• What To Know When Going To Manuel Antonio

    Walk through the Cloud Forest (cloudy rainforest) to get to the beach of Manuel Antonio.

    Walk through the Cloud Forest (cloudy rainforest) to get to the beach of Manuel Antonio.

    Manuel Antonio is one of Costa Rica’s National Parks. Word of mouth and a few helpful forums told me this was the place to go to experience the beach life of Costa Rica. I don’t want to say they were wrong, but I do want to say to take it with a grain of salt. By that I don’t mean it was terrible! All I mean is be prepared!

    The idea of going to the beach from San Jose is all too tempting. I didn’t realize that 2.5 hours per google maps actually meant 3.5 – 4 hours in Costa Rica. The laid back attitude and traffic will delay your journey. A day trip may not be in your best interest if you are on a time crunch. Be ready to leave early in the morning and arrive late at night if traveling from San Jose to Manuel Antonio.

    We made a stop to see some crocodiles.

    We made a stop to see some crocodiles.

    Closer image of the crocodiles. There were so many!

    Closer image of the crocodiles. There were so many!

    So when you finally arrive, let me talk about the humidity… again. I know. But of course the humidity is ampliphied by the proximity of the beach. Of course wear appropriate clothes, but mostly, be aware of the humidity because you may find it hard to breathe. The walk from the entrance to the beach is steep in both directions, and like me, you may have a difficulty breathing due to a heart problem or asthma, etc. Bring plenty of water to keep yourself cool.

    Walking through the rainforest of Manuel Antonio.

    Walking through the rainforest of Manuel Antonio.

    You are walking through an actual rainforest, or cloud forest as they are called in Costa Rica. That means there are animals everywhere! Monkeys, birds, deer, moths, sloths, and mosquitoes! These animals will want to come to you… I don’t just mean the cute monkeys. I also mean the mosquitoes. Wear bug spray, but put it on BEFORE you get in to the park. They are very protective of their wildlife and park rangers will frown upon you launching bug spray in to the air. I’m warning you. The beautiful rainforest demands blood for you to pass through it.

    So many monkeys! Almost as many as there are bugs.

    So many monkeys! Almost as many as there are bugs.

    There are SO MANY PEOPLE. It is not only a popular tourist destination for foreigners, but for Costa Ricans alike. This is not the park to have a secluded moment on the beach… UNLESS… you are brave and willing to wonder off from the pack, like I was. I found a little cove at the far end of the beach where there was no one! Even though I was only a 10 minute walk from the masses, it was a welcomed break from the crowds.

    Found my little peace of quiet in Manuel Antonio

    Found my little peace of quiet in Manuel Antonio

    Speaking of the beaches, Manuel Antonio beach is beautiful and makes for some great photo ops, but it’s a rocky beach and difficult to get in the water if you have sensitive feet. I know Costa Rica is known to have some of the MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!! But… I would say this one was only super nice. I know I can’t judge the whole country based off of one beach, but I’m just saying. Maybe it was also the cloudy weather? I guess I may never know… unless I go back of course.

    After your time spent in Manuel Antonio, prepare for the trek back to the entrance. It’s exhausting and you think you’re never going to make it, but just remember, there’s cold coconut water and beer at the end of the rainforest. Cheers.

    Imperial Beer after a day at the Manuel Antonio Beach

    Imperial Beer after a day at the Manuel Antonio Beach

  • Things To Know When Visiting Costa Rica

    Hanging out on the beach at Manuel Antonio! The humidit was intense.

    Hanging out on the beach at Manuel Antonio! The humidit was intense.


    It rains and it’s humid. Like REALLY humid.

    I know Costa Rica rains.. hence their rainforests. I did not know that it rained so much too the point where I don’t remember being completely dry. My hair… my skin… my clothes.. EVERYTHING was moist the whole week I was there. I’ve been in humidity, but sometimes I forget how sticky it can be. My recommendation is DO NOT where form fitting shorts, because you WILL have a terrible time trying to put them back on once the humidity has kicked in.

    They take USD

    No need to change your USD currency if you will be visitng popular tourist destinations. $1 was equal to $500 Colones when I was there. Fairly straight forward to buy items, your change will just come back to you in Colones. I personally still enjoy changing my currency. I like to think it makes me look more local.

