Camping in Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park has four developed campgrounds: Jedediah Smith and Del Norte Coast (Mill Creek) campgrounds in the North, and Elk Prairie and Gold Bluffs in the South. We ended up at Mill Creek Campground in the Del Norte Coast State Park section, and I am so glad we chose this site!

The Mill Creek campground is one of the more centrally located campgrounds within the national park, with Jedediah State Park above it, and Prairie Creek State Park below it. So it was very easy to get around within the park. From our campground, it was between 20-40 minutes to get to the other sections of the park.

Mill Creek Campground is located on Hwy 101, right across the street from this park entry sign/scenic overlook, where we stopped for a quick picture and to watch the sunset.

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Even with power lines photobombing the scene, it was still a very awesome sunset. The way the light reflected off the ocean looked so pretty!

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Mill Creek Campground was so cool!! It seriously felt like we were camping in Endor (a Star Wars reference, for all you non-geeks out there). I guess all the Ewoks were hiding though, cause we didn’t see any…

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It probably felt like Endor…because it is Endor!! They filmed the Endor scenes from “The Return of The Jedi” in Redwood National Park. Woooo!!! I had no idea it was filmed here, but as a devout Star Wars fan, I was pretty darn excited!

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The campsites come equipped with a picnic table, fire pit, and a bear locker, which you do have to use. There are a ton of bears in this park, so make sure anything scented (even your make up and toiletries) are stored in the bear locker or buried deep in the trunk of your car.

There are pay showers in the campground, but the plumbing was pretty sketchy. The toilets clogged up daily during our stay, and I paid for a 12-minute shower, but the water shut off after only 2 minutes. Luckily my best friend was in the shower next to me and let me finish showering with her (true story- that actually happened). That is true friendship right there! So maybe bring extra quarters when you shower, in case your water shuts off way early too. No electrical outlets though.

It was a fun campground, and we enjoyed our stay. The fire pits have a fire grate, which came in handy for helping us heat up cans of soup (because we were far too lazy to wash a pot to heat the soup properly). Cooking it this way totally works though!

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And enjoying beer by the campfire…

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Driving from Del Norte State Park to Prairie Creek State Park, you pass by these wonderfully large statues of Paul Bunyon and Babe. They are located out in front of the Trees of Mystery museum and gift shop, which we didn’t actually visit, but seemed pretty cool. They had a lot of Sasquatch merch, because apparently this is one of the areas in which he has been frequently sighted. We had no such luck on our visit. But we did enjoy the giant Babe!

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During our stay in Redwood National Park, we visited every section we could get to, and I truly believe this is the best campground in the park. Not only were the actual campsites beautiful and spacious, but the location made it super easy to divide our time between the North and South sections.

For more information on the campgrounds in Redwood National Park, click here.

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Hiking in Redwood National Park: Coast

While the park may be famous for its towering redwoods, the coastal section has a beauty all its own and definitely should not be missed. In truth, it was probably my favorite part of the park. The trees are incredible, no doubt, but as a Southern CA girl, my heart always lies with the ocean.

We started our visit to the coast with a stop at the Klamath River Overlook, which is supposed to have awesome whale watching. We were not fortunate enough to see any whales, but the views of the coast and the Klamath River sure were beautiful! (This was just a drive up and park overlook- no hiking or walking required. And there were quite a few picnic tables available… Maybe a nice picnic spot?).

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After the whale watching fail, we took a sunset hike to the beach. We did the Yurok Loop Trail, which is a fairly easy, 1-mile loop, and is technically listed as part of the North section of the park (not the Coastal section), but I included it here because it leads to, well, the coast.

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The spur trail to get down to the beach was a little bit challenging to find. It actually may not have even been a real spur trail, but enough people have used it that it sure looks like one. I am glad we found it though, because the beach was AMAZING!

We were super lucky and arrived at low tide (tide charts are available in the ranger stations and visitor centers, in case you want to ensure your arrival at low tide), and the tidepools were super cool! The sea stars were gigantic…bigger than your hand, and a really pretty purple color.

