My Top Ten Hikes of 2022

Top Ten Hikes of 2022

It’s that time of the year for retrospection.

I’ve posted my Top Ten Songs of 2022. I’ve posted my Top Ten Books of 2022. And now, I’m following the pattern that I established in previous years: turning my attention to hikes that I’ve been privileged to enjoy in the past year. Hiking has remained one of my favorite ways to experience the world, and to experience intimacy with God.

I got to do a lot of amazing hikes this year! My summer of staffing the Collegiate Church Network’s Leadership Training program, alone, provided ample opportunities for hiking in the Rocky Mountains. And then we got to head further west, after that, hitting numerous interesting spots in Utah and Nevada. So it was hard to narrow down the list to just my Top Ten Hikes!

But it wasn’t just far-flung trails that I got to hike. I also finished hiking every public trail in Geauga County (just to the north of Portage County). I participated in the “Fall Hiking Spree” in Summit County (just to the west of Portage County). And I started my next quest to hike every public trail in Mahoning County (just to the east of Portage County).

So anyway — without further preamble, here are my Top Ten Hikes of 2022, in ranked order:

  1. Chief’s Head (Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado), on July 13th
  2. Navajo Loop (Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah), on July 24th
  3. Eagle Point (Joshua Tree National Park, in California), on January 21st
  4. Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Charlie’s Bunion (Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Eastern Tennessee), on March 29th
  5. Chasm Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado), on July 9th
  6. Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, and the Amerine Valley (Hocking Hills State Park, in Southeast Ohio), on April 9th
  7. Snow Lake Overlook (Lucia S. Nash Nature Preserve, in Geauga County), on October 10th
  8. Gorge Trails (Gorge Metro Park, in Summit County), on September 16th
  9. The Hunt for the Great White Stag along the Bear’s Dean Trail (Mill Creek Park, in Mahoning County), on December 2nd
  10. Bristlecone Trail (Great Basin National Park, in Nevada), on July 22nd

And as usual, for those who would appreciate more context, my explanations for each selection are included with the listing (reverse rank-order), below:

Great Basin National Park

#10 – Bristlecone Trail (Great Basin National Park, in Nevada), on July 22nd

Nevada’s Great Basin is such a weird and wonderful part of North America. It’s so remote that I’m not sure I’ll ever get back there again in my life. Still, I’m very glad that I got to go this summer with Marci and Cor. We dealt with sweltering heat for most of our time in the region, but it was amazing to see how quickly things cooled off when we got off the floor of the Basin and gained some elevation. The air temperature was in the low-70s (Fahrenheit) for this hike. It was amazing to see these bristlecone pine trees, as they represent some of the oldest living organisms on earth!

Mill Creek Park: Wick Recreation Area

#9 – The Hunt for the Great White Stag along the Bear’s Dean Trail (Mill Creek Park, in Mahoning County), on December 2nd

I wrote about this experience at the beginning of this month, but the adventure basically started when I found an albino deer in the forest. I texted a friend from the area to share the experience. And then he told me that he’s heard of others in Youngstown spotting a Great White Stag (presumably the fawn’s father?). So I spent the rest of my hike looking for this mythical, magical, legendary creature. I never succeeded in finding this Great White Stag. But just a little later, the forest transformed into a valley of bubbling boulders, all covered in vibrant green moss. And shortly after that, it seemed like the earth started cracking open — ledges, like in the Cuyahoga Valley or Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park — but, again, unusually-green moss covering everything, standing out brilliantly in an otherwise drab environment of gray and brown. It was an amazing experience!

Gorge Metropark

#8 – Gorge Trails (Gorge Metro Park, in Summit County), on September 16th

I firmly believe that the best month of the year in Ohio is mid-September to mid-October. And it just so happened that I finally decided to join the Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Spree (“the largest and longest-running event of its kind in the nation”) for this magical month. So, this hike represented the perfect place at the perfect time. It felt great to spend some extended time with God in the Gorge Metro Park on such a beautiful day. The cliffs, caves, and waterfalls of the Cuyahoga Valley refreshed my soul and provided invaluable space to reflect. And I really feel like God gave me some significant insight on this hike. But under any circumstances, this is a pretty special place — and it’s remarkably close to where I live. So, I’m especially glad that I know about it now.

