Ash Nudd has gotten a lot of dirt in her shoes over the years, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
The Utah resident spent three seasons giving tours, teaching safety instruction courses, and even participating in search and rescue efforts as a National Park Service Ranger in three different national parks across the US. Now, she runs a blog called Dirt In My Shoes where she continues to share trip itineraries full of expert recommendations.
The CDC still recommends avoiding non-essential travel, but national parks have become a popular vacation option during the pandemic since road trips and socially distanced outdoor activities are relatively low-risk. But before you go, you should be prepared and know the do’s and don’ts.
Here are the three most common mistakes Nudd saw tourists make when visiting national parks.
Don’t wing it — plan your trip beforehand
Exploring a national park requires advanced planning like any other trip. Park rangers are happy to offer guidance, but they can’t write your whole itinerary for you.
“A lot of people show up to the park thinking that they can just have a good time without making any plans,” Nudd said. “People would come up to the desk and ask, ‘What do we do now?’ It’s really important to make a good plan before you get there.”
Getting too close to wild animals isn’t worth the photo-op
A national park is not a zoo. People often forget that the parks and animals are, in fact, wild.
Nudd remembers one instance when a photographer crept too close to a mother and baby moose. The photographer brushed off her warnings and insisted he was fine, but Nudd could tell that the mother was getting dangerously agitated. (He lived to tell the tale.)
“I think everyone wants that Instagram-worthy photo of them when they’re there, and it can put the wildlife and the resources at risk,” she said.
Don’t stray from marked paths
Everyone thinks they’re the only one to stray from a path and carve their own way, but millions of people visit national parks each year (327.5 million in 2019, to be exact). Wandering off a trail damages the ground around it, obscuring the real path and making it difficult for future visitors to find and follow.
“Maybe the smaller things don’t seem like as big of a deal, but if everybody did it then it would ruin the landscape,” she said. “I’d rarely see huge rule-breakers when I worked in the parks. Usually it was just the little stuff that adds up when you have millions of people there.”
Old and new collide in Tokyo, Japan’s dazzling metropolis and capital city that spreads out in seemingly endless sprawl in all directions. Take a look at some of the city’s cultural icons and hidden gems through this photo tour.
Tokyo’s bustling Akihabara district is ground zero for otaku culture. Shoppers will find numerous shops and boutiques dedicated to anime and manga, as well as electronics. Visit Mandarake, one of the largest manga and anime shops in the world; eat Gundam-themed dishes at Gundam Cafe; or pick up some manga gear to take home.
10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network, providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world, in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.
Barcelona is both cultural and educational. But it is also the second-best city for offering the most culture per kilometer.
The capital of Catalonia is filled with parks and natural features, also earning it a spot in the top 10 for nature lovers. It does the same in terms of providing loads of entertainment and foodie options.
Top Museums in Barcelona
There’s a common thought from visitors who visit Barcelona: so many museums and so little time! Begin with the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (shown), the city’s largest museum dedicated to 1,000 years of Catalan art.
Move on to Parc de Montjuic, the national museum and castle that not only houses more European art, but also affords fantastic mountaintop views of the city.
Then explore the science museum, CosmoCaixa, which takes you back as far as prehistoric times.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Barcelona
But, of course, when you spend time in the artist Gaudi’s world, you simply must visit his architectural works. The world-renowned Basilica of the Sagrada Familia tops the list of places to visit in Barcelona. This cathedral has become the symbol of the city and offers jaw-dropping architecture on both the exterior and interior.
A short stroll away is the Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, with is one of the oldest districts of the city filled with shops and restaurants and surrounded by wonderful architecture.
On your architectural tour, make your way to Casa Batllo (shown). Here, Gaudi’s vision is showcased throughout this unique building’s structure.
California is, hands down, one of the best places in the world for a road trip. It’s the third largest state in the nation, and its 164,000 square miles are absolutely packed with glorious, varied terrain highlighted by some 66 scenic byways. The 865 miles of coast are strewn with pockets of beach and stretches of sheer cliff. Rocky desert landscapes give way to rolling farmlands, and two-lane highways carve through quiet groves of towering sequoias before climbing into the high, rugged peaks of the 352 mountain ranges. With all that, it’s no wonder you simply cannot get to know the Golden State unless you hit the road. We’ve gathered together seven essential California road trips to get you started.
