Special message for Local Authors Day at Laramie County Library

Thank you to everyone who we met at the Laramie County Library’s Local Authors Day on Saturday.  This was our first public event showcasing our travel guidebook A Park To Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (click here for the Amazon.com link).

We are currently writing a travel guide for America’s 155 National Forests that we plan to release in 2022.  Please subscribe to this travel blog for updates on that book and new posts on National Park Service sites.

We will also be writing a few newspaper articles for the Cheyenne Tribune-Eagle in November and December about visiting the final three National Forests on our list in California and Puerto Rico.

Thanks for your interest in our work.  We hope you are inspired to travel someplace new!

Scott and Tiff

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Overview

Lassen Peak is the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Mountain Range that also includes Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Hood.  Lassen Peak last erupted from 1914 to 1917, prompting its creation as a National Park.  Access is limited during the long winters, but you can go cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in adjacent Lassen National Forest.

Learn more in our guidebook to the National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Bumpass Hell, Lassen Peak Trail, Sulphur Works, Manzanita Lake

Must-Do Activity

Many hikers make it to the 10,457-foot summit of the dormant volcano for fantastic views of Lake Almanor and Mount Shasta.  If you are not up for a 2,000 foot elevation gain, then make sure to take the flatter trail to Bumpass Hell, a colorful collection of geysers, fumaroles, and hot springs that is like a miniature Yellowstone National Park.  June may be a little early to visit after heavy snow years, so aim for late-July or August instead.

Best Trail

In the park’s remote northeast corner, a hike to the well-named Painted Dunes is worth the effort.  From that point you can climb up the shifting trail to the top of the cinder cone for great views of the colorful lava bed, turquoise Butte Lake, and snow-covered Lassen Peak.  Expect to get a lot of jagged cinders in your shoes unless you come prepared.  If you continue your ramble you can hook up with the 2,663-mile long Pacific Crest Trail which cuts through the park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There is a great view down into Bumpass Hell as you approach it from the trail.  Note the snowbanks lasting into late August.

Peak Season

Late summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/lavo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$30 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Even if the paved road across the park’s high country is closed in early summer, try making it down the dirt road to Butte Lake (at a lower elevation) in the northeast corner of the park.

Camping

There are seasonal campgrounds within the park, or try finding a dispersed campsite on the dirt roads of surrounding Lassen National Forest.

Related Sites

Lava Beds National Monument (California)

Devils Postpile National Monument (California)

Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area (California)

This design we created to celebrate Lassen Volcanic National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – More than 400,000 year ago, much of the western half of the National Park was one large composite volcano estimated to have been 11 miles in diameter and how many feet in elevation?

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

Overview

Since 1972, about 255 miles of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers have been protected along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.  It is a popular route for paddlers and tube floaters, in addition to providing invaluable habitat for a variety of wildlife, including beavers, great blue herons, and 40 species of native mussels.  There are a few dams along the rivers and regulations vary by who manages different sections, so it is important to know the rules before you launch your boat.

Highlights

Trego Nature Trail, Sandrock Cliffs, Interstate State Parks

Must-Do Activity

There is a long scenic byway that follows the St. Croix River north from its confluence with the Mississippi River (south of Minneapolis) near the Great River Road Visitor Center in Prescott, Wisconsin.  The National Park Service (NPS) manages the seasonal Namekegon River Visitor Center on a stretch of water that is good for floating.  If you do not have a boat, just down the road try the 2.8-mile roundtrip Trego Nature Trail that follows the Namekegon River through a forest of white pine, bigtooth aspen, and paper birch trees.

Best Trail

Wisconsin Interstate State Park is located on the St. Croix River and is the western terminus for the partially completed 1,200-mile long Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin Interstate State Parks are great places to learn about potholes (up to 15-foot deep bowls carved into solid rock) formed by boulders caught in whirlpools during glacial melting.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/sacn/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All main roads are paved, but some (like the side road to Trego Nature Trail) are good gravel.

