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4 Days of Adventure in Dinosaurland, Utah

This summer, take a road trip through America’s dinosaur capital: the city of Vernal, affectionately known as Dinosaurland, Utah. Home to Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal is a hub for outdoor adventure and American West history situated only three hours from Salt Lake City. In addition, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Arches, and Canyonlands national parks are all within driving distance! We think you could spend an entire month exploring the area, but the four-day itinerary below is a great place to start. 

This story was created in partnership with Uinta County Travel and Tourism.

Dinosaur National Monument in Dinosaurland, Utah

DAY 1: EXPLORE THE NAMESAKE OF DINOSAURLAND, UTAH

Morning 

There’s no better way to get acquainted with Dinosaurland, Utah than to visit Dinosaur National Monument. Located on the border between Utah and Colorado, the park is 200,000 acres in size and contains thousands of millions-of-years-old dinosaur bones. (You’ll find all of the fossils, footprints, and petroglyphs on the Utah side of the monument.) Here, the world-renowned Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall and Visitor Center is home to more than 1,500 fossils still embedded in a cliff face. Interactive exhibits are fun for the whole family and an absolute must during your stay. 

Afternoon

That afternoon, explore where dinosaurs once roamed! Hike the three-mile Sound of Silence trail that highlights the monument’s geologic diversity and offers great views of Split Mountain. That evening back in town, enjoy a hard-earned dinner at any number of Vernal’s family-friendly restaurants. We recommend the aptly named Dinosaur Brew Haus or the Quarry Steakhouse and Brew Pub. During your stay, consider making yourself at home in a local bed and breakfast or at any number of hotels in town. 

Spending time on the water in Dinosaurland, Utah

DAY 2: KAYAK, PADDLE, OR RAFT VERNAL’S LUSH WATERWAYS

Morning 

Take to the water on day two! Dinosaurland is home to an incredible assortment of watersports thanks to its location, including its proximity to the nationally-recognized Green River. No matter your skill level, you can find everything from friendly whitewater floats to wild rides on Class IV rapids (get outfitted for your trip here). Kayaking, canoeing, and standup-paddleboarding are also popular choices at nearby Red Fleet State Park and Flaming Gorge National Recreation Center.

Afternoon

After your morning adventure, visit the Uinta Heritage Museum located conveniently in downtown Vernal. The rotating art exhibits showcase displays of Native American heritage, as well as the history of the miners, soldiers, lawmen, and outlaws who helped shape the past of the Uinta Basin. Entrance is free and the museum is within walking distance of many great restaurants. Try the popular Antica Forma, where thin-crust pizzas wash down well with a cocktail of your choice. 

Vernal Brewing Company, Dinosaurland, Utah

DAY 3: RIDE BIKES THROUGH SOME OF THE WEST’S BEST SCENERY

Morning

On your third morning, enjoy a hearty home-cooked breakfast in town at Betty’s Cafe. Then, hit the trails on two wheels! Rent a bike in town, then head out to a wide selection of singletrack nearby. Intermediate and advanced riders will find several options such as the seven-mile Red Fleet Loop. Beginners might stick to the smooth, out-and-back Racetrack Trail and tailor the distance to their liking. See all trails here

Afternoon 

Treat yourself post-bike ride with a Hawaiian shave ice at Beachin’ Soda Shack in downtown Dinosaurland  (or a beer at Vernal Brewing Company). You might not have expected to find something so tropical (and tasty) in the heart of the American West, but this is simply more proof that Vernal is anything but ordinary! That evening, consider taking one of Vernal’s many scenic drives, or go on a walking tour through town.

Fantasy Canyon outside of Dinosaurland, Utah

DAY 4: HIKE THROUGH FANTASY CANYON

On your final day in Dinosaurland, Utah, embark on a hiking and photo exploration through Fantasy Canyon. Just under an hour south of downtown Vernal, you’ll feel as if you have entered into another dimension. Red sandstone towers rise dramatically from clay bases against a bluebird sky—a photographer’s dream! Take the .6-mile trail with interpretive signs to get to know the area. You’ll probably smile at the imaginative names assigned to the different sandstone formations, such as “Yawning Lady” and “Micky Mouse.” By the time you travel on towards your next destination, you’ll be full of wonder and admiration for this hidden corner of Utah and all the adventures you experienced in the land of dinosaurs!  




Your Perfect 4-Day Road Trip through Gold Country, California

Gold Country, California is one of our favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations for those who want to see a different side of the Golden State. Home of the original gold rush that forever changed a nation, this region is within striking distance of both Lake Tahoe and Sacramento, making it an achievable and creative destination for those who love history, outdoor adventure, farm-to-table food, and know how to enjoy a booming wine and beer scene.


This story was created in partnership with Visit Eldorado and Visit Placer.

Hidden Falls in California's Gold Country

Day 1: Zipline, Hike, Sip Wine & Farm-to-Tap Brews

Morning

After flying into Sacramento International Airport, begin your road trip toward the city of Rocklin. Only 30 minutes away from baggage claim, Quarry Park Adventures is the perfect place to cure yourself of any jet lag! Located in a 60-foot deep, 160-year old granite quarry, this family-friendly adventure park features ziplines, a ropes course, rappel wall, and more!

