Hallett Peak Rocky Mountain National Park

Kids make trips to the mountains fun in so many ways. However, with two young girls, the number of long distance hikes my husband and I can go on are limited. One of the keys to our vacation happiness, is giving each other time to go on adventures while the other person stays back and plays with our kids. On a recent trip, I was excited that my husband could take my brother on one of our favorite hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I was pretty jealous of their adventure, but not jealous about their alarm clock. They woke up before dawn and started the hike up to Hallett Peak in the dark with head lamps on. Since they arrived so early (5:25am), they were able to find a parking spot near Bear Lake which can be difficult to do on holiday weekends. (we went on Labor Day weekend)

Early start to hike up Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
Early start to hike up Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park

Hallett reaches 12,713 ft in elevation. The hike is 10 miles round-trip and involves a bit of class 2 scramble to reach the final destination. From the Bear Lake trailhead, the route follows the easy to follow trail to the summit of Flattop mountain for the first 4.4 miles, passing scenic overlooks of Dream Lake and Emerald Lake (link) along the way.

Sunrise view of Longs Peak from Flattop Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sunrise view of Longs Peak from Flattop Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park
Sunrise view of Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake in the distance from Flattop trail
Sunrise view of Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake in the distance from Flattop trail
Emerald Lake Overlook

To reach Hallet from the aptly named summit of Flattop, hikers must do a bit of route finding, following cairns off-trail (trying to stay on hard surfaces to avoid damaging the fragile tundra flowers and plants). The route is relatively flat as it skirts around Tyndall Glacier on the left, but then gains nearly 400 feet of elevation in the last quarter-mile scramble to the summit. Its a fun challenge, with minimal exposure to steep drop-offs, though a turned ankle this far away from the car would still be miserable.

My brother hiking to Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
My brother hiking to Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park
Approaching summit of Hallett Peak
Approaching summit of Hallett Peak

The views from the top are amazing in all directions, from the Estes Valley, to Longs Peak, and even over to Grand Lake and the Never Summer Mountains to the west.

Eric on the summit of Hallett Peak
My husband on the summit of Hallett Peak

After snapping a few photos and taking a brief rest, they headed back down the mountain to Bear Lake with a round-trip time of just under 5 hours. I was very impressed that they were back in time for us all to go out to lunch together!

Arkansas Hike: Triple Falls (Twin Falls) near Buffalo National River

The leaves are beginning to change and the morning air is crisp and cool. We set out last weekend to drive through the scenic towns of Ponca and Jasper which sit along the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. This drive features towering bluffs, river views, fall foliage, and even a chance to spot elk which live in the Boxley Valley near Ponca.

triple Falls (twin falls)

The highlight of our day trip was a hike to Twin Falls, also known as Triple Falls. To get there, take highway 74 and turn on to Camp Orr road by Kyle’s Landing. The gravel/dirt road is well maintained, but very steep. Don’t attempt to drive down this road without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. We stopped several times to rest our brakes so they wouldn’t burn up.

how to get to twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike.
Steep gravel road leading to Triple Falls (Twin Falls) hike

There is a small parking lot and signage to point you in the direction of the falls. The hike is only .3 miles each way. I still can’t believe that we walked such a short distance to find such a gorgeous spot.

twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike.
Twin Falls signage

Perhaps the most confusing part of this hike is that it’s referred to as Triple Falls Trail on hiking sites such as AllTrails, however the official name is Twin Falls.

twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike.
The trail leads along a pretty creek. Our girls (ages 2 and 4) were able to walk on their own.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
We held their hands to cross over slippery rocks near the falls. I’ve learned (the hard way) that I’d rather get our feet a little wet than falling on rocks.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Our girls loved playing in the flat area near the falls. They could spend hours throwing rocks into creek beds.
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Taking in the beautiful falls
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
Our daughter enjoys taking her own pictures on short hikes like this one
twin falls near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
A kind fellow-hiker offered to take our family’s picture. She captured one of the rare occasions that we were all looking in the same general direction.
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.
When there is enough rain, you will see three waterfalls (rather than the two which the falls are named for).
twin falls (also known as triple falls) near ponca and jasper, buffalo river area hike. waterfall hike. short and family friendly hike in arkansas.

When we turned back towards our car to continue our drive, our girls asked if we could stay longer. That’s a big win! If you are looking for a fun family-friendly adventure near Ponca and Jasper, I highly recommend checking out Twin Falls.

For a slightly longer adventure, check out the Lost Valley hike which is located nearby.

Texas Girls Trip

In the beginning of the year, I sat down and came up with a list of 19 things I wanted to do in 2019. I got this idea from the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. Last month, I got to check ‘girls trip to Dallas’ off my list. My mom, sister, and I took a weekend away to visit old friends, indulge in a little pampering, and take a day-trip to Waco to shop at Magnolia Market.

Girls weekend to Dallas, Texas

I decided to drive to Dallas from my home in Fayetteville, Arkansas which took about 5 hours. During the drive, I appreciated the rare alone time and listened to an audio book. The hours passed by quickly, and soon I was at the airport to pick up my mom and sister who flew in from Kansas City. This was my first time driving to the airport in Dallas, so figuring out the airport toll and which terminal to go to, was the most stressful part of the journey. Luckily, I arrived at the right place at the right time.

harbor district in rockwall, texas

We chose to stay at a hotel close to our friend’s home in Rockwall, Texas which is 25 miles away from Dallas. Our room had views of Lake Ray Hubbard – one of the largest lakes in north Texas. We also enjoyed the hotel’s proximity to restaurants along the Harbor.

