Posts Tagged With: hiking

Sand Hollow and Snow Canyon State Parks

While visiting Zion National Park we stayed at Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, UT. This was an absolutely beautiful state park and our campsite was huge with gorgeous views all around!

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The Sand Hollow Reservoir was right behind our site.

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This campsite was so big that the kids decided to design their own national park in our back yard. They named it Red Sands National Park. They made a map with trail information and junior ranger books for Chris and me to fill out. They used an app on my phone to map how long each trail was and then led us on some trail hikes.

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I love to watch their creativity blossom at places like this!

We also visited Snow Canyon State Park in nearby St. George. This was a gorgeous state park with lots of fun hiking trails.

First we hiked a short trail to Jenny Canyon which is a slot canyon.

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Then we hiked the Lava Tube trail which was a new experience for us and something the boys really enjoyed. We were able to walk around in the lava tubes which are like underground caves. These lava tubes were formed during a volcano eruption many years ago.

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Then we climbed up this slick rock to an amazing view point.

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See the black hole in the ground below? That was one of the lava tubes we explored. I’ll admit it’s kind of creepy down there. It’s very dark and we only had our cell phone flashlights which don’t shine very far into the dark.

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There is so much to see and do in Utah which is why we keep returning. It was time to move on to more adventures but I sure hated to leave the incredibly spacious campsite at Sand Hollow. Wait until you see the site we moved to next. I’ll give you a hint, it was NOT spacious!

 

Categories: Utah | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Zion National Park

We have finally been to all 5 of the big Utah national parks, with Zion being our 5th. I can’t say that Zion is my favorite because it was actually the most crowded of the 5 and the crowd level took some of the fun out of it. However, we still had a great time visiting this very popular park.

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Our first day visiting this park was on a Monday afternoon. We could not believe how crowded it was! There is very little parking inside the park so there are several parking lots outside the entrance scattered around the town of Springdale. There is a shuttle bus that will take you into the park from Springdale.

We had wanted to drive on the Zion-Mount Carmel scenic highway through the tunnel that sounds pretty cool, but the lady at the entrance station said we could not drive the dually truck through there unless we pay $15 for an escort. I had heard about that before but thought it only applied to RVs, not dually trucks so we aborted that plan.

We took a chance on driving into the park to see if we could park near the visitor center, and we were able to park in the oversized vehicles lot where we saw several other dually trucks parked. I guess if we can’t drive through the tunnel because our truck is too big, at least we were able to park in oversized parking.

We went in the visitor center to pick up maps and junior ranger books, and the line to the desk was the longest we’ve ever seen at any park so far. Once we got that taken care of we looked at the park maps to try to decide what to do. The line for the shuttle bus that takes you into the park was about 45 minutes long (seriously, this place is worse than Disney as far as crowds go). So we opted to hike the Watchman trail which starts at the Visitor Center so we did not need to take a shuttle bus anywhere.

This hike was approximately 3 miles round trip and gave us some spectacular views of the towering rock formations at Zion. It was very nice to get up on the trail and away from the crowds.

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After this hike we went back to the campground to re-group and come up with some kind of strategy for visiting this very crowded park. I’m not sure if it’s always this crowded, we were there for the 2 weeks before and after Easter, so maybe it was more crowded than usual with spring break crowds.

That weekend we decided to go to the less-visited side of the park called Kolob Canyons. That turned out to be a good choice for Easter weekend. It was not crowded at all and we enjoyed some nice hiking there.

But we still had to figure out how we were going to explore the main part of Zion. Chris came up with the idea that we should spend the night at the Zion Lodge. The Zion Lodge is inside the park and if you are staying there you get a special red parking pass that allows you to drive into the park where only shuttle buses are allowed. By parking and staying overnight at the lodge we were able to avoid the crowds at the visitor center and get an early start on the trails in the morning before the rest of the world entered the park. We were lucky to get an opening for one night at the lodge. Typically you need to reserve a room there a year in advance, but they seem to always have last minute cancellations.

Staying at Zion Lodge was a real treat! We had a beautiful view from our balcony.

