Hiking Acadia’s Precipice Trail

For all my fellow adventurous souls out there, this one is for you. If you’re like me and seek out the most brag-worthy trails in all of the national parks, look no further. In Acadia National Park, it’s the Precipice Trail.

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In fact, this hike is actually classified as a non-technical climb. Why? Because you are scaling the side of a rocky cliff via a series of ladders and iron railings.

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Precipice Trail to Orange & Black Trail, 2.5 miles round trip

“Iron rungs and ladders on exposed cliffs, very steep. Do not descend on Precipice Trail. Starts/ends at: Precipice Parking Area.” (NPS website)

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That description doesn’t even begin to describe the epicness that is the Precipice Trail. Easily the coolest hike I have ever done, this trail is definitely not for the faint of heart or physically unfit.

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If you are even kinda afraid of heights, skip this hike.

If you can’t climb a straight ladder (meaning straight up and down, no leaning), skip this hike.

There aren’t many hikes out there that require upper body strength, and this is one of them.

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Here are some things to consider for safety:

  • Make sure the weather reports are clear before starting. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS HIKE IN BAD WEATHER!!!
  • If it has been raining recently, the trail will be extremely slippery, including all of the rungs. Be sure to wear good shoes! And if in doubt, bring some gloves to help you grip the rungs.
  • Obey posted signs and follow the trail. Don’t attempt to hike back down the way you came up- continue following the Orange and Black Trail to get back to the parking area.

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Honestly, the scariest part of the trail was how slick it was from recent rain. One wrong step and you could fall off the cliff and die. And no, I’m not exaggerating. People have actually died on this trail. So hike smart, and stay safe. Grabbing that awesome Instagram photo won’t be worth it if you aren’t able to go home to post it.

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There are several points on this trail where you are literally scaling the wall of a cliff. No technical climbing skills required though- there are rungs and railings to help you along. It looks scarier than it is.

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The trailhead is located at the Precipice parking area, roughly halfway in between the Sieur de Monts park entrance and the Sand Beach Entrance Station. It’s easy to spot; you can’t miss it.

Once you are on the trail, just follow the blue paint! There are blue paint marks and arrows throughout the hike to keep you on the right path.

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This is hands down the coolest hike in Acadia! If weather permits and you are in good enough shape, you definitely don’t want to miss this one. The views are incredible, and the photo ops are endless.

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For a complete list of hiking options in Acadia, click here!


 

 

A Test of Endurance: Backpacking to Sykes Hot Springs

“I need to figure out someplace to go this month over a long weekend. Any ideas?” I should know better by now than to ask my sister questions like this. Of course she has ideas. And they usually involve water. That girl is obsessed with waterfalls and natural hot springs. She suggested we try backpacking to Sykes Hot Springs in Big Sur. Lucky for us, we live close enough to one of the most beautiful parts of California that driving to Big Sur for just a weekend is totally feasible.

Now we are by no means experienced backpackers. But the trip seemed easy enough: 7 hour drive, camp the night, spend the next day hiking 10 miles to Sykes Campground, check out the hot springs, sleep, get an early start and hike the 10 miles back to the car. The grand plan was to get back to LA by 9 so we could go to the Tam o’Shanter to see one of our favorite bands, Waking Kate, play.

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We ended up leaving LA a little later than planned, but that was ok. Our only real objective for the day was to get to Big Sur and find a place to stay the night. And I am pleased to report the drive went off without a hitch, and we arrived in Big Sur by the late evening, maybe around 9pm? It was cold, but not too bad (we took this trip in late April). However, the weather reports for the weekend were looking bleak.

The morning proved the weather reports true: it was officially raining. It started out as just a drizzle, but by the time we finished packing, we were in a downpour. We somehow managed to get everything all squared away though, and after a quick stop at Big Sur Station to acquire a fire permit (required if you want to use a stove or start a fire of any kind while in the backcountry. Read fire restrictions here) and directions to the trailhead (located at the far end of the Big Sur Station parking lot. Overnight parking permits available at kiosks in the parking lot), we were ready to go!

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Luckily the rain let up just as we were starting our trek along the Pine Ridge Trail.The weather was decent, the sights were beautiful, and our spirits were high. That didn’t last though. It wasn’t long before the rain started again. And it didn’t stop.

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Within an hour we were soaked from head to toe, even though we were wearing rain gear. A rain jacket only repels so much water; eventually it couldn’t keep up with the amount of rain being dumped upon us.

Now this trail…I don’t know how we didn’t notice in any of our trip research that the Pine Ridge Trail is graded as strenuous. For a more experienced backpacker, or at least someone in really good shape, the trail probably wouldn’t be too hard. Sure there was a lot of elevation gains and losses, but there were also plenty of mostly level areas to help break it up. But we are not experienced backpackers. So the struggle was very real. And it was even worse in the rain. It took us around 8 hours to get to the campground. On the bright side, it finally stopped raining though.

