1. MONUMENT VALLEY
If the cluster of iconic sandstone buttes in Monument Valley look familiar to you, it’s because they were used as the backdrop for early Western movies and Forrest Gump, as well as the inspiration for the Road Runner cartoons. Straddling the Utah/Arizona border, the views of the valley symbolize the Wild West. These beautiful rock formations, some rising as much as 1,000 feet above the desert floor, are mostly within the boundary of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The park, which is on Navajo land, requires an entrance fee of $20 per car.
Once in the park, after checking out the expansive gift shop selling Native American goods, you have a few options: Hike the 4-mile Wildcat Trail around West Mitten Butte; it’s the only trail you can hike without a Navajo guide. Or drive the 17-mile scenic dirt road into the park to get a closer view of the monuments. The scenic road is rough, so be patient and take your time.
Continue reading “Southern Utah: 20 Incredible Places Beyond the Mighty Five”
If you’re hoping to be a guest at one of the most unique properties in the national parks, Grand Canyon’s Phantom Ranch, you have three possible modes of transportation to get there: on a boat as part of a river rafting trip, on the back of a mule, or by the power of your own two feet. And considering this lodging is 5,000 feet and a ten-mile trek below the south rim, it’s no easy journey. But once you arrive at this rustic oasis at the bottom of the largest canyon in the world, any aches and pains accumulated along the journey will seem well worth it.
Continue reading “Grand Canyon’s Phantom Ranch”
If Glacier National Park is the Crown of the Continent, its three grand hotels are its most precious jewels. Visitors from around the world book reservations far in advance to stay in these famous park lodges: Many Glacier, Glacier Park, and Lake McDonald. However, a smaller, lesser-known lodge, the Belton Chalet, was the first to welcome guests when the park opened in 1910. We think it’s a hidden gem.
Continue reading “Glacier’s Hidden Gem: The Belton Chalet”
Growing up in Kansas, whenever my family’s summer vacations would
take us east on I-70, it was always a thrill to spot the St. Louis Arch from
the car. The tallest monument in the U.S., it stands prominently on the edge of
downtown St. Louis, towering over the Mississippi River. Back then, the arch
was called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, but in 2018 when it
became our nation’s 60th national park, the name was changed to Gateway Arch
Continue reading “Gateway Arch National Park”
Last May, on a drive home from Palm Springs to Seattle, we took the less-traveled route along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas on Highway 395. Not only did we get to experience a part of the country we hadn’t seen before, but it also gave us an opportunity to take a detour and visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest just east of Bishop, CA. In our earlier travels through Utah and Nevada, we’d seen stands of bristlecone pines that were several thousands of years old, but the trees in the White Mountains of California are much older, closer to five thousand years.
Continue reading “In Search of Methuselah”
When I first told Matt my idea to rent a Forest Service Cabin in Montana in December, he was skeptical. After he found out that the cabin doesn’t have electricity or water—and would require a half-mile hike from our truck to get there—he thought I was crazy. It seemed to me, though, that an adventure in a cabin in the snowy winter wilderness might be a way to experience the magic of the holidays without all the tinsel and glitter.
Continue reading “Our December Adventure in a Forest Service Cabin”