Road Trip #2 : Colorado-South Dakota-Nebraska (August 2016)

days in Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska

I did this road trip by myself in August 2016. I was a bit stressed and anxious cause it was the first time I travelled alone in National Parks. I planned to camp and backpack every night but I mostly slept in my car because I was too afraid. I will do better next time, though. πŸ˜…

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HOW MUCH DID IT COST?

I booked the flight and the rental 2 weeks before my trip.

β˜† Flight: $190 from Seattle,WA to Denver,CO

β˜† Rental: $292 for 5 days with Alamo

β˜† Gas: $85

β˜† Ticket for speeding: $145 πŸ˜πŸ˜…

β˜† Backpacking: FREE. One night at Badlands National park, I slept in my car the other nights.

β˜† Food: $110

β˜† Visit:

  • Wind Cave: $12
  • Jewel Cave: $12
  • Mt Rushmore: $10

 

Where did I go?

》》》 There will be a post in more detail about each destination except for Mount Rushmore and Nebraskaγ€Šγ€Šγ€Š

STAY TUNED ✌

 

I landed around 12am in Denver in Colorado, got the car and headed to Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. It was really hard to stay awake, drive about 6h at night and not sleep at all. My itinerary made me drive a part of Wyoming State where I caught an amazing sunrise before I entered in South Dakota State. 

I arrived at Wind Cave around 8am, walked around and took one of the tours offered by the Park. During the tour, I met a very nice guy named Jacob from Chicago. We shared the trip as far as Badlands, following each other with our own car.

Day 1

Wind Cave National Park

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Then, Jacob and I headed to Jewel Cave around 11 am, which was 30min drive from Wind Cave.

Jewel Cave National Monument

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Finally we drove to Mt Rushmore, which was 45min drive from Jewel Cave.

Mount Rushmore National Monument

Majestic figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt & Abraham Lincoln

This place was why I wanted to go to South Dakota. After a few google searches, I added Wind Cave, Jewel cave and Badlands to my list. We arrived there mid-afternoon and spent about 2h.

The first impressive view of Mt Rushmore was from the Avenue of Flags

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We admired the Mt Rushmore from Grand View Terrace

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Took a walk on Nature Trail to Scultor’s studio

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And kept going on Presidential Trail that took us very close and almost under the Sculture

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Then, we drove around a bit and waited for the night before we went back. It was really cool to see in the dark

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We decided to drive as close as possible to Badlands and slept in our car in a rest area about 45min drive from Badlands.

Where to sleep?

β—‡ Camping opportunities are available throughout the surrounding area.

β—‡ Lodging is available in many nearby communities: Keystone (3 miles away), Hill City (13 miles away), Custer (20 miles away) and Rapid City (24 miles away)

You can check out Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association

Day 2

Badlands National Park

It was an incredible experience. I loved this Park. We did a hike, stopped at some overlooks and did backpacking for the night.

More details in an upcoming blog post 》》》Don’t want to miss it? Subscribe to my blog ❀

Day 3

Nebraska

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It was time to say goodbye to Jacob and keep going toward Rocky Mountain in Colorado. I added a drive in Nebraska at Oglala National Grassland and Scotts Bluff National Monument. This took me almost the entire day. I drove on a dirt road for hours because of Oglala National Grassland. I didn’t see anything special and when the GPS told me I was there, I was actually on someone’s property and had to drive through. Maybe I had a bad experience because the GPS but I didn’t like it.

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Scotts Bluff was a bit better. It has served as a landmark for peoples from Native Americans to emigrants on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails to modern travelers. I drove to the summit, checked out North and South overlooks, which took me about an hour.

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I probably wouldn’t do it again, I would definitely save my time and gas for something else.

Finally, I arrived at Rocky Mountain around 7:30pm, enjoyed the sunset and parked the car at Fall River Visitor Center where I spent 2 nights sleeping in the car.

Day 4 & 5

Rocky Mountain National Park

I spent 2 days hiking as much as I could. I really liked this Park.  In my opinion, 2 days is not enough. I mostly spent my time on the East side of the park.

More details in an upcoming blog post 》》》Don’t want to miss it? Subscribe to my blog ❀

 

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Grand Teton

You will never forget the beauty of the Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park is located in Nothwestern Wyoming in the U.S and only 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park. It is named for Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range at 13,770 feet. Also, it’s a popular destination for mountaineering, hiking and fishing.

How to get there?

If you went to Yellowstone National Park before, then you will drive by the Yellowstone’s south entrance to get the North entrance. The road is closed from early November to mid-May. Otherwise, you can enter at the east entrance or the south entrance.

