Western Trips

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Tahoe Rim Trail / Western Hiking Adventures

One of the most scenic trails you'll have an opportunity to hike is located high up in the Sierra Nevada mountain chain leading you through both California and Nevada. Lake Tahoe is located northeast of Sacramento, California and south of Interstate 80 which connects Sacramento to Reno, Nevada.

tahoe rim trail
Tahoe Rim Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail, completed in 2001, is a loop trail 164 miles in total length. This trail encircles beautiful Lake Tahoe on the California / Nevada border while passing through a National Forest, state parks and several wilderness areas.  The Tahoe Rim Trail offers spectacular views of shimmering Lake Tahoe and could be the finest breathtaking views you"ll ever experience on a hike. Done as a through-hike, the Tahoe Rim Trail can be a strenuous and difficult trek.

Tahoe's Hiking Season

Lake Tahoe is located high in the Sierras above 7,000 feet in elevation. Because of this the trail opens usually in mid-June, when the snow has melted off, and closes again in late October. Your window for hiking is essentially about four months per year. This through hike is best done in the summer and fall months. For early summer enough snow needs to have melted to make the trail passable.

western hiking trails
Hikers, Mountain Bikers, Equestrians

The Tahoe Rim Trail can accommodate the hiker, mountain biker and equestrian. The trail was designed during construction to not exceed an average grade of 10 percent. Mountain biking is allowed on about half of the trail. Horses and stock are allowed on all sections of the trail with the exception of the Tahoe Meadows Interpretive Trail and a section of the Mt. Rose Trail. The loop can be accessed from anywhere around the lake or surrounding communities. Most of the trail follows along the ridge tops offering views of nature at its finest. The mountain peaks around Lake Tahoe which the trail runs along is made from granite and you'll see a variety of Alpine forest trees.

Beautiful Views and Photo Opportunities

california hiking trailsGreat opportunities will be there for photo taking of wild flowers- golden yellow Mountain Mule Ears and firecracker red Indian Paintbrush. Rise past flowing mountain streams and don't forget to look out over the incredible Tahoe Basin in all its brilliance. Hundreds of small lakes are found at higher elevations above Lake Tahoe. The trail will take you under trees, through meadows or even above the tree line rising close to 11,000 feet at points. Be aware of bears since the trail does go straight through their country.

Triangular light blue trail markers planted along the trail help hikers find their way. Because of the relatively harsh winters the signs don't always last. You will want to be prepared with a map and compass. Camping areas  are found in some areas of the trail, while in other areas, like Desolation Wilderness, no designated camping areas are permitted.

The trail is a good one for hikers of all levels but note that done as a through-hike, the Tahoe Rim Trail can be a strenuous and difficult trek. The amount of days taken to hike the Tahoe Rim Trail depends on your pace. A 12 day trek assumes an average pace of 13.75 miles per day.

lake tahoe bike trails
Things to Know Before You Go

Campfire Permits are required, "for any individuals planning to use an open fire (such as a campfire), barbecue or portable stove on federally controlled lands and private lands that are the property of another person". The state of Nevada does not issue its own campfire permits, but does require individuals to carry a California Campfire Permit in the Nevada backcountry. You can obtain your California Campfire Permit online in as few as 10 minutes for FREE.

The trail is not open to any motorized vehicles. This includes any form of electric bike.

For those looking to do an overnight (or multiple day) backpacking trip through Desolation Wilderness, you will need an Overnight Camping Permit. Anyone looking to do a Thru Hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail can bypass the quota system and reserve their Overnight Camping Permit through the Forest Service Supervisor's Office. These permits can only be given out within two weeks of when you enter Desolation Wilderness.

You'll find more detailed information at...the  Tahoe Rim Trail web Site at TahoeRimTrail.org

(Article copyright Western Trips) 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fun and Unique Arizona Travel Stops

Arizona is one of the best states in the U.S. to enjoy the wonders of the scenic desert southwest. If you have not traveled to the desert southwest. Whether it's the amazing Grand Canyon in the northern part of Arizona or the rugged desert in the southern part of the state, you'll find plenty of historic sites to explore and fantastic photo ops.

flagstaff hotels
Flagstaff historic hotel
There are areas of Arizona where you'll see the sun 300 or more days per year. It's one of the reasons many have relocated there and one of the reasons why Arizona is a tourists paradise. Many of these folks who have made the permanent move to the state will tell you that the weather was a big reason why they chose the desert. Arizona is also noted to be the winter residence for a great number of snowbirds from the upper midwest and Canada.

