The Adventurers Guide to Big Sky Montana

Big Sky is a community within the Rocky Mountains of southern Montana. Located halfway between Yellowstone & the city of Bozeman. Big Sky has no local government (which is why it is considered a “community” not a town- neat, right?), so the community is primarily supported by locals and tourism.

Big Sky is home to epic ski resorts, a historic dude ranch, and incredible outdoor adventures. All bringing plenty of excitement to this friendly community year round.

This winter I set out to explore the community and its surrounding area with some girlfriends. We spent the perfect winter weekend exploring the high summits and beautiful surrounding nature. Here’s my adventurers guide to Big Sky, Montana! 

Getting There

The nearest airport to Big Sky is Bozeman Yellowstone International airport (BZN). The quaint airport is warm and welcoming with beautiful stone fireplaces and wood accents throughout the halls.

Get Cozy

Another AirBnb for the win for Big Sky. Our condo was super cozy with a warm stone fireplace in the group gathering area. The condo was in an alpine valley surrounded by rivers and panoramic mountain views named the “Meadow” area of Big Sky.

Get Adventurous

Snowboard Big Sky!

Snowshoe to Frozen Ousel Falls

Snowshoe ANYWHERE really…
Even up the ski runs…
It’s really fun, I swear…
Hike to Frozen Palisade Falls
If you run out of water, just eat icicles like Lenka.

Explore Callatin National Forest

Take a Horse Sleigh Ride 

Go Sledding

Have you been to Big Sky? What other adventures did I miss?

10 Gifts Every Traveler Needs

It’s that time of year again! I keep getting the “what do you want for the holidays?” question from my family and Logan. Which inspired me to put together some Gift Lists for Travelers! If you’re at a loss for what to get the traveler in your life- look no further!

Here are 10 Gifts Every Traveler Needs!

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Away Carry On

Meet the perfect carry-on! Seriously, it’s unbreakable, designed for travels, and guaranteed for life. I’ve had several bags over the years that have broken or ripped. I hope for this to be my last carry-on I ever purchase. Months later- I adore everything about my Away carry-on, from it’s amazing storage compartments to the ejectable TSA-approved (safe to fly) battery; this Away carry-on is a gift any type of traveler would appreciate.

Away Everywhere Bag

The best addition for any carry-on? The Away everywhere bag with laptop pouch. Its thoughtful design impressed me with features that keep what you need at hand. The bag attaches efficiently onto your suitcase, making your airport travels effortless. I ordered mine originally to use as a “travel-laptop-under my seat bag”. I used it on one trip and it instantly became my everywhere bag.

Away Dopp Kit

This little gem is designed to keep your toiletries organized and contained to eliminate spills

Packing Cubes

Perhaps the most genius travel invention ever. These will change the way you travel forever. The cubes keep your clothes separated, keep your bag organized, and make packing things up fast and efficient.

DJI Mavic Air

Give the ultraportable Mavic Air drone to open doors to a new world. Exploring the world from a limitless aerial view perspective has never been easier. The drone is installed with a 3-axis gimbal & 4k camera with up to 21 minute flight time.

GoPro Hero 7

Never miss an action shot again. This small compact adventure camera is great for any traveler, and takes up minimal packing space.

Travel Voucher

A gift card or travel voucher to any major airline or hotel chain is always a great gift for any traveler. Flights and accomodations are the largest expenses when traveling- a travel voucher of any sort will be appreciated by a lover of travel. Plus, it gives us an excuse to do what we love, and to plan another trip!

Solar Powered Charger

There is nothing worse than a dead electronic when you need it the most. A phone, a camera, navigation, music- whatever it may be, keep it going no matter where you’re at with a solar powered charging unit!

Travel Shoes

Finding the perfect pair of shoes to travel in can sometimes be a challenge. Especially when you are flying from one extreme climate to the next (tropical to snow). Prepare for any situation with All Bird’s wool shoe that’s naturally soft, cozy all over, and fits your every move.

