Nestled in a quiet residential area near the bustling intersection of Frankford Road and the Dallas North Tollway sits the 12-acre site that used to be the town of Frankford, Texas. A former tiny prairie town, the site has an old cemetery, windmill, a white-framed church, creek, and prairie meadow native to 19th-century Texas.

It’s a well-hidden spot of nature hidden among some of the posh neighborhoods in far North Dallas. As you turn off Frankford Road onto Spyglass Drive, you’ll meander down beautiful, large landscaped lots and find yourself turning onto Muirfield Drive and landing at the Church of the Holy Communion. If you’re anything like me, I was trying to find the historical marker and thinking that the beautiful church looked much too modern and nothing like the pictures I had found online. At the end of the road from the church is a little wall that leads to a rocky road and a grass prairie. It looks like a time portal as you walk or drive beyond the gates, into an area stepped in time with large swatches of prairie with not much else. Follow that road, and you’ll find a gravel parking lot sitting in front of the Old Frankford Church.

The Town of Frankford 

There’s not much left of the community of Frankford that occupied the site near the natural springs along the Halls Branch of the Trinity River. The site was on the Shawnee Trail, and Native Americans would stop along the trail at the “everlasting springs.” These springs are located on the west bank of the creek near the bridge. Shawnee Trail in this area was later called the Texas Trail. Today it main runs along Preston Road. The prairie town of Frankford Crossing began to fade when it was bypassed by railroad construction, which went to nearby Addison (then called Noell Junction), and the site was eventually annexed into the city of Dallas. The post office, stores, many of the homes, and the Masonic Lodge were torn down or moved to other parts of the area. The land around what was left of the Frankford site was sold and eventually developed as the Bent Tree subdivision, country club, and golf course.

Town of Frankford, Texas, historical markerTown of Frankford, Texas, Indian Springs

The Old Frankford Church and Cemetery

The one-room church was built in 1897 and has been meticulously restored. The original church was destroyed by a tornado in the 1880s, and the current building was rebuilt using the wood from the first church. It was restored again in 2010. The Frankford Preservation Foundation reports that the church held services when a circuit rider was passing through the area.

While several denominations held services at the structure, the main one was Methodist, who were organized as part of a circuit in 1885. Although the town dissolved and people moved away, preachers continued to use the little church through the mid-1920s. Episcopal services began at the small church in the 1960s.

Old Frankford Church in Dallas, TexasOld Frankford Church historical marker

Periodically, the Frankford Preservation Foundation will hold guided tours of the area as well as a Spring Jazz Concert on The Prairie Music Festival. An annual candlelight service called Christmas on the Prairie is held the first Sunday evening in December every year. The church can also be reserved for wedding ceremonies as well.

Down the short road from the Old Frankford Church also lies one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, with the first unknown marked grave dating to 1862. Since the area was also an old Native American stomping ground, there is also speculation that some earlier burials are there as well. The Frankford Cemetary contains many old graves important to North Texas history, including the tomb of Addison Robertson, for whom Addison is named. It is maintained by the Frankford Cemetary Association.

Town of Frankford Old Cemetary MarkerVisiting Bird at the Old Frankford Cemetary

Prairie Grass

Surrounding the Old Frankford Church and cemetery are fields of unplowed, native prairie grass. Pioneers called the native big bluestem grass “turkey grass. This type of grass is one of the “Big Four” grasses of the Blackland Prairie that can grow up to eight feet tall. It is unusual to find in urban sites. The prairie grass has been cared for by generations, and the site lends itself to historical authenticity that can be hard to find. In the Spring, large blue and purple blooms can be seen throughout the prairie. The summer months present more of a traditional grassland appearance.

Town of Frankford Prairie

The Old Frankford Church and Cemetary site is a refreshing place to visit in North Dallas when you’ve had enough of steel, concrete, and traffic. It’s a tie-in back to the historical roots that maintain the peacefulness of a prairie meadow.

For more information, visit the Frankford Preservation Foundation.

Where to find it?

17400 Muirfield Dr, Dallas, TX 75287. Near Frankford and the Dallas North Tollway in Dallas

Town of Frankford Pinterest pin

A vibrant community known for its charming downtown, university, and plentiful parks, Parkville, Missouri, is a hidden gem located about 20 minutes northwest of downtown Kansas City. Although platted in 1844, Parkville’s historic roots go even further back to the Lewis and Clark era. These vestiges can be found around town and at the English Landing/Platte Landing Park. For those seeking a day trip out of Kansas City, the small town has a large riverfront park, an underground commercial district, and two wooded nature sanctuaries.

