Featured

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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Blazing Winter Sunset

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: By Bridge

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Where in the world is it?

By Bridge is located in Moab, Utah. It is a pedestrian bridge that spans the Colorado River.

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Looking upstream at the Colorado River from By Bridge

Second stop: Gruene, Texas

Jordan's 2007 pix 231Gruene (pronunced green), is home to the famous Gruene Hall. Built in 1878, this 6,000 square foot dance hall and saloon has hosted and launched the careers of a multitude of musicians. It is the oldest dance hall in Texas.

Where in the world is it?

Gruene is about an hour southwest of Austin, off of I-35. The town of Gruene was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. In 1979, the city of New Braunfels annexed Gruene which has become a popular tourist destination.

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Once the home of the son of the founder of Gruene, this beautiful building is now the Gruene Mansion Inn
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The Guadalupe River at Gruene, Texas

It’s a fact, Jack!

More than 50 movies have been filmed in and around Moab, including City Slickers II, Con Air, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Thelma and Louise to name a few. One movie, Michael, starring John Travolta, was filmed in Gruene. In the movie, John Travolta’s character, Michael, danced at Gruene Hall. Additionally, both towns sit on the banks of rivers that empty into gulfs. The Colorado River runs for 1,450 miles to its mouth at the Gulf of California, and the Guadalupe River runs 230 miles to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. And now you know…

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! Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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 Great Sand Dunes National Park

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  • Website link: Great Sand Dunes National Park.
  • Cost: $20.00 per car.
  • Accommodations: Lodges and camping located just outside the park. Campground located in the park is open from April through October. Backcountry camping permitted on the dunes, in the mountains, or in Great Sand Dunes National Preserve. See website for details.
  • The Oasis Restaurant and Store is located at the park’s main entrance, and is the only restaurant near the park.
  • Many hotels and restaurants in Alamosa, Colorado, 40 minutes southwest of the park.
  • Hiking, backpacking, sand sledding, and playing in the water (if Medano Creek is running) are all popular activities at Great Sand Dunes.
  • When to go: April through October. May is typically when Medano Creek is flowing at it’s peak due to snowmelt in the mountains.

Great Sand Dunes National Park is approximately:

170 miles from Colorado Springs, Colorado240 miles from Denver, Colorado

Our trip is going to start in Colorado Springs because it is the closest major airport city to the park. So, pack a bathing suit, some road food, a full water bottle (or two), and some hiking shoes, and let’s hit the road!

*Recommended hotels in Colorado Springs: Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn.

Travel tip: Colorado Springs is a great vacation destination itself. There are many attractions in Colorado Springs including: Pikes Peak, Garden of the Gods and The United States Air Force Academy. There is also a zoo, Seven Falls, and Cave of the Winds, among other attractions.

Getting There

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Sunrise near Saguache, Colorado

From Colorado Springs, take I-25 south to Walsenburg via Pueblo, Colorado. At Walsenburg, take Highway 160 west to Highway 150 north to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Drive time between Colorado Springs, Colorado and Great Sand Dunes National Park: 2.75 hours.

⇒Side trip: Royal Gorge. From Pueblo, Colorado, take Highway 50 west to Cañon City and the Royal Gorge. Walk across the the Royal Gorge Bridge, a suspension bridge that sits 955 above the Arkansas River! Gondola rides, zip line, kiddie rides. There’s something for the whole family. Drive time between Colorado Springs, Colorado and Cañon City, Colorado: 1 hour.


Great Sand Dunes National Park lies in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in South Central Colorado. The dunes are the highest in North America, with the highest dune, Star Dune, topping 755 feet. The dunefield covers about 30 square miles.

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The dunes appear to take on different shapes and shadows, depending on the time of day and angle of the sun.

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Late summer at the park. Medano Creek is almost dry at this point, but even the smallest amounts of water cool the sand. In the summer, the sand on the dunes can reach temperatures up to 150 degrees!

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This guy did a little skimboarding on Medano Creek, while a lot of other people took off for the dunes.

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This is a great park for RV or tent camping at the park’s Piñon Flats campground, and  tent camping on the dunes is very popular. We would recommend going later in the fall or earlier in the spring when the weather is not so hot and the crowds are thinner.

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Dunes in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Thank you so much for traveling along with us! Leave us a comment about your trip to Great Sand Dunes, or tell us about your favorite national park. We would love to hear from you! Stop by our site often for more great trips and tips, or better yet, become a follower so you never miss a post. Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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.

©2019

 

 

 

Featured

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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Pelicans on a river

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: Hovenweep National Monument

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Where in the world is it?

Hovenweep straddles the state line between the southeastern corner of Utah and southwestern corner of Colorado. It abuts Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

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Twin Towers

Hovenweep National Monument protects six ancient villages that are spread throughout the monument’s desolate terrain. Although the area was inhabited by ancient pueblo-dwelling farmers from about 500 AD, the park’s masonry buildings date from about 1200 to 1300 AD. Nobody knows exactly what the towers at Hovenweep were used for, but there are many theories, such as observatories, fortresses, storage structures, or religious buildings. It is estimated that 2,500 people once inhabited the area.

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Eroded Boulder

It is said that the Zuni, Pueblo, and Hopi tribes are descendants of the ancient Hovenweep Puebloans. Hovenweep is a Ute word that means “deserted valley”.

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Stronghold House

Second Stop: Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park

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Where in the world is it?

It is in North Platte, Nebraska.

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Buffalo Bill Cody was probably the first world-renowned super star. An epic showman, his traveling Wild West shows ran from 1883 to 1915 and drew thousands of spectators in the US and around the world. The show was so big that it took two trains of fifty cars each to transport the performers, animals, supplies, and props for the extravaganza. Scout’s Rest Ranch was his part-time home. His ranch near Cody, Wyoming was “home”.

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This is the ranch house. Scout’s Rest Ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s a fact, Jack!

William Cody was nicknamed Buffalo Bill, probably because of the large number of buffalo he killed. As a young man, he had been employed by a railroad to hunt and kill buffalo in order to feed the men who were building the train tracks. Buffalo Bill was a friend of General George A. Custer. Custer led his cavalrymen into battle against an allied group of Native American tribes at The Battle of Little Bighorn aka The Great Sioux War of 1876, which took place in Montana. Contrary to popular belief, the celebrated Lakota Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, did not fight in the battle, though he had an earlier vision of his people winning the battle. Sitting Bull’s vision and encouragement helped to spur the Native American warriors into defeating Custer and his men. Years later, Sitting Bull was hired to be a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He was paid $50.00 per week to ride around the arena during the opening of each show. And now you know…

That does it for this week. Thank you for joining us! Be sure to come back next week for another exciting post. You never know where we are going to take you! Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye 

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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 Petrified Forest National Park

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  • Website link: Petrified Forest National Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per car (one week pass)
  • Hiking, biking (on paved roads), backpacking, horseback riding, backcountry camping with permit
  • Scenic drive
  • Historic Landmarks
  • Museums
  • Picnic areas
  • Restaurant in the park
  • Accommodations and restaurants in Holbrook, Arizona (30 miles west on I-40 or US Highway 180). Check out the Wigwam Motel for some Route 66 nostalgia. Here’s a link: Wigwam Motel. RV campgrounds also available in Holbrook.
  • When to go: anytime, but note that summer temperatures can be very high.

