2017 Goals! My New Year’s Resolutions to Adventure More

The last year has been a whirlwind of international travel, more than a few successful summits, and weeks-long treks through some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. I saw and did way more in 2016 than I’d ever expected, so my goals looking towards the New Year are more focused – and more local.

One huge difference in 2017 is my focus towards running. The six months I spent hiking and climbing last year left my legs stronger than they’d ever been before, and completely unfit for running. The adjustment back to a quick pace has been a long and gradual one, but the first adventure goal on my list (first full marathon) is sure to kick my butt into gear.

Things I WILL do:

Things I’d like to do:

  • Mt. Hood Winter Ascent: This goal depends on how long winter lasts, and whether I can rally a climbing partner to join me. Any takers?
  • Take a ski mountaineering course, ice climbing course, and more ropes courses at an indoor gym. Ski touring and ice climbing is something I’m totally unfamiliar with, and I’d like to learn more about avalanche safety and crevasse navigation before setting off on a winter ascent of Adams, St. Helens, and other more remote volcanoes.
  • Run the Zion Traverse (50 miles, 6500 ft. elevation)
  • Run the 8000 meter challenge (40 miles, 12000 feet elevation), also known as the SoCal Triple Crown
  • Ragnar Trail Run Relay: Mt. Rainier
  • Explore the Tetons National Park, climb Grand Teton (13,770 ft.)
  • Explore Yellowstone National Park, run the Yellowstone Half Marathon
  • Explore the Colorado 14ers and backpack, climb, or run

Things I’ll table for 2018 or beyond:

… and I’m sure that as the year goes on, so will my list 🙂

Comment below if you’re interested in joining me on any of these adventures!

Hike to Steelhead Lake (10,350’) Through McGee Creek Canyon

Explore one of the most beautiful high-altitude lakes in the John Muir Wilderness, Steelhead Lake (10,350’), while trekking through an awe-inspiring High Sierra canyon.

Overview: 11.5 miles, 2,510 ft. elevation gain


Whether you’re looking for a dayhike near Mammoth Lakes, planning a backpacking trip along the JMT, or have a few extra hours to spare on a cross-California road trip, this is an easy and popular trail choice for killer mountain views.

I was delighted to discover that this is one of the most easily accessible trailheads in the Eastern Sierras. You’ll be looking for the McGee Creek Road exit off of Highway 395, 8 miles south of Mammoth Lakes exit 203, or 30 miles north of Bishop. Drive straight pass the RV Park and Campground for about 4 miles, passing a horse camp, where the road will turn to gravel that’s easily drivable for any vehicle. The end of the road reaches a large paved parking area and trailhead for McGee Creek Canyon.


From the parking lot there are a few trails that branch left and right and eventually converge a short distance up ahead. The entire McGee Creek Canyon trail is smooth, wide, and easy to follow even with some snow. You’ll start out close to 8,000 ft. and its first mile takes you through a high alpine desert until you reach an aspen forest where you’ll find Buzztail Spring.

At 2.5 miles you’ll reach your first creek crossing over two large, lopsided logs armed with hand ropes for extra support. This is your first of three crossings – and in high water periods (Spring, after a storm) – these sections can be tricky. Another half mile ahead the trail slopes flat around a large pond with Mt. Crocker looming ahead.


The trail continues flat to mile 3.5 where you’ll cross the creek again over two much sketchier logs where you’ll want to exercise extreme caution – these were crooked and awkward when I crossed them in November of 2016. From the other side, you’ll slog upwards through a forest and farther away from McGee Creek. A mile later, around 4.5 miles from the trailhead, you’ll hit a fork in the trail and want to veer left (east) where you’ll hit your final log crossing. From here you’ll follow the steep switchbacking trail all the way up to your destination.

After 5.75 miles you’ll reach Steelhead Lake at 10,350 feet, tucked away beneath stunning walls of granite. There are plenty of camping spots along the shore, and even better places to stop and enjoy a picnic lunch before either continuing on up the trail or returning back through the canyon.



If you’re feeling up to a bigger challenge, you can continue on up the trail all the way to McGee Pass at 11,895 ft. for a total length of 20 miles roundtrip and almost 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

Cell service ends almost as soon as you get off of 395, so be sure to pack a map and other navigational tools. Check out the Mammoth Trail site to download a map before you go.

10 Extreme Summertime Experiences in the Chamonix Valley You Can’t Miss

Chamonix is the world’s capital of extreme sports. It is the birthplace of mountaineering. And it is full of crazy, adventuresome people who are drawn to its vibrant and eclectic culture from around the globe.

If you’re planning a trip to the Alps, don’t miss these 10 things to do in the Chamonix Valley.


1) Take the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car to Stunning Heights

Ascend this world-famous cable car to the highest museum on earth at 12,605 feet. According to the official Chamonix Tourism website, the Aiguille du Midi receives almost half a million visitors every year – and for good reason.

The Aiguille du Midi Station is also one of Chamonix’s popular starting points for multiple mountaineering routes, including those shooting for the summit of Mont Blanc (more info below).