Waterproof DSLR Camera Case

Part of traveling is experiencing the unexpected- prepare any traveler for any experience with this waterproof camera case. Protect expensive gear to save money in the long run.

What’s on your holiday list? Leave a comment!

For more Gift Ideas- check out my post on 13 Unique Eco Friendly Gifts For Travelers!

13 Eco Friendly Gifts for Travelers

The Perfect Weekend Camping in Michigan’s UP Eastern Region

The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two. My favorite time to visit the UP is the fall season, when the trees are bursting with bright colors. A year ago, my boyfriend Logan and I went camping in the eastern region of the UP.

Lake Superior Fall Colors

It was the end of the season in late October, we had JUST made it to see the fall colors. It was the last weekend the campground was open, and we were the only ones crazy enough to be camping there.

Find out why, in this edition of THE PERFECT WEEKEND featuring Michigan’s UP Eastern Region!

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Where To Camp

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

We camped directly on Lake Superior at Brimley State Park, one of the oldest parks in the UP. In typical Logan/Chelsea fashion we arrived at our campsite in the dark. Setting up at night was never a concern of mine, in fact I kind of like it… waking up in a new place, really seeing it for the first time that morning. It’s like a surprise, or a present waiting to be unwrapped.

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Our gift the first morning was waking up to a snow-covered tent… in October. Really neither of us were surprised…welcome to The UP. 

Brimley State Park

Take a Drive

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Freezing and in desperate need of caffeine we went in search of coffee. We fueled up and hit the road, enjoying the views as we sipped our way back to warmth.

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Pro Tip: Take the scenic route along W Lakeshore Dr on your way to Tahquamenon Falls. This route will take you along Whitefish Bay giving you gorgeous lake views and the opportunity to see a lighthouse! 

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

Just a short 15 minute drive from Brimley, this historic lighthouse is worth the stop. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic back in 1975. Its name meaning “Place of Iroquois Bones” derived from a battle fought back in 1662 by local Native American’s of the Chippewa and Iroquois. The lighthouse was closed for the season so we couldn’t climb the tower but we were able to explore the grounds.

Logan Fall Colors

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls

Located in Paradise, Michigan- this state park is one you won’t want to miss. Experience one of the largest waterfalls this side of the Mississippi- Tahquamenon Falls. It’s beautiful rust colored falls are caused from leached tannins of the cedar swamps which the river drains. Explore the park, and stop into the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub for some local made beer!

Go on a Hike

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There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails throughout the eastern region of the UP. Hiking in the fall is my ideal hiking conditions- beautiful fall colors, crisp air, lower temperatures.

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UP NEXT: What to do in Michigan’s UP Central Region!

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The Perfect Weekend Camping Michigan’s West Coast

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Lake Michigan touches four US states- Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Around 12 million people reside on this magnificent great lake. It’s crystal clear turquoise waters are lined with 275,000 acres of sand dunes, making it the largest freshwater dune system in the world! Lake Michigan has so many beaches it’s often referred to as “The Third Coast” of the United States. In my completely unbiased opinion, it’s the best of the coasts. The fresh water lake comes shark and salt free!

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This past weekend Logan and I explored a new part of Michigan with his family, complete with fur babies and adorable nephews. We headed to the west coast over to Warren Dunes State Park where we camped for the weekend. The west side of the state is so beautiful, and just a short drive from Detroit or Chicago.

Where to Camp

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As if setting up in the dark isn’t bad enough, it started to monsoon type rain as soon as we pulled into our campsite (and every weekend we camp, ever). Once again Logan and I questioned if tent camping was still our best option. We’ve been debating all summer if we should bite the bullet and buy a used camper to keep us dry on the rainy weekends (all in favor, say “i”). There are state campgrounds all up the coastline, here’s some of my favorites I’ve camped at along Lake Michigan.

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Warren Dunes State Park: Three miles of rare PET FRIENDLY shoreline along gorgeous Lake Michigan. The park also includes around six miles of hiking trails through forest and sand dunes. Modern & rustic sites available.

