We have little tolerance for driving and now medical researchers say that sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time squanders the health benefits of your workouts. We’ve found that even with frequent driver’s changes, a 150 mile driving day makes us cranky, which fueled our search for roadside hikes. Here’s the best of what we’ve found on our route between the damp Pacific NW and the parched SW to break-up the drive. A couple of all-day hikes are included as well as some trailhead camping options and picnic spots. The hikes are organized alphabetically by state and then the name of the nearest city.

Flagstaff: Elden Lookout Trail (2015/2016)
The Lookout Trail
The trailhead parking lot for Elden Lookout Trail #4 and several other hikes is a short distance off of I-40. Hop off of I-40 and turn NE onto Hwy 89. Continue driving NE on Hwy 89 or if you are on Rte 66, turn onto Hwy 89 when Rte 66 veers east. Look for the Forest Service signs on your left for the trailhead parking lot. If you come to the KOA campground (watch for a yellow sign), also on the left, you've gone too far.

The Elden Lookout trail is about 5.8 miles RT with 2300' of gain that takes you to about 9300'. If we keep it moving, we can make it to the windy peak in about 75 minutes. The footing can be tricky on the 'petrified lava' and the Forest Service rates this hike as "strenuous". Locals use this as a training hike for the Grand Canyon. This is a pretty trail though it pays to keep your eyes on your feet. But pause to admire the vegetation changes and the panoramas. The trail gets a lot of direct sun and can be hot if there is no cloud cover. The lower reaches tend to be wind sheltered but the top is usually brisk and perhaps will have some lingering snow.

Other Trail Choices
The Pipeline Trail ambles along the base of Mt Elden with little elevation gain and Fatman's Loop offers something in-between the Pipeline Trail and going all the way to the lookout.

The KOA is about $43/night for 2 with full hook-ups and without cable TV. Definitely a close-quarters KOA; ask for a site up the hill a bit to be off the road enough for peaceful sleeping. Many of the sites are under huge Ponderosa Pines. There is also Elden Lookout Trail access from the KOA campground's backdoor near site #181, which is the starting point for our stats. Ask for the crude map at the KOA desk.

Page: Mesa Rim (2015)
The Trail
The "City of Page Rim Trail" is a respectable walk on a sandstone grit trail around the core of the city on the rim of a mesa. We walked from the SE corner and north along the east side, which is considered the more wild side of the loop. We were rubbing elbows with a subdivision, experiencing fly-overs by prop planes using the mesa top airport, and visually aware of the distant power plant. But it gave us a 2 hour walk on a rolling trail that kept our feet, ankles, and legs adapted to the roughness of the outdoors and the scramble up and down slick rock added to the fun.

We walked 2 hours RT and picked up 5.6 miles and 465' of gain beginning a little over 4,000'. The distant views of the cliffs and giant hoodoos were diminished by murky skies but we were grateful for the exercise with zero time spent driving to a trailhead.

We picked up the trail from our RV park: Page-Lake Powell Campground at 849 South Coppermine Rd on the southeast end of town. If you stay there, go to the back end of the property near the playground and Nature Trail. Step over the unfenced section of the low wall onto the red slick rock. Scramble up where it appeals to you and turn left once on the mesa top. (If you go right, you'll soon arrive at the end of the mesa.)

Initially you'll be walking on a jeep track near a housing area but veer right towards the edge. Soon the track will narrow to a trail that crosses a little foot bridge and you'll feel more like you are on a proper trail. In less than an hour, you'll start seeing glimpses of Lake Powell. We did an out-and-back though the entire loop variously reported as 8 and 11 miles long.

For other access points, either ask a local person or search online for the City of Page Rim Trail. The western side of the trail is more urban, which makes it easier to find trailheads there.

