant colors of the hot springs, and the power of the geysers make this our most photogenic National Park.   Make sure you take plenty of pictures on your next visit to Yellowstone National Park.

2017 iphone pictures 477Microbes and water temperature cause the vibrant colors in Yellowstone’s hot springs.  

*The cover photo is of the Gibbon River in Yellowstone National Park.




Sunday Hikes: Highline and Swiftcurrent Trails

In late August 2017 Dad and I traveled to Glacier National Park for our “Epic Hike” of the year. We decided to hike about sixteen and a half miles from 6,647 foot Logan Pass along the Highline Trail and then cutting down to 4,500 foot Many Glacier as our ending point. Dad has already written his version of this hike (Dad’s Blog) but just like our Grand Canyon hike, we figured this hike is epic enough for two blogs.

We woke up early at 4:30AM in our Lake McDonald campground, packed up camp, looked at the stars, and headed off on our hour drive up to Logan Pass.


I snapped this blurry picture of the stars while dad put his contacts in.

On the drive up the mountains there was a lot of smoke from the nearby wildfires that consumed the mountains last fall. They had to evacuate the Lake McDonald Lodge a couple weeks after our visit thanks to these fires. The whole drive up I was keeping an eye out for deer, bighorns, and mountain goats but they eluded us in the dark forest. Once at Logan pass we double checked our packs and brewed some coffee before setting out on the Highline Trail.

logan pass


We started off on our hike as the sun was rising over the mountains in awe of the beauty the trail offered already. One of the first things I noticed was the clouds on the horizon that looked like wavy brush strokes of a painting in the sky.



Even in the first mile of the trail the views are insane, snow capped peaks, high granite cliffs, a sky that goes on forever, and valleys that sink down thousands of feet. Our eyes were peeled taking in the views and looking out for elusive mountain goats and bighorn sheep (both of which are notoriously seen on this trail, probably because the views are so great). In the first couple miles we saw so many signs of mountain goats (fur, tracks, and scat) that I was convinced we would run across one any second.




We crested a steep hill with many switchbacks and rested here for a moment to eat some breakfast. At the bottom of the hill we spotted a man hiking at a speedy rate and likened him to charlie the robot (from Scooby Doo Where Are You) because of the way he walked and how he kept a constant pace without stopping to take breath even once (like a robot). He passed us while we sat there eating peanut butter on a rock. We turned the corner to a whole new set of views, a pine forest directly below, some large creek or river flowing thousands of feet below, the snowy mountains looked bigger than ever. I wondered how many people had ever reached the peaks of these high mountains that seemed so inaccessible (although the garden wall we were on looks so high and lofty from below it was hard to imagine ourselves up there when looking up at the mountains later in the day).



All this was a little over halfway through the trail. Soon after we began to spot Ptarmigans all over the place. The high elevation chickens honestly don’t seem too impressive but they were the first Ptarmigans we had ever seen and the first wildlife of our trip (all the animals were playing a big prank and hiding from us I think). They hopped about and stared at us as we walked through the grassy hill that was their home.



This is where our first view of the Granite Park Chalet was (a backcountry primitive lodge, one of four chalets in Glacier NP). The Granite Park Chalet marked an unofficial halfway point for us as it was where we left the Highline Trail and began on the Swiftcurrent Trail through Swiftcurrent Pass, across the continental divide.


The Granite Park Chalet in the distance.


Big ol’ mountain across the valley.


A little critter that was hanging around the ptarmigan.

About a mile before the chalet there is a small spur trail that leads up to an overlook of Grinnell Glacier. Despite being a short .4 miles this was probably the most difficult section of trail because of how steep and gravelly the trail was. The trail ascended quickly giving way to more incredible views. Just before the end of the trail was Charlie the Robot sitting down and enjoying his lunch. He seemed much less robotesque now and was very friendly. He warned me that it was extremely windy atop the overlook and we chatted about our trips while waiting for dad to catch up. We hopped up to the top of the 7,510 foot garden wall and peeked down at the massive Grinnell Glacier and it’s iceberg lake. It was very windy but not as dramatic as Charlie had made it seem. This was the highest elevation we would reach that day. It was difficult to take pictures of the glacier because it was directly below us on the cliff.





We enjoyed the views and carried on down to the chalet. Just before reaching the chalet we spotted our first large animals of the trip! Deer! We took pictures of them and then continued on. The chalet was cool but didn’t have much to offer other than some more nice views from the front porch and a bathroom.