2) Rent a Bike and Cycle Chamonix

The stunning backdrop, challenging grades, and world-class accommodations make the Alps one of the most popular places for road biking in the world. Chamonix in particular caters to cyclists with limitless rental and gear shops, not to mention its draw for the Tour de France every year. One of the most popular and accessible routes for road biking is the Col des Montets route, a half-day excursion from Chamonix central.

If you’re looking for something a little more rugged, mountain biking in Chamonix is a must-do for adventure seekers. Most cable cars and ski lifts accommodate bikes, making it all the more easy to pick up a map and hit the trail.

3) Visit the Mer de Glace

Translated as “Sea of Ice,” the Mer de Glace is the largest and longest glacier in France and just a quick daytrip out of Chamonix using the Montenvers Train. From the train station, visitors can walk across the glacier, through an ice grotto, and even follow a trail all the way back to the valley floor. This is another popular place to practice mountaineering skills and climb all the way up to the cozy mountain house of Plan de l’Aiguille.


4) Go paragliding

There isn’t quite a more thrilling way to see Chamonix than by flight. On a clear summer day you’ll see dozens of paragliders coasting along the valley walls above you.

Visit the Tourism Center for more information on paragliding. Or, if you’re brave and experienced enough, see what it’s like to paraglide off of the top of Mont Blanc.


5) Try Out Ice Climbing, Rock Climbing, or Classic Mountaineering

Because of its convenient accessibility, guide options, and limitless routes, Chamonix is the perfect place for climbers of all experience levels to explore the mountains. Both beginners and avid alpine mountaineers will find high-altitude routes suited just for them.

If you’re interested in rock climbing, check out the Aiguilles Rouges range to the north of the valley (like the Aiguille du Crochues route). For a more intense ice climb or to enjoy a classic mountaineering experience, visit the south side of the valley on the Mont Blanc Massif (like the Aiguille du Midi-Plan route).


6) Trek the Tour du Mont Blanc

If you have the time, completing the Tour du Mont Blanc is the ultimate way to experience trekking in the Alps while seeing the evolution of culture and scenery through France, Italy, and Switzerland.

Eat and drink your way through 3 countries, 100+ miles, and 33,000+ vertical feet over the course of 6-12 days. The wilderness alpine environment and cozy mountain villages create the perfect balance between an exhilarating outdoor adventure and a safe, enjoyable experience.

7) Enjoy Classic Savoyard Cuisine

This list wouldn’t be complete without a nod towards Chamonix’s famous gastronomical charms. Savoyard food is rich in potatoes and cheese, the staples for some of their most popular dishes of fondue, tartiflette, and of course, French onion soup. Pair with a glass (or liter) of Savoie wine for a truly deluxe experience.


8) Hike to Lac Blanc

If you’re looking for a short hike to fill you time on a rest day between an adrenaline-fueled schedule, Lac Blanc can provide a relaxing and scenic break. At an elevation above 7,000 feet, this high-altitude lake sits in a picture-perfect position below skyscraping mountains and across from Mont Blanc for panoramic views of the entire valley. You won’t want to forget your camera on this trip.

9) Try a White Water Sport like Canyoning, Rafting, or Riverboarding

Jump, slide, and rope your way down waterfalls and through alpine pools on an epic canyoning trip like nothing you’ve seen before. Or try white water rafting in a mountainside Alps environment – glacial cold water included.

If neither of those get your heart racing, kick it up a notch and don a wetsuit, flippers, and a helmet for the ultimate white water extreme sport: Riverboarding (known as hydrospeed in Europe). Having difficulty picturing this? Click here.


10) Climb Mont Blanc

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc bears the name of Western Europe’s tallest mountain for a reason. While not officially one of the Seven Summits, reaching the top of this peak is a noteworthy and challenging effort.

The Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix is the oldest, largest, and one of the most reputable guide companies in the world – let alone France. Trust them for your summit attempt and you’ll be in good hands.

Circumnavigating Volcanoes: Trail Running the Three Fingered Jack Loop

Challenging grades, sparkling alpine lakes, and jaw-dropping views that take you around the entire Three Fingered Jack mountain massif in Central Oregon. Over half of this trail was obliterated by a wildfire 13 years ago, but the burn area just means more opportunity for mountain views.


Overview: 22.8 miles, ~4,500 elevation gain, 1-3 days

While Three Fingered Jack is still high on my list of Central Oregon summits, I’m dedicating all of my free time in the next few weeks to preparing for my Circumnavigation of Mt. Hood via the Timberline Trail (~40 miles, 9k elevation). So this morning I traded my trekking poles in for trail runners and set out on one of the area’s most popular hiking loops.

Most people will complete the Three Fingered Jack loop during a 2-3 day backpacking trip, and I did read of some hiking the entire trail in one day. However, I didn’t see any reports about how this route would feel as a trail run, so I decided to test it out for myself.

Note: This route takes you around Jack Lake, Wasco Lake, and onto the western ridgeline of Three Fingered Jack. It does not go down into the popular Canyon Creek Meadows; read this article, this article, or this article for directions to Canyon Creek.