The Page-Lake Powell Campground is a better than average place to stay for the price. There are asphalt roads with gravel for the RV's and some trees. They clearly work at making the grounds a bit of a respite from the barren landscape with small water features and picnic areas with barbecue stands. Prices for RV's run in the mid $20's/night depending on the level of services you select. They also have tidy tent spaces though they afford no privacy. It's a full service place with 2 shower houses, laundry, a tiny fitness room, a playground, and a small indoor pool and hot tub which we haven't used. The sites in the middle of the park are sufficiently sheltered from the road noise that we slept well with our windows open. If coming from the east, turn right onto South Coppermine Rd from Hwy 98; if arriving from the west, turn left off of Hwy 89 onto South Lake Powell Blvd and then right onto S. Coppermine Rd.

We were allowed to park near the office on our departure day while we made our mesa rim hike from their grounds.

Phoenix: White Tank Mountain Regional Park (2016)
White Tank Mountain Regional Park is a lovely park about 10 miles or 15 minutes northwest of I-10 via SR303 Loop, exiting on Northern in Buckeye, which is a community in northwest Phoenix. The park is peppered with ramadas strategically positioned to provide shelter from the sun and the prevailing wind. There are many modern, well-maintained restrooms with soap and running water throughout the park as well as potable water taps at some trailheads. The $6 entrance fee/car feels like a bargain. Leashed dogs are allowed.

The cacti were starting to bloom at the end of March.
There are 26 miles of hiking trails, with the longest loop being 17.3 miles long. On the 8.5 miler Mesquite Canyon from area 7, we clocked 1640’ gain over the course of about 4 hours whereas the park map indicated 1483’. Some of the trails are rugged but they are well maintained and well marked however we often didn’t agree with the mileage posts.

Nature Center
Be sure to visit the Nature Center which is to your left inside the Regional Library building just before the park’s entrance gate. Better to get your park map there than at the gate because you can have a prolonged, 1-on-1 conversation about the trail options with the staff. And be sure to check-out the rattlesnakes in glass tanks opposite the clerk’s counter. It’s a rare opportunity to get a very close look at 8-10 rattlesnakes with different colors and markings. We were mesmerized by one snake that was engaged in a constant slow dance as it inspected the tank interior—it looked like it was time for dinner. It’s a unique chance to advance your ability to ID a rattlesnake on the trail. You can pay your entry fee at the Nature Center or at the gate.

There are 40 campsites in several campground areas, including for RVs, which have toilets and showers. There are electric and water hook-ups but no sewer. There is a dump station. Reservations are recommended, perhaps several weeks in advance: www.maricopa.gov/parks or (602) 506-2930. Like other county and state campgrounds we’ve seen in Arizona, White Tank is near a large city whose residents consider the park an extension of their backyard which they visit often.

Palm Springs Vicinity: Whitewater Preserve (2016)
Only about a 10 minute drive on Whitewater Canyon Road off of I-10 at the San Gorgonio Pass end of the Cochella Valley is a free, non-profit preserve with 5 hiking trails, including a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. Most of the hikes are easy to moderate and in the 3.5 - 8 mile range. Even if you don’t want to hike, the shaded picnic area, fish pond, and the small, rustic Visitors Center offer a delightful change of pace on a driving day. The 2,800 acre preserve is surrounded by BLM wilderness and is a wildlife corridor between 2 mountain ranges. The preserve is open from 8 to 5 most days of the year. We’ve hiked there twice.

The view from Liberty Cap plateau in Colorado National Monument.
Grand Junction/Fruita: The Colorado National Monument (2015)
The Colorado National Monument is a treasure that’s right off of I-70. The Visitors Center however is a long, slow drive to the upper reaches of the Monument. If you can take the time, do drive to the Visitor’s Center where the very helpful staff have maps and many ideas for hikes for every preference both within the Monument and in the surrounding area. The women there, a ranger and a volunteer, “got it” when we said what kind of mileage and gain we were after and made several recommendations. They were delighted that we were up for Rattlesnake Arches, a hike that they rarely get to recommend because of its difficulty.

If you don’t want to take the time to drive into the stunning Monument for the Visitor’s Center but do want to hike, do a little online research or pick-up a map en route. I wouldn’t go far on some of these trails without a map, or at least having your GPS app recording your route so you can find your way out.

