Most Unique Amusement Park: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Enter Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park via a 5 minute scenic gondola ride overlooking Glenwood Springs. As if that wasn’t enough, you’ll exit the gondola to a unique amusement park at 7,100 feet. In this post you’ll learn why Glenwood Caverns is amazing for families, we’ll share 10 tips for when you visit, and have your frequently asked questions answered.

Views from Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, Colorado

Why is Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park Perfect for Families?

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is an affordable experience that provides fun opportunities for everyone in the family. Here are 4 reasons why Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is perfect for Families.

An Affordable Experience

One of the coolest aspects of Glenwood Springs Adventure Park is that it is not a one price fits all. You pay based on what activities you plan on doing once you’re in! 

This is perfect for the grandparents who aren’t interested in thrill rides but want to spend the day with their family. It’s a great opportunity for each individual family member to build their best day. 

For $25 guests can ride the gondola to the summit and enjoy park views, food and beverages, and live music! This is perfect for the family member who wants to hang out but isn’t interested in riding any rides. 

A ticket for the gondola, to experience the cave tours, and ride the rides costs $67. There are also a few different options in between and children 2 and under are free. Check out the different ticket options and plan the perfect affordable Glenwood Springs Adventure Park trip for your family. 

Options For Everybody

There are so many things to do once you enter the park! With amazing thrill rides, a variety of family friendly attractions, and food and drink opportunities. 

From swing that throw you over the edge of a cliff to five minute 4D movie shorts, there is truly something for everyone. 

We highly recommend the cave tours! Not only are they an amazing reprieve from the summer sun, but they’re incredibly informational and a ton of fun. 

Enjoy a meal and a beverage on the go, or sit down at the Lookout Grille with amazing views of the valley below. There are also food and beverage options, alcohol included, at the Smokehouse located right inside the park. 

An easy ride on the Mine Wheel at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Fun Themes

Not only does Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park have amazing attractions, but the wild west theme is incredibly fun and well done. 

The western theme includes cowboy motif shop fronts, interactive statues and sculptures, and so many western themed activities. The young and the young at heart will love the themed activities and decor throughout the park. 

The 14-foot trolls are so neat, everyone will love them! Additionally, you can snag a really neat family photo with Halvor. It’s sent straight to your phone, for free! The little details make a difference and won’t go unnoticed. 

A fun western theme at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Open All Year Round

Although some attractions are seasonal, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is a year-round attraction! This is perfect for families looking for year-round fun in Colorado. 

Thrill rides are only open in the late spring and summer months, but the winter months are filled with Holiday joy! Join Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park for winter on the mountain for half a million holiday lights, a musical Christmas tree, and live music. You can also take the gondola ride up to visit Santa with a view.

Winter at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

10 Tips for Visiting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

  • Save the 4D movies and laser tag for the afternoon rain
  • Hop in line for the Canyon Swing just before the afternoon rain stops
  • Enjoy a cave tour at the hottest part of the day
  • Bring a chest mount for your Go Pro if you want to film on any of the rides
  • Wear a hat and have sun protection, you’re hanging out on the summit of Iron Mountain all day
  • Get a free family photo with Halvor, the 14-foot defender of rock, sent straight to your phone
  • Bring a water bottle and fill it up at the gift shop water fountain throughout the day
  • Watch the sunset from the terrace with an alcoholic icee
  • Group Discounts for parties of 25 or more including admission price and a meal! 
  • Stay at a participating local hotel and receive 10% off your admission
Free photos with Halvor, the 14-foot defender or rock

 Glenwood Caverns FAQs

Let us help you better plan your visit to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

When is the Best Time to Visit Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park was made with the summer months in mind. With all the thrill rides up and running, this is the best time to visit the park. 

Cave Tour views at Glenwood Caverns

What Should I Wear to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park?

In the summer months, I suggest comfortable footwear, shorts, and a breathable long sleeve to keep the sun off your arms and shoulder. Accessorize with sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from the sunshine! A packable rain jacket wouldn’t be a bad idea for that afternoon rain either. 

If you’re visiting in the winter, layer up! Wear a baselayer under your jeans or fleece-lined water-resistant pants. I would suggest a wool baselayer on top paired with a fleece and a puffy jacket. Exterior layers should be waterproof, or at the very least resistant, to help you stay dry and warm. 

Canyon swing viewing platform at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

What Are The Best Rides at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park?

There are a handful of amazing attractions, but these were my five favorite rides at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. If you’re a thrill seeker, these will be your favorites too! 

  1. Defiance Coaster

Glenwood Springs Adventure Park’s newest ride, the Defiance Coaster is the highest-looping rollercoaster in the United States. The view from the 102.3-degree free fall is to die for (literally).

Video footage of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park’s newest coaster, Defiance!
  1. Canyon Swing

Okay, the line for this one might deter you but don’t let it! The Giant Canyon Swing is an adrenaline rush for all who ride, but especially those who sit in the seats facing the park. As the lever swings, you will be looking straight down into Glenwood Canyon. 

An exciting ride on Glenwood Cavern’s Canyon Swing
  1. Glenwood Canyon Flyer

Perched perfectly on the edge of Iron Mountain, the Glenwood Canyon Flyer flings you off the edge with every rotation. The views are breathtaking and you won’t regret riding multiple times. 

Get thrown off the edge on every turn with the Glenwood Canyon Flyer
  1. Alpine Coaster

Named one of the top 10 roller coaster rides of your life by USA Today and Park World Magazine, this is definitely one of the park’s fastest rides. The best part is that you get to control your speed and adult can ride with their little ones who are 38” or taller. 

Glenwood Springs Alpine Coaster
  1. Cliffhanger Roller Coaster

The Cliffhanger is the highest-elevation roller coaster in North America. Enjoy cliff-side curves, abrupt drops, and stunning views of the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon.

Are There Children Rides at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park?

There sure are! Glenwood Caverns offers 5 rides designed specifically for the little ones. 

  1. Giddy-Up Ride

The giddy-up ride bounces kiddos as if they are riding a pony! Kiddos 36” tall, and mom and dad if they please, are lifted up into the air and dropped back down on a mild ride. 

  1. Mine Wheel

A mini Ferris Wheel ride that provides fun for the whole family. Guests under 51” must ride with a supervising companion 16 years or older.

  1. Wild West Express

Guests 36” or taller can ride with a companion on this steel coaster designed for mini thrills. 

  1. Climbing Wall

Kiddos weighing at least 25 pounds can enjoy the Climbing Wall at Glenwood Caverns. 

  1. Alpine Coaster

The Mountain Coaster is both a kiddie ride and a thrill ride. Since you control the breaks and kiddos under 54” (but above 38”) have to ride with an adult, it can really cater to all levels. 

Check out the Fairy Caves and Kings Row

Can I Bring Food to Glenwood Caverns?

Yes, you can bring food such as snacks and sandwiches up the gondola to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. You cannot bring alcoholic beverages into the park, but you can purchase them! There’s also food available for purchase. 

Lunch with a view at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

How Do the Cave Tours Work at Glenwood Caverns?

The Fairy Caves and Kings Row are truly magical and the tour is a must-do while visiting Glenwood Caverns. They are included in the Funday Pass, but admission to the caves can be purchased separately. 

Photos and videos can be taken inside the cave, however, tripods, backpacks, and strollers are not allowed inside the cave.

Kings Row at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Fun Weekend Adventures in Colorado

Colorado is full of amazing weekend adventures for visitors near and far. You can spend a weekend in Glenwood Springs exploring one of the most unique Amusement Parks in the country and soaking in the hot springs.

You can also spend a weekend exploring one of these amazing places:

There are so many great places to visit in Colorado, but these are some of our favorites!

Visit Glenwood Springs for adventure theme parks and beautiful canyon views

20 Best Things to Do in Ithaca in Winter

Ithaca is an amazing place to visit any time of year. With special deals and offers on accommodations, meals, and activities, spending winter break in the Finger Lakes region is a no-brainer. Here’s 17 budget-friendly things to do in Ithaca as a winter.

Are you an educator looking for a budget-friendly winter break getaway? Luckily, Ithaca loves teachers.

This February marks the 18th annual Ithaca Loves Teachers Celebration, which welcomes educators with activities and discounts from February 16-28.

What is Ithaca Loves Teachers?


Ithaca Loves Teachers is an annual celebration of educators, scheduled
during the mid-winter recess to offer educators the perfect opportunity to treat themselves.


Ithaca Loves Teachers provides lodging offers, food and beverage deals, shopping discounts, and discounted activities to all pre K through 12 public school teachers and support staff.


Registration for the event is free. All participants should be prepared to show proof of
employment, with a school ID badge or an equivalent form, to claim offers.

20 Best Things to do in Ithaca in Winter

After spending four college years a 30-minute drive from Ithaca, I have a few suggestions for the best things to do in Ithaca in winter.

Additionally, we recently spent a few days in Ithaca exploring some new-to-us hikes, restaurants, and exciting businesses. We’ve prepared a list that includes something for every interest area. 

Atlas Bowl

If you’re looking for a night of fun and good eats, check out Atlas Bowl. Leave no pin standing and enjoy signature boozy milkshakes and local beers on tap from the bowling-themed bar. This has quickly become one of my favorite things to do in Ithaca!

Choose between six old-school tenpin bowling lanes or the one Candlepin bowling lane. Candlepin bowling is a New England-style game where bowlers hold a small ball in the palm of their hand before sending it down the lane to knock over a tall, skinny bowling pin. 

I know that I’ve brought a modified version of candlepin bowling back to my gymnasium for my students to try. It’s always fun to expand their horizons with a fun spin on something they’re otherwise knowledgeable about!

Photo Credit: Visit Ithaca

Breweries

What’s something all teachers have in common by Mid Winter break? They need a drink. Luckily, Ithaca has you covered with several local breweries. 

