Olympic National Park

When we were planning this trip, one of Greyson’s “must dos” was Olympic National Park. Despite growing up in Washington, I’d never been either. Also, Greyson’s parents went to Olympic National Park on their honeymoon and they gave us two nights at the Lake Quinault Lodge as a wedding gift. After four nights of camping, we were excited for the luxury.

Olympic National Park Visitor's Guide // tahoefabulous.com

The Lake Quinalt Lodge is a historic lodge, on the shores of Lake Quinault, just outside of the National Park. The building was beautiful, the rooms were really nice – we had a deck over looking the lake and a fireplace, which we didn’t end up using. There is wifi, but it’s pretty spotty and slow – not really a problem unless you are planning on doing some work.  The property has it’s own beach with boat rentals and there are lawn games you can borrow or just sit on one of the adirondack chairs and watch the sunset.

“There are some places so blissfully disconnected from the modern world that they seem to stand suspended in time. Lake Quinault Lodge is one such place – a grand and rustic lodge built in 1926 that welcomes guests with warmth, hospitality, and a sincere feeling of home-away-from-home comfort. Here you can unwind in front of our majestic fireplace, dine in the historic Roosevelt Dining Room, curl up with a good book by the lake, paddleboard or fish in the afternoon sun, or venture deep into the temperate rainforest and enjoy the cool shade of the giant trees.”

Lake Quinault Lodge had great access to the park, and it was fun to inject a little luxury on the trip. We did eat dinner in the fancy Roosevelt Dining Room one night, but it was super expensive and not worth the prices. On night two, we ended up getting pizza and beer at the convenience store/restaurant across the street, which was a much better price and delicious.

We knew that we wanted to do a long-ish hike while we were in the park (and while we had a place to keep our bikes secure), and we decided on the Hoh River Trail. The trail parallels the Hoh River and is through the rainforest, which we really wanted to see. The trailhead was about an 1.5 hour drive from the Lake Quinault Lodge, but the route was scenic and took us by places we’d hoped to stop anyway.

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

On our way there, we stopped for some beach access. It was gray and cloudy in the morning, but we could tell the fog was already burning off. We also stopped to gape at trees. They’re no coast redwoods or giant sequoias, but they’re plenty big and strange.

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

After stopping in at the Hoh River Visitor’s Center to confirm that the Hoh River Trail was really what we wanted to do, we were off. Lots of visitors use the Hoh River Trail to access the back country – we saw tons of backpackers and even a few groups with alpine climbing gear. It’s also great for a day hike. It’s an out an back that goes 17.5 miles out to Glacier Meadows, so for a day hike, just turn around where ever you want.

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Trail map via Strava

Hoh River Trail // tahoefabulous.com

The trail is fairly flat and not technical, at least for the first five miles that we did. I’ve read that it gets steeper as you get closer to Glacier Meadows. Despite the very sunny day we had, it was cool and shaded along the trail. Since it’s through the rainforest, you don’t always have sweeping views. We did get some gorgeous mountain views in spots where the trail got close enough to the river that we could see up or down canyon.

Hoh River, Olympic National Park // tahoefabulous.com

We’d heard there was a waterfall along the trail, so we made that our unofficial goal. The sun had completely come out by noon and it was an absolutely gorgeous day, though Greyson kept joking that he felt cheated by a sunny day in the rainforest. At some point on our way out, we stopped on the side of the river and had a snack and basked in the sun. About 2. 5 miles after the Visitor’s Center, we arrived at a little bridge and a verdant waterfall – Mineral Creek Falls.

Mineral Creek Falls // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

We decided to keep hiking for awhile longer to see where the trail took us. While still not steep, there were more up and downs for the next 2.5 miles, where we decided to turn around. Sometimes out and backs can seem boring, since you are seeing the same scenery twice, but the Hoh River Trail didn’t feel that way to me. While the hike was relatively flat, my hiking muscles were not in shape. I was feeling it in my legs, especially at about mile 7. The faster I hiked, the better I felt, so I was seriously speed walking by the end.

We decided to break up the drive with a stop at the iconic Ruby Beach. It was a beautiful weekend day, and Ruby Beach was pretty crowded – there was even a culturally appropriative staged wedding photo shoot happening. We walked down to the beach and got a few pictures, but we decided that we’d leave a little earlier the next morning and stop by when it was less crowded (which is when the picture at the top of the post is from).