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The colors from the setting sun did beautiful things to the water, and it was one of those moments where nature leaves you in absolute awe. Like Forrest Gump says, “I couldn’t tell where Heaven stopped and the earth began.”

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Towards the end of the loop, when you are almost back at the parking lot, there are more wild berry bushes with tons of blackberries. Now for some reason the park ranger we spoke with did not recommend this trail, and said it wasn’t very good. Maybe my standards are lower, or maybe she is just crazy, but I thought it was the best trail in the whole park.

The Yurok Loop Trail can be found on the park’s hiking guide for the North section, but for a listing of all the official Coastal section trails, click here.

Hiking in Redwood National Park: South

For our second full day in the park, we headed South to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. The trail guide for the South section of the park is ginormous, and would take days to do it all! And just like the North guide, the trail distances are listed one-way, not round-trip (unless it is a loop), so keep that in mind when planning your adventure.

Since we didn’t have much time to work with, we decided to choose a variety of shorter trails so we would see a more diverse sampling of the park. We started our day with the Fern Canyon Loop Trail, a 0.7 mile loop. Most of this hike is very easy, but there is some stream crossing, as well as a bit of climbing over fallen trees. Exiting the canyon requires some uphill hiking, making the trail maybe more moderate, but those wishing to avoid hiking uphill can simply hike into the canyon, and then straight back out instead of completing the loop.

The canyon was awesome. 30′ tall canyon walls completely covered in ferns, with waterfalls, streams, and fallen trees blocking the trail, making it feel like a jungle gym for adults. Fun!!

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We also hiked the Circle Trail, which was an easy, 0.3 mile loop. And this one was definitely easy. Short and flat.The trail takes you through redwoods, and leads to the Big Tree, the biggest tree in the Prairie Creek section of the park.

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The last trail we did in the South section of the park was the Trillium Falls Trail, which was a moderate, 2.5 mile loop. The falls were cool, but the best part of the trail? Berry picking!!

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Right at the beginning of the trail were tons of wild berry bushes with lots and lots of ripe berries for picking (we visited the park in mid-August, for reference). Park visitors are allowed to pick one gallon per person, per day. But we got nowhere close to that. We just grabbed a couple handfuls to snack on while we hiked. Super fun and tasty!

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The falls! It is only a 10′ waterfall, so not super breathtaking. But the trail was a lot of fun, and the berry picking was awesome.

11949436_10206140642129045_257115995191626401_nIn talking to the park rangers, we learned that the South section of the park was a more recent addition to the park, and had suffered a great deal of forestation prior to being put under park protection. So as a result, it is significantly less impressive to see than the North section. It may have more hiking trails, but if your time in the park is limited, I would recommend focusing your attention on the North. It is a kind of far drive to get to the South half, and there isn’t as much worth seeing there. Yet.

For a complete listing of trails in the South section of the park, click here!

Hiking In Redwood National Park: North

Redwood National Park is sort of an odd park to navigate. The park originally started out as a handful of state parks, and then was taken over by the National Park Service and merged into one park. However, because they were all separate parks, they are still divided by stretches of towns and non-park territories. No matter which way you attempt your park visit, there will be a lot of driving involved!

The park is comprised of Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and then additional land that was added to the park designated as Redwood National Park. But on the official park website, the park is divided into North, South, and Coastal, which is how I will do it here!

We planned a full day of hikes, but discovered that the trails on the park website are listed as one-way mileage, not round-trip, so our plans sadly had to be altered. But we ended up with a really awesome selection of hikes, and I feel like we saw a cool variety of sites within the park.

After setting out from our campground in the Del Norte Coast section of the park (Mill Creek Campground), we headed to the Jedediah Smith section and started our day with the Simpson-Reed Trail, which was an easy, 1-mile loop.

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This hike packed a lot of beautiful redwoods scenery into a short distance, and would be an excellent choice for anyone pressed for time.

After that, we headed to the Stout Memorial Grove. This hike was also an easy, 0.5-mile loop. The trail was crowded, but leads hikers through a grove of colossal redwoods. Also a good choice for the time-pressed visitor.

