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.
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).
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.
My greeter upon entering the butterfly pass to look at the root cellar.
Butterfly preparing to follow me out into the tallgrass trail.
Emerging from the tall grasslands and into the trail leading to the waterfall.
Viewpoint of the lower part of the waterfall. There wasn’t as much water due to the lack of rain.
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.
Creek running beside the English Landing Park parking lot.
Bridge crossing between English Landing and Platte River Landing parks.
Convergence of two rivers in the Platte Landing Park.
Upon sitting on the bench, the crane arrived for her morning breakfast at the Missouri River.
The crane was soon followed by her bff, the turtle.
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.
Breckon Sports Center at Park University in Parkville.
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.
Outside entrance to the Parkville Commercial Underground.
Sign to the right of the entrance giving a list of current occupants (besides the University).
Driving path through the Parkville Commercial Underground.
Welcoming sign to the Parkville Commercial Underground on cave wall.
Park Hill Scott District Office, located in commercial underground
Cave wall in the academic part of the commercial underground.
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?
From the heart of the Ozark Mountains to the Victorian springs of Hot Springs, Arkansas’ Scenic Byway 7 is often listed as one of the top 10 drives in North America. The route passes through the Ozark National Forest, up to Mount Magazine (the highest point in Arkansas) and down into the Ouachita Mountains, famous for its stunning fall foliage.
This road trip starts in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Why Eureka Springs? It’s not even on Highway 7!
1) Because Eureka Spring is awesome.
2) It’s a good starting point at the top of Arkansas that’s near larger cities like Springfield, Missouri, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are driving down from Kansas City, it’s a four-hour drive to Eureka Springs. You can tour the town and start your weekend getaway. Is your starting point Little Rock, Arkansas? Reverse the directions and start in Hot Springs.
Tips Before You Hit the Road
You will be heading up and down some steep hills so check your tire’s air pressure and make sure that they are perfectly inflated. Also, check that your brake and transmission fluids are filled.
Speaking of mountains, watch your speed going downhill. Try not to ride your breaks and don’t go down any faster than you went up.
Don’t hug the center line when driving around a curve. The mountain roads are narrower than the highways and some of these roads are simple two-lane roads. The Zig Zag mountains in Hot Springs are named that for a reason.
Before heading out, check the local weather for road conditions or flash flood warnings.
Higher elevations can lead to dehydration, thus leading to altitude sickness. Carry plenty of water for each person and keep hydrated.
Don’t wear flip-flops, sandals, or other simple shoes. You never know when you might want to take a walk or a hike. Wear hiking boots, tennis shoes, or other durable shoes that cover your entire feet. During the rainy seasons, take proper rain gear.
How long? This depends on where you start and how much you like to hike, etc. From Kansas City, a straight drive is 7 hours down to Hot Springs, Arkansas. However, you do have to turn around to drive back. The best tip is to make it a three-day weekend to fully enjoy the quirky towns and beautiful scenic vistas.
Time of year? The drive is popular year-round. Late September into October is when the trees light up with different colors of orange, red, and gold. The summer months also make it a great place to cool down and find a watering hole (like the Long Pool Recreation Area). Be careful during the winter months as the higher elevations do get snow and ice, creating some treacherous driving conditions.
Spend time exploring the hippy-dippy historic town of Eureka Springs. From there, take US-62 down to Harrison, Arkansas; it will take a little over an hour. From there, you’ll start your tour of Scenic Byway 7.
Eureka Springs is a popular getaway tucked in the Ozark Mountains with a variety of interesting shops that line historic downtown. Like walking through an old European village, Eureka has its own spirit with a mix of eccentricity and historic charm. It’s a town with plenty of hills, so enjoy the trolley that will take you where you wish to go without having to trek up and down steep inclines. The streets are also narrow and set up to remind you of a European village. The architecture is also beautiful, with some unique buildings that can take a good hour to two to explore. Multiple Victorian-style cottages and manors line the town. A quick tip: if you want to avoid the weekend crowds, try going earlier in the week.
After exploring, you’ll head east on US-62 toward Harrison, AR. If you have a few moments, head west for about 8 miles and visit Thorncrown Chapel, a wooden structure with 6,000 square of glass and 425 windows.
Harrison is known as the crossroads of the Ozarks. It historic downtown square is unique in that it has four retail corners surrounding a central historic Courthouse. Known simply as “the Square,” the district includes a 1911 Courthouse, restaurants, pharmacies, a museum, and several clothing stores. Most of the 54 historic buildings were built around the turn of the 20th century. Once you’re finished exploring Harrison, head south or take a brief detour to the Baker Prairie Natural Area[713-741 Goblin Dr, Harrison, AR 72601], a remnant of a once 5,000-acre tallgrass prairie with a number of species, animals, and plants.
