Amazing South Africa: The perfect 3 week road trip itinerary

Before you go:

  • Tipping – It is customary to trip on food, filling your car with gas (petrol) and parking your car. In general tipping on food is approximately 12% depending on the level of service you can choose to tip more or less. It is important to note that you cannot self-fill your car with gas, it must be done by an attendant at the gas station, the customary amount to tip is 10 RAND (or $1 USD). Lastly you will discover that every time you park your car there will be a parking attendant, they will watch over your car and assist you with parking and exiting the space for between 2-5 Rand (20-50c USD). 
  • Driving – South Africans drive on the left hand side, like England and Australia. The easiest way to remember which side of the road you need to be on is to ensure you, the driver, is always closest to the middle of the road.  
  •  Food and Water – The food in south Africa is amazing, I mean out of this world. I was a bit worried before I left because my stomach is known to give me problems but I was completely fine and I drank the water… without my life straw, shocking I know. 

Day 1: Arrive in Johannesburg drive to the Tshukudu Game Lodge (457km 5 Hours)

Flying into South Africa you will want to arrive in Johannesburg from there you have two options for getting to the Kruger National Park, you can choose to fly into Hoedspruit or you can drive. I chose to drive for two reasons, firstly it is much cheaper and secondly there is some amazing scenery along the way. As you make your way to the Tshukudu Game Lodge which actually boarders the Kruger National Park I would recommend stopping at Alzu Petroport N4 for lunch, here you will get your first glimpse of rhinos, buffalo, ostrich and zebra. 

Lunching with the animals at Alzu - South Africa 

Lunching with the animals at Alzu - South Africa 

Your next stop will be God’s Window which offers sweeping views of the area and is certainly not to be missed. After that you will want to continue onto Blyde River Canyon which is the most scenic view in the area. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stop here because I didn’t know what it was called, everyone had tagged it as God’s Window, which is close by but not the same. 

God's Window - South Africa 

God's Window - South Africa 

Day 2: Tshukudu Game Lodge

The Tshukudu Game Lodge was a huge highlight for me on this trip, they will of course provide you with a full itinerary upon check-in but I would suggest participating in as many of the activities as possible. First up is the morning bush walk, if you are lucky and the Cheetah’s are feeling up to it you might get the chance to walk with Hunter and Floppy. They live on the game reserve and while they hunt their own food and roam free they don’t mind human interaction because they were raised by park staff after their mother was killed when they were just cubs. 

Hunter - South Africa 

Hunter - South Africa 

Selfie with Floppy! - South Africa 

Selfie with Floppy! - South Africa 

Morning Bush Walk with Hunter and Floppy - South Africa

Morning Bush Walk with Hunter and Floppy - South Africa

After a delicious breakfast you can choose to go on a morning game drive, this is a little extra but totally worth it. On this drive you will start spotting the Big 5 (Lions, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino and Elephants) as well as a variety of other animals. Fun Fact: The big 5 are based on their difficulty to hunt and not their population. 

Giraffes are my favorite 

Giraffes are my favorite 

Once you have eaten a delicious hot lunch back at the game lodge the afternoon can be spent relaxing under a tree with the local Wart Hogs or why not take a dip in the pool. In the late afternoon the evening game drive will commence after high tea, as the temperature drops you will begin to see lots of animals emerge. Dinner is served under the stars and around a fire, after dinner the local porcupines arrive to clean up the scraps of food. 

Day 3: Into the Kruger National Park, Satara Camp (120km, 2 Hours)

Today you will leave the Game Lodge and head into the Kruger National Park, due to poaching security is very strict getting into the park and you will need to proceed through 2 security check points. Entering the Park through the Orpen Gate, you will head over to the Satara Camp. Despite the name you will not be camping but staying in a bungalow, please note these need to be booked well ahead of time as they do sell out. Once you have checked-in its time to drive around the area and see what animals you can spot. 

Elephant in Kruger National Park - South Africa 

Elephant in Kruger National Park - South Africa 

Zebra in Kruger National Park - South Africa 

Zebra in Kruger National Park - South Africa 

Giraffe in Kruger National Park - South Africa 

Giraffe in Kruger National Park - South Africa 

It is important to note that the gate to the camps inside the Kruger shut at 6pm. If you want to go on a game drive in the evening you can book them through the camp. They are well worth it during one of our night time game drives we spotted a Hyena dragging a carcass around before he was chased by a Lion. 

Lion drinking on the night time game drive - Kruger National Park - South Africa 

Lion drinking on the night time game drive - Kruger National Park - South Africa 

Day 4 & 5: Kruger National Park, Satara Camp to Skukuza Camp via Lower Sabie (150km, 3 Hours)

Today you will leave the Satara Camp and head to Skukuza, I would recommend driving past Lower Sabie where you can stop for lunch. Once you reach Lower Sabie be sure to check their board and see where the Leopards have been spotted. We were extremely lucky and saw two leopards during our time in the Kruger, however do not be disappointed if you don’t see them, they are the most elusive animal in the park. 

Hyena and its carcass - Kruger National Park

Hyena and its carcass - Kruger National Park

Day 6: Kruger National Park to Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth (460km, 5 Hours)

Sadly today you will leave Kruger, head back to Johannesburg and fly from there to Port Elizabeth which is where you will start the Garden Route portion of this road trip. I would allow plenty of time for this as there may be things you want to see along the way and/or unexpected delays. 


Day 7: “The Garden Route” Port Elizabeth to Jeffries Bay (83km, 1 Hour)

During our entire road trip along the Garden Route we stayed in Air BnB’s which were great and very affordable most ranging between $40-60 USD a night. In Port Elizabeth be sure to check out the waterfront which is a great spot for lunch before starting the short drive to Jeffries Bay. 

Jeffries Bay Water Front - South Africa 

Jeffries Bay Water Front - South Africa 

Day 8: Jeffries Bay to Plettenberg Bay (164km, 1 Hour 40 Min)

If you are looking for something fun to do in Jeffries Bay I highly recommend booking in a Sandboarding tour with http://islandvibe.co.za/ We had a wonderful morning with our guide learning to sandboard in the dunes. If you have never done it before not to worry it’s very easy to pick up and your guide will assist you.  

Sandboarding in Jeffries Bay - South Africa 

Sandboarding in Jeffries Bay - South Africa 

Day 9: Plettenberg Bay to Knysna (32km, 28 Min)

For something different I would recommend booking a Kayak and Lilo tour in the Tsitsikamma National Park http://www.untouchedadventures.com/ . This 3 hour tour starts with a kayak down a huge gorge, followed by a lilo float down the river and a return kayak trip. After your action packed morning you can grab a hearty lunch at the Cattle Baron next door which has beautiful views of the bay. Watch out for the local Dusties some of them aren’t as friendly as others. 

Kayak & Lilo - South Africa

Kayak & Lilo - South Africa

Kayak & Lilo, the Garden Route - South Africa 

Kayak & Lilo, the Garden Route - South Africa 

Day 10: Knysna to Mossel Bay (110km, 1 Hour 16 Min)

Today you will journey to Mossel Bay and if you are looking for a truly unique experience I would recommend booking a tour with the Indalu Game Reserve, http://www.indalu.co.za/. Here you will get to walk side by side with a heard of elephants and hand feed them a bucket of healthy snacks. It’s truly an amazing experience walking with these gentle giants, but don’t be fooled if they pick up a rock or stick and hand it to you they are trying to bribe you for snacks! 

Walking with the gentle giants at Indalu - South Africa

Walking with the gentle giants at Indalu - South Africa

Feeding the elephants a healthy snack - South Africa 

Feeding the elephants a healthy snack - South Africa 

Indalu Game Reserve - South Africa

Indalu Game Reserve - South Africa

Sharing a view in Mossel Bay - South Africa 

Sharing a view in Mossel Bay - South Africa 

Day 11: Mossel Bay to Arniston (Struis Bay) (267km, 2 Hours 47 Min)

Before you leave Mossel Bay be sure to check out St Blaize Hiking Trail which is a seaside cliff hike. You can treat yourself to a delicious lunch at the end of the trail. 

Mossel Bay Hike - South Africa

Mossel Bay Hike - South Africa

Day 12: Arniston to Hermanus (119km, 1 Hour 23 Min)

Arniston is a beautiful sea side town, however getting accommodation here can be quite challenging we actually ended up staying in Struis Bay which is very close by. Key attractions here include a beautiful Window Cave which is located in the Arniston Nature Reserve and Cape Agulhas which is the southernmost point in continental Africa and the location where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. 

Cape Agulhas - South Africa

Cape Agulhas - South Africa

Window Cave - South Africa 

Window Cave - South Africa 

Day 13: Hermanus to Stellenbosch (97km, 1 Hour 23 Min)

If you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie like me or you just like to get up close and personal to animals Shark Cage Diving is for you. Depending on the time of year you are visiting South Africa will determine where your tour leaves from. As I was visiting in the off season no tours were running directly from Cape Town, all tours at this time of year leave from Gainsbaii. I booked my tour with Apex Predator, however I actually ended up going with their sister company Shark Watch SA http://www.apexpredators.com/ 

Cage Diving with the Great White Sharks - South Africa

Cage Diving with the Great White Sharks - South Africa

Cage Diving with the Great White Sharks - South Africa

Cage Diving with the Great White Sharks - South Africa

I would highly recommend this company and tour in general it was such an amazing afternoon spent in the water. The tour starts at 12.30pm with a hearty lunch at the Great White House, after which you board the boat and receive your equipment which includes a thick wetsuit, booties and goggles. Everyone takes turns in the cage which holds 8 people, and the tour guides try to ensure everyone sees a lot of shark activity. We were very fortunate and saw 6 different Great White Sharks during our time on the boat. Once you hop out of the water the boat has hot chocolate waiting for you and some delicious soup back on shore. Hot showers are available onsite for $5. 


Day 14: Stellenbosch to Cape Town (113km, 1 Hour 30 Min)

Today it’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy South Africa’s Wine Region. I would recommend starting at “The Spice Route” which has an amazing range of things to eat, drink and sample. From here you can head to Stellenbosh and hit up some of the big name wineries in the area. 