Ludington State Park: My favorite Michigan state park has everything- a lighthouse, hiking trails, lakes, sand dunes, dense forest, adventure activities and so much more. This is a must visit park! Check out my post on 5 Reason’s to Love Ludington. Modern & rustic sites.

Leelanau State Park: Another park home to a magnificent lighthouse. The drive up the peninsula to Leelanau State Park takes you through Michigan’s wine country with water views on both sides. Rustic campground.

Wilderness State Park: This park is a night photographers dream spot, as it’s just a few minutes’ drive from Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Modern & rustic sites.

Lighthouse Hunting

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Take a drive along the coast and explore the waterfront towns while looking for lighthouses. The western coast of Michigan is dotted with around 35 lighthouses. Two of those reside side by side in the town of St. Joseph. It was about a 30 minute drive from our campground, 80 f degrees and the sun was shining. Perfect lighthouse hunting weather!

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Each lighthouse is unique and has its own fascinating history, road tripping around the shorelines of Michigan you’re bound to run into a lighthouse or two.

St. Joseph North Pier

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South Haven South Pier

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Go for a Swim

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Like I mentioned earlier, Lake Michigan is a freshwater lake that comes salt and shark free. Immerse yourself in the crystal clear blue waters to cool down from the summer sun and Michigan humidity.

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The lake temperatures range from 60s in early summer to high 70s in late summer. The beach entrance at Warren Dunes State park has a sign showing the water temp each day so you can plan accordingly.

Relax on the Beach

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Pack a beach bag, your furry friend or adorable nephew, and a picnic lunch- then head to the beach. If you’re feeling really adventurous you can hike to the beach on one of the many trails that runs through Warren Dunes State Park.

Hike a Sand Dune

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Enjoy the world’s largest dune system, and go for a hike! At 400 ft the highest dune resides in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The dune formation pictured above was the largest at Warren Dunes State park. The dune rises 260 feet above the water with Lake Michigan views from the top.

Drink Local
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We stopped at the local Three Blonde’s Brewing for lunch and a drink to cool down. Michigan’s west coast is crawling with local watering holes. Beer, Wine, Cider. We do them all impeccably well. The craft beer craze has swept through the state like wildfire, with hundreds of local breweries statewide. Just as Michigan has its own west coast, we have our own wine country, much of which resides on the beautiful Lake Michigan. You haven’t tasted anything like the sweet nectar Michigan’s cideries create. Cider is easily my beverage of choice, and I would highly recommend any produced locally, a few of my favorites include Blakes, JK Scrumpys, and Vandermill.

Treat Yourself

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After our boozy lunch we decided dessert was a must. Good thing icecream is yet another thing Michigan is awesome at. There was a local dairy farm mere seconds away from the brewery we ate lunch at. Sherman’s Dairy Bar didn’t disappoint. I had a hard time deciding between the yellow cake batter flavor and the birthday cake. With over 70 different flavors of homemade recipes featuring all the Michigan classics, can you blame me? (I went with yellow cake batter 😊)

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The adventurers guide to JASPER NATIONAL PARK

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Jasper National Park is home to some of the best hiking, skiing, and climbing in the world, making it an adventurer’s paradise. The park is one of the largest National Parks in the Canadian Rockies, offering over 4,000 mi² of vast wilderness to explore. From peaks extending over 11,000 square kilometers, to glacier rivers snaking along the base there are endless adventurous activities in Jasper.

Here’s my adventurers guide to Jasper National Park!

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Camping

The National Park campgrounds in Canada fill up FAST. With no reservations prior to arriving, we took our chances and ended up in the overflow lot of Snaring Campground. There were not any facilities- because there weren’t any designated campsites- you just pitched your tent where you could find a spot! Rustic style. Don’t know what to pack when camping in national parks? Check out my Packing Guide: Camping National Parks .

