Hiking in the Alps - Day 3 & 4

On our third, and last full, day we decided to tackle two 1/2-day hikes:  one to the start of a glacier and the other a relatively flat walk with views similar to the day before.  As we walked out of Gimmelwald, we descended down and walked along a river, which was fed by the glacier we were hoping to find.  The path was much less populated than the previous day and we saw only a handful of people along the way.  When we reached the hike's terminus, we were the only ones around as far as the eye could see.  We counted waterfalls (14), skipped rocks, built cairns and thoroughly explored this magical place.  The kids loved it and it was a push to get them to leave.

After a quick trip on the cable car up to Murren, we started out on our second hike of the day to Grutschalp.  This route was much more popular and we encountered lots of people out for a quick hike to enjoy the surrounding scenery..  

We caught the train (seen in the picture above) back to Murren and made our way back to our apartment at Esther's to pack up and get ready to leave early the next morning.  Before we left the area, we stopped at Trummelbach Fallslocated in the valley nearby.  The melting snows of the Jungfrau have carved through the stone to create Europe's largest subterranean waterfall.  You take an elevator located inside of the mountain up 6 stories and explore waterfalls 6-10 before making your way down to see waterfalls 1-5.  Truly an awe-inspiring (and chilly) sight!

At the base of the falls, there is a nice cafe with good coffee and snacks on offer.  It's also a great place to get in a game of chopsticks, if you like that kind of thing.

Hiking in the Alps - Day 2

We awoke to beautiful blue skies and fantastic 360-degree views.  After consulting all the hiking routes suggested on the Gimmelwald website, we decided to take Hike 5, the Scenic, described as an easy 1 1/2-mile loop.  

The hike begins near the funicular station at the top of Allmendhubel, so we hiked up to Murren via the steep path behind our guesthouse and spotted some local fauna along the way.

Once we got off the funicular, we discovered a fantastic playground.  The entire area was imaginatively designed including everything from zip lines to groundhog tunnels to a barn with plastic cows to "milk".  

As we hiked, we stumbled upon an inn located in what felt like the middle of nowhere, Pension Suppenalp.  Lunch was served on a patio with an unbeatable view (pretty much the theme of our time in the Alps).  Surprisingly this was one of the best meals of our trip.  I had a traditional Swiss meal of rosti, which is basically hash browns with cheese, eggs, and bacon on top.  The kids topped off the meal with a delicious slice of chocolate cake with extra whipped cream.

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the scenery:  the profusion of wildflowers in bloom, the sound of cow bells tinkling in the pastures, the view of the Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger mountains looming above us, the paragliders drifting down through the valley.

We ended the day at the other restaurant in Gimmelwald at the Mountain Hostel.  The restaurant is primarily a pizzeria but there is also a daily pasta special on offer.  The pizzas were delicious and just what we needed after a day spent in the fresh air.  Then we were off to bed to rest up for another day on the trails tomorrow.  

Santa Fe, Part II

We spent most of our week outdoors enjoying the amazing scenery Santa Fe and its surrounding environs had to offer.  All of the hikes we did are kid friendly in that they were neither too long nor too difficult and had plenty of features to keep everyone interested.

The first area we explored was Bandalier National Monument, which is a collection of dwellings that were first inhabited by Native Americans over 11,000 years ago.  The 1.2 mile trail is mostly paved and almost completely flat.  The kids loved climbing in and exploring some of the caves that were carved out of the soft volcanic rock.  


A couple of tips about this hike:  Arrive early (before 9:00 a.m.) and you can drive right into the park.  Any later and you have to take a shuttle bus to and from the site from nearby White Rocks which takes about 30 minutes.  By arriving early you also get the site almost to yourself and miss the midday sun which can be intense.

There is an additional .5-mile walk out to the Alcove House site.  It is well worth the walk just for the pleasure of walking through the forest and along a little stream and taking in the sight of the cliffs from afar.  


Unfortunately, the Alcove House site is accessed by 4 wooden ladders much taller than the one in the picture above and a series of stone stairs, which we didn't feel Ava could manage so we turned back.  

There is almost no signage along the way so be sure to stop in the information center and gift shop.  There are brochures and handouts that outline all of the hikes and give a clearer picture of who built the dwellings and how they lived.  The gift shop has a small book about Bandelier geared toward kids but it answered a lot of the questions Alan and I had as well so look out for that.  The shop has some cool postcards and a very good selection of books for both kids and adults.  There is a also restaurant to grab water or a snack.

The next hike was also to visit some cave dwellings but much less popular than Bandelier.  It is called Tsankawi and is about a 20 minute drive from Bandelier so the two hikes can easily be done in one morning.  It is a 1.5-mile loop and although it does require navigating some ladders, everyone managed with no problems.  The path is over tufa (a very soft type of volcanic rock) and as such you are walking in troughs carved out by the thousands of footsteps that have come before you.  Although Alan and I took to calling some of these troughs "ankle breakers," the kids loved that they were just the right size for them.


One of the most exciting parts of the hike was coming upon bits of ancient pottery scattered across the path.  In one spot we quickly found 4-5 pieces to add to the display someone had already begun.

A third hike in this area is the Valle Grande trail in the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  The caldera stretches over 22 miles across and was formed over a million years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions.  This hike is an easy 2 miles round trip through a beautiful forest and lots of wildflowers.  Then you come out of the forest to this...

We had hoped to spot a large herd of elk that roams the caldera but had to settle for small specks in the distance.  

We did all three of the above hikes in one day and although it may sound crazy, it is very doable.  We knocked out Bandelier and Tsankawi in the morning, grabbed a quick lunch in Los Alamos, headed out to Valles Caldera and were still home in time for a swim before dinner!

We took one more hike on our last day and it was my favorite one of the whole trip, to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.  Most of the guidebooks list this as the top hike in the area and it definitely delivered.  We were advised to get an early start and bring lots of water and we were glad we did both.  The hike is a little over 2 miles total but there are some steep climbs.  You start by heading through a slot canyon which was unlike anything I've ever seen.

The kids loved scrambling up, over and sometimes under the rocks.  Along the way you get a glimpse of the rock formations for which the park is named.  Over time, water and wind have eroded the volcanic rock into these tent forms with little "hats" on top.

This is a very popular hike and I think we saw more people here than on the rest of our other hikes combined (another reason to get an early start).  At the top you are rewarded with the most amazing views and the knowledge that it is all downhill from here.

The whole hike only takes about 2-3 hours and we wanted to check out a hike to some hot springs we had read about but unfortunately it was too far of a drive.  One of the many things to put on our list of things to do next time!