Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

Category: Hiking (page 1 of 2)

The Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

**Trying to play catch-up on these final posts from last year before launching into more recent adventures!**

After saying au revior to Las Vegas, honestly hoping it is the last time I ever visit that enigmatic city, the kids and I drove the half hour to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

The kids complained nearly the entire time we were in the park. I wish I could say otherwise. It was “too hot” at about 82 degrees. And totally dry. I barely felt it, and I’m a wimp when it comes to the heat. Yes, these are the same kids that come from Costa Rica where the temperature routinely got this high.

Oh, the pain of the blazing desert sun! Next time we’ll visit in July so that they know what *real* heat is. They may hate me for these photos later, but I find them too funny. Their faces at Death Valley were also priceless (SEE: 3 Tips for Hiking with Kids in the Desert).

I have been giving more thought to what I post about my kids, either on various blogs or on social media, something that is definitely important to think about in this day and age. Check out this post from The Deal Mommy about respecting kids opinions about their online presence and persona (since you, as their parent, are creating and/or influencing it). Ours are not yet online, but they will be eventually.

Main points of interest at Red Rock Canyon NCA

Our first stop was at Calico Hills, a popular spot for photos and hiking. Or I should say “hiking”. It was little more than a short walk down the hill and then back up, but the kids acted like it would be the death of them.

Luckily, I knew better. Our short walk turned out to be enjoyable enough, as we saw some cool desert flora and a lizard. The red rocks themselves are stunning as well. Which is why everyone visits this spot.

Our next stop was at the vista point for the view. It is at nearly the highest point along the road and provides a view of Calico rocks, the surrounding hills, and the Las Vegas basin way off in the distance.

The Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

The final point of interest was Lost Creek Canyon Trail. We had a brief break, though, for lunch, which consisted of sandwiches, hastily made in the car. Then we all set out across the dry creek beds to see what was in store for this short hike. The trail starts out clearly marked, bordered by rocks.

Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

I knew that the trail isn’t long. But it didn’t matter how long we would be hiking. The kids wanted none of it. I might as well have offered them the Bataan Death March. The promise of a waterfall was the only tool I had to spur them on. How I hoped it wouldn’t be lame.

The first “fall” (what I thought was a fall) we came to was pretty lame. But I could hear more water falling up the creek, so I was hopeful. The path became less distinct but still fairly easy to follow.

The whining began again, and rather than deal with it, I just kept walking and let the kids catch up. Hope returned after we passed another group who said the real waterfall wasn’t too far ahead.

We’d barely been walking 15 minutes, which does make this an extremely short hike and probably the easiest hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Everything is worth it at the end

Finally, we were greeted by a ribbon of water falling forty feet into a lovely pool below. The kids complaining turned to laughter as they ran to the edge. The pool and surrounding rocks were even in the shade, so we could enjoy the vista without the desert sun beating down on us.

Easiest Hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

The kids and I made our way around edge, clambering over the rocks to get closer to the waterfall. Soon they were throwing rocks into the water, hiding from each other, and doing all the sorts of kid things they are supposed to in a fun outdoor place like this.

I just sat down and enjoyed being there. It had been an easy hike, but one that is well worth the minimal time it takes to get to this lovely spot. When I finally informed the kids it was time to keep moving, they protested. How quickly their perspective changes! We settled on staying another half hour, which meant we would get into Pahrump later than I wanted, but everything would still work out fine.

The last twenty minutes consisted of my daughter chasing her brother with a bottle of water trying to get him wet. Always the instigator, he had tried to push her into the pool below the waterfall and it was payback time.

Conclusion

The hike out was just as pleasant. I highly recommend Lost Creek Canyon / Children’s Discovery Trail as one of the best and easiest hikes in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for families. It’s an easy 1.2 to 1.5-mile round-trip, depending on how you do your out and back, as you can make a sort of loop that still includes the waterfall. We’ll be back again if we pass through the area. It sure beats visiting Vegas!

