· 15 min
Best National Park Hikes In the Four Corners States
Hiking is a great activity for all fitness levels, and there are few places more beautiful to hike than the four corners area. The four corners area (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico) is a remarkable section of the United States. The landscape is diverse and awe-inspiring. From the unmatched sunsets, red rocks, and ancient, towering saguaro cacti of Arizona to the alpine lakes and majestic mountains of Colorado, you’re in for a real treat when you plan a trip to these states. One of the best ways to experience the beautiful natural landscape of these four states is by hiking. And there’s no better place to hike than at some of the most spectacular national parks. Utah alone has five incredible national parks and the other three states and their national parks are not slouches either. Whether you’re hiking into the Grand Canyon or reaching a high altitude at Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll get your heart pumping and your body moving while experiencing some of the best landscapes this country has to offer. So lace up your hiking boots, start playing your favorite hiking music, and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime! Tips For Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado) These Rocky Mountain National Park hikes are at high elevation and are particularly challenging if you’re not acclimated to the altitude. Drink plenty of water, bring snacks, and hike at a pace you’re comfortable with. Parking at Rocky Mountain National Park The Bear Lake hike will begin from the Bear Lake parking lot. The Bear Lake parking lot is often full but there is a lot of turnover, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to wait long if at all for a spot to open up. Alternatively you can park farther away at the Park and Ride and take the shuttle to the trailhead. This can be a pain though, particularly at the end of your hike when you’ll likely have to wait in a long line to catch the shuttle back. The hike to Mills Lake will begin from the Glacier Gorge parking lot. This parking lot is not particularly large however. In the event the parking lot is full, you can instead park at the much larger Bear Lake parking lot and begin the hike from there. This only adds .1 mile onto the hike. There is also an abundance of chipmunks in the park who unfortunately, due to being fed too often by humans, are all too comfortable with climbing into your lap or onto your backpack to try to snag some of your snacks. Do your best to keep your snacks safely tucked away when you’re not eating, and let the wild animals be wild! Bear Lake Trailhead to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake, and Lake Hiyaha Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most stunning Alpine Lakes, and this Bear Lake Trailhead gives you five for the price of one. This hike is perfect for hikers of all different levels and capabilities. Bear Lake (which is the closest lake to the parking lot) is a .5-mile loop around the lake, and is the most highly trafficked section of the hike. If you’re not keen on battling the crowds so early in your hike, head in the direction of the other lakes first and make a quick pit stop at Bear Lake to finish up your hike. Just .5 miles into your hike you’ll come across Nymph Lake, scattered with lily pads like something out of a fairytale. Another .6 miles will take you to Dream Lake, a popular stop for pictures against the mountainous backdrop. Hike an additional .7 miles to Emerald Lake, the final destination for many hikers. Emerald Lake is no less stunning than its neighbors. If you choose to hike all the way to Emerald Lake you’ll gain 605 feet of elevation from your 9,475 foot start at Bear Lake. While Bear Lake to Emerald Lake makes for the perfect out and back hike, you’d be missing an absolute gem by not stopping at Lake Haiyaha. The trail to Lake Haiyaha is much less crowded than the Bear Lake to Emerald Lake trail, perhaps because the trail begins with a somewhat daunting uphill climb. I can tell you it’s worth making your lungs work overtime for the spectacular views from up above and the idyllic peacefulness of the lake. From Emerald Lake you’ll backtrack to Dream Lake and take the trail branching off to the right. This will take you the 2.1 miles to Lake Haiyaha. Bring a snack, find a nice flat boulder, and marvel at the beauty of the nature around you. When you’ve thoroughly soaked in your surroundings, you’ll head back to Dream Lake and continue back towards Bear Lake and the parking lot. Glacier Gorge to Alberta Falls and Mills Lake This hike takes you to both a waterfall and a lake giving you a chance to sample the best of both worlds. Alberta Falls is just .8 miles from the trailhead. If you’re looking for a quick hike just to stretch your legs or are not up for the sometimes strenuous climb up to Mills Lake, this can be a good turnaround point. If you’re up for it, I suggest continuing on to Mills Lake. If it’s even possible, the trail itself is perhaps even more beautiful than the Emerald Lake hike described above. Flowing streams, dazzling viewpoints of majestic mountains and lush forests, and changing leaves in the fall all contribute to the beauty of the hike. If you decide to continue to Mills Lake you might consider bringing a lunch or snack to enjoy at the falls before hiking the additional 2 miles uphill to the lake. The lake is certainly the highlight of the hike. On a calm, windless day you might even be lucky enough to see the striking landscape of mountains and trees reflected in the water. The hike back to the trailhead is almost entirely downhill until the very end when you’ll have to grind out one final uphill climb to the parking lot. Though the hike back down is considerably faster, take