Best Hikes of 2018 So Far

My last blog and this blog have both been rehash blogs for a good reason. I had plans to visit several west Texas state parks this summer but I have sustained an injury that is aggravated when sitting for a long time. My travel has been limited to just about nowhere. Hopefully, I will be back at 100% by August. I have gotten in a bunch of hikes this year so I will list the best.

10. Quanah Hill-This is a cool little park located in Weatherford, TX. Nice trails with lots of elevation change and clean.DSC00261.JPG

9. Eagle Mountain Park-Located on the northwest side of Fort Worth. This park is just a nice nature park to hike.DSC00033.JPG

8. Eisenhower State Park-A surprisingly good trail system at a park located in Denison, TX. The beaches and cliffs were great.DSC00283.JPG

7. Mount Nebo SP-Located in Dardanelle, AR, this was a surprisingly neat park. The summit trail around the top is a must.20180511_181132.jpg

6. Chickasaw National Recreational Area-Located in Sulphur, OK, this park is all about waterfalls. I love me some waterfalls.DSC00384.JPG

5. Bastrop SP-Located in Bastrop, TX, this was a park I have wanted to go to for a longtime. Although it was foggy he park did not disappoint.DSC00668.JPG

4. Petit Jean SP-Located in Morrilton, AR, this was another must see park for me that lived up to all the hype.20180513_075502.jpg

3. Enchanted Rock SP-I returned to this park for the third time. I got to finish the park and it was as good as the first two trips.DSC00568.JPG

2. Caprock Canyon SP-My second visit to this park located in Quitaque, TX. Even fog could not ruin the colors of this beautiful canyon.20180421_090844.jpg

1. Mount Magazine SP-This state park has the highest point in Arkansas as its peak. Located in Paris, AR, it has some great cliff views.20180512_092318.jpg

This was a hard list to create and I think I left off a good hikes at Barton Creek Greenbelt in Austin and Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano. I have at least five never been before hikes planned in the fall so this list might change by the end of the year.

Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park has been a park I have wanted to visit for at least two years. The other Arkansas state parks I have visited have been convenience parks. I say that in hindsight because those other parks would have been destination parks if I knew more about them. Petit Jean is located north west of Little Rock but closer to Little Rock than both Mount Magazine and Nebo but farther than Pinnacle Mountain. The drive to Petit Jean was another scenic drive with beautiful views. I would be crazy not to mention how green everything is at this time of year. Petit Jean did not disappoint when it came to all the hype I gave it before I arrived. The waterfall was flowing and the view behind Mather Lodge was spectacular. The hike on Cedar Falls Trail was strenuous to say the least. The hike was worth it, though. The hike was different than the other mountain parks. The hike had a more woodland forest feel. The park was in bear country and it really looked like a place where plenty of bears would be found. Ironically, I also hike a trail called Bear Cave. I was continually going all around the trail trying to get good pictures and ended up getting an extra half mile of hiking. I was also lucky enough to get there very early and I was one of two people on the trail.

Cedar Falls Trail took me down into a valley and at the end of the trail was Cedar Falls. Cedar Falls is a 95 foot straight down waterfall. This is the highest waterfall I have seen on my travels. It had not rained in a long time but the waterfall was still flowing pretty good. I then decided after making a very steep uphill climb out of the valley to do one more short trail. Bear Cave Trail was close and short so I decided to give it a hike. It had some very nice rock formations and views at the end of the trail. It was a great morning of hiking.20180513_073922.jpg20180513_081331.jpg20180513_075758.jpg20180513_084431.jpg20180513_090230.jpgDSC00990.JPG

I will definitely be returning to Arkansas to see the other parts of the parks I missed and to go to some new parks I need to see. This was hike 30 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

Next hikes are back in Texas. Austin here I come.

Mount Magazine State Park

This is another run/hike situation. It was suppose to be a twelve mile trail run that turned into a run/hike due to all the pictures. I actually ran a decent time considering the conditions. The temperature was in the mid 80s which is not too bad but the humidity was at 70%. It was the humidity that was the most difficult obstacle to overcome. Did I mention that the run was on a mountain. The course had a two two and half mile uphill climbs. When you put the heat, humidity and hills together, you get a difficult trail race.

The park is located north west of Little Rock, AR in Paris, AR. The park is very spacious and also has the highest point in Arkansas. Of course I had to get to that point. I did but the sign was gone and there were several people looking at the ground. I had a race to run so after I realized the sign was not there I continued my run. The course had so many views. The course lead runners on narrow trails with a ledge on one side and the mountain wall on the other side. Eagles were soaring below the ledges and you would look down on treetops. Even though it was a humid and hazy morning, I could still see for miles from the ledges. I had an awesome time in the Arkansas mountains.20180512_073148.jpg20180512_091007.jpg20180512_091850.jpg20180512_092039.jpg20180512_092318.jpg20180512_095923.jpg

This was a challenging 12 miles but I would do it again. I more than likely will do it again next year. Plus there is another race in another state park in the area I want to run. This was hike 29 in my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.

Next blog is the park I have been waiting two years to get to in Arkansas.

Mount Nebo State Park

This is my third trip back to Arkansas and it was awesome. My first stop was at Mount Nebo State Park. The park is located in Dardanelle, AR which is northwest of Little Rock. The first thing about this park that caught my attention was how steep the road is to get into the park. Hwy 155 is a notable road that is known in the area but not to me. It has several switchbacks but the steepness is what really stood out. I also did not have this park as a must visit park. I was in the area so I decided to check it out. I made the right decision.

