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The Ultimate Guide To Camping Activities for Kids

This guide has everything you need for camping activities for kids. Includes ideas for preschool through high school.

This guide has everything you need for camping activities for kids. Includes ideas for preschool through high school.

Family Camping Activities for All Ages

You might want to start with the super simple ideas in our Backyard Camping: Fun for the Whole Family! If you have been reluctant to try camping, this is an easy way to test it out with your family closer to home. You may just end up liking it! Who knows where you will take your tent next? Make memories together that will last a lifetime.

S’mores are another natural start to family camping activities. Roasting marshmallows around the campfire is an experience we all need to check off our summer bucket list. Find an easy s’mores recipe here.

One fun family camping activity for kids is to plan a picnic! Even a snack in your backyard will make for a fun time together outdoors. You will be surprised at all you notice while you are outside.

Keeping your running Calendar of Firsts updated – mark the first campfire of the season and any other camping discoveries in your nature journal.

last days of summer printable

If you are camping towards the end of summer, you might enjoy this fun Last Days of Summer printable and have fun checking off the items!

Of course, camping in the backyard is fun but here are some ideas for nature study while you travel for your camping adventures.

Discover Nature at Sundown is a great resource for summer nature study and nature studies after dark.

Study the Spectacular Summer Night Sky with this study (and free printable)!

You might want to take along the book, Last Child in the Woods, to read while you are camping!

And if you’d like to skip the mosquitoes all together, consider Online Summer Art Camp with our sister site, You ARE an ARTiST, for some really fun activities including a treasure map, a camp song, your own backyard tent site and campfire.

The Curriculum Choice also has a great round up of summer camp fun for your family.

Enjoy a family homeschool river study finding crawdads and crayfish!

Have a creek near by? What a great way to make memories together. This study is part of Homeschool Nature Study membership and is so much fun!

Camping Activities For Kids: Toddlers and Preschoolers

This summer, many families will be joining the Great American Backyard Campout. In honor of that event, I thought I’d share some toddler and preschool camping activities you can do camping at a camp ground or in your own backyard.  Here are five toddler and preschool camping activities to keep your kids exploring and entertained:

nature walks and treasure hunts are fun camping activities for kids

Even my 19mo. old was able to join in our treasure quest. She was quite proud of all the rocks she found.

1. Nature Walks and Nature Treasure Hunts

Sometimes we use our printable Nature I Spy cards when on our hikes, or we have a certain object that is the “treasure” of the walk that we must find. On this particular walk we were looking for rock and sea shell treasures (Be sure to know the rules of the campground and whether or not you can remove items found in nature.) Find printable Nature I Spy cards in Homeschool Nature Study membership.

My 3yr. old was thrilled whenever she found a shell. It’s not every day that we find shells in the Midwest.

2. Nature Crafts: Create Nature Sculptures

Now I had a specific purpose in mind when we went on our various treasure hunts. We were going to use these nature treasure to make nature sculptures.

nature craft: how to make nature sculptures

I made a batch of lavender playdough ahead of time and brought it with. The girls used this to make various sculptures and imprints of the objects they had collected on our nature walks. For the lavender playdough recipe, check out Sun Hats & Wellies post on making natural nature playdough.

3. Outdoor Games For Kids: Rock Memory Game

My 19mo. old was so good at collecting rocks that we had enough to make our own rock memory game!

Outdoor Games for Kids: how to make a rock memory game

I just used a Sharpie marker to make simple designs on the rocks and flipped them over for an easy game of memory!

4. Bandana Bingo

I found these Bandana Bingo games a few years ago and love how easy they are to carry along on a hike or camping. We own Bug Bingo, but there are other boards available. This is fun to play in teams and see who can find the most items on the grid.

Bandana Bingo outdoor game for kids

5. Camping Clipboards

Each of my children have their own clipboard (afflink) that stores paper and pencils. I fill these clipboards with blank paper, some printed activities such as the nocturnal animals sort, and a couple of pencils. Sometimes they draw their nature treasures, do tree bark rubbings, or just doodle.  They love their clipboards and I’m thankful for a quiet sitting activity that they can do.

Camping Activities for Older Children

Homeschool Nature Study Printables for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Homeschool Nature Study Printables for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Do you like the idea of involving young children in nature study but not sure how to start? Do you need a little help being intentional with your nature studies? Nature Study Printables is full of printable tools for you to use to get young children observing and talking about nature!

Nature Study Printables for Toddlers and Preschoolers is a 60+ page eBook included in Homeschool Nature Study Membership containing all of our toddler and preschool nature study printables plus 20 exclusive pages available only in this book! Use these tools alongside Homeschool Nature Study Preschool Curriculum to help informally introduce young children to the natural world around them.

This guide has everything you need for camping activities for kids. Includes ideas for preschool through high school.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership

Join us for even more homeschool nature studies for all the seasons! With a new nature study each week, you will have joyful learning leading all the way through the homeschool year for all your ages!

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Do you have any family camping or camping with toddlers and preschoolers tips? Will you be doing a backyard campout this year?

By Maureen Spell, a long-time contributor to the Outdoor Hour Challenges. Maureen helps Christian mompreneurs operate their business from a place of joy, purpose, and excellence because they are clear on how their business is serving their family and others. As a homeschool mom, she believes success at home AND business without the mom-guilt, stress and burn-out is possible! Outside of work, she loves having good conversations over a hot chai or GT Gingerberry kombucha and spending time with her husband and seven children. Visit her at

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Backyard Camping: Fun For The Entire Family!

