The Precipice Trail-Acadia National Park


We had a great long weekend in Acadia National Park. One of the highlights was The Precipice Trail to the top of Champlain Mountain. The Precipice is an iron rung and ladder route up the steep cliffs along the east face.


Last year, we were not able to hike the Precipice  because the parking lot was packed. We did the Beehive instead. The Precipice is twice as long as the Beehive and harder. This year we took the park shuttle from Blackwoods Campground where we were staying with friends. It worked out great.


There is an 850 foot elevation gain up the trail and it takes about 1 and 1/2 hours if you go at a safe pace. Wear good hiking shoes and bring water. This hike/climb would be hard to do if you are afraid of heights! There are several exposed areas and narrow ledges. Sometimes you will have to wait on a ledge for others to climb. 

There are a few different trails you can take back down the other sides of Champlain Mountain.

I thought the Precipice Trail was amazing and challenging. I am glad we hiked when it was a cool 70 degree day out. It was definitely more like climbing than hiking. Have fun and be safe if you do The Precipice. Remember the trail is usually closed from March-August for Peregrine Falcon nesting.

Death in Yellowstone (and Other National Parks)

The past few weeks several very sad but avoidable accidents have happened at Yellowstone National Park. In May, a lady taking a picture of an Eagle stepped into the road and got hit by a car. On Tuesday, a pair of siblings from Oregon walked 225 yards off the boardwalks in Norris Geyser Basin and one slipped and fell into a hot spring. The water temperatures in Norris are the hottest in the park and range from 199 to 449 degrees. The day before, a 13 year old was being carried by his father as they walked off the designated trail in the Upper Geyser Basin. They slipped and got burned in a hot spring. Many signs are posted at the geyser basins warning visitors to stay on the boardwalks and marked paths. Information packets in different languages are also handed out when you enter the parks.

Rangers and Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk have said that park visitation is already up 60% this year. It is the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service and with cheaper gas, social media interest and unrest overseas, people want to travel to the parks. 

There have been a lot of “crazy tourist” news stories already coming from the parks. I am sure you read or heard about the two tourists putting a Bison calf in their car to save it because they thought it was cold. Or High On Life, a group of Canadian tourists with a clothing line that blatantly ignored several National Park rules and then posted the pictures of themselves doing it to Instagram and Facebook. They have warrants issued for their arrests, but made it back to Canada. Then you have the woman petting a Bison– a wild animal that weighs over a ton and can move at 40mph. Park warnings say to keep 100 yards from Bears and Wolves and 25 yards from Bison and Elk. This woman also made news by approaching an Elk too closely.

In Glacier National Park a young man just died jumping into a pool of water in Running Eagle Falls. A climber died in Zion in March and last year there was an awful accident in Keyhole Canyon.  The last time Craig and I visited Yellowstone in 2014, a young girl fell at The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone the day we were there. Last year, a park employee made news when a bear attacked him while he was out alone running or walking without bear spray. On Monday a man fell while taking pictures in Acadia National  Park.

Throughout history accidents have happened in our wild places. Some are avoidable and some are due to weather and nature. I for one am glad there are still so many wild places left in this country and I hope they stay that way. Some great books to read before your trips are Death in Yellowstone, Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite and Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. There are also a few other parks with books like these. They will give you a new found respect for the parks and the people that have to try and rescue visitors that make often fatal mistakes.


If you are visiting any National Parks during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, do some research before you go, read the information and warnings at the parks, respect the animals in their home and respect the fragile ecosystems.  If you plan to hike, carry water and bear spray or join a Ranger led hike. Too many are carving and spray painting rocks, leaving trash everywhere and not following warnings. Please do not ruin it for those of us that love and respect these places. Go and have an amazing time and be an ambassador for our parks!

Angels Landing-Zion National Park

Grotto Bus Stop

One of my favorite hikes on our Grand Circle Road Trip was Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Angels Landing got it’s name in 1916 when Frederick Fisher, exploring Zion with friends, exclaimed, “Only an angel could land on it!” Ten years later two Park Service employees, Thomas Chalmers Vint and Walter Ruesch, planned the construction of the Angels Landing Trail as an extension of the West Rim Trail. The trail was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1987.

