Roche-A-Cri Mound Hike in Wisconsin

Take this .3 mile hike to gain the most amazing view of the surrounding landscape in the middle of Wisconsin. You’ll have a panoramic scene of cranberry bogs, forest, and prairie. It’s simply amazing and worth the intense climb.

Take this .3 mile hike to gain the most amazing view of the surrounding landscape in the middle of Wisconsin. You’ll have a panoramic scene of cranberry bogs, forest, and prairie. It’s simply amazing and worth the intense climb.

Distance: .3 miles

Level: Moderate (all stairs)

Time to Go: Spring-Fall, trail is not maintained during winter months.

Dog Friendly: No dogs allowed on this trail, but dogs are welcome on the other trails in the park and in the campground.

Fees: Daily Park Fee with WI plates is $8, with out of state plates it’s $11.

Getting There

Location: 1767 Hwy 13, Friendship WI, 53934

Vehicle Access: After you’ve purchased your fee ticket at the ranger station at the park entrance and grabbed your map. It’s time to get your hiking shoes on. The park has a very convenient, one-way road that loops the park. Along the loop you’ll come to a parking area with a kiosk, informational boards, volleyball net and pavilion. Park here for the easiest access to the staircase.

Acorn Trail Access: Acorn Trail loops the whole park as well. This trail is about 3.5 miles in length. The Mound trail branches off on both the west and east side of the park and leads to the staircase that will bring hikers to the mound’s peak.

What is Roche-A-Cri?

Roche-A-Cri is translated as “crevice in the rock.” The mound in which the name comes from is a remanent of old sandstone from a glacial lake. This unique mound can be seen from miles away and only becomes more intimidating the closer one gets.


There are 303 steps in total on this trail. Don’t worry, benches and rest stops are available for a rest. The overlooks all along the way are worth a stop to take in the scenery Wisconsin offers.

The Journey Up

I was so focused on getting up the steps that I was missing the journey up to the top. Slow down and take in the sites along the way. The view at the top can wait, it’s not going anywhere.

Hikers must stay on the path. The rock mound is engulfed with forest, a sensitive area of life that clings to it’s hard surface. Check out the trees that seem to be growing right out of the rock with roots fighting to find soil. There are several types of pine and oak trees towering over the flora scattered about the forest floor. Watch for ferns and flowers. We spotted a lovely lady slipper orchid. I have never seen one in the wild before, very exciting.


Reaching the top brings a great sense of relief for hikers. Vast overlooks encompass this area from atop this platform. Interpretive signs give hikers an understanding of the area they are taking in. Watch for vultures soaring in the area, a pair was gliding over the treetops below. It was curious to see them from above rather than below.


There are a few rules to be followed at this destination.

  • Open between 6am-Sunset
  • No Dogs Allowed
  • No Food
  • No Drink (with the exception of water)
  • Keep to the stairway


Coming down is a great opportunity to take in the sites that you missed on the way up. No rush, this area was not too populated and hikers tackling the trek aren’t racing. Take time on your descent to appreciate the landscape, read the interpretive signs posted at the landings.

Tips for Ticks: Adventure Dog Safety

Ticks… feels like they’re all over you just thinking about them. Keep the ticks off your adventure dog this season with the right prevention, know the tick types, and hike on!

**Warning: This post may cause a case of the heebie-jeebies. I feel like they’re all over me.

The other morning I took Xena the adventure dog and my 3 year old, Killian, for a hike on Love a Tree Day. Killian and I came out clean, but Xena was a tick-magnet! They are horrendous this spring. I pulled 8+ ticks off of her in our first hour of being on the trail.


Ticks aren’t just gross, they cause diseases that are harmful to your hiking companion, and you! Some major illnesses include;

  • Lyme Disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Canine Anaplasmosis
  • Canine Ehrlichiosis
  • Etc.

Types of Ticks

In the U.S. we have several types of ticks in the woods,

  • American Dog Tick
  • Blacklegged Deer Tick
  • Brown Dog Tick
  • Lonestar Tick
  • Pacific Coast Tick
  • Rocky Mountain Wood Tick
  • Western Blacklegged Tick

Tick Removal

It’s a dirty job, but it has to be done. Tools are available at your vet clinic, pet stores or on Amazon. They range from just a few dollars to an whole $20 Tick Removal Kit. I use by fingers or a tweezers for a truly sunken in sucker. The trick is to remove the tick before it becomes embedded. This is when the tick has buried it’s head into the skin.

Embedded Tick: Use sterile tools, like a tweezers. As close to the skin as possible, grasp the head. Don’t yank, but pull gently to ease the head out of the skin. What you don’t want, is for a piece to be left behind. Clean area and watch the site for signs of infection.

It’s important to contact your veterinarian if your dog begins showing signs of illness after tick removal. These could be signs of infections or diseases spread by ticks. Symptoms such as;

  • Fatigue, lethargy or weakness
  • Swollen lymph nodes or joints
  • Loss of appetite or vomiting
  • Unnecessary shivering or panting
  • Fever


There is a smorgasbord of tick preventions on the market these days and it seems there is a variety to suit every pet owners needs. I’ve tried several different varieties over the years, all have been effective to an extent. Don’t be deceived; ticks can still latch on even when your dog has a preventative, but they do help and many kill ticks that have attached.

***Consult your veterinarian prior to beginning a flea and tick treatment and seek veterinary advice in the occurrence of side effects and adverse reactions. Always read prescriptions, directions, and side effect warnings on labels prior to application.