The nearest airport is Jackson Hole Airport (JAC) located at the base of the Park. It’s 5h drive from Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

Where to sleep?

Camping: There are 6 campgrounds in the park. They operate on a first-come, first-served. Advance reservations are not accepted. Campground fees change each year. Only revervations for group camping are accepted at some campgrounds through the Grand Teton Lodge at 307-543-3296. Campgrounds are open from early May to mid-October depending on the campgrounds. During the winter, primitive camping is allowed in the plowed parking lot adjacent to the Colter Bay Visiter Center for $5 per night from December 1 to April 15.

Other campsites are available near and outside of the park.

Backcountry camping: A trip into the backcountry requires planning in advance. All backcountry camping requires a permit.  They are issued on a first-come, first served basis for $25 no more than 1 day before the start of your trip. You can apply at the Colter Bay and Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Centers, and at the Jenny Lake Ranger Stations. For advance reservations you can book through Recreation.gov from the first Wednesday in January through May 15. Fees are $35. Also, bear-proof canisters are required for overnight stays.

Lodge: all details on Grand Teton’s website

What to do?

Many activities are offered but the most famous are climbing & Mountaineering, hiking and fishing.

  • Climbing & Mountaineering: No permit required
  • Hiking: Hundreds of miles of hiking trails wind around the lakes and through the mountains
  • Fishing: A license is required according to Wyoming state laws
  • Backcountry camping
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Scenic drives
  • Boating & floating
  • Biking
  • Horse back riding
  • Cross-country skiing & snowshoeing
  • Ranger Programs
  • Concessioner activities: buzinesses and organizations licenced to provide visitor activities

 

Safety

This is a bear country. Always carry bear spray and make bears aware of your presence.

Be prepared for rapid weather changes.

 

My experience

Grand Teton National Park was a part of the road trip we did with Yellowstone in June 2016. We drove there from Yellowstone’s South entrance at the end of the day. The scenery was spectacular. The Teton range took my breath away. The sky was cloudy and the light came through them. We spent 2 days there.

We stopped at the Visitor Center and asked a ranger where we could find a campsite available, which was Gros Ventre Campsite located near the south entrance and the airport. We were lucky to find a spot that late of the day. However, we were less fortunate the next day and had to drive about 1h outside of the park.

Day 1

I wanted to challenge myself and Grand Teton was a good place for that. Amphitheater Lake was our destination, which starts at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. But we decided to start at Taggart Lake Trailhead and reach the Valley Trail Junction to get there.

Taggart Lake Trailhead

At the very beginning of the trail we took a right and walked a mile before we had to take another right and walked another mile as far as Bradley Lake. 

Bradley Lake

Then, we walked 1.5 miles and reached the Valley Trail Junction. A turn to the right would lead us to the original Trailhead. We took a left to continue on towards Amphitheater Lake. The trail made a strenuous climb over a couple switchbacks. As we were climbing higher, views of Jackson Hole became even more prominent and both Bradley and Taggart Lakes came into view as well.

Views of Jackson Hole, Bradley Lake (left) and Taggart Lake (right)

After 1.3 miles we took a right and walked about 2 miles. Finally, we reached the short side trail that leads to surprise Lake, which offers an outstanding view of Grand Teton from its southeastern shore. It was only a quarter-mile walk to reach Amphitheater Lake, so we decided to come back there later and swim.

Surprise Lake

Amphitheater Lake lies in a cirque basin below Disappointment Peak. My friend and I climbed on the side of the lake to get a higher view of it. Also, we had a great view of Jackson Hole and Taggart Lake.

On our way down, just before Bradley Lake, we kept going straight instead of taking a left, which was the trail we took earlier. That allowed us to see Taggart Lake before getting back to the parking lot.

Taggart Lake

I recorded this hike but my phone shut down about 30min shortly after.

Recorded: 15 mile – 3,697 feet elevation gain – Total time 7h30 – Moving time 5h

I recommend starting your hike as early in the morning as possible to avoid the hight temperature during the climb.

We wanted to find a spot at Jenny Lake Campground and be closer for our hike the next day. Unfortunately we couldn’t find one, although we tried to find one early before the hike. After the hike, we tried to find a spot at Gros ventre Campground where we spent the night before, but this time we didn’t get one. Probably because it was Saturday. We had to drive about 1h on Gros Ventre Rd to find a spot outside of the park.

Day 2

We took it easy on day two and chose to do Jenny Lake, which is the 2nd largest lake in the park, and String Lake. They are 2 different hikes but we wanted to combine both. Also, they are very easy and mostly flat. We started at Jenny Lake Visitor Center and headed south.

