Alternate title: The sort of 8 day trip that turned sort of 9 days thanks to a canceled flight. But more on that later.
I’m about to attempt to cram 5 National Parks, 1 National Monument, 39.4 miles of hiking and one extra afternoon/evening stuck in Salt Lake City in to one post. Stick with me here and I promise you’ll be rewarded with (1) an epic vacation idea and (2) some pretty amazing photos.
My cousin and I recently embarked on an 8(ish) day journey through 5 Utah National Parks and a National Monument. I had been to 4 of the parks before, but I’m always willing to go back for more. This was our route: Las Vegas > Zion National Park > Bryce Canyon National Park > Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument > Capitol Reef National Park > Moab > Arches National Park > Canyonlands National Park > Salt Lake City
Let’s begin at the beginning – Las Vegas.
Day 1: Las Vegas > Zion National Park
We landed in Las Vegas in the morning, picked up the rental car and drove immediately to In-N-Out before driving the 2.5(ish) hours to Zion. We stopped for some groceries for lunches and snacks for the week in St. George and arrived in Zion around 2 or 3pm. We had time for a hike so decided to do the Emerald Pools trail. There are 3 Emerald Pools: lower, mid and upper. It’s 3 miles round to the upper Emerald Pool.
Inspired from the brilliant Donna and Tom from Parks and Recreation, my friends (Phoebe and Michelle) and I just returned from a treat yo’ self trip to LA. Yes, we did TREATYOSELF2017 in LA (if you’ve watched the show you’ll get the significance).
We stayed in Venice Beach (at an Airbnb) and traveled around a bit during a long weekend (Friday – Monday). Here’s my vacation recap and a travel guide (if you like beaches, sunsets and food, you’ll like this travel guide).
Day One: Venice Beach and West Hollywood
We arrived in the early afternoon and had a horrible rental car experience (i.e. waiting over an hour for the car). So, we went immediately to In-N-Out burger because it’s delicious and we were starving. After eating our body weight in burgers, fries and shakes, we drove to the Airbnb in Venice Beach and started exploring the area.
In January I decided I needed a vacation, preferably somewhere warm. I was debating a couple options and ultimately (and easily) decided on Austin, Texas. I’ve been to Dallas a few times for my last job, but never Austin. Plus, I have a friend who just moved there (Sam) and a friend in Dallas who could drive down for the weekend (Margaret). SOLD.
I decided to book a long weekend in February, arriving in Austin on a Friday and leaving on a Monday. It’s a quick flight from O’hare and definitely a great easy weekend trip.
On Day One, I flew in to Austin and Margaret drove down from Dallas and met me at the airport. We went immediately to a food truck stand for tacos and then pigged out on some Gourdough’s Big Fat Donuts. They are as big and fat as advertised.
2016 was a pretty good year for me travel-wise, so I decided to do a wrap up post of my favorite places and photos of the year.
San Francisco, CA
3.29.16 – 3.30.16 | work trip
My first work travel of the year was Dallas but I don’t have any fun pictures from that so we’ll begin with San Francisco (one of my absolute favorite places). This shot was taken at Baker Beach at sunset.
I was originally planning to spend a day and a half here, but it turns out I could really only go to one part of the park (Diablo Lake) since snow was still covering a lot of trails and roads. Lesson learned: go to North Cascades in the middle of summer. I decided to spend the day around Diablo Lake and then leave earlier the next day for my drive to Mt. Rainier. It was so worth it (even if there are parts of the park I missed)!
The Diablo Lake Overlook is a must see. I’m guessing it’s the most popular destination in the park (or one of them). In the morning the lake was so calm everything was reflected. Gorgeous.
Olympic National Park was the first stop on the second week of my trip (Seattle > Olympic > North Cascades > Mt. Rainier). I was originally going to do a post with all three parks but realized I have way too many pics, so this post is dedicated solely to Olympic National Park (if you keep reading you’ll see why).
OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK
— DAY 1 —
I’m absolutely amazed by Olympic National Park. This park has it all: rainforest, waterfalls, lakes, mountains, coastline. I didn’t have enough time to drive to some of the beaches (they were 2-3 hours away) so I’ll definitely have to come back. I did get to explore three very different areas of the park.
The first thing I did was drive to the Lake Crescent Lodge. I walked around a bit and snapped some photos before heading out on the Marymere Falls trail. You can drive along Lake Crescent and stop along the way to take photos (I may have done that 1-25 times).