Featured

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

 

IMG_1111
Cold and lonely highway

We decided to do Quick Stops to showcase places that merit a nod, shout out, or round of applause but to which we can’t devote an entire post. As we’ve said before, we will drive a long way out of the way or completely change up our itinerary to go see something that piques our interest. (We must be channeling Clark Griswold. Thankfully, neither of us has an Aunt Edna!) Some of the places we plan to feature in the Quick Stops posts will be fascinating, some will be fun, and some will be funky! Additionally, some locations will be on the beaten path, some will be off of it, and some may just be a photo we like, such as the desolate road above. The locations will be posted at random, and there will be no particular order or itinerary. We can’t wait to share them with you!

Just get in the car and we’ll be on our way…

First Stop: Monument Rocks (Kansas)

Where in the world is it?

IMG_1704

Monument Rocks is about 28 miles south and east of Oakley, Kansas off of US Highway 83. The landmark is on private land, and some of the roads to get there are unnamed, graded dirt ranch roads. These roads can be very bumpy and muddy, but under normal conditions it is well worth the trip to see the rocks. Take a look…

 

IMG_1730

IMG_1721

IMG_1729

Truly out in the middle of nowhere, these fascinating rocks are the remains of an ancient sea bed.

Second stop: Carhenge (Nebraska)

Where in the world is it?

Carhenge is located about four miles north of Alliance, Nebraska. This funky tourist stop is on private property, but thanks to the property owners there is no entrance fee. The sculpture can be viewed from outside the fence that surrounds it. Check it out…

IMG_1184

IMG_1187
Other sculptures at Carhenge

It’s a fact, Jack!

Below is the sign for the Annie Oakley Motel in Oakley, Kansas. Annie Oakley was not from Kansas (she was from Ohio), but she was a performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Buffalo Bill Cody once called Oakley, Kansas home. And now you know…

img_1708-e1541977411489.jpg

That does it for this week. Thank you for joining us! Come back next week for another exciting post. You never know where we are going to take you! If you liked our first Quick Stops post, leave us a message and let us know we should keep doing them. If you didn’t like it, tell us that, too. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye 

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Carlsbad Caverns National Park

IMG_4318 (1)

  • Website Link: Carlsbad Caverns
  • Basic Entrance Fee: $12.00 per person. Kids 15 and under are admitted free. (Baby strollers are not allowed.)
  • Parts of the Big Room Trail are wheelchair accessible.
  • Ranger guided tours are available for additional fees.
  • Tours of other caves are available for additional fees, and reservations may be required.
  • Hours vary depending on the season. Check the above website for information.
  • Cafeteria available in visitor center. Snack bar located in the cavern.
  • Hotels and restaurants available in the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
  • RV/tent camping available in White’s City, the city of Carlsbad, and on BLM lands near the park. Backcountry camping requires a permit. Check the website for additional information.
  • When to go: anytime.

IMG_4367 (1)

Located 75 stories beneath the New Mexico desert, lies a dark and magical place like no other. Stalagmites, stalactites, domes, totems, mirror-like pools, and even chandeliers make for breathtaking sights (and exceptional photo ops) on your journey through the caverns. Walk in to the cavern via the natural entrance if you are up for the challenge, or take the speedy new elevator to the entrance of the Big Room. The Big Room Trail is a little over a mile long, and it is definitely worth every step. Plan to spend at least two hours enjoying the trail.

Travel tip: the temperature in the cave is a constant 56 degrees, so a light jacket is recommended, along with sturdy walking shoes with non-slip soles. For those who tend to be claustrophobic, don’t worry – this place is huge!

Getting There

IMG_4570 (1)Carlsbad Caverns National Park is approximately:

150 miles from El Paso, Texas200 miles from Lubbock, Texas300 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico

El Paso is the closest city with a major airport so our trip will start from there.

From El Paso, take US Highway 62/180 East toward Carlsbad, New Mexico. Drive time between El Paso and Carlsbad Caverns: 2.25 hours and 2.5 hours to the city of Carlsbad.

Travel tip: fill up with gas, use the restroom, and stock a few drinks and snacks before leaving El Paso. Services are very minimal along this road. Watch for the salt flats and beautiful mountain peaks of Guadalupe Mountains National Park along the way.

*Recommended campground in Carlsbad: Carlsbad KOA Holiday, located north of town, and approximately 40 minutes from the park.

*Recommended hotel in Carlsbad: Holiday Inn Express.

Destination: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Below are some of the sights along the Big Room Trail. We will let the pictures speak for themselves.

IMG_4453 (1)
Bacon!
IMG_0340
Massive beauty
IMG_4604
Chinese Theater
IMG_4475 (1)
Mirror Lake
IMG_4595
Doll’s Theater
IMG_4323
Popcorn!

 

IMG_4463 (1)Most people visit Carlsbad Caverns to see the caves, but the park offers so much more, such as:

  • an amphitheater from which to watch thousands of bats come out at night during the months of May through October.
  • a scenic desert drive.
  • ranger led cave tours and night sky programs.
  • picnic areas.
  • hiking trails.
  • shopping, exhibits, and a nature walk at the visitor center.

About five miles south of White’s City, there is a turn off on Highway 418 to a separate little sliver of the park called Rattlesnake Springs. This is a day use area, mainly for picnicking. Along the same road, there is a BLM property called Cottonwood Picnic Area. This is a great place to stop for lunch, and just east of the picnic area there is a short nature trail that leads to the Black River. We were thrilled to find this hidden gem.

Travel tip: Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in a desert. Spring, summer, and fall temperatures can be high, and the air is usually dry. Always prepare for the weather and bring along plenty of water.

IMG_4370 (1)Other things to do in the area include:

  • Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. Here’s a link: Living Desert. (Carlsbad)
  • Brantley Lake State Park. Water sports, RV and tent camping. Here’s a link: Brantley Lake. (Carlsbad)
  • Lake Carlsbad Beach Park. Water sports, playground, swimming, fishing, just to name a few, in addition to miles of walker-friendly sidewalks! (Carlsbad)
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park. One hour south of Carlsbad, and 30 minutes south of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
  • Sitting Bull Falls. One hour southwest of Carlsbad in the Lincoln National Forest.

We hope that our overview of Carlsbad Caverns National Park inspires you to grab your camera, hop in the car, and head that way. The caverns are certainly more beautiful than the pictures portray, and this is another park that we think everyone should get to see at least once. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Craters of the Moon National Monument

 

img_0752.jpg
Lava field. The white dome in this picture is called a kipuka.
  • IMG_0732Website: Craters of the Moon
  • Cost: $20.00 per car for one week pass
  • Visitor center hours vary by season
  • Campground in the park
  • Backcountry camping permitted in the preserve
  • Scenic drive
  • Hiking
  • Picnic areas
  • Caving
  • International Dark Sky Park
  • When to go: anytime.
IMG_0727
Lava flow

Getting There

IMG_0675

Idaho Falls, Idaho, which is 130 miles from Craters of the Moon, has a regional airport that is served by a few national carriers. We are going to start our trip from there, so get your camera ready and let’s hit the road!

Note: Salt Lake City, Utah has the closest major airport and is 300 miles from Craters of the Moon.

*Recommended hotel in Idaho Falls: Hampton Inn.

*Recommended restaurant in Idaho Falls: The Sandpiper Restaurant – 750 Lindsay Blvd. – great food and great service.

From Idaho Falls take Highway 20 west toward Arco, Idaho.

Bonus stop: EBR-1 National Historic Landmark. For those wanting to satisfy their inner geek, this stop is for you. EBR-1 was the first nuclear reactor to generate electricity, and it is located at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Unfortunately, the museum is only open only during the summer.

IMG_0701Travel tip: West of INL on the South side of Highway 20, there is a rest area (with nice restrooms) that has some outside displays with great information about the region. We highly recommend spending a few minutes here learning about Nuclear Reactors, the Eastern Snake River Plain, the Great Rift, the Lost Rivers, and other interesting topics.

IMG_0709
Just one example of the beauty of Idaho

Below is one of several buttes (volcanic perhaps?) along Highway 20 between Idaho Falls and Arco. This region has many lava flows, cones, rifts, and other volcanic features, most of which are contained in the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. The combined lava flows of the monument and preserve cover over 600 square miles. That’s a lotta lava! Check it out on Google Earth sometime.

IMG_0695

Continue west on Highway 20 to the town of Arco, Idaho.

Bonus stop: Arco, Idaho.

IMG_0771

Stop in Arco to see Number Hill, and we highly recommend stopping for lunch at Pickle’s Place. Good food in a retro diner atmosphere. We ate at the counter with a local man who told us the story of the Apollo astronauts coming to Arco in the 1960s to train at Craters of the Moon National Monument. Hearing his story was one of the highlights our trip.

From Arco take US Highway 26/93 west 19 miles to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve Visitor Center. Drive time between Idaho Falls and Craters of the Moon: 2 hours.

Travel tip: as with many remote sites, GPS systems may not be reliable for directions to this park. Refer to your road atlas if in doubt.

Destination: Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

The first stop is the visitors center where films, displays, and exhibits explain the characteristics of the park. Learn to identify the many different types of lava, and find out if the volcanoes are still active. The pictures below show some of the features of the park.

IMG_0760
Spatter cones
IMG_0750
Inferno Cone Trail
IMG_0728
Lava flow and cinder cones
IMG_0764
Spatter Cone
IMG_0761
We love the contrasting landscapes of this shot! (This type of lava is called a’a.)

Thank you for joining us on our visit to Craters of the Moon. We post our journeys simply because we love sharing them with you. Our hope and mission is for you to be inspired by our photos and guided by our experiences in order to seek your own adventures in the wonderful national parks and beautiful cities of our great country. For those who can’t “just get in the car”, we love that we can provide you with virtual travel experiences. Please leave us a message below and tell us about your own travels. We would love to hear from you. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye 

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway

20181013_131336
We apologize for any neck pain that viewing this photo may cause!
  • Website link: Caprock Canyons
  • Cost: $4.00 per day. Kids 12 and under are admitted free.
  • Hiking (25 miles of trails), biking, swimming, canoeing/kayaking, fishing, horseback riding. There is also a great scenic drive.
  • For RV and tent campers, Honey Flat Campground offers water, electricity, restrooms, showers, and a playground.
  • Tent and basic camping areas offer water only, and primitive campsites are also available in the park.
  • Equestrian campground available.
  • Backcountry camping is allowed anywhere along the Trailway. Check the website for Trailway information.
  • When to go: anytime. We like spring and fall.

20181014_084302

Caprock Canyons State Park, located near the small town of Quitaque (Kitty-Quay), Texas, is the home of the official Texas State Bison Herd. In addition to the bison (they have the run of the park, by the way) this park has stunning scenery and is a place to literally get away from it all. Set off on one of the great trails and immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of this West Texas gem.

