The 5 National Park Hikes on My Bucket List

Yesterday I wrote about my 5 favorite National Park hikes that I have completed. It brought back a lot of great memories. If you missed it, check out these favorite hikes here.

Today I am writing about the Top 5 hikes I want to hike. Without further ado, here we go!

1) The Narrows in Zion National Park. This is a 16 mile hike literally in the Virgin River flowing through a slot canyon with walls as high as 1000 feet. It requires a permit to hike. I was able to get a taste of this a few years ago and have wanted to come back and hike the entire Narrows ever since.

2) Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park. I’ve wanted to hike in this National Park ever since seeing it out of an airplane window. Cascade Pass is a great day hike with panoramic views of peaks and glaciers.

3) The Teton Crest Loop in Grand Teton National Park. This 30 odd mile hike would include some backcountry camping in the heart of the Grand Tetons. As beautiful as the Grand Tetons are from Jenny Lake, I bet it’s even more gorgeous up in the Tetons. This trail requires a permit.

4) The Peekaboo Trail in Canyonlands National Park. From Grand View Point in the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands, I was able to gaze into the ruggedly beautiful Needles section and I’ve wanted to go there ever since. Bonus is this 10 mile trail through classic Canyonlands landscape is only accessible by 4 wheel drive!

5) Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Possible the most iconic and photographed hike in the National Park System. It’s also dangerous and incredibly difficult. I keep telling myself it can’t be scarier than Angels Landing, but I think it may be. 14.2 miles via the Mist Trail and all those famous waterfalls and then up those steel cables to the summit of half dome. This one requires a permit also.

One thing that makes it difficult to get these hikes all done is that most of them are only open in the summer and require a difficult to obtain permit. The limited hiking season (and limited vacation time) means it will take a few more years for me to hike all of these.

I’d love to hear what National Park hikes are your favorites or are at the top of your bucket list. Let me know in the comments. Thanks! rk

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

The 5 Most Dangerous National Park Day Hikes

National Parks are known as America’s best idea. As a result, many people think that they are completely safe places to visit. And they can be when proper precautions and planning are taken. However the huge influxes of visitors in recent years has also created a spike in visitor deaths. Below are the 5 most dangerous day hikes in our National Parks.

5) The Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park: This short trail with gorgeous views of the Park and the Atlantic Ocean also has had several deaths from hikers falling from the precarious cliffs. Famed for its 26 iron rungs climbing vertically up Champlain Mountain and the narrow ledge to navigate, this trail is thrilling and dangerous. You can read more about the Precipice Trail here.

4) Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park: One of the most famous day hikes in America is also one of the most dangerous in America. The trail’s notoriety brings a flood of hikers who inevitably are at risk at plummeting to their deaths. The 1400 foot drops on each side of a 2 foot wide trail are breathtaking and treacherous. You can read more about Angels Landing here.

3) The Narrows in Zion National Park: This gorgeous slot canyon in Utah can be as narrow as 20 feet across with rock walls a thousand feet high on each side. Unseen storms upstream can cause flash flooding and a race for your life. As this hikes popularity has increased, so have the drownings.

Wading in the Narrows

2) The Bright Angel Trail in The Grand Canyon National Park: Hordes of tourists descend this trail into the canyon. It’s an easy hike down and the views are amazing. Suddenly you realize it’s getting late and super hot and you now have many miles of switchbacks and thousands of feet of elevation change to get back to the top. Rangers rescue folks here almost daily, but still heat exhaustion claims lives every summer. Read more about the Bright Angel Trail here.

1) The Half Dome Trail in Yosemite National Park: The most dangerous day hike in the National Park system is Half Dome. You’ve probably seen pictures of the nearly vertical ascent up the cables. If one person slips, they can take several others down with them. But this trail is electrifying in more than one way. Stay off Half Dome if thunderstorms are in the area. Not only is the treacherous trail slick, but numerous hikers have been struck by lightning on this trail.

Photo Credit

Ten Reasons to Visit Southern Utah in 2018

Southern Utah is one of the most beautiful places in the world.   Southern Utah is home to five National Parks along with multiple National Monuments and State Parks.   Here are ten reasons to go visit Southern Utah in 2018.

#1:  Arches – Utah has the greatest concentration of arches in the world. It even has a National Park named after Arches.

#2:  Hoodoos – Hoodoos are skinny spires of rock. You can see a bunch of them at Bryce Canyon.

#3:  Canyons – Canyons are beautiful. Canyoneering through them is great fun. The Narrows in Zion National Park is a great one to start with.

#4:  Hiking – There are thousands of miles of trails in southern Utah through the desert, canyons, and mountains. Angels Landing in Zion National Park is recognized as one of the most thrilling in the country.