Ruby Beach // tahoefabulous.com
Photo by Greyson Howard

Ruby Beach // tahoefabulous.com

After the long hike and drive, a long shower back in our room felt amazing. While I love camping, and I don’t mind getting dirty, I have to say that the luxury of Lake Quinault Lodge felt pretty nice!

Donner Summit Railroad Tunnel Snowshoe

One of my Winter Bucket List goals was to try new winter activities. I went on a fairly typical snowshoe earlier in the winter, but a couple of weeks ago, I had a pretty unique snowshoe adventure!

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On Donner Summit, there are some old train tunnels that the train used to run through. The train has since been re-routed and the tracks have been pulled out, making it an interesting destination for a snowshoe (winter) or hike (summer). The tunnels are technically on railroad property, but I didn’t see any “no trespassing” signs, and my friends have visited dozens of times over the years. Just be warned! They’re pretty easy to get to – we parked at the pull out a few hundred yards below the Donner Summit Scenic View Area (on your left when you’re heading up hill). Even in the winter, there was parking for at least 10 cars, but it is a popular sledding area and can get full.

view
View from Donner Summit

Most of our group had snowshoes and poles – it gets icy in the tunnel so you’ll want something with grip. Greyson just wore hiking boots and carried poles and made it pretty well, but I wouldn’t recommend this to people not used to hiking on ice. It was warm for February when we headed up; it was in the 50’s and sunny, but the tunnels are at least 20 degrees colder inside. I appreciated by soft shell and gloves on the return trip. We all brought headlamps and flashlights, but didn’t need to use them. There’s enough light in the tunnel to see fairly well during the day.

It’s pretty straight forward once you’ve gotten out of the car – put on your snowshoes and head up towards the very obvious train tunnels. It’s a pretty steep climb, but the only hard part of the whole hike.

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Heading into the tunnels.

Since there’s not a lot of scenery inside of the tunnels, the natural ice sculptures and human made graffiti are the attractions.

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greyson ice sculpture

I was really surprised by how much light made it into the tunnels! There are some sections with windows cut into the concrete, and sunlight travels far from the openings. I was expecting the whole inside to be concrete, and loved that many of the tunnel walls were simply exposed granite that the tunnel had been cut through.

kelly in tunnels

Along the way, there are several spots where you can pop out of the tunnels and enjoy the view.

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Myself, Reyna, and Kelly pose outside the tunnels, overlooking Donner Lake.

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The entrance back into the tunnels looks more foreboding than it actually is. After less than a mile of hiking (which is slow going on all the ice), you’ll get to the end of the accessible tunnels. We hiked around on the snow some, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, before heading back towards the cars.

other side

We hiked back the same way we came, through the tunnels, but we did see other groups snowshoeing along the outside. I imagine it would depend on snow levels if there is enough room on the outside to do that. Of our group of five, Greyson was the only person who had been to the train tunnels before, and we all had a great time. To be honest, Greyson had suggested doing this snowshoe or hike a couple of times before, but I didn’t really have much interest. In my head, it was just going to be a cold, slippery walk in the dark where I couldn’t see anything. It definitely was not on my Tahoe bucket list. I’m happy to report that I was totally wrong! While not exactly strenuous, action packed or filled with “best of” views, this hike is totally unique and worth doing!

2015 Year in Review

To paraphrase what I said last year:

Well, it’s almost the end of (2015). I have to say that this was one of my best years ever! I love my job, have a great boyfriend, and I got to go on a bunch of fun adventures. Here are the highlights:

January: For the 4th year running, I attended the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. I wrote about my favorite films here. I’m excited to go back this year, January 14-18. If you are in the area at all, I cannot recommend it more highly. It’s always a highlight of my year!

wsff-south-lake-logo
Photos by Jim Delso and Carrie Reiter.

Also in January, I hiked Alamere Falls – a waterfall that falls to the beach near San Francisco.

Alamere Falls Hike in Bolinas, California // tahoefabulous.com

February: So we didn’t exactly have winter at all last year. Case in point: I discovered one of my favorite mountain bike trails in Truckee in February last year – the Donner Rim Trail and Wendin Canyon.

