Tumamoc Hill is a nature preserve in Tucson, Arizona. It's presently maintained by the University of Arizona, and features a paved walking trail. The trail stretches only 1.5 miles, but extends up more than 700 feet from its starting elevation, making it a great cardio-climb.
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We recently found ourselves in Eugene for an extended period of time, so we took the opportunity to finally cross Kentucky Falls off the list. The trailhead road is rough and windy (definitely check road conditions before you go), and the trail is uphill the whole way back, but it’s so worth every minute!
A moderate 0.8-mile descent from the trailhead took us to Upper Kentucky Falls, a nice preview of what was to come, and also a very nice turnaround point for anyone not interested in the full 4.4-mile round-trip hike.
Continuing down the trail, we weaved through gorgeous old-growth Douglas fir for another 1.4 miles…
… until we reached our final destination: Lower Kentucky Falls and North Fork Falls.
(And that’s just Lower Kentucky Falls—the top photo shows a view of both Lower Kentucky and North Fork Falls.)
Because of the remoteness of the trailhead and the mid-week timing of our hike, we had these 100-foot twin falls to ourselves for a good hour—enough time to watch the abundant centipedes meandering across the logs, enjoy our lunch, and snap plenty of photos while gently easing our way across the slippery rocks.
We could’ve sat there for hours and hours, but the rains were coming, and after lunch it was time to head back. The return hike to the car was a steady, moderate uphill climb (what goes down must go up, after all), but certainly within the ability of anyone who is able to make it down the trail to the lower falls.
Our stay in Eugene has been unfortunately unexpected, but we’re doing our best to make the most of it. All of these beautiful waterfalls nearby are definitely helping. So, if life hands YOU lemons this summer, we highly recommend taking your freshly-squeezed lemonade on a picnic hike to Kentucky Falls!
Oh, and never mind the clear-cutting along the road to and from the falls—just look at the pretty wildflowers instead…
Water is frequently used as a symbol of change and life, and almost every culture and religion attaches a sacred view to moving water. Hinduism views waterfalls as a descent of abundance and light, and they are seen as a sacred tool of spiritual cleansing. Waterfalls are also often used in Chinese landscape art to symbolize the yin and yang with the mountains. In Buddhism, the downward flow of the waterfall is viewed by some as impermanence and change. As an element, the waterfall persists, but it is never the same. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus was inspired to ruminate on the waterfall as the continuous evolution of beings. The drops of water that make up the waterfall are renewed each second, just like the view in Buddhism of the purely illusory components of manifestation. Some Christians view waterfalls as symbols of the insistence of intentions, exceptional career luck, and invitation to delight the observer. In Japan, waterfalls are seen as sacred, and standing under them is believed to purify the spirit. In addition to water being one of the necessary elements for life on our planet, it appears to be a positive force on us holistically. Finding a waterfall hike in a close locale may take some research, but the following are several easily accessible hikes in the Southern California area.
Five waterfalls not to miss in Southern California
1. Tahquitz falls- Palm Springs
The Tahquitz Canyon Trail is a two-mile loop trail that leads to a hidden 50-foot waterfall, Tahquitz Falls. The trail is relatively easy, gains roughly 350 feet in elevation from the visitor center, and has several large rock steps. The property is owned by the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians, but is open to the public for a small fee.
2. Sturtevant Falls- Arcadia
This hike begins in Chantry Flats, and is 3.25 miles out and back, with a 300-foot elevation gain, ending with another beautiful 50-foot waterfall. Dogs are welcome on leashes. A National Forest Adventure Pass is required to park a vehicle at the trailhead at Chantry Flats. No permit is required to hike to Sturtevant Falls. This hike will also lead you to another smaller waterfall, Hermit Falls, approximately 2.5 miles farther downstream that is a hot spot for local cliff diving.
3. Monrovia Falls- Monrovia
This short, three-mile out-and-back hike starts at Monrovia Canyon Park Nature Center. It has a 400–675 elevation gain, depending on which trail you take, which takes you to this 30-foot waterfall. Dogs are allowed on the trails up to the falls. There is a small park entrance fee of $5.
4. Seeley Creek Falls & Heart Rock-Crestline
This 20-foot fall is roughly a one-mile out-and-back hike, and can be quite difficult to find. The waterfall itself is not the true draw for this hike. Instead, the base of the falls has caused a very unique heart-shaped cut-out in the rock large enough for two people.
5. San Antonio Falls- Mount Baldy
This is a multi-season 75-foot waterfall that carries water down Mt. Baldy, also known as Mt. San Antonio, a 10,069-ft. peak. The hike to San Antonio Falls is an easy 0.6 miles up a paved road to a dirt footpath that leads down to the falls. It is a 1.4-mile round trip hike with 300 feet of elevation gain.
Anyone driving south on I-5 between Oregon and California has seen them—those massive, intriguing plateaus right off the highway near Medford, also known as the Table Rocks. “I’ll get there someday,” most people say as they drive past.
