Canadian Rockies National Parks

Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Canadian Rockies National Parks

The Canadian Rockies National Parks are incredibly beautiful, and full of adventure. Have you ever seen pictures of some magical destination on social media and thought to yourself, there is no way those colors are real. That’s how I’ve felt each time I visit the Canadian Rockies National Parks and surrounding areas.

Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Getting There

Fly into Edmonton, the drive south will take you through 3 jaw dropping Canadian National Parks. Start in Jasper National Park and make your way down the ice fields parkway through Banff National Park & end in Yoho National Park. Flying home out of Calgary will save you time and money.

National Park Road Trip

Imagine…experiencing ancient glaciers, waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and emerald lakes as you road trip through the Canadian Rockies into the National Parks. The colors are bright, vibrant and unbelievably breathtaking.

Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park has plenty of adventurous activities to offer visitors. From rock climbing, to white water rafting- this is an adventurers dream park. Check out my Adventurers Guide to Jasper National Park HERE for more info!

Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Maligne Lake

Maligne lake in jasper national park lake Fourth Lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada and more incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Sulfer Skyline

Sulfer Skyline summit Jasper national park and more incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Sulphur Skyline is a 7.7 kilometer moderate out and back trail in Jasper National Park. The park hot springs are located at the trailhead. I recommend bringing your bathing suit to relax after your hike. PS: The trailhead also has an ice-cream shop, need I say more?

Second Lake

2nd lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada and more incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Fourth Lake

Fourth Lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada and more incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

In Jasper National Park there is a 4.5 kilometer trail called Valley of the Five Lakes. The Loop is rated as moderate and is dotted with 5 lakes and breathtaking mountain views. The trail is primarily used for hiking, with the best time being from March to October.

Ice-fields Parkway

ice fields parkway Alberta Canada  Canadian rockies national parks Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

The Icefields Pathway will take your breathe away, as you drive the famous stretch of road.  The drive is an adventure itself as it takes you through the Canadian rockies national parks. The road goes from Jasper down to Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta.

Along the drive you’ll see hundreds of ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and crystal clear emerald lakes. All surrounded by sweeping valleys of thick pine and rich forests.

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park, and other amazing places to visit in Alberta Canada to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Peyto Lake is a glacier fed lake in Banff National Park. The lake is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway. A short hike up the trail will bring you to this breathtaking view of Peyto Lake.

Banff National Park

Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Lake Louise

Lake Louise in Banff National Park is located in the Canadian rockies of Alberta. Check out this and more iIncredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Perhaps one of the most crowded lakes in Banff National Park- Lake Louise is known for its turquoise, glacier-fed lake ringed by high peaks. Hiking trails wind up to the Lake Agnes Tea House giving hikers a bird’s-eye view of the lake. You can rent canoes in summer, or skate on a frozen glacier lake skating rink. The lake has a ski resort with a gondola, making this a popular winter destination as well.

Lake Moraine

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta Canada and more  Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

This iconic jaw-dropping shade of turquoise is sure to leave a lasting impression. The waters are the most amazing color, and set in the Valley of Ten Peaks in Banff National Park, Alberta. The lake is great for kayaking, hiking or picnicking as it is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and rock piles. 

Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

 

Yoho National Park

Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

The least visited of the 3 Canadian rockies national parks is Yoho National Park, in British Colombia. The park should not be overlooked by its more famous siblings Banff & Jasper. The park is half as busy as Banff offering visitors over 61 beautiful lakes to explore.

Emerald Lake

Emerald lake in  Yoho National park and other Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

Emerald lake is the largest in the park. Canoe’s are available for rent out on the absolutely beautiful glacial-fed lake with vibrant turquoise colored water.

Yoho national park emerald lake, British Colombia Canada and more incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

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Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia
Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia
Incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia
Jasper National Park lakes in Alberta Canada and more incredible photos to inspire your Canada National Park Adventure. Covering Jasper + Banff + Yoho | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia

For more adventures, check out my other National Park guides!