Mountain Biking Donner Lake Rim Trail and Wendin Way Trail

The best part of February was the road trip Greyson and I took to Bend, Oregon. You can read about all the beer I drank on my Beer Page and the trails I rode and routes I climbed on my Trail Report Page.

March: In March, I was really busy with work – we put on our 10th Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival. I did take time to go bouldering in Bishop and try June Lake Brewing for the first time.

Happys Selfie

April:  I got to see otters for my birthday! Nothing else matters!

May: During a typical year, May is still too snowy for higher altitude mountain biking. Since it was such a light snow year, I was able to ride the iconic Flume Trail in May this year. I’m so glad that I finally got to ride it, and I’ll do it again this spring.

Riding away // Flume Trail
photo by Gavin Feiger

June: I didn’t get to go in 2014, so I made mountain biking at Mammoth Mountain a priority this year.

Bell Super 2R // Mammoth Mountain

It was just as fun as I remembered it, and it was extra fun to go with Greyson, who hadn’t been since he was sixteen.

July: It was warm enough to spend most of July in Donner Lake, my neighborhood swimming hole. I also got to try something very unique:

Jetavator Tahoe

Check me out in the local newspaper. Thanks to Lake Tahoe Jetovator for letting me try it out.

August: In August, I finally made a facebook page – check it out and “like it” for interesting articles and news. I also tried the newest Tahoe brewery – Alibi Ale Works.

Alibi Ale Works // Incline Village, NV

I’ve been back a lot of times since. I even got my dad his Christmas present there! Also during August, I wrote about Five More Awesome Places to Watch the Sunset – related to my most popular post of all time The Five Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Lake Tahoe.

September: I remember it like it was yesterday. Ah yes, It was a crisp fall day…

Sorry, Greyson took my computer away and started typing. Anyway, September was crisp and beautiful. I got SCUBA certified for my trip to Indonesia (coming up in March! Send me your tips!)

Diving
Photo from Sierra Diving Center

I also was selected to be a correspondent for The Campsite! Check them out.

October: I was busy with work and sick all of October. Not so much fun. We did have amazing sunsets!

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November: I went to Portland, where I ate a lot of donuts and pickles and drank lots of beer.

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I also wrote about my favorite places to eat in Reno, Nevada and made a perfect weather visit  to Bishop, California for bouldering and beer.

crowd in the happy boulders
Photo by Greyson Howard.

December: Well, December’s not over yet, but I’m looking forward for Greyson and my trip to Point Reyes. We’ll hopefully do wine and mead tasting, visit the Marin Museum of Cycling, and eat a lot of Point Reyes Blue Cheese.

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Photo by Greyson Howard.

We already have more snow this year than we got all of last year. I’ve been taking advantage of it, and I plan to get a few more days in this year.

This year was another great one, and I’m looking forward to 2016. What are you hoping to do in the next year? What were your favorite parts of 2015?

 

Tahoe Rim Trail Hike in Incline Village, Nevada

Last weekend (I’m behind on blogging!), Greyson and I took a short hike on a beautiful section of the Tahoe Rim Trail. We had been wanting to try Alibi Ale Works for months, so we decided to work up our beer-drinking-appetites with a short hike to a spot with a gorgeous view of Lake Tahoe.

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I’m trying to improve my photography, so we packed Greyson’s nice cameras and headed to the Tahoe Meadows Trailhead off of Highway 431/Mt. Rose Highway, about a half mile southwest of the Mt. Rose Summit. The Tahoe Meadows Trailhead has a large dirt parking lot, a decently clean pit toilet bathroom and a 1.2 mile interpretive trail, if you’re looking for a short and easy hike.

Map via Strava

To reach the viewpoint, follow the trail on the right side of the parking lot, through the expansive meadow and towards the forest. This section of the Tahoe Rim Trail is open for bikes on even days and horses every day, so be aware that you may be sharing the trail! Be sure to check out the humorous trail signs you’ll encounter, including one addressed to dog visitors.

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It’s about 1.6 miles from the trailhead, through the meadow, and into the forest until you reach a large open space with beautiful views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding peaks.

Elevation profile via Strava.

There’s a little bit of a climb (~300 feet over ~1 mile), but the high elevation meant that I was feeling the climb more than normal. The view was worth it though!

