This Is Halloween! Hiking to Pumpkin Rock

High in the hills of Norco overlooking the Jurupa Valley and the 15-freeway lives the iconic Pumpkin Rock. This hike is a seasonal favorite for locals, and it’s the perfect way to get into the Halloween spirit!

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The trailhead in George Engalls Equestrian Park

I recently went on this hike and wrote a piece on it for Weekend Sherpa, so I won’t get into too many details about it on here.

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I just wanted to share my photographs with all of you because I like how they turned out and only a few of them made it into the published story.

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This hike was super fun, and very easy. Only around 2 miles or so. And it’s really easy to get to, being only a few minutes from the freeway. But for full details and directions to the trailhead, check out my story on Weekend Sherpa!


 

 

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!


 

 

Kings Canyon: Hiking in Grant Grove

So as I mentioned in my Scenic Drive Through Kings Canyon post, the park is split into two sections, with a big stretch of national forest dividing them. Grant Grove is the considerably smaller of the two, and also the more easily accessible and more frequented. But don’t let its smaller size fool you; some of the coolest sights in the parks can be found here, like forests full of majestic sequoias, the largest trees in the world.

Here is a list of what I consider to be the best things to see and do in Grant Grove:

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General Grant Tree Trail, 1 mile loop

“One of the world’s largest living trees. President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation’s Christmas tree in 1926. Visit the historic Gamlin Cabin and the Fallen Monarch along this 1/3 mile (.5 km) paved trail. North and west of the Kings Canyon Visitor Center.” (NPS website)

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If you are looking for the most iconic or most popular sight in the park, this is it. This trail is unbelievably crowded, complete with giant tour buses and all, but the General Grant Tree itself does not disappoint. It is GIGANTIC, and beyond impressive to see. And incredibly difficult to photograph. There is no good way to capture the enormousness of these trees on camera… you just have to see it. It’s an easy loop, with lots of spur trail options to add on to your hike if you feel like doing more exploring. Despite the crowds, it’s definitely worth a stop.

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North Grove Loop, 1.5 mile loop

“This lightly traveled, 1 1/2 mile trail provides an opportunity for a close look at the big trees. Enjoy a quiet walk past meadows and creeks, through mixed conifer and sequoia forest. The trailhead is at the Grant Tree parking area.” (NPS website)

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The North Grove Loop starts in the same parking lot as the General Grant Tree Loop, so if you have an extra hour or so and want to see more trees, this is a good choice. It is much more secluded than the General Grant Loop and is a great place for a quiet walk through the forest. The views aren’t that spectacular though, so I wouldn’t go out of your way to do this one. This hike is perfect though if you have spare time and want to seek some peace and quiet. Maybe some woodland meditation or yoga?

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Buena Vista Peak, 2 miles round trip

“The 2 mile round-trip hike up this granite peak begins just south of the Kings Canyon Overlook on the Generals Highway, 6 miles southeast of Grant Grove. From the top of Buena Vista Peak, a 360-degree view looks out over the majestic sequoias in Redwood Canyon, Buck Rock Fire Tower, and beyond to a splendid panorama of the high Sierra.” (NPS website)

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Ok, this was easily the best hike in the Grant Grove area. I love hikes that pack a lot of bang for your buck, and this was definitely one of those hikes. Only 2-miles round trip, but look at those views!!! Pro tip: skip the King Canyon Overlook and just do this hike instead. The views are 100 million times better.

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And all of these hikes can be done in half a day, leaving plenty of time for other adventuring!

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For a full list of hikes in the Grant Grove area, visit the Kings Canyon official website!


 

 

A Scenic Drive Through Kings Canyon

I’m ashamed to admit that this was my first visit to Kings Canyon. I’ve lived in southern CA for 30 years (aka my whole life), just a few short hours from this extremely underrated national park. I mean, it doesn’t even get it’s own website or merch, being lumped together with Sequoia National Park.

