Merriam Peak from Royce Lake - July 21, 2007
A selection of adventure run possibilities for 2009 and beyond in California’s Sierra Mountains. New for this year is a section for the Northern California Coastal Ranges, which features an appealing mixture of old growth redwoods, rugged coastline, and snowcapped mountains.
- Middle Palisade: This peak lends itself to the fastest time of the Palisade group with a shorter approach and sustained scramble.
- Mount Sill: Known as the best viewpoint in the Palisades and an interesting route.
- North Palisade: The highest point in the Palisades subrange has a more technical finish.
- Clyde Minaret: The Minarets are gorgeous and this is a cool scramble.
- Mount Stanford: Named after my alma mater – a sweet mountain in the midst of a very rugged section of the Sierra.
- Arrow Peak via Bench Lake: Famous view of this symmetrical peak from Bench Lake.
- Mineral King Area: Tons of great scrambles here.
- South Guard/North Guard/Mount Brewer: Wild and remote; access from Kings Canyon on the westside.
- Mount Whitney: The Mountaineers Route is a classic.
- Mount Russell: Sweet scrambling routes on this mountain next to Whitney.
- Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne: A point-to-point 33 mile trail run through a spectacular canyon.
- University Peak: A cool looking mountain out of Onion Valley.
See Coastal Ranges after the jump.
Here is a list of my twelve favorite single track trails on the SF Peninsula. The list is generally organized by location from north to south, but they are all located in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a relatively small area that is rich in protected public lands. I can assure you that each one of these is a trail running treat!
Note: mileage listed in parenthesis is the length of the trail, not including mileage required to get to the trail or get back as part of a complete run.
- Soda Gulch Trail - Purisima Creek OSP: One section in meadows and chaparral with views to Half Moon Bay; another section in lush redwood forest with cascading streams (2.6 miles).
- Chinquapin Trail – Huddart Park: A fast descent trail with a cushy coating of leaves and redwood needles (1.6 miles).
- Skyline Trail - Huddart to Wunderlich: This awesome trail is under a thick canopy of Douglas fir and redwoods as it traverses the hillside below Skyline Blvd. – it has a great surface and elevation profile to find a nice rhythm (5.7 miles).
- Razorback Ridge and Lost Trail – Windy Hill OSP: Numerous switchbacks up a ridge under a thick canopy of oak trees leads to a meandering section along the ridge with ancient Douglas firs lining the path and finally views of the entire Bay Area (3.8 miles).
- Toyon Trail - Portola Valley Ranch: Super narrow and fast from top to bottom, watch the sharp turns (2 miles).
- Los Trancos Trail – Foothills Park: Get a great workout on the steep hillclimb along Los Trancos Creek, but also enjoy the lush fern forest along the cascading stream and great views from the high point (7.5 miles).
- Table Mountain Trail - Upper Stevens Creek: A good hill climb in thick fir and hardwood forest give this trail a real wilderness feeling (3.5 miles)
- Brook Loop – Pescadero Park: Super views of the Pescadero watershed along with great mileage in redwood and fir forest (5.7 miles).
- Achistaca Trail - Long Ridge OSP: Beautiful forest, meadows, and gorgeous views to the Pacific Ocean (1.7 miles).
- Ridge Trail – Castle Rock SP: Sweeping views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and a magical madrone forest make this trail a delight (1.5 miles)
- Canyon Trail – Butano SP: Extremely narrow trail and steep relief off the side characterize this technical trail which traverses in and out of redwood-filled gullies (2.75 miles).
- Skyline to the Sea Trail and Berry Creek Falls – Big Basin SP (from HQ to Berry Creek Falls): Huge redwoods and spectacular waterfalls, including Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls, and Golden Cascade (5.5 miles).
I compiled a list of notable Bay Area peaks and high points after I couldn’t find a complete list on the internet. The list is organized by mountain range. Hope this is useful or interesting!
Above the fog on the Black Mountain Trail
See the list after the jump!
Here is collection of twelve world famous treks outside the United States that I would like to do at some point. Most of them are in the most rugged, mountainous areas on the planet – I like mountains! These trips would be more relaxed, but I imagine they would still be (much) lighter and faster than standard itineraries. As far as the combination of outrageous scenery, ease of travel, and budget, South America is the winner right now and will likely be my focus in the coming years. For trails on the West Coast of the United States, including the John Muir Trail (340 km) and Wonderland Trail (150 km), check out this blog post.