I chose to complete this trail counterclockwise so that I would have the sun on my side; it was 38 degrees the morning I began and having sunlight to warm me up was tantamount to my success, and enjoyment, of this run. There’s plenty more shade on the west side of the mountain than the east side, so you should have no problem cooling down in the afternoon.


You’ll start your route out at the Santiam Pass access to the Pacific Crest Trail, right off of Highway 20, almost impossible to miss. Make sure you bring your NW Forest Pass for the parking lot, and fill out a wilderness permit at the trailhead.

Distance breakdown:

  • Santiam Pass Trailhead to Booth Lake: 4.2
  • Booth Lake to Jack Lake Trailhead: 6 miles
  • Jack Lake Trailhead to Wasco Lake: 3 miles
  • Wasco Lake to Santiam Pass Trailhead via PCT: 9.6 miles

Start out on the PCT at Santiam Pass for about .2 miles before you hit a junction and turn right to follow Summit Trail #4014. This trail will take you all the way past Square Lake, Booth Lake, Jack Lake, and up to Wasco Lake.


Massive burn areas all along this trail means you’ll have more opportunity to admire the mountain.

The undulating Trail #4014 passes through an incredible burn area that gives you views of the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson, Black Butte, and more. You’ll spend the first half of your day dashing above alpine lakes and wooded campsites before you reach the busy trailhead at Jake Lake. Here you’ll find picnic benches, a restroom, and lots of day hikers – follow the trail towards Wasco Lake to continue the loop.

[Note of warning: Once you reach Jack Lake, the trail #s disappear and are replaced by names of landmarks. If you’re looking to follow the popular Trail #4010 to cut off a couple extra miles on this loop, follow signs to Canyon Creek Meadows.]


At the opposite end of Wasco Lake, you’ll run into a trail junction. The path ahead of you has an “unmaintained trail” sign; you’ll turn left here up a short steep path that takes you to the PCT. This intersection is marked with the faintest, oldest sign that reads P.C.N.S.T. – when I saw this, already sure I was lost, all I could do was cross my fingers and hope that this stood for “Pacific Crest North South Trail.” Guess I got lucky.

The aforementioned short steep path will take you to the top of Minto Pass where you’ll ignore Trail #3437 going straight and turn left instead. Once you hit the PCT and head south (there’s also a sign pointing the way to Santiam Pass), it’s just a straight shot to the parking lot. You have 9.6 miles of rocky ridges, soft sandy trail, and unbeatable views of Central Oregon ahead of you.


Heading up Minto Pass towards the Three Fingered Jack massif.

Your first 2 miles on the PCT take you through a burn area that allows you to see your entire approach up to the western ridge of Three Fingered Jack. The trail gradually approaches Porcupine Peak (6,510 ft.), the highpoint of your route today, and provides you with absolutely jaw-dropping views of Canyon Creek Meadows down to your left and the northern face of Three Fingered Jack looming down at you from your front.

Once you cross over this highpoint, you can look forward to a long, undulating 7.6 miles of descent straight back to Santiam Pass. The area just to the west of the mountain is covered in rockfall and rocky moraines that will slow you down a bit while you watch your step, but the rest – first through a thick forest and later into another burn area – is gradual, scenic, and an enjoyable way to end a long day.


With plenty of distance to cover, and enough elevation gain to give your glutes a good burn, the Three Fingered Jack loop makes for an awesome trail run. This is an even better route for endurance runners or people training for a high-altitude event, since the trail maintains an elevation between 4,816 ft. (Santiam Pass lowpoint) and 6,510 ft. (Porcupine Peak highpoint).

Packing List:

  • Northwest Forest Parking Pass
  • 2+ liters water
  • Iodine or filter to treat water, plenty of running water sources
  • Food depending on length of trip
  • Tennis shoes, hiking shoes, whichever you prefer – the trail is in superb condition
  • Sun glasses + sun protection – burn area means more exposure to sun

5 Things I Learned Trail Running The Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim

As seen on The Outbound Collective.

The Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, or the R3, is a double-crossing of the Grand Canyon in a single setting. Endurance hikers, ultra-runners, and athletes of all ages and skill levels attempt this feat year-round. The undertaking involves over 40 miles and 11,000 vertical feet of steep and rocky terrain with unmatched scenery for one very long, very challenging day… and I was somehow talked into trying it out.

The Grand Canyon rightfully earns its place as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, and as one of the most iconic parks in the U.S. This trip would be the first time I’d ever seen the canyon in person, and amusingly enough, I wouldn’t actually see it until three hours into our run when the sun began to rise. But those first few minutes when light began to trickle into the canyon were every bit as breathtaking as any postcard or calendar I’ve ever seen.

The Grand Canyon awed me, inspired me, and it taught me a few very important lessons about enjoying an outdoor adventure to its prime potential.

1) It’s so, so important to do your research

I had the pleasure of hiking with a park ranger on my ascent up the South Rim who let me use her as a pacer on my sluggish final miles. We both had a never-ending list of questions for each other about our contrasting perspectives on the R3, but the biggest one that stood out to me was: How much research did you do?

