This stop was part of our huge honeymoon road trip around Idaho for a 50-mile backpacking trail around The Sawtooth Mountains. You can read about the entire honeymoon trip on my Idaho page here!
We instead chose to get to most of the park’s main attractions by vehicle. We stopped at Elephant Rock, Twin Sisters, and Window Arch.
After seeing how cool the valley below looked and how fun the rock climbing seemed, we honestly wished we had stayed for multiple nights to truly explore the entire area. We would have loved to have seen how different the views would’ve been by hiking down into the formations, but instead we just spent one day driving around and gawking at the natural wonders.
It was a very beautiful, really easy to access park, and we will certainly be coming back on any other trips we are in the area so we can come back and truly explore the depths more.
See more things to do in Idaho below:
See more from our entire road trip around Idaho and our 50-mile backpacking adventure through The Sawtooth Mountains on my Idaho page, here!
Some of the things are extremely rare, including the collection of two-bodied or two-headed animals. Those were probably my least favorite parts of the exhibit’s items, but most of the rest of the things we found absolutely fascinating.
Inside the cave they have also found the remains of a cave bear, which apparently is different than a modern-day bear. It might have hibernated in the cave during an ice age or discovered the cave after a volcano. Some of the remains can be found on display inside one of the two museums.
Overall, it was such a fun little stop to explore the entire facility and all of their family heirlooms. It’s not like a normal museum, and that’s what we liked about it. If you are ever in the southern Idaho area we highly recommend a visit!
Learn more about Idaho's Mammoth Cave and Shoshone Bird Museum of Natural History on their website here!
See more things to do in Idaho below:
This is by no means a complete list of all the amazing restaurants in the area, but these are a few that I have tried and just absolutely loved. Save them and try to stop by on your trip through Utah!
Checkout their menu and event schedule on their website: https://www.4wpub.com/
Make a reservation on their website: https://ebenezersbarnandgrill.com/
See more about Kiva Koffeehouse and their on-site Kottage for rent here: https://www.kivakoffeehouse.com/
Pizza Palace has been rated the best pizza in Southern Utah year after year. Their recipes have been passed through generations since the early 1990’s. Enjoy a specialty pizza or create your own at this Utah staple.
See the full menu of The Pizza Palace here: https://www.brycecanyonpizza.com/
Over 80% of the state of Utah is protected public or National Park lands. One of Utah's most famous "Mighty Five National Parks" is Bryce Canyon. It's red rock hoodoos are unlike anywhere else in the world, but there is so much more to Bryce Canyon Country than just the national park...
Bryce Canyon Country includes Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, Kodachrome State Park, and so much more in its over 3-million acres of protected lands.
Read about things to do in Bryce Canyon Country here!
Under Canvas Bryce Canyon hosts fifty different solar-powered canvas tent sites perfect for solo-travelers, couples, or families alike with their variety of tent options that can sleep between two and six people. Each tent comes with an outdoor and indoor lounging area and a wood-burning stove inside to keep you warm during the chilly nights.
Full bathrooms, battery operated lights, and a battery pack for charging small devices like cell phones are only a few of the other amenities you’ll also enjoy. There are also outlets in the attendant's tent and bathrooms for plugging in larger items and blow dryers available at the front desk.
Ruby’s Inn features many different kinds of lodging options from RV hook-ups and tipi campsites to luxury king suites with in-room jacuzzi spas. The Inn also has three different dining options to satisfy every hunger pain. The Cowboy Buffet & Steak Room offers sit-down breakfast, lunch, and dinner; The Canyon Diner has fast grab-and-go options and pizza; while Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill features a country music show during dinner every summer night.
Ruby’s Inn has something for every type of traveler, and it’s one of the best gift shops outside of the park!
See more things to do near Bryce Canyon National Park and Escalante National Monument in my guides below:
One of the most unique national parks in America is nestled in the Four Corners Area of Colorado. Mesa Verde National Park is over 50,000 acres of protected land, encompassing some of the most fascinating man-made structures.
Mesa Verde is home to the world’s largest area of pueblo buildings, and these are different than most others. They are built hundreds of feet above the ground directly into the red rock canyon walls.
I have had the privilege to visit the park a couple of times, and it leaves me amazed every time. This is one of the lesser visited National Parks, and I hope to provide guidance for anyone who wants to see these marvelous structures on their own.
When to visit:
- The park closes many roads and does not offer tours during the winter (September to May). To get the most of your experience at Mesa Verde, you will need to visit during the summer months. The summer is the most popular time to visit any national park, so if you can go during weekdays and avoid major holidays like Memorial Day and The Fourth of July, it is more likely you’ll be able to get reservations for campgrounds and guided tours. The weather at this high elevation in Colorado is temperate, warm, and windy during the daytime and fairly chilly at night routinely dipping down into the 40’s. When planning your trip, be sure to check the weather on The National Park website here: www.nps.gov/mesaverde
Where to stay:
- Lodging is very limited around Mesa Verde. To get into the main part of the of park takes about a 45-minute drive from the Visitors Center entrance. The entrance is about 55 miles from Durango – the closest sizable town – and about ten miles in different directions from Cortez and Mancos, two much smaller towns.
- The park has one lodge and one campground. Both prefer reservations but will take walk ins if there is availability. When we went for our first time in 2016, we managed to snag the very last campsite for one night but couldn’t stay for a second due to reservations. You can make camping reservations online here: https://www.visitmesaverde.com/lodging-camping/morefield-campground/
- I have never stayed at The Far View Lodge, but its location in the heart of the park is ideal for travelers hoping to stay multiple nights. It is only open April to October and ranges from $149-186 a night. You can reserve your stay on their website here: https://www.visitmesaverde.com/lodging-camping/far-view-lodge/
- The pueblos are hundreds of years old and extremely delicate. The park doesn’t allow access to many without guides walking people through the formations under careful watch. Booking tours in advance is pretty much a requirement. Occasionally, you can snag an open spot, but it is very unlikely you will be able to walk into the park and get a tour at the time you are hoping.
