Pop, Fizz, Clink! 24 Hours in Napa

Ok, I admit it: I love to plan. But there’s also something so wonderful about a spontaneous trip!

After a few packed days in Houston, I was headed home to San Diego. En route to the airport my husband texted me and asked me if I wanted to go to Napa the next day. I didn’t hesitate, I just squealed and said of course! So goes our 24 hour Napa mission.

Adventure Appeal x 24 Hours in Napa // June 2017

Packing in a hurry, I tried to just bring the important things, an outfit for the night, an outfit for wine tasting and a bikini for any pool time, and not overthink it. Also, we grabbed a bottle of bubbly for the plane – pretty essential, right? 😉

Let’s be Jet Setters, Darling! // Adventure Appeal x 24 Hours in Napa, June 2017

With my first private plane experience, the trip was definitely off to a great start.

🍾 Packed the essentials 🍾 now off to Napa! // June 2017

We stayed at the gorgeous Carneros Resort & Spa, which also happens to be the place we got married a couple of years ago. It brings back all the warm fuzzies every single time.

Throwback to the Carneros Resort on our wedding day! // November 2014

For dinner, we opted to try someplace new, and booked a sushi dinner at Kenzo. This Japanese spot is owned by the couple behind Kenzo winery and includes a Kaiseki tasting menu at the sushi bar, a few tables in the dining room and a back room with a separate sushi bar for private parties. We were blown away by the artistry of the meal, and how well the courses paired with the estate wine. It was such an intimate and unique dinner, I highly recommend it for a splurge meal.

Menu signed by our sushi chefs — such a delicious and authentic experience // Kenzo, Napa June 2017

The next morning, after taking full use of breakfast in bed and the outdoor showers in our casita, we headed to garden tastings at Caymus and Frog’s Leap.

Beautiful gardens at Caymus, the perfect place for a summer tasting // Napa, June 2017
Find be between the vines // Caymus Winery, Napa June 2017
Serious wine cellar goals // Caymus Winery, Napa, June 2017

We are big fans already, and it was neat to try all of the wines you can only get in Napa (like Caymus’ Zin!). Insider tip: these wineries are within walking distance and you can pre-book appointments (recommended) online. Too easy!

Enjoy the garden, grounds, barn and sneak into production while Frog’s Leap // Napa, June 2017
Frog’s Leap Garden Tasting // Napa, June 2017
Wine and pretty gardens, I’m in heaven! // Frog’s Leap Winery, Napa, June 2017

Following the tastings, we had a wonderful lunch at Mustard’s Grill and couldn’t believe our luck that we were there on the 35th birthday celebration. From there it was straight to the pool and relaxing on property before our evening flight.

It was a fun whirlwind adventure where we relished in good meals, tasted wines in beautiful gardens and were still able to to soak in some sun and slower paced wine country vibes. I can’t wait to come back later this year!

Have you taken spontaneous quick trips in the past? What have been some of your favorite quick getaways?

Houston, You’re Pretty Out of this World!

Everything’s bigger in Texas. That held true on my latest trip to Houston where I saw enormous rockets at NASA, had huge helpings of Tex-Mex and saw Rothko paintings that took up entire walls.

First Stop: Johnson Space Center … Next Stop: The Moon!

My sister, little nieces and I loved touring visiting the Houston Space Station. It is about 30-45 minutes outside the city and has a ton of exhibits, interactive features and tours of the actual NASA campus. We saw moon rocks, lunar roving vehicles, climbed in the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft and still felt like we barely scratched the surface of what the Center has to offer.

🚀 fly me to the moon 🚀 // Houston Space Center, June 2017

Insider tip: you can pre-book all of your admissions, including tickets, tram tours and the famous shuttle carrier. This will help avoid lines and also keep you on track. Next time I really want to have lunch with an astronaut too! What a cool feature, I will definitely be back. Check out their website for more scheduling tips based on number of hours you have, etc.

After NASA we spent the afternoon on ferris wheels and scramblers at Kemah. It was a total blast, and would definitely pair the two especially if you have kids (or are a kid at heart, like me!).