After about a mile, we took a junction that leaded to Inspiration Point. We had a nice and panoramic view of Jenny Lake by gaining about 500 feet elevation.

Inspiration Point

Then, we walked back down to Jenny lake and reached String Lake by crosing a bridge.

I looked at back on the Grand Teton while heading to Spring Lake

We did the loop, which was about 3.7 miles. 

String Lake

Finally we finished the loop of Jenny Lake by the north, which was my favorite of Jenny Lake cause we had a view of the mountains.

I also recorded this hike but unfortunately my phone shut down again. I couldn’t record the entire loop of String Lake. About 1.3 miles are missing, which I drew in black.

Recorded: 10,9 mile – 1,037 feet elevation gain – 5:10 Total time  – Moving time 3:40

Also, there is a shuttle boat that takes you from the Visitor Center to the other side of the lake.


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Yellowstone

The oldest National Parks in the world!

Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872. The park is located in the U.S state of Wyoming. A small part of the park is located in Montana and Idaho. It is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features. The park contains about half the world’s geysers. Also, you probably know or heard about the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is the largest spring in the park and the 3rd largest spring in the world.

Did you know that Yellowstone National Park is an active super volcano?

You may not see any volcanoes but that’s because much of the entire park is a volcano.



How to get there?

Most people stop by Yellowstone while roadtripping in the USA. They also add Grand Teton National Park to their trip, which is located South of Yellowstone. There are 5 entrance stations but only 2 are open year-round (North and Northeast entrances). Read about access at each station at different times of year on the Yellowstone National Park’s website.

The nearest commercial airlines are located in Cody and Jackson (Wyoming), Bozeman and Billings (Montana) and Idaho Falls (Idaho). They serve round-year. The West Yellowstone airport is serviced from June to early September from Salt Lake City.

Where to sleep?

Camping is the best way to experience Yellowstone. Either inside the park or outside if campgrounds are full. There are 12 campgrounds (over 2,000 campsites) into the park, 5 reservation campgrounds and 7 first-come, first-served campgrounds. Prices range from $15 to $47.75. To make a reservation Click here

Backcountry camping & hiking: Yellowstone has a designated backcountry campsite system, and a Backcountry Use Permit is required for all over night stays. You can obtain your permit at the visitor centers or ranger stations, only in person and no more than 48h in advance of your trip. However, you can reserve your backcountry campsites in advance. For more information, visit Yellowstone National Park’s website.

Lodging: 9 lodging facilities are in the park (more than 2,000 rooms) but only 2 are open in the winter. To make a reservation Click here

What to do?

Depends on the season. Here’s a list of what you can do:

  • Snowmobile & Snowcoach Tours
  • Skiing and Snowshoeing
  • Backcountry camping & hiking
  • Day hiking
  • Bicycling (Spring & Fall)
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Guided Tour: a large choice of services are offered. Backpacking, biking, day hiking, boating, fishing, ski and snowshoeing, painting & photography tours
  • Ranger Programs
  • Horseback riding

 

☑ Safety

Yellowstone is a “dangerous” place. Here’s some rules:

β—‡ The animals are wild and should never be approched. Always stay at least 100 yards (91m) away from wolves and bears (carry bear spray), and at least 25 yards (23m) away from all other animals. Bison have injured more people in Yellowstone than any animal and they can sprint 3 times faster than humans can run.

From Lamar Valley

β—‡ Stay on boardwalks and trails in thermal areas. Hot Springs have injured and killed more people in Yellowstone than any other natural feature. You might of heard about the man who died after falling into a scalding hot spring in June 2016.

My experience

It was a road trip from Seattle, which is where I live. It was about 13h drive. My friend Dylan and I spent 5 days at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park in June 2016. We didn’t hike that much in Yellowstone. It was mostly a drive from point to another point and walk on the boardwalks to admire geysers, hot springs and mudpots.

North Entrance

How much did it cost?

This trip was pretty cheap. We used my friend’s car, so we didn’t have to rent one. We camped every night, which was about $10-15 per night. We mostly had to pay for food and gas, about $400 for both of us.

Day 1

We arrived a bit after 12 pm and started with Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. It’s a walk on boardwalks above steaming thermal features. We spent about 1h there.

Then, we drove on Lamar Valley, which is known for its wildlife. This is where I saw a bison for the first time. It was an exciting experience. We saw a bear (very far away), a Pronghorn, a bull moose and other animals.

Lamar Valley

Black bear

Bull moose

After that, we had to drive outside of the park to find a place to sleep because all campsites were full. We found one about 20min drive from the North entrance.

Day 2

We started the day early and stopped at these places:

β—‡ Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces (again) it was a bit different to see in the morning. The steam was more dense probably due to a colder temperature in the morning than in the afternoon.

