While I was moving to college, my family and I stopped for the night in Caliente, Nevada and spent time in Cathedral Gorge State Park. After a long day of driving, it was nice to be able to get out and stretch our legs in such a beautiful area. We were lucky to get there around sunset, so we had some amazing views.
Cathedral Gorge is on the eastern side of Nevada and is home to many unique clay formations made from years of continuous erosion, creating very photo worthy orange and yellow hues. There are many open areas, as well as sever slot canyon areas. Make sure to keep track of where you are as it can easy to get lost in them!
There are numerous hikes to take, including Miller Point Trail, Eagle Point Trail, and Juniper Draw Loop, the longest being three miles. Most of the trails are fairly easy for most people and great to take kids on. If you are low on time, simply parking by and exploring the Cathedral, Canyon, and Moon caves will give you plenty of opportunity to see the slot canyons and formations. Of these, I particularly enjoyed the Cathedral caves. If you do explore the caves, note that there are certainly possibilities of seeing bats and make sure to wear study shoes as the terrain may be uneven.
There are also some historical structures nearby, including some built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The water tower and outhouse are no longer in use (don’t fret though, there are functional bathrooms nearby), but stand to serve as a thank you to those who helped develop the park during its creation in 1935.
If you are looking to stay the night, there are 22 $15 camping spots with an additional $10 fee for electric hookups. Each spot has a grill, table, shaded area, and access to a bathroom with showers. There are quiet hours from 22:00 to 07:00 and the visitors center is open from 09:00 to 16:30.
Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for very long, but what we saw was gorgeous and I would love to return, if only to take a few more photos.
Have you been to Cathedral Gorge, or passed by while driving to Caliente? Would you like to? Leave your thoughts the comments!
I have travelled far and wide, and it is easy to say that at the time this article was written, I would claim that Kaua’i’s Napali Coast is one of the most gorgeous natural formations I have ever seen. The steep coastline and thick foliage contrasting the turquoise waters form a picturesque view unparalleled by many of the world’s sights.
There are two main ways to get to the coast: hiking or by boat. However, the hike is very strenuous and dangerous, making an option only for those who are fit for such a task. While the hike would be enjoyable, it also doesn’t offer a view of the coast from afar, which is quite remarkable.
My family and I opted to take the boat option, so we could get some snorkeling in too. Originally, we planned to take a catamaran, but it was canceled due to high winds, so we scheduled for another day and took a raft instead. Our tour company, Kauai Sea Tours, was super helpful in navigating this dilemma and I would totally recommend touring with them.
We departed and spent time on the open ocean for a bit before heading to the coastline. Here, you can catch glimpses of the forbidden island, which is only open by invitation. You may also have an opportunity to see marine life, including whales, dolphins, and sea turtles. The dolphins are in what’s called an alpha state, meaning that they are sleeping. With this being said, do not take any tours that swim with dolphins. Since dolphins are nocturnal, swimming with tourists is the equivalent of waking up in the middle of the night consistently, leading to sleep deprivation and numerous health issues. There is a ban on this in Kaua’i, but other islands allow it, so make sure to pick tours carefully. However, seeing them and the other critters is a harm free and beautiful experience!
On the way to the coast are many stunning sea caves and grottos. Some can be accessed by raft (when weather and waves allow), which we got to partake in to some extent. The one pictured below has an opening on the other side that has hosted numerous weddings (all millionaires, of course). Many of the caves can be rather dangerous so make sure you are with an experienced captain.
There are many other beautiful sights along the way as well. There are some remote beaches, many of which are restricted and sacred, so please honor these wishes. Some allow foot traffic or access by kayak, but these trips can be risky, especially if the weather denies easy exit. Our captain told us a tale of a man who kayaked out and was trapped by waves. Since no captains could access him, he was stranded for over a week. The beach pictured below, Honopu beach, was actually a burial ground, making it a heavily restricted area. Kings of the native groups were buried here, along with the common people. However, it was believed that the royal people had mana, or power in their bones, which could be stolen after burial. Due to this, a person was commissioned to climb the cliff face and hide the bones in the rocks. Once the deed was done, they would cut their rope and commit suicide to prevent anyone from knowing the location. Their family would ascend in social class as well, making it a privilege and honor to bury the king. This beach, even though sacred, has been in several movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Another interesting thing about this beach is the tunnel, which was used in several movie scenes. One of the most intense scenes filmed included a man flying a helicopter through the tunnel that is fairly narrow. The man was an ex Vietnam pilot and very talented, but despite his skill, the tunnel was an extraordinarily dangerous place to fly. In exchange for risking his life, the filmmakers paid him a pretty penny to do it, not once, but three times. After realizing this daunting task was easy for him, he took his earnings, started a helicopter touring company, and said that if the customers gave him a generous tip, he would give them “the ride of a lifetime.” To those who tipped, they found themselves barely squeezing through this tunnel, afraid that they will never live to see the light of day. Apparently, after scaring tourists on a regular basis, Hawai’i removed his rights to a helicopter company, but not his license. He supposedly relocated to the Grand Canyon, where he does other death defying tricks.