Price: $-$$ (price varies with quality)

Duration: 1 month of prevention

Application: This type of product is a liquid that comes in a tube with an easy squeeze applicator. Simply cut open the end of the tube and squeeze the liquid onto the skin under the fur. Application is usually placed between the shoulder blades so your pup can’t lick it off. Detailed instructions are on the label.

Pros: Topical treatments don’t just kill ticks on contact, many of them also repel them to start with. Most of them work about 12-48 hours to work on current flea/tick infestation.

Cons: If you have a dog that likes to get dirty, bathing will be an issue. Bathing or swimming could cause the solution to become diluted. This DOES NOT mean you should reapply, doing so is risking overdosing your dog. There can be side effects ranging from skin irritation to seizures. Contact you vet if you see adverse reactions.

We started using a different flea and tick treatment when we had small children. Kids love dogs and dogs love kids, most of the time! This close connection could result in flea and tick treatments contaminating your little ones.


Price: $

Duration: Up to 8 months

Pros: One time payment and treatment that will work for the duration of the tick season. If there are adverse effects or reactions, the collar is easily removed. The flea collar is not effected by water and doesn’t need to be removed for swimming or bathing (I usually remove all collars for bathing anyway).

Cons: There are some side effects to watch for including chemical burns and seizurs among other things. The collar can also come in contact with children who love on their pup.

Oral Preventatives

Price: $$$

Duration: 1 month of prevention

Pros: These are great for families with kids. Unlike the topical and the collar, when children pet their dog, there won’t be any cross contamination. Oral treatments can kill fleas in as little as 8 hours and ticks in 48 hours.

Cons: There have been known cases of severe side effects, including seizures. Unfortunately, this treatment can’t be removed like the collar or washed off like the topical in the instance of a poor reaction.

Note: These types of preventatives require a prescription from your veterinarian.

Tick Spray

Be watchful of dogs licking their legs and body, ingestion of tick sprays could be harmful.

Price: $-$$$

Duration: Varies

Pros: This is an as needed application product, used at the time of higher risk exposure to ticks, so it wouldn’t need to be on your dog constantly. Many bands are usable for people and dogs alike.

Cons: There are so many brands out there, be sure to read the label before purchasing or applying the product to your dogs to ensue it’s pet-safe. Be watchful of dogs licking their legs and body, ingestion of tick sprays could be harmful.

Note: The range on this product is vast. Some are just for dogs, some just for people, some are for dogs, cats, horses, home, yards, everywhere.

Essential Oils

I’ve added this option here as more of a warning than anything else. There are a great number of essential oils that are toxic to dogs and a very dangerous. Check into these oils before using them as a tick preventative or any other use. Even when you’re just defusing in your home.

Anyone else feel like they’re all over you now?

Tettegouche State Park: A North Shore Must

Tettegouche is the park to visit along the North Shore. If you have to choose just one park to visit in northern Minnesota, this would be it. It has it all! Overlooks, waterfalls, rugged trails, shorelines and rivers. This park is hard to beat.

Tettegouche is the park to visit along the North Shore. If you have to choose just one park to visit in northern Minnesota, this would be it. It has it all! Overlooks, waterfalls, rugged trails, shorelines and rivers. This park is hard to beat.

Quick Review: 11/10 Tettegouche receives a perfect score plus one for it’s amazing views, splendid waterfalls, well maintained trails, and great shoreline adventure. The bonus point is awarded for saving our skins on an accidental trip to the park on a failed BWCA trip.

Hiking Trails

The hiking trails in total at Tettegouche spans 23 miles. The trails in Tettegouche are all rated as moderate to difficult, and with the inclines and rocky terrain, I can’t disagree. Be sure to bring plenty of water along and a map. The trails are well marked, but it is nice to have map along that indicates any turnoffs for a shorter route back if any in your party tire quickly.

We had a great time watching our 6 year old daughter tackle these trails. She did great and lead the way on many of them. There was a point when she needed to go potty and we were about a half mile out from the trailhead. We ran the remainder of the trail, I was amazed at her speed and agility on this rugged northern trail. In hindsight, I don’t know why I didn’t just take the opportunity to teach her how to pee in the woods. A lesson for another time I guess.


Tettegouche is home to 4 waterfalls and each one is a beauty! The falls are all along the Baptism River. Two can be hiked together, the remaining two require a drive to a separate parking area.

Illgen Falls: Illgen Falls is located near the Illgen Falls Cabin. This cabin is available for rent year-round and can hold up to 6 people. Visitors are responsible for cleaning up after their stay. The falls is just a short hike away from the cabin and is the farthest from Lake Superior in Tettegouche.

High & Two Step Falls: High Falls is a staggering 60 foot waterfall that earns it’s name with that big drop. These falls can be accessed by following the hiking trail along the Baptism River from the Baptism River campground. The trail will merge with the Superior Hiking Trail, take a right, then there is a swinging bridge to cross the river at the falls. Enjoy this view before continuing on the trail, keeping right at the fork will bring you to a staircase that descends to the Two Step Falls. Simply retrace your steps back the parking area when done admiring the falls.

The hiking distance in total is just under two miles. The terrain would be considered difficult with steep steps.

Cascade Falls: Cascade Falls is the closest falls to Lake Superior in Tettegouche. This falls in not on the same trail as the High and Two-Step Falls. Cascade has it’s own Cascade Falls Trail to follow. The parking area for this falls is passed the visitors center on the south side of the river.