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The Teepees

Petrified Forest National Park is 208 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, which has a major airport. This is our starting point, so gas up the car, drop the top, and turn on some golden oldies. We’re going to get some kicks on Route 66!

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From Albuquerque, take I-40 west toward Gallup, New Mexico via Grants. Cross the Arizona state line and continue on I-40 to Petrified Forest National Park. Drive time between Albuquerque and Petrified Forest: 3 hours.

*Recommended hotels in Albuquerque: Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express

Campgrounds and RV parks are also available in Albuquerque.

Bonus stop: El Malpais National Monument. Website link: El Malpais. Stop by the visitor center in Grants, New Mexico then head south on Highway 53 to the monument. Entrance is free. Drive time between Albuquerque and Grants: 1 hour. Drive time between Grants and El Malpais: 30 minutes.

Bonus stop: El Morro National Monument. Only 15 minutes from El Malpais on Highway 53. Entrance is free. Website link: El Morro.

*Recommended hotel in Grants: Holiday Inn Express

RV parks are also available in Grants.

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From El Morrow National Monument take Highway 53 west to Highway 602 north to Gallup, New Mexico. Drive time: 1 hour.

Continue west on I-40 to Petrified Forest National Park. Drive time between Gallup and Petrified Forest: 1 hour.

⇒Side Trip: Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Located 86 miles north of Grants via Highway 509. Cost: $25.00 per vehicle for a one week pass. Camping available, but no RV hook-ups. Closest hotels and restaurants are approximately 1.5 hours north of the park. Here’s the website link: Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Backtrack to Grants to resume your journey to Petrified Forest National Park. Drive time between Chaco Culure and Grants: 2 hours.

Destination: Petrified Forest National Park

This is a big park! The park road is 28 miles long and includes many pull outs and stops. Come for the scenery and the learning experience. (We also like the nostalgia of Route 66.) There are photo ops around every turn, and as you will see, the sights in the park are spectacular. Be sure to stop at the visitor centers, the Painted Desert Inn Museum, and the Rainbow Forest Museum. The park also features archaeological sites, including Puerco Pueblo, Newspaper Rock, and Agate House. Theodore Roosevelt did us all a favor when he made Petrified Forest a national monument in 1906. It became a national park 56 years later in 1962.

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Petrified Tree Trunk
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Wood turned to stone
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These logs appear to have been cut and purposely placed here by an ancient lumberjack.

Below are some up-close views of the beauty of the petrified wood. Just look at those colors!

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Where else can you see this?
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Or this?
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Painted Desert Vista
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Another view of Painted Desert
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Oh, the colors!

Much of the park can be seen from the car, but we highly recommend getting out, taking a hike on or off the trails (see website), and absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells this amazing place has to offer.

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⇒Side trip: Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Entrance is free. Website link: Canyon de Chelly.

Take I-40 east to Chambers, Arizona. At Chambers, take Highway 191 north toward Ganado, Arizona.

Bonus stopHubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Website link: Hubbell Trading Post. Cost: $5.00 per person to tour the Hubbell Home. Kids 15 and under are admitted free.

Continue north to Chinle, Arizona and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Drive time between Petrified Forest and Canyon de Chelly: 1.5 hours.

This concludes our trip to Petrified Forest National Park. Thank you for joining us, and we hope you enjoyed the journey. We would love to hear from you, so leave us a comment and tell us about your road trips. In closing, we are leaving you with one last photo because it reminds us of a vintage postcard that might have been found in a Route 66 curio shop back in the day!

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Hoodoos

Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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Restaurant in Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

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

First Stop: Mexican Hat (Utah)

Where in the world is it?

It’s in southeastern Utah, and it really is a town. We heard that the town’s population is 31, but that might be a stretch. So why in the world would anyone name a town Mexican Hat? Well… ↓

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Surprise! It’s named after this rock formation near the town.

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This surreal mountain scene is also near Mexican Hat. Reminds us of Southwestern Native American pottery! Isn’t it amazing?

Second Stop: Idaho Falls (Idaho)

Where in the world is it?

The city of Idaho Falls, Idaho is in the southeastern portion of the state. The Snake River runs through the city and that’s what creates the “falls” of Idaho Falls.

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Below is a picture of the spire of the Latter Day Saints Temple in Idaho Falls all lit up at night. We think it’s an architectural work of art.

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It’s a fact, Jack!

Mexican Hat is located in the state of Utah, and so is the Great Salt Lake. Utah is derived from a Ute word meaning “people of the mountains”. No fish live in the Great Salt Lake. And now you know…

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 like our Quick Stops posts, leave us a message and let us know we should keep doing them. If you don’t like them, tell us that, too. Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye 

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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 Ouray, Colorado

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Sometimes called the Switzerland of America, Ouray (pronounced, your-ay) is one of the prettiest mountain towns in Colorado, and that’s saying something because there are a lot of them! Located on US Highway 550, aka The San Juan Skyway, which runs from Montrose, Colorado, via Silverton and Durango, Colorado, then 550 continues down to Bernalillo, New Mexico. The portion of the road from Ouray to Silverton is called the Million Dollar Highway, and is one of the most scenic drives in the United States.

Getting There

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The closest major airport city to Ouray is Grand Junction, Colorado, so that is where our trip will begin.

*Recommended hotel in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn.

From Grand Junction, take US Highway 50 south toward Delta, then to Montrose. Continue south through Montrose on US Highway 550 to Ouray. This route follows the Uncompahgre River to Ouray. Drive time between Grand Junction and Ouray: 1.75 hours.

Bonus stop: Ridgway State Park. Located just north of Ouray, this park offers numerous camping options, including yurts. Boating, fishing, wildlife watching, hiking, and birding are some of the activities found at this park. Plus the scenery here is spectacular! Here’s a link: Ridgway State Park.

Destination: Ouray, Colorado

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Here is a website link for information about lodging, food, and things to do: Ouray, Colorado

Our first stop in Ouray is Box Cañon Falls Park. Admission: $4.00 per adult and $2.00 per child. Take a nice, easy trail from the entrance to the falls. You will hear the falls before you see them – they roar! Most of the water cascades behind the walls of this slot canyon, but you will catch glimpses of the falls through gaps in the rock and at the bottom. At times, the rushing water seems to appear out of nowhere. This stop is well worth the admission price. We will let the pictures below speak for themselves.

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In addition to the easy trail to the falls, there is another trail to the top of the falls that is a little more strenuous (quite a few stairs), but the views are worth the hike.IMG_3564

Upon entering the park, you may notice pipes and sprayers arranged on the rocks along the side of the road. These are used to make ice in the winter. Ouray has become an acclaimed ice climbing destination, and the town hosts the Ouray Ice Festival every January.

Our next stop is for a short hike at Cascade Falls. Although it is only about a quarter mile to the falls, this is a moderately strenuous, steep, uphill hike. However, the waterfall is worth a little panting, and there is a nice covered area with benches at a viewpoint.