The tour will take you from the shady and more rocky side of the island to the green and lush side, where the iconic views of the Napali coast are. The hills are beautiful and jagged due to the volcanic rock and torrential ocean waves. At the most beautiful spot, the mountains dip into a nest with twelve spires. Legend has it that a god in bird form hatched twelve children, of which were intended to be nocturnal. Their mother tended them carefully and reminded them they must be in the nest by sunrise. However, one night they stayed out too late and the poor mother watched them turn to stone.
It may be different for other tours, but ours ended in a brief snorkeling adventure. For someone who has grown up around freshwater, like me, it’s always a weird experience swimming in the ocean. Nevertheless, it was super fun and we got to see some ocean life, such as fish and coral. It was fun to get up close and personal with them!
Overall, this was one of my favorite parts of our trip and an experience that I would recommend to anyone in the area! It was stunning, family friendly, and full of history! I would love to return someday!
Kōloa is an awesome small town on the south side of the island that hosts many fun things to do. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to go zip lining with Koloa Zipline (the same company also does ATV tours, bass fishing, snorkeling, and other things), which was super fun!
Koloa Zipline was an absolutely phenomenal group to go with because they kept the spirit light-hearted (even when some in the group were nervous or scared) and offered immense insight to history and life on the island. Our guides were Val, Spencer, and a newer trainee that Spencer was working with. All of them were hilarious and talented, making for a great experience.
Our tour started with us attending “ground school,” which is basically the rules and how-to’s of zip lining. Each person was fitted to a harness and given their handles so that we could clip into the lines. We also were provided helmets, which conveniently have GoPro mounts already attached, so I didn’t have to worry about losing mine.
From there, our guides told us the numerous positions of how one can zip line, including upside down, tandem, spread eagle, super man, or more. If you are smaller or have kids, make sure you or they are comfortable going head first or tandem because you’ll need to reduce drag in order to make it through the longer lines.
The tour starts with a brief drive up to the first line. The guides talk about some of the history of the island, including the sugar plantations, which shut down in the last century. One of the last mills is even visible from the road. Additionally, there is a large history of movie making in Kaua’i , from “Jurassic World,” to “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” to “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which many of the sights you can see on tour. The guides showed us some of the explosive scenes of the Jurassic movies and the tunnel where Harrison Ford ran from the boulder in the “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which was super cool.
The truck brought us up to the first line which is short and most people do in a sitting position. The guides catch you at the end, so there is no need to brake or slow yourself down. The other lines vary in length, with the longest being line eight at a half mile long. Some offer great views, including that of a reservoir.
Overall, this was a great experience that got many of us out of our comfort zones and into something new. This entire tour was fantastic and the people involved couldn’t have been better. I loved the incorporation of history, nature, adventure, and humor. I would love to take one of their tours again and would recommend their services to anyone and everyone.
On day four of our awesome trip to Kaua’i, we decided to kayak and hike to the Secret Falls. Originally, we planned to see the Nā Pali coast, but since it was too windy, we had to change our plans. So we grabbed our swimsuits and sunscreen and headed to the river, which is on the east side of the island.
There are numerous rental agencies in this area, from which you can rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards (SUPs), but we went with Wailua Kayak and Canoe. The service was less than desirable, but the proximity to the river made it worth it, since we didn’t have to load and unload anything. We simply took the kayak on little wheels and walked them to the ramp. After we got them in the water, we simply rolled the wheels back and were on our way.