Links to the Monument’s website:
General: www.nps.gov/colm
Backcountry Hikes: http://www.nps.gov/colm/planyourvisit/backcountry-hiking-trails.htm
Hiking in the Monument (with map) http://www.nps.gov/colm/planyourvisit/upload/hiking-site-bulletin_2012.pdf

Hikes from the East Entrance (2 parking areas, toilets, covered picnic shelter)
..Devils Kitchen: short and sweet, a little steep pitch at the end point within a dramatic red rock formation, 0.75 miles 1 way, 300’ gain
..Serpents Trail: 1912 dirt road, easy footing, steep, efficient CV workout with great views, 1.75 miles 1 way to Rim Rock Drive, 770’ gain
..No Thoroughfare Canyon: low gain, bottom of the canyon most of the way
..Old Gordon Trail: another “bottom of the canyon” walk most of the way (we didn’t do)

Redlands Parkway to Wildwood Drive Trailhead
..Upper Liberty Cap Trail to Liberty Cap: 1.5 miles, 1100’, we did it in about 1 hour, & then went a little beyond. It’s listed as one of the most difficult trails in the park but it was our favorite—we did it twice. Very rugged, rocky, trail surface up a steep, sometimes edgy, face. We rate it as having the best views in the shortest time/distance expended in the area, We always ate our picnic lunch at the little Liberty Cap plateau that delivers great panoramas while almost surrounded by grand red-rock formations. Continuing on, there is another short, dicey bit of face-trail that accesses the upper plateau of pinions and junipers with few views.
..Corkscrew as a loop: 3.3 miles, 760’ gain or can be included 1 or both ways with the Upper Liberty Cap Trail, which it intersects

Monument Canyon Trailhead off of Hwy 340
..Great hike to Independence Monument or go all the way to the Rim Road
..Lower Trail to Independence Monument: 2.5 miles, 500’ gain, we did it in under 1 hour at a snappy pace
..Independence Monument to the Rim Rock Drive: 3.5 miles, 840’.
Going to the Coke Ovens Overlook adds about 1/2 mile and little gain. It was a dramatic perch for our picnic.

Grand Junction/Fruita: Rattlesnake Arches Trail (near the Colorado National Monument - 2015)
The Stats
If you have been pressing the pedal to the metal on I-70, consider hopping off of it and on to Hwy 340 at Fruita, about 10 miles northwest of Grand Junction. About 10 minutes down the road are the first of a number of federal, state, and city open spaces. There are plenty of trails to choose from though we only did an all day’er.

Rattlesnake Arches is a fairly strenuous hike at 14+ miles, about 2800’ of gain, and generally at about 5,000’ elevation. (It was 37,000 steps.) It’s an out-and-back hike, so you can make it significantly shorter too. Our ‘moving time' round trip was about 7 hours. My ‘moving time’ includes pee stops and short photo ops but not lunch. On hikes like this, we don’t take rest stops except for lunch.

Getting There
Take Exit 19 off of I-70 for Hwy 340 at Fruita and head south. We stayed at the Monument RV Resort on the left, which is reasonably priced and pleasant. Across the street from it is the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park, which we didn’t explore, though it should make for a nice extended rest stop if you didn’t want to hike. At this point you are about 10 minutes from the trailhead.

Continue on Hwy 340 for about 2 minutes and watch for a colorful sign on your right for McInnis Canyons. Take the next right, which is King’s View Road. You’ll be on King’s View Road for about 1 minute, then it will degrade to gravel and dirt. Press on for about 8 minutes, watching for “Pollock Bench Trailhead” on your left. It’s beyond the Devils Canyon Trailhead and about 3/4 of a mile before the road ends.

Pollock Bench Trailhead parking area is one of at least 2 on this road that has space for horse trailers and I suspect you could park an RV there as well. The road is a bit rough and steep and we were just as happy to have tucked-in our trailer at the RV park.

Rattlesnake Arches Trail
Look for the signed trailhead uphill and to your right as you approach the well-maintained pit toilet. The trail goes up right away and is on an old dirt road for a half an hour or more. At the first split, we selected the right fork, which is for hikers; the left fork is for horses. Soon you’ll know why the horses take another route because you will begin the first of many “hands and toes” scaling of a fairly vertical bit of trail. It’s time to turn around if you don’t like this kind of entertainment because it is repeated many times ahead.