It’s a whole different world…your backyard at night. Backyard camping is a great activity for family fun and learning.

I encourage you to open up a new level of nature study, done at night under the stars in combination with the Great American Backyard Campout!

Check the National Wildlife Federation website for dates and events in your local area: Great American Backyard Campout.

Backyard Camping with The Great American Backyard Campout

Each year, The National Wildlife Federation sponsors the Great American Backyard Campout and you are invited. From their website,”Spend the night under the stars with National Wildlife Federation and take your family’s first step into a lifetime filled with healthy, outdoor fun.”

Watch an introductory video!

If you have been reluctant to try camping, this is an easy way to test it out with your family closer to home. You may just end up liking it! Who knows where you will take your tent next?

I know that sleeping outdoors can seem scary and unfamiliar but overcoming the fear of being outside at night is worth the effort. You will realize there are some amazing things going on between sunset and sunrise right in your own backyard!

Combine nature study with an overnight backyard campout and you will build family memories that last a lifetime.

Nature Study Ideas from the Outdoor Hour Challenge for Backyard Camping Fun

Pick a challenge, read the pages in the Handbook of Nature Study, and then look for an opportunity to apply what you learned. Keep it fun and always, always, always follow your child’s lead if they find something they are interested in. You can follow up with a library book or a Google search in the morning.

Bring a few art supplies outdoors and your nature journal so you are prepared if you find something of interest. If you have a nature related storybook or a favorite outdoor adventure book, bring it out for some after dark reading with a flashlight.

camping fun

More than anything else, be aware of your surroundings and use all your senses, when you can’t rely on your vision…listen, feel, and smell the nighttime in your backyard. Try to spend a few minutes just sitting quietly in the dark if your children are able and see what you notice. Even a few seconds of quiet is good for younger children.

If you are new to nature study, you are invited to download and print our free Three Steps for Success.

More Summer Nature Study Ideas for Your Homeschool

Traveling for camping? Here are some ideas to start with:

Hikes and Field Trips Close to Home

Ultimate Guide to National Parks Nature Study for Your Homeschool

You might also like:

It’s a whole different world…your backyard at night. Open up a new level of nature study with backyard camping!

Summer Nature Study with Homeschool Nature Study Membership

Join us for even more homeschool nature studies for all the seasons! With a new nature study each week, you will have joyful learning leading all the way through the homeschool year for all your ages!

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Handbook of Nature Study for your homeschool

by Barb McCoy, founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenges

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Oregon State Parks – Diverse and Beautiful

Oregon State Parks Diverse and Beautiful @handbookofnaturestudy

This past August we took an awesome loop driving trip in the state of Oregon. We have slowly been exploring this beautiful state from the view of our truck and camping trailer. There are so many awesome campgrounds in Oregon and it truly is a great way to spend time as a family. In the past, we have camped on the Oregon coast with our boys. They love the ocean and that was our focus. We are no branching out into Central Oregon and Southern Oregon. In this entry I will share five of our Oregon State Park experiences.

Parks Included in this Entry:

  • La Pine State Park (near Bend, Oregon)
  • Silver Falls State Park (near Salem, Oregon)
  • South Beach State Park (near Newport, Oregon) + a mention of Brian Booth State Park
  • Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park (near Florence, Oregon)
  • Valley of the Rogue State Park

 La Pine Oregon 2016 (7) deschutes river

La Pine State Park:

This state park along Hwy 97 is situated along the Deschutes River. There is a day use area with a small sandy beach with picnic tables and a restroom. We waded in the water on a hot summer afternoon but it was cold! There were some rafters pulling their boats out here and they had floated along the swiftly moving water before ending their day at La Pine.

The campground is made up of three loops and was full the whole time we were here. The South Loop had full hookups and was packed to the gills with trailers, families, bikes, and quite a bit of noise. We were very happy we were on the North Loop where the sites were larger and farther apart (no hook ups). We enjoyed walking the trails within the park and along the river, especially in the evening. There are yurts here to rent if you don’t have all the camping gear or want an easy vacation.

This area is full of interesting things to do like the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway, the town of Sisters and Sunriver, the city of Bend, the High Desert Museum, and Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

La Pine Oregon 2016 (6) deschutes river

Read more detailed information on their website: La Pine State Park, Oregon.


silver falls oregon august 2016 (29)

Silver Falls State Park

We read on the internet that Silver Falls State Park is the “crown jewel” of the Oregon Parks System. We hadn’t heard of it before so we did some research on their website and decided that a park that has hiking to ten different waterfalls was somewhere we definitely wanted to visit. It is a very busy park and we could only get two nights at the campground in August. Tip: Plan accordingly and book your campsite as far in advance as possible. The park itself is very pretty and has many tall trees alongside the creek. I highly recommend the 7.2 mile Canyon Trail to view all of the waterfalls. The park also has lots of wildflowers even in August.

silver falls oregon august 2016 (49) waterfall upper north

There was a small cafe in this park, an off leash pet area, nature trail with a bird blind, and lots of fresh air and magnificent trees and waterfalls. The month of August is probably not the best time to see the falls at their peak but still very pretty.

silver falls oregon august 2016 (73) south fallsRead more detailed information on their website: Silver Falls State Park.