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As you descend into Sykes Campground, you encounter a river- the majority of the campground is across the river. If you go up river a bit (to the right of the trail), that is where the river is the most shallow and easiest to cross. There is usually a rope set up to help hikers cross the river. The river is pretty swift moving, so be careful when crossing (it was also freezing cold). During times of heavy rains, the river is actually too dangerous to cross, so use your best judgment and maybe reschedule your trip if the weather has been too gnarly.

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We didn’t notice the rope crossing until after we forded the river on our own at a much deeper area. Live and learn.

Once you get across the river, the campground is a little farther up river (keep going to the right). Shortly you will see all the campsites lining the river. By the time we got there we were soaked, tired, freezing, starving, and every other miserable adjective you can think of. The temperature dropped to around 50 degrees, and we knew we had to get warm, fast. The fear of getting hypothermia was starting to become very real. Literally everything in our packs was completely soaked. EVERYTHING. At this point, we had no idea how to get dry or how to warm ourselves. I don’t think I have ever felt so completely helpless. we tried building a fire, but all the wood and twigs were too wet to light. It was time to break out the emergency blankets (thank you Mom and Dad for putting one in my Christmas stocking every year!).

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One of my favorite parts about the outdoors community is the sense of camaraderie. We are all out there for the same reason: a love of the outdoors and the thrill of adventure. A couple of backpackers just arriving to the campground saw our situation and realized we were in a bad way. They had extra dry clothes in their packs, and offered to let us borrow some for the night. One of the men even took a jacket off his back to lend us. If it weren’t for the kindness of these complete strangers, I honestly don’t know what we would’ve done. Essentially, they saved us.

So we made it through the night! The whole situation left us fiercely behind schedule, but we didn’t go through all that suffering to not see the hot springs. So we threw our original plans to the wind and went to find the hot springs before starting the hike back.

The hot springs are around a mile down river from the campground, on the opposite side of the river. But don’t use the same river crossing. Eventually the other side of the river becomes impassable. Stay on the same side as the campground until that side becomes impassable, and then cross to the other side. From there, you can follow a trail through additional campsites until you reach the hot springs. There is quite a bit of boulder scrambling involved, so you’ll definitely want to wear decent shoes. We kept wondering how we would know when we got there, but the hot springs are pretty hard to miss. The air starts smelling like sulfur as you get close, and the pools definitely look like little pools.

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And they are AMAZING! Nice and warm, but not too hot. There are three different pools: the first one you encounter is the smallest, and fits maybe two people. Keep hiking a little and then you come across the other two. If you look down towards the river, you will find the biggest pool, fitting around six people. If you look up, you will find the medium sized pool, fitting around four people. That is the one we used. Since we hiked to Sykes on a Friday, and reached the hot springs early Saturday morning, the pools were nice and empty and we had it mostly to ourselves. However, the hot springs get crazy busy during the weekend, so plan accordingly. I guess some people like to enjoy the springs in the nude, but I sure wouldn’t. There was all kinds of debris and junk in the water, and all the rocks in the pools were really slimy. I was glad to have a bathing suit and water shoes.

The rest of the trip went pretty smoothly, and I don’t have much to report. The weather was beautiful, and the clothes we were wearing dried quickly. The hike was so much more enjoyable! Or at least it would’ve been, if we weren’t still suffering from the mishaps of the day before and weren’t in a race against the sun, trying to finish the hike before nightfall.

We ended up hiking maybe the last 1/4 mile in the dark, and practically collapsed from exhaustion when we reached the car. The biggest downside to being so far behind schedule? We still had to drive home that night, after spending all day hiking. And since both of my travel companions have poor eyesight (especially at night), I had to drive the entire way home without any help or breaks. Yikes. We didn’t get home till after 4am. I guess having everything go smoothly would’ve made the trip more pleasant, but our adventure makes a far better story!

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Find additional information about Sykes Campground and the Pine Ridge Trail here.

Royal Gardens and Classic Architecture: A Walk Through Munich

For my last day of roaming through Munich, I ventured farther out into the city. I had spent the past few days exploring the area around Marienplatz, and decided I should see more of the city.

So I started my journey the way all journeys should begin: with bratwurst! Who cares that it was still in the morning…bratwurst is amazing any time of the day!

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I loved that there were tons of little parks throughout the city. A perfect place for a bratwurst picnic!

And then I set off to explore! My objective: find the Englischer Garten and the Hofgarten. Along the way, I passed some beautiful architecture-

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The Hofgarten is a beautiful garden in the center of the city in the area surrounding the Residenz Palace. It was originally created in 1613 as part of the palace complex.

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The park is formally laid out around two footpaths that intersect in the center at the Temple of Diana.

