Category: U.S. Travel (Page 1 of 10)

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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Roadside Attraction in Southern California: General Patton Memorial Museum

There’s a little museum on the road between Phoenix, AZ and Palm Springs, CA that I’ve often been curious about. It always catches my attention because of its strange location and the big military tanks that can be seen from outside. Only once have I made the time to visit it while traveling between Arizona and Southern California. But I think the little General Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit is a worthy roadside attraction for anyone who is interested in history and/or exploring military vehicles. Read on if you think that little-known spot might be the perfect stop over for your roadtrip, or if you’ve always been curious about what this museum is all about.

general patton memorial museum

Is the General Patton Memorial Museum Worth It?

This depends on you! It is $18 to visit (in 2023), so the ticket price isn’t cheap by any means. But I think you will enjoy stopping here if you (a) really enjoy history museums, (b) have an appreciation for more home-grown museums, and/or (c) you need a break from a long drive to or from the big cities of the southwest.

general patton memorial museum

(c) ABR 2022

While General Patton is the focus of the building, there are many different elements of World War II, the US military, and even the dynamic lands surrounding the museum. These are complicated subjects, and while I wouldn’t say that this museum has the capacity to adjust to our current understanding of the people and events in the past, I did find it to be a very interesting place that peeked into a specific corner of history. For example, there were places in the General Patton Memorial Museum that really humanized the regular soldier of WWII. I was particularly appreciative of the collections that focused on the unique art that came out of the battlefields.

For those of you who enjoy a good immersive museum, the tank section of the General Patton Memorial Museum scratched that itch for me. There were a couple of tanks that you could climb into and explore the controls. And the outdoor section of the museum had a great collection of vehicles to explore from multiple angles.

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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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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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Visit Tensleep Preserve, WY: Conservation in Action

Ten Sleep Preserve, located in central Wyoming, was my first introduction to Wyoming. It’s a wonderful place to hike, camp, and experience some of the state’s lesser known natural wonders. The preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy. Thus, it is part of a system of preserves across the United States and beyond that are meant to protect unique and important ecosystems. It’s possible to visit Tensleep Preserve and support the Nature Conservancy’s work all over the world.

This guide will introduce you to the preserve, lay out how you can check it out yourself, and share some pictures of this beautiful place.

About Ten Sleep Preserve

visit Tensleep preserve

(c) ABR 2022

Tensleep Preserve is a Nature Conservancy preserve that is located at the base of the Bighorn Mountains. And it is nestled near the small town of Ten Sleep. It is home to beautiful forests and canyons. And it has exceptional views of the arid lands surrounding the western side of the Bighorn. Visiting Tensleep Preserve presents a quite opportunity to hike and enjoy nature in a protected landscape.

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Hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument, and Why We Should Stop Calling it Devil’s Tower

Hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument is the best way to experience this exceptional natural landmark. There are short hikes, paved hikes, and longer treks, so there is a little something for everyone in terms of trails. Exploring on foot will allow you to see the mountain from nearly every angle, to enjoy views of the surrounding valleys, and take in the powerful energy of this sacred place. This guide will speak to a few of the trails that you might consider, and give you some tips for planning your trip out here. This particular national monument is pretty remote, and there are not loads of amenities out in this corner of Wyoming.

Hiking at devils tower national monument

I will also be speaking to the fact that it’s about time we stopped calling this beautiful place “Devil’s Tower.” I will be using that term only for SEO purposes, but otherwise, I will be referring to the Tower as Bear Lodge. Come with me to explore why it’s time to start using a more friendly and appropriate name for this formation.

Hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument (Bear Lodge)

Need to Know Info

Hiking at devils tower national monument

(c) ABR 2022

In order to go hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument, it goes without saying that you will need to get to the park and park your vehicle first.

Most likely, you will come from the east or west via the Interstate 90, which runs horizontally across South Dakota and parts of Wyoming to Buffalo, where it then heads north into Montana. From the I-90, you will take the 14 north; there is an east and west entrance to the 14 and both head north. From the 14, you will then take the 24 north again until you come to the large stop lights and signage for the park.

It is $25 for a vehicle to get a 1-7 day visitor pass to the park (as of 2023) and only credit cards can be used to pay now; or you can pre-play or use your Interagency Annual Pass. I would personally suggest planning for a 1-2 day trip unless you are a climber and might be climbing and hiking.

There are bathroom and visitor center facilities on-site, but no restaurants.

