Fun Fact: Badlands National Park Fossil Finds

Badlands National Park boasts one of the largest mammal fossil deposits in the world! Park visitors can even join in the fossil hunting fun. Badlands has an open hike policy, so you are not required to stay on designated trails! This policy, rare in a national park, actually encourages visitors to go off trail to search for fossils. As a result, every year photos of park visitors and their fossil finds are added to the wall of fame in the Badlands National Park visitor center.

Badlands National Park Fossils Trip

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!

 

 

 

Tip & Tee: Driving to Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is arguably one of the most recognizable icons in the National Park System. The massive scale and realism of this sculpture completed in 1941 is mind boggling! It is no surprise that over 3 million people visit this symbol of America each year.

Mount Rushmore Doane Mountain Tunnel

Trip Tip:  Mount Rushmore

For an extra special treat, approach Mount Rushmore from Custer State Park by driving north on Iron Mountain Road (16A). This Scenic Byway is also an engineering feat with its remarkable bridges, tunnels, and switchbacks.  A highlight of this journey is the Doane Robinson Tunnel which perfectly frames Mount Rushmore!

Mount Rushmore Trip TeeWhen 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!

Tip & Tee: Glacier National Park

When 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!

I could not pass up this trip tee at the Logan Pass Visitor Center in Glacier National Park. The design was available in several colors, but the turquoise reminded me of the park’s glacial lakes.

Glacier National Park is often referred to as the Crown of the Continent.  One visit, and it is easy to see that this nickname is well deserved.  The Going to the Sun Road is the main highway in Glacier National Park which traverses the Rocky Mountains at Logan Pass. This road is a marvel particularly when considering the terrain crews had to conquer during its construction between 1921 and 1932.

Glacier National Park Trip Tip

Be sure to allow plenty of time to enjoy exploring the Going to the Sun Road in BOTH directions. The views are amazing regardless of whether you’re traveling east or west, but the change in perspective offers a different experience which should not be rushed.Glacier National Park Trip Tee

Breathtaking Drive to the Needles in Canyonlands National Park

Time always flies on vacation! On most trips, there are more things to do than time allows.  It can be really hard to narrow down the to-do list!

In Moab, Utah, you can’t help but face this dilemma! Nestled near 2 National Parks, the Colorado River, and some of the best rock terrain in the nation, it is tough to decide what to include on the itinerary and what to save for another trip!

On our first trip to Moab, we spent time in Canyonlands National Park Islands in the Sky District.  We wanted to visit the Needles District, but there just wasn’t time to make that drive.

On our most recent trip, we debated whether or not it was worth the 1 hour and 45 minutes drive one way to see the Needles.  We decided to go for it and quickly found out that the answer is YES!Indian Creek Scenic Drive Utah

To reach the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park from Moab, head south on Hwy 191. Turn right (west) on SR 211.  This is where the drive starts to get really interesting.

SR 211 is also known as the Indian Creek Scenic Byway. It joins highway US Hwy 191 about 40 miles south of Moab. This Scenic Byway is 18 miles each way and ends at the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.  The highway winds among spectacular buttes and rock formations!

As you enjoy this scenic drive, don’t miss Newspaper Rock, one of the country’s largest collections of petroglyphs which is also a Utah State Historic Site. This amazing rock art is about 15 miles west of Hwy 191.

Once you arrive at the entrance to the Needles District, the possibilities are endless! And, there are far fewer people in this district than in Islands in the Sky. I think you’ll find a Moab day trip to the Needles along the Indian Creek Scenic Byway to be vacation time well spent!Needles District of Canyonlands National Park

The BEST National Park Visitor Center

I absolutely love our national parks, and for me, spending time in the park’s visitor center is a MUST! While there are some great national park visitor centers throughout the park system, there is one that really stands out: the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center!

Hot Springs National Park is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It is about an hour’s drive from the capital city of Little Rock.

What makes the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center so special? It’s cool (or shall I say hot) backstory!Hot Springs National Park Bathhouse Row

In the 1800’s, the natural hot springs located in this area became a tourist mecca.  During that time, people believed that these springs had healing properties. People from around the nation would travel to this area to spend time soaking in the springs, drinking the water, and receiving other treatments to cure their ailments. The town of Hot Springs developed around this natural resource to provide the many visitors with much needed services.

Hot Springs National Park Spring Water
The spring water from Hot Springs National Park is still flowing.  Visitors are welcome to fill containers of water to drink or take home.

Hot Springs was the first public land to be set aside for protection based on it’s natural resources.  In 1832, Hot Springs National Reservation was established.  It became known as the “American Spa.” This area was designated as a National Park in 1921.   This designation led to the development of the Bathhouse Row that we see today. By the 1960’s, the heyday the hot springs had come to an end and many of the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row began to close including the Fordyce Bathhouse.Hot Springs Reservation

The elegant Fordyce Bathhouse operated from 1915 to 1962.  It remained closed until it opened as the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center in 1989.  It has been lovingly restored to its original glory.  Hot Springs National Park Fordyce Bath HouseHot Springs National Park

Today, the Fordyce Bathhouse offers visitors a glimpse into what it was like to come to a glamorous bathhouse and to be pampered with a true spa experience during the first half of the 1900’s.

Some of these spa experiences aren’t too far removed from what you may enjoy in today’s spa visit.  Visitors in the early 1900’s could enjoy a hot bath, pedicure, hair and beauty treatments, steam treatments, and a custom developed workout regimen.  Some treatments, on the other hand, are in much less demand today.  Certainly many of us would say “no thank you” to an electric shock massage.Hot Springs National Park Fordyce Bathhouse

This National Park Visitor Center is a real gem. The Fordyce Bathhouse has 4 floors of bathhouse history to explore. It is fascinating to see and to imagine what it might have been like to visit this elegant spa in the early 1900’s.Hot Springs National Park Fordyce BathhouseHot Springs National Park-12Hot Springs National Park-14Hot Springs National Park-23

The Fordyce Bathhouse is just one of several beautiful structures on Bathhouse Row. Many of the bathhouses have been restored as the area has undergone a period of revitalization.  Buckstaff Bath is still in operation today offering spa services with the famous thermal waters of this National Park.  Superior Bathhouse has recently reopened as a brewery and distillery as well as a full service restaurant which utilizes the thermal waters to produce its craft beverages.Hot Springs National Park Bathhouse Row

A visit to Fordyce Bathhouse great way to spend a leisurely afternoon. Take a stroll along Bathhouse Row or simply spend some time in a rocking chair on a bathhouse front porch.  Then, take a bath just like visitors to Hot Springs have been doing for over 100 years!Hot Springs National Park Bathhouse Row

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