Tanyard Creek Nature Trail in Bella Vista, Arkansas

Bella Vista makes a welcoming front porch to Northwest Arkansas. I remember holding my breath as we crossed the border from our home state of Missouri and letting out a sigh of relief as we drove into Bella Vista. ‘See girls we can live in Arkansas – look at all the pretty golf courses (even though I don’t golf), and all the active people out biking and walking around the lake.’

We moved to Arkansas this winter and now that the weather is warming, I’m eager to get out and explore more of ‘the natural state’. Last week I took my 2-year-old on a hike around the Tanyard Creek Nature Trail in Bella Vista.

Tanyard Creek Nature Trail signage

Tanyard Creek Blacktop Path

The first path we came to was a paved 1/3 mile loop which was the perfect place for my toddler to walk on her own because it was flat. When we got a little tired we rested on a bench.

Tanyard creek nature trail

Past the paved section the nature trail begins. We continued to keep right as the trail took us up, around, and over the creek.

Tanyard Creek Nature Trail in Bella Vista. northwest arkansas hiking

We crossed over several bridges.

Tanyard Creek Nature Trail in Bella Vista. northwest arkansas hiking. hiking with kids

And walked along a limestone cave.

hiking by cave in northwest arkansas. bella vista arkansas. tanyard creek

In places you could hear road and construction noise. I didn’t mind because I think it’s nice to find hidden gems within city limits.

tanyard creek bella vista

Dotted along the trail, volunteers have placed signs that explain what kind of trees and rocks we were looking at. I appreciate signage so I can sound smart when I’m hiking with my kids.

northwest arkansas creek hike

There wasn’t a sign telling me what kind of animal this cute little guy is, but I’m guessing he is a ground hog and he was announcing, ‘It’s spring!’

tanyard creek nature

We were on alert for less cuddly creatures. Signs warn that snakes might be enjoying the sunshine on rocks near the creek. I’m terrified of snakes and I’m relieved we didn’t see any.

spring hikes in northwest arkansas. tanyard creek

Even though this trail is only 2 miles long, it felt like an adventure because of the bridges, cave and creek.

tanyard creek nature in bella vista arkansas

We hiked on a beautiful weekday morning. I was pleased to see several fellow hikers enjoying the trail, but it didn’t feel over crowded.

tanyard creek nature in bella vista arkansas. northwest arkansas hiking destination

We passed a small pond covered in water lilies. Beyond the pond was a large hill which leads to the Lake Windsor Dam.

tanyard creek nature trail pond near windsor dam in bella vista

After the pond, the trail heads up at a steeper rate toward the waterfall lookout. The waterfall spilled into the creek which a fellow hiker mentioned was pretty dry this time of year. I’m guessing the waterfall and creek are even more impressive later in the season.

waterfall hike tanyard creek nature trail bella vista arkansas

I carried my daughter in a kid carrier on my back, but after the waterfall she was eager to get down and walk on her own. We found a flat area and she happily sat along the creek and threw rocks in the water to make ripples. She could do this for hours.

tanyard creek

With all the ripple making, we decided to skip a fairly big section of the trail. I’m eager to go back to explore the rest of the trail soon.

More Adventures in Northwest Arkansas

If you are interested in hiking in Arkansas, you may enjoy reading about our hike at Devil’s Den State Park and on Kessler Mountain.

A Trail Less Traveled: Hollowell Park to Mill Creek Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park

It’s official – we have been away from Rocky Mountain National Park for far too long! But the count-down is on because we reserved our cabin for a trip at the end of May. In anticipation, I’ve been taking a look back through our family’s hiking journal and came across a hike that I haven’t shared before.

Hollowell Park

Back in May of 2016, we ventured to Hollowell Park because it was an area in RMNP that we had never explored. We hoped it would be a good place to hike with our toddler during the spring season when some higher altitude hikes are still covered in ice and snow. The Hollowell Park turnoff is approximately 8,300 ft in elevation according to the park’s website. In comparison, Bear Lake is 9,475 ft.

I took a picture of the sign at Hollowell Park to give myself a visual of all the destinations you can hike to including Cub Lake, Bierstadt Lake, and Bear Lake. Hiking from Hollowell Park is not the most direct route to these popular attractions, but it could be a good alternate route to avoid some of the crowds during peak visitor season.

Hikes from Hallowell Park in Rocky Mountain National Park

Mill Creek Basin

We decided to hike to Mill Creek Basin, which is a less popular destination in the park. Our hike was 1.9 miles each way which began in an open grassy area and climbed an additional 600 feet of elevation through towering pines.

The trail followed a mountain stream called Mill Creek. Several snowy patches remained on the trail along with muddy portions caused by recent snow melt. We crossed over a small wooden bridge to get to the Mill Creek Basin, a meadow with aspens which I imagine are even more beautiful in autumn.

Hallowell Park in RMNP Rocky Mountain National Park
Hollowell Park – Open meadow with views of Rocky Mountains
Deer in Rocky Mountain National Park's Hallowell Park
Deer on the hillside
Mill Creek flows in Rocky Mountain National park
Mill Creek
Hallowell Park trails to Mill Creek Basin, Bierstadt Lake, Bear Lake and Cub Lake.
Trail signage points to Mill Creek Basin, Bierstadt Lake, Bear Lake and Cub Lake
Wooded trail leading to Mill Creek Basin
Towering Pines
Small wooden bridge crossing Mill Creek
Small wood bridge crosses Mill Creek
Mill Creek Basin
Mill Creek Basin
Mill Creek melted snow
Snow in May

Avoid Crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park

If you are interested in additional trails that we think are good for avoiding crowds in Rocky Mountain National Park, I wrote a post about the Glacier Creek trail here.