We left the chalet and hiked upwards through the Swiftcurrent Pass to the other side of the Garden Wall. I got a refill on water from some nice glacier fed ponds and we sat down on the trail to have a PB&J lunch. this is where we first heard the bear rumors. According to some hikers coming up from Many Glacier there was a large Grizzly on the trail. We thought “Oh cool it’d be great to see a bear!”. We kept hiking and we passed more hikers chatting about the bear. They said it had been chasing people up and down the trail. According to the man (I assume a bear scientist because of the authority and confidence in which he spoke about the bears motives) “You gotta get off the trail, the bear doesn’t want to eat you, it wants the trail!” I am not sure what a bear would want with a hiking trail or why it wouldn’t want a juicy human snack to go with it’s huckleberries but I wasn’t going to question the bear expert. We continued to hear bear rumors that kept getting a little bit more exciting each time. I think the last we heard there were two bears terrorizing hikers along the trail before getting on a plane for a bear retreat in Bali. We reached the end of Swiftcurrent Pass before the trail heads steeply downwards and opens up to the lakes below in the Many Glacier area. The view here was incredible and i immediately sat down to brew some coffee because a view this great needs some coffee to sip while you take it all in.


Grinnell Glacier.





Best cup of coffee ever.

After brewing and viewing we began the steep descent into the valley. There were very many switchbacks in the section that took us down quickly. The views of Grinnell Glacier were great and as we got lower than the glacier we saw waterfalls flowing from it down the cliffs. The view of the lakes in the valley stayed great until we reached the bottom and were in the trees and surrounded by huckleberry bushes.



Once we reached the bottom of our steep cliffside descent the trail was mostly flat and meandered alongside the lakes and through the huckleberry bushes. This is where the bears had supposedly been, but we missed them. The trail took us over a couple small bridges and past a cute little waterfall and the further we got, the more people we encountered. We reached the trailhead on the Many Glacier side and I couldn’t believe our hike was over already.




We carried our backpacks into the Many Glacier lodge where we waited on the shuttle that would take us back to our car. We looked around the gift shop and rested in the chairs in the lodge lobby. Dad decided to grab some ice cream from the gift shop and while he was gone I watched a tall man walk up to the counter to ask questions and then proceed to accidentally lean on his bear spray that for some reason the safety was off on and spray it all over the water fountain and not far from my face. After that he quickly snuck away and the entire lobby had to be emptied out for cleaning because of the bear spray. Dad and I took our ice cream and walked over to an area by the lakes and back before our shuttle finally arrived. We rode back up into the mountains aboard the shuttles and chatted with the bus driver who was very friendly and couldn’t believe we hadn’t seen any bighorn sheep and mountain goats on our hike because “they are always there”. We got back to our car and then went on to dinner and to find a campsite for the night.

Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and this hike is certainly one of my favorite hikes I have ever done! I look forward to the next time we get to visit Glacier and take in all the beauty it has to offer!

Thanks! – Josh

Picture of the Day: Glacier National Park


I took this picture from the Apikuni Falls trail in Glacier National Park. The wall of mountains creates the Continental Divide, with all the water falling on our side of the mountains draining to the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side’s water to the Pacific Ocean. We had been on top of those mountains the day before, peeking over at the glaciers below us. Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places I have been to and I cannot wait until I can return and explore the mountains some more!

thanks! – Josh

Friday Favorites:  The Grinnell Glacier Overlook in Glacier National Park

As part of my series of favorite places, another would be the Grinnell Glacier Overlook.  To get here you must either traverse the majority of the Highline Trail from Logan Pass or up the steep Loop Trail to access the Highline at the Granite Park Chalet.  Either way it’s a healthy hike just to the very steep Grinnell Glacier Overlook Trail.

Having said that, at the summit it feels like you are on top of the world as you look down upon the Grinnell Glacier and the ice floes in the alpine lake caused by its snowmelt.   I hope you enjoy this video and can also feel the exhilaration of being on top of the world.

If you would like to read more about the hikes in this area of Glacier NP, please check out this link:   https://bighorntravelblog.com/2017/09/10/sunday-hikes-the-highline-and-swiftcurrent-trails-in-glacier-np/

thanks rk 

Sunday Hikes:  Apikuni Falls Trail in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is chock full of epic long hikes including some of my favorites like the Highline and Swiftcurrent Pass trails.  However sometimes you need a good quick hike when your time is limited.  Apikuni Falls fits the description of a hike with a notable view and enough ascent to work up a sweat without taking up half of all your day.