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We then spent the remainder of our afternoon hiking the Boy Scout Tree Trail, which was an almost 6-mile, moderate hike. This was a very pretty trail, and takes you through hundreds of redwoods and ferns. Everything about this park feels very prehistoric, and this trail is an excellent way to get away from the crowds and really feel like you went back in time. You half expect to see a dinosaur jump out around every corner.

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To get to the Boy Scout Tree, you have to take a ridiculously steep spur trail off of the main trail near the very end. It almost doesn’t even look like a trail- it looks more like something hikers created to get off the beaten path. But it is indeed a real trail, and leads to this awesomely huge double redwood.

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Staying on the main trail leads you to Fern Falls. Once you get that far into the hike, it really doesn’t take that much more time to get to the falls from the Boy Scout Tree (or vice versa), so I recommend seeing both. Cause both sites are pretty darn cool.

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Also hiked this day (but not pictured), is the Trestle Loop trail, which is a non-level, some steep grades, 1-mile loop. We did this hike because it was located within our campground and said there was berry picking on the trail. But honestly, the hike wasn’t very scenic compared to the other hikes, it was fairly strenuous in some parts, and there were hardly any berries. So this trail can probably be skipped. There was better berry picking elsewhere in the park.

Click here for a complete listing of trails in the North section of the park!

Crater Lake Boat Tour and Wizard Island

If you have more than one day to spend in Crater Lake, take some time to get down to the lake! Getting to the lake requires a bit of time, effort, and skill, as it is a steep 1.1 mile hike down to the shore, and then another 1.1 miles back up out of the crater. And let me tell you: the hike up is not fun or easy. So allow plenty of time! But it is so worth it.

We booked the boat tour with a stop on Wizard Island option, though Crater Lake offers options that are just a boat tour, or just a shuttle to Wizard Island. If you can though, seriously book the combo tour like we did. The island is super cool, and there are beautiful views within the lake that you can’t see from any of the shores.

Ready to head out on our tour! We booked the 9:45 am tour, so we had to show up bright and early to pick up our tickets and make the hike down to the boat docks (tickets can be purchased up to two days in advance at kiosks within the park).

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Beautiful scenery, and our tour guide was wonderfully entertaining and informative!

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We soon docked on Wizard Island. Our guide told us the island has two hiking trails: one to the summit of the island, and one to Fumarole Bay, where you could swim. We were allotted 3 hours on the island, and he said it was possible to do both trails, but only if you hustle. So of course we did! We started with the summit hike, because we knew it would be more challenging and take longer due to the elevation gain.

Side note: if you want your stay on the island to be more leisurely, the summit hike is the one I would recommend of the two. The panoramic views from the top are incredible!

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The color contrasts between the volcanic rock, plants, and water was so stunning, it didn’t even look real.

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From the summit, you can also see/hike down into the crater that formed during the eruption that created the island. Pretty cool.

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The hike to Fumarole Bay presented an entirely different challenge. Our guide warned us it was “a bit rocky”, but what that actually means is it is straight up rocks. We got lost several times, and I twisted my ankle climbing around the rocks. The bay sure was beautiful though!

As far as scientists know, this is the clearest lake in the whole world. The visibility was incredible, and is hard to notice from the top of the crater, thus, why I highly suggest getting down to the lake shore. You could see EVERYTHING.

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Our guide also informed us the water is clean enough to drink without filtering, so of course we had to try that too! It was cool, crisp, and delicious. Definitely try it if you get a chance.

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So, I really loved both the hikes and am glad we were able to do both, but only attempt this if you are confident in your hiking abilities and don’t mind suffering a little.

And then back on the boat to finish the tour!

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Just look at that water!! You could tell how deep it was in various areas just by looking at the color of the water.

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DSCN8429After the boat tour, we decided to stay by the lake shore and go for a swim! The areas near the boat dock are the only places with lake access, and the water is FREEZING. Ok, so not literally, but it was only 60 degrees, and that is pretty darn cold for swimming without a wetsuit.

Which meant there was only one way to get us in the water… Geronimo!!!

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DSC_0596 Swimming back to shore after being hit with the shock of the cold was no easy task. But my goodness what a rush!!

