This is right outside of Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park. We woke up early to wander around before packing up but our morning stroll was cut short by these two bison enjoying their breakfast right in our path!
The Bears Hump trail is probably the most popular trail in Waterton Lakes National Park. The trailhead is right by the visitor center (or centre) and the hike is pretty short at only 1.7 miles round trip (2.8km). The trail takes you up about 650 feet in elevation to a large rock bald that overlooks the town, lakes, and up at the mountains! The views are great for such a short hike and it’s really cool to see the town from above!
Looking into the mountains made me want to explore them more and wish that we had more time there. When we reached the top there was a teenager named Josh getting close to the cliff’s edge and his family was yelling at him to stop. “Josh Josh cut that out” it confused me at first because I wasn’t doing anything wrong and how did these people know my name. That’s the downside of having such a cool name, everyone else wants to be cool too and so they get the same cool name. Anyways this hike is dope and the more I think back to our half day in Waterton Lakes I want to return more and more!
Dad and I were driving up the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park having a grand ol time but a little sleepy so we decided to make some coffee and hike to Mistaya Canyon to wake us up a bit! The hike to the canyon is only half a kilometer (third of a mile) making it feel like nothing. However the reward is for that measly fraction of a mile is a canyon worth a solid five mile hike! Not really knowing what to expect we walked down the trail and onto a bridge that crosses the canyon.
What makes this slot canyon so cool isn’t the size but the unique way the water has formed it. The quick moving Mistaya River corkscrews down into the canyon, smoothing out its walls and creating a canyon reminiscent of those in Antelope Canyon, Arizona!
After marveling at the canyon and the mountains behind it we decided we wanted an it more of a hike so we followed the Howse River trail into the woods. After leaving the canyon we didn’t really have any insane views just the quiet woods all to ourselves (which is quite nice after going to Lake Louise and it’s ten million hourly visitors). Anyways we hiked for a bit before reaching a nice fallen down tree to sit on and enjoy a snack and then we turned back for the Icefields Parkway!
Fun fact: Mistaya means Grizzly Bear in Cree
Thanks! – Josh
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve boasts North Americas largest sand dune, Star Dune. Star Dune is 750 feet tall and looks giant even with the mountains surrounding it. It takes about 5 hours to hike to the top of Star Dune and back from the parking lot. Unfortunately when I went recently we didn’t have time for the whole hike so we hiked up to the top of the first tallest Dune we could find. From the parking lot you cross over a small creek and then across the flat sand before you reach the first sand dune.
The sand dunes get taller and steeper with every one you traverse. With the desert sun blazing down on us and reflecting of the sun back at us again we tired out pretty quickly and took often breaks to catch our breath and take in the views of the surrounding mountains. At some point we reached a nice tall dune and decided to call that our turn around point. We had a granola bar snack and enjoyed the views some more before heading back down!
Hiking up a sand dune sucks, but going down is like a big sandy rollercoaster! It is hard to slide down further than a couple feet at a time but if you pick up enough speed running down you feel like you’re floating. Once the ride down was over we walked back to the car and dumped six tons of sand out of our boots and said goodbye to the sand. Great Sand Dunes is dope and definitely worth a visit! I would love to go back and do more backpacking in the park as well as reach the top of Star Dune!
Thanks! – Josh
The Wildcat Trail is a 3.2 mile loop in Monument Valley Tribal Park on the Utah-Arizona state line. I have wanted to visit Monument Valley for a while now and finally got the chance on a recent road trip!
We started on the trail around 11am despite it technically being closed in the middle of the day due to “heat waves”. The trail is very sandy in the beginning and will fill your shoes if you don’t have boots on (or high top converse might do the job as well). The trail is marked pretty well with little arrow signs pointing you towards the trail when it gets lost in one of the many arroyos. Within 30 minutes of starting we were sweating to death but still enjoying the iconic views.
The hike takes you around and in-between the buttes and lets you feel like John Wayne (if John Wayne payed $20 to park his horse for a couple hours). Despite the sun beating down on us and being probably one water bottle short of what we needed, this hike was great and there were few people on the trail (probably because it was 100 degrees). I love a good desert hike and Utah definitely showed off its best weather with scrawling blue skies to compliment the red dirt.
The last 50 feet of the trail is a steady incline of loose sand that felt easy to walk down but going up was a struggle for sure. We walked back into the parking lot from the trail and to our car for a sandwich lunch. The Wildcat is easy to pass over because of the desert heat but is well worth it and gives you views that you can’t get from your car!