Below are some of the sites you will want to make sure to visit. This of course is not all there is to see in Arizona, but gives you a good sample of popular sites.

Northern Arizona

Many people consider Northern Arizona, namely the Grand Canyon and the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona, reason enough to consider this the Arizona wonders, but there's plenty more. The Grand Canyon is a must stop for anyone traveling through northern Arizona. It's a stunning piece of geography and if you haven't seen it as yet you've missed a unique adventure. The scenic trails along the southern rim, the park ranger programs, unique hotels and dining make the Grand Canyon an international destination. Williams, Arizona along Interstate 40 south of the Grand Canyon is where you can pick up the Grand Canyon Railway for a fun ride north to the canyon. Williams is a short drive west of Flagstaff.

sedona red rocks
Sedona, Arizona
Another fun stop in northern Arizona is Petrified Forest National Park. Petrified Forest National Park is an amazing area of scenic wonders and science. The park has two main areas... The southern portion of the park is home to one of the world's largest and most colorful concentrations of petrified wood, as well as natural log bridges and 225 million year old fossils.

The northern part of the park features the Painted Desert, the name given the multi-colored badlands of the Chinle Formation.

The scenery is amazing and it never seems to end. There is also a very famous historic route known as the Mother Road, more commonly referred to as Route 66. The longest existing portion of the old Route 66 is found in the northwest part of Arizona at Seligman which is worth the drive. 

Water Sports

If water sports are of interest to you, one of the more popular lakes is known as Lake Powell. You will find fishing, boating, and jet-skiing, just to name a few activities that are available to the lake's visitors. Lake Powell was formed by the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona. Lots of interesting exhibits and tours at the dam you won't want to miss.

Central Arizona 

The Phoenix metropolitan area is part of central Arizona and the largest in the state. Included in the greater Phoenix area is Scottsdale. Scottsdale, Arizona, a town with well over one hundred art galleries, a large variety of craft shops and a wide selection of restaurants is one of the most popular of all Arizona vacation destinations.

scottsdale attractions
Carriage rides in Old Town Scottsdale
Located in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, the Desert Botanical Garden displays over 4,000 different species of desert plants with an emphasis on the Sonoran Desert. Also included is are 400 rare and endangered plant species. The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix Arizona is the world's largest displaying plants and trees from many of the world's desert regions.

Check out additional Western Trips articles on the links below... 

Historic Benson Arizona

Fort Bowie Arizona 

Southern Arizona

Saguaro National Park, located west of Tucson, is both enchanting and mysterious. The lush desert floor is highlighted by stately Saguaro cactus and a great many smaller trees and shrubs.
Two year-round visitor centers offer museums, films, and helpful personnel and literature.

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains outside Tucson. The park is a haven for wildlife and desert plants including nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons and streams invites camping, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking and bird watching.

arizona horseback riding
Horseback riding is big in Arizona
In the far southeast part of Arizona near the Mexican border is the historic town of Bisbee. This is an old mining town that at one time was one of the largest communities between St. Louis and the west coast. Here you won't want to miss the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum.  Located just down the road from Bisbee is the old west historic town of Tombstone. 

As mentioned above, there are scores of fun, scenic, educational and historic tourist venues in Arizona. The ones described in this article are just a small sample of what is awaiting for you in Arizona. Enjoy and explore the southwest with a fun Arizona adventure.

(Photos and article copyright Western Trips) 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Some of the Very Best Travel Stops in Texas

Texas offers vacationers one of the diverse array of trip stops than just about any state in the United States. Many people at first think of large ranches and cowboy when planning a trip to the Lone Star State. Rest assured, there's plenty more to see in Texas, the second largest state in the U.S.

Texas is so large that the climate varies from east Texas with it's arid and hot weather to the west where the climate is much drier yet can be hot as a chili pepper. An interesting historic note is that  Texas was originally called Tejas by the Indians which meant "those who are friends.

Here are just some of the fun and educational Texas travel stops you are sure to enjoy...

san antonio riverwalk boat tours
San Antonio Riverwalk
San Antonio

Your first stop might be the historic Alamo located in San Antonio. Originally built as a mission by the Spaniards, it was the site of the famous battle during the Texas war of independence from Mexico in 1835.

near the Alamo is the popular San Antonio Riverwalk with dining, shopping, hotels and fun narrated boat rides along the winding river.