- Reservations for The Cliff Palace (the crown jewel of the park), The Balcony House, and the Square Tower House can be made here: https://home.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/cliff_dwelling_tours.htm
- Ranger guided tours are not required for Spruce Treehouse, Cedar Treehouse, Step House, or Badger House Trail. Please be respectful of the sites by observing the “Leave No Trace” principals, leaving the preserves better than you found them, never taking any artifacts, or making graffiti or marks on any surfaces.
Things to bring to the park:
- National Parks Annual Pass
- If you plan on visiting more than one national park or Mesa Verde for more than one day, I recommend purchasing an annual parks pass. A single day’s entry to any park is around $30 and an annual pass is $80. Purchase the annual pass for access to all of America’s parks, national forest lands, and more. You can purchase an annual or day pass at the entrance to any national park!
- Food and water.
- There are a few cafes in the park, but they are expensive and primarily located around The Far View Lodge and not near the formations. Make sure to pack plenty of snacks, breakfasts, lunches, and lots of water especially if you are camping inside the park or plan to do any hiking. If you will be near your car, you would rather over pack than overheat or be dehydrated!
- Camera and binoculars
- You will want to take lots of photos and videos in the park. Bring an extra-large zoom lens and binoculars to see the far away dwellings as well. Make sure to pack spare batteries and a way to charge them during your visit.
- Portable chargers
- Electricity hookups are rare in the park, so bring portable chargers for phones and camera batteries. There is little phone service, so you won’t be using them much, but you will want to take pictures and videos, so make sure they are fully charged!
- Since there is little cell service, be sure to grab a map from the visitors center so you know where you are going. Also make sure to ask the rangers about any closures or other things that might not be on the map, including incoming weather.
- Rain jacket
- Anytime you are hiking, you should bring rain gear. Weather changes rapidly at high elevation and summer storms regularly roll in late in the afternoon, so bring rain gear and a jacket to have just in case.
Here is how I recommend traveling the park:
- Before arrival:
- Reserve your campsite or room at the Far View Lodge and book tours during your dates. here: https://www.visitmesaverde.com/
- Study the map online and make a plan for visiting the park based off when tours are available. Continue reading to see when I recommend touring each site!
- Day one:
- Spend a few hours learning about the history at the Visitors Center. Soak in all the information you possibly can before witnessing any of the structures firsthand. Take notes, think of questions to ask on your tours, and get excited!
- Start up the road into the park, pull off at every viewpoint, and learn about the geology and history.
- Take Weatherill Mesa Road to The Step House. Again, make sure to stop at all the viewpoints along the way, then take the self-guided walk through The Step House to get an up-close and personal experience in a pueblo dwelling.
- Take an afternoon tour of The Long House. This is one of the dwellings you need to book a guided tour to see, so try to pick a time slot later in the afternoon to give yourself plenty of time to get there and enjoy the scenery on the way up.
- After your tour, continue walking The Long House Loop paved trail to end your first day!
- Day two:
- Book an early tour of The Spruce Treehouse and walk through the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum afterwards.
- Then, take a couple of hikes around the Spruce Canyon Trail and up to Petroglyph Point. Both are around 2.5 miles round trip.
- Stop and take a lunch break at Spruce Tree Terrace or enjoy a packed lunch from the many picnic sites around the park.
- Then, drive up to Mesa Top Loop to explore the many sites there.
- Day three:
- Save the two best places for your last day and take pre-booked tours at The Balcony House and, finally, the famous Cliff Palace saving the absolute best for last!
- Soak up all the wonder and glory of these two sites and take time to reflect on all the things you have just witnessed over the last few days. Make your way back out of the park and stop by any sites you haven’t seen or go back to any that you really enjoyed.
- Optional day four:
- If you are staying in the park, especially at The Morefield Campground, take an extra day to do the hikes that lead out of the camping area.
- Prater Ridge Trail is about 7.8 miles, The Knife Edge Trail is 2 miles, and The Point Lookout Trail is 2.2 miles. Pick a trail that is up to your hiking abilities, or try to accomplish all three in a day! See more about the elevation gains, estimated completion times, and more on AllTrails.com
Mesa Verde is a truly remarkable place to witness, and I hope every person can experience the sheer wonder that this place holds at least once in their lives.
It will change the way you view hardship, simple living, and your modern conveniences and may put your world in a perspective you might have never imagined. It is a place unlike anywhere else in the world, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Tulum, Mexico, was my dream destination for my bachelorette party for so many reasons: lots of dance clubs, exquisite cuisine, and, of course, beautiful beaches. I planned my trip to Tulum months in advance, and the first thing I did was look for a place to stay. Fortunately, I found one of the most incredible places I think I could have found!
Read my entire "Tulum Planning Guide" to see all the research I did and my "Tulum Bachelorette Itinerary" to see where all we ended up going!
Beach vs. Town
Note that there are no Ubers or Lyfts in Tulum, so taxis are the only way to get around town without a car. Bikes and Mopeds are also very common, but the roads are not very well-maintained, so driving or riding isn’t really easy.
Staying near the beach, however, came with a huge upcharge. Airbnb’s were at least three times more expensive, but being able to walk everywhere was worth every penny.