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While visiting Ouray, take a few minutes to learn about the town’s namesake: the great Ute Chief Ouray, and his wife, Chipeta. Their former farm, located on the Uncompahgre River south of Montrose, is now the site of the Ute Indian Museum. Another home, a cabin, stood near where the Ouray Hot Springs Pool is today in Ouray. By the way, the pool, which has recently been renovated, will delight the entire family! Here’s a link: Ouray Hot Springs Pool.

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Eight square blocks of the original town of Ouray are a National Historic District. We would encourage anyone visiting the town to take a walking tour along Main Street. Stop in at the Ouray County Museum for a history lesson and pick up a walking tour map, then take in the many historic sites, as well as the shops and restaurants along the way.

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The scenery is breathtaking, and just getting to spend a few hours or days in the peaceful solitude of this town makes it well worth the trip. Unfortunately, our visit was cut short by a large screw embedded in our tire.

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We hope our overview of Ouray, Colorado was informative and that we’ve inspired your wanderlust. As we always say, “Just get in the car!” With a little planning, there’s nothing more fun than a road trip, especially when you get to see scenery like this! Until next time…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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.

©2019

 

 

Featured

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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Northern Arizona Sunset

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: Clark Canyon Reservoir

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Where in the world is it?

Clark Canyon Reservoir is located in southwestern Montana about 10 miles south of the town of Dillon, at the intersection of Highway 41 and I-15.

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What’s so special about a lake? You may be thinking they’re a dime a dozen and that you can see one (or many) anywhere you go. Those thoughts are true, but Clark Canyon Reservoir is a special lake. It is the headwaters of the Beaverhead River, a 69-mile-long tributary of the Jefferson River. The Jefferson converges with the Gallatin River and the Madison River to form the headwaters of the Missouri River.

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We have also heard that Clark Canyon Reservoir has some of the best trout fishing in Montana.

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Though, perhaps more importantly is what sits beneath the waters of Clark Canyon Reservoir. It was called Camp Fortunate. Lewis and Clark set up camp here in 1805 as they sought a passage through the mountains. While at Camp Fortunate, they met and befriended a group of Shoshone Indians who told them of a path used by other Native Americans to cross over the mountains and provided the expedition with horses that were needed to traverse rugged terrain.

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Clark Canyon Reservoir sits at the 45th Parallel

Second Stop: Jacob’s Dream Sculpture

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Jacob’s Dream

 Where in the world is it?

Jacob’s Dream is located on the campus of Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.

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Completed in 2006 by sculptor, Jack Maxwell, Jacob’s Dream depicts angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven as described in Genesis 28: 10-22. For anyone traveling through Abilene, Texas, this beautiful work of art is definitely worth a quick stop.

It’s a fact, Jack!

Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian woman, was born in 1788 in what is now Idaho. Around age twelve she was kidnapped by a rival band of Indians and taken to North Dakota. Some years later, she was sold to a French-Canadian man who claimed her as one of his wives. The Corps of Discovery aka The Lewis and Clark Expedition hired Sacagawea and her husband to travel with them as interpreters. When the expedition met and befriended the Shoshone Indians at Camp Fortunate, the chief of the tribe turned out to be Sacagawea’s brother whom she had not seen in years. And now you know…

That’s all for this post. Thank you for joining us on our virtual tour of Clark Canyon Reservoir and Jacob’s Dream. We invite you to return to our site every week for another great adventure on the road. Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye 

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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

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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A yak eating yellow flowers!

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: Golden Spike Tower (Nebraska)

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Where in the world is it?

Golden Spike Tower is located in North Platte, Nebraska. The eight-story tower overlooks Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard, which is the largest train yard in the world. The Bailey Yard operates twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and is responsible for making sure that 10,000 rail cars per day get sent in the right direction.

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Watch the workings of the rail yard from the top of the Golden Spike Tower.
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Locomotives!

Second Stop: Lajitas, Texas

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Sundown at Lajitas

Where in the world is it?

It is located 12 miles southwest of Terlingua, Texas on Highway 170. Lajitas, once a thriving community turned ghost town, is now a resort.

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Awesome old building in Lajitas

It’s a fact, Jack!

In 1868, when the Union Pacific Railroad was extended west, the town of North Platte, Nebraska was born. The city sits at a point where the North and South Platte Rivers converge to create the Platte River. Lajitas sits at a point on the Rio Grande River, but the closest railroad is located in Alpine, Texas, almost 100 miles to the north. North Platte’s Canteen served refreshments to millions of servicemen as they passed through the depot there during World War II. By 1912, Lajitas had a saloon that served thirsty cowboys and miners who worked in the area, but the town didn’t have electricity until 1949 – four years after the end of World War II. And now you know…

That’s all for this trip. Thank you for joining us! Please come back to the site to see where our next road trip is going to take you.

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

Mike and Kellye 

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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 Capitol Reef National Park

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  • Website: Capitol Reef National Park.
  • Cost: $15.00 per vehicle.
  • Accommodations in the park: RV and tent camping. Backcountry camping allowed with a permit.
  • Great park for hiking, biking, and climbing.
  • Lodging, additional camping, and groceries available in Torrey, Utah – 11 miles west of the west park entrance.
  • Restaurants available in Torrey. *Recommended: Slackers – good burgers!
  • When to go to Capitol Reef: Anytime. We recommend May or September.

The interesting terrain at Capitol Reef National Park was created by a 90-mile long wrinkle in the earth called a waterpocket fold. The picture below was taken from a high point on Highway 12 looking toward Capitol Reef (mid-background).

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Getting There

From Bryce Canyon National Park, take Highway 12 (recommended scenic route through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument) east toward Escalante, Utah, then north to Highway 24 through Torrey, Utah to the park’s entrance. Travel tip: use extreme caution on Highway 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There are twists, turns, and high points on the two lane road with no guardrails in some places, however, the scenery is spectacular and very worth taking the route. Drive time between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef: 2.5 hours, or,

From Salt Lake City (closest major airport city), take I-15 south to Scipio, Utah. At Scipio, take US Highway 50 to US Highway 89 to Richfield, Utah then Highway 24 south(east) through Torrey, Utah and the park’s entrance. Drive time between Salt Lake City and Capitol Reef National Park: 3.5 hours.

Travel tip: if you are continuing on to Moab, Utah, top off your gas tank in Torrey before entering the park. The closest gas station (in Hanksville) is an hour east.

Destination: Capitol Reef National Park

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Stop in at the visitor center for information about the park. Then continue on Highway 24 to Fruita, Utah, which is the site of an old settlement that is now contained inside the park. Did you know that the original orchards planted by settlers in this area remain in Capital Reef today? The orchards are open to the public during the picking seasons. Check the park’s website for details about how and when the fruits can be harvested.

At Fruita, stop in at the Gifford House Museum and Store, check out the Fruita Schoolhouse, and don’t forget to take a few pictures of the Gifford Barn; it’s a classic!

The Fruita historic area is a great place for a leisurely stroll and a picnic. There is a campground here, too.