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The Temple of Diana, or the hofgartentemple, was designed in 1615 by Heinrich Schön. The temple was built with eight arches from which footpaths lead, dividing the garden into eight sections. The bronze statue on top of the pavilion is the “Tellus Bavarica,” symbolizing the treasures of the Bavarian land – grain, game, water, and salt. It was originally sculpted in the likeness of Diana, the goddess of hunting, in 1594, but was later remodeled into the allegorical figure of Bavaria in 1923.

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Bavarian State Chancellery

Another cool sight you can find in the direction of the Englischer Garten and the Hofgarten is the Victory Gate, built in 1843 to commemorate the bravery of the Bavarian army and its success in the Napoleonic War of liberation. The Victory Gate was largely destroyed during WWII, and when it was rebuilt, a quote by Wilhelm Hausenstein was added to the arch that reads: “Dem Sieg geweiht, vom Krieg zerstört, zum Frieden mahnend,” or in English, “Dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, reminding of peace.”

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The Victory Gate

I did make it to the Englischer Garten, but I wrote about that in another post which you can find here. Getting there took awhile, but I passed through so many beautiful streets on the way that the distance didn’t bother me one bit.

On the way back to my hotel, I took a different path so I could see as much Munich as possible (and thanks to my trusty map, I never got lost).

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Street musicians! Strolling through the incredible streets of Munich was even more enjoyable while listening to the live entertainment found in many plazas and street corners.

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It was super cold out, so I became a frequent customer of Munich Starbucks.

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Seeing the Starbucks sign juxtaposed with the classic statue on the next building over made me laugh. It was a perfect example of the way Munich is a blend of old and new.

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True, I have no idea what most of the buildings are that I photographed. But sometimes it is nice to just wander and enjoy the scenery.

Beer Halls!!

Munich is world famous for its beer. In addition to being the birthplace of Oktoberfest, Munich also boasts lots of lively beer halls, over 200 beer gardens, and 6 major breweries within the city limits. It is pretty much the beer capital of the world. I plan to return to Munich one day to participate in their Oktoberfest celebrations and spend a week doing nothing but drinking beer, but on this particular trip I only had time to visit one beer hall. The Hofbräuhaus is the most well-known of all Munich’s beer halls, which usually  = the most crowded. Though I would’ve loved to see it, as a solo female traveler I wasn’t particularly in the mood to place myself in the epicenter of loud, drunken revelry.

Instead, my journeys brought me to Augustiner Restaurant/Beer Hall, mostly because it is the most conveniently located of the beer halls, in the pedestrian walkway between Karlsplatz and Marienplatz. I passed by it everyday, and finally decided to stop in on my last night in Munich.

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The original Augustiner began brewing beer as early as 1328, and has been serving its mild Edelstoff beer freshly tapped from wooden barrels in this current location since 1885.

I was starving upon arrival though, so I found a seat in the adjoining restaurant and ordered some sausages and sauerkraut. Plus beer of course! All meals are served with a basket of complimentary pretzels. Way better than dinner rolls or bread.

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Pretzels instead of bread? Best restaurant EVER.

 

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Oh delicious heaven on earth…

The restaurant was loud and lively, but in a good way. I would expect nothing less from a beer hall. It soon got really crowded, and I ended up sharing my table with some visitors from somewhere else in Germany who had come to Munich for the Fasching celebrations. I learned that combining small parties into one table when restaurants are crowded is a common practice in Germany. It actually makes a lot of sense to do that, and once I got over the initial culture shock, it was totally cool. They were really friendly, and I told them all about living in LA.

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The food at Augustiner was absolutely delicious, and the beer was really good too!! I generally prefer darker beers, but this one tasted amazing paired with the sausage and sauerkraut. And because it was my last night of vacation, I decided to treat myself to some strudel for dessert. This meal is definitely one of the best I have ever eaten.

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Ok, so my visit to the beer hall was a little less beer, and a lot more food. Drinking a lot at night while traveling alone just didn’t feel very smart. But even if you don’t want to drink (or just don’t like beer), it is still worth going to the Augustiner. There is no better place to eat authentic Bavarian food in true Bavarian fashion!

For hours of operation, directions, a print-out menu and other information, visit their website!

Day Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle

Around 2 hours outside of Munich, nestled in mountains above the town of Schwangau, sits Neuschwanstein Castle. This castle looks like something straight out of a fairy tale (it was even used as the inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World!). With a history as romantic as its location, a trip to Neuschwanstein is perfect for anyone with a love of history, architecture or who has a love of storybook worthy scenery.

To visit Neuschwanstein, I decided to enlist the help of the pros and booked a guided tour through Viator. The tour met up bright and early at Munich Central Station (which was right across the street from my hotel…yes!!). And my goodness it was cold!! Luckily the tour left quickly, and coffee in hand, we all piled onto the warm train and settled in for our 2-hr ride. DSCN1044

2 hours might seem like a long time to sit on a train, but the ride was actually very pleasant. Our tour guide told us stories of Munich, the Wittelsbach Dynasty, King Ludwig II and Neuschwanstein, all while taking in the beautiful scenery of the Alps and southern Germany.