Sign leading into historic downtown Parkville
Sign leading into historic downtown Parkville

Historic Downtown

Main St, Parkville, MO 64152

Heading south from NW River Park Drive (MO-9), you’ll pass the beautiful English Landing Park walking the trail on the left and Park University and the Sullivan Nature Sanctuary on the right. As the road comes to an end, you’ll find yourself in downtown historic Parkville.  An eclectic variety of businesses and shops line the downtown area, from art boutiques to antique stores. PopCulture Gourmet Popcorn (6325 Lewis St Suite 101, Parkville, MO 64152) is a hit with locals around Kansas City, who drive in all the way from Olathe and Lee’s Summit to get popcorn. Looking for something to do that’s a little different but offer’s scenic views of downtown? Play the Parkville Mini Golf, an old 18-hole course with a full-service ice cream bar. Since it sits up on the bluffs, it has a great view of the river (7 W 1st St, Parkville, MO 64152).

City Parks

For a city of around 6,000 people, Parkville has a lot of parks. You can find five parks and two nature sanctuaries where you can relax, explore, and enjoy. These parks include:

My favorite two parks were the Parkville Nature Sanctuary and English Landing/Platte Landing Park. Why? They’re huge and take full advantage of the natural beauty in the area. Also, at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary, the city noise is muted.

Parkville Nature Sanctuary

100-198 E 12 St, Parkville, MO 64152

A 115-acre natural outdoor area with three miles of hiking trails, Parkville Nature Sanctuary is an excellent place to escape the bustle of the city or the stresses of college life. Many consider the trails the best hiking trails in Kansas City, with easy to moderate trails. The trails are well-marked and a few take a little bit of a journey through the woods and up into the hills. Take the Old Katy Trail up to the waterfall or alongside Lewis Spring. Butterfly Pass, which goes by an old root cellar, takes you through foliage and plants specifically designed to attract butterflies. Parking is plentiful. A public restroom is available next to the parking lot.

English Landing Park

8701 McAfee St, Parkville, MO 64152

As you drive into Parkville, a long walking and riding trail that stretches alongside the Missouri River is the first sign of the city. The 68-acre park has three miles of walking trails, picnic areas, a sand volleyball court, a disc golf course, and a large playground area. During the summer months, the Farmer’s Market is right beside the park, so it makes it convenient to stop in, grab some food, and then go for a stroll along the park on early weekend mornings. After crossing the giant bridge in the park, you’ll find the adjacent Platte Landing Park. The 140-acre park includes two additional miles of trails, an off-leash dog park, and a new boat ramp. If you want to just and watch the river go by, there are plenty of shade trees and benches near the water’s edge. Historical markers noting the Lewis and Clark expedition to the area are in the park near the water’s edge.

Park University, Mackay Hall

8700 NW River Park Dr, Parkville, MO 64152

Founded in 1875, Park University is a private, nonprofit university that can be seen on the bluffs overlooking English Landing Park and the Missouri River. At 800 acres, the university’s most distinctive building is Mackay Hall, built using limestone from the campus grounds. The three-story building was constructed in 1883 and finished in 1893. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is near the Parkville Presbyterian Church, also made out of the native limestone. The rest of the campus is also and nestled in the hills.

Parkville Commercial Underground

8500 NW River Park Dr, Parkville, MO 64152 or look for President Mackenzie Underground Entrance/Exit

Imaging working or going to a nursing lab in an underground cave. Perhaps one of the coolest parts of the town and Park University is the Parkville Commercial Underground. The university hired a local mining company to drill into the hill and created business space both for rent and for campus activities. The Parkville University Campus has more than 385,000 square feet of commercial space that are underground. As you drive into the underground, you’ll see office entrances built into the underground walls. It’s like a “commercial” cavern tool, in a cool way. Tenants include a data center, part of the Parkville School District, a whiskey distillery, and distribution centers. Another part of the underground is known as the Academic Underground, with stores, faculty offices, and the nursing program all held in a cave. Whoever said a university campus had to be boring?

