Sunday, January 16, 2022

To cruise or not to cruise?

Ultimately we decided to cruise

It was a dilemma between making what appeared to be the sensible choice and staying home or escaping the box we had been huddled in for almost two years. My brain had one solution, but my spirit had another. And that’s why Larry and I went on a cruise in early 2022, just as the omicron virus swept our state and county into the worst scenario since the pandemic began almost 2 years ago.

We had traveled during 2021, visiting Big Bend National Park in Texas in April and Fort Lauderdale, Florida in March. We celebrated our grandson’s high school graduation in Michigan in May. By July the virus had loosened its grip on our lives, and travel seemed okay again. So in August we swam with whale sharks off the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico and finally took the trip to Italy that had been rescheduled three times. We even visited Colorado for a glorious week hiking among the golden aspens of autumn. And all went well.

A previous Caribbean cruise was already booked for mid January, but the delta virus became a headliner, so we cancelled. Felt like that was the smart (safe) thing to do, and it was. But wanderlust crept into my consciousness, and by November I was ready to try again—just on a smaller scale.

Inviting pool area of the ship

Instead of flying to a Florida port for a 12-day cruise, maybe we could sail from Galveston, our state’s home port only a 3.5 hour drive away for a quick one-week excursion. We had received our two vaccines and would soon receive the booster shot, so, together with distancing and masking, we’d have ample protection. A cruise leaving on January 2 was booked.


Then omicron began spreading faster than milk spilled on the kitchen table. Friends on a long holiday cruise texted about not being able to disembark at most ports. They were stuck on the ship for weeks (at least it seemed that long) with not much to do except watch waves curl and splash in the ocean. The CDC began issuing dire warnings about ships with 10 or 20 or 50 people on board who tested positive for covid (not considering it was usually less than one percent of the number of people on board and most had very mild or no symptoms).

Still, being quarantined at sea in a small cabin would not be fun. Nothing adventurous about that.

One week before sailing we considered cancelling. Because our cruise line was allowing passengers to cancel up to 48 hours before sailing in return for full future cruise credit, people began doing just that.

For a few days, we had a new argument for going. With only about half the passengers still booked, social distancing would be easier, and service would likely be much improved. We began to reverse our decision. Call it rationalization or an actual shift in the likelihood of getting sick, we latched onto that fact. Also, all passengers and crew were required to be fully immunized, and we had to present a negative covid test taken two days before sailing.

 

The usual excitement was missing as we packed for the cruise. There were still so many unknowns, but we were willing to do our part to make this as personally safe as possible. That commitment and willingness to be extra vigilant on the cruise served us well.

Sailing day was uncharacteristically cold and windy as we drove to Galveston, Texas. Bundled in sweaters and puffy jackets, we parked the car, took the shuttle to the dock, and boarded the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas. Fully vaccinated passengers were provided green wrist bands to be worn at all times. This would allow them access to certain dining areas, theater seating, and venues designated for vaccinated persons.

Fish and coral from our snorkeling
excursion at Roatan, Honduras


Because of predicted inclement weather, the captain changed the order of ports and headed to our southernmost stop in Roatan, Honduras. From there we would follow a northward journey that included Costa Maya and Cozumel. This new itinerary meant we had two sea days before docking--a brilliant decision that ultimately allowed passengers to have three perfect days for land activities. Winter in the Caribbean did not disappoint!

We were careful about our activities. We masked up indoors and also outdoors if there was a crowd of people around. We requested, and were given, a table for two in an out-of-the- way location but still by a window—the same table every evening in the main dining room.

We walked the promenade decks for additional exercise on sea days, played mini golf or ping pong when those venues were not crowded, and enjoyed our balcony when the weather warmed. We danced to our favorite band several nights and enjoyed a couple of game shows in vaccinated-only venues.

We rafted to a beautiful lagoon near Costa Maya, Mexico

We managed to catch the ice show before it was cancelled due to cast members quarantining (our green bracelets were checked). One main show in the theater was also cancelled, but the evening I forgot my green bracelet I was denied entry to the vaccinated seating section until I went back to the cabin to retrieve it. Tours were also lightly attended, with one of ours having only nine people and another only four.

Yet omicron continues to affect the cruising industry. Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines have cancelled many U.S. departures into March. As for Royal Caribbean, since the resumption of sailing, the total percentage of persons to become ill with the virus onboard their ships is 1.6, much lower than the general population in many areas. Crew members cannot leave the ship when in port, and some have had contracts extended longer than originally intended to shore up staff numbers. Senior officers became dining room servers when needed. Safety and service were still primary, and I give the cruise industry credit for doing the best they can.

