As one of the most iconic geologic formations in the world, a very popular hike in Utah, and the state license plate, I couldn't believe I hadn't been to Delicate Arch after living in Utah for a year and a half. My dad and brother were in Utah visiting, so on our Moab trip we chose Delicate Arch as our Arches NP hike.
At 3 miles round trip, this hike shouldn't be underestimated. The elevation gain is only 480 ft, but you pretty much climb this all at once. If you come from somewhere like Tennessee where the height above sea level is 740 ft, you're going to struggle. Luckily I've acclimated to much higher elevations that Moab, so it wasn't an issue for me. Take a break when you need it and BRING WATER. We went on a day that started rainy, cloudy and in the 70s and ended at 99 and sunny. The heat can kill you. Delicate Arch is a popular place for ranger rescues due to hikers underestimating the difficulty and dehydration. If you're physically fit though, this hike should be a breeze.
Follow the "trail" signage until you reach a narrow pathway. Delicate Arch is just a around the corner! (I took most of the photos on the way back down, so imagine coming up this instead!)
There isn't a shortage of people at the arch. If you are patient, you'll be able to catch a photo without 50 people in it. You can also walk down under the arch, but we opted to just sit and enjoy. We hung out on some rocks and took it all in for about an hour before heading back down.
The views you are rewarded with are amazing!
There are vault toilets, trash, and recycling at the parking lot. We went on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, and the parking lot was pretty full. Try to avoid weekends and arrive early on weekdays. Also, Arches is closing the park every weeknight at 7pm for road construction. Keep that in mind before starting any late afternoon hikes.
Karl and I were in Augusta Georgia for an extended weekend for one of his best friend's wedding in which he was a groomsmen. Georgia in April is H-O-T. I spent almost all of my life living in the south, but after a year in Utah I forgot how hot and humid it could be. (My hair was a mess all weekend). It was refreshing to get some sun though!
Since Karl was a groomsmen and the wedding wasn't til the evening on Saturday, I needed to find a way to fill my day. After dropping Karl off for groomsmen festivities, I pulled up my Apple Maps. One of my favorite ways to find parks and monuments nearby that might not pull up in a Google search is to zoom in and out on the maps until I find something of interest. I came across Congaree National Park in South Carolina (about an hour and a half from Augusta, GA) - a NP that I had never heard of!
I drove from Augusta to Congaree via Columbia, SC in a little less than an hour and half. Upon arriving, I went into the Visitor Center to show my parks pass only to find out this is a fee free park! I grabbed a map and headed out on the Boardwalk Loop Trail - 2.4 miles.
Since the park lies on floodplains, everything is very flat. Congaree is actually the largest tract of bottomland hardwood forest. The particular trail I chose was on a boardwalk constructed over the plains. There are benches along the way for enjoying the scenery. Congaree is very lush! I also saw tons of lizards/geckos/salamanders (I cannot tell the difference).
I didn't have very much time too spend here as I had to be back in time to get ready to attend the wedding - however I did notice that you can rent kayaks/canoes and tour the flooded areas!
Since I have a "real" job now, most of our traveling is limited to weekend excursions. We had initially planned on heading to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, but since it was President's Day Weekend, I heard the entrance lines were crazy long. Looking at the trusty atlas, we decided on Mojave National Preserve, just another 1hr 45 min farther down I-15.
We arrived at the exit for Mojave about 2am, and spent another hour driving in the dark down Joshua tree lined roads looking for a turnout that wasn't already occupied. While there are designated pay camping spots in the interior of the preserve, there is also roadside camping. As long as the spots are already cleared and have a fire ring, you are welcome to pitch a tent (or sleep in your car like we did). We got lucky with our spot. Once we woke up to the foggy sunrise, we realized we had probably found the most beautiful spot of all.
After a couple breakfast beers and vodka shots (something had to keep us awake after 3 hours of "sleep"), we were off to hike Teutonia Peak. This 4 mile RT takes you through the densest Joshua Tree forest in the world. There was SO much plant life and some awesome rock formations. The fog was so heavy that we couldn't really see anything once we ascended the peak. The best part about this hike was starting it early (like 6:45am) and being the only people out there. We passed by the trailhead a little later in the day and it was packed.
After a stop to the visitor center - which is in an old train station - we decided to head to Kelso Dunes. It was one of three more hikes we wanted to do that day, but two were going to be impossible with Buddy. If you don't take your dog, I would recommend checking out the lava tube hike (it descends down a metal ladder) and the Hole in the Wall Rings Trail which literally involves climbing on metal rings.
The Kelso Dunes trail it 3-4 mile RT give or take, depending on what path you choose. After walking in the sand for what seems like forever, you finally will start to ascend 700 ft. Straight up. In sand. If you go at 1pm like we did, you will be in full sun. 55 degrees felt more like a solid 100, and we both got sunburnt. We did give all our our water to Buddy because I felt bad making a predominantly black dog hike up sand in full sun. There is no established trail once you start up the dunes, just pick what looks most gradual. We spent some time at the top of the tallest dune before venturing on to the smaller dunes. The views from the dunes are incredible.
