Category Archives: Parks

Grand Finale in the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon from the Grandview Trail

The Grand Canyon was a fitting grand finale for our trip of a lifetime.  There may be canyons that are deeper, longer and wider, but the huge expanse and colorful rock layers make the Grand Canyon the most grand of all canyons in the world. 

We spent four days in the Grand Canyon and hiked down into the canyon twice.  We didn’t hike down to the Colorado River and back—that’s too long to go in a single day for mere mortals like us.  But we hiked deep enough into the canyon to really appreciate just how deep and massive the Grand Canyon really is.

Please check out our Grand Canyon photo tour.

Paradise in Zion

Theresa looking down Zion Canyon from Observation Point

Zion National Park is a magical place.  The Virgin River cut the magnificent Zion Canyon through red and white sandstone.  The park offers numerous spectacular hikes, including our all-time favorite trail, Angel’s Landing.  The photo above shows Theresa looking down Zion Canyon from Observation Point.  This was our third visit to Zion, and likely won’t be our last.

Please check out our photo tour of Zion National Park.

Snow Canyon: Our Most Favorite State Park

Sandstone cliffs in Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon in Utah is our most favorite state park.  With its red and white sandstone cliffs, accentuated with black lava rock and green desert foliage, the beautiful Snow Canyon is like a mini-national park.  This was our second visit to Snow Canyon, the last visit was for a balloon ride over the park on my 40th birthday.

Please check out our photo tour of Snow Canyon State Park.

Giant Sequoia Trees

Giant Sequoia tree in Giant Sequoia National Monument

Giant Sequoias are the largest trees by volume in the world, and are one of the tallest and longest-living trees.  Giant Sequoias can grow over 300 feet tall, 50 feet in diameter at the base, weigh over 2 million pounds, and live over 3,000 years.

We did not visit Sequoia National Park because we were there just a few years ago.  But we saw hundreds of Giant Sequoia trees in three other parks:

Giant Sequoia National Monument
Sequoia National Forest
Yosemite National Park

California Parks

Red Rock Canyon State Park

We visited California for the second time on our trip, this time coming from the north.  Please check out our photo tour for the following California parks which have not yet been mentioned in our blog:

Red Rock Canyon State Park
Dove Springs Recreation Area
Stanislaus National Forest
Buckley Cove Park

Our Most Favorite Park Yosemite

Timm standing on a cliff at Taft Point

Of all the parks we have visited—on this trip and in the 20 years we’ve been together when we’ve visited at least one national park per year—Yosemite National Park is our favorite.  We’ve been to Yosemite 3 times, and each visit has been magical.  Perhaps we love Yosemite best because it has just about everything one could want in a park: majestic mountains, broad glacier-carved valleys, deep blue lakes, rushing rivers, roaring waterfalls, massive granite monoliths, giant Sequoia trees, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, complete isolation in the backcountry, incredible views, and dizzying heights.  Even though the park protects over 760,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, most visitors spend their time in the 7-square-mile Yosemite Valley.  On our visit in October, the weather was perfect, the waterfalls were only flowing lightly, and the park wasn’t too crowded.

The photo above shows me standing on a cliff 3,000 feet above the valley floor with the famous El Capitan granite monolith in the background.  For more photos and information, please check out our Yosemite photo tour.

Oregon State Parks

Theresa on the edge of a cliff looking out over "The Island" and Lake Billy Chinook in Cove Palisades State Park

The state parks out west tend to be as spectacular as the national parks, but just on a smaller scale.  This was also true in Oregon.  For example, Cove Palisades (see photo above) looks like a mini-Grand Canyon that’s been flooded.  Smith Rock is a climber’s paradise like Yosemite that’s visited by many world-class climbers.  And Silver Falls State Park offers 10 magnificent waterfalls on a single hike.

Please check out our photo tours of the Oregon State Parks we visited:

Smith Rock State Park
Cove Palisades State Park
L.L. Stub Stewart State Park
Silver Falls State Park

Waterfalls

“Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea.”  ~Mikhail Lermontov

Timm, Darby and Shadow at Latourell Falls in Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Oregon is home to the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America.  The Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge has over 90 named waterfalls.  And Silver Falls State Park features the Trail of Ten Falls, where hikers can see 10 terrific waterfalls on a 8-mile hike along a narrow canyon.

Waterfalls usually flow heaviest in the spring when they carry winter snowmelt and spring shower runoff.  On the other hand, waterfalls on the west coast of the United States typically flow the least in early autumn because the hot & dry summers choke off their water supply. 

Unfortunately, we visited Oregon in early autumn.  A few park officials even had the nerve to say something like, “Our waterfalls aren’t flowing very heavily now, so perhaps you should come back in the spring.”  But we’re here now!  And even with the relatively low flow, the waterfalls were captivating and beautiful.

Please check out our waterfall photo tour in two Oregon parks:

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Silver Falls State Park

Cascade Volcanic Arc

Mt. Hood

The Cascade Volcanic Arc is a series of volcanoes that extend over 700 miles from British Columbia south through Washington, Oregon and California.  The Cascade Volcanoes are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped area around the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.  All known historic eruptions in the lower 48 United States have occurred in the Cascade Volcanoes.  The two most recent eruptions were at Lassen Peak in 1915 and Mt. St. Helens in 1980. 

The Cascade Arc contains 20 major volcanoes.  Twelve of the volcanoes are over 10,000 feet in elevation, and the two highest (Mt. Rainier and Mt. Shasta) rise over 14,000 feet.  There are over 4,000 volcanic vents, including stratovolcanoes, shield volcanoes, lava domes and cinder cones.

Several major cities are located along the Cascade Volcanic Arc, including Seattle, Portland and Vancouver.  Over 10 million people live in this region within striking distance of an active volcano.  These are considered some of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world due to their eruptive history and potential, and because they are built upon weak rock that is susceptible to failure, potentially resulting into catastrophic avalanches and debris flows.

Volcanoes are ominous and intimidating, not only because of their reputation and destructive potential, but also because of their imposing profile.  Mountain peaks tend to be surrounded by other mountains, whereas volcanoes tend to be isolated and therefore can dramatically rise 10,000 feet or more above the surrounding plain.

Please check out our photo tours of parks in the Cascade Volcanic Arc:

Mt. Rainier National Park
Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
Mt. Hood National Forest
Deschutes National Forest
Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Crater Lake National Park
Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Lava Beds National Monument
Modoc National Forest
Lassen National Forest
Lassen National Park

Olympic National Park: Three Parks in One

We spent more time in Olympic National Park than any other other park on our trip.  Olympic National Park is very diverse and has so much to see, plus the weather was nearly perfect (except for some fog along the coast), and we were looking to slow down and rest after all the work required and stress involved with selling our house. 

The nearly 1-million-acre Olympic National Park in northwest Washington state is actually like three parks in one:

 

Olympic Mountains

The Olympic Mountains dominate the center of the park.  Please check out our photo tour of the Olympic Mountains.

 

Olympic Rainforest

The temperate rainforest along the west side of the park is the wettest spot in the continental USA.  Please check out our photo tour of the Olympic Rainforest.

 

Olympic Coast

And there is a separate section of Olympic National Park along the Pacific Ocean.  It includes the longest unspoiled wilderness coastline in the continental USA.  Please check out our photo tour of the Olympic Coast.