Category Archives: National Parks
Besides wildlife, Yellowstone national park is famous for its geysers and hot springs. Some are predictable like the Old Faithful; others bubble and gurgle like the Paint pots. Some howl like monsters and others are still.
They may be brown and orange or prismatic with blue-green shades. They all smell of Sulphur.
And you don’t want to miss them.
Artists Point in Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
One of the most unusual scenic vistas in Yellowstone is the artist’s point. This is a beautiful canyon with yellow rock that gives the park its name. The falls, the colors of the canyon and the river below are beautiful.
There is a short walk with a vista point for a perfect group shot. We spent some time here before heading to the lake.
After seeing a bunch of hot springs, we headed to Lake Yellowstone. This is where the caldera is – below the lake. Along the lakefront there are more hot springs and geysers. We walked around the boardwalk to take a look at the beautiful colors in the water.
Old Faithful Geyser
On day 2 and 3 in the park we saw various geysers and hot springs with Old faithful being the most spectacular one. Every 45 minutes the geysers erupts like clockwork. We all got there early to get a place in the front row and waited for the count down. And when it was time the geyser erupted ferociously and faithfully. Awesome.
It amazed adults and kids alike. One of America’s greatest natural wonders!
While we were in Old faithful area we continued further and saw the Firehole falls. We hiked a bit in the area before we headed out of the park towards the West Entrance.
We stayed overnight outside West Entrance and then started for an all day trip to Seattle the following morning. Pre-kids,we all loved Yellowstone national park. Animals, geysers, hot-springs, lake, camping and telling each other stories of bison attack as we walked back to the campsite in the dark. That night it rained and water entered our tents soaking us. Some of slept in the van scared about bear attacks and carbon dioxide poisoning.
If we were to plan now we would probably stay in one of the motel outside the park or in the historic lodges by Old Faithful. It will be a different experience now nevertheless it will still be equally amazing!
We were fortunate to spend an evening as well as an early morning in Lamar Valley – it’s the place to be to view wildlife. You will see more than bison’s and deer’s here. Brown bears, coyotes crossing the road, and even foxes.
We did one trip on our own and then did another one with a guide who had a telescope. We could see a family of wolves only through the telescope.
And while we were driving, we came across a classic scene. Lots of cars parked along the road, people running with their camera and an excitement in the air. We also ran as we knew this was the biggest attraction in the park – Grizzly bear.
We saw a small cub and were super thrilled that since its mom was not nearby we could go see the cub up close.
Another such scene is for the elusive Moose and for eagles. Be warned though if there is a ranger asking you not to stop and see the animal, follow his advice. Else you may get a ticket; just as our friend almost did.
The park is a mecca of animals. To truly see wildlife you have to get up at 5 :00 am and drive out into the valley. The advantage of the guide is that he brings out hot coffee and breakfast along with the telescope. Do plan a trip here especially if you have older kids who will enjoy seeing animals in the wild.
I apologize for the poor photos. They were all taken from the car for the fear of Bisons that were everywhere. The guys had scared me with stories of bison attack. don’t let them put you off from visiting the park. It is a park I want to take Varun when he is a bit older as there is possibly no amusement park that can match what Yellowstone has to offer!
Located mostly in Wyoming and a little in Montana, this is THE park to go with family and friends. Wildlife, geysers, hot water springs, rivers and canyons, lake, fishing and waterfalls, it truly has something for everyone. We planned a 4 – day road trip from Seattle to Yellowstone over one Fourth of July weekend. And it was yet another EPIC trip!
Planning a Trip to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is the shape of a number 8. Most attractions are along this loop. Each loop has various entrances. We planned to enter the park via the north entrance in Gardiner and then drive around the loop clockwise starting with Mammoth Hot Springs, Lamar Valley, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Lake Yellowstone and then around to Old Faithful. Our plan was to visit the numerous geysers along the way and exit via the West Yellowstone.
It was going to be a lot of driving but we were young without kids and we were really looking forward to a lot of bears, bisons, elks, moose, dall sheep and more.
Getting to Yellowstone
Yellowstone is about 800 miles from Redmond -it was one long road trip. But its doable in 4 days. We started on Friday evening and had dinner along the way. We stayed overnight somewhere after Missoula. It was a basic motel with a MacDonald’s nearby where we had breakfast.
After breakfast we continued on I-90 and reached Gardiner by noon. We passed under the Roosevelt park and then headed straight to first attraction, Mammoth Hot Springs.
Mammoth Hot Springs
This was our experience of the active super volcano that is Yellowstone National Park. This active volcano fuels all the thermal activity in the park. Sulphur fumes are in the air and its a unique experience to see the hot springs bubble, gurgle and smoke all around.
There is a board walk and its recommended to stick to the boardwalk -its safe that way! The white terraces formed by calcium carbonate deposits are straight out of discovery channel. Algae has tinted these terraces red, brown or orange and its a sight to admire.
