10 Best Things to Do in Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls from the Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls State Park, New York and Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls from the Rainbow Bridge

Sometimes I forget about the nice stuff near home.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate it.  I just don’t think about it because I’ve seen it enough times that my thoughts are on faraway places like the Tetons and the Grand Canyon.  So in today’s post, I’d like to honor an international destination that I always visit as a daytrip: Niagara Falls.  It really is a nice place, especially the Canadian side with its beautiful gardens and great views of the falls.  So, I thought I’d give my idea of …Read More

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Celebrating 20 Years of Family Vacations

Eating breakfast in Joshua Tree National Park, California, in the year 1995

Eating breakfast in Joshua Tree National Park in the year 1995

This week we’re celebrating 20 years of traveling together across the US!  Wow!  It’s been an exciting adventure together, and all the more exciting that we’re still (more or less) able to travel all together in the big green van (which is the follow up to the Big Maroon Van and the Big Blue Wagon!)  Hiking, driving, exploring, we’ve had times of our lives and memories to last a lifetime.  We’ve also racked up some statistics that blow my mind:

 

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Watching Old Faithful on that first trip to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Watching Old Faithful on that first trip to Yellowstone National Park

48 – the number of state’s we’ve visited.  We’ve never been to Alaska or Hawaii, and, ironically, our final …Read More

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The 6 Best Day Hikes in Grand Canyon (South Rim)

Early Morning at the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Early Morning at the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park tops our list for the number of times we’ve visited a park.  At last count, between the North Rim, South Rim, and Toroweap Area, we’ve visited a total of 10 times – more than any other park in the US (other than local parks).  And are we tired of it?  Gracious no!  There’s something alluring about the Grand Canyon that keeps bringing us back, year after year, hike after hike, and view after view.  I even have a few more new hikes up my sleeve, waiting for the next time we can visit…

 

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Yucca along the Tonto Trail below Horseshoe Mesa, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Yucca along the Tonto Trail below Horseshoe Mesa

Why don’t I include the North Rim?  Well, first of all, I …Read More

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Pictures: Lake Ann Trail to Swift Creek

Mt. Shuksan from the Lake Ann Trail, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

Mt. Shuksan from the Lake Ann Trail

We really didn’t need to hike another trail.  We’d already hike most of the best-of-the-best around the Mt. Baker Highway, including Ptarmigan Ridge, Heliotrope Divide, Artist Ridge, and Skyline Divide.  Still, it was supposed to be rainy in North Cascades National Park (which it was) so we needed a half a day of adventuring before heading south.  So, for lack of information about a better short trail to hike, we walked about 2.75 miles down the Lake Ann Trail, which brought us to Swift Creek.  I won’t call it …Read More

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DIY Hand Sanitizer Holder

DIY hand sanitizer bottle holders

DIY hand sanitizer bottle holders

I think I must be a germaphobic.

 

Actually, it comes from being around a lot of little children and being sick constantly as a child, myself.  I just don’t want to get sick – even a common cold – because it goes around the house like an epidemic, and then we’re sick for two weeks, and who really likes that?  Washing our hands before we ate seemed to do some good, but there just isn’t a hand-washing station out in the wilderness every time we want to have a snack.  So when hand sanitizer came out on the market, we fell in love with it immediately.

 

Side view of one of the hand sanitizer holders.  The right flap flips down and buttons around a strap, belt loop, etc.

Side view of one of the holders. The right flap flips down and buttons around a strap, belt loop, etc.

So the other day, I thought I’d make up some hand sanitizer holders so everyone could easily carry …Read More

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Biking the Auburn Trail / Lehigh Valley Trail

A little bridge over a stream and the railroad track crossing on the Auburn Trail, Victor, New York

A little bridge over a stream and the railroad track crossing on the Auburn Trail

A few weeks ago, I celebrated a birthday.  It was a bit of a milestone, I suppose.  Anyway, I decided that I’d like to really celebrate – like, something that lasted more than an hour or so.  So it was with great excitement that we planned a bike trip on a nearby Rails-to-Trails; about 20 miles on the Lehigh Valley Trail!

 

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Real train cars in Rochester Junction Park, along the Lehigh Valley Trail, New York

Real train cars in Rochester Junction Park, along the Lehigh Valley Trail

Actually, we started out at the Victor end of the Auburn Trail, then picked up …Read More

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Sahale Arm Revisited: Incredible Views!

