This is the most visited National Park in the United States. The Great Smoky National Park and UNESCO World Heritage site was the homeland of the Cherokees before the arrival of European settlers. After having visited a few cities we look forward to get back into a national park and do some hikes. We enter the park and we soon notice that this park is very busy. Nevertheless, we head to the visitor center to get all necessary information for our hike(s) and head straight towards the Cave waterfall hike. After a 2 mile hike we notice that we didn’t start at the trailhead and it would be too far to do the full 3.5 Miles (one way) hike, so Felix goes back to get the car and picks up the cow girls on the road to finally get to the trail head. The parking area is crowded. We get into traffic jam. Stop, let me get out – a black bear! A black bear strolls around the parking lot and visitors seem to chase the bear for pics. We finally get a spot to park our car and enjoy the peaceful but quite busy hike to the fall.
We decide to move on and spend some time at the beach – stay tuned!
Getting into Zion National Park, we are not quite sure whether we can drive thru the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel or not due to the traffic control for oversized vehicles. Construction of the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel began in the late 1920’s and was completed in 1930. At the time that the tunnel was dedicated, on July 4, 1930, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States. The purpose of the building the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel (and the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway) was to create direct access to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon from Zion National Park. Unfortunate, our RV is an oversized vehicle with a width of 8 feet and 10 inches meaning that we need to pay to go thru. Unfortunate, we get too late to Zion – all campsites are full at 12 p.m. so we drive thru and luckily we got a spot in the village next to the park entrance. Visiting a dozen of NP, we are extremely surprised how well the parks are organized and how well they manage all the crowd. Shuttle buses waiting time in the morning is between 30 and 45 minutes to get into the park! We load our Bikes and get into the Park. Here we enjoy a few smaller hikes including the river walk to the Narrows. What a surprise and amazing hike! Mara and Elin enjoy walking in the water and splashing. Luckily, Mara and I loaded our Bikes and enjoy a long decent down the valley to the campground. We drive fast to get some wind and cool down as temperatures are climbing over 100 F.
We all now enjoy the lower pace of travelling. Here in Brice Canyon we enjoy hiking, playing at the campground with other Swiss- or English speaking kids and as usual, we never miss the Junior Ranger Program that Mara and Elin love. This National Park in Utah features a collection of giant natural amphitheaters and is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos. We all enjoy and admire the hoodoos and arches on our hike (Navajo trail, Queen Garden and Wall Street). The latter is an impressive climb (mostly in the shade) up to Sunset Point. Back at the campground (after a 5 Km hike), Mara asks to go Biking. So we pack our Bikes and enjoy the ride along the nice bike trails in the National Park up to Inspiration point. This is truly an inspiration point and we get rewarded by a gorgeous view over the Amphitheater! We drive back our bikes and still get the whole afternoon to play in the pool!
We enjoy the scenic drive thru Capitol Reef National Park. The Park is located in south-central Utah. It offers plenty of hidden treasures filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, bridges and water wholes. In the park we undergo the mandatory Junior Ranger program with Mara and Elin and enjoy a few amazing hikes such as the Hickman Bridge, Grand Wash (Tanks), … As part of the program we join the Ranger Talk and learn about the fruit Orchards (Apricots) in the valley. We reduced our pace a bit and are enjoying light activity days, playing in the pool and on the lawn at the campground!
This National Park is a World Heritage Site located in Colorado by Cortez. We enjoyed visiting this well preserved ancestral puebloan archeological sites. We explore the National Park and do the Cliff Palace Balcony House and tour. The later was quite scary with the kids climbing up a 32 foot latter to get up to the palace cliff! What an adventure! It is quite impressive seeing this evidence of how room and passageway construction in the alcove evolved through time. We enjoy watching some indigenous dances at the cultural center in Cortez. We extend our stay here. Mara and Elin enjoy their surprise – a horseback ride in this beautiful Colorado back country. It is amazing to see this diverse landscape (it changes dramatically after a 30 min ride out of Cortez). We enjoy the trees and water surrounded area.
After leaving the coast, temperatures start rising. The thermometer rose up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit on our way to Redding where we stopped for two days on a 5 star campground with pool! For the first time ever we turned on the air conditioning in our trailer and experienced a 5 star service on the campground inclusive the Newspaper delivery every morning! In Redding we visited the amazing Sundial bridge and did a day trip to the Shasta caves. The kids enjoyed the boat trip to get to the caves as well as the 609 steps during the tour thru the cave;-) On our way to Chester we experienced diverse landscapes and big climbs up to the Lassen National Park entrance. Since there was no drive thru on Lassen (the road opens on June 12th) we spent most of the time in the visitor center (an amazing and super interesting visitor center) getting Mara thru the Junior Ranger program 😉 before heading to Chester. Here, we found a gorgeous campground right at lake Almanor. June 10th is our BIG DAY! We decided to go for a hike (approx. 7 km) on Warner Valley (Lassen National Park). We headed towards Devil’s Kitchen. Mara and Elin were leading the hike until we crossed a family that just spotted a blond black bear! With respect we moved on, each of us a holding a kid watching out for the bear – and here we go – the Bear was approx. 150m away from the trail digging and playing. Slightly scared and precautious we moved on to Devil’s Kitchen – a beautiful volcanic landscape with mod pods and steam!
On our way back, we chatted with a ranger and shared our experiences about the bear (he didn’t see the bear on his way) and he taught us that they never experienced aggressions or any accidents with bears in the park – just don’t surprise them! 5 minutes later on our way back, Felix got surprised by a black bear just a few feet in front of him. Stop! Move back! Just trying to keep an eye where the bear heads to since we needed to pass by and didn’t wanted to surprise him behind a tree. After a little while we were save to move on and continue our journey! We then realized how unique this experience was- to meet a golden black bear just on the same trail, in natural surroundings, looking at each other and observe how it behaves in his „living room“. What an incredible day!