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Winter Hiking on Vail Trail: Vail, Colorado

I love winter hiking, and I just love hiking in the snow and snowshoeing. This year I headed to Vail, Colorado, for a few days of hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing!

Vail, Colorado, February 2015

Vail, Colorado, February 2015

The snow was a welcome change from the 70 degree temperatures in Southern California this winter, and I loved hearing the crunch of snow beneath my feet.

Vail Trail!

Vail Trail!


I found a lovely packed trail called Vail Trail, and strapped on my Hillsound FreeSteps6 stainless steel boot chains.

Hillsound FreeSteps6 Traction Device on my Kamik Boots

Hillsound FreeSteps6 Traction Device on my Kamik Boots

Hiking Lady Gear Tip:

On a well packed trail, snowshoes are not always necessary. As you can see in the photo above, I wore stainless steel boot chains instead of full snowshoes. When blazing a new trail through the snow (which I love to do as well!), then snowshoes are necessary. Otherwise you’ll sink knee deep or more into soft snow, making for an unpleasantly wet winter hiking experience.

The Hillsound FreeSteps6 are a lightweight crampon, and are ideal for walking on very well packed snow or ice. Check out the Hiking Lady gear review of the FreeStep6 Crampons.

Hiking Lady Snack Tip:

On my hike I took along a pack of Setton Farm’s Pistachio Chewy Bites. I love pistachios, and these little bars are a mix of pistachios and cranberries with agave nectar. They are yummy, healthy, gluten free, and store well even in cold weather.

Pistachio Chewy Bites

A yummy heart healthy snack: Pistachio Chewy Bites

How to Get to Vail Trail

Vail has an excellent free bus system. There are in-town buses throughout Vail Village and Lionshead Village, and from Vail Village you can transfer to an “out of town bus”. You can jump on this free bus and head to the Vail Nordic Center, where you can rent equipment. Behind the parking lot is the trailhead for Vail Trail!

Layering with Icebreaker

Icebreaker Oasis baselayer

Icebreaker Oasis baselayer

Knowing that I was headed out on my adventure to the Channel Islands, Icebreaker provided me with some free samples of their high quality merino wool clothing layers to take with me!

As we have discussed here on HikingLady.com, the most crucial way to stay comfortable on your hikes and outdoor adventures is by layering your apparel.

Icebreaker has developed a fantastic infographic to help all of us understand how three layers, a Base Layer, Mid Layer, and an Outer Layer, can keep us warm and comfortable when we hike! Check it out below:
Icebreakers_HowtoLayer

What is this brand, “Icebreaker”?

For those of you who haven’t read my reviews of Icebreaker products (my first one several years ago of the Women’s Icebreaker Atlas Tee and the more recent review of the Icebreaker Tech T Lite t-shirt), you may not be aware of the soft and odor resistant fabrics from Icebreaker.

Icebreaker products are made of Merino Wool, sourced from New Zealand. They are machine washable, and the best part is that their apparel does an excellent job of reducing odor. So after a sweaty hike or a multiple day backpacking trip, you will be the least smelly of all your friends! Wohoo!

How Icebreaker’s apparel works for Hiking Lady

Technical hiking apparel tends to be much more comfortable and more practical than our everyday clothing. That’s because companies like Icebreaker get it right. They understand that bulky layers don’t keep us warm, but rather the right layers.

Icebreaker makes it really simple. All of their layers are numbered, the smaller the number, the lighter the weight. The Oasis is a 200 weight, which was perfect for my adventure on Santa Cruz Island.

Icebreaker makes it simple! Lower the number, lighter the baselayer.

Icebreaker makes it simple! Lower the number, lighter the baselayer.


Crossing the channel from Ventura to Santa Cruz Island, windy conditions made the otherwise warm day quite chilly. Therefore, I simply put on a hardshell jacket over my Icebreaker Oasis Long Sleeve top.
Crossing the channel to Santa Cruz Island; put on an outer shell over my Icebreaker Oasis baselayer

Crossing the channel to Santa Cruz Island


As I began hiking in a wind protected canyon, the shell came off and the baselayer was just enough to keep me warm as I enjoyed the beautiful views!
Layered up in the Icebreaker Oasis Long Sleeve Half Zip Hood

Layered up in the Icebreaker Oasis Long Sleeve Half Zip


Enjoying beautiful views on Santa Cruz Island wearing only my Icebreaker Oasis baselayer

Enjoying beautiful views on Santa Cruz Island wearing only my Icebreaker Oasis baselayer


The weather on day two of my Santa Cruz Island hiking adventure was similar – hot in the sun, very cool in the shade (low 50s), and windy along ridges. I knew that called for another base layer that would hug my skin and keep me warm, but not too hot. It was a simple decision to wear the Icebreaker Dart Long Sleeve Half Zip.
Exploring Santa Cruz Island wearing Icebreaker Dart Long Sleeve

Exploring Santa Cruz Island wearing Icebreaker Dart Long Sleeve


At the top of El Montanan Ridge; windy conditions but the Icebreaker Dart baselayer kept me warm

At the top of El Montanon Ridge; conditions were windy but the Icebreaker Dart baselayer kept me warm!

