Franklin Falls

Franklin Falls is a 2 mile out-and-back hike in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that’s perfect for hikers of all experience levels.

The trailhead for Franklin Falls is located about 25 minutes outside of North Bend on Denny Creek Road, just past the campground. While you can enjoy Franklin Falls year-round, Denny Creek Road does tend to close in the winter which will add 4 miles roundtrip to your hike.
Franklin Falls is also a very popular destination for hikers, photographers, and families, so try to visit during off-times (such as weekdays or early mornings) when possible.

Pro tip: parking is $5/day or free with a Northwest Forest Pass – more info at fs.usda.gov.

The trail runs parallel to the Snoqualmie River most of the way and, with only 400′ of elevation gain in total, is very family-friendly. The river does flood on occasion which may make the trail exceptionally washed out or muddy, so be prepared to get a bit soaked along the way. It’s also fun to spot the gorgeous A-frame cabins along the river as you hike.

After a mile, you’ll begin to hear the roaring of Franklin Falls and soon, you’ll spot the stunning 130′ waterfall. Be careful as you hike downward over slippery rocks to the base of the waterfall and take in the full beauty of the falls.

A short hike back will return you to your car to carry on with more adventures! Franklin Falls is one of my favorite hikes in the area because you get a stunning view for minimal effort, so let me know if you’ve visited or plan to soon!

A Weekend Guide to Snoqualmie + North Bend

The towns of Snoqualmie and North Bend, located in the Snoqualmie Valley, are some of my favorite areas to visit when I find myself in Washington. This guide is an overview of what I consider the must-see spots in Snoqualmie and North Bend, and my idea of the perfect weekend spent exploring this area!

Day 1

Start your day off on the right foot by enjoying an indulgent brunch at the Salish Lodge & Spa. The Salish Lodge is a picturesque establishment situated right on top of Snoqualmie Falls. The dining room features stunning views of the surrounding forest and the Snoqualmie River, and the whole lodge feels cozy and welcoming. For brunch, I would highly suggest treating yourself to their country breakfast, a multi-course affair with fresh baked goods, pancakes, oatmeal, meat, eggs, and more. The highlight of this breakfast is the “Honey From Heaven” service where they drizzle house-made honey atop freshly baked biscuits. If you have the option, I’d also recommend pairing the breakfast with a mimosa or Snoqualmie coffee (both alcoholic).

After brunch, you’ll probably feel like going to your room and passing out, but I encourage you to take the time to explore Snoqualmie Falls. There’s an upper and lower park, and both offer uniquely beautiful views of the waterfall. The upper park is less than a minute walk from the Salish Lodge, overlooking the dramatic falls and Snoqualmie River. To access the lower park, you can either hike about 3/4 mile down along a gravel trail, or drive to the lower parking lot. From the parking lot, you can follow a boardwalk along the Snoqualmie River that will lead you to a viewpoint at the base of the falls. There are also a lot of informational signs and exhibits around the park to learn about the history of the falls and the Snoqualmie Valley.

Fun fact: I actually used to work at the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Museum, located across the river from the Salish Lodge! The museum is open seasonally during the summer, but I would check the website for updates before stopping by. The museum is small but mighty, packed with information about the history of the hydroelectric plant located within Snoqualmie Falls.

Once you’ve explored Snoqualmie Falls, it’s time to drive over to downtown Snoqualmie. Downtown Snoqualmie is small and quaint, consisting mostly of local shops, restaurants, and a few more museums. There are lots of small shops and boutiques to pop in and out of if you’re searching for souvenirs and locally-made goods. If you’d like to learn more history about the area, I also suggest checking out the Northwest Railway Museum, which educates visitors on the railroad in the region. The museum also hosts seasonal events like a Santa Train around the holidays and a Thomas the Tank Engine weekend in September.

If you’re starting to get hungry for lunch/dinner, I’d recommend Snoqualmie Falls Brewery, a low-key spot with great beer and food options. Remember to save room for ice cream though, as a visit to Snoqualmie Ice Cream is a must, and the perfect way to end your first day of adventures.

Return to your room at the Salish Lodge, curl up by the fire for a bit, and get a good nights rest before kicking off day 2!

