San Carlos, Sonora: Why You Should Visit and What to Do There

South of Hermosillo, where craggy mountains meet the sea, sits San Carlos, Sonora. One of Sonora’s Pueblo Mágicos, San Carlos is known for its immense natural beauty. Personally, I was shocked by how majestic the landscape is here. It captured my imagination, and I was in literal awe on a near daily basis while I was there.

So, why should you visit San Carlos? Because the natural world here is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Even as someone who grew up in the northern Sonoran Desert, I can say this. San Carlos is a world class town. And it is barely on the map for most people.

san carlos sonora

So, it’s beautiful! But what can you do in San Carlos? Well, plenty of things. There are sandy beaches to sit on. Good food to eat. “Adventure” attractions like ziplines can also be found. But most important to me, is the hiking. There is a load of hiking in San Carlos, especially by Mexico standards – where hiking isn’t the most popular of activities. I hiked nearly every day. And each trail was a unique wonder.

Now, let me give you a short guide to San Carlos. And if I can’t convince you to visit, at least come enjoy some snapshots from what I consider to be the crown jewel of Sonora, Mexico.

Why You Should Visit San Carlos, Sonora

san carlos sonora

(c) ABR 2023

I kind of spoiled it above, but if you are wondering – what can you do in San Carlos, and why should you visit, I am going to give you a short list.

  • Even if you don’t hike one bit, there are jaw dropping views all through town. Especially when I first got to San Carlos, I found myself staring outside, facing the mountains, and just… watching. Birds sang and danced through the desert. The mountains swept up from the desert like strongholds in stone.
  • For hikers, there are short and long trails. Some are quick, some are exceptionally steep, and some take wanders to places unimagined. No matter what you are looking for, there is a trail for you in San Carlos. And it will leave you in awe. (Just beware the heat).
  • There is good food to be had in town. There’s something magical about enjoying tacos while sitting on a peaceful beach surrounded by hills and mountains.

If you don’t believe me that this place is cool, remember that Pueblos Mágicos are Mexico’s most exceptional towns. And thus, the country itself marks San Carlos as one of its many treasures.

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Small Towns of Sonora, Mexico: Kino Bay, Magdalena de Kino and More

Sonora isn’t just a place of natural wonders where the desert meets the sea, and sky islands abound. It’s a place rich with culture and the diversity of art, architecture, and food that make all places the people call home exceptional. While you could explore this part of Sonora through indulging in its big cities – like Hermosillo. The small towns of Sonora each offer their own unique glimpse into the vibrant world of this Mexican state. They are the perfect destinations for a Sonora roadtrip, especially if you enjoy delving into history and culture. And if time and resources allow, they aren’t to be missed.

This guide will cover some of the small towns that I was able to check out during my time exploring Sonora, in particular, Magdalena de Kino and Kino Bay. But I would also like to point you in the direction of the other Pueblos Magicos of Sonora. Even though, I unfortunately was not able to visit them all. Come along to explore these small towns via pictures and words. And see if they might be just right for your next adventure.

Small Towns of Sonora

small towns of Sonora

An arch in Magdalena de Kino (c) ABR 2023

Sonora is home to many well-known urban areas, including its capital, Hermosillo. It is also home to the town perched on the coast that Arizonans love, Puerto Peñasco or Rocky Point. But of course, it goes without saying that the people of Sonora don’t just live in big cities and tourist towns. Like all places, Sonora is home to all kinds of villages and settlements. It has historic landmarks, architectural wonders, and the unexpected.

Mexico does a nice job of pointing you towards some of its most unique towns through the Pueblos Magicos program. They designate exceptional pueblos across Mexico in this way. This helps travelers decide where to spend some time exploring. It also honors the work that local people have done to make their homes beautiful and protect the various histories of Mexico. On a Sonora roadtrip, you could try to see all of these special small towns of Sonora.

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What to Do in Hermosillo – The Capital of Sonora, Mexico

Hermosillo is a true sister city to Phoenix, Arizona, with lots of shared culture, food, and families that share members between both. It is also only a 6 hour drive from the capital of Arizona to the capital of Sonora. This city is also the heart of culture in Sonora, Mexico. But surprisingly, it wasn’t until 2023 that I finally visited this fellow, Sonoran Desert urban area – all thanks to a friend of mine who invited me to her wedding there.