Complete Travel Guide to Olympic National Park in Washington, USA | HerLifeAdventures.Blog #olympic #nationalpark #washington #seattle #thingstodo #wheretogo
19 Extraordinary National Parks to Visit in 2019 | herlifeadventures.blog | #nationalparks #thebest #wheretogo #bestnationalparks
The adventurers guide to Jasper National Park, in Alberta Canada. | HerLifeAdventures.Blog | #traveldestinations #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips  #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #roadtrip #nationalpark #nationalparkroadtrip #alberta #canada #britishcolombia
National Park packing list for camping | herlifeadventures.blog | #nationalpark #packingguide #camp #gear #packinglist
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Iceland Waterfall Bucket list

9 Must see waterfalls for your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

Last spring on my road trip around the Ring Road , I fell in love with Iceland’s waterfalls. Be sure to add these these falls to your Iceland Waterfall Bucket list for a magical experience around the island.

Must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

There are over 10,000 Iceland waterfalls beautifully cascading around the country. The falls are as diverse and magical as they are many. The frequent rain and snow, combined with glaciers melting in summer make the perfect climate for waterfalls in Iceland.

Ultimate Iceland Waterfall Bucket List

1. Gullfoss

Must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

2. Selfoss

Selfoss, and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

3. Dettifoss

Dettifoss, and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

4. Bruarfoss

Bruarfoss blue waterfall, and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore
Iceland hike to blue waterfall bruarfoss, and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

5. Skogafoss

Skogafoss Iceland Waterfall Bucket List, and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

6. Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss, and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

7. Faxi

Faxi waterfall, and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore
Faxi waterfall and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

8. Öxarárfoss

Oxararfoss and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

9. Goðafoss

Godafoss and more must see waterfalls on your Iceland road trip around the ring road.  Hidden gems, cascading waterfalls and some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. | herlifeadventures.blog | 
#icelandtravel #hiddengem #icelandvacation #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel #traveltips #europe #traveldestinations #travelexperience #waterfalls #iceland #beautifulplaces #adventure #explore

Have you visited Iceland’s waterfalls? There are SO MANY to see, I’d love to hear which ones you’ve visited to add to MY bucket list!

Read more about Iceland in my 8 Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road on a budget

Week Itinerary Iceland Ring Road Budget

The Perfect Weekend Camping in Michigan’s UP Central Region

The Perfect Weekend Camping in Michigan’s UP
(Central Region)

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The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two.

MI UP Map

Locals of the Lower Peninsula will often say I’m going “up north” for the weekend. Which could be anywhere north of their local county. Memorial Day weekend, my boyfriend and I took our fur babies camping up north to Michigan’s UP to welcome the beginning of the summer season. “Up North” for the weekend took us 6 hours north of Detroit straight up I-75 to the central region of The UP.

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 The summer months (Late May- August) are best for tent camping in The UP. Temperatures range from mid 70’s to low 90’s, depending on how close to the waters you go. Lake Superior touches the northern part of the region, while Lake Michigan/Huron (depending on what side of the Mackinac Bridge you’re on) border the southern region.

Where To Camp

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Indian Lake State Campground

We left right after work Friday to make the most of our three-day holiday weekend. Arriving to our campsite at night per usual (we’re getting SO GOOD at setting up camp in the dark). We camped at Indian Lake State campground for the weekend, it was centrally located for all the activities we had planned. Michigan has some INCREDIBLE state campgrounds, I would recommend booking early, as most fill up quickly during the summer. Our camp site for the weekend was right on the lake! Check out my packing guide for what gear I use. *Note* If the state parks are all full, there are private owned campgrounds in the area as well as cabin rentals.

Explore Kitch-iti-kipi

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Kitch-iti-kipi known as “The Big Spring” is another gem in The UP’s crown. The 40 ft. deep spring pumps over 10,000 gallons of water a minute! Be sure to ride the self-operated observation raft across the spring, it offers a unique perspective, providing striking views to the bottom.