Tips for visiting the Mojave:
And now for 1 million photos of plants!
We've visited Zion quite a few times since moving to Utah. At about 5 hours from Salt Lake, it is totally doable to get many different views in just one day. 3 easy "hikes", Get behind a waterfall, get views of the canyon floor, and walk next to the Virgin River at the base of the canyon. If you are strapped for time, you can definitely do all three in about 4 hours. As much as I would love to do Angel's Landing, I know that my body was freeze up with panic and anxiety once I reached the narrow area with chains. We opted to hike a few shorter trails instead.
Canyon Overlook Trail- 1 mile roudtrip
We arrived at Zion about 1 pm. That meant we had 5 hours of daylight. We showed our parks pass and immediately headed for the Canyon Overlook Trail. If you are coming in from Springdale, take Mount Carmel Hwy through the tunnel. Once you exit the tunnel, the parking lot is on your right with the trailhead across the street. The first 5 minutes were icy, but after that it was dry, You will pass across a bridge, through a cave opening, and eventually to the slick rock. After climbing up on the rocks, you will be rewarded with view of the canyon. This trail is rated as moderate, but I would definitely say it was more on the easy side. Children should be watched carefully as some of the trail is narrow, slick, and a looooong tumble to the bottom. We spent a total of an hour on this trail and that includes all of the picture taking along the way.
Weeping Rock- .5 mile roundtrip
So this can even be considered a hike, I have seen in on Instagram and Pinterest so many times and couldn't miss it. The "trail" is paved and took us about 5 minutes to walk up. Once you are at the wall, you will take a few steps up and be directly behind the waterfall. It was beautiful, but very crowded since it was so accessible. However, you can't pass up the opportunity to walk behind a waterfall!
Riverside Walk - 2 miles roundtrip
Riverside walk is at the very end of Zion Scenic Drive. This hike takes you right next to the Virgin River. It is paved and wheelchairs and strollers could easy navigate the path. About halfway in, we encountered a "trail closed due to ice" sign. For one of the first times ever, I broke the rules and stepped over the chain. There were some patches of ice, but nothing my Chacos couldn't handle. The end of the trails puts you at the opening of the Narrows, which we are planning on returning to do. There were lots of places along this trail to step off the pavement and scale some boulders to the river. We even saw a ton of deer. I highly recommend this hike if you are not a hiker but want some incredible views.
We were planning on hiking the Emerald Pools but the trail was closed due to rock fall. We instead headed back into Springdale for dinner at the Zion Canyon Brew Pub. Since the weather was nice, we sat on the patio and enjoyed local brews. I had the Passionfruit Sour and a buffalo meatloaf burger. The views with dinner was A+!
What's your favorite trail in Zion? We can't wait to go back soon to hike the Narrows!
The car was packed with people & we were headed from SLC on a one day, whirlwind drive through trip of Zion and the Grand Canyon.... nothing special, just getting away from the city to see some red rock. Headed down the interstate, out running a hail storm, and 40 miles from Zion, we saw signs for Kolob Canyons - exit 40 off of i-15 South. Of course we had to stop, and boy were we glad.
It turned out that Kolob Canyons was actually part of Zion! You'll need to show an interagency pass or pay the Zion fee at the ranger station. From here you can take a 5 mile scenic drive through the 2000 ft walls. We were getting out of the car every 30 seconds just to revel in the beauty.
Once we got to the top where the road ended, there was a trail the looked like it went to a pretty sweet overlook. Too bad that hailstorm had caught up with us at this point, so we snapped a few more pictures and began the chase to Zion.
Unfortunately, this road doesn't connect to Zion, but its a quick jaunt back to the interstate. It is truly worth the quick pit stop. You can easily spend 15 minutes up to an hour here. Plus if you need to buy a pass into Zion, I would recommend stopping here! At any point, Kolob Canyons was not crowded at all!
As I begin to write this, I'm still unsure of how we fit so much into one weekend. We packed up and left Salt Lake around 3:30pm headed toward South Dakota. We decided that it was now or never to make the drive to the Badlands before winter really set in. We took turns driving throughout the night before we got a few hours sleep in the back of the car. The Subaru made the perfect bed. With the seats folded down, a mattress topper and 400 furry blankets, two people fit comfortably and we weren't surprisingly cold. It was also awesome just for the fact of if you weren't driving, you could relax/nap - however, I'm almost certain its illegal to not be buckled and in an seat. Oops.
