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Cave of the Winds: Exploring the American Falls Up Close

Niagara Falls is full of attractions that you can do in-between looking at the waterfalls. Some of them are so-so, and some are awesome like the Cave of the Winds….

Niagara Falls is full of attractions that you can do in-between looking at the waterfalls. Some of them are so-so, and some are awesome like the Cave of the Winds. I knew virtually nothing about this before I came, but it was one of the highlights to my time in the area, as you can get up close and personal with the waterfall and understand just how majestic it is. Plus you get soaked while you’re at it. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Cost: $17
  • Hours: 9 AM – 6:30 PM
  • Not open in the winter
  • Location: American side, accessed from an elevator on Goat Island

Video

Here is a video I made showing my time at Cave of the Winds.

Exploring Cave of the Winds

To start your visit to Cave of the Winds, either walk or drive over to Goat Island on the American side. Here you can purchase your tickets for the attraction.

After getting tickets, you will be given a plastic bag and a new pair of sandals. You can keep these after you use them if you want or recycle them.

After putting them on you will have to carry your other shoes in the bag and will head to the elevator which will take you down to the start of the attraction. The elevator lets out in a large tunnel which then exits above the water.

From here you will be walking on the installed platform all the way up to the base of the American Falls.

This is quite an adventure though as the water is pouring down on you and even running over a couple of the platforms.

It is a total blast, but be sure to bring a GoPro if you want to take photos as you will be soaking.

The highlight though is the Hurricane Zone, which only the brave attempt.

The Hurricane Zone is pretty much just standing in the corner of a platform nearly below the waterfall. The power that comes off it is exhilarating as it soaks you even while wearing your poncho. My wife and I both did it, and it was easily worth getting wet to experience the power of the falls.

After that, you will continue to walk along the platform to get back to where you started. This is a relatively short attraction, but it is unlike anything else you can do in the area, and I really enjoyed it.

Be sure to let me know what you thought of it in the comments and check out my other recommendations for what to do in the area here.

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Red Rock Canyon Natural Area: How to Drive, Hike & Explore the Park

Red Rocks Canyon is the closest park to Las Vegas and a popular destination for hikers and outdoor lovers visiting the city. At around 30 minutes drive from downtown, the park…

Red Rocks Canyon is the closest park to Las Vegas and a popular destination for hikers and outdoor lovers visiting the city. At around 30 minutes drive from downtown, the park features a 13-mile scenic drive and dozens of hiking trails. Here is all the information so you can make the most of your time in Red Rock Canyon.

Details

  • Cost:$7

Getting There

From Las Vegas, you will head out on Highway 95 west till it ends and then continue on Highway 215 South. From here you will turn right on Highway 159, and it will take you out to the park loop.

Scenic Drive

If you only have a short time to visit this park, then it is best spent on the 13-mile scenic drive that takes you on a loop through the park. It is one way, so if you miss a spot, you would need to drive all the way back around to see it again. The drive is fantastic though, and you will want to take your time. As you make your way around it, there are multiple spots to pull out for hikes or viewpoints.

The Overlooks

There are two main overlooks in the park and one more on the outskirts of the park.

High Point Overlook

The main viewpoint is High Point Overlook, and it is located about halfway through the scenic drive. It has a small parking lot, and it lets you look out over the park from a beautiful vantage point.

It can be busy but wait for your turn if you want to check it out.

Red Rock Wash Overlook

This is the second viewpoint, which is located across from the main one but down the hill. It is worth pulling out at as it has some great views of the mountains, but it is not as spectacular as the first.

Red Rock Overlook

This viewpoint is technically located outside of the park. If you are wanting to see the park without taking the drive, then this is the best way to do it. This overlook really does give you a great view, especially of the red rocks in the Calico area.

The Hikes

I have only had a chance to hike a few of the park’s hikes, but here are the ones I have done.

Calico Tanks

This is the most popular trail in the park, and it is easy to see why when you do it. The 2.5-mile hike heads into and through a canyon which requires some scrambling, before eventually reaching a water basin and a view of the strip.