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Gifford Barn

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Take Scenic Drive south of Fruita for scenery and views of the waterpocket fold, or continue on Highway 24 east through the park. There are several places to pull out. We enjoyed seeing the petroglyphs. Parking is available in this area and there are easy trails/boardwalk to allow ample viewing of these ancient wonders.

Of course, the scenery is what we went to Capitol Reef to see, and it didn’t disappoint. Below are some of our favorite shots.

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We are quite fond of red rocks, and no, they never get old!

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Interesting Formations and Beautiful Colors

This park is where we first learned about desert varnish. The “varnish”, from minerals and metals in the rock turns the rock into a work of art. Isn’t nature amazing?

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This cliff face looks painted, but it’s not. It is just that pretty, although, the photo does not do justice to the actual view. The petroglyphs pictured above were high up on this wall.

IMG_2268Travel tip: Capitol Reef has miles and miles of hiking trails for day hikers of all skill levels. There are also many options for backcountry hiking and backpacking. Just remember that this is the desert and it can get extremely hot during the day. Take more water than you think you will need.IMG_2223We hope you enjoyed our short overview of Capitol Reef National Park. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get as much traffic or publicity as some of the other Utah national parks, but a short or long visit to Capitol Reef will be well worth you time. Leave a comment below and tell us about your trip. We love hearing from you. Until next time…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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West Texas cotton field

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: Very Large Array (New Mexico)

Where in the world is it?

The Very Large Array, or VLA for short, is located about 50 miles west of Soccoro, New Mexico off of US Highway 60, near the tiny town of Datil. The VLA is a collection of 27 dish-shaped antennas that combine to make a radio telescope which is part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Radio telescopes focus on things in the universe that give off radio waves, such as quasars and black holes. The dishes/antennas sit on tracks so they can be moved as needed, thus the array can span a distance of 23 miles. They also tilt and turn. (Take it from us…you don’t want to be standing underneath one of these things when they start moving!) Take a look…

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Each dish/antenna measures 82 feet in diameter.

For those wanting to visit the VLA, here’s a website link for information: Very Large Array.

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Pronghorns near VLA

Second Stop: Petrified Wood Gas Station

Where in the world is it?

The building is located at 501 Main Street, Lamar Colorado. Obviously, it is no longer a gas station, but we suspect that those holes in the concrete in front of the building are where the pumps used to be.

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Up close. Petrified wood mosaic comprising the side wall of the building.

It’s a fact, Jack!

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Carl Sagan was a guy who wore many hats, but he was primarily a renowned astronomer, astrophysicist, and author. He was acclaimed for his research on extraterrestrial existence and was a professor of astronomy at Cornell University. Actress Jodie Foster, a graduate of Yale University, starred in the popular 1997 movie, Contact. Parts of the movie were filmed at the Very Large Array. Carl Sagan wrote the book, Contact, upon which the movie was based. And now you know…

That’s all for this post. Thank you for joining us on our virtual tour of the VLA and the petrified wood gas station. We invite you to return to our site every week for another great adventure on the road. Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye 

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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 Monument Valley Tribal Park

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  • Website: Monument Valley Tribal Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per car, up to four people
  • Visitor center
  • Tribal owned hotel and restaurant in the park (Arizona)
  • Campground in the park
  • Privately owned lodge and restaurant in the park (Utah)
  • Additional hotels and restaurants in Kayenta, Arizona
  • Hiking
  • Guided tours
  • Scenic drive
  • When to go: anytime

Iconic. That is the word that comes to mind when seeing Monument Valley for the first time. At least it was for us. This spectacular park sits within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation in southern Utah and northern Arizona. It is not a national park service park, as some believe. It is a tribal park of the Navajo Nation. Many movies have been filmed at Monument Valley because the scenery epitomizes the American West.

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Getting There

Our trip is going to start from Page, Arizona, which has a small regional airport.

From Page, take Highway 98 east to US Highway 160. At US Highway 160, take US Highway 163 northeast to Kayenta, Arizona. Continue east to the park entrance near the Arizona-Utah border. Drive time: 2.25 hours.

*Recommended hotel in Page: Hampton Inn

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

Destination: Monument Valley Tribal Park

Our trip to Monument Valley was on the highway (US Highway 163 and US Highway 160) because we arrived when the visitor center was closing. This is a park that we will definitely return to in order to see and do everything it has to offer. However, a lot of the beauty of the park can be seen from the road. We will let the pictures speak for themselves…

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Awe-inspiring Agathla Peak near Kayenta, Arizona
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Owl Rock near Kayenta, Arizona
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West Mitten Butte, Monument Valley
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He posed as if he knew he belonged in the picture!

The tallest butte in Monument Valley rises approximately 1,000 feet above the valley floor. The colors are incredible, and, no, we never get tired of seeing red rocks!

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Setting Hen
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Beautiful Butte
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Monument Valley Vista

⇒Side trip: Valley of the Gods. On Highway 163, about seven miles north of Mexican Hat, Utah. Drive time between Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods: 1 hour. Fantastic scenery all the way, so the drive is worth the time!

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Valley of the Gods

Travel tip: Valley of the Gods is located on Bureau of Land Management property. The roads are graded dirt and there are no facilities. Take plenty of water, and prepare for the weather.

Bonus stop: Alhambra Rock. Located just a few miles south of Mexican Hat, Utah, this is a can’t-miss photo op.

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Alhambra Rock

Thank you for joining us on our virtual tour of Monument Valley. We hope that we have inspired you to venture off on your own road trip through this magical place. Please become an e-mail follower so you never miss a post. We would love to hear from you, so leave us a comment about your own trips. We are going leave this post with one last view of the fantastic formations in Monument Valley.

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The Stagecoach, Rabbit and Bear, Castle Butte, and the King on his Throne

Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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Your guess is as good as ours!

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: Fort Davis National Historic Site

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Officers Row

Where in the world is it?

Fort Davis National Historic Site is located in Fort Davis, Texas, which is about 95 miles southwest of Pecos, Texas on Highway 17.

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Remains of the original fort and some remaining buildings.

Established in 1854 as a frontier military post, the soldiers stationed at Fort Davis  were tasked with patrolling the San Antonio-El Paso Road. The widely traveled road was used to transport goods, mail, and emigrants traveling to California hoping to strike it rich in the gold rush there. Over the years, several regiments called Fort Davis home, including a cavalry regiment of African Americans called Buffalo Soldiers. The fort was abandoned in 1891.

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The fort’s hospital has been restored and is now a museum.

Second stop: Pipe Spring National Monument

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Where in the world is it?

Pipe Spring National Monument is located in northern Arizona on Highway 389, between Fredonia and Colorado City on Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians tribal land near the Utah border.

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Living Quarters

Kaibab Paiute Indians have called this area home for hundreds of years, but when Mormon settlers arrived between 1860 and 1870, things changed for the Native Americans. Pipe Spring was an important water source in this arid strip of Arizona, and when the Mormon settlers decided to claim the land for themselves, conflict arose.

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Pond at Pipe Spring

Today, the site is dedicated to telling both sides of the story, and if you happen to be in the area, the park is definitely worth the stop. The park maintains farm animals, a vegetable garden, and an orchard at Pipe Spring.

