10 Easy Fall Hikes in the Adirondacks

The North East is well known for its vibrant fall colors. Many travel to the Adirondacks for dramatic views of the autumn hues. All the picturesque views don’t have to be a difficult hike away; there are 10 easy fall hikes in the Adirondacks that will leave you speechless. 

In this post you’ll find 10 Adirondack Fall hikes that are under 3 miles in length with less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain. We’re also sharing 7 accessible fall foliage views throughout the Adirondack Park.

Autumn in the Adirondacks at Heart Lake

Adirondack Fall Hikes for Beginners

These 10 easy Fall hikes in the Adirondacks are perfect for beginners who want to experience autumn in the North East. Take an easy Adirondack hike through the most perfect fall foliage. 

All of these hikes are under 3 miles round trip and require less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

Azure

  • 1.8 Miles RT
  • 912 ft. Elevation Gain

Azure is located a few back country roads away from Paul Smiths. This puts the trail in close proximity to several colleges. It’s location mixed with its easy of completion and beautiful views makes it a very popular mountain. 

The trail is very wide due to erosion which makes it incredibly easy to follow. Please do your part by staying in the middle of the trail to prevent further erosion.

Fall Fire Tower Views in the Adirondacks

Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to find solitude on the summit, even on a busy day. Please clean up after yourself and feel free to clean up after someone else too! Leave it better than you found it. 

Baker Mountain

  • 1.6 Miles RT
  • 885 ft. Elevation Gain

Baker Mountain in Saranac Lake offers two routes from its trailhead in town at Moody Pond . The slightly shorter .9-mile hike is steeper than the 1-mile hike to the summit. We suggest hiking them in a counter-clockwise loop. 

The summit provides views over the Village or Saranac Lake towards the High Peaks Region.  

Photo Credit: Saranac Lake

This hike is part of the Saranac Lake 6er Challenge. If you’re up for a challenge, give it a try and earn your patch. 

Bald Mountain

  • 2 Miles RT
  • 416 ft. Elevation Gain

Bald Mountain, or Rondaxe Fire Tower, is located just outside of Old Forge. This popular trail head is gets very busy so I suggest hitting it up for an early morning hike to avoid crowds and lack of parking. 

With beautiful views of third lake from the summit and 360-degree views from the firet ower, Bald Mountain is one of the more popular easy fall hikes in the Adirondacks for families. 

Peak Foliage at Bald Mountain in Old Forge!

Bald Mountain is part of the Fulton Chain Trifecta. If you’re visiting Old Forge, try to hike all three to earn a patch! 

Belfry Firetower

  • .8 Miles RT
  • 134 ft. Elevation Gain

To access Belfry Firetower, hikers are required to hike a .4 mile acces road to the summit. It’s a leisurely accent and an obvious trail to follow. 

Please do not stray from the access road as this hike takes place on private property. The owner has allowed access to the fire tower via the road.

Photo Credit: Outdoor Project

As one of the easiest and shortest fire tower climbs, this hike is quite popular. Enjoy these spectacular views for sunrise and sunset to avoid large crowds.

Castle Rock

  • 2.8 Miles RT
  • 659 ft. Elevation Gain

Castle Rock is a beautiful hike on the North shores of Blue Mountain Lake. This hike provides vibrant views of the foliage surrounding Blue Mountain Lake. 

The trail is fairly straight forward and steady until just before the lookout point. Be prepared for some very light, family-appropriate, rock scrambling to reach the viewpoint. 

Castle Rock in Blue Mountain Lake in Fall

If you’re looking for a much more challenging hike nearby, check out Blue Mountain Fire Tower.  

Kane Mountain

  • 2.1 Miles RT
  • 616 ft. Elevation Gain

This short and sweet hike just outside of Caroga, New York is perfect for fall foliage. When you peer out through the fire tower windows you’re met with a sea of hardwoods dipped in autumn delight. 

The initial trail is a steady climb that will leave you winded, but isn’t too difficult. Complete the trail in a clockwise loop to experience the more gradual decent and to avoid crowds on your return. 

Just before peak Fall Foliage at Kane Mountain Fire Tower in Caroga Lake

If you’re into Mountain Biking the Wheelerville Trail System is located just a few miles from the Kane Mountain Trailhead. I highly recommend checking out these trails if you have your bike handy!

Mt. Arab

  • 1.9 Miles RT
  • 738  ft. Elevation Gain

A truly amazing hike for the whole family! The initial climb can be a bit steep, but they’ve added stairs to make the ascent more accessible. 

As you near the summit, you’ll notice a handful of social paths. Please refrain from traveling those and stay on the main trail to the summit. 

Fruity Pebble Tree Top Views from the Fire Tower

The summit has an observers cabin which is now a museum ran by the Friends of Mt. Arab. Climb the fire tower or take a seat on the bench and eat lunch. No matter what you choose, you’ll be met with stunning views of the Adirondack Park in Fall. 

Mt. Jo

  • 1.8 Miles RT
  • 692  ft. Elevation Gain

If you are in the Lake Placid area for fall, Mt. Jo is a must. Be warned, you will need to arrive prior to 6 AM if you want a parking spot right away. Or you can wait until mid-morning/late afternoon.

Sunrising Mt. Jo is my favorite way to spend an Adirondack Fall morning. The view of the heart lake and the MacIntyre Range is actual fall foliage perfection. 

Mt. Jo’s Morning Fog and Fall Colors

A sunrise hike here adds to the beauty as the fog over heart lake slowly clears and the most perfect sun beams hit the autumn leaves. Easily the best fall hike in the Adirondacks in my book!

Rocky Mountain

  • 1 Miles RT
  • 433  ft. Elevation Gain

Super short, incredibly sweet, and less than 5 minutes from the town of Inlet. Rocky Mountain is the perfect Adirondack fall hike for an adventurer short on time or a family with young children who want to enjoy spectacular views. 

The trail climbs straight out of the parking lot until it reaches a rocky summit with beautiful views of fourth lake. Catching this hike at sunrise is sure to lessen the crowds and enhance the views.

Nothing Beats the Best Adirondack Fall View from the Very Easy Rocky Mountain Hike in Inlet

Rocky Mountain is part of the Fulton Chain Trifecta. Hike all three Old Forge/Inlet-area mountains for a patch! 

The Pinnacle

  • 2.1 Miles RT
  • 495  ft. Elevation Gain

Located on the Western shores of Lake George, The Pinnacle is a hike that proves popular in autumn. As far as easy fall hikes in the Adirondacks goes, this is at the top of the list.

A gentle and steady incline – with bench pit-stops along the way – will bring you to a beautiful view of Lake George. This expansive viewpoint provides views of the Lake George 12ster Mountains across the lake, as well as Lake George’s many islands. 

Photo Credit: Visit Lake George

The Pinnacle is just outside of Bolton Landing which is a great place to stop for a beverage and a bite to eat!

Accessible Adirondack Fall Views

Check out these 7 accessible Adirondack Fall foliage views. Whether you’re physically unable to complete the above-mentioned hikes or you’re looking for an easier way to enjoy autumn leaves, these accessible Adirondack fall views are for you. 

The Wild Center in Tupper Lake

Drive High Peaks Byway

Drive route 73, the High Peaks Byway, between Lake Placid and Interstate 87. This 28-mile long road takes around 40 minutes to drive and will leave you speechless.  

McCauley Scenic Chairlift

Take the McCauley Scenic Chairlift for amazing views of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Experience nature’s amazing show of colors with ease. 

Prospect Mountain’s Veteran Memorial Highway

For $10 a car you can drive up Veteran Memorial Highway to gorgeous views of Lake George. Park at the parking lot and walk or take the shuttle to the true summit for a picnic area and the remains of the worlds largest cable railroad. 

The Wild Center

Visit the Wild Center’s Wild Walk for treetop views of the Tupper Lake area. The Natural History Center provides additional opportunities for fun and exploration with the Forest Music and Live River exhibits. 

Fall Views from the Wild Walk in Tupper Lake

The VIC

The Barnum Brook Trail, located at the Paul Smith’s VIC, is a .7 mile wheelchair accessible loop with perfect autumn Adirondack views. The trail surface is at least 4 feet wide and made of wooden boardwalks, pavement, gravel, and natural dirt. This is one of the only accessible fall hikes in the Adirondacks.

Whiteface Cloud Splitter Gondola

Open Friday through Sunday from 10AM to 5PM, visitors can ride the Cloud Splitter Gondola to the summit of Little Whiteface. Be transported from the base to the peak in an awe-inspiring 15-minute ride among the tree tops. 

Autumn Hues in Fall

Post-Hike Rejuvenation in the Adirondacks

Adirondack towns often have multiple options for post-hike food and beverages. There are a number of restaurants and breweries throughout the park that are absolutely worth your time. Here are my three favorite breweries:

Big Slide Brewery

Raquette Lake Brewing

Fulton Chain Craft Brewing

If these three aren’t near your hike, check out the full list of the 13 Best Adirondack Breweries. You’ll find the best brews and food inside the park!

Best Sustainable Leadville Experiences: Positive Impact on the Community

Leadville was a hidden gem of a high country Colorado town until the summer of 2020. This old mining town sits at 10,151 feet with 360-degree big mountain views. It’s easy to see why so many people choose to travel here when all of the Leadville experiences will take even the most well-traveled individuals breath away. 

Although there are many ways in which tourism benefits a community, there are also negative impacts a community may face as well. In this post, I will be sharing some of the best sustainable Leadville Experiences and how you can leave a positive impact on the community during your stay and beyond.

Let’s explore Leadville, Colorado

7 Best Leadville Experiences 

These 7 sustainable Leadville experiences will ensure you’re seeing everything the center of the Wild West has to offer.

Hike a 14er

Hiking a 14er may be a Colorado right of passage, but it’s not for everyone! Only those who are experienced hikers with a high level of physical fitness should attempt a Colorado 14er. 

The Ultimate Leadville Experience: Hiking Mt. Elbert

Leadville is home to Colorado’s two tallest mountains, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive at 14,439’ and 14,429’ respectively. Some of the best 14ers for beginners can also be found in and just outside of Leadville; Mt. Sherman and Quandry Peak are labeled as some of the Easiest 14ers in Colorado by Backpacker.

If a 14er isn’t quite your speed, there are plenty of other beautiful Leadville experiences that involve hiking. The Interlaken Lake Trail, Windsor Lake Trail, and Turquoise Lake Trail are all much more mellow options that still provide stunning views.

Drive Independence Pass

This iconic road runs from Twin Lakes to Aspen and is a must-do when you visit Leadville. 

The beautiful Independence Pass between Aspen and Twin Lakes

If you’re looking for amazing views but can’t or don’t want to exhaust yourself to get to them, I highly recommend this drive. Park at the top and take an easy, paved walk to a beautiful overlook. 

It’s important to note that this pass is only available to vehicles under 35 feet and that is closes for the winter around November 7th each year. 

Paddle on Turquoise or Twin Lakes

Turquoise Lake is located just a few miles from town and offers a variety of outdoor activities. Paddling is one of the most peaceful ways to experience Turquoise lake and the beautiful landscape that encompasses it. 

When paddling Turquoise Lake or Twin Lakes, please wear a PDF

Twin Lakes is located about 15 minutes south of Leadville and is a slightly smaller lake with beautiful views. You can rent canoes, kayaks, or stand up paddle boards from Twin Lakes Canoe and Kayak nearby. 

The Colorado Boating Handbook states that all vessels less than 16 feet in length, including all paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, must carry one wearable Coast Guard-approved life jacket per person. As you can see, I am not wearing a PDF in these photos and that is 100% my bad! 

My lack of local education on the subject does not excuse my poor role modeling. I will be snagging a belt PFD for the 2023 season! 

Learn About Mining History

Learn about Leadville’s extensive mining history at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. The scandalous tales of old Leadville elites and the process of moving town from Climax to it’s current location.

This amazing National Mining Museum exhibit had us feeling like we stepped back in time…

You can also visit one of the most famous mines in Colorado, the Matchless Mine. Learn about the Tabor legacy on a surface tour of their 1800’s mine and home.

 If it’s an underground mine tour you seek, Hopemore is the ultimate local Leadville experience. Learn what a day on the job was like for a Leadville local in the 1800’s. 

Mountain Bike

Mountain biking is one of the Leadville experiences that largely goes unnoticed. It may not have the fancy lift access bike parks of other Colorado Mountain Towns or world-renowned trails, but they are constantly improving upon their trail system.

Biking the Mineral Belt Trail to the Timberline Mountain Bike Trails

Bike the Mineral Belt Trail for amazing views and mining history, but leave the beaten path around mile 8 to check out the Timberline Trails. The Cloud City Wheelers have done some amazing work on this trail system. We loved shredding Gold Digger and Slip N Slide at the end of our Mineral Belt Ride before bombing down Boulders to our parked car. 

You can also ride the Turquoise Lake trail out and back and/or check out the newest trail system Leadville has to offer. Eight miles of Colorado flow trail have been built to compliment the existing Turquoise Lake Trail and they are full of amazing views. 

Leadville Railroad Scenic Train Ride

You won’t experience Leadville like a local on a scenic train ride designed for tourists, but it’s a great family-friendly activity if you’re visiting town. 

Photo Credit: Leadville Train

Enjoy the views  on one of Colorado’s best train rides. The Southern Railroad boasts beautiful views of the San Isabel National Forest and the Arkansas River Valley. 