Turns out, I was more prepared than the majority of hikers and runners she’d seen. People neglected to check the park’s website for pipeline closures, track the weather to avoid extreme temperatures, or bring insufficient gear. This trouble ranged from finding themselves thirsty for miles, or with an ailment that seriously affected their chances of returning to safety.

Really, there’s no excuse not to over-plan and over-prepare for this type of trip, especially with the abundance of easily accessible information you can find about the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon R2R2R

2) You can find community anywhere

Community doesn’t just exist in the wild, it especially exists in the wild. Online, there were endless resources from small bloggers, to discussion boards, to organized groups dedicated to the promotion of the Rim to Rim to Rim. Canyon veterans and newbies ask and answer questions and share news, encouraging and allowing each other to plan the perfect GC trip.

The best part? This community doesn’t end online. When I was on the trail I met more runners, hikers, and backpackers that shared so much more knowledge than I ever could have Googled. I felt instantly bonded with the people around me, even without exchanging words. When you’re sharing a rock with a stranger, squeezing your mud-drenched feet into your trail runners after wading through a knee-deep trail flood, you’re establishing a connection that needs no explanation or expression.

3) Heed advice selectively

I didn’t have to ask friends and family for advice when I told them I was attempting the R3. They felt obligated to give it anyways. I received countless opinions from folks I trusted, but who didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.  From my first days of planning for the R3, my head was filled with horror stories of twisted ankles, rattlesnakes, water shortages, and personal failure.

That’s where this community became so important to my physical and mental preparation. Listening to advice from runners who had done double, triple, and quadruple crossing of the Grand Canyon made me feel exponentially better about my own ability.  Though, this confidence probably took longer to develop than it should have.

4) Self-doubt will eat you alive

I was stressed out to no end during the weeks leading up to this trip. I had never completed a marathon, and here I was about to do double that. Combined with the anxious counsel I received from friends, self-doubt constantly weighed on me and made the planning process leading up to the Grand Canyon to be strenuous and exhausting.

This number I had built up in my head – 46 miles – seemed increasingly larger, until I broke it down. Getting over my fears and allowing myself some credit was the first step to having the time of my life on the trail.

5) It’s not as hard as it seems

Like doubting ourselves, humans have an innate sense to overexaggerate obstacles and underestimate their own personal abilities. I found myself doing just that, until I discovered that the Grand Canyon trails were equivalent to the mountains I was used to hiking – only inverted.

By comparing the canyon to what I was familiar with, moving at a pace I knew I could maintain, and keeping a large reserve of strength and energy for the final push back up the south Rim, I found the feat totally manageable. With the right gear, physical training, and nutrition preparation, it truly was a cinch.

I walked away from this experience blister-free and knowledge-full thanks to the people and resources I found along the way. Maybe next year I’ll be able to pass on some of this newfound knowledge when I return for a second shot.

Rim to Rim to Rim: Running Across the Grand Canyon

Known as the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, or the Rim3, crossing the Grand Canyon back and forth in the course of a day is an ultra-marathon feat attempted by hikers, runners, and athletes of all ages and activity level. My friend Nina had completed the entire run the last two years in a row and was back with a vendetta to beat her previous time of 15 hours. She talked me into joining her, and after reluctantly buying a plane ticket, and then ambitiously taking on this double-marathon day, I owe her an entire world of thanks for pushing and inspiring me beyond my limits.

Grand Canyon R2R2R

The general rule of thumb: Run downhill, walk when necessary, and hike uphill. I followed this rule pretty steadily, running or jogging where I could, and walking when I felt like it. I’m surprising myself as I type this, but I truly found this endeavor to be much more reasonable than I’d thought it would be a week before. I stressed myself out and built up this number in my head – 46 miles – asking myself over and over what was I thinking.

The truth is, the Grand Canyon is essentially an inverted mountain. So by comparing it to what I was familiar with (mountain climbing), moving at a pace I knew I could maintain, and keeping a large reserve of strength and energy for the final push back up the South Rim, I found the feat totally manageable. With the right gear, physical training, and nutrition preparation, it was a cinch. And honestly, more than half of it was mental: overcoming my own self-doubt.

We started the day with a 2:00am alarm, wolfing down pop-tarts and coffee until our taxi arrived. It was a short ride to the South Kaibab Trail, which is the shorter and steeper route down the South Rim. We would return up the Bright Angel Trail, a longer and more gradual ascent up the South Rim that would land us right near the doorstep of our hotel.

We started running at 2:50am. We wouldn’t see sunlight for nearly four hours.

Sunrise slowly lit everything up around us at 6:30am. Here's looking back at the South Rim, around mile 10.

The first rays of sunlight creeping into the canyon, looking back at the South Rim, around mile 10.

Our headlamps worked well, we kept a good enough pace as to not lose our footing, and we moved downhill at a quick clip. It took us a little under two hours to reach the valley floor, 7.5 miles blown by like that.

We were walking in the pitch dark for what turned out to be one of the most beautiful parts of the trail, where it winds along the Colorado River with two-thousand foot canyon walls bordering your either side. This flat portion of trail, with an ever-gradual incline, continued from Phantom Ranch for 7.3 miles to Cottonwood Campground, where we took our first break. Nina and I ate Clif bars and energy gels while watching campers waking up and filling up their water for the day. We were both carrying 2 liters that morning, so we made mental notes to stop by here on our way back through.

