Best Fall Hikes in Georgia

While fall is slowly turning into winter out here in Colorado, the season is still in full swing down in Georgia and other areas of the Southeast. As a born-and-raised Georgia peach I’ve gone on many fall hikes throughout the state, and these are some of the best for leaf-peeping and enjoying the season!

Blood Mountain

Blood Mountain isn’t just one of the best fall hikes in Georgia, it’s also one of my favorite hikes of all time! The most common route to the summit begins on the Byron Reece Trail before connecting with the Appalachian Trail. You’ll reach the summit after about 2.2 miles of hiking and will be treated to sweeping views of the Appalachian Mountains. Fun fact: Blood Mountain is the highest point of the AT in Georgia!

Raven Cliff Falls

Raven Cliff Falls is a great Georgia fall hike if you’re looking for something that doesn’t involve a lot of elevation gain. The hike is a bit longer than Blood Mountain at almost 6 miles roundtrip, but it’s definitely worth the extra distance. You’ll meander through the forest alongside a creek until reaching the waterfall that the trail is named for. Be careful exploring because the rocks will be slippery!

Appalachian Approach Trail

For those seeking an overnight fall hiking adventure, the Appalachian Approach Trail is the perfect option. This trail kills two birds with one stone, as you’ll get to experience the beautiful Amicalola Falls as well as the summit of Springer Mountain. This hike is about 18 miles out-and-back so while you could do it in a day, it’s much more enjoyable as an overnight backpacking trip.

Mount Yonah

Mount Yonah is one of the more challenging hikes on this list of the best Georgia fall hikes, though it’s definitely worth the effort. Mount Yonah is popular for not only hiking but also rock-climbing, and the entire mountain is incredibly picturesque when the leaves are changing. This is another fall hike in Georgia that offers spectacular views from the summit, which you’ll reach after about 2.2 miles of hiking.

Rabun Bald

Rabun Bald is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated hikes in Georgia. At only 3.5 miles roundtrip, this hike is relatively short but still decently challenging with over 1000′ of elevation gain. This is one of the few Georgia hikes that offers 360-degree views from the summit, and they are simply breathtaking.

What are your favorite fall hikes in Georgia? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 U.S. National Parks (Plus 3 On My Bucket List)

Over the years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to visit 11 of the 63 National Parks that can be found throughout the U.S. While all were unique and interesting in their own way, there were definitely some I loved more than others. This is my ranking of the Top 5 U.S. National Parks that I’ve visited so far. As a bonus, I’m also sharing the top 3 National Parks on my travel bucket list that I haven’t yet been to!

Top 5 U.S. National Parks

5. Badlands

Fun fact: I actually used to live in South Dakota as a kid! I have a lot of family there and still love going back to visit because I think South Dakota is a super underrated state. Similarly, I don’t see too many people talking about Badlands National Park, even though it’s one of my favorites. The landscape is super unique and looks like something you might find on another planet. Plus, the park is full of wildlife ranging from bison and bighorn sheep to prairie dogs.

4. Yellowstone

I would actually love to return to Yellowstone National Park and explore some more because my husband and I only got to spend one day in the park when we visited. Still, Yellowstone is such a classic that I highly recommend everyone take a visit. There’s a huge variety of wildlife and landscapes, and it’s unreal to see the massive hot springs and geysers in person. There’s a reason Yellowstone is one of the most popular National Parks!

3. Olympic

Olympic National Park is one of those places you have to see for yourself to believe. I mean, where else in the U.S. can you spend a day exploring rocky beaches, snow-capped mountains, glacial rivers, and thick rainforests? Olympic National Park is full of biodiversity that makes every visit unique from the last.

2. Grand Teton

In my humble opinion, Grand Teton National Park is probably one of the prettiest areas in the entire country. The mountains look absolutely unreal in person, and the whole park feels wild and rugged. Grand Teton is another park I’d love to return to and spend more time exploring because there’s so much to see and do!