Side Trip #1 — Mystic Caverns, 341 Caverns Dr, Harrison, AR 72601. Missouri may be known as the “Cave State,” but Arkansas has a few gems of its own. A short side-trip from Scenic Byway 7, Mystic Caverns showcases the caves that dot the Ozark Mountains with two large caves. The Mystic Cavern has a spectacular calcite formation called the “Pipe Organ,” that stands 30 feet tall and 12 feet thick. A formation resembling a huge crystal dome, helicities, shields, and spherical stalactites can also be found in the caves. Each cave tour takes about an hour, so if you want to explore these, reserve about two hours. Otherwise, keep driving south toward Ponca on Route 7, where you can view the Buffalo National River.
Etched by the National Buffalo River, the deep valley of Arkansas’ “Grand Canyon” blooms with wildflowers. The view from the Cliff House Inn provides superb vistas of red bluffs and the Boston Mountains. Beyond the mountains, the view gives way to the smoother plateaus in the north. The Cliff House Inn, located down 3 miles from the Canyon, is at 6 AR-7, Jasper, AR 72641. Stop for some lunch and enjoy the view of the canyon from their overlook. The nearby Round Top Mountain Trailis a 4-mile trail used for hiking, walking, nature trails, and birding.
As you head south toward Deer, Arkansas, you’ll enter the Ozark National Forest. This forest covers 1.2 million acres and is home to the tallest point in the state, Mount Magazine. The trees are dominated by species such as dogwood, maple, redbud, and serviceberry. In the fall, the fall foliage is amazing. The forest has over 230 miles of hiking trails, including the 165-mile-long Ozark Highlands Trail. The Ozark National Forest is also home to underground caverns such as Blanchard Springs Cavern. The forest contains twenty-five developed recreation areas, including the Alum Cove Natural Bridge Recreation Area. Walk across a natural, limestone bridge with a total span of 130 feet and 20 feet in width on average. Climb the craggy hillsides to find the imposing natural bridge that overlooks the magnolia and beech trees. The recreation area is west of AR-7 on Nfm 28 and then Country Road 184.
Side Trip #2 — Pedestal Rocks, AR-16, Witts Springs, AR 72686. This time head east of AR-7 to AR-16. Drive six miles to the Pedestal Rock Scenic Area. Pedestal Rocks hiking trail is a 2.2-mile trail located at the top of the Illinois Bayou River. While hiking the trail, you’ll pass by sandstone hillsides to view the large formations called pedestals. Cause by weathering, these pedestal rocks are large boulders upheld by smaller boulders. The nearby Kings Bluff trail is 1.7 miles long and takes you to a large bluff with a waterfall that flows over the edge.
Arkansas’ first roadside rest area, the Rotary Ann Roadside Rest Stop is a popular roadside viewing point with views of the jagged Ozark Mountains. It offers a spectacular view of the fall foliage. Rotary Ann Overlook is a quick stop on this Arkansas road trip, but it does have flush toilets, picnic tables, and a viewing deck.
Located at the base of the high bluffs that tower above Big Piney Creek, the Long Pool Recreation Area is a large natural pool and campground. Many of the area’s hiking trails cross this area around Big Piney, a national scenic and recreational river. The river is noted for its beautiful sandstone bluffs, waterfalls, still pools, and pine forests. Longpool Falls is a 44-foot-tall waterfall that can be reached by hiking from the Loop B camping area for a little under a mile. Restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers can also be found at the recreation area. Camping is available on a first come, first serve basis.
Mount Nemo State Park, which sits on top of the 1,350-foot Mount Nebo. Fourteen miles of hiking and biking trails will take you along the bluff to have views of the Arkansas River Valley below. Many of the park’s bridges, trails, rustic cabins, and pavilions were built by using native stones and logs. Hike or walk along the fourteen miles of trails that circle Mount Nebo. Sunrise and Sunset Points are well-known for their beautiful vistas. Also, if you enjoy hang gliding, go to the park’s visitor center. There are two places on the mountains that offer launch sites so that you can soar above the river valley.
Side Trip #3 — Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge Admin Building and Visitor Contact Station, Dardanelle, AR 72834. Located downstream from the city of Dardanelle along the Arkansas River, the Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge is a great place for watching both nesting and migrating birds any time of year. You can also take a self-guided auto tour around the refuge to view wildlife and their habitats. Two hiking trails can also be found within the refuge. Note: since GPS can be highly unreliable when going to the headquarters, from Dardanelle, take State Highway 7 South to State Highway 155 South and go about 4 miles to the refuge entrance. After you enter the refuge, the visitor center is about ½ mile down the road.
