Utah Road Trip

In mid August we met Aiden’s family in southern Utah to go on a road trip of some the Utah parks.

Day 1: We drove from Boulder, CO to Bryce Canyon. This was by far the longest driving day but we left early enough to make some fun stops along the way. Goblin Valley State Park is one of my favorite state parks and we decided last minute to stop there so Aiden could see the hoodoos. It is just such a unique place, I feel like the sandstone formations look like mushrooms and I love it! Next we drove through Capitol Reef National Park and stopped at the petroglyphs and some of the viewpoints. I loved just driving through the riverbed, it is so beautiful. We did not enter the other side of the park since we knew we were coming back on the way to Moab. We had an Airbnb in ____ for the night and they had some delicious fruit trees which was a great end to the day!

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Driving through western Colorado
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Goblin Valley State Park
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The hoodoos at Goblin Valley are amazing!
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More Goblin Valley Views
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Capitol Reef Overlook

Day 2:  My absolute favorite national park is by far Bryce canyon. I think it is so underrated and just amazing! We spent most of they hiking through the valley and up along the rim. We ate lunch at the lodge (not my favorite but they had a couple really delicious dishes). Late afternoon we drove to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park to meet up with Aiden’s family. There is a big reservoir that is perfect for swimming and paddle boarding. We did hike through the park and the petrified logs are super interesting and cool looking but I highly recommend doing it in the early morning. It was so so hot (a jump in the lake really helped though!). After hiking we headed to the Slot Canyon Inn which was absolutely amazing. The property is stunning and there are lots of animals. The views are so pretty! We got the best sunset views during dinner at their restaurant, North Creek Grill (the pizza was the absolute best I have had in a while). They even have petroglyphs just on their cliffs.

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Bryce Canyon National Park, headed up to Sunrise Point
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The views from Bryce Point (totally unreal)
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Our hike from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, through the valley
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Driving to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
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Reading by the lake at Petrified Forest State Park
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Taking a break from the heat on a petrified log
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The amazing pizza at North Creek Grill
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Plum and apricot lemonade added the incredible meal!

Day 3: We started the day with a delicious breakfast at the Inn then headed out to hike to the Lower Calf Creek Falls. I wasn’t sure what to expect but we got to the top (after a long and hot hike) and it was definitely worth it. The water is freezing but I had to go for a swim anyways! It is a 5.5 mile hike roundtrip and not that difficult as far as terrain goes, but bring lots of water since it is so hot. The next stop was driving the Burr Trail in Boulder, UT. There was almost no one there and the views were, in my opinion, just as interesting and beautiful as Capitol Reef (and way less people). We ended the day with dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm which I 10/10 recommend. There carrot puree was amazing and they had an ice cream s’more dessert that was to die for. We drove from Boulder, UT to Teasdale up over the mountains and it was like nothing I have seen before. I think that drive was my favorite part of the whole trip. It is this gorgeous hike mountain range that looks down into the dessert and cliffs of Utah. It is indescribable. We stayed the night at The Muddy Duck Bed and Breakfast which is nestled up against some cliffs and looks over the rest of the valley (so beautiful and the kindest host).

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The friendliest cat joined me at Slot Canyon Inn
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Driving Burr Trail
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S’more Sunday at Hell’s Backbone Inn & Grill
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Driving through the high mountains to Teasdale

Day 4: We drove through Capitol Reef on our way to Moab but this time we explored a little more and went on hike. We drove down the scenic drive (absolutely beautiful) and through the gorge on a dirt road. It is crazy how narrow it gets, you are basically driving in the riverbed. We hiked along the Gorge trail from there to further enjoy the views. Before heading out we stopped for pie at the Gifford House. It is strange there are some orchards and the old town nestled right in the gorge. We drove on to Moab, stopping in Green Rive to buy melons. There is a local melon stand at one of the gas stations and they have a big variety of different melons. In Moab we checked into our Airbnb (a lovely house right in town). We walked to Miguel’s Baja Grill for dinner and then browsed Back of Beyond Books (of course).