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From the lodge we were able to hike to the Lower and Upper Emerald Pools. The hiking trail starts right across the street. The pools were not emerald colored at this time of year but were actually kind of muddy. I heard that at certain times of the year they are a prettier color. The hike was still very pretty regardless, although very crowded (have I mentioned how crowded this park is?) ūüėČ

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Virgin River

In the evening we explored the cute town of Springdale and found out from the locals that Oscars is the best place to eat so we had dinner there. It was very good so I can see why the locals like it.

The next day was our best hiking day in Zion. Since we were able to get an early start from the lodge we were able to avoid most of the crowds that show up later in the day. We started by hiking along the Riverside Walk which is a mile out and back. This paved trail goes alongside the Virgin River and it’s very pretty. It ends at the start of the Narrows. The Narrows is a hike through a slot canyon where you also are hiking in the river and will get wet. It sounds like an amazing hike and it was the hike I was most looking forward to at Zion, but unfortunately it was closed. The Virgin River was at a very high level when we were there and it’s not safe to hike through the Narrows when it is at this level. It sounds like late summer may be a better time for that hike so we’ll have to try again someday.

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The start of the Narrows; no hiking beyond this point until the river level goes down.

Next we did the short hike up to Weeping Rock.

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Weeping Rock

Lastly we hiked to Hidden Canyon. This hike goes up many switchbacks until you get to a section where you are literally on the side of a cliff and have to hold onto chains. It was quite scary and fun all at the same time. Jake really enjoyed it, but Chris was nervous the whole time. He doesn’t do well with heights and especially has a hard time watching his kids on the side of a cliff. I can’t say that I blame him. One of the most popular hikes at Zion is called Angel’s Landing and it has some areas where you are on very narrow ledges holding onto chains. We did not do that hike this time because we were not sure we were ready to take the kids on that, but Jake really wants to try it next time since he liked this one so much.

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Chains to hold while hiking along the cliff

You can’t see it in these pictures, but it is a very long way down over the edge here. I think we were all a little nervous, except for Jake who seems to be fearless. There was a couple behind us and the man was petrified. I didn’t think he would make it, but once we got to the top I saw his wife hug him and congratulate him. He was so relieved and I think he conquered a fear that day.

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After our fun day of hiking it was time to get the kid’s junior ranger badges and head back to the campground.

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I found it interesting how many parts of Zion are named after places in the Bible. Zion itself is a biblical name. There is also Angel’s Landing, the Court of the Patriarchs (where the 3 large rock formations are named Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), the Great White Throne, and the Virgin River.

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The Court of the Patriarchs

Chris had a great idea when he suggested we stay at the Zion Lodge. It really gave us a chance to more fully explore Zion without having to worry about driving the truck, where to park the truck, long shuttle bus lines, etc. I would like to go back someday and experience the Narrows and maybe even Angel’s Landing (still undecided about that one). I just don’t know when exactly is a good time to go there when it’s not so crowded. A lady in Springdale said it’s always crowded except in the winter, so maybe there really is no “best” time to go.

Now that we’ve been to the big 5 Utah parks, would you like to know which one is my favorite? All 5 parks are incredible, but my absolute favorite is Bryce Canyon. I love Bryce and cannot wait to go there again someday.

During the 2 weeks we were in the area we stayed at a fabulous state park called Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, UT. I will write a separate post about that later along with a write up about our day of hiking in Snow Canyon State Park nearby which was amazing!

Categories: National Parks, Utah | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument is in Fruita and Grand Junction, CO. ¬†We hiked there for a few days while we were in the area. ¬†It was similar to Utah with all the red rocks, but different because of all the mountains in the background. ¬†It’s like the transition from the red rocks of Utah to the mountains of Colorado and that makes for lots of gorgeous scenery!

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On the way up into the hills we saw lots of big horn sheep.

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And we drove through a couple of cool tunnels. ¬†I don’t know if we could have driven our house through there!

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There are several beautiful viewpoints and hikes to do in this park.  We went there in the evenings a few times after work because we were staying at a campground just 3 miles from the entrance.  We also spent a whole weekend day there.

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There is an entrance to this park in Fruita and also in Grand Junction and you can drive the whole scenic Rimrock Drive through from one side to the other. ¬†Since the Fruita side was near our campground we drove all the way to the Grand Junction side only on the weekend when we had more time. ¬†We did 2 hikes on the Grand Junction¬†side: the Devil’s Kitchen and the Serpent’s Trail. ¬†Who comes up with these names? ¬†I can tell you that the Devil’s Kitchen was a very cool and refreshing rock room at the end of the hike where you could rest and cool off. ¬†Not at all how I would imagine the devil’s kitchen to really feel like!

