Author: waitingforrain28 (Page 3 of 32)

A Handy Guide to Some of the Best Hiking in Nebraska

As with much of the Midwest, you might not think of Nebraska for great hiking opportunities, but there are some exceptional trails in this state. And you might be surprised by the variety that Nebraska has to offer. Whether you are driving through on your way somewhere else, or you are like me and are going to make a whole trip out of exploring this state, you have to check out at least some of the best hiking in Nebraska. This include some of the amazing national parks of Nebraska, along with some lesser known federal and local lands that are full of magic.

I hope this guide can open your mind to what you can discover in Nebraska, or give you a little glimpse into the beauty that this state has to offer. Either way, my goal is for  you to walk away with a little inspiration. And some reminders on how to stay safe on the trail, no matter where you are.

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

best hiking in nebraska

(c) ABR 2021

As you might guess from the name, the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (henceforth, Agate Fossil Beds) is known for its fossils. I absolutely enjoyed seeing the fossils, and learning about the animals that left them behind from the very well-equipped visitor center. But my favorite thing about this park is its beautiful trails. They are unique from among the national parks of Nebraska, with their petrified sand dunes and evidence of life on Earth from another era.

There are two trails in this park. One is the Daemonelix Trail (1 mile lollipop) which is near the junction of the 20 and the 2. And the second is an out-and-back trail called the Fossil Hills Trail (2.8 miles) that leaves from the visitor center and heads across the grasslands to University Hill and Carnegie Hill. With the unique qualities of these little treks, they are among the best hiking in Nebraska. It is also free to visit!

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Cultural Attractions in Nebraska: Omaha, the Great Archway, and More!

There are many exceptional cultural attractions in Nebraska, from the downtown of Omaha, to the Great Platte River Road Archway along the I-80. From the history of American settlers, to the journey from the Oregon Trail to modern roadtrips. There is so much to see and learn about in this state. If you are on the road yourself, then the whole of Nebraska is available for exploration. But you can also experience a nice sample of Nebraskan culture in Omaha and the surrounding area.

Great Platte River Road Archway Monument

cultural attractions in nebraska

View of the I-80 from the Archway (c) ABR 2023

Along the I-80, about in the middle of Nebraska is the small town of Kearny. (I’m told it is pronounced kahr-nee). And just outside of Kearney is a massive archway that towers over the highway. When we drove under it on our way to Omaha from the west, I was so intrigued by the structure. We just had to visit on the way back. I thought the archway would be just a big viewing platform with gift shops and maybe a restaurant. But it was so much more than that!

The Great Platte River Road Archway Monument is actually an amazing, immersive history museum that’s unlike any place that I’ve ever been. It’s one of my must-see spots in Nebraska. While tickets are a little expensive for what you might consider a roadside attraction. I would argue that the $15 is worth it (2023). At least, it is worth it if you want to learn about the history of this area, the history of the Oregon Trail, and US roadtrips. Also, don’t expect this to be a quick stop. If you take in everything at the museum it could easily be a two-hour experience.

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

In the Museum

I won’t spoil anything much, because I want you to enjoy this exceptional place. But when you arrive, stop by the gift shop to buy your tickets. From there, you will receive a listening device, before you enter the museum. I typically am not a fan of these little recorded, self-guided tours. But take your time listen to the stories throughout the museum, it is the doorway to making the whole experience come alive.

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

Then, once you enter, you will follow immersive displays through time. They will take you from the origins of the Oregon Trail, all the way to the highway as it is now. I was enchanted by the history of this roadway. I had no idea before visiting that the I-80 is the legacy of the Oregon Trail and everyone who trekked across the West.

This is a surprisingly well-done spot among the cultural attractions in Nebraska; if you enjoy history, don’t miss it. That being said, if you are looking for a giant viewing platform of the road, this isn’t it. There are a few windows at the end of the museum, but nothing expansive.

They are open from 9-5 Monday to Saturday, and noon-5pm on Sunday. And they have a great gift shop!