 β—‡ Norris Geyser Basin: It’s a nice 2.25 miles in the hottest and most changeable thermal area in Yellowstone. We did the whole tour in 2 different areas called Porcelain Basin and Back Basin. It was really impressive and beautiful. Each feature was totally different from all the others. We spent about 1h30 there.

Porcelain Basin
Back Basin

β—‡ Artists Paintpots, which is a 1 mile trail winds through brightly colored mudspots, geysers and steam vents. We spent about 30 min there.

β—‡ Lower Geyser Basin: This is the largest Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. It’s scattered over a fairly large area and features regularly-erupting geysers, hot springs, and a mud pool. We walked on Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail and saw various hydrothermal features.

》Great Fontain Geyser and White Dome Geyser are located on the Firehole Lake Drive in the Lower Geyser Basin Area. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to see them erupt. Predictions are posted at the Old Faithful Visitor Center.

White Dome Geyser

β—‡ Midway Geyser Basin: This is where we could admire the beautiful and famous Grand Prismatic Spring. I went to Yellowstone especially for this place. It was on my bucket list since I saw it online before I came to the U.S.

Also, we saw Excelsior Geyser.  The blue color of the water is incredible and will make you wish you could swim in it but the temperature reaches 199Β°F (93Β°C) πŸ˜±πŸ˜…

We spent about 30min, walking on boardwalks, which is a 0.8 mile heavily trafficked loop trail.

β—‡ Upper Geyser Basin has the highest concentration of geysers in the world and includes Old Faithful Geyser (see below). We only walked on boardwalks of Biscuit Basin. Then, we went to the Visitor Center where the Old Faithful Geyser is located.

 Sapphire Pool at Biscuit Basin
Sapphire Pool

》Old Faithful Geyser is the most famous geyser in the world. It’s a frequent and predictable geyser that erupts once approximately every 45 to 90 min, depending on the duration of the previous eruption, which is about 1.5 to 5min and a height of 110-185 ft. We had a chance to see the eruption. It was really cool.

Finally we spent the night in a campsite outside of the Park about 45min drive from the West Entrance.
This day was breath taking. We saw so much in a day. I had never seen places like this before.

Day 3

Mud Volcano

We stopped by Mud Volcano before we went hiking at Avalanche Peak, which is a short and steep hike, 4.2 mile round trip with 2,100 ft of elevation gain.

It has stunning views of the surrounding peaks and Yellowstone Lake at 10,566 ft elevation.

While the crowd was around the geysers and hot springs, we shared the top with a french couple with who I could speak french with πŸ˜‰ We hung out there about 30 min before we hiked down and drove at Grand Teton National Park ☑ New blog post is coming soon ☑

Other things to see?

Yellowstone National has more than 900 miles of hiking trails. Here’s other places I wanted to see but didn’t have time:

β˜† Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Uncle Tom’s Trail Hike to Lower Falls

β˜† Yellowstone River

β˜† Mt Washburn: strenuous 6.2 mile round trip, elevation 10,243 feet (3 122m). Stunning views from the summit fire tower.

 

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Bryce CanyonΒ 

 

Bryce Canyon and its famous hoodoos

Bryce Canyon is an American National Park located in Southwesthern Utah. It is known for its incredible Hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion) and it is the largest collection of Hoodoos in the world!

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Getting to Bryce Canyon :

The closest major airports are in Salt Lake City (Utah) located 260 miles North of the park and Las Vegas (Nevada) located 270 miles Southwest of the park.

Getting around in the Park :

All roads are paved inside the park so don’t worry about needing a certain car. There is snow during winter but the Park plows and sands the road after heavy snowstorms. Some roads may be temporarily closed due to icy winter conditions. The park is open year-around.

The Park offers free shuttle that takes visitor to the Park’s most popular viewpoints, trails and facilities.

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Where to sleep ?

Campground : $20/per tent-site/per night and $30/per RV-Site/per night. Reservations can be made by phone or online from 6 months to 2 days in advance.

  • Sunset Campground : 100 sites. 20 tent-only sites and 80 RV & tent sites (first-come, first-served) and 1 Group site (available by reservation) CLOSED from mid-October through mid-April. This campground is closest to the best hiking trail which begins and ends at Sunset Point
  • North Campground : 99 sites. 13 RV sites (by reservation) and 86 RV & tent sites (first-come, first-served). At least one loop is open year-round.

Backcountry camping : Permits are required for all overnight stays ($5/person). You can purchase the permit at the Visitor Center. Reservations may be made up only 48h in advance, and only at the Visitor Center. There are 8 campsites on the 22.9 miles Under-the-Rim Trail and 4 campsites on the 8.8 miles Riggs Spring Loop Trail.