Easiest Sedona Hike (with a view)

Sedona. I can still recall getting up before dawn and catching my first glimpse of the red cliffs all around before the sun peeked over the hills. Few mornings have felt as enchanting. Unlike that first trip to this spectacular corner of the southwestern U.S. where we had a few days to enjoy hiking in its breathtaking setting, our road trip this past spring was fast-paced; we had a mere afternoon to take in as much as we could. Which meant I wanted to find the easiest Sedona hike possible.

Yet I still wanted to find one that provided us with great views of the beautiful rock formations of this amazing corner of the southwest. I remembered one that was very close to the middle of town. It would be the perfect mix of fast and easy, and also provide an awesome view of the Sedona landscape.

Easiest Sedona Hike with a view

The trail of choice was the Teacup Trail, which would take us to the Sugarloaf Summit trail, which was the real goal. The trailhead is located in the middle of Sedona, in a residential neighborhood. You can find the parking lot on Buena Vista Drive.

The Teacup Trail is fairly well marked. You can generally follow the path easily, although there are places where you could possibly wander away from the main path. Any extra trails made by people who didn’t stay on the main path don’t disappear quickly in the desert. The damage is done.

If you do get confused as to where to go, you can generally spot a rock cage that will help guide you. These are placed fairly regularly along some of the trails in Sedona.

Even though this may be the easiest Sedona hike, there is no shortage of beautiful scenery. Some of the best is right here in the middle of town. The landscape is mesmerizing.

It will probably take you no more than about 10-15 minutes to come to the turnoff that will take you up Sugarloaf Summit. The Teacup Trail passes alongside the west side of this rocky outcrop, and you must hike back up from the north. You can see Coffee Pot Rock there to the left at the end of the mesa in the foreground.

Hiking Sugarloaf Summit

The Sugarloaf Summit Trail is a bit more strenuous than the Teacup Trail, but it really isn’t difficult. The trail is less than a quarter mile from the turnoff up to the top of the rocky dome. We took our time, and the kids enjoyed playing with rocks and looking for critters in the desert.

As you get to the top of Sugarloaf Summit, you start to get the best of the views. Sedona is truly incredible. I was just as amazed by this visit as I was by my first trip here.

easiest Sedona hike

There was a storm quickly approaching, and the wind was really moving across the top of Sugarloaf Summit. Luckily, it wasn’t cold. The temperature during our short Sedona hike was right around 70 degrees. Better than the cold we encountered later in the trip, and also better than the 90 degree days we spent enjoying Tucson (SEE: Kings Canyon – Gould Mine Loop Hike in Saguaro National Park).

Here is a panorama from the east side of Sugarloaf “Mountain”. You can see Coffee Pot Rock clearly in the center, and part of Sedona to the right.

Even though the kids aren’t all that crazy about hiking, they were sure enjoying this easy Sedona hike (SEE: 3 Tips for Hiking with Kids in the Desert). I think it was mainly because of the better temperatures and the fact they knew it wasn’t going to be all that far.

They were even being loving siblings. Which is sure better than dealing with the alternative.

We hiked a bit farther along the Teacup Trail, ending up pretty much right under Coffee Pot Rock before turning around. It was looking more and more like rain, and I wanted to make it back to the car before it started. Plus, we also had scheduled a time for my daughter to talk with a friend.

Overall, it was a great short hike. Hopefully we’ll be back to Sedona fairly soon to enjoy some more great, easy hiking.

Conclusion

Given our time constraints and the weather, our hike was the perfect length. It would have been nicer to see more of the exquisitely beautiful red rock surrounding us, but we had to settle for the easiest Sedona hike I was familiar with and knew would provide us with a lovely view of the valley. We’ll tackle something a bit more challenging next time.

Map image courtesy of Open Street Map

Kings Canyon – Gould Mine Loop Hike in Saguaro National Park

On a beautiful Arizona morning in late April we headed out from the Hampton Inn in Tucson to Saguaro National Park, to the west of the city. The plan? Complete the Kings Canyon – Gould Mine Loop hike, a distance of about 2.1 miles, as an introduction for the kids to the desert.