20181013_154405*Caprock Canyons State Park is:

102 miles from Amarillo, Texas96 miles from Lubbock, Texas170 miles from Wichita Falls, Texas

Our trip is going to start from Lubbock, Texas, as it is the closest city with a major airport.

*Recommended hotels in Lubbock: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express.

Campgrounds are also available.

*Recommended restaurants in Lubbock:

Cast Iron Grill – 620 19th St. – for breakfast or lunch.

Blue Sky Texas – 4416 98th St. or 3216 4th St. – for the best burgers anywhere.

Mi Taco Village – 220 Regis St. – for good Mexican food.

20181014_084530

Getting There

From Lubbock, take I-27 north toward Plainview, and then continue north to Tulia. At Tulia, take Highway 86 east toward Silverton, and then continue east to Quitaque. Drive time between Lubbock and Caprock Canyons: 1.75 hours.

Note: a visit to Caprock Canyons is an easy day trip from Lubbock or Amarillo, however, we recommend staying for a day or two (or longer) to enjoy everything this park has to offer.

20181013_133831.jpg

There are a few accommodations in the area, including a bed and breakfast in Quitaque, a hotel in Turkey (11 miles east), and a couple of RV campgrounds. Here are the website links: Quitaque and Turkey.

Travel tip: there’s a vintage cottage gas station in Turkey that is worth driving the 11 miles to see.

*We highly recommend camping at Caprock Canyons.

*Recommended restaurant in Quitaque: Bison Cafe – 114 Main St. Great food and great service!

Destination: Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway

20181014_084549
Misty Watercolor Memories! Caused by bright sun in the east and a cold front moving in from the west. The unusual lighting turned the red bluffs pink.

We hiked the Canyon Rim Trail on an overcast day. The scenery was gorgeous, but the pictures, unfortunately, do not do it justice. The wildflowers really put on a show, though.

20181013_164521
Looking  down in to the canyon from Canyon Rim Trail
20181013_163647
Wildflowers along Canyon Rim Trail

The scenic drive along the park road enables you to get up close and personal with some the features of the park. Below are a few shots of the beautiful scenery along the road.

20181013_115704
Creek bed with interesting geologic features in the cliff face
20181013_122320 (1)
Canyon perspective
20181013_122736
How did nature do that? And those plants!
20181013_114949
Panorama from a viewpoint along the road

Be sure to stop at the pull outs and learn about the park. While you’re at it, stop by the visitor center for books and information about Charles Goodnight and his wife, Mary Ann. They are responsible for preserving the predecessors of the bison herd that calls Caprock Canyons home. It’s a very interesting story, especially since American bison were once on the verge of extinction. We find the bison enchanting, and fun to watch, but always from a distance. These are wild animals that can be dangerous, and it is illegal to approach or feed them.20181013_104329

The video below was taken early in the morning while the herd was walking from wherever they spent the night to a grassy grazing area.

That’s our overview of Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway. Thank you for joining us. We hope that our post has prompted you to visit this great park. As we always say, “Just get in the car.” Please leave us a note and tell us about your trip to Caprock Canyons, or any of your trips for that matter. Maybe you will inspire us to take your trip!

20181013_115714Visit our site every Saturday for another great road trip or travel tip. Better yet, become a follower and receive an e-mail message and link to the site every time we post a new adventure. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

 

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Death Valley National Park

IMG_2653

  • Website: Death Valley
  • Cost: $30.00 per car for a 7 day pass
  • Hotels/resorts and campgrounds in the park
  • Restaurants and concessions in the park
  • Scenic drives
  • Historic sites
  • Hiking
  • Backpacking
  • Backcountry camping
  • When to go: winter, early spring, late fall. Visitors should be extremely cautious in the summer months when temperatures rise dramatically.
IMG_2580
Devil’s Golf Course – these “rocks” are actually salt crystals. The Panamint Mountains made a nice backdrop for this shot. Note the alluvial fan at the base of the mountains.

Getting There

Our trip is going to start in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has a major airport and is only 123 miles from Death Valley. Ice down a cooler full of water, grab your favorite road snacks, and let’s go to Death Valley!

From Las Vegas, take I-15 south to Highway 160 west to Pahrump, Nevada.

Travel tip: make a restroom stop and top off you gas tank in Pahrump.

From Pahrump, continue northwest on Highway 160 to Bell Vista Avenue. Take Bell Vista (which changes to Bell Vista Road) west across the California state line to Death Valley Junction and Highway 190. Continue in to the park on Highway 190. Drive time between Las Vegas and Death Valley: 2 hours.

Travel tip: Look for wild burros and horses along Highway 190.

Destination: Death Valley National Park

IMG_2601Arguably, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth – 134º F in July of 1913. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, sitting at 282 feet below sea level. With an average of 1.5 inches of rain per year, Death Valley also holds the honor of being the driest place in North America. We are used to hot, dry weather where we live, but the 111º F (before noon) temperature when we visited Death Valley felt like a different type of oppressive heat that seemed heavier to us for some reason. With that said, we caution you to be conscious of the weather and prepare for harsh conditions when visiting this park, especially in the late spring, summer, and early fall. Also, make sure your car is in tip-top condition before starting a road trip through Death Valley.

IMG_2602
This is a spring in the salt flats at Badwater Basin, but the water is too salty to drink.

Death Valley is hot, dry, and its spring water is too salty for humans or animals to drink. So why would anyone want to go there? Well, see below…

IMG_2610
Breathtaking Beauty
IMG_2611
Vibrant Colors at Artist’s Palette
IMG_2626
Magnificent Mountain Vistas

When thinking of a desert, one usually thinks of sand dunes and scrubby cactus. At least that is what we envision when we imagine desert scenery. Death Valley is different from other deserts because of its diversity. The park features 11,000 foot mountains, wildflower super blooms after rare rains, as well as sand dunes. Badlands, salt flats, and dry lake beds where rocks race across the parched ground on their own, can also be seen here. With so much to offer, it’s easy to see the many facets of this unique landscape. And speaking of lake beds, all of Death Valley was once a lake. A trip here is definitely worth the time, and it’s not just about the scenery. This park also features oases, historic ghost towns, abandoned mines, and even a castle!

IMG_2629
Badlands of Zabriskie Point
IMG_2606
Salt Flats of Badwater Basin
IMG_2632
Multi-faceted Beauty

Did you know that borax was once mined in Death Valley? The mine was called Harmony Borax Works, and they hauled the borax 165 miles to Mojave, California, using huge wagons pulled by teams of twenty mules. One of the wagons can still be seen at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. The trip from Death Valley to Mojave took ten days and had to have been grueling. Today at Death Valley, there is a park road through scenic Twenty Mule Team Canyon. While the wagons probably didn’t travel this exact area, it is a wonder how they managed to get their animals and wagons through the rugged terrain of what is now Death Valley National Park.

IMG_2639
In Twenty Mule Team Canyon
IMG_2636
View of the terrain and park road through Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Thank you for joining us on our trip to Death Valley National Park! We hope that we have given you some insight and inspiration for planning your own trip to see this wondrous place. That is our goal in sharing our information, after all. We will leave you with one last look at beautiful, otherworldly Zabriskie Point.

IMG_2631

Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Scotts Bluff National Monument

IMG_1126

  • Website: Scotts Bluff National Monument
  • Cost: $5.00 per car
  • Visitor center and Summit Road hours vary seasonally. Check website for details.
  • Summit Road scenic drive. Shuttle available.
  • Hiking trails.
  • Exceptional museum and visitor center.
  • Accommodations and restaurants in the city of Scottsbluff.

IMG_1152

First things first… Please note that we have not misspelled the name of the monument or the name of the city where it is located. Scotts Bluff (two words) is correct for the name of the national monument. Scottsbluff (one word) is correct for the name of the city. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s go to Scotts Bluff National Monument!

Scotts Bluff National Monument is: 96 miles from Cheyenne, Wyoming195 miles from Denver, Colorado — 200 miles from Rapid City, South Dakota

Cheyenne has a regional airport that is served by several national carriers, so our trip is going to start in the capital city of Wyoming.

IMG_1086
Cheyenne Depot Museum

 

*Recommended hotel in Cheyenne: Holiday Inn Express. 

Travel tip: we recommend a stop at the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Learn how this historic depot was instrumental in the development of Cheyenne as well as its importance during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. Here’s a link: Cheyenne Depot.

Getting There

From Cheyenne take I-80 east via Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. At Kimball, Nebraska, take Highway 71 north to Scottsbluff. Drive time between Cheyenne, Wyoming and Scottsbluff, Nebraska: 1.75 hours.

*Recommended hotel in Scottsbluff: Hampton Inn.

Destination: Scotts Bluff National Monument

The first stop upon arriving at the monument should be the Oregon Trail Museum and Visitor Center. Learn about the significance of the bluff as a landmark for pioneers who were traveling west on the Oregon Trail. This outstanding museum also holds the world’s largest collection of artwork by the renowned artist and photographer, William Henry Jackson. Plan to spend some time here before taking Summit Road to to the top of the bluff.

IMG_1127
Saddle Rock

Drive your own vehicle to the top of the bluff or take the park’s shuttle. There is a trail at the top with excellent views of the features of the monument, the city of Scottsbluff and surrounding communities, as well as the North Platte River. We spent over an hour walking the trail and taking advantage of the great photo ops.

Travel tip: Some vehicles will not be able to navigate the sharp turns and tunnels on Summit Road. For those who have large vehicles or RVs, check with the park before attempting this drive.

IMG_1154
Saddle Rock from above
IMG_1164
From the summit trail, interesting geology

The Oregon National Historic Trail passes through Scotts Bluff National Monument at Mitchell Pass, which lies between Eagle Rock and Sentinel Rock. Wagon wheel ruts can still be seen in Mitchell Pass today.

IMG_1128
This reminds us of the Old West. Can’t you just imagine a wagon train in this picture?
IMG_1134
Eagle Rock
IMG_1129
Sentinel Rock
IMG_1144
Dome Rock
IMG_1130
We have no idea what this bluff is called, but we thought it was pretty!

Now we going to take a short jaunt to another important landmark on the Oregon Trail.

⇒Side trip: Chimney Rock National Historical Site. From Scottsbluff, take Highway 92 east approximately 21 miles, and follow the signs to the visitor center. Chimney Rock is the iconic symbol of Nebraska and was an extremely important landmark to the pioneers traveling the Oregon trail. Learn all about it at the Nebraska Historical Society/Abbott Visitor Center.

IMG_1171
Chimney Rock

Thank you for joining us on our virtual trip to Scotts Bluff National Monument. Please let us know if you have questions about this trip or any of our trips. Leave us a message/comment below and tell us about your own trips. We love hearing from you. Until the next trip…

Travel save, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye 

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Canyonlands National Park

IMG_2380

  • Website: Canyonlands National Park.
  • Cost: $30.00 per car.
  • Camping available in the park. Backcountry camping available with permit.
  • Hotels and restaurants available in Moab, Utah.
  • Hiking, biking, climbing, river activities and backpacking are all popular activities in this park.
  • When to go: Anytime.