Aside from walking or biking, taking the train is one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Enjoy the views and feel good about it too!

Nordic and Alpine Ski

Downhill ski at the local, family-friendly Cooper Mountain. This affordable ski area is a local favorite for skiers and riders of all abilities. Skip the crowds and lines associated with other big-name mountains and enhance your Leadville experience with the softest snow surface in Colorado.

Ski Cooper Leadville Map! Photo Credit: Liftopia

If downhill skiing isn’t your style, try cross country skiing at the Tenessee Nordic Center. Discover the very best Nordic skiing with over 16 miles of set track groomed for every style and ability. 

Choose to ski, snowshoe, or fat bike at Tennesse Pass and enjoy stunning views of the Sawatch Mountains.

Leave a Positive Impact on Leadville’s Locals

Your dream vacation location in someone else’s home. How do you leave a positive impact on the communities you travel to? 

Here are 7 ways you can enhance your Leadville experiences while giving back to the local community.

Shop Local

All of the restaurants and shops in downtown Leadville are one of a kind. The only chain restaurant you’ll find in town is Subway. There are only a few box stores, such as Family Dollar and Safeway, in Leadville as well. 

It should be easy to enhance your Leadville experience with a number of unique shopping opportunities. Give back to the local economy by spending money at local establishments! 

Shop Harrison Ave and support local Leadville !

Melanzana is a well-known Leadville outdoor clothing store. Hand made and sold only in Leadville, a ‘melly’ is pretty much required for locals and tourists alike. Make an appointment to shop and snag you’re sweatshirt on your next trip. 

If you’re looking for local Leadville outdoor clothing that’s  lesser-known, check out Galena. Galena Mountain Projects believe in giving back to the community and supporting local artists. Most of the folks who contribute their creative ideas to Galena Products are outdoor educators!

Leave Cash Tips

Because the cost of living is rising in Leadville, a lot of businesses are hurting for help. You might experience limited opening hours and longer waiting times when dining out. 

Remember that your Leadville experiences wouldn’t be the same without the locals that make them happen in the first place. Leave a cash tip for your waitstaff and tour guides. 

Tacos La Mina in Leadville was actually so good, we ate here twice in 5 days…

The average tip amount for a waiter or bartender is between 18-20%. For a tour guide, between 10 and 20% is acceptable depending on the level of service. 

Leave a cash tip to ensure businesses aren’t taking service fees out of their employees hard earned tip money.  

Volunteer 

This might sound like a silly thing to do while you’re on vacation, but hear me out. Places like Leadville host amazing events that are only made possible by volunteers. 

What better way to experience a place and give back to the community than to volunteer at an iconic event? 

Photo Credit: Cycling News

Volunteer with the Leadville Race Series. There are pre-race, race, and post race volunteer positions available each year, ranging from medical professionals to registration and packet pick up. You won’t regret the opportunity to cheer on the participants and celebrate their achievements. 

However, it doesn’t have to be an iconic event. Do some research and find something that interests you. 

My fiance and I chatted about volunteering with the Leadville Race Series on a return trip to Colorado! We hope to spend more time out West in future summers and volunteering is certainly a topic of conversation for us as we plan our trips. 

Leave No Trace

If you don’t know the 7 Leave No Trace Principles, please educate yourself before spending time outdoors. 

These seven items provide the framework for minimizing your impact on the outdoor world. Many of the best Leadville experiences fall into the category of outdoor recreation.

Camping at Matchless Campground in Turquoise Lake. Please remember to use provided pit toilet and dumpster!

With more and more tourists visiting Leadville and seeking outdoor adventure activities, negative environmental impact is inevitable. Let’s make sure we do out part to lessen it.

Although all 7 of the Leave No Trace principles are important, there are a few issues that stand out. 

Garbage and human waste are an every growing concern. Pack all garbage out from trails and campgrounds; purchase a 40 gallon yellow Lake County garbage bag at the start of your stay and drop it at either of the two drop sites on your way out of town.

Carry a WAG bag to go number 2 above treeline! When below treeline it’s important you dig a Cat Hole to go number 2. Pack out all toilet paper!

Human waste in the wilderness is shitty. Please carry a WAG bag when you plan to hike above tree line and dig a 6-8” cat hole 200 feet from water sources and the trail. Whether you go number one or two, plan accordingly for carrying out your toilet paper. 

Please remember to heed all warnings and follow all posted regulations. Leave the wilderness areas of Leadville better than you found it!      

Participate in Community Events

One of the ultimate summer Leadville experiences includes attending Boom Days. This historical celebration of the old west includes three days of food, arts and crafts, and activities for the whole family. Burro racing, costume contests, parade and so many other fun activities take place at Leadville Boom Days. 

Photo Credit: Leadville Twin Lakes

The Ski Joring and Crystal Carnival weekend if an incredible winter Leadville experience. Witness the unique sport of ski joring and join in on other fun events like mountain bike and Nordci ski races, a paintball biathlon, and a ton of other winter fun.

Participating in community events helps you to better understand a community, thus creating a greater level of respect for the space and those who call it home. 

Slow Travel

Stay a little bit longer so you have time to truly engage and interact with the community. When you have a better understanding of a place, you’ll have a more meaningful experience.

Living the slow life…

Foster a deeper connection by making more time for leadville experiences, conversations with locals, and giving back to the community. The more you do while visiting Leadville, the more you’ll learn about and respect the space. 

Additionally, a longer vacation means you’ll be giving more money to the community as you stay, dine, and explore. Plus… it’s more fund for you!

Donate to Local Charities

If you visit and feel so inclined to make a difference, donate to local charities. 

In a lot of popular vacation locations, locals may struggle with the rising cost of housing, groceries, and population growth. This leaves local workers without affordable housing which in turn leaves restaurants, schools, and other businesses without enough staff.

Experience the Mineral Belt Trail and ride right by this sign!

Local charities, such as Full Circle of Lake County, work to support families through resource connection and youth programs. Donate food, time, and/or funds to St. George Episcopal Church and community meals to help with food security for locals who might not enjoy a hot meal otherwise.

If you’re looking for an environmental cause, check out Cloud City Conservation Center. They provide educational opportunities and lasting community infrastructure that inspires stewardship of Leadville and Lake County’s natural resources. 

Tips for Saving Up for Leadville Experiences

Leadville was the final stop on our summer road trip and we are so glad it was. The laid back, high country lifestyle was the perfect way to end our month-long vacation.

Saving up for vacation can be a daunting task, here are a few easy ways to make a few extra bucks.

  • Sign up for and regularly use Travel Credit Cards where you earn flyer miles and/or cash back!
  • Utilizing coupon apps for grocery shopping and online shopping at your favorite stores
  • Clean out your closet at sell your clothes at consignment stores or on second hand apps such as Poshmark and Mercari.

Read the full list for 9 easy ways to make money for travel. A little extra effort goes a long way!

This post was created in collaboration with Leadville Twin Lakes

Exciting Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary: 15 Best Things To Do

If you’re looking for an adventurous way to spend a weekend in Cedar Rapids, I have the perfect itinerary for you. Spend time in nature, explore the city, and enjoy local restaurants with this exciting Cedar Rapids weekend itinerary.

Best Things to Do in Cedar Rapids

1. Spend a Morning at Cedar Ridge Distillery

One of my favorite things to do in Cedar Rapids is to spend a Sunday Morning at Cedar Ridge Winery. Nothing beats a delicious brunch with beautiful views and amazing cocktails. 

A blonde haired girl enjoying a mimosa at Cedar Ridge Distillery as part of a full Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary.
Brunch at Cedar Ridge Winery

We highly recommend the Espresso yourself, made with Cedar Ridges’ very own Shorts Whiskey, cold brew, cinnamon, and whipped cream. If you’re not a whiskey lover, spice up your basic mimosa with Iowa white sparkling wine and your choice of orange, grapefruit, or pineapple juice. 

Grab a signature Whiskey cocktail and enjoy the views at Cedar Ridge Distillery

Be sure to plan for a tour of Iowa’s first distillery since prohibition. Learn the entire process, from grain to grass, for no charge at the following times:
Saturdays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.
Sundays at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Stop into the tasting room to sip on Iowa’s #1 selling 750 ml bourbon. If spirits aren’t your thing, taste 17 different house, estate, and premiere wines from Cedar Ridges’ very own vineyards.

Start your perfect Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary with brunch at Cedar Ridge!

2. National Czech and Slovak Museum

This Museum was at the top of our list as my Nana’s family tree traces back to the Czech Republic (when it was Czechoslovakia)! It was really fun to learn about their culture and history with that in mind.

National Czech and Slovak Museum Entrance

The National Czech and Slovak Museum included a handful of really well done exhibits. Highlighting Czech and Slovak culture and history through engaging displays is just one of the neat experiences the museum offers.

A variety of events and educational opportunities await visitors at the National Czech and Slovak Museum. They host the annual traditional HODY festival, masterclasses, BrewNost (an international beer festival), the Old World Christmas Market, and more throughout the year. Check the events calendar to see what’s happening during your visit!

3. African American Museum of Iowa

Visit the only statewide museum to preserve and educate on African American history and culture. 

Photo Credit: blackiowa.org

Unfortunately, Spencer and I did not have the chance to visit the African American Museum of Iowa, but we’d like to point out a few neat bits of information. Like most museums, they offer a handful of permanent exhibits and feature new exhibits on a rotating schedule. Additionally, a few sections of the museum are featured on Google Maps and can be explored virtually. 

The African American Museum of Iowa also hosts a number of events throughout the year including a Juneteenth celebration and #NotJustFebruary $1 days. 


4. Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

Located in Downtoen Cedar Rapids, the Museum of Art provides a dynamic art experience to artists and admirers alike. 

With a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits, there’s always something new to see and learn at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. You can see what’s rotating through and when it will be in town here.

Photo Credit: OPNarchitects

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art offers really amazing events throughout the year as well. Check the calender for fun experiences such as Adult Summer Camp Night, Family Fun Days, and Guided Meditation at the Grant Wood Studio. 

BONUS: Take a trip to a hidden barn to see Grant Wood’s most famous piece painted on the side of a barn. The American Gothic Barn is a quirky, free little side trip for any and all art lovers!

5. NewBo City Market

Located in the New Bohemia District in downtown Cedar Rapids, NewBo City Market is a must-visit location on your Cedar Rapids travels. 

A dark haired man wearing sunglasses hanging from a light pole in front of the large warehouse building labeled NewBo City Market, a perfect part of any Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary
Stop by NewBo Market for local food and start ups!

NewBo City Market showcases unique local food and retail start-ups, farmers markets, and various community events. If the farm-to-table and locally sourced movement interests you, this is one of the best places to visit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

The zero-waste facility hosts educational events in the community garden, concerts on their front lawn park, and numerous camps and culinary classes. NewBo City Market is an accessible gathering space for locals and visitors alike!

NewBo City Market Educational Garden

Fit NewBo City Market into your Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary, you won’t be disappointed! Stop by for lunch or simply to browse the local start-ups between 10 AM and 6 PM on Saturday and 10 AM and 4 PM on Sunday.

6. Snack at Almost Famous Popcorn

This may seem like a silly suggestion, but I promise it’s worth the stop! Pop into Almost Famous Popcorn, right across from NewBo Market, to snag your favorite flavor popcorn and/or some delicious ice cream. 

Ice Cream and Popcorn for days!

Gourmet flavors include sweet, savory, and spiked (yes, bourbon flavored) popcorn. There is a flavor for everyone at Almost Famous. 

This sweet tooth could hardly help herself once she opened the bag of Crunchberry Day Popcorn! Named after the beloved cereal, made just 12 blocks away from the shop, the Crunchberry Day Popcorn smells divine and tastes even better. 

7. Hike Palisades-Kepler State Park

Explore the banks of the Cedar River at palisades-Kepler State Park. Hike, fish, and stay in the 840-acre park located less than 20 minutes from the heart of Cedar Rapids. 

Rocky Overlook of the Cedar River

Hike 5 miles of rugged trails, stopping to explore the rustic, stone overlooks along the way! We hiked the Cedar Cliff Trail which provided us with a bit of elevation gain, beautiful views of the river, and the ability to explore the historic stone CC gazebo.

If you’re more of a water-lover, launch your boat at Palisades-Kepler State Park to explore the river. Enjoy a different view of the bluffs and maybe even catch some channel catfish, bass, and walleye if you’re an angler. 

Go for a hike in Cedar Rapids, Iowa!

You can stay overnight at the park at the campground or in one of four family cabins if that’s more your style. All cabins include or at the campground a shower, restroom, stove top, and refrigerator. You are responsible for providing your own bedding, towels, and cooking supplies.  

The Campground contains electrical hookup, shower and restroom facilities, and a trailer dump. Last-minute planners are in luck as 11 of the 44 sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis! No booking ahead is required.

8. Visit Indian Creek Nature Center

This Amazing Space opened in 2016 as Iowa’s first commercial building to pursue Net Zero Energy certification. As one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings in the country, the building alone is a great reason to visit. 