On my recent trip we had hiked all day the day before and wanted to get a hot breakfast and a quick hike in before heading back into Canada.  We chose to eat at Nell’s at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn in the Many Glacier area.  Great omelets and huge pancakes, I recommend Nell’s.  On the road out of this area, Route 3, is the Apikuni Falls trailhead on the left.   

The trail follows alongside a ravine perpendicular to the road towards Apikuni Mountain.   It is a steady ascent with huckleberry bushes throughout so we kept an eye out for bears.   After one mile and 640 feet of elevation change we arrived at a cozy area at the base of the falls.  Josh brewed coffee and we enjoyed the company of another couple of hikers who came and departed while we were there.

Since we hiked in late August the waterfall wasn’t as impressive as it would have been in early summer.  We didn’t see any bighorn sheep but I heard that they are seen in this area sometimes.

The return hike is all downhill so you arrive back at the trailhead very quickly.  As you descend you can enjoy the views that were behind you on the ascent.  

If you are looking for a quick 2 mile round trip hike with great views in Glacier National Park then this hike really fits the bill.  rk 

Sunday Hikes: The Highline and Swiftcurrent Trails in Glacier NP

Josh and I wanted to do an “Epic Hike” again this year similar to our Grand Canyon hike last year.   Somewhere far away, beautiful, and at least 15 miles in length was our criteria.   We settled on Glacier National Park in Montana as our destination and chose to hike the Highline Trail from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet and then through the Swiftcurrent Pass down the Swiftcurrent Trail to Many Glacier.

This hike presented some tactical difficulties in getting back to our vehicle.   This would be a one way hike leaving at Logan Pass in the center of Glacier NP and ending at Many Glacier which is 15.1 miles away on foot taking the most direct route and 39.4 miles apart by car.   After some research, were able to find a pay shuttle ($10/person) from Many Glacier to the St. Mary Visitor Center where we could hop on the free shuttle back to Logan Pass.   The catch was that the last shuttle from Many Glacier to St. Mary left at 445pm.    When arriving at St. Mary we would catch the last shuttle of the day from St. Mary to Logan Pass.

Partly because we were very excited and partly because we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss that last shuttle, we decided to wake up at 430am.   We were staying at the Fish Creek Campground on the west side of Glacier NP.   When the alarm went off, we hopped right up and packed up our campsite quickly.   Our campsite was very near Lake McDonald so we walked over to the lake to admire the stars as it was still very dark.   I was amazed to see that I could see the stars reflected in the lake and even pick out the Big Dipper constellation reflection.

Sunrise at Logan Pass

To go from Fish Creek to Logan Pass, you must take the famous Going to the Sun Road.   There was no traffic at this hour and despite the short distance (31.8 miles) it took about an hour to arrive at Logan Pass on the winding road.   As we waited for the sun to rise, we packed our backpacks and Josh brewed some coffee.   Along with a few other small groups of hikers we hit the trail at 6:46am.   We were wide eyed looking for the Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep that frequent this area.   We saw signs of the animals everywhere:   prints in the mud, scat, and even white fur but we never did see any of the goats or sheep.   From what I heard later it is almost impossible not to see them but we managed to do so.

The Highline Trailhead at Logan Pass

Typical views on the Highline Trail 

The Highline Trail follows along what is known as the Garden Wall, which is the highest part of Glacier NP.   The views were as breathtaking as you could imagine and our spirits were very high.   We would alternate between passing through fir trees and rocky areas.  About 2/3 of the way down the Highline Trail, we started seeing lots of Ptarmigan’s which are small fat birds the size of a chicken.   Mountain chickens we called them.  We also passed several deer.   Quicker than we could believe we could see the Granite Park Chalet in the distance.   We were excited for the great time we were making as we had outdistanced the other hikers that had started around the same time we had.