The kayaking takes about 45 minutes and is actually easier on the way there than on the way back because of the wind, but the river itself hardly moves. On both the way up and the way down, you stay on the east side of the river, since ferries come by every now and then, hosting hoards of tourists wanting to see falls and the fern grotto, which is apparently super pretty but was something we didn’t get the chance to see. The ferries, while a bit loud, aren’t frequent enough to completely disturb the beauty of the place around you and it is easy to enjoy all the beautiful scenery. The river takes you to a fork, in which you stay left and continue all the way up until you see a sand bar full of kayaks. Here is where you drop your kayak or SUP and begin the hiking portion. I would take a picture of your kayak’s number, since there are so many there.
Once you’ve hoisted your kayak onto shore, the trail begins! Through the first part, there is tons of tall grasses (almost feels like a maze!) and a relatively dry trail. Depending on the time of day, you might cross paths with people leaving. Some may offer you a walking stick and if you aren’t completely sure-footed, you should take it! The trail will get progressively more slippery as you travel farther.
After the grass, there is a river to cross. The water is neither deep nor strong, but it’s a good idea to hang onto the rope anyway. On our way back, we slipped and almost lost all of our phones, so be careful!
The path takes you alongside the river, which allows for excellent views! At some places it is wide enough for two people side by side, but in others, it is pretty thin and requires some patience. Most of the hike is pretty level, with only a few uphill spots at the end. One review we read before going was saying that this is not a hike to take your grandma on, but we took ours and she did totally fine. Another thing they tell you is to stop avoiding the mud and just go for it, which is fantastic advice. If you keep trying to stay out, it is even more slippery and you are almost guaranteed to fall. That being said, pack sandals you can wash, rather than tennis shoes.
The closer you get to the falls, the more beautiful the scenery is. As you continue by the river, lots of little water falls and big trees become more and more common. There are two more spots where you have to go through water, but these were warmly welcomed because it gave opportunity for us to wash our legs off. Sometimes, the guides and tour groups stop here, but if you give it enough time, there are opportunities for gorgeous photos.
Even though the trek there is pretty, the grand finale is easily Secret Falls. After a brief uphill climb, the trees will open up to a massive waterfall that has a little area to swim in. There will be people gathered around here but there is plenty of space to take photos and enjoy the waters. If you are on your own schedule, here would be a great place for a picnic (remember pack it in, pack it out!) and enjoy the views. If you are lucky, one of the guides brought his ukulele and was playing some tunes, which created a magical atmosphere. Luckily, there are no helicopter tours here, so you may enjoy the nature without any distracting noise.
Hiking back down isn’t much different from hiking up; just make sure not to slip on the mud. Make sure to hand off your walking stick if you grabbed one and enjoy the wilderness around you as you go. This hike and kayak sessions was one of my favorite things we did while in Kaua’i and would be fun for people of most ages and physical abilities (if you are ok with falling in mud, you are good!). It offered splendid views of the “garden island” and its natural beauty and is something I will never forget!
Settling by the ocean and the cities of Kaua’i is a massive canyon and mountain range. The Waimea Canyon, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” is a gaping gorge at the western end of the island and provides plenty of opportunity for hiking, exploring, and adventuring. It is about ten miles long, one mile wide, and 3,600 feet deep, and is something you should totally explore.
If you are staying at the southern end of Kaua’i, the state park is accessible via Highway 550, which can be reached with nearly any type of car (from the north, it is a longer drive along the several highways along the coast). The road curves often and offers many beautiful viewpoints of the canyon and the ocean. Honestly, it is difficult trying to balance wanting to stop at all the views and actually getting to the canyon. A few of my favorite stops opened up views to the canyon, featured red and waterfalls, and many, many cairns stacked before the canyon. Aside from these, I would recommend you keep driving in order to get there in a timely fashion.
There is a big lookout point a few miles up. Here you can get out and stretch and take pictures of the double waterfall in the distance. Make sure to bring your camera! At this point, you will notice that there is an abundance of helicopters; I feel like we saw more of them than birds! If you want, there are many helicopters trips that take you up to the falls themselves, but if it isn’t in your price range, there are many beautiful views from afar. We had talked with a couple that took a helicopter to avoid hiking with their baby girl and they absolutely loved it!