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Big Spring is located inside Palms Book State Park, beautiful all year round… Big Spring doesn’t freeze! Visiting in the winter to see the crystal clear blue waters surrounded by a winter wonderland would be an epic adventure. (Mental note made)

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 40 miles of breath taking lakeshore along Lake Superior. There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails winding through dense forest that will take you to waterfalls, pristine beaches and other secluded beauty.

Take A Hike

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Deciding which hike to do will be tough, there are so many things to explore! I would recommend doing a couple hikes inside this bubble of national protected land to best see the beauty the UP has to offer. Michigan is so incredible! As we hiked along lakeshore north country trail the trail suddenly went from dirt to boardwalk as we crossed over some swamp lands. As we continued further, I looked around… we were completely surrounded 360 degrees by bright yellow flowers.

Relax at Chapel Beach

img_0134Explore the beach area and hike to the waterfall nearby!

Take A Dip

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At the end of the hike there was the opportunity to cool off in a bath of crystal clear ABSOLUTELY FREEZING Lake Superior water. I wouldn’t recommend swimming for too long, while the surface temperature of Lake Superior varies seasonally, the temperature below (660 ft; 200 m) is 39 °F (4 °C) I dipped my toes in and decided that was enough for me! 😊

For more on what to do in Michigan’s U.P check out my post on the Eastern Region!

MI UP Map

 

10 Perfect Spring Travel Destinations

The month of May has been absolutely insane for me. For starters, it’s my 30th birthday month (HUGE, I know).  For whatever reason, turning 30 always scared the hell out of me. I even came up with a 30 Before 30 List of things I wanted to accomplish before the big day (I did pretty awesome).

I spent a good portion of the last 6 weeks (End of April- May) living out of either a suitcase or a backpack. Sleeping in tents, hotels, airports, and cabins. Traveling back and forth across the country….twice. First time by plane, second time was by plane AND moving truck. I explored my first European country. Then before I beat the jet lag, I took another road trip over Memorial Day weekend. This time across my home state of Michigan. So this all translates to: I’ve had absolutely no time to write about each of the adventures individually (which I intend on doing).

Meanwhile- I came to the realization that the last 6 weeks was one giant adventure, made up of back to back mini adventures! Here’s a recap, with a super awesome picture from 10 places I visited this spring.

Los Angeles, CA

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I started out in LA for work the last week of April- and it’s been a giant blur since.

 

Chicago, IL

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I was home for 48 hours after I got home from LA, in which time I attended a baby shower, and a birthday party. Then it was off to Chicago, where I stayed for less than 24 hours to start the next mini adventure.

 

Badlands National Park, SD

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map badlands

We left Chicago EARLY, and started the long drive across the country to Seattle. We drove through four states before we made it to our first stop.

We were in South Dakota after 12 hours (not including stops). Arriving at night- we set up camp and spent the night at a campground inside the park. Check out my full post on Badlands National Park for more details!

 

Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD

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The drive from Badlands to Mount Rushmore was only about an hour or so. The stop helped break up the long drive we still had ahead of us- and it was pretty cool to see the National Monument I never in a million years anticipated I’d see.

 

Grand Teton National Park, WY

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map teton

We drove another 8 hours into the state of Wyoming. I really struggled choosing just one picture for these next two stops. Grand Teton National Park was incredible. We spent a day exploring the park and fell in love with the snow-covered peaks. We crashed at a hostel inside the park (no campgrounds were open this early in the season).

 

Yellowstone National Park, WY

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We camped for the next two nights in the colorful world of Yellowstone. Only the west half of the park was open during our time there. Thankfully the Grand Prismatic spring was accessible (I had pre-warned Grace I might lose my shit if I missed it).

 

Seattle, WA

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The last 12 hours of our trip from Yellowstone to Seattle took us through 3 more states (Montana, Idaho, Washington). When we finally arrived in Seattle, I had 24 hours there before my flight home. Check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Seattle for more details on this amazing city.

 

Detroit, MI

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After being on the road for a week, I was looking forward to coming home for a few days. I was going to be home for FIVE WHOLE DAYS before we left on the next trip. Check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Detroit for a local’s guide on my favorite city.