Following the California coastline, iconic State Route 1—or Highway 1—is one of the best road trips in the world. It is sometimes referred to as the Pacific Coast Highway (or “PCH”), though technically, the PCH is only a southern part of the route; other sections of Highway 1 are known as Cabrillo Highway, Coast Highway, or Shoreline Highway. Think of Highway 1 as a collection of the state’s greatest hits. You could drive the route in about five days, but there’s so much to do and see, we’d recommend getting out of the fast lane and giving yourself a week and a half or two weeks to really enjoy it all.
Start off with your toes in the Pacific at Huntington Beach, or Laguna Beach, or any one of the other scenic beaches of sunny southern California, then head north. Catch Spanish colonial architecture and sip local Santa Ynez valley wines in Santa Barbara; as you pass San Simeon, keep an ear out for elephant seals and an eye out for zebras and Hearst Castle. Then follow the forested road through Big Sur, stopping often to marvel at mountains that end abruptly in sea cliffs.
Be sure to pay homage to John Steinbeck at Cannery Row in Monterey, then bundle up to cut through the fog in San Francisco. Don’t worry, it tends to clear just after you cross the Golden Gate Bridge. From there, the road gets narrower and feels more remote as it winds through the hills of Marin County. Grab some oysters in Tomales Bay and picnic along the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Finish up your trip walking driftwood beaches and tree-lined trails in the sleepy coastal town of Mendocino, or if you’re feeling really intrepid, keep following the coast north. Highway 1 officially ends in Leggett, where it turns to Highway 101, but that route continues more or less along the Pacific all the way into Oregon.
While Highway 1 follows the coast, its sister trip, Highway 395, traces the Sierra Nevadas, the backbone of California. Rather than beaches and sunsets, a trip through the Eastern Sierra features prehistoric forests, historic mining towns, and all sorts of fantastic geological features. The drive from Lone Pine up to Lake Tahoe is only about four hours—seven if you’re driving to the start point from Los Angeles—but you’ll want to plan for a four- or five-day trip.
Kick off your journey in Lone Pine, a former mining town sandwiched between Sequoia and Death Valley National Parks. Spend the day hiking around the boulders, arches, and jagged peaks of the Alabama Hills, where a number of movies, including The Lone Ranger, Gladiator, and Django Unchained, were filmed, before heading north. Before you leave, pay a visit to Manzanar National Historic Site to remember and honor the 110,000 Japanese Americans who were stripped of their rights and forced into the internment camp during World War II.
In Big Pine, stop for pulled pork and ribs at Copper Top BBQ, then and take a short detour onto Highway 168 to visit Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, home to some of the oldest living trees on the planet. Be on the lookout for hot springs once you pass the climber’s haven of Bishop: Wild Willy’s Hot Springs and Hot Creek Geologic Park are both worth a stop, but as you continue north there are plenty of secret spots locals might share if you ask. A bit farther along Highway 395, you’ll pass Mammoth Mountain, a popular ski resort, and then Mono Lake, with its mud-drip rock formations. Yosemite-bound drivers would head west here, but those continuing north might take a detour to explore the ghost town of Bodie off Highway 270. Leave Highway 395 near Topaz Lake and take Highway 89 to South Lake Tahoe, where you can finish your trip relaxing on the shores of a place Mark Twain once referred to as the “fairest picture the whole world affords.”
A road trip through the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley should never be about getting from Point A to Point B. It’s more of a circuitous route that meanders through a countryside full of small towns, vineyards, and state parks. Plenty of people treat Northern California wine country as a day trip from San Francisco, but go for a long weekend so that you can really savor those winetastings and pamper yourself with a stay at the Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa or Meadowood Napa Valley.
Make a beeline from San Francisco to Domaine Carneros to start your trip sipping California bubbly. Then jogging north on Highway 121, you’ll pass through the town of Napa, where it’s worth a stop for lunch at the Oxbow Public Market. Continue northeast on Highway 121 and you’ll pass the hot springs resort Vichy Springs, or turn north instead onto the Silverado Trail, where you can hop between some of the best wineries in the area, including Clos du Val and Mumm.