Finding the commercial underground can be tricky. Turn right from the highway into Park University. When you enter Park University, curve to the right and then keep going straight back toward what looks like a parking lot and a line of trees. Before you get there, you’ll see a road that swoops down into a tunnel along with a sign that says ENTRANCE. That’s where you drive into the commercial underground. It’s before the parking lot (looks like it goes under it). It can be easy to miss if you don’t know where to look.

Have you visited Parkville? What’s your favorite place to visit? Have you ventured into the Parkville Nature Sanctuary?

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Known for vast swaths of protected wilderness and mountainous landscapes, Idaho is a great place to find outdoor recreation areas. Over 690,000 visitors flock to the 7 national parks, 10 national historic landmarks, and 11 natural landmarks. Farmlands, rivers, and mountains dominate the landscape. The list of parks in Idaho may not appear as long as other states, but the number of acres they cover is expansive. Known as the Gem state, Idaho produces 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones. This pacific northwest state is divided into distinct geographic regions with parks to match.


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National Parks & Historic Sites

California National Historic Trail

The National Oregon/California Trail Center, 320 N 4th St, Montpelier, ID 83254

Various States CA, CO, ID, KS, MO, NE, NV, OR, UT, WY

Follow in the footsteps of over 250,000 emigrants who traveled to the gold fields and rich farmlands of California during the 1840s and 1850s: the greatest mass migration in American history. The California National Historic Trail is over 5,000 miles long and covers portions of 10 states. Step into history along more than 1,000 miles of ruts and traces from travelers and their overland wagons.

City Of Rocks National Reserve

City of Rocks National Reserve, Malta, ID 83342

Emigrants of the California Trail describe the rocks here in vivid detail as “a city of tall spires,” “steeple rocks,” and “the silent city.” Today, this backcountry byway attracts rock climbers, campers, hikers, hunters, and those with the spirit of adventure. There’s inspirational scenery, exceptional opportunities for geologic study, and remnants of the Old West awaiting your discovery.

Craters Of The Moon National Monument & Preserve

1266 Craters Loop Road, Arco, ID 83213; Arco, Carey and Rupert , ID

Craters of the Moon is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush. We invite you to explore this “weird and scenic landscape” where yesterday’s volcanic events are likely to continue tomorrow…

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

221 N State St, Hagerman, ID 83332

Do you know horses evolved in North America? The Hagerman Horse, Equus simplicidens, is the first true one toed horse. It’s the park’s most famous fossil but we have fossil evidence of over two hundred different species. From saber-toothed cat, mastodon, bear, camel, and ground sloth, to much smaller animals like rodents and frogs, the scientific study of Pliocene fossils is the key to Hagerman.

Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail

WA, OR, ID, MT; one place is Farragut State Park, 13550 ID-54, Athol, ID 83801

“At the end of the last Ice Age, some 12,000 to 17,000 years ago, a series of cataclysmic floods occurred in what is now the northwest region of the United States, leaving a lasting mark of dramatic and distinguishing features on the landscape of parts of the States of Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.” Public Law 111-11, March 30, 2009

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Eleven States: ID, IL, IA, KS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OR, SD, WA; one includes Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural & Educational Center, 2700 Main St, Salmon, ID 83467

Between May 1804 and September 1806, 31 men, one woman, and a baby traveled from the plains of the Midwest to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. They called themselves the Corps of Discovery. In their search for a water route to the Pacific Ocean, they opened a window into the west for the young United States. Read the Lewis and Clark Pups blog, the Newfie News!

Minidoka National Historic Site

Minidoka National Historic Site, Jerome, ID 83338

The Pearl Harbor attack intensified existing hostility towards Japanese Americans. As wartime hysteria mounted, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 forcing over 120,000 West Coast persons of Japanese ancestry (Nikkei) to leave their homes, jobs, and lives behind and move to one of ten prison camps spread across the nation all because of their ethnicity. This is Minidoka’s story.

Nez Perce National Historical Park

four states ID, MT, OR, WA; one place is Pierce Courthouse, 1st Ave S & Court St, Pierce, ID 83546

For thousands of years the valleys, prairies, mountains, and plateaus of the inland northwest have been home to the nimí·pu· (Nez Perce) people. Extremely resilient, they have adapted and survived the settling of the United States. Explore these places. Learn their stories.