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The Alps!!

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Before I knew it, we had reached the small town of Fussen. From there, we hopped on a bus that took us to Schwangau, where the castle is located.

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Fussen

Upon arrival in Schwangau, we took a lunch break while our tour guide arranged the rest of our journey. Yes, I got more bratwurst and German coke. I had formed a fierce addiction to those wonderful sausages.

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And then the journey continued on foot. We walked through Schwangau, passing by King Ludwig II’s childhood castle of Schloss Hohenschwangau.

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Walking through Schwangau

 

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Schloss Hohenschwangau

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The walk up to Neuschwanstein is pretty fierce, so we each paid a couple euros to take a tram. We stopped at Marienbrucke first, a small bridge stretching across Pollat Gorge that King Maximillian II (King Ludwig II’s father) had built as a birthday present to his mountain-climbing love, Marie. Those with a fear of heights might want to skip this one, as the gorge is a long way down. But the views of Neuschwanstein from the bridge are absolutely incredible, with rolling hills and small villages surrounding this magnificent castle.

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After taking in the panoramic views from the bridge, we continued on foot to the castle. There was still some snow on the ground, and it just added to the magic of the castle.

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Schwangau, with Schloss Hohenschwangau

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As I’m sure you have figured out by now, this tour requires a TON of walking. You’ll definitely be wanting the comfortable shoes for this one.

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Made it to the castle!

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Feel like Disneyland yet?

And then it was time for the guided tour. Neuschwanstein is absolutely gorgeous inside, and the decorative details are incredible. No photography allowed inside the castle though, so I don’t have any pictures of it. They wouldn’t have been able to do it justice anyways.

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“Mad King” Ludwig II was a shy dreamer with a vivid imagination and a tendency to isolate himself. He had visions of grandeur, and identified himself with the kings of the Medieval age. He was obsessed with the idea of a holy kingdom by the Grace of God over which he could rule as a true king, instead of the reality of just being a constitutional monarch with little ruling power. Ludwig II retreated more and more into a fantasy world where he could live the old-world, poetic life he dreamed of. He spent less time in Munich, and sought a residence away from the hustle of city life. He wanted to build his own kingdom where he could be free to live in his world of fantasy, a world in which great kings still existed and resided in ornate and elaborate castles in the countryside.

Ludwig II selected a location near his childhood castle, and began construction of Neuschwanstein in 1866, two years after taking the throne. Ludwig wrote to his good friend Richard Wagner, saying:

“It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pöllat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day (in 3 years); there will be several cosy, habitable guest rooms with a splendid view of the noble Säuling, the mountains of Tyrol and far across the plain; you know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world. It will also remind you of “Tannhäuser” (Singers’ Hall with a view of the castle in the background), “Lohengrin'” (castle courtyard, open corridor, path to the chapel); this castle will be in every way more beautiful and habitable than Hohenschwangau further down, which is desecrated every year by the prose of my mother; they will take revenge, the desecrated gods, and come to live with Us on the lofty heights, breathing the air of heaven.”

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In reality, the castle construction took much longer than Ludwig II expected, and he was not able to move in until 1884, roughly 20 years after the original plans were drawn.

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The lifestyle Ludwig II was building for himself proved to be in conflict with his duties as head of state. Neuschwanstein and the life Ludwig II lived in it were expensive; far beyond the means of a private king. Foreign banks threatened to seize the property, and Ludwig’s refusal to act rationally about the situation resulted in the government declaring him insane and removing his title and power. He was interned in Berg Palace, and the next day, he was found dead in Lake Starnberg under mysterious circumstances alongside the psychiatrist who had declared him insane. It is thought that he preferred death over returning to reality, and he choose to end his life while still in his world of dreams and illusions. However some people also believe he was murdered, with several witnesses claiming to have seen or heard King Ludwig II be shot and then dumped into the lake. The truth remains a mystery…

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Following the tour, there is a cool gift shop where you can pick up some fun Neuschwanstein souvenirs. I got a hand-blown glass Christmas ornament and some postcard pictures of the castle interior.

But oh the walking has not yet ended. While we were able to take a tram up to the castle, we had to walk all the way back down to Schwangau. Our tour guide told us what time we had to be back in Schwangau to get on the bus, and then permitted us to shop and stroll our way back at our leisure. I stopped at a cute little stand and bought some hot chocolate in a souvenir mug and some German cookies to enjoy during the walk.

