McKinley Mountain & Hell’s Half Acre

Basics: This is a loooong (19.4 miles) hike to the top of one of the taller peaks in the San Rafael Wilderness. McKinley Mountain summit, at 6182-ft, is a 3000-ft climb from the trailhead. Most of the hike follows a dirt road. Hell’s Half Acre, an interesting field of boulders and rock outcroppings, is 5 miles from the trailhead and would make a good turnaround place for a shorter trip. There are no crowds – we only saw a handful of hunters, and the views span from the ocean to the Sierras. Continue reading “McKinley Mountain & Hell’s Half Acre”

Blue Ridge – Fiske Peak Loop Trail

Basics: This 17+ mile loop on BLM land travels along Blue Ridge, then descends and winds through Fiske Creek’s riparian canyon. This trail would be difficult on a hot summer day, but it is a great winter hike with expansive views. Continue reading “Blue Ridge – Fiske Peak Loop Trail”

Hood Mountain & Gunsight Rock

Basics: This hike takes you up over the top of Hood Mountain to an overlook called Gunsight Rock. On a clear day, the overlook provides sweeping views of the Sonoma Valley. There are multiple trails in Hood Mountain Regional Park – this trip can be anywhere from 6 to 8+ miles depending on your route. Parking is $6 and maps are provided at the trailhead. Dogs are allowed on all the trails. Continue reading “Hood Mountain & Gunsight Rock”

Mount Olympia and North Peak – Diablo SP

Basics: This 10+ mile hike takes you up 3000 feet to the top of both Mt Olympia and North Peak in Mount Diablo State Park. The network of trails ranges from wide fire roads to steep and narrow single track footpaths. This trip provides excellent views and makes for a great winter hike. The trail can be accessed at the end of Regency Drive in the town of Clayton – parking at this locations is free. The trail can also be reached from Mitchell Canyon Interpretive Center – parking is $6 and this option adds a mile or two to the trip. A good map of the park is essential. Trail maps can be purchased at the Mitchell Canyon visitor’s center or at REI. Continue reading “Mount Olympia and North Peak – Diablo SP”

Double Dipsea Hike

Basics: The Dipsea Trail is a 7 mile trail running from Mill Valley through Muir Woods and Mt Tamalpais State Park all the way to Stinson Beach.  It is home to one of the oldest trail races in the country – the Dipsea Race – first run in 1905.  With two cars (or a willingness to research bus schedules), the trail can be hiked one way.  If transportation options are limited, it’s possible to hike the entire trail out and back for a total of 14 miles and 4400-ft of elevation gain. Continue reading “Double Dipsea Hike”

Mount Diablo – Summit Hike

Basics: This is a 14 mile hike to the top of Mt Diablo from Mitchell Canyon (on the northern side of the mountain).  There are many trails and many different options for hiking to the top, but all of them will require over 3000 ft of climbing.  Our particular route also took us to the top of Eagle Peak (elev 2369′).  Two peaks in one long hike!  The trail begins at Mitchell Canyon Interpretive Center – located at the end of Mitchell Canyon Road in the city of Clayton.  Parking is $6. Continue reading “Mount Diablo – Summit Hike”

Ralston Peak – Desolation Wilderness

Basics: Ralston Peak is located in the southern part of Desolation Wilderness and is relatively easy to reach.  There is a trailhead with parking on the north side of Hwy 50 at Camp Sacramento.  Permits are required.  The hike is just under 6 miles (roundtrip) and involves a moderately strenuous gain of about 2700-ft. Continue reading “Ralston Peak – Desolation Wilderness”

Mount Saint Helens

Basics: This is a challenging winter climb to the summit of an active volcano in the Cascade Range.  The weather is unpredictable, but on a clear day the views are well worth the effort.  The hike from this particular route is approximately 12 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of over 5700 feet.  There is one other trail (with less elevation gain) to the summit, but it can only be accessed when the road to Climber’s Bivouac is free of snow.  Parking is free but permits are required anywhere above 4800 ft. Continue reading “Mount Saint Helens”

Ape Cave in Washington

Basics: This is a short hike through a lava tube at Mount Saint Helens in Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Washington state).  The cave is very dark – two light sources per person are recommended.  There’s not terribly much to see, but it’s a unique and interesting experience.  Including the return hike, the trip is under 3 miles.  A parking permit is required and can be purchased at the parking lot.  During the summer, lanterns can be rented at the kiosk near the entrance. Continue reading “Ape Cave in Washington”

Mount Judah at Sugar Bowl

Basics: If you have been to Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, you may have already been to the top of Mt. Judah – the Summit Chair above Mt. Judah Express takes you nearly to the top. Unfortunately this isn’t Switzerland, and they don’t run the chairs year-round, so if you want to get to the top in early June when there’s crazy amounts of snow still on the mountain, you’ve got to get up there yourself. The route we took was about 4 miles round trip, with about 1200 feet of elevation gain – sounds easy but walking side-slope on snow at elevation adds some difficulty. Continue reading “Mount Judah at Sugar Bowl”