Day 2

Snoqualmie and North Bend are surrounded by the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest, which offers endless options for hiking. Near the Snoqualmie Valley you can opt for Mount Si, a difficult hike to sweeping views of the valley, or something more family-friendly, like Franklin Falls. I personally recommend Franklin Falls because the trail is short, easy to moderate in difficulty, and absolutely stunning. The trailhead is about 40 minutes from the Salish Lodge, making it a convenient destination for a quick morning hike. The trail itself is only about 2 miles roundtrip and will lead you to a 130′ waterfall. The setting is beautiful, though this hike does get quite popular, so try to head out early in the day, if possible.

After relaxing and freshening up following your hike, it’s time to head to North Bend, another picturesque town. North Bend is just about a 10 minutes drive from Snoqualmie, and make sure you look for elk along the way, as you can frequently spot herds beside the road. You’ll also be granted with beautiful views of Mount Si as you drive. Once in town, there are a number of small shops to explore, and even an independent theater that showcases classic films and hosts special events, like film festivals and comedy shows.

The real star of North Bend, however, is Twede’s Cafe, which you may recognize from the iconic show Twin Peaks. The diner was featured extensively in the show, and the staff are usually kind enough to show you some of the well-known filming spots and memorabilia throughout the restaurant if they have time to spare. Even if you’re not a fan of the show, Twede’s Cafe is like stepping back in time, making it a super fun dining experience. At the very least, you must enjoy a slice of cherry pie and an order of their “damn fine cup of coffee.”

And there you have it folks: my guide to an ideal weekend spent exploring Snoqualmie and North Bend. I hope you have an opportunity to visit these towns for yourself and experience their beauty and history, and I hope this guide provided you with some ideas on what to do and see!

How I Stay Healthy on a Road Trip

Ah, road trips. A classic American experience that some love and others hate. I, personally, love embarking on a good multi-day, cross-country road trip, but one of the hardest parts to plan for is how to stay healthy while you’re on the road. When you’re trapped in the car all day, it’s easy to reach for candy, chips, and soda, and even exercise is virtually out of the question. But trust me, there are ways to enjoy the journey while still treating your body well, and I’m here to pass along some of my favorite tips for doing just that!

Plan ahead

It may seem obvious, but planning out your meals and snacks ahead of time will give you the best opportunity to nourish your body without resorting to grabbing handfuls of gas station snacks because you ran out of food or are simply just bored. For my recent road trip from Colorado to Washington, I stopped by my local grocery store the night before leaving town and selected a few snacks and meal options I was excited to eat, that were still at least partially nutritious. Road trips should be fun, so don’t force yourself to eat a head of broccoli as a snack if you’re not actually craving it. On the other hand, be wary of over-indulging, or you’ll set yourself up for a long and painful drive.

Avoid fast food when possible

My personal strategy while road-tripping is to eat breakfast and lunch in my hotel room or the car, and then enjoy dinner out on the town. Fast food is undeniably tempting, and sometimes a greasy, salty, McDonald’s breakfast really hits the spot, but for the most part, I’d rather make the most of my time and money by enjoying a nicer, sit-down dinner in the evening than rushing through a drive-thru at the very beginning or in the middle of my day. Alternatively, if I’m passing through a town where I know there are food options I’m interested in, I will stop for lunch or a snack and then enjoy dinner in my hotel room at the end of the day. Eating locally is one of my favorite ways to experience an area’s culture, and I always like to try new food when the opportunity arises.

Stretch your legs

One of the most uncomfortable parts of a road trip is obviously the extended hours sitting in a cramped car. I will try to stop every 2-3 hours to give myself a break from sitting and take even just a short walk outside of my car (this is especially necessary when traveling with a pet, like I recently did). I also brought along some 5 pound dumbbells so I could do a very short workout in my hotel room in the evening. This isn’t something I always manage to stick to, but for me personally, it feels good to get my body moving for at least 10-15 minutes after a long day of driving. Whether it’s a workout with weights or even just a body-weight workout in the room, a quick walk through town, or a swim in the pool, getting in some kind of movement will make your body and mind happier.