#5:  Stargazing – The dark skies of southern Utah are perfect for seeing the Milky Way.

#6:  Riding the Rocks – Whether rock crawling in a Jeep or biking on the slick rock around Moab, you can get your adrenaline rush in southern Utah.

#7:  Exploring History — Canyonlands National Park is a great place to see Dinosaur Fossils and Petroglyphs.

#8:  Lake Powell – Boating through the lake to see remote arches and flooded canyons is a ton of fun.

#9:  Orchards – The orchards of Capitol Reef National Park have 3100 trees of dozens of varieties. It’s free to pick and eat as well!

#10:  Backcountry camping – Some parts of Canyonlands National Park and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument are days away from civilization. It’s a great place to get away from civilization.


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


A National Park for each Month of 2017

Since we are at the beginning of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to list which National Park would be the best to visit during each month of this year.   Of course, at Bighorntravelblog we believe it is always a good time to visit a National Park, but there are some compelling reasons to visit these parks in the month indicated.    I hope that this inspires you to consider visiting National Parks when planning your vacation time in 2017.

January – Rocky Mountain National Park.   Colorado is known for its great skiing in places like Breckenridge, Vail, and many others.   Why not combine a ski trip with a visit to beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park.   Rocky Mountain National Park has plenty of winter activities including ice climbing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and skiing.   This is also one of the few national parks that allows backcountry camping in the winter.

February – Bryce Canyon National Park.   If you think the orange-red hoodoos look amazing in the summer, then you should see them in February when the rock spires are coated with snow.   It is very beautiful and the clear cold skies should make for some great stargazing as well.

March – Death Valley National Park.    Despite the name, in the spring flowers bloom throughout Death Valley.   Perhaps you will get lucky and during a March visit get to see the Superbloom which happens about once a decade (which is about how often they get any substantial rain in the park).

April – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.   Late April after Spring Break is usually one of the more inexpensive times of year to fly to Hawaii.    The weather here is always perfect plus you could tack on a visit to Haleakala National Park as well.

May – Grand Canyon National Park.   The Grand Canyon is always a great place to visit.   In May you can beat the summer crowds and heat and dodge the snow that is here in the winter.


June – Great Basin National Park.  Summertime is when the crowds really come out to the National Parks.  Why not take this time to visit one of the least visited National Parks in the lower 48.   This is one the best places to see the stars in the lower 48.   Summers are the one time a year you can see the yellow bellied rock marmot.   The yellow bellied rock marmot hibernates for 9 months a year and is usually only seen in mid summer as they sunbathe on the rocks.

July – Zion National Park.   Now I know, Zion is a zoo with crowds in July.   But July is the best time to hike the Narrows or the Subway.   Wading through the cold water of the Virgin River feels great when it is over 100*F and the risk of flash floods washing you out of the canyon is minimized.

August – Olympic National Park.   Olympic is normally very rainy and wet, but in August you have your best shot of sunny skies and relatively warm weather.   The clear skies are also make this a great time for a side trip to the Space Needle in Seattle to get great views of Olympic and Mt Ranier National Parks.


September – Yosemite National Park.   Yosemite is another park that in the summer months is difficult to traverse due to crowds.   But visiting in the winter isn’t great because many of the roads are closed and huge portions of the park aren’t accessible.   September is a great time to visit as school is in session so the crowds are down and all of the park is open for business.

October – Acadia National Park.    Acadia in October is stunning.    The New England foliage is showing their full color and the weather is perfect.   Add in some lobster rolls was watching the ocean crash on the black rocks and I can’t think of a better place to be in October.

November – Biscayne National Park.  Visiting this park in South Florida in the summer is like giving yourself over to the mosquitoes as a human sacrifice, but the bugs die down in late fall but the weather is still nice.   This is the best time of year to visit this park.

December – Yellowstone National Park.   Snowmobiling through Yellowstone is one of my bucket list items.   Wildlife is easy to spot in the snow and the cold air really shows off the steam rising from the hot springs and geysers.


Sunday Hikes: Angel’s Landing (Josh’s Perspective)

I’m going to preface this post by saying that you should read last week’s “Sunday Hike” about Angel’s Landing for a little more detail on the trail itself.