Durham Museum

cultural attractions in nebraska

Durham Museum (c) ABR 2023

The Durham Museum is one of several of the must-see spots in Nebraska that is located within Omaha. It’s probably also my top attraction in the whole city. While some folks might not think that’s all that much of an endorsement, Omaha has a lot to do in it. Additionally, this museum could hold its own among attractions in much larger cities.

The building itself is the repurposed Union Station that was once owned by the Union Pacific. Now, the art deco edifice is maintained by the museum. And it features many spaces and exhibits about the history of travel and railways in the United States and, of course, Omaha.

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

There is so so much history in this place, from indigenous history and culture, to modern day. But for me, the star of the show in the Durham Museum is the walk-through train. This will take you through several decades of train cars. And if you are lucky, they might even be manned by a volunteer who can tell you all about them. Between the artifacts, exceptional immersion, and knowledgeable volunteers, I think that the Durham Museum is one of the best cultural attractions in Nebraska.

They also have some circulating exhibits that change over time, so if you live in the area, you can see some new things over the years. When we visited there was a very nostalgic display of lunchboxes, and an interactive Lego exhibit.

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

The Durham museum is open on Sunday noon to 4pm, Monday, Weds-Saturday from 10am-4pm, and Tuesday 10am – 8pm. They are closed for major holidays, though, so be sure to check their website for details. Tickets are $15 for adults. (All info from 2023).

Homestead National Historic Park

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

Located out in the midst of the Nebraska fields, the Homestead National Historic Park is one of the out-of-the-way, but must-see spots in Nebraska. It commemorates and teaches, on the land, about the cultural and historic impacts of the Homestead Act of 1862. This act paved the way for many otherwise disenfranchised people to get land – including women and freed, formerly enslaved people. It encouraged settlement of the West and helped develop the “breadbasket” of the United States.

Not a Simple History

But it also served as a tool for the stealing of lands from indigenous people. This is because, of course, all of the land being “given” was land that Native Americans could no longer live on, as they had for thousands of years. So, while this place represents an important part of American history, it also represents the onward dissposession of Native American peoples.

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

The museum at the park does the best it can to represent this dichotomy. Although I suspect it will change more in the coming years to tell both sides of this story in more depth. And outside of the museum there are a variety of trails and artistic displays representing the impact of homesteading on the various states that were impacted by the Homestead Act.

One of which, no surprise, was Nebraska. Which saw more than 40% of its land homesteaded after the act was passed. Even though this spot is not super close to other places of note in the state, I still think that it’s worth the drive from among the cultural attractions of Nebraska. If you think that you might have roots in homesteading, you can also research your genealogy in the park.

The visitor center at the park is open 7 days a week from 8:30a – 6:00p, except on weekends when it opens at 9a. In the winter they also close at 5p. It is free to visit!

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo (henceforth, Omaha Zoo, haha), is up there with some of the nicest zoos out there. They come complete with a variety of different ecotypes, featuring animals from all over the world. I was especially intrigued by the giant sphere under which was the desert displays. It’s always fun to travel hundreds of miles away from home and then find yourself surrounded by the familiar plants of the desert. They also do an exceptional job showcasing the beauty, importance, and fascinating lives of smaller animals like reptiles and insects.

While you basically know what you are going to get when it comes to a nice zoo, the size and quality of the Omaha Zoo puts it among my list of must-see spots in Nebraska.

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

The Omaha Zoo is also a member of Association of Zoos and Aquariums as well as the global equivalent – meaning that they have an established standard of care for their animals that seeks to maintain their well-being. They are also involved in conservation activities.

Their hours and admissions change with the season, so be sure to look at their website for details before you visit. Also, there can be very long lines at the entrance, so you might consider buying your ticket online before you go.

Old Market, Omaha

cultural attractions in nebraska

Old Market (c) ABR 2023

Downtown Omaha isn’t particularly big, but it does have a very nice, walkable area for tourists and locals alike – the Old Market. This area is notable for its characteristic brick buildings, areas of brick streets, and large wooden awnings over the wide sidewalks. Being the heart of Omaha, this area is a living example of the cultural attractions of Nebraska.