Balance is key

At the end of the day, I’m a firm believer that everything has its place in moderation. If you want to indulge in some fast food or a snack you would normally deem “unhealthy,” then enjoy! If you don’t want to do any kind of workout and would rather just pass out at the end of the day, you deserve it! Road trips are truly one of the best reminders that the journey is often more important than the end destination. Allow yourself the freedom to enjoy your time on the road however you like, and it will make the experience so much more enjoyable. Listen to your body’s cues about what it’s craving in regards to food and movement, and you will feel emotionally, physically, and mentally satiated.

Best Vegan Spots in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs has a thriving vegan restaurant scene that has grown a lot in the past couple years, and I want to highlight some of my personal favorites in case you need ideas for your next meal out!

Trinity Brewing Co.

What’s better than beer and vegan bar food? Trinity’s menu isn’t strictly vegan, but what options they do have are very impressive. The vegan buffalo wings are a great appetizer for sharing, and their vegan philly is a super yummy offering. I would also recommend their brussel sprouts with vegan parmesan – trust me, they’re so good you won’t even remember you’re eating vegetables! And, of course, their beer is delicious!

Santana’s Vegan Grill

Santana’s Vegan Grill has an extensive menu, offering delicious options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert! Their bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches and blueberry pancakes are to die for, and I highly recommend their burgers or steak and cheese sandwich for dinner. You really can’t go wrong with anything from Santana’s!

Burrowing Owl Lounge

The Burrowing Owl is a super amazing restaurant, and I’ve loved everything I’ve ordered there. I crave their mac and cheese at least once a week, and their nachos are unbelievable. They also offer awesome daily specials, like a veganized Crunchwrap Supreme on the weekends after 5pm!

Wildflour Bakehouse

Wildflour Bakehouse is a unique offering in that they don’t have a physical storefront, but instead make home deliveries of vegan baked goods around the Colorado Springs area. These desserts are seriously dangerous because they are So. Dang. Good. I personally recommend their rainbow cookies (because everything is better with sprinkles) and their chai cinnamon rolls are probably some of the best I’ve ever had, period.

The Joint Vegan Street Food

The Joint is another unique one because it’s not a sit-down restaurant, but a traveling food truck! You can frequently find them at various breweries and events around town, and they keep a schedule on their website. Their menu changes every so often, but last time I ate there I thoroughly enjoyed their David BoWings and Dr. John’s Poutine. (Fun fact: the poutine is made with mushrooms which I normally hate, but they made them so good I actually loved it!)

Exploring Pikes Peak + Garden of the Gods

Hello friends! My parents recently came in town for a visit and we decided to check out some iconic Colorado Springs sights: Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. If you find yourself in Colorado Springs, these are two beautiful spots well worth a visit.

First up was Pikes Peak, also known as America’s Mountain. My dad and I actually hiked Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail several years ago, which was quite the adventure. This time around we decided to take the easy route and just drive up. There are lots of pull-off and viewpoint areas along the drive up so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Pro tip: pay for your tickets online in advance for a small discount! It’s also helpful to call before making the drive over to ensure entire road up is open, as they sometimes close it for poor weather or high winds.

Pikes Peak recently opened a brand new visitors center which is super nice and modern. You must try the famous fresh donuts and coffee, and make sure you take a stroll through their small museum as well. The visitor center is also a great opportunity to take a seat and drink some water which will help you avoid getting altitude sickness. It’s super common to feel lightheaded, dizzy, or nauseous when you gain elevation so quickly, so it’s really important to listen to your body and stay hydrated.

Pro tip: it is typically very cold and windy at the summit, even if the weather in the city of Colorado Springs is mild. Make sure you bring layers!

This was my first time driving myself down the mountain, as I’ve always pawned the task off to my husband or parents in the past. Pikes Peak Highway can be a bit stressful because of how steep and curvy it is, and if you’re not a fan of heights you may be a bit wary of the sheer drop-offs. If you don’t feel like taking on the task of driving yourself, there’s also the option of taking the Cog Railway. I haven’t taken it myself, but I’ve heard it’s another beautiful way to experience the mountain.