And then something magical happened. It started snowing!! I know that is not a big deal to a lot of people, but as a southern Californian, I had never been snowed on before. I had been to the snow of course, but had never actually experienced seeing snow fall. I was beyond excited. Everything about the castle felt like magic, as if Ludwig II was still creating his romantic fantasy world from beyond the grave.

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SNOW!!!!!

Our tour group eventually all made it back to the bus in Schwangau, but some of the group took too long getting there and made us miss the train in Fussen. Thankfully there would be another train along in an hour, but until then, we had to kill some time in Fussen. Which normally would’ve been wonderful, because Fussen is a very pretty town with lots of fun shops and stuff, except for the fact that it was freezing and pouring rain.

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Like I would let that stop me. I still went out and explored anyways. A little rain never hurt anyone (unless you are in an old movie, in which case rain = certain death).

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I appreciated the humor of whoever put this pink shirt on the statue hehe

The train ride back to Munich was decidedly less pleasant than the last ride. I was soggy from wandering in the rain, and the train was super crowded. A lot of people even had to stand, which was a bummer since it was a 2-hr ride.

By the time we made it back to Munich, I was starving, cold, and exhausted, but still mesmerized by the magic of the castle.

For more information on Neuschwanstein Castle, visit their website.

Partying in the Streets During Fasching!!

When I arrived in Munich towards the end of February, I was expecting a quiet week of sightseeing. Visit some churches, spend a day or so in the museums, stroll through the historic streets. Little did I know what the week had in store for me…

My second day of sightseeing started out like any other. I left the hotel bright and early (still suffering from that jet lag, but hey, it actually got me up and moving way earlier than usual, which I count as a win on vacations) and headed in the direction of Marienplatz. I thought this could be a good day to find the art museums. But as I approached Karlsplatz (which is the direction I used to get to Marienplatz everyday), I noticed something different. There was a stage set up, with music and dancing. I had to investigate further. I followed the crowds toward Marienplatz.

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Karlsplatz

Here I stumbled upon something even more magical. There was an even bigger stage, DJs playing fun dance music, food vendors, people in crazy costumes, booths selling alcohol at like 9 a.m. (goodness I love Germany) and confetti everywhere. Turns out, I had unknowingly traveled to Munich during their Fasching celebrations, which is basically their version of Mardi Gras or Carnival.

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Fasching celebrations beginning in Marienplatz

What luck!!! It goes without saying I quickly tossed aside my museum plans. A giant street party was so much better!!

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Because I want you to really have the full experience of celebrating Fasching in Munich, here is a music video you should check out. This song was played so much during the celebrations, and I instantly fell in love with it. I feel it really captures the spirit of the experience. No idea what the song is actually about though…

Seriously one of the most fun songs ever written. There are several versions available on iTunes (I bought them all), and I don’t know who did the original, but I particularly like the music video that accompanies this version. So enjoy!

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Even though it was early in the morning, I was on vacation in Germany, so I figured I should do as the Germans do! I bought my first glass of gluhwein. Oh sweet nectar of the gods…gluhwein is delicious!! It is a tasty mulled wine, served warm. Perfect for a cold winter day!

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This family gets my vote for best costumes. The Force is strong with them.

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Family of Star Wars fans!

And then it was time for more gluhwein.

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I thought is was great how people just threw confetti everywhere. I didn’t know a single soul at this street party, and I still had people throwing confetti at me. This may sound silly, but it made me feel all happy and welcome. Total strangers were treating me the same way they were treating their family members. The whole event had that warm fuzzy feeling people in LA only get during Christmas time (if even then). So it was really nice, and felt very special.

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And then of course you can’t go to Germany and not get a bratwurst. Odd as it sounds, this was my first time trying an actual bratwurst. And it was love at first bite. It has since become one of my favorite foods.

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Simply perfection.

The party continued all through the afternoon…

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Watching this family made me happy…There was so much love!

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Sadly tragedy struck my third glass of gluhwein. I still drank it though.

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Gotta love oompah bands dressed like animals!

CONFETTI!!!! ❤

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Seriously though, watch out for your beverages.

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I also got this pretzel that was bigger than my head. So much yes!!

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So much carnage in the streets…

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I loved celebrating Fasching so much, I returned and did it all again the next day!

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GLUHWEIN!!!!!

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Fasching is a glorious multi-day celebration, a time of merry-making and festivity. And as with any street party or festival, the crowd can get a little wild. I recommend attending the celebrations in the first day or two of the party, but maybe skip the last day on Shrove Tuesday. It was crazy crowded on the last day, and the more wild attendees were out then. More drunk people, less happy family fun. That day didn’t have the same magic feeling as the earlier days and just felt more like a giant party. Which is cool too, but very different.

I certainly did not plan on spending so much of my time in Munich celebrating Fasching, but I am so glad I did. Sometimes the unplanned things in life turn out to be the best.