There are loads of good places to eat in this area, and it’s the perfect spot to pick up a souvenir that represents your time in Nebraska as well as your style. One place to visit for a unique keepsake, candy, AND an experience is Hollywood Candy. This store is massive, and will probably take you at least 20 minutes to explore. On top of everything you can purchase here, you can also play pinball, and I hear that in October they do a big haunted house. I’ve never been to a place quite like this, and for that alone, I think Hollywood candy is among the must-see spots in Nebraska.

cultural attractions in nebraska

Slides downtown (c) ABR 2023

There are also many good bars in Omaha’s downtown. If you are into tiki bars, Laka Lono is located in the Old Market, underground. There is also a speakeasy on the edge of the area, Wicked Rabbit.

Finally, there is a big playground north of Old Market – complete with adult sized swings and slides. Definitely check it out.

Other Spots in Omaha

Haymarket, Lincoln

Along similar lines to the Old Market, Haymarket is at the heart of downtown, Lincoln. It’s a great spot for eats, local crafts, and walking. Additionally, it is home to one of my favorite coffee and tea shops in Nebraska – the Mill Coffee and Tea. With Lincoln being the capital of the state, it’s down town is a great addition to a list of must-see spots in Nebraska.

Hummel Park

cultural attractions in nebraska

Hummel (c) ABR 2023

Just north of Omaha is a little cluster of parks and open spaces which include Hummel Park and Neale Woods, among others. We visited Hummel Park on a rainy day, so we didn’t get to explore too much, but I was impressed by what I did see. They have a short set of trails through a verdant forest. There is a frisbee golf course, and a visitor center that is home to a variety of programming throughout the year. Finally, and most excitingly, they also have a couple big slides here for the adventurous ones among you!

Little Bohemia

cultural attractions in nebraska

Tiny House Bar (c) ABR 2023

Nestled among the many great attractions of Omaha is a small part of town called Little Bohemia. While this area truly is little, I really enjoyed visiting it. There is a nice, Slavic vibe here, and while I wish there was more shops and food linked to that, the shops and restaurants here were all very nice. Tiny House Bar was a great local spot for drinks.

The Lauritzen Garden

cultural attractions in nebraska

(c) ABR 2023

The Lauritzen Garden or Omaha Botanical Center is Omaha’s floral companion to the zoo. While I wouldn’t put this garden up in my top… twenty gardens that I’ve visited in the US, if you enjoy plants this is a neat spot. And in 2023, I could tell that they were hard at work building out the garden and all its offerings. That being said, I think one of the coolest things in the park was a toy train garden (never seen one before!), and indoor section of the garden. With their art displays, long walking trails, and amazing gift shop, I think this is a great addition to any list of cultural attractions in Nebraska, especially for plant-lovers.

Planning a Trip to Nebraska?

Be sure to check out Nightborn Travel’s Short Guide to Nebraska for all of my posts on this surprising state, along with some fun tidbits about its history and ecology.

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Part 3 of Fort Collins Foothills and Food: Pinewood Reservoir, and Edora Park

There is loads to hike, taste, and experience in Fort Collins, Colorado. So far, I’ve already covered several city open spaces, trails, and restaurants in Part One and Park Two of this series. So, I am continuing the guide to the city here with coverage of new trails, restaurants and more!

Our hikes in this part 3 of the Fort Collins Foothills and Food series include the trails of Pinewood Reservoir, and the Coterie off of Spring Creek Trail from Edora Park. The restaurant spots include some of Fort Collins most unique spots, and this is the first part of this series to include other attractions here in the city.

Hikes in Fort Collins

Pinewood Reservoir and the Ramsay-Shockey Open Space

(c) ABR 2022

Pinewood Reservoir is part of the Larimer County park system. And I better start out this section of my post by mentioning that it’s not actually in Fort Collins. It’s about 45 minutes away from town and close to Loveland. That being said, I am still going to include it here, because it isn’t too far from town, and Pinewood has some very nice hiking options.

