Although the name suggests that the canyon near Lumpkin, Ga developed over millennia, sadly, the erosion that created this beautiful landscape happened due to poor farming practices in the 1800s.
Tim, Reba and I took on the 2.5 mile Canyon Loop trail that is rated easy to moderate. Tim says that is a lie and it is hard.
The ranger at the visitor’s center recommended that we go counter clockwise, which has you go down about 150 feet on a pretty steep portion of the trail, but back up over nearly a mile, so the elevation change is less difficult. Again, Tim says it was all hard and that the ranger is a liar.
The park extends over 1100 acres and features 16 “canyons” that you can explore from over ten total miles of trails.
The gorgeous colors of the canyon walls come from the Clayton formation, which is the red upper layer and the Providence sand layer, which is over 100 feet deep and shows off the white, tan, lavender and many other shades.
At the bottom of the canyon, the trail we took veers off so you can view nine of the 16 canyons from their base. If you go, wear waterproof boots because the trail sits below sea level and little streams run everywhere!
As we neared the end of the trail we came across old car skeletons that had been left by a homesteader. When the property became part of the park the rangers made the decision to leave them where they were because birds and other small animals had made homes in them.
From the rim of the trail you can see the canyon walls from above. Gorgeous!
If you don’t want to do the minimum work it takes to run a nice campground –
If you dream up unreasonable rules –
Maybe you should NOT own a campground.
By the time we get back to Florida in November, we will have visited over 100 campgrounds. We will have spent over 600 nights living in our Alliance 5th wheel in a campground of some sort.
We have met so many wonderful camp hosts, camp employees and camp owners and the vast majority of them seem to love the lifestyle and love or at least like their customers.
One campground even had a rules board up that said: Rule #1 – Have Fun. Rule #2 – Stay Safe
I get it, you need to have reasonable rules. Those rules should be clearly posted when you register and enforced for the safety and enjoyment of everyone.
But here’s one I’ll bet you have not seen in a campground before – especially in a KOA. You can’t walk your dog around the campground on a leash because in the past some bad dog owner didn’t pick up their dog’s poop.
Don’t get me wrong. I know there are bad dog owners out there. I have seen many, many of them. But the vast majority of us do pick up after our dogs. I can’t understand why you would make a rule that punishes customers of your business because of a few people who don’t get it.
When confronted with this rule taped onto their check in counter (not on their website or in any of the E Mails “welcoming” us to their park), I did say to the clerk, “this rule feels unreasonable.”
She immediately started attacking me. She claimed loudly that it was not her rule, it was made by the park manager and that some people didn’t pickup, so that was the rule. You can take your dog to the dog park and let them go there. What was my problem?
Well, we had just driven 4 hours and wanted to take a walk around the park to get a little exercise for both of us. Active dogs need more room to walk than just a small fenced area. And, by the way, I found out later, their dog park does not even have a working gate.
I said, fine, we will deal with it. We are only here one night. We simply will not be back and will be leaving a review about this. It will not be good.
She snapped back, “do you think I should have to pick up poop?” “Well,” I responded calmly, “if bad dog owners DO leave some poop behind and you want to keep your campground clean, then I guess, yes.”
If you run a grocery store and there is a spill on aisle 6, we clean it up. It’s what good managers and employees do when they are charged with keeping a business clean and safe.
You are working in a campground. If a bad owner leaves poop on the road, of course someone working here should clean it up.
She was appalled that a campground worker might be asked to pick up the occasional poop. This young lady should not be working in a campground.
As a responsible dog owner, I often pick up “bonus poops” when I see them. I’m certain that at some point in my life I have missed one my dog made.
We got set up and I took Reba to the dog park where I met a delightful person staying here long term. They mentioned that we should hold the gate closed with one of our leashes, because they told the owner two weeks ago that the gate needed to be repaired, but it has not been fixed yet.
They also mentioned that they were reprimanded for leaving two chairs, a fire pit and their grill outside their rig. They are staying there for MONTHS. They were told that they should be able to pack up and be out of the park within 20 minutes. Another unreasonable “rule.”
My guess is that this KOA owner was a previous condo HOA board member.
Once I got back to the rig, the “manager” came over to berate us more about saying that we thought the rule was unreasonable. She yelled at Tim that it was not HER rule, it was the rule of the park manager. We basically told her to leave us alone. We will abide by their stupid rule. We simply will not be back and will be leaving a review based on our experience.
And here is a very ironic note from their website: “The Douglas KOA Team will help you enjoy every moment of your visit.”