Ok, in fairness, the two parks are literally right next to each other. If you think of the protected land as a giant “U”, Kings Canyon is the tip of each side of the “U” and Sequoia is the rounded bottom half, with the space in the middle being filled with national forest lands. It’s sorta a weird setup, so you can see why they all often get treated as one.

Anyways, to get from one half of Kings Canyon to the other you have to pass through Sequoia National Forest via a long, winding mountain road that takes an hour or so. Bummer for those prone to carsickness (like me, bleh), but awesome for the views along the way! There are several overlooks worth stopping at, and even an amazing waterfall right next to the road!

So here are my photos from the drive between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove, the two halves of Kings Canyon. These stops aren’t listed on the park maps or website, since they aren’t technically in the park, so just keep your eyes peeled as you drive!

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Leaving Grant Grove

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Grizzly Falls, basically right next to the road

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Sunset back at Grant Grove again

The national forest is full of awesome things to see and do and is easy to overlook when jumping around between the national parks. We didn’t even think to spend a day or so just in the national forest part, and I really regret that. But at least we were able to check out some of its awesome scenic viewpoints! And now I have a reason to go back someday.

Hiking in The Badlands

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For being such an awesomely cool national park, Badlands actually doesn’t have a ton of hiking options. With three full days in the park you could easily hike every trail, as well as cruise the scenic drive. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend hiking all of them…

Pressed for time? My top pick is to do the Door Trail, the Notch Trail, and the Window Trail. All three of those trails are close to each other, short, and offer really sweet views for minimum effort. And the Notch Trail is the undisputed best trail in the park. Period.

The trails are located along a spur road off of Badlands Loop Road (the main road through the park) just east of the visitor center on the right hand side of the road. The first trail you encounter is the Notch Trail, and I would recommend starting with that one anyways since it is the longest and requires the most effort.

THE NOTCH TRAIL, 1.5 miles round trip, moderate-strenuous

“After meandering through a canyon, this trail climbs a log ladder and follows a ledge to “the Notch” for a dramatic view of the White River Valley. Trail begins at the south end of the Door and Window parking area. Watch for drop-offs. Not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights. Treacherous during or after heavy rains”. (From NPS)

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This bad boy was smack in the middle of the trail. Luckily his rattling tail announced his presence before we saw him. Rattlesnakes are common in this park…keep your eyes and ears open for them!

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The reason why I (as well as many others) view this as the best trail in the park is because of this really cool ladder you have to climb towards the end of the hike. Hikes that involve a little something extra are my favorite! Plus they yield some badass photos…

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hiking, outdoors, south dakota, badlands, badlands national park, hiking in the badlands, hiking guide for badlands national park, national park, where to hike in badlands national park

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And the views aren’t half bad either.

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The Window Trail is up next, though we actually did this one the night before when we had a little extra time after arriving and setting up camp.

THE WINDOW TRAIL, 0.25 miles round trip, easy

“This short trail leads to a natural window in the Badlands Wall with a view of an intricately eroded canyon. Please stay on the trail”. (From NPS)

As we were pulling into the parking lot, we saw one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. The sky was turning a bright hot pink. So pretty!

This trail is super fast and easy. And the views are definitely worth it. The lighting wasn’t all that great when we did this trail, so my photos don’t do it justice.

And then last of all, the Door Trail.

THE DOOR TRAIL, 0.75 miles round trip, easy

“An accessible ¼ mile boardwalk leads through a break in the Badlands Wall known as “the Door” and to a view of the Badlands. From there, the maintained trail ends. Travel beyond this point is at your own risk. Watch for drop-offs”. (From NPS)

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A nice, simple boardwalk trail with ah-mazing views. This is the type of scenery the Badlands is so well known for…if you can only do one trail during your visit, choose this one. The trail technically ends at the “door” at the end of the boardwalk, but you can continue forward at your own risk. Just be careful- take plenty of water and don’t get lost.

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After these three smaller hikes, we attempted the Castle Trail, aka the longest trail in the park. At 10 miles round trip, this trail is no joke. So why we decided to start it later in the day during the hottest hours is beyond me.