Tulum is Expensive
Our host also helped us stock our fridge and pantry with groceries, fresh fruit, snacks, and coffee. There was also plenty of fresh water to drink!
Tulum is a Party Town
In a party town, comes safety concerns too. Lots of drinking can lead to wild nights, and as a group of girls, we were on high alert, but the place we rented came with a 24-hour security guard! It was very comforting. Everytime we came home, he was standing there waiting to walk us back down the driveway and lock the gate behind us. We felt so safe.
Now, The House(s)...
Chloe and Sarah will enjoy knowing it!
Read all of my travel guides for Tulum below:
Tulum is full of so many beach clubs, bars, and late-night spots; The plethora of places to go was one of the main reasons I chose Tulum for my bachelorette party!
This is by no means a definitive list of places to party, because we were only able to explore so many during our three-day weekend, but I did a lot of research beforehand, and these were the places I found that I felt were absolute must-do’s.
If you want to read our Bachelorette Party Itinerary, click here, or if you want to read my Tulum Trip Planning Guide see more here!
The quesadillas were AMAZING. We talked about how good the sauce in them was literally all weekend. Probably one of the better, unexpected places we ate in all of Tulum.
Papaya Playa Project
Even though it was a super quick weekend, we packed a whole lot in and got an amazing feel for the clubs and bars there. We truly had ourselves a time at my bachelorette party. Read more about Tulum in my “Full Guide to Tulum”, here, or in my itinerary post here!
Read more of my guides from Tulum below:
Tulum, Mexico, is a must visit place for clubs, beaches, and of course, the food. The food scene is as exquisite as one might imagine in such a high-end tourist destination.
The location on the water gives way to freshly caught seafood with, of course, an authentic Mexican flare, and there is also a good bit of Asian influence in the town.
We found both high-end and inexpensive, hole-in-the-wall places to grub during my bachelorette weekend.
Read my “Tulum Bachelorette Itinerary” to see where all we went in the weekend and my “Tulum Planning Guide” for more details on everything here!
Tseen Ja is a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant serving up sushi, hot stone steaks, and delicious cocktails. This restaurant was the sole reason I wanted to come to Tulum. I cannot deny it.
The nests above the jungle are the most picture-perfect tables I had ever seen in my life. This spot put Tulum on my radar based on Instagram alone. This was, by far, the nicest and most expensive meal we ate in Tulum.
Our favorite things we ate here were the Black Cod Misoyaki and the tempura rolls.
Funky Burrito Garden
I was very excited to see this gorgeous estate but wasn’t too bummed when we changed our plans. It is a bit pricey, so it helped us save money by not going!
See more guides to Tulum below:
Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is situated alongside the Colorado River, tucked into the red rock mountainside of the Western Slope of The Rocky Mountains. The town itself is a beautiful, quaint place full of great hiking spots, world class fishing, and the world’s largest mineral hot spring pool!
It took me over a dozen trips to Glenwood Springs to learn about this amazing fact. I had visited another nearby hot spring resort Iron Mountain before even learning about Glenwood Hot Springs.
There are two pools at Glenwood Hot Springs. The larger pool is a 405 by 100-foot pool full with over 4 million gallons of “healing” waters. This pool is a constant 92 degrees, and the smaller "Therapy Pool" is a toasty 104 degrees.
Glenwood Springs is located about 3.5 hours from Denver, Colorado, just off of I-70. Glenwood Hot Springs is located at the edge of town alongside the Colorado River near The Hotel Colorado. It is an easy walk or drive from downtown.
Passes can be purchased at the counter or online before arrival. The passes are good for the entire day, and you can come and go as you please during their hours of operation (9am-9pm). There are also gazebos and towels available for rent. Each day pass also comes with its own locker to store your clothing and other items.
There are also packages available from Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge, Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort, and with Glenwood Adventure Park. Check those out here:
Glenwood Hot Springs is also known as “The Athletic Club of The Rockies”, and there is a gym with workout classes available. The gym access is an additional charge but includes access to the pools as well.
Glenwood Hot Springs is also family friendly and has slides and a splash pool available during the summer season. (When I went in November, these were closed).
There is also a lodge on site with a variety of rooms. When you book a night’s stay you gain access to the pools free of charge! Although I have not stayed here yet, if you plan a vacation to Glenwood Springs, I suggest considering the lodge as a place to stay, so you can have free and unlimited access during your trip!
There are actually three different hot spring locations in Glenwood Springs, and each is distinctly unique:
- Glenwood Hot Springs boasts the largest pool in the world and is used more for its “healing” properties in conjunction with its athletic club.
- Iron Mountain has 16 different pools ranging in size and temperature. It is also right along the river, so you can take a cold plunge if you dare!
- Yampah Spa’s caves are located inside the mountain and can only be used for 10-12 minutes at a time. The caves have 125 degree water pumped through three rooms and provide a sauna-like experience.
There is something in the water in Glenwood Springs, and it is magical!
Staying in a room with strangers in a dorm-styled room has never really appealed to me and, quite frankly, scared me. That is, until I went to Telluride and hotel rooms were over $400 for just one night and my only other option was to sleep in the car. Staying in a dorm-styled room seemed safer and much warmer than the backseat of my Jeep.
I chose to stay in their cheapest option, which was a 6-person room with bunk beds. Each bed came with its own locker, ear plugs, towels, and was just as nice as any hotel I have visited.
Then, all the people I met in the lobby at breakfast were super nice too. The staff was also helpful by answering my questions and giving me a tour for my videos.
I will say that the short 15-minute drive out of town wasn’t the most convenient especially if it’s snowing late at night. The other pros completely outweigh this one con.