1. Mount Rainier

Of all the National Parks I’ve gotten to visit so far, Mount Rainier National Park is undoubtedly my favorite. Seeing Mount Rainier up close and personal is an amazing experience, and you truly can’t fathom its grandeur until you’re seeing it with your own eyes. Plus, Mount Rainier National Park is where I saw my first wild bear! The whole park feels so magical and is absolutely stunning year-round.

Top 3 U.S. National Parks Bucket List

3. Glacier

Glacier National Park in Montana is one National Park I’ve been wanting to visit for years. The mountains look insanely dramatic and I’ve heard the park is absolutely full of wildlife. Plus, I’d love to pay a visit to RightOnTrek’s EDGE Backpacking Gear Rental Facility that just opened this year. I love that RightOnTrek works to make the outdoors accessible for as many people as possible. And, they make delicious backpacking meals!

2. Yosemite

As someone who loves both hiking and rock-climbing, Yosemite National Park sounds like an absolute dream. I’ve seen so many documentaries about Yosemite and I would love to pay the park a visit in the next couple years. I’ve actually never been to California, so I hope to make a trip out of it and explore a few different areas throughout the state!

1. Gates of the Arctic

Image courtesy of Travel Alaska

Alaska seems to be one of the last truly wild places left in the U.S., and I would absolutely love to spend some time exploring Gates of the Arctic National Park. The wilderness of Alaska looks intimidating but also incredibly beautiful, and I definitely plan on taking a trip to the state – hopefully, sooner rather than later!

What’s your favorite U.S. National Park, and which one would you like to visit next? Let me know in the comments!

Crater Lake – Maroon Bells

Maroon Bells is an iconic wilderness area in Colorado that is home to some of the most photographed mountains in North America. I’ve wanted to visit Maroon Bells since moving to Colorado in 2020, and my husband and I finally got the chance to go the second weekend of October.

From May to October, peak season at Maroon Bells, you need a reservation to enter the wilderness area. You can either get a reservation to drive into Maroon Bells and park there yourself, or a reservation to park in Aspen and take the shuttle. We weren’t able to snag a parking reservation but we did book a spot on an 11am Saturday shuttle.

Maroon Bells is about 3.5-4 hours from Colorado Springs, so we got up bright and early to make our way to Aspen. We arrived in Aspen early enough to spend about an hour grabbing coffee and exploring the town a bit. There was a farmer’s market going on which we strolled through, and we also popped into a couple shops. We ended up parking in the garage at Aspen Highlands Village which was pretty expensive but very convenient. The shuttle system was very straightforward, and soon we were pulling up to one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen in person.

We decided to take the less than 4 mile out-and-back trail to Crater Lake. The trail begins gradually ascending through a gorgeous aspen grove before heading into a forested area. The trail gets pretty rocky for the last half mile or so to the lake, but is fairly easy with less than 700′ of elevation gain in total.

Crater Lake was very low when we visited given the time of year, but the views were absolutely stunning. We stopped to eat some PB&J’s before heading back down the trail to the visitor’s center. We had to wait for the return shuttle for about 10 minutes which wasn’t bad at all.

I’m so glad we took the time to visit Maroon Bells, and I’d love to return and explore it even more. Have you visited this beautiful wilderness area yet?

Crags Trail + Fern’s Diner Review

The aspens are still beautifully vibrant here in Colorado, so last weekend my husband and I decided to check out the Crags Trail. The weather was supposed to be chilly and misty, but the trail is only a little over an hour from our house, and we figured it might be less crowded because of the conditions. We began the hike around 8:30am – there were a handful of other cars in the parking lot when we arrived, but we didn’t see anyone until two miles in or so.

The trail begins with a moderately steep ascent through the forest before giving way to open meadows. The trail leads you through what feels like a gentle valley with rock formations and forested hills on either side. We actually saw a family of three moose about 1.5 miles in! This stretch of the trail is mostly flat and a nice break after the initial push.