Although we didn’t make it out of the hotel especially early to beat the heat, it was shaping up to only be in the 80s. I’m not sure we would have attempted this during the heat of midsummer!

Pit stop at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Before we started the hike, we made a quick stop at the desert museum, just to use the restroom.  Even though our time here was super brief, we encountered a rattlesnake. I hadn’t seen one in years. It was right in the parking lot!

Park staff promptly snagged him. With lots of people around, he definitely needed to be re-homed.

I used the encounter to help illustrate the need for immediate obedience from the kids. The last rattlesnake story I recall involved my dad calling my two sisters away from a picnic table at Mount Diablo. A diamondback had started to coil up underneath. Thankfully, they immediately got up and left. Dad then spent the next minute chucking rocks at the reptile until it struck.

With that story fresh in their heads, we headed a bit further down the road to the Kings Canyon trailhead.

Kings Canyon Trailhead

The Kings Canyon – Gould Mine loop hike starts just a short distance down the road from the museum. The trailhead is at a small parking lot off the right side of the road. The Kings Canyon trail starts as a gentle ascent along a dry creekbed.

Although the views from the parking lot are decent, you quickly rise even more and are offered a lovely view of the desert stretching out beyond the way you came.

Unsurprisingly, the mighty saguaro are plentiful. The giant cacti are endemic to Arizona and the state of Sonora, Mexico. This multi-armed monster has to be well over 100 years old.

We stopped frequently, mainly to take in the beautiful desert around us. But also because the kids were already hot and tired.

It’s soooooo hot!

I lost count how many times I heard this during our hike. Even though our kids are native to a fairly warm climate, they have already adopted the utterly Humboldtian disposition of melting when it gets above 85°F. Except if there is a pool around. Then they’re fine. But hiking in the desert? Not a fun proposition (SEE: 3 Tips for Hiking with Kids in the Desert).

I got at least some smiles out of them. They reminisced about the hike we took with their cousins in the Redwoods. Bit different out here, isn’t it?

We reached an intersection that lacked signage, but took the trail that went in the direction I knew we needed to go to connect to the Gould Mine trail. No more than 15 minutes later we found the sign that could take us back around the hill to the parking lot.

kings canyon - gould mine loop hike

The Sonora desert is truly lovely. I’d forgotten how enchanting the U.S. southwest can be.

kings canyon saguaro national park

Even through their complaints, the kids were doing fine. We’d finished up the last of the water, but there was less than half a mile to go.

Our hike lasted maybe an hour and a quarter to complete the 2.1-mile Kings Canyon – Gould Mine loop hike in Saguaro National Park.

Ending an enjoyable desert hike

It was an enjoyable hike for me. It was warm, but certainly not hot. We kept an easygoing pace, and there were no strenuous climbs. You couldn’t ask for a better quick hike.

The kids, on the other hand, were less than thrilled. Even after seeing some cool desert flora and fauna, they wanted to get moving on down the road.

Apparently my daughter’s feet had gotten a little hot during our excursion.

Note: normally I would not have let her do this, but there was hardly another car on the road driving through the park.

Bonus: Valley View Overlook

We drove for another 15 minutes or so from the Kings Canyon trailhead until we hit a dirt road within Saguaro National Park. I had one other point I wanted to explore before hitting the freeway: the View Trail.

view trail saguaro national park

There isn’t much to the view trail. It is maybe a quarter mile, and leads you gently from a small parking lot to a vista of the valley west of Saguaro National Park. Our panorama shot hardly does it justice.

Smiles were back at this point. It was a much easier hike.

And there were a lot more towering cacti.

Due to the ease of the hike and the view, the View Trail is a bit more popular. It certainly wasn’t crowded, but we saw maybe a dozen people during the hike (versus only 1 on the Kings Canyon – Gould Mine loop trail).