In particular, I did two trails when I went – Shoshone Trail and Besant Point Trail, which can be combined to create a lollipop. This lollipop was roughly 3 miles and included walks along the lake and ascents into the rolling hills that surround it. To access this lollipop route, park at the southern trailhead, where the restrooms are. Then, from there, you will follow Besant Point Trail along the southwestern edge of the lake along the shore. It’s a great place to see wildlife and enjoy the general beauty of the calm water of the reservoir.

(c) ABR 2022

Besant Point Trail ends when it conjoins with the loop, Shoshone Trail. We chose to hike up first, so we went into the hills as soon as we got to the junction. We took a clockwise direction. From there, the Shoshone trail is a bit more challenging than the shoreside trail, since it has some elevation gain. There are some great views from higher up, however, so if you are looking for a more challenging trek, I definitely suggest doing both trails.

To get here, you will take Taft Hill Rd/Wilson Road south from Fort Collins. Then you will turn west onto the 34. After that, you will need to head southwest towards Carter Lake, which you will pass while following County Road 18E. The easiest way to get good directions will be to put the lake into Google.

Need to Know Information

(c) ABR 2022

Land Manager: Larimer County

Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle

Difficulty: Moderate

Bathroom at the Trailhead: Yes

4WD Necessary: No

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Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix, Arizona

There are loads of family friendly desert parks in North Phoenix. These are smaller parks, with amenities for kids, trails for exploring together, and a little less crowding than some of the other parks in the city. That all being said, these aren’t all technically in Phoenix-proper. Rather, they are in the greater metro-area, to the north. This is a great area for family-friendly hikes because northern Phoenix metro has unique parks that mix desert-goodness with playgrounds, scavenger hunts, and small parcels of uniquely preserved oases.

Give this guide a look to see what park is the best fit for you and your family. Or, if you are like me, try to see them all throughout the year.

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

Desert Awareness Park

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2019

The Desert Awareness Park is one of my top picks for family friendly desert parks in North Phoenix (even though technically it is in Cave Creek, not Phoenix). That’s because it has a good handful of flat, easy trails that showcase the nature plants of the Sonoran Desert. So, it is a great place for the whole family to learn more about the ecosystem that the city is nestled within.

It also has some nice playground facilities, lots of ramadas for picnicking, and a desert heritage center. Additionally, there is a very cute environmental education scavenger hunt that you can do with your kids. That means that you could easily spend a couple hours here, exploring the nature trail, letting the kids play, and learning about the desert.

For those hikers out there though, this probably won’t top out your bucketlist. But it might just be a good fit for you if you are introducing some really young folks to the desert.

Desert Awareness Park Specs

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

Looking out at the wash at the Desert Awareness Park (c) ABR 2019

Official website: https://hollandcenter.org/desert-awareness-park/

Manager: Town of Cave Creek

Size: 26 acre park

Entrance fee: None

Toilet facilities: Yes

4WD Needed: No

Food Nearby

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2019

If you check out the Desert Awareness Park and you are looking for a little caffeine pick-me-up, be sure to check out Black Mountain Coffee Shop. They are an old, local shop that are in a very cute part of town, with a very nice atmosphere and some good food!

George “Doc” Cavalliere Park

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2019

Of the family friendly desert parks in North Phoenix (in this case, Scottsdale), I think this is a great spot for mixed groups with both young and a little bit older kids. The GDC park has a big, shaded playground that is perfect for kids. But its nature trail, while short, is a little more wild than the Desert Awareness Park. There is some more elevation gain and a little more possible touchpoints for some dangerous plants like cholla.

That being said, there is a very cool art installation here – Jeff Zischke’s Sonoran Seed Pods. There are large, medal sculptures that are scattered around the nature trail. And they are designed to evoke the marvelous seeds of the Sonoran Desert. These are very fun to photograph. I think they might be of some interest to older kids who might appreciate the scavenger hunt/cool art.