If I had not had dozens of wonderful experiences at KOAs across the country this would left a terrible taste in my mouth about the brand. But I do know that the vast majority of the KOA owners (and the corporate parks) are amazing – and have wonderful staff.
The Beartooth Highway, an All-American Road runs 68 miles from Red Lodge, Montana to the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park, just outside of Cooke City, Montana.
The Beartooth Highway has been called “Highway to the Sky” and was named the most beautiful drive in North America by late journalist Charles Kuralt. It’s official name is more boring – US Route 212.
This incredible highway was constructed from 1931 to 1936 as an eastern approach to Yellowstone National Park. The construction followed the path that General Philip Sheridan took in 1872 after an inspection of Yellowstone National Park.
The Beartooth rises to 10,947 feet above sea-level and zigs and zags with switchbacks and hairpins through the Gallatin, Custer and Shoshone National Forests and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. It crosses the 45th parallel and skirts the Montana-Wyoming border. The peaks you can see from the road rise as high as 12,000.
The Beartooth Highway is only open about 5 months a year. It is managed on the Montana side by the state, but Wyoming says that the road does not meet it’s state standards, so they do not manage it. That portion of the highway maintenance falls to the National Park Service. Neither of them plow it in the winter, thus is is closed to traffic from mid October to about mid May depending on the weather
It was nearly August when we made the drive and although the temperatures have been well into the 90s for more than two weeks, there are still large patches of snow on the peaks. That makes sense, since the region averages over 200 inches of snowfall each year. Snowpack averages 47 inches and has gotten as high as 126” in recent years.
The wilderness contains nearly 1000 gorgeous high mountain lakes. We didn’t have time to hike down to any of them, but they are beautiful to look at!
We finished the Beartooth Highway and took another lap into Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley. Even though we only drove in a few miles before heading back out to continue our drive, we saw a black bear and got a VERY close encounter with several of the “fluffy cows” that frequent the area.
We then stopped at Cooke City and had some amazing trout at the Bistro. They have wifi, too!
We took the beautiful Chief Joseph Scenic Byway back towards Cody so we could continue back to Red Lodge. This 46 mile long Wyoming state highway is the route Chief Joseph used to lead nearly 1000 members of the Nez Perce tribe out of Yellowstone and into Montana as they attempted to flee from the US Cavalry and escape into Canada. They did not make it, they were captured just 30 miles from their destination and were forced onto a reservation in Oklahoma.
This highway runs through the Shoshone National Forest and the Absaroka Mountains. The views from this road are not as mountainous, consisting mainly of gorgeous valleys and forests and waterfalls!
As the byway crosses the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River, you can peer into a deep canyon and see the powerful waters below.
It was a LONG day, but filled with incredible views and history. I’d recommend going on a weekday, because we hear that the weekends are much more crowded!
Sources: Beartooth Highway website, wiki, roadside signs and my own eyes.
Our first time into Glacier National Park, we took our truck. We like to scout out the parks and see what we might want to come back to experience. We entered the park after 4pm and were immediately met with 10 miles of…no road. Not only are they rehabbing or replacing 13 bridges throughout the park, but last year they laid a new sewer line from the Lake McDonald Lodge to the west entrance of the park. It took all last summer to lay the sewer and is likely to take all this summer for them to replace the road. I know their construction season is short, but this seems like a LONG time to do 10 miles of roadway.
So our first impression was a dusty one.
On our second trip in we went on one of the red tour busses and before we got to the construction, the driver stopped at the Apgar Visitor’s Center at the base of Lake McDonald.
On our tour, when we hit the construction – we stopped. For a full hour. There is no way around the traffic, you just have to sit and wait for them to open the road back up. Our fantastic tour director told us stories to keep us entertained and we also shared stories with each other. She had no idea that there would be this sort of delay, but she handled it very well.
Once we got through the construction we stopped for lunch at the Lake McDonald Lodge. The food was great and the service at the restaurant was wonderful. They are very stingy with the wifi password and only give it to the guests of the lodge, but overall it was a good experience. I recommend the elk burger!
We made a stop at this beautiful river. Our guide told us that the water is so colorful because of “glacier flour” or ground up bits of silt that does not dissolve completely and reflects light to cause this beautiful turquoise color.
The Road to the Sun is a twisting, turning, narrow road with gorgeous overlooks. Tim did a great job of navigating on our first drive through, but of course he could not look at much while keeping us all safe! On our tour, he could look out from the open top bus and try to keep his fear of heights in check.
Logan Pass is a large visitors center with some great short hiking trails. I understand that big horn sheep are frequently spotted here, but we did not see any this time.
