Best Hikes in Boulder (IMO)

There are so many amazing hikes in the front range area. If you are from the area you know just how popular hiking is (and for good reason, it is so beautiful). If you aren’t from the area I highly recommend checking it out. I thought of more and more good hikes as I was writing this post so this is by no means a comprehensive list, I just needed to stop somewhere. I will probably do a part two at some point but for now I stuck to sharing the hikes that I have either done most often or that are my favorites. I also stuck with shorter hikes (all of these can be done in under two hours) that are relatively close to Boulder.

Sanitas: This mountain is a must do when visiting Boulder. It is a pretty significant elevation gain and will take a couple of hours so I suggesting planning accordingly (hike in the morning, take lots of water and get adjusted to the altitude first).  While is on the more challenging side, the views of Boulder and the plains are incredible and it is so worth it. It might be the most popular hike in the area so I suggest parking at the base of the goat trail (Linden).

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Boulder Valley Ranch: This is area is one of my favorites for running. There are gorgeous views of the plains and mountains the whole way and you can can extend your route to cover more mileage. I also like that this is a loop, that always helps me motive myself when running. The loop itself is around three miles and it is relatively flat so it is a great place to take people who are just adjusting to the altitude.

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Heil Valley Ranch: While I went here as a kid quite a few times it had been years, I could barely remember it. I went back with some family while I was home in August and I really loved it. There is such a variety of trails. There is a short nature trail that is perfect for kids. And there is a much longer hike that goes up into the mountains. There is also a great trail back along the road that has lots of wildlife. I would say the only thing to watch out for is mountain bikers. It is a pretty popular place for biking.

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Walden Ponds: These ponds are out on the plains and a great place to take the whole family. You can explore the trails as much as you like and there is quite a bit of wildlife. It is another great option for beginner hikers and for getting used to the altitude.

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Bear Peak: This is the other more challenging hike that I am including. It takes several hours (so start early) and you gain a lot of elevation. This mountain is a great alternative to Sanitas in that it is a little less popular, parking is not as hard (you park at NCAR) and it also has some stellar views. I could not find photos from Bear Peak so these are from a hike just north of NCAR.

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Wonderland Lake: I could never make this list without including my favorite spot in Boulder. It is less than a ten minute walk from the house I grew up in and I have spent so many hours walking, hiking and even cross country skiing around this lake. The views are stunning and while there are always a few people it is not quite as busy as Sanitas or Chautauqua. While it is a short walk around the lake (maybe 45 minutes) you can do more challenging hikes up in the foothills. I love extending my run around the lake by going up to the look out on the mountain.

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Chautauqua and the Flat Irons: This list would also not be complete without including the iconic flat irons. They are just as amazing in person and I highly recommend at least a short hike in this area. It can be really crowded so I would time it well (ideally during the work day) and do a longer route to get out of the busy areas. Hiking up to the flatirons is a popular option but lots of the foothills trails connect so there are so many options.

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I hope these give you some ideas for the next time you are visiting the front range area (or if you are just wanting something different from your usual). Let me know if you have any recommendations! I grew up in Boulder (almost 20 years) and go back a ton but am still always finding new things. I actually love that about this area.

Erin

Utah Road Trip

In mid August we met Aiden’s family in southern Utah to go on a road trip of some the Utah parks.

Day 1: We drove from Boulder, CO to Bryce Canyon. This was by far the longest driving day but we left early enough to make some fun stops along the way. Goblin Valley State Park is one of my favorite state parks and we decided last minute to stop there so Aiden could see the hoodoos. It is just such a unique place, I feel like the sandstone formations look like mushrooms and I love it! Next we drove through Capitol Reef National Park and stopped at the petroglyphs and some of the viewpoints. I loved just driving through the riverbed, it is so beautiful. We did not enter the other side of the park since we knew we were coming back on the way to Moab. We had an Airbnb in ____ for the night and they had some delicious fruit trees which was a great end to the day!

