2019 has come and gone, and it was an excellent year for hiking. Over the course of the year, I added 43 posts to Live and Let Hike and notched nearly 150,000 site visits (81,000 visitors). As always, the travel was diverse, spanning hikes and scenic drives from 13 states (plus the District of Columbia), including California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Due to a cross-country move, the primary focus of the blog shifted from the Washington, DC area to northern California. The move itself allowed me to visit several neat spots in western Virginia; traverse Abraham Lincoln’s old stomping grounds in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky; hike in stunning Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming; and meander through Idaho and Nevada to the west coast. Other highlights include a Memorial Day trip through western Maryland and Pennsylvania, several great jaunts in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, day trips in the San Francisco Bay Area, and overnight visits to Pinnacles and Yosemite National Parks in California.
The top five most visited posts on Live and Let Hike in 2019 were, as usual, holdovers from previous years, mostly from hikes in Utah: (1) Top 10 Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park’s “Frontcountry”; (2) Top 10 Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park’s “Backcountry”; (3) Appalachian Trail to Annapolis Rocks and Black Rock (South Mountain State Park, MD); (4) Chesler Park Loop Trail, including Joint Trail (Canyonlands National Park, UT); and (5) Capitol Reef Hiking Guide.
Of the top-viewed trails posted in 2019, however, all were concentrated in the mid-Atlantic: (1) Sharp Top Trail (Jefferson National Forest, VA); (2) Crabtree Falls and The Priest (George Washington National Forest, VA); (3) Marys Rock via Panorama (Shenandoah National Park, VA); (4) Hogback Mountain Loop (Shenandoah National Park, VA); and (5) Jonathan Run Trail and Sugar Run Falls (Ohiopyle State Park, PA).
Following the tradition of previous years, see below for a list of the top ten best hikes I completed in 2019. It was exceedingly difficult to pick this year, but the below list aims to capture a diverse set of hikes with epic views, stunning waterfalls, sharp canyons, alpine lakes, and serene woodland groves.
- Jonathan Run Trail and Sugar Run Falls (Ohiopyle State Park, PA)
In spring, the twin waterfalls along Jonathan Run in Pennsylvania’s Ohiopyle State Park are spectacular, forming high-volume cascades through a dense thicket of rhododendrons and deciduous woodlands. Venturing further into the Youghiogheny River Gorge, hikers can visit the secluded Sugar Run Falls, capping off a 1.8-mile one-way hike.
See my post on July 7, 2019 for a full trail description.
- Purisima Creek Redwoods Loop (Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, CA)
Although paling in size compared to the much-larger redwoods in California’s Muir Woods National Monument or Redwood National Park, the second-growth trees at Purisima Creek Redwoods are so dense and ubiquitous that hikers will feel enchanted nearly the whole length of this 10.5-mile circuit. Climbing above the trees also offers splendid views across the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Easily accessible from the Bay Area.
See my post on October 12, 2019 for a full trail description.
- The Channels via Brumley Mountain Trail (Jefferson National Forest, VA)
Defying conventional wisdom that slot canyons exist only in the American Southwest, the area known as The Channels (or “Great Channels”) in southwest Virginia features a labyrinth of sandstone sluices tucked away near the summit of Brumley Mountain. Along the 3.25-mile journey to the slots, enjoy panoramic views of the middle Appalachians, dotted with green pastures and lush forest.
See my post on August 5, 2019 for a full trail description.
- Mount Diablo via Eagle Peak and Mitchell Canyon (Mount Diablo State Park, CA)
This scenic but arduous summit hike in California’s East Bay is not for the faint of heart: the route climbs more than 3,200 feet in elevation over the course of six miles. Once atop Mount Diablo, one of the Bay Area’s highest peaks, follow a series of winding paths back down through the area’s characteristic chaparral into Mitchell Canyon, completing a 13.2-mile loop.
See my post on January 1, 2020 for a full trail description.
- Lamoille Lake via Ruby Crest Trail (Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, NV)
The Ruby Mountains in northeast Nevada may be unknown to all but residents of the Silver State, but the spectacular array of ragged peaks, alpine lakes, and glacial-carved canyons rivals the scenery of the Sierras or Rocky Mountains. This 4.4-mile out-and-back hike to Lamoille Lake offers a teaser of this amazing area, featuring high moraines and sweeping views down Lamoille Canyon.
See my post on October 12, 2019 for a full trail description.
- Condor Gulch – High Peaks Trail Loop (Pinnacles National Park, CA)
The High Peaks Trail climbs through the heart of Pinnacles National Park in central California, exploring the maze of towering spires that serves as the habitat for a group of endangered California condors. Connecting with the Condor Gulch Trail forms a 5.1-mile loop, the best of Pinnacles, the closest national park to the San Francisco Bay Area.
See my post on January 5, 2020 for a full trail description.
- North Dome Trail, including Indian Rock (Yosemite National Park, CA)
The North Dome Trail in Yosemite National Park offers perhaps the area’s best views of iconic Half Dome, plus a spectacular look down Yosemite Valley and Tenaya Canyon. This 10-mile out-and-back hike traverses pine woodlands and granite ridges, and a short spur leads to the park’s only named natural arch at Indian Rock.
See my post on December 31, 2019 for a full trail description.
- Bradley Lake, Taggart Lake, and Beaver Creek Trail Loop (Grand Teton National Park, WY)
This moderately difficult, 5.8-mile circuit in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park traverses the glacial moraine at the base of some of the world’s most precipitous mountains. Bradley and Taggart Lakes offer chances to dip your feet in chilly alpine waters, while the hillsides are dotted with diverse flora and fauna.
See my post on September 2, 2019 for a full trail description.
- Death Canyon Trail to Patrol Cabin (Grand Teton National Park, CA)
The inviting meadows and charming cascades of the Death Canyon Trail belie this hike’s foreboding name, although the steep climb into the Teton Range makes for a strenuous outing. Features include terrific views of Phelps Lake, seasonal waterfalls, the rushing waters of Death Canyon Creek, and an old patrol cabin that serves as a turnaround point for this 7.8-mile out-and-back hike.
See my post on August 28, 2019 for a full trail description.
- Crabtree Falls and The Priest (George Washington National Forest, VA)
It often takes something unusually special on the eastern seaboard to match the beauty of hiking in California or the Mountain West. Virginia’s Crabtree Falls, however, which is the highest set of cascades east of the Mississippi, is that special. This 9.6-mile out-and-back hike follows the seemingly endless flow of high-volume falls for nearly two miles before climbing to an excellent vista of the Blue Ridge Mountains at The Priest.
See my post on May 29, 2019 for a full trail description.
- Bald Mountain Loop (Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, CA)
- Ben Johnson – Bootjack Trail Loop (Muir Woods National Monument, CA)
- Box Canyon Springs (Thousand Springs State Park, ID)
- Chalone Peak Trail (Pinnacles National Park, CA)
- Coastal Trail to Tennessee Point (Golden Gate National Recreation Area, CA)
- Humpback Rocks Trail (George Washington National Forest, VA)
- Raven Rock Trail (Coopers Rock State Forest, WV)
- Sharp Top Trail (Jefferson National Forest, VA)
- South River Falls Loop (Shenandoah National Park, VA)
- Swallow Falls Canyon Trail (Swallow Falls State Park, MD)