The Spice Route - South Africa

The Spice Route - South Africa

The Spice Route - South Africa 

The Spice Route - South Africa 

Day 15 – 21 Cape Town 

There are so many things to see and do in Cape Town you could spend a month just exploring this amazing region but I think 6 days is enough to tick off the main highlights. Below is a list of the activities you simply cannot miss. 

Table Mountain - Cape Town

Table Mountain - Cape Town

Swimming with the seals

Swimming with the seals in Cape Town was a huge highlight for me, they are beyond cute and super playful, it’s truly a one of a kind experience. I booked through Animal Ocean http://www.animalocean.co.za/ while the administration staff were extremely disorganized at handing out the gear and collecting money from you, the tour guides and staff on the water were amazing and very knowledgeable. 

Swimming with the Seals in Cape Town - South Africa 

Swimming with the Seals in Cape Town - South Africa 

Surprise, Cape Fur Seal Cape Town

Surprise, Cape Fur Seal Cape Town

Feeding the seals - Cape Town - South Africa

Feeding the seals - Cape Town - South Africa

Hiking Lions Head for Sunset 

Visiting Cape Town and not hiking up Lions head to watch a sunset is a total crime. On the way up be sure to stop at Wally’s Cave for a photo opportunity that’s not to be missed. It’s a little hard to find so check out this website for full instructions: http://www.lifeofmike.co.za/wheres-wally-how-to-find-wallys-cave-lions-head/ 

Wally's Cave Lions Head - South Africa 

Wally's Cave Lions Head - South Africa 

Standing on the edge of Lions Head - South Africa 

Standing on the edge of Lions Head - South Africa 

Sunset-Lions-Head

Hiking Table Mountain

Hiking up Table Mountain in my opinion offers the best views, however if you are not feeling athletic you can take the cable car. The best day hike I can recommend starts off in the Kirstenbosch gardens, the trail goes straight up (so be prepared for a lot of stairs) and ends at a beautiful dam. From there you will hike across table mountain to the old rail way line, this is where you will find the Diving Board also known as the best views of Camps Bay and my favorite spot. After you have taken lots of photos you will descend to Camps Bay. 

The Diving Board - Table Mountain - South Africa

The Diving Board - Table Mountain - South Africa

The views on the way down Table Mountain - South Africa 

The views on the way down Table Mountain - South Africa 

Paragliding off Signal Hill 

If you are up for a little adventure why not try paragliding off signal hill? The views are unbeatable. 

Paragliding off Signal Hill - South Africa

Paragliding off Signal Hill - South Africa

Cape Town Waterfront 

The Waterfront in Cape Town has sweeping views of the ocean, harbor,  the City of Cape Town and Table Mountain. There is a large shopping center and lots of restaurants to choose from that overlook the water.

Visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach

If you are looking for beautiful turquoise water and resident penguins to swim with look no further than Boulders Beach! 

Penguins at Boulders Beach - South Africa

Penguins at Boulders Beach - South Africa

Visit Bo-Kaap

You can't come to Cape Town and not visit the beautiful suburb of Bo-Kaap, all the houses are brightly colored and make for excellent photos. 

Bo-Kaap Cape Town - South Africa

Bo-Kaap Cape Town - South Africa

Bo-Kaap Cape Town - South Africa

Bo-Kaap Cape Town - South Africa

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Exploring Australia’s North West – The Ultimate 20 Day Road Trip Itinerary

Australia’s North West region is as vast as it is interesting, with deep gorges, pristine beaches, unbeatable snorkeling, an abundance of wildlife and a pink lake it’s easy to spend weeks discovering all that Western Australia has to offer. If you are thinking of visiting Western Australia I have put together the perfect 20-day itinerary so you can maximize your time while discovering all the hidden gems you may not know about. Firstly, I would like to kick off with some facts and things you must know before heading out on a road trip in Australia. 

Important Must Read

  • Always carry supplies. Australia only has a population of 23 million people and is almost the same size as the United States. This means that there is a lot of places with nothing for miles, that includes food, water, gas (petrol) stations, and accommodation. You will therefore need to plan accordingly, ALWAYS carry water and food with you in your car, you never know when you might break down (I rescued 6 people this year who’s cars had overheated, only a few had supplies). Always fill up with gas (petrol) when you see a station, even if you have half a tank, you don’t know when the next one will be. 
  • Watch out for the wildlife. The Wildlife in Australia can be quite unpredictable, on this road trip you will encounter, Kangaroos, Emu’s, Goats, Cows and the odd Camel. You need to be cautious when driving and if you can avoid driving at sunrise, sunset and night time as this is when the animals are more active and harder to spot. 
  • Cell service (mobile phone coverage). The only coverage you will get in the outback is with the main country carrier Telstra, I recommend getting a Sim Card as you never know when you might need to call for help. They are not expensive and prepaid plans are very reasonable. 
  • Road side assistance. If you are planning to buy a car for this road trip, remember to join the RAC (https://rac.com.au/) they will assist in a breakdown and cover a huge amount of the towing costs. Alternatively if you are planning to rent a car make sure you check their policy a lot do not let you take the car out of the metropolitan area. 

Now that you are prepared for your road trip let’s get into the itinerary. 

Day 1 to 3: Perth to Kalbarri (517km, 6 Hours)

Day 1: Nambung National Park & Pink Lake

The drive from Perth to Kalbarri is an easy one and quite scenic, you will see the landscape change from commercial to residential and finally to farm land and bush. Be sure to stop at the Nambung National Park which is home to “The Pinnacles”, the park is located near the town of Cervantes and is well sign posted. There are three theories as to how the Pinnacles were formed but no one knows for sure. 

The Pinnacles - Western Australia

The Pinnacles - Western Australia

The Pinnacles - Western Australia

The Pinnacles - Western Australia

Just before you arrive in Kalbarri you will pass Hutt Lagoon which is must see in the region. Also known as Pink Lake, about 450 hectares is used to cultivate algae from which Beta-Carotene is extracted. Beta-Carotene is used as a natural dye in food, it is also a rich source of Vitamin A and the reason the lake changes color. I have visited this lake on three occasions to find it three different colors, see for yourself. 

Pink Lake, Hutt Lagoon - Western Australia

Pink Lake, Hutt Lagoon - Western Australia

Fanta Lake some would say!

Fanta Lake some would say!

Day 2: Kalbarri National Park 

The Kalbarri National Park offers a diverse range of natural landscapes for visitors to enjoy including, Nature’s Window (a natural rock arch that frames the river perfectly), Z-Bend (a breathtaking view of the park looking down a gorge that plunges to the river below), Hawk’s Head (the name says it all, it’s a rock formation that looks like a hawk’s head), and Ross Graham Lookout (this trail will take you to the tranquil rivers edge, and if you’re lucky past some lazing kangaroos). 

Natures Window - Western Australia

Natures Window - Western Australia

Kangaroos in the Gorge - Western Australia

Kangaroos in the Gorge - Western Australia

Kalbarri National Park - Western Australia

Kalbarri National Park - Western Australia

Day 3: Kalbarri National Park Continued

Your second day in Kalbarri will be spent exploring the National Park Cost line including, the Coastal Cliffs (which extend 13km south of town), Red Bluff (which offers panoramic ocean views and a great spot for spotting marine creatures), Mushroom Rock Walk Trail (varied geological formations that look amazing at sunrise and sunset), Pot Alley (follow a rocky path to the bottom and explore a secret beach), Eagle Gorge (enjoy the look out or walk down into the gorge where you will discover another secret beach devoid of people), Island Rock and Natural Bridge (as the name suggests it’s a Natural Bridge carved by the eroding ocean over time). 

Just hanging around Kalbarri

Just hanging around Kalbarri

Day 4 to 5: Kalbarri to Monkey Mia (390km, 4 Hours)

Next up is Monkey Mia and the main attraction are the bottlenose dolphins who have been living close to shore for fifty years. Here you can see the resident dolphins and if you are lucky enough, hand them a fish during their morning feedings. You can also book a boat tour which will take you to see tiger sharks, dugons and sea turtles. You can choose to stay at the resort which is quite expensive, alternatively you can stay in Denham a town close by. 

Feeding the Dolphins in Monkey Mia - Western Australia

Feeding the Dolphins in Monkey Mia - Western Australia

While you’re in the area be sure to stop at Shell Beach which is made up entirely of cockrill shells, but don't worry they aren't painful to walk on. While you won’t visit this beach for a swim, it tends to be quite shallow and high in salt, you will enjoy walking along the shore line and seeing the millions of shells that make up the beach.

Shell Beach - Western Australia

Shell Beach - Western Australia

All the tiny shells on Shell Beach - Western Australia

All the tiny shells on Shell Beach - Western Australia

Another great stop on the way is to view the Stromatolites of Shark Bay. The stromatolites may just look like rocks but they are significant because they represent a major stage in the Earth’s evolutionary history. Although they are only 3,000 years old the bacteria inside them is similar to forms found on earth more than 3.5 billion years ago. 

Stromatolites, Shark-Bay - Western Australia

Stromatolites, Shark-Bay - Western Australia

Day 6 to 8: Monkey Mia to Coral Bay (569km, 6 Hours)

Leaving Monkey Mia you will head further north to Coral Bay, a small coastal town with limited accommodation so it’s important to book early if you want to visit. That being said Coral Bay lives up to its name and showcases some of the largest pieces of hard coral I have ever seen. It is Australia’s only fringing reef and in contrast to most reefs it starts right at the water’s edge. The entire bay is filled with coral and marine life so you don't have to swim far to get up close and personal with a range of sea creatures. As visibility is dependent on conditions you will want a few days here to ensure you get the best snorkeling experience. 

Coral Bay - Western Australia

Coral Bay - Western Australia

Day 9 to 13: Coral Bay to Exmouth (150km, 1.5 Hours)

Your next destination will be Exmouth which is my favorite spot in Western Australia. You won’t be short for things to see and do here, however it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of the attractions are located 64km or an hour drive away. 