    One of my favorite looking buildings in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    One of my favorite looking buildings in San Jose, Costa Rica.

    It’s not as cheap as you think it would be

    Speaking of money… be warned.. Costa Rica is not a budget traveker’s paradise. Sure you can buy a meal for about $5 – $8 bucks at a local Soda (small hole in the wall spot). The downside to Sodas is that they are not commonly located in the capital. In the capital, where I stayed, the prices were equivaletn to the United States. Sometimes I would catch a break and buy street empanadas or meat on a stick for a low cost, but that was only sometimes. The hotels, transportation and tours were all still relatively pricey. Not a bad thing, but just something to be aware of.

    The Capital (San Jose) is pretty centrally located. Centrally FAR.

    I wish I had time to bum around on a small beach town, but alas, I only had 1 week. Instead of being isolated on a beautiful beach, I opted to see as much of the country as I possibly could in a short amount of time. I chose to stay in San Jose which was centrally located to the sites I wanted to see. Now, if you want to follow in my foot steps, I must warn you that just because it was central, doesn’t mean it was close to anything. San Jose was roughly 2 hours away from anything of natural beauty. It’s a sweet location for some people, but I know all that travel time is not ideal for all. I personally enjoyed it.

    San Jose is the red dot. We went to North to Arenal, South West to Manuel Antonio and East to Pacuare.

    San Jose is the red dot. We went to North to Arenal, South West to Manuel Antonio and East to Pacuare.

    Bring Bug Spray and Sunblock

    I don’t get bug bites and sun burns are a foreign concept to me… but my best friend was with me and ended up with about 25 bug bites and some gorgeous looking sun burns. In fairness, I used sunblock too. But not because I burn, but because I don’t want cancer.

    You need to like animals

    Costa Rica is full of wild animals who have integrated their natural habitat to that of their surroundings. For the most part, they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. As a matter of fact, the locals don’t like you bothering them, so don’t. But if you’re calm and steady, you can see some real gems! You have more luck seeing animals when near the rainforest versus the city. For example, I saw the most animals when I was hiking through Manuel Antonio, their National Park and also Pacuare River when I was river rafting. Some animals I saw are pictured below! (But I definitely saw more than what is pictured.)

    It's a sloth in a tree!

    It’s a sloth in a tree!


    A deer! A female! Ray... a drop of golden sun...

    A deer! A female! Ray… a drop of golden sun…


    It's Marcel from Friends!

    It’s Marcel from Friends!

    Pura Vida

    Last but not least, be ready to learn the Pura Vida lifestyle! Pura Vida is a saying meaning Pure Life, but it really means anything positive. It means, have a nice day, thank you, you’re amazing, enjoy your stay, have a great life, best wishes, cheers, you’re a rock star… you get the deal? The Costa Rican people are happy and kind and you’ll have the best experience possible if you let their lifestyle find a place in your heart too.

    PURA VIDA!

    Pura Vida it up at Manuel Antonio

    Pura Vida it up at Manuel Antonio

  • Canyon Dreaming at the Grand Canyon

    Aerial view of the Grand Canyon

    Aerial view of the Grand Canyon

    I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon many times but I have decided that Maverick Airline’s Canyon Dream is the BEST way to see one of the natural wonders of the world. What is it? Why is it awesome? Three words. Airplanes and helicopters!

    Getting ready for the Canyon Dream Tour!

    Getting ready for the Canyon Dream Tour!

    Leaving from Las Vegas, you board a Beechcraft 1900D. It’s a small 18 seat plane that will get you to the Grand Canyon National Park in a mere 50 minutes. That means it just saved you 3 hours of your life. If that doesn’t sound like arriving in style to you… then I don’t want to be your travel buddy! All that extra time you save can be put to excellent use by exploring the park upon arrival. Now, the Canyon Dream isn’t ideal for hiking since you are scheduled to ride in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon!!!

    South Rim of the Grand Canyon

    South Rim of the Grand Canyon

    The airplane is nice and pretty fun but the helicopter is the peak of the tour. You fly for about 30 minutes over both the South and North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Honestly, you of course see the canyon at the edge of the viewing stations and you can experience the depth by hiking in to it through trails… but you get to see parts of the canyon that are only visible by air. Nothing beats the views of the canyon from a helicopter.

