The Best Backpacking Trails

A backpacking trip is one of the greatest outdoor adventures you can partake in. A true backpacking trip provides you with absolute solitude from the outside world, bringing you up close and personal with nature. There are many different options when it comes to backpacking, from day trips to weekend explorations to thru-hikes from state to state. If you are looking to escape from your normal life and explore the breathtaking views and unspoiled wilderness, then grab your bag and hit one of the trails below.

Appalachian Trail

AT_-_Franconia_Ridge

The Appalachian Trail is nearly 2,180 miles long, spanning 14 different states. While most of us probably don’t have the ability to take six months to hike the entire thing, you can create your own custom journey along the trail. There is the 14-mile hike through Georgia’s Blood Mountain Wilderness, leading hikers to the top of the trail’s highest point in the state. In New Hampshire’s White Mountains you can climb 20 miles above the tree line for optimal views of surrounding peaks. If you are looking for complete isolation, Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness section never crosses a single paved road.

Continental Divide Trail

17701259575_625c9a1728_b

The Continental Divide Trail is 3,100-miles long, cutting right down the middle of the United States. The more advanced hikers can be found at the Knife Edge, a 25-mile loop through the extreme Weminuche Wilderness area in southwestern Colorado. For a more tame experience, explore the trails where the Continental Divide Trail meets Glacier National Park. If you decide to hit the CDT then remember to pack cold-weather gear, as ice and snow are a possibility at any time of the year.

Uinta Highline Trail

Bald_Mountain_-_Uintahs_(CCBYSA)

This is one of the more difficult trails, with hikers often facing rough and rocky stretches throughout the trail. Uinta Highline is also extremely remote, and you can expect to have the trail all to yourself for long stretches. If you have a week free to explore, go conquer the Highline Trail, which is nearly 75 miles of paths that pass serene lakes along the peaks of Utah’s Uinta Mountains.

Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific_Crest_Trail_south_of_Cutthroat_Pass

The Pacific Crest Trail will bring you through some of the most diverse ecosystems that the West Coast has to offer, including dry desert land and high arctic-alpine country. The incredible 2,650-mile journey attracts around 300 die-hard hikers each year. Thousands of others can be found embarking on some of the shorter expeditions. In California, you will find a 270-mile stretch from Mount Whitney to Sonora Pass, offering a monthlong journey through the Sierra NEvada range with amazing views of deep canyons, enormous granite peaks, and rocky lakes. Oregon’s section of the PCT is much more level, with few elevation shifts, making it a great place for beginners.

Information courtesy of Travel Channel

 

The Walk Across Arizona

The Walk Across Arizona is a visual film project of an 800-mile solo hike from the Utah to the Mexico Border via the Arizona trail. This project, brought to you by TArwood Media, began back in 2011 with the intention of exhibiting Arizona’s vast beauty and diversity by thru hiking from Utah to the Mexico border. They wanted this to be a visual reference for anyone interested in the newly completed Arizona Trail. As you will see in the video, the trip consisted of a wide array of challenges — everything from 105° heat to a daylong hail storm. Finding water was by far the most difficult part of the trail for them. On average, only 1-2 gallons of water was consumed a day. As the creators describe, this project literally took blood, sweat, and tears to complete. It is certainly worth checking out, and if you would like to learn more then check out their YouTube Channel.

Only the Essential: Pacific Crest Trail Documentary

This documentary presents the cinematic story of a 2668 mile thru-hike on America’s premiere long distance footpath, the Pacific Crest Trail. In the summer of 2013 Casey Gannon and Colin Arisman thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with cameras in hand. “Only The Essential” is the story of their 5 month, 2668 mile journey on foot from Mexico to Canada across the wilderness of California, Oregon, and Washington. The documentary is filmed entirely by hikers. If you are interested in learning more, check out their website: http://www.wildconfluence.com/ote

Top Places To Hike In North America

mack_prioleau_hiking

The North American landscape is incredible diverse. Anywhere you go you will likely be treated to an entirely new, picturesque terrain. If you enjoy spending your time outdoors, there are a number of different places that you need to go out and see. From the plateaus of the Grand Canyon to the forests of the Adirondacks, there is always something new to experience. As an avid hiker myself, I decided to compile a list of the best places to hike in North America.