George “Doc” Cavalliere Park Specs

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2019

Official website: https://www.scottsdaleaz.gov/parks/george-doc-cavalliere-park

Manager: City of Scottsdale

Size: 34 acre park

Hiking Trail: 1 mile loop

Entrance fee: None

Toilet facilities: Yes

4WD Needed: No

Address: 27775 N Alma School Pkwy, Scottsdale, AZ 85262

Reach 11

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2019

Reach 11 is a bit of an odd ball when it comes to City of Phoenix parks. First, it has a weird name. Not that I think all the parks in Phoenix have inspired names. (I mean, South Mountain is the mountain south of town…) But it doesn’t fit the general naming conventions of the rest of the park system. A little bit of research says that Reach 11 is named for the Central Arizona Project canal that it is located nearby. Specifically, the park is near the 11th section (or reach) of the canal.

Besides that, Reach 11 lacks the hills and mountains that characterize the rest of the desert parks in Phoenix. It is basically flat all around. And while I actually think this is really important from an ecological perspective, it does not make for an interesting hike.

BUT, it is still one of the family friendly desert parks in North Phoenix. It’s flatness means that this is a great area to introduce your kids, your partner (or yourself) to hiking, mountain biking, or even horseback riding. If you want to get used to the desert and explore some of the plants that call the Sonoran Desert home – this place is a great intro.

Reach 11 Specs

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2019

Official website: https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/reach-11/trail-map

Manager: City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation

Size: 1,500 acre park

Trails: 18 miles of trails

Entrance fee: None

Toilet facilities: None

4WD Needed: No

Other Small Desert Parks in the North Phoenix Area

Jewel of the Creek Preserve

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2020

The Jewel of the Creek Preserve is another part of the Desert Foothills Land Trust system. The name is apt, I think it is the crowning jewel of the land trust’s lands. And it is right next door to one of the most spectacular county parks – Spur Cross Ranch.

The trails in this preserve mostly follow the creek, and it is a great place to enjoy the verdant green of a Sonoran Desert riparian area (or near-water ecosystem). The milage here isn’t particularly long. In fact, there is only one, short lollipop hike that is totally in the preserve. But you can access Spur Cross trails from within the Jewel of the Creek if you are looking for a longer hike.

*Remember, for all family friendly desert parks in North Phoenix that have running water – you need to be extra careful with your kids. Even shallow water can be dangerous for kids, and you need to also be cautious of flash flooding when the weather is iffy.

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2020

This park was obtained by the DFLT from the Arizona State Land Department. AZ State Land is notorious among those hoping to preserve the state’s environment for being extremely hard and expensive to get land from. One reason for this is that they are constitutionally mandated to sell their land to the highest bidder – with that money partially going to support AZ schools. Generally, this is a good thing, but it makes it impossible for conservation uses to compete with developers. In the case of Jewel of the Creek, DFLT made it happen, and this is a huge accomplishment. When you come to this small preserve, be sure to take a moment to think about the effort that went into protecting this amazing place.

Official Website

Manager: Desert Foothills Land Trust

Size: 26 acre park

Entrance fee: None

Toilet facilities: None

4WD Needed: No; although a dirt road is used to access

 

The New River Nature Reserve

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2019

The New River Nature Reserve is a unique recreational area, in that it is cared for by a land trust. In 1886, this land was the headquarters of the Flying Y Ranch, and it was deeded to the Desert Foothills Land Trust in 1994 by Steve Bragg. The land was important to protect in the long-term because it has historical significance. It also includes desert wetlands which are important to birds and many other animals.

In terms of family friendly desert parks in north Phoenix, this really isn’t one. Parking for this reserve is along a dirt road that is actively used by local people to access their homes. This means that there isn’t a lot of room for lots of people. And you will be in close proximity to folks that generally are looking for some peace and quiet. There also really isn’t a lot of hiking here, at least from my experience. You basically walk down a road in this area. The wetlands are ecologically important, but they aren’t the most beautiful thing in the world.

This spot probably isn’t the #1 among the family friendly desert parks in North Phoenix, but I will always be grateful for the protection of these little places.

Family Friendly Desert Parks in North Phoenix

(c) ABR 2019

Official Website

Manager: Desert Foothills Land Trust

Size: 20 acre park

Entrance fee: None

Toilet facilities: None

4WD Needed: No; although a dirt road is used to access (Old Stage Coach Road in New River)

Safety 

Even though I mark these as family friendly desert parks in North Phoenix, it is still important to keep safety in mind. This guide is not a guarantee that you and your family will be safe exploring any of these parks.