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Go White Water Rafting

White water rafting was the perfect mid afternoon adventure. Cool off in the refreshing glacier waters as you navigate your way along the Lower Athabasca River. I sat front and center, unbeknownst to me- that was the danger zone. I found out when we hit the first rapid and a wall of ice cold water came up over my head. We went through Jasper Rafting Adventures for our tour, and had a great first time rafting experience. The two hour trip seemed a bit short for us- I would recommend doing the longer river run if you have the time.

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Hike the Sulphur Skyline

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If you only do one hike while you’re in Jasper- this should be it. The Sulphur Skyline hiking trail has some of the most spectacular panoramas that Jasper has to offer. The hike is moderate with a consistent incline, dress appropriately (hiking shoes recommended), take lots of water, and break along the trail. The 8.0 km to the summit will take around 1.5-3 hours to reach (one way). It was hot and rainy at the trail head, and cold and windy by the time we reached the summit- pack a jacket and a lunch! Have a picnic at the summit and enjoy those pano views!

Go Rock Climbing

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I’m not going to lie- this one pushed me out of my comfort zone. See the little pink blob at the bottom? That’s me, and this rock was nothing like the rock wall I practiced on at home. The rock climbing scene at Jasper is legendary. People flock from all over the world to climb the incredible Canadian rockies. We went through Rockaboo Mountain Adventure for our tour, and had an incredible experience! We did the 4 hour tour which began at the office in Jasper. Our certified ACMG guide was so knowledgeable and friendly- which helped with the nerves. All the climbing gear you need for the adventure is provided- including shoes.

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Spot a Bear

The wildlife in Jasper National Park is abundant. We saw mountain goats, several black bears, and elk. Much to Grace’s dismay, we saw no moose. The park is home to both black and grizzly bears- carry bear spray if you plan on hiking. You never want to surprise a bear, make noise to alert them while you’re on the trail. We didn’t see any bears while hiking, but as we drove around the park we were able to view a few from inside our car at a safe distance. DO NOT approach the bears, and please be mindful of your speed while driving through the park, as many animals are killed each year due to vehicles.

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Hang Out In a Tree

Find the perfect spot to relax for the day, or stack your hammocks with your travel crew to see how high you can build! Looking for a great summer hammock? Check out Madera, for every hammock you purchase, two trees will be planted!

Know Before You Go

Help preserve the beauty of this park and practice the leave no trace principles.

  • Showers are only available at the Whistlers Campground, but if you camp at Wapiti Campground they allow you to use the showers at Whistlers.
  • It is a 3-3.5 hour drive from Edmonton or Calgary. I would recommend flying into one city and out of the other to save on drive time.
  • There is a cute downtown area inside the park with shops, restaurants, and a grocery store.
  • Check out my guide on what to pack for your national park camping trip!

 

Love National Parks? Check out my post on Joshua Tree National Park for more!

Joshua Tree National Park

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

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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

 

8 Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road

8 Day Itinerary for Iceland’s Ring Road

on a budget

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Iceland is full of sharp contrasts. This is a country with fire and ice co-existing. Where the winters are long and dark, but the summer’s midnight sun makes up for it, making the day’s feel much longer in summer.

Iceland has been a dream of mine for about 5 years now. The first time I saw pictures my jaw dropped. Who knew the country with “ice” in the name was so stunning with such a diverse landscape? Not me. Iceland immediately jumped to the top of my list. I started researching how much a trip to Iceland would cost me… and my jaw dropped again. There was nooo way I could afford that! Or was there? *Puts on thinking cap*

Here’s my 8 Day Itinerary for Iceland itinerary on a budget!

One Night in Reykjavik

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Flights are typically one of the largest expenses when traveling. I fly on budget airlines frequently, especially if it’s going to end up saving me a couple hundred dollars a flight. We flew direct into Iceland on the budget airline WOW.

Once we arrived in Reykjavik, we took the Airport Direct bus into the city (we found that to be the cheapest way into the city without a rental car). The bus had WIFI, and put public transportation buses in the US to shame. We were dropped off within walking distance to our AirBnB and the city’s attractions. Reykjavik is extremely walkable, so I’d recommend exploring on foot!