Side Trip #4. Petit Jean State Park, 1285 Petit Jean Mountain Rd, Morrilton, AR 72110. Looking for that dramatic waterfall to take the perfect photo? Petit Jean State Park is off the beaten path of AR-7, but it has Cedar Falls, where a stream plunges 95-foot to the river below. This stunning park is Arkansas’s first state park, and you can easily see why when you arrive. Hike up Petit Jean Mountain by following trails that go over canyons, along streams, and through the forests. Other formations include the Seven hollows, the Bear Cave, the Grotto, the Natural Bridge, and other rock formations.
As you continue down AR-7 towards Hot Springs, you’ll pass through 23-miles of the Ouachita National Forest. Covering 1.8 million acres, the forest offers hiking, camping, water recreation, and scenic driving (especially during the fall!). You can continue down Route-7 to Hot Springs, but a great side trip is to Lake Ouachita State Park. The lake is a good 40,000 acres and offers plenty of spots to stop and relax by the shore. You can also walk down Caddo Bend trail, stop for a snack at one the picnic tables, or visit Historic Three Sisters’ Springs, which is on the way to this stop. The park also offers nature talks and tours.
On the western side of Hot Springs Mountain, the flowing hot springs still flow year round. Visit the ornate bathhouses on Central Avenue (AR-7). Stay at the Buckstaff Hot Springs (509 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR 71901) to try one of their hydrotherapy treatments. Buckstaff is on Bathhouse Row, which has eight bathhouses from the 19th and 20th century. Drive up to the observation tower at the crest of Hot Springs Mountain (401 Hot Springs Mountain Dr, Hot Springs, AR 71901) to take in the view of the dense forests and faraway mountains. Be careful as you drive up to the observatory, as you will be going up the Zig Zag Mountains, with hairpin curves and steep ascents. Also, if you enjoyed Thorncrown Chapel, check out the Anthony Chapel Complex, part of University of Arkansas’s Garven Woodland Gardens.
Arkansas’ highest point at 2,753 feet, Mount Magazine is an excellent place to end the tour. Relax at the lodge, eat at the Skycrest Restaurant, or take in the sweeping views of the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake. Mount Magazine and Mount Nebo State Park are the only two parks that offer hang gliding launch areas. Trees consisting of maples, hickories, oaks, and short-leaf pines ensure that the fall foliage is striking with its fiery colors. Wildflowers blanket the forest floor, adding to the scenic view.
From Mountain Magazine, continue north on Highway 23 for a straight shot to Eureka Springs. Continue back to your destination from there. This path takes you back through the Ozark National Forest for a three-hour drive through the country-side. You can always take the path back up Scenic Byway 7 to Harrison and then back over, but this gives you a chance to see another section of Western Arkansas.
Finally, What to Pack?
Disclosure: The links below contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Ready to hit the road? Be sure to pack along some must needed items for your trip.
In addition to bordering four of the great lakes, Michigan has over 11,000 inland lakes. More than 2.7 million visitors flock to the 5 national parks, 41 national historic landmarks, and 12 national natural landmarks every year. For history buffs, over 1,900 places are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The list of parks in Michigan includes over 100 parks and state recreation areas, national and state forests, and national wildlife refuges.
Explore a rugged, isolated island, far from the sights and sounds of civilization. Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers unparalleled solitude and adventures for backpackers, hikers, boaters, kayakers, canoeists and scuba divers. Here, amid stunning scenic beauty, you’ll find opportunities for reflection and discovery, and make memories that last a lifetime.
From 7,000 years ago to the 1900s people mined Keweenaw copper. Native peoples made copper into tools and trade items. Investors and immigrants arrived in the 1800s in a great mineral rush, developing thriving industries and cosmopolitan communities. Though the mines have since closed, their mark is still visible on the land and people.
If you are interested in automotive history, then the MotorCities National Heritage Area is the place to be. Tour the factory where Henry Ford created and built the Model T. Learn the stories behind the creation of General Motors and DaimlerChrysler. Come with us and learn about the long and sometimes tenuous relationship between Labor and Industry while experiencing southeast Michigan.
Seven States-New York to North Dakota MI, MN, ND, NY, OH, PA, WI; one location is North County Trailhead M-20, North Country National Scenic Trail, White Cloud, MI 49349
Come to the North Country. Trek the hills and valleys. Lakes and streams remain from glaciers that molded the landscape 10,000 years before. Experience clear-flowing water, the red and gold of autumn, a fairyland of snow, tall grass prairies, and distant horizons. From New York to North Dakota, you’re never far from a great outdoor adventure. Experience your America at a walking pace.
Sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, inland lakes, deep forest, and wild shoreline beckon you to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The power of Lake Superior shapes the park’s coastal features and affects every ecosystem, creating a unique landscape to explore. Hiking, camping, sightseeing, and four-season outdoor opportunities abound.
River Raisin National Battlefield Park preserves, commemorates, and interprets the January 1813 battles of the War of 1812 and their aftermath in Monroe and Wayne counties in SE Michigan. The Battle resulted in the greatest victory for Tecumseh’s American Indian confederation and the greatest defeat for the U.S. The resulting rally cry “Remember the Raisin” spurred support for the rest of the war.