I got a map and hiked the Rim Trail. The trail had plenty of great views. I also did a little venture on the Gum Springs Trail. The two of many highlights on the trail were Sunset Point and Lover’s Leap. The views from these overlooks were absolutely spectacular. The other overlooks were great but these two stuck out most for me. The hike was not difficult but scary at times. I was on a thin trail with a cliff on one side and a mountain wall on the other. Plus the thermals on the east side of the mountain were blowing. It was tough to keep balance and fight the wind. I got to see eagles use the thermals to dive and rise through the air. Watching the birds use the thermals was another highlight. 20180511_194340.jpg20180511_185024.jpg20180511_181132.jpgDSC00911.JPGDSC00951.JPGDSC00966.JPG

This was the beginning of an amazing three day trip in Arkansas. I was not too surprised of the beauty of the state parks. I liked seeing a different part of the state. This was also hike 28 of my 52 Hike Challenge Explorer Series.  The start of these 52 hikes have been amazing so far.

Next up is another Arkansas mountain.

Lake Catherine State Park Part 2

I returned to Lake Catherine State Park to hike to the highest point of this park. Once again the trails were well maintained and clearly marked. Also the trees were great to see but blocked most of the good views. I really liked this hike because it was a simple summit. I did not want to be challenged to much after all the hiking and trail running I had done the previous two days.

Horseshoe Mountain Trail was the last trail at the state park I would hike. I am glad I got the chance to hike this trail. It had some amazing views and was quiet and peaceful. There was nothing special on the trail but it was a summit type trail since it climbed to the highest point in the park. It was steep most of the way with a little flat section before the final incline.20171112_122348.jpg20171112_122839.jpg20171112_123001.jpg20171112_123835.jpg20171112_131020.jpg

I was a little disappointed of no waterfall but I did enjoy my time at this park. Maybe next time the waterfall will be flowing and Dam Mountain Trail will be open.

Next trail is in a national park with one spectacular view and a challenge completed.

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

 

I really need a good camera. I had another day of not great sun light. I digress, this is almost a part two of my first trip to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. I wanted to hike/climb to the summit at that time. I did not get a chance because of the crazy heat. The state park is located on the west side of Little Rock, AR. The mountain has four trails that go around and up and down the mountain. The rest of the park also has about four trails in which I had already hiked on my first trip. The summit trail is what I wanted to do and finally completed. I bonus on this trip is that I got to do a trail race on one of the trails around the base of the mountain. I will blog on that race later.

I had two options on trails to the summit. I took the relatively less difficult summit trail but they both looked equally strenuous.20171111_133406.jpg

I quickly found out that hiking in Arkansas is easy to follow but heed the warnings. I hiked the entire weekend without trail maps. I have a tendency to get lost but the trails are clearly marked and they have signs at every split in the trail.20171111_133633.jpg

As a bonus, they have trail markers that tell you where you are on the trail. It was nice to have the peace of mind not ever being lost. I was making decisions on what path to take depending on what I wanted to see. 20171111_144642.jpg

The hike itself was very strenuous and I had a great time getting to the summit. The only thing I did not like was that the trail was very crowded. This was the first time I had hiked on a trail that was this crowded. I usually see around ten people or less per hike. I saw around 100 people on this hike. It was hard to get pictures with all those people. I could not get a good one without people in the shot. I got to the summit and had such a feeling of accomplishment. I just wanted to yell but I would have scared the other twenty plus people already on the summit. I just soaked in the view took many pictures and headed back down the trail.20171111_141337.jpg20171111_135205.jpg20171111_141713.jpg

The pictures from the summit were nice but seeing it live was much better. I also got a little surprise on my way down the trail with a wish stump.20171111_145050.jpg

The hike was awesome and I need to get back to Arkansas and hike to some more summits.

The next blog is back at Lake Catherine SP for another summit.

 

Lake Catherine State Park

I signed up for the Race the Base 4 Miler Run in Arkansas. I looked at some of the local parks in the area of the run to hike. The two obvious ones were Pinnacle Mountain State Park where the run was taking place and Hot Springs National Park. Petit Jean and Lake Ouachita State Parks are also close but not close enough to highway I-30 for a quick trip home. I stumbled upon Lake Catherine State Park and it had a waterfall. Lake Catherine State Park is located twelve miles southeast of Hot Springs, AR. I can never pass up a waterfall. The pictures on the website were great and I decided to go to this park at least twice while I stayed in Arkansas. The park has four trails but I was only interested in three trails. The trail that led to the waterfall was my top choice of the trails and the other two were mountain trails. I was hoping the waterfall would be flowing because it rained during the week. The time of year could not be better also. The leaves were falling and the trees were all different colors. I was so excited for the weekend of hikes and of course a waterfall hike.

I started on Falls Branch Trail on my way to the waterfall. The trailhead sign says three trails three adventures. One of the adventures was closed for hunting. The two trails that I most wanted to hike were open. Falls Branch trail had some good elevation changes and was very picturesque. The term obstructed view came to light many times on this and the other trails in Arkansas. The trees are what make this trail great but also are in the way of the views. There was a small creek with water flowing through it so I was pumped to get to the waterfall. I finally get to the waterfall and was massively disappointed. The waterfall was nothing but a trickle. I could not believe it. A nice hike with good views but the shining point of the trail is dull. I did like the view of Lake Catherine and the swinging bridge was also cool. I will post my walk across the bridge on youtube.20171110_161710.jpg20171110_152655.jpg20171110_152810.jpg20171110_155141.jpg20171110_155418.jpg20171110_155421.jpg20171110_155751.jpg20171110_160052.jpg20171110_160837.jpg

I liked this hike even though it had obstructed views and a water trickle. The bridge and the views of the lake partially made up for it. The trees and falling leaves also make for a great back drop.

The next hike is a long awaited summit hike.