When Glacier was named a national park, it had over 100 glaciers within its borders. By 2015, only 26 met the criteria to be called active glaciers. On Road to the Sun road, we got a nice view of the Jackson Glacier from this viewpoint.
In 1850, Jackson Glacier and what is now the Blackfoot Glacier were one and covered 1875 acres. The Jackson Glacier is now just 250 acres.
There were so many stunning viewpoints in Glacier.
We took a short hike to an overlook over one of the lakes on the east side of the park. Apparently the east side is the windy side. I could barely stand up!
We did not make it over to the Many Glaciers entrance and I understand that is beautiful. Next time! (Don’t tell Tim.)
You can checkout anytime you’d like, but you can never leave….welcome to Yellowstone National Park in July.
We loved 99% of everything at Yellowstone National Park. I wrote several posts about the magnificent geysers, valleys, mountains, rivers, streams and meadows and of course the beautiful wildlife.
But they have GOT to get control over the traffic as you are attempting to leave the park.
Getting in is no big deal. Even the longest entry lines to pay are reasonable. But of the 9 days we visited the park we spent more than two hours trying to exit on each of three separate occasions. And from what we understand this is standard in the summer months.
Adding rangers at the main intersections between 4 – 7pm would help tremendously but even more than that, they need a cop and a tow truck stationed at each exit during the busiest days. Perhaps even an ambulance. One day, we were creeping along for over an hour before we saw the first emergency vehicle coming to help. I hope nobody needed immediate care.
I WISH the delays had had been from a bison jam. Nope – those were few and far between. This was just too many inattentive drivers driving rental cars they are not familiar with in too big of a hurry.
We saw a rollover (thankfully it looked like everyone was OK) and saw the aftermath of several other accidents. The other two times the blockage had been cleared by the time we were moving again, so we didn’t see what caused the delay.
And because there is no cell service in most of the park, there is no way to get emergency information to visitors. If visitors knew there was a two hour backup, we could potentially try leaving through a different entrance.
Tim was saying (during one of our long standstills) that an AM Radio signal through the park would be helpful in case of an emergency. Rangers could make visitors aware of sudden weather emergencies (not uncommon) or traffic issues.
I realize that rangers don’t sign up to deal with traffic issues, but if the national park system doesn’t get this under control, not only will people start to be leery of visiting, but someone is going to die when emergency services can’t get to them in time.
Voted number one dog park in the US by Mini Aussie, Reba McIntyre Lafond……drumroll….and the winner is……drumroll…….The Hugh Rogers Wag Park in Whitefish, Montana!
This gorgeous 5 acre public dog park has multiple fenced areas where you can run your tail off. Your humans can throw the ball as far as the eyes can see and you can run in the grass as fast as lightning, pick up that ball, leave it right where you found it and dog snicker as the humans trudge over to get it and throw it for you again, and again, and again!
And when you get so tuckered your tongue falls out, get the human to open the gate to the DOG POND! My mom threw the ball into the water and this time I brought it back. She indulges me most of the time, but draws the line at going into the pond to get the ball for me.
I raced through the water with my new friends, a Great Pyrenees and some other giant pups. They are not as cool as my Pyr buddy Puffy, but they will do while we are on the road.
There was a dog wash station where I got rinsed off after the pond and then we went over to the agility games and I showed off my “hup” (jump) and weave. They had fresh water stations for my dog friends and their humans too!
In addition to the whole park being a huge dog restroom, they had potties for the humans too and dad got to sit in the shade at a picnic table while mom did all the running and throwing. He did drive me over in the truck so we just let him rest for awhile.
All of the humans were very responsible and picked up the poop so the grass was beautiful and lush. Mom loved the gorgeous mountain view and the paved walking trails too.
I sure wish I had met Hugh Rogers who was a veterinarian in the Whitefish area. Sadly, he crossed the rainbow bridge awhile back because of a plane crash. He and the humans who run this place in his honor deserve a four paw salute in my book!
If you are in the area or just want to check out the best of the best go here for more info:
We visited Yellowstone’s little sister park, Grand Teton while Emily was staying with us. This park is about 1/10th the total acerage of Yellowstone, but it packs in gorgeous mountains, valleys, meadows, lakes and incredible hikes.
We stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge to check out the beautiful architecture and incredible views.
Grand Teton National Park is just a few miles south of Yellowstone and was named a national park in 1929. It includes the gorgeous peaks of Teton range which tops out at nearly 14,000 feet and much of the valley known as Jackson Hole.