Ithaca Beer Co offers craft beers in its industrial tasting room. Stop by on a weekend if you want a tour! And you can find Liquid State Brewing Company and Lucky Hare Brewing Company right downtown.

Make sure you explore the massive tree house at Cayuga Nature Center

Cayuga Nature Center

The trails and Treetops Treehouse are open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Take an easy winter stroll through the trails at Cayuga Nature Center to enjoy the beauty and stillness of nature. 

If you’re a local educator, Cayuga Nature Center also provides student programming throughout the year. Take your students to the center for apple cidering in the Fall or maple tapping in late winter. 

Image Credit: Local First Ithaca

Children’s Garden

Celebrate the joy of getting kids outside at Ithaca Children’s Garden. ICG believes that providing hands-on, exciting outdoor experiences for children is the best way to grow the future. 

Attend an upcoming program or explore on your own. There are so many amazing ways for children to experience nature here. Take a story walk, let your imagination run wild in the troll house, and check out the recycled greenhouse. 

Children will love the Hands-on Nature Anarchy Zone. This adventure playground is sure to be a favorite while simultaneously cultivating environmental stewardship.

Photo Credit: LocalSYR

Chili Cook-Off

The annual Chili Cook-Off takes place on Ithaca’s Commons in March. Businesses and organizations from all over Tompkins County come together for a little friendly competition. 

A chili cook-off ticket provides you with numerous food and beverage samples throughout the day. Local restaurants fight for the title of ‘Best Chili in Ithaca’ while local breweries and cideries are happy to share their favorite craft beverages and cocktails with participants. 

A cook-off or a bake-off could be a fun event to bring to your students if you have the resources. Cooking and baking teach a myriad of skills including measurement, following step-by-step directions, and more! Have students compete in a most creative pancake competition and ask other teachers to be the judge. 

South Hill Cider has amazing ciders, unique food options, and amazing views!

Cideries

Taste craft ciders in the Ithaca area. Local orchards grow special apples that give Finger Lakes ciders character. This is one of those things to do in Ithaca that’s fairly unique to the area!

Head on over to South Hill for farm-to-table food and guided tastings at a location perched up on a hill with beautiful views of Cayuga Lake and amazing outdoor seating. 

The Finger Lakes Cider House is another great place to visit for great cider on weekends. With food sourced from local producers and a variety of delicious craft cider, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. Hop on a farm and cidery tour and you might just feel inspired to join their cider club to receive 3 or 4 bottles of quarterly.

Photo Credit: Cornell University

Cornell Cinema

Stop by Cornell Cinema to see a variety of Hollywood and foreign classics, documentaries, silent films, and experimental work. 

The film calendar shows what will be playing for the month. Cornell Cinema often shows two different films 5-7 days a week.

The historic Willard Straight Theatre boasts the largest screen in Ithaca, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and the best projection in the area. Complete with a concession stand, this is a great way to spend a special date night in Ithaca! 

Photo credit: Cornell Chronicle

Cornell Winter Botanical Garden

Tour Cornell’s botanic garden in winter to experience true quiet and stillness. Snow-covered gardens truly provide a winter wonderland, especially the one designed for cold  weather.

Learn about sustainable gardening practices, explore rotating art exhibits, and use your mobile device to learn about Cornell Botanical Garden through a self-guided tour. 

The grounds are open year-round from dawn to dusk. It is important to note that restrooms are not available during the winter months so prepare accordingly.

  

Photo Credit: Visit Ithaca

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing in the Finger Lakes Region allows skiers of all abilities to enjoy the change of season.

Check out Podunk Cross Country Ski Center, about 20 minutes North of Ithaca. Ski rentals, lessons, and a warming hut with food are available to visitors. There is no fee to use the trail system, so this is a great, inexpensive way to enjoy winter in the Ithaca area! 

Greek Peak Mountain Resort is well known for its downhill skiing, however, its lesser-known nordic skiing facilities often go untouched. You’ll find miles of beautiful trails for all skill levels adjacent to Hope Lake Lodge. Trail passes are required for use.  

Photo Credit: NYskiBlog

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

About 30 minutes from downtown Ithaca you’ll find Central New York’s largest ski resort. Greek Peak Mountain Resort offers 33 trails, beautiful lodging, several dining options, a spa, and other fun activities like snow tubing and a Mountain Coaster.

Greek Peak is actually where I learned to snowboard when I was in college! It’s a beautiful, family-friendly mountain with options for every level.

Photo Credit: Visit Ithaca

Finger Lakes Wine Pairing Event 

Finger Lakes Wine Pairing events are extremely limited, so if you’re a wine enthusiast you need to order your ticket now. Tickets are available for $55 (15% off for teachers!) and are available to those who are not participating in the Ithaca Loves Teachers event as well.  

Join sommelier, Laura Winter Falk, for an evening of pairing Finger Lake wines with 5 plant-based West African bites. Discover what is all the rage in the current wine and beverage scene. 

Maybe this event will inspire you to bring cultural information to your students in the form of a kid-friendly pairing event! What better way to learn than through all 5 senses? 

Photo Credit: VisitIthaca

Cayuga Lake Creamery

Visit the Cayuga Lake Creamery’ production room to see how their hand-crafted ice cream is made. Take this opportunity to sample hand-crafted ice cream fresh!

Open Tuesday Through Sunday from 1PM to 8PM, Reservations are required, and you can book through messaging on facebook.com/CayugaLakeCreamery.

Photo Credit: Cornell University

Hangar Theatre

Music teachers and drama club directors will love Hangar Theatre, which nurtures a lifelong love for performing! 

This winter the Kiddstuff series is presenting Little Red Riding Hood and you can catch some concerts as well. When the weather turns warmer, the Mainstage will offer a full season of shows.

The Kitchen Theatre Company has offerings during the winter, wrapping up
“The Ding Dongs” at the start of Ithaca Loves Teachers, with two more shows – “No Child …” and “And I And Silence” – closing the season.

Check the schedule for the Ithaca Loves Teachers event and plan to attend something that tickles your fancy!  

Ithaca Falls is a short, simple walk from the road and it’s beautiful in winter!

Hiking

There are many beautiful state parks and other local outdoor recreation opportunities for those who love to hike. Hiking the gorges is one of the most popular things to do in Ithaca.

Although most of the gorge trails are closed in winter for safety reasons, there are always trails available to explore. Bring a pair of snowshoes with you just in case there is ample snowfall. 

Some of my favorite local state parks include Taughannock, Robert Treman, and Buttermilk Falls. Additionally, outdoorsy folks should register for Visit Ithaca’s free Waterfall Challenge. Meet the Challenge benchmarks and pick up some prizes.

Photo Credit: New York Upstate

Indoor Waterpark

Greek Peak Mountain Resort is also home to an amazing indoor waterpark. Enjoy 84-degree weather all year round at Cascades Water Park.

A wave pool, four slides, interactive play structure, basketball cove, and toddler area offer a full day of fun for the kids. Adults will love the indoor/outdoor hot tub and a beverage from the Edgewater Cafe.

Photo Credit: Kellie Cox

Mural Challenge

Art teachers will love the Mural Challenge! Use the 2021 Ithaca Murals map to create your own Mural Challenge.

Choose from 180 different murals and create your own challenge! Ithaca prides itself on adding color to the community.  

Leave winter break with some creative inspiration and take some photos to share with your students! Even better, design an epic field trip to the closest space in your area with murals. Take a mural walk with your students and create a fun challenge for them! 

Photo Credit: Museum of the Earth

Museum of Earth

Explore earth and its prehistoric past at the Museum of Earth! Calling all science teachers -or dinosaur lovers- to experience hands on features, brilliant fossils, and interactive exhibits!

The museum includes one of the most complete Mastodon skeletons every found, a 44-foot long Right Whale skeleton, and journey 540 million years back in time with a 500-foot mural.

Check out the Sciencenter and let your inner kid come out as you explore and learn

Sciencenter

The Science Center might be designed for children, but I’ll tell you about two full-grown adults who loved every minute of their time there. 

Yeah, you guessed it. It’s us! Spencer and I had an absolute blast exploring the Sciencenter during our last Ithaca stay. From astronomy, to live animals, weather, and sustainability this hands-on museum really has it all. 

Ignite your child’s curiosity for the way things work during the Ithaca Loves Teachers event or bring some new and exciting ideas back to your classroom after a visit to the Sciencenter. This is by far one of the best things to do in Ithaca with children!

Photo Credit: Rasa Spa

Spa Day

Numerous spa and wellness services will be offered at a discount to teachers and their one additional household member. 

Enjoy sugar waxing at Alta Spa, 60 and 90-minute massages at Attuned Life Massage and Wellness, and a discount on all services, plus a free manicure, at Transformations Hair and Body Studio. These offerings and many more will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after your mid-winter recess! 

Ithaca Loves Teachers wants to send you back to school feeling ready to take on the second half of the school year.

Check out the Commons and the surrounding area for great restaurants and shops

The Commons

Downtown Ithaca Commons is a great place to do some shopping and to grab a bite to eat. The famous Ithaca Commons serves as the city’s cultural and economic center. 

It’s four walkable blocks of restaurants, unique shops, public art, and frequent community festivals. Various shops and restaurants are offering discounts to those registered for the Ithaca Loves Teachers event. 

Search for music and arts, dining options, and a variety of stores at visit Ithaca

Ithaca Loves Teachers, and this teacher loves Ithaca!

What is Ithaca Loves Teachers?

Ithaca Loves Teachers is an annual celebration of educators! It falls perfectly over the mid-winter recess and provides the perfect opportunity for teachers to treat themselves. 

Ithaca Loves Teachers provides lodging offers, food and beverage deals, shopping discounts, and discounted activities to all pre-k through 12 public school teachers and support staff. 