- Huayhuash Circuit, Peru (140 km): Amazing loop around the Cordillera Huayhuash Peaks in the Peruvian Andes.
- Ausangate Circuit, Peru (70 km): A super high altitude hike circling the Ausangate Massif (6,372 m).
- Paine Circuit, Chile (100 km): A loop around the Paine Massif in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.
- Fitz Roy, Argentina (38 km): Very photogenic spires as long as the weather cooperates! This is usually combined with the Paine Circuit and the loop seems like it would be a good adventure run.
- Annapurna Circuit, Nepal (~300 km): Majestic region of the mighty Himalayas.
- Everest Base Camp, Nepal (92 km): I think I would be too tempted to actually climb Everest, or at least something nearby.
- K2 Base Camp, Pakistan: The peaks and glaciers in this area look like they are out of control! Unfortunately, the political situation is similar.
- Haute Route, Alps (180 km): From Chamonix Valley to Zermatt. Either the dollar gets stronger or I will need a lot of dollars for this one!
- Tour du Mont Blanc, Alps (163 km): There is an ultra race of this route that would be super fun, but it would also be nice to take 3-4 days to do this hike.
- Milford Track, New Zealand (57 km): A short one that ends at the iconic Milford Sound. This would be a good one-day adventure run.
- West Coast Trail, British Columbia (75 km): Pristine wilderness coastline and so close to Washington State where I grew up.
- Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (55 km): Hopefully I’ll make it here before the last cube of ice melts away from the summit plateau.
Here are some sweet ultra trails in wilderness settings in California and Washington State. If I am going to be running as far and long as these trails, the scenery better be spectacular and this list delivers! I don’t think I am ready to run the longer trails on this list, but maybe sometime in the future.
- Wonderland Trail (93 miles): Encircles 14,410 foot Mount Rainier, entailing forest, meadows, alpine lakes, and spectacular views of glacier-clad Rainier.
- Stevens to Snoqualmie (75 miles): Along the Pacific Crest Trail from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass traveling through the heart of Alpine Lakes Wilderness with some of the best mountain scenery in the United States.
- John Muir Trail (211 miles): A point-to-point trail from the summit of Mount Whitney to Yosemite Valley covering the most wild and rugged section of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.
- Tahoe Rim Trail (165 miles): Running a complete loop around Lake Tahoe just sounds sweet.
- High Sierra Trail (72.2 miles): Passing some of the most gorgeous scenery in Sequoia National Park, this point-to-point route goes from Crescent Meadow (West) to it’s official end at the John Muir Trail at Wallace Creek (East) 49 miles from the start. The trip would continue over the Sierra Crest and down to Whitney Portal for an additional 23 miles, hence 72 miles total.
- Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne (33 miles): Following the Tuolumne River through a spectacular canyon almost to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, this point-to-point starts at the wonderful Tuolumne meadows and concludes at White Wolf Campground.
- Skyline-to-the-Sea (29.5 miles): From Saratoga Gap at the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, traveling through Castle Rock State Park and the gorgeous redwoods at Big Basin State Park.
- Rae Lakes Loop (46 miles): From Road’s End in Kings Canyon up to a string of gorgeous lakes in the High Sierra.
Here is the list of potential adventure runs in California’s High Sierra! Bar exam studies will likely preclude getting to most of these this summer, but I’ll be living in California so there will be plenty of time in the coming years to run through these peaks (and more) in the high Sierra. See Washington adventure run ideas here.
- Mount Sill: Known as the best viewpoint in the Sierra, this peak is located in the middle of the Palisades subrange and is the sixth highest ranked peak in California (with 300 feet of prominence) at 14,153 ft. The southwest slope is class 2/3 and the north couloir is class 4. I will likely do the north couloir because it has closer access and is more interesting with a steep 500 foot snowclimb followed by rock scrambling.
- Middle Palisade: Middle Pal is the 11th highest ranked peak in CA at 14,012 feet and is also located within the Palisades subrange. The fastest route is the northeast face and entails a couple thousand feet of scambling and walk around scenic Finger Lake.
- Russell, Whitney, Muir: The highest point in the continental United States, the Mount Whitney hike is very popular and requires a permit, even for day use. A loop including Mount Russell would only utilize the Whitney Trail on the descent, however. The barren nature of this area, long drive, and red tape doesn’t make it the most attractive.
- Mount Stanford (South): The most direct route is out of the Onion Valley trailhead and over University Pass. Mount Stanford, known as “one of the shyest major peaks in the Sierra,” stands 13,973 ft and involves some really fun scrambling. Plus, it shares the name of my graduate school so I have to climb it!