The Tower Trail

The Tower Trail is a 1.3 mile hike that travels around the base of Bear Lodge. This is the most popular trail in the park, and provides the best views of the mountain. It comes complete with informational signage, and there are several spots along the way that I would suggest you stop to admire Bear Lodge and share a spiritual moment with the land around you.

Hiking at devils tower national monument

(c) ABR 2022

In terms of hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument, this is the must-do trail. Yes, it is crowded and parking can be difficult at the visitor’s center, but to experience the namesake of this place fully, this is the trail you want. Generally speaking, there is a little bit of an incline, but I’d consider this trail easy. It isn’t too long or steep. And it is a loop trail, so you will end up finishing right where you began. It’s a great trail to bring kids on as well!

Just please stay on the trail. Remember that Bear Lodge is a sacred place, and generally we can protect the natural environment by staying the trail to keep the impacts of travelers confined to trail areas.

Red Beds Trail

Hiking at devils tower national monument

(c) ABR 2022

Red Beds Trail is the longer and less crowded cousin to the Tower Trail. It is essentially a larger loop around Bear Lodge, and it is about 2.8 miles to do the whole thing. In terms of hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument, this is also one of the harder trails, because it does have some elevation gain. But aside from this being a quieter trek, I also loved the variety of Red Beds Trail. It really showcases the all-encompassing beauty of Bear Lodge and the surrounding lands.

I took this route clockwise from the visitor center parking lot. When traveling this direction, you will follow the trail through the forest for a time. But don’t expect to have forest coverage for the whole hike. You will be hiking downwards and as you get to lower elevations, you will find yourself in a more arid setting. This is a mix of grasslands and red sands. It can also be a bit hot here in the summer, with little to no shade.

Hiking at devils tower national monument

(c) ABR 2022

Add to this the fact that you will start hiking back up while in this bright and exposed area. Specifically, you can expect to hike up from the junction with the South Side Trail, where you are also closest to the road. Luckily, you will find your way back up into the forest along this route, but it can still be a difficult time. In particular, you will just want to have sufficient water with you and avoid really hot parts of the year/day.

For any hikers, I would highly suggest doing both this trail and the central loop. You get great views of Bear Lodge and the surrounding landscape by doing both.

Tips for the Trail

Hiking at devils tower national monument

(c) ABR 2022

Although this is a relatively small park, compared to some other national park units, you will still want to keep safety in mind. I had a real heck of a time on Red Beds Trail because I didn’t have enough water with me when I did it. So, follow our typical tips and always remember, whether you are hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument or anywhere else, you need to take care of your safety first. This guide does not guarantee your safety.

In addition to our typical safety tips, check in with the rangers at the visitor center to see if there is anything you need to know before you head out.

Unfortunately, crowding is also an issue all the way out here. For good reason, Bear Lodge is a very popular place for people to visit, but this can impact your experience there. In particular, it can be hard to park at the visitor center. If you can’t park at the visitor center, you can park at the admin building, and use the South Side trail to hike up to Bear Lodge.

Tips for Planning Your Trip to Bear Lodge

Hiking at devils tower national monument

(c) ABR 2022

If you want to go hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument, you will have to stay somewhere nearby, because it is quite removed (or camp). The interesting thing is that there really aren’t any large towns very close to the park. When I stayed, I got a hotel room in Hulett, which is a very small town north of the park. Luckily, this place had more amenities that some of the towns I have been to in Nevada (towns so small they don’t have gas stations or food). Nonetheless, I almost ran into some trouble.

Because I was traveling around the same time as the Sturgis motorcycle event, things were a little odd. Basically every restaurant in town was booked or closed. And the restaurants closer to Bear Lodge was closed when I visited in the late afternoon. So, I almost had to go without dinner, except that someone at a restaurant in town took pity on me and sold me some leftovers from earlier in the day.

Point being, plan out your food situation when you are in the area. Check in with the restaurants to make sure that they will be open when you need them to be. You really don’t want to go hungry after a day of hiking and driving.

Time to Restore the Name of Devil’s Tower to Bear Lodge

Hiking at devils tower national monument

(c) ABR 2022

The exceptional and unique mountain that is Bear Lodge has been an important fixture for all people living in and crossing the plains for thousands of years, since people arrived in this landscape. Indigenous people had many names for this place, but these days, it is agreed that many of the names are similar to Bear Lodge. This relates to stories about the origins of the mountain, which usually included bears carving the pillars into the lodge.