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Farm animals at Pipe Spring

It’s a fact, Jack!

In 1918, German men were seen with Mexican troops at Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Anticipating an attack on the US at the border town of Nogales, Arizona, American Buffalo Soldiers engaged in an gun battle with the Mexican troops across the border. It was the only World War I battle fought on American soil. And now you know…

That’s all for this post. Thank you for joining us! We invite you to return to our site every week for another great adventure on the road. Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye 

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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

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Seven

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Day Seven

Destination: Relaxation

Surprise! We’re leaving the entire day open for you.

However, we are going to leave you with a few additional photos. (Oh, and if you need help finding something to do on this final day of your Black Hills vacation, check out this link: Visit Rapid City)

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Badlands Bison
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Delta-01 Launch Control, 31 feet underground. Note the wall-size computer.
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Blast Door on the Delta-01 Launch Control Center
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Precious Prairie Dog
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Animatronic T-Rex at Wall Drug
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This snake interrupted our hike at Roughlock Falls in Spearfish Canyon.
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Dog “driving” a red truck at Mount Rushmore.
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Giant short-faced bear skeleton at The Mammoth Site.

Wow! What a week! Thank you for hanging on with us through this series of blog posts.  Below is a little trivia you can use to impress your friends.

If you followed our itinerary, you:

  • visited three National Parks (Wind Cave, Theodore Roosevelt, Badlands);
  • visited two National Monuments (Devils Tower, Jewel Cave);
  • visited one National Memorial (Mount Rushmore);
  • visited one State Park (Custer);
  • visited one National Historic Landmark (Deadwood);
  • visited one National Historic Site (Minuteman Missile);
  • visited one National Natural Landmark (The Mammoth Site);
  • visited three states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming);
  • saw a lot of wildlife;
  • saw some spectacular scenery;
  • probably learned something new;
  • can tell all your friends that you’ve been to Wall Drug Store!

Stay tuned for another series coming soon. Meanwhile, check back on our site each week for another great road trip or travel tip. We post on Saturday mornings, and we would love to have you join us on our journeys. By the way, we would love to hear about your journeys, too, so leave us a note in the comments section. Until next time…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Six

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→Note: this post is the sixth in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Six

Destination: Badlands National Park

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  • Website link: Badlands National Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per car
  • Accommodations: Cedar Pass Lodge and campground, and one additional primitive campground. Backcountry camping is permitted. See the website for details.

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Take I-90 east toward Wall, South Dakota. Drive time: 1 hour.

Bonus stop: Wall Drug Store. The ultimate tourist trap! You can’t miss the exit because there is a sign every few hundred feet (it seems) along I-90. This place has everything imaginable, including their famous free ice water. Definitely worth a stop for food, gasoline, shopping, and more.

From Wall, take Highway 240 south to the Pinnacles Entrance of Badlands National Park.

Look for bison and prairie dogs near the entrance station. Notice the pristine prairie of Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Listen for the wind rustling the grasses. The rattling sound the grass makes is enchanting.

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After entering the park, turn right (west) on to Sage Creek Rim Road (unpaved) for spectacular views and sightings of bighorn sheep. Stop at each of the overlooks on this road for major photo ops of the Badlands Wilderness. Remember not to approach or feed wildlife.

Turn around and head east toward the paved road, which is Badlands Loop Road. Follow this road through the park, stopping at the overlooks for different perspectives and information on the park. Photos do not do justice to the beautiful scenery in this park. We believe it needs be seen in person.

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Badlands Wilderness
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Panoramic view from Badlands Loop Road

It is approximately 25 miles from the Pinnacles Entrance to the park headquarters, Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Just before reaching the visitor center, stretch your legs at the short, easy Fossil Exhibit Trail, then drive on to the visitor center for the exhibits, more gorgeous scenery, and additional park information.

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Stunning colors!
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Yes, it really is this pretty!
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Ancient Seabed

Take Highway 240 north out of the park toward I-90.

IMG_1586Bonus stop: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. Just north of I-90 when exiting Badlands National Park. View the exhibits in the visitor center and check in for your guided tour of the park’s Delta-01 site. During the tour, you will go underground to see how minuteman missiles were used to protect the United States during the Cold War. Advance reservations are required for the tour, and there is a nominal fee. Check the park’s website for details. Here’s a link: Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

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This is a very interesting site and a great learning experience! We highly recommend a tour of the Delta-01 site.

Return to Rapid City via I-90 west.

That’s day six, folks, and what a full day it was! We hope you enjoyed traveling with us to Badlands National Park, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Wall Drug Store. Our mission is to share our knowledge to help you plan your own great vacations. Log in to our site next week for the final day, Day Seven, of our Black Hills vacation itinerary. Better yet, become a follower so you get an e-mail notification every time we post a new trip. Until next time…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Five

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→Note: this post is the fifth in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Five

Destination: Theodore Roosevelt National Park – South Unit (North Dakota)

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Travel tip: Day five will be a long day of driving. We recommend getting an early start. Take along plenty of water, road snacks, and a picnic lunch. Comfortable clothes and walking/hiking shoes are a must.

Take I-90 west from Rapid City to Sturgis. At Sturgis take Highway 79 north to Castle Rock. At Castle Rock take Highway 168 west to US Highway 85 north. Stay on US Highway 85 across the North Dakota state line to I-94. Drive time between Rapid City and Theodore Roosevelt National Park: 4 hours.

IMG_1386This part of the country is beautiful rolling hills and grasslands, with an interesting rock formation or butte every once in a while. We imagine this is where the deer and the antelope play. And speaking of antelope, look for herds of pronghorns along this road. We didn’t see buffalo, or rather bison, until we got to the park, but we thought this road sign was great! Which one is it?

Take I-94 west. At Exit 32, stop at the Painted Canyon Visitor Center for incredible views of the park! Continue west on I-94. Take Exit 27 to Medora, North Dakota and the South Unit Visitor Center. Here you will see Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin (pictured below)  from his Maltese Cross Ranch, which was located near where the park is today.

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View from Painted Canyon Visitor Center
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Maltese Cross Ranch Cabin

At the South Unit Visitor Center, you will be able to pay for your park pass, pick up your park brochure/map, view the exhibits, and watch a short movie about the park. Enjoy a picnic lunch before you head out to Scenic Loop Drive. The best of the park can be seen on this ninety minute drive. Take some of the short, easy hiking trails to stretch your legs and to get up close and personal with the park. Click the park’s link above for details.

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Sweet little doe! Isn’t she pretty?

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Adorable little prairie dog!

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We we were able to see deer, bison, prairie dogs, and wild horses in the park, all from Scenic Loop Drive. The park is scenic, peaceful, and uncrowded.

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The Little Missouri River in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
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Tranquility and beauty all wrapped up in one!
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Interesting Landscape

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Take I-94 east to US Highway 85 south to return to Rapid City.

Bonus stop: Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Belle Fourche claims to be the geographic center of the United States. Stop to see the monument, although, the actual marker is located twenty miles north of the town and is (was) virtually unmarked. The Belle Fourche River runs next to the park.

Continue south on US Highway 85 to Spearfish, then take I-90 east to Rapid City.