Newport Oregon august 2016 (3)

South Beach State Park

On the coastal part of our loop trip, we opted to cut across to Lincoln City and then down to Newport. We had stayed at South Beach State Park before and loved it. This time the place was packed and it is a huge campground but we didn’t find it crowded or noisy. This is a pretty laid back atmosphere and with so much to do in the local area, we were happy to adventure out to see what outdoor fun we could find. I am not going to feature it in this entry but we took our kayaks for the day to Brian Booth State Park which is just south of Newport. It was the perfect sunny day to spend on the water at Beaver Creek and then out to the ocean in our kayak. I highly recommend it.

Newport is a wonderful spot to have as a home base for this part of the coast and South Beach State Park has walking and biking trails as well as beach and dune access. It is very convenient to town if you need picnic items or anything else. Oh, almost forgot! The Newport Aquarium is a favorite from our trip here a few years ago with our boys. Don’t miss it!

Newport Oregon august 2016 (24) sea lionsWe went every morning for a long walk along the Old Bayfront in Newport. Sipping fresh roasted coffee, we would stand and watch the sea lions who were sleeping and playing on the floating docks. What a noisy bunch but so very entertaining!

The end of every day was spent on the accessible platform as the sun was setting. Like a postcard and what a memory!

Newport Oregon august 2016 (6)Read more detailed information on their website: South Beach State Park, Oregon.

Florence oregon honeyman august 2016 (6) lake cleowax

Jessie M.  Honeyman Memorial State Park

Further down the Oregon Coast, most people come to this state park to visit the dunes. The dunes provide a playground for those that love their sand sports like riding in quads and sand rails. We are much more of a people powered adventure sort and loved the fact that there are two lakes to kayak on in Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park.

Florence oregon honeyman august 2016 (24) kayak

We spent one of the most enjoyable days ever kayaking on this lake but many people were canoeing, fishing, and swimming there as well. What a great place to bring your family!

The campground is large and popular so you will need to make reservations for to guarantee a site. We happened to book one of the last spaces available and enjoyed our time under the tall trees. The weather wasn’t all that warm and the skies were gray but we still found plenty to do on our visit. The town of Florence is near-by and we enjoyed walking their little main street district and farmers market along the Siuslaw River.

Florence oregon honeyman august 2016 (8) lake cleowaxRead more detailed information on this state park here: Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, Oregon.

Valley of the Rogue State Park

This is our favorite overnight camping spot between our home and places we visit in Oregon. There isn’t much here to do but it is a clean and pretty park along the Rogue River. We enjoy the convenience of it being close to I5. This trip we drove into Ashland, Oregon (Home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) for dinner at one of the many quirky little eating spots near Lithia Park. 

Read more information on this state park here: Valley of the Rogue State Park, Oregon.

We love Oregon and if you ever get a chance to travel in this state, make sure to look up any state parks along your route.

Posts from Other Oregon Parks


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Outdoor Mom’s Journal – September 2016

Outdoor Moms Journal September 2016


This Outdoor Mom had a fantastic end of the summer! This post features our second Oregon trip of the year and lots of kayaking adventures. Technically, the Oregon trip was at the very end of August but after my August Outdoor Mom’s post so I want to include it here because it was a fantastic trip.  I will be dedicating a complete post in October to the many Oregon State Parks we visited on this latest trip. It was a perfect trip!

bend oregon old mill district deschutes river 2016 (2)

We spent four days in the Bend/La Pine, Oregon area. It was a heat wave for them and most of the lakes and rivers were super busy with so many people swimming, using stand up paddleboards, rafts, and kayaks. I was really glad we had our kayak and we made the most of the time out on the water. We are in the middle of training our Labrador to ride along with us and she is quickly getting the hang of jumping in and enjoying the ride. The image above was taken in the Old Mill District of Bend, Oregon along the Deschutes River. It was a perfect night for a walk along the banks of the river and for sitting at an outdoor patio for dinner. We read in a brochure that Bend, Oregon is the most dog friendly town in the U.S. We believe it!

Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway Oregon  (47) sharps lake kayak

I think this is first photo I have shared where you can see our awesome tandem kayak (Old Town Loon 160T). We LOVE it! Both my husband and I are tall and there is enough room for our legs and the 70 pound Labrador. The image above shows us launching at Sparks Lake on the Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. It is a large shallow lake within view of many of the area’s signature mountains: Mt. Bachelor, South Sister, Broken Top.

Kayaking Beaver Creek Oregon Aug 2016This collage of images is from our stay in Newport, Oregon. We found an amazing spot to kayak just south of town at Beaver Creek (Brian Booth State Park). First we paddled up the creek and saw some interesting birds: Belted kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Turkey vulture, and several different ducks. Then we paddled back down the creek and all the way to the ocean! What a day!

silver falls oregon august 2016 (67) south fallsThis is the South Falls at Silver Falls State Park near Salem, Oregon. We had three days of hiking in this amazing place! There are actually TEN waterfalls that you can hike in a loop. This one was our favorite because you could actually hike behind the waterfall…look at the image carefully and you can see the trail. You can be sure I will be sharing more about this destination in my October Oregon State Parks entry.

nature journal pages osprey and heron august 2016 (3)I did fit in some nature journaling on this trip. I learned some interesting things about the heron and I actually heard the loud sound it made as we paddled too close to one and it flew off. Loud! It surprised me. I will be sharing a bit more about my nature journals in an up-coming post.

garden renees sunflower august 2016 (5)A little closer to home, my sunflowers bloomed! I looked out the window one morning and discovered this beauty. I love the sunflower time of the year and look forward to it each summer. This is one of the sunflowers from Renees Garden Seeds. So perfectly perfect.