Outing to Lucia S. Nash Nature Preserve with Eric, Dave, and Jan

#7 – Snow Lake Overlook (Lucia S. Nash Nature Preserve, in Geauga County), on October 10th

I blogged about this back in October, but this hike was extra-special because I got to do it with my parents. We wanted to crunch our way through the fallen leaves… to bask in the golden sunlight filtered through the thinning fall foliage… and to feel the wind on our faces, blown across the surface of Snow Lake. So we did. And it was glorious. Especially with my Dad’s Parkinson’s Disease and my Mom’s Multiple Sclerosis, it felt like a gift to enjoy a nearly perfect afternoon together at Snow Lake. The Lucia S. Nash Nature Preserve is also one of the most amazing, most quiet places I’ve experienced in Northeast Ohio, so even without the sentimental components, this ranks pretty high as a destination.

Hocking Hills Hike: Cedar Falls

#6 – Cedar Falls and Ash Cave (Hocking Hills State Park, in Southeast Ohio), on April 9th

I legitimately think that Ohio’s Hocking Hills State Park could be a National Park. It’s that special and spectacular. I appreciated the opportunity to take this hike during some scheduled “Free Time” in a retreat for H2O Akron. The church was in the process of shutting down, due to insufficient staffing. So, I was asked to share some of my experiences from Amsterdam. And sincerely, it was really good that I could take advantage of that ministry opportunity. At the same time, considering the emotional weight of the conversations we were having, it was also really good to get some free time on out the trails. Cedar Falls is amazing! Ash Cave is breathtaking! And it just felt hopeful to see some of the early signs of spring coming to Southeast Ohio.

Chasm Lake with Cor

#5 – Chasm Lake (Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado), on July 9th

I’ve done this hike before, and I remembered it fondly. But I was freshly blown away by the waterfalls, the mountain vistas, the lakes, and the general beauty of the Rocky Mountains this time around. I believe the hike to Chasm Lake is one of the top three hikes in the Rocky Mountain National Park. And the experience was made all the more special because I got to do it with my son, Cor. We had perfect weather, epic scenery, and the half-mile from our parking spot to the trailhead allowed us to hit double-digit mileage on our Garmin watches!

Smoky Mountains Retreat: Hike to Charlie's Bunion

#4 – Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to Charlie’s Bunion (Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Eastern Tennessee), on March 29th

Ridge hikes may be the best sorts of hikes. There’s less elevation change to wear you down, and you get clear mountain vistas on either side of the trail. And this ridge section of the Appalachian Trail is especially epic because you’re basically walking along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. I did this hike with a large group of students from H2O Church at Kent State University. But it was also special because one of those students was my oldest son, Elliot. And my younger son, Cor, also came along for the adventure. The best viewpoint (and the best pictures) can be found at Massa Knob. But the geological feature known as Charlie’s Bunion is a little bit further up the trail.

Joshua Tree WilderneSS Experience

#3 – Eagle Point (Joshua Tree National Park, in California), on January 21st

Back in January, I got to participate in an eight-day experience of practicing spiritual disciplines in the wilderness of Joshua Tree National Park. It impacted me on many different levels. But purely from a hiking perspective, this ended up being a special experience because I had never previously spent much time in the desert. One day, I decided to attempt a summit of Eagle Mountain. But I ended up settling for a spot I called “Eagle Point” because I didn’t bring enough water, and I was already starting to feel the physical effects of fasting. Even so, it was a magnificent place to watch the sun rise and sit with God. I appreciated the desolation, but also the subtle signs of life in that teemed in that region.

Bryce Canyon National Park

#2 – Navajo Loop (Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah), on July 24th

My favorite thing about this hike was how unexpected it was and how accessible it was. From talking with friends and researching things online, I had developed the impression that Bryce Canyon National Park was mostly a “drive-by destination.” Almost as if everything that there was to be seen could be seen from the parking lot at the rim of the canyon. And honestly, the view from the parking lot at the rim of the canyon is pretty astounding. But there are also relatively short, relatively easy hikes available from that same parking lot that drop you down into the canyon. And it’s such a surreal and sublime experience to hike among those hoodoos. Marci, Olivia, Cor, and I got to do this one together, and I’m so glad.

Chiefs Head Peak with Clay, Annie, and Marcel

#1 – Chiefs Head (Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado), on July 13th

Best hike of the year. And best hike of the Rocky Mountain National Park (significantly better than Longs Peak). One of my favorite thing about this hike is that it’s a loop, not an out-and-back. So, our group never saw the same section of trail twice. There’s also a really lovely variety of scenery on this hike: forests… rivers… lakes… waterfalls… alpine tundra… My favorite part of the hike to Chiefs Head, though, was the part where we hiked through meadows filled with wildflowers! The ascent towards Chiefs Head also provided us with dramatic views of Mount Meeker, Longs Peak, and Pagoda Mountain. I wrote a longer report with more pictures back in July, in case you want to read about this topmost of my Top Ten Hikes.

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