Coconino National Forest: Bell Rock Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Coconino National Forest surrounds the towns of Sedona and Flagstaff in Arizona with landscapes ranging from red rocks and deserts to pine forests. When planning our Sedona vacation, we’d come across a Mom site that listed two favorite family-friendly hikes: Devil’s Bridge and Bell Rock. We didn’t realize that both of these trails were within the National Forest boundaries, didn’t find the park’s website and just got directions at the hotel.

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After hiking to the Devil’s Bridge in the morning, we decided to try the Bell Rock Trail in the afternoon. This trail head was much easier to find than the Devil’s Bridge trail…there are signs pointing to the parking lot off the main highway in town.

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From the parking lot we took a nice walk up the wide, flat Bell Rock Pathway enjoying awesome views of Bell Rock & Courthouse Butte.  We shared the trail with cyclists and a lot of other casual hikers. There was no shade and we quickly tired from the August heat.

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After a while, we came to a bench under a shade tree. My daughter and I relaxed there with a dehydrated cyclist while my husband continued on to the Bell Rock trail to climb up the rock.

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While he was off on his rock climbing adventure, we saw a roadrunner in the path. My daughter had been hoping to see one the whole trip. Alas, he was too speedy for me to capture on ‘film.’

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Hubby saw a rattlesnake up on Bell Rock. Thankfully, it didn’t pay him any mind. At one point, we managed to get a signal and he messaged us to look up to see him waving from an elbow high in the formation.

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To see my other Sedona posts, click below:

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Location: Courthouse Vista loop off HWY 179, Sedona, AZ 86336

Designation: National Forest

Date designation declared: 7/2/1908

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014

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Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Day2-DSCN0022Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a National Recreation Area contained within the Siuslaw National Forest and so is a unit of the US Forest Service, not the NPS. Back in my post on Flathead National Forest, I talked briefly about the Forest Service’s mission of managed conservation vs. the National Park Service’s goal of preservation. As a result of this different ‘prime directive’, you are likely to find more commercial recreational opportunities in National Forest lands.

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Oregon Dunes is a 40 mile stretch along the southern Oregon coastline of temperate sand dunes intermingled with forested land. We stopped in a few sections of this park on our drive down Highway 101 to Redwoods National Park.

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Our first stop was in the northern section in Florence, Oregon. We took a sandrail tour with Sandland Adventures, giving us our first glimpse of these sand mountains.

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Our driver and tour guide was Ben. We took the thirty minute tour and it was a wild, thrilling ride around the dunes with some scenic interludes while we caught our breath. There is a calmer ride available on a sort of dune bus for those with motion sickness issues.

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The dunes themselves are the result of millions of years of wind erosion. Some of them are 500 feet above sea level. Here and there you will find a forested oasis in the middle of all that sand.

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As we traveled south the dunes were visible from the highway in some sections. Our next stop was in Reedsport where we found the park’s Visitor Center was closed. So we had lunch across the street at the Harbor Light Family Restaurant.

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This is a small place, frequented by locals. We did have to wait 15 minutes for a table to open up, but it was worth the wait. They source many of their ingredients locally. Two of us had the chicken pot pie. They have a smoker and use the tender smoked chicken in the pot pie. Yum!

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After lunch, we visited Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. This park is centered within Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area. Though the dunes here are not as dramatic as in the Northern section, there is a beautiful ocean vista, a historic lighthouse (circa 1894) and a small museum.

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Location: 855 U.S. 101, Reedsport, OR 97467

Designation: National Forest, National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 3/23/1972

Date of my visit: 8/20/2016

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Travelling south over the Conde McCullough Memorial/Coos Bay Bridge as we left the Oregon Dunes NRA behind. This bridge was built in 1936 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Coconino National Forest: Chapel of the Holy Cross

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Catholic chapel built into the buttes of Sedona, Arizona.  It was inspired by the vision of Marguerite Brunswig Staude. She’d imagined a cross superimposed on the newly constructed Empire State Building in 1932 and set out to build the grand chapel of her dreams.

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After a failed attempt to build the chapel in Budapest, Staude set her sights on her home town of Sedona.  She chose a site within Coconino National forest and had to obtain a special-use permit from the Secretary of the Interior to build there.

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It took 18 months to build the chapel at a cost of $300,000. It was completed in 1956. The 11 acres on which Holy Cross sits is still owned by the US Forest service, but is managed by the local Roman Catholic Diocese.

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It’s a simple, humble structure set in a majestic backdrop. It is too small to host regular services, so it serves as a non-denominational shrine for the thousands who visit it each year.

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To see my other Sedona posts, click below:

Location: 780 Chapel Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: October 6, 2011 (added to NRHP)

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014

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View of Snoopy Rock from the restaurant we went to for lunch after visiting Chapel of the Holy Cross. Snoopy Rock is the formation on the right in this photo (imagine Snoopy’s silhouette laying on top of the dog house)

Coconino National Forest: Devil’s Bridge

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Coconino National Forest surrounds the towns of Sedona and Flagstaff in Arizona with landscapes ranging from red rocks and deserts to pine forests. We were staying in Sedona for part of our Arizona vacation and had stumbled upon the Devil’s Bridge hike when researching things to do in the area.

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It didn’t occur to us at the time that this striking red rock terrain was actually part of a national forest, so we didn’t find the Devils Bridge webpage.  Instead, we asked at our hotel about it and they pointed us in the general direction with a map. Even with the map, we had a hard time finding the trail head at first. There is trail head parking just off Vultee Arch.