    Canyon Dream 7

    The Colorado River looking muddy after heavy rain fall.

    The ride gives you a true appreciation for how large the canyon is and how much character it has. You see the winding rivers, changing colors in the rock (you even see the second oldest piece of exposed earth!!!) and the difference between the South Rim and the North Rim of the canyon.

    North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    The North Rim in itself is a big deal to see. It’s much more difficult to drive too and is only open during part of the year. The higher elevation of the North Rim creates more vegetation and a truly beautiful view to see from above. Not only is the scenery during the ride breathtaking but it’s just fun. If you like roller coasters and thrills or a general fan of trying something new, the helicopter ride is so for you!

    North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    North Rim of the Grand Canyon

    After all the excitement of the bird’s eye view of Grand Canyon, you hop back into the trusty Beechcraft and jet back home. Be sure to look out the window so you can see the West Rim of the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas as you fly in. That is, if you are not exhausted. Otherwise, the seats are at least comfortable enough to sneak in a good nap.

    Canyon Dream 5

    Views of Lake Mead from the Beechraft Plane

    Have I convinced you to jump on the next open seat for Canyon Dream yet? I hope so! Because it truly is an awesome experience. If you are NOT in the Las Vegas area but I have sparked your interest, at the Grand Canyon you can book a helicopter ride separately with Maverick Helicopters right next to the National Park. It can’t get more simple!

    So tell me, have you ever been on a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon or any other remarkable views? How did you like it? Leave me a comment and maybe you will inspire my next flight!

  • Mesa Verde Colorado

    Mesa Verde 6

    On my road trip to the Four Corners and Monument Valley, my friend and I thought it would be fun to stay the night in Colorado. We chose the small town of Cortez, Colorado. Upon check in, we were informed almost the whole town was sold out! It was shocking and asked why, to which I was told “Mesa Verde.” What is that, I wondered? Well! It’s another National Park! If you have been reading my blog, you know me and my National Parks.

    Mesa Verde 3

    Mesa Verde is home to some of the best Ancestral Pueblos in the United States. Now, to be honest, I did not get a chance to spend much time at all in Mesa Verde. Just about an hour and a half to ball park it. It was enough time to see the pueblo known as Step House. The pueblos are located by access of a downhill trail, that will take about 10 minutes to walk down and 15 minutes to walk up. The pueblos were interesting to see. I don’t think I have ever been as close to an actual archaeological site. Pretty neat to see. I wish I could have spent more time there! Maybe next time.

    Mesa Verde 5

    Since Mesa Verde is up high in the mountain and hills of Cortez, it did offer some beautiful view points that were just a quick hike from the parking areas. The height of the park serves as an excellent vantage point.

    Mesa Verde

    The views were so lovely and the fresh air made it that much more enjoyable. On my way out of the park, I also had to stop and take some pictures near their field of burned trees. It was too beautiful not to! The contrast of the sky and earth were perfect. It was a delightful ending to a quick visit.

    Mesa Verde 2

    If you have been to Mesa Verde, let me know what else I missed out on and if I should go back. 🙂 I’m just happy I spent SOME time in Colorado.

    Mesa Verde 4

  • Yosemite Falls

    Yosemite 3

    A few weeks ago, I asked all of you to take a poll on which National Park on that list I should visit next. Of the excellent choices, Yosemite National Park was the overwhelming winner. (Let me take a second to say how fun of an experiment it was to let YOU choose!)

    I spent many years living in California’s Bay Area, but I do not recall having a chance to visit Yosemite. In the realm of National Parks, Yosemite is usually in the top three of the “Best” parks to visit. Having already visited Yellowstone the year prior, my expectations were high yet I was still unsure what to expect.

    Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park

    Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park

    Yosemite is beautiful in it’s own way. Massive granite cliffs and giant sequoias can be found all over the Yosemite Valley. Yosemite, although very popular, was not as touristy as I thought it was going to be. Maybe I was jaded with how touristy Yellowstone and Grand Canyon can be. Either way, Yosemite was low on the tourist scale. If anything, it had a touch of that wild and free that most people look for in a National Park.