Broken Obelisk outside the Rothko Cathedral // Houston, TX June 2017

One of my other favorite parts of the trip was visiting the serene Rothko Cathedral and the Menil Collection. The Broken Obelisk is a tribute to MLK and those that continue to fight for human rights and is located outside the Cathedral.  Inside the Cathedral, it is a serene space where giant Rothko paintings are adorned on each wall. As the clouds move, the light changes in the room and creates a really unique effect.

Love Jack at the Menil // Houston, TX, June 2017

Moving through the Museum District, a stop at the Love Jack and Menil Gallery are a must. It’s also free, and who doesn’t love free? We wove our way through the special exhibitions and really liked viewing their contemporary collection. Speaking of the contemporary collection, you can go back to their website after the visit and review everything you saw, which was pretty neat.

All in all it was a wonderful few days, and I loved exploring a few areas I hadn’t seen in past trips. Any Houston spots you love? Let me know so that I can add them into my next trip!

The Making of a Weekend in Minnie

Weddings are the perfect time to catchup with old friends and explore different cities. We had the pleasure of attending our friends’ wedding in Minneapolis this month and loved exploring so many lush green spaces – parks, sculpture gardens, golf courses and more.

only the wind knows where it will carry our dandelion souls — a.r. asher // Minneapolis,  June 2017
All you need is love! // Newly reopened Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, June 2017

The Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Parks & Rec host the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an 11 acre park with wide open green spaces and 60 works of art. A staple has always been the Spoonbrige and Cherry, and now also includes the blue rooster, “Hahn/Cock,” by Katharina ­Fritsch.

Life is pretty sweet // Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, June 2017

In between the park walks, we loved having brunch at The Copper Hen (don’t leave without having a bloody mary!) and dinner at Cafe Lucrat, which has a great view of Loring Park.

Rounding out the trip, our friend’s wedding ceremony took place at the Woodhill Country Club and we loved spending the day there with croquet, drinks overlooking the golf course and a lovely & lively reception. 🙂

Nothing but green for miles and blue skies // Woodhill Country Club, June 2017
Ready to celebrate! // Minnesota, June 2017
Fancy a round of croquet? // Woodhill Country Club, June 2017

Feeling so grateful to have had the chance to celebrate with our friends and explore Minneapolis a bit more. I hope your month has been filled with love and exploration too!

Getaway Guide: 2 Day Mini Trip to Scottsdale

I love vacationing with friends: you have endless hours together catching up on all the good times and funny stories and still get to experience new things together building upon your friendship. One of these great mini trips was with my best friend from college to Scottsdale, AZ. We live on different coasts and only get to catch up a few times a year so it made the time together all the more precious.

Check out my top tips and recommendations below to max out your time and memories on a super quick (mine was just 2 days!) trip to Scottsdale.

Adventure Appeal x Scottsdale, AZ // April 2017

ADVENTURE APPEAL’S 2 DAYGETWAY GUIDE TO SCOTTSDALE, AZ

♦ Know Before You Go
♦ Savor
♦ Get Active
♦ View From Above
♦ Lodging
♦How to Get There

 

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

  • Get your fill of the Saguaro! Southern AZ and parts of Mexico are their natural habitat.
  • Bring sunscreen and a swimsuit — the sun is strong and when we visited there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so we spent every afternoon chatting and lounging by the pool.
  • There’s incredible visibility at night in the desert, so don’t forget to look up at the stars. 🙂
  • Frequently resorts offer packages for discounted prices that include spa credits and breakfasts. Choose one of these for the ultimate luxury escape!
  • Many resorts also have a car service that you can utilize to take you on hikes and into town. Just be sure to bring cash for a tip.
  • Springtime is one of their busiest seasons for Scottsdale with visitors escaping cold weather and coming in town for baseball’s spring training.
  • Scottsdale is the new Caribbean for baby-moons! Thank you, Zika.
Can’t touch this! // Adventure Appeal x Scottsdale // April 2017

GET ACTIVE

It’s too easy to be active in Scottsdale. Resorts have a slew of classes free of charge with small numbers. Reset with a yoga class, or power up with bootcamp (don’t worry the pool is your reward later!).