Stunning arches are the big reward on this hike.
The beginning and end of Rattlesnake Arches Trail are easy-going trails on which you can mindlessly put one foot in front of the other while you admire the rock formations. For the other 2+ hours on the way to the “End of Trail” sign, you’ll be picking your way up and down short, vertical segments of trail. There are also the occasional stretches of navigating on sloping, non-slick 'slick rock’ formations. It’s a “multi-sport” trail on which you do some climbing, scooting, and head scratching while you decide how to navigate the latest obstacle. We love the entertainment and cross training of such hikes but know that they aren’t for everyone.

There are several official signs at trail junctures pointing the way and noting how many miles it is to end points in each direction. At the junction where it’s 0.7 miles to an alternate Rattlesnake Arches trailhead and 2.2 miles to Rattlesnake Arches, be sure to go to the Arches, not the trailhead.

The trail is unusually well marked with rock cairns and they were indispensable to us because Bill’s map app did not have this trail. A few times going in each direction, we missed a turn but almost instantly realized it. Keep alert to stay on the main trail. We had a hardcopy map, which we didn’t use, though Bill had studied it before we launched.

Take lots of water with you. We did this hike on an unseasonably warm November day that topped out at about 67 degrees under partly cloudy skies. A storm was imminent, so it was very windy, but we were still uncomfortably warm part of the day and were chugging our water. We kept it moving because we wanted to be in both before sundown and before the storm hit but only averaged 2 mph. We were faster at the ends of the trail and much slower in the middle. We also found it more tiring than expected for the distance and gain.

Anything will do for shoes on this trail. I wore my very thin, worn-out minimalist sandals that were perfectly smooth on the soles and did fine. There were very few cacti at the trail’s edge and skidding wasn’t an issue. We now always take our trekking poles on long hikes and we were glad to have them but they certainly aren’t essential for this trail.

We saw no rattlesnakes but did see many arches, which unfortunately, probably didn’t begin appearing until about Mile 6 on the trail. This Rattlesnake Arches Trail in Rattlesnake Canyon has the second largest concentration of arches in the US, second only to Arches National Park, Utah in number. Both arche extravaganzas are on the Colorado River.

Online Resources
The best description of the hike that we did was on http://www.gjhikes.com/2009/09/rattlesnake-arches.html. It includes a 9 minute long slide show as well.

I was however shocked by how very confusing it was to read the multitude of descriptions of this hike on various sites and how different they were. There are at least 2 ways to access this hike, but even carefully reading to confirm that the report began at Pollock Bench Trailhead like we did, there were major contradictions. We measured the gain as 2800’ though one blogger clocked it at 1500’ and the site above lists it as 4,000’. Some call it “easy,” others label it as “strenuous +,” so be forewarned!

Bill is a paid subscriber to trails.com and reviewed the hike on this site before we headed out. Even it lists it as an 11.4 mile hike instead of 14+ from our measurements and that of the BLM. They consider it a 9 hour, strenuous, hike.

Albuquerque: 3 Gun Spring Trail (2015/2016)
When on the east side of Albuquerque and traveling east, exit from I-40 onto the Carnuel ramp, which puts you on the Old Route 66. Continue east for about 1.5 miles and look to your left for the easily missed, small green “Montecello” sign, which is where you need to turn left, just after the remnants of the disintegrating Mountain Lodge sign. (Depending upon the sign, it’s spelled Montecello or Monticello.) Watch for the “522” sign and turn left at it onto Alegre Drive. Follow the small trail signs to guide you through the neighborhood to the 3 Gun Trailhead—they are on both sides of the roads. Take a right onto Siempre Verde Drive and continue after it becomes dirt.

Don’t bring your RV or trailer to the trailhead: there is very little parking and turning around might not be possible with the ever-present other cars. Backing down the rutted dirt road wouldn’t be fun either. Parking is free though the area fills up on weekends. You might do well to wait for a parking spot however because many locals use this route for short dog walks.