Visit Indian Creek Nature Center

Learn about all the amazing ways this building integrates human and nature spaces. Here are some of the cool things we learned about Indian Creek Nature Center:

  • The glass in the bird viewing room looks like a spiderweb on the outside to prevent birds from flying into it. 
  • Almost everything in the building was sourced from within 500 miles. Additionally, everything was built by local companies and volunteers! 
  • On-site solar panels produce more than 100 percent of the annual energy Amazing Space needs.
  • Permeable pavers, wetlands, rain gardens and bioswales retain 100 percent of the rainwater on site, which prevents downstream flooding.
  • Its Biophilic design (connecting people with nature) includes a live plant wall, live edge baseboard, and many windows. 
Hiking at Indian Creek Nature Center

Aside from the structure itself, Indian Creek Nature Center is home to over 5 miles of well groomed trails, interactive exhibits (our favorite was the demonstration hive), an outdoor classroom and playscape, and more. Check out their events calender for events such as Yoga in the Prairie, Family Nature Programs, and interesting workshops! 

Luckily, Amazing Space’s trails are open 365 days a year froim dawn to dusk. The center is open 7 days a week from 10AM-4PM between March and October. From November through February, the center is open from 10AM-4PM Wednesday through Saturday. 

9. Attend an Eastern Iowa Observatory Event

The Eastern Iowa Observatory and Learning Center, also known as PALS DOWS, hosts 12 public events a year. Events include a guest speaker followed by celestial viewings through the facility’s telescopes.

Many events are held in person as well as virtually through Zoom! This is a great opportunity for space lovers to learn from one another from wherever they may call home. 

Checking out a globular cluster at PALS DOWS Observatory!

The observatory features a learning center and two additional buildings that house permanently mounted telescopes. During our visit, we were able to view a globular cluster and an emissions nebula through the 1970s-era Celestron classical cassegrain telescope with a 16-inch mirror. The Cedar Ameature Astronomers received this rare telescope as a generous donation by The University of Iowa.

The volunteers’ passion for astronomy is obvious in the pride they have for their facility and the excitement in their voices. Attending a free, public event should be on your Cedar Rapids To Do List! If you can’t make a free event, we suggest driving up to the observatory for a perfect view of the night sky. You may not have access to the facilities, but you can still reap the benefits of a dark sky.

10. Mountain Bike at Beverly Park 

If you’re a mountain biker and traveling with your bike, you have to check out Beverly Park! This very well could be the highlight of your Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary.

An awesome line at Beverly Park, Cedar Rapids

We stumbled upon Beverly Park quite by accident and we are so glad we did. The park features a variety of single track trails, suitable for all riders. 

Mountain Biking in Cedar Rapids Iowa

We road, fast, flowy trails with creative features. There are multiple trail segments marked by skill level and almost all are multi-directional. It is blatantly obvious when they are not. 

11. See A Show at the Paramount

Catch a show at Cedar Rapids’ 1920’s theater. Beautiful inside and out with a great line up of comedians, concerts, theater, and other live events. 

Paramount Theater first opened in 1928. In 1975, the city of Cedar Rapids was gifted the Paramount and thus it underwent it’s first restoration. Thirty years later, it was renovated. 

Unfortunately, the flood of 2008 brought a toxic mix of garbage and flood water into Cedar Rapids, including the Paramount Theater. The theater was restored by late fall of 2012 and you would never know it was ever damaged. 

We were in town for the International Jugglers’ Association festival’s culminating event, the 75 annual Cascade of Stars. Watching these talented performers in such a breathtaking, historical theater was a true treat. We’re so glad we were able to see a show at the Paramount! It was one of the best things we did in Cedar Rapids. 

12. Breweries Cedar Rapids

No city is complete without a great brewery! Luckily, Cedar Rapids has a handful of amazing Breweries for you to try while you’re visiting. There’s always room for a brewery stop on any weekend itinerary!

The perfect little flight at Lion Bridge Brewery, Cedar Rapids
  • Lion Bridge Brewing Company

If you’re looking for creative use of spices, herbs, and fruits, Lion Bridge Brewing needs to be on your list. 

We shared two flights between the two of us to try and taste everything they had on draft at the time! Our favorite was the Crushberry Oops All Fruit. A Kettle Sour that smelled exactly like the cereal and has the perfectly sour fruity taste you’d expect if Crunch Berry cereal became a beer. 

Lions Bridge is also home to tasty shareables and the perfect sandwiches to pair with your unique beer flavors! Stop by when you’re in Czech Village if you’re feeling brave enough to drink some new and innovative flavored brews. 

Chicken Salad Sandwich and a Porter!
  • Iowa Brewing Company

This production brewery in downtown Cedar Rapids is known for their creative special releases! 

Check their website to see what they’re brewing up next. Between the Jinkies IPA series, cookie flavored Porters, and their take on the local favorite cereal, you won’t be disappointed. 

Iowa Brewing Company partners with local food trucks and musicians so locals and visitors can enjoy a snack between beers and live entertainment at their tap room.

Photo Credit: Iowa Brewing
Photo Credit: Iowa Brewing
  • Clock House Brewing

This unique brewery is located in the resurrected 107 year old Clock House building. It shares a space with Black Sheep Social Club, although they are completely different businesses.

The Clock House offers flights, pints, and growlers of the their small batch dark beers, IPAs, lights, and guest ciders. You can check on what they’re brewing up next at the coming soon portion of their menu. 

Clock House Brewing offers a limited appetizer menu that the Black Sheep Social Club’s kitchen will prepare. It’s a great place to grab a beverage and a snack before a tasty dinner at Back Sheep!

Photo Credit: Iowa Beer Baron

13. Cedar Rapids Kernels

Take me out to the ballgame! If you’re a sports fan, check out Cedar Rapids’ Minor League baseball team.

The High A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins play their games at Veterans Memorial Fields. For less than $20, you can watch some decent baseball and eat all the ballpark snacks you want!

Photo Credit: The Gazette

Think of it as dinner and entertainment, a two for one on your Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary.

14. Dragons Lair

The Dragons Lair might not be every adults cup of tea, but for those who are young at heart, this should be on your list.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Indoor Laser tag and escape rooms are the perfect way to spend a rainy day. Dragon’s lair offers a variety of tactical, mission based 90 minute laser tag sessions.

Similarly, there are several different themed escape rooms to choose from including virtual reality escape rooms.

15. Mount Trashmore

Head over to Mount Trashmore to hike or bike the former landfill.

A perfect little bridge along the Stumptown Trail at Mount Trashmore

Use the walking path and/or the gravity fed mountain bike trail to explore this mountain built atop 6 tons of garbage. This former landfill is currently being transitioned into a recreation center.

The viewpoint provides amazing view of the city and a great workout! Check in at the recreation center where there important information about the space, restrooms, water, and bike tools. Then hike a mile on the Stumptown Trail or bike the 5/8 of a mile on the Overlook trail to the 984 foot summit.

Mount Trashmore Trail Map!

It might not be a true mountain, but it sure does boast one of the best views of the city.

Ultimate Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary 

Cedar Rapids would be a great weekend getaway for anyone looking to experience the beauty or somewhere new with a touch of mid-west city chic! 

Spend the Weekend in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with the Perfect Itinerary

Where to Stay in Cedar Rapids

Adventurous folks might choose to spend their Cedar Rapids weekend camping at Palisades-Kepler State Park! Snag a cabin or one of 40+ campsites in the park for an inexpensive accommodation.

If you’re looking for a location that boasts all of the best amenities and close proximity to the city, The Hotel at Kirkwood Center has you covered. This AAA, four star Diamond Hotel is the only luxury teaching hotel of its kind in the nation. It is an amazing place to stay for a weekend in Cedar Rapids.

Our amazing corner room at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center

Day 1 Itinerary: Outdoor Fun in Cedar Rapids

  • Spend the Morning hiking at Palisades-Kepler State Park
  • Grab Lunch at Edith Lucille’s
  • Head over to the Indian Creek Nature Center
  • Grab a drink at Clockhouse Brewing followed by dinner at Black Sheep Social Club
  • See if Eastern Iowa Observatory/PALS DOWS or The Paramount have an evening event! 

Day 2 Itinerary: Explore Downtown Cedar Rapids

  • Make a brunch reservation and schedule a distillery tour at Cedar Ridge 
  • Enjoy the scenery and get some exercise hiking Mount Trashmore
  • Head into Czech Town to explore the Czech and Slovak Museum
    (if this museum doesn’t interest you, look into the African American Museum Iowa and/or the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art)
  • Grab Lunch at Lion Bridge Brewery or see what’s available at NewBo City Market
  • Do some shopping in NewBo and Czech Town
  • Check out Almost Famous Popcorn for a sweet treat
  • Make reservations at the Class Act at Hotel Kirkwood

Places to Eat in Cedar Rapids

The iconic Edith Lucille’s in Cedar Rapids!

Here’s a short list of the best Cedar Rapids Iowa Restaurants:

  1. Black Sheep Social Club
  2. The Map Room
  3. Chedders Scratch Kitchen
  4. Class Act Restaurant
  5. Cobble Hill Restaurant
  6. Crab Attack Cajun Seafood Shack
  7. Edith Lucille’s Bait Shack and Wing Depot
  8. Emil’s Hideaway
  9. Hacienda Las Glorias
  10. LP – Street Food
  11. Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano
  12. Oyama Sushi
Cedar Rapids Weekend Itinerary isn't complete without a delectable dessert at Class Act Restaurant.
Birthday Dessert at The Class Act

Is Cedar Rapids Worth Visiting

Bottom line, Cedar Rapids is absolutely worth visiting. It’s a clean, inclusive city full of incredibly kind people. We loved our stay and had the best Cedar Rapids weekend itinerary; it allowed us to see so much of the city and we hope it helps you experience Iowa’s second largest city as well.

This post was written in collaboration with Cedar Rapids Tourism. If you are interested in working together on a project, check out my Media Kit.

13 of the Best Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The North Dakota Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park are split into three separate units. The North Unit, the South Unit, and the Elkhorn Ranch Unit all have something special to offer visitors. Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Part are plentiful and full of beautiful views!

The North and South units both have short hikes, scenic drives, and campgrounds to explore. Let’s talk about the best hiking trails in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Top Hikes in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park  

The North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park is my favorite. There are significantly fewer people in the North Unit than in the South and more substantial trail options. 

Buckhorn Trail

Distance: 10.8 Miles

Elevation Gain: 1,033 Feet

One of the longer day-hikes in the park, the Buckhorn Trail is a great way to experience the landscape of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s also the best hike for you if you want to reach one of the highest accessible points in Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit. 

Views form the High Point on the Buckhorn Trail, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Hike the sage-filed flats, and open prairies, and climb to the plateau plains for amazing views where the great plains meet the badlands. 

Be prepared for Bison near the Prairie Dog Town. Don’t be afraid to reroute to keep a safe distance from the Bison! Always enjoy wildlife from a safe distance.

This hike is very exposed and the summer months are HOT. Be sure to pack enough water for the full distance. Sun protection in the form of a hat, long sleeves, and sunscreen are also necessary! 

Caprock Coulee Nature Trail

Distance: 1.6  Miles

Elevation Gain:

This .8 mile out and back is perfect for families with young children. It’s relatively flat, includes interesting rock formations, and it’s informational! 

Photo Credit: Earth Trekkers

Stop at the numbered points along the way to learn more about the area’s geological variety. Match the numbered points to the corresponding text on the National Park Webpage.

Caprock Coulee Loop

Distance: 4.4  Miles

Elevation Gain: 583 Feet

 Often described as one of the best hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, the Caprock Coulee Loop is popular! 

The coolest part of the Caprock Coulee Loop Trail is that it shows you the natural and geographical variety of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s one of the few trails that gets you up close and personal with the densely wooded area of the park.

A portion of the trail does provide shade, however, the majority of this trail is exposed. It’s essential that you prepare for sun exposure by wearing sunscreen, a hat, long sleeves, and/or pants. 

Oxbow Overlook

Distance: .2 Miles

Elevation Gain: 6 Feet

At the very end of Scenic Loop Drive, you’ll stumble across Oxbow Overlook. Definitely park your car and take a look! You won’t be disappointed.

Oxbow Falls Overlook at the end of the road

The ‘trail’ is truly more of a stroll to the overlook, however, it’s one of the best views in the park and should absolutely not be missed. If you’re looking for a good hike from this point, check out Sperati Point below. 

Sperati Point

Distance: 2.4 Miles

Elevation Gain: 269 Feet

Sperati Point is the perfect length and location for sunset. At the very end of the scenic loop drive, you’ll notice a few trails from Oxbow Overlook. 

Reach Sperati Point via the Achenbach Trail and enjoy scenic views of the Little Missouri River. This is hands down one of the best views in the park. 

The sunset on Sperati Point Trail, Theodore Roosevelt National Park

It seems like a no-brainer to hike through mostly flat prairie grasslands to one of the highest points in the North Unit. This makes Sperati Point one of the best hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 

Maah Daah Hey Trail

Distance: 144 Miles

Elevation Gain: 15,141 Feet

This rugged trail stretches through the back country Badlands of North Dakota. The trail’s Northern Terminus can be found in the CCC campground just outside the North Unit Entrance. The Southern Terminus is 30 miles south of Medora at the Burning Coal Vein Campground. 

Hike, bike, or ride (horseback), the Maah Daah Hey Trail

One of the coolest parts of this trail is that it’s open to hiking, biking, and horseback riding. We rode straight from our campsite at the CCC a few miles down the trail at sunset one evening and it was breathtaking. Be aware of free-range cattle! You will come across them on your hike/bike/ride. 

The Maah Daah Hey Trail might not be a Theodore Roosevelt trail, but it is a great option for thru-hikers, mountain bikers, and anyone looking to escape the crowds. 