Taking a Stroll Through the Englischer Garten

As much as I adore cities, sometimes it is necessary to get away from all the hustle and bustle for a few hours and be alone with your thoughts. Munich’s Englischer Garten (or “English Garden”) provides the perfect place to seek such an escape and relax for a bit with a stein of beer.

The English Garden is one of the largest urban parks in the world, stretching from the city center to the northeastern city limits. In fact it is so big, you soon forget you are even still in a city at all. Tranquility surrounds you as you stroll amongst grassy knolls, flowing streams and wooded forests.

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When the last ruler of the Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty died childless in 1777, the land passed to elector and archduke Carl Theodor. Theodor had no interest in leaving his home along the Rhine to rule over Bavaria however, which made him unpopular among the people. In attempts to make peace with the citizens, Theodor dedicated a great deal of attention to improving the city. In 1789, he opened the lands of the English Garden to the public, and established it as a military park where soldiers could go during times of peace to gain agricultural knowledge and for recreation. Many changes and additions have come and gone over the years, but the park has more or less been in its modern form since the early 1800s.
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The Monopteros temple, designed by Leo von Klenze and built in 1836

There are many interesting sights to see in the English Garden besides just the beautiful scenery. My favorite (and also one of the most popular sights) is the Chinese pagoda and adjoining beer garden. It is the second largest beer garden in Munich, and well worth a stop. With several beers on tap and a variety of food choices, it is a pleasant place to stop, crowd watch, and enjoy the surroundings.

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A stein of radler and a pretzel. Simply perfection.

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The beer garden

 

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The Chinese pagoda

It was pretty cold out. I guess a frosty cool beverage didn’t sound appealing to many people. Other sights of interest (but not pictured here, cause I didn’t actually see them) are a Japanese teahouse, a spot along the river where brave people can surf (yes, actual surfing in a river), an area for nude sunbathing, and an open air amphitheatre used for live performances during the summer months.

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The English Garden is ridiculously huge, and it is super easy to get lost if you aren’t familiar with the park. I definitely lost track of my location more than once. But sometimes it is nice to allow yourself to get lost in a new place…as long as you have plenty of daylight left to eventually find your way back.

Visiting the Churches of Munich

If you research the top things to see in Munich, two locations show up on pretty much every list: Frauenkirche and Peterskirche. So who am I to argue? I had to go see them.

On my second morning in Munich I set out to find these two churches, and luckily enough, they are both located within close vicinity to Marienplatz. I almost missed the turn off to get to Frauenkirche. After entering the pedestrian zone of Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße from Karlsplatz, there is a little street on the left-hand side that is easy to just pass by. It is very nondescript compared to the shopping zone, and has absolutely nothing to tempt you off of the main drag. But after following it for a bit, it opens up into a small plaza with the massive Fraeunkirche towering above you.

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Frauenkirche is the most iconic image of Munich. You will see its towers featured on almost every touristy city souvenir you find. The stone foundation of the church was laid in 1468, and construction continued for the next 20 years. Built by German architect Jörg von Halsbach, this Gothic triple-naved cathedral is 358 ft long, with its two towers reaching a height of 325 ft. By law, no new building is allowed to obstruct the view of the cathedral.

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Frauenkirche was badly damaged during WWII, when the roof collapsed as a result of allied bombing. It wasn’t fully restored until 1994, though it was under construction again when I visited.

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Entrance to church

The cathedral was closed when I was there, so sadly I wasn’t able to see any of the interior. However, the inside is supposed to be stunning, fully decorated in the Baroque style and containing a great deal of historic artwork. You can visit the tomb of emperor Ludwig IV, and see the “footprint of the Devil.” Legend has it that architect Jörg von Halsbach promised the Devil he would construct a church in which no windows would be visible from the inside. In return, the Devil would help von Halsbach finish the cathedral. Upon completion, von Halsbach lead the Devil into the center of the church, where indeed there were no visible windows. However, so much light flooded in from above onto the churchgoers, the Devil was infuriated and stamped his foot down with so much rage it left a permanent imprint on the floor. They say the footprint is still visible today. The church’s crypt also holds the remains of the Wittelsbach family, a powerful dynasty which ruled over Bavaria for centuries (whose likenesses are carved into the exterior decor of the Neues Rathaus in Marienplatz).

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Definitely a cool church to visit. Though if you go, try to go inside. I’m sure it looks amazing!

And then on to Peterskirche! To get there, go back the direction you came, cross Marienplatz, and then continue going into the part of town on the other side of the square (more or less…consult a map for specifics, but know it is a fairly short and easy walk).

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Exterior of Peterskirche

Built on the site of an 8th century monastery, Peterskirche was constructed between 1328-1368 in the Romanesque style, later adding elements of Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo styles. It was almost completely destroyed during WWII, and reconstruction wasn’t completed until 2000.

Obviously just seeing the historic architecture is really cool, but the best part of Peterskirche is going up into the steeple to get to the viewing platform.