Walk about a half mile up-canyon beyond the boulders at the end of the parking area to enter the National Forest. There are 2 main trails to choose from: Hawk Watch, which is signed on your right and 3 Gun Spring, which starts straight ahead in another 3/4 of a mile. (We’ve never seen a spring or any water source on there trail.)

Hawk Watch is our choice for a short, brisk workout. If we push like our lives depended upon it, we can get to the end of the main trail in 35 minutes, otherwise it takes us 40-45 minutes. It’s about 1300’ of gain and about 3.5 - 4 miles RT. It’s a satisfying short hike with a nice perch at 7,400’ for a picnic lunch. A poor trail continues on up to the Crest Trail on the ridge though access is sometimes restricted in deference to the wildlife.

The 3 Gun Spring Trail towards one of the peaks of the South Sandia is our favorite in the area for a long hike. Turning around at the major trail junction at 8500’ Oso Pass makes for about a 2 hour climb with 2400’ of gain and 8 miles RT. Going on to the South Sandia peak adds another hour of ascent and is a 3800’ gain day. The peak is about 9760’ and its about 12.5 miles round trip. It can be horrifically cold and windy on the peak on an otherwise lovely day, so take a warm jacket and hat. There is a sheltered sink hole at the top filled with deciduous trees that makes a pleasant lunch stop. An alternate trail down the other side of the peak begins out the back side of this sink hole.

There are many other hikes on the South Sandias. Check-out www.sandiahiking.com for more options.

Great views for the effort from Pyramid Trail.
Gallup: Pyramid Trail at Red Rock Park, in the village of Church Rock, (formerly, Red Rocks State Park) (2015)

Pyramid Trail
A 5 minute drive on Rte 66 off of I-40 at the east end of Gallup delivers you to the Pyramid Rock trailhead at Red Rock Park, which is technically in the community of Church Rock. Regardless of the jurisdictional details, the Pyramid Rock trail delivers a top-notch hike by most any standards.

We park in the paved lot in front of the Convention Center though you can drive on a dirt road to the right of this parking lot to the trailhead. It's about a 4+ mile RT hike with almost 1,000' elevation gain and it delivers a steady stream of eye-candy for red rock lovers. Every step of the hike has fascinating views of some mix of slick rock, cross bedding, fins, pinnacles with cap stones, ravines, and complex layering. Hikes in red rock areas are either a hike up or a hike with great views but unusually, Pyramid Trail both goes up and delivers stunning views of interesting formations.

The Pyramid Trail is a 'huffer-puffer' tennis shoe hike. Hiking from 6,700' to 7,500' in 2 miles means you'll be working hard and gasping for air. The good news however is that your feet will have an easy time of it. Much of the trail is sandy from the eroded sandstone though bits of it are steep. The trail makers included stairs to ease your way. There are several benches strategically placed under trees and are sited for good views. And the several fading info signs are packed with interesting bits of history. On a cool day and in a hurry, we can reach the peak in about 40” from the trailhead and make the return a couple of minutes faster.

Other Hikes
We haven't done the other hikes that begin at Red Rock Park. Church Rock is listed as a 3 hour RT hike and combining it with Pyramid Rock is noted as a 4+ hour loop. A simple map indicates that the easiest way up to Church Rock is to "keep angling up" while approaching it from the right side. Presumably flatter, shorter outings could be made from the campground or adjacent PO and walking along the base of the red rocks. It appears that one could do either a short loop or an out-and-back. A rudimentary map is available at the office. Skip this area on a high wind day because there can be a nasty amount of dust in the air.

The very basic campground is a pleasant break from the usual freeway RV park format. It's $20/ night for electric and water, $10/night if you are fully self-contained. The free dump station is behind the Church Rock PO, adjacent to the campground. With some luck, you can borrow a key for the duration of your stay for the shower houses, which are heated in the winter and have warm to hot showers.

