Feb 13

Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail: Arches National Park

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Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail is the go between hike for those not looking to go all the way to the famous landmark.  There are three different views of Delicate Arch.  The first and most accessible for all visitors is the Delicate Arch Viewpoint area about 100 yards from the parking lot.  The second is a much more strenuous then the viewpoint starts at the Wolfe Ranch and leads to the base of Delicate Arch.  A third is the Delicate Arch Viewpoint trail and is a compromise between the two. 
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This easy trail will get you about half a mile closer to Delicate Arch, but not all the way there.  The Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail offers a scenic view of the arch and its surroundings.  It is good for all levels of hikers thought it will get a little steep towards the end.  However not near as steep as going all the way to Delicate Arch.  The cool thing about this trail is getting a feel for the scale of the arch.  Seeing the people scurry near and around Delicate Arch like little ants definitely puts its size in perspective.
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Obviously the best way to see Delicate Arch is up close.  Seeing it glow at sunset and change colors is a bucket list event.  However, if that is not possible or if you are short on time the Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail is not a bad alternative.  The view from the parking lot is ok but taking this short trail will offer a little bit better of an observation point. 

To see our reviews of other Utah attractions, click here    

Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail
Located in Arches National Park
1.4 miles RT, Easy Trail
For more information about Arches National Park visit http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

  

Feb 12

Windows Loop Trail: Arches National Park

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Windows Loop Trail is another family friendly hike located in the Windows Section of Arches National Park.  This loop trek lasts just a little over a mile and shows off three arches.  The North and South Window Arch which is affectionately known as the spectacles.  Or as my wife refers to it, Quasimodo, the Hunch-face of Utah.  At certain angles I get what she is talking about.  The third arch is Turret Arch a smaller rock formation that seems to elevate magically out of the desert floor. 
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The windows sections made for a fun outing.  We had lunch across the road from Balanced Rock followed by two short strolls to see Double Arch and the Windows.  For a short day trip to Arches we felt we used our time wisely with those three picks. 
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The Windows Section is a nice area in Arches especially for those that are physically fit or able to make some of the longer hikes.  Delicate Arch as well as the arches in the Devil’s Garden area might be more scenic, but are also much more strenuous to get to.  While the Windows Section is a must see by all those that visit Arches.  It will be appreciated much more by those that may not be up to or able to go to some of the other places in the park.   

To see our reviews of other Utah attractions, click here    

Windows Loop Trail
Located in Arches National Park
1 mile RT, Easy Trail
For more information about Arches National Park visit
http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

Feb 10

Balanced Rock: Arches National Park

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Balanced Rock, one of the more famous landmarks in a national park full of them. In a land filled with thousands of physical features, Balanced Rock stands above and slightly to the left of them all.  Easy to get to.  Easy to see.  Located on the park road makes this landmark a breeze to see.
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While there are plenty of good views of the Balanced Rock the best views are found along the .3 mile loop trail.  The little time it takes to go around the rock is worth it.  The outline of the rock changes significantly depending on what side it is viewed from.  Giving a different perspective of just how impressive its balancing act is.   An interpretive sign at the trailhead gives a brief geology lesson of the egg-shaped rock formation that is precariously perched.  The short hike will only take a few minutes to do and is suitable for all levels of hikers. 
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Arches National Park has always been one of my favorite parks.  Probably has something to do with the fact that its backdrop was used in the opening scene of one my favorite childhood movies.  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  So every time I go for a visit it reminds me of simpler times, which is exactly what I am looking for in a vacation.  To see our reviews of other Utah attractions, click here    
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Balanced Rock
Located in Arches National Park
.3 mile RT, Easy Trail
For more information about Arches National Park visit
http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