Harbor District on Lake Ray Hubbard in Rockwall, Texas

Enjoying authentic Tex-Mex was a priority item on my Texas to-do list, so we ate a late lunch at Gloria’s Restaurant at the Harbor. We also went to Hollywood Nails & Spa to get a pedicure. It was nice to get pampered! We headed back to our room to freshen up before meeting our friends at their lovely home.

road trip to Waco, texas

Visiting Waco on a Saturday in September, we knew we had to get an early start to arrive before the Magnolia attractions got too crowded. We ate breakfast at our hotel and drove nearly 2 hours to Waco. The time went quickly as we chatted.

When we arrived in Waco, we found off-street parking a couple blocks away from the Magnolia Silos. On the walk there, we stopped in fun decor shops called The Findery and the Findery Marketplace.

Shopping in Waco, Texas

magnolia market

Once inside the Magnolia Market, it was difficult to decide what to look at first. How does Joanna Gaines design spaces that feel both crisp and cozy at the same time? I guess that is why so many people (including me) are drawn to visit the HGTV designer’s shops. Besides taking time to smell every type of scented candle, my favorite section was their beautiful garden. I’m inspired to plant daisies, lavender, and roses!

Magnolia Market & Silos in Waco, Texas
I love the sweet combination of Blackfoot Daisy and Fernleaf Lavender found in the Magnolia Garden.

Waxahachie, Texas

After a delightful morning in Waco, we headed back towards our hotel. On the way, we stopped for a late lunch in a quaint town called Waxahachie. On the town square we decided to try Farmluck. I wish we would have come with larger appetites. The ice cream desserts served from their old-fashioned soda fountain looked absolutely amazing. There is a vintage candy store in the back where I purchased kid-sized aprons for my two little girls.

Waxahachie, Texas

downtown rockwall, texas

Once back in Rockwall, we took some time to relax and change clothes before heading out to dinner with our friends in downtown Rockwall. We enjoyed eating at Zanata where we shared a flavorful house salad and a ‘Spiked Happy Hour’ pizza cooked on their wood burning oven. Downtown Rockwall was bustling with live music and families taking pictures of their kids all dressed up for homecoming.

Wine on the patio

We ended our girls weekend with a final stroll around the Harbor and a glass of wine at a restaurant that had an outdoor patio. Great food, nice views, fun pedicures, amazing shopping, a little wine, and the best companions made our Texas trip a perfect girls weekend.

the best of texas

I hope you enjoyed reading about our girls trip to Texas. From Dallas to Austin and San Antonio – there are a lot of big destinations to choose from when planning a trip to the Lone Star State. The smaller city of Rockwall surprised us with its charm and walkability. We fit in a lot to our weekend getaway, but I know there is more to experience in Texas. I’m excited to go back.

Eldora Ski Weekend

This week Estes Park, Colorado had its first snow of the season. Which means it’s time to start planning our winter trip(s) out to Colorado. There are a lot of fun things to do in Estes Park during the colder winter months. We’ve written about sledding, snow shoeing, winter hiking and shopping in downtown Estes Park.

For all that Estes Park has to offer, it does not have a traditional ski resort. However, there are day-trip destinations close by including Eldora which is located in Nederland, Colorado. Nederland is located an hour from Denver, an hour from Estes Park, and 35 minutes from Boulder, Colorado. There is a bus service from downtown Boulder to Eldora.

Ski lift at Eldora

Eldora is smaller in size compared to other popular skiing destinations in Colorado. We didn’t grow up going skiing, so we appreciate that there are slopes available for different skill levels. Lessons are offered for adults and children starting at age 4.

Eldora is scheduled to open for the season on November 15, 2019. You can find more information about ticket prices online at eldora.com.

My husband has enjoyed a couple winter ‘guy trips’ to Eldora and Estes Park. He helped me put together a sample itinerary based on his trips.

Itinerary for Estes Park and Eldora Winter Adventure Weekend

Winter Hike Rocky Mountain National Park

Thursday: Fly into Denver International Airport in the evening and rent car. Drive to Estes Park to stay in cabin. Stop by grocery store on the way into town to stock up on essentials.

Friday: Wake up and eat breakfast at the cabin before heading to Eldora for a day of skiing. Try to leave before 8am to beat the crowd. Parking is limited. Some in the group can take ski lessons, others might choose to immediately hit the slopes. After a full morning of skiing, take a break by eating lunch at one of Eldora’s restaurants.

Get in a couple more runs. After leaving Eldora, stop by Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland, CO for a pint of beer. (Thank sober driver by promising to pick up his dinner tab.) Drive back to Estes Park and grab take-out pizza at Antonio’s Pizza, Poppy’s Pizza, or Sweet Basilico.

Saturday: Wake up and go to breakfast at Notchtop Café. Head to The Warming House which opens at 9am to rent gear such as snowshoes and hiking poles. Head into Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe or hike (depending on weather and trail conditions). It’s important to talk to national park rangers to check on conditions before heading out in the winter. Two hikes you can ask about are Bierstadt Lake and Mills Lake.

Frozen Mills Lake

After hiking, warm up at a local brewery. We enjoy Rockcut where you can play games in their laid back tasting room. Walk to nearby Café de Pho Thai for late lunch.

Downtown Estes Park has some great places to shop for a souvenir for kids or significant others. Trendz boutique and Mary Janes have a lot of great gift options.

Return to cabin to barbecue or make some chili. Stay up late playing ‘nerdy’ board games.

Sunday: Head back towards Denver. If there is time, stop at Snooze for brunch before dropping off the rental car and taking off at the airport.