Next up was Garden of the Gods, an iconic outdoor area featuring dramatic spires and formations of vibrant red rock. Garden of the Gods offers tons of opportunities for walking, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and rock-climbing, so there’s really something for everyone! Even if you just drive through the garden, it’s a stunning area any time of year.

Another perk of visiting Garden of the Gods is how close it is it’s location and proximity to other activities. I would recommend visiting the garden earlier in the day, grabbing lunch at a nearby brewery (I personally recommend Trinity Brewing – we loved it so much we went twice in one week!) and then doing some late afternoon shopping in downtown Colorado Springs or the nearby Manitou Springs.

Colorado Springs is a beautiful town with so many activities and sights to offer. We’ve had a lot of fun hosting friends and family over the past year since moving here, and we’re always discovering new spots. What are some of your favorite things to do in the Colorado Springs area?

Experimenting with Astrophotography

My parents are in town for a visit to celebrate my mom’s birthday and my dad was eager to find a spot away from the city to experiment with some astrophotography, so I decided to give it a go as well! My dad has been killing the game with astrophotography and even as his own website, Instagram, and YouTube. My gear is a little less fancy than his, but I wanted to try it out anyways.
We settled on the Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado, as we knew the area would be much quieter than Colorado Springs. Around 8pm we made our way out to the Paint Mines and sure enough, we were some of the only people there. We set up in the cold and after some trial and error began snagging some pretty awesome pictures. I’ll include some of my dad’s photos as well since he’s the real pro here, so make sure to check out his website and social media for even more awesome content!

And some of my dad’s photography:

Bouldering at Stone Fort

Stone Fort, located in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, is one of the most popular bouldering destinations in the Southeast, and maybe even the country. The Stone Fort area is located just about 30-40 minutes outside of Chattanooga, and is unique in that the boulders are located just past a well-manicured golf course. I first learned of Stone Fort about four years ago when I was living in Georgia and working at a rock-climbing gym. It soon became a frequent destination for myself and my group of climbing buddies, where we would endure bugs and humidity in the summer or freezing cold rock in the winter to send our climbing projects. It’s been almost two years since I’ve made my way back to Stone Fort, so this past weekend my husband and I hopped on a redeye, landed in Atlanta at 6am, and met up with a friend to make the 2 hour drive to Tennessee. I didn’t bring my climbing shoes this time around, but it was still so fun to wander around and cheer on my husband and our friend as they worked on some awesome boulders.

There is a $9 entrance fee which is a bit annoying, but the parking lot is well-maintained and the area is generally safe which is a perk. The boulders are also located just past the clubhouse which makes it easily accessible. I would definitely recommend picking up a guide book, as Stone Fort is massive and can be confusing to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with it. You can also reference Mountain Project for lots of helpful information.

Leaf Peeping in Colorado

Fall is officially here and I couldn’t be more excited! Growing up, fall has always been my favorite season. There’s just something about a chill in the air and a cup of hot apple cider that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
This is my first time celebrating fall in Colorado and I knew I had to plan a day for my husband and I to take a drive and enjoy the beautiful colors. We settled on Interlaken Trail near Twin Lakes, and it did not disappoint.

Twin Lakes is about two and a half hours from our home base in Colorado Springs and located just north of Buena Vista, a cute mountain town. We got a late start to the day but still made time to grab drinks from The Coffee Cottage in Woodland Park, another little town worth a visit. The drive to Twin Lakes was beautiful in and of itself, and we spotted lots of aspen groves that were bright golden yellow.

We finally made it to the Interlaken Trailhead around 3:30pm, which turned out to be a great time to visit as it wasn’t crazy crowded and it wasn’t too hot. Some clouds were starting to roll in which contrasted beautifully with the golden aspens.

We started to hike along the Interlaken Trail but soon decided to head straight for the shoreline of the lake. My husband brought some fishing gear and our dog Willie was super eager to explore. We wandered along the shoreline, took some family pictures, and headed back home after about an hour of meandering around.

I would love to revisit Interlaken Trail another day when we have more time to explore as I’ve heard there are some old abandoned buildings at the end of trail! All in all, I was blown away by how beautiful Colorado is this time of year, and I’m so thankful we got a chance to experience it firsthand.