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Driving through western Colorado
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Goblin Valley State Park
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The hoodoos at Goblin Valley are amazing!
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More Goblin Valley Views
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Capitol Reef Overlook

Day 2:  My absolute favorite national park is by far Bryce canyon. I think it is so underrated and just amazing! We spent most of they hiking through the valley and up along the rim. We ate lunch at the lodge (not my favorite but they had a couple really delicious dishes). Late afternoon we drove to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park to meet up with Aiden’s family. There is a big reservoir that is perfect for swimming and paddle boarding. We did hike through the park and the petrified logs are super interesting and cool looking but I highly recommend doing it in the early morning. It was so so hot (a jump in the lake really helped though!). After hiking we headed to the Slot Canyon Inn which was absolutely amazing. The property is stunning and there are lots of animals. The views are so pretty! We got the best sunset views during dinner at their restaurant, North Creek Grill (the pizza was the absolute best I have had in a while). They even have petroglyphs just on their cliffs.

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Bryce Canyon National Park, headed up to Sunrise Point
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The views from Bryce Point (totally unreal)
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Our hike from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, through the valley
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Driving to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
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Reading by the lake at Petrified Forest State Park
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Taking a break from the heat on a petrified log
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The amazing pizza at North Creek Grill
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Plum and apricot lemonade added the incredible meal!

Day 3: We started the day with a delicious breakfast at the Inn then headed out to hike to the Lower Calf Creek Falls. I wasn’t sure what to expect but we got to the top (after a long and hot hike) and it was definitely worth it. The water is freezing but I had to go for a swim anyways! It is a 5.5 mile hike roundtrip and not that difficult as far as terrain goes, but bring lots of water since it is so hot. The next stop was driving the Burr Trail in Boulder, UT. There was almost no one there and the views were, in my opinion, just as interesting and beautiful as Capitol Reef (and way less people). We ended the day with dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm which I 10/10 recommend. There carrot puree was amazing and they had an ice cream s’more dessert that was to die for. We drove from Boulder, UT to Teasdale up over the mountains and it was like nothing I have seen before. I think that drive was my favorite part of the whole trip. It is this gorgeous hike mountain range that looks down into the dessert and cliffs of Utah. It is indescribable. We stayed the night at The Muddy Duck Bed and Breakfast which is nestled up against some cliffs and looks over the rest of the valley (so beautiful and the kindest host).

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The friendliest cat joined me at Slot Canyon Inn
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Driving Burr Trail
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S’more Sunday at Hell’s Backbone Inn & Grill
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Driving through the high mountains to Teasdale

Day 4: We drove through Capitol Reef on our way to Moab but this time we explored a little more and went on hike. We drove down the scenic drive (absolutely beautiful) and through the gorge on a dirt road. It is crazy how narrow it gets, you are basically driving in the riverbed. We hiked along the Gorge trail from there to further enjoy the views. Before heading out we stopped for pie at the Gifford House. It is strange there are some orchards and the old town nestled right in the gorge. We drove on to Moab, stopping in Green Rive to buy melons. There is a local melon stand at one of the gas stations and they have a big variety of different melons. In Moab we checked into our Airbnb (a lovely house right in town). We walked to Miguel’s Baja Grill for dinner and then browsed Back of Beyond Books (of course).

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Morning views at the Mucky Duck
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Driving to Capitol Reef
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Gorge Trail in Capitol Reef
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More Gorge Trail views

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Walking home from dinner in Moab
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Getting my book fix at Back of Beyond Books

Day 5: We grabbed some breakfast burritos from Love Muffin Cafe (which are seriously delicious, the locals burrito is my favorite) before heading to Canyonlands National Park. We spent the day exploring different areas of the Island in the Sky area of the park. There are some gorgeous overlooks and short hikes totally worth checking out. We did the Mesa Arch hike and hiked along the rim at Grand Point Overlook. My biggest recommendation for this part is to get a four wheel drive car (or rent an off road jeep) because there are a ton of amazing dirt roads to explore, with way less people on them. Next we headed to Dead Horse Point State Park. The views here are totally worth it and different from Canyonlands. You can see beautiful views of the rivers and the salt flats. For dinner we went to Zaks in Moab, they have great buffet deal with the best bear cheese soup I have ever had.

