I last wrote about “around the world in 40 hikes,” but very few hikes took me out of Washington state. My list of favorite hikes since I stated hiking about 10 years ago is more geographically diverse, although Washington is still well-represented (as it should be). Still so many places to explore…
Bernese Alps/Murren area (Switzerland) – This was my first taste of the Alps and still my favorite place in Switzerland. The Murren side of the valley is the more low-key and reasonably-priced side (think Rick Steves – he speaks very highly of this area). Regardless of the time of year, you will see cows, quaint alpine villages and mountains in your face.
Blue Lake (North Cascades Highway) – This is a short four mile hike that requires six hours of driving from Seattle, but seeing the lake makes it all worth it. Mountain goats also allegedly frequent the area, but I’ve never been lucky enough to spot one there.
Cinque Terre Coastal Trail (Italy) – Picturesque seaside pastel-colored villages built into rocky cliffs – check. Pastoral landscapes – check. Awesome food every place you stop – check. Boat that will take you back to your starting point so you can see the whole route you just hiked from the water –check. Mudslides can close sections of the trail, as they did when I hiked it. The detour was a grueling but beautiful hike up the cliffs into vineyards.
Colchuck Lake (Leavenworth) – The first time I saw this lake it took my breath away, and it continues to do so each time I visit. The last steep climb is worth the reward. One day I hope to make the VERY steep climb up Aasgard Pass at the south end of the lake to get to the Enchantments, said to be the most beautiful place in the state.
El Chato Reserve (Santa Cruz, Galapagos) – In my opinion, the giant tortoises are the best part of the Galapagos Islands, and this place is literally crawling with them. The tortoises are surprisingly fast for their age (some are well over 100 years old) and, well, the fact that they are tortoises. There’s also a fern covered lava tube to explore. Lots of mud and giant tortoise turds to be careful of.
Fira to Oia (Santorini, Greece) – It’s tough to top walking between two picture postcard perfect Greek island villages. Two dogs accompanied us for most of our hike because they knew we’d break for lunch and have food for them, but I think they too appreciated the views.
Hidden Lake Lookout (Glacier National Park) – This is just a short hike from the main visitor center at Glacier, but it packs a lot of scenery into a short distance. If it weren’t for my fear of getting eaten by a bear, I’d like to get further off the beaten path at Glacier.
Kalalau Trail (Kauai) – This is the trail at the end of the road in Kauai that everyone talks about. The entire trail is about 11 miles long and mostly through jungle. Most people (including me) hike only the first two miles from Kee Beach to Hanakapiai Beach. The coastal views are hard to beat, and it’s a worthy diversion from a typical morning at the beach. The trail can get really muddy, so watch your step. Once I brought old shoes that I threw away after the hike they were so caked in mud. The last picture below shows the Kalalau Valley, the end of this trail, and was taken from Kokee State Park, another nice hiking area.
Paradise Trails (Mt. Rainier) – The name is appropriate. Highly recommended in wildflower season.
Salomon Beach Trail (St. John) – This isn’t so much about the hike (which is hot, humid and requires pushing branches out of the way if I remember correctly) but the destination. As soon as I saw pictures of the beach, I knew I had to go. Since it requires a hike to get there, it’s not crowded. And a quick Google search tells me that it’s no longer a “clothing optional” beach, so it’s got that going for it too now.
West Fork Foss River and Lakes (Skykomish) – I’m a sucker for an alpine lake hike, and this one has five of them in seven miles. This is the one hike I’ve done that makes me wish I was a camper so I could spend more time enjoying the lakes, because three hours of driving and 14 miles of hiking is a long day.
Zermatt/Matterhorn area (Switzerland) – Switzerland gets two spots on my list because it’s just that spectacular. Zermatt is glitzier and more touristy than the Murren area, but the scenery is just as beautiful and more iconic because it includes the mountain that everyone recognizes. You can hike up the steep hills or cover more ground by taking gondolas and trains up and then hiking around. A mix of gondolas, trains and hiking worked well for me and allowed me to see a lot in the two full days I had there.
After I came up with my list, I couldn’t believe it didn’t include anything in New Zealand, particularly since I took a hiking trip there and it’s my favorite place I visited. Perhaps it would have made the list if the lookout point declaring itself “View of Views,” wasn’t clouded over when I visited. I suppose this just gives me a good reason to make my way back there one day to find something to add to the list.