We walked up to take in the hot springs and wondered if there is a place where the hot springs meet cold river water to form natural hot springs to bathe in. There is supposed to be a spot along the river but we didn’t know where it is so we didn’t bother about it. We saw a bunch of bison’s lazing and grazing in the meadows around.
We were in the park only a few hours and we already got to experience hot springs and wildlife. The trip was on to a great start.
We were looking forward to more wildlife in Lamar valley.Stay tuned for next post on wildlife and more wildlife!
Yosemite is one of five most popular national parks in US ( Great Smoky Mountain, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Olympic National Park being the other four).
And it is my favoritest park ever. I simply love looking at the valley with the river flowing through, the monolithic El Capitan and the magnificent Half dome. Sunset on Half Dome is one the prettiest sights in the national park. Situated in central California, about 3 – 4 hours drive from Bay Area, this is the national park for city slickers.It has meadows, waterfalls, giant Sequoia trees and starry nights. At any point in the Yosemite Valley, we saw folks cycling around, rafting in the river or hiking to the waterfalls. It was alive and buzzing. Spring and Summer are the most popular times as the weather is pleasant and the waterfalls are gushing; though I can imagine Fall being equally attractive.
Planning a trip
We planned on the west and south park attractions of El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove. The north side of Yosemite are the beautiful Tuolumne meadows and Tioga Pass which Sunset magazine has crowned as the best spot to lose the crowds. But as it is open only from June thru November and is another hour – to hour and half further we skipped it. We only had the weekend in Yosemite as we had a Monday morning appointment in the French embassy for Schengen Visa so we didn’t really have a day to spare.
There are quiet a few options to stay inside the park from rustic cabins, campgrounds to elegant Ahwahnee; but they tend to be sold out during summer weekends. So plan early or stay near one of the entrances. If staying outside the park ensure that the lodging is really close to the park entrance else you will spend time driving back and forth instead of in the park. Being a popular park close to San Francisco and Bay Area the park sees a fair amount of visitors resulting in long entrance lines.
We went via Oakdale to the west entrance of the park and luckily didn’t encounter much traffic. We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast (Falcons Nest) inside the park in West Yosemite which had most hospitable owners ever. More about this later.
This is the most visited place in the park and has a visitor center and wilderness center. Free shuttles are offered to most common points of interest – Bridal Veil Falls, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, El Capitan and Sentinel Bridge.
This is the most crowded part of the park. Parking is hard. We enjoyed the hike up to and the mists from Bridal Veil falls but didn’t care about Yellowstone falls as they were very crowded.
And the Tunnel view is not to be missed. This is the classic photo-op with the half dome in the distance and the bridal veil falls on the right. Plan it for late afternoon when the sun lights up the half dome.
El Capitan soars high above and you do see fair number of climbers on its face. The rafting in the river looked particular inviting but we had plans to go up to Glacier point for Sunset.
To get away from the crowds and the day trippers, Glacier point is one the options. It’s about an hours drive from the valley.The ranger talk at Glacier point was one of the highlights of our trip. The sight of the valley below, the river, waterfalls and the setting sun over the half dome is surreal and is one experience you should not miss in the park. Most folks left after sunset, but this would be an awesome place to star gaze perched high above in the Sierra Nevada forest!
Falcons Nest B & B
After the sunset we drove to our B & B. We were lost as the forest floor darkens post sunset and we couldn’t find the signs easily. We reached the B & B by 9:00 pm. Our plan was to check in and then go out for dinner. There were no restaurants around. We asked our hosts for nearest restaurants and everything would either be already closed or would be by the time we reached. As Donn explained “this ain’t Spain“. So plan meals or carry food along. He heated some south-western chicken chipotle soup and made us some PB& J. Yummm, after a long day.
The next morning, Kay, cooked us some fabulous breakfast. Cornmeal waffles, eggs, fresh fruit and coffee. It was served on their beautiful outdoor deck. It was a lovely morning and we lingered over breakfast exchanging travel tales and getting tips for the day ahead.
Near the south end of the park,this is another place which is quiet and not crowded. A bus takes you along the loop amongst century year old giant sequoia trees which are over 300 feet tall! I was humbled in their presence. The trees are naturally fire resistant and have survived many a fires in their time.
After the tour, it was time for us to head back to San Francisco. We had a 7 am appointment the following morning and wanted to make sure we reached on time.
The drive back was routine except for these beautiful windmills that dotted the road.
Yosemite is one park that I simply fell in love with. So much so that Vipul and I planned to retire as Forest Rangers here! If we lived in Bay area we would probably visit it every spring and fall! Two days are very short to visit the park – we hope to return again with a camper and stay for long. Some day, some fall day!
When we had newly moved to Seattle in 2003, every year, we used to go on a long road trip on 4th of July weekend. Crater Lake, Yellowstone, Canadian Rockies, coastal Oregon were visited with friends and their visiting families. Trip to Crater Lake National Park was the first such trip we took. A deep blue lake in the volcanic crater with crystal clear water surrounded by high cliff walls and towering pine trees. And friends to the mix and it has makings of an EPIC trip. A trip that you will never forget.
