The Canadian Rockies National Parks are incredibly beautiful, and full of adventure. Have you ever seen pictures of some magical destination on social media and thought to yourself, there is no way those colors are real. That’s how I’ve felt each time I visit the Canadian Rockies National Parks and surrounding areas.
Fly into Edmonton, the drive south will take you through 3 jaw dropping Canadian National Parks. Start in Jasper National Park and make your way down the ice fields parkway through Banff National Park & end in Yoho National Park. Flying home out of Calgary will save you time and money.
National Park Road Trip
Imagine…experiencing ancient glaciers, waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and emerald lakes as you road trip through the Canadian Rockies into the National Parks. The colors are bright, vibrant and unbelievably breathtaking.
Sulphur Skyline is a 7.7 kilometer moderate out and back trail in Jasper National Park. The park hot springs are located at the trailhead. I recommend bringing your bathing suit to relax after your hike. PS: The trailhead also has an ice-cream shop, need I say more?
In Jasper National Park there is a 4.5 kilometer trail called Valley of the Five Lakes. The Loop is rated as moderate and is dotted with 5 lakes and breathtaking mountain views. The trail is primarily used for hiking, with the best time being from March to October.
The Icefields Pathway will take your breathe away, as you drive the famous stretch of road. The drive is an adventure itself as it takes you through the Canadian rockies national parks. The road goes from Jasper down to Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta.
Along the drive you’ll see hundreds of ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and crystal clear emerald lakes. All surrounded by sweeping valleys of thick pine and rich forests.
Peyto Lake is a glacier fed lake in Banff National Park. The lake is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway. A short hike up the trail will bring you to this breathtaking view of Peyto Lake.
Banff National Park
Perhaps one of the most crowded lakes in Banff National Park- Lake Louise is known for its turquoise, glacier-fed lake ringed by high peaks. Hiking trails wind up to the Lake Agnes Tea House giving hikers a bird’s-eye view of the lake. You can rent canoes in summer, or skate on a frozen glacier lake skating rink. The lake has a ski resort with a gondola, making this a popular winter destination as well.
This iconic jaw-dropping shade of turquoise is sure to leave a lasting impression. The waters are the most amazing color, and set in the Valley of Ten Peaks in Banff National Park, Alberta. The lake is great for kayaking, hiking or picnicking as it is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and rock piles.
Yoho National Park
The least visited of the 3 Canadian rockies national parks is Yoho National Park, in British Colombia. The park should not be overlooked by its more famous siblings Banff & Jasper. The park is half as busy as Banff offering visitors over 61 beautiful lakes to explore.
Emerald lake is the largest in the park. Canoe’s are available for rent out on the absolutely beautiful glacial-fed lake with vibrant turquoise colored water.
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Last spring on my road trip around the Ring Road , I fell in love with Iceland’s waterfalls. Be sure to add these these falls to your Iceland Waterfall Bucket list for a magical experience around the island.
There are over 10,000 Iceland waterfalls beautifully cascading around the country. The falls are as diverse and magical as they are many. The frequent rain and snow, combined with glaciers melting in summer make the perfect climate for waterfalls in Iceland.
The U.S. state of Michigan is made up of two major peninsulas. The Upper Peninsula (UP), is the northern of the two.
Locals of the Lower Peninsula will often say I’m going “up north” for the weekend. Which could be anywhere north of their local county. Memorial Day weekend, my boyfriend and I took our fur babies camping up north to Michigan’s UP to welcome the beginning of the summer season. “Up North” for the weekend took us 6 hours north of Detroit straight up I-75 to the central region of The UP.
The summer months (Late May- August) are best for tent camping in The UP. Temperatures range from mid 70’s to low 90’s, depending on how close to the waters you go. Lake Superior touches the northern part of the region, while Lake Michigan/Huron (depending on what side of the Mackinac Bridge you’re on) border the southern region.
Where To Camp
Indian Lake State Campground
We left right after work Friday to make the most of our three-day holiday weekend. Arriving to our campsite at night per usual (we’re getting SO GOOD at setting up camp in the dark). We camped at Indian Lake State campground for the weekend, it was centrally located for all the activities we had planned. Michigan has some INCREDIBLE state campgrounds, I would recommend booking early, as most fill up quickly during the summer. Our camp site for the weekend was right on the lake! Check out my packing guide for what gear I use. *Note* If the state parks are all full, there are private owned campgrounds in the area as well as cabin rentals.