We’re going to close this post with one final picture, simply because you never know what you’re going to see along the road. (And, you never know what you’re missing, such as this…ah, sculpture? in Bowman, North Dakota!) So get out there! As we like to say, “Just get in the car.”

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Come back to our site next week for day six of our Black Hills of South Dakota vacation itinerary. It’s going to be a good one! Until then…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Four

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→Note: this post is the fourth in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Four

Destination: Mount Rushmore

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  • Website: Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Cost: Free, but there is a $10.00 parking fee per car. Park passes are not accepted for parking fees.
  • Restaurant in the park.
  • Hotels and camping available in Keystone, South Dakota.
  • Great photo ops here. Plan to spend several hours.

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(Short route) Take US Highway 16 from Rapid City to US Highway 16A, and Keystone, South Dakota, then Highway 244 to Mount Rushmore. Look for Big Horn Sheep along this road. Drive time: 30 minutes.

Recommended alternate route: (Long route) Take Highway 79 south from Rapid City to Highway 36 and Custer State Park. Just before entering the park, turn right (north) on to the Iron Mountain Road (Highway 16A). This is a scenic route full of twists, turns, and tunnels. Large vehicles and RVs will not be able to navigate this road. Drive time on Iron Mountain Road: 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drive time to Mount Rushmore from Rapid City via Iron Mountain Road: 1.5 to 2 hours.

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View from the final tunnel on Iron Mountain Road. (Our apologies for the camera lens smudge.)

The musuem at the visitor center is spectacular! Plan to spend an hour in the museum alone. Learn about the sculptors, the workers, and how the monument came to be. Find out why Gutzon Borglum chose to memorialize the four presidents who are depicted at Mount Rushmore. Also visit the Sculptor’s Studio (reopening after renovations are completed in May, 2019) where Borglum worked and designed the memorial. Walk/hike the presidential trail and the nature trail then go back to the visitor center for ice cream. Watch for mountain goats in the meadows surrounding Grandview Terrace and the amphitheater. Pay a visit to the gift shop for souvenirs. Finally, stay to see the sculpture illuminated at night (year-round). An evening lighting ceremony is held during the summer months. Check the website for seasonal hours.

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Avenue of Flags
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View from the parking lot
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Black Hills as seen from Mount Rushmore

From Mount Rushmore, take Highway 16A via Keystone to Highway 16 to Rapid City. Drive time: 30 minutes.

Bonus stop: Keystone, South Dakota. Entertainment venues for the entire family from mini golf to museums to shopping to zip lines. Restaurants, hotels, and campgrounds available. Here’s a link: Keystone.

*Recommended hotel in Keystone: Holiday Inn Express.

We hope our overview of Mount Rushmore National Memorial has left you wanting to see it for yourself. While we can’t guarantee anything, we’re pretty sure you will love it as much as we did.

Visit our site next week for Day Five of our Black Hills of South Dakota vacation. Until then…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Three

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→Note: this post is the third in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Three

Destination: Custer State Parkimg_1266-e1534024838736.jpg

  • Website link: Custer State Park
  • Cost: $20.00 per car for one week pass (as of August, 2018).
  • For the best wildlife sightings, arrive early in the morning or early in the evening.
  • This park has everything from biking to hiking to horseback riding to swimming.

Travel tip: this will be a full day trip. Pack road snacks and plenty of water, along with a fully charged camera battery/phone and a picnic lunch. Or, drive (15 minutes) in to the city of Custer and have lunch.

*Recommended restaurant in the city of Custer: Black Hills Burger and Bun Co – 441 Mt Rushmore Rd. Their burgers rank in our top three best ever, and their cheese curds… All we can say is you’ve gotta try ’em!

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View from Custer State Park

From Rapid City take Highway 79 south to Highway 36 west. Continue west on Highway 16A to the park entrance. Drive time: 45 minutes.

Travel tip: Custer State Park is a place where you could spend an entire week and never have to leave the park. Great vacation destination by itself, and one of our very favorite state parks.

Lodges, cabins, tent and RV camping available in the park. Hotels available in the city of Custer.

*Recommended hotel in the city of Custer: Holiday Inn Express.

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Pronghorn herd

After entering the park, turn south on to Wildlife Loop Road for potential wildlife sightings of all kinds, including herds of bison and pronghorn. Look for prairie dogs, turkeys, and other wildlife along the way, too. Take your time while driving this road, and stop at the visitor centers for information about the park. Check out the lodges or campgrounds while you’re here so you can plan a trip back in the future!

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Along Needles Highway

At Highway 16A turn left to go to the city of Custer or turn right to go east to Highway 87, then turn north on to Highway 87 (Needles Highway).

Travel tip: Needles Highway has low, narrow tunnels. Check with the park before attempting to navigate this road in/with a large vehicle or RV.

Continue on Highway 87 northwest to Sylvan Lake. Drive slowly, and take advantage of the pull outs for the many photo ops along this road. Sylvan Lake is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch and then a hike or walk around the lake. Nice visitor center/store here, too.

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Sylvan Lake
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Panorama along Needles Highway
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Center Lake – good place to fish
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Narrow tunnel
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Needles

Backtrack south on Needles Highway to US Highway 16A. Turn left (east) and take US Highway 16A to Highway 36, and then Highway 79 north to Rapid City. Drive time: 1.5+ hours.

Alternate route: From Sylvan Lake, continue north on Highway 87 to US 385 toward Hill City. Stay on 385 north then take Highway 44 east to Rapid City. Drive time: 1 hour.

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That’s our wrap up of Custer State Park. We hope your trip there is as amazing as we think it will be. Check our site next week for Day Four of our Black Hills itinerary. Until then…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Black Hills of South Dakota – Day Two

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→Note: this post is the second in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

Day Two:

Destinations: The Mammoth Site and Wind Cave National Park

Travel tip: pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at Wind Cave National Park and wear sturdy walking/hiking shoes with non-slip soles. A light jacket may be needed for cave tours.

The Mammoth Site

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From Rapid City take Highway 79 south to Hot Springs, South Dakota. Drive time between Rapid City and Hot Springs: 1 hour. The Mammoth Site is located at 1800 US 18 Bypass, Hot Springs, South Dakota.

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Replica of a Columbian Mammoth in the visitor center

Website link: Mammoth Site. Take a guided tour of the active indoor dig site and see the bones of mammoths right where they were found. Great learning experience for kids and adults! Tours can be booked ahead of your trip or you can book when you arrive. Plan to spend two hours visiting the site. This is a National Natural Landmark.

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Bones, bones, and more bones!
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Preserved baby mammoth found frozen in Siberia

From Hot Springs take US Highway 385 north to Wind Cave National Park. Drive time between Hot Springs and Wind Cave National Park: 15 minutes.

Wind Cave National Park 

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  • Website link: Wind Cave National Park.
  • Cost: free, although guided cave tours have various prices, depending on the tour. Wheelchair accessible tours are also available. Click the link above for details.
  • Hiking, biking, and horseback riding available in the park.
  • Campground with seasonal restrooms. Backcountry camping allowed with a permit.

