Easy Day Hikes

Go John Trail – Cave Creek Regional Park

Go John Trail – Cave Creek Regional Park – Phoenix, AZ

Go John Trail

Go John Trail

The Go John Trail was my favorite trail in Cave Creek Regional Park. This trail is 6 miles long, giving you a decent bit of exercise (unlike the flatter Clay Mine and Slate/Quartz trails). My favorite part about this trail is the wildlife, though. This trail receives less traffic than the others in the park, so you’re more likely to see a rattlesnake or two. During my quick hike through Go John Trail, I was able to see deer as well, having otherwise eluded me over the previous three days. This hike starts at the north trailhead because the grade is easier; if you’re looking for a more strenuous workout, try hiking this trail in reverse.

One of the Many Saguaro Cacti Along Go John Trail

One of the Many Saguaro Cacti Along Go John Trail

Once you leave the north trailhead at the parking lot, it’s easy to stay on the Go John Trail. Starting up the trail, bear right to follow the inside curve of the trail. It’s practically impossible to get lost since every intersection is well marked. Loop hikes tend to give me a little bit of anxiety since you can add 10+ miles to your hike if you miss a turn. This happened to me on The Beartooth Recreational Trail ended up being an extra ten miles when I missed a turn south of Sawtooth Lake. Thankfully, Go John Trail won’t get you lost.  You should still hike this trail at a slower pace than normal. Not only is the scenery worth slowing down to appreciate, the wildlife isn’t as shy when you slow down.

Rattlesnake on Go John Trail

Rattlesnake on Go John Trail

Keeping conversations and trail noise to a minimum will pay off on this trail. I hiked this trail solo after noisier groups, and the wildlife noticeably hides at the warning of these hikers. Frankly, I think that everyone should hike a trail in this manner, but to each their own. The profile of this trail is straightforward if hiked clockwise– there is a small hill in the beginning and middle, with a larger hill at the end. Many guides have categorized this trail as a “moderate” trail, but I cannot agree with them. Although one hill turns into a set of stairs, all of the hills on this trail are less than 300 feet high. Compared to the other hikes I have written, Go John is definitely an easy trail and changes less elevation than most. Bring plenty of water on this hike (I hiked this in February and ran through a liter of water), and take your time. The best part of this trail is the chance to see wildlife. Speak softly, step lightly, and maybe you’ll see a critter or two.

Deer on Go John Trail

Deer on Go John Trail

Directions to the Go John Trailhead

Enter Cave Creek Regional Park (37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek, AZ 85331), pay your $8 entrance fee and drive to the end of a loop.  You can’t miss the Go John Trailhead.

Map to the Go John Trailhead

 

 

 

20 May 2020

Clay Mine Trail – Cave Creek Regional Park

Clay Mine Trail – Cave Creek Regional Park – Phoenix, AZ

Clay Mine Trail

Clay Mine Trail

The Clay Mine Trail is a short and easy hike that is part of the larger Cave Creek Regional Park. It is the easiest hike in the park, but you shouldn’t pass up the trail because of this. At the end of the trail lies the Clay Mine, an interesting way to end the hike, and an opportunity to catch a much needed cool breeze from the cave. Leaving the nature center parking lot, head north following the sign for Overton Trail.

Clay Mine Trail Intersection with Overton Trail

Clay Mine Trail Intersection with Overton Trail

Approximately 100 feet down the trail, another turn appears. Turn left (east) here, following the Overton Trail until it meets the Go John Trailhead. You could have just started at the Go John Trailhead, but most hikers start this quick trail from the nature center. Keep walking east, and you will see the sign for the Go John Trail. The trail leads uphill at this point, but it’s an easy grade. Follow this trail for a short quarter of a mile where you will see another intersection, Cave Creek Trail.

Clay Mine

Clay Mine

Follow this trail the short 1 ½ miles through one more intersection. Approximately 100 yards from the end of the trail is an interesting abandoned mine. This mine was owned and operated by Leila Irish, and whereas the mine contained no gold, it did contain something else– clay. Seeing a business opportunity, Irish bottled and sold the clay as a “cure-all”. Although the clay was useless for most ailments, it did supposedly work well for dysentery. If only this elixir were available on The Oregon Trail game, less of my characters would have died from dysentery.

