- Ice Lake Basin (Silverton, CO): see two gorgeous lakes
This was easily my favorite hike we did. You walk through a gorgeous valley of streams and waterfalls, then up to the basin of Ice Lake. From there, you can trek over to Island Lake and the back down to the trail on your way out. Be prepared to get your hiking shoes wet! Right of the bat, you tread through a waterfall stream. We went late June and there was still snow on the trail, but it was melting fast which meant beautiful waterfalls. The two lakes were also frozen, but still a spectacular sight. I plan to go back later in the summer next year to see the wildflowers and thawed lakes.
According to All Trails, Ice Lake Basin Trail is rated hard and is 8.1 miles with 2,998 ft elevation gain.
- Engineer Mountain (Durango, CO): get on top of a mountain
This was the only summit we did on the most recent trip to Colorado. It was challenging but tons of fun. You start off hiking through a meadow, and then begin the summit of Engineer. This included some rock scrambling and a few steep areas of rock climbing. We lost the trail a few times due to snow, so I’ve heard we took the long way up. Oh, well!
According to All Trails, Engineer Mountain Trail is rated moderate and is 12.8 miles with 3,221 feet elevation gain.
- Old 100 Mine Boarding House (Silverton, CO): get off the beaten path and admire some Colorado mining history
To get to the trail, you’ll have to do some Jeeping up the mountain. Then once on the trail, the final destination of this hike is an old abandoned boarding house. This hike had the best mountain views and we didn’t see another person or vehicle. At a certain point, there isn’t much of a trail and it’s a lot of rock scrambling to get down to the tram house and boarding house. It was even more difficult getting back up that! You can click here to learn more about the history of the boarding house and tram house. Or check out this forum with some more details about the hike and how to get there. We took our dog on this trail thinking it was easier than it really was. He did fine, but I would not take him again or recommend taking your pup! There are lots of loose, sharp rocks for his paws.
- Castle Rock (Durango, CO): a well-paved hike with gorgeous views
Now, this hike was the easiest compared to the rest and the most dog friendly! And thus, we saw more people on this trail. The trail is dirt and well worn which was a great change of pace to the snow covered, loose rock trails we’ve been on. It has some steep inclines that wore me out, but the view of The Needle mountains from the top is well worth it!
According to All Trails, Castle Rock is moderate and 4.5 miles with 1,686 feet elevation gain.
I went to a work conference in Las Vegas and decided to get a one way ticket to take advantage of some time out west. After the conference, a friend and I planned to drive to the Grand Canyon, then visit my family in Phoenix and fly home.
Last minute we decided to stop at Zion National Park in Utah. We thought it was somewhat on the way and would be a great spot for a picnic lunch. Boy were we wrong.
I didn’t know how magnificent Zion was and we ended up spending all day exploring until the moon was up.
The park offers a hop on/hop off tram which is such a nice way to see the park! We got off at almost every stop and walked around a bit. I loved seeing the Weeping Rock. We also walked as far as we could into the Narrows before we had to turn around before dark. Trekking through ankle-deep water, the Narrows had me in awe at every turn. I absolutely want to make it back to Zion for more hiking and camping.
We grabbed dinner at a restaurant in the small town where we parked the rental and headed toward the Grand Canyon.
We drove through the dark seeing countless deer which was both amazing and stressful. We made it to our reserved campsite on the North Rim after midnight and set our hammocks up as quietly as possible.
So, we greeted the Canyon in the dark but woke up to its gorgeous sunrise. Knowing we only had the day and would be heading to Phoenix, we drove our car along the trials, stopping a viewpoints or trials as we wanted.
Have you ever been to either park? What other National Parks are must-sees? Tell me in the comments below.
“No matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you.” – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
The greatness of the world is never more obvious to me than when the ocean is in sight. I took a three-day weekend to see the beach for the first time in a few years. I wanted to camp on the beach and I wanted to go alone – both first-times for me. While I didn’t mind the solo trip, I don’t think I would go camping by myself without at least a furry four-legged friend to tag along.
So I left Dallas around 8 a.m. with a car full of camping gear and a hungry stomach because every Texan knows to swing by the Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery on any travels through West. After chowing down on both a savory and a sweet kolache, it was just me, the open road and my iTunes library.
I was ready to stretch my legs again in San Antonio and stopped at the Japanese Tea Garden. It was nice, but much of the park was under construction and the waterfall was not running. You shouldn’t go out of your way to visit here until the construction is complete.
Then, about two and half hours later, I was driving on a freeway over the ocean on my way to Mustang Island State Park to set up camp! I paid for primitive camping right on the beach and drove my little sedan down to pick out a spot. I saw a soft sand sign and knew I had to turn around and settle on a spot among the crowd. In my efforts, I was stuck in the sand. Fortunately, after a frantic call to the office just before it closed, a park ranger helped tow my car back to more compacted sand. I was so embarrassed, but he was not at all disapproving like I expected. In fact, he was very kind and came back to check on me a couple times after finding out I was camping alone.
Finally back to business, I pitched my tent and headed straight for the water. It was then, playing in the waves and watching the pelicans, that I knew this was all worth it. Getting stuck in the sand, driving more than six hours, getting sand all inside my car and tent – none of it mattered. The ocean was a refreshing temperature in contrast to the hot Texas sun and despite the crowd of campers, there weren’t many people in the water. I definitely prefer Mustang Island over some other coastal areas I’ve visited.
After sunset, I cooked myself a DELICIOUS Ahi Tuna steak and some fresh shrimp I picked up from Port A Seafood Co. They have a great variety of fresh seafood at decent prices and it’s only a 15 minute drive from the state park.
Then I went to sleep to the sound of waves and scent of salty sea air. The next day, I didn’t have much food left in the cooler and I wasn’t sure if I could spend another night alone with the sand and the wind so I packed up camp a day early.
Before heading back to Dallas, I booked a tour with Kohootz Dolphin Encounters and it was very much worth the $25. The small two-deck boat cruised around for a couple hours, providing wonderful views of jumping dolphins and the Lydia Ann Lighthouse. My favorite was watching the dolphins surf and play on the waves a large ship made. If you’re ever in the Port Aransas area, you have to do this! It was my favorite part of the trip.
While I have no desire to go camping alone again, this trip was very worthwhile. I had both some much needed relaxation and fun adventures along the way.