Best Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit

The South Unit of the park is just outside the only incorporated place in Billings County, Medora. Medora is the gateway to the South Unit and home to the  North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame; it’s a great little town to explore when visiting Teddy Roosevelt’s, the 26th president’s, National Park. 

Boicourt Overlook Trail

Distance: .8 Miles

Elevation Gain: 62 Feet

Boicourt Overlook trail is a beautiful, easy, and accessible trail for all visitors. The trail is smooth and paved and includes benches for anyone needed a rest or a comfortable viewing point. 

At the end of the trail, there’s a dirt path that takes you out to 360-degree views. This path is not for the faint of heart as it is narrow with steep drop-offs on each side, however, it provides absolutely breathtaking views.

This is a must-do when you visit the South Unit of the Park. 

Buck Hill

Distance: .4 Miles

Elevation Gain: 55 Feet

Buck Hill is a short hike with incredible views. This steep but short hike trail brings you to one of the highest points in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 

Buck Hill is the Highest Hikeable Point in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Buck Hill is a popular hike that provides stunning views. Although it may not seem it, it is the highest point in the park and the comparative flatness of the surrounding area provides breathtaking views. 

It’s important to note that Buck Hill may seem like an easy hike, however, hikers should wear proper footwear as there are uneven surfaces and rattlesnakes on the trail. It’s one of the best hikes in Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit.  

Coal Vein Trail

Distance: .6 Miles

Elevation Gain: 16 Feet

A simple, flyer-guided nature trail that tells the 60-million-year geologic story of the Badlands.

When you first begin the trail, stay left and follow the posts in number order. As you make your way around the loop you’ll learn about the constantly changing landscape.

We found the underground coal vein to be incredibly interesting to learn about. When it collapsed in 1951 collapsed, it caught fire and burned for 26 years! You’ll have to hike the trail to learn more about the Coal Vein and the surrounding area. 

Painted Canyon Trail

Distance: 1.1 Miles

Elevation Gain: 262 Feet

For many visitors, Painted Canyon is a dramatic introduction to the badlands of North Dakota. The vivid layers of the canyon make it one of the most visited in the park. 

Photo Credit: Emerging Horizons

The Painted Canyon Nature Trail is one of the most popular in the park. This moderate 1-mile loop will bring you down into the canyon through juniper and wildflowers providing a massive payoff for a little hike! 

Petrified Forest Loop Trail

Distance: 10.2 Miles

Elevation Gain: 833 Feet

Explore the third highest concentration of petrified wood in the whole United States on this trail. Take a step back into the park’s past, a time when massive trees stood in place of the buttes and prairies. 

Photo Credit: Earth Trekkers

Located in the remote northwest corner of the South Unit, this hike’s trailhead is not accessible by the main entrance. This is a long loop, but it can also be done as an out and back in either direction. From the parking area, both sections of petrified wood are 1.5 miles from the parking area. If that’s all you want to see, you can make your hike short and sweet! 

It’s important to note that removing any resource from a National Park is illegal.  

Ridgeline Nature Trail

Distance: .7 Mile

Elevation Gain: 111 Feet

The Ridgeline is a guided nature trail where you’ll follow numbered posts through North Dakota’s natural landscape.  

Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

This beautiful trail with varied terrain is the perfect place to learn more about the northern great plains. It’s also a great trail for wildlife viewing; wild horses, bison, or mule deer. 

Wind Canyon Trail

Distance: .5 Miles

Elevation Gain: 55 Feet

The Wind Canyon Trail provides one of the most dramatic views in the park. The very short trail travels along the eroded cliffs of the Little Missouri River.

Photo Credit: National Park Service

This family-friendly, relatively flat trail is the perfect place to watch a gorgeous badlands sunset. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Should I Stay When Visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

The North Unit of the Park is closest to Watford City. Little Missouri Inn & Suites and The Watford are your best options. 

If you want to camp inside the park, Juniper Campground is your only option. The CCC campground is located just south of the North Unit’s Entrance. Both Campgrounds are great options, however, the CCC provides better views for less money. 

In the South Unit of the park, you have a few more options. The town of Medora is home to the AmericInn by Wyndham, the Rough Riders Hotel, and Elkhorn Quarters.

You can also camp inside the park at Cottonwood Campground. Sully Creek State Park is a great option 10 minutes south of the park. The Scoria Pit in Little Missouri National Grasslands is a great place to camp (BONUS POINTS: it’s free).  

How Far is Theodore Roosevelt’s North Unit from the South Unit?

The North Unit and South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park are about 70 miles from one another. It takes less than an hour to drive from one park entrance to another. 

Interestingly enough, both units of the park are in different time zones. The North operates in Central Time and the South Unit in Mountain time.

Where’s the Best Place to See Wild Horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

Believe it or not, the best place to see wild horses in the park is right along the scenic road in the south unit. Horses can also be seen from a distance along the park boundary on 94 and from high points throughout the park as well.  

Photo Credit: Reddit

Best Things to Do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

  • Check Out Peaceful Valley Ranch
    Peaceful Valley Ranch is the only original ranch house remaining in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. As one of the oldest dude ranches in the state, it’s served may roles, Most recently a popular place for guided horseback rides. 
  • Hike in Theodore Roosevelt
    Check out one of the many hikes the park has to offer! Everything from short and sweet with stunning views to long hauls through the gorgeous terrain of the north Badlands.
  • Painted Canyon Visitor Center
    This Visitor Center offers a bit of everything. Panoramic views of the Canyon, wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking trail heads, and the typical visitor center offerings. An information desk, educational displays, a gift shop, restrooms, and more are available.
  • South Unit Visitor Center
    Check-in with Park Rangers to help answer questions, plan trips, and issue back country permits. Walk outside to take a self-guided tour of the Maltese Cross Cabin and/or check out the book store for national park goodies! 
  • Visit Maltese Cross Cabin
    The Maltese Cross Cabin can be found at the visitor center at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Explore Teddy Roosevelt’s first cabin in the Dakota territory and enjoy a first hand, authentic look into his life in the Badlands. 

What Wildlife Will I See In Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

  • Bison
  • Elk
  • Feral Horses
  • Prairie Dog
  • Pronghorn
  • Mule Deer
  • Rattlesnakes
  • Various Bird Species

What Is There to do at the Elkhorn Ranch Unit?

The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is located about 25 Miles North of Interstate 94. It can only be reached via gravel roads, making it the most secluded part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

There are no visitors center, facilities, or scenic roads. You can visit Theodore Roosevelt’s Cabin’s remains (just the foundation) and feel the sense of peace and solace he felt there. There are exhibits present for you to learn more about Roosevelt and his time in the cabin. 

Things to Do in The Dakotas

Believe it or not, North and South Dakota have some amazing places to visit. Head into South Dakota for a number of amazing sights. Here’s a few of our favorites!

Don’t count these two states out on your next road trip! There’s so much to do and such beautiful places to see.

25 Best Places to Stay at Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is massive. At over 2 million acres, knowing where to stay at Yellowstone can be difficult. The best areas to stay in depend largely on what sights you’re trying to see during your time in Yellowstone. I’ll share the best hotels and lodging based on location and top attractions in this post. 

Where to Stay at Yellowstone National Park

View of Canary Spring in Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone

The best places to stay in Yellowstone depends on what you want to see while you’re visiting. Your stay at Yellowstone depends on what you want to see while you’re visiting and how much you’re willing to drive. Your preferred style of accommodation might be a limiting factor. The willingness to camp will open up many opportunities!

If camping isn’t on your list there are a number of historic hotels and lodging options that will help add to your unique experience in the park. 

Mammoth Hot Springs Accommodations

Stay in this area if you want to experience Mammoth Hot Springs, swimming in the Boiling River, and the historic Fort Yellowstone. 

Closest to the North Entrance and the town of Gardiner, Mammoth Hot Springs offers several accommodation options. 

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel: Photo Credit
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
    Open to visitors for summer and winter Yellowstone vacations, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is a 10-minute walk from Mammoth Hot Springs and features a historic map room. The hotel’s signature map room contains a large map of the United States made of over 15 types of wood from 9 different countries. 
Enjoying Breakfast with a View in Mammoth Hot Springs
  • Mammoth Campground
    Mammoth is the only campground in the park that is open year round! Located just 5 miles south of the park’s North Entrance, Mammoth Campground is home to 85 sites, a small shower shack, and has flush toilets and fresh water. 
Indian Creek Campground: Photo Credit
  • Indian Creek Campground
    This campground is located about 8 miles south of Mammoth heading toward Norris. It sits at the base of the Gallatin Mountains and provides stunning views of Electric Peak. It’s the perfect campground for a quieter, more primitive experience as there are only vault toilets and potable water stations. 
Canyon Campground – 1648 US-89, Emigrant, MT 59027
  • Gardiner Accommodations
    As the closest town to the North Entrance of Yellowstone, Gardiner is a popular town for tourists who want to experience Yellowstone and stay in hotel rooms instead of tents. Some of the best hotels and lodging include Yellowstone Riverside Cottages, Park Hotel Yellowstone, and the Yellowstone Basin Inn. 

Madison Area Accommodations

Take a spin down Firehole Drive to see an area of the park *most* tourists miss!

Madison is located between Norris Geyser Basin and the Upper and Mid Geyser Basins. Both basins are home to famous geothermal features such as Steamboat Geyser, Old Faithful, and Grand Prismatic. It’s a nice, low-key spot to spend the night that puts you in good positioning for some of the park’s busiest attractions. 

Madison is located just inside the West Entrance. Nearby towns include West Yellowstone, which is 1 mile from the Entrance, and Big Sky, Montana at 51 miles away.

 

A Perfect Campsite at Madison Campground in Yellowstone
  • Madison Campground
    As one of the largest campgrounds in the park, this is a place you’re most likely to find available campsites during a last-minute stay. The campsites are spacious and offer toilets, potable water, and ice and firewood for sale seasonally.  
Norris Campground: Photo Credit
  • Norris Campground
    A popular campground due to its location next to a large meadow. This makes it perfect for wildlife viewing! Additionally, the Museum of the National Park Ranger and the Norris Geyser Basin is only a quick walk from the campground. 
Town of West Yellowstone: Photo Credit
  • The Town of West Yellowstone Accommodations
    The heart of West Yellowstone is located just three minutes from the West Yellowstone Park Entrance. This makes the town a popular destination for visitors looking to stay at Yellowstone.

    Some of the best hotels and lodging with a hot tub include Three Bear Lodge and the Explorer Cabins at Yellowstone. In addition, the best budget option in the area is the Super 8 by Wyndham, however, it’s located just outside of West Yellowstone. 

Lodging Near Old Faithful

a male and female couple stand in front of a smoking pool of deep blue and orange water
Solitary Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, A short hike from Old Faithful

The Old Faithful area is home to a number of popular attractions including Old Faithful Geyser herself! Aside from the Old Faithful geyser, 150 additional geothermal features call this area of the park home. This portion of the park has the world’s largest single concentration of hot springs. This makes it a popular destination for park visitors. 

This area of the park is closest to the West Entrance. It is, however, one of the most popular areas of the park! This means that people will travel from any of Yellowstone’s 5 entrances to see Old Faithful and friends.

Old Faithful Inn: Photo Credit
  • Old Faithful Inn
    This National Historic Landmark is the most requested lodging facility in the park. It was built in 1904 with local logs and stone, making it the largest log structure in the world. Whether you stay here or not, you should visit the towering lobby which features an incredibly stone fireplace and a hand-crafted clock made of copper, wood, and wrought iron. 
Old Faithful Snow Lodge: Photo Credit
  • Old Faithful Snow Lodge
    The Snow Lodge is the newest addition to Yellowstone’s full-service hotels and lodging. It’s one of the few locations open in winter, however, you’ll need over-snow transportation to reach it! 
Old Faithful Lodge Cabins: Photo Credit
  • Old Faithful Lodge Cabins
    Old Faithful Lodge has a bit of a misleading name. The lodge provides dining, social, and registration services to those who are accommodated in the detached cabins surrounding the lodge. Budget travelers might opt for the Cabins without baths to save some money; the cabins include a sink but toilets and showers are shared in a nearby bathhouse. Frontier Cabins include a small, but full bathroom.  

Grant Village Accommodations

Black Pool, the crystal clear blue hot spring in West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake

Stay in this area to experience Yellowstone Lake! West Thumb Geyser Basin is home to a number of lakeside geysers and other geothermal activities.

 

Grant Village is closest to the South and East entrances of the park. Many guests travel up from Jackson Hole from Grand Tetons National Park through the South Entrance of Yellowstone.

Grant Village Campground, Yellowstone
  • Grant Village Campground
    Grant Village Campground is one of the largest in the park. Located just off the Grand Loop Road on the south end of Yellowstone Lake this campground is located near stores, a restaurant, a gas station, a visitor center, and a boat ramp.
Grant Village Deluxe Lodge: Photo Credit
  • Grant Village Deluxe Lodge Rooms
    Grant Village is home to six 2-story buildings featuring 50 rooms each. The deluxe rooms feature 2 Double beds or 1 Queen bed, and either a full bathroom or bathroom with shower only (no bath tub!). Upper floor rooms are accessible by stairs only.
The primitive, beautiful Lewis Lake Campground in Yellowstone
  • Lewis Lake Campground
    This first comer first served campground is one of the last to fill in Yellowstone National Park. Its secluded, wooded campsites are where to stay at Yellowstone for anyone seeing privacy and/or close proximity to Grand Teton National Park as well. 