Oregon National Historic Trail

Various States ID, KS, MO, NE, OR, WA, WY; The National Oregon/California Trail Center, 320 N 4th St, Montpelier, ID 83254

Imagine yourself an emigrant headed for Oregon: would promises of lush farmlands and a new beginning lure you to leave home and walk for weeks? More than 2,000 miles of trail ruts and traces can still be seen along the Oregon National Historic Trail in six states and serve as reminders of the sacrifices, struggles, and triumphs of early American settlers.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, ID, MT, WY

Visit Yellowstone and experience the world’s first national park. Marvel at a volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mudpots, and geysers. Explore mountains, forests, and lakes to watch wildlife and witness the drama of the natural world unfold. Discover the history that led to the conservation of our national treasures “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

For an additional list of attractions, go to Visit Idaho.

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Considered the birthplace of blues music, Mississippi is also known for the Mississippi Delta,  coastal gulf, and its majestic forests. Eight national parks and three cultural heritage areas can be found in the state along with 1442 national register of historic places.  Outside of the Mississippi Delta area, the state is heavily forested and has several national forests and wildlife refuges. Mississippi Blues Trail and Country Music Trail markers are located at key sites within the state. Over 60 miles of Mississippi Gulf Coast shoreline are great places to relax and catch some rays in the white sand beaches.

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National Parks & Historic Sites

Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield Site

128 MS-370, Baldwyn, MS 38824

Brice’s Cross Roads National Battlefield Site commemorates the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads, in which the Confederate army, under Major-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, defeated a much larger Union force on June 10, 1864, to ultimately secure supply lines between Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Breeze, Florida and Ocean Springs, Mississippi , FL, MS

Gulf Islands National Seashore offers recreation opportunities and preserves natural and historic resources along the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi. The protected regions include mainland areas and parts of seven islands.

Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area

Various; Museum of the Mississippi Delta, 1608 US-82, Greenwood, MS 38930

The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MDNHA) is the land where the Blues began, where Rock and Roll was created and where Gospel remains a vibrant art. It is an agricultural region where cotton was once king, and where ‘precision-ag’ rules today. It is a place that saw the struggles of the Civil War and the cultural revolution of the Civil Rights Movement. It is the home of the Great Migration, and a land of rich culinary, religious, artistic and literary heritage.

Mississippi Gulf National Heritage Area

1141 Bayview Avenue, Biloxi, MS 39530

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a culturally, historically, and environmentally distinctive region where many chapters in the national story have been written. The bounties of the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s natural resources have brought people to this area from all over the world. The modern culture of the Coast consists of a multi-ethnic gumbo of people and traditions.

Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area

398 E Main St, Tupelo, MS 38804

See the birthplace where Elvis made his entrance to the world stage … Walk among the nation’s most extensive remaining Civil War earthworks from one of the largest sieges in the Western Hemisphere, at the Crossroads of the Confederacy … There’s so much to see and do in the Mississippi Hills. Faulkner once said he could spend a lifetime writing about it—you could spend a lifetime exploring it.

Natchez National Historical Park

640 S Canal St, Natchez, MS 39120

Discover the history of all the peoples of Natchez, Mississippi, from European settlement, African enslavement, the American cotton economy, to the Civil Rights struggle on the lower Mississippi River.

Natchez Trace Parkway

101 N Natchez St, Kosciusko, MS 39090 and the states of AL,MS, TN

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a National Parkway in the southeastern United States that commemorates the historic Old Natchez Trace and preserves sections of the original trail.

Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail

Various; Tupelo, AL,MS,TN. One location is Rocky Springs Methodist Church, Port Gibson, MS 39150

The Natchez Trace Trail is a designated National Scenic Trail in the United States, whose route generally follows sections of the 444-mile (715 km) Natchez Trace Parkway through the states of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Shiloh Military Park

Shiloh, TN,MS. 1055 Pittsburg Landing Rd, Shiloh, TN 38376

Visit the sites of the most epic struggle in the Western Theater of the Civil War. Nearly 110,000 American troops clashed in a bloody contest that resulted in 23,746 casualties; more casualties than in all of America’s previous wars combined. Explore both the Shiloh and Corinth battlefields to discover the impact of this struggle on the soldiers and on the nation.

Tupelo National Battlefield

2005 Main St, Tupelo, MS 38801

Tupelo National Battlefield commemorates the American Civil War battle of Tupelo, also known as the Battle of Harrisburg, fought from July 14 to 15, 1864, near Tupelo, Mississippi.