Lodging : Bryce Canyon Lodge. Open late March through early November. Reservations by phone or online.

What to do ?

  • RANGER PROGRAMS
  1. Geology talks (year-round)
  2. Rim Walk (Spring, Summer & Fall)
  3. Kids Programs (Summer)
  4. Evening Programs (Summer & Fall)
  5. Full Moon Hikes (Full Moon nights)
  6. Astronomy Programs
  7. Snowshoe Hikes (Winter)
  • Hiking : Easy, Moderate, Strenuous
  • Backcountry hiking (Backcountry Camping permit required)
  • Private Horse & Mule Riding (April 1 – October 31)
  • Drive the scenic overlook

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My experience

Bryce Canyon was one of the places we visited during the ROAD TRIP we did last year in March/April.

We spent one full day there. It was totally breath taking. The hoodoos are so beautiful. The colors red and orange are really amazing. The pictures don’t do it justice!

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We started with 2h of horse/mule riding. It was really fun and not too expensive ($65/pers). We got a picture of us by a photographer for $10 each. It’s a special way to explore Bryce Canyon because this trail allows horse only. You can book your tour online with Canyon Rides.

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After that we started at Sunset Point and hiked down a part of Navajo Loop Trail (1.3 mile roundtrip). We reached Queens Garden Trail (1.8 mile roundtrip) at the bottom and finished at Sunrise Point. It was a short and easy/moderate hike, like a loop, that goes down into Bryce Amphitheater. It took us about 2h. I really liked it. It was amazing to hike between the hoodoos. Then, we walked Rim trail between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point to join our car (1 mile). It’s an amazing view from the top.

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Navajo Loop Trail
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Queens Garden Trail

We did Mossy Cave Trail (.8 mile round trip) easy hike that leads to a mossy overhang and small waterfall. We wanted to see the waterfall but I was not aware that the waterfall flows from May to October πŸ˜… This trail is located outside of the park on Hwy 12 going toward Tropic.

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Finally, we did a part of Fairy Land Loop Trail as far as Tower Bridge (3 mile roundtrip) just before night and kept going on our road trip toward Zion Canyon, which I’ll write about later because I’m going back there in June and I’ll have so much more to say about it 😎

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Pictures at the bottom are taken at the top of Tower Bridge

I think 1 day is a little bit too short to fully enjoy Bryce Canyon. If you can, you should spend 2 days and camp into the park or stay at the lodge.

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Death ValleyΒ 

Death Valley

La VallΓ©e de la Mort in french

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Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California near the border of Nevada. It’s one of the hottest places in the world at the height of summertime.

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When to go ?

The best time to hike in Death Valley is from November through March due to the very high temperatures in the park. Summers are extremely hot and dry. Daytime may exceed 120Β°F / 49Β°C.

Where to land ?

The closest airport is Las Vegas. About 2h30 drive. It’s almost 5h drive from Los Angeles.

What kind of car should I rent ?

We rented an economic car and we could easily drive on the unpaved road of Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Some people were more original… 😎

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It doesn’t mean you can drive everywhere with an economic car. Farabee’s Jeep Rental now have an outlet located in Furnace Creek. These jeeps are outfitted for rugged backcountry road use.

Where to sleep ?

Camping : There are 9 different campgrounds. They are all first-come/first-served except for Furnace Creek campground. Reservations are available for the camping season of October 15 to April 15 by phone or online. Acording to the National Park’s website, it’s very rare for all campgrounds to fill. Prices : From free to $22

Backcountry camping : The backcountry permit (free) may be obtained at the visitor center or any ranger station. Check out the National Park’s website or directly with a ranger to see where the backcountry camping is not allowed.

Lodging : Reservations online

Hotel or RV campground : Outside of the park (Amargosa, Pahrump, Beatty)

What to do ?

  • Wildlife watching : Death Valley’s great range of elevations and habitats support a variety of wildlife species, including 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, 3 species of amphibians and 5 species and 1 subspecies of native fishes
  • Hiking : easy, moderate or difficult. It’s up to you πŸ˜‰ you can find some ideas below in “my experience” or check out the National Park’s website for more.
  • Backpacking (must obtain a free backcountry permit)
  • Biking & Mountain Biking : Death Valley has more than 785 miles of roads including hundreds of miles suitable for Mountain Biking

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My experience

My best friend and I went to Death Valley at the end of March. We did a road trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and drove from L.A to Death Valley. We had a great time. But a bit scary when we got caught in two sands storms! Once while driving and the next while we were outside of the car taking pictures. Then we almost ran out of gas as we entered the park. Lucky there was a gas station close although gas tends to be much more expensive close to the park.