Registration for the event is free. All participants should be prepared to show proof of employment through a school ID badge or equivalent to claim offers. 

Escape to the beautiful gorges or Ithaca, New York

Why Should Teachers Visit Ithaca?

Taking the time to visit Ithaca during your school break will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired. There are so many fun things to do in Ithaca for every type of traveler.

With endless opportunities to have fun, relax, and learn something new, Ithaca is a great place to visit any time of year. 

Repurpose your favorite experiences for your classroom and enhance student learning. Bring something new you’ve learned back with you and share it with your students. 

Ithaca Loves Teachers is a multi-purpose getaway. It’s designed to thank teachers for their dedication to our youth while also helping to inspire creative learning opportunities in their classrooms. 

Take advantage of this opportunity and plan your trip to Ithaca today! 

New York Weekend Getaways

New York is full of absolutely amazing places to get away to for the weekend. I have a soft spot for Ithaca since spent four years close by while earning my bachelors degree, but there are so many other great areas of the state to explore as well.

And honestly, so much more!

 

7-Day Ultimate South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary: Black Hills Best

South Dakota is full of amazing sights. From National Parks and Memorials to State Parks and Wild West History, there’s a lot to add to a South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary. 

Allow us to take out the guesswork as we share the Ultimate 7-day South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary. If you only have time for a long weekend, you’re in luck! Check out our 3-day weekend South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary for a quick trip around the Black Hills.

The Badlands at sunset!

Driving or Flying to South Dakota

When we visited South Dakota we were on a cross-country road trip from New York to Wyoming. We hit South Dakota on the return trip and completed this portion of the trip from West to East. I would complete this itinerary in reverse.

If you are flying into South Dakota and renting a car, fly into Rapid City Regional Airport. After renting your car, complete the South Dakota road trip Itinerary in order from Day 1 – Day 7. 

Ultimate South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary

To make the most of your 7 days, we recommend checking the 6 best places South Dakota has to offer off your list. Here we will walk you through each National Park, National Monument, State Park, and beyond so you can easily plan your 7-day South Dakota Road Trip.

Badlands National Park, Saddle Pass Trail

Badlands National Park

  •  25216 SD-240, Interior, SD 57750
  • Badlands National Park is open 24/7 and costs $30 per vehicle

Badlands National Park is known for its dramatic landscape and the number of fossils found. The many unique rock formations are sure to leave you in awe of this park and it is definitely a must-see on your South Dakota Road Trip.

Day 1 of your South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary

Drive from Rapid City to your first stop, Badlands National Park. Depending on when your flight is, you might have time for a short afternoon hike (try the Cliff Nature Trail) and a stunning sunset. If your flight arrives later in the day you’ll only be able to snag a good sunset view. 

Choose any of the pull-offs or overlooks along Sage Creek or Rim Road. We broke out the camp chairs and cracked a cold one as we watched the sunset on some stunning rock features. If you’re driving Sage Creek Road, be sure to stop at Roberts Prairie Dog Town to watch all the cute little prairie dogs go about their business.

While you’re in Wall, be sure to check out Wall Drug Store. Wall Drug Store is a famous historical and cultural site that combines a drug store, eatery, and gift shop into one. Be sure to stop for free ice water, a Wall Drug Store favorite.

Camp: Badlands Boondocking Area or Sage Creek Campground, Cedar Pass Campground & Lodge

Hotel: Americas Best Value Inn Wall, Days Inn Wyndham Wall


We ended our South Dakota Road Trip with a free campsite stay in Badlands National Park

Day 2 of the South Dakota Itinerary

Wake up and head to Badlands National Park for an early hike. Check out the Notch Trail of the Window Trail for a short and sweet park staple before checking out the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. 

Before you leave the Badlands, plan for a longer hike with amazing views. Saddle Pass will bring you to one of the highest accessible points in the park and lead you to a beautifully barren landscape. Hike a bit of the Castle Trail or complete the Medicine Roots Loop if you’re looking for a longer hike.  

Exploring the Badlands after a good rain is your best chance at finding some fossils! Be sure to follow the proper procedures for fossil discovery as they are explained in the visitor center.

If you have longer than 7 days, stray from this South Dakota road trip itinerary and spend another day in the Badlands. Here’s a list of hikes and things to do

If you’re sticking to our 7-day South Dakota trip, get in the car and drive to Mount Rushmore National Memorial for a quick stop to end your first full day of exploring. 

A tree-framed view of Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

  • 13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751
  • Mount Rushmore hours vary by season and cost $10 per car

Mount Rushmore National Monument features four 60-foot faces carved into a granite mountainside. This patriotic tribute to the United States of America and the four presidents who have had the greatest impact on our young nation is a must-see.

Day 2 continued

Mount Rushmore is open from 5 AM to 9 PM 7 days a week, all year long with the exception of Christmas Day. It’s an incredible space filled with patriotism. 

There are trails to walk, museum exhibits to learn from, and the sculptor’s studio to visit. Take a walk along the presidential trail to get a closer look at the faces.

Learn about the four presidents who, at the time, represented the most important events in US history. My personal favorite, Theodore Roosevelt, was chosen to represent the development of the United States. You’ll have to visit to learn why George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were selected by the artist, although, I’m sure you might have a few good guesses! 

A few hours at Mount Rushmore National Memorial is more than enough time. If your schedule allows, the evening lighting ceremony is a special event and an incredible way to see the president’s face.

Camp: Mount Rushmore KOACentennial Trailhead Samulies

Hotel: Roosevelt Inn, Battle Creek Lodge 

Views from Black Elk Peak, Custer State Park

Custer State Park

  • 13438 US Highway 16A, Custer, SD 57730
  • Custer is open 24 hours a day with a $20 entry fee per car

South Dakota’s largest and first state park is a hot spot for visitors. It’s home to an abundance of wildlife, hiking trails, biking, swimming, and camping, making it a no-brainer for outdoor enthusiasts.

Day 3 of the South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary

Wake up and head to Custer State Park via Iron Mountain Road. If you’re an avid hiker who likes a challenge, you’ll want to check out Black Elk Peak. It is the highest point in South Dakota and the highest point east of the Rockies at 7,242 feet above sea level!

Complete the hike in a loop from Sylvan Lake Parking lot, heading towards Little Devil Tower and Cathedral Spires fires. This 8-mile loop includes just about 1500 feet of elevation gain and will take you a majority of the day; make sure you’re properly prepared. 

A peaceful morning at Sylvan Lake

If strenuous hikes aren’t your thing, post up at Sylvan Lake for the day. It gets busy in the summer months, but it’s still a beautiful place to swim and paddle. Additionally, the Sunday Gultch trail is a shorter, more mellow option than Black Elk Peak at 3.9 miles RT and 797 feet of elevation gain. 

When you’re done with your Custer State Park hike of choice, take a scenic drive. Needles Highway (route 87) is absolutely breathtaking. Be sure to pull over where safe to really take in all the amazing views. Keep driving South on 87 towards your next stop, Hot Springs. 

Camp: Elk Mountain Campground, Sunrise Ridge Campground

Hotel: Red Rock River Resort, Hot Springs Hills Inn

Views from the Fairground Tour, Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park

  • Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center, 26611 US-385, Hot Springs, SD 57747

Wind Cave is one of the longest and most complex cave systems in the world. It’s also the first cave to named a National Park.

Day 4 South Dakota Itinerary

Wake up early and get an early start today! Head to the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center to snag a ticket for a Cave Tour! The Fairground tour was truly remarkable. We learned so much about Win Cave National Park and had an absolute blast while doing it. 

Try to schedule an early cave tour so you can head out for a hike after. I recommend checking out Rankin Ridge Fire Tower as it is the highest point in the park and offers expansive views of the Southeastern Black Hills and surrounding Great Plains. 

The unique boxwork of Wind Cave

Take A Hot Spring Dip

  • 1145 N River St, Hot Springs, SD 57747
  • Evans Plunge is open Wednesday through Monday

Evans plunge offers an indoor pool fed by naturally warm mineral water from a thermal spring & water slides.

  • 1829 Minnekahta Ave, Hot Springs, SD 57747
  • Moccasin Springs is open Wednesday through Sunday

Moccasin Springs offers spa treatments and four outdoor natural mineral spring pools. 

Day 4 Continued

There are two main places where visitors enjoy natural hot spring water in Hot Spring South Dakota. If you’re traveling with little ones and are looking for more of a water park vibe, check out Evans Plunge. As the oldest attraction in the Black Hills, this naturally spring-fed pool certainly deserves a visit.  

The more serene, adult-only option is Moccasin Springs. A natural mineral spa that features a number of hot pools, each with varying temperatures and spa services. It’s a wonderful way to relax after a few long days of travel and exploring. 

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Jewel Cave National Monument

  • 11149 US-16 B-12, Custer, SD 57730
  • Open Wednesday-Saturday between 8:30 and 4:30

Jewel Cave is the third longest Cave in the world. There are over 210 miles of mapped, surveyed passages full of fragile formations and brilliant pops of color.

Day 5 of your South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary

Wake up on day 5 and head to Jewel Cave National Monument. Tours fill up early, so be sure to plan accordingly and arrive early.

The scenic tour is the most popular ranger-led tour offered at Jewel Cave National Monument. It’s a moderately strenuous hike that lasts about an hour and a half ad includes 734 stairs. 

Photo Credit: Flashpacking America

If you’re looking for something extra adventurous, try to snag a ticket to the Historic Lantern Tour. This strenuous tour enters from the cave’s original entrance and the only light comes from the lantern that tour participants carry. 

There are also three different surface hikes worth your while at Jewel Cave. The Roof Trail is a short quarter-mile trail that meanders through wildflowers and ponderosa pines. If you’re looking for something more strenuous, the 3.5-mile Canyons Trail brings you through Lithograph and Hells Canyon and passes the historic entrance to Jewel Cave. 

