Tip & Tee: Devils Tower

Devils Tower is a giant stone monolith soaring skyward from the plains of Wyoming. This natural wonder became America’s first National Monument in 1906. To say that Devils Tower is unique is an understatement!

Devils Tower National Monument

Trip Tip: Devils Tower National Monument Tower Trail

Due to its massive size and the surrounding landscape, Devils Tower is visible for miles. So, it may be tempting to just take a photo from afar or make a quick stop at the visitors center.  That’s not enough!

Devils Tower Trail

To fully appreciate the scale of this monolith, make time to hike the Devils Tower National Monument Tower Trail. This 1.3 mile trail is relatively flat and encircles the base of the rock formation.

Devils Tower National Monument-4 tripDevils Tower National Monument-5 trip

Viewing this tower from different perspectives on the Devils Tower National Monument Tower Trail will leave you with an even greater sense of awe at this extraordinary rock formation!

Devils Tower National MonumentWhen it comes to shopping on a trip, I am a total tourist! My favorite souvenirs are travel tee shirts! Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection. In Tip & Tee, I share some of my treasures and a Trip Tip for that destination!

The Badlands Notch Trail

The Notch Trail in Badlands National Park is one of the park’s most popular trails. If you do much research on the Badlands, you’ll likely come across photos of a long wooden ladder on a rock face. This is the Notch Trail. It is a 1.5 mile round trip hike which is rated moderate to strenuous by the park service.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail SignBadlands National Park Notch Trail-3 Trips

I’ll admit to feeling a little nervous about the Notch Trail. In my pre-trip research, I found some sites suggesting that people with a fear of heights (me) might want to sit this one out. However, I was afraid I’d regret it later if we didn’t give it a try.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

The first portion of the Notch Trail is really easy and mostly flat.  Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the trail markers. In some spots, the trail appears to go in multiple directions.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

After enjoying this leisurely section, we came to the most challenging part of the trail – the long wooden ladder.  If you take your time, it really isn’t too bad.  The ladder is stable, so falling off was not a concern.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

After ascending the ladder, there are some rocks to scramble up, over, and around. However, as a whole, it was pretty tame. Once you reach the end of the trail, or the Notch, you are rewarded with a panoramic view.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

Badlands National Park Notch View

Excluding the ladder, I would rate this trail as easy. The most challenging part of this hike is the ladder descent. It is a bit nerve wracking but not terrifying. Again, just take your time.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

The Notch Trail offers sweeping views of the White River Valley. It is well worth the time and effort! I was glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone to experience this fun and unique hike!

 

 

 

Great Hike Near Greers Ferry Lake

Greers Ferry Lake is massive man made lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas. This outdoor playground in the Ozark foothills is only 60 miles north of Little Rock.  In summer, this area is a lake lovers paradise. Throughout the year, Greers Ferry offers abundant hiking and fishing opportunities.

The Summit Trail in Heber Springs is a short and fun hike that you won’t want to miss! It is one of a handful of trails on Sugarloaf Mountain. This trail system has been lovingly restored and enhanced by the Sugarloaf Heritage Council.

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Take note: There is more than one Sugarloaf Mountain in this area. This Summit Trail is on the Sugarloaf Mountain located directly behind Arkansas State University Heber Springs, so no boat is needed to access the trailhead.  

The name Summit Trail is a bit deceiving as the trail itself does not go to the summit. Rather, it leads to the base of the summit rock.  Reaching the summit itself requires a short climb.Sugarloaf Mountain Summit TrailSugarloaf Summit Trail Greers Ferry Lake-8 trips

The Summit Trail is only 2/3 of a mile and gains 300 feet in elevation.  The trees provide plenty of shade, and there are strategically placed benches along the way. Once you reach top, you can either continue down the other side of the mountain or return the way you came.Sugarloaf Mountain Summit TrailSugarloaf Summit Trail Greers Ferry Lake-4 trips

