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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…
And it only got better!
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.
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
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)
Long weekend trips with friends are some of my favorite! This past weekend my husband and I joined our friends in Banff for a little ski, snowshoe and relaxation.
Each day had a rhythm: get caffeinated, get active, aprés ski and end with a big group dinner. This format worked so well for a big group, where there were different interest areas and schedules. Our group loved skiing at Sunshine and Lake Louise (don’t miss Boomerang!), snowshoeing (my favorite!) and seeing all the frozen waterfalls at Johnston Canyon. Below you’ll also find our favorite bites and sips of the trip.
All in all I was so thoroughly in love with the trip, and can’t wait to come back in the summer or fall! Check out my recommendations and insider tips below, and add your favorite spots in the comments section below.
ADVENTUREAPPEAL’S BANFF WINTER GETWAY GUIDE:
♦ Know Before you go
♦ Get Active
♦ View From Above
♦ Other Hot Spots
♦ How to Get There
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Explore 3 day ski packages to save money and time buying lift tickets.
Activities where there aren’t a lot of operators (like dog sledding) fill up quickly, so be sure to book in advance.
Temperatures in Banff are no joke. Bring lots of layers and glove liners so that you can operate your phone and camera without exposing your digits to negative digit temps.
If you have a big group, consider booking reservations 3-6 weeks in advance. The restaurants tend to be smaller and if you hate waiting in line this advice will be key.
Standing room in bars doesn’t really exist, as establishments are required to have a seat for every person.
Don’t forget your swim suit! Most hotels have indoor and outdoor swimming facilities and there are a few fancy spas you may want to check out too.
In the winter, renting a car isn’t necessary or smart if you aren’t used to icy conditions. Opt for using the Airporter, Banff bus routes, shuttles to the ski lifts and private taxis / cars. If your hotel is in town, there are plenty of walkable options for shopping, dinner and drinks.
Weekends (especially Saturdays) are busiest, so try to tack on a couple of weekdays to your stay if you can.
There are tons of options to stay active while on your winter vacation to Banff, the most obvious choices being skiing and snowboarding. Other favorites from our group were snowshoeing, taking hikes and signing up for group workout classes at the Fairmont (drop in fees are available for classes if you’re staying elsewhere in town).
Through this Ice Walk Hike we got up close an personal with multiple frozen waterfalls, noshed on hot cocoa and cookies and watched the adventurous ice climbers (an activity for next time!).
Our group had the best tour guide, Saul, and we clocked in 3.6 miles along a railed pathway leading to the Upper and Lower Falls. These massive structures look like moments frozen in time. Pun intended!
Snowshoeing at the Continental Divide
About 45 minutes from Banff, we spent the morning snowshoeing through the trees at Kootenay Park.
Snowshoeing is the BEST way to stay warm! It was -10 C, and we all shed layers as we shuffled through the powder along the Continental Divide. A couple of tips for new snowshoers: take small steps and try to stay on top of the snow; don’t worry if you fall, it’s fun making snow angels; and lastly stretch afterwards as you’ll be using stability muscles you might not normally workout.
The Bison Restaurant and Terrace // Upscale feel without being pretentious. Our group rated this the best Bison burger in town and we paired it with Caymus’ sister wine the Conundrum Red. My husband loved the escargot bone marrow appetizer too.
Rundle Lounge at the Fairmont Banff Springs // Seats are first come first serve, so be sure to snag a spot by the windows. Luckily, there are a few rooms and you can either stay for drinks (coffee, tea, cocktails, etc) or a meal.
Park Distillery // This establishment is just 2 years old, and makes all of their spirits using glacier water. Try a custom cocktail (they also have mocktails), a spirit sampler tray or just go for the food and distillery tour.
Whitebark Cafe // My favorite spot for morning almond milk lattes, cheddar chive bacon scones and homemade granola bars.