This moderate trail is about a mile and a half long. It is an out and back, no loop here.

Twisty Trees

A truly unique find in the Northern Minnesota state parks, is the twisted trees. They are a whimsical anomaly caused by the hammering winds, gradually twisting the tree as it grows. These trees are a wonder to behold and add a great sense of mystery to the hikes on the edge of Lake Superior. And check out those wicked root systems! These trees have to be so resilient to grow on the rocky terrain.


There are numerous camping opportunities at Tettegouche. While the backpack sites are on a first come, first served basis, the other camping options are reservable. These other options include drive-in sites for RV’s and tent sites that are walk-in or cart-in. Two cabin’s are also available for lodging. This is quite a popular park, so booking your reservation early is a really the only way to secure your stay. We got extremely lucky when we camped here on a failed BWCA trip. For the full catastrophe follow here.

Superior Shores- Rock Skipping

Steep cliffs, river tributaries and a rocky beach are all along the shores of Lake Superior at this park. We enjoyed the hikes, falls, and views, but the most fun we had was on the rocky beach at the inlet of the Baptism River. The rocks were perfect for skipping, we skipped so many rocks on this beach, it was a blast.

Overlooks Galore

Overlook, after overlook, after overlook. The surplus of overlooks at this park is astounding. Even on a foggy day, the overlooks are gorgeous. The fog adds a bit of eerie mystery to this park. Watch your step and be aware of the ledge. There are many areas that have have a significant drop with no guard rails. It’s fantastic to have unobstructed, rugged beauty, but keep the kids in-hand.

Shovel Point: Be sure to check out shovel point, just a half mile or so of a hike from the visitor’s center. This is such an amazing view and getting there is unique too. This is an area where you’ll see a lot of those twisting trees and unique root systems mentioned earlier.

Hazard Warning: The boardwalk areas can be slippery when wet, be sure to wear appropriate footwear with a lot of grip. Not kidding about those drops. Keep those kiddos in hand or very close.

Tettegouche will be getting a repeat visit from us, but the next visit won’t be an accident! Add this park to your to-do list this summer. You won’t regret it!

Fire Towers and Overlooks to Explore in Minnesota this Summer

Elevate your summer bucket list with these amazing overlooks and fire towers to see in Minnesota.

Check out Minnesota’s high points this summer with these fire towers and overlooks. It’s one thing to see images from a drone, it’s a whole different animal to experience the heights and views for yourself.

Fire/observation Towers

Get staggering views from atop these tall towers. The climb up steep steps will be well worth it. These towers are only open during the summer months as they are too dangerous to climb in the icy Minnesota winters.

Itasca State Park

Park Location: 36750 Main Park Drive
Park Rapids, MN 56470

Fees: $7 Day pass or $35 yearly State Parks Pass (totally worth it)

Tower Location: The tower is located off a trail near the end of the one-way scenic drive. There is a parking area on the south side of the road, the trail that leads to the fire tower is called Aiton Heights Trail. You can also access this trail from the Hiking Club (Ozawindib) Trail.

The tower at Itasca is the most sturdy tower we have climbed in MN, with the least steep steps. If you have a fear of heights, this is a safe tower to climb. While it is quite high, there is less sway with the wind.

At the top of the tower, photos are present to show it’s conquerors the areas around the park. Be sure to take a moment at the top to look through the canopy for wildlife.

St. Croix State Park

Park Location: 30065 St. Croix Park Road
Hinckley, MN 55037

Fees: $7 Day pass or $35 yearly State Parks Pass (totally worth it)

Tower Location: The tower is accessed by following the right most road after entering the park, keep right after picking up a map from the park office. Watch for signs for the Observation Tower, there are numerous parking areas along the way. The parking area for the observation tower is very close to the base of the tower.

Tip: Watch for wildlife along the way, we saw a medium sized black bear strolling down the road!

The distance that is visible from this tower is astounding. This tower takes you high above the tree tops, you feel as though you can see Tobies cinnamon rolls in the oven back in Hinckley. You will work up an appetite with this climb!

Mille Lacs Kathio State Park

Park Location: 15066 Kathio State Park Road
Onamia, MN 56359

Fees: $7 Day pass or $35 yearly State Parks Pass (totally worth it)

Tower Location: After entering the park, take the first left. This leads to a trail center and parking area. The tower can be accessed from the hiking trail loop that begins at the southeast side of the parking area. Keep left at splits in the trail. After the tower, complete the loop by taking the trail back to the road that leads to the parking area.

Lake Mille Lacs can be viewed from the top of this observation tower. It’s a great way to get a different perspective on a park that you’ll be hiking. We hit this feature first at the park, to gain an idea of the area we’d be exploring. Mille Lacs Kathio is a fantastic park in the Mille Lacs area.

Fire Tower Safety

I’ll be quick here. Please follow the rules posted at the base of each tower. They are pretty simple rules and are in place to keep visitors safe. Take these safety rules and guidelines into consideration before climbing.

  • Towers must not exceed 6 people at a time.
  • Do not climb in poor weather conditions (wind, rain, storms, etc.)
  • Supervise children (we had our little guy snuggly strapped into his hiking carrier and secured to me)
  • Hold the railing, do not climb if you get dizzy or light headed.
  • Do not drop stuff from the top of the tower (duh).