Bottom line: layering with Icebreaker is simple, comfortable, and a great way to dress for hiking.

Thanks Icebreaker!

Hiking Lady’s Hawaiian Adventure: Part 2, Volcanoes National Park

After hiking Kauai’s NaPali Coast, the adventure continued! I headed to the island of Hawaii (the Big Island) and explored Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park!

Kilauea Caldera, Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Caldera, Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park incorporates two of the five volcanoes on the island of Hawaii – Mauna Loa and Kilauea. This national park is unlike any others I have visited, and rightly so. Where else on earth do you find active volcanoes and one that has been in constant eruption since 1983?

What to do at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

First step – I checked in with the Visitor’s Center to find out current conditions. Lava flows have buried roads (i.e., the main road through the park, the Chain of Craters Road, dead ends where lava has buried it). Additionally, the level of lava movement varies dramatically, as does its location. When I was there, there were not any visible lava flows, however, Kilauea put on quite the night show!

Thurston Lava Tube

The hike to the lava tube is less than a mile, and it is a beautiful walk through a Hawaiian rainforest. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the lava tube when you see the cave like entrance ahead…

Entrance to Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Entrance to Thurston Lava Tube, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Imagine walking through a cave like structure, knowing that boiling lava rushed through there over 500 years ago. Molten lava flows like a river, and just like water, it “freezes”, or creates a crusty surface at the top while the lava still flows beneath. Eventually, the lava finishes flowing, and a cave like empty cavity below the surface called a “lava tube” is all that remains.

Inside Thurston Lava Tube

Inside Thurston Lava Tube


I was surprised by the size of the Thurston Lava Tube – it was quite massive…no need to watch my head or squeeze in this cave! I had to put on my rain jacket since quite a bit of water was dripping from the ceiling. I even had to stash my camera to keep it dry. Nonetheless, this lava tube is a must see if you head to Volcanoes National Park!

Kilauea Volcano

Kilauea is an impressive sight, and it is well worth staying past sunset to see the ominous glow of the orange and yellow volcanic gases. It is a shield volcano, not a conical volcano, so you can literally drive to the top and look down to see the 400 foot wide depression, the caldera. Within the Kilauea Caldera is the Halema’uma’u Crater, which is the main vent (and where you can see gases from the boiling lava glowing at night!).

Pu’u Huluhulu Cinder Cone Hike

Perhaps it was the misty weather, or the race against sunset, but the hike to Pu’u Huluhulu Cinder was desolate. It was a surreal experience, with most of the three mile journey marked only by “ducks”, or stacks of rocks placed by other hikers or rangers to designate the direction of the trail over the crusty lava flows.

The hike begins by crossing lava fields, and lots of evidence of destruction from the 1969-1974 Mauna Ulu eruption. There are many steam vents visible in the distance. I really had to pay attention to my footing in order to avoid stepping into large cracks in the crusty lava.

Pu'u Huluhulu Hike

Pu’u Huluhulu Hike

After crossing the lava fields, an actual trail becomes visible. It is narrow and slightly overgrown, and leads up 150 feet to the summit the Pu’u Huluhulu. From there, the views are magnificent! Even though it was overcast when I was there, I could still look out and see steaming vents and get a sense of the vastness of the national park. It was not clear enough to see the Pacific Ocean, so perhaps I’ll need to book another trip to Hawaii! ;)

Pu'u Huluhulu Lava Fields

Pu’u Huluhulu Lava Fields


Happy trails, and happy Hawaiian hiking!

Hiking Lady’s Hawaiian Adventure: Part 1, Kauai’s NaPali Coast

Hiking Lady is back from Hawaii! I explored two beautiful islands of the Hawaiian Island chain, Kauai and the island of Hawaii (commonly referred to as the Big Island). Have you dreamed of hiking along the NaPali Coast in Kauai? Then you’re in the right spot – this is Part 1 of my Hawaiian Adventure blog series, and is all about hiking in Kauai!

Kauai's NaPali Coast

Kauai’s NaPali Coast

Hiking Kauai’s Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls

The day began a little later than planned because I wanted to have a leisurely and healthy breakfast at the hotel, which meant plenty of delicious Hawaiian dragonfruit! Any hiker will burn a lot of calories on this hike, so eat up and pack lots of snacks!

