Arkansas Hike – War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park

withrow springs state park

‘Oh the weather outside is’…. beautiful! I’m excited that we kicked off our Christmas vacation with family time outdoors. The weather was sunny with temperatures in the 60s when we headed to Withrow Springs State Park. The park is located near Huntsville, Arkansas which is approximately 20 minutes away from our home in Northwest Arkansas. Entrance into the park is free. Dogs are allowed on a leash.

Withrow Springs has three hiking trails (click here for map) along with campsites and a visitor center. Additional attractions include a fishing pond, natural spring, picnic areas, swimming pool, playground, tennis courts, baseball fields, and kayak/canoe rental service. Some of the amenities are seasonal. Visitors can call 479-559-2593 for more information.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

war eagle trail

We decided to hike along the War Eagle Trail so we could enjoy the river and bluff views. We parked at the trail parking lot and began the 1 mile/way hike which follows along War Eagle Creek.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

Easy, but narrow Trail

This trail is rated as ‘easy’, but there are several places along the trail which become very narrow and steep. We took things slow and held hands with our young daughters (ages 2 and 5) through these sections.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

cave

There is a small cave that marks the halfway point on the hike. The cave is closed to “help prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome among Arkansas’ bat population,” according to state park officials. For us, this added to the mystery – the girls enjoyed peaking inside and were curious what could be found in the dark.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

After the cave, the trail climbs uphill through forest.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

The girls were excited to bring their own backpacks which held snacks and water bottles.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

scenic views

The burst uphill is rewarded with scenic views from a 150 foot bluff overlook. This is the highlight of the hike and worth taking a moment to stop and enjoy the views of the surrounding Ozarks.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks
War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

After we passed the bluff, the trail soon flattened out and led to a turn-around point. We decided to cross the street (ARK Hwy 23) to have a snack at the picnic tables located near the Keith Ham Pavilion and the starting point of the Dogwood Trail.

The girls and I staid behind with our snacks while my husband hiked one mile back along the War Eagle Trail to get our car. We made this decision because we were a little nervous to travel back down some of the steeper sections of the trail with our girls.

War Eagle Trail in Withrow Springs State Park. Arkansas State Parks

first day hike

Looking for a great way to kick off 2020? The staff at Withrow Springs will be hosting a one-mile hike that covers the Dogwood Trail and portions of the War Eagle Trail on the morning of January 1, 2020. More info…

Falling for Fayetteville – The 12 Best Things From Our First Year in Northwest Arkansas

It’s difficult to believe that we have been living in Northwest Arkansas for a year! It feels like the time went by so quickly. In honor of our upcoming one year anniversary, I thought I’d share some of our favorite things about our new home town.

1. Hiking Kessler Mountain

hiking kessler mountain in fayetteville arkansas

We feel lucky to have such a diverse trail system close to our home. Kessler Mountain has 10 trails that are used for hiking and mountain biking. There is also a fun playground for the kids. Read more…

2. Playing in the Creek

best parks with creeks in northwest arkansas. playgrounds in northwest arkansas

Forget playground equipment – my girls can spend hours just throwing rocks into water. Northwest Arkansas has a lot of river banks and creeks. Some of our favorites playgrounds with creeks to explore are Parks Springs Park in Bentonville and Gulley Park in Fayetteville.

3. Savoy Tea Co.

savoy tea co. fayetteville arkansas

Located right off the historic square in downtown Fayetteville, this tea shop is one of the sweetest places I’ve ever seen. They have tea service for little ones (and adults) and they sell a wide variety of tea you can make at home. My girls enjoy the magical unicorn tea that changes color when you add lemon. They also love choosing a cookie from their beautiful display.

4. Fishing

fishing in arkansas

We are lucky to have rivers, lakes, and ponds near our home. The girls both caught their first fish this year and are proud owners of princess fishing poles.

5. Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks

botanical gardens of the ozarks

We enjoy Little Sprouts story times at the Botanical Garden. After the program, we like to explore the twelve themed gardens. Our favorite is the Children’s Garden which has a whimsical tree house and sand play area.

6. Razorback Gymnastics

razorback gymnastics

Woo Pig Sooie! Fayetteville, Arkansas is home to the University of Arkansas. It’s fun to live in a college town because there is always something going on including a variety of athletic events. I took the girls to a Razorback Gymnastics meet and we all loved it. The team was supported by local fans and by the cheerleaders and Razorback mascot.

7. Terra Studios

terra studios arkansas

Terra Studios is an art park and gallery. They are known for their Blue Birds of Happiness. We enjoyed walking around the unique art displays, grabbing a snack at the cafe, and purchasing a crystal sun catcher that lights up our playroom with little rainbows each morning.

8. State Parks

state parks in arkansas

Arkansas is called the Natural State. We are lucky to have several state parks in Northwest Arkansas. Our favorites are Devil’s Den and Hobbs State Park.