A balloon launch on a 17 degree morning.
You pay for your stay and pick-up a shower house key at the park office which is within the Convention Center compound but it is only open 8-5 M-F and is closed for lunch 12-1. If you miss the office hours, sometimes a person comes through the campground before dark to accept your payment in return for a key. It's very much on the honor system and don't worry, you won’t be scolded if you pay on your way out. Gallup's considerable train traffic noise can be heard as a distant sound but didn't interfere with my vulnerable sleep.

Check out the open space north of the campground around sunrise to see if a hot air balloon ride is getting underway. It was fun to watch from the warmth of our trailer (especially on a 17 degree morning). We’ve seen 2 launches there.

Worth Noting
The busy season at Red Rock is May through September when the fairgrounds facilities are used for back-to-back rodeos with a few Navajo and motorcycle events mixed in. The hot air balloon rally is held the first weekend in December.

We've found the best gas prices in Gallup are on Rte 66. Check your gas app for current prices but premium was cheapest in April 2014 at the Phillips 66 towards town from Red Rock Park.

Kanab: Squaw Trail (2014)
The Trail
Squaw Trail leads to Hog Canyon #2 and #3 and Tom's Canyon trails if you want to make about an 8.5 mile loop out of it with about 1100' of gain. We walked from our Crazy Horse RV Campark that was 0.3 miles downhill from the BLM Visitor's Center in town to the trailhead for Squaw Trail, which was about 2 miles on city streets. Squaw Trail goes up to the rim rather abruptly with the effort being made more difficult by part of the trail being washed out.

Much of our mileage was put on while on the rim’s rolling trail. A local hiker advised us that the trail down to Tom's Canyon was too steep, too dangerous, but we took it anyway. It was slow going on the steep, rolling-rock surface but we'd definitely do it again. The terminus was in a wash that lead to a new housing development. A neighbor walking her dog directed us to the next segment of trail across the wash that took us close to our RV park. We took a "social path" down the well-marked trail to shortcut our way home but we assumed that the trail continued to the BLM office. It took us about 4.5 hours going at a leisurely pace. You of course could shorten the hike by driving to the trailhead and doing an out-and-back on Squaw Trail. The city's website for the trail is: http://kanab.utah.gov/ord/Parks-Trails-Master-Plan/PTMP-Chapter-05/webpdf/KC_PTMP_C05.pdf.

Previously, we stayed at the upscale Good Sam-approved RV Park on 89A when in Kanab but it was closed for the season in early November 2014. We had our choice of 2 scruffy parks and selected the Crazy Horse RV Campark on Hwy 89 because it was the most spacious of the 2. The bathhouse was regrettable looking but it passed the "closed eyes test". That test measures the pleasure quotient of the shower minus the visual experience. It got high marks from me because the water was hot and plentiful; the temperature didn't fluctuate; and the shower head had a good spray pattern that made rinsing quick and easy. We would stay there again.

The Crazy Horse is perfect if you are parking in Kanab for a few days to try your luck at getting a permit for The Wave. The BLM office that runs the lottery is literally a 5 minute walk away from the campground, which made it so easy. We had planned to participate in the lottery 2 days on our way to nearby Page and for 2 days on our return, so we wanted to minimize the time spent getting to and from the lottery each morning. As it was, I scored a permit for the next day on Day 1 of our allotted 4 days and we still had time that day to do the extended loop that began at Squaw Trail.

Snow Canyon is always pleasing to our eye & our bare feet.
St George: Snow Canyon State Park
Multiple Trails
Snow Canyon is a gem. It is 8 miles north of St George (southwestern corner of UT) on State Route 18 near Ivins. It has 38 miles of hiking trails and a 3-mile paved walking and biking trail. We stay at the campground and start our hikes from there. Our usual trails are the Hidden Pinyon, Petrified Dunes, and Butterfly for the best experience of the sandstone cliffs, petrified dunes, and lava flows. We love going barefoot on the petrified dunes and in the loose sand between them. For a longer hike, we walk from the campground on the mentioned trails to White Rocks for an 8-9 mile RT event of 1560’ gain. It’s about 5.5 hours out and back. The day use fee is $6/car and is waived if you are camping in the park.

