Ptarmigan Cirque, Alberta

I was born in Calgary, Alberta close to Banff. If you asked me to recommend the best day hike out of the city it would be Ptarmigan Cirque.

Hike Bike Travel:

It’s a 3.6 kilometre loop (if you include the interpretive trail) with 210 metres of elevation gain. There is the option to hike a section of the scramblers trail that heads for Mt. Rae.

For a short hike it delivers a tremendous variety of scenery – including coniferous forests, high alpine meadows, mountains and waterfalls. It’s the perfect hike to take your out of town guests who want a taste of the mountains without spending a full day in them – and it’s a great one for families too. …

Ptarmigan Cirque Hike In Kananaskis Country

The trailhead is off Highwood Pass (2,206m), getting you to elevation easily.

hiking Reflection Canyon, Utah

… The route is long, rough and remote — the trailhead from Escalante, Utah takes 2 to 3 hours to get to during periods of good weather — and you still have to navigate 8-9 miles off-trail through fully-exposed sand and sage brush, across slickrock, and up and down rutted desert ravines.

Don’t be fooled by the name either. This long, exposed hike is not really through a canyon …

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 16-18 miles out-and-back (26-29 km)
  • Days Needed: 2 days
  • Peak Elevation: 4,466 ft.
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,234 ft.
  • Best Travel Time: Late March to May and September to October
  • Permits: Required (see below)
  • Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Highlights

  • A stunning final vista
  • Beautiful sunrises and sunsets
  • Fabulous photo opps
  • Solitude, expect to see few other backpackers
  • Star-studded night sky
  • You can take your dog

Clever Hiker 

We’ve added Reflection Canyon to our list of best hikes in North America.

Cam Honan – Arthur Range Traverse, Tasmania

Cam Honan has hiked everything. Everywhere. But for me his most impressive trips have been his extreme Tasmania epics.

Floating rivers on his NeoAir mattress, for example.

For us mere mortals, he summarized his advice on a route called Arthur Range Traverse.

It’s only 48 miles (77km) but will take you 10-14 days, on average. With no resupply. You carry all that food on your back.

If not already decided there’s no way that sounds like fun, click through to …

Arthur Range Traverse Planning Guide

Hielo Azul circuit, El Bolsón, Argentina

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

Click PLAY or get a glimpse of my 3 day circuit on YouTube.

Getting to the trailhead at Camping Hue Nan is the most challenging navigation challenge.

You can road walk from El Bolsón as I did — 3 boring, dusty hours — or ask for bus directions to Camping Hue Nan. That trailhead may be changing. Check before you go. It was open to me February 2018

Look for the Acceso Refugio Hielo Azul sign.

I used the free Maps.me app and it worked perfectly for the entire circuit. On the other hand, I wished I’d hired a taxi or found the bus rather than done 3 hours of road walking.

Alternatively, there’s a way to start and finish a circuit by bus at Warton. The most popular trailhead.

You could reverse my route too, of course

El Bolsón, population 19,000 plus tourists is an excellent hiking town. It’s only 2 hours by bus from Bariloche, the bigger hiking destination in Argentina. Many hike both towns on the same trip.

Free registration is required. You don’t need to stick to your planned itinerary.

There are gear shops with camping fuel and fairly large grocery stores in town.

At the Mountain Information Office I bought a $4 amateur hiking guide partially translated to English. It’s not enough to navigate, but did provide some background information.

I was shocked to see some of the bridges here.

They are slowly being replaced by modern metal alternatives.

It was at least 1000m ascent and 4 hours up to Hielo Azul Refugio. My favourite alpine hut by far.

I was so happy to get there — and felt so warmly welcomed by the woman who greeted me — that I signed up for an 8pm $20 stew meal. My most expensive dinner in Argentina. (I brought my own wine.)

It really is paradise up here just below the glacier.

I paid $5 to tent.

Next morning I first registered at the mountain hut then scrambled the steep, 90 minute route up to the glacier. Beautiful.

I had some lunch on my return. Then set off on the clearly marked trail to Refugio Lago Natacion. An easy add-on.

From Natacion down to the Azul Canyon, however, was surprisingly steep and overgrown. Not many people do the circuit, I suspect, because this one section is quite challenging.

The canyon is impressive once you finally get there.

At one point you can straddle the gap, a long way above the crystal clear water!

I was reminded of Tiger Leaping Gorge. A tiger could easily leap this gorge, but not the one in China.

Tired, I decided to illegally wild camp by the river rather than walk the extra hour down to my designated refugio campground.