THE CASTLE TRAIL, 10 miles round trip, moderate

“The longest trail in the park begins at the Door and Window parking area and travels five miles one way to the Fossil Exhibit Trail. Relatively level, the path passes along some badlands formations”. (From NPS)

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This trail is graded moderate only due to its length and sun exposure. The trail itself is mostly flat and would actually be very pleasant if it weren’t for that damn sun. There is literally zero shade on this trail. And with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, it gets pretty brutal.

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I am sad to report we didn’t finish this hike. I was taken by heat exhaustion and we had to cut it short. About midway through the Castle Trail, it connects with the Saddle Pass trail which is a strenuous 0.25 mile hike straight to the road. One of my friends helped me down that trail and found a place to keep me cool while the rest of the group back tracked on the Castle trail to retrieve our car. Super suck. Blog post on dealing with heat exhaustion coming soon.

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While the Castle trail definitely offered some pretty views, I would say overall it isn’t worth the time or effort. If you have an extra day to dedicate to it, then I say for it, but seriously, start it first thing in the morning and bring more water than you think you’ll need.

As for our unintentional trek on the Saddle Pass trail, I can say the descriptions aren’t lying when they say it’s steep and strenuous. We hiked it going down, from the summit to the road, but I sure as hell wouldn’t recommend hiking it from the road and up. You can reach the same views from the easier (albeit longer) Castle trail.

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My tips for hiking in the Badlands:

-Water water water water water water water. If you’re thirsty, you’re already becoming dehydrated. And dehydration leads to heat exhaustion, which leads to heat stroke.

-Bring plenty of sunblock and a hat of some kind to keep the sun off your face. Sunglasses are awesome to have too.

-Start the long hikes early in the day to beat the peak temperatures of the afternoon.

-Wear shoes with good tread if doing the Notch or exploring beyond the paved trails.

-If you start feeling dizzy, nauseous, faint, or have a headache, stop hiking. Get out of the sun, drink fluids, and try to lower your body temperature. Shirts or bandannas soaked in water to use as a cold compress on your head and neck work awesome. Finishing a hike isn’t worth risking your safety; know the signs and know when to turn back.

-Watch out for rattlesnakes.

For additional information on the hiking options in Badlands, check out the Badlands National Park website.


Have you done any hiking in the Badlands? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments!

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.

A Trip to Mount Rushmore

Throughout the US, there are a few sights I would say every American needs to visit during their lifetime. I would also recommend these same sights to anyone visiting from another country who really wanted to experience ‘Merica. Obviously there is the Statue of Liberty, but also towards the top of that list is Mount Rushmore, where the the faces of four iconic United States presidents are carved into the rock of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Lines to enter the Mount Rushmore National Memorial were long and it took awhile to enter the parking structure. However you only have to pay to park- admission to the memorial itself is free. And there is definitely ample parking available in the parking structure.

A short walk later and you are there!

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This walkway is lined with the State Flag of all 50 states

 

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Wooooo California!!!! (the wind was very uncooperative)

Before heading over to the memorial monument, take a few minutes to check out the information center and the Lincoln Borglum Visitor Center. Getting background info on what you are about to see makes the monument even more impressive. In the visitor center you can view exhibits and a 14-minute film describing the reasons for and methods used in carving Mount Rushmore. Pretty cool.

Then head over to the viewing amphitheater to see the most iconic view of Mount Rushmore. I always envisioned Mount Rushmore being really big, but it person it seemed rather small. Here is a photo of Mount Rushmore exactly how it is seen from the viewing platform, no zoom used:

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It still was an incredible sight to see in person though, after having seen images of it throughout my entire life. My inner history buff was giddy with excitement.

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Presidents, assemble!!

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Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln

After taking an absurd amount of photos from the viewing area, take a stroll on the Presidental Trail (trailhead to the left of the viewing amphitheater if looking towards the monument). Trail is 0.6 miles long, 422 stairs, open if weather permitting.