Although it is practically next door to Arches National Park, Canyonlands is an entirely different experience! The park’s unique terrain was shaped mostly by the Green and Colorado rivers which converge in the park. The Colorado River then flows to Lake Powell and onward through the Grand Canyon and on farther until finally emptying into the Gulf of California. Ah, the power of water… Let’s go see how it helped to create beautiful Canyonlands National Park. By the way, this trip starts in Moab. Why? Because if you’re already in Moab, then a visit to Canyonlands has to be on your itinerary.

IMG_2387

Getting There

From Moab, take Highway 191 North to Highway 313, then south on 313 to Canyonlands National Park. Drive time between Moab and Canyonlands: 30 minutes.

IMG_2374
Gooseneck Bend in the Colorado River as seen from Dead Horse Point

Bonus stop: Dead Horse Point State Park. Beautiful state park that abuts Canyonlands National Park. Hiking, biking, camping, coffee shop, and store. Yurt rentals are also available. Don’t miss Dead Horse Point overlook for spectacular views, especially the gooseneck bend in the Colorado River. $20.00 per car for a three day pass.

Destination: Canyonlands National Park

IMG_2391

The park is divided into four sections: Island in the Sky, Horseshoe Canyon, The Maze, and The Needles. Backcountry backpacking may be needed to reach some areas of the park. We got to see the Island in the Sky area and The Needles Overlook. Hopefully the pictures below will give you a little glimpse into the true beauty of the park.

IMG_2396
Fins, spires, hoodoos, and mesas as seen from Island in the Sky

IMG_2325To get from Island in the Sky to The Needles Overlook, go back to Moab, then take Highway 191 south to Needles Overlook Road. Nice little hike from the parking lot to the overlooks. Excellent views and photo ops. Great place for a picnic. Drive time between Island in the Sky to The Needles Overlook: 1.5 hours.

Bonus stop: Wilson Arch. Beautiful arch 30 minutes south of Moab on Highway 191. Hike the (steep) hill to the arch, or just pull over for a few photos.

IMG_2322
Wilson Arch

 

IMG_2356
View from The Needles Overlook

We hope that our overview of Canyonlands National Park has given you the inspiration to start planning your own trip. Click the website link at the top of the page for information about the park. While you’re in the area, here are some other parks that are worthy of a side trip from Moab:

  • IMG_2327Natural Bridges National Monument – 2 hours;
  • Hovenweep National Monument – 2 hours;
  • Canyons of the Ancients National Monument – 2 hours;
  • Four Corners – 2.5 hours
  • Monument Valley – 3 hours.

Thank you for riding along with us! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye  

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Ruidoso, New Mexico

IMG_4815

Tucked snugly beneath the cool pines in the mountains of southeastern New Mexico, Ruidoso is a year-round vacation destination that has something for everyone. With its towering peaks, such as Sierra Blanca pictured above, and quaint alpine village setting, Ruidoso is a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We started going there as kids with our parents and grandparents, and we’ve been going back ever since!

The area offers skiing and other snow sports in the winter, along with the sweet, smoky aroma of piñion wood crackling in the fireplace. Summer brings the thrill of horse racing, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, golfing, and just about anything else you can think of to do outdoors. We love Ruidoso any time of year, but if we had to choose our favorite month to visit, we would choose October. We’re anxious to share this trip with you, so let’s get going!

Ruidoso is approximately:

140 miles from El Paso, Texas180 miles from Albuquerque, NM250 miles from Lubbock, Texas287 miles from Amarillo, Texas

Our trip is going to start in El Paso, since it is the closest city with a major airport. Drive time between El Paso and Ruidoso is 2.5 hours.

*Recommended hotels in El Paso: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express. (Links for these hotels are located in our Places/Links section at the top of the page.)

Getting There   IMG_4651

From El Paso, take US Highway 54 north toward Tularosa via Alamogordo, then take US Highway 70 northeast to Ruidoso.

⇒Alternate (recommended) Route: from El Paso, take I-10 north to Las Cruces, New Mexico. At Las Cruces, take US Highway 70 northeast to White Sands National Monument. Drive time between El Paso and White Sands: 1.5 hours.

Bonus stop: White Sands National Monument. Here’s the link: White Sands National Monument. Currently $5.00 per adult to enter the monument. Entrance is free for kids 15 and under, and there is a shop at the visitor center that rents sand discs for sledding on the dunes. Even if sledding isn’t your thing, the scenery is out of this world. There are plenty of places to park along Dunes Drive, so get out of the car and climb the dunes for spectacular views and photo ops with the mountains as the backdrop. Travel tip: before you go, check the website for park closures due to testing at White Sands Missile Range. Closures typically last three hours or less.

IMG_4745

IMG_4765

From White Sands, take US Highway 70 to Alamogordo.

IMG_4772

Bonus stop: New Mexico Museum of Space History/International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo. Here’s a link: Space Museum. Plan to spend a couple of hours here, as it is a fantastic museum that both kids and adults will love. Alamogordo offers many  hotel and restaurant choices, as well as a state park, wineries, and a zoo. While you’re in town, be sure to be on the lookout for the world’s largest pistachio! 

From Alamogordo, take US Highway 54 north to Tularosa (13 miles), then take US Highway 70 northeast to Ruidoso.

⇒Alternate (recommended) Route: from Alamogordo, take US Highway 82 east to Cloudcroft. (19 miles of steep two lane road.) This route through the Lincoln National Forest is very scenic. Travel tip: when you see the “Tunnel Ahead” sign, slow down for a pull out. The view of White Sands from the viewpoint is pictured below.

IMG_4781

Continue east on US Highway 82. Right before you reach the village of Cloudcroft, there is another pull out. Stop and get out of the car, stretch your legs, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. (The elevation here is about 8650 feet.) Learn about the historic Cloudcroft Railroad/Mexican Canyon Trestle pictured below. This only remaining portion of the old rail line is on the National Register of Historic Places.

IMG_4785

Bonus stop: Cloudcroft. Stop here and have a look around the village that is home to Ski Cloudcroft. The village also has shopping, restaurants, history, and a totally laid-back atmosphere.

*Recommended restaurant in Cloudcroft: Dave’s Cafe – 300 Burro Ave. Good food and good service.

Bonus stop: Sunspot Solar Observatory. Head south from Cloudcroft on Highway 130 toward Sunspot, New Mexico via the Sunspot Highway (aka Highway 6563). It is an extremely scenic drive (a total of 19 miles in the Lincoln National Forest) that ends at the observatory. Along the road, be sure to stop at the scenic viewpoint pull out for fabulous views of White Sands and the Tularosa Basin. At the observatory, check out the visitor center, the telescopes, and the beautiful scenery. The elevation at Sunspot is about 9200 feet.

From Cloudcroft, take Highway 244 north to US Highway 70 to Ruidoso. Highway 244 is also a scenic route through the Lincoln National Forest. Drive time from Cloudcroft to Ruidoso: 1 hour. Travel tip: watch for deer and elk along this road.

Did we mention why we like this area in October?

img_4809.jpg

img_4808.jpg

IMG_4812

Destination: Ruidoso, New Mexico

*Recommended resort hotel in Ruidoso: Inn of the Mountain Gods. This resort has everything, including a gorgeous, yet challenging golf course, and a casino! Here’s a link: Inn of the Mountain Gods.

IMG_4719
View from the terrace at Inn of the Mountain Gods

*Recommended hotel in Ruidoso: Hampton Inn.

*Recommended Mexican food restaurant: Casa Blanca – 501 Mechem Dr.

*Recommended restaurant for dinner: Texas Club – 212 Metz Dr.

*Recommended restaurant for lunch: Anaheim Jacks – 1097 Mechem Dr.

We have heard that Sacred Grounds – 2704 Sudderth Dr. – is great for breakfast. We haven’t been there, but we have seen the crowded parking lot!

Here are our picks for some of the best things to do in Ruidoso:

IMG_4705

  • Bet! Enjoy the excitement of summer horse racing at Ruidoso Downs. The adjoining Billy the Kid Casino is open year-round.
  • Gamble! Play the slots or try your hand at one the gaming tables at Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino.
  • Shop! Ruidoso’s downtown offers a variety of great shops and art galleries. There is bound to be something for every heart’s desire.
  • Play! There are public golf courses, a public swimming pool, tennis courts, public parks, a bowling alley, miniature golf, bumper boats, go-carts, and horseback riding stables, just to name a few. img_4710.jpg
  • Ski! Head up to Ski Apache for wintertime fun in the snow. There is also a site for sledding and tubing near the ski area.
  • Learn! Check out the Hubbard Museum of the American West, located just east of Ruidoso Downs race track.
  • Hike! There are many hiking trails in the area, along with bike trails.
  • Canoe! Area lakes provide the perfect setting for canoeing, kayaking, or fishing.IMG_4654

⇒Side trip: For history buffs, head northeast on Highway 48 (aka Billy the Kid Trail) from Ruidoso to Capitan for a visit to Smokey Bear Historical Park. Spend an hour touring the museum and nature area, and see Smokey’s final resting place. Tickets are $2.00 per adult and $1.00 for kids between the ages of seven and twelve. Kids under six are admitted free.

Travel tip: stop in at the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway Visitor Center in Ruidoso Downs (next to the Hubbard Museum of the American West) before traveling to these sites. Here’s a link: Billy the Kid Scenic Byway.

Next, head east on US Highway 380 to Fort Stanton Historic Site. Take a tour of the grounds and learn the importance of this historic fort. Here’s a link: Fort Stanton.

The third stop is Lincoln, New Mexico for some Old West history. (East on US Highway 380 from Fort Stanton.) Learn about the Lincoln County War, Sheriff Pat Garrett, and Billy the Kid, while touring the historic buildings in town. Tickets for entrance into all of the designated buildings are $5.00 per person at the visitor center. There is also a nice hiking/nature trail along the Rio Bonito. The slides below show some of the sights around Lincoln.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’re going to end this post with one last side trip idea. (While in any area, why not see everything. Right?)

Just a short drive east (one hour) from Ruidoso is the city of Roswell, New Mexico. (Remember the 1947 Roswell incident?) Well, whether or not you believe a flying saucer crashed there, a trip to the International UFO Museum and Research Center might be something you want to add to your itinerary.

Sedona 2007 158

Go ahead and admit it…we know you want to see this place. So go, even if it’s just so you can say you have been there! Telling about your trip to this museum will make for great campfire or cocktail party conversation, too.

