While Mount Ellinor is not the highest mountain on the Olympic Peninsula (Mount Olympus is, at 7,979 feet), nor the site with the most accessible high alpine views (Hurricane Ridge, in Olympic National Park is), it is one of the most popular hikes in the region, along with Sol Duc Falls and the Hall of Mosses. As well, on a clear day, Mount Ellinor has some of the best views of Olympic National Park and the peninsula as a whole from its 5,954 foot summit. Mount Ellinor also is one of the best places to see mountain goats in the entirety of Washington. While all of these items are positive - great views - ability to view wildlife - what is bad about the Mount Ellinor hike is the vertical gain. While there are many ways to climb Mount Ellinor - Upper Trail; Lower Trail; Winter route - all of these ascents feature a fair amount of vertical gain in a short distance. But for those willing to accept the pain, they will find that despite its popularity, Mount Ellinor’s summit is worth the potential suffering.
At 14,505 feet, Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the continental United States, and one of the most popular spots to hike and climb. In addition to these things, it also has a number of high alpine lakes located nearby (such as the Meysan Lakes), and a number of lakes located along the trail to the summit - such as Mirror, Consultation - and Lone Pine Lake. While Lone Pine Lake is technically not on the trail to the summit, as it is off a short spur trail, it is a great short hike for beginner backpackers and hikers, and for those parties looking to take more than one day to summit Mount Whitney.
With miles of pristine beaches, rolling chaparral covered hills, and a constant semi-arid desert climate, San Diego will never be identified as one of the hot spots for waterfalls or hikes to waterfalls. However, unbeknownst to many people, from December through Memorial Day, San Diego does have a number of great seasonal waterfall hikes that highlight some of the best features of the county’s backcountry. As all of these waterfalls are seasonal, timing is everything, and also somewhat dependent on the weather pattern for the year. During wet winters and springs, these waterfalls will have high flows, and creek crossings; and during drought years, there may only be a trickle and dry stream beds. Similarly, with respect to timing, at the right times, these waterfalls can and will appear spectacular – but at the wrong times, may be a letdown after a hot, dusty trek. Keeping all that in mind, these hikes can also be great gateways to explore other regions of San Diego County, and again, at the right times, great spots to view spring wildflowers. I’ve listed the below hikes in order of difficulty, and let me know your thoughts about them, or any additions you have to the list below!
Julian is one of the most popular destinations in all of San Diego County for a number of reasons – in the winter; it is one of the few spots in the county that receives regular snowfall. In the fall, it is also one of the few spots in the county that allows apple picking. Year-round, however, it is popular for its distinctive – and tasty pies. While there are a number of trails one can select in the area in an attempt to mitigate the damage from pie and donut consumption in town, the easiest and most family-friendly with the best view is at Inaja Memorial Park, which is located some six miles to the east of Julian.
San Diego County is an amazing spot with a number of well-known hikes, such as Cowles Mountain (the tallest point within the city confines), El Cajon Mountain (San Diego’s toughest hike), Potato Chip Rock (San Diego’s biggest social media-post-hike), Cedar Creek Falls (the other of San Diego’s most popular waterfall hikes), Broken Hill (San Diego’s best coastal view hike), and last but not least, the hike to Three Sisters Falls. Like all of the hikes on this least, the trek to Three Sisters Falls is, and has been popular for an extended period of time, even during the summer of drought years, when the waterfalls become a trickle, and can be nonexistent. Like Cedar Creek Falls, the hike to Three Sisters Falls has also had its share of bad publicity, with hikers leaving trash, hikers needing to be rescued, and hikers on occasion, dying. While these items led to a permitting system at Cedar Creek, at the moment, the hike to the Three Sisters remains, by and large, unregulated, although as of 2016, plans are potentially in the works to make the “trail” safer for all skill levels of hikers. Despite the past and present risks, the hike to Three Sisters is a unique San Diego backcountry experience that despite the crowds, lives up to the hype surrounding it.
Among outdoor enthusiasts, through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (“PCT”) is one of the most coveted accomplishments. But at 2,650 total miles, completing the PCT is a daunting task that requires a substantial amount of time. As a result, instead of completing the PCT in one fell swoop, many hikers elect to “section hike” – hike sections of the trail – over an extended period of time. While perhaps not as glamorous as a through hike, section hiking allows hikers to complete the trail at their schedule, and allows one great latitude to appreciate the many hidden gems that are along the PCT. One of the first hidden gems along the PCT is Kitchen Creek Falls, a seasonal waterfall that is just off the first section of the PCT near Campo, California. Irrespective of whether one is starting out to complete all of the PCT, section hike the PCT, or head out for a day hike, Kitchen Creek Falls is a great destination year-round.
Chances are, if you have any sort of social media presence, you’ve seen with increasing frequency some sort of picture of people, tents, or both laid out artfully in front of tall mountains and crystal blue lakes. And, if you’ve seen these photos and there wasn’t a caption, you probably wondered where these lakes were, and if the photos were photoshopped. These lakes are the glacial lakes of the Big Pine basin, specifically located off the North Fork of Big Pine Creek; and for the most part, there is no photoshopping of the photos of these lakes – they actually do look like that way in real like, with brilliant shades of cerulean blue. The lakes popularity, however, precedes social media, as the trail up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek has long been one of the most popular destinations in the Inyo National Forest. As a matter of fact, the only thing unknown – and unspectacular about these lakes is their names. For unknown reasons, the lakes – and the waterfalls along this trail were given generic names – “First Waterfall”; “First Lake”; “Second Lake” through “Seventh Lake”. My personal suggestion for hikers or backpackers visiting the area – call them whatever you want, because they are amazing.