It is a great hike as it lets you really enjoy the views and the stark contrasts the park has to offer.

At the end, make sure you have your zoom lens or binoculars so you can zoom in on the Las Vegas Strip below you.

Turtle Peak

This hike leaves from the same area at Calico Tanks, and it heads up a no joke trail to the top of one of the area’s prominent peaks.

It is 5 miles round trip, but it is a tough five miles with a lot of elevation and some scrambling. It should not be undertaken without a lot of water, and it should be skipped in the heat of summer unless you start really early.

Petroglyphs Trail

This trail is a short tenth of a mile, and it leads you back to a rock overhang that has some petroglyphs on it.

While they are nothing like the ones you will see in Valley of the Fire State Park, they are still historic and preserved.

Waterfall

This 1-mile round trip hike takes you to a nice little seasonal waterfall. I have not seen it flowing more than a trickle, but it is a fun family friendly hike as there is shade and little bit of water at the end.

There is also an elevated trail that takes you over the stream crossing, but water is not often present.

Calico 1 & 2

This area is the most striking collection of red cliffs in the park. There are multiple viewpoints of the rocks you can pull out at, and there are some trails that take you down closer to them. It is one of those places that you need to stop at when you visit the park as the views are spectacular.

Road Views

I love taking road pictures when I make drives like this, and the best ones I found was at the corner of Calico Basin Road and Charleston. Right when you turn you will see the road winding out in front of you with the red rocks and Turtle Peak dead ahead. It is a great spot for a photo but be sure to watch for traffic.

As you can see, Red Rock Canyon is a great place to visit when you are in Las Vegas, I highly recommend you at least check out the scenic drive, even if you don’t want to hike, as it is worth the $7 entry fee. Let me know your favorite spot in the comments.

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Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada: Arches, Trails, Vistas & Rock Formations

While most people who visit Las Vegas are familiar with Red Rock Canyon, they are often not familiar with Valley of the Fire State Park, which in my opinion has…

While most people who visit Las Vegas are familiar with Red Rock Canyon, they are often not familiar with Valley of the Fire State Park, which in my opinion has a lot more unique stuff in it. This state park is located about an hour northeast of the city, and it is a fantastic place to spend a day. Here are all the spots I recommend you see while there.

Details

  • Cost:$10
  • Sunrise to sunset unless camping

Getting There

From Las Vegas you will get on the 15 North and head out of town. You are on this freeway for about 30 miles until you get off at exit 75, there is a sign that lets you know this is the exit for the park and for Lake Mead. You will head about 15 miles back into the hills on Valley of Fire Hwy until you finally make it to the park entrance. Here are the spots you can see from this entrance all the way to the east gate.

Beehives

Beehives are the first point of interest you will get to, and these rocks can be seen from the parking lot. It’s a quick 5 minute stop to see rocks that really do look like massive beehives.

Arch Rock

This is another 5 minute stop, as the small arch can be seen from the road and it is not really that impressive at only 10 feet or so tall. You can hike around this area if you want to though as there are a lot of fun rock formations and boulders.

Atlatl Rock

Atlatl Rock is one of the best stops in the park for fantastic examples of petroglyphs. The stone has amazing rock art about 40 feet off the ground.

The park has built a set of stairs to take you all the way up to the art.

It is one of the best-preserved petroglyphs I have personally seen.

Petrified Logs

This short quarter mile trail takes you to a series of four petrified logs. The logs are from millions of years ago, and they are protected with small gates.

Mouse’s Tank

Mouse’s tank is named for an outlaw that used the area as a hideout back in the late 1800s. The small pool is located about 3/4ths of a mile from the parking lot.

On the trail, you will pass many great examples of petroglyphs so keep your eyes peeled. I found this to be one of the most fun trails in the park as it seems like you are on a scavenger hunt to locate the rock art.

Rainbow Vista

We never actually found the vista point on this trail as it was hard to follow, but we did find some beautiful multicolored sandstone.

Also, you can get some great views down into Fire Canyon here as well.