Miles of sand beach, bluffs that tower 450’ above Lake Michigan, lush forests, clear inland lakes, unique flora and fauna make up the natural world of Sleeping Bear Dunes. High dunes afford spectacular views across the lake. An island lighthouse, US Life-Saving Service stations, coastal villages, and picturesque farmsteads reflect the park’s rich maritime, agricultural, and recreational history.
As the weather begins to change, you might feel the temptation to stay indoors. Resist it. Heading out for a soaking in the rain may seem like madness, but it can be refreshing after or during a dry, hot summer. The air is cleaner and fresher, and the smell of rain is known to have a calming effect. On trips to places like Rocky Mountain National park, fall is known for short-lived rainstorms, snow, and cool temperatures. Preparing for unexpected downpours can mean the difference between a memorable adventure and hypothermia. Here are a few tips for selecting rain gear for your upcoming outdoor adventure.
Hidden in Choctaw County in southeast Oklahoma, the Endangered Ark Foundation is a private non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the future of endangered Asian elephants. We spent Labor Day 2018 interacting with and feeding these gentle giants.
As you drive on to the property, many old circus wagons can be found along the edge of the property. Driving into town, the welcome to Hugo sign also lets you know that this is circus country. Why? Carson & Barnes Circus’ headquarters is here. In fact, it’s just down the road from the Endangered Ark Foundation. Many of the elephants are former circus elephants who were retired and moved to the Endangered Ark. Some of the elephants are over 40 years old.
The Endangered Ark Foundation also has young elephants, as part of their mission is to increase the ever-dwindling number of Asian elephants. The species has seen a 50 percent loss in population in the past three generations. At the start of the tour, you will meet three-year-old Dori Marie and her mother, Wimpy. Born on site, she is Oklahoma’s youngest Asian Elephant and the sixth elephant born on site. Her third-birthday was celebrated onsite on August 11, 2018. It was also a fundraiser to build an expansion playground for the elephants.
Public tours are available on Fridays and Saturday and last one hour. The site is not open to the public without an appointment. On holidays, such as Labor Day, they do have special tours. Reserve your spot online or call to ensure availability. It was fairly booked when we were there, but it was a holiday weekend. Interested groups, such as schools and youth programs, can also contact the association for scheduling a tour.
Photos and flash photography are allowed. Just please watch the flash. More than one person stepped right in front of Dori Marie and her mom and took flash photos and both elephants turned their heads and stepped away from the group. When people used their phones without the flash turned on, the elephants seemed more than willing to play but as soon as someone flashed them (no pun intended), they immediately flinched and turned away. Please, don’t blind the elephants.
The tour first takes you into the “Baby Barn” where you will first see Dori Marie and her mom. Next, you’ll sit down and watch as the trainers give Del Rita a bath and a pedicure. (Each elephant receives a weekly bath and a pedicure.) The interaction between the trainer and the main elephant was touching to watch. You can tell that the people on site are truly dedicated to protecting the species and adore these animals. They also get into specifics such as feeding as each elephant eats between 2 and 4 square bales of hay and 16 pounds of sweet feed a day. Local shops like Walmart and Orscheln Farm&Home donate food and other supplies to the shelter.
Other activities include riding around on a tractor-pulled wagon to view the elephants and getting up close and personal with two elephants. You are allowed to feed the animals for a nominal fee, but you can still get a picture for free. What was amusing was watching the elephants spot who was the most scared of elephants and spend most of their time trying to interact with the scared one and ignoring the excited ones. It was like watching your dog begging someone to play.
The Missouri Rhineland winds through the Missouri River Valley from the suburbs of St. Louis to Jefferson City. This region is called “wine country” due to the soils that line the southern bank of the river. The soils are excellent for growing wine, grapes, and (of course) corn. The Rhineland was named for its similarities to the Rhineland region in Europe. Some of the oldest wineries in America were founded here, especially near Augusta and in Hermann at Stone Hill. During Oktoberfest, you’ll find towns that still celebrate their German heritage in style.
This tour will take you through Missouri wine country to see the industry that has won multiple national awards. Even if you are not a fan of wine, it’s still a beautiful area with rolling hills, vineyards, and rich earth. The German heritage is also seen in its architecture that that still stand over 150 years later.
How long? About 123 miles or a minimum of three hours. The hills are steep, and the roads are usually two-lanes with speed limits of 35 m.p.h. at times. Best advice? Slow down. You’ll also find tiny little “German villages” on the route to explore. The bridge on Highway 94 in Hermann is under construction so you must take local road P as an alternate and it also goes through some great places, but the road is not one to be speeding on.
Add 30 minutes if you are leaving St. Louis to drive to St. Charles, Missouri.