9. Biking in Northwest Arkansas

biking in northwest arkansas

Our family has dived into NWA’s biking culture. Our oldest daughter learned how to ride her bike without training wheels this summer which was very exciting. We enjoyed a family bike day at Lake Atalanta in Rogers, Arkansas and the girls loved the Bike Playground in Bentonville. My husband and I went on a lot of ‘bike and brewery’ dates on the Razorback Greenway trail which was a blast. I wrote about our favorite sections of the trail and breweries here…

10. Buffalo National River Area

hiking waterfalls national buffalo river

Although we haven’t gone floating down the famous Buffalo National River since we’ve moved here, we have enjoyed hiking around this scenic area. The waterfalls are truly amazing! We visited the remarkable Lost Valley Trail and Triple (Twin) Falls.

11. Farmland Adventures

farmland adventures in springdale arkansas

This autumn we enjoyed the pony rides, farm animals, sunflowers, pumpkins, giant hay stacks (plus more!) at Farmland Adventures in Springdale, Arkansas.

12. NWA Local Restaurants

best family-friendly restaurants in northwest arkansas

Going out to eat as a young family can be a little difficult, but we’ve found several places that our family enjoys including: The Farmer’s Table Cafe, Tiny Tim’s Pizza, Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese, Penguin Ed’s Barbecue, Wright’s BBQ, and the Bean Cafe at War Eagle Mill. We are also fans of Arsagas coffee – the girls ask for banana bread each time we visit the Fayetteville Library location.

This list is a continuation of the list I created after our first month in NWA, “Our 9 Favorite Things Since Moving to Arkansas Last Month” (#9 is what I’m most grateful for). I’m happy to look back and see how much we’ve enjoyed our first year. Let me know if I missed one of your favorites.

Estes Park Winter Bucket List

The temperatures are dropping, the days are getting shorter, and the first few holiday decorations are going up. Winter is on it’s way, so I’m getting in the spirit by making a winter bucket list for our trip to Estes Park, Colorado.

Go Sledding

Sledding at Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park is our favorite winter activity.

Snowshoe

Snowshoeing is a fun way to explore Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter. You can rent snowshoes locally at retailers who rent out gear like the Warming House in Estes Park.

Winter Hike

Some of our favorite winter hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park include Alberta Falls, Moraine Park, and Lily Lake.

Frozen river in Moraine Park

Drink Hot Chocolate

Sipping a steamy cup of hot chocolate is the best way to warm up during the winter months. Our favorite places to get a hot chocolate are Kind Coffee and Trailhead Restaurant. For more ideas, we wrote a fun post last winter about the Best Places to ‘Have a Cup of Cheer’.

Shop for a Christmas ornament

One of our favorite holiday traditions is visiting one of the Christmas Shops in downtown Estes Park and letting each of our girls pick out a special ornament to hang on our tree. The town has several Christmas shops including The Spruce House and The Christmas Shoppe.

Sit by the fireplace with a good book

Our cabin has a great fireplace in the living room and I love to sit next to it and read books while the snow falls outside our window. I wrote a post for fellow Book Lovers here.

Star Gaze

Fascinated by outer space? The Estes Park Memorial Observatory schedules private viewing sessions for groups who enjoy learning about astronomy.

go to a Movie theater

Estes Park has two movie theaters, Reel Mountain and the Historic Park Theatre & Cafe. Both venues are showing Frozen II this winter – a movie that our daughters want to watch again and again.

float down the lazy river

The Estes Valley Community Center opened a new pool with a lazy river, slides and water play area. There are resident and non-resident fees to use the facility. 

Attend a local festival

The winter is full of exciting events in Estes Park including:

  • Estes Park Tree Lighting Ceremony – 3:30-5:30 pm on November 23, 2019
  • Catch the Glow Parade – 5:30 pm on November 29, 2019
  • Estes Park Holiday Wine Fest – November 30 – December 1, 2019
  • Estes Park Winter Festival – January 19 – 20, 2020
  • Wine and Chocolate Festival – February 8, 2020

Check out the Estes Park Event Complex’s website for more information.

art groove

The First Friday Art Groove events in Estes Park celebrate local artists. A Winter Trolley will run between the galleries. Art Groove events are from 5pm to 8pm on December 6, January 3, and February 7. The event is free to the public.

Enjoy a quiet moment of reflection

This time of year can be hectic with events and shopping. My natural inclination is to have a to-do list running through my head. Seeking out quiet places to reflect on the year will help me maintain a sense of peace and appreciation.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel (Chapel on the Rock) is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 AM – 4 PM, except on national holidays. There is a weekly Catholic Mass every Tuesday at 11:45 AM.

Taking Root in Colorado – An Interview with Alison Stafford

Skiing, lakes, national parks, fly fishing – it’s all within 30 minutes of our Granby condo.