For kids in particular, I think there are some extra things to keep in mind.

  • Never let them out of your sight near water – tragedy can be quick to strike with water. Even shallow streams can be dangerous.
  • Arizona is also home to dangerous animals like rattlesnakes, scorpions, coyotes, and more. The desert is there home. And we all need to learn to respect them by keeping our distance. Make sure your kids know to stay away from animals.
  • The Sonoran Desert is also home to lots of dangerous plants. Make sure to prep your kids to keep their distance from cacti – particularly cholla. And do bring a comb and tweezers just in case someone gets a cholla pod in their skin.

This is not an exhaustive list. But I can almost guarantee that you will run into cholla and other cacti on the trail. So, these are some definite good things to help get your kids ready for some adventures on the trail.

Exploring Phoenix

If you are looking for more ideas of places to explore in Phoenix, Arizona, check out some of our other guides. I lived in Phoenix for more than 30 years, so I know the city well.

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Things to See in Eastern Maui: The Road to Hana and Haleakala

Maui is one of the most popular vacation destinations for Americans, and for good reason. The island is full of beautiful landscapes, exceptional culture, and delicious food. My last post explored some great places for visitors and residents alike to visit in Western Maui. And this week, I’d like to talk about things to see in eastern Maui, and in particular, the Road to Hana and Haleakala National Park. Both have really good options for folks who are looking for hiking opportunities. They are also great options for people exploring by car only, although both will be most easily accessed either with a rental car or a day tour. Let’s sample some great places in eastern Maui and see what might be for you.

Things to See in Eastern Maui Itinerary

While I am packaging all these things to see in Eastern Maui into one post, these are absolutely not to be done in a day. Yes, you could force it, but you would have to miss out on a lot of quiet moments for organic exploration. It also wouldn’t give you much time to explore the trails. Or just take in the beauty of Maui.

The Road to Hana can be done in a day and there are tours that will take you on this loop if you don’t want to drive it yourself. When I first went to Maui, the rental car companies would not allow you to do this whole drive by yourself, but as of 2018, I was not given this restriction when I rented. If you really want to drink it all in though, you might consider doing it in two days and staying in Hana for a night.

things to see in eastern maui

(c) ABR 2019

Haleakala National Park is also a whole day trip, and you will want to pick your day based on the weather. It can be impossible to drive up the road to the summit of the mountain if the weather isn’t good. We had to turn around in the past because the fog was so thick we couldn’t navigate all the turns on the mountain roads.

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Plan Your Daytrip in Western Maui

Maui is full of wonders. It’s got a 10,000+ foot peak, wild landscapes of tropical mountains, unique culture, delicious food, and many places of historical significance. There is so much packed into this island. So, it is hard to pick what to do while you are there. But if you are like me, then you are hoping to sample as much as you can across Maui on your visit. If that’s the boat you are in, this guide will point you in the direction of some great spots in Western Maui. You could pick a few of these for a daytrip in Western Maui, or try to see them all over the course of several days.

Planning Your Daytrip in Western Maui

For culture, Lahaina and Kepaniwai Park have great options, and the Maui Ocean Center is an awesome spot for environmental education. For high adventure, consider climbing into the mountains at Waihe’e Ridge Trail. And for more relaxed places to experience nature, Iao Needle (advanced reservation needed) has you covered. Whether you are a solo hiker, traveling with friends and family, or looking for accessible options, there are at least a couple spots for you on this list.

Route and Road Considerations

(c) ABR 2019

For this driving daytrip in Western Maui, the route itself, if you are starting from Kahului and ending there (without stops), is 2 hours and 40 minutes as estimated by Google. I do tend to find that Google underestimates when you aren’t onsite, often due to changing traffic conditions. I list five different stops along the way, and these are a mix of hiking, nature, and cultural points of interest. That being said, this guide is designed so that you can pick from among some great options, rather than trying to do it all in a day.