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There’s not a viewing platform or cleared out space, but there are a number of rock outcroppings to sit on and enjoy the view. I practiced my photography skills and Greyson and I both enjoyed snacks in the sunshine. I even got a few decent pictures of a bird, that I subsequently forgot to look up – so I have no idea what it is.

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Greyson and I wandered around the open field for awhile, looking for a sign we had spotted in the distance. The sign didn’t look like it was on any sort of trail, so we were really curious about what it said. We eventually found the sign:

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At this point, I was starting to get hungrier for something more than granola bars. We scrambled across the meadow back to the trail, and headed back to civilization.

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When I was living in South Lake Tahoe, Greyson and I met up in Incline Village fairly often, since it is about the halfway point between South Lake and Truckee. Since moving to Truckee, we haven’t made our way over there very often. I requested that we grab food at an old favorite – Crosby’s, my favorite sports bar in the Tahoe area. Greyson and I would head to Incline Village on Wednesdays to meet after work to go climbing at High Altitude Fitness, and we’d be starving afterwards. We would usually eat at Crosby’s, because it was one of the few places that served food after 8 pm. This time, we split a burger and an order of their specialty – seasoned waffle fries. The waffle fries are amazing, but warning, the “side” of fries is HUGE. A burger with salad on the side and an order of waffle fries was more than enough food for the two of us.

Tahoe Rim Trail Hike from Hwy 267 // tahoefabulous.com

A quick hike, interesting clouds, a ton of good food, and delicious beer was a great way to spend a beautiful and relaxing Sunday!

Tahoe Rim Trail Hike from the 267 Trailhead

I spent all day on Friday being a river bro, and rafting the South Fork of the American River, so I was pretty exhausted when I woke up on Saturday. Greyson and I had already agreed to meet one of his friends for a hike that morning, so I rolled out of bed and we headed east.

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Luckily, we had planned a pretty easy going day. Greyson and I met Kyle and Stella (the dog) at the Brockway Summit Tahoe Rim Trail trailhead. The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile long loop trail that circles Lake Tahoe (and then some). The trail is single track and open to hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers (except for a few sections). The trail also shares about 50 miles with the Pacific Crest Trail. While dozens of people do the Tahoe Rim Trail as a two or three week thru hike (Greyson did it back in 2007 for a series in the Sierra Sun), its many accessible trailheads make it a great choice for a day hike or several day-long backpacking or bikepacking trip. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association has some great trip planning resources on their website.

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The trailhead we started at is known as the Brockway Summit Trailhead and is located on Highway 267 about 9.5 miles from downtown Truckee. Google map directions can be found here, and there is a parking lot and side of the road parking on the south side of 267 near the trailhead. We headed uphill and climbed switchbacks for a little over a mile until we hit a spur trail that promised a view. This offshoot trail hadn’t been constructed when Greyson thru hiked the TRT, so we decided to go check it out. The spur was about a half mile each way, and the view at the top was beautiful! Despite a hazy day, we could see all the way across the lake, down to the thunderheads building over the large peaks surrounding South Lake Tahoe.

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If you’re looking for a short hike with a bit of a climb and a rewarding view, the hike to this viewpoint would be a good option. It would be about 3 miles round trip with ~700 feet of climbing. The switchbacks make the climb manageable, but they don’t make it feel like you’re going nowhere.

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We headed back down the spur trail and, since it was still fairly early, decided to keep going on the TRT. This section of the trail travels generally northeast. We headed away from stunning lake views for a while, and we traversed through fields full of fragrant mule’s ear and sage and saw a some blooming wildflowers. If you are looking for stunning fields of multi color wildflowers, there are better trails (and times of year) than this one, but we did see occasional pops of color from Indian paintbrush and other flowers I can’t recognize without a guidebook.

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About 2.5 miles past the spur trail, we reached another nice viewpoint with a shady spot – perfect for a snack break. I broke out a new-to-me trail food, Taos Mountain Energy Bars in the Caramel Pecan flavor. I really liked it! It meets my requirement of being soy free (hard to find in an energy bar), and it tasted really good! After this high point of 8,260, the trail starts heading back downhill. We figured that this would be a good place to turn around, as we were pretty much out of water, and the day was heating up.