Lassen Volcanic National Park and the area around form one of the more beautiful parts of the state, especially if you’re a mountain junkie who loves craggy peaks and volcanic rock. But it’s one that even locals tend to miss, partly because, at two and a half hours from Sacramento and almost four hours northeast of San Francisco, it’s harder to get to than the coast or the state’s wine countries. But those who make the trek should plan for a three-day weekend with plenty of day hikes and geologic curiosities—this is, after all, volcano country.
Starting in Redding, a bustling city on the Sacramento River, travel north on 1-5 to Shasta Lake, the largest reservoir in California. Continue north on I-5, passing through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and maybe stopping to take in the ragged spires at Castle Crags State Park, before reaching Mount Shasta, where you can stop to stroll through town or hike in the mountain’s foothills.
Follow in the footsteps of miners and prospectors through California’s Gold Country along Highway 49—a road named after the gold-seeking immigrants, or “49ers” who made their way to the state during the 1849 Gold Rush. Plan for five days to give yourself time to strike it rich panning for gold in the region’s rivers. You’ll want to spend time exploring the rocky meadows and pine-covered foothills of the Sierra Nevadas too.
Start off with a history lesson at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa, just north of Oakhurst. As you move north along the route, you’ll pass a number of Gold Rush–era buildings and towns—many of which you’ll have learned about at the Mining and Mineral Museum. In Coulterville, Hotel Jeffery, first built in 1851, is known for paranormal activities and claims John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt as past visitors. Jamestown’s Railtown 1897 Historic State Park gives a glimpse of what transportation was like in the late 1800s, and Columbia State Historic Park and the town of Sonora are both well-preserved mining towns.
Highway 49 passes over the South Fork of the American River near Placerville, which is a popular place for river rafting. A little farther north here, in Coloma, you can actually try your own luck with a gold pan at Sutter’s Mill in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. Continue up through Auburn State Recreation Area, where the north and middle forks of the American River meet, stopping in Auburn’s Old Town and later Nevada City for Victorian-era homes and a little more historic charm. From there, Highway 49 heads northeast through Tahoe National Forest, but there’s more mining history to see before you end in Vinton. Be sure to stop at Empire Mine in Grass Valley, one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest, and richest gold mines in California.
Distance: 117 miles Start: Cajon Pass End: Big Bear
When most people think of Southern California, they think of beaches. But the lower half of the state has just as much glorious mountain scenery as its other half. For visitors who want to spend most of their vacation frolicking in the sand, but also want some mountain air, the relatively short Rim of the World Scenic Byway offers an easy weekend getaway to the rockier terrain of the Inland Empire.
State Highway 18 officially begins at the Cajon Pass, which is about an hour outside Los Angeles on Highway 138. The route heads east, passing small mountain towns and following cliff edges and skirting the peaks of the San Bernadino Mountains, which are sometimes called the “Alps of Southern California.” Take a slight detour onto route 173 to visit Lake Arrowhead, a popular escape for Angelinos, who head up to camp, hike, and ride the Lake Arrowhead Queen steamboat, and more. You can even hike a section of the Pacific Crest Trail here. Back on Highway 18, at the town of Running Springs, you can take a quick, five-mile side trip up to Keller Peak Fire Lookout, where on a clear day, you might be able to spot the Pacific Ocean. Finally, Highway 18 follows the edge of Big Bear Lake to the town of Big Bear. Book into a cabin and enjoy the area’s hiking and water sports in the summer or snow sports in the winter.
Distance: 290 miles Start: San Diego End: Joshua Tree National Park
Plenty of travelers make the trip from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park to marvel at its spiky namesake trees. But many think of Joshua Tree as a destination and miss out on all the beautiful and sometimes quirky things the deserts of Southern California have to offer along the way. In fact, you should really spend a full five days exploring the rock formations, wildflower meadows, art installations, and architectural hot spots of this region.
Starting in San Diego, point your car northeast on Highway 163 to Highway 78 heading toward Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, famous for its wildflower super blooms in the springtime. But even when the flowers aren’t blooming, the landscape is striking, with its badlands, slot canyons, and cactus forests. Near the park entrance, keep an eye out for the 130-foot prehistoric animal sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda.
Once you’ve explored the park, you can either head north on Highway 79 and cut through Anza en route to Palm Springs—the drive through wooded Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument is a nice break from the desert sun—or continue on Palm Canyon Drive toward the dying Salton Sea. Admittedly not the most scenic part of this drive, the Salton Sea is fascinating nonetheless: It’s one of the world’s largest inland seas and is rapidly drying up. Skirt the southside of the body of water, then make your way toward Slab City, an abandoned Navy base that’s become an off-grid living community, and the massive, hand-built and brightly painted art piece Salvation Mountain, just outside.