Feb 08

Double Arch Trail: Arches National Park

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Double Arch Trail is the perfect get to know ya hike for Arches National Park.  A short suitable trail just about any able body type.  A half mile trail to a close-set pair of natural arches.  The trail is very easy with hardly any elevation gain and the first trail my three-year-old I did upon reaching the park.  She really enjoyed this trek.  Got to see a little lizard along the hike, and ended up being more fascinated about plants along the trail than the arches themselves.  Not that I minded.  We had a blast going to see the Double Arch.  A great little daughter daddy scamper.      
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I have been to Arches five different times and the Double Arch Trail is one of my favorites in the area.  I just get so much bang for my buck on this trail.  A double arch with very little effort, count me in.  I prefer to hike early in the morning before the crowds.  The later in the day the more people are climbing it.  Great if you are into climbing things not so great because you and your family are now in my photo album forever.  Say, “cheese.”  
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On this particular trip we were just driving through Moab and decided to spend a few hours and have lunch in one of our favorite national parks.  Not enough time to see some of the harder to reach places.  So I settled for the Double Arch Trail.  Which would be like saying “instead of a diamond I’ll settle for a sapphire“ still a great treasure, so not much settling going on. We got there a little bit before lunchtime and hit the short trail.  Twenty minutes later we were back to the car with big smiles on our faces.  A perfect start to fun filled time at Arches. 
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Double Arch Trail perfectly sums up what Arches National Park is all about.  A short trail with an outstanding feature at the end.  Just about perfect for anybody though not exactly handicapped accessible due to no paved trail to the arch.  We kept a sharp eye out for some desert wildlife and came away not disappointed.  We saw two small lizards scurrying around.  A great little family friendly trail to a beautiful arch.     

To see our reviews of other Utah attractions, click here    

Double Arch Trail
Located in Arches National Park
.5 mile RT, East Trail
For more information about Arches National Park visit
http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm

Feb 07

Western Colorado Botanical Gardens

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The Western Colorado Botanical Gardens is a nice small garden that we visited to see their butterfly house.  With 15 acres of space it is not a large garden but I find it to be a nice size for our two little girls.  The tropical greenhouse, Children’s Secret Garden with its faux castle, and butterfly area were it’s three best features.  While the outside gardens left something to be desired.  The one word that I would use to describe the Western Colorado Botanical Garden is potential.”
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Not disappointed in our visit.  However, the place left us wanting.  The Western Colorado Botanical Gardens seemed to us like it tried to create new garden areas without completing the ones they already had.  Leaving a hodgepodge of semi-completed areas.  They have a lot going for it.  We just wish they had a bit more direction in where they wanted to go with this botanical garden. 
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The main reason we were there was to check out the butterfly garden.  It did not disappoint our three-year-old.  It was small loop that had a variety of tropical plants and a few dozen butterflies.  Enough butterflies that everywhere we looked there was one to be found.  The attendant was very chatty.  We found it nice to get to talk to someone from the area.  We followed the butterfly house with a trip through their tropical greenhouse.  A charming area with a small koi pond and a variety of tropical fruit bearing plants.
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After seeing the tropical greenhouse and butterfly garden things went a little downhill.  The Western Colorado Botanical Gardens has some nice things going for it.  They have some nice statues and artwork throughout the garden.  I thought their themed gardens were appropriate for the area of the country this garden is located.  To us it just seemed like things were not as nice or as neat as thing could have been.  We probably would have left slightly disappointed and then we found their Children’s Secret Garden.  The faux castle complete with moat was also a hit for our daughters.  It allowed our very imaginative three-year-old’s mind to run wild.       
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Overall the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens is a pleasant little garden that could have been so much more.  We enjoyed it for the joy that it brought to our daughters faces when they saw the butterflies. We thought the staff did a great job, very friendly.  I think they have a good thing going it just seems to need a little bit more direction in where they want to go with it.     

to see our reviews of other Colorado attractions, click here            

Western Colorado Botanical Gardens
Located at 641 Struthers Avenue, Grand Junction Colorado
Hours of Operation Tuesday through Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the summer months closed also on Tuesday during the winter months
Cost as of this Posting – Adults 13 and over $5.00, Seniors and Students with ID $4.00 and Children 3 to 12 $3.00
For more information visit their website at
http://www.wcbotanic.org/

Jan 27

Beavers Bend: Oklahoma State Park

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Beavers Bend is THE family outdoor destination in southeastern Oklahoma.  Located alongside Broken Bow Lake, Beavers Bend has just about all a person needs to get away from the rat race.  Time was in a ‘no passing zone’ once we were in the park.  There was just something about the place that made it very easy to relax.  Beavers Bend was all you could ask for in a state park
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Karen and I enjoyed our trip there in the fall.  We were having a family reunion of sorts and whole family rented a cabin.  While the fall colors were not as vibrant as we had seen in pictures of years past, there were still some pockets of brilliance here and there that made the park beautiful.  During our time there we got to check out a folk festival that was going on and let me tell you those hillbillies’ sure no how to put on a party.  All-joking-aside the folk festival was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be.  My oldest loved the petting zoo they had.  My wife boogied down to the folk music.  And the art work and carving they could do was simply amazing.  Some of those woodworkers have more talent in their little pinkie then I do in my whole body.   
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The park side of the things was a lot of fun.  There were 12 miles of trails including five designated nature trails,  rocky creeks with fly fishing opportunities, and a large lake to boat around on.  If lake boating is not your thing you could take one of the better canoe trips in the state of Oklahoma.  A nature center that tells about the abundant wildlife in the area.  Beavers Bend is home to black bear, dear, turkey, and the occasional alligator.  Also for those conspiracy theorist out there a chance to go searching for the elusive sasquatch that “supposedly” lives in the area.  This park has a little bit of everything for just about anybody’s interest. 
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We stayed in a cabin but after driving around in the park we notice a few campgrounds to try for the next time.  Of course my wife might have a few words to say about that so chances are we would probably be at the lodge.  There was also an 18-hole golf course that looked interesting.  I could definitely see us going back for a little extended weekend getaway. 
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I had never been to Beavers Bend until this trip.  Heard lots of good things about it but never quite understood its appeal.  Now I do. 