When your morning and early afternoon at Jewel Cave is over, head north to Deadwood. 

Photo Credit: scenic USA

Deadwood

  • 102 Sherman Street, Deadwood, SD 57732

Historic Deadwood is known for its gold rush history and lawlessness. A great place for history buffs and adventure seekers alike, the town of Deadwood offers great access to Spearfish Canyon and exploration of Wild West History.

Day 5 Continued

When you arrive in Deadwood take a walk along the historic Mainstreet and grab a drink at Wild Bill bar! 

If time permits and Wild West history interests you, check out Adams Museum. It is considered the oldest museum in the Black Hills and shares the legendary history of Wild Bill, Calamity Jane, Deadwood Dick, and the Black Hills Gold Rush. 

Camp: Days of ‘76 Campground, Mt. Roosevelt Dr. in Black Hills National Forest

Hotel: The Lodge at Deadwood, Historic Bullock Hotel 

Spearfish Canyon

  • US-14A, Spearfish, SD 57783

Spearfish Canyon is an amazing natural recreation area equipped with hiking and biking trails, perfect pools for fly fishing, and a 19-mile stretch of scenic highway. 

Day 6 of the South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary

Wake up and take the 15 minutes to drive to Spearfish Canyon! While you’re here there are so many outdoor activities for you to choose from. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Spearfish Community Caves

Spearfish Community Caves is a moderately strenuous hike because of how steep it is. It may only be a half mile from the road but you’ll be scrambling over loose rocks.

You’ll be able to enjoy incredible views of the canyon and the unique features of the Community Caves.

  • Chase Waterfalls

Drive Spearfish Canyon and check out Bridal Veil Falls, Roughlock Falls, and Spearfish Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls is the most accessible of the three with a large viewing platform for visitors to enjoy the 60-foot cascading waterfall. Roughlock Falls includes maintained walking paths and picnic tables. Spearfish Falls is located in the heart of Spearfish Canyon and although it is a little off the beaten path if you choose to hike it, there is an overlook for those wishing to skip the hike.

  • Climb Mountains

Check out Crow Peak or Lookout Mountain if you’re looking for a mountain hike.

Crow Peak is a 6.8-mile out and back that provides expansive views of the Black Hills. To climb the must more mellow lookout mountain, you’ll have to pay Lookout Mountain Park a visit. Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are permitted here and you’ll likely see a little bit of all three!  

  • Drive the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway

Take a 22-mile drive through Spearfish Canyon and be enthralled by its beauty. With stunning pull-offs throughout the drive, we encourage you to stop, stretch your legs, and take in the views along the way.

After a full day exploring the Spearfish Canyon area, return to Deadwood for one final night in South Dakota. The nightlife in Deadwood is surprisingly good with a number of saloons staying open until 2 AM.

Mountain Biking just outside of Rapid City on our South Dakota Roadtrip

Rapid City

  • 300 6th St. Rapid City SD 57701

Known as the city of presidents for its close proximity to Mount Rushmore and for the 43 life-size presidential statues scattered throughout the city, Rapid City is certainly worth a visit.

Day 7 of your South Dakota Road Trip

This final stop is for anyone driving to Rapid City to catch a flight or anyone who might be driving back through Rapid City to continue their road trip.

If you have any extra time to spend in the city, here are the best ways to spend your time:

  • Visit the Museum of Geology for free exhibits focusing on paleontology and mineralogy.
  • If you’re traveling with kids, head to Story Book Island for a children’s book-themed playground
  • Explore the Downtown Area of Rapid City to experience a variety of art exhibits, museums, theaters, and a variety of other educational opportunities.
  • Check out WaTiki Waterpark for a lazier type of adventure and splash around South Dakota’s largest indoor water park.
The beautiful Black Hills at sunset

What Can I Do With My Extra Time?

If you find yourself with extra time or looking to replace one of the stops on your South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary, take a look at these options! 

  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park 

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in North Dakota, about 4 hours from Rapid City. Here’s a full list of fun activities you can do in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Views from Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  • Bear Country USA

A seasonal drive-through wildlife safari highlighting native Black Hills wildlife. Take a three-mile drive through a number of enclosures and see black bears, elk, feer, cougars, bobcats, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and bison!

Photo Credit: Mountain Peaks Inn
  • Corn Palace

The world’s only corn palace, or multipurpose arena, where guests can experience corn murals, sporting events, and festivals.

Photo Credit: Thrillist
  • Crazy Horse Memorial

Currently under construction, but open for visitors, Crazy Horse Memorial is the largest mountain carving in the world. Learn about the culture, tradition, and living heritage of North America’s Native Americans.

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura
  • Sioux Falls

This is a great stop for anyone heading east to finish off their road trip. Sioux Falls is a city in South Dakota where the Big Sioux River tumbles over a series of rocks at falls park. Sioux Falls is a scenic city with a handful of really fun things to do!

If you’re looking to extend your South Dakota Road Trip or simply replace something on this list that doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, check out these # Must-See Road Trip Spots in South Dakota.

Photo Credit: Midwest Living

South Dakota Road Trip Itinerary: Long Weekend

Take the scenic route and explore the Black Hills for some of the best views South Dakota has to offer.

South Dakota Long Weekend Day 1

  • Leave Rapid City on route 16 and drive through Bear Country USA if you’re looking for a drive through wildlife experience.
  • Then continue to 16A until it becomes Iron Mountain Road. This scenic route takes you through a 17-mile stretch of the Black Hills dropping you in Custer State Park.
  • Check out Sylvan Lake and go for an evening paddle. Stay the night in Custer State Park at Sylvan Lake Lodge or a campground within the park.

Long Weekend Day 2

  • Get an early start and hike the best trail in Custer State Park, Black Elk Peak. Enjoy panoramic views from the highest point in South Dakota before returning to the parking lot.
  • Take the scenic drive down Needles Highway to Wind Cave National Park and choose a fun hike at this unique National Park. For a short, fun little loop with big views try Ranking Ridge. For a longer, more challenging loop check out the Lookout Loop Trail on the Centennial Trail.
  • Spend the night in Wind Cave National Park at Elk Mountain Campground

Long Weekend Day 3

  • Wake up early and get in line at the Wind Caves Visitor Center. Today, you’re trying to snag a tour of one of the longest, most complex caves in the world. The Fairgrounds Cave tour is a great option!
  • After your cave tour, head north on 385 past Crazy Horse Memorial and to Mount Rushmore
  • Spend the night in the nearby town of Keystone

15 Epic Things to Do When You Visit Mesa Verde National Park 

Mesa Verde is one of the most remarkable National Parks I’ve ever been to. Think of it as a giant outdoor museum highlighting the ancient history of the Western United States. Visit Mesa Verde to combine education and adventure.

There is so much to do and see here. Let me help you plan your visit to Mesa Verde by sharing 15 epic things to do that will highlight the beauty and history of this unique National Park. 

Experience Cliff Dwellings in Mesa Verde

What You Need to Know for your First Visit:

  • Mesa Verde is Open Year-Round, however, most tours, accommodations, and roads (such as Wetherill Mesa) are closed in the winter. 
  • There is one entrance to the park, however, there are two mesas to explore. Make sure you follow your map to end up in the correct place for your cliff-dwelling tours and hikes. 
  • Planning Ahead Required! All Cliff Dwelling Tour tickets must be purchased in advance.
  • Cliff Dwellings on either mesa are a 1-hour drive from the park entrance.
  • Accommodations in the park are limited to Morehouse Campground and Far View Lodge. Free camping is less than 10 minutes from the park entrance, and the town of Cortez is about a 15-minute short drive west of the park entrance. Here you can find the nearest gas station and grocery store.
  • Mesa Verde’s location in Southwestern Colorado means it is hot and dry through the summer months, please hydrate accordingly!
  • Mesa Verde National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. It is the largest archaeological preserve in the United States!

Remember that Mesa Verde National Park is a sacred place to many people. It’s incredibly important that you treat this space with respect. When you visit Mesa Verde, you’re visiting a space that is protected not only for its natural beauty but for the rich cultural heritage of 26 different tribes. 

8 Epic Cliff Dwellings Tours

You can’t visit Mesa Verde National Park without experiencing the high-elevation homes the park is best known for. The Cliff Dwellings make Mesa Verde one of the most unique National Parks you can visit, so be sure to plan ahead and book a tour

The Long House Tour

1. The Long House

  • Ranger-Assisted
  • May – October
  • Location: Wetherill Mesa

Explore the second-largest cliff dwelling in the park! Put aside 2 to 2.5 hours to tour the Long House. This ranger-assisted tour allows you to learn about the ancestral Pueblos who inhabited the Long House on your own terms. Stick to the ‘guided tour’ where a Ranger will share interesting information with you or take off on your own and explore the Long House on your own terms.

A photo of Balcony House from Canva since I couldn’t get this tour!

2. Balcony House

  • Ranger-Led
  • Late May – Late June
  • Location: Mesa Top Ruins Road

The Balcony House Tour is by far the most adventurous tour you can take when you visit Mesa Verde National Park. On the tour, you’ll climb multiple ladders, including a 17-foot ladder to leave the sit, and crawl through a small tunnel. This tour is not for the faint of heart.

Cliff Palace Overview

3. Cliff Palace

  • Ranger-Assisted
  • Late July – Late October
  • Location: Mesa Top Ruins Road

At about 150 rooms, Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Allot for about 1 hour of learning, traversing 120 uneven stone steps, and climbing 5 ladders when you visit Cliff Palace.