The park has a 35 unit campground with 12 RV sites with water and electric. The is a sewage dump. Many of the other camp sites are enchantingly tucked into the rocks and vegetation. The showers are free, though the temperature of the water is unpredictable. It’s a good lay-over place if you are waiting for a reserved hook-up site in nearby Zion NP.

Here’s the online version of the useful park brochure showing the trails: http://static.stateparks.utah.gov/docs/SnowCanyonBrochure.pdf

Laramie: Headquarters Trail at the Summit Rest Area (
You'll see the Summit Rest Area about 10 miles east of Laramie, WY on I-80. Aptly named at 8640', it is the highest point on I-80 though some might not find that a restful altitude. If touring K-Mart in Laramie didn't give you enough of a break from admiring miles of snow fences on the open prairie, this hike should do the trick. We did the 8.6 mile out-and-back option for about 900' of gain on the Headquarters Trail in about 3 hours of moving time.

We parked in the RV parking area between the Visitors Center and big-rig lot at the Rest Area and walked uphill from there. At that point, we could see 2 brown signs to the right where the asphalt ended and the high-quality grit road began. Had we taken that road to the right, we would have arrived at the proper trailhead. This is a for-fee parking area that could accommodate RV's if it wasn't too busy. We were just as happy to have parked our trailer on asphalt for free at the Rest Area.

From the upper road leading to the trailhead, we walked left, looking for a dirt path beyond the immediate wood fence and through the grasses that roughly headed west towards the trees. In a few minutes, we intersected the trail from the trailhead, which was on our right. In a few more minutes, we started seeing trail signs. Once in the woods, we also intersected Summit Loop, which was not on Bill's hiking app.

The hike starts in a mixed conifer and deciduous forest, then opens into grassy areas with rocky outcroppings. On a Saturday morning in October, there was a friendly mix of trail runners and mountain bikers with the number of dogs about equalling that of people. The horse puckey and signs for snow shoeing made it clear that it was indeed a multi-use path.

Our trail ended at a dirt parking lot where we took advantage of a pleasant view from the lone picnic table to eat our lunch. Luckily, the hunter bombing through on his ATV only used the parking area to turn around. There were no services at our lunch stop though the Summit Rest Area had the usual freeway rest area facilities plus a Visitors Center. It was a lovely hike on a warm, sunny mid-October day that we did a second time in a bit of snow.

In the spring of 2014 when searching for moderate elevation acclimation tips, I happened upon a hill running scheme that purportedly would increase one’s VO2 max. That was a more elite goal than we had but I thought the hill interval strategy was brilliant.

We implement the technic in its most rudimentary form, which is to run up the steepest hill we can find for 1” and then walk down for 2”. We usually do a 10-15” walk first, then do 10 laps of running and walking, followed by a warm-down walk. You certainly can increase the duration and number of reps to suit your fitness level.

The first 3 times we did these hill intervals we thought we were going to die—it felt absolutely hideous. Amazingly, even after months of absence from this workout and with no running at all, we now feel just fine on the first day of resuming intervals. We are clueless as to why there is carry-over, but there is and it makes it easy to come back to this routine again and again.

This is a stunning workout. Even though 20” of the 30” of hill work is spent walking downhill, my heart rate for the 30” averaged over 130 bpm after peaking in the 160’s. It’s an amazingly effective way to get 30” of CV conditioning for only 10” of high output. Better yet, my vulnerable knees need no ‘break-in’ period for this twist on running: I can do this routine without building up to it. Running for only 1” at a time and doing it with the lower impact gait of going uphill makes it a non-event for my delicate knees.

Hill intervals are our go-to workout when the hiking just isn’t happening. It does take a nice steep hill, but a paved city street or dirt trail will do. We’ve even pulled off of the highway when we spotted a steep service road and did our warm-up and laps on it in the middle of a driving day. When in Death Valley in hot weather, we put in our time on the hill backing the campground on our arrival day in the cooling air of sundown and again at sunrise on our departure day. Our only problem is that we should be taking advantage of this nifty workout more often.