    Walking through the woods

    Walking through the woods in Yosemite National Park

    I didn’t have much time to explore the whole area. (The transportation system in the park is rather terrible. Be prepared to drive yourself or walk to each destination. I do NOT recommend their shuttles!) I could see the famous Half Dome looming in the background, but considering it is a 16 hour hike, it was a hard pass on this trip. Instead we opted to hike around the Yosemite Valley near Mirror Lake and up to Lower Yosemite Falls.

    Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park

    Mirror Lake, Yosemite National Park

    Mirror Lake, although great for a picture or two, was no where near as awesome as Lower Yosemite Falls. The highlight of my day in Yosemite was the end of this trail. At the base of the waterfall, the water collects into neck high pools where you can go swimming! I don’t know about you, but swimming in fresh, cold waterfall water after a hot hike is a great idea! The water was cold, but you are having way too much fun to care. There are usually other tourists around who are sharing in the good times. Although you don’t have the place to yourself, it’s nice to have a helping hand around when you need assistance. I wouldn’t recommend swimming during any other time of year, but it was ideal for the summer.

    Swimming in a cool, waterfall pool formed by Yosemite Falls.

    Swimming in a cool, waterfall pool formed by Yosemite Falls.

    Yosemite was a nice experience and I can see myself going back to give Half Dome a shot. I just need to get in to better shape, but the thought of those pictures I could take and the bragging rights I could have seem worth it. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Yosemite 2

    Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

     

  • Lehman Caves – Great Basin

    Greetings from Lehman Caves in Great Basin

    Greetings from Lehman Caves in Great Basin

    There is a little known National Park called Great Basin and it is home to the Lehman Caves. Never heard of them? You need to know about them. Especially if you are remotely located to Nevada. Great Basin is in east-central Nevada, near the Utah border. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from Las Vegas. Up in the mountains, Great Basin offers great views of the surrounding desert while offering it’s own beauty in the forms of green trees, natural creeks and lakes and some quality hiking for those who love the outdoors. As beautiful as it is, that is not the main draw of this National Park.

    Great Basin

    **I apologize in advance for some of the pictures. The lighting was very dim and they only allow minimal photography items into the caves!**

    The main draw of the park for many, including myself, are the Lehman caves. I’ve always wanted to visit something like these since reading Tom Sawyer, but those caves are all the way out in Kentucky. Lehman Caves are much more accessible for someone located in the southwest. (Even closer than Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico). Only accessible with a guided tour through the park for the low cost of $10 per person. You can tour the Lehman Caves for 90 minutes. The tours do sell out during the peak summer seasons. Purchase at least a day in advance.

    Lehman Caves, Great Basin - Nevada

    Lehman Caves, Great Basin – Nevada

    The caves are something out of this world! The guides are great in giving additional information information about the caves. My favorite part is when they turn out all of the LED lights and show you how dark it is. By dark, I mean pitch black. It was a little creepy to think about what it would be like to be lost in there forever. Luckily, the caves are now well lit and even have a paved path to follow. Even though the National Park Service has made it more tourist friendly, there weren’t that many tourists to be seen. Our tour group was small, only about 15 individuals total. It makes it an intimate experience and really easy to take as many pictures as you would like.

    Lehman Caves, Great Basin - Nevada

    Lehman Caves, Great Basin – Nevada

    After exiting the Lehman Caves, my friend and I planned to sneak in a quick hike to see the lakes. The weather was perfect, so why not right? Well, we had to drive about 30 minutes up the mountain to start the hike and boy, did the weather change. It was overcast when we left the car and truly thought we could complete the 3 mile loop before the weather really changed. Mother nature did not agree with our endeavors. We made it about a half mile when it started to rain. We tried to power through for another quarter mile and then it started to hail… that’s right. It was 75 degrees and sunny at the base of the mountain but it was 40 degrees and hailing where we were. Sadly, we were unable to complete the hike. But it’s always nice to have something to look forward to for another time.

    Rain falling in a clearing

    It’s hard to see the hail and rain.. but this is it as it’s starting to rain near a clearing.