We booked a night in a really nice RV for $52 at Pahrump (Booking.com) which is about a 1h drive from Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

All in all, it was a great trip. It’s very nice to drive through Death Valley National Park, I love the desert. It’s incredible how the scenery can be totally different from one place to another.

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What did we do ?

First day (Half day)

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White Gold
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Badwater Bassin : Surreal landscape of vast salt flats. 1 mile
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Natural Bridge : 1 mile

 

Second day

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Zabriskie Point : The most popular viewpoint in the park
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Mosaic Canyon
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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes : The largest dune field in the park. 2 mile
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Salt Creek Interpretive Trail : 0.5 mile
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Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail : 3 mile
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Twenty Mule Team Canyon : 2.7 mile one way loop drive (unpaved)

 

There are other places that you should check out if you have time :

  • Dante’s View : At 5,475 ft, the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park.
  • Devil’s Golf Course : An immense area of rock eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires (unpaved access road).
  • Artist’s Drive : A 9 miles scenic loop drive. This road is one-way and is only drivable with vehicles less than 25ft in total length.

 

Other things to see ?

Death Valley National Park has over 5,300 square miles of desert and mountains, making it the largest national park in the contiguous United States. The possibilities for discovery are ENDLESS!

If you have any questions or if the post was helpful to you

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Grand CanyonΒ 

The most famous and spectacular

National Park in the USA

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Where should I land ?

Either Las Vegas or Phoenix.

From Las Vegas to the South Rim, it’s 4h15 drive if you use Google maps but you should round up to 5h to be safe. If you have time, you should definitely stop by Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours located just 45min from Las Vegas. It’s the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada. You can do the historic Mine tours ($12.50 for an adult / 1h10) or just walk around like we did. It’s very cool.

Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours

It’s faster from Phoenix with a 3h30 drive when using Google maps, but consider 4h to be safe.

What kind of car should I rent ?

Whatever you want. You can rent an economic car cause you won’t have to drive on difficult roads. If your group is more than 2 or 3 people, you should rent a van or a RV. It’s fun to go for road tripping and you can sleep in it.

Where to sleep ?

Depends on if you prefer adventure or comfort and your budget. Sleeping in the National Park’s Lodges is expensive (prices start at $100). I will recommend Flagstaff which is 1h30 from the South Rim. Or you can camp in the park. The most popular Campground is called Mather Campground ($18/night), you have to make a reservation and if you plan to go in the summer you should make it as early as possible. If it’s already full you can sleep at Desert View Campground which is first-come, first-served.

If you wish to camp anywhere in the park other than in developed Campgrounds, you must obtain a backcountry permit. You have to submit the permit request form either by fax or by mail. Permit requests are not accepted by telephone or by email. APPLY AS EARLY AS YOU CAN!!! (About 4 months before)

South Rim or North Rim ?

The South Rim is the most popular and visited and it’s accessible year around. The North Rim is closed for the winter through May 15 for the 2017 season.

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Moran Point

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From Bright Angel Trail

Transportation inside the Park :

You can park your car at different places and take the Shuttle (Refer to the map). The shuttles cover most of the park but you will have to take your car on the Desert View Drive that leads to Desert View Watchtower and the Campground. Many overlooks along the way.

What to do ?

Many activities are possible :

Guided Tours :

  • South Rim Bus Tours
  • Bicycle Rentals and Guided Bicycle Tours – South Rim
  • Mule Trips – North and South Rim
  • Guided hikes with a Park Ranger (Free) – North and South Rim
  • Raft Trips
  • Air Tours
  • Jeep and Van Tours

Hiking :

Many options are available for day hikers. The South Rim and the North Rim offer Rim Trail Hikes that have spectacular views. Or you can choose to day hike into the Canyon. The most popular hikes on the South Rim are Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail.

Hiking into the Canyon can be very dangerous (Falls, heat stroke, dehydratation). Over 250 people are rescued from the Canyon each year. Be prepared for a safe and enjoyable hike. Bring enough water and enough food. Don’t underestimate the wilderness and overestimate your own abilities. Wear comfortable hiking boots.

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Bright Angel Trail 

Havasu Falls

One of the most beautiful, amazing, incredible blue green waterfalls. Hidden in the Grand Canyon and DIFFICULT (almost impossible) to get reservations for. The Havasupai Tribe administers the land, which lies outside the boundary and jurisdiction of Grand Canyon National Park.