We explored the ocean via a helmet dive 
at Cozumel, Mexico

Whether you decide to cruise in the coming months (assuming your cruise is not cancelled) is a personal choice. It’s a decision that only you can make by taking into consideration your medical situation and your tolerance for risk. Even as we know that all travel is inherently risky, we also know there are many benefits to exploring the rest of the world.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

What's in and what's out for 2022 travel?

The world’s most experienced travelers shared their insights and expectations for destination preferences, modes of transportation, and decision-making criteria in the Global Rescue Traveler Sentiment and Safety Survey. 

In a nearly unanimous response, domestic travel is “IN” but travelers are closely split when it comes to international travel. Fifty-eight percent of survey-takers say international travel is “OUT” while 42% say foreign trips are “IN.”  

Sedona, Arizona

Despite the split in opinion, traveler confidence is surging. TSA data indicates traveler levels have returned to 85% of their pre-pandemic levels. According to the 2021 Fall Global Rescue Traveler Sentiment and Safety Survey, nearly 86% of travelers have taken domestic trips, and 42% have traveled internationally since the pandemic started a year a half ago.   

Air and automobile travel are considered “IN” but large ship cruises are overwhelmingly “OUT.” One survey-taker said, “cruises are still out, except for smaller river cruises”   

AMA Serena, a river cruise ship

Travelers are basing their destinations on new, pandemic-related criteria. Locations with low-COVID-19 infection rates are, understandably, preferred over regions with high-COVID-19 infection incidents. “Countries and states with good, clear COVID-19 management, vaccination protocols and medical response plans are IN. Avoiding states and countries where COVID-19 education and vaccinations responses have lagged are OUT,” said one respondent.  

Old Faithful, Yellowstone
National Park

On another level, travelers are seeking uncrowded, remote or outdoor places to go. Historically, popular destinations are still in play if the COVID-19 rates are low [CDC COVID-19 Tracker]. Metropolitan areas in popular countries are generally “OUT” but cities with open spaces or located in less frequented areas are thought to be a viable option. “Out are large cities with no exposure to outdoor recreation,” said another respondent.   

Travelers are expecting to plan trips to more remote destinations, especially if it’s outside. But most are careful to point out that remote destinations are “OUT” if the local medical facilities are non-existent or insufficient to provide care for complicated injuries or illnesses, like COVID-19. “I would feel safe traveling internationally if I traveled to a country with modern medical facilities, a low COVID-19 rate, and available hospital beds if I had a medical problem while traveling,” said a respondent.  

This post was provided by Bill McIntyre at bmcintyre@globalrescue.com Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services to enterprises, governments and individuals. www.globalrescue.com  

 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Why you should explore South America at these all-inclusive lodges

If you love natural beauty and adventure and want to explore the best that South America has to offer, check out the travel company called Explora. Every Explora lodge is a haven of luxury and relaxation—the perfect combination for adventures in your chosen destination.

Explora Rapa Nui on Easter Island

Explora is truly an all-inclusive adventure company. A stay in any of the lodges not only includes the best accommodations in the area but also superb meals and snacks, all excursions, a sumptuous pool, bicycles, walking sticks, and much more.

For the third year in a row, Explora has received the award for the World’s Leading Expedition Company at the 2021 World Travel Awards. Additionally, Explora in Peru’s Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu won honors as the World’s Leading Adventure Hotel. More awards include Best South American Expedition Company, Leading Boutique Hotel in Chile (Explora Atacama), Leading Boutique Hotel in Peru (Explora in Sacred Valley), and Leading Resort in Chile (Explora in Torres del Paine).

Explora El Chalten,  Argentina

A special feature of each lodge is that architecture reflects the culture, heritage, and local nature of the incredible place where it is located. Each lodge employs its own knowledgeable guides who lead guests through the territory’s most exceptional touring possibilities—always with a commitment to conservation of these beautiful natural wonders.

Explora Lodge, Patagonia

The newest destination to be served by Explora is El Chalten, Argentina. Located on the north bank of the Electrico River with unrivaled views of the Marconi Glacier and the Electrico Valley, the lodge has 20 rooms and is the perfect base for Argentine and international travelers to discover the wonders of  the Patagonia. It offers over 30 explorations with different levels of difficulty so travelers of all skill levels can visit the main attractions of this part of the world.