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Morning views at the Mucky Duck
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Driving to Capitol Reef
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Gorge Trail in Capitol Reef
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More Gorge Trail views

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Walking home from dinner in Moab
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Getting my book fix at Back of Beyond Books

Day 5: We grabbed some breakfast burritos from Love Muffin Cafe (which are seriously delicious, the locals burrito is my favorite) before heading to Canyonlands National Park. We spent the day exploring different areas of the Island in the Sky area of the park. There are some gorgeous overlooks and short hikes totally worth checking out. We did the Mesa Arch hike and hiked along the rim at Grand Point Overlook. My biggest recommendation for this part is to get a four wheel drive car (or rent an off road jeep) because there are a ton of amazing dirt roads to explore, with way less people on them. Next we headed to Dead Horse Point State Park. The views here are totally worth it and different from Canyonlands. You can see beautiful views of the rivers and the salt flats. For dinner we went to Zaks in Moab, they have great buffet deal with the best bear cheese soup I have ever had.

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Dead Horse Point State Park views of the river
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Salt flats views from Dead Horse Point State Park
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Canyonlands viewpoint
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Grand Point Overlook in Canyonlands National Park

Day 6: Our final full day in the parks was spent mostly at Arches National Park. We have been here before so we still only spent half day here but it is definitely a cool place to visit. This time we hiked in the Devil’s Garden area, checking out Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches. We also went to the viewpoints for Delicate Arch so Aiden’s family could see it. In general my favorite area in Arches is the Window’s Section, there is so much to see! We walked around the shops in Moab for part of the afternoon (I recommend Moab Made, everything they carry is locally made and so interesting/unique). For dinner we headed to Sunset Grill for beautiful views and delicious food. It was definitely my favorite restaurant in Moab (the French Onion Soup and Chocolate Mousse were my favorites, of the things we ordered).

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Pine Tree Arch
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Starting our hike in the Devil’s Garden area
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A mojito while watching the sun set at Sunset Grill

I can’t recommend a Utah parks trip enough. They all have such unique landscapes and rock formations. Let me know if you want any more recommendations and/or trip advice! Thanks for reading!

Happy Sunday!

Erin

Florida Roadtrip

This was my first trip to Florida and it was incredible!

Most nights we camped at state parks or other camp grounds, so if you are not into camping there are definitely hotel options not far away and going to all the springs as day trips is definitely a possibility. Also, our first day was technically the drive down to Chattanooga but for this I am starting in Chattanooga.

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Day 1: Drive from Chattanooga to Hart Springs. We stayed in a hotel in Chattanooga and started driving early in order to get to Hart Springs in time for some snorkeling. Hart springs is a pretty area in north Florida with lots of opportunity for swimming, canoeing and walking along the boardwalk. We arrived in the heat of the afternoon and chose to go straight to the cool water. Bringing some snorkel gear (or at least goggles) is definitely a must in this area. We saw some amazing wildlife including Swanee River Cooters, Loggerhead Musk Turtles and many fish. The boardwalk here is incredibly beautiful when the sun is setting right over the water.

Day 2: The next day is a drive from Hart Springs to Kelly Park. This time instead of leaving early, we spent the morning walking along some of Hart Spring’s trails listening to birds and spotting frogs. We stopped several times along the drive to Kelly Park to see wildlife.

Day 3: Kelly Park & Wekiwa Springs. We spent almost the whole day at Wekiwa Springs which is about 30 minutes from Kelly Park. This is a definite must visit destination if you are in the Orlando area. The water is a little chilly but there is a nice place to sun bathe, there are lots of trails and you can rent canoes to paddle down the creek. We were with the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group for the morning, helping them catch, process and release turtles which was a very fun experience! We also walked along the boardwalk and some of the trails. There is lots to see and do here. The evening was spent at Kelly Park which is a great place for picnicking and also swimming. I actually liked the swim set up better here. You walk up the path a little ways to the top of the lazy river and can tube or just swim down. The water is crystal clear and there are turtles and other fun things to see! There are also many nice trails here.

