#NationalParkGeek

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.

2015

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! :)

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2016

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)!

Sturtevant Falls - Angeles National Forest

With the recent rain in Southern California, all the local waterfalls are finally refreshed! Amazing, right? I couldn't miss an opportunity like this, so a friend and I went to check out one of many - Sturtevant Falls just NE of Pasadena.

This is my first post, so I'll use it to showcase my style and to educate about this hike. As a designer & artist, my brain works visually. My photos are intended to tell the story, while I add in helpful tips and key points that I would have liked to have known before taking the trek.
Something I have run into a few times in Southern California on hikes is the 'Adventure Pass.' Before this hike, I had never purchased one (oops!) but didn't want to chance the ticket this time.

An early morning, I was up before 5 AM - yes I can't believe it still - to drive about an hour to the parking lot. At 6:30 - the lot was FULL! Granted, this was a beautiful Saturday morning and the trailhead spread to a bunch of hikes.

We ended up having to park in one of the pull-offs on the way up to the parking lot instead of at the top. We made the mistake of going all the way up to the lot and coming back to find parking. A huge tip would be to buy the adventure pass at the top and then find parking - saves the walk up from the car twice.

A few years ago, for my birthday,I hiked (and jumped into the pools) Hermit Falls - it was definitely a lot of fun. I can't speak to the condition of the area now, but with more rain, I am sure there's more water! Just be safe, as always, if you're going to cliff jump. Mt. Wilson is on my list for this year as part of the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge!

The hike itself wasn't strenuous or long (my phone said about 5.4 miles total walking for us) - the hardest part for me was actually the very end. At the trailhead, it's a fairly steep downgrade, so once you're on the way back up to the parking lot, it's all uphill. Make sure you have water! If it's a hot day, which most days are here, you'll need it for this stretch especially.

I tend to seek out waterfall hikes and one of my favorite part of a lot of these hikes is following a stream - it's comforting. The sound of water feels safe - like if you were to get lost, you could always find your way back.

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After roughly 2.5 miles we hit the main attraction - Sturtevant Falls! I always pack a ton of snacks and lots of water. It's nice to enjoy the waterfall for a while, rather than just coming and going.

Even when hikes aren't a loop, there's always so much to see that's different. On the way in, we noticed a few logs across the stream and planned on coming back to one of them to snap a few photos. On the way back, we totally missed them! We ended up backtracking slightly just to look for it, but it's so funny how the scene can be completely different from either direction.

Along the trail, there are a couple inspirational signs - like the one above. It's a nice reminder (especially after getting up before the sun) why you got outside or why you love the outdoors. Maybe you're not someone who relates to this, but I am sure it resonates with a few people out on the trails every day.

If you have any questions about this hike or any in the area - will your car make it up? If you're allergic to goats, should you go? - I am open to help answer those questions! I am learning how to share my photos with my love for hiking and traveling and if there's anything else that would be helpful, let me know!

Here are a few links I checked out before taking this hike:
AllTrails
hikespeak