I like big boulders and I cannot lie 😉 // Scottsdale, AZ, April 2017

Also be sure to check out the many accessible hiking trails. Two of our favorites were the very steep 2.5 mile climb up Camelback Mountain and the meandering Saguaro-filled Quartz Ridge Trail . Each were within 15 minutes of our resort, which you really can’t beat! See my review for the Quartz Ridge Trail trail here: http://adventureappeal.com/quartz-ridge-trail-8a/

Getting my Saguaro fix along the Quartz Ridge Trail // Scottsdale, AZ, April 2017

SAVOR

  • Pick international and eclectic small plates with locally sourced ingredients at the flavor-packed FnB. Request patio seating at dinnertime for a charming experience!
  • Poolside breakfast and lunch at the Sanctuary. We absolutely loved their kale salads with shrimp and a glass of rosé, the breakfast omelets and fresh smoothies.
  • Iced matcha tea lattes, cactus cookies and rose colored / scented / flavored everything at the adorable Růže Cake House right on Main Street.
Stop by Růže Cake House for all your caffeine and sweet tooth cravings // Scottsdale, AZ, April 2017

VIEW FROM ABOVE

Besides the view from the pool 😉 my favorite view from the trip was at the top of Camelback Mountain.

Hello, Arizona!! Best view of the trip was from Camelback Mountain // Scottsdale, AZ, April 2017

LOGDING

We absolutely loved staying at the Sanctuary Camelback Resort and Spa! Each room was in a casita and felt very modern and stylish. The poolside service, massage packages and grounds were top notch too.

In heaven poolside at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa // Scottsdale, AZ, April 2017

Including Sanctuary, here are our top picks are listed below to find your desert oasis:

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia

Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa

HOW TO GET THERE (& BACK!)

Scottsdale is a quick trip from the Pheonix Airport and I found it so easy to navigate using ride share services, skipping the cost and hassle of a rental car. Also, check Southwest Airlines for cheap flights in and out — there are some genuine steals out there!

I really loved my mini trip to Scottsdale and I hope these tips help you to max our your quick trip there. Add any places I should bookmark for next time to the comments section below!

Hiking Amongst the Cacti: Quartz Ridge Trail (#8A)

Welcome to Saguaro heaven! For those of us visiting Scottsdale on a quick vacation, be sure to add the Quartz Ridge Trail to your itinerary for your fill of hiking and cacti.

Adventure Appeal x Scottsdale // Quartz Ridge Trail (#8A) // April 2017

The Quartz Ridge Trail (also known as trail #8A of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve) is a quick out and back hike totaling approximately 3.5 miles. The path starts wide and slow and becomes thinner and steeper as the trail goes on, with lots of switchbacks to make the elevation gain (705 feet) feel extremely manageable.

Cactus with a view! What could be more Scottsdale? // Quartz Ridge Trail (#8A) // April 2017

One of my girlfriends and I hiked the trail in a little over an hour, stopping along for lots of cactus pictures and views of the city down below. There’s excellent signage, and follow the markers for #8A.  There are many other trails that intersect, so if you’d like to increase mileage that’s entirely possible.

On the trail! Quartz Ridge (#8A) // Scottsdale, April 2017

Only 10 minutes from town, we popped over to Růže Cake House right on Main Street for lattes and a snack afterwards and then headed straight to the pool back at the Sanctuary.  It was the perfect morning and such fun exploring a new trail! Check out my quick and dirty review below:


QUARTZ RIDGE TRAIL (#8A PHOENIX PRESERVE)

Best Time of Year To Go: Fall – Spring (when it doesn’t get too hot!)

Hiking Distance: 3.5 miles out and back

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Insider tips:

  • Be sure to pack plenty of water and sunscreen as the hike up and back is shade-free. You can also check for heat advisories here.
  • There’s a small parking at 32nd St and Lincoln with about 10 spaces that puts you right at the trailhead.
  • Southern Arizona and parts of Mexico are the only places where you can catch the Saguaro in it’s natural habitat. You’ll enjoy seeing so many along the trail.
  • No permit required – yay!
  • This hike is easily accessible from Scottsdale resorts and hotels, yet is not as hectic as Camelback Mountain.
  • At the end of the trail, it merges with #8B, so look for markers to make sure you don’t go too far — unless you want the extra mileage ;).