Day 9: Turquoise Bay

Arguably the best beach in Western Australia Turquoise Bay is located in the Cape Rage National Park, an hour from Exmouth. As the name would suggest the water is the most vibrant turquoise color and will not disappoint traveler’s year round. Turquoise Bay is unique as it not only boasts beautiful water and clean white sand but it is also an amazing spot for snorkeling. Launching yourself from the beach you don't have to swim far to encounter some of the most magnificent sea life imaginable. In only 2 days I swam with 5 reef sharks, 3 sea turtles, stingrays and hundreds of fish.

Turquoise Bay - Western Australia

Turquoise Bay - Western Australia

Fish feeding time Turquoise Bay - Western Australia

Fish feeding time Turquoise Bay - Western Australia

Day 10: Whale Shark Tour

If you are visiting Exmouth during the Whale Shark Season (March – September) you must book a tour to swim with the gentle giants. The whale shark is the world's largest living fish, however, very little is still known about the biology and ecology of the whale shark. Swimming with them is the most wonderful experience and I couldn’t recommended Ningaloo Whale Shark Tours enough, the crew was amazing and made sure everyone swam with the shark. 
Recommended: https://www.ningaloowhalesharks.com/

Swimming with the Whale Sharks - Western Australia

Swimming with the Whale Sharks - Western Australia

When they let you drive the boat!

When they let you drive the boat!

Day 11: Discovering Australia’s Cape Range National Park

Heading down Charles Knife Road you will drive up a hill to a wonderful look with sweeping views of the ocean and plunging views of the gorge below.   

Cape Range National Park - Western Australia

Cape Range National Park - Western Australia

In the late afternoon head up to Vlaming Head Lighthouse and watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean, the view is unbeatable. 


Day 12: Kayaking in Yardie Creek

If you are feeling a little adventurous, hire a kayak in town and head down to Yardie Creek to kayak through the gorge. Keep an eye out for the local Rock Wallabies that live on the cliffs. You can also take the kayaks out to sea with booeys set up for you to tie to while you snorkel on the reef. 

Kayaking Yardie Creek - Western Australia

Kayaking Yardie Creek - Western Australia

Rock Wallaby - Western Australia

Rock Wallaby - Western Australia

Day 13: The Beach & Turtles Hatching

Exmouth has so many amazing beaches to choose from in the Cape Range National Park, take the day to explore all that’s on offer in this amazing piece of paradise. 

Snorkeling with the sea turtles - Western Australia

Snorkeling with the sea turtles - Western Australia

Just relaxing - Western Australia

Just relaxing - Western Australia

If you happen to be visiting between January and March be sure to head to the beach and see if you spot any baby green and loggerhead turtles hatching. Ask the locals which beaches they are nesting this year as they tend to know. 

Watch these babies hatch on shore and scurry to the ocean!

Watch these babies hatch on shore and scurry to the ocean!

Day 14 to 17: Exmouth to Karajini (647km 8 Hours)

Day 14: Driving

It will take a full day to drive from Exmouth to Karajini, sit back and enjoy the ever changing scenery as you leave the coastal area and enter the Australian Outback. 

Day 15: Mount Bruce & Joffre Gorge

Looking for a challenge? Then Mount Bruce is for you. Offering spectacular views , Mount Bruce is the second tallest peak in Western Australia and known by the Aboriginal people as Punurrunha. To get to the summit (which is worth every step for the views) it’s a Class 5, 9km, 5 hour return trip. Be sure to start the hike early in the morning when temperatures are mild and carry lots of water with you. 

Mount-Bruce-Karajini
Half Way - That view though

Half Way - That view though

Head back to the lodge after your hike and cool off, in the late afternoon head over to Joffrey Gorge for a swim and relax. 


Day 16: Hancock Gorge, Dales Gorge, Fortescue Falls & Fern Pool

In the morning drive over to the Hancock Gorge trail head and take a journey to the 'center of the Earth' down this steep and narrow gorge. The trail is only 1.5 kilometers and is a 3 hour return journey. 

Hancock Gorge - Western Australia

Hancock Gorge - Western Australia

Kermits Pool, Hancock Gorge - Western Austrlia

Kermits Pool, Hancock Gorge - Western Austrlia

Walking through the Gorge to Kermits Pool - Western Australia

Walking through the Gorge to Kermits Pool - Western Australia

After a delightful dip in the Hancock Gorge head over to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. As you descend through the changing vegetation the views of the only permeant waterfall are magnificent. Just a short distance from the falls, you can swim the spring fed Fern Pool. 

Circular Pool, Karajini - Western Australia

Circular Pool, Karajini - Western Australia

Fern Pool, Karajini - Western Australia 

Fern Pool, Karajini - Western Australia 

Fortescue Falls, Karajini - Western Australia

Fortescue Falls, Karajini - Western Australia

Day 17: Kalamina Gorge

Kalamina Gorge is the easiest to access and the shallowest of Karijini's gorges. There’s a short return walk into the gorge's shaded pool or you can walk within the gorge along the waterline and enjoy the ever changing rock formations.  


If you are planning to visit, then the Karajini Eco Retreat and Campground is your only choice for accommodation. The Karajini Eco Retreat is environmentally friendly and surrounded by pristine bushland is in the heart of the world class Karijini National Park. I stayed here for 4 nights and it was amazing, they take glamping to a whole new level. I would highly recommend this as a totally unique and once in a life time experience. 
Recommended: http://www.karijiniecoretreat.com.au/

Karajini Eco Lodge - Western Australia

Karajini Eco Lodge - Western Australia

Karajini Eco Lodge

Karajini Eco Lodge

Day 18 to 20: Karajini to Perth (1446km, 16 Hours)

This concludes your 20-day road trip into Australia’s rugged North West. It’s a long drive back to Perth so I suggest breaking it up over a few days and taking the time to stop at any of the spots that really captured your heart. I stopped in Coral Bay again as the conditions the first time were terrible. Where ever you stay on the trip home you will have a great time!  

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The Ultimate 10 Day Iceland Itinerary

Iceland is only 103,001 km² or roughly the size of Kentucky so it’s hard to comprehend how it fits so many amazing sites into such a compact space. That being said the land of fire and ice will not disappoint, with a population of 300,000 there is a lot of wild places still left to discover. 
I spent 10 days in Iceland and I wouldn’t recommend spending any less time here, unless you are willing to miss quite a few amazing sites. That being said it’s not a cheap country to visit, you will absolutely need to hire a car, 4WD is preferable, to save money you can camp but as I discovered September is the rainy season so be prepared for inclement weather. I also took a large amount of food with me (freeze dried hiking meals) and ate those for dinner, lunches consisted of salami and cheese sandwiches provisions for which you can buy at Bonus (the Iceland supermarket).  

The 10 day itinerary 

Below is a complete 10-day itinerary that outlines the amazing sites you will see, if you would like my excel version which details the entire trip Sign Up to my news letter below and I will email it to you for free! 

Day 1: The Golden Circle

A trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Golden Circle which consists of waterfalls, geysers and an amazing crater lake. Driving from Reykjavik this is the order of stops: 


Stop 1: Thingvellir National Park (40km and approximately 30 minutes) 

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

Stop 2: Haukadalur (60km and approximately 45 minutes)

Haukadalur Erupting Geyser, Iceland

Haukadalur Erupting Geyser, Iceland

Stop 3: Gullfoss Waterfall (10km and approximately 9 minutes)

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Stop 4: Kerið Crater Lake (56km and approximately 45 minutes)

Kerið Crater, Iceland

Kerið Crater, Iceland

Kerið Crater, Iceland

Kerið Crater, Iceland

Stop 5: Hveragerdi (24km and approximately 20 minutes)

Hveragerdi Geyser, Iceland

Hveragerdi Geyser, Iceland

Day 2: The South

Leaving the West behind you will now travel to the South which has some of the most interesting sites Iceland has to offer including a famous waterfall, the infamous black sand beach plane crash and a secret waterfall. 


Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and while its popular and not to be missed don’t forget to visit the hidden Gljúfrafoss waterfall just a 10-minute walk to the left.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Iceland

Hidden Gljúfrafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Hidden Gljúfrafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Stop 2: Skógafoss & Hidden Waterfall

While Skógafoss is a breathtaking waterfall it is also very crowded, for a more unique brush with nature head over to the Skogar Museum, behind the building there is a track which will take you to a hidden waterfall.

Hidden waterfall next to Skógafoss, Iceland

Hidden waterfall next to Skógafoss, Iceland

Hiking to the hidden waterfall next to Skógafoss, Iceland

Hiking to the hidden waterfall next to Skógafoss, Iceland

Stop 3: Sólheimasandur Plane Crash

Its important to note that the dirt track that use to allow cars to drive to the crash is now closed which means it’s a 6km round trip to see the plane, worth every step, even in the wind and rain. Did you know? rumor has it that the plane made an emergency landing due to a lack of fuel, however the plane had plenty in its second tank but the pilot didn't know. 

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash, Iceland

Sólheimasandur Plane Crash, Iceland

 Stop 4: Black Beach & Vik Beach

For the best views the cliffs are amazing and a must see, if you want to walk on the black sand Vik beach is a must. 

Black Sand Beach Cliffs, Iceland

Black Sand Beach Cliffs, Iceland

Vik Beach, Iceland

Vik Beach, Iceland

Close up of the beach its actually black pebbles

Close up of the beach its actually black pebbles

Recommended Camping Spot: Looking for a truly unique place to camp look no further than Þakgil Campground located a 45-minute drive from Vik (on an unsealed road) this camp ground offers a one of a kind experience. Located in a valley with a cave that has been turned into a candle lit dining hall it’s an experience not to be missed. If you didn’t bring a tent don’t worry they also have basic cabins which you can stay in http://www.thakgil.is/ 

Dinner in a cave anyone?

Dinner in a cave anyone?