    While I was at Great Basin, I learned that “half the park is after dark”. The area is one of the best places to star gaze. Since it is located in such a remote location, there is limited sky pollution which leads to a beautiful cosmic display. I love star gazing so Great Basin is definitely on my priority list to return and experience their astronomy program first hand.

    Great Basin 7

    Lehman Caves, Great Basin. I would not want to be stuck here for a night!

    Great Basin and Lehman Caves was such a random experience, it has truly motivated me to see what other untapped treasures the state of Nevada has to offer! The state is so large, I know there are some secret gems waiting to be found. Stay tuned to see what I explore next. Who knows where the lonely road may lead? I know I can’t wait to find out!

    Until next time...

    Until next time…

  • Zion – The Narrows

    Zion 6

    Entering The Narrows at Zion

    Zion is one of my favorite hiking locations. It’s close to Las Vegas and it has plenty of beautiful hiking options. I’ve visited Zion many times but one hike has always been bookmarked for another time… until now! I have finally had the opportunity to hike in the famous The Narrows!! 😀 The Narrows refers to a section of canyon on the north fork of the Virgin River. The complete hike is very lengthy (about 16 miles one way) and usually requires a permit if you want to hike top to bottom. I, however, did the “beginner” and most common way and hiked bottom up. I honestly didn’t know too much about The Narrows, other than it was hiking in a river. So, to help other out there who may also be a bit clueless in the river hiking department, here are some of my tips for those of you, who are like me and want to enjoy The Narrows and still be finished in time for dinner and your 10pm bed time.

    Prepare to walk

    When you enter Zion take the shuttle bus to the last stop called the Temple of Sinawava. Then prepare to hike! It’s one mile from the shuttle stop until the start of The Narrows. (Don’t forget that means it will be another mile hike back to the shuttles!) Once in The Narrows there are limited areas to sit down. That means you will spend most of your time walking in the river. You do see plenty of wildlife along the way…. given if you count squirrels as wildlife. But you came to hike anyways right?

    Squirrels near The Narrows

    Squirrels near The Narrows

    The rocky road

    I have been to a beach and know what it is like to walk in the sand. I however, did not know what walking in the river would be like. Apparently bumpy is an understatement. The rocks range in sizes from dinosaur eggs to bowling balls to rocks the size of a giant tortoise. The water is muddy which means you can’t see where all the rocks are hiding. Bring a walking stick to help you out. It’s functional and you look like Gandalf.

    The Virgin River

    The Virgin River

    You are in water

    You will get wet! Shocker. I know. Even if you don’t plan on getting wet past your knee caps, if you slip and fall… you are getting soaked. Since we live in a land of electronics, make sure you plan accordingly. A backpack may not be enough to protect your valuables. Bring water safe containers and be logical when taking pictures or videos.

    Walking through The Narrows

    Walking through The Narrows

    It’s not a swimming pool

    We’ve established the river is water, but all water is not a swimming pool. What that means is, The Narrows are no place to live life like a Las Vegas party pool. I would advise against only wearing a swim suit and flip flops. Instead, I recommend you opt for quick drying workout clothes and mesh shoes.

    The Virgin River is no virgin

    Lastly… Don’t let my serene, and tourist empty photos fool you. That took an extreme amount of patience on my end paired with perfect timing to make these happen. Many people have been in this river (HEY O!!). There will be many people in the river at the same time as you… It’s a bit overwhelming at first, having to make your way around so many bodies, but if you keep walking, the people begin to trickle off. I walked about 3 miles and there were still a good handful of other tourists in the area but I am told that the 5 mile mark is the sweet spot. Also, it probably didn’t help that it was in the middle of summer. Just something to keep in mind when planning your trip.

    The Narrows at Zion... look quiet and empty... but are anything but.

    The Narrows at Zion… look quiet and empty… but are anything but.

    All observations and tips aside, the most important thing is have fun and really take a moment to appreciate how freaking awesome The Narrows are. It’s obvious why it is the most popular destination in Zion. I know it took me awhile to find time to hike in them, but now that I have I may have to make it a yearly adventure. If for nothing else, than to keep coming back for more pictures.