Diamond Lake in Indian Peaks Wilderness

Diamond Lake Trail, located in Indian Peaks Wilderness, is a moderately challenging out-and-back hike with beautiful views of Diamond Lake and the surrounding peaks. Altogether, the hike is about 5.4 miles in length and gains roughly 1,220 feet in elevation.

Pro tip: make sure to check the weather frequently, as it can change very quickly in the mountains. The forecast the night before we hiked was clear but we ended up getting rained on about a mile into the hike and again during the last quarter mile! Which reminds me…

Pro tip: ALWAYS pack rain gear (if space/weight in your pack allows) – even if the forecast is clear.

The hike begins on Arapaho Pass Trail which departs from the end of Fourth of July Road, just past the town of Eldora. The trail will lead you gradually uphill through dense forests, until you reach a junction at about 1.2 miles, where you’ll bear left to begin on Diamond Lake Trail.

From here, the trail gradually descends, leading you over a creek crossing. After the creek, you’ll begin ascending once more until you reach Diamond Lake after about a mile. Diamond Lake offers lots of options for walking around and exploring the surrounding meadows!

How to Explore One of Washington’s Iconic Islands

Whidbey Island is one of the most underrated destinations in Washington, offering a number of activities for history buffs, hikers, and foodies alike. Whidbey Island may not be as well-known as Mount Rainier or downtown Seattle, but the island and surrounding areas provide a beautiful escape from the hustle of the mainland. If you only have one day to explore Whidbey Island, here’s exactly how to do it to get the most out of your trip. 

Begin your day by hopping on the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry which will take you directly to Whidbey Island. If you’re not a fan of ferries or don’t want to pay the fee, you’re more than welcome to drive via Deception Pass Bridge, but we’ll take that route on the way home. Mukilteo is another cool area to explore as well – check out my photo diary from a recent visit! 

Pro tip: swing by Southern Cross Espresso in Clinton for a quick cup of coffee. I highly recommend their London Fog as well!

From Clinton, begin the drive north to an area known as Ebey’s Landing. Ebey’s Landing is a historical preserve with beautiful hiking/walking trails that educate you on the island’s rich history and provide opportunities to spot wildlife. The historical preserve spans a few hundred acres, and my favorite area to explore is the Prairie Overlook Trail. For specific information on this hike, check out my adventure guide on Outdoor Project.

Pro tip: some areas in Ebey’s Landing require a Discover Pass, so come prepared!

You’ve probably worked up an appetite after exploring the bluffs at Ebey’s Landing, so it’s time for a quick lunch break. It’s a short drive over to Coupeville, a gorgeous coastal town with a number of restaurants and shops. If you’re craving fresh seafood, Front Street Grill is a great option located right on the water. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll see otters or seals, too! I also recommend Ciao Food and Wine for delicious pasta and desserts. 

After lunch, your next destination is Lavender Wind Farm. I had never been to a lavender farm before coming to Washington, and it has become one of my favorite summer activities. Lavender Wind Farm is u-pick, so you can stroll through rows of flowers and pick lavender as you go. Before leaving, stop by the on-site store for more lavender goodies like soap, bath salts, and lip balm.

Pro tip: the lavender u-pick season typically runs from May to September, so make sure to check the farm’s website before planning a visit. 

Now it’s time to make your way off the island, but the adventures aren’t over just yet. Instead of returning home on the ferry, I recommend making the drive over to Deception Pass State Park. This area is absolutely beautiful and a great place for families to visit, either for the day or a weekend. There are lots of walking trails through the forests or along the water, and plenty of opportunities for spotting wildlife like eagles and otters.

Pass over Deception Pass Bridge, another iconic landmark that is stunning in and of itself, and you’ll find yourself on Fidalgo Island which soon connects you back to the mainland. Before driving home, swing by Snow Goose Produce in Mt. Vernon. Snow Goose Produce is a large country market with awesome local products like fruits and vegetables, hot sauces, seafood, beer and wine, and some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. There’s truly no better way to end the day! 

Pro tip: Snow Goose is another seasonal operation, so make sure they’re going to be open before making the drive over!

I hope you found this travel guide useful and incorporate some of these spots on your next visit to Whidbey Island!