Day 3: The Glacier

The absolute highlight of my trip to Iceland was walking and climbing on the Svínafellsjökull glacier in the Skaftafell National Park.  If you are planning a trip I highly recommend booking with Icelandic Mountain Guides, their guides are amazing and you will have the most amazing experience with them. I booked the Glacier Walk & Ice Climb tour which also happened to include exploring the Ice Caves as they just opened up for the season. The tour starts at 12pm and finishes around 5-6pm, I camped in the adjacent camp ground for the night. 

You can read about my experience on the Icelandic Mountain Guides Website: http://www.mountainguides.is/blog/adventurer-of-the-week-claire,-forever-chasing-wanderlust-on-a-glacier/ 

Svínafellsjökull Glacier in the Skaftafell National Park, Iceland

Svínafellsjökull Glacier in the Skaftafell National Park, Iceland

Svínafellsjökull Glacier in the Skaftafell National Park, Iceland

Svínafellsjökull Glacier in the Skaftafell National Park, Iceland

Don't know who thought it was a good idea to give me a ice pick! Svínafellsjökull glacier, Iceland

Don't know who thought it was a good idea to give me a ice pick! Svínafellsjökull glacier, Iceland

Day 4: The Glacier Lagoon and the East Fjords

Stop 1: Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon

This is by far one of them most amazing sites in Iceland and most popular. If you can I would suggest getting there as early as possible, I arrived at 7.30am and was practically alone for an hour before the masses started arriving. 

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Iceland

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Iceland

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Iceland

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Iceland

Stop 2: The East Fjords

Driving through the East Fjords is wonderful, I would recommend deviating from the National Highway 1 and driving through all the little sea side towns. 

On route to the Eastern Fjords

On route to the Eastern Fjords

Day 5: Waterfalls and Geysers

Stop 1: Dettifoss Waterfall

This is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and is also where the opening scenes from the movie Prometheus was filmed. I have to say it was my personal favorite, you can feel the sheer power water just standing here.  

Dettifoss Waterfall, Iceland

Dettifoss Waterfall, Iceland

Stop 2: Námafjall Hverir

Iceland is full of geysers and volcanic activity, this area is so beautiful and has a Mars like feel to it, you won’t believe you are on earth walking around here. 

Námafjall Hverir, Iceland

Námafjall Hverir, Iceland

Stop 3: Góðafoss Waterfall

Góðafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Góðafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Hotel Recommendation: If you want to treat yourself while you are in Iceland and if like me you can’t bare another night in the tent I would highly recommend booking a room at the Siglo Hotel, http://www.siglohotel.is/ I have to say it’s one of the best hotels I have stayed in. 

Siglo Hotel, Iceland

Siglo Hotel, Iceland

Day 6: The West Fjords

Stop 1: Hvitserkur

As you commence your drive to the Western Fjords be sure to stop here to see this amazing Rock formation.

Hvitserkur, Iceland

Hvitserkur, Iceland

Hvitserkur, Iceland

Hvitserkur, Iceland

Stop 2: Flókalundur

If you are planning to spend some time in the west, something I highly recommend your accommodation choices are very limited. I camped in this town however there is also a motel you can stay in. I was lucky enough to get a clear night, my only clear night in Iceland I might add, and saw the Northern Lights dance across the sky. I also saw the most amazing sunrise here where the sky turned to fire. If you want a truly wonderful experience I recommend getting to the thermal pool before sunrise and watching it from there, you will most likely be the only one there.

Flókalundur Northern Lights, Iceland

Flókalundur Northern Lights, Iceland

Flókalundur Sunrise, Iceland

Flókalundur Sunrise, Iceland

Day 7: The most Western Point in Europe

Stop 1: Látrabjarg

Today you are going to drive to what’s considered the most Western Point in Europe, the drive is 1.5 hours and 95km but totally worth it to see the amazing cliffs. In the summer season you will see thousands of Puffins nesting on the edge of the cliffs, however come the end of August they start migrating. After you have seen the cliffs it’s a day of driving to get to the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula, you can take a ferry but its $150 dollars and only leaves once a day at 6pm. 

Látrabjarg - Most Western Point of Europe, Iceland

Látrabjarg - Most Western Point of Europe, Iceland

Black Church in the West Fjords, Iceland

Black Church in the West Fjords, Iceland

Day 8: Snæfellsjökull Peninsula

Stop 1: Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall & Kirkjufell

Also known as the most photographed mountain in the world Kirkjufell is not to be missed. The mountain/waterfall combination is Instagram gold.

Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall & Kirkjufell

Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall & Kirkjufell


Stop 2: Port Arnarstapi

After seeing the most amazing natural bridge on Instagram I was determined to see it for myself. It took me 3 hours of walking to find it so for those who want to see it, when you are looking at the ocean it’s along the path to the left, not to the right!

Port Arnarstapi, Natural Bridge

Port Arnarstapi, Natural Bridge

Stop 3: Glymur Waterfall

This waterfall is one of my favorites in Iceland, mainly because it’s a 10km round trip, up a steep hill to see it. It is therefore devoid of most tourists, it’s the perfect spot to sit and truly appreciate nature

Glymur waterfall, Iceland

Glymur waterfall, Iceland

Stop 4: Gullfoss Waterfall 

If you can I would highly recommend seeing this waterfall at sunset or sunrise, it is so beautiful and most of the tour buses are gone at this hour.

Gullfoss Waterfall at Sunset, Iceland

Gullfoss Waterfall at Sunset, Iceland

Day 9: Revisit the Golden Circle

Day 9 for me was a buffer day, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to see anything I missed or wanted to add to the itinerary on the way. Lucky for me, due to the terrible weather on day 1 I used this day to revisit key spots I missed or couldn’t truly appreciate the first time around. The weather in Iceland is so unpredictable I would highly recommend a buffer day in your itinerary just in case.

Day 10: Explore Reykjavik and Fly Out

Today you leave Iceland, depending on your departure time I would recommend spending ½ a day in Reykjavik to explore the key sites. 

After reading this you may be wondering, but you didn’t go to the Blue Lagoon? One of the most famous sites in Iceland… and the answer is no I didn’t. For a couple of reasons, firstly its quite expensive in my opinion at 44 euro per person, and secondly it’s such a touristy thing, trust me after 9 days on national route 1 you will be so sick of tourists wielding selfie sticks like a weapon. Instead I would take advantage of the many natural hot springs dotted around the country that are completely free and give the Blue Lagoon a miss. 


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Views from Icelandic Air

Views from Icelandic Air

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11 perfect days road tripping in Italy

Why you shouldn’t miss Pisa, Cinque Terre, Florence, Venice and Lake Como!

Day 1: Albertville, France to Cinque Terre, Italy (514km)

You can choose to start this road trip from a number of destinations depending on your travel plans, I am starting it in France as it’s my home base for the summer. Driving from Albertville you can take a direct route which is much faster but also a tad boring or you can choose to drive across the pass through Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis and see the beautiful Lac Du Mont Cenis, its totally worth a detour. 

Lac Du Mont Cenis on top of the Pass

Lac Du Mont Cenis on top of the Pass

Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis Village

Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis Village

You will arrive in Cinque Terre in the late afternoon, now be warned that Cinque Terre actually means “Five Lands” and is a region made up of 5 coastal villages. A lot of people come here and think that it’s just one spot when indeed there are 5 different villages including Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. In my opinion Manarola and Riomaggiore are the best villages with beautiful beaches and great restaurants. 

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

If you are planning to stay in the area you will need to park your car in Levanto and catch the train to the village you wish to stay at. Alternatively, you can take a ferry service between the villages and capture some great photos from the boat. 

Manarola Cinque Terre

Manarola Cinque Terre

Day 2: Cinque Terre to Pisa (101km)

Once you arrive in Pisa the only real attraction is the Leaning Tower which is situated behind a beautiful Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa's Cathedral Square. If you are looking for somewhere to grab dinner head across the river into the old town, there are a number of great restaurants in the area that are much less touristy. 

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Day 3 – 5: Florence (86km)

Florence is a beautiful city with lots to see and do, you will want to spend your time wisely here to maximize your enjoyment and avoid the endless lines. Before you head to Florence be sure to book all your museum and attraction tickets in advance, sometimes the museum lines are 2-3 hours long.

Basilica di Santa Maria Novella

Basilica di Santa Maria Novella

That being said you won’t want to miss; Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (be sure to visit the cathedral and climb the 418 stairs in the tower for beautiful panoramic views of Florence), Piazzale degli Uffizi Museum, The Boboli Gardens, Piazzale Michelangelo and Galleria dell'Accademia. 

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo

After a hard day of touring in the heat if you are looking for somewhere to cool off and enjoy an amazing cocktail look no further than Locale Firenze. While the drinks may be 20 euro each, they are worth every cent. The chef will send out the most incredible bar snacks you have ever tasted and the atmosphere of the bar is perfection. If your still not convinced you can always ask for a tour of the basement area which has been renovated and boasts restored ruins dating back to the 11th century. Private dinner parties are held in these beautifully decorated rooms and are not to be missed. 

Locale Firenze

Locale Firenze

Its not on the menu but ask for a Passion fruit Martini, you won't be disappointed 

Its not on the menu but ask for a Passion fruit Martini, you won't be disappointed 

Day 6-9: Venice (255km)

Venice was my favorite city by far on this trip, the canals, the gondolas, the history it really is as wonderful as everyone says it is. I visited in late July and let me start by clearing up a big misconception, everyone told me it was going to smell, I have been to Venice before and didn’t think it smelled any worse than any other major city but everyone insisted in July and August its awful, this is a complete lie. The city smelt fine, clean in fact I would say New York and London smell way worse. That being said you need to brace yourself for the relentless heat and the onslaught of tourists wielding selfie sticks like a club. 

Grand Canal Venice

Grand Canal Venice

Here is a rough guideline on how to spend your time in Venice, much like Florence you will want to pre-book all your tickets before you arrive to avoid those lines. 