1) Yosemite

Yosemite is one of California’s most formidable natural landscapes. In a state that offers a large number of jaw-dropping landscapes, Yosemite reigns supreme. Yosemite National Park offers nearly 1,200 square miles of spectacular scenery: towering waterfalls, millennia-old Sequoia trees, daunting cliff faces, and some of the most unique rock formations in the United States. Despite its vast beauty, most visitor activity takes places within the seven-square mile of Yosemite Valley. This is where you will find some of the park’s most famous landmarks, including Half Dome and El Capitan.

2) Grand Canyon

No picture of the Grand Canyon will do this place justice; it is impossible to capture the scale of the Grand Canyon in a single picture. Measuring approximately 277 miles in length, up to 18 miles in width, and a mile deep, this massive chasm in northern Arizona is a natural wonder that will seriously take your breathe away. For six million years, the Grand Canyon has continued to expand with help from the Colorado River. People from all over the world travel to this remote location to gaze out over the red and orange grandeur. For a true escapist experience, you should head to the North Rim. This is where you will be able to experience backwoods camping and hardcore hiking.

3) Yellowstone

From the dramatic peaks to the pristine lakes, there is no shortage of beauty in Yellowstone. You will find multicolored pools swirling around hot springs, verdant forests weaving past expansive meadows, and volatile geysers launching streams of steaming water into the air. When John Colter first told people of the geothermal curiosities that he had scene in Yellowstone in 1807, people suspected him of embellishing. But now there is no doubts about the extraordinary beauty of this area. As you traverse the park’s 3,000-plus square miles, you will be treated to views of mountains, canyons, geysers, waterfalls, as well as some of the permanent residents like buffalo, elk and even grizzlies.

4) Banff

There is no need to travel across seas to experience the lifestyle of a Swiss skiing village. Instead, head north to Banff, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies near the southeastern border of Banff National Park. Banff caters to the fearless explorers who prefer to end the day in a nice hotel rather than roughing it in the woods or campgrounds. There are more than 80 trails in the area, with top off striking vistas of the Rocky Mountains and the hoodoo rock formations along the Tunnel Mountain Trail.

5) Kauai

The oldest island in the Hawaiian chain is perfect for the no-muss, no-fuss type of traveler. Kauai is the perfect place to take in rural, colorful nature. If you are looking for a hiking getaway, looking no further than this island. Outdoor enthusiasts will have an amazing time hiking along Kauai’s scenic cliffsides and testing their stamina while taking on the 11-mile Kalalau Trail.

6) Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is home to over 700 miles of hiking trails throughout northwestern Montana. This is a great spot for animal lovers as well: this national park is full of diverse wildlife.. Do not be surprised if you see mountain goats, elk or even grizzly bears while you are taking in the scenery of the pristine mountains, and fresh water streams.

7) Sedona

A trip to Sedona feels as though you have just landed on Mars. There are numerous trails that lead you through red rock canyons and mystical “vortexes.” The towering red rocks and jagged sandstone buttes juxtaposed against the almost always blue sky have attracted hikers, as well as artist, for years. When you are done exploring Red Rock State Park, go visit the Palatki Heritage Site to see ancient Hopi dwellings.

8) Adirondacks

A few hours north of the Big Apple, you will find the Adirondacks in Upstate New York. With 2,000 miles of trails in the region and 46 high peaks, hikers can experience a change in scenery and a new view every time they go outdoors. Aside from hiking, there are plenty of other activities in the region as well: kayak through the St. Regis Canoe Area or paddle down Old Forge’s famous canoe route. The nature lovers can rough it in the woods, while others can experience what the luxury cabins and lodges in the area have to offer.