If you keep driving, you will reach the trailheads of Waimea, which is where the one we took was. This path was simply named Canyon Trail, which was noted on the sign that also warns of poor trail conditions. Given that we were there in spring, “poor” was almost an understatement as recent rain created mass amounts of mud and exposed the roots of the towering trees. We persisted nevertheless. The first chunk of the path was almost all mud, making for a really exciting walk. Two of the four of us fell within the first quarter mile. After that, the trail becomes pretty steep and full of roots- be careful not to trip!
At some point, you reach a downhill that ends in a small stream that you need to cross. There is a rope to help you, but it is almost easier without it. Afterwards, there is more uphill where the trail begins to dry out. Here is a great time to explore the flora and fauna, since there is lots of diversity in the plant life. However, keep in mind that very little of the island’s greenery is native; most of it has been brought in by imperialists and settlers. Plenty of species have been killed off by the invasive ones, making for a terrible history and drastic change to the landscape in comparison to thirty or fifty years ago.
As you continue upwards, you will eventually reach a dry and rocky area. If you hurdle over these rocks, you will eventually reach a gorgeous lookout of the canyon. For quite a few yards, there is an open area above the cliffside where you can see the beautiful red rock and steep sides of the canyon. There are plenty of opportunities for photos and you can spot many of the helicopters flying around, which detracts from the solitude but doesn’t obstruct the beauty. Here is a great spot to picnic, relax, and take pictures before continuing down to the falls.
Once you continue down into the trail, it will get pretty steep, but then you come across the falls! However, these are not the big falls that are seen in the viewpoints (you’re actually above them!), so make sure you understand that in advance to avoid any letdowns. The waterfall that you are able to hike to is Waipo’o Falls, which is smaller, but has a little swimming access. For photos without people in it, you may have to be patient, but it is a good spot to catch your breath nonetheless. The water here is pretty chilly, but tolerable if you are used to colder temperatures like we were.
After getting soaked in the falls, the climb back will be a lot cooler (I would wear clothes that dry quickly to avoid chafing). The uphill climb to the lookout will be tough, but then from there, the climb is just as up and down as it was on the way there. If you took the trail earlier (I would recommend!), there will be lots of foot traffic so be patient. Since it will be hotter, make sure to stay hydrated as well.
Overall, this trail was one of my favorites that I have ever hiked, aside from perhaps Sun Gate on Machu Picchu. The views were absolutely stunning and the trail allowed for diverse scenery and beauty. Additionally, this hike is well suited for people in moderate shape (would not recommend for people who can’t afford falling down) and is well marked for easy access.
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) has offered many opportunities to explore the wilderness around me. I have seen forests, rivers, lakes, and all sorts of natural wonders throughout all of my life, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed and returned to is Kootenai Falls.
The falls is part of the Kootenai River and is very large and undammed, creating a lot of free flowing water. It is one of the biggest falls in this area, offering breathtaking views of the river and the mountains surrounding it. There are several great view points and you can actually get fairly close to the water, allowing you to take great pictures. It is seven miles away from Libby, Montana and is easily accessible if you take Highway 37 north. It is really easy to see the turnout and the highway and train tracks run alongside the river.
The falls are open at most times of the year, but the best time is definitely during spring, since the river is at its highest due to runoff from the snow. Most of the pictures in this post are from late spring, where the water is still high, but the flow has diminished a little bit, making it easy to see the falls up close. If you are lucky, you may be able to see elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, or mule deer up on the surrounding mountains.
The trails in and around the area are very clear cut and well worn, making them easy to navigate for most physical states. There is little variation in elevation and the trails to the falls are short, making them perfect for all ages. However, they are not wheelchair accessible and I would not recommend the trails for people who have poor balance or depth perception, since there are some roots and uneven surfaces.
My personal favorite part of this area is the Swinging Bridge, which is a long rope bridge extending over the gorge and the rapids. It was originally built by the forest service to access forest fires, but has been rebuilt since its original construction. It is a half mile hike from the same starting point of the falls hike. For those afraid of heights, I would not recommend it since it is about a hundred feet over the water and does swing (it is completely safe though!).
Overall, if you are looking for a day trip from Sandpoint, Clark Fork, Libby, Troy, or any other nearby places or just looking for someplace to stop while passing through, Kootenai Falls is a fabulous place to stop to see the power of nature and the wilderness.