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The victorious cliff jumpers!

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We did normal swim time after our cold plunge. Not that any of us lasted that long in the water. It was the sort of cold you never get used to and remains freezing, as you slowly start to lose feeling and movement becomes difficult…

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Underwater shots to show water clarity:

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We may be smiling in the pictures, but here is a behind the scenes shot of how we really felt about the water. That, my friends, is the face of suffering.

DSCF0824 Sadly injuries were obtained during the taking of these pictures, when slick rocks and a wave took me down. Ouch.

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This tour and the time spent by the lake was the unanimous favorite thing we did in the park among my group of friends. It was fun, beautiful, and a uniquely Crater Lake experience! So even if you want to skip the tour or swimming, at least get down to the lake.

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Lodging in Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park has only one large campground within park borders (as well as one tiny first come, first served site), so during peak season, it fills up quickly. Sadly my friends and I were not among those who planned ahead enough to reserve their spot early, so we had to find a place to stay outside of the park.

Fortunately, the area is surrounded by independently owned and operated campgrounds, so finding a place was easy. The downside? All these campgrounds are located at least a solid 40 minutes drive from everything to see and do in the park, and the closest gas station is equally far away, so plan accordingly!

Here we are setting up camp in Union Creek Campground!

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This was a nice campground. Heavily wooded, and large sites with fire pits and a picnic table. The facilities are fairly primitive though, so be prepared for pit toilets, no sinks, and no electrical outlets for charging cameras. There is running water from spigots however, and the campground host has firewood available for purchase.

Bears are a non-issue at this campground so you don’t have to worry about your safety, however you still shouldn’t leave food out at night (as my friend discovered), because you will wake up to find this:

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Inside Crater Lake, near the Mazama Campground, you can find a gas station (everyone says the gas inside national parks is expensive, but it cost less here than it did back home in LA, so we were all excited), a general store, a gift shop, and a restaurant. We were able to purchase some freshly brewed coffee here before setting out on our day’s adventures!

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The general store also had a large selection of beers, including many local brews. Naturally a sampler pack had to be purchased for my friend Matt and myself, our group’s resident beer drinkers.

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Slainte!!

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No camping trip is complete without roasting hot dogs over a fire!

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For those whose idea of roughing it means having spotty cell reception and no easy access to a big city, staying at the Crater Lake Lodge might be more your style. The historic lodge is quite elegant, and features large fireplaces in the lobby, a bar, a fancy restaurant, and a patio with rocking chairs overlooking the lake.

We popped in to check it out…

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I bought a pint of a local beer, called I ❤ Oregon ale, to enjoy out on the patio. Feelin’ pretty classy…

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Post beer, we grabbed a couple appetizers from the restaurant.

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The soft pretzel with beer cheese fondue was amazing!

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But alas, the lodge is not within our budget (plus we just really like camping). And cooking your own food is more fun anyways!

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We have a camping breakfast tradition in my group that is both fun and delicious. Plus it uses minimal dishes, which is always a win!


Cinnamon-Sugar Biscuits

Can(s) of uncooked biscuits (such as the kind made by Pillsbury), Cinnamon, Sugar, Butter

Wrap uncooked biscuit around the end of a stick or skewer so it won’t fall off, roast over the fire until cooked through.

Melt butter in a metal tin over the fire or camp stove. Place cinnamon and sugar in a second metal tin.

Roll freshly cooked, hot biscuit in melted butter, and then in the cinnamon and sugar mixture.

Eat while still warm. Repeat until full.

** Buy more biscuits than you think you will need, for the fire will inevitably claim the lives of a few. And also store uncooked biscuits in a water-tight container inside the ice chest. Trying to cook water-logged biscuits is nearly impossible**


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Have any camp recipes you love? Post them in the comments below! I am always looking for new recipes to try out on camping trips!

Hiking in Crater Lake National Park

With over 90 miles of hiking trails in Crater Lake National Park, there are plenty of options to suit every time frame and skill level. In addition, many of the trails are fairly short, so it is easy to pack a lot into one day. With only two days to spend in the park, my friends and I were able to do almost everything we wanted to do, and we didn’t even have to rush.