Map showing regions where Explora has lodges

A few years ago Larry and I stayed at Explora Rapa Nui on Easter Island and were blown away by the attention to detail and to every guest’s needs. Please click on this link to read more about our experiences at Explora on Easter Island. http://www.goingonadventures.com/2016/06/discovering-easter-island-from-explora.html#.YcNd9WjMKUk

Immediately on arrival, activities begin. Then, each afternoon the guides meet with guests to decide on the following day’s activities, keeping in mind interests and abilities of individual travelers. Sometimes we were in a small group; other times Larry and I were the only persons on a specific adventure. The result is a very individualized immersion into remote regions of the world—unforgettable places that are not overrun with tourists.

A visit to see the famous 15 moias on Easter Island
was one of our adventures through the Explora Lodge.

If you have an inquisitive personality and want to travel safely to amazing regions of the world, here is good news: A recent study highlighted Chile as the country best prepared to deal with the Covid virus and its variants. More than 85% of the population has been vaccinated and more than 50 % have received a third booster shot.

Staying at an Explora lodge is not the least expensive way to experience outstanding South American destinations—but considering all that is included, it is among the very best.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier and free sources

 

 

 

Monday, December 27, 2021

Lights Spectacular spreads holiday cheer in Texas


You don’t have to go into space to see the best holiday light display in central Texas. But if you happened to be circling the earth that way, NASA reports that the Lights Spectacular show in Johnson City, Texas, would still catch your attention.

More than two million lights glimmer during the 32nd year of this stunning Christmas display. Families are taking advantage of this winter’s mild evenings to bring excited children to the Lights Spectacular display, which is centered around the Blanco County Courthouse.

Additionally, the Pedernales Electric Co-op’s Headquarters boasts a lighted forest. Every inch of bark and limbs is covered with white and blue lights, with larger bulbs gleaming through the branches. Businesses around the historic downtown square are also shining brightly.

Johnson City (named for the family of former president Lyndon B. Johnson) is located in central Texas, 48 miles west of Austin and 60 miles north of San Antonio.  Lights Spectacular is an extraordinary exhibit worth the hour’s drive from Austin. Have dinner at a local eatery, and then enjoy this extraordinary free display of lighted figures and buildings.

Lights shine each night through January 2, 2022. Most of the special events associated with Lights Spectacular have already occurred this season, but carriage rides and hayrides are still available, and live music is scheduled for certain dates. Check the Chamber of Commerce calendar for exact times. Additionally, some local businesses have extended hours for holiday shopping or browsing through galleries.

People from all across the United States have visited the “Twinkliest Town in the Hill Country” in its transformation from small town into a Christmas wonderland. Bed and breakfast cottages and down-home cooking at local restaurants entice visitors to stay overnight.  Several art galleries, nearby wineries, antique shopping, and Pedernales State Park are local attractions for those who can stay longer. 

Together with holiday lighting on local homes, parks and street corners, Johnson City’s Christmas presentation makes a glowing gift to the community, a testament to the history and culture that lives in many rural American towns.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Tips to avoid stress on winter flights

In previous years, giving advice for winter travel usually meant suggesting ways to avoid germs and staying well. While that’s still important in 2021 (Covid is still among us), advice tends more toward alleviating stress if you have to cancel or rebook a flight for any reason.

Weather, which is unpredictable when flights have been booked weeks or months in advance, is a huge culprit for causing flight delays or cancellations. That can be especially troublesome if a flight has multiple stops, which means more opportunities for something to go wrong. Combine that with fewer flights routed through many airports, and you can be faced with a huge hassle to get to your destination—or to get home after your visit.

I actually booked and later cancelled a flight with multiple stops and ungodly travel times to Michigan in early December because I didn’t want to take a chance, and that was even before the holiday travel season officially began. Airlines are still not fully staffed and may not have adequate resources to service increased travel demands.


If you are scheduled to fly during winter months (and especially around the holidays) here are some tips that might help if your flight is delayed, cancelled, or rerouted.

--If your flight isn’t booked yet, use a credit card that provides travel insurance. Check your card to be sure of coverage, including for flights affected by severe weather. Additional costs incurred during a delay, such as meals or accommodations, may also be covered. If your credit card does not provide travel insurance, major airlines generally offer insurance coverage at the time of booking. Either that or purchasing separate travel insurance could be a good investment for getting a refund if a storm interrupts your trip.

--Book a direct flight, if possible. If not, are there stops at destinations less likely to be affected by bad weather? Of course, that’s not always possible to predict, but it’s still good to think about when scheduling.

