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!
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!
One of the lesser known National Parks is Black Canyon of the Gunnison near Grand Junction, Colorado. It is huge with white water rafters and expert rockclimbers, of which I am neither. If you aren’t up for adrenaline junkie sports, this park may still have something to offer you. Originally I wanted to visit Black Canyon because it offered a few dog friendly trails. Even the trail’s distances combined was only 3 miles, that’s practically unheard of in a national park. I hate leaving Buddy at home, but I am also trying to visit every US National Park!
It’s a little under 6 hours from Salt Lake to the Black Canyon. Follow your GPS if you want to go to the South Rim, but follow the signs in Delta (I believe this is the town) if you want to visit the North. Coming from Salt Lake, you'll see signs pointing you in the direction of Black Canyon even though your GPS is telling you to keep going. You will go through Montrose to access the South Rim and through Crawford to access the North. Grand Junction will be the only major city you pass through – get anything you forgot at home here.
North Rim: The North Rim reminds me more of BLM land than a National Park. The roads aren’t paved (I love that & so does the Subaru) and there is a ranger station but no visitor center. If you plan on doing anything in the inner canyon such as hiking or climbing, you need to check in with the ranger station. Coming in there wasn’t a fee station, but I assume you would need to go into the ranger station and pay the fee. We have an interagency pass- even though this is my second one this year (the first was stolen) it has paid for itself tenfold. Back to the Canyon: We were one of 3 cars during our time here. The other two cars were parked and we never saw their drivers.
I loved the ruggedness of this rim. Looking down into the canyon made my stomach turn. That thing is DEEP! Aside from my fear of plummeting 2000+ feet to my death, I enjoyed the peacefulness of being completely alone. You could hear the wind whipping through the canyon and the Gunnison river as it forged its way through. According to the NPS website, dogs are allowed on all overlooks. At the very first overlook, we took Buddy and he freaked out. Everything was fine and dandy until he looked over the edge. Immediately he took off back toward the car, pulling on his leash for dear life. We tried to get him out at another overlook, but he peed on a bush and got back in the car. He would NOT go on the overlook path at all. Its crazy to think that he could tell the depth of the canyon and felt real fear. I don’t have a 90lb German Shepherd but more of a 90lb scaredy cat! We knew at the point that any hikes were out of the question.
South Rim: if you are looking for more of a National Park experience, this is the rim to visit. After showing our pass at the entrance booth, we passed by the visitor’s center. We were going to stop in on our way out, but totally forgot! I have really been slacking on collecting my postcards. There are 12 overlooks on the 7 mile scenic drive that dead ends. Get out at each one- they are ALL awesome.
We tricked Buddy into walking out on one overlook and posing for a picture (cheese puffs do wonders). Funny that I planned this trip around the dog, and he didn’t even get to enjoy the park.
Most of the overlooks have ~200 yard distance to the edge. They all pretty much had barriers around the main part of the overlook, but it was really easy to find places right on the edge that you could stand on. Be extremely careful especially if you are traveling with kids. This side of the park was considerably busier, but still one of the least populated National Parks I’ve ever been too – no tour buses in sight and it’s easy to find places to call your own.
If you don’t plan on spending much time at the Black Canyon, check out the Colorado National Monument in nearby Fruita, CO for some more spectacular views. I had previously been here, so we didn’t add it onto this trip, but the drive is wonderful and the views are untouched. There are also some easy hiking trails in the monument, just remember it’s usually pretty windy!
My friend, Sarah, was visiting me in Utah from Tennessee. I wanted to show her as much of the state as possible (and Utah is one diverse state!) so after a few days in the Wasatch Front, we headed down to southern Utah. I had never been to Bryce before, and by the time we made it to the park, sunset was nearing. Here's how to enjoy a mere one hour inside Bryce!
We started off in SLC. Plans of leaving early were quickly overtaken by the desire to shower at my apartment. We had just spent the last three days camping the Wasatch and Bonneville Shoreline. We finally left around 1pm, but we were squeaky clean!
I-15 is the quickest way to get to Bryce from SLC. 4 hours of beautiful nothingness, as I like to call it. Be sure to top off your tank when you see a gas station as they are few and far between once you've left the valley.
Right outside the entrance to Bryce (seriously RIGHT outside), we passed an RV park with a row of tipis out front. We for sure wanted to sleep in a tipi as opposed to the tent in freezing temps. Best. $40. Ever. If you are looking for a unique experience, I highly recommend Ruby's Campground. Complete with picnic table and firepit, all we needed was to drag our camping gear inside the spacious tipi!
After getting some bombAF accommodations, we decided to hurry to get a spot in Bryce for the sunset. Funny enough, there is a perfect spot for this, Sunset Point. We got lucky on the parking (everybody that is visiting Bryce will most likely be in the one particular place at sunset). Hoards of people later, we were looking at the most awe-inspiring view. Boohoos of hoodoos are far as the eye could see.
We decided to hike the Navajo Loop which takes you from above the hoodoos to the canyon floor and back up again. Traveling down switchbacks until you reach the bottom is pretty awesome until you start thinking about all the switchbacks you'll have to climb back up. We were pretty much completely alone once we reached the bottom. Around each corner is a different perspective on the canyon, most lined with bristlecone pines. Something that surprised me was how quiet the canyon floor was. Aside from the occasional chipmunk, we were the only living being making noise.
What felt like a million years, but was in reality only half a mile, of uphill switchbacks later, we had made it back to Sunset Point for none other than the sunset. The moon was shining amidst a sunset that filled the entire sky. All in all, from parking the car to hiking the Najavo Loop we had only spent an hour in Bryce Canyon. Unfortunately the visitor center had already closed so it is the only National Park I don't have a commemorative postcard, sticker, and magnet from. All the more reason to visit again!
Bryce Canyon for sure deserves more than an hour. However, if you are short on time (we were trying to visit Cedar Breaks the next day PLUS be back in time for Sarah's return flight home) Bryce in a hour is definitely possible! What's the shortest amount of time you've ever spent in a National Park?
Before we visited the Redwoods, I had been religiously pinning things to see and do in Humboldt County. Fern Canyon was on the top of my list. It looked like something prehistoric, which is probably why Steven Spielberg chose it as a location for Jurassic Park 2. I'll show you how to enjoy this unique treasure hidden in the Redwoods.
Once you are inside the Redwood National Park, follow US101 until you reach Elk Meadow. Follow this all the way through til a dirt road and proceed 6 more miles. When you reach Gold Bluff Beach kiosk, you'll be asked to show an interagency pass or pay $8. The road goes about 3 more mile until you reach a parking lot. From here you can venture down to the beach, but the real prize is Fern Canyon. There are vault restrooms here as well.
It was very rainy the day we decided to visit, but I imagine it most always is. Starting on the trail, you walk for about a quarter mile until you reach the actual mouth of the canyon.
There are 5 different types of fern that live here, plus tons of moss and moisture loving plants. The canyon walls, which vary in height from 50-80 ft, and covered in these lucious green plants. We even found some interesting places where faux waterfalls were streaming down the canyon side.
There weren't many dry places to step, despite the fact that there were boards placed as bridges. We did have to climb over and under some fallen trees. This seemed to deter a lot of people from continuing on. Be careful because moss becomes extremely slick when wet.
By the time we returned to the car, we were soaked from head to toe. Tips: bring dry clothes to change into. You won't regret it.