See our reviews of other Oklahoma attractions click here

Beavers Bend State Park
Located in just N of Broken Bow on 259A
Open year round
Cost as of this posting free
For more information about the Beavers Bend State Park click
here          

Jan 26

Ute Garden Trail: Colorado National Monument.

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Ute Garden Trail is a family friendly trail that has two things going for it.  First, and most important, it has an incredible view of Ute Canyon.  Second, Ute Garden Trail showcases a lot of the vegetation that is located in Colorado National Monument.  Go for the view. Like many of the spots on the park road the views are awe-inspiring and Ute Canyon is right up there with the best.  The overlook is a short .3 miles from the parking area.   If you a little tired at gazing at scenic beauty which is found throughout the monument, then bypass Ute Garden Trail and look for more adventurous alternatives on some of the longer park trails.  
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I also found that the trail is great for parents with young children.  Every time my daughter and I go for a walk it is like playing a game of 20 questions.  I do the best that I can.  Though it would be nice that if our walks came with informative placards.  Ute Garden Trail would be the perfect trail for us.  It gives a nice overview of the vegetation that can be found inside the monument.  Easy to read signs filled with all sorts of information.   It also proved to be a decent birding spot.  I saw more small birds with a larger variety here then I did at any of the other overlooks or short trails I did.  I found it to be a nice trail for that inquisitive youth and the parent that tries to provide answers. 
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There is so much to see or do at Colorado National Monument.  So the Ute Garden Trail might not be the best use of your time.  It really depends on your interests and ability.  If you are looking for an easy trail to get out of the car, but don’t want to walk very far. This trail will get the job done.  It is also a great trail to learn some tidbits about the ecology of the area. I enjoyed it but I like to learn about the things I see when I am out and about.  The view of Ute canyon was inspiring, and the next time I am out on a walk with my little girl in the southwest.  I will be a little bit more prepared to answer inexhaustible line of questions. So I found this trail a win-win for me, but it will not be for everybody.   

For our reviews of other Colorado attractions click here       

Ute Garden Interpretive Trail
Located in Colorado National Monument
.3 mile RT, easy trail
For more information about Colorado National Monument visit
http://www.nps.gov/colm/index.htm

Jan 21

Coke Ovens Trail: Colorado National Monument

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Coke Ovens Trail, a short hike with great views of the red-rock landscape of Colorado.  Colorado National Monument seems a little out of place in pantheon of Colorado scenery. No majestic mountains, no groves of aspens, or roaring water.  The monument would seem more at home in Colorado’s neighbor to the west. 
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Miles of trails run through Colorado National Monument and there is a nice variety to choose from.  From the highly regarded 11.6-mile roundtrip Monument Canyon trail to the kid friendly nature trail next to the visitor center.  Another family friendly trail is the Coke Ovens Trail.  It is a 1-mile roundtrip with a slight decline at the beginning that turns into a slight incline at the end. 
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Coke Ovens Trail leads to the top of the Cokes Ovens rock formation.  So getting outstanding views of the Coke Ovens is a little lacking.  Not exactly what I was expecting when I set off on Coke Ovens Trail.   I thought the overlook of Coke Ovens would actually provide you know a look of the oven.  I guess I should have taken it literally.  By taking the trail I would be over the Coke Ovens taking a look. 
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I still enjoyed my hike on the Coke Oven trail.  It did give nice views of the canyon below.  If you are looking for a short hike to get out of the car as you drive down Rim Rock road. About 30 minutes is all you really need for this hike.      