Sibley State Park- Mount Tom

Park Location: 800 Sibley Park Road Northeast
New London, MN 56273

Fees: $7 Day pass or $35 yearly State Parks Pass (totally worth it)

Overlook Location: From the Visitor’s Center head right and then take a left at the split. There will be signs for Mount Tom. The overlook can also be accessed by way of the Hiking Club trail, this trail has numerous starting points and is the 3.3 mile Mount Tom Loop.

Hike Mount Tom to see the far and wide expanse of farm land, lakes, nearby towns and wooded areas. Sibley State Park‘s Mount Tom is not as intimidating as the Observation/Fire towers of the other parks, but it still offers an amazing experience. For a serious fear of heights, this is a great baby step.

Bonus: There is another amazing overlook on the trail leading north of the Mount Tom parking area and a “Little Mount Tom” to the south.

Interstate State Park- St. Croix River Views

Park Location: 307 Milltown Road
Taylors Falls, MN 55084

Fees: $7 Day pass or $35 yearly State Parks Pass (totally worth it)

Overlook Location: This park has two main parking areas. The North Unit holds the main attraction and is a short jaunt from your vehicle. The South Unit has access to the Curtain Falls Hike.

The views over the St. Croix River are astounding and you can wave to our state neighbors from Wisconsin across the river. Take time to check out the potholes and explore this one of a kind terrain.

Warning: Watch the edge of the cliffs and keep small children in hand. There have been several park visitors that have fallen into the river from the overlooks.

Tettegouche- Shovel Point

Park Location: 5702 Highway 61
Silver Bay, MN 55614

Fees: $7 Day pass or $35 yearly State Parks Pass (totally worth it)

Overlook Location: You can’t hike in this park without running into an overlook. It’s cliff and waterfall galore! For overlooks of Lake Superior, check out Shovel Point just north of the visitor’s center. It’s also great for a quick stop on your way to more northern destinations.

Check out our mishap excursion to Tettegouche and how this park saved a weekend adventure.

Warning: Keep young children in hand and watch your footing, especially on damp/wet days. Much of the overlook areas do not have guard rails, which is great because it doesn’t impede on the splendor of the view.

Cascade State Park- Lookout Mountain

Park Location: 3481 West Highway 61
Lutsen, MN 55612

Fees: $7 Day pass or $35 yearly State Parks Pass (totally worth it)

Overlook Location: From the Visitor’s Center, head out on the Hiking Club Trail. There are several trails leaving the Visitor’s Center, so follow signage closely. Cross the bridge at The Cascades and follow the Superior Hiking Trail. You’ll come to a T in the trail after about half a mile, take a left and follow the Superior Hiking Trail until you see signs for Lookout Mountain, it will be to the right of the trail.

We had a great experience at Cascade River State Park and we learned a thing or two. Check out Mistakes and Lessons at Cascade River State Park.

BWCA- Eagle Mountain

Parking Location: Follow MN-61 to Lutsen, MN. Turn left onto Caribou Trail, after 17 miles you’ll go right onto The Grade for 4 miles. On the left you’ll find a decent gravel parking area with an obvious trial head.

Fees: Free Self-Issue Permit, all hikers in the BWCA require a permit. You can acquire one at the Gunflint Ranger Station (2020 W. Hwy 61, Grand Marais, MN) or the trail head.

Overlook Location: Eagle Mountain is a very straight forward hike with well packed trail. The trail will split near the peak, take a left at the Y to climb Eagle Mountain. The total distance out and back is 7 miles.

Of course Minnesota’s highest natural point must be on this list! Standing at a whopping 2301 feet above sea level, she’s a beauty to behold. Hiking this “mountain” should be on every Minnesotan’s bucket list. We had an amazing adventure in the BWCA, for more details check out Hiking Eagle Mountain.

Hiking Tip: We encountered many folks without any gear, not even water. This is a day hike for most hikers entering the area, but this is still the BWCA wilderness and basic supplies should be present. Be sure to bring plenty of water (do NOT drink from the lakes), small first aid, and perhaps some snacks.

Custer State Park’s Must See Destinations

Being the top state park in South Dakota, you know Custer has to have endless adventure! Check out the must-see places in Custer and add on to your South Dakota trip this summer. sou

Being the top state park in South Dakota, you know Custer has to have endless adventure! Check out the must-see places in Custer and add on to your South Dakota trip this summer.

Needles Highway

Drive through these marvels of nature stabbing up into the sky! Stop along the road at overlooks and take in this unique, one of a kind highway.

Travel Tip: If you’re traveling with a large trailer or an RV, avoid this road in Custer. The narrow passages and tunnels could cause problems along your journey. Tunnels just wide enough for one vehicle.

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake has to be the most peaceful locations in the park. Arrive early to avoid crowds and to catch the lake at it’s most serene time. This lake is in it’s own section of park at the northwestern portion of the park. Taking the Needles Highway to the lake will give the illusion of driving through a portal to a different land.

Black Elk Peak

We didn’t have time to complete the Black Elk Peak trail, it’s still on my bucket list. Which means we get to go back, yay! This trail can be accessed by multiple locations, but the simplest is likely the trail head at Sylvan Lake. The trail is 7 miles round trip with, what I hear, is an amazing overlook at the top of the peak. The difficulty level of the trail is considered easy with areas of steep terrain.


Sundown doesn’t have to be goodbye when you’re staying the night. Camping at Custer gives adventurers the chance to see the park at it’s most beautiful times. Catch a calming sunset or a refreshing sunrise. One of my favorite parts of our Camping Trip at Custer was the sunrise though the needles at Sylvan Lake.