Book your own night at The Hostel Bivvi here:
See more from my entire weekend skiing in Telluride:
Watch more from other trips to Telluride, here:
Imagine leisurely floating down a massive river on beautiful, blue-sky, sunny days through tall, sharp, red, steep canyon walls all around you. Now imagine this without having to do any paddling or cooking for four days.
That is what Dinosaur River Expeditions provides on their Gates of Lodore white-water rafting trip down The Green River through Dinosaur National Monument.
The entire Dinosaur National Monument is 210,000 acres. The Green River and its tributary waters encompass 58 miles of the monument with a majority of that being inaccessible by roads and barely by foot. Dinosaur National Monument also includes The Yampa River which converges with The Green River to make up for the rest of the park.
The waters inside the monument are highly protected. I was unbelievably lucky to have been able to join a chartered expedition. Only a handful of groups can be on the river each day.
Two chartered and one private expedition can launch on The Green River per day, and only one private and one charter expedition can launch on The Yampa River daily. These restrictions keep the landscape in the monument beautiful, clean, and wild.
There are other companies allowed to go through Dinosaur National Monument, but Dinosaur River Expeditions is the only locally owned operator!
After the trip, there were a few things I really wish I had packed including:
- Another pair of pants - I cannot stress the importance of sun protection while on the water enough. There is nothing worse than getting sunburnt one day and having to endure additional days in the sun. I brought one pair of quick dry capris with me and wore them nearly every day. I wish I had brought one more pair so that when they got sandy, I could put on a fresh pair.
- A jacket -Nights and early mornings inside the canyon were pretty chilly. I wish I had brought a jacket to sit around the fire at night and to eat breakfast in the morning.
- Extra pairs of clothes - I was so used to packing for my normal backpacking trips that I didn’t realize I could have brought multiple pairs of clothes like pajamas or t-shirts. When my clothes got soaked one night, it would have been nice to have had dry clothes to change into!
- Fun things to keep you entertained at night - The guides did a great job providing activities especially for the kids including bocce ball, costumes, and a homemade water slide. I wish I had brought more books and my journal. There was a lot of peaceful downtime that I spent fishing and photographing, but I still had plenty of leftover time I could have spent reading or writing.
- Headlamp - This is needed for going to the bathroom at night. There is a specific toilet system they ask you to use, and it can be hard to find in the dark.
- Solar charger - If you have one, I recommend it along with battery banks. You will want to take lots of pictures and videos on the trip, and I was super glad to have brought mine, but I kept it in my overnight bag, so it was useless during the day. I should’ve kept it on the boat with me to charge my things during the day!
- Booked a hotel for the arrival night - This isn’t something I wish I packed, but after the long, hot days on the water, the last thing I wanted to do was camp after the expedition. I was lucky to get a room at The Dinosaur Inn between the Fourth of July and the rodeo arriving the next weekend!
It was a luxurious trip to have every meal cooked and guides rowing me down the river, except we were all pretty dirty by the end of the trip! That being said, to be so well taken care of did feel like pampering.
Here was our itinerary for our four days on The Green River:
The night before we left for our trip, we all met for the first time at Dinosaur River Expeditions’s office in Vernal, Utah. We went over safety procedures, general guidelines and information, then received our dry bags.
We each received an overnight bag to hold our clothes and other things along with a day bag for personal items to keep near us on the boat.
After we all asked questions and met the guides; the owners, Jen and Tyler; and all the other rafters, we were dismissed to go pack up and get a good night’s rest before meeting early the next morning.
Before we hit the water, we met at The Dinosaur Inn to load our bags and tents into the vans around 7 a.m. Once we were all in the vans, we rode nearly two and a half hours from Vernal, Utah, to The Gates of Lodore.
Our guides rowed for only a few minutes, and we were entering The Gates of Lodore. It felt like we were entering into another world when we crossed through “The Gates”. The landscape changed from an open beach area to a narrow, steep red-rock canyon that dwarfed us.
That night, we went to bed with stars overhead, but that quickly changed around 2 a.m. when the bottom dropped out of the sky, and a lightning and thunderstorm broke out. Several of us had our rain flies off our tents, and I learned the next morning that everyone had just as disastrous of a night as I had. Tents were flying all over the place, and people’s gear was now soaking wet.
We all survived and had some fun stories to tell, but we all learned a lesson and slept with our rain flies on our tents for the rest of the trip.
It was the Fourth of July, and all of us were cheerful and chipper despite the lack of sleep during the storm the night before. After the guides cooked our breakfast of French toast and sausage, we packed away our soaking wet gear and right away started the day on the water with some rapids.
All the guides successfully navigated the falls, and we stopped for a nice sandwich lunch when it was all over. We didn’t have a far float to our campsite after lunch, so I hopped in a “ducky” inflatable kayak for the rest of the day.
We awoke to the daily yelling of, “Coffee!” by the guides and a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs. We had all slept much better than the first night, so we packed things up a bit earlier.
We went just a bit further downstream to set up camp. This campsite was the windiest place I’ve ever been! Even the folks from Chicago were complaining, and they’re from “the windy city”!
The final day of the expedition was bittersweet. Many of the kids on the trip couldn’t wait to get home, shower, and sleep in their own beds, while some of us - myself included - wished the trip never had to end. As we sat around and ate our pancake breakfast, we all reminisced on how sweet the trip had been and how much we cherished each other’s company.
We circled back into Split Mountain, and because of the open landscape with still water, the biting bugs and mosquitoes were out in full force. We were here midday, so the sun was also beating down. Luckily, this section didn’t last too long, and we were back between the walls of the canyons for lunch.
Split Mountain was a gorgeous final area. The swirly mountains surrounded either side of the river appearing to have opened up for the water to pass through. I sat in awe knowing this was the last view I would see from the river.