Fishing Bridge Area Accommodations

Storm Point, Yellowstone Lake near Fishing Bridge

Fishing Bridge rests on the Northern shores of Yellowstone Lake. It puts you in a great position to explore Hayden Valley, one of the top animal viewing areas in the park. It’s also home to an amazingly diverse area of the park with access to numerous trails, water activities, and facilities. 

The following places are best locations to stay near the East Entrance of Yellowstone. The East side of the park is home to many beautiful hiking trails, boating opportunities, and great fishing. 

Bridge Bay Campground: Photo Credit
  • Bridge Bay Campground
    Located along the northwest shores of Yellowstone Lake, one of the largest, high-elevation, fresh-water lakes in North America, camping here is a treat. Campers at Bridge Bay will enjoy spectacular views of the lake and the Absaroka Range rising above the lake’s eastern shore.
Lake Lodge, Yellowstone: Photo Credit
  • Lake Lodge Cabins
    Lake Lodge features a main lodge with gorgeous views of Yellowstone Lake, a grand fireplace, and Wylie’s Canteen, an american eatery within the lodge. There are 186 cabins behind the lodge.

    The Western Cabins are more spacious featuring 2 Queen beds, a shared porch, and a full bathroom. The Frontier Cabins, although newly renovated, are more simple. The Pioneer Cabins are historic and rustic.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel: Photo Credit
  • Lake Yellowstone Hotel
    Choose from a variety of room styles, none of which feature a television or air conditioning, in this casually elegant National Historic Landmark. One of the best parts of the Lake Yellowstone Hotel is the musical entertainment. A string quartet welcomes guests in the newly renovated sun room and a pianist will play well into the summer evening. 
Fishing Bridge RV Park: Photo Credit
  • Fishing Bridge RV Park
    This RV-only campground is nestled along the Yellowstone river where it leaves the lake heading towards the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It’s the only campground in Yellowstone to offer water, sewer, and electrical hookups. It’s an RV-only campground because grizzly bears frequent the area, thus only hard-sided RVs are allowed.
Three Mile Campground: Photo Credit
  • Surrounding National Forest Area
    Just outside Yellowstone’s east entrance, there are a few accommodations available. Threemile Campground, Eagle Creek Campground, and Newton Campground are all first come first serve hard sided RV sites within 45 minutes of the park entrance. There are a number of lodges and cabin-style accommodations along N Fork Highway as well.  

Canyon Village Lodge, Cabins, & Camping

The beautiful Yellowstone Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

You’re going to want to stay at Canyon Village to experience Yellowstone Falls and the North and South Rim. It’s also the most central location for visiting other areas of the park. 

Canyon Village is about halfway between Fishing Bridge and Tower Fall. Approximately halfway between the East Entrance and the North East Entrance. 

Canyon Campground views from the tent…
  • Canyon Campground
    Camp among the lodgepole pines on the edge of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. The campground sits just south of the Washburn range and a minute’s drive from the breathtaking Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Canyon Village is home to a number of stores, restaurants, a visitor center, and additional lodging opportunities. 
Canyon Lodge and Cabins: Photo Credit
  • Canyon Lodge and Cabins
    This sprawling facility offers the most lodging of any Yellowstone accommodation with over 500 rooms and cabins. Canyon Lodge is actually made up of 5 LEED certified lodges. The Dunraven Lodge, the Washburn Lodge, the Moran Lodge, the Rhyolite Lodge, the Cascade Lodge, and the recently renovated Western Cabins make up the Canyon Lodge area. 

Places to Stay Near Roosevelt and Tower Fall

Lamar Valley Animal Sightings!

Roosevelt is the closest area to Lamar Valley, the prime wildlife viewing area of the park. You will want to stay here to get a head start on early morning animal sights and sounds. Listen to the howling of wolves, get caught in a Bison jam, and even spot a bear if you’re lucky! 

Roosevelt and Tower Falls are the areas of the park closest to the Northeast Entrance. They are, however, not too far from the North entrance of the park.

Pebble Creek Campground: Photo Credit
  • Pebble Creek Campground
    Pebble Creek offers a more isolated camping experience among the Absaroka Mountains. This is a reservable campground with only 27 sites. It’s proximity to Lamar Valley makes it a hot spot for visitors looking to experience wildlife! 
Tower Fall Campground: Photo Credit
  • Tower Fall Campground
    Reserve a site at Tower Fall Campground to sleep on the north side of the steep, winding road to Dunraven Pass. This campground is located nearby a general store, many hiking trails, and a short drive from Lamar Valley. 
Roosevelt Lodge: Photo Credit
  • Roosevelt Lodge  
    The Roosevelt Lodge Cabins are set near a campsite once used by president Theodore Roosevelt. These rustic cabins, built in 1920, are the perfect home base for families looking to explore Yellowstone. The Roosevelt Lodge corral operation offers horseback trail rides, stagecoach adventures, and, the very popular, Old West Dinner Cookout. 
Slough Creek Campground: Photo Credit
  • Slough Creek Campground
    Located at the end of a 2-mile dirt road, Slough Creek is located near some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the park. There are only 16 sites at this quaint campground so it’s imperative that you book early if this is where you want to stay. 
Cooke City, Montana: Photo Credit
  • Cooke City
    Cooke City, Montana is located just outside the north east side of the park. It’s only a few minutes from the Northeast entrance station and offers a few different accommodations. Soda Butte Campground and Colter Campground are available to anyone looking to overnight with a hard sided camper. Big Moose Resort offers and Antlers Lodge each offer rural lodging with wifi and small-town, home-owned vibes. 

Yellowstone Backcountry Campsites

Reserved for the experienced outdoor enthusiast, Yellowstone is home to 293 maintained backcountry campsites. It’s a sure-fire way to avoid crowds and experience a stay at Yellowstone in its most wild form

Backcountry permits are required all year round. You can reserve a Yellowstone Natioanal Park Backcountry permit at the recreation.gov website.

Yellowstone Accommodation Frequently Asked Questions

Where to Stay at Yellowstone in Winter

There are nine facilities and twelve developed campgrounds in Yellowstone, but only three of them are available for winter adventures.

  • The Old Faithful Snow Lodge & Cabins
  • Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel
  • Mammoth Campground

First Come, First Served Yellowstone Campgrounds

As of 2022, all camping in Yellowstone National Park is reservable. It is possible to snag a last minute site if you arrive early and are lucky enough to snag a site that someone didn’t show up for and/or checked out early from. 

Where Did President Theodore Roosevelt Stay in Yellowstone?

On Theodore Roosevelt’s first two-week Yellowstone adventure, he began his stay at Yellowstone at Fort Yellowstone. This is present-day Mammoth; you can complete a self-guided walking tour of Fort Yellowstone when you visit. 

The president spent the remained of his time camping and exploring the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Slough Creek regions of the park. President Roosevelt used to frequent a campsite where the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins stand today. 

How Do I Book Yellowstone Accommodations Last Minute?

My best suggestion for any individuals looking for last minute accommodations is to call Xanterra. Call every single day leading up to your trip! 

You have to be willing to camp and be willing to move campgrounds throughout your stay. On our 2021 trip to Yellowstone, we called Xanterra two days before we planned on arriving to the park. With a little help from an Xanterra agent, we had 5 nights in Yellowstone booked in less than 15 minutes! 

Don’t be afraid to stay in the surrounding National Forest campground the night before you enter Yellowstone!

Where are there Laundry Facilities in Yellowstone?

Laundry facilities are located at Lake Lodge,Old Faithful Snow Lodge, and in the camper services buildings at Grant and Canyon campgrounds and Fishing Bridge RV Park. Laundry facilities can be utilized by both camping and lodging guests at any location.

Which Yellowstone Campgrounds are Open?

In the summer months, nearly all of Yellowstone’s Campgrounds are open. Specific opening dates and/or long-term closures depends on the campground. Here are the 2022 Yellowstone Campground opening dates!

  • Bridge Bay: Open, closes Sept. 5.
  • Canyon: Opens May 27, closes Sept. 18.
  • Fishing Bridge RV Park: Open, closes Oct. 9.
  • Grant Village: Opens June 3, closes Sept. 11.
  • Indian Creek: Opens June 10, closes Sept. 11.
  • Lewis Lake: Opens June 15, closes Oct. 14.
  • Madison: Closes Oct. 16.
  • Mammoth: Open year round.
  • Norris: Closed all 2022
  • Pebble Creek: Opens June 15, closes Sept. 25.
  • Slough Creek: Opens June 15, closes Oct. 12.
  • Tower Fall: Opening TBA.
A Bison rests among the tall grasses in Yellowstone National Park

Where to Stay at Yellowstone for…

Animal Viewing: 

Slough Creek Campground

A Central Location in the park: 

Canyon Village

A Last Minute Campsite: 

Lewis Lake Campground 

Historic Architecture: 

Old Faithful Inn

Horseback Riding: 

Roosevelt Lodge

Boating and Paddling: 

Bridge Bay Campground

Sunset Views of Lewis Lake Yellowstone

Stay at Yellowstone and Avoid the Crowds

Yellowstone is one of the USA’s most popular National Parks. This means the park is crowded throughout the busy summer season. Here are three ways you can avoid Yellowstone’s crowds.

  1. Try to visit during the winter or shoulder season. Mid-September through Late April is considered Yellowstone’s Off Season
  2. Make it a habit to get an early start! It’s easy to avoid the crowds if you wake up long before the majority of the park’s guests.
  3. Snag an inside-the-park accommodation! This puts you up close and personal with everything Yellowstone has to offer and cuts travel time

Check out our full list of 10 Easy Ways to Avoid Yellowstone’s Crowds if you’re visiting the park in the near future!

We truly suggest that you stay inside the world’s first National Park if you have the opportunity to. You won’t be disappointed by the quick access it provides to so many of the park’s beautiful sights. Most park lodging is closed by early October, so book as soon as possible for your upcoming Yellowstone Trip.

Best Entrance to Badlands National Park: Unique Things to Do

Badlands National Park is home to a variety of short hikes, scenic overlooks, and overnight accommodations. Knowing which entrance to Badlands National Park is best will help you to plan your trip and all the unique things you can do here!

Badlands National Park Views

Best Entrance to Badlands National Park

There are four separate entrances to Badlands National Park. The Northeast Entrance, Interior Entrance, Pinnacle Entrance, and the White River Entrance. Use the information provided to choose which entrance is best for your adventure based on which attractions are closest to it.

Badlands National Park Northeast Entrance 

The Northeast Entrance is easily accessed from I-90 and close to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. The Northeast Entrance is closest to a variety of very popular hikes and viewpoints. 

Big Badlands Overlook

Shortly after entering the park you’ll come across Big Badlands Overlook. Big Badlands Overlook provides the opportunity to view the eastern portion of the Badlands wall.

Image Credit: earth.google.com

Castle Trail

The Castle Trail is the longest maintained trail in Badlands National Park. It stretches 5.4 miles along the north edge of the Badland Wall. If you would enjoy weaving through a maze of spires, buttes, sod tables, and fins along an open prairie, this is the trail for you!

Door Trail

The Door Trail is an accessible .25 mile boardwalk that leads through a break in the Badlands Wall to a view of the Badlands. This break in the wall, known as “the Door”, allows visitors to walk through the natural passageway via a viewing platform. This easy hike introduced visitors to the rugged world that is the Badlands. 

Image Credit: Hikespeak.com

Notch Trail

The Notch Trail is one of the park’s most popular hikes for good reason! It’s short and manageable but full of excitement. An easy-to-follow trail will bring you to a long rope and wood ladder. Climb the ladder and continue along the trail until you reach the notch overlook. 

When you reach the north you’ll find yourself looking out over the badlands regions, the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail, and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. 

Notch Trail Ladder Photo Credit: The Inner Frame

Window Trail

Take a short .3 mile walk to a break in the Badlands Wall. This view extends far beyond the parks eastern boundary. This easy hike takes place on an accessible wooden boardwalk. 

Badlands National Park Interior Entrance

Known as the main entrance to the park, the Interior Entrance is closest to the Cedar Pass Lodge and Ben Reifel Visitor Center. 

Ben Reifel Visitor Center

The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is the Badlands’ main facility in the North section of the park. You can spend 15 -60 minutes talking with rangers, exploring the museum exhibits and Fossil Preparation Lab, or shopping in the gift shop. From learning to purchasing, there’s truly something for everyone at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.  

Fossil Lab at Ben Reifel Visitor Center

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail

A quick .5 mile loop with views across the great plains. Travel through a juniper forest along the Badlands Wall to the stairs that will lead you to the cliff shelf viewing area.

Check out the Notch from a new angle and enjoy far reaching views over prairie grasses in the White River Valley to the South. 

Photo Credit: Our Wander-filled Life

Cedar Pass Campground

Cedar Pass Campground is one of two developed campgrounds in Badlands National Park. Enjoy stunning sunsets, dark night skies, and beautiful sunrises from one of 96 scenic campsites.  

Campsites are walking distance from bathrooms and pay showers. Additionally, the campground is conveniently located near the amphitheater for night programs and the Cedar Pass Restaurant. Single campsites are available for reservation April through October, with the four group sites staying available all year round. 