While Sonora has a reputation for being dangerous, among both Americans and Mexicans, I found Hermosillo to be a fun city to visit. There was loads of good food, a very interesting downtown, and the city is also home to some impressive museums. All the good stuff for visitors and locals both. Of course, there are safety considerations (as with all cities), but with some caution, respect for the people who call this place home, and an excitement for the history and culture of this place, Hermosillo can be a lot of fun.

This guide will give you a quick taste of the city and help you figure out what to do in Hermosillo, and whether it is a good fit for you. And if it isn’t, scroll through and enjoy my pictures of this urban heart in the Sonoran Desert.

Why Visit and What to Do in Hermosillo, Mexico

This city isn’t on the top of any list of Mexican must-sees that I have ever seen, but nonetheless, for anyone interested in exploring culture in Sonora, Mexico, it should be on the top of your list. That’s because Hermosillo is the capital of the state, and it is home to lots of museums, food, and even a historic downtown. While it can’t capture all the vibrant diversity of Sonora, it is home to many of the institutions and places to explore that most cities harbor. And if you want to pack a punch into a shorter trip, this city will have you covered for the flavor of Sonora.

what to do in Hermosillo

Downtown Hermosillo (c) ABR 2023

When you are talking about what to do in Hermosillo, there is also a little something for everyone. There is a surprising amount of urban hiking in the city. There is historic architecture and big museums for the history buffs. And there is tasty food to satisfy anyone but the pickiest eaters.

Aside from safety considerations, the only immediate thing that I would say to avoid in Hermosillo is the summer. Much like Phoenix, it is extremely hot here in the summer. That makes it hard to enjoy the city, and can even add an element of natural danger if you try to hit the trails.

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Unseen Puerto Peñasco: What to Do In Rocky Point, Mexico

For the people who call Arizona home, the beach town of Puerto Peñasco (commonly known as Rocky Point in English) is a famous coastal escape. Lots of people go here to party, and there are plenty of all-inclusive enclaves in town. However, there is another side to Puerto Peñasco – a calm, natural paradise, and a small town with good food, kind people, and plenty of Mexican culture to immerse yourself in. If you are wondering what to do in Rocky Point, and looking for authentic or peaceful experiences, this is the post for you.

What to Do In Rocky Point: What to Expect in This Guide 

I spent much of my high school weekends in Puerto Peñasco, where I discovered the world of outdoor Rocky Point and got glimpses of the true town under the growing tourist destination. The beaches here are magical and dynamic. The Sea of Cortez shows off much of its biodiversity on the coasts here. And Puerto Peñasco itself is a study in the ebb and flow of local culture and international tourism. If you know where to look, the story of these tides are written across the landscape.

what to do in Rocky Point

An abandoned hotel on the beach (c) ABR 2012

This post will also be a bit of a (recent) historic peek at the town – the last time I visited was in 2014. But I photographed and explored Puerto Peñasco for more than a decade. And the time period in which I experienced Rocky Point was also a time of change. From the years of rapid growth from 2005-2007, to the Great Recession, and beyond.

All that being said, if you are looking for a guide to all-inclusive or party-town Rocky Point, this isn’t that. I’m not that kind of traveler, and I was far too young when I spent lots of time in this part of Sonora, Mexico. As a white, Arizonan visitor, I also can’t speak much to the internal culture and life of Puerto Peñasco. But I can speak to some of the ways that visitors can enjoy the vibrant Mexican spirit while visiting this popular tourist spot.

So, come along for some tips on what to do in Rocky Point and a glimpse into what the town looked like during the turbulent years of the Great Recession.

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Part 4 of Fort Collins Foothills and Food: River’s Edge and Reservoir Ridge

Join me for my fourth entry in the series Footrails and Food in Fort Collins! I’ve got loads of suggestions for restaurants across the city in this post, along with some great, in-town hiking options. The trails included here range from city park trails to great training options at the edge of town. Give it all a try here!

Hiking

River’s Edge and Salyer Natural Areas

hiking in Fort Collins

(c) ABR 2022

River’s Edge and Salyer Natural Areas are linked to eachother via Lee Martinez Park. All together, these make for a great place to walk. There are great views of the Poudre River. And loads of of options for side trails and places to sit and take it all in. Throughout the seasons, you can see different kinds of wildlife – from birds to mammals and of course, all the little guys too (insects, reptiles, etc.).