Wildlife Loop Road

I highly suggest driving the Wildlife Loop Road. It goes around the whole southern section of the park with areas for overlooks and short trails to explore.

After a time, Scott and I were being asked where all the animals were. It is true that we didn’t see any right away, with the exception of the rodents back at camp, but there had to be more critters than that! At long last, when we were on the southwestern portion of the loop we came around the bend and BOOM! Bison! We only saw 3 bison on our whole trip, but it was truly something to see them right next to the car. We also got a glimpse of the little prairie dogs and some pronghorn. There are other animals in this ecosystem that we didn’t see, be on the lookout for elk, deer and big horn sheep. All of the critters we saw were found in areas we weren’t expecting them. Stay ALERT!

Buffalo Round up

Interested in watching Park Rangers and wranglers round up the bison, plan your visit to include the last Friday in September. This way, you’ll be guarantied to see more than three bison, more like 1,300! The bison are rounded up annually for the management of the herd.


Some of the best views that we had were at random unplanned stops along the way Wildlife Loop. Some had unique rock stacking, signs for kids to read, and some small areas with ruins, each stop had a little something different to explore. These were my favorite areas to explore.


This is a MUST for a western South Dakota trip, it is in the town of Custer, just west of Custer State Park. The Purple Pie Place is complete with a purple pig! I usually order my basic chocolate or French silk pie when in the mood for pie, always afraid of being disappointed. But I went out on a limb and ordered Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. It was probably the best pie that I have ever had, Chocolate or otherwise. I highly recommend this slice ala mode. The rich creamy ice cream is a perfect accent!

Camping at Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park, South Dakota

Camp at Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park in South Dakota for breath taking views, unique hikes and the stunning Sylvan Lake to explore.

When I think of South Dakota, I think of prairie dog holes and parched grass. On the drive out to Custer, that’s about what we saw. But once you’ve reached the west side of South Dakota, it’s a whole different story. The landscape drastically changes from a parched land desperate for water to a glorious ecosystem where life flourishes.

Sylvan Lake Campground

Even with nine campgrounds to choose from at Custer State Park, it was easy to choose Sylvan Lake. This section of the park is almost like a subsection of the park, closed off a bit from the rest of it. Sylvan Lake Campground is at the northwestern tip of Custer. It’s basically it’s own section of state park, it’s clear in the map. Campers can make reservations on the South Dakota reservations website. Many of the sites are close together and do not allow room for long trailers or large tents. We seek seclusion anyhow when searching for a campsite.

Travel Tip: If you are traveling with a tow behind or RV, avoid the Needles Highway, take Hwy 89 N from US Hwy 16A in Custer.

We stayed at lot 16. I was thoroughly impressed with this campsite. It was a walk-in campsite, offering seclusion but close enough to the parking area for quick access to the truck. We were not in view of any other campers.

Camp set up was quite simple, and we really didn’t need much in the way of prep. In fact, there was already a space cleared and leveled for our 4-person tent. It fit perfectly, such luxury!

The surroundings of our campsite took us into another world. We didn’t have to go far to feel like we were in the wilderness. We climbed, with our newly 7 year-old, way up on top of the giant rock next to our camp. For Sandy, this was quite impressive. The view was stunning.

Rising early in the morning granted such peace in this oasis. the fog rolled off of the needles sticking high into the sky revealing a glorious sunrise. The perfect place to enjoy a warm beverage in the morning.

Hike around sylvan Lake

Distance: 1 Mile

Level: Easy

Best Time to go: May-October is the best time of year, arrive early to avoid crowds. Camping at Sylvan Lake gave us the advantage of hiking without others.

Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash.

The hike around Sylvan Lake was unreal, like we were in some kind of fairytale. We passed an area being set up for a wedding, that will be a very memorable destination wedding for that couple. So many nooks and crannies to check out and climbable places to get a better vantage point.

This hike is quite short, but with all of the things to see and explore, it took a while to make the loop. Going at a normal speed, it would have taken about 25 minutes, but with all of the exploring it was well over an hour. At the end of this little route, there is a little gift shop where Scott was able get his coffee fix for the morning.

Hiking Tip: Watch out for squirrels, I’m convinced they are the most aggressive animal in the park. I’ve never witnessed squirrels so whipped up. We had them barking at us and one even tossed pine cones at us! There are also thieving chipmunks in the campground, they are hilarious!

Silvan Lake is a must when visiting Custer State Park. Even if you’re not camping there, take some time to drive the needles highway and pause to hike Sylvan Lake. You won’t regret it!

Hiking Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Six miles of switchbacking with grand views of Rocky Mountain National Park. This hike is a must on your visit to the Colorado National Park near Estes Park.

When we planned out trip to Estes Park, Colorado, hiking to the summit of a mountain was on the list of adventures. After searching for the perfect hike to attempt with both kids (11 yrs and 2 yrs) in tow. We landed on Deer Mountain. It was indeed the perfect mountain for our kid friendly mountain hiking adventure.

Distance: 3 miles up and down (6 miles total)

Level: Moderate

Time to go: Best time to go would be May to September. Our trek took place at the end of September.

Dog Friendly: No, dogs are not allowed on any trails. Dogs are allowed in Campgrounds and roads only.

Fees: Vehicle Pass ($30-$35 depending on duration) or the America the Beautiful Pass. Fee info can be found on the Rocky Mountain National Parks page.