Day 1 in Venice (Nothing but Museums)

Ease into Venice in the comfort of air-conditioning and visit the amazing Museums the island has to offer. You won’t want to miss Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Gallerie dell'Accademia and Museo Correr. Now this is a lot of take on in one day so be prepared to be as my friend would say “Museum Tired” by the end of it. 

On the Terrace at Peggy Guggenheim

On the Terrace at Peggy Guggenheim

Views of the Grand Canal, we didn't let the rain stop us

Views of the Grand Canal, we didn't let the rain stop us

Day 2 in Venice (Piazza San Marco and Murano Island)

If you want to get the best views of Piazza San Marco, tourist free you will need to rise before the sun and make your way to the square. I cannot tell you how amazing it was to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canal. Once you have had breakfast and 10 cups of coffee it’s time to catch the ferry to Murano. Getting to Murano early means you will beat the crowds. Once you arrive by ferry turn to the left away from the main canal, there is one glass shop who lets you watch their glass demonstrations for free. Everyone else will charge you 5 euro per person. Spend the day exploring the island and looking at all the wonderful glass shops. 

Piazza San Marco at sunrise

Piazza San Marco at sunrise

San-Marco-Sunrise
Doge's Palace (with no one around, winning)

Doge's Palace (with no one around, winning)

Murano Island

Murano Island

Day 3 in Venice (Burano Island and the Grand Canal)

Much like Murano you will want to be up reasonably early to head to the island of Burano. The ferry takes approximately 50 minutes to reach the island but offers some great views on the way. Burano is such a beautiful island, each house is painted in a vibrant color, fun fact, they did this so they could identify their house when arriving by sea. The island has restaurants and shops and will take you approximately 3-4 hours to explore. Once you are done catch the ferry back to Venice and head up the Grand Canal for some great photo opportunities. 

The colors of Burano Island

The colors of Burano Island

The houses on Burano Island

The houses on Burano Island

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal

Cruising the Grand Canal

Cruising the Grand Canal

Day 4 in Venice (Doge Palace, Saint Mark's Basilica, Gondolas and Cocktails)

It’s your last day in Venice and your trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Doge's Palace, going inside Saint Mark's Basilica, taking a Gondola ride and sipping cocktails on the Grand Canal. If you are planning on taking a Gondola ride I would recommend getting one from a small canal and avoiding the Grand Canal at all costs. Also if you go before 7pm its much cheaper. If its cocktails with a view you are after head to Bauer Palazzo the cocktails are on pointe and the views are spectacular. 

Gondola Ride Venice

Gondola Ride Venice

Cocktails at Bauer Palazzo 

Cocktails at Bauer Palazzo 

Day 10-11: Lake Como (344km)

I expected Lake Como to be beautiful, I mean George Clooney lives there. But I don’t think I was really prepared for how amazing it would actually be. Set in a Y shaped valley the views are unbeatable as you drive from town to town along the water’s edge. Driving around Lake Como is challenging in itself, be prepared to go slowly and be mindful of vehicles coming the other way, it tends to get very narrow in the villages. For the best views of the lake check out Bellagio and the lighthouse on top of the mountain behind the city of Lake Como. 

Lake Como

Lake Como

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The Ultimate 60 Day North America Road Trip

2 Countries, 12 States, over 12,000 miles, 60 Days and 18 National Parks! This is the ultimate West Coast/Central Road Trip Itinerary. 

Day 1: Houston, Texas – Amarillo, Texas (600 miles) 

I started this road trip in Houston as it was where my car was located. Houston does offer a great international airport so you may also wish to start here, otherwise you can cut out the first two days and skip straight to Arizona. 

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, Texas

Day 2: Amarillo, Texas – Seligman, Arizona (684 miles) 

Seligman is located on historic Route 66, the motels are charming and the cafes serve up great American fare. Use this as a base to visit Havasupai Falls which is located 90 miles away. 

Route 66 - Seligman, Arizona

Route 66 - Seligman, Arizona

Day 3: Havasupai Falls, Arizona

If you are planning on including Havasupai in your itinerary it is important to note that it’s almost impossible to get a reservation for camping. My suggestion is trying to book more than a year in advance, I called over 200 times 7 months before I wanted to travel and it was completely booked. It’s a 32km round trip, I did hike in and out on the same day which took about 10 hours. You will be charged $88 per person as a fine for day hiking, however I wouldn't recommend it.

Grand Canyon - Arizona

Grand Canyon - Arizona

Havasupai Falls, Arizona

Havasupai Falls, Arizona

Havasupai Falls, Arizona

Havasupai Falls, Arizona

Day 4: Seligman, Arizona – Page, Arizona via Monument Valley (365 miles)  

A trip to Utah wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Monument Valley. You can drive around the entire reservation which has a number of pull outs for photo opportunities. 

Monument Valley - Utah

Monument Valley - Utah

Monument Valley - Utah

Monument Valley - Utah

While you are visiting Page be sure to check out Horse Shoe Bend, it’s stunning at sunrise and sunset, but if you want to avoid the crowds, sunrise is your best bet. 

Horseshoe Bend - Page, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend - Page, Arizona

If you are looking for a truly unique experience, you can book a night in a sheep wagon on Air BnB. It is located very close to Horseshoe Bend but be warned there is no electricity or running water. 

Air BnB Sheep Wagon - Page, Arizona

Air BnB Sheep Wagon - Page, Arizona

Day 5: Page, Arizona – Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (151 miles) 

A quick 2.5 hour drive will put you at the entrance of the Bryce Canyon National Park. The park is very picturesque and all of the main sites can be seen from the lookouts adjacent to the parking lots. 

Welcome to Utah

Welcome to Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Day 6-8: Zion National Park, Utah (73 miles) 

Located only a 1.5 hour drive from Bryce Canyon Zion National Park is in my top 2 favorite National Parks. Staying inside the park can be quite expensive, however there are a number of towns that surround the park with much more affordable accommodation. If you are planning to do any of the iconic hikes such as Angels Landing and Observation Point (my personal favorite) be sure to be at the visitors center before 7am to ensure you are on the first shuttle to the trail head. Zion limits cars inside the park so you will need to catch the shuttle buses, which run very frequently but be warned the car park fills up quickly in the morning. It is important to note that if you want to hike the “Subway” you will need to apply for a permit in the park lottery. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t win, I have applied multiple times with no success. 

Observation Point Zion National Park

Observation Point Zion National Park

Observation Point Zion National Park

Observation Point Zion National Park

Day 9-10: Las Vegas, Nevada (160 miles)

This is an optional stop, however if you are keen to relax by the pool with a cocktail, take in a show, visit the Grand Canyon by helicopter or jump off the Stratosphere I would suggest a quick stop in Vegas is a must. 

Jumping off the Stratosphere - Las Vegas, Nevada

Jumping off the Stratosphere - Las Vegas, Nevada

Day 11-13: Death Valley, Nevada (150 miles)

You may be thinking Death Valley, really? I can assure you that it’s a must see. If you are travelling in the middle of summer (July-August) you might want to skip Death Valley due to the extreme temperatures. That being said there is lots to explore in the park, most of the hikes are quite short and a lot can be seen from the car. 

Death Valley National Park - Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park - Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park - Devil's Golf Course

Death Valley National Park - Devil's Golf Course

Day 14-16: Sequoia National Park, California (312 miles)  

Leaving the heat of Death Valley behind you will start to climb and head into the Californian mountain range. Be prepared for a sudden drop in temperature it can get cold in the mountains even during summer. You are now in Bear Country so be sure to properly store all your food and scented items and be alert when hiking.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Camping in Sequoia National Park

Camping in Sequoia National Park

Day 17-20: Yosemite National Park, California (138 miles)

Yosemite is tied with Zion as my favorite National Park in the United States. If you can I highly recommend staying in the park as traffic in and out of the park is a nightmare. You can book camp sites ahead of time or if like me you didn’t think of that in time there is Camp 4 which is a first come first serve site. Be prepared to be there by 4am to get a spot, especially on weekends. My favorite hike in the park is called Upper Yosemite Falls / Yosemite Point. With 3,000ft in elevation gain this is not for the faint hearted but the views are well worth it. 

Yosemite Point 

Yosemite Point 

Yosemite Point

Yosemite Point

Glacier Point - Yosemite National Park

Glacier Point - Yosemite National Park

Day 21-23: Lake Tahoe, California (123 miles)
The drive from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe is beautiful, be sure to take your time. If you like mountains, beaches, great food and fun bars then South Lake Tahoe is for you. My favorite hike in South Tahoe was Mt. Tallac, its quite steep but the views are worth it. 

Mt. Tallac - South Lake Tahoe, California

Mt. Tallac - South Lake Tahoe, California

The Beach - South Lake Tahoe, California

The Beach - South Lake Tahoe, California

Day 23-24: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon (356 miles)

Crater Lake is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been. The lake is one of the cleanest and deepest in the world which makes the views unbelievable. See for yourself…

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Hiking Crater Lake National Park

Hiking Crater Lake National Park

Snow Shoeing - Crater Lake National Park

Snow Shoeing - Crater Lake National Park

Day 25-26: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State (369 miles)

Mount Rainier is a sight to behold, if you are lucky enough to see it. The mountain is usually shrouded in clouds but it doesn’t make the park any less breath taking. 

Day 27-29: Seattle, Washington State (65 miles)

As far as cities go I really enjoyed my time in Seattle, there is lots to see and do and if you need a break from the outdoors it’s a great return to civilization. 

Seattle

Seattle

Day 30-34: Whistler, Canada via North Cascades National Park, Washington State (310 miles)

Today is going to involve quite a lot of driving but it’s totally worth it. North Cascades National Park is a must see, and only requires a small detour. 

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

If you are looking for an amazing hike in Whistler, look no further than Geoffrey Lakes. The blue water, heavy forest and snow capped peaks make for perfect photos. 

Geoffrey Lakes - Whistler, Canada

Geoffrey Lakes - Whistler, Canada

Day 35-41: Banff National Park, Canada (492 miles)

Banff was one of my favorite places visited on this road trip. You cannot spend enough time here, there are so many amazing hikes to do, below are some highlights. 

