I am an adventure girl who loves hiking and the great outdoors! I love the mountains and exploring the wilderness. I like to blog about travel, road trips, photography, vanlife, and hiking. I encourage others to respect nature and Leave No Trace!
This Sunday, April 22nd, we set out to hike our first two of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. Steve and I hiked the 48 New Hampshire 4,000 footers over the past few years when we lived in Boston, so now that we are in upstate New York, this seemed like the perfect list to tackle next.
Since this has been a long winter, we were hesitant to start climbing mountains this early in the season. However, I’ve been feeling restless from many months without the great outdoors, so we went for it. I had been reading trail reports and facebook posts to try and figure out what the trails would be like. Some people said snowshoes were needed. Some people said not to hike without crampons and an ice axe. I was a bit nervous. However, microspikes and trekking poles turned out to be enough for a solid hike up the mountains. The trail was icy on the way up and slushy on the way down.
I will share some of the details and statistics from our hike. Some of the information is based on the AllTrails app data and may not be perfectly accurate.
Time started: 9:45am
Time Ended: 1:45pm
Total Time: 4 hours
Total Distance: 5.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,297 feet
We started at the Cascade Mountain Trailhead on route 73 between Lake Placid and Keene. There were a few small parking lots right along the main road. I assume this probably gets quite full during the summer months!
We took the Cascade Mountain Trail and then at the junction we took the Porter Mountain Trail to hit the summit of Porter first. This ascent took 2 hours. The summit of Porter had some lovely views of mountains in one direction and beautiful snow covered trees in the other direction. There was only one other couple up there and we took our time enjoying the quiet and the beauty around us. We then hiked down to the junction and then up to the summit of Cascade. This took another 45 minutes including taking photos and having snacks at the top of Porter. We spent some time alone on top of Cascade enjoying the incredible 360 degree mountain views.
After 15 or so minutes at the top, we made our way down. The descent to the car from Porter took less than an hour. We passed a lot of inexperienced and unprepared hikers on the trail. Make sure to do your research when hiking in early spring! Microspikes and poles were needed for a safe day on the mountain.
This was a beautiful hike and a great introduction to the Adirondack High Peaks. Even though the ice was a bit slippery and slowed us down a bit, the scenery was incredible. We also didn’t face any crowds or bugs, which was a plus! I can’t wait to hike more high peaks! 2 down, 44 to go!
After the Alabama Hills, we drove north and had an amazing time in Mammoth Lakes. Despite some lingering snow from a harsh winter, we did some lovely hikes and saw some amazing views! I highly recommend checking out this incredibly beautiful area. Keep reading below to find out what we did!
The last blog post I wrote was about the Alabama Hills (click here to read it!), located in Eastern Sierra. Our original plan for this part of the trip was to quickly see the Alabama Hills and then rush west to the California coast. Our plans changed for a couple of reasons and we ended up spending a week in Eastern Sierra. First of all, we were absolutely in love with this area. For me personally, being surrounded by the snow-capped Sierras was waking up a part of my soul that had missed the mountains dearly. We weren’t ready to leave this amazing place. The second thing that changed our plan was that there was a historically huge landslide on Route 1 near Big Sur. We were planning on driving all the way up the Pacific Coast Highway but the landslide made this impossible since the road was closed in several spots. So we had to change plans, as often happens in life on the road. While we were pretty bummed that McWay Falls and a few other iconic spots in Big Sur were inaccessible (for at least a year!), we were also excited to head north and explore more of the Eastern Sierras.
We drove north up route 395 to an area called Mammoth Lakes. I had heard of this area as a ski town and that’s about it. I didn’t have any expectations going in and was very pleasantly surprised! The drive from Lone Pine to Mammoth was incredibly beautiful with more snow capped mountains popping up every few miles. Mammoth Lakes is a very adorable area. We stopped by the visitor center and got some great advice for what to do in the area. There were a multitude of free camping options: several spots with dispersed camping and even a real campground with pit toilets and fire pits, free of charge! This is an amazing area for van dwellers. Although some of the areas around Mammoth Lakes were inaccessible due to the snow that hadn’t melted yet, there were so many awesome spots we were able to check out. Keep reading to find out more!