Sunlight slowly creeping into the canyon, around mile 11.

Sunlight slowly creeping into the canyon, around mile 11.

A steady incline takes hikers from Cottonwood to the 8,000 ft. North Rim over 6.3 miles, passing by a few other campgrounds and stopping points (which we did not use to their name). Finally, the entire canyon was lit up with the morning and we could clearly see the towering red walls around us.

When we departed Cottonwood Campground I removed the trekking poles I’d had strapped to my backpack, de-collapsed them, and used them for the rest of the climb. Many R3’ers choose not to bring poles, but that day I saw around half of the runners we ran into on the trail using them – and I found that they psychologically saved me on the final ascent up the South Rim.

Ascending the canyon walls to the North Rim, around mile 17.

Ascending the canyon walls to the North Rim, around mile 17.

Mile 19 or so, approaching our 22 mile turnaround point.

Mile 19 or so, approaching our 22 mile turnaround point.

We reached the North Rim at around 9:50am, where we were greeted by an ultra-runner friend, and where we promptly sat down and inhaled our lunches as quickly as we could. We weren’t sitting for more than 10 minutes before the chilly morning air and altitude began to set into our bones, so again we took off.

All smiles at the North Rim halfway point!

All smiles at the North Rim halfway point! Mile 22.

Not long after departing the thin air at the North Rim, Nina and I split up. She’s speedy as hell on these downhill sections, whereas I don’t trust my footing as much, am much more careful especially around steps. Plus, this was my first time seeing the Grand Canyon in all its glory, so our split gave me the chance to stop and take photos and enjoy the canyon at my leisure.

After having begun my descent back into the canyon - there's no turning back now!

After having begun my descent back into the canyon – there’s no turning back now!

One of the dozens of bridges crossing the canyon between both rims.

One of the dozens of bridges crossing the canyon between both rims, around mile 25.

I stripped off my leggings and jacket. The day was heating up, and I could feel the sun draining me even though the valley floor had a high of 67 degree Fahrenheit. The heat-absorbing walls of the Grand Canyon would trap the sun and raise that high temperature to at least 80 degrees.

Three miles down the North Rim, I ran out of water. No problem, I thought, knowing that in 3.3 miles I’d pass by Cottonwood Campground where I could refuel with the pump I saw campers using that morning. Unfortunately, and as Murphy’s Law would have it, there was a pipeline break during the morning and the Cottonwood faucets were turned off by the time I arrived. I normally wouldn’t have thought twice, but I’d been going three miles, and had 7.5 miles ahead of me, and with the increased heat of the canyon – I didn’t know what kind of shape I’d be in after over 10 miles running without water.

Lucky for me, I ran into a couple with the same problem, except that their problem had an easy solution: A small, palm-sized water filter. They filled me up using water from the river and I took off again.

Flat, slightly-downhill traverse to Phantom Ranch.

Flat, slightly-downhill traverse to Phantom Ranch, around mile 28.

As I mentioned before, this must have been my most favorite part of the trail, winding along the Colorado River with the canyon walls jutting up to either side of me. I also took more time here, running when I felt like it, and following the pace of other joggers and hikers when I wanted to give my legs a break.

Nina and I had met a hiker that morning who I ran into here again. This man could not have been younger than my parents, and had hiked the R2R2R the day before, repeating his journey today. He followed up by saying “Yesterday was my 90th time completing the rim to rim to rim, so today must be my 91st in 12 years.” Passing him a second time, he gave me a slap on the back and said I had a great pace for my first time. I ran on.

Getting close to Phantom Ranch, around 33 miles.

Getting close to Phantom Ranch, around 33 miles.

Reaching Phantom Ranch, around mile 35.5, was the first time I really refilled my water since we’d started. I loaded up a little over 2 liters (since I was carrying a 3 liter bladder), but the stale taste of water nauseated me in the shade. So I walked over to the general store, bought a large, ice-cold lemonade, and sat on the porch with my feet kicked up, checking my map and chatting with other hikers I’d met throughout the day. After halfheartedly trying to eat part of my second Clif bar, I downed my lemonade and raced ahead of a mule pack to complete the last 10 miles of my journey.

Crossing the Silver Bridge to the Bright Angel Trail, around mile 36.

Crossing the Silver Bridge to the Bright Angel Trail, around mile 36.

Looking back on the Silver Bridge.

Looking back on the Silver Bridge over the muddy Colorado River.

I pulled my trekking poles out for the second time of the day for this final ascent. Crossing the muddy Colorado River across the famed Silver Bridge of the Canyon, I knew I wouldn’t actually see my goal of the South Rim for another few hours. Even though you’re slowly pulling yourself up towards the sky, the Bright Angel Trail weaves within the canyon for miles before dropping you out at its busy trailhead.

Ascending the Bright Angel trail, still near mile 37.

Ascending the Bright Angel trail, still near mile 37.

