Traveling can be enlightening, adventurous, exciting, yet sometimes boring, especially when the landscape we’re driving through is mundane. This past week while rolling through America’s Great Plains, Al and I found ourselves reminiscing about past travels and discussing future travels.
We’ve always enjoyed traveling. After all, Al and I met while working in the airline industry. These days we prefer RVing, but back then, we couldn’t wait to jump on an airplane and travel to some new to us location. One city we often visited was New York City. There were times, we’d hop on the first-morning flight out of Chicago, land at LaGuardia Airport and shop and explore the city before taking a late night flight back home. Ah, memories! There are times I’d love to go back and even explore more of New York State.
We recently enjoyed a lengthy conversation with new RV friends who travel predominantly in the east. They shared some of their favorite RV spots in New York …
Visiting New York in an RV
Traveling in an RV is a great way to bring a little piece of home with you while seeing everything the country has to offer, and there’s no destination more exciting than New York City (NYC). While Hello Big Apple reminds travelers that RVs aren’t allowed to park in NYC’s city spaces for more than 24 hours, there are ways to work around this rule if you want to see the Big Apple in your RV — especially as it is a cost-effective way to see the best of the U.S.
And when it comes to costs, it’s no surprise that NYC has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world. In fact, a feature by Yoreevo notes that the current average price of a Manhattan apartment is $2 million, a hefty price tag that trickles down to its hotels and restaurants, and makes it less accessible to some budget travelers. However, this reputation also means that tourists are now looking to what New York, as a state, also has to offer. Indeed, the number of natural parks and hiking paths within New York State make it a top travel destination even for those who prefer a more outdoorsy getaway. NYC’s accessible public transportation means that you can park your RV outside the city center and still be able to roam around the Big Apple before exploring the rest of the state. Meanwhile, these RV parks also offer lots of adventurous options. Here are some top recommendations:
You don’t have to travel very far from this RV park to get to NYC – Camp Gateway is located in Brooklyn. The park is set in a rustic, wooded area within the Gateway National Recreation Area. Since the park is located next to Jamaica Bay, you’re just a bus ride away from the epicenter of NYC.
Liberty Harbor RV Park
Located in Jersey City in nearby New Jersey, this particular park is the go-to for visitors who want to see as much of NYC as they can. The PATH train connects New Jersey to Manhattan and is a mere 15 minutes away from Liberty Harbor. The park also offers great amenities, with full electric, water, and sewage facilities alongside 24/7 security on the premises.
Nickerson Beach Campground
This is the RV park for those who want a relaxing beach escape after exploring NYC, as you can park your RV just 2 minutes away from the shore. The campgrounds are located by the South Shore of Long Island. Moreover, visitors have long hailed the camp’s serene atmosphere, which provides the perfect setting for watching the summer sunset with the city behind you.
Robert H. Treman State Park
While NYC might be your main destination, one of the best parts about traveling in an RV is exploring the greater area around your RV park. Save up one free day to go around the Robert H. Treman State Park on a bike or on foot, or venture on the more exciting side and tackle one of Robert H. Treman’s nine hiking trails. When you’re done exploring, take a dip in the many waterfalls that the park has to offer — there are twelve, to be exact.
Branches of Niagara Campground and Resort
This RV park offers the best of both worlds, with Buffalo, New York being 15 minutes away on one end and the Niagara falls being 10 minutes away on the other. This is a great option especially for families who prefer to have an outdoorsy vacation; the Buffalo Zoo and Buffalo Museum of Science are nearby options in case you want to see something else.
Thank you, Julie and Josh, for sharing your favorite New York RV Parks and beautiful images!
When I think about the high-altitude mountain town of Steamboat Springs, I think of picturesque ski slopes and stunning mountain views. Although this beautiful mountain town does indeed offer powdery slopes, there’s an abundance of summer activities not to be missed.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado offers an Old West vibe rich in history. It’s about a three-hour drive from Denver and a bit out of the way but so worth the drive.
Continuing with my Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-visit Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re too much fun not to.
Steamboat Springs is last on my list partly because one of these mountain towns had to be last, and secondly, it’s the town we’ve visited the least. However, it is the first place in Colorado that we traveled to with our new 5th wheel back in 2012, and we have very fond memories of that trip … well, except for the RV flat tire on our return home, but that’s another story.