Vicksburg National Military Park

3201 Clay St, Vicksburg, MS 39183

Vicksburg National Military Park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from March 29 to July 4, 1863.

For more attractions, go to Visit Mississippi.

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Parkville Nature Center is a wildlife preserve and educational center located in Parkville, Missouri. Open every day, from sunrise to sunset, you can relax by a small waterfall or walk around the many trails that wander into the hills. Benches, like the ones by these waterfalls, offer a relaxing place to hide away. This is the bottom area of the waterfall, so you can walk up and cross that bridge to go to the upper part. The white noise offered by the sound of the running water can help relax you and help in focusing, concentration and emotional stability. Need inspiration for creating your latest masterpiece? Here’s a free site located near Kansas City.

Don’t live near KCMO but still want to find a place to regenerate? Find a national or state park near you.

Where to find it? (Map)

From the Florida panhandle to the keys, Florida has more than 100 miles of beaches and parks. Eleven national parks can be found in the Sunshine State in addition to three national forests. Not to be outdone, the state of Florida has 37 state forests along with its multiple beaches. Visit over 23 wildlife preserves to take photos of the state’s stunning ecosystem. Take a hike in the woods or go for a swim in one of the many springs throughout the state. Florida’s parks and attractions have something for every adventurer.

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National Parks & Historic Sites

Big Cypress National Preserve

33100 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141

Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park – Dante Fascell Visitor Center, 9700 SW 328th St, Homestead, FL 33033

Canaveral National Seashore

S Washington Ave, Titusville, FL 32796L

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

1 S Castillo Dr, St Augustine, FL 32084

De Soto National Memorial

8300 Desoto Memorial Hwy, Bradenton, FL 34209

Dry Tortugas National Park

33 East Quay Road, Key West, FL 33040

Everglades National Park

1 Flamingo Lodge Hwy, Homestead, Florida 33034

Fort Caroline National Memorial

12713 Fort Caroline Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225

Fort Matanzas National Monument

8635 A1A S, St Augustine, FL 32080

Gulf Islands National Seashore

1801 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

Various; Fort Mose Historic State Park, 15 Fort Mose Trail, St Augustine, FL 32084

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve

12713 Ft Caroline Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32225


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From majestic arches to Canyonlands, Utah’s natural scenery is as beautiful as it can be stark. Visit the some of the most striking national parks in the nation. These include five of Utah’s national parks that include Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion. Hike up to the peak at Zion National Park or explore the land between the Colorado and the Green Rivers. Drive down Scenic Byway 12 or look up the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. The parks in Utah also include numerous historical stops important to the region. Many state parks are best visited in the fall, winter, or spring when the canyon country is not so hot.

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National Parks & Historic Sites

Arches National Park

Arches National Park Visitor Center, Moab, UT 84532

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center, UT-63, Bryce, UT 84764

California National Historic Trail


Canyonlands National Park

Island in the Sky Visitor Center, Grand View Point Rd, Moab, UT 84532

Capitol Reef National Park

UT-24, Torrey, UT 84775

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Highway 143 East, Brian Head, UT 84719

Dinosaur National Monument

11625 East 1500 South, Jensen, UT 84035

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

4304 Bullfrog, Lake Powell, UT 84533

Golden Spike National Historic Site

6200 North 22300th Street West, Corinne, UT 84307

Hovenweep National Monument

Montezuma Creek, UT 84534

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail

Mormon Trail, Rush Valley, UT 84069

Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridge, Lake Powell, UT 84533

Old Spanish National Historic Trail


Pony Express National Historic Trail


Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Lake Powell, UT 84533

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

2038 Alpine Loop Rd, American Fork, UT 84003

Zion National Park

Zion national park, 1101 Zion – Mount Carmel Hwy, Hurricane, UT 84737

For more activities and information about Utah, go to VisitUtah.

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Overland Park, Kansas, is the second most populous city in Kansas and it shows. Driving any of the main thoroughfares, you’ll see the explosive growth of Johnson County in its high-rises, shopping centers, and (frankly) crowded streets. It’s easy to see that Overland Park is Kansas City’s largest suburb with over 170,000 residents.

