Year in Review: Highlights of 2021
Even though 2021 was the second year impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic, we feel blessed to still have had many amazing adventures. We spent most of the winter in Connecticut exploring many local spots; the summer road tripping across Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, and Wisconsin (did we mention the number 4300 miles?!?!); and the spring and fall revisiting some of our tried and true favorite spots for new activities. This post is always one of our favorites each year, as it’s fun to go back down “memory lane” and reflect on the best parts of each adventure. So here is a recap of our (documented, publicly shared) 2021 adventures:
National Park Guide: Arches National Park in Utah
Arches National Park in Moab, Utah, one of the most popular National Parks in America with two million visitors each year, is home to over 2,000 cataloged arches formed by erosion and weathering over the past 65 million years. Learn more about how the arches were formed here. Today, the park covers over 76, 000 acres and, in addition to the arches, is home to almost 500 species of plants, almost 200 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, 21 species of reptiles, and 6 species of fish (yes- fish!)
We visited in June of 2021, during the still on going COVID pandemic, and there were some restrictions, mainly with the Visitor’s Center and programs. We highly recommend visiting early in the morning (being inside the park by 6am early), spending the morning hiking, and then leaving the park for lunch and a rest during peak afternoon sun. Later afternoon and evening will provide cooler temperatures and smaller crowds. Be careful to stay away from cactus and yucca plants, both of which are prevalent throughout the park. Both plants have sharp tips that can poke and easily puncture skin.
National Park Guide: Canyonlands National Park in Utah
The entire Canyonlands National Park, located in the eastern part of Utah, covers over 337,000 acres of canyons, mesas, buttes, arches, and spires. The geology of the park includes over a dozen layers of various sandstones, ranging from Navajo Sandstone down to Cedar Mesa Sandstone. CanyonLands is home to several archeological sites with structures one thousand years ago and amazing star gazing, including the Milky Way. Canyonlands is a designated International Dark Sky Park for its impressive attention to preservation.
National Park Guide: Capitol Reef National Park in Utah
Capitol Reef National Park, located in Surrey, Utah, opened as a National Monument in 1937 and officially became a National Park in 1971. The entire state of Utah was once a sand dune (200 million years ago) and overtime, various geological feats created the park. The geology of the park is quite complex (attend a ranger talk to learn more!), but the headline involves various rock layers that, through tectonic plate activity, raised the Colorado Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau, which caused a fault line running through the area to develop into the park. Over time, the western part of the park raised over 7,000 feet higher than the eastern part of the park. Today, the Visitor Center sits 5,500 feet above sea level.
National Park Guide: Zion National Park in Utah
Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah is the most popular park in Utah and, with over five million visitors every year, one of the most popular parks in America. The park spans over 124, 000 acres, with over 90 miles of hiking trails and plenty of family friendly activities. Rock squirrels and deer are EVERYWHERE and neither animal is afraid of humans. We frequently saw deer come within a few yards of people in several spots, and the squirrels come very close to people, hoping for food (don’t feed them!) Learn more about other animals who call the park home here.
National Park Guide: Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah
This post is the first in a series we’ll be sharing about our adventures of summer 2021, when we embarked on a 4 week road trip that included 9 National Parks (bringing our total to 12) and many other cool sites across the country. We must disclose that we are NOT serious hikers, even after this trip. The pandemic afforded our family the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors more, and that let to a whole new appreciation of nature. While we researched, experienced, and fact checked all information in this post, many parts of it are still only our personal opinions (how difficult a trail is, how long it takes to complete, what we chose to do and not do). We’ve provided links to the NPS site so our readers can make their own decisions about what adventures they want to experience in the park.