Cacti on Clay Mine Trail

Cacti on Clay Mine Trail

Once you’ve reached the end of the trail and have exited to the campground, you can turn back around and retrace your steps or just walk down to the main road and walk to the nature center. You can’t park anywhere at the campground, and a shuttle for a trip this short would be weird, so take your time and walk back to your vehicle. If you have just a short couple of hours to spend in the Cave Creek Regional Park, this is an excellent and easy hike that anyone can hike on. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and if you have some extra time in your day, check out some of the other trails in this park. Otherwise, spending $7 to access the park is too expensive for such a quick hike.

Directions to the Overton Trailhead

Enter Cave Creek Regional Park (37019 N Lava Ln, Cave Creek, AZ 85331), pay your $8 entrance fee and drive past the horse stables to the well-signed Overton Trailhead.  Alternatively, you can also begin this hike at the next trailhead down, Go John Trailhead.

Map to the Overton Trailhead

 

 

 

12 May 2020

Fat Man’s Pass – South Mountains

Fat Man’s Pass – South Mountains Phoenix, AZ

South Mountains - Phoenix, AZ

View From Mormon Trail

Fat Man’s Pass is one of the most popular hikes near Phoenix, AZ. Two large boulders force you to squeeze through them to the other side of the trail; a fat man cannot squeeze through this gap (to be honest, it’s a tight squeeze), but I would argue that a fat man can’t get to the pass to begin with. This is one of those trails that leads uphill from the start, and while I’ve listed this trail as an easy trail, it was with much deliberation. From the parking lot at the Mormon Trailhead, the trail immediately leads uphill. You will begin to appreciate why some hikers consider this a moderate or difficult trail.

Mormon Trail Intersection

Mormon Trail Intersection

This is one of those hikes you want to do in the early morning. Moving your way to the top of the first hill only rewards you with another couple of hills to hike up. These “false summits” are a little annoying. That being said, this is a trail that most people can hike on without too much difficulty. Take your time, take a few breaks, and you’ll be fine. After 1 ½ mile, the trail slows its steady incline as you reach the first intersection.

This hike, as described, is a straight shot to Fat Man’s Pass, and a straight shot back. You can alternatively make this a loop as a part of the Mormon Trail Loop, or you can add a loop at the Hidden Valley trail, following Fat Man’s Pass through and continuing on the trail to add another half mile to the trail. My dog was tired (and overheated in early March), so pace yourself on this trail. The trail is hot and miserable even when the temperature is only seventy degrees.

Fat Mans Pass Trail

Turn Left Here

The directions for this hike are simple: stay on the main Mormon Trail (which later turns into the Hidden Valley Trail) until a half mile past the first intersection at the top of the hill. Stay on the main trail, and you will eventually (2 ¼ miles from the trailhead) reach the turn for Fat Man’s Pass. Turn left and head a hundred yards downhill to compare your gut against the two boulders. Remember to take short breaths, to drop your pack or hold it over your head, and to take your time squeezing through the two boulders. It would be embarrassing to call for help because you were stuck at Fat Man’s Pass.

Squeezing Through Fat Mans Pass

Squeezing Through Fat Mans Pass

Once you’ve made it through Fat Man’s pass (hopefully with pictures as proof), you can turn around and trace your steps back to the trailhead. If you’re willing to hike another half-mile, you can see the natural tunnel on Hidden Valley Trail. These are busy trails on weekdays and insanely busy trails on the weekends, be sure not to leave any litter behind, and to stay on the designated path. There are a few signs of overuse and even graffiti along this trail, try to set an example to others by reversing some of that damage.

Directions to the Mormon Trailhead

Located south of Phoenix, AZ in a well-signed neighborhood, drive to 8610 S 24th St, Phoenix, AZ 85042.  Any GPS, map, or phone app will be able to get you to the right place.  Phoenix is so big it’s hard to give general directions that are accurate.  This is a busy trailhead, and all the locals know where it is.  Stopping at a gas station if you lose your way will allow you to get better directions.