Angel’s Landing acquired it’s name from someone exploring the Zion Canyon in the early 1900s and commenting that “Only an angel could land on it”. However nowadays thousands of people have stood atop the peak of Angel’s Landing and looked down at the ant-like cars below on the canyon floor. I am lucky enough to be one of those many people. My family and I began our hike in the summer morning and it was already getting hot. We followed the trail along the river and up towards the first set of switchbacks that were long and not too steep but in the direct sun. By the time I reached the top of these switchbacks I realized how far behind me the rest of my family was so I waited before I could see them and they waved me to go ahead without them. So I continued through the only shaded part of the trail, a small side canyon with trees and a creek and beautiful cool air. This luxury went away quickly however and I found my self facing the infamous Walter’s Wiggles, a set of 21 switchbacks that shoot you steeply up the canyon wall. I fought up the wiggles quickly and thought to myself that they weren’t all that bad after all. At the end of the wiggles the trail turned and opened up into the “Scout Lookout” area (Also known as the chicken out spot). This is where the trail began it’s most famous feature of a small narrow path crawling out across a rock spine jutting out some 1500 feet from the canyon floor. I didn’t hesitate at all and climbed up a steep rock with a nice chain to hold onto while yielding to the many people returning from the other end of the trail. This portion of the trail was much longer than I had expected but also nowhere near as terrifying as I expected. The scariest thing to me wasn’t the steep drop offs on either side off me but rather how many people populated this tiny trail. It took a while to reach the end because of the extra caution you have to take and giving way to returning hikers (All of which kindly encourage you that you are almost there). At last I reached the crowded summit and took in the beautiful surroundings of Zion.


After looking around and taking some pictures I had a snack and started my journey back (That rhymes). The return trip felt much quicker as well as easier. I passed my dad and my sister on the way back (probably at one of the narrowest parts of the trail). My dad was clinging to the chain for dear life and asked me for water because they had none. We wished each other good luck and parted ways. I quickly arrived back to the Scout’s Lookout where my other family members were waiting. We had a little snack and some water and them headed back down the trail. We soon were back at the canyon floor, sitting at a picnic table and looking up at Angel’s Landing marveling at how crazy it was that I had just been all the way up there. My dad and sister soon met up with us and we continued the rest of our day but ever since I finished hiking Angel’s Landing, I have been looking forward to hiking it again. -Josh



Sunday Hikes: Angels Landing


Angels Landing is universally agreed to be one of the iconic day hikes in North America.   It is about 5 miles round trip with about 1500 feet in elevation change.     I hiked this several of my children last summer.   I wasn’t real sure if I wanted to do the last length because of my fear of heights, but I succumbed to peer pressure at the top and decided to give it a shot.

To get to Angels Landing in Zion National Park in southwest Utah, you can take the bus from the visitors center.   It starts right at the Grotto bus stop.    The incline is slight to begin, but quickly ramps up and after crossing through a shaded break in the canyon wall concludes with a series of severe switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles.   After the Wiggles, you are at a resting area 1500 feet above the canyon floor and about a ¼ mile from the turnaround point of Angel’s Landing.   This last ¼ mile is about 2 to 6 feet wide on a rock spire with steep drop offs on both sides.

Now my oldest son Josh, had outpaced myself and my daughter and was somewhere out on the rock spire.   My fear for his safety was overridden by my own fear of heights.   The first section veers to the right and is on an angle which gives the feeling that you will slide right off the side and down to your death.   There are chains to hold on to and hold on I did.   I had my daughter stay about six feet behind me because I knew if I could see her then my fear would grow exponentially.   Plus, she could keep anyone from shaking the chain that I was clutching tightly.   As we continued through the narrow ledges and over rocks, I basically spider crawled and hugged the rock and chain.   I doubt I ever once stood straight up.   Josh passed us on his way back as we were about halfway to the conclusion of the rock spire.   Somehow I climbed, crawled, and squirmed my way to the top and I must admit the feeling of elation from not plunging to my death accrued with the beautiful views and blue skies was intense.


After soaking in the views, we turned back and the return trip was surprisingly easier.   I could see that several of the places that were so frightening on the way out on the spire, were actually not so bad.   Now, I still hugged the rock and clutched the chains tightly just in case of course.   After spider crawling the ¼ mile back we then hoofed it back down the trail as quickly as possible.   This was mostly because we had drank all our water and were getting really thirsty quickly.

Once we got to the bottom, I noticed that my right shoulder was a little sore but didn’t think much of it.  However, the next day when I woke it was hurting really bad and when I went to take a breath I had pain in my upper right lung.   It was a sharp pain and it kind of scared me.   I called my Dad (retired respiratory therapist) and explained my symptoms and he diagnosed me with a pulled muscle of some sort in my shoulder area.   I think I may have set some sort of hiking achievement by being the first person to pull a shoulder muscle while hiking.   I guess I really was clutching that chain.

I do recommend the hike and I probably would do it again.   The views really were amazing and the sense of accomplishment was astonishing.   I apologize for the pictures not being that great.  I was so scared I really didn’t take any during the scarier parts.   I do recommend going first thing in the morning as it gets crowded later in the day and in the summer the rock gets super hot which is uncomfortable when you are hugging it tightly.