We rented a 12 seater van from Redmond and set out on a long drive to Crater Lake on Friday evening. We had another group in a sedan.It was almost 2 am when we reached our rented house about an hour away from the National Park. There is limited lodging very close to the national park. And of course it is booked solid in summer and especially on long weekends. It’s hard to get last-minute reservations with 15 -16 people.
A day inside the Crater Lake National Park
The next morning we woke up fairly late and then after a really late breakfast we headed to Crater Lake. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was absolutely no one on the road. We reached the park post lunch time. We followed the rim drive and pulled over at several places to take in the breathtaking scenery. The deep blue water is mesmerizing. We hiked to the bottom to reach the shores of the lake.It was easy-going down but strenuous coming back up!
We sat on the boat jetty for quiet some time as no one wanted to go back up really.
The park offers a boat ride on the lake but you have to reach early to get the tickets. Scuba diving is also possible in the lake but you have to haul your gear all the way down ( and then back up). And since private boats are not allowed you have to dive with the park’s boat.
But these restrictions have ensured the lake is crystal clear, clean and pristine.
After the hike we were all hungry. So we decided to go to the Lodge and have late lunch. There was some renovation and reconstruction work going on, so we couldn’t really eat there. There were a couple of hot dog stands but they didn’t have any vegetarian option. Most of the us just had ice-cream and fries and such for lunch and were a bit grumpy for a while.
We continued with the rim drive this time pulling over for snow fights. Yes, even in July you will find snow in this national park. It’s so awesome to have a snow fight under the sunny skies. We behaved like little kids with no regard whatsoever to what other folks may think! Later in the evening we headed back to our vacation home to make a hearty dinner. Drinks, music, cards, singing and pav-bhaji! OMG it was insane.
White Water Rafting and Sunset at Oregon Coast
The next day we went white water rafting in the Umpqua river which was cool. We wore wetsuits as the water was still very cold. We went to a neat hole to dive into and had just a ball of a time in spite of the cold water.
Later we drove to the nearest beach (which was still a couple of hours drive) through beautiful valleys, across quaint bridges and rivers to watch the sunset. As with all beaches in pacific northwest it was cold and we had our jackets and sweaters on. In July. Yes. Really.
We drove back after dark and had another night of drinks,music, cards.
ATV on Sand Dunes
Sand dunes and riding ATV’s on them was the agenda for last day. Towering sand dunes which shift every day based on winds,so tall that you cant see whats on the other side till you are the very top. They are almost vertical towards the top edge. Very exhilarating. . I was super thrilled till we got there and then was I was shit scared as a few friends who had come back earlier were injured. Some of us got stuck, others had their ATV’s toppled over. We managed to go over to see lakes, hidden valleys and pretty dessert landscape.
If you are in Southern Oregon then it is a must do. You don’t even need directions as you will see hoardings and ads all along the freeway.
After an adventurous ride on the sand dunes,it was time to head back to Seattle. It was a long drive back home from Florence, Oregon to Seattle. Most of us dozed on the way back while others just chatted away.
It was an EPIC trip. It marked beginning of annual fourth of July getaways till our master trip planner moved from Seattle to Bay Area. But its awesome to remember those fun times especially now that we are older and scattered all the way around the world. One day,I hope we get to have another memorable trip with old friends and their new kids in tow!
If you are from Seattle or have ever visited Seattle, Mt. Rainier needs no introduction. As you land, you can’t miss the towering snowcapped mountain even on a partly cloudy day. On a sunny day, even the pilot will announce that Mt. Rainier is out and you will feel bad that you are in the aisle seat while the guy in the window seat is hogging the entire view without letting you get even a peek.
Don’t worry, on a clear day Mt. Rainier is visible from almost anywhere in Seattle. And if you do see Mt. Rainier do make it a point to visit the Mt. Rainier National Park. A couple of hours drive south-west of Seattle, this mountain dominates the horizon. And we have visited Rainier in every season possible sometimes camping in the summer, staying in log cabin in fall or skiing in winter. The park has numerous entrances with Paradise and Sunrise being the two most popular entrances.
There is something for everyone here: Short walks in subalpine meadows, wildflowers in July , glaciers, hike to Camp Muir for the more adventurous, waterfalls, reflection lakes, camping and even a technical climb to the top.
This post is all about casual visitor and top things to do in the national park when you want to drive into the park and enjoy it without thinking about gear, training and other technicalities -which is what we did on most trips!
1. Take a subalpine walk amongst the meadows(both from Sunrise and Paradise)
2. Look for rainbows around the thundering waterfalls
3. Enjoy Mt Rainier’s reflection at Reflection Lake
4. Watch sunrise over Mt Rainier
5. Admire the glacier
Do plan a trip this Summer once the roads to Paradise are open.Its bound to mesmerize you and make you come back over and over again!