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The way back was mostly downhill, with a couple of short and steep uphill sections, but the TRT is so well graded in most sections that it wasn’t too hard on the knees and legs. We ended up with 9 miles and 1,970 feet of climbing, but the hike felt much easier than that to me! Afterwards, however, Greyson and I crashed on the couch for the rest of the day. It was enough distance and elevation that, combined with a full day on the river the day before, we were spent.

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This section of the Tahoe Rim Trail is a fun, moderately difficult trail with some great views that are worth the climb. We saw other hikers and bikers out, but the trail never felt crowded, which is especially awesome, since this was a beautiful Saturday morning in July.

Hike Totals: 9.0 miles, 1,970 feet of elevation gain in 3:04 moving time.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!

Tahoe Summer Bucket List

Though it has felt like summer in Tahoe since about mid-February, official summer is almost here! Summer is the best time of year to be in Tahoe, but it always feels like summer slips away before I know it. So for this summer, I’ve created my official Tahoe Summer Bucket List! My list consists of new experiences and things I’ve done before, activities close to home and a few that are a short road trip away.

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  1. Backpack in Desolation Wilderness. I’ve lived in Tahoe for almost five years now, and I still haven’t gone backpacking in this gorgeous area in my backyard.
  2. Jump in Webber FallsI went a couple of times last summer, and I’m excited to go back.

Webber Falls // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Ride the Downieville Downhill.This world famous bike trail is famous for a reason. It’s 6,000 feet of epic descent, through smooth berms, loose rocks, slippery shale, and perfect dirt, and you can cap off the day with a jump in the Yuba River. (I actually checked off this item last week, but I hope to go back again this summer!)
  2. Boulder in Tuolumne Meadows.While the Yosemite Valley is popular for good reasons, the less crowded, east side of Yosemite National Park is an underrated gem. We have plans to do some bouldering, and then jump in the Tuolumne River.
  3. Soak in culture with Shakespeare at the Lake.The state park at Sand Harbor near Incline Village, Nevada has one of the best theatre venues in the world. All summer long, you can watch a Shakespeare play while the sun sets over Lake Tahoe at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. This year, the show is Romeo and Juliet.

Tahoe Shakespeare Festival // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Go Gnarbuckling in the Yuba River. The South Yuba River near Nevada City is a pretty magical place. The area’s mining legacy created boulder fields, deep pools and mini waterfalls. One of Greyson’s friends invented the sport of “gnarbuckling”, which is traveling upstream in the Yuba River, via hiking, scrambling, swimming, jumping and falling. It’s quite a workout, and is best chased by a Mammoth 395 at Matteo’safterwards.
  2. Do my first bikepacking trip.Neither Greyson or I have done bikepacking before, but we have big plans do a one or two day bikepacking trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail, or some other local spot.
  3. Visit all the local breweries!Tahoe is finally stepping up its local beer game, and I have yet to sample all of the new options. That’s going to change this summer. I haven’t tried Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village or The Brewing Lair in Blairsden. I need to give Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co. in Tahoe City another shot and return to Cold Water Brewery in South Lake Tahoe. I’ll hopefully go on some road trips, and visit my favorites, Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop, June Lake Brewing in June Lake and Mammoth Brewing Company in Mammoth Lakes. New and new-to-me breweries seem to be popping up all over the place, and I plan to visit as many as I can! Also, I hope to hit up one or two beer festivals. Maybe Truckee Brew Fest or Reno’s CANFEST.

tahoefabulous.com

  1. Raft the American River. Just down the hill from Tahoe, the American River runs through Coloma. This spot is a world class white water rafting destination, and I’d love to do a raft trip this summer.
  2. Climb a 14-er. Probably not Mount Whitney, but I’d like to climb one of California’s 14,000+ foot mountains this summer.
  3. Bike at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park. Last year was the first year in a long time that I didn’t spend at least a day biking at Mammoth Mountain. Even with lift serviced trails, you’re working hard on the fun trails with great views.

Tahoe Summer Bucket List // tahoefabulous.com

  1. Hike from Sugar Bowl to Squaw Valley on the Pacific Crest Trail.Hopefully the wildflowers will be in full bloom when I do this hike.
  2. Swim every week! We may be in the midst of a drought, but Donner Lake and Lake Tahoe still have excellent swimming. Once it warms up, my goal is to swim at leastonce a week, and spend a lot of time on our pristine beaches.