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Dead Horse Point State Park views of the river
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Salt flats views from Dead Horse Point State Park
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Canyonlands viewpoint
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Grand Point Overlook in Canyonlands National Park

Day 6: Our final full day in the parks was spent mostly at Arches National Park. We have been here before so we still only spent half day here but it is definitely a cool place to visit. This time we hiked in the Devil’s Garden area, checking out Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches. We also went to the viewpoints for Delicate Arch so Aiden’s family could see it. In general my favorite area in Arches is the Window’s Section, there is so much to see! We walked around the shops in Moab for part of the afternoon (I recommend Moab Made, everything they carry is locally made and so interesting/unique). For dinner we headed to Sunset Grill for beautiful views and delicious food. It was definitely my favorite restaurant in Moab (the French Onion Soup and Chocolate Mousse were my favorites, of the things we ordered).

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Pine Tree Arch
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Starting our hike in the Devil’s Garden area
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A mojito while watching the sun set at Sunset Grill

I can’t recommend a Utah parks trip enough. They all have such unique landscapes and rock formations. Let me know if you want any more recommendations and/or trip advice! Thanks for reading!

Happy Sunday!

Erin

A Week in New Hampshire

In August I spent a week with my boyfriend’s family exploring the white mountains. I have been to New Hampshire before but never for very long. My dad’s family used to have a house there and my parents were married at Bretton Woods! There is so much to explore and I am already dreaming of going back around this time of year (fall) because I can just imagine how gorgeous the leaves are.

Exploring

I flew into Portland, ME so we spent the evening eating lobster and walking around Portland. We drove back to New Hampshire and spent the rest of the week exploring the area. I think my highlight was the Kancamangus Highway which goes through the white mountains. The views are so beautiful! There are also some hikes in this area and several historical sites. We also visited the Basin which I also highly recommend. It is a river that has carved away the rock in an incredible way. It is also not far off the highway although we did end up hiking the trail above it which is very pretty as well! We spent one of our days exploring the country roads and visiting the Frost Place. I highly enjoy Robert Frost’s poetry and seeing a place of his inspiration was very interesting. It is just so beautiful!

Eating

We had a fantastic time exploring the restaurants. My favorite was probably the Schilling Beer Co. in Littleton. Seriously the pizza is amazing and I highly recommend sitting out on the deck because the view across the river is incredible. There is also a covered walking bridge right next door and some great artesian shops close by. The Covered Bridge Farm Table in Campton is a great option for a delicious but affordable dinner. The shrimp tacos were amazing and I recommend the Ahi Tuna as well! There is also a covered bridge right next to it. Lincoln is a fun town to explore and One Love Brewery has a easy pub menu with a decent lobster roll. My favorite brunch spot was Old Main in Plymouth. The thrift shops near by are also fun to explore. I also highly recommend visiting the many farm stands for delicious fresh produce!

Staying

My boyfriend’s family rented two different houses both of which were in beautiful locations. The first was right next to a farm with some trails through the forest in the back. I spent most of my time at the second house which was up on a hill right next to the Campton Mountain ski lift. The view was amazing! Both were affordable so if you have more than two people I definitely recommend renting a house!

 

Erin

Fall Feels

Autumn is here once again and I couldn’t be more excited about the change in weather. I love love love the cool crisp days and the winds that require warm drinks and thick layers. I love every season but fall is definitely my favorite. The colors are beautiful, the food is fantastic (gotta love anything pumpkin) and I love the holiday season. I am changing up the format of my seasonal goals posts to more of a ‘fall favorites’ type list. I would consider the start of fall to be right around now… I can feel it in cool mornings and the leaves are starting to change!

Crunchy leaves
Pumpkins
Apple picking
Shades of orange
Bean Boots
Halloween
Bonfires
Plaids
Cups of tea
Sweaters
Hiking in the clear cool air
Burgundy
Spooky movies
Long walks

 

Also, check out my 10 Halloween Movies for some more fall/Halloween inspiration. Cozying up with a good book or movie is another great way to get excited for this time of year.