Approximately ten miles south of the Overland Park Convention Center is an oasis from all the traffic and downtown noise. I discovered it by accident when driving to Louisburg, Kansas, in an area that I had thought was South Olathe. [I was all, “Is Siri lost again?”] The Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is a 300-acre arboretum and garden located in a remote area of U.S. Highway 69.

A six-mile hiking trail winds its way through the park and crosses Wolf Creek. A sculpture garden has 18 permanent sculptures with an additional 12 on display throughout the gardens. One of the most relaxing parts is their botanical gardens. A lakeside amphitheater beside Margaret’s Pond offers views of several gardens and is a relaxing place to sit and relax.

Best of all? Tuesdays are free.

Here are recent photos that I took at the Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. As a nature enthusiast, it was a great break from cars and city lights. Unfortunately, I’m still learning about flowers and so I can’t label many of these. Feel free to provide suggestions!


Looking for additional things to see in Overland Park? Visit the KCOP Website.

Where to find it? (Map)

8909 W 179th St, Bucyrus, KS 66013

Louisiana is a melting pot of French, African, American, Spanish, and French-Canadian and those cultures are reflected in its parks and historical sites. Down in Cajun Country, you can find a variety of great outdoor spaces to visit after you find yourself sampling the local cuisine. There are eight national parks in Louisiana and nearly two dozen state parks for you to go exploring.

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National Parks & Historic Sites

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

2022 Atchafalaya River Hwy, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517

Cane River National Heritage Area

1115 Washington St, Natchitoches, LA 71457

Cane River Creole National Historical Park

400 Rapids Dr, Natchitoches, LA 71457

El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail

Various; One is Fort Jesup State Historic Site, 32 Geoghagan Rd, Many, LA 71449

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Barataria Preserve Visitor Center, 6588 Barataria Blvd, Marrero, LA 70072

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

916 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Poverty Point National Monument

6859 LA-577, Pioneer, LA 71266

Vicksburg National Military Park

3201 Clay St, Vicksburg, MS 39183 (part of it extends into LA)

National and state Parks in Louisiana. Like it? Pin it.

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From alpine forests to mirrored lakes, Colorado’s Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway skirts between the Roosevelt National Forest and the Rocky Mountain National Park. This byway was originally part of a link between Longs Peak and Pikes Peak. You can explore many of the old mining towns along the route and find some ghost towns as well. Roads along these mountain lanes are mainly two lanes, so you won’t want to rush it. There are also plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the view.

Hint: CO-7 near Estes Park is also known as South St. Vrain. As you view directions, you will sometimes see CO-& or roads with the name Vrain. It’s the same road.

How long? About sixty-two miles from Central City to Estes Park. However, I would give yourself up to 2 hours. In the summer (especially around Estes Park), give yourself up to three. Or four. Heading from Denver to Central City can easily add on another hour. To loop back around to Denver from Estes Park is another hour and a half, so this tour can easily be a days drive if you stop at everything.

Time of Year? I would go from May to October. The Spring can be nice, but just make sure to check the weather as pop-up snow and winter storms can occur. In the winter? If the weather is nice and you know there isn’t much snow, it might be an adventure. Just be careful. Trust your gut, check the weather, and remember the Donner Party (or the Shining.) Seriously though, many of these roads are not available year-round due to winter weather and the high elevation, so plan accordingly.


Map not working on your phone? Try this one.


Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway Itinerary

Start from Central City

Central City, Colorado

Teller House, Eureka St, Central City, CO 80427

Central City is a former mining town founded in 1859 during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. The rush financed many of the Victorian structures that still stand in the downtown area. Teller House, which now operates as a restaurant, was built in 1872. The City Central Opera House (124 Eureka St, Central City, CO 80427) was constructed in 1878 and is still in use. Oscar Wilde and Buffalo Bill Cody were known to have visited the opera house and today you can view events such as summer music festivals. Just up the hill from Central City is the ghost town of Nevadaville with original buildings and several historic mines. If you want a short excursion, you can follow Central City Parkway and take the Nevadaville Road on the left or simply take a (steep) hike up into the town.

Nederland, Colorado
(Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest)

Carousel of Happiness, 20 Lakeview Dr, Nederland, CO 80466

As you begin heading north towards Nederland, Colorado, you will drive through the magnificent Roosevelt National Forest. As you begin climbing the gorge, you will be able to see Buckeye Mountain to the west and Tungsten Mountain to the east. The drive also passes the entrance to the Golden Gate Canyon State Park. In Nederland, visit the Carousel of Happiness to view hand-carved animals on a restored 1910 merry-go-round. Nederland was founded in 1874 and has plenty of old buildings to explore in its historic downtown. You can also drive out to Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest paved road on the U.S. mainland!