The last half mile or so quickly ascends through another forested area before reaching a rocky outlook. The views were a bit obstructed by clouds when we visited, but were still incredibly beautiful with the changing leaves. In total, the trail is roughly 5 miles in length with 800+ feet of elevation gain, making it moderately challenging but thoroughly enjoyable.

On the drive back to Colorado Springs we stopped at Fern’s Diner in Cascade so I could pick up a vegan lunch. I tried the 80’s burger – a Beyond burger topped with fried onions and blue cheese crumbles (all vegan!) – with tots, and a cup of green chili. All of it was incredibly delicious, and the diner itself was super cute. I definitely plan to return to try the breakfast menu!

Colorado Fall Activities

Fall is in full swing here in Colorado and I wanted to share some ideas for fun seasonal activities to do throughout the state before winter kicks in!

Leaf-Peeping

A signature Colorado fall activity is leaf-peeping, or venturing out to admire the changing leaves. Aspens in particular can be found all throughout the state and turn vibrant shades of yellow and orange in the fall. You can enjoy leaf-peeping by going on a hike (check out my 2022 and 2021 leaf-peeping blogs for ideas) or taking a drive along a scenic road, such such as Guanella Pass (more ideas here).

Scenic Train Ride

Another fantastic way to enjoy the changing leaves in Colorado is by embarking on a scenic train ride. There are tons of train ride options tht range from short, family-friendly rides to longer adventures that take you all across the state. Popular fall train ride options include the Georgetown Loop Railroad and Royal Gorge Railroad, but you can find more here.

Haunted Towns and Roads

If you want to tap into your spooky side, consider visiting one of Colorado’s many ghost towns or (allegedly) haunted roads. From Gold Camp Road in Colorado Springs to the abandoned town of St. Elmo near Buena Vista, there are all kinds of spooky places to explore in Colorado, and many have very rich and fascinating histories. Check out this Colorado Ghost Towns guide to plan your visit!

Fall Festivals

There are all kinds of fall festivals throughout Colorado that offer fun and unique activities for the whole family. Whether you want to pick some pumpkins and apples or sample a variety of beer and wine, there’s a Colorado fall festival out there for everybody to enjoy. You can find a full list of this year’s fall festivals on the official State of Colorado website.

What are your favorite fall activities in Colorado?

Rogers Pass + Leaf Peeping

Fall is in full swing here in Colorado so my husband and I ventured up to the mountains to go on a hike and do some leaf peeping along the way as well. We settled on Rogers Pass, a 5-mile out-and-back hike located just 45 minutes outside of Winter Park. With less than 1000 feet of elevation gain, this hike is very moderate and great for hikers of all experience levels.

The trailhead for Rogers Pass is located along CR-80, a very rough road with lots of rocks and holes. We made it up just fine in our Subaru Outback, but make sure you drive slow and watch where you’re going! The drive up was beautiful thanks to all the aspens that were changing colors. One really cool feature about this hike is the historic train trestle located at the trailhead.

The hike begins with a gradual ascent up through the forest before soon emerging above the treeline. Along the way, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of Winter Park and Fraser. The rest of the hike consists of several meandering switchbacks up a grassy ridge which eventually gives way to stunning views of James Peak.

At 2.5 miles, you’ll reach the end of the trail, though you could continue on to James Peak if you wanted to. We explored for a bit at the top, which was incredibly windy, before making our way back down the trail to the car.

This hike is not very popular so you won’t have to worry about battling crowds – we were the only ones there when we arrived around 9am on a Saturday! I think the Rogers Pass hike is super underrated, and it’s one of my favorite easy hikes in the state.

Black Balsam Knob – North Carolina

Black Balsam Knob is a beautiful mountain bald located along the Art Loeb Trail in North Carolina. At just 1.5 miles round trip and less than 400 feet of elevation gain, it’s an easy and scenic hike perfect for hikers of all experience levels.