Map to the Mormon Trailhead

 

 

 

07 May 2020

Langohr Creekside Trail: Gallatin Range

Langohr Creekside Trail: Gallatin Range

Langohr Creekside Trail

At the northern end of the Langohr Campground lies one of the easiest trails in Hyalite Canyon. If you thought that Palisade Falls was a quick stroll into the forest, the .3 miles of Langohr Creekside Trail offer just enough trail to settle your stomach after a campfire meal and is also a good choice for the elderly or toddlers. Most of the people that hike this trail are campers at Langohr Campground, giving you a unique opportunity to greet some of your neighbors, and exchange pleasantries. For a leisurely walk next to Hyalite Creek, pull into the spacious parking area and head down the trail.

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25 Feb 2020

South Cottonwood Creek Trail: Gallatin Range

South Cottonwood Creek Trail: Gallatin Range

South Cottonwood Creek Trail

South Cottonwood Creek Trail runs through the heart of a network of trails just outside of Bozeman.  Although there are numerous side trips and options that you have on South Cottonwood Creek Trail, the most popular option is a quick and scenic day hike through the forest, crossing over three bridges that lead over South Cottonwood Creek.  This quick hike is popular, while being relatively short– it is only 2 ½ miles to the third bridge.  That being said, most day hikers prefer to spend less time on this trail and only hike along it for one or two miles.  Regardless of which option you choose, the trail begins at the end of Cottonwood Creek Road.

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18 Feb 2020

Whits Lakes: Gallatin Range

Whits Lakes: Gallatin Range

North Whits Lake

Whits Lakes, or Whits Lake, is a pair of small lakes located north of Hebgen Lake and just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Since the descriptions of these two bodies of water is somewhat confusing (some maps refer to them as Whits Lake, whereas others refer to the lakes as north or south Whits Lake) in this guide I’ll refer to them as separately as north or south Whits Lake. Now that we have that bit of confusion cleared up, let’s dive into the hike itself. Although the trail is only 2 miles round-trip, it allows you to escape the crowds of Yellowstone and explore the Gallatin National Forest. For big game hunters, Whits Lake is especially popular in the fall, which is also when I prefer to hike this trail.

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04 Feb 2020

Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop

Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop

Buckskin Creek Meadow

This is a difficult hike to name, since the hike runs along both Moser and Buckskin Creeks in Hyalite Canyon. Some guides refer to this hike as the Moser Creek Loop, while others stick to the more accurate name of Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop. This trail has many side options to change the length of the trail, but the hike as described in this guide is an easy 5 mile loop. Along this trail you will have plenty of opportunities to view wildlife or search for garnets and fossils. The Moser Creek to Buckskin Creek Loop is less popular than some of its neighbors in Hyalite Canyon such as Heather Lake or Palisade Falls , making it one of the few day hikes that may allow you to spend most of the hike by yourself.

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27 Jan 2020

History Rock Trail: Gallatin Range

History Rock Trail: Gallatin Range

History Rock, located in Hyalite Canyon

History Rock Trail is one of the few places where someone leaving a trace behind is acceptable. Settlers, old timers, and even a scout for George Custer all left their marks on this large outcropping, and it stands as a historical “guest book” of sorts, storing the names and dates of those who have passed along this trail. Located in Bozeman’s busy Hyalite Canyon, History Rock is a short 2.5-mile hike that is a perfect way to stretch your legs. Make sure to bring a camera along this hike– not only is the scenery beautiful, but the soft sandstone on History Rock won’t be along forever. This last reason alone should tell you that you should stop and hike along the quick trail to History Rock.