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There is an easy green trail marked on the map at the trail head. There is also a moderate blue trail and difficult red trail. The trails are not themselves marked by color. We opted for the easy trail.

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The easy trail is the dirt road just before the parking lot that the jeep tourism companies use. It is uphill, sandy, hot and dry…so ‘easy’ is a relative term. The whole 3-mile hike was a piece of cake for my husband (who runs Spartan Races) but not so much for me and my daughter.

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In three-quarters of a mile, the dirt road meets up with the path to Devils Bridge. From there, it becomes more difficult. It’s another climb of about three quarters of a mile with some steep natural stone steps and very little shade.

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There are wonderful views of the valley and surrounding mountains on the way up.

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The natural bridge is a 50-foot high sandstone arch and looks perilous as you approach it, but it’s wider than it appears as you walk out on it. Fearless people do jumping jacks for selfies in the middle of the bridge.

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I stood there long enough for a photo, fighting the urge to crawl back to safety, trying not to look down at the sheer drop on either side of me.

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To see my other Sedona posts, click below:

  • Devil’s Bridge
  • Bell Rock (coming soon)
  • Chapel of the Holy Cross (coming soon)

Location: Devil’s Bridge Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336

Designation: National Forest

Date designated or established: 7/2/1908

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014

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Flathead National Forest: Middle Fork Flathead River

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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We spent Day 4 of our Montana trip with Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Company. In the morning, we had hiked to Avalanche Lake inside the park (read about that here.) In the afternoon, we regrouped at the Glacier guides headquarters in West Glacier where we met up with our guide Ryan for a scenic float trip on the Flathead.

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The Middle Fork Flathead River is a 92 mile river that forms the Southern boundary of Glacier National Park and the Northern boundary of Flathead National Forest. The Flathead is designated a National Wild and Scenic River.

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The waters are pure and a haven for native Bull and Cutthroat Trout. The colorful rocks found here and around Glacier National Park are called Argillite. They range in color from red to green, depending on the heat and pressure they were exposed to during formation.

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We shared a raft with another family from Los Angeles. We floated peacefully downstream, conversing with them and Ryan.

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We put in around West Glacier where the river was wide open. As we traveled downstream, canyon walls rose up dramatically around us.

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We landed about 5 miles south of where we’d started, by the Blankenship Bridge.

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Location: West Glacier, MT

Designation: National Forest, Wild and Scenic River

Date designated or established: 1976

Date of my visit: 6/25/2018

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Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest – Natural Bridge Interpretive Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest was originally two separate forest units covering parts of Oregon and California. They were combined into one unit in 2004. The Rogue River is a US Wild and Scenic River, also managed by the US Forest Service.

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We stopped at the Natural Bridge Interpretive Trail on our way from Crater Lake to Grants Pass. There are restrooms in the parking lot and it’s just off the main road.
A short trail leads to a raging section of the Rogue River, which shoots through some lava tubes and comes out the other end as a waterfall…a natural wonder.

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We were exhausted from a full day of hiking and exploring in Crater Lake National Park, so this was an excellent place to stop on our approximately 2-hour drive  back to our hotel.

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It was an easy 1/4 mile walk to the natural land bridge from the parking lot with a level, wide path, benches and interpretive displays along the way. It was just enough for us to stretch our legs, take some photos and move on to the next stop.

For those interested in a more in-depth exploration of the area, the interpretive trail does connect to the Rogue Gorge Trail and Upper Rogue River Trail.

Location: 9 miles North of Prospect, OR

Designation: National Forest, Wild and Scenic River

Date designated or established: 2004

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016

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Flathead National Forest-Whitefish Mountain

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Flathead National Forest covers over 2.4 million acres of which about 1 million acres is designated wilderness. Pinchot, the first chief of the US Forest Service, promoted ‘managed conservation’ (rather than preservation like the NPS) for our public lands, allowing for responsible, partial commercial use of National Forests.

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The 1.4 million acres of Flathead National forest which are not designated a wilderness area are used for two ski resorts, logging, limited berry harvesting and cattle grazing.

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Our flight landed in Kalispell, Montana in the early afternoon. Not quite ready to take on Glacier National Park, we headed over to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Whitefish Mountain Resort is inside the boundaries of Flathead National Forest, which shares its Northern border with Glacier National Park.

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We rode the ski lift to the Summit House. We had a choice of open chair lifts or enclosed gondolas. We opted for the open chair…photo opps always take precedence over being warm. It was 57 degrees Fahrenheit and windy at the summit.

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The Summit House opened in 1990 and houses a nature center with a Forest Service Education Center in the basement. We stopped in the gift shop for a souvenir pin.

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Outside, we took in the views of the surrounding Rockies and Flathead Valley. There was still quite a bit of snow, even in late June. We walked a little on some of the clear trails at the top, enjoying the smell of pine that wafted in the air.

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We’d intended to hike the Danny On trail back down to the lodge, but it was closed due to snowy conditions. The Danny On Memorial Trail is a National Recreation Trail, with the shortest route to the base lodge being 3.9 steep miles. This is why the trail is closed when ice and snow are present.

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So we improvised and took the chair lift halfway down the mountain. The best views were on the lift ride down the mountain. Then we rode the alpine sled back down to the lodge.

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Location: 3808 Big Mountain Rd, Whitefish, MT 59937, USA

Designation: National Forest

Date designation declared: 2/27/1897

Date of my visit: 6/22/2018

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