Silica Dome

The stop for silica dome is an excellent viewpoint for both the dome itself and fire canyon. You can hike to the dome from here, but even if you don’t want to do that, it’s still an excellent spot for a panoramic view.

Fire Wave

Fire Wave is the most popular hike in the park and for good measure. It is about a mile and a half round trip and it takes you to a unique rock formation that looks like a red wave, much like the more famous wave in Arizona.

The trail is beautiful as it heads downhill and then crosses over a large selection of red rocks before getting to the eventual wave. Go early though as this one has no shade at all.

White Dome

The rock formations here are massive and white, unlike there red counterparts throughout the park.

The 1.25-mile trail heads through the middle of the rocks and past an old filming location.

From here it leads into a small slot canyon, which is really fun to see if you haven’t been through one before.

The trail then just heads back up to the parking lot completing the loop.

Balancing Rock

This rock can be seen from the road outside of the visitors center. You can walk to it from the visitors center, or you can just see it from the parking lot or road.

Visitors Center

A great spot to stop and learn more about the area and the recommended hikes.

Seven Sisters

The seven sisters are a set of seven rocks jutting out from right next to the road. There are picnic benches here that you can relax at or you can just take a few photos of the rocks from one of the pullouts as well.

Elephant Rock Trail

Right next to the east entrance station, there is a trail that takes you to the famous elephant rock. This rock does look like an elephant, and it is pretty fun to see for the whole family.

As you can tell, there is enough here for a full day of adventure. If you are looking to get out of Vegas and explore the surrounding area then this is a great spot. I wouldn’t recommend a visit in the summer though as it can be incredibly hot and there is not a lot of shade. Let me know if I left off one of your favorite spots in the comments.

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Elowah Falls: Second Tallest Waterfall in Columbia River Gorge

As the second largest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge area, Elowah Falls 290 foot drop is an impressive sight to behold. Since this waterfall is accessed by a 2-mile round…

As the second largest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge area, Elowah Falls 290 foot drop is an impressive sight to behold. Since this waterfall is accessed by a 2-mile round trip hike, it is not as popular as some other ones in the gorge. That is a win for all who make the trek though as this waterfall is incredible, here is all the information.

Details

  • 1.75 miles round trip
  • 400 feet of elevation
  • Can also do Upper Mccloud Falls when there
  • Located in John B. Yeon State Park
  • Trailhead location: 62100 NE Frontage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Getting There

Heading east on Highway 84, you will take Exit 35 and proceed onto Frontage Road. This road parallels the freeway, and in about 4 miles you will see the small parking area for the trailhead, right before getting back on the highway. There is a small parking lot, but if it is full, there is street parking as well.

The Trail

After parking, make your way to the trailhead and begin the uphill journey.

The trail is shaded and beautiful with lots of greens and moss covered trees. As a Southern California hiker, this is always impressive.

It heads uphill on a series of switchbacks as you gain elevation quickly. Eventually, you will reach a split in the trail, with one direction heading to Elowah Falls and the other heading to McCord Creek Falls. I recommend doing both, and you can read about McCord Creek Falls here.

From the split, you will start heading downhill, which is where you get the additional uphill on the way back. The trail can be muddy and slippery if you go when it is raining but just take your time as you go through the downhill portion.

When the trail flattens out, you will be about 40 feet above the creek, and you will start to see the waterfall poking through in the distance. It gets more pronounced and amazing as you get closer to it.

When you reach the base of the falls, you will be in the middle of a large canyon with a large rock wall and the cascading waterfall coming down over the rocks.

It reminded me a little of how Mooney Falls fell in Havasupai; it’s just an impressive waterfall. Here is connects with another trail that you can also use to reach it, but I haven’t gone that way myself.

After taking it all in, proceed back the way you came. If you are up for it, continue to Upper McCord Creek Falls, but be ready for more uphill as this waterfall is above and behind Elowah. Read about it here.

Elowah Falls is a great hike in the Portland area and one that all nature lovers should do. Let me know if you have been in the comments and what you thought.