Conclusion

Fast pace road trips really don’t let you linger. We enjoyed our brief hikes, first around the Kings Canyon – Gould Mine Loop and then the View Trail in Saguaro National Park. But with the morning spent, it was time to move on. We stopped for a snack in Picture Rocks and then hit the road. Onward to the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort and time in the pool!

3 Tips for Hiking with Kids in the Desert

During our time traversing the Southwest a couple weeks ago, we embarked on four different short hikes in the desert. Well…some of them you really can’t call hikes. Even in 100-degree weather, walking 400 yards or so out onto the salt flats at Badwater Basin in Death Valley still doesn’t qualify as hiking in my book.

But…it does to some. Including my kids. They weren’t ecstatic about my ideas and made their position on hiking quite clear. It took some significant coaxing and prodding to get them out of the car a couple of times. To them it was sooooo miserable that they wanted to stay in the car in 100-degree weather (yes, really).

After all my effort, I thought I’d note down a few tips in case you consider traipsing through the desert with your own brood.

Tip #1 – Reconsider the whole idea

I mean, really. You probably shouldn’t go. Unless you enjoy dragging whiny children over sand and rock for a couple hours at a time, this isn’t for you. Whether it is their supposedly hurting feet, or the fact that they didn’t bring enough water (in other words…they poured it all on the ground…or on a sibling), they will let you know.

At every moment you have to not just urge yourself onward but your children as well. It’s like they think they are going to die from a mere 90 minutes of desert exposure. Somehow the kids that were soooo happy to finally be someone warm suddenly think they are going to melt if they have to do something besides splash in the pool in 85 degrees.

Save yourself the pain and just stay home. It’ll be better for everyone involved.

Tip #2 – Bring earplugs

If you decide to go against your better judgment and still embark on this fun family outing ridiculous escapade, earplugs might be in order. It’ll prevent you from hearing the birds chirping, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the beautiful vistas in utter tranquility. Such was life at this moment in Sedona.

Ahhhh, peaceful Sedona.

But you might not need them anyway id the kids repeat themselves enough. By about the fifth time I’d heard, “I’m dying”, I had pretty much tuned it out. So I honestly don’t know if if was the fifth time or the twenty-fifth. I do know the first four times had included a quick check of each child: Blood? No. Signs of heat stroke? Negative. Out of water? Possibly, but typically not because they’re drinking it. Sweating? Yes, but that just means the cooling system is functioning properly.

Definitely no signs of dying. . Carry on.

Tip #3 – Just laugh

This was my one consolation. I finally realized how hysterically overdramatic their reactions were. Whenever I’d hear the newest reason as to why we couldn’t continue, I’d smile and keep slowly marching along. They’d always eventually follow.

I’d also chuckle when they’d use their water for things like making mud or dumping it on their heads. When they’d invariably run out, I’d happily sip my own. They’d just have to make it the last mile without refreshment.

Death Valley was the best. Although the temperature was pushing 100°F, we could literally see the car from where we’d hiked. And it wasn’t very far away. I’d had them hydrate before we got to Badwater Basin, and we each had a water bottle for our short outing. We were prepared for our excursion.

Yet it definitely wasn’t their cup of tea. This picture will forever make me giggle.

As for my own experience, I’d happily take a walk in full sun on a flat surface in a bone dry 100°F than an ascent at 80°F with any sort of humidity.

Ok…we did have *some* fun

In case you can’t tell this is mostly tongue-in-cheek, we did actually have some fun hiking in the desert. I definitely had to keep spurring the kids on at times, but it was a good experience for us overall. They don’t have quite the same appreciation of the scenic beauty of the locations we visited, but I am hopeful someday that’ll change. They’ll have to at least get used to it. Walking and hiking are two of my favorite things to do when traveling.

Of our four partial days of hiking, the kids enjoyed the red rocks of Sedona and our short trek to the waterfall at Red Rocks National Conservation Area the most. The latter hike didn’t start out all that pleasantly (as they had no idea what was at the end of the trail), but I was smugly satisfied sitting up on a boulder watching them happily toss rocks in the pool and enjoy getting close to the fall. I wish I’d had my camera out to capture the looks of horror when I finally told them we had to head back. Apparently they like the end goal of hiking, just not the process.