We rode back to The Dino Inn and unloaded the dry bags into our respective vehicles. It all happened so fast that it felt like a big slap in the face by reality, but once we said our final goodbyes, it hit me how truly incredible this trip had been.
Read more about that entire solo road trip in my blog posts here!
Dinosaur National Monument encompasses 210,000 acres of protected lands across Colorado and Utah. The monument is aptly named for the concentration of dinosaur bones found near the convergence of the Yampa and Green Rivers, but the name doesn’t fully capture the glory of the entire sanctuary.
I left Dinosaur National Monument absolutely blown away by the beautiful scenery and the fascinating things I learned. It surpassed anything I ever expected of this national monument.
There was so much to do around this area of Colorado and Utah called “Dinosaurland” that I ended up spending an entire week exploring!
After I spent four days and three nights inside the monument on The Green River with Dinosaur River Expeditions, I finally went back into Dinosaur National Monument to see the bones, petroglyphs, and all the viewpoints I had seen from the river.
Here is how I spent one jam-packed day hitting the highlights of Dinosaur National Monument on a self-guided auto tour:
The Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall
The dinosaur bones were discovered here in 1908. After 20 years of excavating, the exhibit hall was built, and no bones have been removed in decades. The wall of bones is bigger than I imagined. It is massive! It’s over 800 feet long with hundreds of bones inside including 20 complete skeletons.
The first stop on the auto tour was called The Swelter Shelter. This stop was a quick walk to a wall full of petroglyphs which are ancient rock carvings.
The next few viewpoints were of Split Mountain, the wild, tilted rocks along the edge of the skyline. Split Mountain is called so because The Green River splits it and divides the mountain in two.
It’s a geologically fascinating formation to learn about. You can read more on the NPS website here!
The next stop was Turtle Rock, a precious rock formation named for its shape. Right up the road from it was Elephant Toes Butte, another cute rock formation easily seen from the side of the road.
The Lizard Petroglyphs can also be seen from the road with a pair of binoculars or a zoom lens, but I suggest walking up the steep path to the top. There are so many more petroglyphs than just the lizards! Plus, the views of Split Mountain around the corner are stunning. It’s steep and strenuous but well worth the walk.
The last stop on the Utah side of the auto tour was Josie Morris’s Ranch. She built the cabin in the early 1920’s and lived there until her death in the 60’s. She was an incredible pioneer woman who outlived five of her husbands. She might have been a cattle thief with the outlaw Butch Cassidy, but she was never charged.
Entering into Colorado:
You can download The NPS App here!
My first stop on the Colorado side was the other visitors’ center. It was nowhere near as impressive as The Quarry Exhibit and “The Wall of Bones”. It was still very informative and provided great information about the park.
This side of the park is essentially just scenic overlooks that have some long trails. I pretty much just pulled over for a few minutes at each to learn about the geology, see the views, and snap a few pictures.
I drove north stopping at Escalante, Canyon, Island Park, and Echo Park overlooks.
I saved the best for last with Harpers Corner. It is the pinnacle point on the auto tour of the aptly named “Harpers Corner Road”, and it leads to some of the most beautiful viewpoints in the preserve.
Unknown, mysterious, and ancient things fascinate me. When I learned that Vernal, Utah, was home to some of the largest collections of petroglyphs, ancient Native American rock carvings, I rescheduled my entire road trip to see the gallery.
Nine Mile Canyon is actually a 40-mile-long canyon full of petroglyphs. I spent an entire day searching for these ancient rock drawings and carvings. It was unreal how many were littered across the rock faces.
Read the guide I followed through Nine Mile Canyon here!
Here are the petroglyphs I found listed with their nearest mile marker:
There was a nice, short trail that led right to the art. This panel was very well-kept and preserved, and I walked around as much as I could. It was a great piece to start!
Big/Pregnant Buffalo - 46.0
Another easy piece to find was the large buffalo. This was marked with a sign and another short walk led me right to it.
This BLM site was full of art - both petroglyphs and pictographs. (Petroglyphs are carved into the rock walls while pictographs are painted using dyes and paint). This area has many more petroglyphs than pictographs, but if you walk around and look hard enough at Daddy Canyon, you will find both along the trail and down in the wash.
This formation has a tragic story. The owner was tired of people trespassing to view it, so he hired some boys to paint “No Trespassing” in the cave. He apparently didn’t give them clear directions, and the boys stenciled the words right on top of the petroglyph. It is such a shame.
At this point, the petroglyphs started to be difficult to find. Many required steep hikes including this one right across from Nutters Corral and after the oil well if you are driving east.
I flew my drone up to this location before hiking up to see it. I wanted to make sure it was worth it, and it sure was!
Park at the cattle guard and go over it if you are traveling east. Look up, and start hiking. This was another spot where I flew my drone to survey before actually hiking. Once again, it was worth the short, steep scramble up to the petroglyphs.
There is a nice panel of pictographs at this location. Like I said, pictographs are not as common in the canyon as the petroglyphs, so this is a good one to visit. A short, easy trail takes you to it.
I flew my drone up to this spot as well. The hike up was short, steep, and rocky, and I was tired of walking around in the heat. It was very cool to look at, and I wish I had walked up, but when there were hundreds of other places to see, I had to start picking and choosing.
This took a short, steep hike to get to like many of the other unnamed locations, but it led to a very interesting formation with a very long line carved across multiple rock faces. It was one of the most intriguing pieces.
This panel included a huge snake on one side that continued around to many other rocks. It was easy to find after a short hike up to the canyon wall.