Look, Northern Oregon people, I know how hard it is to pull yourself off the highway after a long weekend road-tripping down south. You’re tired, you’re hungry, you have to work the next day, and you just want to get home. Side stops and three- or five-mile hikes are not on your radar, but the Table Rocks are definitely worth planning for a few hours to enjoy!
Here in Rogue River this past Sunday, we had some lovely weather, so we headed for Lower Table Rock. It was great timing—the wildflowers, views of Mount McLoughlin, and vernal pools (microecosystems formed by rainwater that support the threatened fairy shrimp and endemic endangered dwarf woolly meadowfoam) were amazing.
Starting at the trailhead, you climb about 1.6 miles through shaded forest to the plateau pictured above. From here, you can take a side trail to a nice vista point, or continue along the flat open trail for about a mile to an even nicer vista at the south point.
Hiking along fire roads and air strips has never been appealing to me, but for some reason, it is great here.
The trail can get pretty crowded on nice days. We were very lucky that this was our view for a good portion of the mile-long flat portion:
And look at the birds! We’re not birders, but we do love the birds, and they were out in full force on Sunday—eagles and hawks soared up high; warblers, swallows, and a few others we didn’t recognize swooped and sang all along the trails.
Signage along the start of the trail provides information about local flora and fauna, as well as a brief history of the Takelma people who lived in the area for thousands of years. Nature plus education—now how much would you pay? (Answer: $0—there is no entry fee. Thank you, Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy!)
Several years ago, when I was driving from Klamath Falls to Portland, I was hungry, I was tired, and I had to work the next day, but I managed to eke it out in the Upper Table Rock three-mile trail. Now that I’ve hiked both, I can say that either trek is well worth the effort—and spring is definitely the time to go!
(Notes: Open year-round. No fee to enter. No dogs allowed on the trails.)
So often, we let the world pass us by. We never stop to hear the beauty of the wind through the leaves or the harmony of the birds’ songs. Instead of being “mindful,” we are “mind-full” of all that is stealing our joy and creativity. What if the key to restoring our physical health and emotional balance were as simple as taking a walk outside?
Value of hiking for the body and soul
We all know hiking is great exercise. It helps with the release of “feel-good” neurotransmitters that improve our moods and increase cardiovascular health. But what about your emotional and spiritual health? How often do you stop to listen to nature as you hike, or are you on a mission to summit and get home? When did you last take off your boots and walk barefoot through the soil? If you have, did you notice something different? Perhaps a whole new world that you missed?
Studies have shown that walking barefoot in nature can help the body balance by allowing it to absorb the Earth’s electrons, resulting in grounding, less pain, and better sleep. Shamans regularly practice nature divination hikes, which allow the practitioner to simply be in nature, listening to what the Earth wishes to tell you. There is research confirming that direct contact with nature increases mental health and psychological and spiritual development. Benefits include stress reduction, a sense of coherence and belonging, improved self-confidence and self-discipline, and a broader sense of community. John Burroughs, renowned naturalist, once said, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
Nature and Culture
This type of spiritual thinking is not a new concept. Native Americans have always seen the value of nature and all its life as sacred. They view nature as something we are a part of, not just living near. Nature provided healing herbs, food, and spiritual guidance. All this is right outside our doors, and we are an integral part of it. A simple walk in a park, or our backyards, can help get us in touch with the divinity of nature.
So the next time you go for a hike, or even a short walk in your neighborhood, stop and appreciate the healing properties around you. Remember the famous words of David Thoreau, “I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us right.” Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and be.
When you are ready to experience nature on a deeper level, try meditation in nature. If you have never meditated, do not feel overwhelmed. The following technique is very simple and can be performed sitting or lying, and with your eyes open or closed.
First, find a comfortable position and begin with a few deep breaths. Close your eyes and be present to what is being experienced. Notice how your body feels, as well as the activity of your mind and emotions. Experience whatever is present without resisting anything or trying to change it. Do this for about a minute.
Now bring your awareness to everything that you can experience in your surroundings. Feel the temperature of the air on your skin, the feeling of the breeze and the sun. Notice the sounds around you: birds, bees, crickets, flowing water. Listen to the symphony of nature. For the rest of the meditation, continue to experience these feelings and sounds. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the experience of nature.
As you meditate, you can see where your attention is naturally drawn, or purposefully scan for different experiences. You can also focus on one experience and notice the experience in greater detail. If it is a bird's song, notice the quality of the sound , as if you are going more deeply into the sound (it may seem to have a shape or texture). Don't analyze the sound and label it with your mind; simply notice the quality of it.
Once again, whenever you notice that the mind has become absorbed in thoughts, easily bring it back to the sounds and sensations of being in nature. At times, awareness of both the sensations from the environment and thoughts will be present. That's fine. Just return your focus to the experiences of nature.
You can now choose to focus only on the sounds you hear, or open your eyes. Simply experience the colors, shapes, sounds, movement of the birds, or whatever else you are experiencing. Let it be an experience without meaning and without reference to any other experience.
Experience everything with an open awareness, as if you've never experienced anything like it before. As always, when the mind wanders and becomes caught up in thought, simply bring it back to the experience of nature.