Spring and summer are the best times to visit areas in Yosemite National Park outside the main valley. If you have more than a day in the park I recommend heading along the Tioga Pass Road to Tuolumme Meadows. The views along the drive are magnificent. If you’re early in the season there will still be snow on the ground in some places and the peaks will shimmer in the bright light. Make sure to stop often, look out and breathe in the cool air.
Swimming in Tenaya Lake late afternoon Yosemite by Jono Hey. Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Dimensions altered.
One stop not to miss is Tenaya Lake. If you’re lucky and it’s a hot day (or brave on a cold day) you can have a refreshing swim in the water. Especially wonderful after a long hike.
Once you finish your drive, Tuolumme meadows at the end is a beautiful sight. Freshly blooming and green in spring, the vast meadow makes for easy hiking. With the Tuolumme River flowing fast between the meadows you can enjoy the relaxing sounds of water in the quiet landscape.
While you’re there, the short hike across the meadow to the Soda Springs is worth a quick look. The cabin has historical value but the springs are modest and no competition for Yellowstone.
A wonderful way to get a good view out across the meadow and the surrounding peaks is to climb up Lembert Dome. You don’t need special skills or equipment, just be careful where you put your feet and don’t climb in the rain. If you have longer to explore the area add on a short hike out to Dog Lake as well.
I hope you enjoy your first trip to Tuolumme Meadows.
Last month we joined a group from Peru Treks to hike the ‘classic’ Inca Trail. Here is our story told (mainly) in photos.
After a few hours on the bus from Cusco we reached the trailhead at kilometre 82.
And began winding up the trail…
…to our first stop at Patallacta.
Not long after we stopped again for our first lunch.
It was a fairly short hike in the afternoon so we had enough time to enjoy the view at Wayllabamba before dinner.
The next morning began with more great food…
…and a big hike ahead.
After hitting it hard for 3 hours we were happy to take a break.
After another couple of hours walking we’d made it a long way up Abra de Huarmihuañusca (Dead Women’s Pass)…
…and were excited when we reached Huarmihuañusca at 4200 metres, the highest point on the trail.
After that it was down…
…and down some more…
…to our second campsite at Pacamayo…
…where a lovely dinner…
…and rum punch were served to keep the cold at bay.
It was misty when we began hiking…
…and it was hard to see the extent of the ruins at Runkurakay…
…and at Sayacmarca.
Yet we were still able to enjoy the detailed carvings…
…that were present throughout the ruins.
After that it was a short hike down through the cloud forest…
…before we had lunch.
Then we marched onwards, upwards and over to our final Inca site at Phuyupatamarca.
Our last afternoon hike was a steep knee crunching decline down thousands of steps…
…and so we were delighted to make it to Wiñay Wayna camp and enjoy dinner.
Our final morning was our earliest start at 3.45 am.
Hiking in the twilight we made it to Intipunku (Sungate)…
…to see the cloud rise and Machu Picchu appear.
A little further down we went and then, suddenly, we were in the heart of it.
What a sight!
What a hike!
What a great day!
Not as well known as the national parks further north in Patagonia, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego is a region of Patagonia that is well worth seeing. Unlike Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares or Bariloche, where there are well trodden paths, activities and itineraries, Tierra del Fuego offers visitors opportunity to enjoy the peaceful and serene Patagonian landscape in a quieter, more relaxed way. We enjoyed our visit in January when the weather was sunny and fine, the air chilly and the cool days were long.
After taking one of the many shuttle buses from Ushuaia we alighted at Zaratiegui Bay and took the aptly named Senda Costera (Coast Trail) along the shoreline. A relatively short hike, the trail provided a surprisingly quiet yet varied and interesting amble through the park.
It began with vista out across the Beagle Channel towards Redonda Island and Chile. Then headed west along the shore. Sometimes we walked on the pebbled beaches and at other times, on a earthy trail. The further we walked, the less people we saw. The trail had a very peaceful and empty feeling as we wound around the coast, never far from water lapping at the shore. Of all the places in Patagonia we have visited, it was there – in Tierra del Fuego – that the remoteness of this vast and empty land was most apparent.
After about 6 kilometers we turned away from the coast and through a beech forest, the trees filled with birds and edible fungi. When we reached the road we rounded the corner in front of Lapataia River before joining the Paseo de la Isla (Island trail).
Despite it’s idillic setting this trail was full of mosquitos and we soon sped through it to rejoin the road and cross to the other side. Here, with less bugs, we were able to appreciate the view of small islands and the river.
Just as we were descending, via the road again, we were lucky enough to see an Andean fox. Smaller, stocker and less skittish than its North American and European cousins, this fox let us admire him as he jogged past us and up the hill.
The final stretch of our day was via the Senda Mirador Lapataia trail towards “the end of the road”. When we reached this famous sign, that indicates the end of Ruta Nacional 3, we waited for our turn to take photos like everyone else. Then we were able to rest and admire Bahia Lapataia before returning to Ushuaia on the shuttle.
After not really knowing what to expect in this park we were happy to find well marked, quiet trails through fine landscape. Certainly, a day in Tierra del Fuego is a recommended trip for anyone who finds themselves “at the end of the world”.