Hallgrímskirkja

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Perhaps the most iconic building in Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja is a beautiful Lutheran church standing at 244 ft high. The height of the church makes it the largest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest structures in the country!

Sun Voyager

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The Sun Voyager is a sculpture created by Jón Gunnar. The Sun Voyager sits along the coastline of the city and has a cool history. In 1986 Gunnar’s design for Sun Voyager won best outdoor sculpture in a competition funded by the city. The competition purpose was to create a sculpture that would commemorate the 200th anniversary of the city.

Taste the local cuisine …

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 Snacking on the traditional Icelandic food was… interesting. Logan tried things where I drew the line, such as fermented shark and dried pounded fish. The rye bread ice-cream however, I could eat in gallons.

 

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Icelandic hot dogs are not like ordinary hot dogs, because they’re made mostly from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef. we ordered as most Icelanders do and were served a hot dog on a warm, steamed bun topped with TWO kinds of onions- raw white, and crispy fried onions, finished off with ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. It was delicious, and much preferred by locals over the fermented shark.

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SO MUCH COFFEE. Iceland knows coffee, every cup I had was exceptionally delicious. Which is GREAT, because it’s cold and rainy almost all the time, and coffee is a requirement for me to become a functioning human in the mornings.

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Everything about Iceland is expensive. Including the food. We easily spent around $25-50 per person a meal while in the city. Before we drove to our first cabin we went grocery shopping at the local Bonus.

Two Nights: The Golden Circle

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We headed east towards Thingvellir National Park where our next AirBnB was. The road trip had officially begun!  Make sure to check the road conditions (here) during your trip, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, in one hour we saw sunny clear warm weather turn to hail and wind blown frost.

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**Side Note** GUYS. If you haven’t yet used AirBnB to travel, you’re missing out on some amazing deals. AirBnB and Skyscanner are my two KEY TOOLS I use when planning and budgeting for my trips. What are the two largest expenses for travel? Accommodation, and flights. So where do you want to maximize your savings and cut costs? Accommodation, and flights. But seriously… check these out. dsc_0917

We spent two nights in this stunning cabin. Like most cabin’s in Iceland, this one came with a hot tub and was in great proximity to all the major attractions we wanted to see in The Golden Circle!

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Gullfoss Waterfall

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Sejaladsfoss

 

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Lake Kerid

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Geysir

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Bruarfoss

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Two Nights: South Iceland
Day 1
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Katla Ice Cave Tour

We left the cabin after breakfast and drove two hours south to meet the rest of the tour group at the “Ice Cave Café” in Vik. Our tour was with Arctic Adventures called “The Ice Cave Under The Volcano”.

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 We had an awesome (slightly crazy driver) guide take us to the volcano Katla. Once there, we were given helmets and crampons to put on before we adventured into the ice caves.

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img_97532After the tour we still had plenty of time to explore until it got dark out…

 

 

Skogafoss

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There were a couple attempts to go behind the waterfall…dsc_11701

 

After the successful attempt at getting soaked- we went inside a local restaurant next to the waterfall parking lot to warm up with some delicious lamb stew.

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Seljalandsfoss

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Thanks to that summer midnight sun! The picture above was taken around 11:00 p.m. Remember that in May, the day’s in Iceland are long, and the sun never fully sets at night, at midnight you’ll still see the sun on the horizon.

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This meant a couple things, 1. We weren’t going to be seeing the northern lights (huge bummer, huge) 2. Sleeping at “night” became a challenge. Without black out shades/curtains and no sleeping mask, it was difficult to fall asleep and confusing when you woke up (I never knew what time it was). We talked to a couple locals about it and they laughed, and said we’re used to it, it’s all they knew! I would recommend bringing a sleeping mask if you’re visiting in the spring/summer months.

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Day 2

Laufskálavarða

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The south coast of the island is unbelievably beautiful. On our way to the glacier lagoon we came across what used to be a giant farm. Back in 894, the first recorded volcano eruption of Katla (yes, the same one we went under to get to the ice caves) destroyed the entire farm.