Photo Credit: Gear Junkie

4. Mug House

  • Ranger-Led
  • Late May – Late June
  • Location: Wetherill Mesa

The Mug House Tour is a strenuous adventure that includes a 2.25-mile round-trip hike that includes switchbacks, steep drop-offs, and scrambling up and over boulders. Along the hike, you’ll get to see Adobe Cave, Ancestral Pueblo Rock Art, and great views of Rock Canyon. Plan for about two hours when completing the Mug House Tour (offered in May and June only)

Photo Credit: American Southwest

5. Square Tower House

  • Ranger-Led
  • Late May – Mid June
  • Location: Mesa Top Loop

The Square Tower House is the tallest standing structure in the park. It’s an impressive sight to see with an intact Kiva roof and plentiful rock art. The strenuous 1-mile hike to Square Tower House is steep and includes uneven terrain. It is only suggested for individuals who can complete the hike, including climbing 2 ladders. 

photo credit: roadtrippers

6. Step House

  • Self-guided
  • Spring-Fall
  • Location: Wetherill Mesa

If you’re planning to visit Mesa Verde National Park and can’t get a ticket to any of the above-mentioned tours, check out Step House. Step House provides a free, self-guided cliff-dwelling experience. 

7. Drive Mesa Top Loop Road

  • Cliff Dwelling Overlooks
  • Open Year-Round

Drive the Mesa Top Loop Road for overlooks of spectacular cliff dwellings. Whether you aren’t able to purchase a ticket or don’t have the physical ability to take one of the tours, this is a great way to experience them. There are a number of pull-offs along the road where a short, paved walk will lead you to beautiful views. 

Photo Credit: National Park Service

8. Spruce Tree House 

  • CLOSED
  • Location: Chapin Mesa

Unfortunately, the third largest cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde National Park is closed to the public for safety reasons. Fortunately, you can see the 130 rooms and 8 Kivas of Spruce Tree House from an overlook near the museum. 

Due to the protection of the alcove, it’s one of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the park. Unfortunately, the very natural sandstone arch that so well guards the past is proving difficult for those in the present to safely access the site.  

Guided Tours are definitely the best way to experience and learn about the park. I highly recommend trying to book at least one ranger-guided tour of a cliff dwelling that best matches your ability level when you visit Mesa Verde National Park. 

7 Amazing Hikes in Mesa Verde National Park 

There are a number of hiking trails you can’t miss when you visit Mesa Verde. If you have enough time, I recommend booking one of the early tours to see a Cliff-dwelling and then take a longer hike for a spectacular look at what life on the Mesa truly felt like.

Petroglyph Point, Mesa Verde

1. Petroglyph Point

  • 2.4 Mile Loop
  • 328 feet of Elevation Gain
  • Chapin Mesa

The Petroglyph Point Trail is a moderately strenuous hike that will bring you down along the edge of Chapin Mesa overlooking Spruce canyon. 

You’ll reach the Petroglyph Panel after a 1.4-mile hike with some light rock scrambling and steep drop-offs. After, you’ll have to climb a long stone staircase back to the parking lot. The return portion of the loop is full of beautiful views of the valley below. 

Pro Tip: The gate for Petroglyph Point and Spruce Canyon is closed and locked each evening. Plan your hike accordingly!  

Photo Credit: National Park Service

2. Mesa Verde Point Lookout Trail

  • 2.1 Miles Out and Back
  • 531 feet of Elevation Gain
  • Morefield Campground

A short, steep climb will bring hikers to the top of a narrow elongated Mesa with an impressive viewpoint at its northern tip. 

Enjoy the impressive switchbacks from the park’s entrance and with the flats of the Montezuma and Mancos Valleys in the distance. 

Photo Credit: USGS

3. Knife Edge Trail

  • 2 Mile Out and Back
  • 154 feet of Elevation Gain
  • Morefield Campground

Take a stroll on the historic, old roadway. The Knife Edge trail was the original automobile route in Mesa Verde National Park.

This scenic route was narrow and steep and couldn’t hold up to erosion despite the excellent views. 

Photo Credit: Expedia

4. Soda Canyon Overlook Trail

  • 1.2 Mile Out and Back
  • 59 feet of Elevation Gain
  • Cliff Palace Driving Loop

An easy out and back among pinyon and juniper trees lead hikers to a rewarding view of Balcony House. 

Along your route, you’ll see several other cliff dwellings across the canyon. Keep your eyes open for various forest-dwelling animals such as mule deer, desert cottontail, wild turkey, and jackrabbit.

Photo Credit: Dismal Wilderness

5. Spruce Canyon Trail

  • 2.2 Mile Loop
  • 498 feet of Elevation Gain
  • Chapin Mesa

The Spruce Canyon trail provides hikers with the opportunity to explore the canyon bottoms of Mesa Verde. These are unique views considering the majority of Mesa Verde’s trails lead to Mesa-top overlooks. 

Be prepared for a steep climb out of the canyon. Be sure to bring adequate snacks and to drink enough water throughout your day! 

Photo Credit: National Park Service

6. Far View Sites

  • .8 Mile Loop
  • 82 feet of Elevation Gain
  • Chapin Mesa

Explore the area of Mesa Verde that was the most populated in A.D. 900 through A.D. 1300. Far View Sites features several excavated and stabilized sites linked by a trial system to guests to learn about living at Far View. 

Before ancestral Pueblo people moved to their cliff dwellings, they lived on top of the Mesa. Many continued to reside on the Mesa Top after their neighbors moved cliff side.  

View of Nordenskiold Site 16 from the overlook

7. Nordenskiold Site 16

  • 1.7 Mile Out and Back
  • 104 feet of Elevation Gain
  • Wetherill Mesa

From the Wetherill Mesa Information Center, this easy stroll will bring you to an overlook.

The viewpoint provides an impressive view of the two-story ruins of Nordenskiold Site 16.  

Family-Friendly Things to Do When You Visit Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park is definitely Family-Friendly. Although some of the ranger-guided tours might be too intense for small children, the self-guided tours provide great opportunities for families to experience and learn about the park’s historic sites. 

Many of the hikes are short and have minimal elevation gain/loss making them appropriate for park visitors of all abilities. Additionally, there are a number of sites that can be reached via bicycle, making the experience less exhausting for little legs! 

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum

The Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum is the oldest in the National Park system! The building was constructed between 1922 and 1925, replacing a log cabin that housed cultural objects. 

This building is receiving a bit of a makeover and it is set to reopen in the Spring of 2023. A bookstore and snack bar are also available near the museum along with bathrooms and water fountains.

Photo Credit: National Park Service

Mesa Verde Visitor Center & Research Center

This should be your first stop if it’s your first time visiting Mesa Verde National Park. Check in with a park staff member to have them help you plan your visit and check out the gift shop. 

The state-of-the-art research center and visitor center include exhibits highlighting the modern descendants of the Ancestral Pueblo People, the park’s research collection, and the LEED building’s sustainability features. Additionally, there are several sculptures and other pieces of art that reflect a modern perspective of Mesa Verde’s people and landscape. 

Photo Credit: Hip Postcard

Scenic Drives

Pile the family in the car and take them on one of the most breathtaking drives they’ll ever know. The best way to learn about the park might be to take a cliff-dwelling tour, but the best views are found on the pavement. 

We’re talking steep drop-offs, twists and turns, and amazing views every which way you look. Enjoy the ride but be sure the driver is paying attention to the road. 

Bike Wetherill Mesa

The Long House Loop, at the end of Wetherill Mesa Road, is closed to motorized vehicles and only open to hikers and bikers. Bring your family’s bicycles along for a run ride around the Mesa Top. 

Bike to the Kodak House Overlook Trail, the Long House Overlook Trail, and the Badger House Community Trail. All three of these trails provide great educational opportunities for the whole family. 

Mesa Verde Area Weather

It’s important to note that you can visit Mesa Verde National Park all year long. The best time to visit the park is late Spring and early Fall. The temperatures are milder and some of the coolest ranger-led tours are available during these times. You can check the park website for specific tour dates and times.

Winter is a great time to visit Mesa Verde for low crowds and cross-country skiing. Mesa Verde is at high elevation making winter storms and snow a very real possibility between December and February which means park accessibility could be limited. Additionally, cliff-dwelling tours are not available in the winter months. 

Summer is one of the most popular times to visit Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde sits at 7,000-8,500 feet of elevation. It’s important that you plan to carry plenty of water and pack the necessary sun protection items as June is the driest month and July is the hottest month in the park. It’s important to note that the main road may be busy during these months as it is the only way into and out of the park, so plan accordingly.

Two Lovebirds checking out Mesa Verde National Park

What Other Colorado National Parks are There?

Colorado is known for having a few amazing National Parks and Monuments. Each park showcases a unique aspect of Colorado’s landscape.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Colorado National Monument

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Rocky Mountain National Park

Aside from these federally protected natural spaces, Colorado has amazing outdoor hubs perfect for exploration. Check out towns like Leadville and Glenwood Springs for unique outdoor opportunities in really fun little towns!

How to Get Around National Park Timed Entry: 5 Success Tips

Some of America’s most popular destinations are requiring National Park Timed entry permits in the 2023 season. These reservations are required to prevent overcrowding of the parks.

Sometimes, no matter how ahead of the game you are, you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have access to the National Park you’re trying to visit. Luckily, I’m sharing 5 ways you can get around the National Park Timed Entry Permits. 

What To Do When You Don’t Get Timed Entry

  1. Book Lodging in the Park
  2. Arrive Before or After Reservation Hours
  3. Secure a Wilderness Permit
  4. Book a Private Tour
  5. Hop on a Park Shuttle
We Love Our National Parks! Especially, Rocky Mountain National Park

How to Get Around National Park Timed Entry 

No matter how you plan, sometimes snagging a National Park Timed Entry reservation simply isn’t in your cards. If this is the case for you, here are 5 ways you can get around the National Park timed entry systems.

1. Book Lodging in the Park

Booking a campsite, cabin, or hotel room. This will act as your entry permit for the number of days you are staying in the park.