IMG_5148We did some hiking closer to home when my two New Yorkers were home for a visit. We camped at Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe in California. It was perfect weather and the hiking was filled with wonderful autumn air and sunshine. IMG_5246This is Fallen Leaf Lake on a crisp September morning. We all took turns taking the kayak out for a spin on the water to take in the high Sierra views.

IMG_5358The last place on our travel list this month was to Yosemite National Park. We hiked to the top of Sentinel Dome with our children and they posed at the top for this amazing photo. It captures so much of what our family is about as we adventure in the big outdoors together. It was a day of laughter, refreshing vistas, and friendship. I tried to soak in the family time since it is hard to gather us all in one place anymore. We end up outside when we do get a chance to spend time together….habit? necessity? mutual love for God’s creation? I think it is a little of all of those things.

I hope you enjoyed my entry this month and if you want to play along, there are instructions at the bottom of this post.

If you missed my August and September nature study entries, here are the links:

Our Wildflower Observations: This entry shares our August wildflowers, both in California and in Oregon.

Snail Observations at the Tidepools: We had a fantastic time hunting, observing, and learning about marine snails in response to the August newsletter topic. This is one of my favorite blog entries of the year!

Insect Nature Study -Potpourri: We had several opportunities to observe insect homes up close. We even identified something new to us!


Outdoor Mom’s Journal

Whether your family spends a few minutes a week outside or hours at a time, share what is going on in your world.

How Do You Join?

Answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on my blog in a comment. If you answer on your blog, make sure to leave me a link in a comment so that I can pop over and read your responses.

  • During our outdoor time this week we went….
  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…


Outdoor Hour Challenge Plans for Sept 16 to March 17 @handbookofnaturestudy

You can use the free monthly newsletter along with the Handbook of Nature Study book for your nature study. Adding a membership gives you access to the Ultimate Naturalist Library’s ebooks and printablse which provides members with even more in-depth studies each month.

Read more about it!


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Yosemite National Park – Autumn Trip

Yosemite October 2014 (28)

Our recent trip to Yosemite National Park put us into the autumn mood. It is a quiet place in autumn with far fewer visitors and very little water in the waterfalls. In fact, Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Fall are both dry, dry, dry. The story of Yosemite in autumn is more about the trees and peaceful landscapes.

Mariposa Grove Yosemite

Hiking in the big Sequoia trees at the Mariposa Grove gives you a chance to experience these trees up close. You don’t have to hike too far to find magnificent specimens with their wide trunks reaching up into the sky.

Sequoia Tree at Mariposa Grove

There is no real way to capture the whole tree from the trail but these images help you visualize the towering trees a little better.

Mariposa Grove Yosemite

I hiked with two of my men on this day…the other two were off climbing Half Dome. I am going to share some of their experiences in another entry later in the week.

I found a copy of this book Yosemite Photographer’s Guide; Official Camera Walk Handbook and decided that it would be a fun long term project to take photos from every single location listed in this guide (like a need another project!). There are 32 locations mentioned in this book that we can look forward to experiencing through the lens of a camera (or iPhone in my case on this particular trip since I forgot the charger to my digital camera). NOTE: This is an older book that you can’t purchase new…there are a few used expensive copies on Amazon. I may switch over to a newer book like this one:The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite. I will let you know how I like this book when I get it in hand.

We started the project with a few locations that were suggested for the fall season.

Yosemite October 2014 (65)

This is location #17 – Cook’s Meadow. There is a short boardwalk from the road out to the river where you can view many of the park’s landmarks.

Yosemite October 2014 (60)
This is from the same location, looking across the meadow to Sentinel Rock.

Yosemite October 2014 (53)

We stopped at Location #13 – Cathedral Beach. At this time of the year, there is very little water in the river and you can walk a long way up along the side of the water. I stopped to enjoy a little bit of fall color in the late afternoon sunshine. We didn’t experience a lot of color during this visit but the oaks, maples, and dogwoods were scattered with color throughout the valley.

Yosemite October 2014 (49)

From the same location at Cathedral Beach, you can clearly see the Cathedral Rocks. This is a prominent rock formation along the south side of the valley.

Yosemite October 2014 (46)

Here are the Three Brothers taken from Location #14. What a great spot to stop and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of a Yosemite autumn day!

Yosemite October 2014 (4)

Hello Mr. Deer! This guy wasn’t happy with me taking a picture of him from a distance and as I was standing there just came nibbling closer and closer. I finally had to move because I really think he was going to just push me over to get to his destination. So tame and accustomed to humans….great for viewing up close!

Yosemite October 2014 (13) Yosemite October 2014 (17)

There weren’t many wildflowers at this time of year…mostly brown grasses and lots of weeds with seeds. These thistles were so pretty on closer examination…so much so that I created a nature journal page featuring them in my personal journal. These were up where we were camping at Crane Flat.