Erin

Snowy Mountain Adventure

My mom and I went on a hiking adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park while I was home. It is so beautiful and the perfect winter wonderland. I have hiked in the park many times especially in the summer and fall. I forget how beautiful it is in the winter. As we drove through Estes Park I noted how dry it was. No snow in sight. Halfway up the road to bear lake we hit snow almost immediately. There were several feet on the ground with flakes still falling. There were a number of people there which surprised me, since the roads were icy up to Bear Lake. The high was so incredibly beautiful. We made it up to dream lake (the third lake along that trail) but turned around there since we didn’t have snow shoes and it became more difficult to walk. The photo of me jumping was at Dream Lake. As you can see it started to get cold and windy up there. The funny thing is a friend’s boyfriend proposed to her at that same spot the very next day. I highly recommend a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park during any season. It is definitely more limiting in winter and you might see less wildlife but it will be way less crowded than during the summer time.

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Jacket Big Agnes, Pullover Patagonia, Leggings similar, Socks L.L. Bean, Boots L.L. Bean, Hat Pudus (I still can’t find the white one so here is another)

Erin

Road Tripping Colorado in a Week

As we start to plan ahead for spring break and the summer months it is time to think about the much anticipated road trips that ensue. They are definitely not for everyone, however they can be a cheaper way to have an amazing and beautiful vacation. This trip was so much fun and it’s a great way to see Colorado (and even some of Utah) from all sides in a fairly short amount of time. On this particular adventure I was highlighting my favorite parts of Colorado for someone who had not been before!

It is also a trip that definitely could be extended if you have several more days. Here is the overview:screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-6-18-07-pm Day 1: Drive from the Boulder/Denver area to Angel of Shavano Campground. This is such a beautiful drive through the mountains! Leadville is a great spot to stop for food, antique shopping and enjoying the view. It’s a small town with lots of character and it is one of the highest towns in the country, sitting at over 10,0oo ft above sea level. We ate lunch at Tennessee Pass Cafe (I also recommend High Mountain Pies and City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso). After setting up camp we drove back to Princeton Hot Springs for a nice evening dip. If you aren’t into camping Mount Princeton Hot Springs is a great place to stay the night! This area is also an incredible place to hike with multiple 14,000 ft mountains all in close proximity. The town of Buena Vista is also incredibly pretty and attracts many kayakers and rafters.

Day 2: Drive from Angel of Shavano Campground to Great Sand Dunes National Park (then on to Cortez). We left the campground super early and drove to the dunes where we spent much of the morning. I highly recommend camping here however getting a reservation can be really tough so book well in advance. The dunes are especially hot during the heat of the day but dune jumping is incredibly fun and it is pretty amazing to see a feature that seems so out of place nestled in a great Colorado valley! There is also a river that runs through right before the dunes, so bring a bathing suit (river levels definitely depend on the season and yearly precipitation so be sure to check!). Instead of camping we pushed on all the way to Mesa Verde so we could spend more time at the National Park. We stopped and ate great Mexican food for lunch in Del Norte and stopped for frozen yogurt in Pagosa Springs. Pagosa is another town I highly recommend spending more time in, there are natural hot springs along the river as well as a great resort, many hiking trails and fun little shops. This was a pretty long day but in the end we made it to Mesa Verde before the park’s closing time in order to get tour tickets for the next day. It is definitely a must to get tour tickets the day before because they tend to sell out in the summer and getting a tour when the sites are still shared is a much smarter idea. For the next two nights we got a hotel in Cortez, which is only a 15 minute drive from the national park.

Day 3: Going on tours of the anasazi ruins is undoubtably the way to visit Mesa Verde. This is because most of this sites cannot be explored up close if you are not on a tour (tours are fairly cheep and you definitely learn a lot!). It is best to get an early start to beat the heat! This whole day was spent going on two tours of different ruins and exploring other parts of the park. It is really a beautiful place with some amazing history. Cortez has some decent restaurants as well!