Unfortunately, the name “Devil’s Tower” is associated with the genocide of indigenous people of the plains. Around the time that the name was changed, the bison that native people relied on for their livelihoods were hunted to near extinction in an effort to support the United States’ settlement of these areas. There are some records that suggest that Euro-Americans mapping this area mistranslated indigenous names for the Lodge, hearing “bad god” instead of “bear.” However, others say that the name change was purposeful. Either way, the name Devil’s Tower is not reflective of original name or indigenous regard for Bear Lodge. And it is now associated with a very dark period of history.

For one Indigenous perspective on this: https://ictnews.org/archive/devils-tower-name-offensive-disrespectful-repugnant-tribes

To learn more about this history from the National Park Service – check out their page on the subject.

So, for me personally, I am hoping that we will see the more original version of the English name restored to this place someday soon. Although there are many who would disagree with me.

My Stance on Changing the Name

Hiking at devils tower national monument

(c) ABR 2022

My opinion isn’t the super important, but I will just share my stance after the experience that I had at Bear Lodge. I feel like this special place deserves my support.

So, first off, from an uninformed standpoint, I think Bear Lodge is a better name than Devil’s Tower. There is something very powerful about this place, and it isn’t a simple, nice spiritual experience. But that’s the thing about bears, they are beautiful, (very cute), but also an animal deserving of respect and some fear. Bear Lodge sounds both inviting and deserving of some careful trepidation.

When I experienced hiking at Devil’s Tower National Monument, this was exactly the experience that I had. The trails weren’t particularly hard on paper, but it was still a heavy and reverent experience. Many cultures believe that struggle and pain lead to spiritual enlightenment, and that was more of my experience on these trails than the distance and elevation gain might suggest. In fact, by the time I got back to the trailhead, I was about ready to collapse. I was so grateful to be back at my car. Which… I should have been more prepared for the trails, but it was also something speaking to me. This isn’t a big park, but it is powerful.

Bear Lodge is a return to the ancient spirit of this place. It feels like a truer identity. And importantly, I think the indigenous movement to restore Bear Lodge’s name deserves the support of visitors who pilgrimage to this unique place.

Planning a Trip to Wyoming?

If you are planning a trip to Wyoming’s National Park units, give our Guide to Wyoming a peek. I have guides to some easy hikes at Grand Teton National Park, as well as my first impressions of Yellowstone, among other posts on nature and culture in the state.

Want to save this guide for later? Pin it!

First Trip to Yellowstone: First National Park in the World

Yellowstone National Park is a special place for many reasons. It has enchanted the human imagination for tens of thousands of years. And it inspired an entire field of science and environmental policy. It’s the first national park in the world, and its appeal has stood the test of time. My first trip to Yellowstone National Park was in 2022. While I would usually try to put together a guide related to my experience there, this time I am going to be giving you all more of a thought journal and trip log. There is just too much to see and do in Yellowstone. After one trip, I really don’t feel like I have much to offer. But that being said, maybe this exploration of a few days in this magical place will convince any hold-outs among you to give it a chance and plan a visit.

first trip to yellowstone

World’s First National Park

first trip to yellowstone

Avalanche Peak Trail (c) ABR 2022

Besides my new friends and collaborators that lived in Wyoming and Montana, the only things that I knew about Yellowstone before I visited was: (1) that it is an exceptionally beautiful place, and (2) it was the world’s first national park.

I think the first point is probably something that most of us know, or are at least aware of. Yellowstone isn’t a premier (and crowded) destination for no reason. But perhaps some among you will be surprised to know that the park was the first national park in the world.

But first, let’s back up. What exactly is a national park? The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; it’s a big-wig in conservation, believe me) defines a national park as “a protected area managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation.” This essentially means that the goal of the government agencies running these parks is to maintain the quality of the environment but with access for recreation of various sorts. In the US, this recreation is limited in National Parks. This typically includes hiking, camping, horseback riding, and biking (although this varies from park to park).

Inspiring Conservation

first trip to yellowstone

Bison (c) ABR 2022

The creation of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 sparked an entirely new way of looking at the land, and trying to conserve biodiversity even as industrial development required more and more natural resources. Now there are more than 100 countries with a national park system, and the US has 63 National Parks. This concept has not only become a staple of conservation, but an essential part of the outdoor recreation industry, and the lives of many many people, including myself.

All other things aside, this makes Yellowstone hallowed ground for a conservation professional like myself. So planning my first trip to Yellowstone felt momentous; I was going to get to see this special place that captured so many people’s hearts and minds.

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