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We arrived around dinner time on our first day in the park, so didn’t have much time to see things. So we started our adventure by visiting Crater Lake Lodge (lodge details in another post) and strolling the paths that run behind the lodge along the edge of the crater. And as it was absolutely freezing (by CA girl standards), I was grateful the lodge had a coffee cart so I could warm up!

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The sunset was gorgeous that night, and watching it set with my best friends was a perfect way to spend our first evening in the park.

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Morning, Day 2 in Crater Lake. We started by hiking to Garfield Peak, just under 4 miles round trip. This was a really nice trail. The park trail guide lists it as “difficult”, but it was only difficult in that it was almost 2 miles uphill (as a hike with the word “peak” in the title might suggest). But with plenty of spectacular views along the way necessitating photography stops, we were hardly winded by the time we reached the top.

The panoramic views of Crater Lake from the summit of Garfield Peak are absolutely incredible. If you have enough time and your skill level permits, this is the trail I would recommend as the best trail in the park. It provides a wide variety of scenery, and the best lake views you’ll find anywhere.

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After Garfield Peak, we headed over to the visitor center, where there are a few trailheads for short hikes, including The Lady of the Woods (0.3 mile loop) and Castle Crest Wildflower trail (0.4 mile loop). The Lady of the Woods trail was nice, but Castle Crest Wildflower trail was beautiful! Wildflowers, deer, and babbling streams surround you, making this trail feel nothing short of magical.

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From there we took the scenic drive, and stopped at Vidae Falls. This was just a scenic viewpoint, but is very pretty and worth a stop if you drive past it.

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We then continued the scenic drive, and stopped to do the Sun Notch trail (0.5 mile loop).

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This was an easy trail, and took us to an awesome viewpoint for Phantom Ship island.

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Further down the scenic drive, we stopped to do the Pinnacles trail (2 miles roundtrip). The best part of this trail is at the very beginning, before the trail even really starts. So if you are pressed for time, skip the rest of the trail. It only leads to the park border, and then continues for who knows how long outside of the park.

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Our last hike of the day was Godfrey Glen (1 mile loop). This trail was also easy, and takes hikers through mossy old growth forests and along the top of Annie Canyon. Flowing water can be heard from this hike, but not seen. The trees on this hike are really cool though, and look kind of spooky. So definitely worth checking out.

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I was really pleased with our trail selection on our first full day in the park. I feel like we really got to see a wide variety of the scenery in Crater Lake.

Evening, Day 3 in Crater Lake. We spent the earlier part of the day on a boat tour of the lake (discussed in another post), but had a little time left before the day was over, so we headed to Watchman Peak (a little under 2 miles round trip). This trail leads to a historic fire lookout, and is supposed to be the best place to watch the sun set in the whole park.

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Sadly, during our visit there was (and still is, at the time of press) a huge wild fire burning through Oregon right at the border of the park. The air was horribly smoky, to the point where it was almost hard to breathe, and giant smoke clouds could be seen growing larger by the hour. It was heartbreaking to see, but it sure made for some haunting photos of the smoke barreling down the sides of the crater and enveloping the lake.

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Even with the smoke, the sunset was still very pretty, and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to see it from Watchman Peak on a clear evening.

DSCN8486Click here for a listing of the trails in Crater Lake! And there are additional trails not listed on this guide that you can learn about by talking to the rangers at the visitor center.

Have any questions about the trails or things to see in the park? Leave a comment! I am always happy to talk about our beautiful National Parks!

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Standing only a short drive away from the port of Hilo on the big island of Hawai’i are Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world’s most active volcanoes, oozing lava from deep within the Earth’s core.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was established to protect these awesome volcanoes, and provide a safe way for visitors to see them and learn about the formation of the islands. And furthermore, it is probably the #1 tourist destination on the big island, because volcanoes are cool.

I mean, who could resist the opportunity to see an active volcano erupt?