Day 4: Drive from Cortez to Moab (and on to Dinosaur National Monument). This is, once again, a place that I would definitely break up a little more. We had a limited time but, Moab is such a great town and would be a great place to stay a night and get some more hiking in. The national park also has a campground. Arches has so many amazing features and great hikes! We did two shorter hikes in order to see some different features. We tried to spend as much time here as possible so we did not get to the Dinosaur campground until 7:30ish (also, make sure you go to the right entrance of Dinosaur National Monument). This is one of the darkest places in the country, at night, so on previous visits I have seen amazing stars!

Day 5: Dinosaur National Monument to Hayden/Steamboat Springs. We spent 5-6 hours in Dinosaur just visiting the homestead, looking at the many fossil features and swimming in the river. This park has great programs for kids and has a good variety of things to do. It does get extremely hot here so hiking in the middle of the day was not smart on our part! We drove on to Hayden, CO from here (close to Steamboat Springs) where we stayed the night at a family member’s property. I have been to Steamboat Springs many times and highly recommend it! The town is very beautiful and there is always something going on (Rodeos, festivals, kayak races etc…). When we drove through the next day the annual Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup was in full swing. It is also a great place for horseback riding, biking and hiking. Check out Strawberry Hot Springs for a great place to stay!

Day 6: Steamboat Springs to Estes Park. We did some hiking and swimming in lakes in the morning before driving to Rocky Mountain National Park. Driving up Trail Ridge Road can definitely be quite terrifying however it gives way to some of the most spectacular views. There is also lots of wildlife including elk, moose, bighorn sheep and many birds. We stopped several times for some prime photos but drove to Estes Park to meet my family, walk the town and eat delicious food. Estes is very busy during the summer but it is definitely worth it. This night was spent at some beautiful cabins just outside of Estes.

Day 7: Estes Park back to Boulder! Most of our last day was spent hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are so many hikes of all levels and ability making it a great place for everyone. The drive back to Boulder is fairly short but definitely check out more of the restaurants before heading back!img_2135

Thanks for reading and happy road tripping!

Erin

Budget-Friendly Winter Fun

Budget-Friendly Winter Fun in the Colorado Front Range

I always get incredibly excited to go home to the massive rocky mountains… especially in the wintertime when snowflakes fall, sun still shines and the people are fired up for some powder skiing. Now that I live away from the mountains the buzz is just that much more exciting when I do come home. One of the greatest things about leaving this place has been that every time I do go back I am always planning adventures and remembering the fun places I like to go, in order to make the most of my time. This winter I came up with some of my favorite things to do around the Boulder area in the winter. But these are definitely transferable activities to many other place!

 

  1. Go ice skating downtown. The outdoor rink this year is right next to the gorgeous tea house on 13th Street so dinner and skating is very convenient and extra special. The city also definitely out did itself on the lights this year. Nearly every tree was covered, even in the park, and the rink looks right out at the park, so going at night is a must.IMG_4665.jpg
  2. Take a tour of the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory. This is definitely a must for both locals and tourists. Celestial Seasonings sells its tea throughout the country and even overseas and it’s based in the outskirts of Boulder, CO. It’s great because the tour is entirely free and you get a tea sample as your tour ticket. There is also a great cafe and shop. The tour itself is actually pretty interesting. It is definitely way better if you go while the factory is working (a weekday usually) because it’s pretty amazing to see the robots at work and the huge scale of it all. While you wait for your tour you can drink as much tea as you want.
  3. Ski (downhill and backcountry)!! Definitely a given as many people come to Colorado to do just that. Where you definitely depends on skiing/boarding experience and on the amount of money you are willing to spend. It is definitely an expensive sport and becomes that much more expensive when you have to find lodging and rent gear. So how do we make this one budget friendly? There are definitely some ways to make this more affordable however it is definitely the most expensive adventure on this list. First, choose the ski area wisely. Places like Vail, Beaver Creek and even Breckenridge and Keystone are definitely more expensive. They are definitely bigger but individual lift tickets cost way more than the small areas like Arapahoe Basin or Eldora. Unless you are getting the Epic pass it gets so expensive with tickets along at the big areas. The nice thing about the smaller places (A-Basin, Eldora, Ski Cooper) is that their cheaper and they are not resort ski areas which means everyone stays in the towns nearby which may seem inconvenient but will save you lots of money! The last way to save some money is to check out rental companies before you go. Most of the time there are way cheaper rental options further away from the ski area, so if you plan on renting for several days at a time, this may be a much better option for you. Backcountry is also a great alternative, if you have experience and want to save money. With big snows people backcountry ski, even in the foothills.