Fall River Visitor’s Center

Upon entering the park from the Estes Park side, check out the Fall River Visitor’s Center. There are displays throughout the building, a gift shop, and much information about the park. A great first stop, especially to grab a map and Junior Ranger guide. Our kids filled out their booklets and earned a Junior Ranger badge to take home.


We had meant to get an early jump on this trail, but early starts aren’t always in the cards when traveling with kids. Plus ,we wanted to grab breakfast at Brunch & Company in the Stanley Hotel. It was delicious!

Try to get to this trailhead early, parking was a nightmare and resulted in turning around a few times in our rental car and a very tight parallel parking job on the side of the road. Thankfully, Scott is a parallel parking master. Glad I wasn’t driving!

The trailhead is located where Fall River Road (Hwy 34) and Park Entrance Road (Hwy 36) meet. If entering from the Estes Park side, you’ll run right into it at the intersection.

Trailhead Loop or Out & Back

There are options here for this hike. Deer Mountain can be hiked as a loop with a spur or as an out and back. Given that we wanted to see more of the park that day and were carrying a toddler in a pack, we did just an out and back hike. This cut our distance and allowed more time to see other parts of the park. If you choose to the do the loop, your total distance will be 10.5 miles. There are other turnoffs on the loop, so be sure to follow signage.

Slight Incline Start

The trail starts with a deceiving slight incline, giving hikers the illusion of an easy hike. The beginning of the trail features a pleasant grassy approach with trees disbursed within it. Watch for signs of animal, we spotted a few spots of scat and some holes from critters along the trail.


Switchbacks for days, folks. Switchbacks for days. The switchbacks are also steep, the switchbacks needed switchbacks. I think they seemed worse to me because I had a toddler on my back. Sandy (10) and Scott had no problems with the switchbacks. They were very patient while waiting for me to tote Killian up the mountain.

Take your time on the switchbacks and watch your footing. Most of the trail is packed well, but there are some spots that have jagged rocks protruding out of the trail and some root systems as well. The more difficult terrain is mostly at the turning points. Be courteous of other hikers going the opposite direction. In general, other hikers were very pleasant and gave encouraging words for this mom carrying a wee tot. Such a great community!

Viewing Points

One bonus for Scott and Sandy’s patience while waiting for me and Killian, was the viewing points. At some of the switchback turnarounds, there are short spur overlooks. Take a moment to catch your breath, just have it taken away again with the stunning views.


Near the end of the trail, hikers will come to a stone staircase. This is it folks, the final ascent! The steps are steep and are slightly covered in sand. Watch your step and climb.

Summit & Plaque – 10,013

Upon reaching the top, the view is absolutely breathtaking. Miles and miles of overview of the park and Estes Park. Continue on past the neat view of Estes Park to find the Summit Marker at the peak of Deer Mountain. It will be a bronze colored circle embedded in the rock. It was so cool to have the kids find and be able to touch the marker. A great feeling of accomplishment that they (mostly Sandy) climbed a mountain.

Say “hello” to the chunky chipmunks at the summit and try not to feed them. Sandy accidentally dropped a bit of trail mix, it was snatched up before she could grab it. It was no mystery as to how these mountain dwelling chipmunks became “chunky munkies”, snacking clumsy hiker snacks.

Safety Tip: Keep children close, the drop is substantial. We kept Killian within a couple feet of us at all times and in hand when anywhere near the edge.

The Descent

Ascending the mountain incites a great deal of awe, but comes with great toil in the effort of climbing. The descent grants allowance for truly appreciating the beauty of the mountain trail and the nature surrounding it.

Step aside in narrow areas to allow hikers keep their momentum up on their climb. This curtesy is much appreciated by moms & dads carrying junior explorers on their backs.

Bonus: Killian (2) fell asleep on the way down, so it was a much quieter situation. That helps with the serenity of the trail.

Spring Hike to Curtain Falls, Interstate State Park

Sandstone cliffs, high bluffs, scenic overlooks, flowing streams, and of course, a spouting waterfall. Curtain Falls is an invigorating hike, perfect for kicking off the warm weather hiking season. A must for springtime hiking!

Sandstone cliffs, high bluffs, scenic overlooks, flowing streams, and of course, a spouting waterfall. Curtain Falls is an invigorating hike, perfect for kicking off the warm weather hiking season. A must for springtime hiking!

With these intense, warm spring days we’ve had this week the kids and I hit the trail! Curtain Falls has been on my mind for a while now and I knew that we needed to hit this one in the spring for optimal falls action. The warm weather gave us the perfect opportunity for a revisit to Interstate State Park.

Curtain Falls

Distance: 1 mile

Level: Moderate to Strenuous

Best Time: Spring is best with the snowmelt feeding the falls and streams. After a heavy rainstorm. I suspect this hike would be quite dangerous if attempted in the winter months.

Dog Friendly: Yes, athletic dogs only. Keep dogs on leash.

Curtain falls is about the halfway point on the Sandstone Bluffs Trail. I would consider this trail a moderate to strenuous trail. There are steep tilted steps, rock step climbs, narrow cliff edge trails and steep drops. All of those attributes makes for some pretty amazing views.

Sandstone Bluffs Trail Head

Plant your vehicle at the southern parking are near the campground and park office. The trail starts right at the park office. Grab yourself a map and head northwest from the south side of the office, follow the creek upstream.