some time to admire the scenery around you and snap a few photos. You’ll find the views never get old. Hiking Grand Canyon National Park South Rim (Arizona) I’m sure it comes to you as no surprise that the Grand Canyon can get hot. It’s in Arizona, after all, where temperatures are notoriously toasty. So bring plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen, and salty foods. The last thing you want to happen is to become dehydrated down in the canyon. You’ll find signs throughout these hikes reminding you that hiking down is optional, but hiking up is mandatory. This is an incredibly important thing to keep in mind. Unlike most out and back hikes that begin uphill and end downhill, hiking the Grand Canyon is the opposite. You may think you have plenty of energy as you cheerfully descend into the canyon, but the real challenge is hiking back out when your quad muscles are already shaking from the steep descent. You’ll also want to begin your hikes early in the morning, preferably while it’s still dark outside. Not only is watching the sun rise over the canyon particularly spectacular, you’ll avoid hiking at the hottest time of the day which you’ll be very thankful for. I also suggest bringing hiking poles. You’d be surprised how much they help as you hike back out of the canyon. Even just making your job 10% easier is huge. Bright Angel Trail to Indian Gardens The Bright Angel Trail is one of the Grand Canyon’s most popular hikes and for good reason. Though the view doesn’t change drastically as you descend into the canyon, it’s one of the most spectacular views you’ll ever see. It’s a truly magical moment watching the sunrise over the canyon as it lights up the beauty before you and casts dramatic shadows across the landscape. Beyond the views, this trail is incredibly well maintained, and park rangers are constantly on the move up and down the trail making sure the path is up to snuff. The trail is also divided into 1.5-mile sections with rest houses and bathrooms at the end of each section. This allows hikers of varying skill levels to complete at least some section of the trail, and provides hikers descending deeper into the canyon with much needed stops to catch their breath along the way. The trail begins to the west of Bright Angel Lodge and Kolb Studio in the Grand Canyon Village. Because the trail is so popular, parking nearby can be a bit of a challenge. If the Bright Angel Lodge lot is full you can parallel park near the railroad tracks by the Backcountry Information Center and walk to the trailhead from there. As you might expect, the first 1.5 miles of the trail are the most heavily trafficked. The views from this section are quite impressive and it gives less seasoned hikers a chance to get some dirt on their boots and experience a taste of the Bright Angel Trail. You’ll find the first rest stop, bathrooms and water at the 1.5-mile marker. Yes, there is an opportunity to fill up your water bottles at each rest stop, but be sure you bring enough water to last you the whole hike in case the pipes burst or other complications prevent the water spigot from working. You’ll continue switchbacking your way down the canyon from here. As you pass the 3-mile maker you’ll notice the crowds thinning considerably. From here your end target will be Indian Garden, 4.5 miles down into the canyon. The landscape at Indian Garden is quite different from the rest of the hike with a rippling stream, Cottonwood trees, and most importantly, shade. This is the best turnaround point for day hikers. Remember you still have 4.5 miles of uphill hiking ahead of you. You should note that you’ll likely be sharing the path at times with the mule trains. If your paths cross, step off the trail to the side away from the edge and stay still as you wait for the entire mule train to pass. South Kaibab to Cedar Ridge When the hike you’ve chosen has a viewpoint called Ooh-Aah Point, you know you’ve chosen well. You’ll begin the hike from the South Kaibab Trailhead, which you’ll reach by parking at the visitor’s center and taking the free shuttle bus. The hike to Ooh-Aah Point is only 1.5 miles round trip. Like the Bright Angel Trail, this top section of the hike is the most crowded. Whether Ooh-Aah Point is your turnaround point or you’re hiking deep into the canyon, take a moment to enjoy the views from this appropriately named viewpoint. If possible, try to arrive at Ooh-Aah Point in time for sunrise. I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. As the sun lights up the canyon and less experienced hikers head back, continue hiking all the way to Cedar Ridge for a total of 3 miles round trip. 3 miles might not seem like a lot to experienced hikers, but after experiencing the steepness of the canyon, strenuous nature of the trail, and intense summer heat, you’ll understand why Cedar Ridge is the most popular turnaround point for fit day hikers. For the strongest hikers, it’s possible to hike all the way to Skeleton Point for a view of the river and a total of 6 miles round trip. In the summer however, the park rangers strongly suggest you don’t hike past Cedar Point. Unlike the Bright Angel Trail, there is no water on the South Kaibab Trail so carry in enough water to keep you well hydrated throughout your hike. Again, you’ll likely be sharing this trail with the mule trains. Hike Arches National Park (Utah) Delicate Arch If you’ve ever seen a Utah license plate or walked inside a souvenir shop, you’ve seen images of Delicate Arch. This impressive formation has become an iconic symbol of Utah and attracts visitors from far and wide. Now is your chance to see it up close and personal. The hike to Delicate Arch is a moderately difficult 3-mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of 480 feet. The beginning of the hike is a relatively relaxed