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A slightly morbid and mildly depressing comic we found in the visitor’s center:

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But at least it’s educational? Anyways, it was time to hit the trails! Another memo from the park about how dangerous your visit could be:

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We followed the Sulphur Banks trail from the visitor’s center through rainforests, until we reached the boardwalks that guide you safely around cracks in the earth’s crust where sulfur fumes seep through. As you can imagine, the scent in the air was just lovely.

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Just another wonderfully illustrated warning for visitors:

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I guess they really want to be sure you don’t step off the trail into possibly volcanic steam vents that can melt all the skin off your body and kill you. Things you want to believe would be common sense to most folks, but maybe not…

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This trail was very easy, and literally right next to the visitor’s center. Plus seeing all the steam rising from the earth was really cool. Definitely put the Sulphur Banks trail on your list of things to do in the park!

Next we hopped on the Crater Rim Drive and headed to see Kilauea!

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Yay!! It looked so cool!! I guess normally you can get closer to it, but when we were there, it was closed off due to the location of current lava flows. But even seeing the steam was super awesome!

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A little farther along the Crater Rim Drive, there are some steam vents you can get up close to. These were super fun to play around near. They kept fogging up my camera lens, and since it was a little chilly out, the heat felt really nice. What didn’t feel nice was leaving the steam vents and heading back out into the colder air while being a little soggy from the moisture.

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But we got to feel steam that is coming from the center of the Earth! How cool is that?!

Next stop, Thurston Lava Tube! This stop was crazy crowded. Like, miserably, have-to-drive-around-forever-looking-for-a-parking-spot crowded. So be prepared to suffer a little in order to see this site.

There is a short hike to get to the lava tube, with some stairs. Not bad though, and you get to see a lot of cool rainforest stuff along the way.

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The entrance to the lava tube:

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I guess it wouldn’t be a rainforest without a little rain! We were pretty soggy by the end of our visit.

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To best enjoy this park, my advice for you is to bring a rain jacket or poncho in case of unexpected showers, wear shoes with good tread for hiking on muddy surfaces, and allow plenty of time. There is a lot to see in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and it is crowded, so be sure to plan for possible traffic and parking lot struggles.

Seriously though, if you can only choose one thing to do on the big island of Hawai’i, go here.

Haleakala National Park

Most people come to Maui for the beaches and party towns; we came to see the cold, dry summit of Haleakala. Haleakala National Park is one of two national parks within the state of Hawaii, and since it is one of my bucket list items to visit them all, the beaches had to wait. I had a volcanic crater to see!

Haleakala National Park is divided into two sections: the summit and the coast. Completing the Road to Hana will actually put you in the coastal section of the park, which we were not able to do (why are there never enough hours in the day?). However the pictures we saw of the coastal area in the Visitor Center looked absolutely beautiful, so if you can, plan your time in Maui better than we did so you can see both halves of the park!

The summit area of the park is rather remote, and took over an hour to get there from the cruise ship port. A lot of the drive is on curvy mountain roads, so if you are prone to motion sickness, come prepared. In addition, the elevation at the summit area is rather high (around 10,000 ft), so those with breathing problems may want to exercise caution. It’s a long drive for an ambulance to get up there should any problems arise, and you never know what sort of cellphone reception you will have when you are out in nature.

On to the fun stuff! We were lucky and it finally wasn’t raining. And thank goodness for that, because it is incredibly windy and absolutely freezing at the summit!! The second I stepped out of the car I immediately regretted wearing shorts.

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The views were pretty cool. This was the trailhead for one of the hikes we did. I love how it looks like it just drops off the edge of the earth. It made it feel like we were hiking in the sky up among the clouds…

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The hiking trails are all pretty moderate, but they are very exposed. You get the sun beating down directly on you giving you a sunburn, while at the same time the wind rushes all around you, chilling you to the core. The best advice I can give is to use plenty of sunscreen, bring a hat and sunglasses,  wear sturdy hiking shoes, and dress in layers. Lots of layers. One minute it’s hot, and the next it’s freezing. And I know you are in Hawaii, but trust me: bring the heavy jackets for this one.

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They had wind breaks set up at the end of the hiking trails, and by the way we all hid inside it, you would think we were hiking in the arctic tundra! Californians don’t handle cold very well.