15 Essential Tips For A Successful Hike

hiking mack prioleau

Proper planning and preparation are necessary for any venture into the great outdoors. Hiking is an extremely fun activity, but it is important to understand the dangerous that can accompany it. An experienced hiker will know how important it is to be prepared for any possible situation. Here are 15 essential tips that will help you have a successful and enjoyable hike.

1) Let People Know Your Hiking Plans

Let people know your hiking plans in case something bad happens to goes wrong while you are on the hiking trail. That way if you are not done by a certain time, there will be somebody that can send for help.

2) Study Maps Before The Hike

You need to have a good plan for the hike you will be making and a good estimate for how long it is going to take you. Looking at the trail map beforehand will ensure that you are well prepared for what you will be taking on.

3) Check The Weather 

Keep on eye on the weather before you hit the trails. You should know what conditions to expect while you are outside so that you can pack and dress accordingly.

4) Avoid Clothing Made Of Cotton 

There a number of reasons that cotton should be avoided for hiking. When cotton gets wet, it does not provide good insulation. Cotton absorbs water like a sponge and when the air is colder than the boy’s temperature, you can get really cold in cotton clothing. Modern synthetic materials are much more breathable and lightweight option over cotton, providing better airflow and giving you more comfort.

5) Wear Appropriate Footwear

Trail shoes or hiking boots are great. You should try and find the appropriate hiking boots that match exactly what conditions you normally take on. If you need help deciding on the right hiking boots, check out this article.

6) Hike In A Group

Not only does hiking in a group make the experience much more fun, but you can learn a lot from others, impart your knowledge and distribute the loads for common group gear (first aid, flashlight, etc). Furthermore, you will have somebody to help you in case something unfortunate happens during the hike.

7) Bring Small Snacks

Small snacks will help you keep your energy levels up in-between your larger meals. You are not always going to want to wait for a big lunch, especially when you have emptied your body’s reserves after a few hours of hiking.

8) Stay Hydrated

Make sure that you bring enough water for the day. It is important that you drink water regularly throughout the day.

9) Bring Sunscreen & Hat

Even when it is cloudy you will be getting a great deal of sun on the trails. Sunscreen and a hat will ensure that your body is well protected from the elements.

10) Leave No Trace

It is a privilege to be able to hike and explore the outdoors, do not ruin the experience for others. Whatever you bring on you hike should return with you when you are finished.

11) Bring Essential Safety Items

An experienced hiker will have all the essential safety items for a hike. You never know what is going to happen while you are out on the trail, therefore, you should be prepared for the worst-case scenarios.

12) Bring A First Aid Kit 

Make sure that you inspect your first aid kits before each hiking. Replace any items that have already been used, especially those that are used to start a fire.

13) Know The Poisonous Plants

Familiarize yourself with what the various poisonous plants look like because you are definitely going to want to avoid making contact with them on your hike –  poison ivy, oak, and sumac.

14) The Right-of-Way

When going downhill, yield to those hiking uphill. It is much more difficult to go up the mountain, so you should avoid getting in their way and stopping their momentum.

15) Create Space For Others

When hiking in a group, be mindful of other hikers. Your group should avoid taking up the entire trail so that others can pass by without having to go off the path.

Best Hikes In Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is blessed with a number of amazing hiking trails. These hikes provide amazing views of the city, coastline, and vegetation. Throughout my time in Cape Town, South Africa, I took on a number of incredible hikes. Here are the three hikes that you must take on while traveling in Cape Town.

1) Devil’s Peak

mackprioleau

Devil’s Peak was the last of the “3 Peaks” that I hiked, and it happened to be my favorite as well. My group took the Saddle route to the summit, which took us about an hour and ten minutes; it was surprisingly a fairly difficult journey. Once you make it to the top, however, you understand why it is worth taking on Devil’s Peak. The views were better than I could have ever imagined. On one side, you get False Bay and everything in between it and Cape Town. On the other side is a great view of Cape Town, Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.