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23 Jul 2018

Gardner Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Gardner Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Gardner Lake

If you’re traveling along Highway 212 (The Beartooth Highway), and need a quick stop to stretch your legs, stop by Gardner Lake. This trailhead is one of the highest in the Beartooths, at 10,550 ft above sea level, so be prepared to be winded on this short trail. In addition to the altitude taking your breath away, the view certainly will as well. Gardner Lake sits at the bottom of a bowl, and the hike down to the lake allows you to see Tibbs Butte and Littlerock Creek. The scenery is beautiful any time of the year, but it’s wise to hike to Gardner Lake in the late summer, due to the rampant mosquitoes. Leaving the trailhead, and hiking straight down, your quick hike to Gardner Lake begins.

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12 Feb 2018

Fan Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Fan Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Fawn Pass Trailhead

Fan Creek is possibly the most popular hike along the Yellowstone National Park boundary. With the trailhead located just off of Highway 191, Fan Creek is a quick drive from West Yellowstone and Bozeman. It’s also an easy hike, gaining only 50 feet in the 1.2 miles to the junction with Fan Creek Trail. The fishing along Fan Creek is great any time of the year. The scenery certainly won’t disappoint, either. Since Fan Creek is this accessible and beautiful, it’s easy to see why Fan Creek is popular in the summer and winter.

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09 Feb 2018

Red Lodge Creek Trail- Beartooth Mountains

Red Lodge Creek Trail- Beartooth Mountains

Red Lodge Creek Trail #14

Red Lodge Creek Trail #14 is a quick day hike through a mature forest. This hike is mostly traveled by local residents, so the traffic is usually lighter than other day hikes near Red Lodge. The trail traffic is exceptionally light in the late fall (where about half of the upper trail is inaccessible), which makes Red Lodge Creek Trail a nice late season or early season day hiking trail. If you’re looking for the possibility of an uninterrupted day in the mountains, Red Lodge Creek Trail might have what you’re looking for.

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10 Nov 2017

Keyser Brown Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Keyser Brown Lake- Beartooth Mountains

Keyser Brown Lake

Keyser Brown Lake is a beautiful mountain lake that is easily accessible from Lake Fork Trail #1, in the Beartooth Mountains. This forested lake is at 8,700 feet, making it one of the easiest to access lakes along the Lake Fork Trail. The trail to Keyser Brown Lake only climbs 1,600 feet along the seven mile trail, which is what makes this lake so easy to reach. Keyser Brown Lake also excels as a base camp, supports a good brook trout fishery, and will help you escape the busy crowds on their way to Lost Lake. Leaving the paved parking lot, and crossing a sturdy bridge over the Lake Fork of Rock Creek, your trip to Keyser Brown Lake begins.

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27 Jul 2017

Grotto Falls- Gallatin Range

Grotto Falls- Gallatin Range

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls, located in Bozeman’s scenic Hyalite Canyon, is a beautiful waterfall that can be reached within a half hour. Although the waterfall isn’t particularly tall, Grotto Falls makes up for that by its sheer volume. Hyalite Creek gushes over the falls into the pools below, creating perfect swimming holes to relax in after a hot day. Access to the falls is excellent, with the trail well groomed, and highly trafficked. Simply put, Grotto Falls should be on your must-see list if you are hiking towards Hyalite Lake, or even just in Hyalite Canyon for a day.

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02 Jul 2017

Palisade Falls- Gallatin Range

Palisade Falls- Gallatin Range

Palisade Falls- Hyalite Canyon in Bozeman, MT

There are many hikes on this site that can last for days, test your physical strength, and require navigational skills to reach your intended destination. Fortunately, Palisade Falls is not one of those hikes. The hike to Palisade Falls is quite possibly the easiest hike I’ve ever written about. You don’t need a water bottle or a backpack for this hike, and you don’t even need hiking boots for this hike. Instead, Palisade Falls offers something that few trails do- accessibility for everyone. This short 1-mile out-and-back hike can be explored by toddlers, the elderly, and even people who require wheelchairs or crutches. Simply put, this is the easiest hike you’ll ever take, but don’t let this dissuade you from hiking the Palisade Falls Trail. The natural beauty that Palisade Falls provides will still awe you, even if the hike won’t.