If you are starting from the Kansas City metroplex, add an additional two hours and a half hour to drive to Jefferson City and reverse the directions. (Or, you can simply drive four hours to St. Charles and then start the tour.] Plan for a full day of driving.
Time of Year? The best times to visit are from April to November as the roads can get dangerous in the winter months. Check for any flash flood watches or warnings as some of the roads can be closed by heavy flooding. You will see signs everywhere warning about low water crossings.
Mother-in-Law House, built in 1866 in St. Charles, Missouri.
First Missouri State Capitol Building in St. Charles.
Flower outside of the Mother-in-Law House in St. Charles
St. Charles, Missouri, was once the last outpost for westward-bound pioneers and where Lewis and Clark launched their expedition to the Pacific. French-Canadian settlers called the spot Les Petites Cotes after “the little hills” in the 1700s. Settlement of the city dates to 1769. The city also served as the nation’s first state capitol. Little Hills Winery in historic St. Charles used to operate in a building erected in 1805. It is the first recorded deed on file and was one year after Lewis and Clark arrived in the area. Unfortunately, the shop closed in early 2018, but it is still interesting to see one of the oldest structures in the region. The historic downtown district also has shopping, restored historic structures, and other sites to help you get into the mindset to go back in time through the Rhineland of Missouri.
Since no wineries are left in downtown St. Charles, drive up and down Main Street to view some of the oldest parts of the city.
The history of Defiance, Missouri, goes back to 1804 with explorer Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and Daniel Boone. The Daniel Boone Home, a four-story, Georgian-style home, can still be explored today. In addition to a long history, four wineries also operate within a two-mile radius and nearly a dozen more wineries operate over the next 15-miles on the way to Dutzow. This area, that goes to Augusta, Missouri, is the oldest wine district in the United States. Chandler Hill Vineyards is a young winery, operating since 2008, but it has some of the most picturesque views of the region.
When Germany immigrants flooded the area back in the 1800s, they brought with them their love of flowers, Teutonic architecture, and their wine-making skills. Eleven wineries operated near Augusta until the Prohibition era when they were closed. Time moved on and many of the wineries reopened. The area outside of Augusta was designated as the first American Viticultural Area (wine growing) in 1980. Brothers George and Frederick Muench founded the winery in 1859 and built the cellars in 1881. The winery still uses the cellars today to age the wines and Augusta Ports.
Dutzow is Missouri’s oldest Germany settlement, founded in 1832. The vineyards at Bluemnhof were established in 1979 with the first vintage in 1986. Blumenhof, which means “Court of Flowers” in German,” has won a wide variety of awards at prominent wine competitions. Near the old town of Pinckney on MO-94 is St. John’s United Church of Christ that was built in 1870 and is one of the few remaining structures in the area that survived the floodwaters of 1993.
In the middle of Missouri wine country sits Washington, Missouri, a charming small town on the Missouri River. The town was the site of the San Juan del Misuri, established in 1796. The renamed town was plotted out in 1829. Thanks to the influx of anti-slavery Germany settlers, Washington, Missouri was a union holdout in a state that supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. There are over 40 wineries within an hour of the town, but since we’ve already explored so many, I figured it was time for a history break. Here are a few of the historical sites to see in this old German settlement.
Hermann, Missouri, is one of the state’s hidden gems. Founded in 1837 by German immigrants, Hermann, Missouri, is considered the heart of the Missouri Rhineland region. The town’s German-American heritage can be viewed at the Deutschheim State Historic Site and in its downtown. The Pommer-Gentner house was built in 1840 and the Carl Strehly house, built in 1842, are two of the oldest surviving buildings in town. Stop at the Hermann Riverfront (free parking!) for a great view of the Missouri River. Hermann is a great weekend get-away in and of itself.
The oldest winery in Hermann is Stone Hill Winery, established in 1847. Norton, Missouri’s official state grape, is grown here. The winery has won more than 4,000 awards since 1988. Stone Hill Winery offers guided tours and tasking, along with a vintage restaurant that specializes in German and American cuisine.
Black Shire Distillery in Hermann, Missouri.
Courthouse in Hermann, Missouri
Shops in downtown Hermann offer a variety of American and German offerings.
Another view of Downtown Hermann, Missouri
Founded in 1886, the Inn at Hermannhof is in downtown Hermann.
Hermann 1837 Bar at Hermann Crown Suites is a historical building in town
View the Missouri River down by the Hermann Riverfront. Free parking!
In addition to wine, Hermann also has a variety of distilleries and brewing companies.
View of the Missouri State Capitol walking up from the public parking lot.
View of some of the frescoes inside of the dome of the Missouri State Capitol Building.
View of some of the frescoes inside of the dome of the Missouri State Capitol Building.
The Missouri State Museum has exhibits inside of the Missouri State Capitol building that you can tour for free.