Yosemite October 2014 (13)

Some color!

Yosemite October 2014 (74)

One afternoon as we drove back up to our campsite, we noticed smoke in the valley. As we drove up the highway, we spotted a wildfire. It had just started and we could see from the pull out that it was just on the other side of the ridge. It was the Dog Rock fire and it continued to burn all through the night and next day…well, even longer than that but we came home before it was completely out. You can see the fire tanker flying over the blaze if you look closely in the photo.


Yosemite October 2014 (89)

It was such a great family trip and we enjoyed our last morning just wandering around, taking photos and sitting in the sunshine.

Yosemite October 2014 (79)

We ended up at the Ahwahnee Hotel for coffee and chatting. This is an amazing place for sitting and taking in the historical atmosphere of a Yosemite experience.

It is always sad to come home from this unique place on the earth but I look forward to visiting again soon.

Thanks Yosemite National Park for a great visit!


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Utah in August!

Vacations can be many things. Our trip to Utah and Nevada was rich in nature study opportunities and family adventures too! I love that type of vacation because it leaves us refreshed and full of memories.

Utah to Nevada (5)

The road between California and Utah is really captured in the image above. Open roads, big skies, and lots of NOTHING. We had a long trip to get there but watching the clouds and then early evening lightning in the sky was enjoyable. Plus, there are many rest areas that you can stop at along the way to stretch your legs, get a cold drink (most have vending), and use the clean restrooms. We didn’t have a single rest area where that wasn’t clean and inviting.

Trip to Utah Aug 2014 (16)

We took several longer stops where we all got out and walked a bit before hopping back on the road. This rest stop (Grassy Mountain/Cedar Mountain Wild Horse Range) in Utah had a path up to where you could see the pioneer trail across the Great Basin. We had our youngest son and two of his friends on this trip which made for a lot of boy time…I felt very outnumbered.

Trip to Utah Aug 2014 (18)

Yep, the sign says snakes and scorpions. The boys were disappointed that we didn’t see either of those things on our hike to to top of the hill and back. What we did have was an awesome view!

Trip to Utah Aug 2014 (13)

Just another road shot on the way to Utah along Hwy 80. More rocks, more sky, more clouds, more road…..along about this time I was ready to be at our destination.


Jordanelle campsite and wildflowers (4)

We arrived at Jordanelle State Park and had a terrific spot in the Hailstone Campground. This is a super place to camp and a great home base for our trip….between Park City and Heber City (where we were visiting friends).

Jordanelle campsite and wildflowers (5)

The Jordanelle campground was filled with lots of wildflowers which surprised me. It was nice to talk walks in the evenings when it was cooler.

Milkweed heber city kh (3)

We spied a large patch of milkweed!


Summit Park Peak Hiking Utah (1)

We all were invited to hike up in Park City up at Summit Peak. We started off with sprinkles of rain but it never did get us too wet. What a beautiful trail! We had a lot of fun hiking here and getting to know the boys’ friends.

Summit Park Peak Hiking Utah (10)

Along the trail there were lots of wildflowers growing and my husband and I noted this plant in abundance. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, so I took some photos of the big distinct leaves. Later on I discovered one with flowers and was able to identify it…burdock! I was thrilled because that is one of our new Outdoor Hour Challenges coming up in September. This gave me an opportunity to observe it up close and I will share more photos next month.

Summit Park Peak Hiking Utah (11)

Lots of these along the trail too!


Park city downtown

One night we walked up and down the historic downtown of Park City. I love doing window shopping, finding a nice place to eat, and then strolling through a town to get the feel of it. This is a very casual and friendly place that I would love to go back to in the winter…skiing!

Park City downtown (6)

Loved this sign downtown that shows the direction and distance to other Olympic game sites around the world. I live closest to Squaw Valley…how about you?

Jordanelle campsite and wildflowers (17)

With three teenage boys around, they were always eager to have a campfire after dinner. This night though it was my husband that got it going and I sat and enjoyed the warmth and glow of the flames. Jordanelle has these awesome cement fire pits complete with grill that swings over and a hook for hanging a dutch oven.

Jordanelle campsite and wildflowers (18)

This was the night of the really bright moon….too bad we had clouds that obscured the light and brightness. We still enjoyed sitting out late and watching it peek in and out from the cloud cover.

Utah to Nevada (6)

We reluctantly left Utah and headed back home at the end of the week. Here is our smiling faces somewhere on  a summit near the border of Utah and Nevada on Hwy 50. We were heading back into Nevada to Great Basin National Park. This is a very remote park but very much worth the effort.

Great Basin  (16)

Here is a little sneak peek into our campsite at Great Basin….more on this national park in an up-coming post!

I fell in love with Utah on this trip and we are eager to go back again maybe next fall to experience Zion National Park. We just couldn’t work it in this time but it will give us something to plan on and look forward to in the future!


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Redwoods National Park – Tips and Hikes

Redwoods National Park – Tips and Hikes

We have spent quite a bit of time over the last decade exploring Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California. Redwood National and State Parks is actually a network of parks that cover an extended area.

 Redwood National and State Parks

Near-by State Parks

You can view and download the most current park newspapers here: Redwoods Park Guide.

There are five visitor centers that operate with Redwood National and State Parks. You can find them listed here: Redwoods Visitor Centers. 