Okay, that’s a wrap. Hopefully we have inspired your wanderlust, and if a trip to New Mexico is on your radar, we sincerely hope that you will make plans to visit Ruidoso and surrounding areas in the future. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

IMG_3516

  • Website link: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per vehicle
  • Campgrounds available in the park.
  • Hiking, climbing, rafting, scenic drives, and fishing available in the park.
  • Hotels and restaurants available in Montrose, Colorado, 20 minutes west, via Highway 50.
  • When to go: Anytime. We recommend May through September. Some park roads close during the winter months.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is probably one of the least crowded national parks we have visited so far, and we don’t know why. We were in awe of the park’s extraordinary features, especially the depth and beauty of the canyon itself. This is a wonderful park! As with all of our national parks, it definitely deserves a visit.

IMG_3538

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is approximately:

228 miles from Colorado Springs, Colorado250 miles from Denver, Colorado73 miles from Grand Junction, Colorado

This trip is going to start from Grand Junction, Colorado. The city does not have a major airport, but it does have a regional airport that is served by several national and regional carriers.

*Recommended hotels in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

*Recommended restaurant in Grand Junction: El Tapatio – 1145 North Ave. – fantastic Mexican food.

Now, we’re off to Black Canyon of the Gunnison! Grab a backpack and your hiking shoes. Get ready for fabulous scenery, dizzying heights, and a bonus destination that is going to knock your socks off. Let’s go!

Getting There

From Grand Junction, take Highway 50 south to Montrose, Colorado. Continue east on Highway 50 to Highway 92 north to the park entrance and South Rim Drive.

*Recommended hotel in Montrose: Holiday Inn Express.

*Recommended restaurant in Montrose: Camp Robber – 1515 Ogden Rd.

IMG_3417
Colorado Sunrise

 

For those traveling from Gunnison, Colorado, take Highway 50 west via Curecanti National Recreation Area to Highway 92 north to the park entrance.

Destination: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Stop at the visitor center to get information about the park and to access the trail to the Gunnison Point overlook. Spectacular views and unlimited photo ops. Then take South Rim Drive for more spectacular scenery. Travel tip: there are other ways to see the canyon and the park besides from South Rim Drive. Click the website above for details about the North Rim, the East Portal, and hiking trails.

IMG_3527
The Gunnison River and Black Canyon as seen from Gunnison Point
IMG_3522
Canyon View
IMG_3533
Painted Wall

Bonus Destination: Curecanti National Recreation Area – Morrow Point

IMG_3513

From Montrose, Colorado or Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, take Highway 50 east to Curecanti National Recreation Area. At mile marker 130 take the Pine Creek turnoff and proceed to the parking lot. Drive time between Montrose and Curecanti NRA: 1 hour.

We’re taking a boat tour on Morrow Point Resevoir in the Black Canyon! But first we have to get there. Get ready for a fantastic hike.

IMG_3467

Travel tips:

  • Bring a picnic lunch, snacks, plenty of water, sunscreen, sturdy hiking shoes, and a hat. Dress for the weather.
  • Allow one hour to hike the trail to the boat dock. There are 232 steps leading down to the trail, and then another (easy) mile to the dock.
  • The park ranger-guided tour lasts approximately 1.5 hours.
  • Advance reservations needed.
  • Campgrounds available at Curecanti National Recreation Area.
  • Here’s a link to the website: Curecanti NRA.

Below are a few of our favorite shots.

IMG_3476
Chipeta Falls
IMG_3491
Stunning Scenery on Still Water
IMG_3494
Rocky Reflection

IMG_3422

There is a lot to see and do in Western Colorado. Curecanti NRA has plenty of campsites available, and we hear that the trout and salmon fishing is great in its three lakes. At left is a shot of Blue Mesa Reservoir, and Dillon Pinnacles.

After you have enjoyed your time at these parks, head back to Montrose, and take Highway 550 south to the scenic town of Ouray. Continue on south to Silverton and then Durango via the San Juan Skyway, one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. Or, head north from Montrose back to Grand Junction, and check out Colorado National Monument.

That is our trip to Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the Morrow Point Boat Tour. We enjoyed sharing our trip with you. Our hope is that our trip gives you some ideas on how to plan your own vacation adventure in Western Colorado. Until next time…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Butte, Montana

IMG_0598

Butte, Montana: The Richest Hill on Earth. The town was established as a mine site in the mid-1800s. Gold, silver, and most of all copper, has been mined at Butte. Mining operations attracted workers from all over the world. At one time, the population of Butte was close to 100,000 people, so they claim, but today the population is a little over 36,000. Famous in the past for its rather notorious Red Light District, Butte today is famous for the Berkeley Pit, which is part of the largest environmental cleanup in U.S. history. With an interesting and storied past, Butte, Montana is great for a short visit or a longer stay.

Butte is:

  • A gateway to Helena, the Capital of Montana.
  • A good place to stop over when traveling to Glacier National Park.
  • The home of Montana Tech University.
  • Rich in copper mining history.
IMG_0613
Beautiful 9/11 Tribute in Butte

Butte is approximately:

118 miles from Missoula, Montana155 miles from Great Falls, Montana226 miles from Billings Montana147 miles from West Yellowstone, Montana

Our trip is going to start in Missoula, Montana. Missoula has an international airport that is served by several national carriers. Drive time between Missoula and Butte: 1.75 hours.

*Recommended hotels in Missoula: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express.

Getting There

From Missoula, Montana, take I-90 east to Butte via Deer Lodge. Bonus stop: Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. Tour the historic buildings. Learn about ranching in Montana at this working cattle ranch. Admission: free. Here’s a link: Grant-Kors Ranch National Historic Site. Drive time between Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS and Butte, Montana: 30 minutes.

Destination: Butte, Montana

*Recommended hotel in Butte: Hampton Inn.

*Recommended restaurant in Butte: The Montana Club – 3540 Harrison Ave.

*Recommended time to go to Butte: spring through fall.

Below are some of the things we enjoyed doing and seeing while we were in Butte.

IMG_0609

Trolley Ride. We started at the Butte Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and booked our ride to familiarize ourselves with the city. The driver gave an excellent overview of the history of Butte.

Our Lady of the Rockies. We read about her and then stopped to take a picture along the highway. Did you know that Our Lady of the Rockies is the fourth tallest statue in the U.S.? Created in the image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, she was dedicated as a tribute to women worldwide.

IMG_0579

Buildings as Billboards. We became enthralled by the old painted signs on many of the buildings in downtown Butte. Below is a slideshow of a few of them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Headframes. These are the contraptions that lowered (and raised) men, equipment, and even animals (mainly mules, which went down but not up – once they were down in the mines, they spent the rest of their lives there) into and out of the mines. Most importantly,  headframes were used to raise ore from the mines. Supposedly there are 10,000 miles of mines under the city of Butte. It is said that all of the underground mines were filled with water during the environmental cleanup of the Superfund Site at Butte.

IMG_0585
One of the historic headframes that still dot the landscape in Butte, Montana today

The Berkeley Pit. Of course, we wanted to pay $2.00 per person to see some toxic waste! Doesn’t everyone? There’s even a gift shop! Interestingly enough, the history of the mine and the fact that it is now an EPA Superfund Site, makes for a great tourist stop in Butte. The water in this huge pit supposedly has the toxicity of battery acid. Loud horns go off every few minutes to scare away birds. If they land on this “lake” they will die. A small mine still operates next to the Berkeley Pit today.

IMG_0616
Beautiful reflections in the toxic water of the Berkeley Pit

Side Trip to Helena, Montana. Drive time between Butte and Helena: 1 hour. Helena is the beautiful capital city of Montana. The Montana Historical Society, located across the street from the capitol building, is in the top three most interesting museums we have ever visited. We also visited the Cathedral of Saint Helena, which opened in 1908.

IMG_0554
Cathedral of Saint Helena

Side Trip to Missouri Headwaters State Park. This beautiful state park is located at Three Forks, Montana, where the confluence of three rivers: Gallatin, Jefferson, and Madison create the headwaters of the Missouri River. We went for the scenery, a picnic, and the learning experience. Lewis and Clark camped here. Boating, fishing, hiking, biking and camping are just a few of the popular activities at this park. Here’s a link: Missouri Headwaters State Park. Drive time between Missouri Headwaters State Park and Butte, Montana: 1 hour.

IMG_0528
Headwaters of the Missouri River
IMG_0521
This is one of the few buildings that remain of what was once the town of Second Gallatin City, Montana, located near the entrance of Missouri Headwaters State Park.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Butte, and we recommend a stop for anyone who happens to be in the area. Leave us a comment and tell us about your favorite places. We would love to hear from you! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Arches National Park

img_2271.jpg

  • Website: Arches National Park.
  • Cost: $30.00 per car.
  • Lodging in the park: one campground for RV and tent camping. Reservations accepted.
  • Accommodations and restaurants outside the park in Moab, Utah.
  • Hiking and backpacking trails in the park.
  • When to go: Anytime.

The crowds at Arches during the summer months are certainly a testament to the park’s popularity. But what’s not to like? Rock formations, incredible arches, gorgeous scenery, and the park’s location, bordering the Colorado River near Moab, Utah… Well, it doesn’t get much better than that! There truly is nothing else like Arches. You’re going to love this park, so let’s hit the road!

IMG_2279
Arches National Park

Arches is located approximately:

350 miles from Denver, Colorado230 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah110 miles from Grand Junction, Colorado

This trip starts from Grand Junction, Colorado because it is the most scenic route. Grand Junction has a regional airport supporting three major carriers, as well as several regional airlines. The closest major airport city is Salt Lake City. If you are traveling from Capitol Reef National Park, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered, too.

Getting There

*Recommended hotels in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

*Recommended restaurant in Grand Junction: El Tapatio – 1145 North Ave. Our favorite Mexican food anywhere — and we’re from Texas! (The El Tapatio in Page, Arizona is just as good.) The restaurants are family owned, and they have excellent service. Muy Bueno!

IMG_3705
Colorado River Along Highway 128

(Recommended route) From Grand Junction, take I-70 west across the Utah border to Highway 128. Take Highway 128 south toward Moab. This is an incredibly scenic route. Allow time to stop for (hundreds of) photo ops as the road follows the Colorado River all the way to Moab. Travel tip: the speed limit on I-70 in Utah is 80 mph. Drive time between Grand Junction, Colorado and Moab, Utah: depends on how many stops are made, but approximately 3 hours. Highway 128 is approximately 41 miles long.

IMG_3669
Colorado National Monument

Bonus stop: Colorado National Monument. Enter the park at the Grand Junction entrance, then take Rim Rock Drive for 23 miles of spectacular rock formations, spires, and deep canyons. Lots of pull outs and photo ops. Informative visitor center near the Fruita entrance. Hiking, biking, climbing, backpacking, and camping available. Here’s a link: Colorado National Monument. 

Exit Colorado National Monument at Fruita, Colorado and continue on I-70 west toward the Utah state line and then the Highway 128 exit. Drive time between Fruita and Moab: 2 hours. 