15 Things to do this summer in Steamboat Springs
1. Camping – Camping options around here are awesome. We loved camping at Steamboat Lake State Park which is located 27 miles north of town. Not only were we surrounded by stunning views in all directions, but it also made a great home base to explore the neighboring area. Anytime I can park near the water, I am one happy camper.
This state park can accommodate most RVs and offers both dry and electric sites. Al and I chose to camp on the peninsula where the sites have no hookups, are definitely smaller, and there’s a large area designated for tents only.
Stagecoach State Park is another big RV friendly campground and is located 17 miles south of town and is a very popular boating lake. I recommend making a reservation for a campsite anywhere near Steamboat Springs. For a full list of campgrounds in the area, here’s a list with a breakdown of all the amenities offered.
Out of all the mountain towns we’ve visited, Steamboat Springs offers some of the best camping options. Frisco (around Lake Dillon) comes in at a close second.
2. Go for a paddle – With numerous lakes in the area and the Yampa River running right through Steamboat Springs, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding are popular and fun activities. No problem if you don’t have your own water vessel, there’s plenty of rentals around.
Several outfitters even offer rental tubes, so you can relax and float on Steamboat’s natural waterway and then catch a shuttle back to your car.
3. Soak in hot springs – Looking for more relaxation? Old Town Hot Springs is in the heart of downtown Steamboat and is one of the reasons the town is here. Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a bit more of an adventure located on the edge of the Yampa Valley. Both offer a relaxing soak and a dip into Steamboat’s colorful history.
4. Alpine Slide – The first time I ever road an Alpine Slide was on a trip with my daughter to Winter Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I had never heard of an Alpine Slide before, and let’s just say, one ride is not enough. So much fun! Nothing like taking a chairlift up the mountain and then shooshing down it on a sled like contraption. It’s a thrill!
I’ll admit, I was a little scared and timid the first time, but you can control the speed of your sled as you fly down the mountain. Did I mention how much fun this is?
Steamboat offers two exhilarating slides. The Outlaw Mountain Coaster is the longest coaster in North America at more than 6,280 linear feet. The track near Christie Peak Express descends more than 400 vertical feet and features dips, waves, turns, and 360-degree circles. The Howler Alpine Slide will wind you down a 2,400-foot track through the bends and curves of the natural landscape of beautiful Howelsen Hill. You’ll love the scenic views of downtown Steamboat as you ride the chairlift to the top.
5. Take a hike – I fell in love with the alpine forests, open meadows, beautiful aspen groves, lakes and streams around Steamboat, and my favorite way to enjoy these surroundings was via hiking. Numerous options range from a pleasant stroll along the Yampa River Core Trail, a short jaunt up to roaring Fish Creek Falls, or a couple hours on the Spring Creek Trail. For those more adventurous, you’ll be able to hike a full day or multi-day adventure in the Mount Zirkel or Flat Tops wilderness areas.
6. Mountain biking – The area boasts more than 500 miles of singletrack. There are so many different places to go biking that it can be hard to narrow down. For casual cruising, the Yampa River Core Trail is a 7.5-mile paved multi-use route connecting the mountain and downtown areas.
Scenic road-riding options range from easy pedaling along River Road or Twentymile Road to a challenging hill climb up Rabbit Ears Pass. Then there’s the Emerald Mountain trail system accessible from downtown or the Steamboat Bike Park, which boasts better than 50 miles of gondola-accessible trails on the ski mountain, with rentals available at the base. You can mix and match the area’s various trails to make the right length and challenge for your personal needs.
7. Fishing – The Steamboat Springs area is renowned for its world-class fly fishing. Beginners can take a lesson with any number of outfitters and learn about fly casting, knots, entomology and more. In addition to the Yampa River, there’s an abundance of streams, lakes, and reservoirs for the more experienced angler to check out.
8. Shopping, art galleries, concerts, and events – Browse fine art. Steamboat is a creative and artsy town. A leisurely stroll through shops and art galleries is always entertaining. You’ll find paintings, sculptures, blown glass, jewelry, and more. Usually, in early July there’s an art event set at the base of the ski area; Art on the Mountain.
The town is also host to events, concerts and theatrical performances.
9. Visit a museum – Steamboat Springs is known for its great appreciation of cultural heritage. The newly expanded and renovated Tread of Pioneers Museum offers something for everyone. The heart of the museum is a 1901 Queen Anne-style Victorian home with turn-of-the-century furnishings. The Western Heritage Exhibit, home of an extensive firearms collection, traces the areas agricultural history and the story of an infamous outlaw, Harry Tracy. The Tread of Pioneers Museum collects, preserves, exhibits, and shares the history and heritage of the Steamboat Springs area.