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Laufskálavarða, is a lava mound that was named after the farm. In memory of those that were lost, it is surrounded by stone cairns. Travelers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good luck on their journey. The tradition continues to this day, leave a stone when you drive by!

Secret Glacier Lagoon

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 As we continued our drive along the coastline we came to our next stop, the “secret” glacier lagoon. We found it thinking it was the main glacier lagoon we were trying to get to… it wasn’t. Looking around, we had the place to ourselves. We realized we had found “the secret lagoon” the local’s told us about.

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Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

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We were greeted immediately by the reindeer grazing in a clearing when we pulled in to park. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a must visit destination on your trip to Iceland. Boat tours are available on the lagoon to take you further into the glacier water. We were shocked that despite the freezing water of the lagoon, it was full of wild life.

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We watched the sea lions play in the lagoon while we sat and listened to the sounds of the ice moving in the water.

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After we’d had our fill of adorable animal friends we headed out of the lagoon and across the street.

Diamond Beach

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The ice from the glacier lagoon washes ashore the black sand beach. Scattered across the beach were giant chunks of ice, giving the beach the famous name “Diamond Beach”.

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When we could no longer handle the cold beach in our wet clothes, we headed back to our cabin for the night, where more amazing scenery awaited.

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Our next cabin had a sheep farm in the back yard, and it was spring. That means BABIES. And in my opinion, there are few things cuter in this world then baby animals. I sat on my bed while I watched them play outside my window. With the window open, I could hear them BAAAing at each other and feel the crisp salty air blowing in off of the sea. (BLISS)

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Two Nights: Northern Iceland

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We got up early and took advantage of the complimentary breakfast the cottage offered.  It was a 5.5-hour drive north to get to the city of Akureyri, Iceland’s second most populous city. We spent 2 nights in the northern part of Iceland, chasing waterfalls and exploring the Lake Myvatn areas.

Goðafoss

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Skútustaðagígar

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Dimmuborgir

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Hofdi
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Hverfjall

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Krafla Vita Crater

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Last Day: Blue Lagoon

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It was another long drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik. We had an appointment at the Blue Lagoon in the afternoon we were trying to make. The national speed limit of Iceland is 90 km/h on paved rural roads… which is REALLY slow when you’re driving around the entire country. Which is probably why we got pulled over in the middle of nowhere and received a speeding ticket. Trust me guys, you DO NOT want to get pulled over for speeding in Iceland- like everything else, the tickets are outrageously expensive.

 

Trip Pricing Totals: (Based Per Person for 5 People)

Transportation Accommodations Food Entertainment
Flight $473 Night 1         $48 $400 Ice Cave under Volcano $201
Car Rental $126 Night 2&3    $85 Blue Lagoon $ 102
Gas $ 100 Night 4         $33
Luggage Fees $ 86 Night 5         $90
Night 6&7    $90
Total $ 785

Total $ 346

Total $ 400 Total $ 303
Grand Total:                                   $ 1834 usd

 

 

3 Day Itinerary for Olympic National Park

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Let’s talk about this trips “sign picture”. For those that don’t know, it’s a tradition of mine to get a picture with my fellow campers by the national park sign when we visit. My travel crew knows the routine… they go stand in front of the sign while I set up the tripod. From left to right we’ve got Kaytee, Logan, Grace, and half of me. Let me explain…Well this trip, I was setting up my tripod/timer all that jazz- guy drives by and yells out his window “you can’t park there! MOVE!” …whoops. I had no idea we couldn’t park there… better make this quick. So I hit the shutter button and ran backwards…hoping that maybe I’d make it in time to get this in one shot. Above is the result of that one shot.