Rating: Great experience! (4/5 stars)

Maps & additional reviews: AllTrails & Phoenix Parks & Rec


Let’s connect… Have you been to Scottsdale, and did you also love the Quartz Ridge Trail? Besides Camelback Mountain, what other hikes should I bookmark for my next visit?

On the outskirts of town: Two Vegas Adventures

Visiting a city you’ve been to 20+ times? Try exploring the outskirts of town. I did just this on a recent road trip to Vegas and had the absolute best time!

SEVEN MAGIC MOUNTAINS

Desert … desert … desert … HOLY SMOKES COLOR EXPLOSION! That’s how it feels when you’re approaching Seven Magic Mountains, a large-scale colorful boulder artwork by Ugo Rondinone. Located about 10 miles from Las Vegas off Interstate 15, visiting this artwork is an easy and fun addition to any road trip that instantly makes you smile with the rainbow of neon colors.

Promise to always live boldly! // Seven Magic Mountains // Last Vegas, Nevada, June 2017
A rainbow of neon joy in the desert // Seven Magic Mountains, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 2017

Plan your trip: http://sevenmagicmountains.com/

Find more large scale artworks sponsored by the Art Production Fund: http://www.artproductionfund.org/projects/curtis-kulig-at-the-street

MOUNT CHARLESTON

Twenty miles from the highway and the climate slowly changes from Joshua trees and Mojave yucca plants to pine trees and snow capped mountains. That’s pretty incredible for June in Las Vegas! We parked at the Mount Charleston Lodge and had a delightful lunch outside on the patio. This was our home base for the day, as afterwards we went to a nearby trailhead and hiked Little Falls (and then came back again for patio drinks!).

Perfect spot for our post hike patio drinks // Mount Charleston, Nevada, June 2017

Little Falls trail splits off of Cathedral Rock, and has a slow incline up to a creek bed and ends in a three tier waterfall. Total mileage is just under 2 miles and is pretty perfect way to spend an hour without wearing any kind of significant hiking gear. The U.S. Forest Service has a large visitor center on the way to the Lodge and can direct you to this hike and many many others on Mount Charleston.

Snow in June… Nevada? You’ve gotta be kidding me! // Mount Charleston, Nevada June 2017

Don’t listen to TLC, always chase those waterfalls // Mount Charleston, Nevada June 2017

Plan your trip: http://mtcharlestonlodge.com/

Pick your hikes: https://www.alltrails.com/lists/mount-charleston

 

What are your favorite adventures outside of Las Vegas? Tell me in the comments section below.

 

Top 7 Tips for Hiking Races

Endurance races can be killer, they push you far outside your comfort zone taking you to the edge both physically and mentally. I’ve raced plenty of 5 Ks, half marathons and completed the NY Marathon. Now, I’m thrilled to say I completed a hiking marathon — with actually couple miles more too!  The Trailblaze Challenge is one of many hiking races I’ve seen pop up over the past year or two and I’m thrilled about this new opportunity to push my limits. I had an incredible time training for and racing this 26+ mile race and I couldn’t recommend taking on a hiking marathon more!

Be sure to follow the below tips for successful preparation and race-day fun, and keep me posted on how your training and race go. You can do it!

Top 7 Tips for Hiking Races

1.) Build endurance and be prepared for different types of terrain

Train with hikes that build endurance through increased distance, similar to training plans for marathons. Start small and each week add a couple of miles to your long hike. You’ll also want to make sure that you are covering different types of terrain on your training hikes so you’re ready for anything on race day.  Over your training months, seek out different trails that include steep climbs, long steady inclines, muddy and gravel paths to practice uneven ground and even scrambling. The increasing lengths and varied terrain will only help you on race day.