2) Lion’s Head

mack prioleau

Lion’s Head hike is great for a quick trip; it is about an hour trip to the summit. Lion’s Head is much more manageable than Table Mountain or Devil’s Peak, making it the perfect place for anyone looking for an easier hike. During the day, the views overlooking Cape Town, Robben Island, and Camps Bay are spectacular. You can also hike up Lion’s Head during a full moon for the unique opportunity to see the beautiful city lit up from above.

3) Table Mountain

mackprioleau

I am very grateful for hiking Table Mountain, but after making the journey multiple times already, I will most likely stick to the cable car next time. It is quite an overwhelming experience the first time you experience the views from the top of Table Mountain. The elevation of this mountain is much higher than Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, giving you an interesting perspective of the surrounding landscape.  Cape car aside, the Platteklip Gorge route is the fastest way to the top, taking about an hour and a half to the top. Although your endurance will be tested as you essentially climb straight up tall steps. The reason Table Mountain is last on my list is because you have the same view the entire trip up the mountain.

Table Mountain Sunrise Summit

Table Mountain Sunrise: Mack Prioleau

Last week a group of my Vanderbilt friends and I hiked Table Mountain for sunrise. We took the Platteklip Gorge route, which overlooks the Cape Town for the whole hike. The hike was tough and long (about 1.5-2 hours) but was well worth it once at the top. We summited right at 5:30 in time for first light and enjoyed the breathtaking views for a few hours before taking the cable car down. Thankfully the cable car was running this time.

The Platteklip is the most direct route to the top of the mountain, making it extremely difficult. However, the path is well constructed, with stone steps and anti-erosion gabions. But this route is by far the most steep, so it is recommended to give yourself some time to get up. The views while ascending the mountain are spectacular, which certainly makes it worth your time to stop and take in your surroundings.

Witnessing the views from the top of Table Mountain for the sunrise was certainly worth the effort. Watching the city of Cape Town begin to wake up and come to life while looking down from above is a pretty surreal experience.

Table Mountain is an amazing hike at any time of the day, as it provides amazing views of both the city, coastline, and the unique plants to the area. To put it in perspective, there are more plant species on Table Mountain then there are in the entire United Kingdom. While hiking up the mountain, you are likely to encounter rock hyraxes, colorful lizards and a variety of birdlife.

Check out some of the pictures of our hike up Table Mountain below.

  • Table Mountain Sunrise: Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau

  • Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
  • Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
  • Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
  • Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
  • Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau
    Table Mountain - Mack Prioleau

Great Hikes In The Lone Star State

With such an expansive and diverse terrain, the state of Texas offers some of the best hiking trails in the country. From steep mountains to swampy grasslands, there is a wide range of trails to explore. There are over 70 national and state parks throughout the state, giving you a seemingly endless list of possibilities for those looking to experience the outdoors. I recently read this great article, which inspired me to list some of my favorite hikes from around the state of Texas.

1) Sam Houston National Forest

Lone Star Trail - Mack Prioleau

Located in Huntsville, Texas, Sam Houston National Forest has a spectacular 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail that meanders through the forest. It will take you several trips to see all the trails within the park, making it a great place for regular hiking.

2) Colorado Bend State Park

Colorado Bend _ Mack Prioleau

Located in Bend, Texas, this state park is home to over 32 miles of trails. Colorado Bend has a diverse terrain, featuring impressive hills, canyons, and a 60-foot tall waterfall (Gorman Falls).

3) Palo Duro Canyon

Palo_Duro_Canyon_Mack Prioleau

Palo Duro Canyon is located in Canyon, Texas near Amarillo. The canyon offers more than 30 miles of hiking trails. You will be able to find a number of challenging hikes as well as beautiful views and colors.

4) Wolf Mountain Trail

Wolf Trail _ Mack Prioleau

This hike is located in Pedernales Falls State Park, which is just west of Austin, Texas.The 7-mile loop trail is a great way to spend the day. The top of the mountain provides incredible views of the surrounding hill country.

5) Lost Maples State Natural Area

Maple Mack Prioleau

Located in Vanderpool, Texas outside of San Antonio, a hike through Lost Maples State Natural Area will have you feeling like you traveled to the northeast. The park’s name derives from the bigtooth maples; the best time to come is in the fall to witness the full display of fall colors.