The Summit Trail on Sugarloaf Mountain is easy to access and offers panaramic views of the Ozark foothills. The trail is in excellent condition thanks to the commitment of the Heber Springs community. You don’t need a lot of time for this family friendly hike, so it is a great way to get out and enjoy the Natural State!Sugarloaf Mountain Summit Trail

Turret Arch: Short Hike, Big Payoff

One thing I love about Arches National Park is there are several short yet spectacular hikes. The hike to Turret Arch is one of them. This hike doesn’t require much of your vacation time but still has that WOW factor you’ll remember long after the trip!Turret Arch Trail Arches National ParkTurret Arch Arches National Park- 5 trips

You may actually be more familiar with Turret Arch’s neighbors – the North and South Windows, aka the Spectacles. And while the Windows might be the more well known kids on the block, don’t discount Turret Arch.

Windows Trail sign showing the trail to Turret Arch.
Windows Trail sign showing the trail to Turret Arch.

The trail to Turret Arch is a short spur off the Windows Loop Trail.  The whole loop trail is only a little over a mile with minimal elevation gain, so it is quite family friendly.  While Turret Arch is purported to be smaller than the Windows, it didn’t seem that way to me. Perhaps its the arch’s vertical shape that makes it seem so massive.Turret Arch Trail Arches National ParkTurret Arch Arches National Park-18 Trips

The path to Turret Arch includes an easy set of stairs.  Once you reach the top, you can walk through the arch and view it from the other side.  This is a great place to just sit and enjoy the scenic view of rock formations and the La Sal Mountains.Turret Arch Trail Arches National ParkTurret Arch Arches National Park-11 trip

Turret Arch is a castle-like rock formation which actually contains two significant openings. While walking through the large arch, you’ll notice a second smaller opening. The smaller more circular arch is adjacent to the large vertical one.Turret Arch Trail Arches National ParkTurret Arch Arches National Park-9 trip

While Turret Arch might not be the most famous arch in Arches National Park, it is one of the one of the most dramatic.  Standing under this massive rock formation you can appreciate its scale while taking in outstanding views of this unique National Park.

5 Reasons to Get Out of Your Car and Hike Balanced Rock

One of Arches National Park’s most iconic formations is Balanced Rock.  Perched precariously atop a mudstone monolith is a 3600 ton perfectly balanced rock…or so it seems.  In reality, the rocks are attached.Balanced Rock Trailhead Sign

Balanced Rock can be seen from a distance when driving the park’s main road.  The parking lot also offers an outstanding view. So, it might be tempting to just pause, snap a photo, and skip the trail. Don’t.

Here are 5 reasons why it is worth your time to get out of the car and take the hike:

  1. The Trail is Short and Flat: There aren’t many excuses that hold water for not hiking this trail.  At only .33 mile with very minimal elevation gain, it is suitable for the whole family.  It doesn’t take much of your vacation time to enjoy this wonder.Balanced Rock Trail
  2. It’s All About Perspective: Many photos of Balanced Rock are from the same angle. Yet, it has a distinctive and unique shape. To appreciate this feature of Balanced Rock, you must walk around it on the trail. Balanced Rock
  3. Appreciate the Scale: Balanced Rock is big… really big!  It is proported to be the size of 3 school buses… although I suspect that this is an approximation.  Walking around this well-known balancing act helps you better appreciate its uniqueness. Balanced Rock Trail
  4. Stop and Smell the Roses: While there are no actual roses, there are plenty of plants to enjoy. And while I wouldn’t suggest getting close enough to a cactus to smell it, I do recommend stopping to observe the many creatures which call this small section of the park home.Tree on Balanced Rock Trailimage
  5. It Might Be Your Last Chance:  Not to be overly dramatic, but someday it will fall. Like all of the formations in Arches National Park, over time the forces of nature change the landscape. This means that Balanced Rock will eventually come crashing down.Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock is just one of the many special things that makes Arches National Park a great place to visit.  The best way to enjoy this natural wonder is slow down and appreciate this spectacular sight!

Balanced Rock

Arches National Park: Park Avenue Trail

When I think about some of my favorite areas in Arches National Park, Park Avenue Trail immediately comes to mind. This section of the park is stunning and easy to reach! The trail meanders thru a canyon flanked by enormous fins, monoliths, and statues.

