It is one of my life goals to make it to as many National Parks as I can. Having a serious travel bug, I’ve made some strides in the last year to a few well known parks - Grand Canyon, Zion, Sequoia, Shenandoah Valley, Big Bend & Joshua Tree.
The best thing about living in Southern California, is there are so many parks in the western half of the United States. I can easily find a cheap(er) flight or rent a car and do quick weekend trips. I don’t base all my vacations around knocking these off my list, but I will always look to see if where I am going/who I am visiting is close to one!
Being a huge fan of hiking, it is a habit to look for the coolest places to see and hike to when I travel. Growing up in a few different places, it’s always fun for me to see the different landscapes in different states and of course, different countries. The visual creative in me sees it almost as art in a gallery - one that I may have to brace crazy conditions to be able to see and appreciate.
Below are a few photos of my most recent (2015-2016) National Park adventures. I’ll go into some detail, but mostly I want to inspire your travel through the visuals and make you want to explore that area or experience the vast landscape for your self!
If you have any questions about the trails, conditions, where I stayed, etc. let me know! I am more than happy to help out.
Grand Canyon (Arizona) - October
Just passing through! A few friends and I took a trip from Arizona to Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend and on our way home, we made a pit stop at the Grand Canyon. The goal is to go back soon and conquer Havasu & Mooney Falls - of course! :)
Zion (Utah) - April
Trails: Hidden Canyon, Emerald Pools, Angel’s Landing, Narrows Entrance
Another quick weekend trip (Friday - Sunday) with a few friends to Zion National Park and it was absolutely amazing - jaw dropper forsure. We were able to do all the trails above and drive around a bit. We rented a car (thank you Enterprise) instead of taking one of our own. We stayed in Hurricane at a cheaper, but not terrible hotel, to save on cost and then drove into the park each day - maybe 25 minute drive?
I would say the easiest was definitely the Emerald Pools hike, then Hidden Canyon and Angel's Landing. Everything we read about Angel's Landing before going made the hike seem absolutely TERRIFYING. However, it wasn't at all. If you're not good with heights, you may want to think twice, but I was able to do it, I just tried not to look down too many times - haha! The views along the way are definitely worth it - for all the hikes we did. We got a lot a great photos from Zion, so enjoy the below!
Sequoia (California) - September
Moro Rock, General Sherman Tree, Crescent Meadow, Tokopah Falls
Again, an absolutely beautiful park. It was still nice and chilly when a friend and I went to Sequoia - which was very nice. We started off with Tokopah Falls - which we didn't end up finding any waterfall, but the creek a long the way was nice and there were some awesome rock structures at the end. I would say all these trails were relatively easy. There are also a few locations in Sequoia that are perfect photo ops - like the fallen tree that has been carved out and definitely Moro Rock. I was slightly unsatisfied with Crescent Meadow, but I am assuming it is a better site in the Spring. OH - and we camped - highly recommend because camping is always a blasty blast. We stayed at Stony Creek Campground.
Shenandoah (Virginia) - October
Dark Hollow Falls, Hawksbill Summit
The weekend I made it to the Shenandoah Valley, I was supposed to be in Charleston for a Bachelorette weekend - but Hurricane Matthew had other plans for me (and getting to hit another NP I wasn't complaining). My mom drove up from Florida and picked me up in Charlotte, NC and we drove up to the Roanoke area to visit with my cousins and see some local sites. Although it was a very rainy day, we were able to hit 2 trails and see the fog hitting the mountain tops.
Also, if you're in the area be sure to check out the farms! We went apple picking in the rain and it was a lot of fun.
Big Bend (Texas) - October
Boquillas Border Crossing, Santa Elena Canyon, Scenic Drives
A quick trip through this park, but well worth it. There were definitely other trails I would have loved to hit here, but this was a quick weekend trip - seeing many other places in West Texas. We flew into El Paso and stayed in this cozy AirBnb - hitting the road early to stop by Prada Marfa, Roadside Target, and other fun sites. Once in the National Park, we drove directly to the Boquillas Border Crossing and took a small boat across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Despite what you may think, it was very safe. We took donkeys up to the small village and had lunch, walked around, and headed back to make sure we hit Santa Elena before sunset. That night we stayed in Alpine at a loft style AirBnb. Early rise the next morning to hit Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands before flying out early Monday morning from El Paso.
With such a small amount of time and over 1,000 miles in driving - we hit some incredible places in West Texas.
Joshua Tree (California) - November
Jumbo Rocks, Skull Rock, Hidden Valley
As always, the desert is a magical place. The lighting always seems supreme and the vastness creates incredible shots. We got to Joshua Tree about mid day and started with Hidden Valley and the Skull Rock. We played around on the rocks a bit before heading over to the Jumbo Rocks area for sunset. We didn't secure a campsite, and of course they were full, so we ended up setting up our tent on BLM land outside of the park. It was perfectly safe and there were a good amount of people out there with us. One tip - make sure your car can make it. I have a Mazda 3 and I really was wishing I was in a jeep (sorry dad). But, we made it easily and set up our tent and made dinner over a portable stove. Waking up to nearly deserted land was wonderful - everyone should camp sometime out on the public land!
Thank you so much for sticking through to the end and witnessing my hard work. I hope the photos above inspire you to get out and see the National Parks of the US (and world). They are preserved for a reason. If there are any questions - reach out! Stay tuned for my next post about my recent trip to the Exuma Cays (Bahamas)!