As 2022 draws to an end, it is—as per tradition—time to look back on the year at Live and Let Hike. This is the ninth year of the blog—the tenth anniversary coming in 2023—and there was no let-up in content, as I published 68 entries, the most since 2017. Viewership remained strong, clocking in more than 276,000 page views (185,000 visitors), the second-highest year on record (a milestone of 1 million total visitors is approaching next year!).
As usual, my trail descriptions spanned many different states, with a majority coming from a lengthy road trip to and from Michigan in June and July. Highlights along the way included a 2-day trip to Colorado/Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument, as well as some exploration of parks in the Great Lakes region, including Starved Rock State Park and Indiana Dunes National Park. The return trip included hikes in seven states (WI, MN, SD, NE, WY, ID, and CA), ranging from the hilly Driftless Area of the Upper Midwest to the bluffs and waterfalls of northwest Nebraska to the Snowy Range of southern Wyoming and Idaho’s City of Rocks. Aside from this major journey, I also managed two trips to southern Arizona—one in January and one in November—where I explored hikes at Coronado National Monument, Chiricahua National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Saguaro National Park, and other sites in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. In March, Spring Break with my parents brought us to California’s Monterey/Big Sur area and Pinnacles National Park. In May, I took a short camping trip with friends to the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park, and I tackled a portion of the challenging Lost Coast Trail in Sinkyone Wilderness State Park on a 3-day out-and-back—the only overnight backpacking of the year. The rest of the year was relatively quiet, focusing on work or local Bay Area hikes. Expect the backlog from this year’s hikes—especially the November Arizona trip—to trickle in by early 2023…in addition to whatever the coming year’s adventures bring.
The top five most visited posts on Live and Let Hike in 2022 were, interestingly, all from hikes completed in 2021: (1) The New Wave Loop (Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, AZ); (2) Scorpion Canyon Loop Trail (Channel Islands National Park, CA); (3) Buckskin Gulch via Wire Pass (Paria Canyon – Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, UT); (4) Cavern Point – Potato Harbor Loop (Channel Islands National Park, CA); and (5) John Muir Trail Northbound Section 4 – Red’s Meadow to Happy Isles (Ansel Adams Wilderness & Yosemite National Park, CA). The top eye-catchers from this year, however, were: (1) Flatiron via Siphon Draw Trail (Superstition Wilderness, AZ); (2) Lower Mariposa Grove Loop (Yosemite National Park, CA); (3) Chilnualna Falls Trail (Yosemite National Park, CA); (4) Pfeiffer Falls Trail (Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, CA); and (5) St. Louis Canyon and Aurora Canyon (Starved Rock State Park, IL).
In keeping with tradition from past years, see below for a list of my top ten favorite hikes of the year:
10. Jones Hole Trail & Ely Creek Falls (Dinosaur National Monument, UT)
Boasting canyons and high cliff walls that rival southern Utah, Dinosaur National Monument along the Colorado/Utah border has limited but exceptional hiking opportunities, including the gentle Jones Hole Trail. This nearly 8-mile out-and-back follows a perennial stream and includes spurs to ancient petroglyphs and a pretty waterfall before culminating at the banks of the roaring Green River.
See my post on July 3, 2022 for a full trail description.
9. Flatiron via Siphon Draw Trail (Superstition Wilderness, AZ)
Arizona’s Superstition Mountains rise sharply from the suburbs of Phoenix, seemingly forbidding and impossible to surmount—but a narrow draw outside Lost Dutchman State Park leads hikers up to the summit of Flatiron, a prominent peak with expansive views. Expect a workout—and even a brief, Class 3 climb—on this challenging but immensely popular hike, a local favorite.
See my post on March 20, 2022 for a full trail description.
8. Juniper Canyon Trail to High Peaks Loop (Pinnacles National Park, CA)
Partly a repeat of a hike that made the top 10 in 2019, this scenic stem-and-loop instead takes off from the west side of California’s Pinnacles National Park, climbing Juniper Canyon to the cliffy High Peaks area. Expect wild staircases and narrow passages as hikers wind through the rhyolite, hoping to catch glimpses of the park’s famed California condors.
See my post on May 24, 2022 for a full trail description.