Wild Flour Bakery // Indulge on super sized breakfast sandwiches with homemade focaccia bread and add peanut butter to the yogurt parfait for a little extra protein and the most PBJ-tastic experience.
VIEW FROM ABOVE
Everywhere you turn in Banff is another gorgeous mountain view. Besides at the top of the slopes, some of the best places to take in the views are via the Banff Gondola and the view from the Fairmont Banff Springs, specifically outside the Rundle Lounge.
We loved taking over the suites at the new Moose Hotel! Everything at the hotel was new and clean, and the heated pools, hot tubs and fire pit all had great views of the mountains. Insider Tip: the pictures on the Moose Hotel’s website don’t do this property justice!
Looking for a family friendly hotel? Opt for the Fairmont Banff Springs, where there are lots of options for kids and adults alike, several restaurants on property, and a collegiate / historic feel. Plus, the views are pretty phenomenal!
Our group landed in shifts so we all met at the Yakima Social Kitchen + Bar (Marriott’s downstairs lounge restaurant) for bites and craft cocktails while we waited for the shuttle van. It sounds odd, but this airport terminal gem is not to be missed.
OTHER HOT SPOTS
Banff really has endless activities: dog sledding, sleigh rides, hot springs, ice skating on Lake Louise, cross country skiing and more!
I hope you enjoy every second of your trip and be sure to comment below with your favorite not to miss wintertime adventures in Banff!
We all hike for something, be it for strength building, gorgeous viewpoints, to clear our minds or burn calories. But what about hiking for floaties? That’s right, FLOATIES!
One of my favorite hikes of the year has been Cedar Creek Falls Trail to Devil’s Punchbowl. Located in Ramona, California, this 5.2 mile out and back trail has a fantastic midpoint complete with 75 foot cliffs and an active waterfall.
My friend and I quickly made our way down to the waterfall and were so excited for shade and the cool water. Be sure to go in the springtime when water is flowing and plentiful and bring (or wear) your bikini. Other hikers were so sad not to partake in the fun!
After our relaxation in the falls we headed back up to our cars. The return is straight up, so be sure to keep extra water on hand and take breaks as needed. Ramona is about 40 miles from San Diego and the temperature reflects this more dessert-like climate. That’s when we spotted the rattlesnake. A good reminder to keep your wits about you and stay on the path — they’re there for a reason.
It was a such a fun adventure and a wonderful day exploring a new trail. Check out my quick and dirty review below:
CEDAR CREEK FALLS TO DEVIL’S PUNCHBOWL
Best Time of Year To Go: Springtime when there’s plenty of water in the basin and it’s not too hot
Hiking for me has become addictive! I love being outside, pushing my legs and lungs to my max and of course catching epic viewpoints. That last part isn’t surprising to anyone who knows me and my love for rooftop bars and city views.
Hiking is also a great way to add in everyday adventures into your life, since each trail is a new challenge and pushes you out of your bubble and everyday routines. This year I’ve been working hard to complete the 2016 52 Hike Challenge where I will complete 52 hikes in 52 weeks. I’m well on my way and just recently added this hike to my list.
Double Peak Trail is a 4.1 mile loop located in San Marcos, California.
The trailhead starts at Discovery Lake and winds up through a neighborhood until you start gaining elevation. Parts can be loose and gravely and not well marked, but all that is worth it for the 360 views from the top where you can see mountains in the distance (pick your next hike out from the skyline!), the Pacific Ocean and great North and East County San Diego views.
I was so happy about finding this new spot to add to my local repertoire and I rewarded myself afterwards with some delicious green tea boba!
Check out my quick and dirty review of the hike below:
DOUBLE PEAK TRAIL
Best Time of Year To Go: Accessible all year round
Hiking Distance: 4.1 mile loop
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Bring lots of water because there is minimal shade until the top at Double Peak Park.
There’s a bathroom at the top, which is very convenient!
If you want to meet a friend they can drive to the top and for a picnic lunch on the benches.