Our first views of the Granite Park Chalet off in the distance

Wildlife on the Highline Trail – deer and ptarmigan 

Shortly before arriving at the Granite Park Chalet, there is a spur trail called the Grinnell Glacier overlook trail.   It is only 1.2 miles round trip so we jumped at the chance to check it out.   Wow!  This trail goes straight up and it helps to channel your inner mountain goat to get to the top.   At the top though the view is amazing as you look down at Grinnel Glacier and two alpine glacier fed lakes with ice floating in the them.   You feel like you are on top of the world here.   After soaking in the view for a bit, we quickly descended back to the Highline Trail and a short .8 miles away we arrived at the Granite Park Chalet.

Grinnel Glacier overlook

The Granite Park Chalet is a swiss style chalet as this area was promoted originally as the Alps of America by the railroads.    You can stay here if you reserve way in advance, surprisingly it seemed to be mostly locals who had booked it up.   We thought about getting some drinks/snacks but the prices were nuts.   $5.50 for a water bottle for example.   Luckily we had brought plenty of supplies.  After checking the Chalet out, we then progressed up towards the Swiftcurrent Pass where Josh refilled his Lifestraw with snowmelt.

The Granite Park Chalet

Headed toward Swiftcurrent Pass

During this section of the hike we had our first occurrence of what I call “Trail Gossip”.   Trail Gossip is spread by backcountry hikers and probably has a kernel of truth in it, but as the day goes on the tale becomes more and more fantastic.

“Did you hear about the grizzly bear eating huckleberries down in the valley?”   This progressively turned into “Did you hear about the grizzly bear on the Swiftcurrent Trail?”  One lady advised us to “hurry down so we can see the grizzly bear also…..there has been two sightings just this morning.”   We marveled at their enthusiasm and continued on our way debating about whether we really wanted to see a grizzly or not.

As we then crossed through the Swiftcurrent Pass, we were astonished by the view on the other side.   We just stopped and soaked it in.   Josh decided to brew more coffee and we sat is mostly awed silence.   Off to the right, we could see the Grinnell Glacier from the opposite side with 3 waterfalls flowing down the mountain face feeding into a series of turquoise lakes that stretched through the valley as far as we could see.   Just astoundingly beautiful–a picture couldn’t do it justice.   A few hikers came through hurrying on their way to see the bear in the valley.

Panoramic view from Swiftcurrent Pass

Josh making coffee and soaking in the view

We could see the trail down below but we couldn’t see how in the world we were going to get down there without rappelling down the mountain.   The trail worked it’s way over towards the waterfalls and then had a very extensive series of switchbacks that brought us almost vertically down to the valley floor below.   As we entered into the valley, a couple of hikers asked, “did you hear about the grizzly bear that chased hikers down this trail this morning”.   We chuckled and listened as they discussed knowledgeably “when the grizzly wants the trail, you just have to give it to him.”

Snowmelt from Grinnel Glacier

We then passed through an area of trail that snaked through dense huckleberry bushes on both sides.   We could see the distinctly purple bear scat in the trail so I think that a bear had been hanging out here much of the day.   We didn’t see it though.

Prime Grizzly habitat 

The Swiftcurrent Trail feature beautiful clear blue lakes

The Swiftcurrent Trail in this area then goes right beside the first glacier fed lake.   It looked amazingly clear and it was getting hot enough that I considered taking a dip, but thought better of it.   Surprisingly, the trail veers away from the lakes the rest of the way in, although you can often hear rushing water off to your right.   This area was more wooded and as we got closer to Many Glacier, the more day hikers we came across.  We finally passed Swiftcurrent Lake and came up to the Many Glacier trailhead.   We had completed the total 16.4 miles and safely made the last shuttle by 90 minutes.   We grabbed a soft serve ice cream and waited in the air conditioning until some rookie hiker accidentally discharged his bear spray while talking to the ranger.   We all ended up outside then as they aired the building out.

The shuttle arrived a few minutes late, we enjoyed a lively crew as we motored down the rough road to St. Mary’s Visitor Center where we only had to wait about 15 minutes to get the free shuttle back up to Logan’s Pass.   We then drove back down the mountain to the St. Mary’s Campground where we wanted to quickly put up our tent and go searching for somewhere to eat dinner.  Unfortunately, the kind lady at St. Mary’s campground advised us that because of bear activity that we could not tent camp in the campground today.   She was able to refund our payment and recommended privately owned Duck Lake campground just outside the park which turned out to be a really nice place.