As I tried to write this post, I realized the scope of what we have experienced in these parks is more than can fit into one neat little package. I know most of you probably think that Redwood National Park is just about the big trees but in reality, this park has such a diverse habitat that it really can’t be experienced just by getting out of the car and viewing the famous trees or even stopping at the visitor’s center.

Redwood National Park needs to be experienced by walking or hiking out into the forest where you can stand quietly and soak in not just the majesty of the trees but the melodic sound of birdsong, the fragrance of the forest floor as you walk, and the beauty of the wildflowers and ferns that crowd in the understory. Hiking trails are abundant.

There are beaches to explore with crashing waves. A fern canyon with the trickling sound of a stream is to be found at Prairie Creek. You can hike to a waterfall in Jedediah Smith Redwood Park…just past the Boy Scout Tree. I give the Boy Scout Tree Trail a five star rating because it is one you can truly experience the redwood forest while hiking virtually on your own. We have hiked this several times, continuing onto the waterfall, and have felt the awesomeness of this habitat like no other place.

I realize not all of you have as much time as I do to explore the redwoods. If nothing else, drive the Newton Drury Scenic Parkway or Howland Hill Road. Stop along the way, get out of the car, and just drink it all in. Take some photos of your children with this giant trees so they have a record of their visit. Maybe it will spur them on to bring their children some day.

Now for some glimpses into some of our family’s memories of Redwood National and State Parks.

My two youngest boys have accompanied us every redwood forest hike and visit. They love the opportunity to hike under these tall trees and love even more to find a fallen tree to walk on or crawl over. This is a boy’s playground and along the way the grow to appreciate how special a place this is to explore.

Many of the trails wind under and around the massive trunks, mostly smooth unpaved paths lined with ferns and other green plants. The sun peeks through from time to time but for the most part these hikes are in shadow.

Among the redwoods you will find many flowering plants. This surprised me the first time but the splashes of color cannot be missed with all that green for a backdrop. Redwood Sorrel carpets the forest floor and has delicate flowers.

At the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, the rhododendrons bloom like crazy. We enjoyed this hike on our first visit to Redwood National Park and I have never forgotten its beauty. This is an easy hike that your whole family can enjoy. It was more crowded than some of the other hikes but still worth the effort.

This was a memorable day for our family and I am so glad we were able to have a fellow hiker snap a photo for us. We had such a great hike together, teenage boys can be such fun. Now that they are growing up, I can appreciate the times we spent outdoors experiencing things together.

This is Fern Canyon at Prairie Creek State Park (Part of the series of redwood parks near the national park.) We were able to hike all the way up the canyon from Gold Bluff.

This is Fern Falls at the end of the Boy Scout Tree Trail in Jedediah Smith State Park. We had a picnic lunch here at the base of the falls and I remember working in my nature journal as well. A great hike and a great day!

This is the coastal beach at Gold Bluff at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Lots of room for boys to run off some steam along the sandy beach.

Roosevelt Elk can usually be seen within the national park. We have found a herd along Davidson Road several times, right off the highway.

Here is a typical landscape seen during a hike among the redwoods. Amazing! I never get tired of it even after visiting many, many times.

I told you…boys love to find a fallen tree and climb up. It almost always merits a photo.

This image was from our last trip to Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park. We took the drive along Howland Hill Road, practically all to ourselves. We parked the car at a turnout and walked about a mile along the road. It was quiet, damp, and so very enjoyable. It is mostly unpaved and very narrow so don’t take an RV or trailer. We have done this drive four times and have never found traffic to be an issue. One time the road was closed so check at the visitor’s center before heading up.

Here are a few other things to do if you are still looking for just the right activity for your family:
Things to Do Redwood National Park. 

We have experienced Redwood National Park in summer, autumn, and winter. All were enjoyable with the appropriate clothing. The north coast of California can be damp at any time of the year so plan to layer up. June has been the driest and sunniest time to visit the park.

You can read more about our redwoods experiences here:
Redwood Dreams – 2010
Hiking Jedediah Smith Redwoods – 2011

We have camped at:
Patrick’s Point State Park
Prairie Creek State Park
Jedediah Smith State Park

If you don’t want to camp, you can stay in near-by Crescent City, CA. 

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Yosemite Autumn Trip!

Our much anticipated trip to Yosemite for our autumn visit was a huge success. We didn’t plan it but we were leaving the day the park was closed because of the government shutdown. I was very grateful that we were able to get in our visit and hikes before the trails and campground were closed indefinitely.

The image above shows a glimpse of the devastation from the Rim Fire. This is along Hwy 120 above Groveland, CA. It was an awesome sight to see and you could see signs of the fire as we continued into the national park itself and up along the Tioga Road. Much of the area along the road had been cleared before the fire so my husband thinks that many of the trees, although scortched, will revive. We shall be anxious to see if he is right.

We had reserved a campsite along the Merced River in the Lower Pines Campground…perfect! We enjoyed our two nights in our tent with a show of stars at night that was unbelievable. The camping was a little quiet for us with no children along for this trip but it was fun to just be a couple again.We sat in chairs and watched squirrels and birds. We huddled around the campfire and enjoyed the peaceful cracking and snapping of the flames on the oak wood. The air was crisp in the mornings but not so cold we couldn’t break from the cocoon of the sleeping bag.