From Slab City, take Highway 111 north to Palm Springs, an oasis of midcentury modern architecture that’s home to plenty of pools that provide respite from the heat. From Palm Springs, follow Highway 10 to Pioneer Town for a drink or a meal or maybe a concert at the famous saloon Pappy and Harriet’s, just outside of Joshua Tree Park. The area has long attracted artists and bohemian types, so while there’s plenty of natural scenery to enjoy, such as Jumbo Rocks or Skull Rock, make time to visit local art galleries, the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum, and the Integratron Sound Bath too.
The birthplace of the modern shrimping industry, Fernandina Beach is a waterfront village nestled on the north end of Amelia Island. Celebrating pirate culture is a way of life, so it’s not uncommon to see people dressed as swashbucklers just for the heck of it. Visit during the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, when the historic district bustles with parades, live music, lots of shrimp, and—you guessed it—pirates.
Anna Maria Island is what beach town dreams are made of. You won’t find any hotel chains or condominium towers here, just a collection of tropical-style homes and friendly neighbors who wave from golf carts. Stretching from the bay to the gulf, Pine Avenue is the perfect place to shop funky boutiques, dine at local cafes, and get a feel for that ultimate island lifestyle.
Flanked by two picturesque beach parks and home to the historic Cape Florida Lighthouse, Key Biscayne is an island village with a sophisticated feel. It’s close enough to Miami that you can easily get to and from the 24/7 action of the city, but just far enough out into the ocean that you immediately get that sense of “ahhhhh” when you drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway.
Perhaps one of the quirkiest beach towns in Florida, Captiva Island is full of character. Golf carts are the preferred method of transportation, and there are zero traffic lights on the island. Beaches here are second to none and offer some of the best shelling you can find. The island sparkles every year during the Captiva Luminary when residents light candles from one end of the island to the other, marking the launch of the holiday season.
A colorful coastal town full of pastel houses and funky local eateries, Seaside is a breathtaking nod to life on the beach. The best way to soak up stunning Gulf of Mexico views and explore this friendly community is by foot or bicycle. Neighbors and visitors alike gather every year for the annual 30A Songwriters Festival, with live music performances at Seaside venues and other locales along scenic 30A Highway.
A hidden gem nestled on the east coast of Florida, Vero Beach is a nature lover’s paradise. Think unspoiled beaches, salt water lagoons and protected wildlife refuges. With miles of biking and hiking trails, there are ample opportunities for eco-friendly adventures. Then enjoy the small-town charm in the “main street” area of Vero Beach, where you’ll find weekly gallery strolls, a vintage market, and plenty of quaint cafes.
Cruise down Atlantic Avenue, the main drag in Delray Beach, and you’ll end up at one of the most beautiful beaches on Florida’s east coast. A haven for beachcombers and art lovers, you’ll find more than 20 galleries and iconic public art pieces in downtown and in the Pineapple Grove Arts District, home to Artist Alley. Go for one of the popular Friday gallery nights and browse local art, listen to live music, and dine at one of the eclectic eateries on the “Ave.”
A laid-back beach town with a healthy—and well-loved—population of vintage ice cream parlors, Pass-A-Grille Beach is an island town located at the southernmost end of St. Pete Beach. Sunset is a nightly rite of passage as locals and visitors gather at the seawall outside of Paradise Grille to ring the sunset bell. The rooftop deck of the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant also offers spectacular views of the sun’s descent into the Gulf of Mexico.
Surrounded by the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Gasparilla Island is truly an ode to Old Florida. Shelling enthusiasts find an impressive assortment of treasured sea shells and sand dollars tucked between layers of pure white sand, while fisherman flock to the area for its prized tarpon fishing. Visit one of the two stately lighthouses on the island, where you’ll find postcard-perfect views, especially at sunset.
THE ONE LAS VEGAS EXPERIENCE EVERYONE IS MISSING OUT ON
By Bobby Christian
Black Canyon kayaking tour is the one Las Vegas experience everyone is missing out on. Within an hour from the strip, Lake Mojave winds its way between towering canyon walls and alongside some of the most unexpected terrain in the American Southwest, including cave saunas, island turquoise water, and secluded hot springs.