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Day 4: Drive from Kelly Park to the National Seashore and then Manatee Hammock for the night. This was our big beach day and it was amazing! We spent almost the whole day on Cape Canaveral seeing lots of wildlife and walking along the National Seashore. I highly recommend visiting this area. It is one of the few places to see the Florida Scrub Jay and Roseate Spoonbills which was very cool. This beach is also so pretty and not too crowded. We drove a little ways to Manatee Hammock to camp for the night and this was probably my favorite place we stayed the whole trip. It was right on Indian River Lagoon which is so beautiful (make sure to get a campsite right on the shore). This sunset was absolutely gorgeous!

Day 5: Manatee Hammock to Alexander Spring State Park. We went to Blue Springs on the way to Alexander Springs in order to see manatees. There were many of them just laying in the water right in the springs (even some calves). We also saw lots of other wildlife. Seeing manatees is seasonal here so definitely check before you go but it was incredibly to see them. Also swimming is not quite as great here (or not open depending on when you go). We drove on to Alexander Springs State Park (in Ocala National Forrest) which was one of my favorite swimming locations. There were so many turtles and fish so it was perfect for snorkeling and the water was not too cold. I also just really liked this campground because you can walk to the springs and it is very pretty.

Day 6: Stay in Alexander Spring State Park for the night and spend the day canoeing Juniper Springs Run. This canoe trip was so fun! The river starts off very narrow but it is slow moving and just very picturesque and it opens up as you go. It took us about four hours so it is pretty long but it was so worth it (you can definitely do it faster if you are paddling fast and do not take stops). We saw several alligators along the way which was pretty cool as well.

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Day 7: Alexander State Park to Otter Spring State Park. This was, sadly, our last full day in Florida. We visited a long-leaf pine forest and saw the rare Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. These types of forest are so interesting because there are really tall pine trees with not many understory plants. From here we drove to Otter Spring State Park and spent the rest of the day snorkeling in the spring and swimming in the pool (which was heated). This spring is also a great place to go especially if you have kids with you.

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Day 8: Drive from Otter Spring State Park out of Florida all the way to High Falls State Park in Georgia. The morning was all driving but the was enough time once we arrived to enjoy the walking the trails. The sunset here was gorgeous and the camp hosts were so friendly.

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Day 9: This final day was technically just driving from High Falls all the way back home, which took the entire day.

Overall this trip was amazing! It is a great circle if you are interested in seeing northern Florida especially visiting the many springs Florida offers. It can definitely also be modified depending on the amount of time you have and how much time you want to spend in certain places. I would definitely spend more time in the Cape Canaveral area (more beaches) and I would want to spend a little bit of time in Orlando (we avoided the city for the most part but it was very close to several of the locations we visited).

 

Erin

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Road Tripping Colorado in a Week

As we start to plan ahead for spring break and the summer months it is time to think about the much anticipated road trips that ensue. They are definitely not for everyone, however they can be a cheaper way to have an amazing and beautiful vacation. This trip was so much fun and it’s a great way to see Colorado (and even some of Utah) from all sides in a fairly short amount of time. On this particular adventure I was highlighting my favorite parts of Colorado for someone who had not been before!

It is also a trip that definitely could be extended if you have several more days. Here is the overview:screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-6-18-07-pm Day 1: Drive from the Boulder/Denver area to Angel of Shavano Campground. This is such a beautiful drive through the mountains! Leadville is a great spot to stop for food, antique shopping and enjoying the view. It’s a small town with lots of character and it is one of the highest towns in the country, sitting at over 10,0oo ft above sea level. We ate lunch at Tennessee Pass Cafe (I also recommend High Mountain Pies and City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso). After setting up camp we drove back to Princeton Hot Springs for a nice evening dip. If you aren’t into camping Mount Princeton Hot Springs is a great place to stay the night! This area is also an incredible place to hike with multiple 14,000 ft mountains all in close proximity. The town of Buena Vista is also incredibly pretty and attracts many kayakers and rafters.