This was the last named parking lot area where I stopped. It was very easy to walk from the car and follow the path to the panel. There are petroglyphs on every single face of the rocks, so I encourage walking around and viewing more than just the Owl Panel!
At Harmon Junction, I just viewed the art from my car. I used binoculars and my camera’s zoom to see the panel from the comfort of the air conditioning. I did this at several of the next locations, but none were anything spectacular, so I didn't photograph them.
This was the very last area I visited on my self-guided tour. There are petroglyphs on either side of balanced rock. I parked on one side of the rock and walked to the other. These were some of the more weird images. One looked like someone getting sucked in a portal, and the other looked like a character from the 90’s tv show, “The Real Monsters”.
During John and I’s 2022 Memorial Day Weekend road trip, we explored places in Utah we had never been. We went beyond the national parks and managed to avoid crowds on this incredibly busy American holiday.
The Cosmic Ashtray was a highly recommended place for us. Not only had I seen it all over Instagram, but our friends had been the summer before and said we absolutely had to go.
This epic crater is full of finely ground, bright red sand and looks like it’s a scene from another planet. John and I were so excited to get there.
Even though our friends told us about it, it was one of the more difficult places for us to find on our trip.
The first place we messed up was going to the wrong trailhead. Instead of following our All Trails app which had the directions for the trail to follow, I put The Cosmic Ashtray into my Google Maps GPS and it led us to a spot more North of the crater.
Luckily, we had cell phone service at this trailhead and were able to look at the map and see there was another path from where we were. Little did we know, there wasn’t much of a trail. Instead, this turned out to be a bit of walking around, up, and over hills, searching for waypoints and our final destination.
Fortunately, it was a cloudy day, because the trail is extremely exposed with very few trees on hot, desert rocks. *A word of warning: we brought our dog with us, and we eventually had to put shoes on her, because she got very hot on the way back. She also would not have been able to make it out of the ashtray, so we had to take turns holding her back.*
You can try to follow the same “path” we followed on All Trails here. I recommend downloading the maps and staying LOW at the rock hill bases!
We were still in wonder of the beautiful surroundings but quickly hiked back, because it started to get hotter as the afternoon went on. After we made it back to the car, we thought about how freaking cool the ashtray had been, and the fact that it was hard to find made it even cooler. We only saw two other couples while we were there!
See more from our entire hike up to The Cosmic Ashtray in my video below!
See more from the rest of our Utah Memorial Day Road Trip!
The first place we went on our big Memorial Day Weekend 2022 Utah Road Trip was Hanksville, Utah.
Hanksville is a town on the eastern side of Capitol Reef National Park and home to The Bentonite Hills also known as The Blue Hills of Utah.
These blue hills are mounds of volcanic ash layered on top of themselves formed millions of years ago. These rainbow-colored domes stick out among the barren desert landscape.
We put The Mars Desert Research Station into our Google Maps and quickly started exploring.
We parked on the opposite side of the bentonite formations and quickly grabbed our camera gear and drone. We were in a bit of a hurry to make it up the hills, because the sun was setting quickly.
We arrived during what photographers call “the blue hours”. An hour before sunrise and an hour after sunset, the blue and purple hues appear more intense on these stratified domes. We arrived just in time. We were able to hike up the hills, send our drone out, and scope out the entire landscape before it got too dark. It was an unbelievable sight.
The next morning, we woke up in the pitch black predawn and got ready to catch the “Blue Hour” before sunrise. As soon as the sun broke over the horizon, we sent up the drone. We didn’t think it was possible after reviewing the footage from the night before, but the sunrise videos were much more colorful!
We spent as long as we could hiking around, staring out over the horizon, and gawking at the magical landscape laid out in front of us. When the sun actually rose over the horizon, we packed up our gear. The sun really washes out the colors of the blue and purple when the reds and oranges are brought out by the warmth of the sun.
Palisade, Colorado, is a fertile oasis in The Colorado Plateau, right at the start of Colorado’s Western Slope desert landscape.
Palisade sits along the Colorado River where the land is rich from the mix of nutrients in the soil and water. Thanks to this soil and the combination of the hot days and cool nights, Palisade is well known for its produce.
Where to Rent Bikes:
I rented my bike from Rapid Creek Cycles (Palisade Cycle & Shuttle on Google Maps). It was recommended on the Visit Palisade Website, plus our friend was working at the Copeka Coffee Shop right next door, so it made our pick up and drop off very easy!
Regular or E-Bike?
My friends all brought their own bikes, and the e-bike would have me going a bit faster than the group, but they were already out at a winery nearly two miles from the cycle shop, so we decided I should get the e-bike to catch up to them as quickly as I could.
Check the Weather Before You Go!
We went in June, and it was upwards of 90 degrees the day we rode around, so we made sure to carry lots of water and keep hydrated and out of the sun as much as we could.
Red Fox Cellars
Maison La Belle Vie
The next stop was right down the road at Maison La Belle Vie. We were super excited when we arrived at this winery, because it had food and frozen wine. We quickly grabbed the large table inside and soaked in the air conditioning before sucking down some “frozé” or frozen rosé.
The views from this winery were beautiful. It has small grape vines in the back you could see through the windows and from the patio. It was stunning with the big, bright mesa behind it.
Our favorite stop was Carboy Winery at Mount Garfield Estate. It was absolutely gorgeous with its views and had so much space that it was easy for us to spread out inside and outside to enjoy their delicious drinks and food.
View their menu, beautiful tasting room space, and their Airbnb property on their website here!
Palisade Brewing Company
Their menu was full of different IPAs, lagers, and blondes. Check out their rotating menu here!
Here are the other places we had on our list to visit:
See their website here!