These are just a few of the things I hope to do in Tahoe this summer. Anything epic I’m missing? Or, if you are visiting the Tahoe/Truckee area and want some suggestions, feel free to get in touch!

Donner Summit Canyon in Truckee, California

Earlier this week, Greyson and I checked out a fairly new local hiking trail near the Donner Summit area in Truckee.

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Donner Summit Canyon trail is yet another awesome trail built by the Truckee Donner Land Trust (the organization behind the amazing Wendin Way Trail. The trail is open to hikers and mountain bikers, and we explored via hiking this time. We decided that we were glad we did, because the trail is a pretty steady uphill gravel path that turns into a narrow and rocky trail.

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From Truckee Donner Land Trust

Though the trail is uphill the whole way, the climb felt pretty easy, and we weren’t working too hard. About a mile into the trail, there’s a sign pointing left to a scenic view point – definitely follow that detour. You’ll get a nice view of Donner Lake, and there’s even a picnic table for a quick snack or picnic lunch.

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After the scenic detour, we headed back to the main trail, and up the trail, heading higher towards the intersection with the Pacific Crest Trail. We hadn’t planned to hike all the way to the PCT anyway, but we ran into a creek crossing where the bridge was missing! We’d gone about 2.3 miles at this point (including the detour to the scenic overlook), so we decided to turn back instead of risking getting wet.

The spot with the missing bridge had great views, with Donner Peak above us and Donner lake below, so we enjoyed the view for a few minutes before the wind got too cold, and we headed back. The whole trip was just under 4 miles, and took us about an hour and a half with our stops for scenery and attempts at wildflower identification.

Donner Summit Canyon Hike // tahoefabulous.com

Not technically a flower.

While it’s not the most rugged or challenging hike, and there are some with better views, this is a great quick hike (or gravel grind on your bike). If you’re looking for an easy hike with great views in the Truckee area, the Donner Summit Canyon Trail is perfect.

 

Hiking Alamere Falls – Bolinas, California

I finally made it out to one of my Bay Area bucket list destinations – Alamere Falls. Alamere is a rare California tidefall, a waterfall that streams directly onto the beach. It’s one of only two in northern California!

Alamere Falls Hike, Bolinas, California // tahoefabulous.com

We approached Alamere Falls from the south on the Coastal Trail outside of Bolinas, California. The trail is about 8 miles round trip, and fairly flat and easy, aside from the unmaintained trail to the top of the falls and the sketchy climb to the beach below the falls.

Trail Map via Strava
Trail Map via Strava

I had never been to Alamere, and Greyson hadn’t been in years, so we were surprised by the amount of people who were doing the fairly long hike on a Sunday. We had to park about a half mile away from the trailhead due to the amount of cars in the parking lot and along the road. We also were stopped several times before we made it onto the trail by people asking if “this is the trail to the waterfall?”

I’m not sure if it is always that busy on weekends or if it was exacerbated by some outside cause, like the gorgeous weather or being featured in a magazine or newspaper article. We saw several hundred people over the course of the ~3.5 hours we spent on the trail and on the beach. If you’re looking for a relaxing, people-free adventure, this may not be the hike for you, or be sure to time it on a week day during an off time.

Crowds at the top of Alamere Falls
Crowds at the top of Alamere Falls

Despite the many people (many who lacked basic hiking etiquette – we saw tons of dogs in the dog-free wilderness area, people hiking while blasting music, and other rude trail behavior), the Alamere Falls hike was totally worth it for us. The tide was way in, so there wasn’t much beach and we were dodging the waves, but the view of the waterfall falling into the waves was incredible!

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Because there were so many people and loose dogs running around, the steep and loose climb down to the beach and back to the trail was extra sketchy. If you’re not sure-footed and used to scrambling, I’d recommend staying on the top of the cliff and enjoying the still amazing view of the falls from above.

Elevation Profile via Strava
Elevation Profile via Strava

Though fairly long, the trail is mostly flat and not technical, so it ends up being a fairly easy hike to the top of the falls and back. There are great ocean views on some sections of the trail, and once the haze cleared out, we could see back to the skyline of San Francisco. It should definitely be on your Bay Area Bucket List!