2.) Train in your race day gear 

This is one of the most valuable pieces of advice: be sure to train in your race day gear, and don’t bring gear or tool you aren’t familiar with. You should feel very comfortable using your gear so that on race day, you can focus on the trail and keeping one foot in front of the other. This could mean breaking in trail runners; practicing with hiking poles;  knowing how to quickly refill your Camelbak bladder and liking the feel of your athletic wear. I really fell in love with a lightweight sweat wiking long sleeve quarter zip and knew it would be on my body or in my pack on race day.

3.) Be Safe

Hiking races can contain large stints of time without cell phone service and possibly without interaction from other hikers or event staff.  Given the remoteness, it’s very important to stay safe and alert.  Be sure to remain on trail, use tracking apps (my favorites are Map my Run and Halfmile’s PCT, both free and work in airplane mode) and keep a paper copy of the trail with any trail notes.

4.) Stay hydrated and pack snacks with quick burning energy

Unlike half or full marathons where racers generally drink water and Gatorade or have a quick chew or goo to push you through, hiking races require lots more water and fuel. Be sure to hydrate and try to stay away from alcohol the two days prior to race day. Then on race day, keep your bladder full and have a side water bottle or thermos for coffee in the morning and if you want to use a hydration tablet later in the day (they never go in your bladder pack!). Snacks I loved were crunchy pb & banana sandwiches, apples, dried mango, jerkey and Honey Stinger organic energy chews.

5.) Keep a small first aid kit, hand sanitizer and zip loc baggies in your pack

Hiking races take hours. If you get stuck in between aid stations, or your race doesn’t feature them, you’ll want to be prepared with a small first aid kit. Addressing injuries isn’t the only thing you’ll do in the woods…be sure to pack out anything you bring and put trash and tissues in zip loc baggies to throw away at the end. Taking the motto of “leave no trace” to a whole new meaning, right?

6.) Have a mantra and a mission

People talk about hitting a wall or being in the pain cave… these are real problems on race day. We train and build mileage, but race day we push ourselves farther physically than we’ve ever been.  Key techniques to overcoming a mental block are repeating an uplifting phrase or mantra and having a mission statement. It’s proven that mantras and uplifting phrases repeated to yourself during strenuous activity (and really all of life!) keep you positive, calm and focused. This is no different than on race day and is the perfect place to practice.  A couple of my go-to’s are: One foot in front of the other! // This is what you came for! // PCT ain’t got nothing on me (this last one was especially helpful to me recently ;)).

Mission statements can also be hugely motivating. Are you raising money and awareness for charity? Taking on a new challenge? Proving to yourself you can keep going at 40? Find the why behind the race and keep your mind there. The mind often breaks before the body, and don’t let you stand in your way. You got this!  

7.) Share your journey!

Bring a camera or Go-Pro and take as much footage as you can! Trust me, you’ll want to capture the awe-inspiring views, crazy tough terrain you push through and your grinning face at the finish line. Plus, you never know who you could motivate when you share your story.

Good luck, hikers!

Trailblaze Challenge Finisher!!!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! On May 20th I was the 3rd to cross the finish line at San Diego’s inaugural TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE, a one-day, 26+ mile hike to raise awareness and funds for Make-A-Wish San Diego.  It was an incredible journey following the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) via the Cougar Crest Trail and ending at Onyx Summit near Big Bear, California.

Mission Accomplished! 3rd to the Finish Line // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

I had so much fun with my girlfriends and loved meeting the other participants; we really created a little family, encouraging each other and drawing from each other’s strength and positive energy.  It was inspiring to hear the participants’ pasts and stories. Hikers varied in age and hiking experience — 21 to 75 and Mt Whitney veterans to brand new hikers, and most special of all was meeting fellow hikers who were parents to Wish-kids and learning how the organization has brought such happiness to their lives.

Get all the race day feel-goods with this video captured by the event’s photographer and see my race-day recap below. Stay tuned later this week for my Top 7 Tips for a Hiking Race if you’re ready to sign up for this challenge or a similar one soon.