The first thing we did in the area was the 6-mile roundtrip hike to Sherwin Lakes, sub-alpine lakes in the Muir Wilderness. The hike was really lovely. After being in the desert for so long, the sound of wind in the trees, the shady trails, and the forest smells were greatly appreciated. We meandered through tall pine trees, across a rushing river, and up many gentle switchbacks to get to there. The path was mostly dry, though we did have to hike through a few snow patches, and quite easy. Surrounded by snow covered mountains, the lake was one of the loveliest sights from this whole trip. We spent a while exploring the shore, taking photos, and I waded into the chilly water out to a log propped up on some rocks (see below).
We didn’t end up getting to the other lake because it was getting late, but overall this was an easy and awesome hike! The hike took us 3 hours total, including a long stop for photos and relaxing by the lake.
The next day we woke up early in the morning to watch the sunrise at Convict Lake. This is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. It is named after an incident that occurred in 1871, when a group of convicts escaped from prison in Carson City and were caught near the lake. I am typically not a morning person and love sleeping in, but watching the sunrise in the mountains is always worth waking up for!
Hot Creek Geological Site
We then checked out Hot Creek Geological Site. There is a beautiful flowing river with brilliant blue steaming geothermal hot springs (NOT for swimming!) and beautiful mountain peaks in the background. When you follow Google Maps, it takes you to an area with a neat view of the steaming pools, some informative signs, and pit toilets. However, it was not obvious how to get the view in the photo below.
The views from the marked area are nice, but the best view (seen in the photo above) is not well advertised. We had to wander around for a while to find this exact perspective. To get to this viewpoint you need to keep driving east on Hot Creek Hatchery Road past the pit toilets and gate at the far end of the geological site, and turn left down a dirt road with no signs. At the end of the road there is a small clearing with a stone fire pit (possibly a camp site!). There you will find this stunning view! See the map below, the approximate location of the viewpoint is indicated by the red circle.
Driving the June Lake Loop
After the beauty of Hot Creek, we continued our drive north to the June Lake Loop. This is a beautiful road that winds through mountains, cute towns, and several lovely lakes. June Lake itself looked very pretty from the road, but we didn’t find a good viewpoint so we continued driving.
We stopped at Silver Lake, which was really beautiful. Unfortunately, it was very windy so the water was choppy and full of waves. I think this spot would have looked even more beautiful with still, reflective water.
We also stopped by Grant Lake, a dazzling blue lake nestled in the mountains and rolling hills. This spot felt so similar to some of the hikes we did in the fjords of Norway!
After spending a couple hours on the lovely June Lake Loop, we drove down a bumpy dirt road to the trail head for a hike to Parker Lake. This was a relatively short and easy hike, only 3.6 miles roundtrip, and took us two hours. There were hardly any other people on the trail and it was a very peaceful hike. Just before getting to the lake, there is an amazing shallow river winding through a pine forest. It felt like something out of a magical fantasy world.
The lake itself was really beautiful. The water was a dazzling shade of turquoise and the tall rocky mountains loomed just behind the lake. I tried to wade in the freezing cold water, but the rocks were sharp and slippery- I almost fell in!
Leaving Mammoth Lakes
Aside from these lovely lakes and hikes, we enjoyed some tasters at the two local breweries: Mammoth Brewing Company, which had delicious beers and the best logo of a smiling black bear, and Black Doubt which is one of the more clever brewery names I have ever seen.
We also stopped briefly at Mono Lake on our way out, but we weren’t really feeling this area so we didn’t stay too long. Most of the mountain roads were closed so we had to drive north and then west to get over to the California coast.