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Now that my best friend Grace lives in Seattle, I love the state of Washington even more. With the heavy traveling we did in the spring, we wanted to keep our July 4th trip as cheap as we could. Camping’s cheap!  So, this year we celebrated Independence Day while camping in Olympic National Park! With not nearly enough time in Seattle, we left for the park the day after we arrived. If you have time, explore the city! For what to do, check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Seattle

3 Day Itinerary for Olympic National Park

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Olympic National Park protects nearly one million acres of vast wilderness diversity. From glacier-capped mountains to old growth rain forests, and over 70 miles of ocean coastline, this park has so much to explore. It’s hard to capture all the beauty in just 3 days, we absolutely will be coming back to explore more one day!

Fairholme Campground

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DAY 1: Lake Crescent

We drove 3.5 hours from Seattle to Fairholme campground. Slightly worried we might not get a site this close to the holiday (most campgrounds inside the park are walk-in, and do not take reservations). The campground had flush toilets, but no shower facilities or electric. We were pleasantly surprised to arrive at an almost empty campground. We picked a stunning site with massive mossy trees towering around us, overlooking the incredible Lake Crescent. We set up camp and set out to explore the Lake Crescent area. For what to pack, check out my Packing Guide: Camping National Parks

Lake Crescent

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Lake Crescent lies 18 miles west of Port Angeles in the northern hills of Olympic National Park. We could see right down to the bottom through the crystal clear waters. I would recommend kayaking on this beautiful lake if you have the time!

Marymere Falls

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Next we hiked the moderate 1.7 mile trail to Marymere Falls. There are two viewpoints to see the falls. At the end of the hike you’ll reach the falls lower viewpoint at the bottom of the stairs. Continue up the stairs to reach the top viewpoint.

Barnes Creek Trail

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A peaceful creekside hike with an option to check out Marymere Falls (enter at falls trailhead, continue forward at the junction or go right and check out the falls). This hike takes you through a Jurassic Park looking forest of old growth and lush vegetation. We hiked the barnes creek trail after Marymere Falls, and the solitude from the crowds gave the forest a much different feeling. The trail rolls mostly up and rarely down for 5.5 miles.

Mora Campground

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DAY 2: Sul Duc

We woke up early to pack up our campsite and have breakfast before we hit the trails for the day. Our plan was to explore the Sol Duc area, and then head towards the coastline to set up camp in Mora, a campground just outside of La Push. You can visit the lush forest near Sol Duc for a day hike or an overnight.

Sul Duc Falls

 

Sol Duc Falls Nature Trail is a flat short 1.6 mile trail through old growth forest that leads to a beautiful three prong waterfall. The three falls rage under a wooden bridge with crystal blue waters on the other end. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the waterfall capture rainbows in the spray! We continued past the falls and headed towards deer lake.

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Deer Lake

The trail to Deer Lake from Sul Duc Falls is a 6.3 mile hike with 3 backpacking campsites along the trail. This mostly up and rarely down hike is rated as moderate. The hike features a stunning lake at the end (pack food and picnic at the lake!) To get there, begin heading down the trail to Sol Duc Falls. Once you’re there, pass the entrance to the Lover’s Lane Trail, the route begins climbing up to Deer Lake.

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 DAY 3: La Push

Our last day in the park was spent relaxing on the coast, recovering from our hikes. The Mora Campground  we camped at was on the north side of the river, on the south side is  First Beach. First Beach is located within the Quileute Indian Reservation, and surrounded by Olympic National Park. The beach is sandy with a crescent shaped shoreline that’s popular with surfers. We stopped here first, and explored the rocks looking for sea creatures during the low tide.

First Beach
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Second Beach

With a shorter hike than Third Beach, we decided to do the 4 mile round trip hike to Second Beach after First Beach. The trail was interesting, after 0.3 miles, the descent becomes more defined, and the trail becomes a switchback crib staircase which leads down to the beach. We lounged lazily in the sun for hours on this beach. Exploring and climbing the rocks that jutted out from the ocean until it was time for the drive home.

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Spending some time in the city of Seattle? Check out my guide to The Perfect Weekend in Seattle!

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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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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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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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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

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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.  

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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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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.

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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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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!