    The Narrows at Zion

    The Narrows at Zion

  • 7 National Parks

    National ParksI love hiking and visiting National Parks. There are 59 National Parks in the United States. There are more National Parks than actual states in the country. Each one has something special to offer and the more parks you see, the better off you are for it. I have visited only visited 6! 🙁 That list includes Death Valley National Park in California, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Zion National Park in Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park which extends throughout Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.The limited list is not enough. Below are 7 National Parks that are high on my Bucket List. Check them out!

    Yosemite, California
    Photo credit to Yosemite Park

    Photo credit to Yosemite Park

    The park contains North America’s highest waterfall (Yosemite Falls) and Ralph Waldo Emerson dubbed their mountains as“unmatched on the globe.” Need I say more?

    Bloggers who have been:

    The Indie Traveler – 5 Tips to Avoid Being Driven Mad by Crowds

    Denali, Alaska
    Photo credit to Skolai Images

    Photo credit to Skolai Images

    My boyfriend is hooked on the idea in living in Alaska. The National Park seems like a good idea to visit before we pack our bags. Only one, 92 mile road gains you access to Denali. Supposedly, this is the park if you want to experience WILDlife. Also, if I time it just right, you can see the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis.

    Bloggers who have been:

    Kooky Travel – Photo Diary Denali National Park

    Olympic, Washington
    Photo Credit to Polyploid

    Photo Credit to Polyploid

    So named because it looked like the Gods could live there. The park has three distinct ecosystems. We have the coast, mountains and rainforest. It legitimately looks like something out of a Fairy tale or Tolkein novel.

    Bloggers who have been:

    Stick’s Blog – 7 Days & 6 Nights in the Olympic National Park

    Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina & Tennessee
    Photo credit to My Smokies

    Photo credit to My Smokies

    This is the most visited National Park in the United States. I think a song sums up why… “O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties..” It has purple mountains… just like in the song America the Beautiful. I don’t need any more of a reason.

    Bloggers who have been:

    Roads Less Traveled 

    Dry Tortugas, Florida
    Photo credit to Basic Planet

    Photo credit to Basic Planet

    The seven Dry Tortugas islands are the westernmost and most isolated of the Florida Keys. The surrounding coral reefs are the least disturbed of the Florida Keys reefs. There are also legends of sunken treasures from shipwrecks! It’s a park where I can live out my Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

    Bloggers who have been:

    Jaspa’s Journal – Dry Tortugas National Park

    Glacier, Montana
    Photo credit to David J West

    Photo credit to David J West

    For starters, their official symbol of the park is a Mountain Goat. ADORABLE. Second, if current environmental trends continue, some scientists predict that by 2030 Glacier National Park will NOT have any more glaciers!! Must see it before then.

    Bloggers who have been:

    Travel Savvy Mom – Visiting Glacier National Park with Kids

    Hawaii Volcanoes, Hawaii 
    Photo credit to Wooden Camp

    Photo credit to Wooden Camp

    One of the world’s most active volcanic spots that’s comprised of two active volcanoes. You can walk near lava and literally watch land be created before your eyes!

    Bloggers who have been:

    Stuff It… Go Travelling – Discover Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

    🙂 Wherever the road may lead you, remember to not only take plenty of pictures but stay safe! The best way to connect with nature on your National Park adventures is to know what you are getting yourself into. Read the Flora and Fauna Hiking Guide for useful tips about the general region you will be in. I find this guide useful any time I’m hiking in an unfamiliar area. You will thank me in the long run, I promise!

    Each park is so diverse I can’t wait to see and hike them all! Which ones have you been to? Which ones will you go to next? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @thereandbackwithsnacks. Also, vote on where I should go next below 🙂 

    Which National Park should I visit next?

     
    pollcode.com free polls

  • Zion National Park

    View from Weeping Rock

    Zion National Park is located about 45 minutes outside of St. George, Utah which makes it a little under 3 hours away from Las Vegas. This beautiful park is a wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. If you aren’t familiar with desert landscapes, the colors of the park are amazing! (If you ARE familiar with desert landscapes, you will still think it’s a lovely park, I promise.)