From there, quench your thirst on the robust Placer Wine and Ale Trail at one of the 20 wineries in the area. Several farm breweries offer unique experiences, including GoatHouse Brewing, where you can play with kid goats between sips of farm-to-tap brews. The best part of all these options is that the wineries and breweries are all within close proximity of each other, so every one of your travel buddies can find something to their taste.

Afternoon

In between stops, stretch your legs with a short hike on any number of trails at the 1,200-acre Hidden Falls Regional Park right in the heart of wine and beer country. Come dinner time, you will surely be ravenous! Indulge in the farm-to-table philosophy of Placer County at any number of nearby restaurants. That evening, overnight at the SpringHill Suites or any other hotel or bed and breakfast in the Auburn area to set yourself up for another day of adventure.

Whitewater rafting in Coloma, California

Day 2: Go Whitewater Rafting, Take a History Lesson, And Drink More Beer

Morning

The adventure begins in earnest on day two! Spend the morning whitewater rafting on the famous American River. The South Fork is a great place to start for families, beginners, or novice rafters, pairing fun and splashes with stunning scenery and maybe a grand finale at Folsom Lake. More experienced river-runners may prefer the adrenaline pumping rapids of the Middle Fork. You will find a wide assortment of rafting guides and experiences to fit your skills and comfort level in California’s Gold Country. And if a single morning on the water isn’t enough for you, you can book trips up to two days long.

Afternoon

That afternoon, dig into the history of the area on a walking tour and visit to the Placer County Museum. Don’t forget to visit the historic and photogenic Auburn Fire House and Bell!   

Pour Choice in Placer County, California

Evening

Next, reward your efforts with a refreshment on the patio at Pour Choice—a unique craft coffee bar and tap room. That evening, stay in Old Town Auburn for dinner at either Auburn Alehouse or the Alehouse Annex across the street for award-winning ale and American fare. Other local craft beer options in town include Crooked Lane, Moonraker, and Knee Deep; all of which have rotating food trucks most evenings. 

Bridge over a trail and river in California's Gold Country

Day 3: Become a Part of California’s Gold Rush History

Morning

Continue on Historic Route 49 to Placerville by way of legendary Coloma. It was here that gold was first discovered in 1848, changing the fate of California and the entire nation forever. (There’s a reason we call it Gold Country, California!) Take a hike in the Auburn State Recreation Area at Lake Clementine or Cronan Ranch, followed by lunch at Argonaut Farm to Fork Cafe. 

Argonaut Cafe in California's Gold Country

Afternoon

Then, check out where the gold rush began at Marshall Gold Discovery State Park! The whole family will enjoy learning to pan for gold and exploring the museum and the many original and restored buildings. Even the volunteers are dressed in period clothing to bring the experience to life.

Evening

Dinner at Smith Flat House, Placerville, California

Watch the sunset and sip some local wine from one of 70 wineries in the region. Lava Cap is a particular favorite! For dinner, try Smith Flat House (pictured above), whose restaurant is accessed through the original entrance to an 1800’s goldmine. Overnight in Placerville at the woodsy North Canyon Inn or another nearby hotel.

Day 4: Celebrate Your Time in Gold Country with Wine & BBQ

Morning

On your last day enjoying Gold Country, explore a real mine only a mile away from downtown at Gold Bug Park and Mine. After you’ve tried your luck panning for gold a second time, dig into lunch at one of the great choices on Main Street, like The Farm Table or Heyday Cafe. Afterwards, stroll to the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi and pick up a souvenir. 

Panning in Gold Country California

Afternoon

Take an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on a unique guided tour of David Girard Vineyards. You’ll enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, learn more about regional history, and taste unique and exclusive wines. There’s also a cheese tasting to follow!

Vineyard in Gold Country, California

Finally, tuck into a savory dinner at the iconic Poor Red’s BBQ—a former stagecoach stop turned popular roadhouse. Poor Red’s is known for its award-winning barbecue and signature Golden Cadillac Cocktail—a perfect choice to savor your wonderful road trip through Gold Country, California. 




Alamosa: An oasis in Southern Colorado

We looked over at each other through our car windows and mutually nodded. It was the coldest part of night, right before the sun peaks over the horizon and begins warming everything up. I was up early on my way to Alamosa and had pulled into a parking lot at the base of The Great Sand Dunes alongside two other vehicles.

This article was created in partnership with the Alamosa Convention and Visitors Bureau 

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

The temperature was below freezing. Reluctantly, we were all layering up to begin the hike up to what are the highest sand dunes in North America. Going at our own pace and on our own paths, we trudged up the dunes to await the sunrise with our cameras

Hours later, after the sun had come up, a couple of us coincidentally arrived back at our vehicles at the same time. We nodded to each other again—this time with more warmth, fewer layers, and a greater appreciation for the outdoors.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

A Sense of Alamosa Community

Continuing on from the dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Range I drove into Alamosa itself. It was now late morning and there was an excited energy in the air. It was homecoming weekend.