As long as you respect seasonal signage for sensitive wildlife, this is also a great area for walking your dog. With bridges, nice flat trails, and views of the river, it’s a nice place to come with the family too. (Just mind the water!).

hiking in Fort Collins

(c) ABR 2022

Unsurprisingly, there is also a lot to do in Lee Martinez Park. It’s a really big area with playgrounds, links to the Poudre River Trail, and even a farm!

If you want to make the day of it, you can get a meal in Old Town and then spend some time strolling through the park and natural areas with a warm drink in hand.

There is no fee to visit these areas!

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Exceptional Hiking Near Lyons, CO – Button Rock Preserve

Lyons is a small town tucked just on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. Besides having a cute main street complete with food and (sometimes) music, Lyons is also the gateway town to beautiful Button Rock Preserve. I first visited the Preserve when I was looking for fairly easy hikes near the Front Range. I was immediately enchanted by the part of the trail that follows a twisting, robust creek to a massive dam. And recently, I was able to visit for a second time to complete a lollipop trail that heads up into the forested mountains that surround the preserve. What’s great about this trek, besides the river, the drama of the dam, and the views, is that Lyons is the perfect post-hike stop for food and rest.

button rock preserve

This is a wonderful option for anyone looking for a trail that isn’t too long, but it is still a great workout. It also offers an opportunity to enjoy many of the things that make Colorado such a wonderful place – forests, mountains, food, and breweries. Whether you want to explore in person or just enjoy some pictures, come along to learn about this exceptional hiking near Lyons, CO.

Why Visit Button Rock Preserve?

There are a lot of really cool trails in Colorado. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to pick which one you’d like to do. This is a particular problem when you have limited time in the state, and you have to prioritize. Button Rock Preserve (as much as I love it) can’t compete with places like Rocky Mountain National Park. And it isn’t the same kind of hiking as the famous 14ers. When it comes to moderate Colorado hiking, close to Denver, CO, though, this preserve is a great option.

Perfect for Family Hikes

button rock preserve

(c) ABR 2023

For one, it doesn’t require reservations – which Rocky Mountain National Park does seasonally. If you happen to come and find out you can’t visit the National Park, it’s time for other options. Button Rock Preserve is a great spot. Sure, it isn’t home to craggy peaks, but is a beautiful riparian area encircled by the mountains. And it has hiking options for the whole family. For example, there are plenty of long trail options for the hard-core hikers. There is also a road that most of the trails start from, which travels along the creek to the dam. For folks into casual hiking, this is great. There is even a bathroom at the beginning of the trail and towards the dam. It’s perfect for the family as long as you are careful around the flowing water. And finally, there are even beautiful spots along the creek right at the trailhead. So, folks who don’t want to hike at all have some good options too.

History on the Land

button rock preserve

(c) ABR 2023

Secondly, Button Rock Preserve is a prime spot for exploring the relationship that people have had with the land in this area. The dam is a massive, industrial element that shapes everything in this area. It is important to the water provisions of the communities here. And it makes for a really interesting and unique hike. That’s because the trail leads to the base of the dam. And you can follow another track up to the top too. From there, a spectacular lake will stretch off into the mountains. There is also a history of ranching here.

Free but No Dogs Allowed

Another nice thing about this spot is that it is free. And while it can get busy, it has a nice parking lot, so it is a great option if you don’t want to make a mountaineering start. That all being said, Button Rock Preserve is NOT dog friendly.

Sleepy Lion Trail Lollipop Route

button rock preserve

(c) ABR 2023

As per 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Denver, I did the Sleepy Lion lollipop route (5.5 miles) when I visited Button Rock Preserve for some hiking near Lyons, CO. (Although the first time I went, we just did an out and back to the dam). For this route you will follow the dirt road that leaves from the trailhead along North St. Vrain Creek. Along this initial, road section, you will get to see Longmont Reservoir, and the lower part of the creek. In the summer, there are often fly fishers in this area, and sometimes people just relaxing along the waterway.

