If 57 miles of smooth, hard-pack trail along a beautiful river valley are your thing, then grab your bike or hiking shoes and head for southwest Virginia. The New River State Park, which snakes from Fries to Pulaski with a side trail to Galax, is built on a railroad line that once served a thriving iron ore industry. There are campgrounds and bathrooms for bikers or backpackers and numerous entry points with parking. We walked a section and bicycled another; then I finally connected the river to the nation’s newest national park, West Virginia’s New River Gorge National Park, which we visited last spring. Sue and I were impressed with the condition of the trail and its amenities. Finally, there was something missing: hills. And hillsides of rhododendrons still had not blossomed even though April was nearing its end.
The red-rock trails of the Sedona, Arizona area are spectacular, but you need to secure parking at trailhead lots early, even before 8 a.m. in some cases. Thanks to a tip from a Montana couple we met on a hike, we explored a red-rock canyon near Camp Verde, without the crowds. The Bell Trail is an out-and-back 6.9 miles with 587 feet of elevation gain. “Don’t miss the Crack,” we were advised. The Crack is a fissure that features pools where Wet Beaver Creek passes. A couple of young guys were tempted, but resisted jumping into the cloudy water.