The homecoming parade hadn’t started, but the community was preparing. Families and individuals alike were making their way toward the main street. They walked wearing the local colors of the school, bringing blankets and fold-out chairs ready to show support for the students.

Starving from the hike, I watched from behind the window of a local restaurant as I mapped out the rest of the day. It was clear that for a small community, Alamosa had a lot to offer.

I then decided to walk around town and soak up the energy. Alamosa is filled with many mom-and-pop shops, restaurants, gift shops, and even a couple of breweries. I made mental notes about which I would be returning to during my stay.

Hot Springs for the Alamosa Alligators

colorado alligator farm

Finishing my stroll, I drove out to Colorado Gators Reptile Park. The area in and around Alamosa is abundant in geothermal springs. This tilapia farm turned reptile refuge utilizes the hot springs as a way to keep alligators (and many other species) year-round. Truly an oasis, the warm waters provide life and make for a fascinating stop.

Beautiful views from the railroad

The Rio Grand Scenic Railroad is located behind the building and was where I had a reservation for a wine tasting and dinner. The two-hour ride aligned with sunset. Golden colors lit up the landscape while dinner and wine rounded out the experience. 

Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

Zapata Falls and Trail

The next day, I found myself wrestling my car up towards Zapata Falls. There was a longer trail to the lake which I explored for some time, but the falls themselves were less than a mile in and back.

As I approached Zapata Falls, I found it odd to encounter some hikers coming back bundled and shivering as they hiked down to the lot. Since the falls are fed by snowmelt, and the stream below the falls crosses the trail, you have to wade through the shallow stream to see the falls. Pack an extra pair of shoes and socks (since it’s such a short hike) so you don’t end up shivering like I did! And even if you forget, it was worth it!

Since I didn’t have fresh shoes, it was certainly time for me to take advantage of the geothermal springs in the area. I drove back down the dirt road towards what the locals called Hooper Hot Springs.

The recreation center is split into different sections that are fed by the springs. In the front are family friendly pools with concessions and a gift shop. In the back is The Greenhouse, which is filled with tropical plants, hotter pools and a fantastic food and beverage selection. This 21+ serene oasis is where I found myself. I didn’t want to leave.

Nonetheless, the sun was starting to go down and I had one more place in mind for sunset.

Beautiful sunset to end my Alamosa Adventure

The Alamosa Wildlife Refuge has options for both walking and driving. Since I had hiked earlier in the day, I decided I’d take my car on the dirt trail through the refuge. The wildlife isn’t as prolific as the autumn cold sets in, but the views are unmatched. Birds flew out from hidden places as the sun gave the Sangre de Cristo Mountains their name.

I didn’t want to leave, but this was the perfect way to end my autumn Alamosa adventure: The sun setting with warm embracing colors illuminating the land and roadway back out.

More About the Alamosa Experience




Discover 6 Unbelievable Sights in Navajoland

Planning a trip to the American Southwest? Make extra time for the sights, sounds and flavors of Navajoland. The Navajo Nation boasts landmarks that range from ancient to otherworldly. Navajo historical and cultural heritage remains strong, and will fascinate even the most intrepid travelers.

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This article was created in partnership with the Navajo Tourism Department, Arizona. All photos provided by the Navajo Tourism Department.

Traveling through the Navajo Nation in the American Southwest is a moving experience. While planning your trip, download a digital copy of their visitor guide for extra inspiration. In addition, be sure to review protocol and best practices before you embark.

Northern Navajoland

Antelope Canyon

Immaculately shaped walls glow shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple under the Arizona sun. Antelope Canyon is understandably one of the most interesting landscapes to photograph with rock walls that dance under the light. Guided tours are mandatory to access the canyon.

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Monument Valley

Many movies over the years popularized some of the most classic views in Monument Valley. Beyond the views though (and trust me, they’re insanely impressive!), there is so much more to explore in the Monument Valley Tribal Park. Make the most of your time in the area with a guide that can take you to out-of-bounds ancestral sights and rock formations.

Shiprock Pinnacle

The volcanic rock formation—Shiprock Pinnacle—stands strikingly against a barren New Mexico landscape. It is visible from miles around, and one of the most photographed features in the region. The peak itself is sacred to the Navajo, and should only be observed and photographed from a distance. Climbing and hiking near the peak is strictly forbidden.

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Southern Navajoland

Bisti Badlands

This dreamland of bizarre landscapes is a true slice of American wilderness. Exploring the Bisti Badlands is a remote and rewarding experience. Notably, “egg” and “wing” shaped hoodoos, piles of petrified wood, and a complete color palette decorate the landscape. Before you run wild in these badlands, be sure to observe the region’s protocols. In other words, there are no facilities or signage in the area.

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Canyon de Chelly

Beneath the towering canyon walls, Navajo families continue to live and farm the land, similar to their ancestors 5,000 years ago. Views from the rim of Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “can-yun duh shay”) are absolutely breathtaking! One short hike is available, and the experience can be further enhanced with a local Navajo guide.