For our reviews of other Colorado attractions click here

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Coke Ovens Trail
Located in Colorado National Monument
1 mile RT, easy trail
For more information about Colorado National Monument visit
http://www.nps.gov/colm/index.htm

Jan 13

Rim Rock Drive: Colorado National Monument

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Rim Rock Drive, the park road in Colorado National Monument, is one of the most scenic drives that I have been on.  Just 23 miles long.  Rim Rock Road is short and oh so sweet.  There is just something about the crisp blue western sky painted above the sweet red rocks below that gets me every time. I got to say I am a little jealous of the people that live in the Grand Junction area.  To have the Colorado National Monument and Grand Mesa in their backyards would be heaven for this hiker           
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Now knowing exactly what was in store at Colorado National Monument led me to plan poorly.  I only allocated just a few hours to check out the national monument.  Not nearly enough.  I had just given myself an early morning tour of the monument and I promised my wife to be back by noon. If only I knew then what I know now, then I would have set a few days aside to be in the Grand Junction area. 
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Besides trying to limit myself from taking too many pictures.  I also had to fight the urge to go farther on the trails found all along Rim Rock Drive.  Fighting both of those desires was a little bit more than I could take.  I needed a stronger motivational force to get out of the Colorado National Monument area on time.  Luckily for me I thought of my loving wife who was back at the hotel with our two little girls.   Through her grace and kindness, she gave me the go ahead to leave early to take some sunrise photos and see as much of the monument as I could.  As long as I made it in the time frame that I gave her. 
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Knowing that one way leads on to another, I kept a sharp mind on my wife who was in a hotel with our two rambunctious girls.  Not wanting to let her down or get ‘the look’ when I got back I used every minute as wisely as I could.   Knowing I could not soak it all in. I decided to make this little trek down Rim Rock Drive into a survey of the area.  Hoping someday I will be back and next time with the whole family.  I looked for the highlights and what areas would be fun to explore. 
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Rim Rock Drive was a great experience.  I wish I would have got to take the girls with me, but that would have had to have been a whole day adventure.  Just not enough time with all the other things we had planned.  If you do find yourself in Colorado National Monument make sure you check out the following places.  The visitor center area with the Book Cliffs View, Coke Ovens Trail, Ute Canyon area, and Devils Kitchen. 

To check out our reviews of other Colorado attractions, click here

Jan 10

Dinosaur Journey Museum

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Looks can be deceiving.  Looking at the Dinosaur Journey Museum I thought of a small warehouse, and if it was not for my daughter’s love of dinosaurs we would have skipped this one.  Glad that went ahead and visited.  It is a smaller dinosaur museum, but the exhibits were well done.  The Dinosaur Journey Museum is one of those stops we frequently look for to help break up a trip.  It serves its purpose well.  It made our little girl happy, we had a fun educational experience, and we got to get out of the car for a while along I70.  Of course those three things almost did not happen.        
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At one point we thought a visit to the Dinosaur Journey Museum had scared our 3-year-old off of her dinosaur infatuation.  Luckily it did not.  McKenna our eldest is very sensitive.  Not exactly sure where she gets that from but we are glad she has lots of empathy in her little bones.  Well, this museum has several animatronic exhibits including one of a dinosaur making a snack out of another dinosaur…it was also growling and snorting.  Of course, we were not the only ones in the museum during our visit and some kids where having a blast hitting the button making the dinosaur chow down.  McKenna’s eyes became as wide as dinner plates, she gave out a short little gasp, and we moved on to a different part of the museum. 
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Needless to say, McKenna was not a real big fan of the robotic dinosaurs.  Fortunately, the rest of the museum she enjoyed.  Not the biggest dinosaur museum out there, but besides one graphic exhibit we thought the museum was well done.  Very educational.  We liked that it was more than just signs and plaques by the bones.  For example, to represent the size of a Brachiosaurs heart instead of having just a drawing or size chart they had cut out plastic heart shaped box you could get in.  It was nice that the exhibits were geared towards kids. 
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Though they do not have many full-size skeletons they have lots of bones.  I think what makes this a nice dinosaur museum to visit is their working paleontology laboratory.  Gives the older kids a chance to see what a job working with dinosaur bones looks like.  They also have some hands-on exhibits.  As well as a simulated earthquake machine.  All-in-all it is a nice little museum.  I would not go out of the way to visit it.  However, if you have a dinosaur enthusiast in the family, and in the Grand Junction area then it is a great stop. 

To see our reviews of other Colorado attractions, click here

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Dinosaur Journey Museum
Located at 550 Jurassic Court
Hours of Operation 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer months’ hours differ during the winter months
Cost as of this Posting Adults $9, Seniors $7, and Children $5
For more information visit at
https://www.museumofwesternco.com/dinosaur-journey/

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