For those traveling from Capitol Reef National Park, stay on Highway 24 via Hanksville, Utah, and continue on Highway 24 to I-70. Take I-70 east to Highway 191 south to Arches and Moab. Drive time from Capitol Reef National Park to Arches National Park: 2 hours. Travel tip: top off your gas tank in Hanksville. The next available gas and other services will be in Green River which is approximately 60 miles through desert terrain.

*Recommended hotel in Moab: Holiday Inn Express.

Campgrounds and RV parks are available in Moab. We have heard that they fill up quickly, so advance reservations are highly suggested.

*Recommended restaurants in Moab: Zax Restaurant – 96 S Main St., and Pasta Jay’s – 4 S Main St.

IMG_3768

*Recommended tour company in Moab: Canyonlands by Night & Day. This company offers a full menu of adventures in the Moab area. We highly recommend the Sound and Light Show tour, which includes dinner (good food, by the way) followed by an evening boat ride on the Colorado River. Learn the history of the area and see the sights in the river canyon. Here’s a link to the website: Canyonlands by Night & Day

Destination: Arches National Park

Get ready for some jaw dropping sights!

IMG_2300
Window Wonders
IMG_2284
Magnificent Monoliths

Take your time driving through the park. Stop at the pull outs to read about the formations/arches and learn about how the features in this park were formed.

IMG_2292
Delicate Arch(es)
IMG_2318
Gorgeous Landscapes

Plan to spend a few days in Moab. There is another spectacular national park, Canyonlands, right next door, along with a scenic state park. You won’t want to miss either of those parks. (Stay tuned – we will be covering those in another post.)

IMG_3759

Moab has just about every outdoor adventure sport imaginable! From skydiving to hot air ballooning, the sky is the limit, and Moab is a mountain biking mecca. Off-roading is super popular, and there are several outfitters in town that can arrange almost anything you want to do. There is plenty of shopping on Main Street, and for those who like tourist traps, there’s one of those, too. Quirky Hole N The Rock is worth a quick stop for a souvenir or two. It’s on Highway 191, 12 miles south of Moab. Kids will love this place!

IMG_2285

We hope your trip to Arches National Park is as spectacular as the scenery! Please leave us a comment and tell us about your favorite road trip destinations, or tell us about your trip to Arches. We want to hear from you. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Grand Canyon National Park

IMG_2498

  • Website link: Grand Canyon National Park.
  • Cost: $35.00 per car
  • Accommodations in the park: Lodges at the north and south rims. Campgrounds at the north and south rims.
  • Backcountry camping available.
  • Mule trips available at both rims.
  • Day hiking and many longer trails available.
  • Commercial and non-commercial river rafting trips available.
  • Restaurants, deli’s, stores available at both rims.
  • When to go: South Rim – anytime. North Rim is closed during the winter months.

For years, we shied away from Grand Canyon National Park. “Who wants to look at a big hole?” we would say, but then while on another trip, we decided to go. We arrived at the South Rim and were terribly disappointed when our first view was of…nothing! Zip, zilch, nada – no big hole at all! Turns out the canyon was experiencing a fairly rare weather phenomenon called an inversion. The entire canyon was full of gray clouds, which is kind of great now that we know we have witnessed a rare phenomenon, but it was disappointing at the time.

Sedona 2007 006

Yep, this ↑ was our first ever view of the Grand Canyon. And to make matters worse, we were not prepared for high wind and torrential rain! (We are much better prepared travelers now, thankfully.) Finally, the storm blew past, the sun came out, and our trip was saved. Once we saw the breathtaking scenery, we couldn’t believe that we had been so stubborn about going. The Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Everyone should see this park.

Sedona 2007 021

Getting There

Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim) is approximately:

230 miles from Phoenix, Arizona280 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada410 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico

We are starting our trip in Phoenix, Arizona. Stock up on your road snacks, and let’s get going!

*Recommended hotels in Phoenix: Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn.

From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Flagstaff.

Bonus stop: Sedona, Arizona. Beautiful red rock scenery, lots to see and do. Great city to visit! (See our post about Sedona.)

At Flagstaff, take US Highway 180 to Highway 64. Take Highway 64 north to Grand Canyon National Park. Drive time between Phoenix, Arizona and Grand Canyon National Park: 3.75 hours.

⇒Alternate route: take a two hour and fifteen minute train from Williams, Arizona to the South Rim. The train leaves Williams daily at 9:30 am.

Destination: Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim)

All of the roads on the south rim can be driven in your own vehicle, however, it is so much better for you (and for the park) to take the free hop-on hop-off shuttles. There is so much to see and do in this part of the park, you could stay for days and never see it all. With that said, we are only going to to be able to give you a taste of what you will see at the south rim.

Sedona 2007 011
Hopi House at Grand Canyon Village (South Rim). Originally a workshop for making and selling Native American arts and crafts. Built in 1905.
Sedona 2007 005
Historic El Tovar Hotel in Grand Canyon Village (South Rim). Wonderful food in the dining room here. Opened in 1905 as a Harvey House, and is now a National Historic Landmark.
Sedona 2007 033
View of the Colorado River meandering through the Grand Canyon
Sedona 2007 027
Desert View Watchtower (South Rim)
Sedona 2007 031
Ceiling Artwork In Desert View Watchtower

While visiting (or before you go), you may want to learn about Mary Colter. She is the architect who designed many of the historic buildings at the South Rim, including Hopi House and Desert View Watchtower, among others. Her story is extremely inspirational, especially for young women and girls, as Mary Colter was a woman who was decades ahead of her time. While you’re at it, pick up a copy of The Harvey Girls – Women Who Opened the West, a wonderful book by Lesley Poling-Kempes. The book tells the story of the women who for years catered to travelers in many historic locations, including El Tovar Hotel and Bright Angel Lodge in Grand Canyon National Park. Very interesting read.

Now, let’s go to the the North Rim!

Getting There

The North Rim is approximately:

123 miles from Page, Arizona210 miles from the South Rim265 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada

We will start this trip from Page, Arizona since it is the closest city with an airport, though it is a small municipal airport with mainly tour and commuter type services.

*Recommended hotel in Page: Hampton Inn.

*Recommended restaurant in Page: El Tapatio – 25 S Lake Powell Blvd.

Campgrounds available in and around Page.

Travel tip: While in Page, check out the many activities this area has to offer, including Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam, or take a side trip to Monument Valley.

IMG_2500
Bison near the North Rim entrance

From Page, take US Highway 89 south for 2 miles. Bonus stop: Horseshoe Bend. Hike to the scenic viewpoint above the Colorado River for a breathtaking view. Be prepared for parking issues, large crowds, and high heat. Take water and good hiking shoes/boots.

Continue on US Highway 89 for 39 miles to Navajo Bridge. This is a very scenic drive to Marble Canyon, Navajo Bridge, and Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

Bonus stop: Navajo Bridge/Marble Canyon. Stop at the interpretive center for information about the area. The original Navajo Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. Look for rare California condors along the Colorado River in beautiful Marble Canyon.

IMG_2483
Navajo Bridge and Vermillion Cliffs
IMG_2477
Marble Canyon view of the Colorado River from Navajo Bridge

Continue on US Highway 89 to Highway 67. Turn south at Jacob Lake, Arizona to Grand Canyon National Park. Drive time between Page, Arizona and North Rim: 2.5 hours. Drive time between Jacob Lake, Arizona and North Rim: 1 hour.

  • North Rim Website link: North Rim Grand Canyon.
  • Cost: $35.00 per car.
  • Accommodations: Grand Canyon Lodge and one campground located inside park.
  • Alternative camping available outside the park
  • Dining services available in the park.
  • North Rim has fewer crowds than South Rim.
  • When to go: May through October.

Destination: Grand Canyon National Park (North Rim)

IMG_2503

Stop at the visitor center for information about the park, then head to the patio at the Grand Canyon Lodge for exceptional views of the canyon. You might even get up close and personal with a cute little chipmunk, but remember: it is illegal to feed any wildlife.

Hike the trail to Bright Angel Point for the spectacular views. Or, drive the park roads to the other viewpoints at the North Rim. See the park map at the website link above.

IMG_2515
North Rim View

 

IMG_2543
View from Point Imperial (North Rim)

With everything there is to do and see at Grand Canyon National Park, it is easy to see why more than five million people visit the park annually. If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, we hope that you are now inspired to go see this amazing park. (Don’t be like we were and keep putting it off.) This is a fantastic vacation destination for the entire family! Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye  

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Sedona, Arizona

Sedona 2007 051

Nestled in the heart of the American Southwest, Sedona, Arizona is truly one of the prettiest cities we have ever visited. Life there seems to move at a slower pace, and the city offers great places to relax, shop, and eat. Sedona is a dark sky community, which means there is an ordinance against light pollution. On clear nights, the Milky Way can be seen arching across the sky from horizon to horizon! By day, the red rock scenery is enchanting, and the weather is usually great.

Sedona is:

  • Perfect for a couples getaway.
  • Perfect for a long weekend or extended stay.
  • Perfect as a hub for several national parks and other attractions.
  • When to go: Anytime. We like October.

Sedona is located approximately:

275 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada117 miles from Phoenix, Arizona350 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico

This trip starts from the closest major airport city: Phoenix, Arizona. Drive time between Phoenix and Sedona: 2 hours.

*Recommended hotels in Phoenix: Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn. Also, there are many choices for camping in and around Phoenix.

Phoenix attractions include: a zoo, an aquarium, water parks, museums, hiking trails, golf courses, among others. Click here for more information: Visit Phoenix. But for now we’re anxious to get on the road to Sedona, so let’s go!

Sedona 2007 055

Getting There

From Phoenix, take I-17 north toward Sedona. Bonus stop: Montezuma Castle National Monument. See ancient dwellings tucked high into the side of a mountain. Here’s a link: Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Continue on I-17 north to Highway 179 north to Sedona.

Destination: Sedona, Arizona

*Recommended hotels in Sedona: Best Western Plus Inn of Sedona – 1200 AZ-89A. Here’s a link: Best Western Plus Inn of Sedona, or Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express.

*Recommended restaurant in Sedona: Oak Creek Brewery and Grill – d201 336, AZ-17. Here’s a link: Oak Creek Brewery and Grill.

Sedona 2007 129

Here’s a tour, featuring our favorite things to do in Sedona:

Sedona 2007 067 1. Hop on a trolley. Take a tour of the city and get some great information about the area. Travel tip: do this first to familiarize yourself  with the city.

2. Shop. Tlaquepaque (Tuh-lockee-pockee) is the can’t-miss venue. Here’s a link: Tlaquepaque.  We also recommend walking downtown Sedona. There are many shops worthy of a look.

Travel Tip: don’t be fooled by time share vendors who offer free tickets for tours or offer something else free for attending their program. These folks can be be pretty sly and are paid to be very persistent.

3. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross – 780 Chapel Rd. Gorgeous church with spectacular views.