What we skipped
One thing we did not explore in Mammoth Lakes was the hot springs. I have seen so many amazing photos of these springs and wanted to check them out. For some reason we were busy with all of the hiking and driving, we ended up not doing the hot springs. Sorry not to have any info on these! We also tried to spend some time at Lake Tahoe on our way out, but found it not to be very van-friendly. We saw some nice views as we drove around, but had trouble finding places to park or sleep for free. We will have to plan another trip to this area!
Since writing this blog post we have already explored much of the Califoria coast. I can’t wait to share photos and stories from our adventures on the Pacific Coast Highway and in the redwood forests! Until then, you can keep up-to-date by following along with my posts and stories on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors).
This blog post is about a region known as Eastern Sierra – the area just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.
We spent a little less than a week in this area and saw some of the most beautiful scenery of the entire trip so far. This area is an incredible gem that I highly recommend to anyone looking for wonderful views, excellent hiking, and easy-to-find free camping. This blog post will focus on the Alabama Hills (not located in Alabama!) and my next post will be for Mammoth Lakes!
To be honest, I had never heard of the Alabama Hills until a couple years ago when it started appearing on my Instagram feed. Once I knew about the Alabama Hills, it seemed like photos of it were popping up all the time. It looked like an amazing place that I needed to check out, but I was a little worried that it would be swarming with Instagrammers and photographers. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case at all! The Alabama Hills were incredibly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful. We had our pick from dozens of free dispersed campsites scattered all around the dusty hills with unbelievable views of the snow-capped Sierras looming to the west.
Lone Pine, CA
To get to the Alabama Hills, you start at the town of Lone Pine, CA on route 395. We had just come from the harsh desert climate of Death Valley and were thrilled to see snow covered mountains and a river! A man in town told us that due to the record breaking snowfall this year, the skiing was still great (we don’t ski) but that also the river is flowing harder than it has in years!
The town is pretty cute and not too touristy. We had excellent and cheap tacos from Castro’s Taco Truck and had a beer at a quaint western dive bar called Jake’s Saloon. We stocked up on groceries and fuel and checked out the visitor center before heading into the hills.
There was an awesome outdoorsy vibe to this area and I also think a lot of people use this as the starting point to hike Mount Whitney, the highest point in California, which can be seen in the distance.
The roads through the Alabama Hills are dirt roads, but they were pretty easy to navigate in our 2WD high clearance van. We saw only a handful of people during our time there. Despite many movies being filmed here over the years, this is still a pretty unknown spot to those not on Instagram!
Our first stop in the Alabama Hills was Mobius Arch. It was a very easy and quick hike to get to this arch, with lots of wild flowers and beautiful mountain views along the way. The arch was a lot smaller than I had imagined, but it was really neat to see the mountains framed inside the arch.
Camping and Exploring the Alabama Hills
We then drove around checking out the viewpoints before settling on a campsite for the night. We found a great spot with a stone fire ring and incredible views. We set up our pop-up shade tent to shield ourselves from the blazing hot sunshine and cooked a delicious dinner in one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I have ever been.
After a quiet and restful night of sleep, we woke up for sunrise. Watching the first sun rays of the morning light up the Sierras was one of the most surreal moments of my life. We made our way to a famous spot on top of a hill with the road leading down into the mountains for the rest of the morning. After taking photos, I sat sipping coffee and watched as the sunlight slowly spread across the scene in front of me. From the tip of Lone Pine Peak to the jagged summit of Mount Whitney, the whole mountain range looked stunning bathed in golden morning light. If you decide to check out the Alabama Hills, please don’t hesitate to reach out for more specific directions on how to find these spots!
The famous road
Lone Pine Peak
Overall, Eastern Sierra was one of my favorite areas on this trip so far and one of the nicest places I have ever visited. It is very nomad-friendly, has incredible views, and an endless list of awesome and budget-friendly activities. We probably could have spent weeks there, but we have so much more to see! My next blog post will be about Mammoth Lakes, just north of the Alabama Hills. Stay tuned!