--For help rebooking during travel, tools like Google Flights allow you to compare routes across multiple airlines. If replicating your chosen route won’t work, you might have to broaden your search and look at nearby airports to find alternate flights. Also consider booking a one-way flight rather than round trip. You can book the return after arriving at your destination.

--Because most airlines have a social media platform, you might get help from a customer service representative by posting about your dilemma on social media. But this tip is still iffy, especially if airline employees are overwhelmed with requests, so I’d use it as a last resort.

Now for some good tips whenever you travel—but more important during the winter season:


--Check in online, and set up flight alerts. An early status report that alerts you to a delayed or cancelled flight before you arrive at the airport could allow you to start making changes more quickly.

--Be prepared to stay longer. Pack medications and other necessities to last at least several days longer than your planned stay. You might even check out accommodations near the airport in case there’s a last-minute change to your plans.

--Take only carryon luggage. Traveling light gives you more flexibility to hop on another flight without worrying where you checked luggage might be or when it might arrive at your destination.


Be prepared so you can avoid inconveniences and the hectic scramble and stress that drives passengers crazy if the worst does happen. And it often does.

 Photos from free sources. 

 

 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Cruising for wildlife


One of the best ways to travel in Alaska is by ship. Visions of massive blue glaciers, misty snow-capped mountains, and dog sleds may come to mind. But don’t forget about the wildlife. From bears to birds, wildlife can be found literally everywhere in the state. If you want to see more than just coastal inhabitants, consider a land extension, either before or after the cruise, that will provide additional views of this large state and its diverse wildlife.

Winter is the perfect time to start planning your Alaska cruise. All major cruise lines that sail from the U. S. provide a wide selection of cruise lengths, dates, and options. Sailing the Inside Passage is a favorite itinerary of cruisers, so let’s look at a variety of wildlife that you can see either from the ship or when exploring on shore.


Look for orca whales, largest member of the dolphin family. They roam in pods throughout the cool waters of southeast Alaska but are not as prevalent as humpback whales. Being somewhat social, their black and white bodies make them easy to spot on a cruise, especially if you have binoculars and are willing to scan the sea from time to time.

Look, also, for dophins and porpoises, which frequent shallow coastal waters and are commonly seen throughout Alaska’s bays. These playful creatures seem to enjoy showing off for spectators—who absolutely love their acrobatic maneuvers.


Passing a beach, sandbar, or ice floe near Alaska’s coast? Look for harbor seals. You might glimpse a brown head peeking out of the water as they swim gracefully from one hang out to another.

Sea otters also can frequently be seen lounging on chunks of ice or floating on their backs in the waters of Southeast Alaska. Watch them tumble and dive in the water and use paws to groom themselves. These playful furry creatures are especially abundant in water near fjords.


If you venture into Prince William Sound or Glacier Bay National Park, you might see humpback whales. These massive creatures spend warm days in the cooler Pacific Ocean around Alaska. After bulking up during the summer, in winter they migrate to seas near Hawaii where they can be spotted later in the year. Notice how the pattern on each fluke is different—a sort of fingerprint for the humpbacks.

Along the way, be on the lookout for bald eagles gliding in the air. They are surprisingly available, which is a thrill for anyone wanting to see our national bird in the wild. Watch as they swoop down to catch fish and then soar overhead back to large nests in trees along the shore.


Many port excursions are designed especially to see various types of wildlife, Local guides can increase your chances of spotting various fish or fowl. From remote areas to bustling cities, Alaska has much to offer any traveler. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Escape city vibes in this urban state park

We lived in the Austin, Texas area for many years before discovering a delightful state park located almost in our backyard. But once Larry and I visited McKinney State Park, it became a place we return to often.

Located 13 miles from the state capital and on the outskirts of Austin’s city limits, this delightful state park is known for its history and natural beauty.

History


Artifacts found in the park indicate that Native American tribes occupied this area more than 8,000 years ago. Later, a portion of the El Camino Real do los Tejas ran through it from the late 1600s to early 1800s.  During this period, missionaries and friars intent on converting Native Americans to Christianity, government officials and soldiers wanting to defend Spain’s interest in the New World, and traders needing routes for commerce travelled through the area. 


Perhaps they even crossed Onion Creek where its waters flowed near the Lower Falls in today’s park.