Open daily in the summer Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., and in the winter Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and holidays 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Admission is around EUR 1.50 (at the time of visit in 2014).

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The climb begins…(yes, I have confetti in my hair. Explanation coming in a later post!)

The climb is intense. Lots and lots of stairs…306 to be precise. But there is no other way to reach the top, so this visit is definitely not for anyone who has a problem with climbing stairs, a fear of heights, or issues with being in small-ish spaces. I was lucky and there were hardly any other people there when I was, but I hear the stairs can get pretty congested when it is busy and it can take a long time to reach the platform. For me, it only took as long as it takes to climb 306 stairs (which is roughly 17 stories…yikes).

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Up and up they go!

I actually thought the climb was a lot of fun though. It was cool to climb to the top of a church tower. And my goodness…the views at the top were incredible!! This is the best place to go to see the city from above. The Neues Rathaus has a viewing platform too, but Peterskirche is a much cooler experience and has a better vantage point. Definitely worth the admission fee and effort.

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Frauenkirche!

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Frauenkirche!

Without a doubt, this was my favorite sight to see in Munich.

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Back down the stairs…

A photo of the viewing platform from the outside…I wanted to document what I had just conquered haha.

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And then here are a few pictures from my journey back to my hotel:

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More live music on the streets ❤

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I guess I can safely say that all the Munich guidebooks aren’t lying. These two churches are definitely must-see sights in the city.

Exploring the Streets of Old Town Munich

My first morning in Munich I woke up with two thoughts: it was way too cold, and way too early. Adjusting to a different time zone is rough…I woke up at like 6 in the morning without the help of an alarm clock, which believe me, absolutely never happens at home. Normally I would just stay in bed anyways, but not today. I was in Munich!! And super excited to take on the city. So with my trusty map in hand, and a general idea of what I wanted to see, I set out.

More or less, my plan was to get to Marienplatz, the heart of old Munich and where the majority of the top, must-see sights are located.

I got distracted pretty quickly though. There is gorgeous architecture everywhere you look in Old Town Munich, and I wandered off of my path to check out this building. No idea what it is, but it was beautiful!

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And then around the corner from the pretty building was this pretty park.

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I had only been exploring for a few minutes, and I was already in love with the city. I loved the sound my boots made when they hit the stone sidewalks. I loved feeling the cold air on my face. I loved the way classic architecture was mixed in with modern establishments (yeah, I stopped at Starbucks. You can take the girl out of LA, but you can’t take the LA out of the girl).

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Things like that might be commonplace for a lot of people, but for a girl from southern CA where basically everything was built post-1900 (except for the missions and a handful of places built in the 1800s), it felt incredible to be surrounded by so much history.

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If this park was in Los Angeles there would be homeless people on every bench and the whole place would smell like pee.

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Eventually I did get back on my originally journey. I passed through Karlsplatz, which was a wide open square with some shops around the perimeter, and went through the gate to enter Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße.

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Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße is a pedestrian zone connecting Karlsplatz and Marienplatz and is the busiest shopping area of Munich. Here you can find mostly mid-range shops, like those you would find in a mall. They even had a Forever 21 and an H&M! I was there too early to shop, but I knew I must return…

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Strolling along Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße

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But I made it to Marienplatz! The predominant architectural feature of the square is the Neues Rathaus, or New Town Hall. Built between 1867 and 1909 in the neo-Gothic style,  the Neues Rathaus stands 255 feet tall, and the 300 foot long richly-decorated facade features almost the entire line of the house of Wittelsbach in Bavaria. It is still a functioning government building today, as the Neues Rathaus is the seat of the mayor’s office, the city council, and the headquarters of the city administration.

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It was easily the most incredible building I have ever seen. The attention to detail, the carved statues, the flying buttresses, the stained glass windows…just amazing.

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Inside the courtyard of the Neues Rathaus

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When visiting the Neues Rathaus, make sure to be there in time to see the world famous Glockenspiel. Since 1908, statues dance and twirl in the tower, telling stories of Munich’s history featuring Coopers dancers (a dance originally performed in Marienplatz in 1517 to commemorate the end of the plague), the angel of peace, and the Münchner Kindl (symbol of the city’s coat of arms). The 12-minute long spectacle occurs at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. daily, and also at 5 p.m. during the months of March-October.

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The Neues Rathaus Glockenspiel

In the center of the square you will see the Column of St. Mary, erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of the Swiss invasion. At the corners of the base of the statue are four puttis, symbolizing the city’s overcoming of war, pestilence, hunger and heresy.

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The gilded statue at the top of the column is the Virgin Mary, and was sculpted several years prior to the rest of the column in 1590.

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And this wonderful man was playing traditional German music at the base of the statue. Yep, I was definitely in Germany!