This was the first part of the trail that started to really hurt. I’d been hiking alone for a few hours, passing slower groups, and eventually found a park ranger catching up with me. I asked if I could follow her to match her pace since she was moving quicker, and we talked for about an hour until we reached Indian Campground.

This ranger had plenty of questions for me, since she said people completing the Rim3 were usually, well, running. She mentioned that at the park opening this year on the first of May, 700 runners showed up to attempt the entire 46 miles. Many wouldn’t make it. Additionally, she said she couldn’t believe how many people attempted the R2R2R during the middle of the summer, when heat in the canyon rises to 130 degrees. Overall it sounded like runners and hikers are generally ill-prepared, without having done much environmental research, resource planning, or physical training.

Since the Grand Canyon’s limited resources (water, human waste disposal) isn’t meant for the numbers that recent influxes have been bringing in, the Rim to Rim to Rim challenge may soon see a permitting process.

Getting close to the Indian Campground, around mile 41.

Getting close to the Indian Campground, around mile 41.

Looking down at the valley, partway up the South Rim, around mile 42.

Looking down at the valley, partway up the South Rim, around mile 42.

Those last 4.5 miles from Indian Campground… whew. Even though the Bright Angel Trail was much more gradual and all-around easier than our descent down the South Kaibab, there was just something about passing the 40 mile marker that made my legs want to give out. So I just straightened my back, held my head up, and powered through past day hikers, backpackers, and leisure walkers. I had a goal: Reach the South Rim by sunset.

Mile 43. So, so close.

Mile 43. So, so close.

The Grand Canyon turned out to be like so many of the other beautiful places I get to visit, as a person who loves exploring new trails. It was new, exciting, jaw-dropping, and completely worthy of the attention and praise it receives as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. But like so many other places, photos and words don’t do it justice. I could have taken a hundred photos and written a dozen blog posts, but nothing could encapsulate the way the air cooled down as the sun began to creep behind the canyon walls. Nothing could capture the happiness and peacefulness on trail-goers faces as they walked with their necks craned upwards, smiles smeared across their faces. Maybe even I’ll forget how that felt, and how this place looked like, until I come back again.

Mile 45, counting down the minutes until the light fades from the day over the canyon.

Mile 45, counting down the minutes until the light fades from the day over the canyon.

I reached the top of the Bright Angel Trail at 5:45pm, just 5 minutes before the 15 hour goal Nina and I had set – though I was a full 45 minutes behind her, she ended up beating her previous time by over an hour! Reflecting on the time I spent alone, I was happy I had taken more breaks, stopping for more photos, and got to kick my feet up at the lodge before my final trek… but at the same time, all I could think about was how much faster I could go the next time.

I ended my day without any broken spirits or blisters. In fact, I was only sprawled out on our hotel room floor like a starfish for a couple of minutes before showering and dragging our sore bodies to the Bright Angel cafeteria, where we enjoyed sugary drinks and carbohydrate-loaded dinners.

If not for the deliciously addictive lemonade at Phantom Ranch, I’ll be back to see the Grand Canyon one day again soon.

Mile 46, sore but happy smiles.

Mile 46, sore but happy smiles.


  • Length: 46 miles
  • South Rim: 6,800 ft.
  • North Rim: 8,000 ft.
  • Elevation gain: ~ 11,000 ft.
  • Time: 14 hours 55 min

Montara Mountain from Graywhale Cove State Beach

This weekend I ventured to a popular seaside trail that’s just 20 minutes south of San Francisco. Leaving the city using I-280, I took the Highway 1 exit for just about 10 miles to one of the northern-most trail entrances. There are actually four different routes you can take up to the peak of Montara Mountain, depending on which trailhead you choose to park at:

  • 3.5 miles from San Pedro Valley County Park trailhead.
  • 3.9 miles from Mc Nee Ranch trailhead.
  • 4.1 miles from Farralone Cutoff, Montara.
  • 4.8 miles from Graywhale Cove SB.


This parking lot will get full as the day goes on – this is what it looked like at 10:30 am. The first quarter-mile of the hike climbs upwards and then slopes out into a flat trail that continues around the hills. This trail makes for a very popular and crowded place for day hikers, trail runners, and cyclists.


Follow the path south, until it turns inward. Within a half mile the trail will fork into two directions: A steep upward slope to your left (an unofficial “shortcut” that will take 1.5 miles off), or continuing to the right, where the trail makes a slow, windy ascent through some shade on a fire road.


On the fire road, looking up a few miles and about 2,000 vertical feet to the top of Montara Mountain.


At the top of this forested section, the fire road runs into the end of the shortcut before continuing up incredibly steep, exposed, dusty slopes. There’s no shade for the last few miles here, so you’ll want to bring some kind of sun protection.

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This dusty, rocky trail continues up a few more miles to the summit. Along the way are cutoffs to other trails, and I ran into a lot of other hikers and runners who had joined up near the top from different directions around the mountain.


At the top, you’ll enjoy valley views as well as a stretched-out look at Pacifica and its popular beaches. Since this was a pretty grueling incline without any place to hide from the sun, I promise you’ll enjoy the way down much more than the ascent!