The trailhead to Black Balsam Knob is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, by milepost 420. The hike begins with a gradual ascent through the forest, which quickly gives way to a more rocky and exposed landscape. You’ll find yourself atop the first of several mountain balds that offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains (when the weather is clear, unlike the day we visited unfortunately).

Continue along a gentle saddle up to the next bald, which is Black Balsam Knob. You’ll reach the summit at about 3/4 of a mile. Take your time enjoying the beautiful views before turning around and heading back down the trail to the parking area.

The hike to Black Balsam Knob is short and sweet, making it a great option for beginner hikers or folks visiting from out of town. What’s your favorite hike in North Carolina?

How to Spend a Weekend in Asheville

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I traveled down to Asheville, NC to visit some friends who live in the area. I had been to Asheville a handful of times before but my husband had never been, so we were really excited to explore the city together! Here are my top recommendations for how to spend a weekend in Asheville.

Grab a Drink at Sierra Nevada Brewery

Our first night in town our friends took us to Sierra Nevada Brewery, technically in the nearby town of Fletcher. The taproom is absolutely massive, featuring an indoor dining room, outdoor kitchen/bar, garden, and an outdoor stage for live music. The whole space was really laidback and fun to explore, and even though it was busy, the property was large enough that it never felt crowded. I tried an Oktoberfest beer which was delicious! Asheville is definitely known for its breweries, and Sierra Nevada is one of the best.

Hike to Black Balsam Knob

Our first full morning in Asheville we set off for the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike up to Black Balsam Knob. The weather was very chilly, windy, and rainy – which we weren’t super prepared for – but we still had a blast! The hike follows the Art Loeb Trail up to Black Balsam Knob, a beautiful mountain bald with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. The hike is short, sweet, and scenic, perfect for visitors from out of town! I plan to write up a whole blog post with more info about this hike, so stay tuned.

Enjoy Some Amazing Food

Asheville has a surprisingly amazing food scene, and we definitely ate good on our trip. Even though I didn’t take many pictures of the meals we enjoyed, every single one of them was delicious! For breakfast, we enjoyed some biscuits at Biscuit Head, a super popular spot that offers all kinds of biscuit platters and sandwiches. Lunch one day was at Laughing Seed Cafe, a delicious vegetarian-friendly spot in downtown Asheville where I got some amazing (albeit a bit ugly) loaded fries. Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack was also a great lunch spot that even offers vegan chicken! Finally, we also enjoyed some tasty tacos from White Duck Taco Shop, which features fun menu items like Greek and Korean-inspired tacos.

Spend an Evening Bar-Hopping

Though Asheville is better known for its breweries, the downtown area is also home to some awesome and unique bars. The first stop on our evening of bar-hopping was Citizen Vinyl, a record store/cafe/bar that also prints its own records! I got a gin and citrus cocktail which was delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed the art deco-inspired interior.

Next up was Top of the Monk, an intimate rooftop bar with a casual, unfussy vibe. I tried a tropical drink with toasted coconut (which was lit on fire right in front me!) and even though it wasn’t my favorite drink of the night, the fun, laidback atmosphere more than made up for it.

Our last stop was Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, a small cocktail bar situated inside a bookstore! This was definitely my favorite bar of the night, and the sangria I ordered was absolutely delicious. We all had fun sipping on champagne and wine and browsing the extensive collection of books.

Visit Biltmore

One of the most popular attractions in Asheville is the Biltmore Estate, the largest home in the country which was built by the legendary Vanderbilt family. I have actually toured Biltmore before but Solomon had never been, so we wanted to at least stop by for him to see the property. We didn’t go inside the house this time, but we did get to explore the gardens and conservatory which were beautiful. There is a lot to see and do on the Biltmore property, and it’s definitely worth a trip if you’ve never been.