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Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park & Veteran’s Memorial

The Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park & Veteran’s Memorial is located on sacred ground of cultural and historical importance. There, a natural arch looks over a veteran memorial that recognizes soldiers who fell during World War II. In fact, the memorial identifies code-talkers who provided secure communication for the United States military.

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Stay in Navajoland

Throughout the region there is a wide range of accommodations. While unzipping your tent to the monoliths of Monument Valley is quite gratifying, there are plenty of cozy hotels to settle into as well. Additionally, one of the more unique experiences in the region is to stay in a traditional Navajo hogan. Though sleeping in this sacred dwelling is more rustic, it will surely be a highlight of your vacation.

What to look for in Navajoland

Navajo Tacos

Throughout the region, keep your eyes peeled for Navajo taco stands! This local treat combines fry bread (deep-fried dough), meat, cheese, vegetables, and special seasonings. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, this is a meal you don’t want to miss!

Arts and Crafts

Near most monuments and attractions, you’ll find tables set up with locals selling Navajo arts and crafts. Some of the most impressive art examples are found in trading posts that are located throughout the Navajo Nation. Truly, the best type of souvenir is a handmade one!

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Find more ideas for your trip through the American Southwest here.




West Wendover, Rich in History and Beauty

Driving into West Wendover quickly sets the stage for what kind of adventures you can expect.

Coming in from the east brings you across miles and miles of salt flats. Those driving in from the west get to appreciate the more staggered landscape. A mixture of mountains and plains act as open arms to the outdoor enthusiasts.

West Wendover sits perfectly in the middle of both.

This story was created in partnership with City of West Wendover.

Welcome to West Wendover

A Place In History

This small community capitalizes on all things rich in enjoyment and history.

West Wendover established itself on the Utah/Nevada border as a railroad town and became an oasis for travelers going from one state to the next. In fact, this small town helped telephone lines connect coast to coast for the first time back in 1914. This made it possible for people to communicate from Back East to the West Coast! It is only fitting, then, that you can see the curvature of the earth when you make a stop in West Wendover.

West Wendover was a center for communication, commerce and fun. The town quickly started attracting people not only to visit, but to stay and put down roots.

West Wendover Airfield Musuem

Wendover Army Air Field

Shortly after West Wendover became a stop on the border, the United States Army began construction on Wendover Army Air Base. This base became critically important during World War II. The base was the largest the Army had. It quickly became the center for research in new tech during the war and focused on training heavy bomb groups.

Today, you can visit the Historic Wendover Airfield Museum to tour a massive Con Air aircraft, watch a hair-raising airshow, and learn about this base and the people who were integral in America’s history. This impressive military museum even includes a control tower that you can climb, in addition to all the fascinating interpretive displays.

Bonneville Salt Flats

Bonneville Salt Flats

Directly east of West Wendover is possibly one of the most picturesque places you can visit in the continental United States: the Bonneville Salt Flats. If you wake up early enough and it has recently rained, you will come across some of the most amazing reflections during sunrise. The water mirroring the colors of the sky is magical. If the early morning isn’t your thing, you can also visit the salt plains later in the day to try to spot vehicles attaining incredible land speeds.

(Photo tip: For the best shots, pull over at the rest stop nearest town as you drive in from the east.)

Blue Lake

Blue Lake

A short ways south of West Wendover and just on the Utah side is Blue Lake. This gem of lake is an incredibly deep and very warm body of water. This geothermal lake stays a consistent 72 degrees year-round. With warm waters, a healthy population of fish, and a 66-foot depth, it’s a very popular destination to earn your scuba certification.

West Wendover

Mountains and Trails

To the west and north of West Wendover jut out various mountains with endless trails. Pack your hiking boots or mountain bike, or rent an ATV to explore these beautiful landscapes.

The nearby Goshute Mountain Range acts as not only a playground for people, but also as a migratory path for hawks and other birds. From mid-August to early November, visitors can make the hike to the upper parts of the mountains and witness dozens of various birds making their way south.

Skywalk in West Wendover

Stay and Play in West Wendover

Surrounded by all this natural beauty and wonder is the winning personality of West Wendover. Lit up in true Nevada-style, this town knows how to entertain. From the airshow at the historic airfield, to a casino scene that boasts a dramatic skywalk, to full-scale concerts where every seat in the house is less than 88 feet from the stage, West Wendover is the place to stay and play—and win.

Stay in town on a rainy day and dive into history and entertainment, or go outside when the sun’s out for spectacular views. Either way, you’ll come out of West Wendover with stories and pictures worthy of sharing from East to West Coast!




Flagstaff is Your Hub for Adventure in Northern Arizona

Flagstaff, Arizona is a popular destination for world travelers and tourists, and for good reason! A short drive from the southern entrance of Grand Canyon National Park and neighboring Sedona, this historic city also sits squarely on iconic Route 66.