Campground reservations started on February 1st and were only taken by phone. It was impossible to get someone on the phone, all lines were busy. The ones who where lucky to make a reservation spent their entire day calling multiple times. For what I know, the Campground is already full for the 2017 season.

It requires a 10 mile hike EACH WAY to the waterfalls of Havasupai. NO DAY HIKING ALLOWED. You must obtain a reservation and permit or they will turn you away. Also, it can be very dangerous to attempt this hike in one day. Temperatures can reach 115Β°F (46Β°C)

Cost :

  • Entry Fee : $50 per person + 10% tax
  • Campground (300 sites) : $25/person/night + 10% tax
  • Environmental fee : $10 + 10% tax

 

NOT MY PICTURE

My experience

I went to the Grand Canyon (South Rim) twice and I’m planning to go again in June. Both times I landed in Las Vegas and made a stop at Eldorado Canyon Mine Tour.

The first time was in December 2015 with my best friend Bruna. We planned to stay 2 days, drive at each overlook and do at least one hike into the Canyon. I pictured the Grand Canyon always warm and sunny. What a surprise! It was COLD and SNOWY! When we arrived on the afternoon, we were totally exhausted after a crazy night in Las Vegas and 5h drive. So we decided to drive from the Visitor Center to Grand View Point and stop at each overlook. The first time in the Grand Canyon is magical and totally breath taking. We were so excited and couldn’t believe our eyes. A DREAM CAME TRUE ❀ We spent the night at a couchsurfer’s place inside the park. We planned to stay 2 nights there but it was very uncomfortable to sleep because (funny story) the very nice guy who welcomed us snored TOO LOUD πŸ˜…  We were too exhausted and wanted to find another place for the second night. Finally the 2nd day was snowy and foggy like crazy. No view of the canyon. So we decided to make a snowman β˜ƒ and we spent the night at Flagstaff. We drove on a part of the famous Route 66 on our way back to Las Vegas and found a nice and weird town.

Route 66

The second time was in March 2016 with my boyfriend. This time the weather was way better. Cold at night but warm during the day. We started early in the morning and walked part of the South Rim Trail from Bright Angel Lodge to Mojave Point. Then we did some of Bright Angel Trail (6 miles out and back). We were done around 4pm, stopped at some overlooks on Desert View drive and headed to Page where we caught the sunset at Horseshoe Bend.

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I just requested the Backcountry permit for Bright Angel Campground in June 2017. This time I want to do backpacking and sleep in the canyon. Hope I get the permit. FINGERS CROSSED πŸ€

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If you have any questions or if the post was helpful to you

Please leave a comment ✏

Glacier National Park

Welcome to Montana

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Glacier National Park is located in the U.S State of Montana, on the Canada-United States border with the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Glacier National Park definitly fits well its name. I hardly imagine how cold is it during the winter! Brrrrrrr I’m already cold πŸ˜…β„

☑ Glacier National Park is also known to have a black bear and grizzly habitat. It’s EXTREMELY important for hikers to make a lot of noise, carry bear spray and hike in groups. Trails can be closed due to bear activity . It’s a better idea to check with a ranger on the status of a trail before proceeding on any hike in the park.

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We spent 4 days there in September and for good reason, total of square miles 1,583 split in 5 areas :

  • Lake McDonald
  • Many Glacier
  • North Fork & Goat Haunt
  • St. Mary
  • Two Medicine

Interesting facts :

  • Total number of lakes : 762
  • Number of named lakes : 131
  • Largest lake : Lake McDonald at 9.4 miles long, 1.5 miles wide, 464 feet deep
  • Number of mountains : 175
  • Highest mountain : Mt Cleveland at 10,448 ft / 3,190 m

 

Of course, 4 days was not enough to explore the entire park. We did the boat tour at Lake Mcdonald, and some hikes at Many Glacier and St. Mary.

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My favorite hike so far was Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint located at Many Glacier area. A stunning view all along the hike. Starting with Swifcurrent Lake and Josephine Lake, then on your way up to an amazing view of Grinnell Lake and ending at Upper Grinnell Lake. Absolutely breath taking.

10.6 miles out and back / Elevation gain : 1,600 ft

Trailhead : Grinnell Glacier Trailhead or Many Glacier Hotel

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In the same area, we did Iceberg Lake. Known for its Icebergs, but unfortunatly we didn’t see any of them. Apparently, it still wasn’t cold enough πŸ˜…

9.6 miles out and back / Elevation gain : 1,200 ft

Trailhead : Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead

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The boat tour at Lake McDonald was pretty cool and relaxing (it was a surprise for my boyfriend’s birthday πŸ’) We walked around the lake a little bit, enjoyed the beautiful fall colors and admired the incredible and famous color of the pebbles. For information, boat tours start between the end of May and the end of June and are over between beginning and the end of September depending on the tour : Lake McDonald, St. Mary Lake, Two Medicine Lake or Many Glacier. Prices are from $13.75 to $27.50 for an adult.