Big Behive Hike - Lake Louise - Canada

Big Behive Hike - Lake Louise - Canada

Johnson Canyon - Canada

Johnson Canyon - Canada

Lake Louise - Canada

Lake Louise - Canada

Day 42-46: Jasper National Park & Mount Robson, Canada (111 miles)

Jasper is a beautiful National Park with lots of amazing hikes, however if you are looking for something more challenging and you have backcountry equipment I cannot recommend Berg Lake at Mount Robson enough. This challenging 14mile (each way) hike, with 2,000ft elevation gain is worth every step for those views. You will need to stay a minimum of 2 nights at Berg Lake so you can do the 8 mile day hike for these views. Be sure to book a camp site well ahead of time as its usually booked out in the summer months. 

Jasper National Park - Canada

Jasper National Park - Canada

Berg Lake, Mt. Robson - Canada

Berg Lake, Mt. Robson - Canada

Day Hike from Berg Lake - Canada

Day Hike from Berg Lake - Canada

Day 47: Glacier National Park, Montana (367 miles)

Glacier National Park is very picturesque, I only drove through the park however I would highly recommend staying here a night and enjoying one of the many hikes on offer. If you’re lucky you will spot a Mountain Goat perched on a ledge. 

Day 48-52: Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park Wyoming (375 miles)

t is important that you prepare yourself for Yellowstone, it is one of the most popular and visited National Parks. You will be stuck in non-stop traffic jams, getting anywhere take a long time due to the size of the park and watch out for wildlife. If you can I would suggest escaping the crowds and going on a Backcountry hike, there are lots available within the park. 
If you are desperate to see some amazing wildlife remember most traffic jams are created by people slowing down to see something, 9 times out of 10 it will be a bison or elk but on the odd occasion it will be a bear, my advice if you see cars stopped grab your camera and start running. 

Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone National Park

Walking with the Bison in the backcountry - Yellowstone National Park

Walking with the Bison in the backcountry - Yellowstone National Park

Black Bear and her Two Cubs - Yellowstone National Park

Black Bear and her Two Cubs - Yellowstone National Park

Backcountry-Hiking-Yellowstone

Day 53-55: Mount Rushmore & The Bad Lands National Park, South Dakota (432 miles)

If you are feeling a little patriotic a stop at Mount Rushmore is a must. The sculptures will wow you and the surrounding forest is nice and offers some good hikes.

Mount-Rushmore

A stop at the Bad Lands National Park is a must, the views are breathtaking and if you are willing to hike you can spot ancient fossils in the rocks. 

The Bad Lands - South Dekota

The Bad Lands - South Dekota

Day 56-60: Estes Park & Mt. Evans, Colorado (374 miles)

The final stop of this whirl wind adventure across 2 countries is Colorado. Soak in the last of the mountain views and brace yourself for a return to reality. 

Colorado Mountain View

Colorado Mountain View

Friendly Marmot Posing for a Photo - Colorado

Friendly Marmot Posing for a Photo - Colorado

Chasm Lake Hike - Colorado

Chasm Lake Hike - Colorado

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Backcountry America: 4 Day Road Trip through Washington State

Washington State has two National Parks and one National Forest including North Cascades National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and Olympic National Forest. This itinerary takes you to two out of the three and showcases some of the amazing and breathtaking scenery Washington State has to offer. The road trip begins in Seattle and ends in Portland, it will take a total of 4 days to complete and includes approximately 550 miles of driving.  I took this trip in late November so it was a little rainy and cold. If you choose to go around this time be sure to pack a waterproof jacket, I personally recommend investing in a North Face jacket, the one I have is fleece lined, waterproof and warm.  

The view flying into Seattle

The view flying into Seattle

Day 1: Bellingham

Bellingham is a 2 hour, 103 mile drive from the Seattle International airport and is located close to the Canadian border. The city is the northernmost city in the United States and is acclaimed for its easy access to outdoor activities. 

For those who like to take the scenic route, a trip along Chuckanut Drive is a must. Chuckanut Drive was the first scenic highway in Washington State and is carved out of the forest and Chuckanut sandstone cliffs. Every bend in the road, which is 200 feet above sea level provides amazing views of the bays, San Juan Islands and the mountains to the West.

If you want to take it easy and enjoy some delicious food with an outstanding view of the bay then lunch at “The Oyster Bar” is a must.  The Oyster Bar is known for its food, spectacular views and award winning wine list.

Recommended: http://www.theoysterbar.net/

The view from our table at "The Oyster Bar" 

The view from our table at "The Oyster Bar" 

For dinner grab a drink and something to eat at Skylarks Hidden Café, they have a full bar and great clam chowder.

Recommended: http://www.skylarkshiddencafe.com/

Skylarks Hidden Cafe 

Skylarks Hidden Cafe 

Hotel

If you are looking for a place to stay in Bellingham look no further than the Fair Haven Village Inn located in the center of the Historic Fairhaven District of Bellingham. The hotels location and friendly staff are a huge positive and it was recently inducted into the trip advisor hall of fame for receiving 5 consecutive annual Certificates of Excellence.

Recommended: http://www.fairhavenvillageinn.com/index.php

Day 2 Fragrance Lake & North Cascades National Park

Fragrance Lake is one of the more popular trails in this area and is part of Larrabee State Park.  The hike is a 1.9 mile round trip and is quite steep so be prepared to work those legs. After the first mile of steady uphill hiking through the forest you will come across a spur which leads to an unexpected viewpoint of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands, well worth a look. As the name suggests you will come across Fragrance Lake which has rich smells of pine, bark and soil. There is a ½ mile loop trail along the shore of the lake that will provide you with wonderful viewpoints of the lake.

Fragrance Lake Hike, Washington State

Fragrance Lake Hike, Washington State

Fragrance Lake, Washington State

Fragrance Lake, Washington State

North Cascades National Park Highway

The entrance to North Cascades National Park is a 1.5 hour, 70 mile drive from Bellingham. The park features rugged mountain peaks and protects portions of the North Cascades range. The best way to see the majority of the park is to drive on the North Cascades Highway which snakes its way through the entire park. As a warning they do close some of the higher passes during the winter season.

The overlooks above Ross and Diablo Lakes make excellent vantage points. You will notice that each of the lakes are different colors, Ross is a teal color and Diablo is jade. The color is caused by finely ground rock dust which is suspended in the water.

From November to January, if you are lucky you may spot a Bald Eagle as they flock to North Cascades National Park to feed on spawning salmon. You can often spot them perched in the tall trees or along the banks of the Skagit River. 

North Cascades National Park Sign

North Cascades National Park Sign

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park

Day 3: Olympic National Forest

Olympic National Forest is a 6 hour, 220 mile drive from North Cascades National Park. The forest incorporates the diverse landscape of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula from lush rain forests, canyons, high mountain ridges and lakes. This varied and picturesque forest reaches the mid elevations of the Olympic Mountains. Whether you are hiking or interested in a leisurely stroll, there's no better way to experience the park than on foot. 

Olympic National Forest

Olympic National Forest

Lake Quinault, Olympic National Park

Lake Quinault, Olympic National Park

Some of my favorite hikes include:

Lake Quinault Hiking

There are more than 15 trails to choose from in this area, each offering a unique perspective on this diverse ecosystem. 

Falls Creek Loop

The Falls Creek Loop is a 1.6 mile loop that is located directly across the road from the Lake Quinault Lodge. If you like rushing streams, and water falls this is the trail for you as it winds through the forest it crosses both Falls and Cascade Creeks.

Falls Creek Loop, Olympic National Forest

Falls Creek Loop, Olympic National Forest

Trail of the Giants

The Trail of the Giants is a 2.5 mile loop which offers amazing views of the large Douglas Fir Trees that inhabit the area. You will be rewarded with solitude on this hike, perfect for enjoying the scenery and being at one with nature.

Irely Lake Trail

Irely Lake is reached by a 1.1 mile hike of moderate difficulty. If you happen to be there in November or December be sure to keep your eyes on the stream as you may spot a salmon swimming upstream to spawn. If you are feeling particularly fit the trail continues for another 6 miles to Three Lakes, be sure to take water with you on this adventure! 

Hiking to Lake Irely

Hiking to Lake Irely

Irely Lake Trail, Olympic National Forest

Irely Lake Trail, Olympic National Forest

Picnic at Irely Lake 

Picnic at Irely Lake 

Olympic National Forest

Olympic National Forest

World’s Largest Spruce Tree Trail

If you are looking for an easy hike this 1/3 mile trail is perfect for any level. The trail will take you to the World’s Largest Spruce Tree, as determined by the American Forestry Association. The tree is more than 1000 years old and is one of 6 record breaking trees location the Quinault Valley.

Hotel

If you’re looking for accommodation in the Olympic National Forest you needn’t look any further than Lake Quinault Lodge. The historic lodge was originally built in 1926 and welcomes guests with a charm of a time gone by.  Whether you want to curl up by the fire place, swim in the lake or venture into the rainforest there is something for everyone. You are limited with dining options in the park but I would recommend dinner in the historic Roosevelt Dining room at the lodge.

Recommended: http://www.olympicnationalparks.com/accommodations/lake-quinault-lodge.aspx

Lake Quinault Lodge, Olympic National Forest

Lake Quinault Lodge, Olympic National Forest

Lodge-Lake-Quinault-WA
Lake Quinault Lodge at Sunset

Lake Quinault Lodge at Sunset

Day 4: Olympic National Forrest & Portland

Portland airport is a 3.5 hour, 164 mile drive from Olympic National Park. If I was going to do this trip again I would fly out of Seattle as its much closer. 

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Backcountry America: 4 Days 5 State Lines (Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada & Colorado)

This is one of my favorite road trips, it begins in Salt Lake City and ends in Las Vegas. It took a total of 4 days to complete and included  900 miles of driving. I know that may sound like a lot of driving but you would be surprised how enjoyable it was with the diverse and changing landscapes.  I would avoid visiting this area in the summer months as temperatures can get quite high, spring and fall are the best times to do this trip. 