Wildflowers, trails, and mountains from near Cascade Pass, on the way up to Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, Washington

Wildflowers, trails, and mountains from near Cascade Pass, on the way up to Sahale Arm

If you could only do one long hike in North Cascades National Park, I’d recommend the trail up to and along Sahale Arm.  It somehow manages to get some of the best scenery in the Cascades into one 13.4 mile trail (RT; you can easily make it shorter; even going 10.5 miles will give you some of the best views) while making those views varied and always awe-inducing.  Cascades tumble down sheer cliff faces, jagged peaks tower into the sky, and a lovely blue-green lake nestled in a secluded valley are key features, while the wildflowers themselves (in season) make the trail worthwhile.  Perhaps I should stop talking here and just let the pictures tell their own story?  Or should I keep talking since the pictures don’t do the view half justice?

 

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Expansive views from near the camp atop of Sahale Arm, North Cascades National Park, Washington

Expansive views from near the camp atop of Sahale Arm

The trailhead is a busy one by North Cascade standards, as the trail passes through …Read More

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12 Trails that Require Hands & Knees, River Crossings, and Other Adventures

Scrambling up Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Scrambling up Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Getting to the most rewarding views can be hard.  In fact, it can be very difficult.  Sometimes we just have to leave the comforts of a defined trail behind to cross the waist-deep rivers, scramble up scree and talus on our hands and knees, or brave the snowfields to get to the best of what the wilderness has to offer.  Of course, the good thing about these deterrents is that they keep most of the crowds at bay.  And the feeling of accomplishment when we “make it” is ten times greater than if we’d just ambled down a trail to the viewpoint.  At any rate, for those of us with an adventurous spirit, these 10 trails that require hands & knees, river crossings, and other adventures will be fun…if a bit daunting at times!

 

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So, without further ado, here they are, in no particular order! …Read More

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Hole in the Rock: Scramble to Lake Powell!

Scrambling down Hole in the Rock toward Lake Powell, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

Scrambling down Hole in the Rock toward Lake Powell

I was shocked the other day when I found out that I’d never done a post on Hole in the Rock, at the end of Hole in the Rock Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (one of my favorite parks ever).  Hole in the Rock is a pretty incredible place, especially if you’re up to some scrambling and have 4×4.  The first I’m totally in for, the second, well, I don’t own a vehicle with 4×4.  But high clearance will get you pretty close (depending on road conditions), so I can get to Hole in the Rock, by hook or by crook!

 

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At the top of Hole in the Rock.  You don't have to scramble to see this.  Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah

At the top of Hole in the Rock. You don’t have to scramble to see this.

Actually, that was one of the great things about …Read More

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The Mist Clears Away: A Stroll at Ruby Beach

Three hikers walk through the mist on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Three hikers walk through the mist on Ruby Beach

We arrived at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park very early in the morning.  We hadn’t slept nearby – after hiking Third Beach the day before, all we wanted to do was find a place for supper and then go to bed – but being Easterners, our 8am happens three hours before Seattle’s, so it wasn’t hard to get people up and moving at a reasonable hour.  The beach was in sun when we first arrived…

 

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Looking down at Ruby Beach from the parking area, Olympic National Park, Washington

Looking down at Ruby Beach from the parking area

…but by the time we’d collected our water bottles and walked down the 0.1 mile trail, the mist had rolled in.  So much for a sunny beach walk!

 

Looking south from near the bottom of the trail on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Looking south from near the bottom of the trail

Oh, well.  We’ve visited Ruby Beach in the sunshine and in the rain before, and while the first is preferable, the second is certainly cool enough to warrant walking around!

 

We crossed the small stream (you won’t get your feet wet if you’re careful) and headed for the sea stacks, about 0.2 miles down the beach.

 

Hiking toward the sea stacks on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Hiking toward the sea stacks

The sea stacks are very cool, and so is the sea arch in one of the sea stacks.

 

The tide running through the sea arch on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

The tide running through the sea arch

The tide was nearly high, so the waves crashing in through the arch were pretty cool!

 

So was taking pictures of my companions standing high and mostly-dry on rocks watching the tide come in.

 

Watching the incoming tide on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Watching the incoming tide

We wandered around the sea stacks for a while, then a few of us decided to stroll north up the beach for a ways, and the others would join us after the turn of the tide.  At the time, we basically had the beach to ourselves, so we figured we’d have a pretty peaceful walk.

 

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However, walking around the first bend, we ran across some people who were really quite near a pair of bald eagles feasting on salmon on a rock.  The people got too close before I was able to get a really good picture, but here’s what I got:

 

The bald eagle, enjoying his salmon on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

The bald eagle, enjoying his salmon

We waited around for about 30 minutes, hoping the eagle would come back to its salmon, but to no avail.  Meanwhile, though, the mist was blowing away, leaving some pretty incredible photography opportunities in its wake!

