Hiking – My Journey That Began With A Single Step!

So lately, I had posted a question in Instagram asking my readers to let me know the topics I should write about. Interestingly, one of them requested me to write about my hikes. Yes, I am a hiker and I feel it is one of the best ways to get your mind & body relaxed. It is also a great fitness routine. Let me explain you why hiking is very important for physical & mental fitness:

  • Helps control weight – This is my personal observation. I track my calories with my Apple Watch setup. The calories I burn when I walk/run on treadmill for one hour is much lesser than the calories I burn while I hike up & down the mountain for an hour. Hiking involves walking on straight as well as incline position. This is the trick to more calorie burning.
  • Strengthens muscles & tones body – Regular walking and steep inclines with trekking poles and climbing rocks gives an over-all workout to your body. It is a major workout to the lower body- quads, glutes and hamstrings. If you are carrying a backpack, then its weight will help improve the core strength of the upper body too.
  • Improves mental health – Did you know how important it is to interact with nature to boost mental stimulation? Firstly, it breaks contact with the outside world because even if you want, there is no network inside the mountains. This allows you to spend alone time with yourself and tends to reduce bad moods. Research also shows that stress & depression decreases when you talk a walk in nature rather than in gym. Hiking boosts the cognitive functions of the brain and improves memory & concentration.

So, let me cover briefly about my hikes in USA and details about the distance, difficulty level and views for each of the hike. I will list the hikes as per states that I visited.

Virginia

Great Falls National Park


Great Falls National Park is a beautiful spot located in McLean, VA. The details are as below:

  • Entrance Fee – 15$
  • Parking is available
  • Number of View Points: 3 (Overlook 1, Overlook 2, Overlook 3)
  • Hike Distance: 1.5 miles approximately
  • Level: Easy
  • View – The trail offers striking glimpses of the Potomac and Mather Gorge. There are three overlooks that give different view of the falls. Overlook 3 is the most beautiful of them all.
  • Restrooms & Cafeterias are available. There is a beautiful park with benches to have a barbecue as well.

Mcafee Knob


Mcafee Knob, Catawba is the most photographed spot of the Appalachian Trail. It is one of the longest & most difficult hikes I did until now. The details are as below:

  • Entrance Fee – Free
  • Parking is available at the trailhead
  • Hike Distance: 8-9 miles approximately
  • Level: Very Difficult
  • Time to Hike – 4-5 hours approximately (Depends on number of stops taking during the hike)
  • Elevation Gain – 3197`
  • View – Some of the best views in the Southern Shenandoah Valley
  • Restrooms & Cafeterias are not available. Carry enough food and water mandatorily. Camping is allowed.

Shenandoah National Park


This is one of the very beautiful parks on the blue ridge mountains. There are many hikes in Shenandoah National Park. The Shenandoah Skyline Drive is the most famous thing to do along with the beautiful hikes. I have been to Hawksbill Summit Hike, which is the tallest peak of the Shenandoah Mountains. The details are as below:

  • Entrance Fee – 25$ per vehicle for seven consecutive days
  • Parking is available
  • Hike Distance: 1.7 miles approximately (round trip)
  • Level: Moderate
  • Time to Hike – 1 -1.5 hours approximately (Depends on number of stops taking during the hike)
  • View – 360 degree view of Shenandoah Valley
  • Carry enough food and water mandatorily.

West Virginia

Blackwater State Park


Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the amber waters of Blackwater Falls, a 57-foot cascade tinted by the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. It is located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County. I had been here on the first day of Fall 2018 season. I have hiked on the Elakala Trail & Blackwater Falls Boardwalk Trail, which are one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia. The details are as below:

Elakala Trail & Elakala Falls

  • Entrance Fee – 2$ per vehicle for single day
  • Parking is available
  • Hike Distance: 0.5 miles approximately
  • Level: Moderate
  • View – Elakala Water Falls
  • Restrooms and Cafeterias are available. We had very good pizzas in the cafeterias.

