National Parks Visited

  2014-Grand Teton and Yellowstone

2015-Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, Acadia, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon

    

Future:

2016-Glacier, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Everglades, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas

2017-Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, Congaree

2018-Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon (planned so far!)

Adventure Archives

I just found a new YouTube channel on the National Park Foundation’s Trail Talk Blog. It is called Adventure Archives and they have a lot of National  Park videos. Some of them were Find Your Park Expedition members/crew. I just watched their Mesa Verde video and it was great. If you like the National Parks and hiking, I think you will enjoy the videos.

 

Mesa Verde National Park

One of our favorite parks we visited on our Grand Circle road trip was Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Since it was towards the end of the season, it was pretty empty and quiet. We stayed at the Far View Lodge inside the park. The Lodge is open from April to October.  While the buildings are old, they offer great views if you can get a view room. The Kiva rooms have been updated and are pretty nice. The restaurant the Metate Room was fantastic! It was one of the best National Park restaurants we have been to for dinner. I had a chicken and pasta dish that was delicious. We found out the chef is from New York City. The staff was also great.

kiva room

Before we got to Mesa Verde, we stopped in Cortez outside the park. We went to the Colorado Welcome Center there and picked up our Balcony House tour tickets ($4pp) for the next day. They were very helpful and there is a lot of Colorado info in the welcome center. You can read about the park tours and how and where to purchase tickets on the NPS web page for Mesa Verde.We also had lunch and some beer at the Main Street Brewery.

Balcony House ladder

Balcony House was one of the few guided tours that were going on in October. Cliff Palace was closed for work and Spruce Tree House was self guided. The Balcony House tour was amazing and lasted about an hour. We had to climb a few ladders on the edge of cliffs as well as crawl through some tunnels. The ranger was great and everyone on the tour was very respectful. It actually brought tears to my eyes to be walking around these amazing sites.

tp Ladder

cc

We also went to the park Visitor Center, Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, hiked the whole Far View Sites complex, and drove the Mesa Top Loop Road and the Wetherill Mesa Road. Next time we will stay longer so we can tour some of the other houses like Long House. We got to see Cliff Palace from an overlook, but I would love to walk through the site soon. If you will be near Mesa Verde, you should visit and see the cliff dwellings. The park preserves 600 cliff dwellings and 5,000 archeological sites! The dwellings were discovered in 1888 by two cowboys Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charlie Mason. They were looking for stray cattle. They must have been in awe!

Visitor Center

Square Tower House

 Spruce Tree House sth

Because of the high elevation, the views are are beautiful. Have fun!

Mesa Verde View


The Grand Circle Road Trip

Craig and I have been talking about visiting Utah’s National Parks for a while. After seeing the map above in a Fodor’s travel book on the West, I decided to start planning a road trip. The “Mighty 5” (Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches) have had a lot of press lately. Utah’s latest advertising campaign by Struck was great. I know we loved the video.

I decided to use the road trip above from the Fodor’s Complete Guide to The National Parks of The West. We also added a night in Page after Monument Valley so we can see Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. October looked like a great time to visit so that is when we head out. Our anniversary is in October as well, so it will be a nice celebration! We added a few nights more than what the book suggested. I think 2 weeks would be even better.   

We will be flying into Las Vegas late and staying the first night there. The next morning we will drive to Zion National Park. We are spending 2 nights at the Zion Lodge, 1 night at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, 1 night at Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel in Torrey, 2 Nights at the Red Cliff’s Lodge right outside Moab, 1 night at the Fair View Lodge in Mesa Verde, 1 night at The View Hotel in Monument Valley, 1 night at The Lake Powell Resort and Marina near Page and 2 nights at Bright Angel Lodge on the South Rim of The Grand Canyon. I included the official hotel links if you would like to recreate our road trip! There are nice restaurants in each location that I read about on Trip Advisor and travel guide books. Some are The Spotted Dog Cafe in Springdale outside of Zion National Park, Hell’s Backbone Grill on Highway 12, Cafe Diablo in Torrey and Desert Bistro in Moab. The menu’s look amazing and we can’t wait to try them all.  

Sunrise Sunset is a great web site to determine sunrise and sunset times during your trips. In Southern Utah, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, you really want to catch the amazing sunrises and sunsets. There is also an app called Magic Hour for photography that you may want to download. 

This is a large area to cover, so plan as much time as you can or concentrate on certain areas (a smaller loop.) Look at lodging and tours way ahead. See my Pinterest pins for more ideas.

 

 

National Parks Passport

In September 2013 my husband Craig and I went to an event at the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site in Saugus, MA.  At the visitor center and gift shop, I noticed a whole section for National Park Passports. I had never seen them before. For years Craig and I had wanted to visit Yellowstone, Yosemite and our other National Parks. We decided that day to buy one of the passports and make it our goal to visit as many National Parks, Historic Sites and Monuments as we could!

There are kids passports, regular passports and even a whole binder system that you can store stickers and extra pages in. The passports come with a nice fold out map of all of our National Park, NHS, NRA, etc. locations. Here are the different designations.

Since buying our passport we have visited Fort Matanzas and Castillo de San Marcos in Saint Augustine, FL, the Salem, MA National Historic Site, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. This year we are headed to the Golden Gate NRA, Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Joshua Tree, The Mighty 5 in Utah, Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon and Acadia-WHEW! Next year we are heading back to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton and Glacier National Park for our 20th anniversary. We hope to go to Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii soon.

I hope you will join us in our quest to get as many National Park Passport stamps as we can fit in our book! I will post links to our YouTube channel, Instagram and Pinterest sites so you can view some of these amazing places along with us.

Next year-2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Parks and I hope this will inspire you to visit a park near or far.

Pages waiting to be stamped!