You start out at the Grotto Trailhead. It is about 2.4 miles each way. The trail starts out following the Virgin River and then starts to climb several steep, paved switchbacks. I thought these switchbacks were one of the hardest parts of the trail even though they were paved. Remember, you are gaining 1,488 feet of elevation on this short hike! I was glad we started early in the morning so this part was in the shade. Even in October it was hot in the sun.

bri Trailhead

After the switchbacks, you go over a drainage bridge and through Refrigerator Canyon. It is nice and cool in here and you may hear Ravens calling to each other. Their voices echo against the walls.

Switchbacks

View

Refrigerator Canyon

Next, you reach Walter’s Wiggles a set of 21 switchbacks. Walter’s Wiggles are named for Walter Ruesh, Zion National Park’s first superintendent.  I did not find these as hard as the first long switchbacks.

Walter's Wiggles

At the top of Walter’s Wiggles you will reach Scout Lookout. Some people call this spot “Quitter’s Corner.” I think it is a great hike even if you make it to Scout Lookout. The views along the West Rim Trail are amazing and you should stop here if you are scared of heights or tired! I planned on going to Scout Lookout and checking out the chain portion to Angels Landing to see if I thought I could do it. You can not really see a lot of it from this area though. You can see hikers in the distance. This last 1/2 mile is the actual Angels Landing Trail. We decided to try it!

Scout Lookout

First Set of Chains

The first set of chains is over slickrock and steep. I had a hard time reaching some of the chains because I am short, so you may have to let go here. One nice lady made a bridge for me with her leg so I could reach the next set! There are drop offs here, but nothing like the ridge. I was shaking from adrenaline so we climbed above the trail and took a break. Several other people did too. The chains then go around a corner with a drop off. If it is busy this can be a real pain. On the way back down about 20 of us were waiting for a while and finally one guy told the crowd to hold on for a while so we could all get around them.

After these chains you reach another wide area somewhat smaller than Scout Lookout. There are some good resting and photo areas here.

view

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Then, the chains drop to the left and continue to the narrow (2 feet wide in some spots) ridge. The drop is pretty big and I had to hang on and drop myself down. On the way back, I needed a boost up from Craig. It is really crowded here and some people start to freak out because it is very exposed on both sides. We decided to go a bit further and take a look and some pictures. There were too many nervous people, people with backpacks bumping into others, and even people carrying small scared children! We decided to turn around here and do the rest of Angels Landing when we come back to Zion. Hopefully, much earlier in the morning and not on a holiday weekend! We only had about 10 minutes left to get to the summit, but I am proud of what I did hike.   

Ridge

ALAngels Landing Views

drop

I loved the hike and it is one of my favorites so far. I think about it often and we hope to go back and volunteer in Zion National Park soon. People were very patient, excited and kind along the trail, but I still wish it were less busy. I think with the internet and Instagram and Pinterest, knowledge of these National Park trails has really increased. Many people want to try them! A friend said she went years ago in August and she was one of only a few on the trail. I would visit soon before it becomes a permit hike like Half Dome in Yosemite. 

The Beehive Trail-Acadia National Park

I wanted to try one of the iron rung trails at Acadia when we visited. I was not sure if I would be able to reach some of the rungs, but I figured if little kids had hiked some of the trails I could too! We decided on The Beehive because it was shorter than The Precipice Trail with more open views on the way up. Also, the line of parked cars near the Precipice was crazy on the day we went. There are a few other iron rung trails at Acadia.

While the Beehive is a short 0.8 miles long, it is rated as a “Strenuous” climb/hike. You have to pull your weight up in several spots and you should not have a fear of heights. There are some steep spots and thin ledges. You can go back down the easier back side after enjoying the view at the top.

There were only two spots that were scary for me, and Craig and I had a blast. It was one of my favorite hikes I have done so far. My top three so far are The Mist Trail in Yosemite, The Beehive in Acadia and Uncle Tom’s Trail in Yellowstone. I also fell in love with the Upper Geyser Basin at Yellowstone, but that is more of a walk than a climb or hike. 

Our friends joined us in Acadia for this trip, and we had a lot of fun visiting the park and Bar Harbor, hiking and getting passport stamps. The Night Sky Festival had a lot of cloudy nights, but we got to go to a great Star Party on top of Cadillac Mountain one night. I will save that for a future post!