With three national monuments within an hour’s drive, a ski area with year-round activities, and a thriving downtown, Flagstaff is a destination in its own right. 

This story was created in partnership with Discover Flagstaff.

Flagstaff, Arizona is a Four Seasons Destination

There’s a beautiful regional airport five miles from downtown with daily flights coming and going from Phoenix, Denver and Dallas Fort-Worth in addition to weekly seasonal flights to and from LAX. There is simply no better time to put Flagstaff, Arizona at the top of your bucket list!

Play Outside, No Matter the Season

Flagstaff sits at 7,000 feet elevation, right at the base of the San Francisco Peaks on the edge of the Colorado Plateau. This unique destination provides Flagstaff with fantastic year-round weather—266 days of sun and 100 inches of snow, on average.

In the summer, hikers and mountain bikers will find nearly unlimited trails in the nearby mountains. The local resort, Arizona Snowbowl, offers activities for kids like a ropes course, bungee trampoline, and more. There’s also a chairlift that takes you up to 11,500 feet—with a local beer in hand and a view of the Grand Canyon! In the winter, the resort converts into a veritable downhill mecca with runs for beginners, experts, and everything in between. Last year, it received 330 inches of snow! Plus, Arizona Nordic Village offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Fall and spring are great times to enjoy Flagstaff’s other attractions, including beautiful fall colors and self-guided walking tours on the Flagstaff Urban Trail System and the Arboretum.

Flagstaff, Arizona is the City of Seven Wonders

Get to Know the City of 7 Wonders

From the depths of the Grand Canyon to Arizona’s highest point at the summit of Humphreys Peak, Flagstaff is a mecca for natural wonders. You won’t want to miss the seven highlights in the area: the aforementioned Grand Canyon National Park, Wupatki National Monument, Oak Creek Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, San Francisco Peaks, Coconino National Forest, and Walnut Canyon National Monument. Each of these areas conserves a significant cultural and/or natural treasure. Our favorites? Hiking the .7-mile Island Trail Loop at Walnut Canyon National Monument offers a fascinating look into how ancient people lived, along with stunning views. The 1-mile Lava Trail in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is perfect for an afternoon stroll, and exploring the intricate Waputki Pueblo is an absolute must.

The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ

Take a Look at Flagstaff’s Lunar Legacy

Earlier this year, Flagstaff celebrated the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the moon. What does this have to do with Flagstaff? Astronomy runs deep in the city’s roots. All Apollo astronauts who have walked on the moon trained here at some point in their careers, and it was designated the world’s first “International Dark Sky City” in 2001. It was actually here at Lowell Observatory that Pluto was discovered!

All the magic happens at Lowell Observatory, founded in 1894. Today Lowell is an active research facility offering daily tours. Their brand new Giovale Open Deck Observatory (pictured above) is an incredible place to get acquainted with the night sky. Peer through six powerful telescopes aimed at celestial treasures like star clusters, Saturn, and more for a truly mind-bending experience.  

There's lots to do, and eat in Flagstaff

Enjoy the Robust Craft Brewery and Foodie Scene

You could easily spend your entire time in Flagstaff enjoying its many restaurants and breweries. To start, tuck into a hearty meal a few yards away from your hotel room. Try Northern Pines, located within the Days Hotel. Find mouth-watering fish tacos and burgers at Tourist Home Cafe, a location steeped in local history. As for the beer, Mother Road Brewing is a must during your time in Flagstaff. The Daily Driver Low Octane IPA is one of their defining brews, and seasonal gems like Pink Guava Gose are a special treat. Check out the Flagstaff Brewery Trail in Arizona’s leading craft beer city for even more recommendations.

For dinner, we can’t narrow it down to just one! The Silver Pine Restaurant and Bar at the Little America serves an exceptional cedar plank salmon (this writer’s favorite) and other seasonal specialties. We’re sure you’ll find a way to “cheers” to your time in Flagstaff!




6 Reasons to Visit Sierra Vista, Arizona

Southeastern Arizona is home to many hidden gems, and the city of Sierra Vista is one of our favorites. Located within eyesight of Mexico, this destination surprises at every turn. Here you’ll find lush nature preserves, miles of hiking and biking trails, historic ghost towns, delicious international cuisine, and so much more. Here are our top six reasons to visit Sierra Vista, Arizona. We think you’ll find even more during your stay!

This story was created in partnership with Visit Sierra Vista.

Stretch Your Legs in Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista.

1. Stretch Your Legs in the Coronado National Forest

For the outdoor adventurer, there’s more than one way to break a sweat in Sierra Vista. This region is anything but flat—here arid grasslands are hemmed in by the Huachuca and Chiricahua mountain ranges. In between, the San Pedro River is the last undammed river in the American Southwest. These habitats provide an incredible home to wildlife and a huge range of plant life and offer an outdoor playground for the intrepid traveler. Birders will enjoy hiking the 5.6-mile Hamburg Trail in Ramsey Canyon Preserve. This area is home to a plethora of tropical birds, countless dragonflies and hummingbirds, and even the extraordinary and rare jaguar. Prefer to view the world on two wheels? Rent a bike from Sun & Spokes and try the 10-mile Cooper Loop that climbs 1,500 feet through the Huachucas for a tour of Sierra Vista’s extensive wilderness areas.