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My journey soon took me out of Marienplatz and along Orlandostraße near the Hofbräuhaus. Orlandostraße is the best place to shop if you are looking for touristy souvenir shops. I couldn’t help picking up a ceramic beerstein. The Hofbräuhaus itself is one of the most famous beerhalls in Munich, but I actually did not visit it. Drinking alone in a beerhall at 11 a.m. seemed a little sad haha. Maybe on my next trip to Munich!

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Orlandostraße

At this point my journey took a turn for the I-don’t-know. I didn’t know where I was going, I don’t know what I saw along the way. I just wanted to explore. So together with my map, I spent the majority of the afternoon just walking, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of Munich.

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It felt so amazing to be out in the world with no plan and no one else to worry about. I could do whatever I wanted, and take however long doing it as I wanted. My time was my own. I have never felt so completely free as I did that day exploring Munich.

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The Maximilianeum…the mosaics on this building are incredible.

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If you visit Munich, take a day to just walk around and surround yourself with all the art and beauty the city has to offer. It doesn’t cost a dime, and the things you will see are incredible.

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I did, however, want to return to Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße to do some shopping! Could I shop at all these same stores at home? Of course! But there is just something so delightful about seeing some of your favorite places from home while abroad. I bought some awesome plaid pants at H&M. I consider them to be a souvenir. Hehe. Oh, and the roasted nuts sold by street vendors are delicious! They are warm and toasty, and make a wonderful shopping snack on a cold afternoon.

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They were street performers all over Neuhauser and Kaufinger Straße, as well as in Marienplatz. Which was awesome! I particularly loved these guys. I wish I would have bought their CD. They were really talented, and so much fun to watch. I stood there and listened for a really long time.

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I ended up only seeing a tiny portion of the sights I had originally hoped to see on my first day, but that was ok with me. I had instead spent the day just being in Munich and enjoying the world around me. And that was even better.

Where to Stay in Bryce Canyon?

The good news about finding a place to stay in Bryce Canyon is that there are a lot of lodging options and availability. The bad news is that Bryce Canyon is a really popular park, so if you go during peak season, good luck finding any openings.

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There is a lodge on site, but since we didn’t stay there, I don’t know how early you should make your reservations. However, if the campgrounds are any indication, I would recommend booking your room as early as possible. For rates and reservations, check out their website. There are two restaurants at the lodge, one that looks pretty upscale (aka pricey), and a more casual pizzeria (that has free wifi, yay!). We decided to eat at Valhalla Pizzeria and Coffee Shop on our first night in Bryce Canyon. After a day of traveling and struggling to find a campsite (more on that in a minute) the last thing we wanted to do was cook. And with how cold it was outside, a piping hot calzone really was simply perfection…

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In addition to the lodge, there is also a lovely visitor center and a general store. The general store carries any supplies you might need during your stay, but even more importantly, this is where you will find the shower facilities that serve both campgrounds. Tokens for the showers can be purchased in the general store.

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The Visitor Center

Now Bryce Canyon has two different campgrounds, North Campground and Sunset Campground. Both are rather large, with over 80 tent and RV camping sites available in each campground. Unfortunately, most of these sites are first come, first served. Which during peak season = a nightmare. Upon our arrival, there was a frenzy of cars desperately searching through both campgrounds trying to find any open spaces. It felt like going shopping on Black Friday, when shoppers are going crazy trying to get all the good deals before anyone else can. It was pure madness. Definitely one of those situations where you just want to take the first site you find and don’t try to hold out for a better one. We drove all through North Campground… completely full. Then we tried Sunset Campground. I kid you not, we literally grabbed the last site available. It was technically reserved for RVs only, but the campground host was super cool and let us use it anyways. By the early afternoon on a weekday, both campgrounds were full. So get there early, and don’t hesitate too long making decisions. Take whatever you can find before someone else does.
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During one of our days in Bryce Canyon we decided we wanted hot dogs for lunch (we had leftovers, having opted to eat at the restaurant. And we don’t waste food). However it was crazy super windy and cold! Trying to light the stove was a real struggle. But we were determined!

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Human windshields!!

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After we finally had hot dog success, it was decided that it was entirely too cold to stay outdoors (hey, we are Californians!) so we had a car picnic! I love my friends for our never ending ability to roll with the punches.

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Case in point #2: we forgot cooking supplies, and used skewers to prepare baked potatoes.

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Case in point #3: We also didn’t remember tongs for cooking, so we wrapped tin foil around a pair of pliers. And voila!

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Oh yeah… we also hate doing dishes. So we made plates out of foil as well.

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No trip is complete without sampling the local beer! I tried Uinta Brewing Co’s Hoodoo beer, because, well, we were in Bryce Canyon! I kinda had to.

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And then a few random pictures from our camping adventures…

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For information on the campgrounds in Bryce Canyon, click here!