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Is Boyce Thompson Arboretum Worth Visiting? A Guide to Central Arizona’s Other Premier Garden

Perhaps you have glanced the name Boyce Thompson on the internet while researching your Arizona trip. Or you have friends who have visited and you have yet to make it out there. Either way, this unique garden will have caught your eye both for its exceptional aesthetic and rave reviews. But it is far from all the big Arizona cities. Phoenix proper is about an hour away and Tucson is even further. So, is Boyce Thompson Arboretum worth visiting when the Desert Botanical Garden is closer? Is it worth the drive is explore a spot that’s not quite so famous?

My immediate answer is yes! If you have an appreciation for plants, and the weather cooperates for you, there is no question that you should try to give this spot some of your time. Not only is Boyce home to an exceptional collection of desert plants from around the world, but it is nestled in a landscape you won’t see anywhere else. It also has extensive hiking trails for the adventurous among you. And the Arboretum is perfect for people traveling with small kids or just looking for a more relaxed experience. With its historic buildings, stone mazes, and verdant main grounds, this place will open your eyes even before you buy your ticket.

Learn more about visiting Boyce Thompson Arboretum in this short guide to Central Arizona’s secret, garden paradise.

Is Boyce Thompson Arboretum Worth Visiting?

boyce thompson arboretum

(c) ABR 2023

I know that I already said yes above, but if you are still on the fence about making the drive, I want to give you a list of reasons that you should try to take this day trip from Phoenix, AZ if you can.

  1. There is no other garden in the world like this one. The Desert Botanical Garden might have a similar collection of desert plants from around the world. And there might be other gardens with hiking trails. But nowhere else has the grounds and views that Boyce does. At the foot of the towering Picketpost Mountain, the Arboretum trails weave their way through rock formations that are alive with Sonoran Desert flora and fauna. All the while, historic buildings look down on visitors from cliffside perches, or peek out from shallow caves.
  2. No matter what kind of group you are traveling with, Boyce will make everyone but an ardent outdoor hater happy. The kids will have fun exploring historic buildings, rope bridges, and rock mazes. (Let’s be honest, so will the adults). Hikers can spend hours out on the trails. Photographers can play with both close-up images and landscape captures. Folks who can’t walk far can enjoy the immediate beauty of the garden. And solo travelers can comfortably take it all in at their own pace.
  3. Visiting Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a great way to introduce yourself to the Sonoran Desert. Yes, they have plants from all around the world. But they also showcase Arizona plants and in the most exceptional way imaginable. You can see the Sonoran Desert in its full glory here. And besides connecting with the ecology of Arizona, there is a lot of history to be uncovered in this garden as well.

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Gorgeous Central Wyoming State Parks for Hiking

With the Tetons and Yellowstone to the west and Bear’s Lodge to the east, you might want to know why you’d take the time and spend the money to hike in the middle of the state. Well, Central Wyoming State Parks offer unique and exceptional trails, with my favorites taking hikers along lakes nestled among beautiful hills. Surrounded by rolling hills and cut through by canyons, these lands offer a more secluded experience for travelers. They are also within a short drive of Casper, Wyoming, which makes for a great hiking homebase – with its own trails as well as hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and more.

central wyoming state parks

What’s great about these parks as well is that they include some of the coolest lakeside trails in central Wyoming. And in these parks, there is more than just hiking to be done. You can boat in either lake, you can camp, and one of the parks even has a very special museum located inside of a building constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Come along to learn more about these spectacular places, and get a taste for these trails through my pictures.

Central Wyoming State Parks

central wyoming state parks

Guernsey Reservoir (c) ABR 2023

Hiking in central Wyoming is an experience that not many people have, but hiking enthusiasts would truly be missing out if they didn’t give this area a look. For me, my favorite things about these two parks are how similar and yet distinct they are. I did trails in both parks in one day, and had a totally different experience in each one.

I think the Central Wyoming state parks are a good option for people who may consider themselves to fit in a few different categories. (1) Hiking enthusiasts. I can enjoy all kinds of trails and I love exploring the famous and less explored corners of the places that I visit. I’ve almost never met a trail I didn’t like. And I feel like a didn’t really experience a place if I didn’t hike a bit while there. (2) For people who will be traveling through the middle of the state. If you will be driving through Casper anyway, don’t give these parks a miss. They are a great place to get some rest, stretch your legs, and see some beautiful places.