Like many people I always thought Jackson Hole was the name of a ski town. Turns out the town is simply called Jackson, Wyoming and the entire valley is Jackson Hole, cause it’s a hole in the mountain range.
Grand Teton has over 200 miles of hiking trails. Some of these are well traveled and can get crowded. Emily did some research and put parts of two lesser known hikes together and we saw so many beautiful things!
This incredible hike took us to Moose Ponds where we were thrilled to see several beautiful beasts!
We ended up in a meadow/marsh that was filled with wildflowers!
Grand Teton has historical buildings including Menor’s Ferry Homestead that is open to the public and occasionally has staff in period costumes. It sits alongside the Snake River.
Emily and I explored the area and caught the very end of the staff led tour of the building.
When you think of Yellowstone and animals, I’ll bet the bison is the first that comes to mind. Wiki says that the bison herd in Yellowstone is one of the oldest and largest herds in the US. They estimate that there are just under 5,000 bison in the park. Lots of people call them buffalo, and they are a distant cousin to the Asian Water Buffalo and the African Buffalo, but if you see these beasts in the US, they are likely bison.
Bison thrive on alpine meadowland and grasslands and require a reliable water source. Yellowstone provides both in abundance and the herds have thrived here. Once, there were as many as 60 million bison roaming our country, but by the 1880s they had been hunted to near extinction. The current herd in Yellowstone is said to have grown from just 23 left from the over hunting plus a few borrowed from Lincoln Park Zoo.
Bison males can stand six feet tall at the shoulder and weigh up to 2000 pounds. Females are about the same height, but usually weigh about 1300 pounds. And while they usually move pretty slowly, when agitated, bison can run up to 35 miles an hour. That’s faster than you can run.
You will see some pictures here that look like we are too close. I give props to the new iPhone 14 Pro that has an awesome zoom. You are advised to stay at least 25 yards from bison, elk, most and deer and at least 100 yards from bear and wolves.
Some tourons (tourist/moron combo) we saw didn’t read the many, many signs and got far too close.
Next is my favorite bison video. This guy just rolled and rolled in the dust – like a giant puppy!
We didn’t see any moose in Yellowstone, but when we visited Grand Tetons, Emily found a hike that took us along Moose Pond….sounds promising, right?
We were able to see several moose munching through their day on that hike. Moose are the largest members of the deer family. They can grow to nearly seven feet tall at their shoulders and weigh between 800 and 1600 pounds. Males grow impressive antlers. They shed them every winter and regrow them over the summer in time to show off for the rut.
There are said to be about 800 moose in the Yellowstone/Grand Teton area.
Although there are between 10,000 and 20,000 elk in Yellowstone in the summertime, in winter they roam outside of the park in search of food. We only saw a few of them closely enough to get pictures.
Males are five foot tall at the shoulder and weigh as much as 700 pounds.
Most bull elk drop their antlers in March or April and start growing their new set. The one you see below does not have his full rack yet. We took these pictures/videos in early July. Their antlers are covered in a soft “velvet” that they start rubbing off in August in preparation for the rut. The scent from the velvet attracts females and the males use the hardened antlers to fight off competitors.
The next animal we saw is one that can cause havoc at campgrounds and terror on the trail. Bears. There are two types of bears at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, grizzly bears and black bears.
You can’t tell which is which based on their color. They both can have several different colored coats.
Grizzly bears have a large hump on their back and are much larger than black bears. They are normally 200-700 pounds – about 1.5 – 2x larger than black bears.
We saw a grizzly bear running through a meadow, but it was too quick and too far away to get a picture. We know it was a grizzly because a ranger was keeping people back and she confirmed.
On another amazing Emily hike (she finds the best hikes) we saw bears munching on wildflowers in a meadow beside the path. We stayed back safely and used the zoom to get this picture.
Both types of bear are incredibly beautiful and can be deadly. It is recommended that you carry bear spray when you hike in the back country (where we saw the bear) and that you know how to use it. Just ten days after our trip to Yellowstone a woman was killed by a grizzly on a trail very close to the RV park where we stayed. I did buy a crazy expensive can of bear spray and carried it with me. I probably would have through it was cheap if I had to use it though!
There was a lot of talk about the wolves in the park. They even have super fans who spend weeks in the park searching for a peek at the pack. We were not lucky enough to see a wolf, but we did see a coyote. This one was near a herd of bison and ran down to the river for a drink. Coyote are abundant in the park.
The parks are also known for their mountain goats and big horn sheep. We were not lucky enough to catch either of these.