Would I take the kids hiking in the desert again? Absolutely. And we I would love every minute of it.

Hiking Table Rock near Medford, Oregon

Hiking is one of the primary activities to which I default when traveling. It is enjoyable, it lets you explore a new place, and it’s (nearly always) free. If a true hike isn’t available, a walk through a new city will do nearly as well.

Last weekend my brother-in-law and I took a quick vacation to southern Oregon. The first day included seeing Crater Lake, and the second day included two hikes, one of which was up Lower Table Rock near Medford.

Preparing to hike Table Rock

Our original plan was to hike Table rock mid-morning, but given the heat, we decided to swap our itinerary around. We would head out to hike near Lake of the Woods (cooler, and at a much higher altitude) during the morning. Our hike up Table Rock was then slated for the evening.

I looked up how to get to Table Rock using Google Maps. The route is pretty simple. You can get to Table Rock Road easily from the Highway 62 exit, heading north toward Crater Lake. Immediately turn left onto Biddle Road, as if you are heading to the Rogue Valley Airport. Then make a right when you intersect with Table Rock Road.

You continue on this road for a few miles before turning onto Wheeler Road, right along the base of Lower Table Rock.

hiking table rock medford

The trailhead was pretty easy to find, although I did initially blast by the turn off for Wheeler Road and had to turn around. It was still pretty warm when we arrived, but I knew things would get better as we climbed. I was *so* glad we didn’t hike Table Rock in the middle of the day!!

Hiking Table Rock

Looking up at Table Rock above us, I knew the hike was going to be moderately strenuous. The trail climbs quickly from the trailhead. There are some switchbacks, but at other times it’s simply a steep ascent. I didn’t realize how steep it was until we were heading down and I was trying not to lose my footing on the gravel path.

The lower part of the trail is through oak woodland. There were some wildflowers, although we were likely past the best of their display.

Soon we were under some larger trees, and unfortunately sheltered from the much-appreciated breeze. The switchbacks up the hill continued, and I couldn’t wait to break out on top of Table Rock.

Poison oak is abundant along the trail.  The trail is wide enough that brushing up against it shouldn’t be a concern, but definitely take note.

Top of Table Rock

A little over halfway through the hike we reached the top of Table Rock. The hard part was over. Now we just had a long stretch of flat trail that led us to the edge of the rock overlooking the Rogue Valley and Medford. The breeze at the top was also wonderful!

It took us another 15 minutes or so to reach the edge of Table Rock. The views were spectacular! Off to the east you could see the volcanic cone of Mount McLoughlin, and out to the west the Rogue Valley. Medford was in the middle, off in the distance.

We just sat and took everything in for several minutes. The temperature was now perfect, hovering in the upper 70s.

If I lived here, I’d definitely be hiking Table Rock routinely. Actually, who am I kidding? I probably wouldn’t. I hardly hike the redwoods anymore, and those are basically at my doorstep all the time.

Since my phone lacks panorama capability, I had to make do with a video. I’m desperately in need of a new smartphone so I can actually take some decent photos.

Heading down

The trip down was substantially easier than our trek up. We made our way back along the flat trail on top of Table Rock. As the sun was getting lower on the horizon, we had a little bit of fun with the shadows.

Soon enough we were heading back down the steep trail. I took a picture of Upper Table Rock before the sun dropped below the horizon completely.

It didn’t take long to reach the trailhead again. All in all, the hike was maybe 2 hours. We could have explored more of the top of Table Rock, but we had a date at Cold Stone that we couldn’t miss.

Conclusion

Hiking Table Rock should definitely be on your list if you plan to spend any time in or near Medford, Oregon. It is a great experience, and the view of the valley is gorgeous. The hike is also not very long, and easily doable in under a half day. Along with Crater Lake, the Oregon Caves, and historic Jacksonville, there is plenty to do and see in southern Oregon. Hopefully you can enjoy a trip to the area someday!

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