San Diego Make-A-Wish Trailblaze Challenge from Travis Rieth on Vimeo   (catch me at 40 seconds and 1:30 🙂 )

RACE RECAP: TEAM ADVENTURE APPEAL TAKES ON THE TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE

We started this long but glorious day at 3:15am when the 80 hikers, event staff and medics met for roll call and breakfast. We were soon out the door for the starting line with our headlamps on. My girlfriends and I started in wave 7 at 4:15am, and in the pitch black night it was so much fun to see the string of lights below and above us on the trail. Before long, the light was breaking and we watched the sun rise over Big Bear Lake, a truly beautiful sight.

Starting at 4:15am, 80 Hikers took on San Diego’s first Trailblaze Challenge // May 20th 2017
Team Adventure Appeal ready to start this epic journey! // Big Bear California, May 20th 2017

The race course included 3 aid stations and they were the perfect markers for recapping later with our fellow hikers and friends. Before the 1st aid station we acclimated to elevation, navigated the trail in the dark and were moving quickly, high on coffee and race-day adrenaline. Next, we hit our stride for a 7-8 miles, going long stretches of slight incline and steady downhill. These provided gorgeous viewpoints of the valley and lots of Mojave yucca spotting.

Mojave yucca and valley views // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th, 2017

At the 2nd aid station there were Make-a-Wish cheerleaders, friends and family with signs and cowbells and a feast of snacks. Everyone partook in some much needed restoration here and I shed a lot of layers as the sun become stronger.

The next stretch was long and solo. I hit my stride and saw few race-day or PCT through hikers for the next 9 miles. Following the race map, PCT markers and taking countless pictures and funny videos I kept on track and in high spirits. The terrain was a mix of narrow dirt paths and wide loose rocks with seemingly endless views of the Johnson Valley.

All about that view from above // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

Clocking in at the 3rd aid station, I was mindful not to spend as long as I did at the 2nd, since there were just 5 miles left of the race. These 5 miles were the toughest yet, a steady climb uphill precisely when your body and mind start to break down. I kept repeating positive mantras in my head and seeing the friendly face of a fellow race-day hiker at mile 27 really motivated me to keep going.

5 Miles left, repeating my silly, playful mantra “PCT ain’t got nothing on me” 😉 // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

1 mile from the finish line, the extra adrenaline and excitement of finishing was taking over and views of Onyx Summit were starting to form. We even passed the famous couch rest stop (next time ;)). Because this was a hiking race, the finish line wasn’t as clear, and myself and a fellow hiker wound up passing it, increasing our mileage and our excuses for lots of delicious treats later.

Fancy a seat or a snack? PCT Trail Angels fill this dumpster with water, snacks and inspiration for through hikers // Onyx Summit, May 20, 2017

Happy, hungry and in awe of the process, I ended the race at 10 hours and 15 minutes, clocking in 29.15 miles and finishing 3rd. It was exhilarating, humbling and altogether such a push mentally and physically. Thank  you for this incredible opportunity, Make-A-Wish and to all those that provided encouragement and support!

29.15 miles later, happy sweaty and ready for to celebrate // Trailblaze Challenge, May 20th 2017

 

Trailblaze Challenge: Climb for a Cause

I’ve been training and fundraising all spring and race weekend is finally HERE!!! On May 20th I’m taking on San Diego’s first TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE.

Team Adventure Appeal is hiking 26 miles in one day to raise money for Make-a-Wish San Diego

The TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE is a one-day, 26 mile hike to raise awareness and much needed funds for Make-a-Wish San Diego. The route follows the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) via the Cougar Crest Trail and ends at Onyx Summit near Big Bear, California.

I’m so excited to tackle this hike and raise money for such a worthy cause. Make-A-Wish San Diego grants the wishes of children in San Diego and Imperial counties with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. This non-profit organization has a special place in my heart because I love to travel and experience life, and it breaks my heart that some kids won’t have the time /  years to do the same. Learn more about the hike and make a donation here.

peace, love and hiking

Huge thanks to my friends and family for all their encouragement and donations over the past few months, and special thanks to Yoga Six and wash. for their donation based events in support of my campaign — y’all are the best. ♥

Hoping to post lots from the trail, so be sure to follow along on Instagram: @adventureappeal. Let’s do this, Team Adventure Appeal!