“Monument Valley is where God put the West” – John Wayne
The Teton mountain range stretches for 40 miles and shoots thousands of feet straight up from the ground. It is one of the most impressive mountain ranges I have ever seen with the Grand Teton (the tallest mountain in the range) reaching 13,776 feet above sea level. We began our first hike in Grand Teton National Park at the south end of Jenny Lake. The Jenny Lake trail makes a loop around the lake with a side trail going into Cascade Canyon. We planned to go left (the shorter way) and up into the canyon to Inspiration Point. Unfortunately the section of the trail we had planned to hike was closed due to construction (and snow) so we had to take the long way around doubling the length of our hike. So we set off to reach Inspiration Point. The trail around Lake is fairly flat and follows alongside a scenic drive for most of the trail.
It was an easy hike despite downed trees and large piles of snow still surviving into summertime. The views from the trail are beautiful with the trees making a natural framing for the mountains in some places and Jenny Lake sparkling blue in the sun.
Once we reached the parking lot there was a cool bridge that crossed the creek and the trail headed back towards the lake and into he mountains. There were a lot of new growth woods in this section of the hike giving us unobstructed views of the Tetons. Right where the creek flowed into the lake we spotted our first ever Marmots running around in the brush. We stopped to take pictures and they seemed unbothered by us completely. One Marmot a little further down the trail even seemed like he was posing on a rock for us.
Along the way we saw loads more Marmots before trail started upwards a little more and into thicker woods. We soon reached the spur of the trail that lead up to Inspiration Point where half of us decided to turn back and half continued on up into the canyon (Me, Dad, Whit, and two year old Hasten on my back). The trailed gained elevation fairly quickly from this point and soon the entire trail was covered in snow. It was amazing how much snow was there in early summer and it even got so bad I considered putting my microspikes on so I didn’t slip down the mountain (the only reason I didn’t put them on is because I foolishly left them in the car). Somewhere along the way the trail became lost under all the snow and with the help of a few footprints and some fellow hikers we made our way over some fallen trees and into a large snowy opening with a beautiful view of the lake and the Grand Teton looming above our heads.
It felt as if we had climbed way higher than we actually did but we excitedly decided this was where we wanted to be (partly because we couldn’t find the trail in the snow and partly because it felt like the perfect spot). We let Hasten play in the snow and throw snowballs while we took pictures and made coffee on a nice large rock. There was a very cool waterfall up on the cliffs above us that I wish we could have gotten closer to but without any snow gear at all it was hard to make it up the steep slope. We made our coffee and headed back towards the parking lot where the rest of our family waited for us. We slid down the snow most of the way back which was so much fun. Once we reached the loop trail where there was no more snow we went as fast as we could to get back while on the lookout for a moose that somehow evaded us despite everyone else on the trail telling us they saw it. We reached the parking lot as it began to rain and excitedly told the rest of the family about our adventure before all hopping in the car to eat dinner. This hike is one of my favorite hikes I’ve done and I can’t say I’ve ever had coffee in a more perfect setting. There is nothing like being up on a mountain enjoying nature and coffee.
If you are looking for a secluded and unique hike Yellowstone National Park, look no further than the Natural Bridge Trail. The trailhead is located just south of the Bridge Bay Campground on the Grand Loop Road with another trailhead leaving from the campground.
We were camping at Bridge Bay so we hiked the 2.8 mile round trip trail one afternoon right after we had dinner. The trail is mostly flat and takes you through the trees for .7 miles where the tree cover helps the winter snow not melt well into summer. After that the trail met up with an old service road that we followed most of the way there. The trail forks with the service road going to the left and the trail going right and in between was a small pond. There were some ducks floating around on the water and a huge porcupine drinking on the edge. We tried our best to get a good picture but once it realized we were there it took off with quills ready to fire. I don’t think I had seen a porcupine before this one so I’m not sure if they are all giant but this one was larger than a toddler.
The trail continues to the top of the bridge and gives you the only part of the trail that isn’t flat. At the top you could easily stand on top of the natural bridge (but you really should not because it will likely break). There is also what looked like the remains of a stone bridge over the creek to go look at the other side but it appeared to have washed away at some point.
After taking some pictures and enjoying the solitude of the trail (we had seen nobody else there) we hiked back and kept an eye out for our porcupine friend. Much of this trail seemed somewhat rundown and dilapidated as if it had once been a very popular attraction but fell into obscurity. We really enjoyed this hike and was one of the few we got to do in our short time in Yellowstone. Whenever I get to return to Yellowstone I will probably be hiking this trail again!
Thanks! – Josh
The Ward Spring Trail is a 2.9 mile out and back trail in Big Bend National Park. The trail takes you through the Chihuahuan Desert off the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive towards the Chisos Mountains. At the end of the trail you will find a true desert oasis with small oak trees growing beside the small spring-fed creek. This hike is one of the many small things in Big Bend that makes the area so amazing. Also there are some pretty cool rock formations along the trail.