    Zion has about 18 major trails for you to choose from. It’s easy to spend a few days in the park, however, I opted for a day trip. I was in the park itself for about 7 hours and I was able to do 5 trails! I knocked out: Weeping Rock Trail, Kayenta Trail, Upper and Lower Emerald Pools, and Watchman Trail. So here’s a quick rundown of the trails themselves…

    Weeping Rock Trail

    Weeping Rock

    Weeping Rock

    This is considered an “easy” hike, per the park map and it really is! It’s a super fast trail. About a whole whopping half mile round trip. Given, it is at an incline the whole way up, but it’s a fast hike regardless. The trail ends at a rock formation that is constantly dripping water… sometimes more…sometimes less. Overall, a nice way to ease into your active day but I don’t think this is a MUST SEE. I consider this more of a “if you have time to kill” hike. The view is nice from the alcove of Weeping Rock though and you can get some nice pictures if you are patient.

    Kayenta Trail, Upper & Lower Emerald Pools

    These 3 trails are all closely located to one another and is about 2.5 miles from beginning at one end and finishing at the other. It would be almost 5 miles if you did it round trip. Most of the hike is considered a “moderate” hike.

    The high rocks from the base of one of the pools

    The high rocks from the base of one of the pools

    There are some uphill moments and a few loose rocks to maneuver around, but overall, if you are in decent shape, you should be able to handle it just fine. There were families with small children hiking the trail and towards the end, it’s paved nicely. The pools themselves were a little unimpressive. The best part of the trail were the views from the upper trail of the surrounding park and also going OFF trail in the middle pools and exploring the little rivers. This is a hike I would recommend if you wanted to have a lengthy and pleasant experience that didn’t require too much effort.

    Zion6

    Off trail exploring

    Watchman Trail

    This hike was classified as a “moderate” trail as well but I would almost put it in the “strenuous” category. It’s about 3 miles from start to finish and is uphill the entire time until you reach the top. The trail is narrow and not paved at all. You will definitely get your workout in during this hike. At the end it has a nice view of the entry way to Zion. Not nearly as high of a view as some of the other hikes like Angel’s Landing or Observation point, but you still feel pretty accomplished at the end. My favorite part of this particular trail was that there weren’t many people on it a all. It gives you that “one with nature” vibe since there is really no one around you, especially at the top! You can really channel your thoughts into that moment which is what being in the outdoors is all about!

    Zion5

    Next time hikes:

    I didn’t get a chance to do it this time, but I have hiked Angel’s Landing before and loved it. I need to come back for this one and test my skills one more time! I also want to return in the warmer summer months and hike The Narrows. You have to actually get into the Virgin River and hike through the water. That sounds like a MUST DO adventure for me.

    What no one told me:

    Parking fills up in the park fast during busy days! If it fills up, you have to park in the small town and walk through the pedestrian entrance into the park. It is $12 per person to enter. If you are with a group of people be sure to tell the park attendant! It’s $25 for a car to enter and if you say you arrived in one car they usually only charge you the $25 fee. Another helpful note is that there is a shuttle that runs about every 15 minutes that can take you to most of the major trails. Great way to quickly get from one end of the park to the other without using your own gas :).

    Road in Zion

    Road in Zion

  • 2750 Miles Later: Yellowstone Continued

    Luckily, the Fiat gets great mileage!

    Luckily, the Fiat gets great mileage!

    If you are anything like me, you have no concept of miles and distance. If you tell me “Oh that’s like 100 miles away” I think “I can get there in about 50 minutes.” Which is probably false. At least if you are planning on obeying speeding laws. So when I first looked up the distance of Yellowstone and saw 760 miles, I didn’t think it would be that bad. With the purest of hearts, I thought that a 3.5 day trip would be enough time to see everything on my list at leisurely pace. I was wrong. Now, if you are doing a little bit of math you’re most likely noticed that if Yellowstone is 760 miles away… round trip that is only 1520 miles. Maybe even 1720 if we throw some extra miles in there for rest breaks and the driving required to get and return the rental car. “Where do the other 1000+ miles come from?” I’m glad you asked! Let’s discuss that shall we.

    We got lost

    I’ll admit it. We got lost somewhere in Idaho for brief moment. We veered too far west when we needed to go north. This added about 90 miles to our journey. Ooops. All part of traveling every now and then I suppose!