Day 1: Arches National Park

Arches National Park is a 4 hour, 246 mile drive from the Salt Lake City airport. I flew in to Salt Lake City and arrived late in the evening.  I picked up my rental car and ended up staying the night at the Marriott Spring Hill Suites which is located in Provo about 50 miles from the airport. The hotel was comfortable and allowed me to get a head start in the morning. 

Recommended: http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/slcps-springhill-suites-provo/ 

Arches National Park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sand stone arches with over 2,000 arches located within the parks 76,518 acres. The arch that draws the most attention from visitors is Delicate Arch, which is a 3 mile round trip hike with moderate difficulty. It will take you around 4 hours to complete this hike at a leisurely pace, accounting time for all the photos you will want to take. 

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

While you’re in town be sure to check out Moab Brewery, Moab’s only microbrewery, for food and light refreshments.  I recommend trying their most popular beer, Dead Horse Ale, it takes its name from a scenic overlook near Canyonlands National Park.

Recommended: http://www.themoabbrewery.com/ 

I chose to stay at Recapture Lodge for the night because it was in a convenient location. It was very basic but it was also very inexpensive. After a long day of hiking I was just happy to have a hot shower and comfortable bed. 

Recapture Lodge: http://www.recapturelodge.com/ 

Day 2: Four Corners & Monument Valley

The Four Corners Monument is a 3 hour, 165 mile drive from Arches National Park and marks the quadripoint in the Southwestern United States where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah intersect. It is the only place in the United States where you can be in four states at once. The monument is located on Navajo land which spans over 17 million acres. A small fee is required to enter the park but it is worth it. 

Four Corners Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico

Four Corners Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico

Monument Valley is a 1.5 hour, 102 mile drive from the Four Corners Monument and boasts sandstone structures that tower heights of 400 to 1,000 feet. The park is quite large and to see it all you will need a car. There is a loop that will take you through the entire park and showcase some of the most breathtaking views. The road is unpaved but not to worry I did it in a mustang, a 4 wheel drive is not necessary.

*Fun Fact*: Monument Valley has been used as a backdrop for countless Hollywood blockbusters including Back to the Future III, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Mission Impossible II and many more. 

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Day 3: Page & Zion National Park

Page, Arizona is a 2 hour, 122 mile drive from Monument Valley and has the highest density of slot canyons in the world.  What is a slot canyon you ask? Slot canyons are extremely narrow canyons they are formed over millions of years as water and wind erodes the existing channels in the earth’s surface.To visit the slot canyons you will need to go with a tour guide for a few good reasons:

  1. To ensure your safety: if conditions are not optimal the tour will not run, slot canyons become death traps during a flash flood.
  2. To access the slot canyons: many of the slot canyons are in hard to reach places and require special vehicles to get to.
  3. To help you get the best possible picture: your tour guide will help you set up your camera to ensure you get the most amazing photos of the slot canyon.

I booked my tour through Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures and I would highly recommend them to anyone thinking of doing a slot canyon tour. The company was very professional and unlike a lot of the other companies they took me to a secret canyon which meant we were the only ones there. A lot of the more famous canyons become so crowded you can barely move, let alone get a good picture. The big tour companies tend to heard people in and out like cattle, no thank you. 

Recommended Tourhttp://www.hummeradventures.net/#sthash.hYgajP6n.dpbs

In terms of accommodation there is quite a lot to choose from in Page as it's a reasonable sized town. I stayed at Days Inn and Suites which was very reasonably priced, clean and in a convenient location. 

Recommended:  http://www.daysinn.com/hotels/arizona/page/days-inn-and-suites-page-lake-powell/hotel-overview 

Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures, Arizona

Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures, Arizona

Slot Canyon, Page Arizona

Slot Canyon, Page Arizona

Slot Canyon, Page Arizona 

Slot Canyon, Page Arizona 

Slot Canyon, Page Arizona

Slot Canyon, Page Arizona

While you are in Page be sure to check out Horseshoe Bend, which is a horseshoe shaped meander of the Colorado River. It’s a short 1.5 mile round trip hike to access it, mostly uphill through sand, but the views are nothing short of amazing. 

Horseshoe Bend, Page Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Page Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Page Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Page Arizona

Zion National Park is a 2 hour, 104 mile drive from Monument Valley. As you drive into the park you descend down a windy road that offers magnificent views of the canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep. The lowest elevation in the park is 3,666 ft at Coalpits Wash and the highest elevation is 8,726 ft at Horse Ranch Mountain.

Zion actually has accommodation located inside the park and is a hiker’s paradise. You can choose to stay in a cabin, hotel room or suite. I recommend staying in the cabin’s they are separate from the main building and offer the most privacy, don’t mind the wild life they are all very friendly.

Recommended: Zion National Park Lodge http://www.zionlodge.com/  

Cabin Zion National Park, Utah

Cabin Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Day 4: Zion National Park & Las Vegas

Zion has lots of trails on offer from easy to difficult, if you are up for a challenge I recommend the Angels Landing hike it is one of the most famous and thrilling hikes in the park. The hike is approximately 5 miles long and takes an average of 5 hours to complete. The hike is quite strenuous and is mostly uphill but the trail is very well maintained and the first 2 miles are paved. Once you reach the top you will have the most spectacular views of the park that will most certainly take your breath away. 

Angels Landing Hike, Zion National Park, Utah

Angels Landing Hike, Zion National Park, Utah

Angels Landing Hike, Zion National Park, Utah

Angels Landing Hike, Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Today you will drive to the Las Vegas International Airport which is a 3 hour, 166 mile drive from Zion National Park. The drive is actually very picturesque and takes you through some amazing landscape.  

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Backcountry America: West Texas

This road trip starts and ends in Houston, Texas however you could start your journey from any one of the major cities in Texas including Dallas, San Antonio, Austin or Midland. The main point of interest on this trip is Big Bend National Park and adjacent Big Bend State Park. The parks have national significance, combined it is the largest protected area of the Chihuanhuan Desert in the United States and covers more than 1 million acres. The area offers a diverse range of plants, birds, reptiles, mammals and topography. Also highlighted within this post are some of the small towns you will pass through on your way to and from Bid Bend. 

Important: Learn from my mistake, if you are not an American citizen make sure you have your passport and visa with you at all times. Border Patrol are very active in this area and failure to produce these documents can result in a $100 fine and up to 30 days in Jail.

Day 1:  McDonald Observatory & Marfa

I started this trip the night before to break up the driving, day one begins in San Antonio which is a 3 hour 193 mile drive from Houston, Texas. From San Antonio you will drive 6 hours and 413 miles to the McDonald Observatory which is located just outside Ford Davis, Texas. During the day you can partake in a sun viewing where the observatory displays live images from the sun. You may wish to participate in an  informative lecture about the sun where you will learn how it works and what some of its  unique characteristics are including a discussion on  sun spots and prominence's. 

You can also choose to take a guided tour of the observatory and get up close and personal with the Hobby-Eberly and the Otto Struve Telescope which are still in use today.

Hobby-Eberly Telescope McDonald Observatory Fort Davis, Texas

Hobby-Eberly Telescope McDonald Observatory Fort Davis, Texas

Fun Fact: With its 11-meter (433-inch) mirror, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) is one of the world's largest optical telescopes. It was designed specifically for spectroscopy, the decoding of light from stars and galaxies. This makes it ideal in searching for planets around other stars, studying distant galaxies, exploding stars, black holes and more.

Otto Struve Telescope McDonald Observatory Fort Davis, Texas

Otto Struve Telescope McDonald Observatory Fort Davis, Texas

After leaving the observatory you will head south to Marfa, Texas which is a 40 minute 37 mile drive. For those of you who are into fashion and/or art a stop at the Prada Marfa installation is a must. Erected in 2005 Prada Marfa is a permanently installed sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset. The installation is actually located 1.4 miles outside of Valentine which is approximately a 26 mile 30 minute drive northwest of Marfa. 

Prada Marfa, Texas

Prada Marfa, Texas

Prada Marfa, Texas

Prada Marfa, Texas

The town of Marfa is very charming and unique. I would highly recommend grabbing dinner and a drink at Hotel El Paisano which is best known as the location headquarters for the cast and crew of the 1956 film Giant staring James Dean. The hotels old world charm and beautiful courtyard is very endearing and makes for a relaxing way to spend the early evening.

Fun Fact: Rumor has it that if you stay in the town overnight you may see strange unexplained lights in the distance known as the Marfa Ghost Lights. 

Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas

Marfa, Texas

Hotel El Paisano, Marfa Texas

Hotel El Paisano, Marfa Texas

I didn’t stay in Marfa however looking back I would have loved to stay a night at the Paisano Hotel. If you want to hit the road it’s a 2.5 hour 110 mile drive to Lajitas. The road is quite windy and is much more impressive during daylight hours. Watch out for the native animals as they become quite active once the sun sets. 

Day 2: Big Bend National Park & Lajitas

You are now officially in Big Bend State Park, I chose to stay at Lajitas Spa and Golf Resort and I would highly recommend this resort to anyone considering staying in the area. The resort is located between Big Bend State and National Park and is the perfect setting for an all adventure get-away. The resort boasts 101 rooms each designed to transport visitors back to the days of the old west, trust me you won’t be disappointed.

Recommended: http://www.lajitasgolfresort.com/default.aspx?pg=home  

Lajitas Spa Golf Resort Private Cabin, Texas

Lajitas Spa Golf Resort Private Cabin, Texas

Lajitas Spa Golf Resort, Texas

Lajitas Spa Golf Resort, Texas

The State Park is significantly hotter than the National Park in summer due to elevation levels. I would recommend driving the 20 miles which takes approximately 25 minutes to the National Park for spectacular hiking. Two hikes of particular interest include:

Balanced Rock Hike

To get to Balanced Rock you enter the park from the Western Entrance and follow the main road until you reach Grapevine Hills Road. You will turn off here and drive 7.7 miles on an unpaved road until you reach the car park and start of the trail head. The trail is a 2 mile round trip of easy to moderate difficulty. The hike begins in a picturesque valley which can become quite hot so be sure to take water with you on your adventure. At the end of the valley you will need to scale some rocks to reach Balanced Rock, however the path is clearly marked. The views are well worth the walk and climb. 