Camping

Developed campgrounds can be found in the numerous state parks and state forests along the rivers.  Only designated riverside campsites can be used by those paddling (except in the Stillwater Islands area), but no reservations are accepted.

Related Sites

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (Minnesota)

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

Explore More – A major proponent of creating this park, Senator Gaylord Nelson was born in Clear Lake, Wisconsin and helped pass the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, as well as founding what annual holiday in 1970?

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Overview

The 2,320-mile long Mississippi River is legendary in our nation and well-known worldwide.  Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (NRRA) covers 72 miles of the famous river’s course through Minnesota, from busy metropolitan sections in the Twin Cities to secluded stretches of water.  Along this section it changes from its shallow headwaters to a powerful force at its confluence with the St. Croix River.  Established in 1988, the National Park Service (NPS) owns only 35 acres of the 54,000 acres protected within the NRRA.

Highlights

St. Anthony Falls, Minnehaha Falls, Coldwater Spring, Indian Mounds Park, Mississippi Gorge Regional Park

Must-Do Activity

Near downtown Minneapolis is St. Anthony Falls, the only true waterfall on the Mississippi River’s entire length.  The falls powered gristmills and sawmills on both banks that drove the settlement of Minneapolis-St. Paul.  Opportunities for walking, biking, boating, fishing, cross-country skiing, and wildlife watching (especially at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge) abound along the river depending upon the season.

Best Trail

In winter, urban trails along the Mississippi River are very pretty under a layer of white snow, and it can be very quiet and peaceful.

Instagram-worthy Photo

We enjoyed Minnehaha Regional Park where we found the 53-foot tall waterfall celebrated in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/miss/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but there is no free parking available at the NPS visitor center located inside the lobby for the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Camping

There are no campgrounds managed by the National Park Service within the NRRA, however, there are many places to camp in the area.

Related Sites

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (Minnesota-Wisconsin)

Missouri National Recreational River (Nebraska-South Dakota)

Pipestone National Monument (Minnesota)

Explore More – What did the city of Minneapolis do to make sure Minnehaha Falls was flowing for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit during the 1964 drought?

Reconstruction Era National Historical Park

Overview

Like Freedom Riders National Monument in Alabama, President Obama established Reconstruction Era National Monument in 2017.  The park is located about an hour south of Charleston, South Carolina and is still under development, but they already have a Junior Ranger program.  The Reconstruction Era took place following the Civil War when the U.S. military helped freed African-American slaves integrate into southern society.  It was a complicated and mostly failed social experiment with long-lasting repercussions within American culture.

Highlights

Old Beaufort Firehouse, Robert Smalls Memorial, Camp Saxton, Penn Center, Brick Baptist Church

Must-Do Activity

We recommend the ranger-guided tour of Camp Saxton that leaves from the National Park Service (NPS) operated Porter’s Chapel, next to the skate park in Port Royal, South Carolina.  Following the loss of Fort Sumter, the Union Army occupied this area by late-1861, eventually training former slaves to serve as soldiers.  There is nothing left to see of the camp, but there are tabby walls from old Fort Frederick.  After a short walk, the park ranger will help you imagine what the scene would have looked like when the black soldiers were officially freed on Emancipation Day, January 1, 1863.

Best Trail

You can walk around the historic Penn Center (guided tours offered) where the NPS maintains a visitor center in Darrah Hall, a donated part of this National Historic Landmark that has a long history of African-American education. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Old Sheldon Church Ruins are not technically part of the park, but they are located just down the road from the Penn Center.  The Parrish Church of St. Helena outside Beaufort is also very photogenic.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/reer/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All major access roads are paved, although parking can be scarce around Port Royal during the farmers’ market.

Camping

Hunting Island and Edisto Beach State Parks both take camping reservations, so book early.  There are also campgrounds and backcountry campsites north of Charleston, South Carolina in Francis Marion National Forest.

Related Sites

Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park (South Carolina)

Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument (Kentucky)

Fort Monroe National Monument (Virginia)

Explore More – How did future U.S. Congressman Robert Smalls escape slavery during the Civil War?