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If you enter the St. Mary area at the East entrance, you can enjoy the view of St. Mary Lake from the famous “Going to the sun road”. We chose to do Hidden Lake Overlook. It’s an easy but busy trail. It’s up to you to admire the lake from the overlook or keep walking to the bottom. It was our last day after we did Iceberg Lake and we still had to drive back to Seattle during the night, which is a 9h drive. So we decided to stay at the top. What a view ! Totally happy to end the trip like this 😍

2.8 miles out and back / Elevation gain : 460 ft

Trailhead : Logan Pass Visitor Center

*Additional 2.4 miles out and back further to Hidden Lake, dropping 780 ft from the overlook

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Crater Lake in Winter


It’s winter! ❄

Crater Lake is a National Park localised in Oregon and one of the most beautiful. It’s the deepest lake in the USA with a depth of 1943 feet. The water’s intense blue color will take your breath away, especially during the summer.

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What to expect during winter ?

A lot of snow of course. Temperatures are very low. When we arrived around 6am the temperature was -16Β°F and it can be worse (my camelback froze in barely 5min… who couldn’t drink anymore ? I’ll let you guess πŸ˜…πŸ˜‰, little tip : blow into the water tube until the water return in the camelback) Most of the park is closed due to the snow but the access to the lake is still possible by the South Entrance that leads to the Rim Village, check out the road conditions. 1 day is enough to explore around. 

When skies are clear, excellent views of Crater Lake. During storms, the lake is usually obscured by clouds. From late November through early March, the lake is typically visible only about 50% of the time.

Winter Road Closure

The park’s North Entrance Road is closed for the winter. The 30-mile Rim Drive around the lake is also closed, which is too bad cause most of the amazing overlooks are on the Rim Drive like Watchman Overlook and Watchman Peak.

You can enter the park through the West Entrance or the South Entrance on Hwy 62. The 7-mile road from Hwy 62 to Rim Village is also open year-round, although the last 3 miles (from Park HQ to Rim Village) are sometimes closed for days or weeks due to periods of heavy snow. We came by the South Entrance and the road was openned. To find out if the road to Rim Village is open you can call the visitor center at 541-594-3100 or check out the website.

 

Hiking 

All hiking trails are buried under snow. Cross-country skis or snowshoes are recommended. This is how you will be able to explore around the lake and reach my favorite overlook called Watchman overlook. Unfortunately we didn’t have snowshoes, it was sometimes hard to walk in the snow and made us too exhausted to reach this overlook (I have to confess we drove all night and probably slept 2h each, πŸ˜…) but we had a great time and could enjoy a really amazing view of the lake

Snowshoe rentals are available at the Rim Village Gift Shop when the road to Rim Village is open.

 

Road Trip from Seattle

When we went there in September the North Entrance was opened, it was about 6h drive. This time we had to enter by the South Entrance, which is 8h drive.

Like usual, we drove at night to arrive early in the morning on Saturday. We spent the day until the Sunset. That allowed us to spend Sunday on our way back around Mt Hood cause I really wanted to explore this place.

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Continue reading “Crater Lake in Winter”

Yosemite in Winter

Who doesn’t like snow? It beautifies everything it covers that’s why we call it WINTER WONDERLAND… ❄

I went to Yosemite during the summer (will be another post) and I can tell you it’s another world during the winter.

From Tunnel View – El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls

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Winter Road Closure 

Tiago Road (Hwy 120 through the park) and Glacier Point Road are closed for the season due to snow (chains are often required) between November and May or June. Check out Yosemite NP’s website.

Hiking 

In my opinion the most beautiful and easiest hike is Mirror lake. You won’t be dissapointed by the reflection.

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Unfortunately Mist Trail that leads to Vernal and Nevada Falls is closed. They are both very beautiful and popular. I walked about .1 mile to get a picture of Vernal Fall. Just amazing.

I just learned there is a way to get Nevada Fall, by the Muir Trail there is a winter route.

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The Yosemite Falls is North America’s tallest waterfall, which rises 2,425 feet above the Valleyfloor. This trail starts near camp 4, it’s a steep and strenous hike. On your way to the top you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and Sentinel Rock. Something that particularely impressed me was the sound of the waterfall, like thunder. The waterfall is also pretty amazing to watch from Yosemite Valley.

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And wherever you go, never forget to have fun β€