Under the Road

This was so neat! Right off the bat, the trail leads under the road. There is a concrete path leading under the highway with a divot in the concrete to allow for water to continue flowing. Be careful in early spring, there may still be some ice pack on the path with the limited sunshine. We also experienced some downed trees and debris, but that didn’t hinder our progress.

Never Ending Stairway

Once on the other side of the road, there is a very intimidating stairway leading up the bluffs and an inviting path leading north. Take the stairs.

It’s much easier to ascend these monstrously narrow steps than it is to descend. Stay on the trail to avoid any damaging of the hillside. The park has even placed a nice little sign at the beginning of the steps.

Narrow Ledges

The sandstone cliffs are a marvel, but the trail gets fairly narrow in spots along the cliffs. Keep small children in hand, a tumble down the hillside would be disastrous. The trail along the cliffs are a mixture of dirt path, boardwalk and stairs.

Early in the season, there is much trail maintenance needed. In time these things will be cleaned up and restored. If you’re heading out for a spring hike, use caution. There are downed trees and one particular tree that has uprooted and taken part of a boardwalk with it. We were able to concur the obstacles, you will to!

Curtain Falls

A ‘Y’ in the trail will give the option of steep stone steps or a boardwalk. The boardwalk is what leads to the falls. After viewing the falls, you’ll backtrack and take the steps to continue the rest of the loop.

The reward for the most difficult stretch of the trail is the refreshing view of Curtain Falls. A sputter of falls spewing over the cliff of sandstone from what seems like an unknown source. If ever a falls were to be dubbed “cute” this would be it. It’s not a rushing river or a cascading masterpiece, but a cute, petite, sputter of a falls. A falls worth seeing for sure, but don’t expect anything of majesty. The boardwalk near the falls stretches over the cliff near the falls giving viewers a closer look.


Only a short ways left up hill, over half of this trail is uphill. These uphill strides bring hikers to a grand view of the St. Croix River. There are benches along the way for a break and a snack.

Coming Down

The descent from the bluffs is quite mild, a gradual slope zigzagging down the hill. There are a few bridges and little falls along the stream when the water is flowing. The path winds with the stream, it’s a very peaceful stroll after the quick aggressive ascent to the falls.

Railroad trail

The loop meets up with the Railroad Trail. The options here are to go up the stairs or cross the bridge. Taking the stair will follow the Railroad Trail for an additional mile and a half of out and back of hiking trail. Crossing the bridge will lead south on the Railroad Trail to complete the loop bringing you back to the trail under the road.

Happy hiking!!

8 Nostalgic 90’s Adventure Movies To Watch with Your Kids

Get geared up for adventure season with these nostalgic 90’s movies chalk full of wild adventures and survival situations. True cinematic adventures!

On these dreary, wet spring days when it’s too yucky to play outside; grab your favorite snack and pop in an old adventure movie to watch with your kids. Any one of these thrilling nostalgia filled titles will have you amped up for adventure season.

Fly Away Home

This is a tragic story turned heartwarming. 13 year old, Amy, lives with her mother in New Zealand when a horrific accident lands her reunited with her father in Canada. While Amy adjusts to her new circumstances, her inventor/artist father tries to help her along but to no avail. Amy happens upon a nest of Canadian goose eggs. Father and daughter bond over their attempt to rescue these birds from living a captive life.

If you can get passed the first tear jerking 5 minutes, this is a great wholesome father/daughter movie. I enjoyed it growing up and I appreciate it in a new light as a parent with my own kids.

Iron Will

Young musher, Will Stoneman, enters a dogsled race with his late fathers dog, Gus, in an attempt to save his family farm. Will bonds with Gus as they both mourn his fathers death over the course of the race. All odds are against the inexperienced musher and fellow racers are of no help. Will and Gus face many challenges along their trail, from dangerous terrain to villainous racers. Catching the eye of a news reporter gains Will some fame and gives America new hope as the country watches as this young man race to save what he holds dear.

Wild America

Two brothers, Marty and Mark, work hard to break free of the fate their father has set for them, working in his business. They set off to film wild, endangered animals before they disappear. Their little brother, Marshall, stows away in the van to join them on their journey. These boys face many dangerous encounters from the Louisiana swamps to the Rocky Mountains. The best part about this film is that it’s based on the story of a real wildlife videographer. This is the tale of Marty Stoffer, the wildlife videographer who created the series “Wild America.”

This cinematic adventure was one of my favorites growing up and has been my daughters favorite on this list so far, too. There is something freeing about this movie. These boys experience America as she was when there were fewer restriction and the land was more wild.


Following their fathers tragic plane crash, two teen siblings head into the Alaskan wilderness on a rescue mission. Their hope is to find their father, a bush pilot, before it’s too late. The two need to work together to find their father amid their own struggles. It’s a heartwarming tale of siblings working together for the love of their father.

We didn’t have this movie growing up, but our neighbor did. I remember borrowing this video over and over. We had a very kind neighbor with an extensive movie collection. Yes, most were VHS! Thanks Jill!

Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog

A boy and his dog brave the coastal Canadian wilderness after a raging storm causes them to fall overboard from his fathers boat. The pair must rely on one another to find food, shelter and survive the brutal environment in hopes that a rescue crew will find them.

This is a great movie to introduce to your kids if you’re trying to drive home the importance of basic survival skills. All adventuring kids should have some outdoor survival practice.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

Oh my goodness, grab the tissues! Even if you’re not a dog person, this movie will hit you right in the feelings. This wholesome movie follows the journey of two dogs, Shadow and Chance, and their kitty cat companion, Sassy as they search for their way home after fleeing their pet sitter’s ranch. The crew traverses mountains, battles a raging river and wards off wild animals, all in their search for their family.