This is definitely the best way to ensure you have access to the park for all of the days that you will be visiting. Think of it as killing two birds with one stone! Lodging and park entry all in one. 

Camping in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Northern Unit

2. Arrive Before or After Reservation Hours

National Park Timed Entry reservations are often only required between certain hours. If you arrive prior to or after operating hours, you’ll be able to enter the park.

It’s important to note that you should allow yourself a 15 to 20-minute cushion when arriving before the *allocated* time frame. If there is a line or delay, you might find yourself out of luck. 

Early morning drives in Yellowstone National Park

3. Secure a Wilderness Permit

Plan ahead and secure a wilderness permit. Oftentimes, wilderness permits and tours required by the National Park System will allow you to enter the park.

Backcountry camping permits, ranger-guided hikes, or self-guided hike permits allow you to explore the parks in a new way while also acting as your entry permit. For example, a Fiery Furnace permit in Arches National Park 

Fiery Furnace wilderness permit in Arches National Park allows you to escape the crowds!

4. Book a Private Tour

Experience the National Parks in a unique way. Book a private tour with a private company to ensure entry into the park and an unforgettable experience.

Check the park’s website to see permitted business services. Book a tour to fly fish, rock climb, bike, or hike with a professional guide. You’ll be sure to learn interesting facts about the park while embarking on an unforgettable adventure.

See the best sights when visiting National Parks by booking a tour

5. Hop on a Park Shuttle

Many parks have shuttles that will bring you into the park from the closest local town. Hop on a park shuttle to skip the timed entry permit system and experience the park without worrying about parking.

This is also a great way to avoid traffic within the National Parks. Often, park shuttles have a designated lane that allows them to bypass passenger cars. Some park hiker shuttles require a reservation that can be made the night before at 5 PM. 

The Zion Shuttle is a great way to get around the park!

What is National Park Timed Entry?

A timed entry ticket is designed to prevent overcrowding in popular National Parks. You reserve a timeslot, in advance, for the day you plan on entering the park. You can only enter the park within your reserved timeframe or before or after the required hours.  

How Does Timed Entry in the National Parks Work?

Timed entry in the National Parks requires you to reserve an arrival timeslot. You must arrive at the gate within your two-hour window to be allowed into the National Park. 

Can You Just Show up at a National Park?

You can just show up at most national parks. There are 7 National Parks that you cannot just show up to in 2023. An American the Beautiful parks pass is required for entry into almost all National Parks. 

Which Parks Require National Park Timed Entry in 2023?

There are a few parks that have already announced their National Park Timed Entry Reservation plans for the 2023 season. 

Exploring Acadia National park

1. Acadia National Park, Maine

From May 25 to Oct 22, you need a reservation to drive the Cadillac Summit Road. Cadillac Summit is Acadia’s most popular drive-up spot and has one of the best sunrise views of all the National Parks! 

A beautiful sunset at Arches National Park

2. Arches National Park, Utah

From Apr 3 to Oct 3, you will need a timed park entry ticket between 6 am and 5 pm. Tickets are available on a first come first serve basis three months in advance. There is both a seasonal lottery and a day-before lottery which you can access here

Photo Credit: Trip Savvy

3. Glacier National Park, Montana

A vehicle reservation between 6 am and 3 pm for several areas of the park. From May 26 – September 10th a pass is required for the West Entrance of Going to the Sun Road Corridor and the North Fork Area. From July 1 – September 10th, reservations are required for the St. Mary entrance of the Sun Road Corridor, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine Valley. 

Photo Credit: Mapquest

4. Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

If you want to enter the park between 3 am and 7 am to catch the sunrise, you’ll need to make a reservation online. To observe the sunrise from Haleakala Summit, a reservation ensures a parking space at one of the four summit sunrise viewing locations. 

Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park

5. Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park will require a permit system in 2023. There are two different types of permits: Bear Lake Road Corridor (5am – 6pm) and everywhere but Bear Lake Road Corridor (9am – 2pm). Permits will be required from May 26 – October 22. 

Photo Credit: Seniors Guide

6. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Between May 1 and Nov 30, reservations are required for Shenandoah’s Old Rag Mountain. This popular hike includes the Saddles, Ride, and Ridge Access trails.

The beauty of Yosemite!

7. Yosemite National Park, California

In order to manage the stunning Horsetail Falls glow, a reservation will be required to enter Yosemite National Park on the weekends of February 10–12, February 17–19, and February 24–26 in 2023. 

Amazing views from Zion’s Observation Point, looking down at Angel’s Landing

8. Zion National Park, Utah

A permit is required to hike Angel’s Landing. Angel’s Landing is listed as one of the top 10 hikes in the United States! 

Which National Parks are the Best?

It’s really too difficult to choose which National Park is the best. Some of my personal favorites include Grand Tetons, Yosemite, and the Utah Mighty 5.

We have a full list of amazing National Park guides and itineraries. This complete travel guide should help you plan your next big National Park Adventure.

7 Best Hiking Trails in Acadia: Plan your Trip

Acadia National Park is the Northeast’s only National Park. This, along with its stunning scenery and front-country feel makes it a hot spot for those seeking outdoor adventure and those looking to relax. 

Mount Desert Island’s landscape consists of mixed forests, rocky beaches, and glacier-scoured peaks that rise straight up from the Atlantic. It is truly a beautiful place to visit for anyone who appreciated nature. 

Choosing which hiking trails in Acadia you should add to your itinerary is tough. Use this guide to select the best Acadia hikes for you and your next National Park Adventure. 

Best Time to Visit Acadia National Park 

Bustling in the summer and early fall, Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park are very busy from June through early October. Plan your trip for this timeframe if you want

The winter months provide true solitude and a unique perspective of the park. Be sure to check the weather to make sure you are properly prepared for hiking in Acadia during New England Winter. Coastal, northeast winters can be harsh and unpredictable.  

The Best Hiking Trails in Acadia

7 Best Hiking Trails in Acadia National Park 

Hiking in Acadia National Park is a real treat. Beautiful ocean beaches that rise right up to stunning mountain summits are hard to find, but in Acadia they’re plentiful. 

1. The Bubbles 

Take the Bubbles Divide trail to North Bubble, South Bubble, and Bubble Rock! With expansive views of Jordan Pond and a lot of exposed, rocky granite.

Park at the Bubbles Divide Parking Lot for the shortest hike to these stunning views. Take a spur trail to enjoy excellent views of Jordan Pond, Pemetic and Sargent Mountain, and the Cranberry Isles.

The spur trail for South Bubbles is a bit further down the main trail; it will connect you with an iconic view of Jordan Pond and Bubble Rock, an interesting glacial erratic

You can add to your hike by tacking on some mileage along the Jordan Pond path.

2. The Precipice

Definitely one of the most adventurous hiking trails in Acadia National Park, this hike is not for the faint of heart. 

The Precipice trail is the Angel’s Landing of the East Coast. You’ll climb ladders built right into the rock face and shimmy along exposed cliff edges that are only a few feet wide to reach your destination. Climb over 1,000 feet in one mile of stunning views on the Precipice Trail.

A cloudy view of Acadia's best hike, the precipice trail's
A view of the Precipice Trail, one of the best hiking trails in Acadia

I recommend hiking The Beehive before attempting the Precipice. If you struggle with the Beehive (below) in any way, then it’s safe to say this is not the trail for you. 

Hike the Precipice Trail as a loop. This means you’ll climb up the steep stuff and down the Black and Orange Trail. Additionally, I highly recommend skipping this hike in wet weather due to safety concerns. 

3. The Beehive


The Beehive is a popular cliff trail located near Sand Beach. Although this trail is comparable in many ways to the Precipice Trail, it is significantly less difficult and treacherous.

There are some rung climbing sections and steep drop-offs on the Beehive Trail making it a great leadup hike to the Precipice. This hike is also completed as a loop; your descent isn’t nearly as steep as your ascent. It also provides you the opportunity to hike up Gorham Mountain as a side trip. 

I do not recommend this hike for anyone afraid of hikes or anyone hiking with small children or a dog. If you still want to experience the beehive summit, you can head up and around past the Bowl to climb a much more mellow trail.

4. Ocean Path

Ocean Path is a great trail for families. It’s relatively flat, has amazing coastal views, and is an out-and-back. That means you can turn around at any time to return to your vehicle. 

The full ocean trail goes from Sand Beach to Otter Point. It’s about 4.5 miles roundtrip, but as an out and back, you can turn around whenever you’d like. This trail is a flat path in pretty good condition all the way through, so anyone can do it. It’s one of the easiest hiking trails in Acadia!

A Beautiful View from Ocean Path in Acadia National Park

One of the best viewpoints is Thunder Hole. Located at about the halfway point, this is a must-see on your Ocean Path hike. Listen as the sound of crashing waves booms like the sound of thunder on a stormy day. 

The parking lot here fills up early. Arrive before 7 AM or take the island explorer bus if you want to make sure you get a parking spot. 

5. Beech and Canada Cliffs

A great trail for beautiful views and a bit of a thrill! The Beech Cliffs and Canada Cliffs trail has two separate access points, each boasting different benefits.

Explore this hiking trail in Acadia from Echo Lake Beach Road for a longer and more exciting hike. Climb a metal ladder and live life on the edge by starting at this trail head. 

For a shorter, flatter hike try parking at the Beech Mountain Trailhead. This will shorten your hike to a little over a mile and save you the ladder climbing. 

girl with
Best Hiking Trails in Acadia National Park

From either starting point, you’ll experience stunning views of Echo Lake from the exposed cliff edges. Although the trail is wide open and fairly flat, do take care to watch your footing in these exposed sections.

If you parked in the Echo Lake parking lot, plan to cool off with a freshwater dip in Echo Lake.

6. Beech Mountain Trail

This short, moderate loop is great for avid hikers looking to avoid some of the crowds and gain a beautiful view. 