10. Golf, Mini Golf, Disc Golf or Sporting Clays – Steamboat Springs has three 18-hole golf courses that challenge every club in your bag. Then there’s mini golf, disc golf, and even golf with a gun aka Sporting Clays.
11. Visit the Yampa River Botanic Park – Go for a walk in the park while enjoying beautiful flowers, trees, and more. Every garden has a different focus with a unique setting … its own slope, sun exposure, soil chemistry, trees and shrubs which determine what will grow. Since 1992 the Yampa River Botanic Park has grown from a flat, horse pasture into a six-acre gem of over 50 gardens with ponds, benches, and sculptures.
The Park is free and open to the public from May to October. It serves as a place of serenity, as a venue for a summer music and theater festivals, as a site for weddings and similar events, and a resource for individuals. The Park sits at 6,800 feet above sea level, but through the use of carefully developed microclimates supports plants from the entire Yampa River Basin, which runs from 12,000 feet in the Flattops Wilderness to 4,000 feet where it enters the Green River.
12. Horseback Riding – Single-day horseback trail rides and multi-day pack trips are an everyday event for local cowboys around here. Visit the Flat Tops Wilderness, Mount Zirkel Wilderness, Routt National Forest, or Howelsen Hill on horseback or ride for two hours or an all-day photo safari or dinner on the trail. You can even ride a horse-drawn wagon for dinner on a ranch.
13. Farmers Market – Fill up on food and fun when you shop, eat and browse at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market. This will give you a great taste of the local culture and unique personality of Steamboat. The farmers market runs from 9 to 2 on Saturdays starting in early June through mid-September.
It’s also a great place to pick up a meaningful souvenir that’s not just regular tourist trap kitsch.
14. Go on a scenic drive –
Al and I love exploring the backcountry. So, a scenic drive is a great way for us to take in the surrounding beauty. During our stay, we didn’t venture down any 4×4 roads but did explore the different lakes, campgrounds, and small towns.
One day, during our return to camp, we witnessed a sheepherder and his flock. I asked if it was okay for me to photograph him, but he spoke no English. If I had to guess, I’d say he was probably from South America. I did take a couple of quick snapshots and offered him a cold bottle of water which he seemed thrilled to receive.
You never know what you’ll see when you go off the beaten path exploring.
15. Dining – The dining options are endless. You’ll find everything from breweries to coffee shops to casual dining to fine dining.
This concludes my posts on my top 5 favorite mountain towns. I assure you, one visit to Colorado is not enough. The Centennial State’s crisp air, endless walking trails, inimitable Western culture, and stunning mountain beauty are just a few reasons to return time and again. I feel very fortunate that I was able to call Colorado home for over twenty years.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like Telluride, Colorado. If I had to recommend one Colorado mountain town to visit, it would definitely be Telluride. There’s a little something for everyone to enjoy. Besides, how could anyone resist a place where there’s usually a herd of elk in a meadow on the edge of town welcoming visitors to the area?
We’ve had the pleasure of visiting this charming mountain town a few times over the past several years, and we were never disappointed. First off, Telluride is beautiful. It sits in a canyon surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs with the impressive Bridal Veil Falls seen at the far end of the canyon.
Telluride was founded in 1878 as a mining settlement. By the 1970s, the extensive mining in the area was replaced by ski tourism, and by the mid-1990s, Colorado’s best-kept secret was discovered by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, and Oliver Stone.
Although Telluride is well-known for outstanding ski slopes, the summer months have become even more popular with tourists as the town hosts a variety of festivals all summer long, including film festivals and endurance events.
Continuing with our Top 5 Favorite Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they are just too much fun not to.
Telluride’s festival season kicks off at the end of May and is host to a variety of festivals held each weekend. The diversity of festivals range from Music to Brews to Wine, Yoga, Film, Sports, and more.
There’s also no shortage of summer activities available for individuals and families alike. One of my favorite things to do is hike to Bridal Veil Falls. There’s a hiking trail that takes hikers from town all the way out toward the falls. The trail allows me to admire the beautiful architecture along the way, which is a unique blend of old and new.
The colorful Victorian-era homes that I pass always captivate my attention. These Victorian-era homes help preserve Telluride’s historically significant architecture. The town of Telluride is just eight blocks wide and twelve blocks long and is designated a National Historic Landmark District due to its role in the history of the American West.
