After our day in Arches National Park, we decided to push our luck with our five-year-old daughter by spending another day hiking in the heat and admiring rocks. Canyonlands is a huge national park, so we only saw a small section of it, called the Island in the Sky. Below is the view as you enter the Island in the Sky – spectacular!
We enjoyed a short hike to Mesa Arch, admiring the blooming prickly pear cacti along the way. Mesa Arch may very well be one of the most amazing natural sights I’ve ever seen. A huge arch like this, formed along the edge of such a canyon, can only be described as incredible.
We also went on a slightly longer hike to overlook Upheaval Dome, a meteorite impact crater. It is difficult to appreciate the scale and scope of many of the views at Canyonlands through photos; Upheaval Dome is about 5 km in diameter.
After the Upheaval Dome hike, our daughter was just about done with hikes to see more rocks. We stopped to enjoy a few more amazing views along the road, and then headed to Moab for some well-earned shave ice.
We visited Arches National Park at the beginning of June. It was rather hot, surprisingly uncrowded, and of course, spectacular.
We spent the longest time climbing around and enjoying Double Arch.
We also spent quite a while enjoying Sand Dune Arch. Our daughter loved playing in the sand and exploring the hiding spots between the rocks.
Delicate Arch, the most famous of the arches, looked pretty amazing from a distance, but required a significant hike that we did not have the time or energy for. Maybe next time!
We had a nice day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park at the beginning of October. It turned out to be one of those fall days that brought some rain, some snow, some sun, and some clouds. We didn’t mind the changeable weather since days like this often mean fewer people and more wildlife out and about. I meant to bring my camera that has a zoom lens, but I forgot it and almost didn’t need it because we were lucky to see so many animals up close. These bighorn sheep were snacking right next to the road as we drove through the Big Thompson Canyon.
As always, the scenery in Rocky Mountain National Park was beautiful. The higher elevations had just been dusted with fresh snow.
And we saw several large elk. Can you spot them in these photos?
We had a great day visiting Dinosaur National Monument in July. The huge park stretches from western Colorado to eastern Utah, but we only visited the Utah side since we really wanted to focus on the dinosaur bones and petroglyphs.
Our first stop was the Quarry Exhibit Hall, shortly after it opened for the day. It was awesome to see the exposed dinosaur bones as they were discovered in the quarry, and to even touch some of the fossilized bones! There were also some nice reconstructions of dinosaur skeletons.
The landscapes outside of the Quarry Exhibit Hall were also incredible.
The Green River flows through the park, and rafting down the river would have been a fun adventure.
After a short drive from the Quarry Exhibit Hall, we stopped to see petroglyphs and pictographs left by the Fremont people that lived in this area about a thousand years ago. We then continued driving to see more of these ancient carvings and drawings at another location farther from the Quarry Exhibit Hall, and enjoyed a picnic in a nice shady spot near a historic homesteader’s cabin.
We visited Great Sand Dunes National Park in August. It’s a uniquely beautiful place, and though we were worried that it might be unpleasantly hot that time of year, the weather was very comfortable (high temperature each day in the low 80s). There is a creek that flows at the base of the sand dunes, and we expected that it would be dry by that time of year, but a wide shallow stream was still flowing. The stream was really fun for little ones to play in, and pleasant for everyone to cool their feet in. We also rented sand sleds and had fun sledding down the dunes. We briefly attempted hiking up the tallest dunes (which are the tallest in North America!), but there was a lot of wind during the morning we made the attempt, and hiking through sandstorm-like conditions was not our idea of a good time. This National Park is not super well known, and rather isolated, so we enjoyed that it was not crowded.
We stayed at the Great Sand Dunes Lodge, the only non-camping option near the park. Check out the lovely view from our patio at the Lodge, and our hummingbird friend! The Lodge was perfect for us: a quick drive from our area of interest, with a quiet room including a small fridge and microwave, and an indoor pool in case we needed an indoor activity during our stay. Our two-year-old loved the “sand dudes” and proclaimed that she wanted to live there!
We visited Prince Edward Island for a long weekend in the middle of August and had so much fun exploring the quaint little island province. Here’s a photo journey through some of the highlights of our trip!
While in Newfoundland, we spent a day in Gros Morne National Park. First we hiked along the base of The Tablelands, a flat-topped mountain that was pushed up from the earth’s mantle. This mantle-originating rock lacks the nutrients that support plant life, so it looks interestingly barren in an otherwise plant and tree-covered landscape.
Next we went for the “Lookout Hike,” which was a good uphill climb. Here’s the view from the lookout (I put together a panorama using Hugin, an easy-to-use free program that works on Macs):
You can see The Tablelands on the right – the reddish flat mountain. We had a wonderful day, but were a bit disappointed that we didn’t see any moose. People that we ran into on the trail mentioned that they saw moose near the lookout, but we weren’t so lucky. At least we saw quite a few pitcher plants, a carnivorous plant that is the provincial flower of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I wish we had more time to spend in Gros Morne, because there are many beautiful hikes that I would have enjoyed, and I also would have liked to take a day cruise to see the fjords along the coast. If you get a chance to visit Gros Morne National Park, go there for a few days!
A few years ago, Jeff and I visited our good friends who were living in Punta Arenas, Chile. We had a wonderful trip, and our favorite part of the trip was when we went to Torres del Paine National Park. We rented a car and made the 6ish hour drive north from Punta Arenas to the national park. For about half of the drive, you’re on a dirt road and you might see things like this:
The park itself is amazing. We hiked and camped and took a short cruise to see a glacier. I think we could have stayed there for weeks and not seen everything.
After all that hiking and camping, we were dying for some real food. Puerto Natales, the closest town to Torres del Paine (about a 3 hour drive), did not disappoint.
We stumbled upon El Living, saw the sign outside proclaiming great vegetarian food (in English, no less!), and had a fantastic dinner. Hooray for delicious vegetarian food in Patagonia!