Local Landmarks in Sierra Vista, Arizona

2. Explore Iconic Sierra Vista Landmarks

There are countless ways to explore in and around Sierra Vista. History buffs will enjoy checking out Brown Canyon Ranch House, where a cattle operation thrived in the early 1900s and time has stood still since. Our Lady of the Sierras is an incredible place to take in the sunset and enjoy expansive views of the “sky island” mountains, neighboring Mexico, and the free-flowing San Pedro River. Coronado National Monument offers a fascinating look at our relationship with Mexico, as well as more great views and trails. And don’t forget to take a tour at Kartchner Caverns State Park during your stay! This limestone cavern was discovered in 1974 but kept secret for its protection for a decade. After intensive efforts to ensure the cave’s conservation, it opened to the public in 2003. Today it is one of the most stunning caverns in America, if not the world!

Wine Tasting Outside of Sierra Vista, Arizona

3. Taste Rare Wine Varietals at Family-Owned Vineyards

Another excellent way to spend the afternoon in Sierra Vista is to go wine tasting. The nearby town of Elgin is home to a number of tasting rooms, including Callaghan and Keif-Joshua. Meet the vintners and families behind the wines, enjoy views of the surrounding countryside and mountains, and find a new favorite varietal. We think the Rhumb Line Grenache from Callaghan washes down a day of adventure particularly well!

Adventure in Tombstone, AZ

4. Get to Know the Rich History of Sierra Vista

Like much of the Southwest, Sierra Vista has a robust western history. Nearby towns such as Tombstone and Bisbee are well-known haunts, but even closer are Fairbank, Millville, Pearce, and Gleeson. Enjoy stepping back in time for an afternoon at one of these locations and find yourself in awe of the romance of the West—and in appreciation of the modern amenities we enjoy today.

Global Dining on the Border in Sierra Vista

5. Enjoy World Class Dining Near the Border

Perhaps the most surprising part of traveling to Sierra Vista is discovering their burgeoning foodie scene. You can enjoy a homemade breakfast at your B&B followed by award-winning Vietnamese curry for lunch at Indochine, and a fresh seafood smorgasbord for dinner (we recommend any of the entrees at newly opened Tandem). Italian, Korean, Japanese, and of course Mexican cuisine are all within reach in Sierra Vista!

Lazy Dog Ranch in Sierra Vista, Arizona

6. Stay at the Lazy Dog Ranch B&B

There’s no better way to get to know a place than to stay with the locals. We love the Lazy Dog Ranch, located right on the banks of the San Pedro River and a short drive from town. Here you’ll find two spacious casitas (complete with WiFi), a swimming pool, and a wonderful breakfast nook prepared by your hosts. Did we mention the welcoming committee of several dogs plus a donkey, mule, and horse? You’ll feel right at home at the Lazy Dog Ranch and the rest of Sierra Vista, Arizona!




Granite & Gold in Tuolumne County, California

Gold and granite have been enticing visitors to central California since the mid-1800’s. All around Tuolumne County there are nods to the region’s roots, from Gold Rush era experiences to fantastic museums that educate visitors on the state’s history. Meanwhile, granite continues to beckon travelers from around the world to the same area. Tourists still flock to the Yosemite area to witness the breathtaking domes, sheer walls that reach sky-high, and waterfalls that drop to the valley floors. The combination of granite and gold make Tuolumne County one of the most interesting places to visit.

This article was created in partnership with Tuolumne County, California. All photos by Emily Sierra Photography.

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Hetch Hetchy’s Granite Walls

We’d heard Hetch Hetchy Reservoir was a much less-visited part of Yosemite National Park and jumped at the opportunity to walk on quiet trails and listen to the sounds of water cascading. We crossed O’Shaughnessy Dam, moseyed through an extinct train tunnel and cruised up the lakeshore toward Wapama Falls. We knew we’d enjoy the time around the lake, but were unprepared for the beauty surrounding it. Actually, it is believed that the views in Hetch Hetchy Valley rivaled that of the popular Yosemite Valley before it was dammed. Granite walls seem to cup the lake like two hands lifting water from a pool. The falls sprayed from the natural granite stairs, not in a rush, but rather a smooth cascade.

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Columbia State Historic Park

The town of Columbia went above and beyond to preserve their history. Exploring Columbia State Historic Park is truly an experience, not just another museum. Mixed among exhibits are functioning stores and saloons. Shopkeepers dress in period clothing and transport visitors to another time. The saloons tout sarsaparilla, and the blacksmith has the irons hot and ready. For a little extra dough, you can even pan for gold!

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Coupled with our visit to Columbia State Historic Park, we paid a visit to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. In the roundhouse we watched a gentleman delicately work on a steam engine and marveled at the variety of tools and train cars inside. On the short train ride, we learned more history about the railroad and films that made some of these trains famous!