Spring Hiking in RMNP

Spring can be a tricky season to visit Rocky Mountain National Park because the weather varies day-to-day. Here are some additional lower elevation hikes you might consider:

Best Hikes Under 5 Miles

The hike to Mill Creek Basin was just under 4 miles round trip. When we plan hikes for our young family, we typically aim for hikes that are similar in length. We broke down some of our favorite family-friendly ‘short hikes’ with details to help plan your adventure in the pages linked below:

Less Waste Lent

Lent begins next Wednesday, March 6. This year we decided our family is going to focus on creating less waste for the 40 days leading up to Easter. I’m hopeful that the efforts we make will help us create new habits that will make a lasting impact on our environment and also lead us to become more intentional consumers.

I should start by giving my husband credit for his weekly trips to the recycling center. We currently do not have curb-side recycling available at our house.

Seeing the recycling pile up has made me want to buy less things altogether. We have a lot of room for improvement, so we are focusing on 7 key areas that we think will make the biggest impact in our home.

7 Ways to Reduce Waste at Home

  1. Less Glass – Something we typically give up during Lent is drinking alcohol during the week. Not only is this good for us physically, but this year we are focusing on how our decisions make an impact beyond ourselves and how little decisions add up over time.
  2. No Drive Thru Foods or To-go Drinks – There seems to be a theme about how things that aren’t great for our bodies are also not great for our planet. Have you been through a drive thru and got a bag of garbage per person who orders!? I have and if the french fries don’t hurt my stomach enough, seeing all that trash sure makes me feel sick. That also means no more coffee to-go unless I bring my own cup.
  3. No Shopping Bags – I started ordering groceries online and picking it up at the store which felt like a life-saver during cold winter months when I didn’t want to drag two young kids into the store. But… the bags!! We started collecting piles and piles. Even though I’m recycling or reusing them, I still feel awful and therefore I will be shopping the old fashion way (in the store) with my tote bags.
  4. Less Gas – Occasionally, my girls fall asleep in the car unexpectedly. In an effort to get a nap in, I drive around town happily sipping on a latte enjoying my quiet moment without much thought to the gas I’m wasting. My new solution will be to park and listen to a podcast or read a library book. It’s getting warmer, so I can turn off my car and open a window to enjoy the spring breeze.
  5. Reduce Paper – We get a lot of junk mail and I also have a habit of picking up free magazines. I’m going to email/call to unsubscribe from mailing lists and I’m also going to stop myself from picking up free items.
  6. Save Electricity – when I was a kid my Dad gave me a badge and called me ‘the power patrol’. My job was to go around the house and turn off lights. I think my girls will love to continue this tradition.
  7. Avoid Single Serving Packaging – I love 100 calorie pack almonds. It’s so convenient to have them counted out for me so I don’t eat too many, but I’m really going to focus on purchasing products that aren’t packaged individually (goldfish, yogurt, apple sauce, popsicles, etc.)

Our final goal this Lent is to donate to and support nonprofits that are making a positive impact on our environment including the National Park System that we love so much.

I’m sharing my ideas because I know a lot of people want to do something meaningful for Lent, and I’d love to have you join us! I’ll be posting about our progress on Instagram with the hashtag #lesswastelent.

-Kelly

Lily Mountain – a Dog Friendly Trail near Estes Park, Colorado

We are always on the lookout for dog friendly trails near Estes Park, Colorado because furry friends aren’t allowed on trails in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Lily Mountain is a dog friendly hike. It is located off of Highway 7, just south of Estes Park, Colorado. If I had to choose three words to describe this hike they would be quick, fun and views. The distance is 1.8 miles each way, which is short for a summit hike. You gain 1,240 feet of elevation (according to AllTrails.com)

Lily Mountain trail

The trail is part of the Roosevelt National Forest. There is not a parking lot, but there is space for cars to park off the road. These spots are limited and can fill up quickly. It is fairly easy to pass right by the trailhead without spotting it. If you get to Lily Lake (from Estes Park), you have gone a little too far.

landslide area on lily mountain trail

In 2013, Estes Park and surrounding areas were impacted by devastating flooding and landslides. The trail up Lily Mountain was damaged. You cross over the landslide area at approximately .3 miles into the hike. We have been able to pass through without slipping or footing issues.

hike up Lily Mountain with views of Estes Valley

After you cross, the trail climbs steadily. There are several spots with good lookouts towards the Estes Valley.

Lily Mountain hike

The last couple hundred feet include a class 2 scramble to the summit. For us, that means we use our hands and feet to climb to the top. We do not bring our toddler and preschooler on this section of the trail, instead my husband and I take turns on who gets to summit and who stays back with the kiddos. (I would guess most dogs would also need to stay back – unless they are part mountain goat)

summit trail up Lily Mountain

After the fun scramble to the top, you can catch your breath and enjoy the 360 degree views of the Rocky Mountains.

panoramic views from the top of Lily Mountain
Panoramic Views from the Summit of Lily Mountain during Sunrise

We think this is one of the best views you will find near Estes Park, Colorado. We featured it in a recent post, 9 Hikes with Amazing Views.

Lily Mountain is part of Roosevelt National Forest

If you are looking for more great dog friendly hikes, check out our post about the Homer Rouse Trail in Estes Park, Colorado.