 

NZ’s Northern Tongariro Circuit

Day 1: Whakapapa Village to Waihohonu Hut 14.7km

We started our first day on the Northern Circuit by hiking up to Taranaki Falls, an hour from Whakapapa Village. The weather was beautiful, with clear blue skies, sun and barely any clouds over the mountains. We enjoyed some shaded trees and more open brush. The waterfall was a great place to cool off before continuing on the fairly open and treeless terrain.  The trail wove its way through the low brush between Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu with perfect views of the mountains. There were no real climbs or descents but it was our longest day. It took us a total of six hours including breaks to get to the hut. The hut is incredibly nice for a backcountry hut. Solar powers allowed for electricity and hot water for cooking. There were two kitchen areas with four stoves tops each and a large living room with two separate bunk rooms. There was also a large porch with restrooms just a two-minute walk out the back door.

Day 2: Waihohonu Hut to Oturere Hut 7.4km

In the morning a friend and I followed some others to Oturere Stream, 20 minutes from the hut for a swim. I jumped into the water and I felt the cold immediately freeze my body. As I waited in the freezing water I waited for my friend to jump and felt my feet numbing. I could not stay in for any longer and we walked back to start our hike. The second day was much shorter however a little more dynamic in landscape changes and in terrain. We started with a short downhill to the Waihohonu campsite followed by a half hour long up hill over a ridge. We descended again into a forest with a raging river in the valley and crosses over to begin another uphill climb to the top of another ridge. Atop this ridge, instead of descending, we continued up along the ridge and stopped by the only small patch of trees at the top. We then continued along the ridge and watched the landscape changed rather abruptly from shrub land to desert gravel.  From here the path continued along the side of the mountains with several big uphill’s and downhill’s. The final uphill was very steep and covered in rocks requiring some climbing up and over to the top of the plateau. It was not much further to Oturere Hut. It took us not more than three hours including a long lunch break. This hut is a little bit more primitive with much less space and no solar panels (more like what I was expecting). There is a stream just down the side of the plateau that was perfect for swimming. The water above the waterfall was much warmer than the morning’s river.

Day 3: Oturere Hut to Mangatepopo Car Park 12.8km

After a steep ascent up the mountainside we reached the Emerald Lakes. They are a brilliant electric blue, yellowing towards the edges. The sulfur smell is strong as the mountain emits a hot steam from the side of the crater. There is still a difficult uphill climb to the top of the Red Crater. Four of us took off ahead of the group and began slowly moving up scree. The path is about five feet wide with steep drops on either side. This is not too narrow however a 40lb pack, walking on scree made it difficult to balance and continue walking. Although that final ascent is merely about 150 vertical feet, it took at least a half an hour to climb. Peering into the Red Crater from the rim, I could see a broken jagged scar surrounded by rough lava rocks. The view from the top was gorgeous in all directions.  Seeing Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) up close and personal is incredible and terrifying at the same time. The mountain slopes steeply and has a starkly red face towards the top. A large lake can be seen in the distance the opposite direction of the volcano and our path up the mountain is to the other side. A small group of us took an hour out of the day to climb Mt. Tongariro at this point. The fog closed in on us as we began our hike up and we were only able to get glimpses of the crater below Tongariro. The were more day hikers than I have encountered on most other hikes except for maybe Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. Tourists from all over the world were day-hiking the crater. The descent was extremely difficult because it was very steep and there was no sure footing. It took a while but eventually we got down to the crater below and walked on that flat for a kilometer. From there Mt. Ngauruhoe was directly beside us and the dark lava rocks covered the sides of the mountain. We continued long a gradual downhill until we reached the restrooms. From there it was an hour to the car park and it was flat terrain along mostly boardwalks (it is a floodplain area). The fog was closing in as we finished our trek.