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Serpent’s Trail was a long hike uphill and then back down with amazing views all around. ¬†And since it’s called Serpent’s Trail I expected to see lots of snakes but we only saw one.

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Later in the week we went back again in the evening so the kid’s could get their Junior Ranger badges.

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And we also did the Coke Ovens hike that night because it was too crowded on the weekend.

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On the way to the Coke Ovens we found this cave that was a little bit off the trail. ¬†My 3 guys thought it would be fun to go in it, but I thought it was just creepy. ¬†We walked in and were surprised at¬†how far back it goes. ¬†I opened up my flashlight app on my phone so we could see where we were going. ¬†We did see light at the end of the tunnel but it got too narrow to crawl through (at least for adults). ¬†All I could think of was what if there is a bear in here, or snakes or who knows what else? ¬†Ah, the adventures of living with boys! ūüôā

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The rest of the pictures are of some of the scenic viewpoints you can find along Rimrock Drive.

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They have a Balanced Rock just like Arches National Park!

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While we were in Fruita we stayed at James M. Robb Colorado River State Park. ¬†Now that’s a mouthful of a¬†name for a state park! ¬†We had a really nice site with plenty of space (unlike those crowded RV parks in Moab). ūüôā

Fat Cat loved this campground! ¬†She would hide in the bushes and try to hunt birds. ¬†One evening Chris & I were sitting outside enjoying the sunset and the cat was crouched down like she was ready to attack something. ¬†Suddenly a black bird came low enough for her and she leaped into the air and actually touched the bird! ¬†The bird flew safely away, but oh how I wish I could have captured that on video! ¬†The picture below is Fat Cat resting on the picnic table until…

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… just minutes later she hears a bird on the roof of the patio cover!

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We enjoyed beautiful sunsets every evening.

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We loved this state park, but the weather suddenly turned really hot… I mean like 95+ degrees hot. ¬†I didn’t think Colorado got that hot! ¬†Anyway, the nice thing about having a house on wheels is that when the weather gets unpleasant we can move on. ¬†And move on we did to higher elevations.

 

 

Categories: Colorado, National Parks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arches National Park

After we finished visiting Capitol Reef we headed over to Moab, Utah to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Rather than just try to visit these parks in the evenings and on Saturday, we took a few days off work to more fully experience these parks.

Jake got a Utah Rocks t-shirt last year when we visited Bryce Canyon.  This year the rest of us decided to get those shirts so we all wore them while visiting Arches one day.  We all think that Utah ROCKS!

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On our first visit to Arches we went to Balanced Rock and Double Arch.  How does that rock stay up there??

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The scenery at Arches is simply stunning!

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One day we went on 2 separate hikes, totaling over 8 miles. ¬†The first hike was to Landscape Arch, and then we went on a little further up to Partition and Navajo Arches. ¬†We didn’t make it all the way to Double O Arch; we’ll have to save that for next time.

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Landscape Arch.

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Climbing up to see more arches.

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There was such a beautiful view through Partition Arch.

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This is standing under Navajo Arch.

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We hiked to a few more arches in this area and then took a lunch break.  After lunch we went to the Delicate Arch hike which I think is probably the most popular, and I can see why.  The hike up to it was strenuous, but with amazing views.

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We hiked up lots of slickrock.

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Then hiked around this narrow ledge.

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The hike was worth it to come around the corner to see this!

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We rested up at Delicate Arch for a long time, but eventually decided it was time to hike back down.

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And then we went back to the Visitor Center so the boys could turn in their activity books and earn their Junior Ranger badges.

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We really loved Arches and plan to return again someday to hike some of the other trails we didn’t make it to this time.

Categories: National Parks, Utah | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Capitol Reef National Park

We just enjoyed a very busy couple of weeks visiting 3 of the beautiful national parks in Utah.  I think Utah might just be my favorite state now, or at least a tie with Colorado.  Utah is extremely beautiful, you must go!