stroll. Very early on in the hike you’ll find a spur trail leading to some fascinating rock art. The art is worth the minimal extra mileage and can be seen either at the start or end of your hike. From there, the trail begins to gradually increase in difficulty, preparing you for the heart pumping section of the hike that is about to make its appearance. When you hit the long and seemingly never ending slanted rock face, you know you’ve hit the cardio portion of the hike. Rock cairns will mark the way as you trudge uphill on an otherwise unmarked path. Following the parade of fellow hikers, panting as they make their way up the mountain is another easy way to know you’re headed in the right direction. After you make your way up the rock face you’ll wrap your way around the mountain on a relatively narrow edge. Delicate Arch stays hidden from view until the final moment making its reveal particularly spectacular. If your jaw drops, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. As perhaps the most popular hike in the park, this hike is often packed with hikers and photographers looking to catch the famous arch when the light hits just right. 9am is generally when the parking lot starts to fill and the crowds move in. If you’re keen on escaping the crowds, plan to begin your hike around 6am. Sand Sledding in White Sands National Park (New Mexico) Ok, so calling sand sledding a hike is a stretch, but you do have to hike to the top of the dunes in order to sled back down, and I can tell you it’s no easy ordeal. The adrenaline rush and sheer joy you’ll experience sledding down the sand dune however is 100% worth the effort. First you’ll want to find the perfect sand dune. One that’s tall and steep enough for a thrilling ride but that doesn’t come to an abrupt stop at the bottom that would cause you to get thrown off the disc. You’ll also want to make sure you’re far enough away from plants and shrubs that you won’t slide into them at the bottom of the slope. Once you’ve found the perfect dune, wax up your sand sledding disc to make it go faster down the dune. Discs are available for purchase at the visitor’s center, though you are free to bring your own from home. Even if you own a sledding disc it might be worth it to purchase one from the park store since their discs seem particularly well designed for sand sledding. Wax is also available for purchase at the park store. Next, if possible, find a place on the dune where the sand is more tightly packed to hike up. If the sand is loose everywhere you’ll still be able to hike up, but progress will be much slower. Finally pick a spot on the dune to sled down. Choose wisely as you’ll want to use this same path every time. It will allow for a faster, smoother ride as you carve out a trail. Perhaps most importantly, bring the speakers and get an upbeat sand sledding playlist going because you’re about to have an absolute blast hiking and sledding for hours on end. There are a couple of things you should note about the sand before going to the park. The white gypsum sand is amazing to walk on barefoot because it never gets very hot. The sand is highly reflective however so bring a hat and plenty of water because on a hot day, though your feet may be cool, you’ll likely be sweating up a storm. Best Hiking Music For Your National Park Hikes Music makes you move. And what better way to motivate you up the mountain than by playing your favorite exercise music as the mountain gets steeper or the altitude gets higher. Each of the hikes mentioned have “grind it out” sections where you’ll be thankful for a boost in your motivation levels. For some parts of the hike, you may want an upbeat, hip hop hiking playlist as you put one foot in front of the other grinding your way out of the Grand Canyon. For others, you’ll want calmer music, perhaps while you’re circling a serene lake or gazing up at petroglyphs. This is where the RockMyRun app comes in. Imagine an all in one app that stays on beat with your motion. RockMyRun is just that: Hiking music that syncs your music to your heart beat or your steps, creating the ultimate curated playlist to maximize your hiking experience. Now you can hike to classical music as you stroll across a log bridge spanning the width of a shimmering stream, rock out to 80’s classics while you barrel down a sand dune at full speed, and press play on a high energy playlist to keep your legs moving up switchback after switchback in the summer heat. Try it Free Here Now You’re Ready to Pack Your Bags And Hike! There’s no better time to enjoy the fresh air and open space of some of the country’s best national parks. We hope this post helped you decide which of these natural landscapes speaks to you (or hike them all!) and head out on your next hiking adventure. It’s always a good day when you can combine exercise with outdoor exploration. Whether you’re sinking your toes in white gypsum sand or joining the chipmunks in seeking out Colorado’s best mountain views, you’re sure to have an exhilarating experience at any of these four national parks. About the Author Marjani Taylor is a graduate of Stanford University where she won a National Championship as a starting forward on the women’s varsity soccer team. She went on to play professional soccer in Iceland for 4 years where she met her Icelandic husband. Having lived in Iceland, a country with an abundance of unique natural beauty, she’s had the opportunity to hike to towering waterfalls, hot springs, through lava tubes, on glaciers, and down into volcanic craters. She now lives in Phoenix, Arizona where her love of hiking has continued to flourish as she explores Sedona’s red rocks, Flagstaff’s forests, Phoenix’s vast deserts, and of course the Grand Canyon. She is also a writer, currently writing for two online publications, (soccer) and (travel).