7. Mitten Park Trail (Dinosaur National Monument, CO)
This remote and rarely-used trail on the Colorado side of Dinosaur National Monument follows the Green River from Echo Park to nearby Mitten Park, situated along a dramatic fault line that produced wildly-shaped formations. This rugged 3-mile out-and-back has some strenuous climbs but offers likely solitude in one of Colorado’s most beautiful canyons.
See my post on July 23, 2022 for a full trail description.
6. Chilnualna Falls Trail (Yosemite National Park, CA)
In Yosemite National Park, a land known for dramatic waterfalls, Chilnualna Falls is one of the tallest—and much less-visited than those dotting Yosemite Valley. Situated in southern Yosemite, the Chilnualna Falls Trail climbs more than 2,000 feet to a multi-tiered waterfall, with additional views of Wawona Dome and the woody Wawona Valley.
See my post on June 2, 2022 for a full trail description.
5. St. Louis Canyon to Illinois Canyon (Starved Rock State Park, IL)
A gem in heart of the Great Plains, Starved Rock State Park in northern Illinois features more than a dozen sandstone canyons, towering waterfalls, and an extensive trail network. Hikers seeking to “do it all” can cover all the major canyons in one long, 14-mile hike, covering four distinct sections: (1) a roughly 1.5-mile one-way trek from St. Louis Canyon to the Visitor Center (including dramatic St. Louis Canyon Falls); (2) a 4.5-mile circuit that includes French, Wildcat, and LaSalle Canyons and a clutch of additional waterfalls; (3) a somewhat dull connector by way of Owl and Hennepin Canyons; and (4) an incredible trio of canyons—Ottawa, Kaskaskia, and Illinois—at the eastern end of the park.
See my collection of four posts from August 2022 for full trail descriptions.
4. Chiricahua Big Loop (Chiricahua National Monument, AZ)
This all-day hike explores the wonderland of rhyolite pinnacles found in southern Arizona’s Chiricahua National Monument, climbing in and out of canyons and through basins of stone. Many settle for just a portion of the so-called “Big Loop,” but the entirety of the 9-mile trek is well worth the effort.
See my post forthcoming in the coming weeks!
3. Point Lobos Loop (Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, CA)
The popular but incredibly scenic Point Lobos is all about rugged, oceanside landscapes and dramatic colors, including the turquoise waters of China Cove, orange creamsicle-colored slots of the Weston Beach area, and high clifftop views of Sea Lion Cove and the Cypress Grove Loop. Also expect to see seals, sea lions, and other fauna along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, in addition to some of the best-preserved stands of Monterey cypress in the world.
See my post on May 20, 2022 for a full trail description.
2. Lost Coast Trail – Needle Rock to Little Jackass Creek via Wheeler Camp (Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, CA)
Covering a wild and overgrown section of the fabled Lost Coast Trail, this strenuous backpack traverses redwood groves, high cliff passages, and unsullied beaches in northern California’s Sinkyone Wilderness. Start out from the Needle Rock Visitor Center, making your way south to Wheeler Camp and on to the secluded beach of Little Jackass Creek and beyond.
See my posts on June 4, 2022—Part I and Part II—for a full trail description.
1. Medicine Bow Peak Loop, including Lakes Trail (Medicine Bow National Forest, WY)
The best hike of 2022 was a strenuous, 7-mile circuit in the Snowy Range of southern Wyoming, rising to the summit of Medicine Bow Peak (12,013’) before skirting a series of stunning subalpine lakes. Enjoy the panoramic views and dramatic vistas along what is one of the premiere day hikes in all of Wyoming and was certainly the best of my summer road trip.
See my post on December 28, 2022 for a full trail description.
- Balconies Cliffs – Balconies Cave Trail Loop (Pinnacles National Park, CA)
- Blackhills Overlook Trail Loop (Chadron State Park, NE)
- City of Rocks Loop (City of Rocks National Preserve, ID)
- Devil’s Lake Loop (Devil’s Lake State Park, WI)
- Harpers Corner Trail (Dinosaur National Monument, CO)
- Mexican Canyon Trail Loop, including Scenic View Trail (Fort Robinson State Park, NE)
- Rattlesnake Canyon (Joshua Tree National Park, CA)
- Timpanogos Cave Trail & Cave Tour (Timpanogos Cave National Monument, UT)
- Timpanogos Falls (Mount Timpanogos Wilderness, UT)
- Wasson Peak Loop (Saguaro National Park, AZ)