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This trail takes you through some beautiful wooded areas, and provides a more up-close view of the monument.

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One question I had always wondered was: why these four presidents? I found the answer on the National Park Service website, and since they did such a good job explaining, here is what they said:

George Washington, (1st president) led the colonists in the American Revolutionary War to win independence from Great Britain. He was the father of the new country and laid the foundation of American democracy. Because of his importance, Washington is the most prominent figure on the mountain. (1732-1799)

“The preservation of the sacred fire of Liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” George Washington

Thomas Jefferson, (3rd president) was the author of the Declaration of Independence, a document which inspires democracies around the world. He also purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 which doubled the size of our country, adding all or part of fifteen present-day states. (1743-1826)

“We act not for ourselves but for the whole human race. The event of our experiment is to show whether man can be trusted with self – government.” Thomas Jefferson

Theodore Roosevelt, (26th president) provided leadership when America experienced rapid economic growth as it entered the 20th Century. He was instrumental in negotiating the construction of the Panama Canal, linking the east and the west. He was known as the “trust buster” for his work to end large corporate monopolies and ensure the rights of the common working man. (1858-1919)

“The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight – that he shall not be a mere passenger.” Theodore Roosevelt

Abraham Lincoln, (16th president) held the nation together during its greatest trial, the Civil War. Lincoln believed his most sacred duty was the preservation of the union. It was his firm conviction that slavery must be abolished. (1809-1865).

“I leave you hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.” Abraham Lincoln

So there you have it. Plus some really cool quotes by some very inspiring men.

At the end of the Presidential Trail you will encounter  the Sculptor’s Studio, where the lead sculptor of Mount Rushmore, Gutzon Borglum, spent most of his time working on the scale model and design of the project.

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Scale model and proposed design of Mount Rushmore

Work on Mount Rushmore began in October 1927. Work conditions were rough, varying from freezing and windy to blazing hot. Workers had to be lowered down from the top of the 500′ mountain using steel cables. The work was dangerous, as over 90% of the mountain was carved using dynamite, but during the 14 years of construction not one fatality occurred among the 400 workers.

They used dynamite until only 3-6″ of rock was left to be cleared to reach the carving surface, then those last few inches were removed by hand. The rock surface would then be sanded until it was completely smooth and ready to be carved.

In 1941 the lead sculptor Gutzon Borglum died in the middle of the project. In addition, the whole world was at war, and America was on the brink of joining. Funding and interest in the project died out as the United States had bigger things to worry about, and so Mount Rushmore was declared a completed project, even though most of the proposed design was not included.

One last place to stop before you leave Mount Rushmore is the Carver’s Cafe and the gift shop. We noticed this sign outside of the cafe:

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Ice cream = Thomas Jefferson. Sounds like the confusing stuff they taught in high school math…

Turns out Thomas Jefferson had some special ice cream recipe, and they serve it at the cafe. This scoop of ice cream was kinda ridiculously expensive, but who can resist buying presidential ice cream while at Mount Rushmore?

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It tasted like vanilla.

But we’re not rich…we all shared a scoop.

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For more information on visiting Mount Rushmore, check out the National Park Service website.

“The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”
Gutzon Borglum

Hiking in Capitol Reef: Moderate and Strenuous Trails!

Obviously the main goals of hiking are to see beautiful sites, be out in nature, and get away from civilization for a bit. But sometimes it is also fun to push your body to the limit and really get your heart pumping. And that is where the moderate and strenuous trails come into play! Most of the trails in Capitol Reef National Park fall under these two categories, so you definitely have plenty to choose from. Because these hikes are more physically demanding, we were only able to fit 3 of them into our stay at the park: Fremont River, Hickman Bridge, and Rim Overlook.

And so, Fremont River: 2 miles roundtrip, 480 ft elevation gain (according to the trail guide on the park website. The sign at the trailhead says differently though. Not sure which is correct).

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The trail begins in the Fruita Campground, so we made this our first hike in the park. It starts off very pleasantly, with a flat stroll through the orchards. Shady and peaceful.