On a recent Viator Tour, I embarked on a full day kayaking trip that is now my go-to Vegas adventure.
Starting bright and early, the Viator tour picks you up from your Vegas hotel and takes you for a 50- minute drive to the desert. Once there, you are teamed up with your kayak (they have double or single kayaks, depending on who you are traveling with) and the skillful and friendly guide talks about the type of trip you’re about to embark on. Depending on the day, kayakers have been known to see bald eagles, Big Horn sheep, and hawks. And that’s just the wildlife.
The kayak trip is long- it’s a full day- and you’ll be kayaking for most of it. The full course is 12 miles, with lots of stops along the way. The adventure stops and the changing scenery were my favorite part of the entire tour.
While the trip down stream is lined with dozens of stops, here are my picks for Black Canyon’s top five most amazing sights and experiences.
1.) Emerald Cove – Pulling into the cove, the clear emerald water tosses up a web of teal light that dances across the cavern walls. This is one of the most talked about spots on the river, and being within two miles of the Marina, is the most accessible stop for visitors not wanting a full day trip.
2.) Sauna Cave – Simply put, this is one of my top travel surprises ever. Climbing into the cave, the desert atmosphere is immediately replaced by thick, humid air and a wading pool knee-to-waist deep. Along the walls, the rock exterior is gradually overtaken by what look like flowstones giving the pitch-black corridor a magical feel. Slowly the water subsides and the cave dead ends into a small cavern, where the thick sauna air can reach 120 degree Fahrenheit, perfect for a steam.
3.) Arizona Hot Springs – These hot pools, sunk in between narrow canyon walls are the most secluded springs I’ve ever visited. Just a short hike from the shore, and at the top of a waterfall, this series of pools is literally wedged between towering canyon walls making the entire experience feel like you’ve stumbled upon something secret.
4.) Gold Strike Canyon – Weeping Rocks, waterfalls, and temperature controlled hot springs, this is one of the most geologically exciting places I’ve visited and I don’t understand how I hadn’t heard about it before. Nearly right off the shore, the canyon is covered in a huge variety of eye-catching sights, like weeping rocks and waterfalls. One of the highlights was a hot pool built at the base of two streams, one hot and one cold, so the bathers could naturally regulate the temperature.
5.) The River/Lake – Emerald green, sapphire blue, the water is the color of Italian sorbet, and, continually, its vibrancy blew me away. Not only is the water in Black Canyon nearly identical to ocean in Cancun, it’s unbelievably clear. The Hoover Dam filters out sediment from upstream, so when paddling through the canyon, the lakebed is visible down to nearly 30 feet, all along the way I could watch submerged rock towers pass beneath the kayak.
Must note: The only way to reach the starting point of the tour, with a kayak put-in right under the Hoover Dam, is to take this Viator tour. They only allow 40 park passes a day and while you can express Black Canyon through the park without a pass, you can not get that close to the Dam without one.
European Best Destinations (EBD), which works with local tourism offices to promote European travel, put together a list of what it deems the “safest” destinations on the continent for post-pandemic travel.
It selected destinations with low COVID-19 infection rates and that have implemented strict protocols on hygiene and social-distancing measures.
It also took into account how many hospital beds destinations have, choosing places that have more hospital beds per capita than other European countries.
While many travel restrictions within Europe have been lifted, nonessential travel is still not recommended in many places, such as in the US, where the Centers for Disease Control warns against it.
Ancient churches, rugged mountains, and pristine water make Corfu, Greece, one of the most famous Greek isles.
Once home to the likes of Mozart, Beethoven, and Freud, Vienna, Austria’s capital, has an artistic and intellectual history that can still be felt today.
EBD says that Austria had “10 times fewer infected people than anywhere else in Europe,” with 16,968 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 672 related death, per Johns Hopkins, at the time of writing.
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is the perfect mix of hip and history, with winding cobblestone streets featuring medieval architecture at every turn.
Malta’s capital, Valletta, was founded in the early 16th century and was called “one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world,” by UNESCO.
Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, was once a medieval fortress, but its history dates all the way back to the Roman empire, which is evident in its narrow cobblestone streets, and many ancient towers and churches.