Kitch-iti-kipi known as “The Big Spring” is another gem in The UP’s crown. The 40 ft. deep spring pumps over 10,000 gallons of water a minute! Be sure to ride the self-operated observation raft across the spring, it offers a unique perspective, providing striking views to the bottom.
Big Spring is located inside Palms Book State Park, beautiful all year round… Big Spring doesn’t freeze! Visiting in the winter to see the crystal clear blue waters surrounded by a winter wonderland would be an epic adventure. (Mental note made)
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 40 miles of breath taking lakeshore along Lake Superior. There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails winding through dense forest that will take you to waterfalls, pristine beaches and other secluded beauty.
Take A Hike
Deciding which hike to do will be tough, there are so many things to explore! I would recommend doing a couple hikes inside this bubble of national protected land to best see the beauty the UP has to offer. Michigan is so incredible! As we hiked along lakeshore north country trail the trail suddenly went from dirt to boardwalk as we crossed over some swamp lands. As we continued further, I looked around… we were completely surrounded 360 degrees by bright yellow flowers.
Relax at Chapel Beach
Explore the beach area and hike to the waterfall nearby!
Take A Dip
At the end of the hike there was the opportunity to cool off in a bath of crystal clear ABSOLUTELY FREEZING Lake Superior water. I wouldn’t recommend swimming for too long, while the surface temperature of Lake Superior varies seasonally, the temperature below (660 ft; 200 m) is 39 °F (4 °C) I dipped my toes in and decided that was enough for me! 😊
For more on what to do in Michigan’s U.P check out my post on the Eastern Region!
The month of May has been absolutely insane for me. For starters, it’s my 30th birthday month (HUGE, I know). For whatever reason, turning 30 always scared the hell out of me. I even came up with a 30 Before 30 List of things I wanted to accomplish before the big day (I did pretty awesome).
I spent a good portion of the last 6 weeks (End of April- May) living out of either a suitcase or a backpack. Sleeping in tents, hotels, airports, and cabins. Traveling back and forth across the country….twice. First time by plane, second time was by plane AND moving truck. I explored my first European country. Then before I beat the jet lag, I took another road trip over Memorial Day weekend. This time across my home state of Michigan. So this all translates to: I’ve had absolutely no time to write about each of the adventures individually (which I intend on doing).
Meanwhile- I came to the realization that the last 6 weeks was one giant adventure, made up of back to back mini adventures! Here’s a recap, with a super awesome picture from 10 places I visited this spring.
Los Angeles, CA
I started out in LA for work the last week of April- and it’s been a giant blur since.
I was home for 48 hours after I got home from LA, in which time I attended a baby shower, and a birthday party. Then it was off to Chicago, where I stayed for less than 24 hours to start the next mini adventure.
Badlands National Park, SD
We left Chicago EARLY, and started the long drive across the country to Seattle. We drove through four states before we made it to our first stop.
We were in South Dakota after 12 hours (not including stops). Arriving at night- we set up camp and spent the night at a campground inside the park. Check out my full post on Badlands National Park for more details!
Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD
The drive from Badlands to Mount Rushmore was only about an hour or so. The stop helped break up the long drive we still had ahead of us- and it was pretty cool to see the National Monument I never in a million years anticipated I’d see.
Grand Teton National Park, WY
We drove another 8 hours into the state of Wyoming. I really struggled choosing just one picture for these next two stops. Grand Teton National Park was incredible. We spent a day exploring the park and fell in love with the snow-covered peaks. We crashed at a hostel inside the park (no campgrounds were open this early in the season).
Yellowstone National Park, WY
We camped for the next two nights in the colorful world of Yellowstone. Only the west half of the park was open during our time there. Thankfully the Grand Prismatic spring was accessible (I had pre-warned Grace I might lose my shit if I missed it).
