4 Mountain Hikes for a Breath of Fresh Air
These excursions provide a gateway to the great outdoors
Hiking in immaculate surroundings is the perfect antidote to the many stresses of today’s world. A great walk offers mindfulness, wonder and comfort along with fresh, crisp mountain air. Think of it as your very own adventure as you see new places, powered by your strength— with the very real possibility of glimpsing wild animals in their pristine habitat.
near Glenwood Springs, Colorado
This short, steep-in-spots, scenic trail rises from the bottom of Glenwood Canyon through Deadhorse Creek Canyon to Hanging Lake, a National Natural Landmark. The trail follows and crosses (via seven bridges) a mountain stream and features two waterfalls. Depending on your pace, it can take from 40 minutes to 1.5 hours to get to the top, but there are several benches and invitingly flat rocks to rest in the shade of tall spruce, cedar and fir trees.
Just before the top, steep stairs are carved into the canyon’s cliff rock. The trail ends in a boardwalk around the lake (no swimming or boating in the lake). A short offshoot from the trail leads to Spouting Rock, where a waterfall gushes out of a sheer cliff wall.
DIFFICULTY Moderate, but some parts of the trail are steep and rocky. LENGTH OF TRAIL 2.4 miles, out and back. INSIDER INFO A permit is required for entry and can be obtained at the self-park at the trailhead/ Hanging Lake Rest Area. $12/person. Currently only 128 permits are issued per day, so plan to come early or late. Also, it’s quite narrow in places, making social distancing challenging. HOW TO GET THERE Take the Hanging Lake exit off I-70. GOOD TO KNOW Drive to Glenwood Springs (10 miles) to swim in mineral hot springs pools at historic Glenwood Hot Springs Resort or the recently opened Iron Mountain Hot Springs.
Jenny Lake Loop
Grand Teton National Park, near Jackson, Wyoming
This wide, well-marked trail through dense forests and high meadows offers jaw-dropping views of crystalline Jenny Lake and the Tetons. It is a popular hike, so you’ll want hit the trail early (8 a.m.): fewer people, easier to park. You’ll have a greater probability of spotting wildlife—deer, foxes, marmots and beavers. There’s also a serious possibility of seeing moose at the aptly named Moose Ponds.
If you’re traveling with children or planning this hike as part of a family reunion, some members of your party can hike around the lake while others take the ferry across (and bring a picnic), walk to Hidden Falls and return on the ferry.
DIFFICULTY Moderate. LENGTH OF TRAIL 7.7 miles, loop. Add about 2 miles for detours to Inspiration Point and Hidden Falls. INSIDER INFO You’ll need a Grand Teton National Parks pass to access this trail. Spend the night under the stars in a remote campsite (reserve ahead) or at the upscale Jenny Lake Lodge. HOW TO GET THERE Take the South Jenny Lake Junction road to the Jenny Lake Trailhead. GOOD TO KNOW Escape the crowds with a visit to the nearby Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve to hike around the indigo-blue waters of Phelps Lake—enjoying views of both the Tetons and Death Canyon.
This is a fairly level, paved trail that’s an easy walk along the bur- bling Virgin River with its deep green pools, where you can sit and take in the views. Mosses and ferns grow right next to desert cacti, and hanging gardens spring from natural arches in the canyon’s rock walls. Majestic cliffs in subtle shades of red and brown rise up like skyscrapers. The paved walkway ends at the mouth of the Narrows— one of the nation’s deepest and longest slot canyons. The Narrows hike is through water—sometimes ankle-high, sometimes waist- high.
If you’re adventurous enough to venture into the Narrows, change into water-hiking shoes and bring a walking stick. You can hike the first few miles of the Narrows without a permit (the entire trail is 16 miles, takes two days and requires a permit). The water is cold, even in summer; the greener it is, the deeper it is.
DIFFICULTY Great for beginners. Wheel- chair accessible. LENGTH OF TRAIL 2.2 miles, out and back. INSIDER INFO Dramatic lighting and views—especially in early morning and evening, the best times to visit. HOW TO GET THERE Take the Zion Park shuttle to the last stop, #9. GOOD TO KNOW Get a permit to hike deeper than 10 miles into the Narrows. Renting the proper gear will keep you dry and comfortable: waterproof pants, dry pack, neoprene socks and water boots.
Lake Tahoe, California
The picturesque hike between the historic Vikingsholm Estate and D.L. Bliss State Park connects South Lake Tahoe’s rocky promontories and sandy coves. Parts of the trail are shaded by towering ponderosa pines. Mountain dogwood and black cottonwood grow along the stream feeding the lake, and you’ll encounter meadows filled with columbine, lupine and tiny wild roses. Eagles and ospreys circle overhead while sleek mergansers dive under the impossibly blue water to spear their next meal.
Pack your swimsuit: The high alpine lakes—Loon, Spider, Fawn and Miller—are perfect for a cool and refreshing dip. Buy a license (online) to fish for rainbow, lake and brown trout.
DIFFICULTY Moderate, with some steep drop-offs and sometimes-slippery granite steps. LENGTH OF TRAIL 9 miles to 16.4 miles, depending on your starting point, out and back. INSIDER INFO The most popular trailheads are at D.L. Bliss State Park and Emerald Bay State Park. $10/ vehicle day use fee. Parking lots fill up by 8:30 a.m. HOW TO GET THERE From South Lake Tahoe, follow the signs to D.L. Bliss State Park. GOOD TO KNOW Rent a kayak and paddle out to the stone ruins of a 19th-century teahouse perched atop Fannette Island in Emerald Bay.