Also be sure to visit the San Antonio Missions. These missions just south of the downtown area tell the stories of the people who came into the Spanish missions to live in the 1700s. The San Antonio Missions are a National Historical Park.


The Driskill Hotel located in downtown Austin Texas at 604 Brazos Street is arguably the most famous hotel in the state. The Driskill was built in 1886 and is well known for it’s beautiful architecture. The hotel was built by Jesse Driskill, a very wealthy Texas cattleman who set out to construct the best hotel south of St. Louis.

old austin texas hotels
Historic Driskill Hotel
The Bullock Texas State History Museum let history come to life with Texas stories, photos, artifacts and records in what is probably one of the finest state historical museums in the U.S. Add to this a 400 seat Imax Theater and special 4D effects and chances are you'll come back more than once.

Tour the Texas State Capitol Building just north of the downtown area and adjacent to the University of Texas. The capitol site is comprised of twenty-two acres of grounds. The capitol building is mostly built from materials found in abundance in the nearby Texas Hill Country. The building you will tour was built during the 1880's.


One very interesting and unique travel stop during your tour of Texas is the Waco Mammoth National Monument.

The site is located just about three miles north of Waco and offers a fascinating look of the Mammoths that once lived there some fifty thousand years ago. The discovery of this 100 acre site has to do with two boys in 1978 searching for arrowheads and fossils. Per the National Monument's web site....

waco mammoth
On a spring day in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin embarked on a search for arrowheads and fossils near the Bosque River. To their surprise, the men stumbled upon a large bone eroding out of a ravine. Recognizing the unusual nature of the find, they removed the bone and took it to Baylor University's Strecker Museum (predecessor to the Mayborn Museum Complex) for examination. Museum staff identified the find as a femur bone from a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). This now extinct species lived during the Pleistocene Epoch (more commonly known as the Ice Age) and inhabited North America from southern Canada to as far south as Costa Rica.

The Waco Mammoth National Monument is open to the public anytime during regular operating hours. Start your visit at the Welcome Center located at 6220 Steinbeck Bend Road. Guided tours are conducted every 30 minutes, so just show up and join the fun, no reservation needed! Tours last from 45 minutes to one hour. For more information visit....https://www.nps.gov/waco/index.htm


Make it a point to visit the Johnson Space Center where you'll explore about the history of the astronauts, space, communications with spacecraft and much more. Plenty of exhibits here that will be a big hit for the entire family.

 The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is also located in Houston.
This is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated primarily to preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American soldier.

buddy holly lubbock texas
Buddy Holly Center

Located in far west Texas, Lubbock is home to Texas Tech University. Two must stops here include the Buddy Holly Center with many exhibits honoring the 1950's rock and roll icon. According to the Buddy Holly Center web site, the Center has dual missions... preserving, collecting and promoting the legacy of Buddy Holly and the music of Lubbock and West Texas, as well as providing exhibits on Contemporary Visual Arts and Music, for the purpose of educating and entertaining the public.

Another interesting trip stop is the National Ranching Heritage Center. The National Ranching Heritage Center is a magnificent museum that is well maintained and very informative. If you love Texas pioneer history then this venue is a must stop. This amazing western museum comprising thirty acres features about fifty buildings that include a schoolhouse, barns, and very well preserved houses, etc. There are thirty-eight ranch structures. Each of them have been authentically and historically restored and furnished.

old frontier army barracks
Fort Stockton enlisted men's barracks
Fort Stockton 

Fort Stockton is located between San Antonio and El Paso and today is directly on Interstate 10. During the 1860′s and 1870′s, the fort was at a crucial junction for the stagecoach and freight lines heading to El Paso and eventually California. Tour the fort buildings and parade grounds and enjoy authentic exhibits from the fort's frontier past in the fort museum.

The Annie Riggs Hotel and Boardinghouse, which today is a world renown museum and considered Fort Stockton's first real hotel, was bought by a woman  named Annie Riggs back in 1904. The building was wisely turned into a museum in 1954 and contains a fascinating and very high quality display of 19th and 20th century memorabilia.

downtown dallas museums
Old Red Museum, Dallas

The Old Red Museum. The building is of red sandstone in a Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. The building was known locally as the Old Red Courthouse located at the southwest corner of Commerce and Houston Streets in downtown Dallas. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is located in a beautifully restored building, built in 1892, that was the Dallas County Courthouse until 1966. Today, The Old Red Museum makes an excellent trip stop while visiting Dallas and a great place to learn how this city grew from one man's 1841 settlement to a major metropolitan area of the twenty-first century.