A row of colorful Victorian-era homes.
Newer homes in Telluride.
A view of Telluride from the gondola.
Elk greet us as we approach Telluride
me hiking toward the top of Bridal Veil Falls
At the base of Bridal Veil Falls
Tidbit: The famous bank robber, Butch Cassidy, committed his first recorded major crime in Telluride by robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank in 1889 and exiting the bank with over $24,000.
One of our favorite places to grab a bite to eat is at the Smuggler’s Brew Pub. Al particularly enjoys their brew called Debauchery. I think the name speaks for itself and considering its high alcohol content combined with Telluride’s high elevation, one drink is usually enough … that is, if your goal is to be able to still walk straight. Picking up a bite to eat at the Friday morning farmers market is also a fun option, and of course, we never head home without picking up a few fresh items. And I never miss the opportunity to take the gondola ride up and over to Mountain Village … a bonus not to be missed.
The Town of Mountain Village is a European-style village that was founded in 1987 and sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet.
The architecture and feel between the two towns of Telluride and Mountain Village are vastly different. Where Telluride offers that old town historical western feel, Mountain Village offers a feel of polish and elegance that reeks of money – in a good way. I absolutely love the architecture around here.
The two towns are connected by a 13-minute gondola ride that is the only free public transportation system of its kind in the U.S. This popular scenic attraction provides access to hiking and biking trails during the summer and the ski slopes during the winter.
But Telluride isn’t the only mountain town worth visiting in this part of Colorado. Nestled in the San Juan Mountains are three more quaint and scenic towns, each with its own vibe and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them as a must-visit.
Other must-visit mountain towns near Telluride; Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway
No visit to this part of Colorado and the San Juan Mountain range would be complete without visiting the beautiful little mountain towns of Ouray, Silverton, and Ridgway. As the crow flies, Ouray and Telluride are less than twenty miles apart, but taking the shortcut would require a four-wheel drive vehicle and a few hours to spare. The regular car route between Telluride and Ouray is around 50 miles and will take about an hour.
Not only is Ouray known as the Switzerland of America, but it’s also considered the Jeeping Capitol of the World with over 500 miles of accessible high country 4WD trails.
Tidbits: Ouray is pronounced ‘your-ray’ … hurrah for Ouray! I don’t recommend using a GPS in this part of Colorado. First, these three mountain towns are located along Highway 550 and as long as you stay on the paved road, you won’t need a map let alone a GPS to find your way around. Second, with miles and miles of former mining roads, some GPS view these roads as accessible, leading many a visitor astray. Don’t be fooled and turn off that GPS!
So, with all these former mining roads to explore, renting a 4×4 vehicle in Ouray won’t be a problem, but you’ll need to wait until the month of July before these roads are somewhat clear of snow. I highly recommend stopping in at the visitor center in Ouray and picking up a map of the backcountry roads and checking up to date road conditions.
During previous visits, Al and I have taken the Toyota Tacoma on a couple of the “easy” 4×4 roads. The map info is very helpful in rating these roads and we wanted to start easy and work our way up. We’ve taken Last Dollar Road to Telluride and Owl Creek Pass to Silver Jack Reservoir. Both drives were enjoyable and neither road took us above tree line. During our explorations, with the exception of a couple of rutted areas, a Subaru or CRV could handle these two 4×4 roads. BUT please check recent road conditions before attempting. Weather can and will affect road conditions drastically.
If hiking is more to your liking, Ouray has no shortage of trails to choose from. The most popular is the Perimeter Trail. It’s a five-mile well-marked trail that circles the town of Ouray. Al and I have hiked portions of this trail and look forward to returning to hike the total perimeter. May and June you’ll need to keep snowmelt in mind as all creeks and streams run dangerously fast and furious and trails can be muddy. July into August is stunning as the meadows are dotted with wildflowers. Then there’s September when gold can be seen … yellow Aspen leaves.
One section of the Perimeter Trail that we loved is the hike to Box Canyon Falls. Box Canyon Falls is known as Ouray’s own wonder of the world. The waterfall is created from the combination of Canyon Creek narrowing into a rock canyon and then plummeting 285 feet, spilling thousands of gallons of water per minute. The word ‘dramatic’ sums it up nicely. As you hike further into the canyon, the roar of rushing water becomes more deafening and the dirt trail quickly turns into a slatted iron bridge complete with rails. The temperature drops, the humidity rises, and the sun is hidden. Al and I both agree this is a unique find and experience not to be missed.