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Beautiful Hiking in Casper, WY

Wyoming is a state made exceptional by its wide-open landscapes and awe-inspiring mountains. Much like Colorado, it is home to both the plains and the spine of the Rockies. And it’s home to some of the United States most famous National Parks – Yellowstone and the Tetons. But besides the places that people think of at the drop of a hat when it comes to Wyoming, the state is full of jaw dropping trails and vistas that feel out of this world.

One great base for exploring a lesser-known side of Wyoming is the town of Casper, which is located in the middle of the state. It sits nestled in along the edge of the hilly and low Casper Mountains. It also looks down on the plains that stretch off into the dusty blue sky. It’s also a great gateway to urban hiking in Wyoming.

hiking in casper

Of course, you could spend your time in Casper exploring the cultural side of the city. There is plenty to see. But if you are like me, you are looking for opportunities to see all the sides of nature in the places that you visit. And while there are many hiking options in central Wyoming, there are two great spots for hiking in Casper, WY that I love – Muddy Mountain, and Rotary Park and Garden Creek Park.

Muddy Mountain, although it has a silly name, is a gateway to the wooded backcountry of Casper. It’s nested on a mountainous rim near the Casper Mountains. Meanwhile, Rotary Park, right outside of town, is home to a beautiful waterfall and trails that scale the rocky flanks of the mountains.

Let this guide be your gateway to these trails. Maybe they are for you, or maybe these pictures can just serve as a link to these beautiful places.

Why Casper, WY?

hiking in casper

Muddy Mountain (c) ABR 2023

Admittedly, Casper isn’t the most exciting spot in Wyoming. But that’s actually not saying much… because the MOST exciting spots in this state are out-of-this-world, and insanely cool. Meanwhile, Casper is a place to slow down, and take in nature – not as an anomalous beauty, but as it is in many of our backyards.

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Travel Cancellations: A Guide to The Trips You Don’t Go On

I recently had something pretty disappointing happen to me. While I was prepping for some serious backpacking trips, I badly hurt my foot, and had to carry out travel cancellations. Besides the disappointment of not being able to go, I found myself really struggling with what this means for my body and my health. Sure, injuries happen, but as someone with chronic illness, I realized that these backpacking trips were more than just fun getaways, they were proof to myself that I was still strong.

So, not being able to go hit me really hard – because my body decided for me. I realized that not being there didn’t make a big difference for the people that were continuing their trips without me. And in one case, a close friend seemingly wrote me off, and hasn’t spoken to me since. It was a whole cascade of difficult emotions, and I didn’t realize how normal it was to struggle with depression and sadness when you get an athletic injury.

travel cancellations

Once I did, I got to thinking, I wanted to write a travel guide for the trips you don’t go on. Sure, a good trip can come together with planning or spontaneity. But how do you navigate the trips that fall apart, the trips you can’t go on because you are injured, sick, or family circumstances change.

But this isn’t a practical guide to canceling a trip. It’s an emotional guide and a short explanation of the times I’ve had to give up on a journey. Perhaps these stories will speak to you in a moment of difficulty.

It can be really emotional if you’ve been planning and saving for a trip for a long time (or possibly already spent a lot of money on it), and things don’t work out. But you aren’t alone. Let’s explore the trips you don’t go on together.

Travel Cancellations For Injuries and Sickness

New Zealand and the Chatham Islands

My solo trip to New Zealand was actually really amazing. But it got off to a bad start, and that actually never changed throughout my journey. First, I got food poisoning on the plane. Somehow, I was just lucky enough to have scored a part of a middle row to myself, so I was able to lay down and hide under a blanket for 14 hours. Once I got to the beautiful islands, I felt better… but not perfect, for the rest of the trip. At one point, I was at the very top of a hike, when I started feeling nauseous and I had to turn around early. I spent the rest of the day resting and wondering how I would get through the rest of my itinerary.

travel cancellations

(c) ABR

Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that that caused me to cancel part of my trip. I was hiking down a long set of slick, wooden stairs in the forest, when I fell… all the way down them. I was lucky to not get really hurt (or worse), but I did land very very hard on my hand. And I ended up worrying that I had broken something.

Between the pain and the spike of anxiety caused by the fall, plus the lingering effects of the food poisoning, I ended up cancelling my leg of the trip to the Chatam islands. I spent several nights fretting over what I was going to do. But in the end, I decided that I was just too exhausted to make it to the islands. I ended up losing money on a flight I had to cancel, and my last-minute lodging wasn’t cheap either.

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