Where: Banff, Alberta
Hike: Shark Mountain – Mount Assiniboine
Distance: Approx 60km Loop
Time: 3-4 days
There are many ways to hike this loop, so take as much or as little time as you need. The following is the way in which I did it:
Day one– Mt. Shark Parking to BR14 camping. 13km
The campground must be booked through Banff National Park, before you venture out hiking. You have to pay for a permit and the overnight camping fee which is relatively inexpensive. The road to Shark Mountain is a 40km gravel and pothole nightmare, take it slow (unless you are in a 4×4) and leave plenty of time to arrive. Set out on the hike after midday and you will be there by dinner time. The first part is a rather dull hike along a cross country ski track; this also makes it easy.
Day two– BR14 to Magog Lake Campground (via Assiniboine Pass). 14km
No need to rush in the morning as you will arrive in plenty of time. There is a bit of a climb at the end and gorgeous meadow views. Tea, cake and beer are served at Assiniboine Lodge from 4-5pm, so it is good to have your camp set up in time for that. Magog Lake Campground doesn’t need to be booked in advance, it is not part of Banff NP. There is a large overflow area so you will definitely be able to camp for the night, no matter what.
Take this as a day to not have to carry all your gear, explore Assiniboine as it is incredible. Revel in the fact that there is no road access; only helicopter, bike and foot. Nub peak offers spectacular views without being too long or difficult, Lake Elizabeth is a good lunch spot, take insect repellant as there are mosquitos everywhere in summer.
Day four– Magog Lake to Shark Mountain Parking (via Wonder Pass). 26km
This can be broken up with a stay at a campground if you aren’t feeling fit, hiking out in a day requires an early start and makes for a long day. The route offers views of glacier and mountain range over Marvel Lake, you will realise why it is called ‘Wonder Pass’. There is a lot of walking down, be prepared for the final part to seem infinite once you hit the Watridge Lake Trail. After your long day hiking out, the best place to sleep
Where: Grand Canyon NP, Arizona
Hike: North Kaibab Trail
Distance: 45 km
Time: 3 days
Hiking rim to rim is a great idea -if you can afford the $90 return bus fare around the canyon, this multi day hike offers a cheaper and quieter alternative. Permits and campsites in the Grand Canyon should be booked far in advance if possible, you may also be lucky enough to find space and permits for the following day, get there as early as possible to find out. The following route was recommended by a park ranger.
Day One– North Rim to Cottonwood Campground (10.9 km)
Start early as the day can be nauseatingly hot, you will be pleased that you aren’t hiking the uphill portion just yet. You will arrive at Cottonwood early, giving you a decent pick of camping spots with shade. If you have checked the weather and it looks as if it will be really hot, consider only taking your sleeping bag liner and inner tent section to shed some weight from your pack. There are plenty of water points on the way down, and you can nearly always reach the river at the bottom of the canyon.
Cottonwood to Ribbon Falls (4.8km)
This is a side trip worth doing, the water fall is cool and refreshing in the heat of the canyon and you may be lucky enough to have it to yourself. Rest up at Cottonwood, then venture to the waterfall and wait until the hottest part of the day is over before setting off back to the campground.
Day Two– Cottonwood to Colorado River and back (23km)
Start early to avoid the heat, fill up plenty of water as it is a long hike. When you reach Phantom Ranch you are able to relax, buy a lemonade or a beer and sit in the shade. Whenever the creek crosses the path soak your hat and your clothes to stay cool. Save hiking back to Cottonwood until the sun is starting to go down. Making the most of your day in the canyon is important, it seems silly to carry all your camping gear down, just to hike back out the following day.
Day Three– Cottonwood to North Rim (10.9km)
Remember that this part of the hike is all uphill and will take you longer than it did on the way in. Try and beat the heat by rising and packing up early, be sure to leave no trace and avoid the mules.