Until then, don’t forget to follow along on Instagram (@carrieoutdoors). I have had pretty good cell service in California and have been keeping up with “Instagram Stories” almost on a daily basis! Come say hello!
So this blog post is going to be a little different in that it is not super current. I am still exploring SoCal and not quite ready to blog about this part of the trip yet, so in the meantime I wanted to take a moment to write about my recently-completed quest to summit all 48 of the 4,000-foot mountains in New Hampshire (aka the 4,000-Footers). Even though I am out exploring some unbelievably incredible areas of this country, the mountains of New England hold a special place in my heart and I often think back to many awesome moments in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The beginning of this post will be a general overview of my journey that everyone can enjoy, and the very last section will be specifically for anyone who is actually considering hiking these peaks!
I’ll start at the beginning. After a few months of dating my now-husband Steve, I decided to move from New York City to join him Boston, where I found an excellent teaching job. Right away, Steve introduced me to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and I quickly fell in love. As a kid growing up in upstate New York, I loved spending time in the Adirondacks hiking the trails, climbing the mountains, and swimming in the lakes. I grew up loving the outdoors and spending time in beautiful nature. During my time in NYC, I was very busy with work (I taught at a public high school in the South Bronx) and often felt trapped in the city without a car, and therefore I rarely saw the wilderness.
Once in Boston I quickly realized that I was only a 2-3 hour drive from the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire and was reminded of how much I love hiking and being in the mountains. Then Steve told me about the 4,000-Footers and how he had climbed 10 or so of them over the years with his friends. For those of you not familiar with the 4,000-Footers, this is a list of the mountain peaks over 4,000 feet in New Hampshire (there are 48 of them in total). We decided to head up north and hike a few of them together and I was instantly hooked. As a lover of to-do lists, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a massive to-do list of 48 mountains, each containing incredible beauty, intense work outs, and unique experiences.
Over the next four years, Steve and I drove up to lovely towns like Woodstock, Lincoln, Gorham, Jackson, and North Conway which would be the basecamps for our hikes. We hiked during spring rainstorms, on hot summer days, in the gorgeous foliage of autumn, and even on snow covered winter afternoons. Some hikes were quick and included one summit (for example Mount Hale which is a 4.4 mile hike and took only three and a half hours) whereas other hikes took multiple days and hit multiple summits (for example the Presidential Traverse which hit 7 summits and was 23 miles of hiking with 9,000 feet of elevation gain). Each hike was incredibly unique, considering they are all within a short distance from each other, with lovely wooded trails, occasional ponds and lakes, and many beautiful views from the summits. We hiked alone or with friends and met some incredible people along the way.
Our final hike, number 48, was Mount Carrigain. This was a medium difficulty hike but was incredibly memorable. At the summit we ran into a family who was celebrating that the father was also completing his 48th mountain and they had a bottle of champagne which they joyfully shared with us on the fire tower! I have found that hikers in the White Mountains are incredibly kind and down to earth. We may not have the rocky peaks and epic alpine lakes like the Northwest, but the beauty of the New Hampshire mountains is very special. Whether they are shrouded in dense fog, basking in sunshine, covered with amazing fall foliage, or layered with snow, the White Mountains are a treat for those willing to leave the comforts of home and hike into their wilderness. Working through the 4,000-Footer list forced us to hike a wide variety of mountains, not just the popular and most scenic peaks, which ended up revealing a lot of unique beauty and solitude that we otherwise may have never experienced.
This was truly an amazing journey. I fell in love with peakbagging and found comfort and motivation in checking mountain after mountain off of our list and adding pin after pin to our map. Steve and I grew stronger both physically and mentally and the hikes brought us closer together as a couple. We even got engaged on our overnight hike of Lincoln and Lafayette!
If you live in the northeast I highly recommend hiking some of the 4,000 Footers. If you would like suggestions on which ones to hike, please reach out to me! If you live far away, but like the idea of hiking lists or peakbagging, take a look if there are any hiking lists in your area! Perhaps there is a mountain range nearby (Colorado 14ers, Adirondack 46ers, etc) or perhaps you could try something like the county high points in your state!