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But then the trail begins to climb upward out of the canyon, as it leads you to panoramic views.

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The uphill part doesn’t last for very long though, and the views are well worth the effort!

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On our second day we did the trail to Hickman Bridge, just under 2 miles roundtrip, and approximately 400 ft elevation gain. Quite a few of the hikes start out from this same trailhead, so make sure to keep following the signs for Hickman Bridge, otherwise you will end up on a trail much longer than planned.

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Just like pretty much every single hike in the park, this trail was bright and sunny, with very little shade. So once again, remember your water!!

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The bridge!

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Seriously though, just look at these views… the lighting was absolutely magical, and this was probably my favorite viewpoint in the whole park. Hickman Bridge definitely gets my vote for the best trail in Capitol Reef.

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And then on our last full day, we did Rim Overlook, almost 6 miles roundtrip, 1110 ft elevation gain. Starts at the same trailhead as Hickman Bridge.

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If after reading the length and elevation change of this trail you are thinking it sounds awful, you are correct! This hike was brutal. It is steep and in direct sunlight the entire time.

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I’m going to keep drilling this point home, cause it is super important: bring plenty of water!! And sunblock. And a hat. And sunglasses. This is a rather unforgiving trail. Despite my best efforts, I could feel the early stages of heat exhaustion setting in before we even reached the summit. So hike smart, and be prepared.

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But we made it!!

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And the views did not disappoint.

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Canyons, orchards, and the Waterpocket Fold…this view offered all the best sights in Capitol Reef all in the same panoramic scene. But at a steep price: this hike is hard, and should not be attempted unless you are in good shape.

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I gotta say though, for as challenging as this hike was, I am really glad we did it. Those views were incredible.

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After getting back down to the bottom, we stopped to photograph the huge cliff we had just summit-ed. Knowing we were just on top of that thing? Yeah, it was a pretty awesome feeling.

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These are just a few of the many hikes you can choose from though, so for a complete listing of the moderate and strenuous trails in Capitol Reef, click here. Happy hiking y’all!

Hiking in Capitol Reef: Easy Trails!

I absolutely adore short, easy hiking trails. I feel like they offer more bang for your buck, as you can pack a ton of them into one day and see a bunch of diverse scenery. Definitely a good way to go if you don’t have much time to spend in the park! These trails are great if you are a less experienced hiker, pressed for time, or just want something quick to do to fill up some time after finishing a longer hike. There are 4 easy hikes listed on the park trail guide, and of those, we did 3: Sunset Point, Goosenecks, and Capitol Gorge.

Up first: Sunset Point. Just under a mile roundtrip, and less than 50 feet elevation gain.

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This trail offered beautiful panoramic views, and as the name suggests, was a lovely place to watch the sunset.

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Up next: Goosenecks. This trail starts in the same parking lot as Sunset Point, is 0.2 miles roundtrip, and also has less than 50 feet elevation gain.

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The canyon views are incredible!! If you do no other trails in the park, at least do these two. They are ridiculously short and easy, and lead to amazing views. Not bad for less than 1 mile combined total distance for the two trails.

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And finally: Capitol Gorge. About 2 miles roundtrip, 80 feet elevation gain. Capitol Gorge leads to some petroglyphs, historic inscriptions left behind by pioneers, and water “tanks.” This trail is a bit of a trek to get to, as you have to drive through the gorge to get to the trail head (as discussed in my post on the petroglyphs). Use caution before proceeding through the gorge! Flash floods are dangerous and can be deadly.

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The hike leads through Capitol Gorge, and offers about zero shade. The majority of the trail is completely flat, and getting to the petroglyphs and Pioneer Register is totally easy (besides being in direct sunlight the entire time). In addition, just walking through the gorge is pretty cool.

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This is my sister desperately trying to cling to whatever shade we could find. It was seriously hot…be sure to bring tons of water with you!