See this quaint place for yourself here.
See their website here.
See their website to learn more here.
Colorado Vintner’s Collective
From the photos, this tasting room looked like a nice, outdoor space with a great view of the mesa. It was right next to the train tracks, so it looked like a cute train stop. We passed it a bunch but did not go in to try it out ourselves.
See what it looks like here!
Watch more from our entire visit to Palisade in my YouTube video below!
Read some of my other Colorado travel guides:
Colorado Springs is Colorado’s second biggest city behind Denver. It sits at the foot of the Cheyenne Mountains that create a beautiful mountain backdrop to the city.
John and I love popping down to Colorado Springs for a fun day or quick weekend getaway. We also like to take first time Colorado visitors to help mark off some of the highlights of the state.
In this blog post I will share some of our favorite things to do in Colorado Springs!
Where to stay:
The Broadmoor also offers a mountaintop experience in an all-inclusive resort, a ranch stay, and a fly fishing camp available for rent if you have the means and can find availability!
Book your own stay at The Broadmoor Hotel here: www.broadmoor.com
Things to Do in Colorado Springs:
Visit Garden of the Gods
Ride The Pikes Peak Train
You can drive, hike, or ride the train to the top. When you ride the train up, you receive a nice history lesson about the first sumitters, Pikes Peak’s role in the song “America the Beautiful”, and so much more!
Visit Manitou Springs
- Walk around town and try the springs! It’s called Manitou Springs for all the different varieties of minerals in water. You can walk around and try all the different springs on an easy walk around town.
- Hike the Manitou Incline. If you really love stairs and grueling workouts, try hiking the Manitou Incline. I have never attempted it and never plan to. It seems a little too intense even for me. It’s an Olympic training site, and that’s what makes it so famous. Learn more about the climb here.
- Cave of The Winds is an above and underground adventure area. Visit the caves below the surface then ride a zip line over the canyon above. See more about Cave of the Winds on their website here!
- See the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Again, another thing we have never done is see the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Very similar to Mesa Verde, these are ancient Native American homes tucked away into the nearby cliffside. Learn more about the cliff dwellings here.
I hope this guide helps you plan a memorable trip to Colorado Springs. It is such a wonderful city full of truly iconic, picturesque places to visit!
Read more Colorado vacation guides below:
We went down to Colorado Springs to check out the newest glamping resort, Cronin Mountain, situated right above the city in the nearby Cheyenne Mountains.
Cronin Mountain is 7,777 feet above sea level, and you can either drive or hike up to it. The tents are situated right at the base and blocked from wind among the trees.
The tent comes with comfortable beds inside, a couch, tables and chairs inside and out, coolers to keep food, propane stoves, pots and pans, and all the utensils needed to cook a meal. Again, all we had to bring was our own food and clothes.
We enjoyed a sunset charcuterie board atop Cronin Mountain by adding the Luxury Picnic option. We ate cheese, meats, nuts, fruits, and crackers all evening at this ultra-romantic spot all set up just for us by Melody herself. It is a dreamy location perfect for engagements or elopements.
We could not have asked for a more relaxing, convenient mountain getaway. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the ocean of outdoor adventure and camping or if you just prefer glamping, Cronin Mountain is an excellent option.
Book your own tickets on the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, here!
You can ride, drive, or hike to the top...
During 2019, the railway company decided to remodel and refurbish the old trains and cogs and re-opened in June 2021 after a two-year hiatus. 2021 marked the railway’s 130th year of operation.
Watch more from our ride up in my YouTube video below!
Check online before making your trek up!
Book tickets beforehand:
I mention our side, because the train does not turn around at the top. Pick your side according to the view you want. The left side peers over Colorado Springs and is more open, while the right side hugs the mountainside and provides views of the mountain landscape.
Our conductor allowed the previous train to come down the final stretch before making the final ascent up into and above the clouds and finally to the top of Pikes Peak. When the train stopped, we were 14,115 feet above sea level.
There is a gift shop inside the new visitors’ center, and my grandparents bought some souvenirs. They also got some of the famous Pikes Peak doughnuts. They are made with a special, high-altitude recipe, and they were delicious!
We all agreed that it was a great, easy, fun way to see one of America’s most iconic places. We just wished the weather had been better, so we could’ve seen more. Maybe next time, we will brave it and make the drive up to spend as much time as we want at the peak
See more from this ride up and down Pikes Peak in my YouTube video below:
See other things to do in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs!
San Juan Capistrano is California’s oldest neighborhood. It is located right outside of Los Angeles in Dana Point, Orange County.
This extremely historic small town is so quaint and charming. It is a place everyone should visit!
I spent just one afternoon visiting San Juan Capistrano and know that I did not see everything. We arrived around 1 p.m. and only saw a small portion of town.
That being said, we had a FABULOUS day in this beautiful little town, and I know my mom will be back one day to actually visit the historic areas, because the place is worth going back to!
Shopping on Los Rios Street
Los Rios Street is the oldest street in California! It still has 40 original structures including a few native adobes. Most of the area is a residential street, but there is one section of shops and restaurants.
We wandered in and out of all the artists’ store fronts and bought clothes inside Las Catrinas.
My mom and I made reservations at The Tea House on Los Rios, and it was the most adorable place. We sat in the back garden and absolutely had ourselves a time enjoying round after round of tea and champagne, finger sandwiches, salad, and of course dessert.
The Mission is a church that was built to help evangelize the natives. Due to its early closing time, we did not make it in time to visit during our day in San Juan Capistrano.
Learn more about The Mission and purchase tickets on their website here!
Another landmark in town is the train station. We essentially did not cross the train tracks during our day. The town is practically split in two by the tracks, and we primarily stayed on the one side.