    The Park is Huge

    I cannot stress this point enough in my various posts and even this one as well. If you are driving in to Yellowstone National Park, always be cognizant of your gas tank. We tried to fill up before going into the park just to be safe. There are times when the sites you want to see can be as far as 40 miles from one another, or as close as 10 miles. Either way, you can easily rack up over 100 miles in a short day at Yellowstone. “But Zea, you didn’t drive nearly one thousand miles through the Yellowstone Park, did you?” Why, no I didn’t. I estimate that we did about 250 miles total the two days we were there. Let me explain about the rest.

    Grand Teton Entrance

    Airbnb

    If some of you are not familiar, like I was just a few weeks ago, Airbnb is a website or phone app where you can book a unique accommodation almost anywhere in the world!! Basically, someone will post their accommodation (spare room or guest house) and you can book it. Usually, the prices are very reasonable and cost much less than staying in a hotel. It’s a cool concept a different way to travel. Since we would be a group of 6, we decided it would be more cost effective to book a condo through Airbnb. It would only cost $25 a night per person as opposed to a hotel near Yellowstone which would cost about $75 a night per person. The experience was fun and I would give that another try. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite way to choose a place to stay, but it’s nice to have something different once in a while. The compromise to the condo was that it’s in Driggs, Idaho.

    What the road to Driggs, ID looks like

    What the road to Driggs, ID looks like

    This wouldn’t have been too bad if Wyoming or Idaho believed in street lights, but they don’t. It is almost pitch black on most of the roads. Google maps clocks the travel time at 1hr 42min and 95 miles. We did that roundtrip drive twice. Imagine driving that far in an unknown place, in the dark! It was stressful at times. But back to the miles, for those of you keeping up, that means we are about 2440 miles in. Give or take a few miles.

    Grand Teton

    We were unable to make it to Yellowstone National Park on the third day as planned, so as a consolation, we drove through the Grand Teton in Wyoming.

    Grand Teton, Wyoming

    Grand Teton, Wyoming

    Grand Teton National Park was about 50 miles away from the condo in Driggs. (Actually a much easier drive than getting to Yellowstone). The park was easily accessible and totally worth the detour! I’m super pleased I was able to drive through and play around for an hour and a half or so. The mountains were majestic and much more peaceful than Yellowstone. The trails that were available looked like the type I would enjoy hiking. I.e. not paved.

    The water features were stunning!

    The water features were stunning at Grand Teton

    Overall, it was definitely one of the better 150 miles (roundtrip) that I spent in the car. Bringing our total to 2640. Almost there!

    Farmlands & Forests

    On the drive home to Las Vegas, we thought we would give the scenic route a chance. Our car group didn’t want to look at freeways any longer than we had to. We headed south through Wyoming as opposed to going back west into Idaho. It added about an extra 40 miles into the trip. We also took an accidental detour through the Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah.

    Forest

    Grand Teton, Wyoming

    The forest was so serene. At times, we were the only car on the road. I found it peaceful, however my boyfriend who was driving another 40 miles out of the way did not seem so in tune with nature. Luckily for everyone in the car, our last stop before Vegas was Salt Lake City! A few miles through the traffic filled streets to get to Chick-Fil-A then we were finally home.

    With the numbers provided it should bring the total around 2720 miles. I’m assuming that I may not have taken into account a few more side trips but it’s more fun using a round number like 2750 for a blog title. Don’t you agree? To put that mileage into some kind of perspective for you, you can drive across the United States from Los Angeles, CA to Miami, FL. Imagine covering that distance in 3 days.

    Next time I find myself taking in the sites in Wyoming, I plan on flying into a closer city. Maybe Idaho Falls or even Denver or Salt Lake. I can survive an 8 hour drive but not another 12. There’s just something about those added 4 hours that kills me. Also, I would be more willing to spend a little extra money to be closer to the park. Be in a condo through Airbnb or even a hotel. These were lessons learned that I happily pass on to my readers.

    Overall, this Yellowstone journey gave me a chance to experience nature and the countryside.

    Farms & Clouds. That's what I saw out my car window

    Farms & Clouds. That’s what I saw out my car window

    It made me appreciate living in a city. I think I’m ready to vacation in one. Stay tuned for my next set of adventures!