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Gold Country by Horseback

Before the light faded, we explored Tuolumne County the pioneer way… on horseback! We met our guide from Aspen Meadow Pack Station and our steeds for the afternoon. We gently navigated the pine forest near Pinecrest Lake. Riding horses made us feel like true frontiersmen, in search of a new life. We bobbed and swayed along the trail, listening to our guide regale us with tales of ranch life.

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Finding rest and play in Gold Country

When we entered the adorable town of Twain Harte, we knew it would be hard to leave. Our car weaved through the hills, and we eventually found respite at the Lazy Z Resort. We slept so soundly in our cozy cabin, and felt just a touch closer to nature. To cool off from the day’s heat, we melted into the resort’s pool—a turquoise waterscape surrounded by natural rocks.

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On our initial drive through Twain Harte, we were immediately struck by the quaint miniature golf course on the side of the road. We found vintage fun there one evening, playing multiple rounds on the wonderfully simple course.

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Basing our vacation around the granite walls of Yosemite National Park and the historic charm of central California, we fell in love with Tuolumne County.




Escape the Crowds with a Road Trip in UpState California

California is a simply astounding place. It stretches for 900 miles along the west coast of the United States and encompasses world-famous gems such as Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and many more. But along with such well known destinations come tons of tourists. Escape the crowds with a road trip to the Shasta Cascade region of UpState California. Here, there are just as many outdoor adventures to experience with a fraction of the traffic!

This story was created in partnership with Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association.

Upstate California Pin

Exploring Redding in UpState CA

Find Out Why Redding is UpState CA’s Adventure Hub

Redding is the perfect jumping-off point for your adventures in UpState CA. Fly into the local airport or Sacramento (two hours away). Then, drop your bags off at the Sheraton Redding Hotel, located conveniently downtown at the iconic Sundial Bridge. That afternoon, the kids will love checking out neighboring Turtle Bay Exploration Park where they can learn about local indigenous history and culture, interact with animals such as Timber the beaver, feed lorikeets by hand, let loose on a number of playgrounds, and more.

The next morning, head to Pedego Redding where a fleet of e-bikes from cruisers to mountain bikes awaits. We recommend heading directly down the Sacramento River Trail to explore sights like the arboretum and Sundial Bridge. More ambitious cyclists can pack a picnic and go 17.4 miles all the way to Shasta Dam. No matter how far you ride you will be thrilled with the power of electricity in your wheels!

Wild Horse Sanctuary in UpState California

Go On a Trail Ride at the Wild Horse Sanctuary

That afternoon, journey towards the mountains to the Wild Horse Sanctuary. This wonderful operation is a true labor of love and home to 300 wild mustangs. You’ll have the chance to go for a picnic trail ride (Saturdays only) on the property and see the wild horses, learn about local flora and fauna, and soak in expansive views. Not visiting on a Saturday? You can still visit the wild horses on Wednesdays, too!

That evening, celebrate a surreal first day in UpState CA with a cocktail and indulgent meal from Mosaic, the Sheraton’s mouth-watering partner restaurant. We also recommend taking a peek at the Sundial Bridge after sunset!

Adventure at Shasta Caverns Lake Shasta on your Road Trip

Explore Shasta Lake and Shasta Caverns

The next morning, road trip north to Shasta Lake. This beautiful body of water is a favorite spot for boating, but our favorite thing to do is check out Shasta Caverns. This natural labyrinth of caves was formed 250 million years ago. Today, Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark is a must on any road trip in UpState California. Ask for “Cave Dave” as your guide and enjoy a wonder-filled tour through a series of mesmerizing natural passageways. You’ll also get to experience a short trip across the lake on both the beginning and end of the tour.

Road Trip Through UpState California

Road Trip Through Scenic Northern California

Get lunch in the town of Mt. Shasta, where weather-permitting the mountain is a sight to behold! Stretch your legs with a meander through town before continuing to your next stop, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. The central feature of the park is the stunning 129-foot Burney Falls. Walk the short one-mile Falls Loop Trail to take in the waterfall from all angles, then it’s back on the road! You’ll enjoy miles of scenic roadway that culminates with a drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park. (Note: please fuel up your car at the northern entrance to the park, as services are limited on the southern side.)

Enjoy sunset views of Manzanita Lake and Lassen Peak along the 30-mile park road before arriving at your home for the night—the Village at Childs Meadow. Chances are you’ll be ready for a hearty dinner! We recommend nearly anything on the menu paired with a locally brewed Khaki Hat lager from Lassen Ale Works at the Highlands Ranch Resort.

Hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park in UpState CA

Go Hiking in Lassen Volcanic National Park

On your final day, rise as the sun crests the mountain into Childs Meadow. Bacon and coffee are served hot at the restaurant and are great fuel for a day of hiking! The two most iconic hikes in Lassen Volcanic National Park are Lassen Peak and Bumpass Hell. With over 150 miles of trails to explore, you’ll find something perfect for the whole family. Keep in mind that this region is at altitude (much of it over 7,000 feet), so temperatures will be significantly lower than in Redding. It also might be a little harder to catch your breath during your hike and it’s that much more important to stay hydrated!