Silverton, Colorado – Is it worth the drive?
Hold on, as the only road to get to Silverton, Colorado from Ouray is not for the faint of heart. This stretch of Highway 550 is known as the Million Dollar Highway. The road twists, turns, bends, goes up, goes down, and meanders through the San Juan Mountain Range. It’ll help if you have some mountain driving experience and aren’t afraid of heights. There’s a notable lack of guardrails and you’ll want to plan on taking around 45 minutes to drive the twenty-five-mile distance between Ouray and Silverton.
If driving mountain roads isn’t your thing and you happen to be near the town of Durango, consider taking the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The rail route is even more scenic than the highway and the train pulls right into the town of Silverton.
Once in Silverton, you’ll find the town has a natural beauty that’s steeped in Victorian charm and mining history. Gold was discovered here in the 1860s. The town was platted in 1874 and by the late 1800s, the main business section was built.
On the “other side of town”, is notorious Blair Street. At one point, Blair Street was home to 40 saloons and brothels. Many of the original buildings are still standing today and have been turned into quaint gift shops and restaurants.
Tidbit: During the mining boom, Silverton boasted a population surpassing 2,000. Today the year-round population is less than 700. Although tourism has replaced mining as the current economic engine, conjecture is someday mining will return.
Silverton is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the NationalHistoric Landmark District.
With mining heavily ingrained in the area’s history, the backcountry is dotted with remnants of abandoned mines and ghost towns. If you have a high clearance vehicle (or rent one), the old mining roads are great fun to explore.
If you’re a John Wayne fan like my husband, then a stop in the little town of Ridgway is a must. During one of our day excursions from Ridgway State Park to Telluride, we took the Last Dollar Road. This gravel/dirt road takes travelers past the Ross Ranch, one of several film locations that took place in Ouray County from the movie True Grit. The road is accessed about 10 miles outside of Ridgway. Last Dollar Road is rated as an easy 4WD road. At the top of Dallas Divide, the road offers majestic views of the backcountry without traversing any extreme switchbacks or sheer drop-offs that are commonly found driving some of the more difficult backcountry roads.
Camping and lodging
Camping: Whenever we’ve visited Telluride, we love camping at Ridgway State Park, which is about a one-hour drive away. The park offers sites accommodating tents and large RVs alike. Ridgway State Park is one of our favorite campgrounds in Colorado.
For those interested in full hook-ups, the Centennial RV Park near Montrose is a consideration. When we weren’t able to find an available site at Ridgway State Park, we’ve stayed at the Montrose Elk’s Lodge (members only). There are also private campgrounds with full hook-ups in the town of Ouray, but they like to pack’em in tight … a little too close for our taste.
Much closer to Telluride is a delightful National Forest Campground; Sunshine Campground. We would love to stay here due to its stunning views and near proximity to Telluride, but unfortunately, we might only fit into a couple of sites and the turning radius to navigate into and around this campground is tighter than what we think we could navigate. The campground is super close to Mountain Village where one can park and catch the free gondola taking you up and over the mountain into Telluride.
Further down the road is the Matterhorn Campground, also a National Forest Campground and this place has several sites that can accommodate just about anyone … that is IF you can snag an open site.
For those traveling with tents, vans, or small RV’s, the perfect place to camp and really immerse yourself into the Telluride lifestyle is the Telluride Town Park Campground. Nestled in a grove of pine trees along a creek, it’s within walking distance to festival venues, restaurants, and shops. Obviously, where there are trees, there are low branches and tight turning radius’. Thus, we feel it’s not an option for us. Once again, small RV’s have the advantage. Note; during festivals, this campground is jam-packed making it difficult for even a Honda Civic to navigate.
And when it comes to other types of lodging, Telluride has it all. Click here for more info and enjoy your own Rocky Mountain getaway. I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂
Western Colorado is definitely one of my favorite places to visit. You’ll take in some jaw-dropping beauty as you pass mountains, lakes, and streams. And when the wildflowers are blooming in July and August or the Aspen tree leaves turn golden in September … oh … my … gosh!!! Let’s just say, it’s a sight to behold and photographs rarely capture the enormity of such a spectacular and stunning sight.
Between the majestic San Juan Mountains and the small-town mountain lifestyle, it’s no wonder this area of Colorado is a favorite with many.