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a museum for all ages. It's virtually a living science lesson. There is something for everyone at this museum.  There are eleven halls within the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. As part of your visit to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science you can view educational features and cutting-edge documentaries along with independent films. The Hoglund Foundation Theater accommodates 298 people in comfortable seats.

The Texas travel sites detailed above of course are only a small fraction of what you can explore throughout the state. You may enjoy additional Western Trips articles on the links below...

Old Route 66 Through the Texas Panhandle

A Texas Historic Courthouse Building Tour

The Historic Waggoner Ranch of Texas

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A San Diego Vacation for the Entire Family

San Diego, California has so much to offer tourists that a visit there takes several days to take in all the attractions. Many will say it takes several different trips to really see everything. San Diego is a top choice destination for a family vacation.

From Old Town San Diego to the unique USS Midway to the beauty of Coronado Island, San Diego offers something for everyone. 

San Diego has terrific weather. Any time of year you visit, you'll enjoy a moderate climate. You should expect this all year long. Apart from pristine beaches all around San Diego, there are so many wonderful and attractive places you should visit with your family. Every family should make a trip to San Diego for excellent combination of amusement and combined historical and cultural sites.

Cosmopolitan Hotel
Old Town

During your family trip to San Diego, your family will feel a true touch of history in the structures styled in Mexican architecture of the Old Town. The feel of old Californian times is all around you at this place. The oldest structure in San Diego, the Cosmopolitan Hotel, is in Old Town as well as the Wells Fargo Museum with an authentic Concord Coach on display, the original livery stable, several restaurants and plenty more historic structures.

San Diego is unique due to its legacies from the times of the Spaniards and the Mexican wars until the present day.

USS Midway Flight Deck
USS Midway

San Diego is closely related to the Navy. You'll certainly want to visit the USS Midway with your children. Your USS Midway visit can easily take most of a day and you'll enjoy every minute of it. Aircraft is on display both on the flight deck and in the huge hangar below. In addition you can take self guided tours with audio devices of the inner compartments of this famous aircraft carrier.The USS MIdway is on display in the harbor just west of the downtown San Diego area.

The San Diego Zoo and Sea World

The variety of places to see in San Diego and the quality of venues can make it hard for a family to rest. Many zoo gardens, especially the Sea World, are built and maintained up to the highest world standards. San Diego differs a lot from other tourist zoo destinations due to the fact that the zoo maintains accurate natural settings for their wildlife species. It is so easy to transfer yourself to entirely different world, whether it being Africa or the Polar Cap with rare, white bears.The San Diego Zoo is a destination not to be missed.

San Diego Zoo entrance
A zoo visit is a good opportunity to stroll around with the family. A trip to the San Diego Zoo can be for several hours or for a full day. Walking around can easily consume one day. In fact, you can spend days at this amazing zoo. A good thing to note is that parking is free. Visiting the zoo is a learning experience.

If you know your wishes and study San Diego carefully, your every day will be an extraordinary adventure. Balboa Park, where the San Diego Zoo is located is also home to the popular San Diego Automobile Museum, Air and Space Museum, historic structures dating to the early 1900's as well as a great dining establishment.

San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is the hub of dining, nightlife and entertainment in downtown San Diego. It's estimated that there are over 100 restaurants and nightclubs in the general area. In addition to that, the Gaslamp Quarter is home to ninety-four Victorian era buildings some constructed as early as 1873. The Gaslamp Quarter is a National Historic District.

Hotel del Coronado
Coronado Island 

A bridge connects San Diego to Coronado Island which is home to the historic Hotel del Coronado.  Whether your interest is history, architecture, gardens or adventure, there are tours of Coronado available to guide you on your way. Regularly scheduled tours of the Hotel del Coronado and Historic Coronado are given several days a week. Volunteer docents from the Coronado Historical Association lead a 90-minute tour throughout the historic Hotel del Coronado. Tours depart Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 10:30 am, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm. Cost: $20 per person; children under 12 are free. Call (619) 437-8788 for more information and reservations.

The Coronado Historical Association offers a Coronado Heritage Walk. This stroll through the past departs from the lobby of the Museum of History & Art, 1100 Orange Avenue, on Wednesdays at 10:30 am. Learn about Coronado's famous buildings and residents in this tour of historic Coronado. Fee includes admission to the museum. Cost: $15 per person. Reservations required. Please call (619) 437-8788.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)