St. George Island

St. George Island State Park

After camping in the beautiful mountains and national forests along the Blue Ridge Park (Blue Ridge Parkway , Great Smoky Mountains National Park) we were in search of some heat and sun. We Looked at the map, in search of our new destination that wouldn’t take us too far off the direction towards New Orleans. We found St. George Island, located off Florida’s gulf coast, perfect! We headed to St. George Island State Park to set up camp, the busiest camping site we had encountered so far on our trip. While it was a little warmer, the sun remained behind the clouds for our trip,but we could still enjoy the beauty of this island, after all, it ranks as one of the top beaches in the US!

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Smoky Mountains

One of my major loves of the USA is the National Parks system. As a nature lover, and with a background in Wildlife Biology and Conservation, I am in awe of all of the National Parks that I have had the chance to visit, and the system that protects them. On our drive to the south, I had to make sure that we did not miss the Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited US National Park. I do hold the National Parks pass, however the Smoky Mountains don’t require an entrance fee, one of the few parks that don’t! The Smoky Mountains is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a division of the larger Appalachian chain. These Mountains border between North Carolina and Tennessee and is one of the largest protected areas in eastern US. They are also acknowledged as an UNESCO world heritage site, very impressive. With its beauty and diverse range of plant and animal life, it is no wonder that the Great Smoky Mountains is a popular place to visit and explore.

As we visited during winter, parts of the park was closed, I would love to go back during the spring and/or summer to explore more of this gorgeous place.

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Bryce Canyon National Park

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Bryce Canyon

The natural beauty of Bryce Canyon National park is incredible. The views from above and from within are truly breathtaking. The major attraction is the spectacular crimson colored hoodoos, pillars of rock created by erosion. Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world, attracting nearly two million visitors annually. Bryce Canyon is located in southern Utah, in Utah’s canyon country. A four-hour drive from the famous Las Vegas, Nevada and two hours from the beautiful Zion National Park 

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Hoodoos

The main attraction is of course, the gorgeous collection of hoodoos. The best place to view the hoodoos are from the Bryce amphitheater, which has the largest collection of viewpoints.  With four main viewpoints (Bryce point, inspiration point, sunset point and sunrise point) and access to numerous hiking trails, this is the perfect area to start a journey exploring Bryce Canyon.  

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Hiking opportunities

Bryce Canyon has a range of hiking trails from easy to strenuous. As an introduction to Bryce canyon, I would recommend beginning with the Rim trail hike, here you will be hiking the rim of Bryce amphitheater, viewing the gorgeous hoodoos from above, walking between sunrise and sunset point. Rim trail is classified as easy. Please note that the rim trail is not a loop, so the hike can range from 1 to 8 hours, depending on when you turn back around!

A step up from the Rim trail hike, would be the Queens/Navajo combination loop, this is classified as moderate and is also regarded as the most popular hiking trail. Highlights will include viewing Thor’s hammer and the two bridges. If you are looking for more strenuous hikes, I would recommend the Peekaboo loop, here you will hike through the heart of the park, with stunning views of the hoodoos and also viewing the wall of windows. Fairytale loop is another great strenuous hike, providing you with a chance to see the Chinese wall, tower bridge and tall hoodoos. Away from the Bryce amphitheater at the northern end of the park is Mossy cave, an easy hike away from the crowds.

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Bryce Canyon hiking

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Highway 63

A breathtaking scenic drive through the park. Provides a great opportunity to view some of the major overlooks, with 13 viewpoints along this 38 mile round trip. Highlights include the natural bridge,  Rainbow and Yovimpa points. If you only had one day to explore Bryce canyon, I would recommend completing this loop and stopping off at the major viewpoints.

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Mossy Cave

If you have more than a day I would recommend a visit to Mossy cave. A hidden gem at the northern end of the park. provides an opportunity to get up close with the hoodoos without descending.  It is an easy hike along a stream side to view this pretty cave. Depending on the time of year you may also see a waterfall or icicles in the cave! A peaceful hike without the crowds.

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Bryce Canyon is a truly remarkable place. The scenery is stunning and the opportunities for hiking and photography are endless. A true nature lovers playground! Photos don’t do justice, you really need to explore Bryce Canyon in person to surround yourself in this natural beauty. A unique, and breathtaking landscape. One of my favorite national parks that I have visited so far.

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Zion National Park

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Road trip from Las Vegas to Zion

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Joshua Tree National Park

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Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Northeast adventures

August to December 2013

After the midwest it was time to hit the northeast, getting closer to New York! Next state, Pennsylvania! Our first main stop was French creek state park, were we camped and hiked some of the trails. This place is really beautiful, it has a lot to offer too, from swimming, nature walks and canoeing. After a couple of days in nature, next stop was Philadelphia. Philly is a very charming city, with great historical significance. The independence national historical park, the liberty bell center and independence hall is a must see.

A stroll down market street towards the water  was a treat, especially with a stop at The Franklin Fountain for the most delicious milkshake! Penns landing at the water front is another must see. We also explored the south street and experience the memorable magic gardens, this place is amazing! It was in Philadelphia where we witnessed out first baseball game, Mets Vs Phillies at the Citizens Bank Park. Another place we visited in Pennsylvania was New Hope. A very charming, historic town located on the Delaware river. A beautiful town to walk around.

 Next State, New Jersey. We explored the stunning town of Princeton and walked the grounds of the famous Ivy league Princeton University, the campus grounds are precious. Atlantic city was another place we visited in New Jersey. Not my favorite place but it was nice to be on the beach.

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Mountain States

After a beautiful road trip through California and camping in the amazing Joshua Tree national park, it was time to continue the journey towards New York. Next up, the fabulous Las Vegas! Driving through Nevada was amazing, with stunning views of the desert. It is unbelievable to drive through a desert, with not much going on, to hit a hectic city in the middle of a desert! Las vegas is like no other place. It is hard to describe ‘sin city’, you just have to absorb the atmosphere. Time was spent, relaxing under the palm trees in the pool and shopping by day. Night we spent exploring the hotels, casinos and bars. A very different experience, but still very enjoyable.

After Vegas, it was time to get back on the road. Next, Arizona. We stopped by the beautiful Lake Mead and Hoover dam (highlighted in a different post), before moving on to the breathtaking Grand Canyon national park, where we camped and hiked park of the park (also, highlighted in a separate post). The views driving through Arizona are beautiful! After the visit to the Grand Canyon, the next main stop was the four corners. A very remote area, the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point. The Northeastern corner of Arizona, Southeastern corner of Utah, Northwestern corner of New Mexico and the Southwest Corner of Colorado.

Next, the gorgeous Colorado. Driving through, we saw some of the most scenic views. One of the highlights, was a stop in Sliverton, with its breathtaking mountain views and being one of the highest towns in the United States. Next was camping at Elk creek, which was a great way to relax and enjoy nature. Colorado is a state that I need to visit again, perhaps during winter time, to hit the slopes.

Driving through the desert and mountains was a memorable journey, enjoying the varying environments that the US has to offer.

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