Part 1 of my year in review included hikes (some in the loosest sense of the word) from Scotland, mainland Europe and Jordan. This second part will cover the rest of my 2016 voluntary redundancy-funded travels in Asia and the US plus my favourite Irish hikes after returning home.
Top image: A view of Half Dome from the top of Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
Amman Citadel, Jordan
Part 1 included my visit to the World Heritage Site of Petra but I wanted to include another walk from Jordan. Located on on a prominent hilltop visible from much of the city (including the roof terrace of my budget hotel), the ancient Amman Citadel contains features from various civilizations plus a small archaeological museum. It’s a steep enough walk up to the site but a lovely place to wander around and take in the views over the city and down to the impressive Roman Theatre.
Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I was in Malaysia for just under a week but didn’t seem to see a huge amount, which I blamed on the stifling heat in late March. On my last evening I took a train out to this well known Hindu sacred site and tourist attraction which is built into a limestone hill. The hiking part consisted of walking the steep flight of steps up to the largest cave in the complex, guarded by a huge statue of the deity Murugan and past some fearless monkeys. Inside the tranquil, high-ceilinged space you can walk around a number of ornate shines.
Cat Ba Island, northern Vietnam
This was my favourite place in Vietnam, its laid back, seaside vibe contrasting with the frenetic, motorbike-dominated big cities like Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). I didn’t make it out to the island’s National Park and my boat trip around the iconic Halong Bay was cancelled due to poor visibility, but I did venture beyond the seafront bars and cafes of Cat Ba Town. One afternoon I hired a bike and spent a few hours cycling around the rural south of the island. On my last morning I hiked the steep track up to the once strategic Cannon Fort to take in the views over the island and the alien-looking karst islets surrounding it.
Cycling the City Walls, Xi’an, China
Xi’an was probably my favourite city on my whistlestop, small group tour of China. It had a great food and souvenir market, grand architecture which looked especially well when lit up at night, and was within easy reach of the famous Terracotta Warriors. One of our optional activities was cycling along the top of Xi’an’s 14km-long City Walls. It was a fantastic experience, helped by the easy surface and wide cycling space.
The Great Wall at Mutianyu, near Beijing, China
Walking along a (heavily restored) section of the Great Wall was one of those experiences of a lifetime. The incline was steep at times with high steps as the Wall climbed over the ridges. The views of jagged mountains were a welcome change after the urban sprawl of Beijing and it was fun exploring the regular watchtowers. Getting up to and down from the Wall was memorable too: most of our group chose to take a ‘ski lift’ up and toboggan down, before tucking into a tasty Subway at the bottom.
Various hikes in the US
I spent 6 1/2 weeks in the US from April to June, with very brief forays into Canada and Mexico. The bulk of this was on a fast-paced, mostly camping group tour from New York to San Francisco. As well as seeing some of the country’s top attractions and most iconic cities, we got to do lots of hikes, from short strolls to viewpoints to longer treks in National Parks. Here are some of my highlights.
The first hike on the tour, to Taughannock Falls in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. I’d actually visited this beautiful area the previous week to stay with old friends.
The Badlands in South Dakota was my first US National Park and wowed me with its vast landscape of irregular rock formations.
Wyoming’s Devil’s Tower is a truly breathtaking American icon. We did a great hike around its base and stayed at a campsite in its shadow.
The scenery and wildlife were amazing at Yellowstone National Park (we saw 11 bears) but for me the highlights were its unusual geothermal features, such as Grand Prismatic Spring.
We did a short but enjoyable hike overlooking Lake Tahoe, which straddles California and Nevada. We camped close to the lakeshore and I got some great sunset views too.
Standing inside a fallen giant Sequoia tree in Yosemite National Park, California. You can walk (crouch) most of the way through this one.
The longest and most scenic hike on my travels, the 14km Panorama Trail at Yosemite running from Glacier Point to the Valley floor. Pictured is Yosemite Falls, North America’s highest waterfall.
Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
The City on the Bay is a great place to wander around and I initially planned to walk to and across its most famous sight. I changed my mind, though, after realisng it was going to take me all day to get out there and back. I picked up a hire bicycle en route and cycled the rest of the distance, making use of the mostly off-road paths. The wind on top was savage and I chose not to go any further because of time restraints (some of my tour mates cycled onto the village of Sausalito), but it was still a fantastic San Francisco experience.
Back in Ireland
I did some great hikes in the second half of 2016 after my return home, from my ‘local’ Sperrin Mountains to further afield. Here are some of my favourites.
My first Irish hike of 2016 was the Black Ditch loop in north west County Mayo. The wild coastal scenery kept changing but my favourite view was out to the Stags of Broadhaven.
My second visit to Benbradagh in the Sperrins, doing a loop route from the Walk NI website. I love the views from the top of this hill, over the main range, the Roe Valley and across Lough Foyle.
2016 was the year I finished my challenge to get to the top of each of Ireland’s 32 counties, ending with Moylussa in Clare (top) and Knockmealdown in Waterford (bottom) in July. Read my Irish County High Point Round-up.
In late August I did an enjoyable 10km point-to-point hike in the Sperrins from Altbritain Forest to the County Rock (pictured), via Mullaghaneany and Meenard mountains.
My second time doing the full Crockbrack Way, an excellent waymarked trail in the Sperrins. I was lucky on top to get some wonderful autumnal evening light. Read more.
Another visit to Trostan, the highest point in County Antrim. This time we took a longer but dryer and much enjoyable route up the mountain. Read more.
A great day out in County Leitrim enjoying the views from Boleybrack and Lackagh Mountain. Read more.
A chance to walk in heavy snow in the Sperrins in November, on a loop walk of Goles Forest and Carnanelly. Read more.
A challenging, pre-Christmas hike on Aghla Mountain in Donegal with excellent views over Lough Finn and beyond. Read more.
Back in the Sperrins for a post-Christmas and final hike of 2016: another enjoyable linear route, from Lough Ouske to Lough Lark via Carnanelly. Read more.
You might also like Part 1 of my 2016 Hikes and Cycles in Review.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to leave a comment or share via social media (buttons below).