- Arrow Peak & Bench Lake: This mountain is fairly remote with lots of cross-country and trail mileage to access , a cool scramble, and an awesome reflection in Bench Lake. The classic reflection in Bench Lake and of the super aesthetic looking Arrow Peak is what attracts me to this mountain. There are lots of other great peaks in this vicinity that are worth tagging as well. Access is via Taboose Pass.
- Clyde Minaret: The highest of the famous Minarets, this is one I have had my eye on since I started climbing in the Sierra last summer. This will be super fun run with a solid amount of running on trail and then a great rock scramble.
- Seven Gables: I have climbed lots of mountains in this region and Seven Gables has always caught my eye. Similar to Mount Goddard, its position West of the main affords spectaculr views. There is lots of trail to access which would be great for running and the climb is accessed from the West side which makes for a shorter drive – big plus!
- Mount Humphreys: A towering peak that is easily recognizable from a distance. This climb has a really fun scrambling portion.
- Half Dome: My friend Hari Mix has the record in 2:38 for this 14 mile roundtrip, 4,800 ft elevation gain hike up one of the most famous features in the world.
- Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne: A point-to-point 33 mile trail run through a super famous canyon.
As I sit here with a strained groin and a healing process that is proving painstakingly slow, I can’t help but think about potential mountains for adventure running. What is adventure running? Find out here. In traditional mountaineering, it would take a long time to get through the list below (2-5 days for each), but with adventure running, each trip takes a day or less! The climbing will virtually all be in the months of August and early September due to the bar exam at the end of July. Fortunately, August is the best time of the year for good weather and conditions – this means fast times! I may be able to squeeze in a trip to the high Sierra in June. I’ll start off by detailing the potential adventure runs in Washington. See California adventure run ideas here.
- Mount Rainier: There is a real advantage to knowing the exact route, especially on Rainier, where the route changes often. On the first shot it would be nice to go under 8 hours. If my schedule allows, I could go faster on a second try. On the other hand, some of the other possibilities below have superior scenic value so I probably won’t spend too much time on Rainier.
- Ptarmigan Traverse: Around 35 miles (43 miles if washout 8 miles from trailhead isn’t fixed) with the middle 20 miles on expansive glaciers and rugged terrain. This point-to-point mountaineering classic is usually done in four to five days (I did it in 4 days back in 2004). The extra 8 miles would tag on 1.5 hours, but would mean less driving!
- Mount Fury East Peak: The epitome of adventure running with a long stretch of trail running, off-trail travel through a brush-choked valley, rugged traversing, rock scrambling, and a steep glacier. Total distance is 4o+ miles with nearly half off trail (vey physically demanding)!
- Mount Olympus: I did this adventure run last year and it was so awesome I want to do it again… faster, of course!
- Enchantment Lakes Run: This point-to-point run goes through the legendary Enchantment Lakes basin. The Enchantment Lakes were my second overnight trip ever in 1997. I have fond memories of sharing this gorgeous area with my father. We did the trip again the following year but I have not returned since. I remember when we were camping a guy passed by who was doing the traverse in a day and I thought he was amazing. We called him Hercules! Now, I would shoot to polish this route in under 4 hours – I have grown up! Total distance is 17-18 miles. If starting at Colchuck Lake TH the gain is 4,600 ft and loss is 6,800 ft (the inverse if beginning at the Snow Creek TH).
- Chiwawa and Fortress: The combination of these two mountains has always seemed appealing for a speed climb. My first trip in the Entiat region east of Glacier Peak last summer (Maude-Fernow-7FJ) was awesome!
- Lyman Lakes – Spider Gap – Buck Creek Pass Loop: Another adventure run in the Entiat region. This loop looks sweet and I have heard awesome things about the scenery here. It can be extended to include High Pass, the Napeequa Valley, and Little Giant Pass.
- Image Lake: 36 miles round trip to this iconic lake with spectacular views of Glacier Peak and the DaKobed Range. I haven’t been to Image Lake since a 1999 two-night trip with my father. This run is off the Suiattle River road and I don’t think I’ll do it unless the road is fixed because 9 miles each way on a dirt road to the start of the trail does not sound like fun.
- Mount Buckner North Face: A loop from Cascade Pass over Sahale Peak to the North Face of Mount Buckner (climbed in 2003), down the Southwest Slope and back up to Sahale Arm. This trip is more mountaineering in nature as most of it is not conducive to running.