We made it to Mount Rushmore first. Coming around a corner on the highway, four giant stone heads appear. They were huge! While the monument itself is free, parking is $10 and interagency passes don't work. I even tried to use my government id card for free parking to no avail. Leading up to the monument are flags for each of the 50 states. After we found Alabama, Tennessee, and Utah, we made our way to the viewing deck.... and then maybe stared at it for 10 minutes before heading back to the car. Not to knock Mount Rushmore - it is amazing- but the real destination was Badlands. Plus how long can you really look at dead president heads?
The drive from Mount Rushmore to the Badlands was quick and scenic. We first entered the park on the highway, nowhere near the visitors center. I got out to take a photo of the sign and noticed a field full of prairie dogs! They were scurrying around, popping in and out the their dugouts, and making the cutest noises ever. There was a sign stating to stay back because apparently their fleas can carry the plague. As much as I wanted to get close, I really don't need the plague.
We drove for a few more miles leaving and then reentering the park. We stopped at the visitors center for the traditional magnet and postcard and of course a map. The ranger recommended a few trails and pullouts. A lot of the trails are actually boardwalks to protoect the living ground, so they were easy to traverse. At a few pullouts we actually could venture down into the badlands, which was a little sketchy at times considering the wind. We got up close and personal to some big horn sheep who apparently love to do the mannequin challenge in the road.
We slept in the car again (my new favorite way to travel by the way), and then headed to Devils Tower National Monument. Devils Tower is actually in Wyoming, but is super close to the interstate and was on our way home. Just like Rushmore, you are driving down the highway and then all of a sudden you see it - it was huge. I still can't put into words how amazing it was to see flat land and this giant structure coming from the ground-visible miles away. Devils Tower is a Native American sacred site where a lot of tribal members come to pray. You could definitely feel something special in the air there and prayer tokes swayed from tree limbs. There is a trail that circles the entire tower and I recommend walking this (it is super easy). We spent two hours here enjoying the different views and angles of the tower.
There are so many more places in the Dakota Territory and the Black Hills worth exploring. I can't wait to plan a trip back!
The first week of December, we headed to the Rockies for a little mountain getaway. On the top of our list of things to do was dog sledding. I was very worried there wasn't going to be enough snow, but luckily the week before we arrived Colorado got finally entered winter.
We chose Snow Buddy Dog Sledding Tours our of Steamboat Springs and couldn't have been happier. Although we were staying in Winter Park, we made the icy drive to Steamboat and were not disappointed. We pulled up to a closed road in the Routt National Forest and were greeted by our guide and Snow Buddy owner, Sarah. Sarah and her crew were absolutely amazing. We started off with a quick safety lesson and before we knew it, we were harnessing up the dogs.
I loved this activity so much. Not only were we getting to play with the friendliest and snuggliest dogs I have ever met (sorry, Buddy), but we were hands on with the sledding process. We learned how to harness the dogs and hook the up to the sled. These dogs knew it was time to run, and boy were they excited.
We sledded through Dunckley pass by the Yampa with stunning views of the Flat Tops. Even though the temperature was in the negatives and we were going 15mph, I was never cold. We eventually arrived at a cabin and let the dogs run free. Inside there was a toasty fire, and Sarah made everyone hot chocolate. A fiesty little dog named Whisper realy wanted my mashmallows!
We hooked the dogs back up and sledded back toward where we had parked. Once we arrived back, it was time to feed the puppers! I was happy to help lay out bowls and feed these dogs their raw beef stew. I didn't want to leave! I could've stayed and loved on these doggos for the rest of my life.
If you are in the Steamboat, Vail, Winter Park area, you HAVE to do this!
CLICK HERE TO VISIT SNOW BUDDY'S WEBPAGE!
I'm always trying to figure out how to see another National Park in my free time. I've grown to love National Monuments and Reserves just as much. I spend a lot of time looking over maps, figuring out gas mileage, and planning my next trip. However, some trips, like this one, are spur of the moment. My sister and I randomly decided to take a road trip (never waste a day!) & I knew City of Rocks was only 3 hours away in Idaho.
City of Rocks is in a rather remote part of Idaho. Idaho interstates have more "Stay Alert", "High Wind Area", and "Frequent Wildlife Crossing" signs than I did gas stations. However, Idaho is one freaking beautiful state, and the drive to City of Rocks takes you through some beautiful backcountry.
There is a small visitor center, which was closed when we arrived. In the parking lot were some covered wagons and signs detailing life in the area. City of Rocks is part of the California Trail. Upon entering the reserve you are greeted by a rock house from 1904.
City of Rocks has a lot of history meshed with natural beauty. You can see signatures in axle grease written upon rocks- one mainly Register Rock- and imagine what life would've been like for those traveling through.
There are tons of places to explore and hike in City of Rocks. We walked to Window Arch, about 300 yards from a parking area, and continued on until the rocks became impassable. I also climbed up series of large boulders (against my better judgement) but the views were spectacular.
If you're in the area, or even 4 hours away, City of Rocks has to be on your list of places to visit. Northern Utahns have no excuse to drive the couple of hours up and see it for themselves.