Pine Trees in the Rocky Mountain National Park outside of Denver, Colorado.

Brainard Lake Recreation Area

Brainard Lake Rd, Ward, CO 80481

The Brainard Lake Recreation Area is where the looking-glass lakes called the Red Rock and Brainard offer a great stopping point for views and activities. A short trail leads up to Long Lake Trailhead, which offers superb views of nearby peaks. Off-season, when the gates are closed, head over to the Brainard Gateway Trailhead (Brainard Lake Winter Lot), with a warming hut, bathrooms, and parking for the snowshoe and ski access. Better yet, visit the town of Ward, Colorado, a former mining town in 1860, and look around the near-ghost town. The town has a restaurant, a coffee shop, and a general store in case you need a snack.

Peaceful Valley Campground

Middle Saint Vrain Creek, Boulder, CO 80301

From Brainard Lake, the CO-72 drops back into a valley along a creek and some hairpin turns. You will soon arrive at the Peaceful Valley Campground, where you can view some great scenery and wildlife. If you are not planning on camping, continue the drive into a tunnel-like canyon walled by granite cliffs. After a slight panic attack (okay, just me), you’ll soon turn west onto CO-7 E.

Saint Malo’s Chapel on the Rock

10758 CO-7, Allenspark, CO 80510

North of Allenspark, Colorado, is the St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, also referred to as Chapel on the Rock. The church was built in the 1930s out of a large rock formation just east of the Rocky Mountain National Park. The structure has been damaged by sporadic landslides, floods, and fire. It is undergoing renovations and is occasionally open to the public. However, you can still view the majestic structure from the parking lot or as you drive nearby.

Want to Hike on the Edge? Visit Longs Peak Trailhead

Longs Peak Trailhead, 1398 Longs Peak Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517

No? Skip to Enos Mills Cabin
(You can still see Longs Peak in the distance)

6760 CO-7, Estes Park, CO 80517

The Longs Peak Trailhead hike is a 16-mile round-trip hike to the tallest summit in Colorado, Longs Peak. At 14,259 feet, the hike is not for inexperienced climbers as it has narrow ledges, loose rock, and steep cliffs. It’s a climbing hike. You can always drive down the Longs Peak Road to the trailhead and view the campground. The mountain is visible in the distance.

Either after you visit and complete the trailhead, or just take a glimpse, head up CO-7 to Enos Mills Cabin. The museum also includes a short nature trail that leads you to the original homestead cabin of Kansas Enos, considered to be the “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park.” The cabin was built by Enos as a 15-year-old in 1885. Admission can be steep ($20 per adult), so you may want to drive by and continue up to Lily Lake.

Lily Lake Loop

Lily Lake, Estes Park, CO 80517

Lilly Lake, once the home of a field full of lilies, is full of a variety of ducks, mallards, Canadian geese and an occasional moose. A 0.8-mile hiking trail goes around the lake and is easy enough for all skill levels. It can be crowded as it is used by locals and tourists, but it has a great visitor’s center with clean restrooms.

Estes Park

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, 1000 US-36, Estes Park, CO 80517

Estes Park is called the “Eastern Gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park.” Surrounded by the soaring vistas, the town is a popular resort year-round. This is especially true in the summer; if you find a parking space, grab it. It may be a while before you find another one. The city is walkable so you can visit many of the shops and galleries on foot along Elkhorn and Morain avenues. The Riverwalk is fun too.

The Beaver Meadow Visitor’s Center is a great place to stop and watch a 20-minute video about the Rocky Mountain National Park. Before you start heading east into exploring the park, even more, you can get an idea of what to see, do, and so forth. The historic Stanley Hotel (333 E Wonderview Ave, Estes Park, CO 80517) is also nearby and is a popular spot both for its history and for serving as the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining.


If you have more time and feel like continuing your tour, dive deeper into the Rocky Mountain National Forest. Take US-34 east out of Estes Park and continue to Loveland, Colorado, an hour away. In fact, if you are planning on spending the night, Loveland has more affordable hotel rates that might make your trip easier. Also, it’s a stunning drive, especially in the summer.

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