This hiking trail in Acadia provides access to one of the few remaining fire towers in the area. The lower level of the tower is open and provides stunning views of Somes Sound, Echo Lake, and a handful of mountains on the east side of Mount Desert Island. 

This hike can easily be added to the Beech and Canada Cliffs trail for a longer-day hiker. These two loops will provide a variety of terrain and views.

I highly recommend starting at the Echo Lake Beach Road trailhead, climbing up the ladders, completing the cliffs loop, and then heading over to Beech Mountain before returning via the South Ridge and Valley trails. 

7. Pemetic Mountain

Pemetic Mountain is a trail for hikers who love a challenge. As one of the longest hiking trails rounds trip, you should be prepared for a 3-5 hour outing. 

You can access Pemetic Mountain in a few different ways. The South Ridge Trail is the most family-friendly option, whereas the Northwest Trail is certainly spicier. 

All of the parking lots for Pemetic Mountain share trailheads with other popular hikes. They often fill by mid-morning. Plan according by arriving early or opting to take the Island Explorer shuttle bus to reach the trailhead. 

How Does the Island Explorer Shuttle Work?

The Island Explorer Shuttle at Acadia National Park makes park access on Mount Desert Island a breeze.

Park at the visitor center and hop on the LL Bean-sponsored Island Explorer Shuttles to access the best hiking trails in Acadia. 

Shuttles connect campgrounds, inns, and hotels with destinations throughout the park, including the Bar Harbor Green. With multiple routes and a variety of stops, it can be confusing to follow. Please look into the schedules and routes during your visit.  



  

Ultimate Guide to the Best Views in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited National Parks. With 355 miles of trails it’s tough to choose which views in Rocky Mountain National Park are the best. 

This post is sharing 7 different ways you can find the best views in Rocky Mountain National Park. From stunning alpine lake views, to summit panoramas, and drive-up overlooks, this guide has a view for all skill levels. 

7 Ways to Find Stunning Views in Rocky Mountain National Park 

There’s a truly beautiful view everywhere you look in Rocky Mountain National Park. Let’s narrow it down to the best views with this list as your guide.

Alpine Visitor Center 

You have to visit the Alpine Visitor Center while you’re in Rocky Mountain National Park. It might be one of the coolest Visitor Centers I’ve ever experiences.

Snag some park gear, grab a high altitude meal, and enjoy the views. Although there’s ample views from the visitor center itself, there are two trails you can hike from the parking lot for an even better vantage point. 

The Highest National Park Visitor Center
  • Alpine Ridge Trail
    .6 Miles
    The Alpine Ridge Trail begins at 11,796 feet above sea level and climbs a sharp 162 feet to expansive views of the Never Summer Mountains. There are a number of interpretive signs along the way for you to educate yourself while catching your breath. Although this hike is short and on a paved path, it’s important to take the altitude and weather conditions very seriously.

  • Ute Trail
    3-9 Miles
    Cross the street and begin your hike on the Ute Trail towards Milner Pass. The full out and back hike is 9 miles round trip, but we hiked to a stunning alpine pond that offered amazing views of Forest Canyon in the background about 1.5 miles out. Stay on trail to protect the beauty around you and enjoy playful marmots as they scurry around the rocky, ridge line trail.   
Our Ute Trail Turnaround point!

Alpine Tundra via Trail Ridge Road

During your stay in the park, be sure to drive Trail Ridge Road for some of the best views in Rocky Mountain National Park. Trail Ridge road in is 43 miles from the Estes Park Entrance to Grand Lake in its entirety. Although the entire drive is scenic, the middle 20 miles of this drive is exceptionally beautiful. 

Fairview Curve Viewpoint in Rocky Mountain National Park

Be sure to pit stop at the following Trail Ridge Road Pull-Offs for views in Rocky Mountain National Park of the highest mountains, green valleys, and wildlife.

  • Fairview Curve Viewpoint
    Fairview Curve roadside pull off provides sweeping views of the Kawuneeche Valley.

  • Forest Canyon Overlook
    Park at the small parking lot and take a short walk to some stunning views. You’ll definitely want another layer when you take on these tundra views.

  • Lava Cliffs
    There isn’t a parking lot for Lava Cliffs, but a pull-off to check out the lava formed millions of years ago.

  • Many Parks Curve Overlook
    This is one of the first overlooks you’ll encounter as you climb towards the Alpine Visitor Center. A decent sized parking lot with a cross walk leads you to a beautiful boardwalk view of the valleys and mountains of the Eastern Rockies.

  • Rock Cut
    Pull off and take a short hike to the rocks and panoramic views of Rocky Mountain National Park. This is a space where road builders had to blast straight through rocks to create Trail Ridge Road and it’s pretty amazing.  

  • Sheep Lakes
    This calm and peaceful viewpoint is a bit different from the others. It’s lower elevation The serenity of this view, as wildlife often grazes in the distance, is the perfect way to end your Trail Ridge Road. 
Many Parks Curve Overlook in Rocky Mountain National Park

Best Alpine Lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is home to 147 lakes, here’s the ones that are absolutely worth a visit.


Photo Credit: MyColoradoParks.com
  • Bear Lake
    .7 Mile Hike

    This family friendly hike is the perfect way to experience alpine lake views in Rocky Mountain National Park. With a total elevation gain of 45 feet, this is generally considered an easy hike. 

    The Bear Lake loop trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park. Expect for there to be a lot of people enjoying these alpine lake Rocky Mountain views when you visit.
  • Lake Haiyaha
    4 Mile Hike

    A beautiful day hike from the Bear Lake Trailhead will bring you past Nymph Lake and Dream Lake to the milky, turquoise Lake Haiyaha. A landslide early in summer 2022 caused the water color to change from the typical Rocky Mountain blue to the milky shade of turquoise you see now. 

    The rock hopping at this lake can get dicey. Tread carefully and find a beautiful place to sit and enjoy the views of the Glacier Basin area.
The milky turquoise waters of Lake Haiyaha
  • Poudre Lake
    Drive up!

    Poudre Lake is a great place to view wildlife. Located on Trail Ridge Road between the Western Park entrance and the Visitors Center, this is a popular pull off.

    Because you can just drive up and park, it’s a perfect spot to stop at dusk or dawn for moose and elk sightings. All three times we drove past the lake, there was beautiful wildlife enjoying the grassy outskirts of the lake.
Wildlife sightings at Poudre Lake
  • Sky Pond
    9.4 Mile Hike

    Sky Pond if one of the most popular hikes with some of the best views in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a long and challenging hike that brings you past Lake of glass, The Loch, and Alberta Falls along the way.

    It is important to note that in order to reach Sky Pond, you’ll have to scramble up a waterfall. Additionally, we were lucky enough to experience a big horn sheep visitor while we enjoyed the dramatic views  that surround the 10,900 foot Sky Pond.
One of the most beautiful views in Rocky Mountain National Park, Sky Pond!
  • Sprague Lake
    .8 Mile Hike

    The Sprague Lake loop is considered an easy route, making it perfect for families and individuals with mobility limitations. The east side of Sprague Lake is considered wheel chair and stroller accessible. 

    With ample benches and lookout views, this hike is perfect for hikers of all abilities. Check out the peaks of the continental divide on the Sprague Lake trail. 

Explore Grand Lake 

Grand Lake is a stunning town located at the western entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s also home to the largest and deepest natural body of water in Colorado. 

Enjoy some of the best views in Rocky Mountain National Park from the water!

Rent a kayak or take a guided, scenic boat tour at sunset to experience stunning Rock Mountain views in a different light. Grand Lake is a hot spot for fishing, boating, sailing, swimming, sunbathing, and other water activities in Colorado. Plan to spend a day here during your Rocky Mountain stay. 

Kawuneeche Valley Hiking Trails

Much of the Kawuneeche Valley was devastated by wildfire late in the 2020 season. With 193,812 acres and about 302 square miles scorched, the beauty of this area has been altered, however, there are still wonderful ways to explore the valley during your visit. 

Hike along the Colorado River for beautiful view of Rocky Mountain National Park

Here are the top Kawuneechee Valley hikes:

  • Adams Falls
    .8 Mile Hike
    This is a popular, short and sweet hike to the overlook of Adams Falls. Descend 55 feet via a series of steps through a narrow rock gorge for the viewpoint. 

  • Cascade Falls
    7.4 Miles
    This multi-tiered cascading waterfall trail is considered a moderate out and back hike. With a 40-50 foot drop through a narrow granite chute, the views from above are absolutely stunning.

  • Colorado River Trail
    1-12 Miles
    There are a few different destinations one could choose for their Colorado River Trail. Keep it simple at .5 miles or increase it to 3.7 miles to the site of Lulu City. Little Yellowstone is another popular viewpoint. No matter which you choose, this is a popular location for viewing elk, moose, coyotes, and fox.

  • Coyote Valley Trail
    2.1 Miles
    Explore the Kawuneeche Valley with opportunities to see wildlife. The Coyote Valley Trail is one of the few wheelchair and stroller accessible trails with beautiful views in Rocky Mountain National Park.

  • Shadow Mountain
    9.5 Miles
    This beautiful out and back trail from Grand Lake. Shadow Mountain is unique in that it includes the only surviving fire lookout in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Drive Old Fall River Road for Beautiful Views of the Rocky Mountains

Drive the very first auto route in Rocky Mountain National Park to offer views of the high country. This nature trail for motor vehicles is sure to provide unique views of the park. 

This one-way, uphill route is only open to vehicles under 25 feet. It’s the best scenic drive of United States higher elevations. 

Old Fall River Road provides a few opportunities for exploration. Stop to check out Chasm Falls near the start of your adventure or complete the 1.5 mile out and back Chapin Creek closer to the end of your route. 