Blackwater Falls Boardwalk Trail

  • Hike Distance: 0.5 miles approximately
  • Level: Moderate
  • View – Series of four waterfalls of Shays Run as it descends into the Blackwater Canyon in West Virginia

Cannan Valley – Pendleton Point Trail

  • Hike Distance – 0.5 miles
  • Level – Easy
  • View – Pendleton scenic overlook into Cannan Valley

Harpers Ferry


Harpers Ferry is one of the most history-rich places in the United States. From the earliest American presidents to abolitionist models to great Civil War battles, Harpers Ferry has always been an outstation for independence, courage, and the adventurous American spirit.
I hiked Harpers Ferry via Loudoun Heights and it was one of the most difficult hikes I did after Mcafee Knob in Virginia. The details are as below:

  • Entrance Fee – 15$ per vehicle for 3 days
  • Parking is available
  • Hike Distance: 6-6.5 miles approximately (round trip)
  • Level: Very Difficult
  • Time to Hike – 4-5 hours approximately (Depends on number of stops taking during the hike)
  • View – Split Rock, Lower Town and the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers
  • Trees on the trail are painted with white, orange & blue stripes to identify the trail you are on.
  • Be cautious when hiking in late fall season. Large amount of leaves on the ground may cover the trail.

Tennesse

Clingmans Dome


Clingmans Dome claims the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The “Dome” relates to the mountain top, not the man-made observation tower. The Dome actually rests inside both Tennessee and North Carolina and is the tallest point in Tennessee. The details are as below:

  • Entrance Fee – Free
  • Parallel parking is available on the road along the cliff
  • Hike Distance: From downtown Gatlinburg, the spectacular 23 mile drive to Clingmans Dome will take around an hour. The Clingmans Dome hike is a fully-paved path and is around 0.5 mile.
  • Level: Moderate for regular hikers.
  • Time to Hike – 30-45 minutes approximately (Depends on number of stops taking during the hike)
  • View – Incredible landscapes of the Smoky Mountains National Park
  • The steep gradient combined with the high altitude may make the hike too strenuous for the elderly or those out of shape.
  • The air at Clingmans Dome is about 20 degrees lower & colder than at lowland levels.
  • When hiking the trail from the parking lot to the summit, carry winter wear and be prepared for windier conditions the higher you climb.
  • Restrooms are available at the trail head

New York

Watkins Glen State Park


Watkins Glen, located in Finger Lakes, New York is famous for a variety of waterfalls, including small staircase, cascades, dripping curtains, punchbowls, plunges and chutes; ranging from a few feet to 60 feet high. The details are as below:

  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Parking is available
  • Hike Distance – 1.3 miles approximately & more than 800 stone steps
  • Level – Moderate
  • View – Waterfalls inside the gorge
  • Number of trails – There are three main park trails: Indian, Gorge and Southern Rim. The Gorge and Southern Rim trails are near the waterfalls. The Indian trail takes you to the upper entrance, through the woods.
  • Advisable to take a map at the Welcome Center
  • Carry food & water

Colorado

Hanging Lake


Hanging Lake is one of Colorado’s mysterious treasures. The turquoise colors of the lake are generated by carbonate minerals that have dissolved in the water. The details are as below:

  • Entrance Fee – 12$. Advance Booking for a permit is mandatory to hike this place.
  • Hike Distance: 1.2 miles approximately
  • Level: Difficult (very steep and elevated)
  • Time to Hike – 2-3 hours approximately (Depends on number of stops taking during the hike)
  • View – Incredible landscapes the National Natural Landmark – Hanging Lake
  • Restrooms are available at the trailhead
  • Carry Food and Water mandatorily.

I hope this interests you and you get inspired to hike after reading this blog. This is just the first blog with all places I hiked until now. I will keep on writing more blogs as I hike more places. Let me know your thoughts about this blog via comments.

Happy Hiking!

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