One afternoon we took a long walk along the valley floor. This time of year there are no big crowds around so you see lots of wildlife. In the image above, you can spy a bobcat! He was wandering along the trail and then he went down to the river. We also so numerous deer…adults and babies too. One time we saw a herd of 20+ deer grazing in the meadow.

Yosemite Falls is bone dry right now. I felt sorry for all the travelers who came from all over the world to visit Yosemite when the falls are dry…just not the same. Autumn is not a time for huge waterfalls in Yosemite but their are other reasons to come at this time of year. The story of Yosemite in the autumn is the change of season with colors and the quiet awesomeness of viewing the granite that also change in color with the light.

Our campsite was visited by many, many squirrels. They were busy collecting seeds of some sort and having a feast. The Stellar’s jays and Common ravens also came to visit and first thing in the morning they were very noisy. The seemed to say, “Wake up! Wake up! You are missing the sunrise!”

Our second day we hiked the complete Panorama Trail. This is an eight mile hike that includes three waterfalls…that actually have water. The image above is the very top of Nevada Falls and although it is not running with much water, it is still a fabulous waterfall. (see below)

Here I am after hiking down from the top with Nevada Falls in the background. Isn’t it an awesome sight? It is hard to describe the sound of a big waterfall, especially this one back in the corner of the valley. The sound cracks and echoes all around you. About this time in the hike, I am getting tired and the downhill climb is harder than climbing up.

Here is a portion of the trail that is a little easier and the views are phenomenal. I love the sky in this image. When I’m hiking, I always watch the sky for signs of storms but this day it was perfect with partial cloud cover a lot of the time. Breezes would cool us off as we hiked. Autumn really is a terrific time to hike at Yosemite.

This is also about the point where we observed a mama Black Bear and her cub…off in the distance but we still became hyper-aware of our surroundings. There were several other hikers, some in front and some in back of us, so we alerted them to our sighting and shared bear stories before we all spread out again.

I was in the mood for looking for fall colors. The maples and oaks were starting to turn color and I found this large leaf along the trail. My husband thinks I’m nuts sometime but he cooperated and took my picture so I could share it with you. This is a good place to point out that hiking in Yosemite is a bit of a rock scramble at times (that is the trail behind me). These are not smooth, easy trails that you can hike along without paying attention. You are always looking down for your next step…not many flat trails here. This is why I started using a walking stick…it makes my hiking so much more pleasurable.

I was so inspired by the Bigleaf maples that back at the campsite I created a nature journal page with some of the information I found interesting. My leaf sketch was a bit of a fail..I think I was hung up on trying to get it to fit in the box I had created on the page and so it looks sort of squished. Oh well, you get the idea of a maple leaf.

The last day of our trip we took the long way home and drove out Tioga Pass, along Hwy 395, and then across on Hwy 89 and 88 to get home. This took us through the high country where the aspens were ablaze with color. We stopped several times to enjoy the views. Now this is what autumn should look like!

It was a fun trip and I am looking forward to the winter season and visiting Yosemite National Park to really see the full circle in this amazing place. We are aiming to hike in the Mariposa Grove of sequoia trees whether there is snow or not. Not sure where we will stay yet…hoping that the government closure is over by then.

You can read about our seasonal visits to Yosemite in these entries:
Yosemite in Spring – Waterfalls and Biking
Summer Trip to Yosemite – Hikes, Wildflowers, Rocks, and More

This post is part of my Nature Study Goals for 2013 – to visit Yosemite National Park in each season.

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Oregon Camping – Beaches, Tall Trees, and Tidepools

We all were aching to get on the road and start our week long camping trip in Oregon. Part of the joy of driving to Oregon are the views along the Northern California and Southern Oregon Coast. Amazing! The photo above is between Arcata and Crescent City along a stretch of the coast that at this time of year is ablaze with lupine…the fragrance is divine as you walk through the vegetation to the sandy beach.

When the boys get out onto to the sand for the first time it is pure joy! They stretch their legs after a long car ride and enjoy the Northern California wide open sandy beaches. We walked a long way, looking for beach treasures as we went. Then it was back into the car for the last leg of the trip over the California/Oregon border and up to Brookings and our beloved Harris Beach.

Yes! This is our campsite this year which overlooks the Pacific Ocean…looking westward and perfect for watching the sun go down each day. We were surprised at how light it was late into the evening…sunset was about 9 PM each day but it was light much longer than that.

Two of the days we were there we were able to take advantage of the negative tide and do some serious tidepooling.

Lots and lots of anemones to be seen…large and small!

Look carefully in this image and you can see the sea star’s “feet” that are clinging to the rocks at low tide. There were so many sea stars of many colors, sizes, and types. I love being able to see up close all the things we learned about from books.

I brought along a Stomp Rocket for the family to use on the beach. This was a fabulous idea and the boys (and mom and dad) each had turns stomping the rocket and watching it propel off down the beach.

We spent many, many hours walking the beaches and collecting colorful rocks…sometimes my pockets were all filled to capacity. I enjoyed sorting my rocks by colors on the picnic table at the campsite. I left them out each night and in the morning the dew would make them shiny and shimmery again.

These were my favorites…the red, green, and gray ones.

I also like this colorful kind which sort of looks like wood. I have a couple more rock related entries to share with you next month as part of my nature study goals and collecting various kinds of rocks. This was a great way to keep nature study at the forefront of our a good goal.