Thomas McKinney (the park’s namesake) was one of the first 300 colonists that Stephen F. Austin enticed to settle in Texas in 1830. He was a successful businessman and became very influential during the Texas war for independence and later a senator to the first legislature. By 1850, McKinney had built a house along Onion Creek near a crossing of the El Camino Real, and he continued to grow his ranch and other business interests.


The park opened to the public in 1976 after the land was donated to the state by the James W. Smith family, who owned and farmed the land for several generations after McKinney died.

Nature

Without knowing any of that history, we first came to the park to enjoy the scenery. Onion Creek flows over expansive limestone ledges and splashes into pools where visitors can fish or swim—no license is required to fish from shore in state parks.


We explored the park on foot. There are nine miles of trails for hiking or biking in the park (check the Interactive Trails Map). The 2.8-mile Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail has a hard surface that can accommodate strollers and road bikes. History buffs can find remnants of McKinney’s homestead and gristmill on the Homestead Trail. Picnic tables, open grassy areas (great for flying kites or playing ball games), a group hall that can be rented, six cabins, and 81 campsites are also available for visitor use.


As we discovered, there are different parking areas, so check a map beforehand and then park near the area where you wish to be. Trails lead to the Lower Falls and huge expanses of limestone boulders that are easy enough to walk on. If you want to walk in the woods, trails near Onion and Williamson creeks are filled with bald cypress trees and bright wildflowers. Near the Upper Falls, look for Old Baldy. Estimated at more than 500 years old, this 103-foot tree is thought to be one of the oldest bald cypress trees on Texas public land. On wooded trails you might even glimpse white-tailed deer, raccoons, armadillos, squirrels and a variety of birds.

Take time to just wander and explore. This is not a park to hurry through but to slow down and absorb nature’s beauty through a variety of elements, including water, rock, and trees. It’s especially pretty in fall.

Upcoming events

Several programs are scheduled in the park for December 4, 11, and 18, 2021: Birding with a Ranger, Watercolor Holiday Cards, and Prehistory in the Park. Check the website for times and additional ranger-led programs. As for all Texas state parks, reservations are recommended and can be made online. 


Entrance fee for McKinney State Park is $6 per adult for a day pass, and it’s free for children 12 and under. Pick up a free Junior Ranger Activity Journal  at headquarters if your party includes kids.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Monday, November 29, 2021

Swimming with whale sharks

Our day begins at sunrise. We are 13 adventurers on a trip with Natural Habitat Adventures to swim with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. Anticipation is high as we are anxious to get started on our excursion.

Whale sharks are 5 time my length.

Our group had arrived on the tiny fishing island of Holbox (pronounced Ol-bosh) by ferry the day before. Situated off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, this laid-back village has quiet beaches but no paved roads. Transportation is by golf cart, substitute for a traditional taxi.

Larry rides from the ferry to our hotel via taxi.

On our way

Golf carts shuttle us the short distance from our hotel to the main dock of Holbox where we board two boats that will take us 20 miles out to sea. The ride will take about two hours and pass through the Gulf of Mexico into the Caribbean Sea. Around 8:00 a.m. we stop and consume breakfast sandwiches and juice on the boat to fortify us for the rest of the trip.

I'm forming the l in Holbox sign at the beach where we board our boat.

It’s a warm, sunny day in August--ideal conditions for locating whale sharks. Soon we arrive at an area where plankton, food for the sharks, are plentiful and near the surface. Dozens of whale sharks have gathered here to feed. Everyone is ecstatic since this means that opportunities to spot and then follow sharks in the water is great.

However, we are not alone. Many other boats have gathered in the same location. The tourist industry has recognized the economic value of tourists swimming with the sharks over fishing for them and reducing their numbers. The sharks are now protected in their native environment.

We go out to sea in search of whale sharks.

Everyone is eager to jump in the water, but that’s not how it happens. Regulations apply, so boats take turns allowing their guests into the water to avoid overcrowding.

Ready to swim

The process goes like this: Whoever is going into the water next sits on the edge of the boat, ready and fully outfitted with snorkel, mask, and fins until the guide spots a shark fin nearby above water and determines which way it is swimming. Quickly he orders “Go,” and you plunge into the water while trying to follow the guide who is swimming to in front of the shark.

Fins above water indicate where the whale sharks are.

We learn that when we hit the water it’s best to look up to see where the shark’s fin is rather than turning face down as for usual snorkeling. Otherwise, you might not know the direction the shark is swimming—and your turn is over very quickly if the shark swims out of view or decides to dive deeper.