This route will keep you on the edge of your seat as it winds it way up to the Alpine Visitor Center. 

Hike Mountains for a Great View of Rocky Mountain National Park

A lot of the best views in Rocky Mountain National Park can be found on the parks summits.

  • Deer Mountain
    6 Miles
    Definitely one of the easier mountain hikes in the park, Deer Mountain is a popular trail. If you’re looking for valley views backed by snow-capped peaks, this is a great hike for you!

  • Flattop Mountain
    8.2 Miles
    Starting at the Bear Lake Parking lot, hikers can expect a steady and strenuous climb to outstanding panoramic views. Enjoy Hallett peak to the south and Notchtop Mountain and the Mummy Range to the North. Continue .7 miles and climb an additional 389 feet to reach the summit of Hallet Peak.

  • Longs Peak
    13.3 Miles
    Longs Peak towers over many of the other Rocky Mountain National Park summits. This is because it is a fourteener, sitting pretty at 14,259 feet. Experienced climbers should summit Longs Peak via the Keyhole route; this is a climbing route, not a hike, and should only be completed by individuals who are aware of and can navigate a route like this.

  • Mount Ida
    9.5 Miles
    Begin at Poudre Lake and climb along the Continental Divide to the 12,889-foot summit of Mount Ida. A majority of this hike is above tree-line and exposed; start early, check the weather, and exercise your best decision making skills.

  • Twin Sisters Peak
    7.5 Miles
    This difficult hike provides spectacular views of Longs Peak. East Twin Sisters peak is slightly higher then the Western, easier to summit peak, however both summits are 11,400 feet and change above sea level.

The Best Time to Experience the Best Views in Rocky Mountain National Park

The best time to visit is the summer and fall months. It may be the busiest time of year, however, all roads are open and the weather conditions are the most mild.

Winter months provide breathtaking views for those who are prepared to explore a snowy, frozen wonderland. 

5 Ways to Ditch the Crowds in Arches National Park


Arches National Park has the world’s densest population of natural stone arches. With over 2,000 documented arches and endless fins, balanced rocks, and other geological features, Arches National Park is a must-see. 

Over 1.8 million people visit Arches National Park annually. In this article, I’ll share 5 things you can do to ditch the crowds in Arches. From my personal experience, this busy park is full of unique, crowdless experiences.

The famous, Delicate Arch, of Arches National Park

5 Things You Can Do to Ditch the Crowds in Arches 

1. Arrive Before 6 AM

Arches National Park now runs on a timed, ticketed entry system between 6 and 5 PM during the busy season (April-October). If you arrive before 6 AM, you’ll find parking at your favorite trailheads and significantly fewer crowds at your favorite Arches destination. 

This is also a great way to get into Arches if you were unsuccessful in snagging a timed entry ticket. The early bird catches the worm and avoids Arches National Park Crowds. 

2. Fiery Furnace Permit 

Snag a Fiery Furnace Permit and get lost in a natural labyrinth of narrow passages among towering sandstone walls. 

Choose from a ranger-led or self-guided permit. Ranger-led permits include about 20 park guests and one ranger. It is easy to get lost in the Fiery Furnace. If you are a beginner hiker, I recommend the ranger-led permit. 

We chose a self-guided experience and had a blast climbing up sandstone fins, and through fallen rock crevices. We saw very few people on our adventure and felt as though we were a world away from society on a Fiery Furnace hike. 

ditch the crowds in Arches by snagging a fiery furnace permit

3. Take a Long Hike 

  The longer and more daunting the trail, the fewer people you’ll find on it. Ditch the crowds in Arches by planning more challenging hikes. 

Here are a few hikes you can add to your arches plan that should provide you with some solitude. 

  • Klondike Bluff Trail to Tower Arch
    5.7 Miles for the full loop with 600 feet of elevation gain
  • Devil’s Garden Loop via the Primitive Trail
    7.9 Miles with 1,085 feet of elevation gain
  • Broken Arch Loop + Sand Dune Arch
    2.8 Miles with 321 feet of elevation gain

If you’re looking for a full list of hikes, I’ve curated a detailed list of amazing hikes inside the park. 

Take a long hike to

4. Travel to Arches During Low Season

Most Visitors come to Arches during the summer months and during holiday breaks. You can lower your chances of getting stuck in the crowds by traveling to Arches National Park opposite those times.

Traveling on the off-season is a great way to see the park from a different perspective while avoiding crowds. We do recommend you check out the weather in Arches for the time of year you plan to visit. Winter months mean freeze warnings and might require you to pack additional gear and layers. 

5. Stay for Sunset

Stick around for a breathtaking sunset in  Arches National Park. Ditch the crowds in Arches by finding a pullout with a clear view west for stunning views and very few people.

Pack dinner and set up for the evening. Arches is also an amazing place for astrophotography! We spent hours at the pull-off near the Garden of Eden. We set up our camp chairs, got out the photography gear, and took the most amazing golden hour and sunset photos with the red rocks are our canvas. 

Stick Around for Sunset in Arches National Park and ditch the crowds!

BONUS: The Arches Won’t Always Be There

What was once a shallow, inland sea is now the dry, desert landscape of Arches National Park. It might seem dry and desolate, but water continues to mold the landscape of Arches.

These temporary features will one day succumb to the forces of gravity and erosion. Plan your trip to Arches National Park and experience natural wonders before they collapse. 

What’s One Thing I Want To Do Next Time?

I’ve pretty much done it all in Arches National Park, and let me tell you, it’s all worth it! But another great way to ditch the crowds in Arches is to stick around for some astrophotography. 

This unique experience will provide you with gorgeous shots you’ll look back on for a lifetime. Double Arch would be a great place to snag some truly creative photos of the night sky. 

A starry sky in Arches National Park



  

Visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park: A Unique Perspective of the Badlands

Why Should I Visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park?

How can you not visit the National Park named after the President who established the U.S. Forest Service and the first National Park? If you’re a National Park enthusiast, you can’t miss Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States. He’s best known for his contributions to the conservation efforts in America. He created the United States Forest Service and paved the way for National Parks.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park protects 70,446.89 total acres. Of those 70,446.89 acres, 29,920 of them are designated wilderness areas. Over 600,000 visitors travel to Theodore Roosevelt National Park each year. 

Experience the Badlands of North Dakota by visiting one of Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s three units. Stunning rock features filled with prairie flora and fauna await adventurers. Continue reading to see exactly what to add to your itinerary.

River Bend Overlook, Theodore Roosevelt National Park North Unit

Which Theodore Roosevelt National Park Unit Should I Visit?

Plan accordingly for all three Units of Theodore National Park in your calendar. Each unit has a little something different to offer all kinds of explorers. 

The North Unit

The North Unit is perfect for adventurers looking for significantly fewer crowds, longer, more strenuous hiking opportunities, and seclusion. 

The South Unit

I recommend the South Unit to families and people who want to experience a National Park with the amenities of a quaint town close by. 

Elkhorn Ranch Unit

The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is for the history buff. Often referred to as Teddy Roosevelt’s home ranch, it was the site of his second ranch operation where only a stone foundation remains.

When Should I Plan my Theodore National Park Visit?

The summer months are best for hikes who prefer temperatures in the mid-70s to 90s. If you enjoy cold-weather hiking, all three units hit single digits in the winter months. 

Always check the weather forecast. National Park visitors should be prepared for thunderstorms in the summer and blizzard conditions in the winter. 

What Did We Do on Our Theodore Roosevelt National Park Visit?

Aside from getting engaged in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we hiked gorgeous trails in both the North and South Units. 

Top 3 Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt’s North Unit

Visit the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park for some longer, more rugged hiking opportunities.

Hiking the Buckhorn Trail in Theodore Roosevelt’s North Unit
  • Buckhorn Trail
    A 10.8-mile loop spanning 1,033 feet of elevation gain. Venture into Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s back country where you’ll hike right through prairie dog down, navigate a herd of bison, and explore some of the North Unit’s highest points.
  • Caprock Coulee Loop
    Experience the geographical variety of Theodore Roosevelt National Park on a 4.4 mile, 583 foot of elevation gain hike. Often described as one of the best hikes in the park, I recommend snagging parking for this one early in the day.
  • Sperati Point
    Sperati Point is the perfect sunset hike! Located at the end of the scenic drive, this 2.4-mile round-trip hike is an easy way to escape the crowded overlooks and see the most beautiful colors over the Missouri River for sunset. 

Top 3 Hikes in Theodore Roosevelt’s South Unit

Visit Theodore Roosevelt’s South Unit for a handful of really family friendly hikes!

Boicourt Overlook Trail in Theodore Roosevelt’s South Unit
  • Boicourt Overlook
    This .8-mile hike is short, sweet, and provides stunning views for visitors of all abilities. The first quarter mile of the trail is paved with resting benches every hundred feet. At the end of the blacktop, there’s an opportunity for 360-degree views. Follow the dirt path to get there!
  • Buck Hill
    A .4 mile, short and steep trail brings you to the highest point in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. This popular trail is often busy, but absolutely worth the quick stop.
  • Painted Canyon Trail
    Vivid, colorful canyon layers await hikers on the 1.1-mile Painted Canyon Trail. The loop will bring you down into the canyon through juniper trees and wildflowers providing a great perspective of what the Badlands has to offer. 

Check out all the amazing hikes we completed with a full list of Teddy Roosevelt’s National Park’s Best Hikes.

What Will We Do Next Trip?

We spent three full days exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park, however, there’s still more to do. 

  • Mountain bike more of the Maah Daah Hey Trail, located just outside the North Unit Entrance in the CCC Campground.
  • Explore the South Unit by horseback with Roundup Group Horse Camp.
  • Checkout Peaceful Valley Ranch, the only remaining original ranch house in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. 
Mountain Biking the Maah Daah Hey Trial in Theodore Roosevelt National Park