6) Enchanted Rock

enchanted_rock_mack_prioleau

The Enchanted Rock, located north of Fredericksburg, is a must-see for all Texans. This giant mass of molten magma provides an extremely challenging hike. The panoramic views from the top, however, are truly worth the effort.

7) Guadalupe Peak

GuadalupePeak_Mack_Prioleau

Located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 110 miles east of El Paso, you will find the highest point in Texas. While it is quite a long drive out west, the unparalleled views make it a place worth checking out. If you are up for the 3,000 feet to the top of the peak, you will be rewarded with breaktaking sights. On a clear day, you can even see the distant sierras on the other side of the border.

Hiking Lion’s Head In Cape Town, South Africa

Lions Head (1) Mack Prioleau

Lion’s Head is a mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, located between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. Lion’s Head, which peaks at 2,195 feet, is a great half-day hike that provides amazing views of the city of Cape Town and the Atlantic Seaboard.

Originally, the Dutch settlers had named the peak Leeuwen Kop (Lion’s Head) and it’s counterpart, Signal Hill, was referred to as Leeuqen Staart (Lion’s Tail). The two mountains the the space between them closely resembles a crouching lion or a sphinx.

The composition of the mountain, from the rocks to the flowers is both equally beautiful and interesting to observe. The lower portion of Lion’s Head was formed by the Cape Granite and the Malmesbury formation, while the upper peak consists of flat-lying sandstone.

While hiking Lion’s Head, you will be sure to see some people paragliding off the mountain. The slopes and idea wind conditions make it a very popular launching point for the paragliders as you can see in the video below.

The mountain has unique and rich biodiversity, with three main types that are vegetation that can only be found in Cape Town. Granite Fynbos, an endangered vegetation, can be found all along the hike. Peninsula Shale Renosterveld, which is critically endangered, can be found on the lower slopes towards Signal Hill. Sandstone Fynbos, which is also endangered, can be found on the summit of Lion’s Head.

The hike takes a few hours and can be quite challenging. The climb begins at Signal Hill Road, at the base of Forestry Road and winds around the head to a section with chains. The chains have been added to assist climbers over the steep, rocky section of the mountain. You can bypass the route with chains and take an alternative route, but this climb is challenging as well.

Check out some pictures from my hike up Lion’s Head here:

  • Lions Head (1) Mack Prioleau
    Lions Head (2) Mack Prioleau
    Lions Head (3) Mack Prioleau

  • Lions Head (4) Mack Prioleau
    Lions Head (5) Mack Prioleau

 

Cape Point in Cape Town, South Africa

cape of good hope5

Cape Point is part of Table Mountain National park and has great mountainous scenery with the ocean on both sides. The Cape of Good Hope is situated in the park, and is the most southwestern tip of Africa. The views atop the rugged rocks and sheer cliffs, which tower over 200 metres above the sea, are simply incredible.

Bartolomeu Dias named Cape Point the ‘Cape of Storms’ in 1488 and for good reason. Cape Point has dangerous rocks everywhere and combined with violent storms, this area was extremely difficult for ships to navigate. Over the years, many ships succumbed to the difficult waters, littering the coastline with shipwrecks. In an effort to prevent these shipwrecks, a lighthouse was constructed. Completed in 1859, the lighthouse stands at 249 metres above the sea.

Table Mountain is an iconic landmark of South Africa and is actually the most photographed attraction. I have ventured on this hike three times already and it is breathtaking every single time. This national park in Cape Town, South Africa was created to protect the natural environment of the Table Mountain Chain, specifically the rare fynbos vegetation.

Hiking Table Mountain is an amazing opportunity to see the biodiversity of Cape Town, South Africa. There are around 2,200 species of plants found on Table Mountain and 1470 floral species. There is no shortage of stunning wildlife either. We were able to see ostriches, elands, and other plains game. Table mountain is also home to caracals and chacma baboons.

Here are some pictures of both the “east and “west” sides of Cape Point.