The French influence on the state of Missouri can be felt in many of the touches on the capitol building.
The first recorded mass in Jefferson City was in 1831. The current church was built in 1881.
St. Peter Catholic Church in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Lewis and Clark play a heavy role in traveling Missouri’s wine country.
As you near the capital of Missouri, you’ll see the northern edge of the Ozark Plateau and the southern part of the Missouri River. The capitol dome rises from a bluff overlooking the river in historic Jefferson City. Sitting on the western edge of Missouri wine country, the city has several wineries within a short drive.
Grand Canyon National Park is a gorgeous and incomparable gorge that is 18 miles wide, one mile deep, and up to 277 miles long along the river. Layered bands of red rock reveal millions of years of geological history. From the highest peak in Arizona down to the horseshoe-shaped canyon of Walnut Canyon, the area is rich in natural beauty. This tour starts and ends from Flagstaff, Arizona, a town that itself defines the desert stereotype of the state.
How long? About 250 miles or four hours, without stops. I would make this a weekend trip and space out your stops to fully appreciate the beauty of the area. A weekend adventure will also give you time to head down to explore the Red Rocks.
Time of Year? The Grand Canyon is accessible year-round, but unlike southern Arizona, it can get very cold in the Winter months. The recommended time frame is from March through November. The South Rim is open year-round, but the weather can get tricky.
Driving northwest on US-180, wind up the San Francisco Peaks to the highest point in Arizona, Humphrey’s Peak. These directions take you to the trails parking lot so that you can take in the view. More experienced hikers can take a 9-mile round-trip trail up to the top of the 12,633-foot peak.
Side trip: As you begin heading north on US-180 again, stop and visit nearby Sunset Crater National Monument, Sunset Crater, Arizona 86004. There is normally a small per-car fee for this monument, but some days are free so check their website.
As you travel further on US-180, the landscape changes to sagebrush and drier land. Near Red Butte Mountain, the route will enter the Kaibab National Forest woodland full of ponderosa pine and Gambel oak. The Ten-X Campground is an excellent place to stop and take a closer look at the forest. You can walk the nature trail into the forest that is nestled on the Colorado Plateau.
As you near the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center, Mather Point overlook takes in many of the South Rim’s most famous features. These include the sharp-tipped Isis Template, Bright Angel Canyon, and Wotan’s Throne. You used to be able to drive to Mather’s Point but now you go directly to the Visitor’s Center and walk there. A new accessible viewing platform and amphitheater for informal programs have been developed over the past three years. One word of caution: during colder, rainy days, be sure to bring a jacket. The winds at the top near the visitor’s station are fierce!
Interested in hiking? Bright Angel Trail begins at the visitor’s center and makes a nine-mile round trip to the Indian Gardens (okay, halfway down but it was my version of hiking). The hike goes down into the canyon at Plateau Point and offers dramatic views of the Inner Canyon.
Interested in the geological history involving the Colorado River and rocks that date to nearly 2 billion years old? Yavapai Museum is a great place to learn about the formation of the Grand Canyon. The museum’s windows also offer a great viewpoint of the canyon. From here, you can also take the easy South Rim Nature trail.
West Rim Drive, also known as Hermit Road, is an eight-mile road that is west of the South Rim and visitor’s center. During the summer months, the road is closed to private vehicles, but you can easily take a regular shuttle bus. Maricopa Point has some of the best views of the canyon, so it is well worth the brief shuttle ride.
Following back past the visitor’s center, next go down Desert View Drive to view the east rim of the Grand Canyon. Desert View Drive follows the rim for 25 miles out to the Desert View Watchtower and the East Entrance. You can access all the six canyon viewpoints with your car, so you do not need to park and take a shuttle. Yaki Point is also on the east side and is considered one of the most stunning viewpoints. However, you must take the free Kaibab Rim Route (Orange) Shuttle Bus from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center.
A favorite outlook, Grandview Point has views of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River from east to west. From here you can view Horseshoe Mesa, Angels Gate, and Vishnu Temple formations. This overlook also offers stunning views of the canyon walls with the horizontal bands of color offering clues to the age and composition of the rocks. If you are an experienced hiker and like steep trails, you can take the Grandview Trail from here.
The next recommended stop is Moran Point, which you can view all three of the main rock groups that make up the Canyon from this viewpoint. The slanted rock layers and jagged outline of the formation known as the Sinking Ship can be seen from this viewpoint that looks west.
Tusayan Ruin, Grand Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
The restored Tusayan ruin is a small ancestral Puebloan village. It stands as a testament to the ancestors of the Hopi Indians who farmed and hunted along the Grand Canyon some 800 years ago. Restrooms and picnic areas are also located here.
The 70-foot-tall Watchtower was built in the 1930s and is perched on the very edge of the canyon rim. The stone tower, based on towers constructed by the Anasazis hundreds of years ago, rises over seven stories tall. From the watchtower, you can view the North Rim, the Colorado River, and views to the east of the Painted Desert.