The trail out to Warton is a road accessible to motor vehicles. Swimming this river is the attraction, not the trail itself.

If my directions sound too sketchy, consider buying a map for about $10.

Aoneker 1:50,000 El Bolson 
(covers the following refuges: Co.Lindo, Hielo Azul, Natacion, Atillio & El Reramal)

Aoneker 1:120,000 Comarca Andina del Paralelo 42°
(covers all the refuges in the El Bolson region)

related – A Guide to Trekking in El Bolson, Patagonia

climbing Piltriquitrón out of El Bolson, Argentina

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

Click PLAY or watch my HOW TO video on YouTube.

As many do on this popular hike, I walked from El Bolsón, centro. Three hours of dusty, but tranquil road walking to get to the parking lot.

(Actually, I tried a trail alternative recommended on my Maps.me app. Bad idea, as it turned out. Coming down I stuck to the road.)

Taxi would cost at least $25. Drivers don’t like going up here. You MIGHT be able to join up with others to split the cost at a collectivo office near the Via Bariloche bus station.

It took me about 4 hours to reach the Piltriquitrón hut and campground.

After a brief siesta I headed over to the nearby El Bosque Tallado (carved forest). $5 entrance.

There are over 50 crude wooden sculptures with new ones being added. A fire in 1978 inspired lead artist Marcelo López to initiate this tourist attraction.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

The refuge has a superb location. People can’t get enough of the vistas.

I enjoyed dinner at sunset, myself, overlooking El Bolsón.

Alpenglow was lovely this evening. I didn’t edit this photo.

I was on the summit trail by 9am next morning.

Pack horses were grazing free.

Easy going until the final scramble before the top.

There’s a 360 degree vista from the peak.

A German living in El Bolson just spend 5 days up in those craggy, intensely glaciated peaks. Because there are no alpine huts, he had that wilderness to himself.

I could clearly see Tronador volcano about 100km distant.

Rick atop Piltriquitrón

I had done the 1800m ascent over 2 days.

I was back down to the hut by Noon. Back to town, very tired, by 3pm. That’s 1800m of descent.

Supposedly it’s easy to hitchhike back down from Piltriquitrón. I had no luck.

Nahuel Huapi Traverse – day 4

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles 

 Refugio Segre (Italia) to Bariloche

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | video | info page

After surviving day 3 I assumed day 4 would be a breeze. A stroll down to the lake.

No. ☹️

It’s very difficult and perhaps the most dangerous section of all.

It’s another early morning scramble to navigate along the far side of Laguna Negra. Some fixed ropes help on the downclimb.

Alone I was following the Lonely Planet route on my phone, increasingly distancing myself from all the day hikers heading a different direction up to a famed ridge lookout.

Very unsure, I changed heading and followed them up to a fantastic vista.

Tronador

Turns out there are at least 2 routes out of Laguna Negra. Almost nobody does the LP variation any more.

From the ridge it turned out I’d be the only one that day trying for Lopez hut and Bariloche. Everyone else decided to take the easy way down including the big guided hiking group.

I was feeling fit and healthy. The weather perfect. Again.

I had to go for it.

Next — what else — a scramble along another ridge.

The views were beautiful today. Prettiest yet.

I came to the long, painful scree descent to another green, boggy valley. I crawled under a scrub tree at the bottom just to get some shade.

The similarly long ascent is on large, loose, sharp frost shattered rock. Going up is dangerous. I met 2 Argentinians descending there. SUPER dangerous. The worst of many bad slopes.

It took me about 2 hours of steady climbing to finally gain the ridge. It wasn’t until this point that I was convinced I would make the Traverse. The lake looked very close.

This was my final pass. It’s all downhill from here.

How to descend? Both left and right looked possible, but neither was appealing.

Turns out the trail takes you directly over the top of the rocks blocking the route.

There’s Lopez hut way below. Hours below.

It’s all scrambling to get there.

This seasonal snow melt tarn is one of the water sources for the hut.

I was getting close to civilization, however.

Here’s a water catchment pond at the hut. Not looking potable.

I got bad vibes in every way from Lopez hut. It’s privately run. Avoid it if you can.

I had lunch. Then headed down a likely looking trail with an escort.

Turned out I’d chosen a disused path on the wrong side of the creek.

Once we crossed to the true right, I quickly found the main trail down.

It was about a 2 hour wait for the next bus to town.

Jumping off close to my hostel I ran into British friends who had just returned from a different hike. We enjoyed a big carne and red wine feast at a Parilla restaurant on the lake.

Celebration. 🍷

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | video | info page