Sedona 2007 115
The Chapel of the Holy Cross

4. Red Rock State Park. If there really is something to that vortexes thing people talk about in Sedona, then this place might just have it! We experienced peaceful calm – an almost spiritual feeling – at this park. Hike one or all of the trails, or find solitude along the banks of Oak Creek. This park is an excellent picnic destination.

sedona
Cathedral Rock from Red Rock State Park
Sedona 2007 028
South Rim of the Grand Canyon

5. Take a Pink Jeep tour. This tour company, known for their signature pink jeeps, can arrange a variety of off-roading adventures, hiking tours, and trips to the Grand Canyon, among others. We highly recommend the Grand Canyon tour. Here’s a link to their website: Pink Adventure Tours.

6. Oak Creek Canyon. Scenic 14 mile drive between Sedona and Flagstaff. This is a slow road because of the corkscrew twists and turns, but the scenery will take your breath away!

7. Slide Rock State Park. Beautiful park in Oak Creek Canyon featuring a natural rock water slide. Go to play in the water, go to hike, or go for the scenery in this historic park.

Sedona 2007 174
Slide Rock State Park

8. Gaze at the stars. There are several astronomy tours available in Sedona, and the state parks host them periodically, too. Learn about the constellations and take a peek into space through their telescopes. We recommend Sedona Star Gazing – Evening Sky Tours. Here’s a link: Evening Sky Tours.

9. Watch the sun set. We love a great sunset (or sunrise), and Airport Mesa is the place to be in Sedona just before the sun goes down. Here’s the one were lucky enough to catch.

Sedona 2007 044

10. Take a side trip: 

  • Grand Canyon National Park is 2 hours north of Sedona via Flagstaff.
  • Petrified Forest National Park is 2.5 hours northeast of Sedona via Flagstaff.
  • Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Page, Arizona and Lake Powell are 2.75 hours north of Sedona via US Highway 89.
  • Tuzigoot National Monument is 30 minutes southwest of Sedona.
  • Walnut Canyon National Monument is 45 minutes northeast of Sedona via Flagstaff.
  • Saguaro National Park is 3.5 hours southwest of Sedona via Phoenix and Tucson.

Sedona 2007 078

That was a whirlwind tour, but we sincerely hope that we have inspired your wanderlust. While we can’t guarantee anything, we are pretty sure that you will love Sedona as much as we did. Please leave us a comment below. We would love to hear about your favorite road trips. Until next time…

Travel save, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye 

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Rocky Mountain National Park

IMG_4033

  • Website link: Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Cost: $35.00 per car (7-day pass).
  • Accommodations: Campgrounds for RVs and tents, as well as backcountry camping in the park. Additional hotels, campgrounds, and other amenities, including restaurants, available in Estes Park, Grand Lake, Lyons, and Loveland.
  • What to do: hike, bike, climb, backpack, fish. Spectacular scenic drives. Horseback riding is also available in the park (seasonal).
  • When to go: Anytime. Summer and early fall are the best times to go, however, the park is most crowded during these times.

It’s no wonder that almost 4.5 million people visited Rocky Mountain National Park in 2017, with almost one million people visiting in July alone! The park is spectacular from top to bottom and everywhere in between. We can’t figure out why it took us so long to get there, but we’re so glad we finally went. In fact, we didn’t want to leave, even after spending several days in the park. Rocky Mountain National Park is a UNESCO international biosphere reserve and is home to a multitude of animals and birds, as well as glaciers and one of the few alpine tundra ecosystems in the lower forty-eight states. So, pack your bags and hop on board for our tour of one of the great treasures of the national park system.

IMG_0275

Rocky Mountain National Park is approximately:

70 miles from Denver, Colorado470 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah500 miles from Amarillo, Texas515 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico740 miles from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

IMG_4133Getting There

Our trip is going to start from Denver, Colorado, the closest major airport city to Rocky Mountain National Park.

From Denver, take E-470 (toll road) to I-25 north toward Longmont, Colorado. Continue north to Loveland, Colorado. At Loveland, take US Highway 34 west to Estes Park. Drive time between Denver and Estes Park via this route: 1.75 hours.

Travel tip: the drive from Loveland to Estes Park is very scenic through the Big Thompson River Canyon. The road has been newly rebuilt and the scenery should not be missed.

At Estes Park, continue on US Highway 34 west to the Fall River entrance and visitor center OR take US Highway 36 to the Beaver Meadows entrance and visitor center.

⇒Alternate route: from Denver, take I-25 north to Highway 66 west toward Lyons, then take US Highway 36 to the Wild Basin entrance station and continue north to Estes Park. Drive time between Denver and Estes Park via this route: 1.5 hours.

Travel tip: the Fall River entrance (US Highway 34) leads to Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved highway in the U.S and designated All-American Road. Weather permitting, this road is a must-do while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. For spectacular views, stop at all of the pull-outs along the road, as well as the Alpine visitor center which is about half-way between the east and west sides of the park. A cafe is available at this visitor center seasonally.

IMG_0196
View from Alpine Visitor Center

Destination: Rocky Mountain National Park

IMG_3890

We are taking the Highway 34 (Fall River entrance) to start our tour. First stop: Sheep Lakes area for a little elk watching. Elk rutting or mating season occurs during the first few weeks of fall, and we were able to see several elk bulls with their harems during our time in the park. What a thrill to see nature at it’s best! The ones above are young bulls.

Our next stop is at the Alluvial Fan. This fan was created during a natural dam break at Lawn Lake in the 1980s, which sent trees and boulders tumbling four miles down the mountain and flooded the surrounding park areas and the city of Estes Park with millions of gallons of water. Today, this is a popular hiking and picnicking area featuring the Roaring River, cascading waterfalls, and huge boulders.

IMG_3923
Alluvial Fan

Now we begin our climb to the top of Trail Ridge Road, along which are several scenic pull outs with amazing views. Here are a few of our favorites taken from below the treeline.

IMG_3914
Mountains and meadows
IMG_3941
Fall colors
IMG_3944
Ypsilon Mountain (13,520 feet)

And, our favorites from above the treeline in the alpine tundra as we make our trek up to the Alpine Visitor Center.

IMG_4063
Late summer on the tundra (Sundance Mountain – 12,466 feet)
IMG_0180
Terra Tomah Mountain with glacial cirque and icy remnants (12,723 feet)

With only about a six week summer season, it is amazing that wildlife and plants can survive at this elevation, but they do. Did you know that the cute little animals below spend 80 percent of their lives hibernating?

IMG_4085
Yellow-Bellied Marmot
IMG_4094
Pika

In addition to these animals and the elk, we also saw big horn sheep, deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, many different birds, as well as trout in the clear water of the alpine lakes. And speaking of alpine lakes, Rocky Mountain National Park has a lot of them. We loved hiking to and around several of the lakes on the Beaver Meadows side of the park. There are numerous hiking trails throughout the park, providing adventures for every level of hiker, backpacker, or climber.

IMG_4879
Sprague Lake with Hallet Peak, Tyndall Glacier, and Flattop Mountain in the background
img_0231.jpg
Bear Lake with Hallett Peak Reflection
IMG_4177
Bear Lake with changing trees
IMG_0244
Nymph Lake with water lilies
IMG_4239
Dream Lake
IMG_0253
Emerald Lake and Hallett Peak

The hike from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake took us about four hours round trip, including stops. There is about a 600 foot elevation gain along the trail. The elevation at Emerald Lake is 10,110 feet.

Travel tip: the parking lot at Bear Lake fills quickly during peak seasons. Arrive early in the morning to secure a parking space, or take the shuttle from either the Estes Park Visitor Center or the park and ride lot near Glacier Basin inside the park.

IMG_4266
Bull elk and part of his very large harem

It was wonderful getting to see the park as it was changing into its fall colors. Doesn’t the picture above remind you of autumn? This bull had about twenty cows in his harem, plus their calves.

Over on the west side of the park, which is accessed via Trail Ridge Road, there are many pull-outs and scenic vistas, along with several trailheads and the Holzwarth Historic Site, which is open from mid-June through September. Here’s a link: Holzwarth Historic Site. Drive time between Estes Park and Grand Lake via Trail Ridge Road: 1.5 hours without stops.

Bonus stop: Estes Park. This beautiful mountain town is the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. It features unique shops, wonderful restaurants, and a multitude of lovely hotels. The most famous hotel, The Stanley, opened in 1909 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. A stay at The Stanley inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. We recommend taking one of the interesting tours of the hotel. Parking is $10.00 plus the cost of the tour.

IMG_4154
The Stanley Hotel

IMG_4129

During peak seasons, parking can be difficult in downtown Estes Park, but there is a large free parking lot next to the police station. The restaurants we recommend are Claire’s on the Park – 225 Park Lane, and Hunters Chop House – 1690 Big Thompson Avenue.

⇒Side tripLoveland. This city has a small town feel with big city amenities. Loveland has great shopping (The Promenade Shops at Centerra), a state park, beautiful city parks, and natural spaces. There are also many nice hotels (Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn, among others) and RV parks (Riverview RV Park, which is located next to the Big Thompson River). Take an after dinner stroll around Lake Loveland, or take a Sunday afternoon walk through the Benson Sculpture Garden. (Website link: Benson Sculpture Garden.) One of our favorites was an early evening hike on Wild Loop trail at Devil’s Backbone Open Space. (Website link: Devil’s Backbone Open Space.) The restaurant we recommend is McGraff’s American Grill -1602 E Eisenhower Blvd. Drive time between Estes Park and Loveland: 40 minutes.

IMG_0156
One of the beautiful sculptures at Benson Sculpture Garden
IMG_0167
Devil’s Backbone Open Space

We will end this post with one last picture. Below is Longs Peak, the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, standing at 14,259 feet.

IMG_3948

Thank you so much for joining us on our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park! We always love having you along for the ride. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own. ©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Taos, New Mexico

IMG_3192
Taos Pueblo

Northern New Mexico is a breath of fresh air – literally. The air is clean, the skies are bright, and the mountains are majestic! While visiting Taos you will be able to learn about its historic past, see world class art, and enjoy great food, all in a casual, laid-back atmosphere! Taos is also a year-round hub for a multitude of outdoor sports, and opportunities for sightseeing abound.

  • The perfect destination for a long weekend.
  • A great get away for couples.
  • When to visit: anytime, but we like September and October. Snow sports enthusiasts will love Taos in the winter months.

Taos is approximately:

133 miles from Albuquerque, NM70 miles from Santa Fe New Mexico295 miles from Amarillo, Texas290 miles from Denver, Colorado

This road trip is going to start from the closest major airport, which is in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We’re so glad to have you along for the ride!

Getting There

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express, several locations to choose from.

procsimpleOX63LBZ7*Recommended restaurant in Albuquerque: Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen – 5011 Pan American Freeway NE.

Travel tip: We highly recommend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which takes place every October. Click this link for information.