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My dad on the trail; despite the slightly miserable weather conditions, the views were stunning and the trail was a lot of fun to hike.

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The crater!

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The view from the summit –  you could see all the way across the ocean to other islands in the distance. With views like this, who cares if your face feels frozen?

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For the record, this sweater was absolutely not warm enough. I planned quite poorly.

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They say that watching the sunrise or sunset from the summit is breathtaking, and it is easy to see why. The park is remote and far away from any light pollution, and you can see for miles in every direction. Plus being so high up gives you unobstructed views of the horizon. I would’ve loved to be up there to see it, but sometimes it is hard to get everyone on board with waking up at like 4 a.m. on vacation. If I ever make it back to this park, I would definitely stay overnight in one of their campgrounds or cabins.


“The demi-god Maui and his mother, Hina, lived near Rainbow Falls in Hilo on the island of Hawaii. Hina would make kapa from the bark of the wauke and mamaki tree, and the strips would be dyed with magnificent designs to form cloth. The kapa, however, would still be damp when night fell, and Hina would lament how the sun moved too quickly across the sky to dry the cloth.

Upon hearing this, the demi-god traveled to the island of Maui and climbed to the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala, where the sun was asleep in the giant crater. Maui hid until morning and watched the sun begin his daily journey. As the first ray of sunshine appeared, Maui snared it with his lasso of twisted coconut fiber.

The sun demanded to be released, but Maui would not let go. “Promise me that you will move more slowly across the sky,” he told the sun. Left with no choice, the sun struck a bargain with the daring demi-god. He would move slowly for six months out of the year, and then move at his preferred pace for the other six months. Agreeing to the terms, Maui hurried home and told his mother the good news. As a reward, Hina made her son a new cape, and sure enough, it dried in one afternoon”

– The legend of the spectacular sunrise on Haleakala (obtained                    from Aloha-Hawaii)


Saguaro National Park – Tucson Mountain District (West Side)

After a lunch stop in Tucson (one convenient aspect of having a city in the middle of a National Park) we headed into the West side of the park, the Tucson Mountain District. It was approximately 45-60 minutes between the two halves, but we were able to get some sightseeing in along way, including a stop at Old Tucson Studio, the place where most of the famous old western movies were filmed. We would’ve loved to go in and see all the old movie sets, but we were pressed for time and it cost $18 per adult to get in, which wasn’t worth it for how long we could stay. My whole family added it to our list of things we need to return to Arizona for though!

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I bought a tiny saguaro cactus in the gift shop…

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The view of the studios from outside – all you could see without paying the entrance fee:

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And then into the park! The visitor center in this half of the park was much larger and more developed. After popping inside for a minute to do some shopping and talk to the rangers about what we should do with our limited time in the park, we set out along the scenic drive. And honestly, I found it to be less impressive than the East side of the park. The cactuses were growing more densely in this half, but there wasn’t anywhere to stop along most of the drive, so we had to stay in the car and take pictures through the windows. In addition, I felt that the East side had more diverse scenery along its loop. However, one huge plus to the West side is that towards the end of the scenic drive, there is a picnic area where you can park your car and take a short hike to see some petroglyphs! And as I am mildly obsessed with ancient art and archaeology, this was very relevant to my interests!!

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The hike to get to the petroglyphs was short, but completely exposed and had some uphill parts to get to the top where the petroglyphs are located. Definitely not bad though, and anyone reasonably in shape could do it without a problem. From the petroglyphs, there are options to branch off onto other trails, so we hiked around for a bit.

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After a long day of exploring this amazing park, it was time to hit the road and head back to LA. And of course I had to get some snacks for the journey…

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I love desert sunsets… they are seriously some of the most beautiful skies in the world.

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Annnndd a photo of one of my favorite road signs along the 10 freeway… Gotta love whoever decided to build a prison and a rest stop on opposite sides of the freeway, off of the same off-ramp.

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Saguaro National Park was a really beautiful park to visit. I like to think I will return one day to do more hiking, but if I never do, I am also ok with that. Spending a full day there is more than enough to feel like you got to see the park and all its top sights.