Once in the water it’s quite a thrill to realize you are just a few feet—sometimes just inches—away from these magnificent creatures. Watching their bulky dot-patterned bodies maneuver so smoothly in the water is simply amazing.

Magnificent creatures!

Despite their size, whale sharks are gentle creatures. But close encounters are discouraged because the sharks are so large they could knock a person silly if there was a collision, and they have really big mouths!

It’s possible to try to swim to where a shark is, but you’re not likely to catch up or get a good look, so following the guide’s lead is important. Despite their length—up to 40 feet—the sharks swim fast. I quickly realized there would be no photography to record this adventure for posterity!


The first time Larry and I go we get caught in a tangle of thick yellow seaweed that obstructs our views. I go again, and this time is simply awesome—a close-up look at two sharks during the hectic—and tiring--few minutes of bobbing face down in ocean waves.

Larry and me scoping out the swimming whale sharks.

The next day we follow the same process, with each person getting two or three turns to be in the water. On one of our turns the shark swims extremely close to the boat just as Larry and I jump in the water. His movements are unpredictable, and I find myself literally staring into his mouth while frantically paddling to move away. I see his large tail flipping back and forth and just imagine the slap I might get if I’m in his path. I’m a minnow against the broad body of this giant fish!

Swim close but don't get in the way!

My last swim is the very best. With the guide showing me the way, I swim alongside the graceful whale shark for what seems like a long time but is probably only a few minutes.  I try to soak in every aspect of the magical experience—the shimmer of its skin in sunlight, the swish of its body turning in the water, and the thrill of interacting closely with one of nature’s special creatures in its home environment.

 Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier and free sources.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Take a holiday drive in these national parks

Consider a holiday road trip to and through several colorful national parks. 

RIM ROCK DRIVE, COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT

Bring in the autumnal vibes by visiting sunset-tinted canyons on a spectacular drive through Colorado National Monument. Situated in the greater Colorado Plateau, this park features breathtaking landscapes of sheer-walled, red rock canyons hundreds of millions of years old. 

Canyons visible along Rim Rock Drive, Colorado

Tour the park by driving along Rim Rock Drive, a 23-mile trek that offers a bird’s eye view of the canyons. You might spot bighorn sheep or eagles soaring across the Colorado sky. Stop at scenic overlook spots to capture the perfect photo and learn more about the canyons. Some bits of Rim Rock Drive can be challenging, narrow, and steep, so you need to exercise caution along the road and share with bicyclists.

CADES COVE LOOP ROAD, GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Get ready to see some iconic American wildlife when you cruise through Great Smoky Mountains National Park along Cades Cove Loop Road. A one-way, 11-mile loop through the park’s broad valley, surrounded by mountains and flecked with autumnal-tinged trees, this drive is one of the best ways to see the park’s wildlife, including white-tailed deer, turkeys, black bears, coyotes and more. 

Look for wildlife along Cades Cove Loop.

With all the wildlife spotting opportunities it offers, this drive can be a popular destination for park visitors and does see congestion during peak hours. Make sure to give yourself enough time to complete the loop – at least two to four hours – and be courteous to other park visitors along the way.

CEDAR BREAKS SCENIC BYWAY, CEDAR BREAKS NATIONAL MONUMENT

If you want to experience fall colors in a unique setting, make a trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah. Cedar Mountain is often considered one of the best places to experience bursts of fall colors, and with many scenic highways near the park, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy colors of the season. 

Hoodoos in Cedar Breaks National Monument

Try the five-mile scenic drive on Utah Highway 148, heading north, to see some of the park’s main attractions, including the North View and Sunset overlooks and Point Supreme campground and picnic area. Along this path, you’ll enjoy the scenery of both the lush meadow and subalpine forests of the Markagunt Plateau as well as the coral and orange hues of the park's geologic amphitheater.

SCENIC DRIVE, ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

Though not leaf-peeping, you can still get your fill of national park orange landscapes when you visit Arches National Park. The park is home to over 2,000 orange-brown natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of pinnacles, fins, and giant balanced rocks, making it the perfect out of this world experience to trek through this fall. 

You can hike to Delicate Arch or see it at the viewpoint.

Taking a scenic drive along the park’s paved roads is one way to get a lot out of the park if time or physical ability is limited. If you’re visiting the park plan to visit the Windows section to peer at some of the largest arches in the park. Don’t miss Delicate Arch Viewpoint for a look at the world’s most famous stone arch.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Information courtesy of Rebecca Watson, National Parks Foundation blog https://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/colorful-fall-road-trips-through-national-parks