The entire week, Logan and I planned on leaving for Iceland Saturday night (the day before Mother’s Day). We made plans with our families, put off laundry and packing (we had all day Saturday after all) and figured we’d get through the work week and worry about everything Iceland on Saturday.

Friday night I double checked our tickets and realized, our flight actually departs at 12:30 THAT NIGHT! We now had 4 hours to drop off the dogs/do laundry/clean the apartment/pack our bags/get to the airport…

 

Reykjavik, Iceland

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map iceland

I planned my Iceland trip almost 5 years ago. It was always the #1 spot on my list of places I wanted to go- I just never seemed to make it there. Well after 5 years of waiting… I finally made it! My favorite travel crew and I set off on a week long road trip around the country that ended with my 30th birthday hike to the bluest waterfall I’d ever seen.

 

“Up North”, MI

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We got home from Iceland exhausted and jet lagged. At this point the constant traveling was beginning to catch up with me. I’d been in so many different time zones the last couple weeks, I had no idea what day it was, what time zone I was in, or if I should be awake or sleeping (Iceland never got fully dark at night, so our sleeping schedules were all sorts of messed up.)

After spending a few days at home recovering and starting to sort our life back out, next thing we knew- the week was over, and it was Memorial Day weekend.

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I spent my Memorial Day weekend with Logan and the fur babies “up north” in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula, MI) We spent time relaxing at our camp site, grilling, and playing tourist in our own state. We stayed at Indian Lake State Campground which was only 15 minutes from Kitch-iti-Kipi, and an hour from Pictured Rocks National Lake shore.

The Perfect Weekend in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley Sign

Death Valley holds the title for driest, hottest, and lowest National Park of the 59 in the U.S. PLUS it’s the largest National Park outside of Alaska. We had two full days to see as much as we could and we’re already planning our next trip back to explore more of this diverse landscape.

Death Valley Road

The park entrance fee is $25 usd per vehicle per day- I have an annual pass ($80 usd) we used to get in. With over 3 million acres of wilderness, sand dunes, slot canyons, rocky rainbow peaks, and miles of back country roads to explore- where do you begin?! We flew into Las Vegas after work the Friday of MLK weekend and rented a car to make the 2 hour drive through the desert into Death Valley.

Tip: Make your rental car and camping reservations early. Spend the money on a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. You’ll need one if you plan to do the back country drives- that includes the famous racetrack. It’s 27 miles of HARD road to get there, and the ever logical Logan deemed our compact car  unfit for such conditions… preventing us from seeing the racetrack and other park sites (getting a flat or needing a tow truck in the middle of no where sounded not so fun).

Day 1: East Side

Sunset Campground

We spent more time dicking around in Vegas than we anticipated, so we got to the park a little later than planned, meaning we got to drive around in the dark looking for an open site… the campground is first come first serve and there were plenty of spots (it seems we’ve made setting up camp in the dark an unintentional tradition). The campsite didn’t have a fire pit or picnic table but the campground had water and flush toilets (no showers). The sites weren’t very private and it felt like we were in a giant parking lot more than a campground. We set up our tent facing to the darkest side, and watched the sky light up with stars.  

sunset campground

Artists Drive

This scenic loop drive is 9 miles of paved road that takes you through multi-hued colorful volcanic and sedimentary hills. We had the the one way road to ourselves so we took our time as we drove. As the famous Artist Palette came into view we got out at the pull off and explored further into the rock formations for a small hike. Our little compact car did fine on the paved road.

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Natural Bridge

We did a few hikes in our time at the park, but this by far was our favorite. The road to get here is rough and rocky, we didn’t think our car was going to make it- thank God it did. The out and back hike took us 1 mile round trip from the natural bridge formation- bbbbbut don’t stop there! We hiked back as far as we could get past the bridge (another mile or so) and the dramatic canyon turned to beautifully colored marble walls glistening around us. You could see the remains of a dried up waterfall, and how the powerful element carved it’s mark permanently into the earth. It was incredibly pretty, and the tall narrow canyon kept us shaded from the sun.