We did see tons of the smaller mammals that call the national parks home. This marmot was not far from our bear siting and we saw them in several areas through the parks.
The deer population is huge and there are many varieties. I think this one is a pronghorn, but they are quick!
This is one of the most aggressive animal in the park. The chipmunks and squirrels have gotten very comfortable with the tourists and they will go right in your backpack and grab some chips if you are not careful. Emily had to stop one from running right up her leg!
Make sure you look UP when your re searching for animals in the park. We found this osprey nest right by a river.
And man, do they grow their crows big out west! What looks like a crow is actually a raven. These super intelligent bird is an opportunistic feeder. They will scavenge a wolf’s kill and follow the humans to their favorite picnic areas and parking lots. I understand they can unzip a backpack to grab your snacks!
Look up and look down at your feet while you are hiking too! We saw some snakes just sunning themselves near the path.
And although she was banned from the paths and overlooks in the parks, Reba joined us on several drives through the park. She didn’t even bark at the bison!
We spent nine total days exploring Yellowstone National Park. Because Yellowstone sits on an inactive volcano, it is known well for the hot springs, geysers and that make it the largest concentration of thermal features in the world. But not all the water in the park is hot.
Yellowstone is filled with rivers, streams and waterfalls that are fed from the melt of mountain snow. Over 14 rivers run through the park and while we were visiting, they were filled to the brim and flowing furiously.
Other rivers flowed lazily alone and attracted some of the magnificent residents of Yellowstone!
Yellowstone River is the largest running through the park. We saw fly fisher-people hip deep, rods flashing – searching for supper. The fish that was originally most prevalent in the region was the cut throat trout. For years they were excessively fished and then either accidentally or on purpose someone introduced lake trout to the area.
Seems like it would not be a big deal. A trout is a trout, right? Not exactly. Turns out the lake trout love to eat the roe of the cut throat and because they swim more deeply, they are not as available to bear and other animals in the park who fish to feed themselves and their family.
The waterfalls in the park were equally as majestic and powerful during our visit. Yellowstonepark.com states that the park features over 300 waterfalls. The largest is Lower Falls at over 300 feet tall. Upper Falls is just over 100 feet tall but is just as beautiful!
We spent two weeks at the KOA in West Yellowstone and visited the park nine times. The park is huge. You could spend a lifetime there (and some employees do) exploring the 2.2 million acres of mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, prairies, canyons, trails, geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, travertine terraces and mud pots.
The most unique part for us midwesterners was visiting the 10,000+ thermal features in the park. Several guides and rangers told us that Yellowstone is home to nearly half the world’s geysers and that is because the majority of the park is nestled quietly on top of a huge caldera. And guess what, a caldera is an inactive (for now) volcano.
When could Yellowstone have a major eruption? Most of the research I found says it is possible within the next 100,000 years. So we are probably safe to enjoy the tiny little releases of pressure we can see regularly from the 500+ geysers at the park. The most predictable is Old Faithful. We did see it erupt a couple of times and it’s interesting, if a little underwhelming after envisioning it for years.
If you visit Old Faithful, be sure to take the attached trail to see many more, smaller, but cool thermal features. You can enjoy them from a well maintained path, including boardwalks that give you wonderful peeks into the steamy center of the earth all from a safe distance.
Another fun hike is the Norris Geyser Basin. This area features Steamboat Geyser. Steamboat’s major eruptions can be the largest in the park at over 300 feet high. Signs around the parking area remind you that National Park Service is not responsible if your car gets geysered – and it could! The challenge with Steamboat is that its eruptions are not nearly as neatly timed as Old Faithful’s. It has gone years without erupting, but has then erupted 48 times in 2020 alone…makes sense. That year deserved a few earthly temper tantrums. We saw it spitting and fussing a bit, but we did not see an eruption.
We saw many steaming hot streams and some very stupid tourists getting far too close (with their kids) to the near boiling water. We heard more than one story about bodies having to be recovered from scalding water because a tourist thought “it couldn’t be THAT hot.”
My very favorite thermal feature is the mud pots. We saw some that looked like a grayish boiling hot chocolate (more water than mud) and some that bubbled and spit like a witches cauldron filled with boiling mud. To see my favorite one go to the Artists paint pot hike. It’s just a mile round trip and you can see a sampling of most of the types of thermal features.
The thermal features sport some gorgeous colors!
Watch for some posts on the other beautiful parts of Yellowstone!
Thermal feature tip: Go early or late. The cooler the temperatures, the more steamy they look and at sunset – just WOW!