Explore the River Arts District

Last, but certainly not least, was the River Arts District (RAD), a super artsy and quirky neighborhood of Asheville. RAD is full of art galleries, studios, vintage shops, and some great food and drink spots. We grabbed a beer at Wedge Brewery before checking out some thrift stores and then ended our visit with a trip to Summit Coffee, where I got a delicious iced maple latte.

Asheville is an amazing weekend destination in the Southeast. With amazing food, drinks, hiking, shopping, and so much more, there’s really something for everyone to enjoy. Huge thanks to Grant and Callan for hosting us and showing us around this awesome city!

Review: Get Out Gear Down Puffy Blanket

Make sure to watch my video review here.

I was recently contacted by the company Get Out Gear about sending me one of their Down Puffy Blankets to test out and review. Get Out Gear is a California-based company that specializes in puffy blankets meant to “bring happiness, comfort and joy as you experience the great outdoors.” I love how inclusive their mission statement is, and I was really excited to receive the blanket and check it out for myself.

Their Down Puffy Blanket, officially called the Bouffi Blanket, is a lightweight and durable camping blanket perfect for backyard adventures or backpacking treks. At only 17 ounces, the blanket is a very light addition to your camping setup, and the whole blanket (77″ x 50″) conveniently fits into a compact 5″ x 12″ stuff sack. I opted for their teal color which is beautiful in person, but the blanket is also offered in olive, black, blue, gray, and orange.

I was immediately impressed with the quality of the material and just how lightweight and compact the blanket was. Once unfolded, the blanket is the perfect size to cozy up in by myself or spread out to share with a partner. When paired with your camping sleep system, the Bouffi Blanket also adds 10-15 degrees of warmth, which is pretty impressive!

Two of my favorite features about the Bouffi Blanket are the snaps that turn the blanket into a poncho, and the water and stain-resistant material the blanket is made of. The snaps are a great way to go hands-free while still keeping warm as you hang out around camp. Meanwhile, the water and stain-resistant material is especially handy for folks like myself who are prone to spills!

All in all, I was super impressed with Get Out Gear’s Down Puffy Blanket. At $70, the blanket is also very reasonably priced considering how warm and lightweight it is. Get Out Gear also offers a synthetic puffy blanket which is just a touch heavier (24 ounces) but more cost-effective at $58.75.

Huge thanks to Get Out Gear for sending me the blanket – I can’t wait to try it out on my next backpacking trip!

How I Spent 30 Hours in Washington DC

I recently had the opportunity to take a quick solo trip to Washington DC, and I ended up only spending about 30 hours in the city. Even though my trip was super short, I still got to see some incredible sights and do some top DC activities. Here’s exactly how I spent my 30 hours in Washington DC!
P.S. make sure to also check out my vlog from the trip right here!

Day One

8am – land in DC and hop on the metro
9am – get off at Capitol South station and walk over to the Capitol
9:20am – head over to the National Mall and walk over to Museum of Natural History
10-11am – explore the museum

11am – walk to National Archives Museum and check out the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence
11:20am – head over to the White House
11:40am – take some pictures of the White House
11:50amOld Ebbitt Grill for lunch (don’t forget to check out my post about Everything I Ate in Washington DC)
12-12:45pm – lunch

1pm – check in to Sofitel
1-3:30pm – shower/nap in hotel
3:30pm – head to Museum of American History
3:45-4:45pm – explore the museum

4:45pm – walk to dinner at Oyamel
5-6pm – dinner

6pm – head to Dolcezza for dessert

6:30pm – walk back to hotel
6:45pm – in for the night!

Day Two

8:45am – Uber to Farmers Fishers Bakers in Georgetown
9-10am – breakfast

10am – walk to Compass Coffee for a pumpkin spice latte

10:30am – Uber back to hotel and pack up
10:40am – hop on a scooter and head over to Lincoln Memorial
10:50am – explore the Lincoln Memorial

11am – head back to hotel
11:30am-12pm – relax in hotel
12pm – hop on the metro and head to the airport for 2pm flight