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chelsea purple rock

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Badwater Basin

It was 75 degrees and sunny when we walked a mile out to the salt flats 282 ft below sea level- the lowest point in North America. There was no shade, and in the dead of winter- we were hiking in Death Valley, and for the first time- we felt it. I’ve seen salt flats in Bolivia, and they were miles and miles long. But these were the first salt flats with water I’d seen, and it was an incredible sight (and another reason I FREAKING LOVE MY TEVAS). I walked out into the salty water expecting the lake I saw before me to get deeper as  walked further out. The water never went above my ankle in depth- and from afar it looked to others as if I was walking on water. It was a magical experience.

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Zabriskie Point

If you’re looking for the best spot to catch a sunrise or sunset- this is it. The golden colored badlands make for an amazing backdrop to natures free shows each day. Start your day or end your day here- you won’t be disappointed either way you do it. We missed the point coming into the park at night, so we made sure we caught it on our way back out!

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Day 2: North Side

Stone Pipe Wells Campground

We spent our 2nd night in this first come first serve campground that’s only open during the winter season; the campground has tent only sites everywhere, and a lot of private options; we had a beautiful view outside our tent of the mountains across the desert- there’s flush toilets and water, but no fire pits or picnic tables.

stone pipe wells campground

 

 

Ubehebe Crater

Hundreds of years ago, a massive volcanic explosion happened in Death Valley. Magma mixing with an underground spring caused the explosion that created this 600 ft deep crater. As we drove to the trail head you could see the landscape around us changing from light colored brown tones to dark volcanic black sand. You can hike the full rim of the crater (around 1.5 miles round trip) but we were short on time, so we hiked to see little ubehebe crater and enjoyed the views before heading back down.

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Mosaic Canyon

This was the hike I was most excited about. The 4 mile hike took us through polished marble narrows, and required a bit of rock climbing (scrambling). It was beautiful walking through the labyrinth of smooth rock.. The colorful walls changed in color and texture along the hike, making for gorgeous photo opportunities.

 

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Rainbow Canyon

We ended our day exploring the west side of the park. As soon as I saw their was a “rainbow canyon” I knew we couldn’t leave without seeing it. The drive takes a couple hours, so we stocked up on fuel and road trip snacks in Stovepipe Wells Village before heading towards the canyon. The drive to Father Crowley Vista was one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done. A landscape of dark lava flows and volcanic cinders turns to rainbow canyon with an explosion of color. As you’re driving through the mountains you can see the colors start to pop the closer you get.

 

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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Hike to the largest dune field in the park for another great spot to catch a sunrise or sunset. You can walk as far out into the dunes as you want, the hike to summit the highest is about 2 miles roundtrip. We walked through the sand up and down the dunes until we found the perfect sunset viewing peak, all to ourselves.

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Furnace Creek Campground

We spent our last night back on the east side of the park (where the only showers in the park were)- it was MLK Day, and the park entry and camping was free for the holiday! We were expecting a huge crowd but we had no issue finding a site on the first come first serve sites. It was our favorite campsite, we had a picnic table, a fire ring, and nobody around us. Of course the night we have furniture the clouds decided to be assholes- we didn’t see one star that night. Instead we were kept awake by the howling of the locals (aren’t they just adorable?!?).

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furnace creek camp

Know Before You Go

  • Showers are only available at the privately owned Furnace Creek Resort. It’s $5 per person for a pool pass that gives you access to their pool & showers/locker room. **These are the only showers in the entire park, and if you’re camping and hiking, you will want a shower.**
  • You can rent a 4×4 high clearance vehicle by the hour in the town of Furnace Creek from a privately owned company.
  • There is 1 restaurant (Stovepipe Wells Village) and a few small grocery stores inside the park (Stovepipe Wells Village & Furnace Creek).
  • It is a 2 hour drive to the park from Las Vegas and a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. The park is located in both California & Nevada.
  • Check out my guide on what to pack for your national park camping trip!