  • Length: 9.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: ~2,000 ft.
  • Time: 2 hours

Muir Beach to Rodeo Beach via the Coastal Trail

With six weeks left until my upcoming North Cascades climbs, I need to intensify my endurance training. I’ll be doing two back-to-back climbs on mountains averaging around 10k ft. in altitude, and as I’ve learned from past experiences, the only way to prepare for that is to run, hike, and climb with as much elevation gain as possible on my weekend training days.

Muir Beach is one of the first trails I discovered when I moved to SF, and has stuck to be one of my favorites. I’ve brought my parents, out-of-town friends, and regular hiking buddies here. Its out-and-back style makes it an easy route to shorten or lengthen based on your mood. Here’s a distance breakdown of popular turn-around points:

  • Muir Beach to Coastal Fire Road intersection: 2.2 miles
  • Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley: 3.1 miles
  • Muir Beach to Hill 88: 4.5 miles
  • Total one-way from Muir Beach to Rodeo Beach: 5.9 miles
Quarter-mile into the hike, looking down at Muir Beach.

Quarter-mile into the hike, looking down at Muir Beach.

I chose the perfect day, with San Francisco’s famous fog hanging overhead for most of the morning. It was chilly, but easy to warm up with the waterfront hills.

The first half mile is steep. The entire trail follows the coastline and winds up and down its peaks, and in and out of its valleys. You’re essentially walking (or running) from a lower elevation to a higher elevation and back the entire time, which some may find completely exasperating, or to others, as a challenge.

Shoreline views from the Coastal Trail.

Shoreline views from the Coastal Trail.

About halfway between Muir Beach and Tennessee Valley is a turnoff for Pirate’s Cove, a hidden little beach surrounded by tall, wind-swept and sea-swept rocks. At this intersection you’ll find one of two sets of rugged, wooden stairs on the trail that will slow down traffic a little. When trail running, this is one of the only spots that I’ll need to halt my speed to trudge up each step.

Just one more up-and-over and the trail widens as it merges with a fire road for the final stretch into Tennessee Valley.

Top of the fire road, looking down at Tennessee Valley - shoreline hidden by the hills.

Top of the fire road, looking down at Tennessee Valley – shoreline hidden by the hills.

When the fire road intersects with another wide trail, turn left for just 100 yards and you’ll see the continuation of the Coastal Trail on your right, with a mileage sign to Rodeo Beach. The walk from this intersection to the Tennessee Valley shoreline is 0.7 miles, which would’ve added 1.4 miles to my trip. I’ve done this option before and turned around at the beach, making the total hike around 7 miles.

Being in the valley means you’ve lost all of that legwork you did to get yourself up those hills, which also means you get to repeat that effort to get over to Rodeo Beach. To emphasize; it’s a lot of steep, steep hill climbing, and there’s not much benefit to the up-and-down nature of the path other than sheer enjoyment.

Leaving Tennessee Valley to go up, up, up and over to Rodeo Beach.

Leaving Tennessee Valley to go up, up, up and over to Rodeo Beach.

Here’s the most fun part of the trail. In the course of 1.15 miles, the Coastal Trail gains 800′ in elevation and peaks out at an exposed, windy plateau overlooking Tennessee Valley and even farther on. Continue up this hill to the tallest point of the day, and you’ll intersect a paved cycling road. Turning left here takes you a quarter mile to Hill 88. I’ve used this as a landmark too, returning to Muir Beach from Hill 88 makes a little more than a 9 mile track.

Turning right instead, the trail winds another mile and a half or so down to Rodeo Beach, which will probably be more crowded than Muir Beach. Make your way all the way down to the sand, and you get to look back and see all of the miles and elevation you get to do all over again on your return!

Overlooking Rodeo Beach, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge barely visible in the background.

Overlooking Rodeo Beach, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge barely visible in the background.


  • Length: 11.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3.5k ft.
  • Time: 3.25 hours

Purisima Creek Redwoods: Hiking over Half Moon Bay

My office is in a unique location; at the intersection of El Camino Real and Highway Bridge 92, which stretches from Hayward through San Mateo and over into Half Moon Bay. It’s easy for commuters to head north or south on the Peninsula, or even over to the East Bay, but the Half Moon Bay hills and endless trails along Skyline remain largely undiscovered. So, I took advantage of an early Friday afternoon to visit one of my favorite parks.


Descending, still towards the top, along the Whittemore Gulch Trail

The main parking lot is right off of Skyline, which means the first half of the hike goes across the hills and into a valley, where it follows along the Purisima Creek. The route I chose circles the entire park counter-clockwise and is the longest circuit available in this open space. Here’s how the distance breaks down:

  • North Ridge Trail: 1.2 miles
  • Whittemore Gulch Trail: 2.2 miles
  • Purisima Creek Trail: 2.3 miles
  • Craig Britton Trail: 2.6 miles
  • Harkins Ridge Trail: 1.2 miles
Redwoods along Purisima Creek

Redwoods along Purisima Creek

The first two trails wind along the upper, exposed part of the hills for quite a while before dipping into the forest. Even then, it’s gradual, I had barely realized I’d entered the forest before I was surrounded by redwoods and had reached the valley floor; Purisima Creek.