The last 12 hours of our trip from Yellowstone to Seattle took us through 3 more states (Montana, Idaho, Washington). When we finally arrived in Seattle, I had 24 hours there before my flight home. Check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Seattle for more details on this amazing city.
After being on the road for a week, I was looking forward to coming home for a few days. I was going to be home for FIVE WHOLE DAYS before we left on the next trip. Check out my post on The Perfect Weekend in Detroit for a local’s guide on my favorite city.
The entire week, Logan and I planned on leaving for Iceland Saturday night (the day before Mother’s Day). We made plans with our families, put off laundry and packing (we had all day Saturday after all) and figured we’d get through the work week and worry about everything Iceland on Saturday.
Friday night I double checked our tickets and realized, our flight actually departs at 12:30 THAT NIGHT! We now had 4 hours to drop off the dogs/do laundry/clean the apartment/pack our bags/get to the airport…
I planned my Iceland trip almost 5 years ago. It was always the #1 spot on my list of places I wanted to go- I just never seemed to make it there. Well after 5 years of waiting… I finally made it! My favorite travel crew and I set off on a week long road trip around the country that ended with my 30th birthday hike to the bluest waterfall I’d ever seen.
“Up North”, MI
We got home from Iceland exhausted and jet lagged. At this point the constant traveling was beginning to catch up with me. I’d been in so many different time zones the last couple weeks, I had no idea what day it was, what time zone I was in, or if I should be awake or sleeping (Iceland never got fully dark at night, so our sleeping schedules were all sorts of messed up.)
After spending a few days at home recovering and starting to sort our life back out, next thing we knew- the week was over, and it was Memorial Day weekend.
I spent my Memorial Day weekend with Logan and the fur babies “up north” in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula, MI) We spent time relaxing at our camp site, grilling, and playing tourist in our own state. We stayed at Indian Lake State Campground which was only 15 minutes from Kitch-iti-Kipi, and an hour from Pictured Rocks National Lake shore.
Death Valley National Park is located on the California, Nevada state borders in the United States. Death Valley holds the title for driest, hottest, and lowest of all the U.S. National Parks. PLUS it’s the largest National Park outside of Alaska. In January, Logan and I spent the Perfect Weekend in Death Valley National Park. The plan was to see as much as we could in the time we had. The National Park was so amazing, we’re already planning our next trip back to explore more of this diverse landscape!
The park entrance fee is $25 usd per vehicle per day- I have an annual pass ($80 usd) we used to get in. With over 3 million acres of wilderness, sand dunes, slot canyons, rocky rainbow peaks, and miles of back country roads to explore- where do you begin?! We flew into Las Vegas after work the Friday of MLK weekend and rented a car to make the 2 hour drive through the desert into Death Valley.
Enjoy My Death Valley National Park Guide!
How to Get to Death Valley National Park
PRO TIP: Make your rental car and camping reservations early. Spend the money on a 4×4 high clearance vehicle. You’ll need one if you plan to do the backcountry drives- that includes the famous racetrack. It’s 27 miles of HARD road to get there, and the ever logical Logan deemed our compact car unfit for such conditions… preventing us from seeing the racetrack and other park sites (getting a flat or needing a tow truck in the middle of no where sounded not so fun).
Day 1: Death Valley National Park East Side
Stay the Night at Sunset Campground
We spent more time dicking around in Vegas than we anticipated, so we got to the park a little later than planned, meaning we got to drive around in the dark looking for an open site… the campground is first come first serve and there were plenty of spots (it seems we’ve made setting up camp in the dark an unintentional tradition). The campsite didn’t have a fire pit or picnic table but the campground had water and flush toilets (no showers). The sites weren’t very private and it felt like we were in a giant parking lot more than a campground. We set up our tent facing to the darkest side, and watched the sky light up with stars.
Artists Scenic Drive Loop
This scenic loop drive is 9 miles of paved road that takes you through multi-hued colorful volcanic and sedimentary hills. We had the the one way road to ourselves so we took our time as we drove. As the famous Artist Palette came into view we got out at the pull off and explored further into the rock formations for a small hike. Our little compact car did fine on the paved road.