View from Park Avenue TrailPark Avenue Trail Arches National Park_-7 Trips

This hiking trail is rated as moderate because of the fairly steep descent into the canyon from the parking area.  However, there are stairs, so it isn’t treacherous.

Park Avenue Trail is 1 mile in length which makes it a 2 mile out and back hike.  If you are fortunate enough to have 2 vehicles, you can save yourself the uphill climb.  Simply begin at the Park Avenue Parking area and leave the 2nd vehicle at Courthouse Wash!

Park Avenue Trail Sign with Map
Park Avenue Trail Map

If you don’t have the time (or energy) to hike the Park Avenue Trail, you can still enjoy some fantastic views from the Park Avenue Viewpoint at the parking area.  However, taking time to hike this trail offers a unique perspective on one of Arches National Park’s iconic vistas.

Park Avenue Trail Viewpoint
Park Avenue Trail Viewpoint

5 Unique Spring Break Trip Ideas

Looking for somewhere different to go on spring break?  Consider someplace other than your typical beach or ski trip.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE both the beach and the mountains.  But, sometimes it is fun to experience something new.  Here are 5 ideas that are a bit outside the box but won’t break the bank.

  1. Zion National Park:  Zion is nothing short of breathtaking and there are so many family-friendly hikes which are perfect for taking it all in.  As a cherry on top, the town of Springdale is right outside the park entrance and has restaurants to please even the foodie in your family along with amazing views in every direction.  From a weather standpoint, spring is the perfect time of year to visit Zion!
    Sunset at Zion National Park
    Zion National Park at Sunset

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  2. Chicago, IL:  While the windy city may still be a little chilly in spring, there are so many amazing museums in Chicago where you can stay warm and occupied.  You’ll have such a great time inside, you might not even miss that bike ride along Lake Michigan.  While Chicago can be an expensive city to visit, there are various options for passes offering admission into these museums, so your entertainment doesn’t have to break the bank.
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    U Boat at the Museum of Science and Industry
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    The Shedd Aquarium
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    The Field Museum

    dinosaur at the Field Museum
    Sue the T Rex at the Field Museum
  3. Buffalo National River:  The Buffalo National River is located in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.  The mild Arkansas weather means spring is a great time to enjoy the outdoor fun!  The Buffalo River is perfect for family floats, and you can explore beautiful hiking trails and caves in the area.  Local outfitters like Buffalo River Outfitters keep close watch on river conditions and can advise you on which section of the river is best for floating during the time of your visit.
    Buffalo National River
    Buffalo National River

    Hiking Trail overlooking the the Buffalo National River
    Buffalo National River Hiking Trail
  4. Savannah, Georgia: Savannah is a beautiful and historic town located near the coast and on the Savannah River.  The city’s architecture and history combine to make it a unique and scenic destination.  The river is lined with shops and restaurants and the city is full of inviting squares and parks.  While you’re there, don’t miss Fort Pulaski – a civil war era fort in remarkable condition.  savannah-trip-3-tripssavannah-trip-2-trips
    Fort Pulaski National Monument
    Fort Pulaski National Monument was struck with canon balls.

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  5. Page, Arizona:  Page is a little town in Northern Arizona which makes a great base for exploring Lake Powell and the surrounding area.  Lake Powell is a huge man-made lake that stretches across the Utah/Arizona border.  Renting a boat is easy and exploring a canyon by lake is certainly unique. (Check out Lake Powell Houseboat Adventure: 10 Lessons Learned) Beyond the lake, there is so much to do in this area:  tour Antelope Canyon, check out Glen Canyon Dam, hike in the Grand Staircase, and gaze at the iconic Horseshoe Bend.
    View of Lake Powell
    Lake Powell
    Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona
    Lower Antelope Canyon
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    Horseshoe Bend

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    The Colorado River

 

Spring break is a great time to take a trip.  Many wonderful destinations have great weather this time of year, so get out there and try something new!