See more about the now Zephyr train station here.
Hollywood, California, is the city of dreams and an absolutely fascinating place to visit.
Nothing compares to the fame of this Los Angeles area. Between the movies, television shows, and musical records that have been produced here, there are just too many famous landmarks to explore in the city. You could spend your whole life trying to learn all the stories that Hollywood holds.
My mom and I only spent one day exploring the city, and it was just enough time for our first time visiting.
The Hollywood Sign
One of the most iconic sights in Hollywood is the Hollywood Sign. This famous location is not as easy to get to as you might think though.
Most spots to see the sign are on private property, and to get up close requires a 2-mile hike to the sign. We, however, found one of the best places to view the landmark for free.
We took a ride through a crazier side of Hollywood’s history and drove through Laurel Canyon. The 70’s hotspot was home to famous singers like Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, and Neil Young. Even magician Harry Houdini lived here too. This is also where the famous Wonderland Murders took place.
You can see all of these properties from the road, but they are private, so it’s best to learn as much as you can beforehand by reading the book Strange Scenes Inside The Canyon or by getting a tour!
Start on the east side of Hollywood’s famous Walk of Fame and see all the stars of famous celebrities like Shirley Temple, Audrey Hepburn, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Anniston, Reese Witherspoon, and dozens more. Walk west towards The Chinese Theater to see handprints in the concrete and see the world famous theaters.
- Capitol Records - The producers of ABBA, The Bee Gees, The Beastie Boys, Neil Diamond, Paul McCartney, and more!
- Scientology Building - See one of the most infamous churches in the country right off The Walk of Fame.
- Viper Room - See where River Phoenix was shot and killed.
- Whiskey a Go Go - A very famous nightclub.
- Mel’s Drive In - Grab a burger and fries from the diner made famous by the movie American Graffiti.
Drive the famous Rodeo Drive, or go shopping if you can afford it. There is a lot to do and see in Beverly HIlls, and we did not stop long enough for me to write enough. We drove Rodeo to say we did it and took a picture at this sign on Santa Monica Boulevard
The last thing we planned to do was visit The Santa Monica Pier ro ride the ferris wheel, play arcade games, and grab dinner overlooking the water. Sadly, we didn’t make it because of traffic and the sheer amount of other things we had done during the day.
To see more things to do around the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, along with weekend guides to Palm Springs, visit my California page here!
Going to Hollywood and seeing the famous Hollywood Sign is something many people wish to do.
It is a famous landmark in the background of one of the most popular cities in the world, but this famous sign isn't as easy to get to as you might think.
Here are a few tips before visiting the desert:
- Bring lots of water
- Bring lots and lots of it. Just keep it in your car if you will be exploring nearby, and be sure to keep it out of the sun. You won’t want hot water in the heat of the day!
- Go early
- Sunrise is not only beautiful, but it's a nice, cool time to visit the park and many people don’t get up that early, so it’s very rarely crowded. Plus, the earlier in the day you start, the more you can pack in or the earlier you can leave before the midday sun beats down.
- Have a plan
- Know where you are going and have a map downloaded or in hand. There is very little cell phone service out there, so don't be reliant on your phone too much.
Sunrise in The Cholla Cactus Garden
We watched the sun peek out from behind The Little San Bernardino Mountains and shine through the clouds down onto the vast prickly forest of cacti in front of us. It was a spectacular sight to witness.
We walked the path and wooden planks through the chest-high succulents back to the parking lot and continued further into the park.
Unlike the solitude at the spot before, Skull Rock is one of the more popular formations inside Joshua Tree National Park. We had to stand in a short line to have the rock to ourselves for a selfie with no one else in it.
Fortunately, it was a very quick walk from the car, and the area around it was spectacular, so we didn’t feel like we wasted any time waiting around. We did, however, hop in the car as soon as we got our pictures and continued onward.
Finding Joshua Trees
The Cholla Cacti are in the Colorado Desert, and the Joshua Trees are in the Mojave Desert. When you cross from one to the other you can really tell; the landscapes look completely different, and the Joshua Trees are very different from the cacti.
Sadly, we didn’t make it to the “Oasis” side of the park on this trip. It was closed due to an animal migration. *Note: always check The National Park website before arriving to check for closures and up-to-date notices*
We stopped along the road less frequently in The Mojave Desert simply because there weren't as many pull-offs leading to The Western Entrance Station, but we did stop whenever we could.
Visit The Visitor Centers
A fun stop as part of our day in Joshua Tree, California, was The Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum of Assemblage Sculpture.
I had seen this on Instagram and Pinterest as one of those “Quirky Places to Visit in Joshua Tree” and it could not have been labeled more accurately.
As part of our girls trip to Palm Springs, California the first thing we did was ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up the mountain to get a bird’s eye view of the city!
Read about our entire trip to Palm Springs in my "48-Hour Guide to Palm Springs", here!
I absolutely love taking trains and trams. They provide such a unique vantage point, and The Palm Springs Aerial Tram did not disappoint.
During the 10-minute ride, the car rotated several times, so there wasn’t a bad spot to stand! No matter what, you will get a full 360-degree-view from inside the canyon and out toward the desert.
It's a two-and-a-half-mile long ride up from the bottom entrance station at 2,643 feet to The Valley Station at 8,516 feet atop the San Jacinto Mountains, and the scenery changes drastically.
I learned, inside the Valley Station, that there are hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing trails up here! My mind was blown that I hadn’t known any of this existed.
I grabbed as many brochures as I could before we took the tram back down. The entire time, I was already planning our next trip out here to actually explore the national monument preserve.
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!