Many animals, reptiles, and birds call this park home. See how many you can find. We bet you’ll see one of these ↓

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Natural entrance to the cave
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Boxwork formations inside Wind Cave. This is the only place in the world it has ever been found.
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Another view of the cave ceiling
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Bison grazing on the rolling prairie of Wind Cave National Park

Take US Highway 385 south to Highway 101, then east to Highway 79 north, back to Rapid City. Drive time: 1 hour.

Recommended alternate route: Drive time: 1.5 hours. Take US Highway 385 north to Custer, South Dakota. Bonus stop: Jewel Cave National Monument. Several different cave tours available. Advance reservations recommended for the popular Scenic Tour. Many stair steps in the cave and children cannot be carried. Click here for information about the park: Jewel Cave National Monument.

Stay on 385 to Crazy Horse Memorial. Bonus stop: Crazy Horse Memorial. Click here for information about the site: Crazy Horse Memorial.

Continue on 385 to Highway 44 east to Rapid City.

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Hopefully, the second day of your Black Hills vacation has been interesting and fun. We will cover Day Three next week, so stay tuned! Until then…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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 the Black Hills of South Dakota – Day One

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→Note: this post is the first in a series as we cover a week long vacation itinerary. Our trip starts at Rapid City, South Dakota. 

  • Rapid City, South Dakota is a great “home” base for all this area has to offer.
  • Rapid City has a major airport.
  • Excellent family vacation destination.
  • When to go: Anytime. We recommend May, June, July and September. (Note: the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place during the first two weeks of August. We do not recommend going at this time unless you are planning to participate in the rally.)

There is so much to do in the western part of South Dakota that you could actually spend several days (or weeks) at most of the sites we’re going to talk about, however, we’re going to do it in one week. For those who want to do it all and see it all, but don’t have a lot of time, this road trip is the one for you!

Starting in Rapid City, let’s hit the road.

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*Recommended hotel in Rapid City: Holiday Inn Express on I-90. (Restaurants and shopping nearby.)

*Recommended splurge restaurant in Rapid City: Minervas Restaurant & Bar – 2111 N. LaCrosse St.

*Recommended family restaurant in Rapid City: Chili’s Grill & Bar – 2125 Haines Ave.

*RV and tent camping available in many locations in and around Rapid City.

Day One:

Destinations: Devils Tower National Monument and Spearfish Canyon

Travel tip: this will be a full day, so plan to leave early in the morning. We recommend 7:00 am. Pack a picnic lunch, road snacks, plenty of water, and suitable-for-hiking footwear for this day trip.

Drive time between Rapid City and Devils Tower National Monument: 1.75 hours.

IMG_1299Take I-90 West toward Sturgis. Bonus Stop: Sturgis, South Dakota. Even if you’re not a biker, the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame is worth a stop.

Continue on I-90 via Spearfish, and then on to Sundance, Wyoming. At Sundance, the road changes to US Highway 14. Bonus Stop: Sundance, Wyoming. Crook County Museum – 309 E Cleveland St. Nice museum with history about the area and the Sundance Kid.

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Travel tip: top off your gas tank in Sundance.

Continue on US Highway 14, then take Highway 24 north toward Devil’s Tower.  Make a quick stop at the Devils Tower Trading Post for souvenirs before proceeding to the park entrance.

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Devils Tower National Monument

  • Website link: Devils Tower National Monument
  • Cost: $20.00 per car (as of August, 2018). Travel tip: the National Park Service will be increasing all park entrance fees during the next year.
  • RV and tent camping available in the park.
  • Picnic areas and hiking trails in the park.
  • Night sky programs.
  • Climbing is permitted with registration of climbers.

 After a stop at the visitor center, we recommend taking Tower Trail for a hike around the base of Devils Tower. Just a little over a mile long, the trail is easy (stroller friendly) and has some tree shaded areas and benches. Look up to see (the very gutsy) climbers on the tower. Afterward, enjoy a picnic lunch in the park.

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Devils Tower from Tower Trail
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Another view of Devils Tower

Take Highway 24 back to US Highway 14/I-90 east toward Spearfish, South Dakota. Bonus stop: Vore Buffalo Jump (archaeological site). Take Exit 199. Here’s a link: Vore Buffalo Jump.

Spearfish Canyon

At Spearfish take US Highway (Alt)14 south (Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway). Breathtaking scenery. Can’t miss: Bridal Veil Falls and Roughlock Falls for photo ops. Plan to hike the easy, paved trail at Roughlock Falls.

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Bridal Veil Falls
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Roughlock Falls

Continue on US Highway (Alt)14 to Deadwood.

Bonus stop: Deadwood, South Dakota.img_1383.jpg This town is a National Historic Landmark, rich in Black Hills Gold Rush and Old West history. Shopping, casinos, bars and restaurants, as well as historic homes, a museum, and the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Hotels and camping available in Deadwood.

Continue on US Highway 14 to Sturgis, then take I-90 east to Rapid City.

We hope you had a fun and exciting first day of your Black Hills vacation. Check back next week for Day Two. Until then…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

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Magical, misty mountain with rainbow at Grand Canyon National Park

If you follow our posts, you’re already familiar with Quick Stops. Quick Stops are designed to give a nod to locations to which we can’t devote an entire post. The destinations are completely random and totally fun.

Just get in the car and we will be on our way!

First Stop: Vicksburg National Military Park

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Where in the world is it?

Vicksburg National Military Park is located in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

For forty-seven days in 1863, Union and Confederate troops battled for control of Vicksburg, a stronghold on the Mississippi River, but the Union forces persevered and forced the Confederates to surrender on July 4. It was a turning point of the Civil War, as the Confederates lost control of the Mississippi River. Today, the national park is a beautiful memorial to the sacrifices made there. Two of the many monuments that are located in the park and the Vicksburg National Cemetery are pictured below.

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Missouri Memorial
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Texas Memorial
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Vicksburg National Cemetery

Second Stop: Terlingua Ghost Town

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Where in the world is it?

It’s in Southwest Texas near Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande River. Cinnabar, from which mercury (aka quicksilver) is derived, was mined at the Chisos Mine (Chisos Mining Company) in Terlingua from about 1905 to 1943. During the height of the mine’s operation, Terlingua reportedly had a population of 2,000.

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Terlingua Cemetery

The Terlingua Cemetery, established in the early 1900s, is still in use today. Terlingua Historic District, which includes the ghost town, the remains of the mine, and the cemetery, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s a fact, Jack!

Approximately 17,000 Union soldiers are buried in Vicksburg National Cemetery. Confederate soldiers are buried in the Soldier’s Rest section of Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg. The Terlingua Cemetery is the final resting place of miners, citizens of the town, and victims of an influenza epidemic back in the early 1900s. One Civil War veteran, John M. Southard aka Tomas Southard White, who died in 1910 and was a member of the 47th Kentucky Artillery, is buried in Terlingua Cemetery. And now you know…

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! Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye 

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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 Fort Union National Monument

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  • Website link: Fort Union
  • Cost: free
  • Hours vary seasonally
  • Short film in the visitor center about the history of the fort
  • Self-guided or ranger-led tours of the grounds
  • When to go: anytime

Fort Union National Monument is:

150 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and since Albuquerque has a major airport, we will start our adventure from there. Let’s go!