Hawaiian dragonfruit

Hawaiian dragonfruit

How to Get to Kalalau Trail

There is only one “major” road along the north shore of Kauai, Kuhio Highway, a misnomer for the tiny road that wraps around most of the north side of the island. The narrow asphalt strip is the only thing on the north shore that isn’t covered in lush green vegetation. After passing through Princeville and Hanalei Bay, Kuhio Highway ends at the trailhead to the stunning Kalalau Trail. It is the best way to view Kauai’s NaPali Coast.

How to get to Kalalau Trailhead, Kauai

How to get to Kalalau Trailhead, Kauai

“The Hike At The End of the Road” to the “Beautiful Waterfall”

Prior to my trip, several hiking friends who had traveled to Kauai previously told me about this hike. However, no one could remember the name or the details! It was just “the hike at the end of the road”. You can’t miss it!

Kalalau Trailhead

Kalalau Trailhead

Hanakapi’ai Falls Hike Details:

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Notables: This hike can be very slippery, especially after days of rain on Kauai. Be sure to wear shoes with Vibram soles and ideally a pair that is waterproof. (See Hiking Lady reviews: Vasque Blur trail running shoes, Asolo Stynger GTX boots)
  • Bring a headlamp, especially during the fall and winter months. The Kalalau trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls is a long hike and unless you start early you may be finishing at dusk.
Hiking Lady on Kalalau Trail

Hiking Lady on Kalalau Trail

The hike starts out with two miles of primarily uphill hiking over slippery, wet rocks along the NaPali cliffs. The trail was paved with rocks in the 1930s when it was primarily used by horses and cattle!

My muddy Vasque Blur shoes at the end of the hike!

My muddy Vasque Blur shoes at the end of the hike!


At two miles, you reach Hanakapi’ai Beach, a beautiful white sand beach that is a popular spot for backpackers to set up camp.

Once you reach Hanakapi’ai Beach and cross Hanakapi’ai Stream, the trail narrows and the real adventure begins! Since I was there in Fall after a week of heavy rain, it was a bit risky to attempt the waterfall hike, but I went for it! I had to be sure my footing was solid on the stream crossings; a pair of trekking poles would have come in quite handy. Unfortunately I was not able to find a sporting goods shop in the little village of Hanalei that would rent me a pair of trekking poles.

As I made my way up the valley I was glad that I brought waterproof shoes on this hike. My Vasque Blurs handled the deep and sticky mud quite well, and my feet stayed dry through the numerous stream crossings.

The hike was all worth it – the 300 foot Hanakapi’ai Falls are truly spectacular!

Hanakapi'ai Falls

Hanakapi’ai Falls – well worth the muddy trek up Kanakapi’ai Valley.

I hope you too get to hike the NaPali Coast and experience Hanakapi’ai Falls. Aloha, and happy Hawaiian hiking!

Getting Ready for the Channel Islands!

Greetings friends,

I am planning an exciting adventure! I will be camping and hiking on Santa Cruz Island, one of the gorgeous islands off of California’s coastline just west of Los Angeles.

Channel Islands, National Park Service

Channel Islands, National Park Service


The Channel Islands are protected by the National Park Service, and remind us of what coastal California looked like before the urban sprawl. Pristine coastlines, wildflowers, solitude…I can’t wait to go!

I’ll be referencing the Hiking Lady’s Backpacking Checklist this week to get all the gear together I’ll need!

Hiking Lady's Backpacking Checklist

Click here for Hiking Lady's Backpacking Checklist

Day 1

  • Depart Ventura on Island Packers boat (cost $79 per person for overnight trips) to Santa Cruz Island. Luckily it is only an hour ride so I shouldn’t get seasick!
  • Set up camp 0.5 miles from the pier at the Santa Cruz Scorpion Ranch campground.
  • Hike to El Montanon, an 8.5 mile round trip hike with 1800 feet of elevation gain. The views are apparently amazing and on a clear day all 6 islands in the Santa Barbara chain of Channel Islands will be visible, as well as the coastline of Southern California all the way from Point Conception to Palos Verdes!
  • Enjoy night one at the Scorpion Ranch campground. I’m packing Mountain House Rice & Chicken for dinner!
Santa Cruz hikes from Scorpion Beach, NPS

Santa Cruz hikes from Scorpion Beach, NPS

Day 2

CLIF Bar Nuts & Seeds new flavor

  • Wake up and have breakfast at Scorpion Ranch campground. Pack snacks (including the new CLIF Bar Nuts & Seeds flavor!) for the hike to Potato Harbor. Hike for 4.8 miles, round trip.
  • Return from Potato Harbor hike and take down camp and head back for the boat departure back to Ventura.

Do you have a hike planned soon? Have you been to Santa Cruz Island? Share your tips!

Happy trails!