Day 2: Drive from Angel of Shavano Campground to Great Sand Dunes National Park (then on to Cortez). We left the campground super early and drove to the dunes where we spent much of the morning. I highly recommend camping here however getting a reservation can be really tough so book well in advance. The dunes are especially hot during the heat of the day but dune jumping is incredibly fun and it is pretty amazing to see a feature that seems so out of place nestled in a great Colorado valley! There is also a river that runs through right before the dunes, so bring a bathing suit (river levels definitely depend on the season and yearly precipitation so be sure to check!). Instead of camping we pushed on all the way to Mesa Verde so we could spend more time at the National Park. We stopped and ate great Mexican food for lunch in Del Norte and stopped for frozen yogurt in Pagosa Springs. Pagosa is another town I highly recommend spending more time in, there are natural hot springs along the river as well as a great resort, many hiking trails and fun little shops. This was a pretty long day but in the end we made it to Mesa Verde before the park’s closing time in order to get tour tickets for the next day. It is definitely a must to get tour tickets the day before because they tend to sell out in the summer and getting a tour when the sites are still shared is a much smarter idea. For the next two nights we got a hotel in Cortez, which is only a 15 minute drive from the national park.

Day 3: Going on tours of the anasazi ruins is undoubtably the way to visit Mesa Verde. This is because most of this sites cannot be explored up close if you are not on a tour (tours are fairly cheep and you definitely learn a lot!). It is best to get an early start to beat the heat! This whole day was spent going on two tours of different ruins and exploring other parts of the park. It is really a beautiful place with some amazing history. Cortez has some decent restaurants as well!

Day 4: Drive from Cortez to Moab (and on to Dinosaur National Monument). This is, once again, a place that I would definitely break up a little more. We had a limited time but, Moab is such a great town and would be a great place to stay a night and get some more hiking in. The national park also has a campground. Arches has so many amazing features and great hikes! We did two shorter hikes in order to see some different features. We tried to spend as much time here as possible so we did not get to the Dinosaur campground until 7:30ish (also, make sure you go to the right entrance of Dinosaur National Monument). This is one of the darkest places in the country, at night, so on previous visits I have seen amazing stars!

Day 5: Dinosaur National Monument to Hayden/Steamboat Springs. We spent 5-6 hours in Dinosaur just visiting the homestead, looking at the many fossil features and swimming in the river. This park has great programs for kids and has a good variety of things to do. It does get extremely hot here so hiking in the middle of the day was not smart on our part! We drove on to Hayden, CO from here (close to Steamboat Springs) where we stayed the night at a family member’s property. I have been to Steamboat Springs many times and highly recommend it! The town is very beautiful and there is always something going on (Rodeos, festivals, kayak races etc…). When we drove through the next day the annual Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup was in full swing. It is also a great place for horseback riding, biking and hiking. Check out Strawberry Hot Springs for a great place to stay!

Day 6: Steamboat Springs to Estes Park. We did some hiking and swimming in lakes in the morning before driving to Rocky Mountain National Park. Driving up Trail Ridge Road can definitely be quite terrifying however it gives way to some of the most spectacular views. There is also lots of wildlife including elk, moose, bighorn sheep and many birds. We stopped several times for some prime photos but drove to Estes Park to meet my family, walk the town and eat delicious food. Estes is very busy during the summer but it is definitely worth it. This night was spent at some beautiful cabins just outside of Estes.

Day 7: Estes Park back to Boulder! Most of our last day was spent hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are so many hikes of all levels and ability making it a great place for everyone. The drive back to Boulder is fairly short but definitely check out more of the restaurants before heading back!img_2135

Thanks for reading and happy road tripping!

Erin