Getting back in the car that afternoon for your next destination or flight. You’ll be amazed at how much you experienced in just three days in UpState California!




3 Days in Farmington, New Mexico

Tucked in the northwest corner of New Mexico sits the charming town of Farmington. A basecamp for adventure and culture, Farmington is packed full of great amenities to suit all styles of traveler. The following itinerary is geared toward a summer traveler in the area, but Farmington still offers outdoor recreation and interesting attractions year-round. Each day has options for a more laid-back traveler and others for the adrenaline junkie. Feel free to mix up the activities to get a real taste of Farmington!

Lodging

There is a range of accommodation options in Farmington. Whether you’re seeking the comfort and consistency of a chain hotel, or a unique bed and breakfast (sleep in a cave house, anyone?), you’ll find many options. Additionally, there are several campgrounds and RV parks in the area.

Dining

We’ll leave the food decisions up to you since everyone has a different palate. One thing is for certain, though, New Mexican chile is world renown, and you should definitely seek it out during your visit. You can order red or green chile with your meals, but the pro-move is to order your meal “Christmas style”, meaning…both! Aside from (New) Mexican food, there are plenty of other dining options including BBQ, Asian, steak and seafood, and loads of family- friendly establishments.

Activities – First Day

  1. Take it easy option (10 minutes from downtown)

    Pinon Hills Golf Course is public and one of the most premier in the United States. This course is also one of the most scenic in New Mexico with its vibrant green setting against giant rock formations and the Badlands in the distance.

  1. Crank it up a notch option (45 minutes from downtown)

    The best way to enjoy the landscape in this area is with a hike. Get off the beaten path with an exhilarating and unique hike in the Bisti Badlands. Stop by the Farmington Visitor’s Center before you head out. The kind folks there can help get you acquainted with the Badlands and lend recommendations for getting around this true wilderness area. Within only 4-6 miles you can see an ethereal collection of hoodoos, twisted geology, and a rainbow of colors across the hillsides. Hike as little or as much as you’re up for there.

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Sip and slow down (35 minutes from downtown)

Indulge in a full spectrum of delicious artisanal wines at the Wines of the San Juan. The tasting room offers a fun, relaxed environment and the vineyard is set against a stunning landscape. The vineyard is open daily until 6pm and closed Tuesdays, so plan accordingly.

Shiprock for sunset (approximately 35-45 minutes from downtown)

If you haven’t seen a photo of the iconic Shiprock Pinnacle, search this place on the internet right now! There is no proper entrance to the rock, but the best viewing is just off highway 491, south of Shiprock reservation. Keep in mind that this is a sacred place, so please be respectful to the land and the people there.

Activities – Second Day

  1. Take it easy option (25 minutes from downtown)

    Cool off at Lake Farmington! There is a welcoming beach if you’re just looking to take a dip and enjoy a picnic. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, rent a paddleboard or kayak from the San Juan College Equipment Rental Center and zip around the shoreline. The swim area at the lake is roped off, there’s a lifeguard on duty, and there’s even a trampoline and slide to play on! Additionally, the lake is stocked year-round, so bring a rod and get ready to catch some fish.

  2. Crank it up a notch option (40 minutes from downtown)

    Jump on two wheels and explore some of the excellent mountain biking in the Farmington area. Alien Run zips through one of the best trail systems in the area with a little bit of everything: smooth flowy trails, rim riding, and slickrock amongst pinons and junipers. If you need to rent a bike or any other gear, 505 Cycles is your one-stop-shop in Farmington.

Galleries and museums

Take in the art and culture of the region at one or all of the fabulous galleries and museums! The Bolack Museum offers an unbelievable display of both (separately) taxidermy fish and wildlife and also a massive electromechanical collection. The art galleries downtown feature astonishing works by local artists, and inside many of the galleries, you’ll be able to see the artists at work! Hours vary for all galleries and museums, if you have a specific interest it would be best to look up individual hours for each location.

Activities – Third Day

  1. Take it easy option (1 hour 25 minutes from downtown)

    History buffs and outdoor lovers alike will LOVE Chaco National Historical Park. There you’ll encounter the largest excavated prehistoric ruins in North America. There are three great ways to explore the park: drive the 9-mile loop, bike the loop, or hike some of the trails in the Park. The ruins in the Park are quite inspiring and definitely worth a visit!

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  2. Crank it up a notch option (15 minutes from downtown)

    If you crave the power and adrenaline rush of an off-road adventure, explore Chokecherry Canyon. This desert playground offers an amazing off-roading experience from rock crawling to desert washes.

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Local Shopping

Round out your trip with a visit to one of the historic trading posts in Farmington. These trading posts specialize in authentic American Indian arts and crafts. Take home hand-woven rugs, blankets and baskets, jewelry, pottery, and so much more. Stepping into any of these trading posts offers more than a shopping experience, it’s a cultural experience.

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This itinerary was created in partnership with the Farmington CVB, New Mexico.