Before we hiked (tramped/trekked) the Routeburn track in New Zealand we had a few questions that were not so easy to find the answers to online. We also know that other prospective hikers are searching for answers to their own questions too.
Now we’ve done the hike we can easily answer our own (and other people’s) questions.
Is Routeburn wet?
It can be. Before we went all sources (DOC, guidebooks, hiking store employees) said “Yes! You’ll need to wear waterproof jacket and trousers”. Fortunately we didn’t get any rain but I’d still take my waterproofs if I did it again.
Where can I stay on the track?
There are campsites and huts (sometimes called refuges) along route. The DOC lists all the options on their website.
We stayed at the MacKensie hut campsite and the camp at Routeburn Flat.
Which direction should I hike Routeburn?
We hiked it West (The Divide) to East (Routeburn). We chose that route because the profile of the hike was a more gradually incline to start (from The Divide to the Mackensie hut) and a steeper decline at the end (towards Routeburn).
I’m not particularly convinced that either direction is better than the other but we enjoyed this route.
Take a look at the map and elevation as well as campsite or hut availability to help you decide.
Where can I stay before or after the hike?
It depends where you start and end. The Routeburn end is very close to Queenstown which has great services. The Divide is close to Te Anau which is a good base too. Neither trailhead is very remote. As long as you’re at either trailhead by mid afternoon you should be able to get a transfer to either location.
We stayed in Queenstown the night before and returned there after the hike.
How do I get to the start of the track?
Most people use a transport service from Queenstown or Te Anau. We used Info&Track. They picked us up from Queenstown and took us to The Divide to start and then picked us up at Routeburn at the end. We choose to leave our van in Queenstown and do the longer journey transfer at the start of the hike to avoid hours on the road after the hike finished. I don’t think that’s really a big deal though.
I would recommend booking your transfers in advance as we saw many
people on some buses. Our outbound (to the trailhead) was full.
Can I park my campervan at start of the track?
Yes. However, you’ll need to get yourself back to the trailhead to collect it. A better option would be get a lift to the trailhead and leave your van in town (either Queenstown or Te Anau).
The DOC do warn about van break ins at trailheads so this is also a consideration.
If I’m camping how do I cook? Can I use the hut facilities?
If you camp you’ll need your own cooking equipment. Unlike other “Great Walks” campers in Fiordland cannot use hut facilities. We found out the hard way.
Can I hike Routeburn if I’m afraid of heights?
As neither Ian or I are particularly afraid of heights it is hard to say.
There are some parts of the trek where you are high in the mountains and can see the ground below. However, I would not say you are at any risk of falling from a cliff or ledge and should have no concerns about your safety on the track if you act sensibly.
The views are amazing.
How long does it take to hike Routeburn?
We did it in about two days with two nights on route. We hiked an afternoon, most of the next day and then an hour or so the final morning. With all the transfers we were gone about 2 and half days and two nights. We wish we’d walked out on the second day as we had nearly finished but the times of the transfers back to Queenstown meant we couldn’t meet a shuttle until the next morning so we stayed the second night on the track.
If you have a question about Routeburn that isn’t here feel free ask in the comments. Or if you’ve done Routeburn and have alternative answers to some of these questions please share your thoughts.
On our last weekend in NZ we had the pleasure of walking through yet another New Zealand national park. This time it was Abel Tasman at the North West of the South Island.
Abel Tasman National Park is known for its beaches and lush forests. As with most National Parks in NZ this one has a multi day “Great Walk” associated with it and has lots of campsites and huts along the way for those needing somewhere to stay. Luckily for us, as we were short on time, it is also one of the more easily accessible parks with many options for day hikes. As it is based on the coast much of the access is via the water. Some people choose to kayak in and hike out. We decided to take the more leisurely option of getting a water taxi in some of the way hiking along and then getting the water taxi back.
We began the day taking the water taxi from Marahou to Torrent Bay via Apple Island. The watertaxi drivers do their best to show you around and point things out as they go but this is certainly more about transport than cruising.
After a brief look at some seals on an offshore Island we landed at Torrent Bay and began our hike up the coast. As we were hiking along the coast there was minimal altitude change the whole day. However, this change regularly occurred when passing between beaches meaning that we regularly rose and then descended to the next beach. We began our first up from Torrent Bay and then down to Medlands Beach. Then up again through the ferns and trees to drop down again at Bark Bay. The rise and fall allows you to see out along the coast and down to beaches that you can then experience as you go down again.
We were fortunate enough to reach Bark Bay when the tide was out so we were able to cross the bay using the low tide crossing (across the beach) instead of the alternative (and slightly longer) high tide crossing.
After Bark Bay and the subsequent rise the walk through the forest down to Long Valley Creek and then around to the start of Tonga Bay was stunning. Like the morning we were surrounded by ferns, tree ferns and the dabble of sunlight. But this part of the forest felt quieter, more remote and less trampled by people. Perhaps it was the time of day or my mood? Either way I’m sure that what we experienced there was amongst the best Abel Tasman has to offer and I was glad we caught some of it.
The final stretch took us to Tonga Quarry Camp and then on to Onetahuti Bay where we waited for the boat. It was nice end to the day to tip our toes in the sea and enjoy the afternoon sun before the taxi ride back to civilisation.