Photo Credit: Flashpacking America

Cedar Pass Lodge

Pines cabins with breathtaking views of the Badlands. Cedar Pass Lodge provides eco-friendly cabins built to Gold Level LEED standards. Cabins are equipped with all the creature-comforts; heat and air conditioning, television, Mini Fridge and Microwave, and Coffee Makers are available for all guests. 

Photo Credit: Travel South Dakota

Fossil Exhibit Trail

The Fossil Exhibit Trail is a .4 mile accessible loop that focuses on education. Learn about the geology of the Badlands on a self-guided walk. The self-guided tour features fossil replicas and exhibits or extinct creatures that one lived when you stand! The exhibits are interesting and tactile, so please feel free to touch as you go.

This short trail will take you less than 10 minutes to complete. It’s perfect for both adults and children looking to learn more about the area they are exploring. 

Saddle Pass Trail

At a short and sweet .7 miles out and back, this trail is deceivingly tough. It may be less than a mile round trip, but it’s one of the steepest climbs in the park at about 300 feet of elevation gain in .35 miles.

On this trail, you’ll climb from the road up the Badlands wall to a stunning birds-eye-view of the White River Valley. 

This is my personal favorite and hands down, the coolest, trail in Badlands National Park. This trail will lead you over a bridge and up the crumbling rock formations from Badlands Loop Road to one of the highest points in the park! This trail also connects with the Castle Trail and the Medicine Roots Trail; we took the Medicine Root to Castle Trail loop from the Saddle Pass Trail. 

The Saddle Pass Trail is one of the highest accessible points in Badlands National Park!

White River Overlook

The White River Overlook provides an expansive view of the White River Badlands. This area gets its name due to the white sediment carried and deposited by erosion. You’ll notice rock formations known as the Castle to the West and views of the White River Valley to the South.  

One of Badlands’ Most Beautiful Overlooks

Badlands National Park Pinnacle Entrance

Accessed from the town of Wall, the Pinnacles Entrance provides access to the Sage Creek Area of the park.

Ancient Hunters Overlook

This geological slump provides a wet area in the otherwise dry landscape. THe Ancient Hunters Overlook provides visitors with the opportunity to observe an archaeological site at Badlands National Park. Evidence, such as bison bones and arrowheads, suggest this space may have been an ancient butchering location. 

Badlands Wilderness Overlook

Badlands Wilderness Overlook shows where the eroded rock formations transition into prairie lands. This is an area where Bison can often be found. It’s important to remember that these animals are not afraid of the road, vehicles, or people and they are dangerous. 

Take a Walk towards the Badlands Wilderness

Burns Basin Overlook

A welcoming overlook complete with boardwalk and bench! Named after the homestead of Wilson Burn, this basin was used to raise sheep in the early 20th century.

 

Photo Credit: NPS

Hay Butte Overlook

The Hay Butte Overlook displays a massive, grass-capped butte called – can you guess it? – Hay Butte. This is one of the major landmarks of the Sage Creek Wilderness Area. Bison and Bighorn Sheep are known to frequent this area! 

Homestead Overlook

This overlook displays and area where homesteading in the Badlands took place. When the Homesteading Act Laws were issued in te 1860s, many U.S. citizens took this opportunity to head West and do their best. In the harsh conditions of the Badlands, homesteading was not an easy task. 

Image Credit: Duncan.co

Pinnacles Overlook

Pinnacles Overlooks shows off the vastness of the Sage Creek Wilderness. On a clear day, visitors can see the Black Hills in the Distance. This overlook is a popular spot for Big Horn Sheep and is used as a lambing area. Visit this spot in Late April and Early May for a chance to see lambs traversing the steep, rocky slopes of the Badlands. 

Photo Credit: morethanjustparks.com

Roberts Prairie Dog Town

Have you ever seen a prairie dog? If the answer is no, you must stop here. Roberts Prairie Dog Town is the largest accessible viewing area in the park. Listen to the high-pitched squeaks and watch their puppy-like behavior from afar. 

Yellow Mounds Overlook

Yellow Mounds Overlook has some of the most beautiful colors and textures in Badlands National Park. The mounds were formed when the sea drained, leaving the mud exposed to air to solidify into fossil rock. This is a beautiful spot to catch a sunset in the park; golden hour really makes these colors light up! 

Photo Credit: Google Earth

Badlands National Park White River Entrance 

The White River entrance is the only entrance to the South Unit and the White River Visitor Center. 

White River Visitor Center

The White River Visitor Center is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation and offers visitors exhibits, restrooms, water, and an information desk with informative park rangers! Stop by to grab a map and learn about the Badlands and treaties in Lakota heritage. 

Photo Credit: NPS

Sheep Mountain Table

Sheep Mountain Table is a gorgeous lookout in South Unit of Badlands National Park. A dirt, 4-wheel drive road travels 5 miles into the Badlands wilderness to scenic overlook. For individuals who do not have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, hiking or mountain biking the road is an option! Traveling Sheep Mountain road in or just after a storm is not recommended. 

Image Credit: NPS

Badlands National Park FAQs

Where Should I Stay When I Visit the Badlands?

Free Camping: Buffalo Gap National Grassland or Sage Creek Campground in the Park

Camping: Cedar Pass Campground 

Hotel: Badlands Frontier Cabins and Best Western Plains Motel  in Wall and Badlands Motel and Campground in Interior & Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast in Interior. 

Free Camping at Buffalo Gap National Grass Lands

How Many Days Do I Need in Badlands National Park?

If you’re efficient, one full day in Badlands National Park should allow you to hit all the popular trails and overlooks. If you like to take your time or you’re traveling with young children I would suggest two days in the park. 

How Would You Spend One Day in the Badlands?

Sunrise Hike: Wake Up Early to hike the Window or Door Trail for sunrise. Not only is the overlook east facing, but you’ll avoid the crowds at this popular hike by arriving in the early AM.

Hike: Head over from your sunrise hike to the Notch Trail (same parking lot) to experience this cool trail before the crowds make it less enjoyable. 

Ben Reifel Visitor Center: Check out the visitor center! Watch the film, learn what to do if you find a fossil, and purchase your Badlands National Park Gear. 

Lunch Break: Eat lunch at the Conata Picnic Area and check out the Pig Dig Site. 

Saddle Pass Trail: Hike this gorgeous trail with some serious elevation gain right off the bat for amazing views of the Badlands!

Roberts Prairie Dog Town: If you’ve never seen prairie dogs before, take a trip to Roberts Prairie Dog Town! It’s likely for you to see bison and bighorn sheep during your time in the park. We drove by around sunset and the pups were out and about in full force!

Overlooks: There are so many overlooks in the Badlands and honestly, they all have very similar views. That’s not to say you shouldn’t check them out and explore the surrounding area though. Bring a few camp chairs and beverages to enjoy the sunset at an overlook of choice!

Can I Find A Fossil in Badlands National Park?

Finding a fossil while you’re exploring the Badlands is actually quite likely! You’re most likely to find a fossil in the Badlands after heavy rain. If you do find a fossil, you should report it to the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center has all the information you need on what to do if you think you’ve found a fossil! The best time to find fossils in the Badlands is right after it rains. 

Where is the Closest Airport to the Badlands?

Rapid City Regional Airport is closest to the Badlands. 

What Native Land is Badlands National Park on?

The South Unit of Badlands National Park includes land on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This land is owned by the Oglala Sioux Tribe and managed by the National Park Service under an agreement with the Tribe.

The Lakota people gave the Badlands its name. They dubbed the region the ‘mako sica’ or ‘bad lands’ because of its unforgiving terrain and lack of water. The Lakota consider the whole Black Hills region a sacred place, this includes the lands of Badlands National Park.

Photo Credit: blackhillsbadlands.com

What Else Can I Do In South Dakota?

If you’re heading out on a South Dakota Road Trip, you can’t miss these 6 spots! 

  • Black Hills
    The Black Hills are a small, isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains. Aside from it’s famous towns, National Monuments, and even a National Park, the Black Hills are known for their many recreational opportunities in Western South Dakota.
  • Custer State Park
    71,000 acres of wilderness and wildlife in the Black Hills. Custer State Park is a great place to hike, swim, and more!
  • Devils Tower National Monument 
    Devils Tower is actually in Wyoming, but it’s fairly close to the South Dakota border and absolutely worth visiting if you have the time! 
  • Minuteman Missile National Historic Site
    US history junkies must stop here! The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site illustrates the history and significance of the Cold War, the arms race, and intercontinental ballistic missile development.
  • Mount Rushmore National Monument 
    Head here to see the faces of four incredibly influential presidents carved into a massive granite wall!
  • Wind Cave National Park
    The first cave to be designated a National Park! Known for its impressive, rare boxwork formations. Book a cave tour to explore 500 feet below the surface.
     

South Dakota has so much to offer to a family seeking adventure! Plan accordingly to enjoy a few of these great spots on your next road trip.

List of National Parks by State: Complete Travel Guides

Thirty states and two U.S. territories are home to a total of 63 National Parks. Knowing where to go and what to see when it comes to US National Parks is difficult. Here’s a list of National Parks list by state and the travel guides that will allow you to plan your dream National Park vacation!

Photo Credit: More Than Just Parks

United States National Parks by State

Alaska

Denali National Park, Alaska

Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Katmai National Park, Alaska

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Lake Clark National Park, Alaska

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

American Samoa

National Park of American Samoa, American Samoa

Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

California

Channel Islands National Park, California

Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Pinnacles National Park, California

Redwood National Park, California

Sequoia National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

Ultimate 2 Day Itinerary Yosemite National Park: The Perfect Weekend Trip

Things to Do in Kings Canyon – Best Visit Guide

Yosemite National Park Viewpoints: See and Do Famous Things

Colorado

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Florida

Biscayne National Park, Florida

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park, Florida

Visiting Everglades National Park: How to Plan the Ultimate Visit

11 Best Everglades Boat Tours – Unique Landscapes and Wildlife

Hawaii

Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Idaho

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

Kentucky

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park

Maine

Acadia National Park, Maine

8 Tips for Hiking Mount Katahdin: Learn from our Mistakes

Best Trails in Acadia National Park- Hiking for All Levels

Michigan

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Minnesota

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Missouri

Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri

Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

Nevada

Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada

Great Basin National Park, Nevada

New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

South Carolina

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

Texas

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Best Capitol Reef National Park RV Parks: Complete Camping Guide

Two Week Utah Itinerary – The National Parks and more

Incredible Hikes: The Best Views in Zion National Park

Best Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park – A Guide

Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park: The Ultimate Guide for 2022

Discover Arches National Park Hikes: The Best Trail Guide

Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands

Virginia

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park, Washington

West Virginia

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming

25 Best Places to Stay at Yellowstone National Park

21 Best Hikes in Tetons – Trails in the National Park

10 Easy Ways to Avoid Yellowstone’s Crowds

Yellowstone’s Must-See Hydrothermal Features – Tallest Geyser In The World

10 Best Biking Trails In Yellowstone – Bike the National Parks

How to Spend One Day in the Grand Tetons

National Park Fun Facts/trivia!

California has the most National Parks, with 9. Alaska follows close behind with 8.

The newest national park is New River Gorge National Park established on Dec. 27, 2020.

Alaska has the most National Park Acreage.

Yellowstone is the oldest National Park, founded in 1872.

Three of the ten highest waterfalls in the world can be found in Yosemite National Park.

The Grand Canyon, in Grand Canyon National Park, is known as one of the seven wonders of the world.

Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is the smallest National Park in the U.S.

Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina is the most visited with over 4 million visitors per year!

Denali National Park in Alaska has the widest range of elevations, from 200 feet in Yentna River to 20,302 feet at the summit of Mount McKinley.

Kobuk Valley National Park receives the least number of visitors at just 3,000 per year.

All of Alaska’s 8 National Parks are among the least visited in the Country.

Delaware is the only State without any National Monuments, Parks, or National Historic Site.

Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota is the first cave to be named a national park in the world. 

California is home to the lowest point and the highest point in the contiguous United States. Both points can be found in U.S. National Parks.

Isle Royale National Park is the only major national park to close entirely for the winter because of the difficultly of travel and hazards of wilderness survival during Michigan’s winters.

New York is not home to any National Parks, but it does have a state park with more acreage than any National Park in the Contiguous United States, the Adirondack Park.

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Which National Park is the Best?

I can only speak on behalf of my personal experience, but I do have favorites when it comes to the National Parks!

Most Family Friendly National Park

Yellowstone National Park is amazing for families. There is something to do for everyone! There are short board walk hikes to gorgeous hydrothermal features, road pull offs with stunning views, and longer, full-day hikes for your family to experience.

Additionally, you can paddle, horse back ride, swim, and participate in wildlife viewing during your stay. You can’t get bored at Yellowstone. It’s an outdoor playground fit for all types of outdoor enthusiasts.

Wildlife viewing in Yellowstone is a must!

Best National Park for Dog Owners

Acadia National Park is one of the few National Parks that allows dogs on trail. Dogs in Acadia must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times. Additionally, dogs are not allowed on any ladder trails or in public water supplies. As always, service animals are an exception to these rules!

The National Park with the Most “Wow” Factor

Grand Tetons National Park has the most “Wow” factor of any park I’ve been to. The Grand Tetons tower over Jackson Hole with such prominence and they are absolutely breathtaking.

Grand Teton Views from our Campsite!

