Tag Archives: National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Overview

Amongst the phenomenal National Parks of southern Utah, sometimes Capitol Reef gets overlooked.  Stretching along the geologic warp of Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park is colorful in the extreme.  Driving the miles of dirt roads that crisscross the park may be the best way to explore its hidden treasures and no visit should be completed without some back road driving, even if it is the easy drive down Caineville Wash Road to the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon.

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Highlights

Fruita Historic District, Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash Trail, Strike Valley Overlook

Must-Do Activity

After exploring the Fruita Historic District and Grand Wash Trail, drive across Highway 24 to the petroglyphs and the trailhead for the steep one-mile hike to Hickman Bridge, a massive stone formation cut into a gorgeous canyon.  Be aware, this is the busiest part of the park because it is one of the few places with paved roads.

Best Trail

Leaving from Strike Valley Overlook, the all-day trek through Upper Muley Twist Canyon offers many unnamed arches, slickrock slopes, narrow passages, sheer cliffs, and stunning views as it winds 10 rugged miles to form a lollipop loop.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Strike Valley Overlook offers an amazing perspective on Waterpocket Fold, but requires a high clearance vehicle to drive the last three miles after a long drive down Notom-Bullfrog Road or Burr Trail Road.

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Peak Season

Spring and Fall

Hours

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

Fees

The only fee is on the paved Scenic Drive south of the Fruita Historic District, but the NPS accepts the America the Beautiful pass for that.

Road Conditions

Most of the dirt roads (like Notom-Bullfrog and Caineville Wash) are passable to any vehicle, but high clearance is needed on the last bit to Strike Valley Overlook and to cross the Fremont River on the Cathedral Loop.  However, there is not much infrastructure in this rugged and dry National Park, so you need to be well-prepared in case of emergency.

Camping

The Fruita Historic District offers camping along the Fremont River, close encounters with mule deer, and free apple picking in the fall.  Dry sites are free at Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley Campgrounds.

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The trail climbs steeply one-mile to Hickman Bridge.
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Fruita Historic District
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Mule deer near the campground in Fruita Historic District.
Heading into Grand Wash in Canyonlands National Park
Grand Wash Trail
Sun hitting the walls
The Walls of Jericho catch the morning light in Cathedral Valley.
By the arch
Brimhall Natural Bridge.
Tiff checking out some cool sandstone
Upper Muley Twist Canyon offers many unnamed arches, slickrock slopes, narrow passages, sheer cliffs, and stunning views.

 

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

Explore More – Why is the park named Capitol Reef?

 

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WONDON WAS HERE …TWICE …THRICE

Congaree National Park

Overview

The last uncut bottomland hardwood forest in the southeast was originally preserved as Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976 then became a National Park in 2003.  These forests once covered 52-million acres of the southeastern United States and today this park contains some of the tallest examples of its native tree species in the world.

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Highlights

Baldcypress trees with knees, hiking, birding, paddling

Must-Do Activity

Hop in a canoe or kayak to explore remote sections of this primeval forest.  As you might imagine, all of this standing water is a great breeding ground for mosquitoes; just another reason to come in the winter.  At the visitor center, a handy rating system helps prepare you for the onslaught or the “All clear.”

Best Trail

Even if the ground is flooded, stick to the wheelchair accessible boardwalk and you can still hike through the forest for 2.4 miles without getting your feet wet.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Our favorite tree here is the baldcypress, one of the few deciduous conifer trees (meaning it loses all its needles every autumn).  Baldcypress trees are famous for their “knees” which rise from their roots up to seven feet in the air, helping the roots breathe when underwater.

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Peak Season

We prefer the winter when mosquitoes are absent, but anytime is good at this park that only saw 159,595 visitors in 2017.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved, except right at the Cedar Creek Landing boat launch.

Camping

Longleaf Campground has 8 sites and Bluff Campsite has three about a mile from the visitor center.  Backcountry camping is allowed with a free permit.

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Paddle a kayak or canoe for a special look into these primeval floodplain forests.

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Winter is a good time to visit if you want to avoid the “ruthless” mosquitoes.
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The boardwalk keeps your feet dry even if the forest is flooded.
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This design we created to celebrate Congaree National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – How tall are the record-holding water tupelo, cherrybark oak, and swamp hickory trees in the park?

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WONDON WAS HERE

Mammoth Cave National Park

Overview

Archaeologists have found evidence of exploration dating back 4,000 years when torches of cane were used to light the way.  Mammoth Cave does not get its name from hairy prehistoric mammals, though, but rather from the vast size of its tunnels.  It has been a tourist attraction since the 1700s when slaves served as tour guides, but only became a national park in 1941.

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Highlights

Bottomless Pit and Fat Man’s Misery on the Historic Tour, Frozen Niagara flowstone formation on the Domes and Dripstones Tour, Wild Caving Tour

Must-Do Activity

There are many great options to explore the cave, including the Violet City Lantern Tour, but we most enjoyed the Wild Caving Tour.  Make an advanced reservation online to secure your spot (and your blue jumpsuit to keep the mud off your clothes).

Best Trail

There are nearly 80 miles of hiking trails in the park, but start by hiking downhill past the Natural Entrance of Mammoth Cave to the River Styx Spring, a short walk from the visitor center.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Keep your eye out for 2-inch long cave crickets on the Domes and Dripstones Tour.  Unfortunately, no cameras are allowed on the Wild Caving Tour.

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Peak Season

The park receives the majority of its half-million annual visitors in the summer, making December a great time to visit the park (though not all tours are offered).

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/maca/planyourvisit/operatinghoursandseasons.htm

Fees

No entrance fee, but cave tours have varying prices.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

A large, shaded campground is located near the visitor center, as well as a smaller one at Houchin’s Ferry (not suitable for trailers or RVs).

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Tiff at the Natural Entrance to the cave where you start the Historic Tour
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Scott on the Historic Tour
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Frozen Niagara flowstone formation on the Domes and Dripstones Tour
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Tiff traversing Fat Man’s Missery.

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Ready for the Wild Caving Tour
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This design we created to celebrate Mammoth Cave National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the entire world; how many miles of cave have been explored and mapped?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE …TWICE