As you continue heading south and east back to Flagstaff, you descend to a broad plain that is mostly desert with sagebrush and Mormon tea plants. You can find two overlooks jus north of the highway to view the Little Colorado River Gorge, a small 1,200-foot chasm compared to the Grand Canyon. The Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park is close to the canyon and is a spot to take beautiful pictures and buy authentic Navajo jewelry.
Wupatki National Monument is dotted with red-rock outcroppings of sandstone and limestone pueblos that belonged to Native Americans that lived about 800 years ago. Some of the pueblos are large, such as one that has over 100 rooms. The trail behind the visitor’s center is currently under reconstruction, so hiking may be limited. If you’re going there this summer, you might not want to risk heat stroke anyway.
As you follow the scenic loop around the desert, a symmetrical black cone of rock, ash, and cinders rises 1,000 feet above the ponderosa pines and lava fields around the base. The rim of the volcano is a fiery shade of red and yellow. Follow a variety of trails to the crater or around the area. Bring plenty of water, especially in the summer.
As you finish the loop back towards Flagstaff, the drive turns into Walnut Canyon. Along the trails of this horseshoe-shaped gorge, the Sinagua Indians built pueblos under the limestone cliffs. They abandoned the canyon around 1250 but the sturdy pueblos are still standing. The canyon rim itself is 6,690 and reaches down 350 ft lower to the floor.
From here, drive back into Flagstaff, Arizona, and you’ve finished the loop.
From the depths of the Grand Canyon to the north, the land south of Flagstaff rises into Red Rock Country. These sandstone monoliths form a vivid backdrop that leads into the desert wilderness into Sedona and down into Prescott. The most fascinating part of these rocks is that the multi-hued formations change hourly with the light. It’s quite a fascinating and relatively short, trip through central Arizona.
How long? This isn’t a very long itinerary, road trip drive-wise. Around 80 miles or about an hour and a half.
Time of Year? The area isn’t too far from the Grand Canyon, but the weather is nicer year-round. Nicer, but hotter. The further south you go, the more you go into the Arizona desert.
Oak Creek Canyon is considered one of the most spectacular stretches of road in Arizona. A few miles south of Flagstaff on State Route 89A, the Oak Creek Vista Point has a short trail that leads to a breathtaking overlook. After your visit, take the winding road that heads about 4,500 feet downhill towards Sedona.
About a mile south of this stop is West Fork Trail that leads into a canyon where red walls tower overhead next to maple trees. If you decide to take the hike, bring waterproof boots as you may have to wade through an ankle-deep stream.
Slide Rock State Park is seven miles north of Sedona and has a myriad of recreational choices. You can fish in the clear waters, picnic under the shade of the trees, or simply hike and marvel at the red rocks that loom overhead. A natural water slide is formed by the slippery bed of the Oak Creek, called Slide Rock. If you need a quick cool off this summer, Slide Rock is 80 feet long and up to 4 feet wide. It makes quite a ride!
With a busy arts district, great shopping downtown, and a stunning landscape, Sedona is a must see. Bright mesas, butte, and spires surround the town and change color hourly as one mountain fades into shadow and the next becomes a vibrate orange glow. Nearby Capital Butte, Chimney Rock, and Shrine of the Red Rock make excellent photo-taking stops.
While driving down State Route 89A, head down to Lower Red Rock Loop Road and then follow the signs to Red Rock State Park. This 286-acre nature preserve also straddles a 1 ½-mile section of Oak Creek. Multiple trails meander through the park. Try Smoke Trail that starts a half-mile loop from the visitor’s center. For a more challenging trail, try Eagle’s Nest Trail.
Tuzigoot National Monument is a hilltop village that preserves a pueblo ruin that belonged to earlier Native American settlements around A.D. 1200. The pueblo is fascinating in that it was built without exterior doors and was entered by ladders through rooftop hatches.
The Holy Family Catholic Church was built in 1891 and into the mountainside in the small town of Jerome. View the valley and the classic example of a 19th-century alter. Jerome State Historic State Park, 100 Douglas Rd, Jerome, AZ 86331, is another good place to stop. You can view the Douglas Mansion in the once-prominent mining region.
On your way down to Prescott, you’ll see Mingus Mountain as the highway descends into Prescot Valley. Prescott is the former territorial capital. Sharlott Hall Museum is an educational and cultural center that features the historical heritage of the region and operates as a historical site. The museum also includes the First Territorial Capitol and Governor’s Mansion as part of their exhibits. The town is also nestled in the forests of the Bradshaw Mountains, so there are plenty of trails for exploring the country. The Granite Dells and the Watson Lake Park are nearby attractions for outdoor adventures.
If you have more time and feel like continuing your tour, Phoenix is two hours south of Prescott. Sedona is also one hour north. Have fun!