It was a long and rewarding day for sure.   I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.   Thanks for reading and I hope you get to take in the beautiful sights of Glacier NP soon.   rk

Waterton Lakes needs to be added to your bucket list – ASAP

As regular readers know, I eagerly signed up for the free Canada National Parks Pass for 2017 earlier this year.   This was a great promotion done by Canada in honor of their 150th Anniversary.   Recently I flew into Calgary with fellow blogger, Josh, and toured the famous Banff National Park along with Kootenay National Park and then dipped down into Montana to hike in Glacier National Park.   On the return trip, almost on a whim, we decided to check out Waterton Lakes National Park which is adjacent to Glacier NP but on the Canadian side of the border.

Wow!   I was blown away.   As beautiful as the other Parks were, I really enjoyed Waterton Lakes.   It had similar scenery to Glacier NP (which is absolutely gorgeous of course), but was built around the small gateway town of Waterton.   Waterton kind of reminded me of Bar Harbor in a way, right on the water and surrounded by breathtaking views in every direction.

Since we had limited time, we hiked Bears Hump and checked out the Red Rock Canyon.   We were lucky enough to see a grizzly bear up close from the safety of our car and toured the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel.   The friendly staff at the Prince of Wales was able to make a great restaurant recommendation for us in town with great views of the lake (Zum’s Eatery).


Josh and I on top of Bears Hump.  I look taller, but really Josh has me by an inch or so.


The very popular Red Rock Canyon


The iconic Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes NP


Grizzly bear munching away in Waterton Lakes NP

One experience that we didn’t get to do, that will be at the top of my list for my next visit is to take the ferry to Goat’s Haunt.   You will cruise the length of the Upper Waterton Lake into Montana (bring your passport) and be dropped off at Goat’s Haunt.   This was somewhere we wanted to hike to in Glacier NP but it would be a multi day backcountry hike to get to and back.   I had not even considered that there could be an option from Canada to take you there quickly and efficiently.

I can’t wait until my next visit to Waterton Lakes.   I hope to see you there.  rk

The Ten Best National Park Gateway Towns:

The National Park gateway towns are more than just a place to grab a quick meal or a shower.  Many of them have become full fledged tourist destinations of their own.  Of course, as they become more hip and popular with tourists, they can lose some of the vibe that made them popular in the first place.

Any list like this is subjective of course.  I have visits to several of these gateway towns scheduled in the next 60 days to possibly change my opinion and move up or down the list.  Without further ado:

Honorable Mention) Key West FL:  Key West is the jump off point to Dry Tortugas National Park. This town can get overwhelmed by partying tourists from the cruise ships that stop here.

10) Springdale UT:  Located at the west entrance to Zion National Park, this small town is as beautiful as it is congested.

9) Gatlinburg TN: Gatlinburg is known for having the most pancake houses per capita almost as much as for being the gateway to ultra popular Smoky Mountains National Park.

8) Gardiner MT: Located at the north entrance to Yellowstone NP, near Mammoth Hot Springs.  This small town feels more authentic and less tourist trap. I had some great pizza here once at Yellowstone Pizza Company.

The Roosevelt Arch as you leave Gardiner and enter Yellowstone NP

7) Williams AZ: This iconic Route 66 town is almost an hour to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. That’s a little farther than most on this list, but the Grand Canyon Railway runs daily from here to the Grand Canyon Village.


Williams AZ on a snowy day.

6) Port Angeles WA: This small seaside town is a great base to explore the massive Olympic National Park. Port Angeles also features a ferry to beautiful Victoria BC.

Olympic National Park Visitor Center near Port Angeles

5) Durango CO: This wild west town is the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park. The historic Main Street is a great place to explore.

4) Whitefish MT: Whitefish is the gateway to gorgeous Glacier National Park. Wander Main Street and visit the many coffee shops and enjoy the lively art scene.

3) Moab UT: Moab is not the gateway to one National Park, but two: Arches and Canyonlands. This small desert town on the Colorado River is popular with bikers and off-road jeep enthusiasts.

My son Grant near “Tow-Mater” in Moab

2) Jackson WY: Jackson is ideally located at the southern entrance to Grand Teton National Park. The town square with elk antler arches is a great photo op before dining in one of the many fine dining establishments.

An arch made of elk antlers in Jackson WY

1) Bar Harbor ME: This quintessential New England coastal town is the gateway to Acadia National Park. Combine fresh Maine lobster and the unique low tide trek to neighboring Bar Island for a great time. I love the vibe here.

Beautiful Bar Harbor as seen from Bar Island