This was absolutely one of my favorite movies growing up. While on a road trip, our kids were playing this movie in the back seat. I wasn’t even watching it, but when I heard Shadow come over that hill, I reached for the tissues. If you’ve seen this one, you know exactly the moment I mean. Moving on, these words on my screen are beginning to blur. I need to go hug my dog.

George of the Jungle

Okay, who doesn’t love a good Brendan Frasier movie? Haven’t watched a moving staring him that I didn’t like. George of the Jungle is an adventure comedy about a man who grew up in the jungle, was raised by apes. Ursula (not a sea witch), enters the picture while on safari and is saved by George, both from a lion and an unworthy fiancé.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Okay, this one actually came out in 2008, but it still needs to be on the list. Another great action packed adventure movie starring Brendan Frasier. An uncle and nephew journey to the center of the earth (obviously, duh) in search of their brother/father and discover the truth of what happened to him.

Tips to Make the Most of the Last Winter Hiking Days with Kids

Winter hiking days are coming to a close. Now is the time to get out and enjoy the winter scenery on warmer days. Here are some tips for keeping the winter hiking season going.

March is here! Spring is within reach, we can almost smell it. Most Minnesotans rejoice, I am included in this bunch… A little bit. There is a small part of me that feels the sadness of an ending season. Am I the only one? I hope not.

With the snow melting away and the ice fading, we can still make the most of our last days of winter hiking. In some ways, this is the best of winter hiking. There are some things to consider before hitting the trail on these slushy days.

Hooray for Sunlight

Having more sunlight at the end of the day is what we Midwesterners long for all winter. When it is finally here, everybody has a serotonin boost. Woohoo! With this sunlight comes more time to be outside after work and school, especially when daylight savings time hits. I think we all have mixed feelings on that subject. This new found light in our days is so thrilling, we’ll all be running for our hiking shoes. Pump the breaks!

When that sun starts to set, it sets hard. When the earth shifts and graces us with that glowing energy, we can get so caught up in getting outside that we forget that it will fade into evening just like any other day. Check the time that the sun sets before you leave the house. Choose a trail that will allow for the amount of daylight that you have left. It’s always a good idea to keep a flashlight in your hiking pack. My daughter and I both carry one, and I have a headlamp in my first aid kit.

Warming Temperatures

With that sweet sunshine comes the warming temps, yay! I like this time of year for hiking because you can still see winters beauty and get the younger kids out enjoying it longer. Staying warm during winter hiking is all about trapping air with layers. Those layers really come into play this time of year. Why? You can peal them off!

I actually do the opposite when I hike in March. I start my hike with fewer layers than I end with. The reason being is that I usually start my hikes midday or later. So I’m starting at peak temp for the day. If the hike starts at 3pm and I’m wearing all of my layers at the beginning, the sweat pour right away. What does sweat do in the winter? Freezes, even in March. To prevent this, I start with near base layers and add as the sun starts to fade. Don’t wait until you are cold to add a layer. Try to anticipate about when you’ll need your next layer before you get a chill. With this method, I don’t get cold and I don’t sweat.

Spring Slush

Those warm temperatures that we just talked about sound phenomenal, the downfall: slush, mush, and mud. It’s true; spring is messy. It’s worth the mess to get out there and soak in the vitamin D. Wearing the proper gear and being prepared alleviate the headache of messy kids on the trail.

Lets talk boots. Don’t put those winter boots away just yet. I know everyone seems to rave about those darn rubber rain boots. Don’t. Do. It. They never fit properly, they fall off in sticky mud, and easily get filled with mush and muddy water with their loose tops. Unless your kids have Bogs, waterproof winter boots is the way to go. It’s not THAT warm yet, the winter boots will keep your kids’ feet warm and dry as they traverse the slush of spring. It’ll also save money not having to purchase multiple pairs of footwear for a season that is really short-lived.

Snow pants are still a must, at least in the beginning of March. I know it’s nice but those snow pants protect the under layers from becoming soaked. It’s actually quite comfortable to end up in a t-shirt and snow pants during a hike or outdoor play in the snow. It’s a Midwestern thing. We see it all the time here in the transition season.

Snacks and Cocoa

While the spring air warms, there can still be a bit of a bite to it. Don’t forget to pack the cocoa and a thermos of hot water. A cocoa break is always appreciated on a cool winter or spring day. Heck, I even drink it in the summer.

Always pack snacks, no matter what time of year. The perk of spring snacking is that it’s not so hot that chocolate will melt and not so cold that snacks won’t freeze. It’s perfect, you can bring chocolate chip granola bars and apple sauces! Here are some Trail Snack Ideas if you’re feeling stumped on what to bring.

Snow Consistency

March snow is, hands down, the best snowman or snowball snow. It sticks together well and breaks apart easily. Perfect for snowball fights for a little trail fun. Hiding behind trees and logs is faster than building a fortress in the woods. Be sure to pelt your kids with snow, it’s great fun!

Extra Gear

All that slush and mush has the power to soak straight through any child’s glove or mitten. I don’t care what it’s made of, they will get wet on a “warm” March day. Pack extra gloves. If you want to be really prepared, having a pair of dry shoes and socks in the car for the ride home can be a real game changer at the end of your hike and help you end on a high note especially if you have a long drive home.