Alison

Recently I reached out to my high school classmate Alison (Jolin) Stafford to see if she would be willing to answer a few questions that I had about Granby, Colorado, traveling with kids, and prime ski season. She graciously provided me with tons of helpful tips and is letting me share them here.

Family adventures in Granby, Colorado
Fun for the whole family!

Kelly: We went to high school together, but to be honest, I mostly know you from your exciting social media posts about living life in Colorado with your husband and adorable twins. I’d love to know what inspired you to move to Colorado and what you love most about raising young boys there?  

Alison: The mountains brought me west from Kansas City in 2006 for a brief stint in Steamboat Springs.  I hopped back to KC to get my Masters Degree in Nonprofit Management at UMKC, then immediately knew I wanted to be back in Colorado.  I’ve been in the Denver metro area now for 11 years and wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m a nomad at heart, but have delightfully (and surprisingly at times) taken root in Colorado.  Raising my toddler twin boys in the outdoors is something I’m very grateful for – as well as my husband.  Whether the woods of Northern Michigan or on the water boating around KC,  we both grew up loving the outdoors in our respective hometown areas and love that we have an endless array of options for our kiddos to choose from too.  We have short road trips often and always find new treasures to explore.

Kelly: There are so many great places to visit in Colorado, what draws your family to Granby? 

Alison: The proximity to Granby is a major bonus for us as it’s only 1.5 hours door to door from our home to our mountain condo.  Also, we get a lot more bang for our buck while still have ski in/ski out amenities.  Skiing, lakes, national parks, fly fishing – it’s all within 30 minutes of our Granby condo.

Skiing, lakes, national parks, fly fishing – it’s all within 30 minutes of our Granby condo.
The breathtaking view from our condo balcony. Views of Grand Lake & RMNP in the distance. 25 min from the south entrance to the park.

Kelly: What are your best tips for enjoying ski vacations with kids? (How early do they start ski school, do you rotate, is there a kids watch area?) 

Alison: I can’t wait to start our 2 year old twin boys in ski school, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait until next ski season.  Selfishly and shamelessly, it’s one of my driving factors to potty train the little stinkers asap.  For now, since we have a ski in/ski out condo, my husband and I take turns throughout the day.  Convenience is key (with skiing and life).  We’ve also found a great local babysitting service that we use.  With the close proximity, we can take some runs down the mountain, have a quick happy hour, then hit the hot tub all in 3-4 hours.  It’s perfect!

Ski Granby Colorado
Main lift at Granby Ranch Ski resort.
Ski date in Granby Colorado
Day date with the hubs. We have a great sitter through Grand County Sitters.

Kelly: What are your favorite restaurants in Granby/Grand Lake area?

Alison: Easy answers – Tabernash Tavern and also Heck’s Tavern at Devil’s Thumb Ranch.  We’ve gone to both as a date without the kiddos and also with the entire family.  One of the many reasons we love the area – very family friendly everywhere!  Granby is on the brink of a lot of growth and we’re very excited about the new options.

Friends reunion in Granby Colorado
Friends since elementary school girls trip! 

Kelly: When I think of Granby I think of skiing, but I know it’s a year-round destination plus it’s close to Rocky Mountain National Park and other National Forests areas. What other outdoor activities do you enjoy with your family in this area? Any favorite hikes you’d recommend?

Alison: We recently rented a pontoon boat on Lake Granby for Father’s Day and it was a blast.  Being out on the water is simply breathtaking and there’s a lot of options to stop and take it all in.  A HUGE bonus for me is that all of the lakes allow stand up paddle boarding.  That is one of my big hobbies and there are sandy banks a’plenty launch off while the fam hangs out, has a picnic or splashes in the water.  Hikes will be on the agenda soon, but 2 year old toddler twins makes that a little tricky at this point.  My husband is a big fly fisherman so anytime he can get a cast in the water, he’s happy.  Luckily we have private fishing access to the Colorado River via our mountain condo at Granby Ranch.

Heated swimming pool in Granby, Colorado
Snow on the ground still means fun in the (heated) pool.

Kelly: How can people stay at your vacation rental? How far out do people need to book? What is prime ski time? Any other tips?

Alison: We love having other families enjoy our home away from home.  I personally manage our condo, so you’re always working directly with me for any questions or needs.  Bookings and the calendar are current through: https://www.vrbo.com/1219384 I have families that book a year in advance and also availability with short notice at times too.  If we aren’t staying there ourselves, I love for others to stay and enjoy.  Prime ski time is December (holidays) through early April and they recently built in new snow making capabilities which means MORE SNOW!  It’s convenient, not overcrowded, reasonably priced, beautiful and we’ve yet to have a person not fall in love with the area.

Yoga from the Top, Granby Ranch summer Saturday mornings
Yoga from the Top! Granby Ranch summer Saturday mornings.