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The entire 80 foot elevation gain for this hike happens when you head to the water “tanks.” As you hike through the gorge, a ways down you will see a sign on the left side pointing to a spur trail that leads to the tanks. You definitely need to be in reasonably good shape to do this part of the trail.

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At this point in the journey, the trail becomes more like bouldering/climbing than hiking.

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The water tanks! Basically just holes in the rock that collect rainwater for the animals to drink.

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It took us a bit of climbing around and exploring to actually find the tanks once we got up there, but they were pretty cool to see and had some frogs and stuff.

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Even though these hikes are easy, they all lead to really awesome destinations. You can see gorges, petroglyphs, pioneer history, geological formations, canyons, and panoramic views all in less than half a day, with very minimal effort. Sweet.

Capitol Reef: A Park Full of History

Most national parks are known for their natural beauty. And while Capitol Reef National Park has plenty of that to be sure, it also has a great deal of history associated with it. Since ancient times, groups of hunter-gatherers lived throughout the area, and around 500 CE, the Fremont society settled in what is now Capitol Reef. Evidence of the Fremont people can still be seen in the park today, in the petroglyphs and pictographs they left behind.

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There are a couple of different places within the park where you can see this ancient art. The first place is along the scenic drive, near the Fruita Schoolhouse. Here the petroglyphs are right next to the road, so you can park your car for a minute, and hop out to take a few pictures. They are easy to see.

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The second place to see petroglyphs and pictographs is at the end of the Capitol Gorge spur road, which takes a little more effort to get to. The road is long and winding, and passes through a gorge (the name does not lie), so use caution before proceeding. Do not attempt this road if the weather looks questionable due to the risk of flash floods.

From the parking lot, follow the trail for a bit (it is flat and easy, but very sunny) and you will find the petroglyphs. Also of interest within this gorge is the Pioneer Register.

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Early pioneers had to clear this road for use, and the first group to do so back in 1884 carved their names into the rock walls of the gorge to commemorate the accomplishment.

If other hikers hadn’t told us where to look, we seriously never would’ve found it. There are no signs telling you at what point in the gorge to look for it, and it is not easy to see, as you can tell from the picture:

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So here’s how to find it. The petroglyphs are super easy to find and are right around eye level on the left hand side of the trail. Seriously, you can’t miss them even if you try. At this point, it is easy to be distracted by the petroglyphs, snap a few pictures, and then move on. But this is also where the Pioneer Register is located. From the petroglyphs, look across to the other side of the gorge, and look higher than you think. I honestly don’t even know how they got their names so high up there.

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A little farther down the trail on the left hand side there is another area with names of early pioneers carved into the rocks. Some of it is cool and from the late 1800s and early 1900s, but some is also more modern vandalism. So, kinda cool, kinda not. And remember: the pioneers didn’t know any better- you do. Don’t add your name to the wall! It is a federal offense.

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The area around Capitol Reef was popular among Mormon settlers in the 1800s. Some buildings from these early settlements are still standing today, and can be visited within the park. Along the scenic drive not even a mile from the visitor center is the old Fruita Schoolhouse. You can’t go inside the building, but it is still interesting to peek inside the windows and see how the children used to be taught. And here’s a little factoid that will make you grateful to be born when/where you were: this school was open and functioning until 1941. Yikes.

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Another historical site of interest within the park is the Behunin Cabin, built by Mormon settler Elijah Behunin (a pioneer who lead the group who cleared the trail through Capitol Gorge) for his family back in 1883. This teeny tiny one-room cabin housed Behunin and his wife, as well as eleven children.

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The cabin is so small in fact, that the older children had to sleep outside in alcoves in the cliffs. Once again, very grateful to not be an 1800s pioneer. This cabin is located along the road leading into the Waterpocket District, but is worth the drive even if you don’t head all the way into that section of the park. Definitely makes you appreciate what you have.

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While we most certainly did not envy the life of these early settlers, just for funsies, we decided to recreate a Behunin family portrait…

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Taking a break from hiking to learn about the people who called Capitol Reef their home just adds to what makes this park so unique and interesting!