Best National Park in Utah

Canyonlands National Park is definitely the best National Park in Utah when you take into consideration views versus number of visitors. Once you take a look around you can’t help but wonder why it’s the least visited National Park in Utah. The views are breathtaking!

Best National Park to Visit in Winter

Everglades National Park is a perfect park to visit in winter. Florida’s winter weather is much more tolerable than the summer sunshine and you’re most likely to see wildlife wildlife from early December to April.

Everglades National Park in Florida is perfect for winter exploring!

Best National Park for Backpacking

Although there are a few great options, Yosemite takes the cake as the best National Park for Backpacking. Almost 95% of Yosemite National Park is designated wilderness, meaning there are ample opportunities for adventure and solitude within the park.

It’s important to mention the JMT, or the John Muir Trail, and the PCT, Pacific Crest Trail, both travel through Yosemite National Park. Over 2,000 people attemp these famous thru hikes each year.

Best National Park for Stargazing

Bryce Canyon National Park is among the best for stargazing. At just over 7,600 feet and far from the light pollution of civilization, camping at Bryce Canyon means you’ll be counting stars instead of sheep. This sanctuary for natural darkness has to be on your list if you love staring up at the night sky.


Thank you The National Park ServiceList of US National ParksAustin Adventures, and Time Magazine for these fun facts!

Ultimate 2 Day Itinerary Yosemite National Park: The Perfect Weekend Trip

The popular Yosemite National Park is nestled into California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Visitors flock to Tunnel View, the iconic vista of Yosemite Valley; the panoramic view of Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome can’t be beat. This majestic park truly has a little something for everyone and this 2 day itinerary of Yosemite National Park is the perfect weekend trip.

View of Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point in a 2 Day Itinerary Yosemite National Park
View from Glacier Point

Ultimate 2 Day Itinerary Yosemite National Park: Hikes and Sights

If you have two days in Yosemite, what should you hike? This really depends on your fitness level and what kind of hiking you prefer. I would try and squeeze as many trails in as possible – but I’m also a little crazy!

There is truly a trail for everyone at Yosemite National Park; here is how I would plan out my 2 days in Yosemite.

JMT.jpeg

Day 1: Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point

Spend your first day in the park exploring the iconic Yosemite Valley and the highly photographed Glacier Point. Start with Vernal and Nevada Falls.

Hike Vernal and Nevada Falls

My intense hiker friends should have this full trail, 6 miles and over 2,000 feet of elevation gain, completed by noon. My less intense hiking pals might want to stick to the shorter, less intense Vernal Falls Loop before returning to the car. Get an early start on day 1 to ensure you have enough time to see all the beautiful places.

Grab lunch (or eat a premade lunch) before hopping in the car and driving up to Glacier Point. You first stop will be the Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Trail Head. Choose one or both of these gorgeous, short hikes for gorgeous views of the valley, el Capitan, and Half Dome.

DIFFICULTY: CHALLENGING

DISTANCE: 6 Miles – 4.2 Miles

DESCRIPTION: This is a tough hike! Challenging but rewarding nonetheless. The first suggestion is to take the Mist Trail up and the John Muir Trail down.

The second suggestion is to start this hike at 6:00 AM. FOR REAL THOUGH… unless you like waiting in line on steep, stone steps up along the side of a misty waterfall, leave for this hike before the crowd begins to climb.

Vernal Falls with Rainbow in Yosemite National PArk
The Mist Falls View of Vernal Falls

We had no choice but to hike on a summer weekend and even starting at 9:00 AM we were waiting in lines of people up 600 stairs until we made it to the top of Vernal Falls; here the crowds thin out as the remaining 1.5 miles consist of some seriously strenuous switchbacks.

Once you reach the intersection for Half Dome you are home free and will be enjoying stunning views into the valley that are one hundred percent worth the wicked climb. Please cross the bridge and take the JMT back down to the valley floor; the trail is almost double in length but it is significantly less steep, it isn’t misty and full of people, and it allows for so many beautiful viewpoints along the way so don’t stop forget to stop and enjoy the view!

NEVADAfalls.jpg
View from the Top of Nevada Falls!

Hike Taft Point

Head west on Wawona Road to exit Yosemite Valley. Shortly after leaving the valley your first stop will be at Tunnel View parking lot. Stop to see the iconic view and then continue on to the Taft Point and Sentinel Dome Trailhead on your way up to Glacier Point.

DIFFICULTY: EASY – MODERATE

DISTANCE: 2.3 Miles

DESCRIPTION: An incredibly easy hike to the most perfect views of Yosemite Valley that overlook El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. Taft Point and its surrounding rock fissures provide panoramic views of the valley; make sure to take a gander at the vertical chasms that drop into a trench coursing down into Yosemite Valley but don’t get too close! Or do…

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1268.
Live Life on the Edge at Taft Point

Hike Sentinel Dome

Sentinel Dome is another short, easier hike that leaves from the same trailhead as Taft Point. A Short, steep ascent will bring you gorgeous panoramic views of Yosemite Valley. If you’re pressed for time or simply exhausted at this point in your day, leave this one out.

DIFFICULTY: MODERATE

DISTANCE: 2.2 Miles RT

DESCRIPTION: The hike to this granite dome, which lies on the south wall of Yosemite Valley, will provide you with miles and miles of stunning views in whatever direction you care to turn.

Looking west, you’ll see down Yosemite Valley and beyond to the Merced River canyon. To the north, you’ll see Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. To the east, you’ll see Nevada Falls, Half Dome and Clouds Rest, and an assortment of High Sierra peaks.

I never wanted to leave my spot atop Sentinel Dome; even if that spot changed countless times because I couldn’t pick which view I liked best.

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Sentinel Dome Provides One of the Best Views of Half Dome in the Park

Glacier Point

After hiking Sentinel Dome and/or Taft Point, drive the remainder of the road to Glacier Point. Bring dinner with you and watch the sunset here, you won’t be upset with your decision.

Day 2: Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Road

No matter where you’re staying, make sure you spend a day exploring the trails off of Tioga Road. The Tuolumne Meadow area of Yosemite National Park deserves a 2 Day Yosemite itinerary of its own.

Lembert Dome

Start your morning with a gorgeous hike up Lembert Domw

DIFFICULTY: MODERATE – CHALLENGING

DISTANCE: 2.8 Miles

DESCRIPTION: This hike is relatively easy, but do remember you are going to gain some elevation here towards the end! Once you make it to the open rock face you can determine what your ability level is for going further.

With young children, this is certainly a great place to stop and enjoy your view; as an adult with decent coordination you should head on to the tippy top. Be selective in your route, however, there are multiple lines you can take to your desired elevation; choose whichever one works best for you! Lembert Dome offers excellent views looking west across Tuolumne Meadows on top of simply being an enjoyable hike followed by an exciting climb.

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Cathedral Lake

DIFFICULTY: MODERATE – CHALLENGING

DISTANCE:

DESCRIPTION: A steady climb to Upper Cathedral Lake provides a stunning view that after a swampy crossing to a large rock shelf can be enjoyed along the shore of a beautiful lake.

The impressive granite-wrapped High Sierra lake is surrounded by Cathedral Peak in the east and by Echo and Tresidder Peaks along the southern shore, all of them over 10,000 feet in elevation!

This is a great place to swim, enjoy lunch, and grab some sunshine which is why I put it as your mid-day hike! Please plan to spend some time to hang out here. Swim, picnic, and revel in the beauty of this spot.

The hike up isn’t exceptionally steep or difficult, just a consistent climb. The mosquitoes (on trail, not near the lake) were pretty brutal so definitely plan accordingly for that!

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Tuolumne Meadow

DIFFICULTY: EASY

DISTANCE: Up to 3 Miles

DESCRIPTION: You can explore the meadow at first light or sunset. What a beautiful place to be as the light dances up over the towering rock faces to the east and an equally magical place to be as the sky turns from a soft cotton candy pink to fiery orange while the sun disappears over the dome-studded sub-alpine meadow section of the Tuolumne River.

This photo is from sunset, which is why I have it scheduled as your sunset hike on day 2! This is by far one of the best places to watch a Yosemite sunset. It was such a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the final bit of warmth for the day. You can make this hike as long as short as you’d like as gorgeous views are only steps from your vehicle.

Nearby you can find soda springs and Parsons Lodge. The Historic Parsons Memorial Lodge offers exhibits; check a schedule to see if there is one while you’re in town!

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Additional Yosemite Hiking Trails

Maybe you’ve already hiked one of the above mentioned trails for the 2 Day Itinerary Yosemite National Park. Or maybe you’re just looking for something with less elevation gain or a different view! No matter what you wind up choosing, you’re going to have the most adventurous two days in Yosemite National Park.

Mirror Lake Loop

DIFFICULTY: EASY

DISTANCE: 4 miles

DESCRIPTION: Bring your bathing suit for this one! A simple hike with no real elevation gain will bring you to one of Yosemite’s most popular swimming holes.

The full loop itself is 4 miles long if you make it to Tenaya Canyon and loop around, however, it is only 2.4 miles from the trailhead to the lake. It is heavily trafficked and full of swimmers in the warm summer months.

For my hiking partner and I, this hike was a waste of time. We prefer something more strenuous with greater reward but for people looking to cool off or hiking with children, this is a viable option. Close to the base of Half Dome, easily accessible and home to varying water depths.

Tuolumne Grove

DIFFICULTY: EASY – MODERATE

DISTANCE: 3 Miles

DESCRIPTION: The great part of this hike is that the trail to the grove is downhill. This grove contains a couple dozen mature Giant Sequoias, including the one you can walk through. If you haven’t already seen dozens of huge Sequoias in SEKI, don’t miss this hike!

Lower Yosemite Falls

DIFFICULTY: EASY

DISTANCE: 1 Mile

DESCRIPTION: An accessible paved walkway will bring you to the bottom of the falls. From here you can choose to stay on flat, solid ground or venture onto the large boulders littering the side of Yosemite Creek.

Despite signs warning of injury, you’ll see people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities doing some light rock scrambling to get as close to lower falls as they can. If you’re up for it and capable, I suggest doing the same. It’s incredible to get up close and personal with the 320 foot shortest section.

If you come prepared, you can swim in a beautiful pool of water right at the base of this colossal waterfall. We also experienced a handful of rock climbers in this space. It’s definitely one you shouldn’t miss out on! Yosemite Falls is a 2,425-foot tumbler, the highest waterfall in North America, that is so tall it has to take two rests before it’s done falling.

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Places to Stay in Yosemite National Park

First and foremost, where are you staying? Accommodations book QUICKLY here, especially during the summer busy season (Late May – September); they range from simple tent cabins at the High Sierra Camps and campsites, to deluxe rooms at The Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

Visit the Yosemite Hospitality website for full descriptions, prices, and online reservations. Reservations are available 366 days in advance and are strongly recommended, for ALL accommodations, especially from spring through fall and during holidays.

Speaking from my area of expertise and experience, camping at Yosemite is quite the experience. There are campgrounds that take reservations and campgrounds that are first come first serve only.  CLICK HERE for a well-organized chart explaining important campground information such as pricing, availability, running water, sites, pets, elevation, and, most importantly, opening dates.

Places to Stay in Yosemite Valley

  • The Ahwhanee
  • Camp 4 Campground
  • Curry Village
  • North & Upper Pines Campground
  • Yosemite Valley Lodge

Places to Stay in Yosemite West

  • Ahwahnichi Lodge
  • Yosemite Park Place
  • Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders Condominiums
  • Various Home Rentals

Accommodations Along Tioga Road

  • Crane Flat Campground
  • Tioga Pass Resort
  • Tuolumne Meadows Campground
  • Tuolumne Meadows Lodge
  • White Wolf Lodge

Important Information on Campgrounds

Many first come first serve campgrounds are not open from October through early spring; the opening of these sites depends heavily on the year’s snowpack. For example, in August of 2017, I traveled here expecting all the first come first serve campsites on Tioga Road to be open since their projected opening date was August 1st; on August 10th the only campsites open on Tioga Road were Tamarack Flat and Tuolumne Meadows.

In our case, arriving at 1:00 PM on a Thursday did not bode well for our chances at getting a site. We were two people away from securing one for ourselves, however, a kind gentleman and his family offered to share their site with us for the night in hopes of better luck the next day. Arriving to wait sleep in line at 4:45 AM only secured me the 6th open campsite available, but it was well worth the blacktop mattress for a weekend-long​ site.

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Approx 7:15AM on a Friday Morning, at Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station –  Summer ’17

Eating While in Yosemite National Park

There are plenty of restaurant and dining options throughout the park. Yosemite Valley has year-round dining options while these options are only available seasonally in Wawona, Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area (formerly Badger Pass), Glacier Point, White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows. Additionally, groceries are available all year in Yosemite Valley, Wawona, Crane Flat, and El Portal; groceries are available seasonally at Tuolumne Meadows.

We indulged twice while in Yosemite Valley and were not disappointed either time. At Half Dome village we enjoyed delicious burgers for a late lunch after a tough 10 mile morning. The following morning we devoured breakfast sandwiches from Degnan’s Cafe. Degnan’s was very busy but provided a good range of breakfast options and coffee along with a variety of delicious looking pastries and coolers full of drinks and prepackaged food items.

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For a 2 Day Itinerary in Yosemite National Park, I’d suggest packing a camp stove to cook at your site or at a picnic area with. Being able to eat an early breakfast, or a late dinner wherever you want is incredibly convenient when trying to see as much of the park as possible.