Mr. A was my fellow photographer at the tidepools. He was willing to really get out where he might slip and get wet to capture some great images of his own. He uses his cell phone camera and they turn our really great.

Here is a shot of my other photography buddy…Mr. D. He is more of an artist with his camera and takes his time to get just the right shot with the right setting. His images are amazing. This was also the very first time that our Kona dog has gone camping with us. She settled right in and had a great time. The wonderful thing about Oregon is that dogs are allowed on the trails as long as they are on a leash. She was able to take every hike with us…love Oregon!

We spent two different days in the redwoods hiking in the quiet stillness. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and it was so very refreshing. I already miss it. I am checking off another new hike on my 2013 Nature Study Goals, two down and two to go!

Can you just imagine how far you can walk on this Oregon beach? It was a windy day but it wasn’t cold so we took advantage of the open space and just roamed for a very long time. (I collected a few rocks too.)

Hello Mr. Snail!

Oh wow! These ferns were amazing! I loved seeing the black stems and the graceful way the fronds grow.

Aren’t they just incredibly pretty? I knew that our California Maidenhair fern had a black stem so I though maybe they were related. I looked it up when we got home and sure enough! This is the Northern Maidenhair fern.

On our last day we visited Crissey Field State Park which has a wonderful visitors center. We spent some time viewing all the nature displays and gathered some pamphlets for future use. We had a picnic lunch and then adventured out to the beach which is so very beautiful. Driftwood, dune plants and flowers, and a nice sandy beach are just what we needed to end our trip on a high note.

We were so happy that our trip turned out with gorgeous sunny skies for the majority of the week. We were able to do a lot of hiking, a lot of exploring, and enjoyed each other’s company while visiting the Southern Oregon Coast.

Until next time….

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Our Oregon Coast Wildflower and Weed Grid

This is the Oregon Coast Edition of the Wildflower and Weed Grid Study! I had a fun-filled week of hiking and beach-combing in Oregon and we had our eyes out for as many wildflowers as we could possible find. It wasn’t hard because each trail had an abundance of wildflowers for us to enjoy.

I tried to capture as man of them as I could to share with you in this post.

Blue Oregon Iris – These are a frequent flower along the trail.

Sea pinks along the shore…blowing in the wind, casting cool shadows.

Our campsite was filled with clover and daisies. Imagine…daisies so plentiful they seem like weeds!

Cow parsnip lines the roads and pops up along the shore. Some of these plants are super tall and the flower heads are enormous.

Inside Out Flower was found in the shady spots and it is one of my favorites from this trip. I decided to include a special page in my nature journal for it (see below).

We found patches of lupine along the Humbug Mountain Trail. This trail was a new one for us and what a view! It was a lot of fun to adventure up and we look forward to taking this trail again.

The Monkey flower was amazing! There were areas along the moist gully that just screamed yellow from this pretty flower.

A familiar sight along any redwood forest trail this time of year is the rhododendron….this one was a pale pink. This was spotted along the Shrader Old Growth Trail. This is a fun hike out of Gold Beach and worth the long dusty dirt road to get there. We had the trail all to ourselves on this morning. There is nothing like being out in the wilderness hiking along hearing the birds and nothing else.

One day we visited Crissey Field State Park which has an awesome visitor’s center and several trails. The beach there is wide and open which invites you to walk a long way next to the shore. This Sea Verbena was growing along the sandy dunes. My boys were entranced by all the driftwood and they spent about an hour just hunting among the piles for interesting shapes. Boys.

These are pretty little Seaside daisies….another one I really like and will be adding to my nature journal. I think the delicate fringe-like petals are the best part of this flower.

Smith’s Fairybells…another shade loving plant we saw a lot of as we hiked.

It always makes me happy to see where flowers naturally grow to make pretty color combinations. These sweet peas and daisies were found right along the edge of the bank in our campground.

Seaside Tansy…the interesting part of this plant are the fern-like leaves. They also grow right along the dry cliffside going down to the beaches.

This Tiger Lily was actually in Del Norte County, California. The drive up Hwy 101 takes you through Redwoods National Park where the Tiger Lilies are blooming profusely along the road. I had to stop and capture one for you! Gorgeous!

We found Wild Bleeding Hearts too! We have these planted in our garden here at home but it was fun to see them growing in their natural environment.

Aren’t these lovely? Western Azaleas grow in Harris Beach State Park and we always look forward to seeing their happy blossoms.

We saw many Wild Cucumbers blooming but this one had its fruit already formed. Isn’t it interesting? It is in the gourd family and you can see why when you see the fruits.

Here are the flowers from the Wild Cucumber.

I know this is a non-native invasive plant but we saw it on many of the trails. Wild Radish comes in a variety of colors…white, soft pink, light lavender.

This is my first unidentified wildflower…if anyone knows what it is you can leave me a comment.
EDIT: I think this is Yellow Parentucellia...figwort family. Range: Western Washington to NW California.

This is my second unidentified wildflower…yellow ones stump me for some reason.

This we saw in a pond at Lagoon Creek which is technically in California. Yellow Pond Lilies were blooming all over the pond.

So there you have all the interesting images that I could pull from my camera. We did see quite a few more and if you look closely at my Wildflower Grid nature journal page you will see them listed.