Natural Bridge Hiking Trail
We did a few hikes in our time at the park, but this by far was our favorite. The road to get here is rough and rocky, we didn’t think our car was going to make it- thank God it did. The out and back hike took us 1 mile round trip from the natural bridge formation- bbbbbut don’t stop there!
We hiked back as far as we could get past the bridge (another mile or so) and the dramatic canyon turned to beautifully colored marble walls glistening around us. You could see the remains of a dried up waterfall, and how the powerful element carved it’s mark permanently into the earth. It was incredibly pretty, and the tall narrow canyon kept us shaded from the sun.
It was 75 degrees and sunny when we walked a mile out to the salt flats 282 ft below sea level- the lowest point in North America. There was no shade, and in the dead of winter- we were hiking in Death Valley, and for the first time- we felt it. I’ve seen salt flats in Bolivia, and they were miles and miles long.
But these were the first salt flats with water I’d seen, and it was an incredible sight (and another reason I FREAKING LOVE MY TEVAS). I walked out into the salty water expecting the lake I saw before me to get deeper as walked further out. The water never went above my ankle in depth- and from afar it looked to others as if I was walking on water. It was a magical experience.
If you’re looking for the best spot to catch a sunrise or sunset- this is it. The golden colored badlands make for an amazing backdrop to natures free shows each day. Start your day or end your day here- you won’t be disappointed either way you do it. We missed the point coming into the park at night, so we made sure we caught it on our way back out!
Day 2: Death Valley National Park North Side
Stone Pipe Wells Campground
We spent our 2nd night in this first come first serve campground that’s only open during the winter season; the campground has tent only sites everywhere, and a lot of private options; we had a beautiful view outside our tent of the mountains across the desert- there’s flush toilets and water, but no fire pits or picnic tables.
Hundreds of years ago, a massive volcanic explosion happened in Death Valley. Magma mixing with an underground spring caused the explosion that created this 600 ft deep crater. As we drove to the trail head you could see the landscape around us changing from light colored brown tones to dark volcanic black sand. You can hike the full rim of the crater (around 1.5 miles round trip) but we were short on time, so we hiked to see little ubehebe crater and enjoyed the views before heading back down.
This was the hike I was most excited about. The 4 mile hike took us through polished marble narrows, and required a bit of rock climbing (scrambling). It was beautiful walking through the labyrinth of smooth rock.. The colorful walls changed in color and texture along the hike, making for gorgeous photo opportunities.
We ended our day exploring the west side of the park. As soon as I saw their was a “rainbow canyon” I knew we couldn’t leave without seeing it. The drive takes a couple hours, so we stocked up on fuel and road trip snacks in Stovepipe Wells Village before heading towards the canyon. The drive to Father Crowley Vista was one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done. A landscape of dark lava flows and volcanic cinders turns to rainbow canyon with an explosion of color. As you’re driving through the mountains you can see the colors start to pop the closer you get.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Hike to the largest dune field in the park for another great spot to catch a sunrise or sunset. You can walk as far out into the dunes as you want, the hike to summit the highest is about 2 miles roundtrip. We walked through the sand up and down the dunes until we found the perfect sunset viewing peak, all to ourselves.
Furnace Creek Campground
We spent our last night back on the east side of the park (where the only showers in the park were)- it was MLK Day, and the park entry and camping was free for the holiday! We were expecting a huge crowd but we had no issue finding a site on the first come first serve sites. It was our favorite campsite, we had a picnic table, a fire ring, and nobody around us. Of course the night we have furniture the clouds decided to be assholes- we didn’t see one star that night. Instead we were kept awake by the howling of the locals (aren’t they just adorable?!?).
Download your Death Valley Checklist of must see activities!
Showers are only available at the privately owned Furnace Creek Resort. It’s $5 per person for a pool pass that gives you access to their pool & showers/locker room. **These are the only showers in the entire park, and if you’re camping and hiking, you will want a shower.**
You can rent a 4×4 high clearance vehicle by the hour in the town of Furnace Creek from a privately owned company.
There is 1 restaurant (Stovepipe Wells Village) and a few small grocery stores inside the park (Stovepipe Wells Village & Furnace Creek).
It is a 2 hour drive to the park from Las Vegas and a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles. The park is located in both California & Nevada.