There’s another major trailhead and parking area where Whittemore Gulch meets the Purisima Creek Trail, at the bridge to cross the creek. This trail becomes wider, flatter, and smoother, perfect for trail runners. I half-ran and half-hiked, slowing down over some of the ruttier areas that have been dug out by horses and cyclists. There are a lot of roots and rocks to look out for on these trails too, and areas on the Whittemore Gulch and Craig Britton can be tricky with slanting, steep slopes.

Sleep slopes along the Craig Britton Trail

Sleep slopes along the Craig Britton Trail

Craig Britton continues at a relatively flat elevation through the thick, forested redwoods until it intersects with Harkins Ridge Trail. The scenery changes as this trail goes up, redwoods falling away to thinner trees that let in more sunlight. By the time I reached the Harkins Ridge Trail and trudged up its dusty steep hills, I’d almost forgotten the entire first third of my day that had been like this – I was so used to the thick forest and tall trees.

The final views before the parking lot really reminded me how much this open space has to offer; completely different landscapes, wildlife, and ecosystems scattered between the dense valley floor and the top of the Skyline hills.

Final view over Half Moon Bay before the last stretch to the trailhead parking lot

Final view over Half Moon Bay before the last stretch to the trailhead parking lot


  • Length: 9.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1.8k
  • Time: 2.5 hours

Redwood Regional Park: West Ridge Trail to East Ridge Trail

It’s difficult to have a car in San Francisco. But it’s oh-so worth it when it comes to weekend getaways, especially with all the Bay Area has to offer. I’ve been to Muir Woods, Mt. Tamalpais, and Stinson Beach more times than I can count, so a few weeks ago I decided to check out what’s hiding in the East Bay, and found the perfect day trip less than 30 minutes outside of the city.

Redwood Regional Park, part of the East Bay Regional Park District, is a huge open space that’s super accessible, tucked away in the East Bay hills just a short drive from Oakland. From San Francisco, take 580 East off of the Bay Bridge and turn left off of the 35th Ave exit. This road turns into Redwood Road, which will take you to the main entrance of the park. There’s plenty of parking for a $5 fee, or you can squeeze in between other cars on the side of the main road just outside the entrance, which is how I entered the park today.

I created my own loop based on recommendations I’d read and convenience to my car location, but you can view each trail and loop more closely on Mappery.

When I first entered the park on foot, I found a couple of ways to jump up on a trail to my left that ran along a creek bed. This area of the park is lush with green plants and glows under a canopy of trees, with a very small one-track trail lined with rocks and roots. I managed to fall flat on my face within the first five minutes of my day.


Winding up towards the West Ridge Trail

Winding up towards the West Ridge Trail

I followed this trail up the left-side ridge and hit my destination, the West Ridge Trail, and continued on higher up. The path widens here to accommodate equestrians, bikers, and more hikers, and goes for miles and miles – and steeper and steeper. The West Ridge Trail narrows and widens again, snaking through thick forests and leveling out at look points with stunning views. I passed through so many ecosystems, from the thick green forest you see above through tall redwoods and up above dusty pastures covered in wildflowers.

More uphill on the West Ridge Trail

More uphill on the West Ridge Trail

These first few miles were the steepest of the day, and I was regularly alternating between trail running on flat surfaces to cutting my pace in half up hills. The bulk of my elevation gain was condensed into just the first third of this hike, which means ending the day at 1.6k total gain made a strenuous beginning. At the highest point of the West Ridge Trail, the path crosses a road that leads to Chabot Space & Science Center, and from then on, it’s pretty much all downhill.

Looking back up the West Ridge Trail, winding through the redwoods.

Looking back up the West Ridge Trail, winding through the redwoods.

Just about halfway through my hike, the windy trail through the redwoods evened out to a gaping valley on my right, and a parking lot up emerged ahead on the left. This is where the West Ridge Trail becomes the East Ridge Trail, and where I found many more people either starting or ending their day. There are a lot of leisurely trails that fork off of the main one and many people wander down these for shorter hikes or picnic spots. It’s easy to get stuck here, enjoying the views.

View from the East Ridge Trailhead

View from the East Ridge Trailhead. Naturally, the photo does not capture the beauty of this spot.

The last half of the hike was easy, and mostly downhill. The East Ridge is unlike its other half in that it’s largely exposed, dusty, and out of the redwoods. But both of these things also mean that I was able to see farther because of the lower tree line, and I paid more attention to the hills on the horizon since I was looking their direction, heading down. There’s something about a view like this, when I’ve stopped long enough to feel the blood in my limbs slow and my lungs open and I feel like I’m seeing this distance for the first time. It’s like taking that first breath of air when you come up from an ocean dive.

Afternoon rest spot on the East Ridge Trail, Redwood Regional Park.

Afternoon rest spot on the East Ridge Trail, Redwood Regional Park.

It was a beautiful, easy day that wasn’t completely inundated with crowds (unlike other Bay Area hiking options), and it reminded me of how lucky San Franciscans are to have so many options in this area.


  • Length: 7.5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1.6k
  • Time: 2.25 hours