The first park we visited was Capitol Reef National Park.  I heard that many people skip this park in favor of the more popular locations.  We almost skipped it too, but I was unable to book 2 full weeks in Moab, so we needed a place to go for a week before we could go to Moab.  That turned out to be a blessing because I am so glad we came to this park!  It was incredible, and in my opinion it is a place you should not skip if you are planning a trip to Utah.

The drive from southwest Colorado to Capitol Reef was one of the most beautiful drives we have had in our travels.  If your travels take you in that direction, I would highly recommend taking highways 95 and 24.  Both are incredibly scenic, but make sure to fill up with gas before getting on 95.  It is a very long drive with no place to stop for anything, and no cellular coverage either.

Here are a couple of pictures from the drive:

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We stayed at Thousand Lakes RV Resort in Torrey, UT.  This was a very nice RV park and we were lucky enough to get one of their extra large back-in sites.  The interior pull-through sites looked a little tight, but the back-ins were nice.  There is no Verizon coverage in this area, but AT&T worked great.  This was the one time we needed our backup AT&T plan.

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The town of Torrey is super cute. ¬†There is a little grocery store and a bakery/deli where you can get lunch on your way in to the park to hike for the day. ¬†When you drive into town, the speed limit is 35 and there is a police car parked on the side of the road. ¬†The first couple of times we drove down the road we thought this was a real police officer waiting to catch speeders driving through town, but after a few times we realized it’s a fake guy behind the driver’s seat. ¬†Really funny, and I guess it works to slow people down driving through town, at least until they realize he is not real.

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It looks like he’s been sitting here for a long time; he’s quite wrinkly! ¬†He looks a little grumpy too.

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Okay, enough about where we stayed and how we got there. ¬†Let’s get on with Capitol Reef. ¬†All I can say is A-MA-ZING! ¬†The scenery is so incredibly beautiful! ¬†It¬†was only a 10 minute drive into the park from our RV park, so we went in each evening after work to hike and explore. ¬†It helps that it doesn’t get dark until 8:30 at this time of the year. ¬†The first night we did a short hike on the Sunset Point trail.

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The second night we hiked to Chimney Rock.  This is a more strenuous 3.5 mile loop, with a lot of uphill climbing.  It was great exercise and incredible views from the top.

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The kids loved all the rock climbing!

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Another night we hiked to Hickman Bridge.

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One evening we did the Grand Wash Trail. ¬†The trail map showed this as being a 2.2 mile trail out and back meaning 4.4 miles total, but it turned out to be a little longer than that — about 5 miles round trip. ¬†We were all pretty tired after that one and probably could have just stopped and turned around halfway through and that would have been enough.

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We saved the best for last.  On Saturday we hiked to Cassidy Arch which was amazing!  Definitely my favorite hike of the week!

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The hike up to this point was all uphill, but it was so worth it to come around the corner and see the arch off in the distance.

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These rock piles are called rock cairns. ¬†The park rangers put these on trails to help you stay on the trail. ¬†They’re very helpful because there are many times where it would be hard to determine which way the trail goes.

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The rock cairns are especially helpful when hiking on wide areas of slickrock like this.  See the little rock piles along the way?  That helped us to know which way to go.

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This is up on top of where the arch is.  It was a great place to stop and have a snack break.

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The view was gorgeous from up there!

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We’re looking down into the back side of the arch in this picture.

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After Cassidy Arch we went down to the campground that is part of Capitol Reef.  The campground is surrounded by orchards and red rocks.  It is beautiful!

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We really enjoyed our week at Capitol Reef.  I would highly recommend it if your travels take you to Utah.

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Categories: National Parks, Utah | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon is considered the Grand Canyon of Texas.  We wanted to camp there but there is zero cellular coverage in the campground, so we ended up just spending a day hiking there.  And it sure was beautiful!

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I love when they like each other!

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Jake is enjoying his new camera, he took lots of pictures!

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Back at the visitor center they earned Junior Naturalist badges (not the same thing as Junior Ranger badges that they earn at national parks). ¬†Jake looks really worn out. ¬†We did 4 hikes that day. ¬†It has been awhile since we have gone hiking, but it’s good to be back at it. ¬†It’s that time of year for lots more hiking for us!

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Categories: Texas | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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