I’d suggest selecting your top two or three activities from this list and then planning from there. Alternatively, if you have some more time, you could consider planning to visit the Iao Needle on its own day, or in conjunction with Kahului. Lahaina could also be an entire day of seeing the town, enjoying good food, and visiting cultural sites. So, all together, this could be a 3-4 day chunk of time.

The Road

The road along the northern shore of this daytrip in Western Maui is not your average road. I’d even say that it isn’t a road for everyone, and that’s something, considering I’ve driven in the Dominican Republic, through 2-way, 1-lane tunnels in the Faroe Islands, and on some crazy dirt roads in Molokai. The reason I say this is that much of this road is extremely narrow- basically one lane, but cars can travel in two directions.

Additionally, the road follows the mountainous curves of the island, making it a winding route with many blind corners. We were in a small sedan on this route, and had many iffy moments with other drivers. I typically err on the side of caution on these roads and I pulled over right when I saw someone. However, some drivers were not skilled enough and/or had vehicles that were too large to easily maneuver on the road. In one case, I pulled over as far as I could, and stopped my car, but a Suburban driver honked and waved franticly at me from his truck as he struggled to pass. Unfortunately for him and me, there was no other spot for me to pull over. You just have to be a good, patient, and polite driver on this route.

If narrow conditions and cliffs scare you, and/or you are driving a large vehicle that you are not familiar with or cannot maneuver comfortably, I would not take this road. Luckily, you can access all points in this itinerary without it. You just won’t make a loop of your drive.

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Footrails and Food in Fort Collins, CO: Fossil Creek Reservoir, Maxwell Natural Area, and More

The northern most city in Colorado’s Front Range, Fort Collins is known for being home to Colorado State University. It’s a growing city, but with all the charm of a smaller town. Whether you are visiting, or moving here, there are plenty of trails and good food to be had. Along with the first part of this series, this guide will fill you in on where to hike in Fort Collins and a short series of food reviews for spots in town. Come with us to get an idea of new spots to check out for food and nature.

Where to Hike in Fort Collins

Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space

(c) ABR 2022

Fossil Creek showcases a grand lake, and many birds utilize this habitat throughout the year. Along with trails, there are a couple of bird watching blinds, picnic areas, and a ranger station with a full bathroom. If you are thinking about where to hike in Fort Collins, and you are looking for a spot that is family friendly, Fossil Creek is a great option for where to hike in Fort Collins. The parking lot is between two main trail options.

The Cattail Flats Trail a 1.6 miles lollipop trail, and is the longer of the two options. It is a mostly flat trail that crosses the grasslands of the park, before stopping by the shore of the lake. This trail is closed in winter, so if you are set on seeing it, make sure to visit during any other season.

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A Day in Golden, CO for Hiking, Museums, and More!

Just outside of Denver, Colorado sits a little town nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s got the perfect balance of access to the urban plains, small-town feel, and entrance into the mountains themselves. This little, lovely spot is Golden, CO.

For visitors, it’s got just about everything that you could need. There’s hiking in Golden, CO, good food, museums, and the Coors factory. (Did you know Coors was made in Colorado? Somehow I didn’t!) All this makes a day trip to Golden, CO a great option for any itinerary, and a must for anyone living in the state.

This short guide will give you a sense for the town, and help you plan your own trip to this lovely and easily-accessed mountain town.

Five Great Reasons to Take a Day Trip to Golden, CO

A taste of the mountains, close at hand

day in Golden CO

(c) ABR 2023

The mountain towns of Colorado are world-famous for the beautiful landscapes that they are nested within, and for their own, small-town USA charm. Golden has got you covered with both of those. You might not be up in the high Rockies, while visiting, but you will have amazing views of the mountains all around. And the town itself is gorgeous. Just taking an hour or two to walk the old, downtown area is a must. The buildings are lovely and there are loads of unique shops to check out. Taking in this little town is a great way to stay your day trip to Golden, CO, in fact.

It’s a really short drive from Denver (15-20 min) to get to Golden. It’s so close in fact, I would almost say that Golden could be considered a suburb. This means that if you don’t have time or the desire to drive deep into the mountains, this is an awesome option for a day of adventure and exploration.