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

Campgrounds and RV parks are also available in Albuquerque.

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Prairie near Fort Union. Imagine a wagon train ambling along the Santa Fe Trail here. Aside from the barbwire fences, this scene probably hasn’t changed much in the last 150 years.

Getting There

From Albuquerque take I-25 north toward Santa Fe. At Santa Fe continue on I-25/US 84 east toward Glorietta and Pecos, New Mexico.

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Bonus stop: Pecos National Historical Park. We love this park so much that we have recommended it on our site before. Take the self-guided tour to see the remains of a pueblo that was built around 800 AD. Plan to spend a couple of hours here. The visitor center is very interesting and definitely worth a visit. Here’s a link: Pecos National Historic Park.

Continue northeast on I-25/US 84 toward Las Vegas, New Mexico, then continue north to the town of Waltrous. Follow the signs from Waltrous to Fort Union. Drive time between Albuquerque and Fort Union: 2.25 hours.

Hotels, restaurants, and RV/tent camping available 30 minutes away in Las Vegas, New Mexico

Destination: Fort Union National Monument

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Fort Union’s Officer’s Row

Fort Union was an important outpost on the Santa Fe Trail. The fort was originally established in 1851 to be a supply depot and living quarters for soldiers serving to protect travelers and traders on the trail. With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, better living conditions were needed, and the fort’s original wooden buildings were refurbished or rebuilt with adobe and brick. Larger supply warehouses were added at that time, and Fort Union began providing supplies to all the forts in the region.

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Mechanic’s Corral. This is where they worked on the vehicles of the day.
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Post Commander’s Quarters
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Detail of the Hospital Walls

Fort Union’s hospital was once the largest and finest medical facility between Kansas and California, serving soldiers and civilians alike. Even after the Civil War, the post continued to operate with soldiers in place to protect the Santa Fe Trail. The hospital continued to operate during this time, too. However, with the advent of the railroad, the Santa Fe Trail became less traveled, and the fort was abandoned in 1891. Some wheel ruts on the trail can still be seen at Fort Union.

Below are additional shots of the buildings.

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This concludes our Fort Union National Monument post. Thank you for joining us on our journey. We hope you will return every week as we post more great road trips. Please leave us note below and tell us about your journeys. 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

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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 Colorado National Monument

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    Independence Monument

    Website: Colorado National Monument

  • Cost: $15.00 per car for a 7 day pass
  • Campground available for RVs and tents
  • Backcountry camping with permit
  • Scenic drive
  • On or off trail hiking
  • Biking
  • Backpacking
  • Regulated climbing
  • When to go: anytime

Colorado National Monument is located between the cities of Grand Junction and Fruita, Colorado. Grand Junction has a regional airport serviced by a few national and regional carriers, so that is where our trip is going to start. Grab your camera and get ready to be amazed!

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Getting There

From Grand Junction, take Highway 340 (Broadway Avenue) west to the park entrance. Drive time: approximately 20 minutes.

⇒Alternate Route: from Fruita and I-70, take Highway 340 south to the park entrance and visitor center. Drive time: approximately 15 minutes.

*Recommended hotel in Grand Junction: Hampton Inn

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

For additional information about the area, here’s a helpful link: Visit Grand Junction.

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Monument Canyon

Destination: Colorado National Monument

Rim Rock Drive winds through the park from east to west for 23 miles and is the best way to see the highlights of the monument. We suggest taking the drive and stopping at the visitor center before trekking off to hike or backpack in the park. The scenery is spectacular (excellent photo ops), and there are about fifteen viewpoints or overlooks along Rim Rock Drive. Stop at all of them to see the unique rock formations and deep canyons that make this monument so breathtakingly beautiful.

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Cold Shivers Point
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Fallen Rock

Travel tip: Rim Rock Drive is a two lane road that has twists, turns, drop offs, and hills. Be cautious. Stick to the speed limit, and watch out for the bicyclists who also use this road.

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“Wow” moments at every viewpoint!
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Coke Ovens Formation

When driving or hiking through the monument, you would never know that there were busy cities just a few minutes away. Come to Colorado National Monument to get away from the hustle and bustle. Feast your eyes on its beauty, while taking a break to enjoy nature. Be on the lookout for bighorn sheep here, as well as collared lizards and a variety of birds that also make their homes in the park. Some visitors may be lucky enough to spot a golden eagle or peregrine falcon.

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Interesting shapes and beautiful colors!

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The photo above was taken at the visitor center. This vista can be viewed anytime online via the park’s webcam. Log on to see how the seasons and changing light affect the view. See our Places/Links page above for the link under the National Park Webcams section and scroll down to Colorado National Monument.

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Up close and personal

Thank you so much for joining us! We hope you will return to our site for more great American road trips. If you have questions or comments, by all means, leave one. We love hearing from you. We will conclude this post with a shot of the interesting terrain south of Grand Junction along US Highway 50.

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Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

Quick Stops: fast, fascinating, fun, funky!

 

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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?

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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…

 

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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…

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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…

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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 

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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

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  • 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.

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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.

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Bacon!
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Massive beauty
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Chinese Theater
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Mirror Lake
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Doll’s Theater
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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

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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

 

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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.
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Lava flow

Getting There

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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.

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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.

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

Bonus stop: Arco, Idaho.

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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.

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Spatter cones
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Inferno Cone Trail
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Lava flow and cinder cones
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Spatter Cone
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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 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Looking  down in to the canyon from Canyon Rim Trail
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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.

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Creek bed with interesting geologic features in the cliff face
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Canyon perspective
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How did nature do that? And those plants!
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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

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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

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  • 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.
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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.

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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…

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Breathtaking Beauty
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Vibrant Colors at Artist’s Palette
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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!

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Badlands of Zabriskie Point
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Salt Flats of Badwater Basin
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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.

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In Twenty Mule Team Canyon
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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.

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Until the next trip…

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

Mike and Kellye

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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

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Saddle Rock from above
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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.

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This reminds us of the Old West. Can’t you just imagine a wagon train in this picture?
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Eagle Rock
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Sentinel Rock
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Dome Rock
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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.

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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 

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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

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  • 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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Wilson Arch

 

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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  

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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

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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.)

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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.

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From White Sands, take US Highway 70 to Alamogordo.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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:

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  • 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.

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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.

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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

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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

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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

Bonus Destination: Curecanti National Recreation Area – Morrow Point

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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.

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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.

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Chipeta Falls
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Stunning Scenery on Still Water
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Rocky Reflection

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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

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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

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Headwaters of the Missouri River
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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

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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

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  • 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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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*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!

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Window Wonders
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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.

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Delicate Arch(es)
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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.)

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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!

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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

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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

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  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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Hopi House at Grand Canyon Village (South Rim). Originally a workshop for making and selling Native American arts and crafts. Built in 1905.
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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.
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View of the Colorado River meandering through the Grand Canyon
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Desert View Watchtower (South Rim)
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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.

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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.

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Navajo Bridge and Vermillion Cliffs
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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)

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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.

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North Rim View

 

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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  

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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