 

The mist clears away from Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

The mist clears away

Finally we gave up on the bald eagles and continued down the beach through the ever-decreasing mist.  Wow!  Beautiful!

 

Mist, looking back at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Mist, looking back at Ruby Beach

By this time, the tide had turned and the rest of our group caught up with us.  We all enjoyed the clearing mist and great piles of driftwood for a while, then decided that we really weren’t looking for a long, arduous hike that day, so we’d better turn around at 1.6 miles.  After all, there really weren’t any more sea stacks to see until you got to the next bend (at the very least) and we’d had quite the nice beach walk the day before.

 

On the way back, we got to see a seal poking its head up out of the water.

 

A seal in the waves near Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

A seal in the waves

And on the way back the eagles were perching in an old spruce tree, so everyone got to see it!

 

Bald eagle in a tree, Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Bald eagle

And when we turned the corner back onto Ruby Beach proper?  Madhouse!  In our absence, the peaceful beach scene had turned into a circus of families, couples, and singles strolling around, shouting, playing in the sand, etc., etc., etc.  Now we were thankful we’d come so early!

 

But the mist was still clinging around the sea stacks for some more great pictures:

 

People and sea stacks on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

People and sea stacks

We headed back up the trail to the parking area for a total hike of 3.2 miles.  It wasn’t a long hike, but it was so worth it to see the mist clear away from the beach and sea stacks.

 

Round Trip Trail Length: 3.2 miles

Highest Elevation: 60ft. (parking area)

Lowest Elevation: -13ft. (along the beach)

Net Elevation Gain / Loss: 73 ft.

Facilities: (Very busy) Primitive toilets at the trailhead

Fees: $15 per vehicle, valid 7 days.  America the Beautiful (Interagency), Senior (Golden Age), Access (Golden Access), Volunteer, Military, and Olympic Annual Passes also accepted

Trail ★★★☆☆

Road ★★★★★

Signs ★★★☆☆

Scenery ★★★★★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

 

The mist clears away from Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

The mist clears away

Key GPS Coordinates for Ruby Beach

Parking: 47.70984N / -124.41367W (47° 42′ 35.4234″ / -124° 24′ 49.2114″) (58ft.)

Trail beginning: 47.71000N / -124.41377W (47° 42′ 36″ / -124° 24′ 49.5714″) (60 ft.)

Beach / Trail Junction: 47.71055N / -124.41501W (47° 42′ 37.9794″ / -124° 24′ 54.0354″)

Sea arch: 47.71199N / -124.41696W (47° 42′ 43.164″ / -124° 25′ 1.056″) (-13ft.)

Turned around: 47.72644N / -124.42069W (47° 43′ 35.1834″ / -124° 25′ 14.4834″) (-4ft.)

 

The gpx file for Ruby Beach can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

GPX Download File size: 382.1 kB Downloaded 84 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

 

Driftwood on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Driftwood on Ruby Beach

Getting to Ruby Beach

If you’re coming from the main part of Olympic National Park, from Port Angeles, drive 83 miles on Hwy-101 S/US-101W to Ruby Beach, on your right.  This is 14 miles south of the road that leads to the Hoh Rain Forest.

 

If you’re coming from the south, take Hwy-101 E/US-101 N from Aberdeen, WA 80 miles to Ruby Beach, on your left.  Keep a close watch for where Hwy 101 goes, especially in Aberdeen, so you don’t accidently get off the right road.

 

Visual trail map of Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Visual trail map of Ruby Beach

This Week’s Featured Product!

With so many good hikes, this book is a great resource while hiking the Olympic peninsula!  Although it includes many beach walks (including Ruby Beach), it also covers mountain hikes, rain forests, and more.

 



Introducing next-generation trail guides for the Northwest. We asked hikers what they want in a trail guide today and this is what they said: more day hikes, with options for extending the trip; hike selection conveniently arranged by highway and travel corridors; more hikes close to urban centers; more year-round hikes at low elevation; clear driving directions; a portable size; and more use of color.

To meet the needs of the modern hiker, The Mountaineers Books introduces its new Day Hiking guidebook series, written by Northwest residents with impressive hiking resumes. These guides provide accurate information in attractive, high-quality packaging and are infused with the environmental ethic that distinguishes The Mountaineers Books from other outdoor publishers.

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