The area in Northwest Illinois called the Driftless area is also called the Land the Glaciers Forgot due to its high bluffs and land of rolling hills along the Mississippi River. In geological terms, the 10,000-square mile area is called that because of the absence of glacial drift. This stretch of land also reaches into northeastern Iowa and southwestern Wisconsin. Most of the Prairie State is known for its flatlands, so this area is renowned for its scenic beauty and is a great weekend getaway from the Chicago or Madison areas.
How long? The itinerary starts in Galena, Illinois, which is approximately three hours from Chicago, Illinois and a little under two hours from Madison, Wisconsin. It ends in the town of Fulton, Illinois. The route itself is around 100 miles and can take a little over two to three hours if you stop and explore. This can easily be a one-day road-trip depending on how long it takes you to get there.
Time of Year? The most beautiful time of year would be in the Fall, especially as the leaves begin to turn. However, it is popular year-round.
Galena was a 19th-century boomtown that was the site of the first major mineral rush in the United States. Most of the town has been preserved as a living history museum. You can find a charmingly restored brick and limestone mansions and the main street that still reflects the historical architecture of the area. The Galena History Museum is a great place to start your tour of the town. Other attractions include the Belvedere Mansion, Dowling House, or Old Market House. The outside of the Vinegar Hill Lead Mine is also interesting, but I think it’s closed now so you can’t go inside.
The drive from Galena to the village of Scales Mound follows the Stagecoach Trail. As you drive this route, you will find a collection of carefully preserved houses and businesses near and in the village of Scales Mound. The town started as a tavern (Scales Mound Tavern) in 1830 and had one of its first schools in 1831. The present town was started in 1853 and 90% of the town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Go two miles northeast of town for Charles Mound, the highest spot in Illinois at 1,234 feet. Access to the Charles Mound is limited due to it being on public property; public access is limited to the first weekend June through September.
Continuing the Stagecoach Trail, you will pass the town of Apple River and find the Apple River Canyon State Park, a 1,907-acre park with limestone cliffs and deep ravines. It is an excellent place to go bird watching and to trace the river along the babbling stream. The pitted canyon walls are carpeted with mosses and lichens and rare ferns.
Right outside of Elizabeth, Illinois, pause at the Long Holly Scenic Outlook for a scenic view of the county of Galena and Jo Daviess. You can see the visible crest of Charles Mound to the northeast with green hills and shade trees can be seen all around. It’s not someplace that you need to linger, but it does have picnic tables, shelters, and restrooms.
This nature preserve is the first dedicated preserve to represent the Illinois portion of the Driftless Area. The preserve covers 1,100 acres. The large forest areas are a great place to see the scenic wonders of the geological landscape. Trails and parking are available on S. Hanover Hill Road.
Your next stop will be the stunning Mississippi Palisades State Park, a 2,500-acre park with tree-lined bluffs along the Mississippi River. The park is rich in Native American history, and if you follow the routes on the southern part of the park (search for the Mississippi Palisades National Natural Landmark and enter from the south end), you will find an easy walking trail to oversee the area. There are twelve miles to the top for the more experienced hikers; many of which trace the old paths followed by the Native Americans of the past.
This little island is situated on the Mississippi River and is a peaceful spot for wildlife viewing, camping, or picnics. It is adjacent to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, so you can easily see many water-loving creatures that live on this sandbar. There are also miles of walking and hiking trails if you feel the need to get out and shake off the long drive.
If you’ve ever wanted to view the sight of a barge locking across the Mississippi River, you can do so at No. 12 from a visitor’s observation platform. From here, you can watch the ships enter and exit the Lock, including tugboats that push the barge down the river. In the winter months, there is also a high likelihood of seeing the multitude of Eagles that are in the area.
Heritage Canyon, with its smithy and one-room schoolhouse, lies at the north end of the town of Fulton. The 12-acre nature walk has wooded structures dating back to the 1800s. You can find these structures by looking for the numbered yellow arrows on the brick paths.
This authentic working windmill is a great place to finish your tour along the Mississippi River and the Driftless Area. The windmill was manufactured and pre-assembled in the Netherlands and then constructed on the flood control dike in Fulton, Illinois. You can also visit the Cultural Center and see some Dutch Culture first hand.
Colorado. The very name brings up images of the snow-covered Rocky Mountain Parks and streaming rivers. The state boasts 16 national parks and sites and 41 state parks with over 13,000 campsites just to start. Over 200 historic sites and locations also dot the land. Numerous forests and wildlife preserves can also be found in abundance. Summer in Colorado is ideal for hiking, camping, and cooler temperatures as you climb up the majestic peaks. Winter months offer skiing and other outdoor activities. The National Register of Historic Places lists 1,551 sites in the state. More than 7 million visitors come to Colorado national and state parks every year.