· 5 min
Think You Don’t Have Time to Exercise? Think Again.
When it comes to finding time to exercise, let’s start with some facts. Each of us has 168 hours per week in life. Many of us work about 50 or so hours per week, sleep about 50-60 hours per week, spend another 15-20 hours each week on personal care and grooming, leaving most of us about 6+ hours each day to_____________________. Fill in the blank. We fill in our time with what’s most important to us. As I said in an article I wrote for Greatest: Many people who don’t work out regularly can rattle off many reasons they’re not motivated to exercise, from not understanding the benefits of activity to thoughts like “I’m too busy,” “I’m embarrassed by how I look,” “exercise is boring,” and so on. The folks who hold these (false) self-sabotaging beliefs often believe exercise doesn’t matter; they don’t enjoy it, or they simply have no interest in doing it. And, really, who could blame them? Who would be inspired to start a physical activity with negative thoughts running through their head? A person has to believe exercise is of value in order to build motivation to do it. Benefits of ExerciseAs you already know, there are many benefits of exercise: Weight managementHealth and disease managementMood and self-confidence enhancementEnergy boosterPromotes healthy sleepPuts oomph into your sex lifeReduces stress by increasing brain soothing chemicalsHelps your brain function betterSparks creativityYour muscles, lungs, diaphragm, heart, stomach, kidneys, skin, joints, agility, balance, coordination, endurance and strength will all “smile” and say thank you many years from now. Every Minute CountsToday we know that even brief bouts of exercise, just 10 minutes at a time or less, can add a great deal to your health and well being while also slimming your waistline. The good news, remarkable really, comes from researchers at the University of Utah who found that every minute of intense movement counts towards the magic number of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity we are all supposed to achieve each week – but only 5% of us do. That’s 150 minutes out of the 48 or so hours we have available to us each week. The findings indicate that brief periods of intense activity are effective in preventing weight gain and promoting health as well as doing 10 minute+ intervals. Moderate to vigorous activity, by the way, is walking about 3 miles per hour, or 2,020 counts per minute on an accelerometer. Clearly, every minute you spend in intense activity, counts. This suggests that the data on the best time to workout may be ignoring an important element—your life. Sure there are those who believe that for A-list athletes aiming for performance it might be better to push heavy training to alter in the morning or afternoon, the fact is that most who adhere to exercise routines are early morning exercisers. Bottom line is whenever you enjoy hitting the gym or track, do it. There’s benefit throughout the day. Get Creative about Getting ActiveHow can you get in short bouts of more intense exercise and find the time to get in your 150 minutes or so a week? Try these tested ways: Like a good scout, always be prepared. Don’t leave your home without your workout clothes packedKeep your workouts scheduled in your day planner —make an appointment for yourself! Remember that every minute counts.Wake up earlier and get your health plan moving, and your heart rate pumping, at the start of the day.Park away from your office, get off the train, subway or bus a few blocks before your normal close stopWhen you watch TV, use the commercials as reminders to do your squats, lunges, push ups, burpees, jumping jacks, planks, and crunches during the one-minute break. Keep hand weights next to your chair/couch, ride your stationary bike and never use the remote control to change volume or channel.Make your lawn mower your newest piece of fitness equipment—ever hear of Carioca mowing? It’s all in the step!Walk to the office of the person you’d normally call and keep a jump rope in your briefcase or office drawer too!Make your chores count by scrubbing with vigor, grinding and stirring with some beats per minute, vacuum-dance with energy, wash your own car with upper body pushes, and shovel the coming snow (if your health allows) in tune with your favorite RockMyRun music mix. While exercise is key, taking time for yourself every day is critical for your health, well being and longevity. It’s all in my CHAIR method I recently described in an article for Prevention.com. C stands for a deeply felt commitment to very specific goals. You see the goal; you know why you’re doing it. H is for healthier foods, healthy carbs and proteins, healthy fat. ‘Diet’ is a word I never use. It has the word ‘die’ in it. A stands for activity. Daily activity, daily tracking of food and exercise. If you track, you adhere. Shoot for 10,000 steps a day. But even raking leaves counts as activity. I is inner motivation—you have to have your ‘why.’ And it has to be internal to you. R is for a realistic set of goals. You need something very tangible, like you want to be off blood pressure medication—not just I want to lose some weight or tone up. At the end of the day it’s all about thinking. The ‘link’ is what you think.” When you think you don’t have the time ask yourself if what you think is True, Helpful, Inspirational, Necessary, Kind to yourself. Hey, that’s what “THINK” means! If your answer is “No,” then change your thought and get active. It only takes a minute! What tips to have to stay active? I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments below. Post contributed by Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. Dr. Mantell has served as a long-time Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego and today is the Senior Fitness Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise, a behavioral sciences coach, an author and a national fitness-health speaker.