Now if you’re nowhere near New Hampshire and have no desire to hike these mountains, you can stop reading here! However if you’re interested in doing the NH 4000 Footers, I have a few pieces of helpful information below!
Woodstock Brewery in Lincoln, NH is a great place to grab a bite to eat and some delicious beers after a hike! They even have a 4,000 Footer IPA! I recommend the Loon Dip and the Cogsman Ale!
My favorite hikes were Lincoln/Lafayette, Moosilauke, and the Presidential Traverse!
My least favorite hikes were Hale (no views) and the Wildcats.
Check out the AMC huts! They are beautiful inside and have awesome maps, pit toilets, and free water. If it’s in your budget, staying overnight at one of the huts is an amazing experience!
Whenever possible, I recommend trying to do multiple peaks in one hike. It’s a great experience and also cuts down the total number of hikes you will do to complete the list.
Try to catch some sunsets or sunrises in the mountains, they are unbelievable. If you can spend a night during a new moon, you might even be able to see the Milky Way over the mountain peaks (see photo below).
Always check the weather and trail conditions before hiking, especially on the Presidential Range or in winter and early spring.
As always, be sure to follow the Leave No Trace philosophy. These are some of the most beautiful and well maintained trails I’ve ever hiked and I want them to stay that way! Stay on the trails, follow the rules about camping and fires, and be sure to pack out ALL of your trash, including apple cores, banana peels, sunflower seed shells, and orange peels!
And lastly, here are some very important resources to help you get started!
First of all, this website (http://home.earthlink.net/~ellozy/) is the best resource for hiking the 4,000-Footers! I have no idea how we would have completed this journey without this site. It has mileage, elevation gains, and book times for the different routes to the peaks as well as commentary about each hike. It talks about which peaks can be combined together in a single hike as well. This site is super helpful!
There is a great Facebook group Hike the 4000 footers of NH! which is a wonderful community of other hikers of the 4,000-Footers. There is occasionally drama in the comments, but mostly it is full of kind and supportive hikers who offer advice, seek suggestions, or organize group hikes in the Whites.
If you plan to hike Mount Washington or any of the Presidentials, this website (Mount Washington Observatory) is critical for checking the weather before you go. Mount Washington has been said to have “the worst weather in the world” and can be extremely dangerous, so be sure to stay up to date on the weather and be prepared for cold and snow, even in the summer!
I am so excited to share that I have completed the goal of hiking all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot mountains! It has taken me a little under four years to complete the list and I am feeling so happy to have finished. Steve and I had planned to hike North and South Twin on Saturday, August 27th which would be #46 and #47 and then we had plans to attend a party Saturday night. A few days before the hike, we found out the party was cancelled which opened up a new possibility: we could finish the 4,000-Footers on Sunday! And we did! We completed the 48 on Mt. Carrigain, a medium-difficulty hike with beautiful views and a fire tower at the summit. At the top, we ran into a family who was celebrating the father’s completion of the 48 as well! We swapped stories and shared champagne. It was a really magical and special moment.
Part of me is feeling a little sad about being done with the list, because it has been such a driving force in how I chose to spend my weekends and free time these past four years. Driving up to New Hampshire became a regular part of my life. However, I am excited to start thinking about other hiking goals and travel ambitions. Steve and I are also slowly working toward hiking to the high point of all 50 states, so it may be time to turn our attention toward that list for a while. Have you ever done any hiking lists or set hiking goals for yourself? If so, I’d love to hear about them!
I am getting SO close to achieving a goal I have been working on for the past few years: hiking to the summit of all 48 of the 4,000-foot mountains in New Hampshire. This past weekend I did a 12-hour, 20-mile hike to hit Zealand, Bond, West Bond, and Bondcliff. That leaves me at #45 out of 48. I can’t believe how close I am! What are some of your goals?