From Albuquerque, take I-25 north to Santa Fe. Drive time between Albuquerque and Santa Fe: 1 hour.

Alternate recommended route: (Scenic Turquoise Trail) From Albuquerque, take I-40 east to Highway 14 north toward Madrid. Bonus stop: Madrid, New Mexico. Once a ghost town, Madrid is now a thriving artist community. Drive time between Albuquerque and Madrid: 1 hour. Continue on to Santa Fe via Highway 14. Drive time between Madrid and Santa Fe: 40 minutes.

Bonus Stop: Santa Fe. 

img_1629.jpg
Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (Santa Fe)

Travel tip: If you can’t spend a few days in Santa Fe, at least stop for a few hours to explore the plaza. Plan a trip back when you can spend some time exploring everything this historic city has to offer.

*Recommended attractions in Santa Fe: Santa Fe Plaza, Palace of the Governors, Canyon Road Art Galleries, Loretto Chapel, San Miguel Chapel, Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe Railyard. (We have heard that Meow Woof is a must-do in Santa Fe, but we haven’t been there yet.)

img_1633.jpg
Rail Runner train at Santa Fe Railyard

Suggested hotel in Santa Fe: Holiday Inn Express.

*Recommended hotel in Santa Fe: Inn on the Alameda. Within walking distance of the plaza and Canyon Road galleries. Free breakfast. Click this link for Inn on the Alameda

*Recommended restaurants in Santa Fe: The Shed – 113 E Palace Avenue, at the plaza, and The Pink Adobe – 406 Old Santa Fe Trail.

⇒Side trip: Pecos National Historical Park. From Santa Fe, take I-25 toward Glorietta, then Highway 50 east to Pecos, New Mexico and follow the signs to the park. View the ruins of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. Allow at least two hours to see the site via a self-guided walking tour. The visitor center museum is extremely interesting. Drive time between Santa Fe and Pecos National Historical Park: 40 minutes. We highly recommend a visit to this park! Click here for information.

IMG_3877
Church building at Pecos National Historical Park

(High Road to Taos) From Santa Fe take Highway 84/285 north toward Pojoaque, then take Highway 503 east via Highway 98 to Chimayo. Bonus stop: historic Santuario de Chimayo. Learn about El Posito, a hole with supposed healing powers in its dirt. From Chimayo, take Highway 76 north to Cordova, then Truchas. Continue on Highway 76 toward Penasco. Bonus stop: historic Church of San Jose de la Gracia in Las Trampas for a quick photo op and a brief history lesson. Highway 76 takes you all the way to Penasco where it merges into Highway 518, which takes you to Ranchos de Taos. At Ranchos de Taos, turn east on to US 64 to Taos. Although these directions sound complicated, they’re not. This drive is scenic and definitely worth the time. Drive time between Santa Fe and Taos: 2.5 hours.

(Low Road to Taos) At Santa Fe, take US 84 West, then 285 North toward Espanola, then take Highway 68 to Taos. Drive time between Santa Fe and Taos: 1.5 hours.

IMG_3840
The Church of San Jose de la Gracia (Las Trampas)

Destination: Taos, New Mexico

Suggested hotel in Taos: The Historic Taos Inn.

*Recommended hotels in Taos: El Pueblo Lodge – Here’s a link, and Hampton Inn.

IMG_3205

*Recommended restaurants in Taos: The Gorge Bar & Grill – 103 East Plaza. Eat outside on the second floor patio overlooking the plaza, and Mondo Italiano Taos – 832 Paseo Del Pueblo Sur. Good Italian food.

We will let you make your own itinerary, but the following are some of our favorite things to do in Taos:

The Plaza. Walk the square, check out the unique shops and boutiques, pick up a box of chocolates at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, and stop in at one of the plaza’s restaurants for drinks and a meal. Travel tip: there are some great shops and restaurants just off of the plaza, too.

Taos Pueblo. Take a guided walking tour of the pueblo. Learn the history of the site and of the people who have called this sacred ground home for over one thousand years. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Very well worth the price of the tour and a tip for the tour guide. Plan to spend two hours here.

img_3191.jpg
Taos Pueblo

Hot Air Balloon Ride. For the thrill of a lifetime, take an early morning hot air balloon flight. Dip into the Rio Grande Gorge, touch down on the river, then float high above the plateaus for spectacular views of the gorge and the mountains with glimpses of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. End your flight with a glass of champagne. We recommend Pueblo Balloon Company for this this half day excursion! Here’s a link: Pueblo Balloon Company.

IMG_3290

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Take US Highway 64 West from Taos. Park on the west side, and walk across the bridge, which sits 650 feet above the river! Look for desert big horn sheep on the rocks along the gorge. Great photo ops here.

IMG_3356
Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Fish. Or spend your day enjoying most any other outdoor sport your heart may desire. Rafting outfitters in Taos can arrange a float trip on the Rio Grande. Stop by Taos Fly Shop for some great fishing gear, a license, and tips on where the fish are biting. Check out the Taos Ski Valley for great hiking and mountain biking, and of course skiing and snowboarding in the winter.

IMG_3832
Fly fishing on the Rio Pueblo

Kick back. Grab a good book and find a cozy spot in the sun, or curl up in front of a fireplace with a warm drink and that box of chocolates you bought at the plaza. Take a leisurely stroll through the art museums and galleries then stop in at Parcht (on the plaza) for a glass of wine and a bite. Or get back on the road for a drive through the mountains and Carson National Forest. The possibilities for rest and relaxation in the Taos area are endless.

IMG_3206

We hope your trip to Taos is historic, relaxing, and everything else you want it to be! Leave us a reply and let us know how much you enjoyed your trip. We would love to hear from you.

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Bryce Canyon National Park

IMG_2018

  • Website: Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Cost: $35.00 per car.
  • Accommodations: RV and tent camping in the park, and Bryce Canyon Lodge.
  • Hotel and additional RV camping just outside the park entrance.
  • Park shuttle available from April through October (not mandatory as in Zion).
  • Dining available at Bryce Canyon Lodge.
  • When to go: we recommend June through mid-September.

Bryce Canyon is undeniably one of the jewels in the crown of the National Park System. The breathtaking scenery leaves most who view it speechless. All we could say when we got to Inspiration Point was, “Wow!”, and it took a few minutes before another word was uttered by either of us. Every stop in the park is incredibly impressive, so let’s go!

Getting There

From Zion National Park, take Highway 9 east to US Highway 89 north toward Panguitch, Utah. Travel tip: when traveling in or with an RV, check with Zion National Park before attempting Highway 9 east out of the park. The Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel, which lies between the east park entrance and the south park entrance, may or may not accommodate your vehicle/trailer. The park has special regulations/fees for RVs traveling this road.

Turn right (east) on to Highway 12 (Scenic Byway 12 – All American Road, and it lives up to its name for all 121 miles!) Drive time between Zion and Bryce Canyon: 1.5 hours.

IMG_2016
Tunnel on Highway 12 – All American Road

From Salt Lake City, take I-15 south to Cedar City: Drive time between Salt Lake City and Cedar City: 3.5 hours. At Cedar City, take Highway 14 east toward Cedar Breaks National Monument. Bonus stop: Cedar Breaks National Monument. Deep canyon featuring gorgeous red rock formations and hoodoos. The perfect prelude to Bryce Canyon. Here’s a link: Cedar Breaks National Monument. Continue on Highway 14 east to US Highway 89. Take US Highway 89 north to Highway 12 (Scenic Byway 12 – All American Road) and turn right (east) to Bryce Canyon. Drive time between Cedar City and Bryce Canyon: 1.5 hours.

IMG_2200

 

Bonus stop: Red Canyon Visitor Center. Hiking, biking, camping, and picnicking here. Another prelude to what Bryce Canyon holds in store. Great place for a rest stop or a picnic, plus some great photo ops.

 

img_2203.jpg
Formations at Red Canyon

Suggested accommodations in the area: Ruby’s Inn at the entrance to Bryce Canyon. Here’s a link: Ruby’s Inn. There is also camping available and a small grocery store near Ruby’s Inn. Days Inn in Panguitch. Here’s a link: Days Inn, Panguitch, Utah. Campgrounds available in Panguitch. Drive time between Panguitch and Bryce Canyon: 30 minutes.

Suggested restaurant in Panguitch: The Original Kenny Rays – 80 N Main St.

*Recommended restaurant in Panguitch: Cowboy’s Smokehouse – 95 North Main.

Destination: Bryce Canyon National Park

From Highway 12, turn right (south) on to Highway 63 to the park entrance. Stop at the visitor center for park information, then continue on Highway 63 south. The park road is 18 miles long with stops for each “canyon” and “point” in the park. Rim Trail from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point to Inspiration Point is a popular hike. Inspiration Point sits at an elevation of 8100 feet.

IMG_2041
View from Inspiration Point

Continuing along the road, stop at all of the pull outs (there are at least 14 of them) for different views and formations. As far as we know, there is nothing else in the world like Bryce Canyon, and you will want to see it all. Outstanding photo ops at every stop! Here are a few of ours:

IMG_2093

IMG_2077

IMG_2140

There is a wonderful picnic area and overlook at Rainbow Point, which is the last stop on the park road. Rainbow Point sits at an elevation of 9100 feet. Travel tip: dress in layers, as temperatures in the higher elevations may be much cooler than at lower elevations.

IMG_2132
View from Rainbow Point

Click the website link at the top of the page for details about hiking in Bryce Canyon. We liked the Mossy Cave Trail. The trailhead is on Highway 12 east of the park entrance. The trail runs along a shallow stream to a small waterfall. There is no shade on this trail, so come prepared if the weather is hot.

IMG_2191
Along Mossy Cave Trail
IMG_2194
Waterfall at Mossy Cave Trail

img_2156.jpg

⇒Side trip: Kodachrome Basin State Park. Take Highway 12 toward Tropic, Utah, and then Cannonville, Utah, and follow the road to the park. Drive time: between Bryce Canyon and Kodachrome Basin: 30 minutes.

  • Cost: $8.00 per vehicle
  • RV and tent camping available
  • Bunkhouses available

Drive through the park on paved and unpaved roads for views of the rock formations, or get up close and personal with the park’s features by hiking the easy trails.

IMG_2162

IMG_2174

Above and below: spectacular scenery at Kodachrome Basin State Park.
IMG_2167
Some believe that the tower or pinnacle formations, such as the one above, are ancient thermal features, or parts of ancient springs, or geysers, perhaps. Whatever they are, they are interesting formations that probably can’t be seen anywhere else.

 

IMG_2209
View from Highway 12 near Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

When leaving Kodachrome Basin or Bryce Canyon, take Highway 12 east toward Escalante, Utah and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Travel tip: Use extreme caution on Highway 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante. There are twists, turns, and high points on the two lane road with no guardrails in some places. The scenery is spectacular and very worth the road trip. Continue north to Highway 24 east and Capitol Reef National Park or,

Take Highway 12 west back toward Panguich and then north on Highway 89 to Highway 20 west to I-15 and back to Salt Lake City.