Balanced Rock Big Bend National Park, Texas

Balanced Rock Big Bend National Park, Texas

Balanced Rock Trail Bid Bend National Park, Texas

Balanced Rock Trail Bid Bend National Park, Texas

Balanced Rock Trail Bid Bend National Park, Texas

Balanced Rock Trail Bid Bend National Park, Texas

Lunch Break

If you are in need of food your options are limited within the park, however located in close proximity to the Lost Mine trail is the Chisos Mountains Lodge which serves lunch daily. The food is quite basic but they offer a good selection of sandwiches, burgers and salads.

Lost Mine Hike

Next up on today’s adventure is the Lost Mine trail which weaves its way up the mountain and provides breathtaking views of the valley and surrounding mountains. This hike is approximately a 5 mile round trip and is predominantly all uphill until you turn around for the return journey. The trail is very well maintained and isn’t too difficult, be careful if it is raining as the rocks become quite slippery. 

Lost Mine Hike Big Bend National Park, Texas

Lost Mine Hike Big Bend National Park, Texas

Lost Mine Hike Big Bend National Park, Texas

Lost Mine Hike Big Bend National Park, Texas

After a long day of hiking if you can’t bare the thought of trekking to the town over for dinner the hotel does offer a bar and restaurant onsite. I ate at The Thirsty Goat and it was quite tasty not to mention the beautiful patio which offers a lush surroundings and a tranquil fountain.  

Dinner on the Patio, Thirsty Goat

Dinner on the Patio, Thirsty Goat

Day 3: Big Bend National Park, State Park & Terlingua

Santa Elena Canyon

Today will be an early start if you want to go canoeing through the Santa Elena Canyon, which I highly recommend. You can rent canoes from Desert Sports located in Terlingua which offer them at reasonable prices. They will also give you information on river levels, if there has heavy rain in the area you may not be able to canoe inside the canyon. The canyon is located inside Big Bend National Park and is a 1 hour 22 mile drive from Terlingua. The canyon divides the border with Mexico so depending on which side of the canyon you stop on you can technically eat your lunch in Mexico. I would highly recommend taking snacks with you as you will paddle 1.5 miles upstream and 1.5 miles downstream to get back.

Recommended: http://www.desertsportstx.com/

Canoeing Santa Elena Canyon Big-Bend National Park, Texas

Canoeing Santa Elena Canyon Big-Bend National Park, Texas

Canoeing Santa Elena Canyon Big-Bend National Park, Texas

Canoeing Santa Elena Canyon Big-Bend National Park, Texas

Canoeing Santa Elena Canyon Big-Bend National Park, Texas

Canoeing Santa Elena Canyon Big-Bend National Park, Texas

Canoeing Santa Elena Canyon Big-Bend National Park, Texas

Canoeing Santa Elena Canyon Big-Bend National Park, Texas

The drive to and from the canyon is quite breathtaking, the road was designed by a geologist and takes you past some amazing naturally occurring features the park has to offer. Lookout points are dotted along the road so keep an eye out. 

Bid Bend National Park, Texas

Bid Bend National Park, Texas

Bid Bend National Park, Texas

Bid Bend National Park, Texas

Closed Canyon Hike

Closed Canyon is located in Big Bend State Park and is a 35 minute 20 mile drive from the hotel. You will want to return the canoe and changed into more hiking appropriate clothing before setting out on the next adventure. This hike is a 1.4 mile round trip and is easy to moderate in difficulty. The canyon dead ends at the Rio Grande at which point you will need to turn around and start your return journey. It is important to note that this canyon is an outlet for flash flooding, never enter the canyon if it has been raining nearby. 

closed-canyon-hike-big-bend-state-park

Dinner: Starlight Theater, Terlingua Ghost Town

The Starlight Theater is a bar and restaurant located in the Terlingua Ghost Town which is a 15 minute 12 mile drive from the hotel. Originally constructed in the 1930’s during the heyday of the Quicksilver mining the Chisos Movie Theater provided entertainment for residents. When the mines went bust in the late 1940‘s the theater was abandoned. When modern “pioneers” began to repopulate the area they used the building for open air parties, jam sessions, converts and theatrical productions. Thus the name Starlight Theater was born. It wasn’t until 1991 when the theater got a face lift and a roof and reopened as a restaurant and bar.

Recommended: http://thestarlighttheatre.com/

The Starlight Theater Terlingua Ghost Town

The Starlight Theater Terlingua Ghost Town

Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas

Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas

Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas

Terlingua Ghost Town, Texas

Day 4: Marathon & Fort Stockton

Day 4 will be a long travel day, to get back to Houston it is a 9.5 hour, 663 mile journey. To break things up I suggest taking an alternate route which will add 15 minutes to your journey but will first take you through the National Park and offer great scenery. It will also take you through two little towns including Marathon and Fort Stockton. 

Road Runner Sculpture Fort Stockton, Texas

Road Runner Sculpture Fort Stockton, Texas

Texas State Flag Fort Stockton, Texas

Texas State Flag Fort Stockton, Texas

Leaving Big Bend National Park, Texas

Leaving Big Bend National Park, Texas

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Backcountry America: Arkansas

I know what you may be thinking, Arkansas, really? Personally I feel that the state gets a bad rap. Upon telling my coworkers I was going to Arkansas for a long weekend their immediate reply was, why would you go there it’s full of rednecks? Well ladies and gentlemen I can confirm that the state is indeed not full of rednecks and most people had all of their teeth.

Arkansas is actually called the “Natural State” and is known for its beautiful scenery. It is also the only state in the US that mines diamonds. This post focuses on the Ozark National Forrest and the wonderful hiking it has to offer. The trip took a total of 4 days and approximately 1,300 miles however that includes driving to and from Houston, which is a 14 hour round trip.

Day 1: Hot Springs & Little Rock

Hot Springs National Park is a 1 hour, 55 mile drive from Little Rock. Downtown Hot Springs is a beautifully preserved Historic District with eight historic bathhouse buildings and gardens along the main street. The city is named after the natural thermal water that flows beneath the town. It is important to note that there is no volcanic activity in this region and the water is heated through percolation through the earth’s surface. There are several locations in the town where you can see steam rising from the hot water emerging from the springs.

For a spectacular view of Hot Springs and the surrounding national park elevate yourself 1,256 feet above sea level at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. 

Recommended: http://www.hotsprings.org/places/hot-springs-mountain-tower/

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas, if you are looking to rest your weary head you need to look no further than “The Empress of Little Rock” a luxury boutique bed and breakfast (http://theempress.com/). Built in 1888 in true Victorian style the now bed and breakfast boasts 9 suites with all the modern luxuries of today while staying true to its heritage.

Upon arrival you will be greeted by the friendly staff and given a tour of the property. Don’t let the tails of ghosts frighten you, from what I understand they are all very friendly. Be sure to check out the secret poker room located in the attic and spend some time relaxing in the secret garden. A two course breakfast is served at 9am daily in the dining room in what can only be described as a Downton Abby experience. You will certainly feel like a Lord or Lady eating off fine china with Victorian silver wear while being served by your personal butler. 

The Empress of Little Rock

The Empress of Little Rock

Day 2-3: Ozark National Forrest

The main reason for my trip to Arkansas was to visit the Ozark National Forest which covers 1.2 million acres and is located in northern Arkansas, about a 2 hour drive (128 miles) from Little Rock. There are many outdoor activities located within the forest including camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking, and scenic drives. Hikes you won’t want to miss include:

The Glory Hole Falls

One of the most impressive and famous waterfalls in Arkansas is the naturally occurring Glory Hole Falls. The hike is approximately a 2 mile round trip and is fairly easy, however be careful as you approach the falls as it is often damp and can become quite slippery. At most times of the year there may be nothing more than a trickle, but if you are lucky enough to catch some rain the falls turn into something quite spectacular.  I was lucky enough to catch the falls at their optimum time, the results are nothing short of breathtaking. 

Top of the Glory Hole Falls, Arkansas

Top of the Glory Hole Falls, Arkansas

Glory Hole Falls, Arkansas

Glory Hole Falls, Arkansas

Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag)

The hike to Whitaker Point is a three mile round trip and offers breathtaking views of the valley. Step out onto the ledge, if you dare, and breathe in the clean forest air. You will need to take a buddy with you on this adventure if you want some impressive photos to show your friends and remember the occasion.

Fun Fact: Disney filmed the opening to “Tuck Everlasting” here. 

Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag), Arkansas

Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag), Arkansas

Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag), Arkansas

Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag), Arkansas

Pedestal Rock

The Pedestal Rock hike is a 2.8 mile loop and offers spectacular views of the unique pedestal rock formations. Formed over eons from wind and water erosion, you will see unique mushroom shaped columns as well as waterfalls, small caves and shelters inside the bluff. The loop is very easy and it is a relaxing hike. 

Pedestal Rock, Arkansas

Pedestal Rock, Arkansas

Alum Cove Natural Bridges

The Alum Cove trail is approximately 1 mile long and is a moderate hike. The trail leads to one of the largest natural bridges in Arkansas which spans over 130 feet. The trail leads you across the bridge and then loops back underneath it, this is where you will get the most impressive photos. If it has been raining you may also see a waterfall. 

Alum Cove Natural Bridges, Arkansas

Alum Cove Natural Bridges, Arkansas

Alum Cove Natural Bridges, Arkansas

Alum Cove Natural Bridges, Arkansas

Where to stay

Accommodation is limited in this area, I stayed at the Cedar Rock Lodge which is a house located in the heart of the Ozarks. Rates are very reasonable and the location for hiking is perfect. http://www.cedarrocklodge.org/

Cedar Rock Lodge, Arkansas

Cedar Rock Lodge, Arkansas

Road Tripping, Texas USA

Road Tripping, Texas USA

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