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Mt. Elden Summit Trail: Challenging Hikes in Flagstaff, AZ

If you are looking for challenging hikes in Flagstaff, AZ, Mt. Elden should be on your list. At 9,301 feet (2,835 m) elevation at its peak, and with 2,312 feet (705 m) elevation gain from the main trailhead, this might not be the tallest mountain in Flagstaff, or the longest trek. But Mt. Elden Summit Trail will push all but the most athletic hiker to huffing and puffing. That being said, the struggle is worth it. This mountain offers exceptional views of the surrounding terrain, and the summit trail will guide you through a variety of ecotypes as you travel up in elevation. Furthermore, since it isn’t as long as trying to summit Mt. Humphreys, Mt. Elden is a great training hike. And as one of the Arizona 20-20 summits, you can take in the sights, challenge yourself, and tick off a bucketlist item all at once.

mt elden summit trail

Mt. Elden Summit Trail: Is It Right for You? 

So, how do you know if the Mt. Elden Summit Trail is right for you?

You are looking for a challenge

If you want to challenge yourself physically (and emotionally), this trail might be for you. Now, I wouldn’t say that this is the hardest trail in the world. But for most of us normal people, it will be pushing the limits. That being said, there is something very satisfying about reaching the top. And something even more satisfying when you can back to your car.

mt elden summit trail

(c) ABR 2021

You have some experience and fitness for hiking

Mt. Elden is not Mt. Humphrey’s, but that doesn’t mean that this trail will be fun or doable for beginners. This is among one of the more challenging hikes in Flagstaff, AZ. It is very very steep and not easy to navigate or pass at all times. That means that I think this trail would be very uncomfortable for most beginner hikers. It is a big physical challenge, and for those not used to narrow trails, it could be scary as well. Due to the steepness of this mountain, getting off trail is also dangerous, because you could become trapped on a cliff or fall. Overall, if you are looking for a hike to ease yourself or a friend into hiking, I would look elsewhere.

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Easier Training Hikes in Phoenix, AZ: North Mountain and Shaw Butte

Phoenix has some extremely popular hikes right within city limits. You have probably heard of them – Piestewa Peak and Camelback Peak. But these famous hikes aren’t for everyone. They are very steep and very crowded, and for new hikers, these hikes can really turn you off. I’ve witnessed people really struggling on these trails and getting discouraged that they can’t do them. But hiking is like any other sport, you train to do it. You train to go further, to go on more difficult trails, and even just to keep up your skill levels and fitness. With all that in mind, whether you are a first-time hiker or someone who is just looking to add some variety to their training hikes, I’ve got a couple great options for you here. These are two peaks in the same section of the Phoenix Mountain parks – North Mountain and Shaw Butte.

There are loads of good hikes in this area, and you can adjust the length of your hike to match and track your progress. There is also a mix of paved trails and dirt trails, so for people who are really new to hiking, you can tailor your journey to your needs and comfort level.

These are also great trails to visit if you just haven’t been to them before, so let’s check out these great training hikes in Phoenix, AZ!

Training Hikes in Phoenix, AZ

training hikes in phoenix

(c) ABR 2022

One of the things that has really helped me in my hiking journey is (1) training hikes, and (2) a variety of trails that I can train on. Throughout my life, my fitness level has gone up and down and so has my hiking fitness. So, sometimes, I have to start from the beginning in terms of distance and steepness. Having some good trails in my back pocket makes it much easier to get back out there and build my strength back up. When I am keeping up my fitness, these trails help too. They make it easy to get out during the week or a lazy weekend and just get some miles in.

In particular, I think having trails that you are really familiar with and which represent varying levels of challenge can help you get out and do hikes that are harder or easier depending on your needs that day. I also find that familiar hikes are just easier to get out on when you are feeling down or tired.

With that in mind, Shaw Butte and North Mountain were two of my go-to training hikes in Phoenix, AZ when I lived there. North Mountain is a shorter hike with a nicely paved trail. While the trail up Shaw Butte is a little rougher and longer. There are also loops of 4 and 6 miles that can be done, and several flat trails that you can enjoy in the park.

In short, almost no matter what you are looking for, you can find it in this part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

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