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Upper McCord Creek Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Upper McCord Creek Falls sits above the beautiful Elowah Falls and is accessed by a nice, but very much uphill, trail to a beautiful set of two parallel falls. What sets…

Upper McCord Creek Falls sits above the beautiful Elowah Falls and is accessed by a nice, but very much uphill, trail to a beautiful set of two parallel falls. What sets this waterfall apart is the fact that it has two separate cascades with a moss covered rock section in the middle. Also, since it is hard to get down to the falls, this is an awesome one to photograph without many people in it, which is rare in the Columbia River Gorge. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Free
  • 2 miles or 3 miles with Elowah Falls
  • 700 feet of elevation
  • Trailhead location: 62100 NE Frontage Rd, Cascade Locks, OR 97014

Getting There

Heading east on Highway 84, you will take Exit 35 and proceed onto Frontage Road. This road parallels the freeway, and in about 4 miles you will see the small parking area for the trailhead, right before getting back on the highway. There is a small parking lot, but if it is full, there is street parking as well.

The Trail

After parking, you will leave from the same trailhead that goes to Elowah Falls. If you have the time you need to do that one as well, you can read more about it here.

The trail immediately heads up and it will go up pretty much all the way to the waterfall.

The muddy switchbacks sit under a canopy of green trees with moss covered branches. The trail is beautiful, and after about a half mile it will reach a split where the trail to Elowah Falls breaks off. From here you will head right and continue up the set of switchbacks.

Eventually, the trail crosses a series of old pipes, and you will start to break out from the tree level and get some views of the gorge behind you.

Heading on will take you to the trail carved out of a large rock wall. This part can be a little sketchy if you are afraid of heights, but it is impressive to photograph.

As you hug the rock wall, be sure to look down into the canyon below you where you can see Elowah Falls from above.

This is an impressive way to see the second largest waterfall in the gorge so don’t miss it.

After you leave the rock wall, you will be back in the forest and will be about 2 minutes from the waterfall.

The trail goes around the right side of the falls and gives you many different angles looking down on it.

The hillside is overgrown, so there isn’t any real way down to the base, which is OK since the views of the falls from here are breathtaking. I walked all around it but didn’t continue along the trail as I was not sure where else it went.

After hanging out for a while, I started the downhill hike back to the trailhead. Be sure to check out Elowah Falls if you have a chance when doing this hike as it is an impressive waterfall to see from the base. Let me know what you think of this hike in the comments.

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Columbia River Gorge Vista House

With over 100 years of history, the Columbia River Gorge Vista House is still welcoming travelers to its breathtaking views daily. This staple of the Columbia River Gorge area is…

With over 100 years of history, the Columbia River Gorge Vista House is still welcoming travelers to its breathtaking views daily. This staple of the Columbia River Gorge area is situated on a tall hill overlooking the highway and the river below. It is somewhere that you must visit on any trip along Highway 84 and here is all the information.

Details

  • Free
  • Parking can be tough on the weekends, but there is overflow
  • Road up to it is windy

Getting There

Driving east on Highway 84, you will get off on Corbett Hill Road and take this south, up into the hills. From here you will connect with Historic Columbia River Highway and will head east. This road will take you past the turn for the viewpoint below and eventually to the Vista House itself.

Alternate Viewpoint – Portland Women’s Forum

On the way up, make sure you pull over at the Portland Women’s Forum viewpoint. This area is across the canyon from the Vista House and it gives you an appreciation for the amazing spot the building sits on. Once you take in the views here, proceed onward for the 5 minute drive to the vista house.

The Vista House

After securing parking, proceed into the circular building where there are three floors.

The upper floor is the most popular as it has the outside deck with 180 degree views of the river below.

After checking this out, head back down to the second floor where you can see some information on the ongoing management of this building and talk to the docents.

On the lower level there is a small cafe and a gift shop if you want to grab some souvineers.

They also have a hallway of old photos that I found especially interesting as it shows many views of the building over its century of history.

After taking it all in you can continue your drive along the Columbia River Gorge. Check out some of my favorite spots here and let me know what you think in the comments.

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