 

Humpback Rocks Trail & Icy Treats at Moo Thru

Two weeks ago, I flew back to the east coast for a fun filled gals weekend. Before the bachelorette festivities and family gatherings began, I met up with my college roommate for a little adventure.  We took a half (or really, two-thirds) day excursion out to the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike Humpback Rocks, and added a brewery lunch with a view and ice cream treat on the way back into town. It was a great way to catchup with one of my best friends and keep up with my Trailblaze Challenge training while traveling.

Taking things to the top // Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia // May 2017

The Blue Ridge Parkway covers 469 miles along the southern Appalachians through Virginia and North Carolina and contains 360+ miles of hiking trails. From where we accessed the National Park, is about a 2-2.5 hour drive from DC. Google knows best, but we recommend taking I-66 W to US-29 S, then taking I-64 W to State Rte 610 in South River. We took a quick stop right outside the park at the Rockfish Gap Tourist Center to gear up with handfuls of maps, advice and bathrooms (helpful!). From there, you quickly enter the Blue Ridge Parkway and head to the Humpback Rocks parking lot in between mileposts 6 and 7.

Be prepared! Bring this trail map or get it at the Visitor Center // Map from NPS.gov
Insider tip: take the loop! It is full of switchbacks for a subtle climb

The trailhead is conveniently right there. Once you’re on the trail (be sure to take the first trailhead entrance) the climb is full of shady steady switchbacks, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Cell service is spotty, so bring those old fashioned trail maps, a dowloaded version on your phone and follow the markings along the trees. The hike is definitely all levels, and good for experienced hikers and novices alike. A little more than 3/4 of the way through the loop, you’ll find yourself at a sign for Humpback Rocks. Take this scramble up and be prepared for the epic view. We thought we hit the jackpot of a view…

The fake out view // Humpback Rocks, Blue Ridge Parkway // Spring 2017

And it only got better!

View of the valley from Humpback Rocks // Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia // Spring 2017

From there, hang out and enjoy the view and take the path down. At first, it feels more like stairs and then widens to be more of a path versus a trail feel. If you’re pressed for time and just want to soak in the view, you can just go up and back from the parking lot, by using the second trailhead entrance. This will quickly present you with a “staircase” style hike up to Humpback Rocks and you’ll take the same path down.

Ta-Da! View from the Top of Humpback Rocks // Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia // Spring 2017

Afterwards reward yourself with a gorgeous view, a burger and beer at Blue Mountain Brewery. We sat on the patio, looked at pictures from the hike and checked the traffic for our way back into the city.  The last stop we made was at my all time favorite ice cream spot, Moo Thru! Well deserved after that hike, right?!

 

Visiting DC soon? Add this half day excursion for your fill of hiking, brews, views and handmade ice cream! And, as always, my quick and dirty review is below…

 

 


HUMPBACK ROCKS TRAIL ALONG THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY

Location: Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia

Best Time of Year To Go: spring through fall (best foliage peeping is in October)

Hiking Distance: 4.2 miles (loop)

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Insider tips:

  • Permits are not required and it was free to park.
  • This loop offers tons of shade and is dog friendly.
  • Pack a snack and picnic with friends — tables located at the start of the trailhead — or hit up a Charlottesville brewery or winery for lunch.
  • Plan on losing  (or at least dropping) cell service on the way to and during the hike. Bringing paper maps and pre-downloading maps on your phone are the way to go.
  • From the parking lot there are two trailheads, one for the loop and one straight up. The .8 miles straight up path gets much more crowded and can be quite slippery after recent rain.
  • Is there a sign preventing you from entering the parking lot / trail? That means a bear was spotted! Good thing there are lots of other trails nearby.
  • See someone that looks and smells like they’ve been hiking a long time? They’re probably hiking the AT, and be sure to let them pass you. #trailetiquette.

Rating: Gorgeous view but tough following the trail at times (4 /5 stars)

Maps & additional reviews: NPS (with map), Hiking Upward (with recent reviews and calorie count!), All Trails (with lots of pictures)


Let’s connect! What was your experience like at Humpback Rocks? Any favorite hikes near DC that I should add to my hiking wish list?