All campgrounds are equipped with a fire pit and grilling grate. With the help of tin foil and cooking equipment, the grilling grate converts into the perfect stove. Each campsite also has food lockers; these food lockers provide a great place to store food and any other items with scent (think deodorant, face wash, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, chapstick, sunblock, etc.) in a place that makes your stay safer for both you and the wildlife. We found that these lockers stayed cool throughout the day and wound up being incredibly convenient for all of our storage needs at our site.

Plan A 2 Day Itinerary Yosemite National Park Backpacking Trip

Considering Yosemite is composed of 95% designated wilderness land, it would not surprise me if many of my readers were hoping to obtain wilderness permits to further enjoy their stay in Yosemite. As someone who applied for one and was denied due to filled quotas four months in advance, be sure to apply for your wilderness permit exactly 6 months prior to when you would like to utilize it.

Wilderness permits are issued to a limited number of people for each trailhead in order to provide outstanding opportunities for solitude, as required by the Wilderness Act. A reservation typically costs $5 per confirmed reservation plus $5 per person unless you plan to hike Half Dome on your trip which will run you a bit more money.

the JMT, or John Muir Trail, is a famous long-distance trail in the Sierra Nevada. A good portion of it runs through Yosemite National Park. Spending a few days on this trail, even if you don’t hike the whole thing, is a great way to experience Yosemite’s backcountry.

Yosemite also contains nearly 70 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail as well. You can hike portions of the PCT from Tuolumne Meadows as a day hike or an overnight hike. This is another great way to meet really cool (and smell) people and see beautiful sights.

The beautiful Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park

If you have trail questions or concerns during your stay you can stop at any of Yosemite’s multiple Welcome Centers/ Visitor Center and speak to friendly, knowledgeable staff. At the trailhead of many trails, you may find PSAR (Preventative Search and Rescue) volunteers who are scattered to help prevent illness and injuries but can also suggest hikes and provide directions. If you find a park ranger, talk to them! They know all of the most beautiful places in everyone’s favorite national park.

Tips and Tricks for a Successful Yosemite Trip

Yosemite is a beautiful place and you’ll have a lot of ground to cover. You will be sharing the 750,000+ acres of Yosemite National Parks with their 4 million annual visitors. Here’s the first two tips for a successful Yosemite visit:

  • Get Gas Beforehand
    Although there are gas stations within the park, gas is pricey! It’s 55 miles from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows, which means it’s likely you’ll need to fill up within the park. Plan accordingly to save yourself time and money.
  • Utilize Shuttles
    There are shuttle systems within the park to help save visitors time and money! No need to waste time and gas driving in circles for a parking spot. Check out the different shuttle options in the full post.

Check out the full article for all 11 Yosemite National Park tips.

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Heading to Yosemite? Don’t leave these suggestions behind. PIN ME! 


 

 

 

Visiting Everglades National Park: How to Plan the Ultimate Visit

The 1.5 million Everglades National Park has three entrances in three separate cities. It’s important for visitors to know what they want to do when visiting Everglades National Park. Use this guide to choose your favorite activities and plan your ultimate visit. Between the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, Flamingo Visitor Center, Shark Valley Visitor Center, and Gulf Coast Visitor Center, there’s nearly endless opportunities in this part of the Everglades.


Things to do Near Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center

The Ernest Coe Visitor Center is closest to the Homestead entrance of Everglades National Park. When visiting Everglades National Park, you will likely spend some time here as it is the most visited visitor center in the park. In this area of the park, you will find yourself closest to 3 of the Everglades’ most popular hiking trails, and in the perfect place to enjoy a slough slog. 

Camp at Long Pine Key Campground

Long Pine Key is open seasonally, during the dry season, or November through May. There are over 100 campsites for RVs and tents available. The campground has no electric or water hookups, but there are modern restrooms with flush toilets, a dishwashing station, and solar-powered hot-water showers. Each campsite is equipped with a grill and a picnic table! 

Hike the Anhinga Trail

Wind your way through a sawgrass marsh on one of the most popular trails in the Everglades. The trail is only .8 miles round trip, completely accessible, and is home to an abundance of wildlife. 

The reason so many people hike the Anhinga trail when visiting Everglades National Park is that they’re likely to see alligators, turtles, anhingas, herons, egrets, softshell turtles, and more! You’re likely to experience more wildlife if you hike the trail in the winter months; dusk and dawn also provide great animal viewing opportunities.

Hiking the Anhinga Trail

Miami Brewing Company

Stop into Miami Brewing Company for a beer brewed in the Miami Countryside!  Located just 15 minutes from the park entrance, this might provide a great opportunity to try a few cold ones and enjoy some American fare. 

Paurotis Pond

Pit stop just off the main road to experience many species of birds during nesting season. Wading birds love Paurotis Pond, so watch them from one of the many picnic tables available to visitors at this location. 

Slough Slog

Slough slogging is a wet walk through the Everglades with a park ranger. Book your free tour at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center or by calling (305) 242-7700 no earlier than one week before the date you’re hoping to slog. 

You must wear closed-toe, lace-up shoes, and long pants. The wet walk through the slough departs from the Royal Palm Visitor Center every day between December and March. The Royal Palm Visitor Center is located at the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trailhead. 

Enjoy the View on the Pa-hay-okee Trail

This incredibly short, mostly accessible trail includes a boardwalk that will lead you to a shaded overlook. The view of the Everglades wilderness is well worth the .15 mile stroll. 

The boardwalk follows a gentle incline to the viewing platform with stairs that lead down to make a full loop. A loop is an option, but it is not necessary if stairs do not work for you! 

Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail Views

Take a Short Walk on the Gumbo Limbo Trail

The Gumbo Limbo Trail can be found right next to the Anhinga Trail. This paved trail through a shaded hammock of Gumbo Trees is only a half-mile long and great for viewing the local flora.

Visit the Visitor Center

Visit the Ernest F. Coe visitor center for educational displays, orientation films, and informational brochures. Interesting collections of local artwork are often displayed in the visitor center as well. I love spending time in the Visitor’s Center to learn about the history, science, and culture of a space! 


Best Things to Do Near the Flamingo Visitor Center

Flamingo is located at the end of the Florida peninsula on the shores of Florida Bay. Once a remote fishing village, Flamingo is now home to the southernmost Visitor Center in the continental U.S. and is full of wonderful Florida wildlife. Birds, crocodiles, manatees, sharks, fish, dolphins, and dozens of uninhabited mangrove islands can all be found along Florida Bay. 

Boat Tours

Daily boat tours are available at the Flamingo marina. You can purchase tickets for the Backcountry or Bayside tour at the Marina Activities Booth or online through Flamingo Adventures. 

Explore the backcountry of the Everglades on a boat tour that ventures up the Buttonwood Canal. You’ll travel through Coot Bay and Tarpon Creek into Whitewater Bay while a naturalist shares information regarding the unique plant and animal life around you. Your other tour option is to explore the beautiful Florida Bay. This coastal adventure will also highlight the surrounding plant and wildlife as well as the rich history of Flamingo and Everglades National Park. 

Camp at the Flamingo Campground

You can camp at the Flamingo campground in a tent or RV. You can also stay in an “eco-tent” adjacent to the campground. This canvas cabin on a platform boasts comfortable beds, electricity, and a fan for $95 a night. Stay in an unfurnished tent and bring your gear for as little as $50 a night. 

Flamingo Marina

Stay on a houseboat in the Flamingo Marina! Stay on the dock for #350 a night or in White Water Bay for $400 a night. This might seem expensive for an evening, but what a unique experience! 

Hike the Snake Bight Trail

If you’re looking for a longer hike when visiting Everglades National Park, the Snake Bight Trail is a great option. Following a 1.6 mile trail through dozens of tropical tree species is a great way to spend your morning or afternoon! You’ll be rewarded at the end of the hike with a boardwalk where you can see many beautiful birds in Snake Bight (bay within a larger bay) during high tide. 

Paddle the Florida Bay

One of the most popular ways to explore Flamingo is to paddle, canoe or kayak, up the Buttonwood Canal. In the Buttonwood Canal, you are likely to see crocodiles and various bird species along the mangrove shoreline. 

If it isn’t too windy, I suggest you paddle Florida Bay. Explore the shoreline, both East and West of the marina. Honestly, the best way to see the Everglades is to paddle it! 

The Beautiful Florida Bay

 Inland Paddle

Take an inland paddle to truly experience the Everglades. Nine Mile pond is a popular marked trail through the mangroves and shallow lagoons near Flamingo. If you’re visiting Everglades National Park without a vessel, you can arrange to rent kayaks or canoes at the Flamingo Marina and they will transport them to Nine Mile Pond for you! 

Noble Hammock is another great paddle in the Flamino area. A 1.9-mile loop will bring you through a maze of mangrove tunnels and small ponds. Follow the 120 numbered PVC pipes that mark the trail; spotting the next PVC pipe is all part of the fun! 

Honestly, I think the best way to experience the Everglades is to paddle the river of grass. 

Visitor Center 

The Flamingo Visitor center is currently being rebuilt and reinforced. It’s set to open later this year (2022) and will have several exhibits including educational displays, artwork, informational brochures, and backcountry permits.

The visitor center is located right next to the marina which has a public boat ramp and a marina store.

Walk the Guy Bradley Trail

The Guy Bradley Trail connects the campground to the Visitor Center and Marina. Keep your eyes on the coast for gorgeous birds, old dock remains, and great pockets of beach to leave the trail and explore. Take a 1.2 mile, paved hike from the visitor center parking lot to the amphitheater and campground before heading back the same way you came. 

Views Along the Guy Bradley Trail when Visiting Everglades National Park

What To Do Near the Shark Valley Visitor Center

The Shark Valley Visitor Center is on the most popular entrances when visiting Everglades National Park. Because the tram ride and short hikes a great day trip from Miami, this is often a visitors first choice when exploring the Florida Everglades.

Airboat Tour Along the Tamiami Trail

Airboat rides are a popular way for visitors to explore the Everglades. Luckily, there are several companies located along the Tamiami Trail right alongside the Shark Valley entrance. Everglades Safari Park is one of the only airboat tours that travels inside of Everglades National Park.

Bobcat Boardwalk

Bobcat Boardwalk Trail is a .5 mile-long boardwalk located just behind the visitor center. This fully accessible trail meanders through a sawgrass slough lined with tropical hardwoods. It is likely that you’ll see wildlife on this trail, including, but not limited to, alligators and birds. 

Everglades Safari Park

Airboat tours, nature walks, and wildlife shows await at Everglades Safari Park. 

Otter Cave Hammock Trail

The Otter Cave Hammock Trailhead begins .5 miles behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center off the tram road. You can ride a bike to the trailhead as there are bike racks for storage. Travel a limestone path through a tropical hardwood forest with small footbridges that bring you over a stream. 

Shark Valley Tram Tour

The Everglades Shark Valley Tram Tour is one of the most popular attractions when visiting Everglades National Park. Learn about the ecology and history of the Everglades in a relaxed setting where, at the halfway point, you’ll be able to enjoy the view from the observation tower. The Shark Valley Observation Tower is the highest accessible point in Everglades National Park. 

Photo Credit: CapeCoralSusan.com

Things to Do Near the Gulf Coast Visitor Center

The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is the gateway to exploring the Ten Thousand Islands. The Ten Thousand Islands are a maze of mangrove islands and waterways that extends into Flamingo and Florida Bay. The current Gulf Coast Visitor Center is temporary as the original was destroyed in 2017 by hurricane Irma.  

Airboat Tours

Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours receives 4.8 out of 5 stars on Google Reviews. With Wooten’s you can glide across 259 private acres, watch a live Alligator show, or experience lions, tigers, otters, and gators in their animal sanctuary. 

Luckily, there’s a full list of airboat tours available to those visiting Everglades National Park. Find the perfect tour company for you and your family with this list. 

Fishing Charters

There are a number of fishing charters that leave from Everglades City, just north of the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. The Everglades City Fishing Charters is family wonder and operated and received 4.8 stars on Google. Fishhunt Charters and Captain Wayne receive 5 star, raving reviews across the board.

If you’re looking to catch some fish in Chokoloskee Bay, hiring a fishing charter during your Everglades stay is a great way to do it! 

Paddle the Islands 

It may take a few hours to paddle to and explore the popular Sandfly island, but it’s so worth it! There are a few different ways to experience the Ten Thousand Islands. There are a number of tour companies in Everglades City that you can book and/or rent boats through if you don’t have access to you own. Popular spots to explore include Turner River, Halfway Creek, and the East River.

If you are an experienced paddler, you can paddle to and camp on many of the islands. Three different styles of camping await! Chickee Sites, or platforms over water, are quite popular in this region. Ground and beach sites are also available throughout the islands. 

You can experience so much wildlife when visiting Everglades National Park

Fun Facts About Visiting Everglades National Park

  • The Everglades experiences over one million annual visitors each year.
  • Everglades National Park’s subtropical Wilderness is the largest in the United States.
  • Cape Sable, in the Florida Everglades, is the southernmost point of the United States mainland. 
  • The best time to visit Everglades National Park is in the Winter Season. 
  • Everglades is the third-largest national park in the contiguous United States after Death Valley and Yellowstone.
  • Within the four National Park areas of Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and Fort Jefferson National Monument there are 16 endangered species. 
  • The Cyprus-Everglades regions of South Florida is where you are most likely to see a Florida Panther.