Can you spot the SF skyline?
Can you spot the SF skyline?

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park

So, I don’t want to brag…but I found the best state park in California. I considered not sharing and keeping the pristine, remote wilderness to myself. But Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is so far off the beaten path that I don’t think I need to worry about it getting overrun. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is one of the few ways to access the Lost Coast – California’s least developed stretch of shoreline.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park // tahoefabulous.com

We undertook quite a journey to arrive at Sinkyone (spoiler alert: worth it!). First we headed east and south from Graberville, California, taking twisty backroads through the trees, passing high fences, large fertilizer tanks, and the overwhelming smell of marijuana. We made a mental note not to wander off trail in this area of northern California. After 20 or so miles of this, we followed signs to Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, Needle Rock Visitors Center, and camping and onto the steepest, windiest, narrowest dirt road I’ve ever been on.

It was pretty foggy, so we couldn’t really see where we were headed, and I’m pretty sure Greyson thought that I was taking him somewhere remote to abandon him. After three miles of dirt road (which seriously took like 40 minutes to descend), we got our first incredible glimpse of the Lost Coast.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park // tahoefabulous.com

Can you spot the Harbor Seals?

We checked in with the camp host, and set up our tent on a bluff overlooking the ocean. (You can also book a spot in an old barn if you want!) There are only a couple of spots available at Needle Rock Visitor Center, so you are guaranteed to not feel crowded! While we were car camping, there are hike in camp sites within a mile or so of the parking area.

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We decided to head down the steep trail to the beach before dinner. The camp host had warned us about the steepness, and he was not kidding! There were several sections where a rope tied around and nearby bush were necessary to descend and later ascend.

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Photo by Greyson Howard

Like the drive, the hike to the beach was worth it. It was sheer cliffs and black sand beaches as far as we could see, and our only company were the dozens of curious harbor seals basking on the rocks. Needle Rock beach has got to be one of the best beaches in all of California.

Over the few days we spent at Sinkyone, we spent quite a bit of time at the beach – examining tide pools, getting into staring competition with the seals, watching pelicans dive, and attempting to climb on the rocks. We even saw an otter, which are supposed to be extinct that far north on the California coast! We also hiked a section of the Lost Coast trail to look at some neat geologic features. We hiked up a steep hill, hoping for a great view.

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While we didn’t exactly get a view of the ocean, hiking to above the fog was pretty awesome! We also saw the local elk herd.

If you plan on visiting Sinkyone, be sure to check the weather, as the road probably becomes impassable in the winter/rain. Bring everything you need with you, as there’s nothing in the way of supplies available. Pack out your garbage, as there is not garbage pick up in the park. Be sure to bring rain gear, hiking shoes, and binoculars!

Glacier National Park

Over the past few years, I’ve really expanded the number of US National Parks I’ve visited. I went from one in 2009 (North Cascades National Park) to my current count of twelve. Just last week, I was able to add another National Park to my list: Glacier National Park in Montana.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

My parents and I spent a (too) quick day here on a drive through the park. I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay and more exploring!

We drove to Glacier National Park’s West Entrance and had to wait in a fairly long line to get in. We were there on a Saturday, so we definitely experienced the summer crowds. If you end up visiting in the summer, I encourage you to go midweek.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

My parents aren’t huge hikers, so we didn’t get to experience much of Glacier National Park’s 700 miles of trails. In fact, in the couple of places we tried to go on short hikes, the trail head parking lots were so full we couldn’t park! We ended up just stopping at a number of little pull out areas along the way to stretch our legs, explore along the river, and take in the park’s amazing views.

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

One reason we chose to go in the summer was the opportunity to take the Going to the Sun Road over Lolo Pass. Glacier National Park describes Going to the Sun Road as

“One of the most amazing highlights of Glacier National Park is a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana.”

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

This drive is definitely worth fighting the summer crowds, at least once. We even got to see some great wildlife on the drive!

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Despite the long lines and full parking lots, Glacier didn’t feel as crowded as Yosemite or Yellowstone often do. I can’t wait to come back and do more backcountry exploring. Go visit Glacier National Park soon, before all the glaciers melt!

Glacier National Park // tahoefabulous.com

Until next time, Glacier!