Bryce Canyon is one of the parks that everyone should get to experience. We hope that you enjoy your visit there as much as we enjoyed ours. Please drop us a note below and tell us about your trip to Bryce Canyon, or any other trip, for that matter. We would love to hear from you.

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

Featured

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Big Bend National Park

img_2768.jpg

  • Website link: Big Bend National Park
  • Cost: $30.00 per car (as of June 1, 2018)
  • When to go: anytime, however, the summer temperatures can be extremely high. We recommend March through April when the desert plants are in bloom.
  • Suggested accommodations in the park: Chisos Mountains Lodge, or there are several developed and undeveloped campsites/campgrounds available for RV and tent camping. Backcountry camping requires a permit. Click the link above for information.

We are so excited to start this road trip in our home state of Texas! Big Bend is one of the two national parks in the Lone Star State. (The other is Guadalupe Mountains National Park.) Big Bend is located in the bend where the Rio Grande River creates the border between the United States and Mexico. As you will see below, the park is a quite a jaunt from any major city. (But isn’t vacation time for getting away from it all, anyway?) At Big Bend you will experience the peacefulness of the desert and the beauty of the mountains, as well as the tranquility of the river. We think it’s the perfect escape for a long weekend or an extended stay.  

Big Bend National Park is approximately:

437 miles from Austin, Texas — 533 miles from Dallas, Texas — 292 miles from El Paso, Texas — 563 miles from Houston, Texas — 321 miles from Lubbock, Texas — 203 miles from Midland, Texas — 412 miles from San Antonio, Texas

IMG_2708
The Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park as seen from Terlingua, Texas

Okay, Big Bend is in a remote location, but the good news is: if you don’t have time to drive to the park, all of the above cities have airports and car rentals! We are big believers in flying to the closest airport, renting a sweet ride, and hitting the road from there. Now, before you go getting all mad at the bloggers, we know that’s not the most cost effective way to travel. We would love to have unlimited cash to fund our travels, but we don’t, nor do we have unlimited time because we have full-time jobs. However, we have found that it does help to have air miles, hotel points, and a plan. The “plan” is the reason we’re here. We want to help you make the most of your vacation time, and depending on where you stay and how long you stay, a trip to Big Bend is relatively inexpensive compared to the costs of visiting  some of the other national parks.

Let’s hit the road, starting from the closest major airport in Midland, Texas. This route is not the fastest, but it is the most scenic, and there are some great bonus stops along the way.

Getting There

Take I-20 west out of Midland, toward Pecos, Texas, via Odessa and Monahans. Bonus stop: Monahans Sandhills State Park. Play on the dunes! Tent and RV campsites are available in the park. Approximate drive time between Midland and Pecos: 1.5 hours.

*Recommended hotels in Midland and Pecos: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express. Travel tip: these cities are located in booming oil production areas, so nightly hotel rates are likely to be much higher than in other places.

At Pecos, take Highway 17 south toward Fort Davis, Texas. Bonus stop: Balmorhea State Park for a dip in the world’s largest spring fed swimming pool! Tent and RV campsites are available in the park, as well as the San Solomon Springs Courts (motor courts-type motel), which was built by the CCC in the 1940s. Approximate drive time between Pecos and Balmorhea: 40 minutes. Travel tip: have the kids make a list of all the animals they see on the trip. 

Continue on Highway 17 through the Davis Mountains to the town of Fort Davis. Look for Aoudad Sheep in this area. Double Bonus stops: Fort Davis National Historic Site. Take a walking tour through the fort, and then head to Davis Mountains State Park where you can enjoy some fantastic mountain scenery and check out the famous McDonald Observatory! Tent and RV campsites are available in the state park. Approximate drive time between Pecos and Fort Davis: 1.5 hours.

img_3144-e1532659295358.jpg
Aoudad Sheep 

Suggested accommodation in Fort Davis: Fort Davis Drug Store and Hotel. We have not stayed in the hotel, but we do recommend the food at the Fort Davis Drug Store.

Suggested accommodation at Davis Mountains State Park: Indian Lodge, built in the 1930s by the CCC.

*Recommended accommodation for this area: Hampton Inn in Alpine.

img_3139.jpg

At Fort Davis, take Highway 118 to continue on to Alpine. This is a beautiful drive, so take the time to enjoy the scenery. Approximate drive time between Fort Davis and Alpine: 30 minutes. Travel tip: stop at the Museum of the Big Bend on the Sul Ross University campus in Alpine. Spend about an hour learning about the area. Interesting museum for all ages, and it’s free! Travel Tip: top off your gas tank and buy groceries in Alpine. 

img_3119-e1532661194741.jpg
Wild Burros

Continue on Highway 118 south to Terlingua, Texas and Big Bend National Park. Approximate drive time between Alpine and Terlingua: 2 hours. Look for Javelina near creeks along the road south of Alpine, and be prepared to stop at Border Patrol checkpoints in this area. Just north of Terlingua, watch for the burro crossing signs and the adorable wild burros that cross the highway here.

Arrive in Terlingua. At Terlingua Ghost Town, definitely stop by the Terlingua Trading Company for a souvenir or two, and then take a stroll through the historic Terlingua Cemetery. Have dinner at the Starlight Theatre. Cool atmosphere, kid friendly, good food, and live IMG_2707entertainment!

*Recommended restaurants in Terlingua: Starlight Theatre and La Kiva.  

*Recommended accommodation in this area: Lajitas Resort. Nice, clean hotel, spa, highly acclaimed golf course, general store (deli, grocery, gas), the Thirsty Goat Saloon, Candelilla Restaurant (good food), and a relaxing, laid-back atmosphere. Stop by the general store and say hello to Clay Henry. He’s the mayor of Lajitas, and he’s a goat! This resort has activities available for everyone in the family.          

IMG_2766

Bonus stop: Big Bend Ranch State Park. Check out the hiking trails in this beautiful state park. Better yet, start at Lajitas and head west on Highway 170 through parts of the park  for a spectacular scenic drive  that follows the Rio Grande all the way to Presidio, Texas. We highly recommend this drive! Travel tip: the river is the US border. A passport is required to cross in to Mexico.

Destination: Big Bend National ParkIMG_2972

Pack the car with plenty of water, road snacks, and a picnic lunch. Make sure to have a full tank of gas before you head to the park! Travel tip: bring a playlist or CD’s along on this trip, as there is no radio station reception in the park. Cell phone service is poor in some areas of the park, too.

The park entrance station is about a 15 minute drive from Terlingua, however, the park headquarters at Panther Junction Visitor Center is about a 30-45 minute drive from the entrance. We recommend this visitor center as stop number one for information about all the park has to offer. Travel tip: there is a store with gasoline available at Panther Junction. While at the visitor center, be sure to take the short, self-guided walking trail where you can learn about the desert plants that grow in the park.IMG_2850

  Familiarize yourself with the park by driving the paved park roads on the first day. (Check out the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive!) By doing this, you will get a feel for what you want to explore in depth during the rest of your visit. For roads, refer to the park brochure/map you will receive at the entrance station.img_2815.jpg

Everyone wants to make their vacation/national park visit their own, so rather than creating a specific itinerary we have listed our Top 10 Must-Do’s for visiting Big Bend National Park.

 1. Learn about the park before you go. Click the website link at the top of the page for all the details.

 IMG_29682. Sure you’re on a road trip, but for heaven’s sake get out of the car! There are miles upon miles of hiking trails for all abilities in Big Bend, along with lots of overlooks and pull outs for photo ops. It’s your vacation, so make the most of your time and money!

3. Santa Elena Canyon. Take the Santa Elena Canyon Trail (short and easy) to the edge of the river and overlook. The view is stunning, and it’s a great place for a picnic. There are outfitters outside the park that can arrange rafting trips, too! Travel tip: check with the park for regulations before putting your own watercraft in the river.

IMG_2953
Santa Elena Canyon

 IMG_28784. Chisos Basin. Come here for the mountain air and the views. It’s the perfect place to take a break and enjoy a picnic lunch or a sunset. Several trails originate in this area of the park. If you only do one hike in this area, take the short and easy Window View Trail which originates at the Chisos Mountains Lodge. There is a very nice gift shop and restaurant at the lodge, and a convenience-type store, too. IMG_2955Travel tip: bears, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes, although elusive, call the park their home, so be aware of your surroundings. 

IMG_3050
Desert View from The Window
IMG_3049
Casa Grande from Window View Trail (Chisos Basin)
IMG_3017
Ancient turtle

5. Fossil Exhibit. Excellent and educational exhibit of fossils, dinosaur bones, and petrified wood found in this area of the park. Kids and adults will love this open-air, museum-like exhibit! Did you know that the area around Big Bend was once an ancient ocean? Learn all about it here. Covered picnic tables are available in this area, too.

IMG_2923
General Store at Castolon

6.  Castolon. Interesting old buildings, along with a visitor center in the historic general store. (No gasoline.) Definitely worth a stop to learn about the cotton gin that used to operate here. Visitor center closed in the summer.                                                                           

IMG_2977
Windmill at Sam Nail Ranch

7. Sam Nail Ranch. Take the short hike to the ruins of the old ranch. Parts of the trail are shaded by trees, and birds abound in this area. See old windmills and the crumbling adobe walls of the buildings. This is the perfect place for an early morning hike.

IMG_2906
Mule Ears Peaks

8. Mule Ears Peaks. View point off of Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. Great photo op. There is also a trail that leads to Mule Ears Spring.

IMG_3070
Tunnel with Sierra del Carmen Mountains in the Background

 9. Rio Grande Overlook. About thirty minutes southeast of Panther Junction, near Rio Grande Village Visitor Center and campground. Short hike to the overlook. We saw Aoudad Sheep on the hills here. Drive about four more miles to Boquillas Canyon Overlook for great views of the river. Travel tip: in this area there may be trinkets for sale, along with an “honor system” jar in which to place cash payments. Be aware that buying these trinkets may be illegal. There is also a Port of Entry to cross the river to Boquillas Del Carmen, Mexico in this area. A passport is required. 

IMG_2993 

10. Lower Burro Mesa Pouroff Trail. Easy hike to the pouroff with some interesting rock formations and desert plants along the way. We recommend early morning for this hike. Take plenty of water, a hat, and use sunscreen. Travel tip: in the event of rain, this trail can flood without warning.

There you have it: a short (and hopefully enticing) overview of the park, though we’ve barely scratched the surface. There are hundreds of options for exploring at Big Bend, so get out there and make your own adventure! We hope you have a wonderful trip. Leave us a comment and tell us your favorite thing about your journey.

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road!

Mike and Kellye

IMG_2120

©2018

We strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally and our opinions are our own.