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01 Jul 2017

Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail- Gallatin Range

Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail- Gallatin Range

Petrified Wood on the Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail

If you’re interested in the geological forces that shaped the mountains outside of Yellowstone National Park, or simply enjoy viewing petrified wood and semi-precious gems, the Gallatin Petrified Forest Interpretive Trail is an amazing trail. Although this trail is short, it gains 625 feet of elevation along the way (most of it during the last half mile). This gives a great calf stretch on the way to Yellowstone National Park, and is an excellent introduction to Yellowstone’s unique geology. Once you’re ready to hike this beautiful interpretive trail, drive down Tom Miner Rd for a dusty 11 miles, and begin your quick geologic adventure.

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28 Jun 2017

Rat Lake- Gallatin Range

Rat Lake- Gallatin Range

Rat Lake

Rat Lake, located just outside of Bozeman, MT, is a day hike that attracts many hikers, anglers, and tourists. The quick hike, combined with the close proximity to Yellowstone, Bozeman, and Big Sky, draw in many locals and tourists each year. The high traffic on this hike shouldn’t discourage you, though. Anglers will appreciate the trout fishing, hikers will be encouraged to hike further down the trail, and tourists will love the quick chance to stretch their legs. This trail even offers a chance to stay overnight in a US Forest cabin- Rat Lake Trail #416 offers everyone a quick trip into the Gallatin Range.

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12 Jun 2017

Bacon Rind Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Bacon Rind Creek- Yellowstone National Park

Bacon Rind Creek

If you’re looking for a quick day hike near West Yellowstone with beautiful scenery, look no further than Bacon Rind Creek. This short hike is great for small kids and adults alike, since the trail gains only a little over 300 feet in 2 ½ miles. Hikers looking for an adventure shouldn’t be worried about the trail’s easy grade– just because this is an easy hike it shouldn’t turn you away from Bacon Rind Creek, this grassy valley harbors some of Yellowstone’s famous wildlife; bears, moose, and rainbow trout all thrive in this valley. Once you’ve found the trailhead (refer to the directions below), you can begin this quick hike.

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20 Dec 2016

Tepee Pass- Yellowstone National Park

Tepee Pass- Yellowstone National Park

Tepee Pass

Tepee Pass is a scenic day hike that is located just barely outside of Yellowstone National Park, and although the trail isn’t technically in the park, you can still see vistas of the park and the surrounding mountain ranges. Tepee Pass provides one of those rare moments when you can see two mountain ranges in all of their glory- the Gallatin Range to your left and right, and the Madison Range in front of you. While you’re on this hike, you also have the opportunity to see some of Yellowstone’s famous wildlife- bears, moose, and deer. If you’re not afraid of hiking up a large hill, the hike up to Tepee Pass is worth your time.

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29 Nov 2016

Pioneer Falls- Madison Range

Pioneer Falls

Pioneer Falls

Tumbling 40 feet into a narrow gorge, Falls Creek creates the dramatic display that is known as Pioneer Falls. Pioneer Falls is mesmerizing to watch, as gallon upon gallon of pristine water tumbles its way towards the southern fork of Spanish Creek. Standing here, you have to appreciate the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, and the need for wilderness areas in this country. To be humbled by nature’s creation, you only have to hike a few miles from civilization. Many trail guides list this hike as a 7.5 mile hike, but that is not correct- the hike to the falls is only 3 miles, making the total trip length 6 miles.

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07 Nov 2016

Little Elk Creek Trail- Black Hills

Little Elk Creek Trail- Black Hills

Little Elk Creek Trail

Conveniently located just 20 minutes from Rapid City, South Dakota, Little Elk Creek Trail offers the ability to quickly hop on a scenic trail, and start exploring the woods. This easy trail is a quick detour from I-90, and is close enough to Rapid City for a quick walk in the woods after work. Little Elk Creek Trail is 6 miles long, and gains only 500 feet in the first three miles, making it an easy trail for kids and older adults. Mountain bikers will enjoy the easy trail grade, and will especially appreciate the few boulders on the trail. If you’ve got a few hours to spare, head towards interstate exit 44, and the Black Hills.

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22 Oct 2016