Life begins at … life begins whenever you want it to. That’s why more and more people over 50 are seeking new travel adventures, new destinations, and jumping into RVs. After all, you’re kid-free, hopefully, financially stable and slowing down when it comes to work. You are in a prime position to travel extensively. Here are some inspiring tips to help you on your journey.
Relax and rejuvenate
According to a recent AARP survey, 50 plus-year-olds will take 4 to 5 trips a year. They take their trips for a range of reasons. Top of their list is simply to relax and feel rejuvenated. It makes sense. After years of working 40 plus hours a week at a job and being caregivers to loved ones 24/7, there’s definitely a sense that it’s time to make your needs a priority. It’s time for a break. Time to relax, rejuvenate, and rediscover yourself.
Climb every mountain
Perhaps that’s a step too far but, as the song says, why not set yourself challenges and goals? There’s no point making a travel bucket list if it only remains a list. A recent Saga survey found that a third of over 50s felt far more adventurous than they did in their 40s. So, while your kids might raise their eyebrows at your plan to move into an RV full-time or trek the Great Wall of China, or simply learn a new skill, why shouldn’t you? Don’t allow other people to hold you back or second guess your dreams.
Being looked after
If adventure and RVing aren’t quite your thing, that’s OK. Perhaps, after years of looking after everyone else, it’s your turn to think about yourself and do something strictly for yourself? Cruises offer all-inclusive luxury and require very little planning effort. Your needs will be the priority. From entertainment to cuisine to port stops in places you dreamed of visiting, your every requirement is taken care of for you.
Prefer solid ground? There are lots of adult-only focused resorts. Companies have wised up to the fact that many 50+ do not necessarily wish to spend their vacations with screaming kids around. These places offer you a chance to unwind and meet like-minded people. You’ll feel pampered at one of these all-inclusive resorts.
It seems that the over 50s like more than just resorts and beaches. This age group cares about the impact of travel. They like to immerse themselves in the history and culture of a place. We bump into lots of fellow RVers who enjoy visiting cities for all the culture, museums, and activities found in a large metropolitan area.
If you’re about to join the roving 50s, then do some research before you go. If you plan on traveling abroad, learn a few words in the local language. Go on social media and find local groups that post events and information. I find a lot of my travel inspiration from fellow bloggers.
Plan a gap year
Gap years were not in fashion when the over 50s were students. It was all about getting qualified and starting work. Perhaps you deserve your gap year now? Before Al and I moved into our RV full-time, we tested the waters. One year we went on a 6-week road trip and loved it so much that the following year we went on a 4-month road trip.
Gone are the days when age was a barrier to work. Taking a year out is simply that. When you return, you’ll be refreshed and reinvigorated. Perhaps, your travels will inspire you to make further changes to your lifestyle.
When we moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in the mid-’90s, we couldn’t wait to take our first trip to the mountains. I’m not sure why or how we picked Crested Butte for our first Rocky Mountain destination, but Crested Butte it was.
We packed up the vehicle, two kids, and the dog and ventured into unknown territory. I don’t remember which child said it first, but Crested Butte quickly turned into Crusty Butt. Oh dear, out of the mouths of babes … to dub, such a beautiful, pristine place with such an unpleasant title is just wrong, but to the four of us, Crested Butte was now officially known as Crusty Butt.
Continuing with our Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns … towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re just that special.
This quaint little mountain town will always hold a special place in my heart due to fond memories that were created during several family excursions to this part of Colorado. Aside from that, Crested Butte does offer a vibrant little community and is considered Colorado’s wildflower capital. It’s home to the Wildflower Festival held each July when the mountain meadows are covered in blooms.
A stroll down the main part of town is always at the top of my to-do list. Elk Avenue is the main shopping and restaurant district and one of our favorite spots for breakfast is at McGill’s. The food is delicious but the coffee is even better. During one of our visits, we couldn’t resist asking what kind of coffee they served, and we discovered that the coffee is actually roasted right there in Crested Butte by Camp 4 Coffee. McGill’s serves their Blue Mesa blend.
Camp 4 Coffee is a locally owned coffee shop and roaster. I love supporting local businesses. We consider no visit to Crested Butte complete without a stop at this establishment. A little afternoon latte pick-me-up followed by a purchase or two of their freshly roasted coffee beans to bring back home to the RV always fits into our schedule.
As we head north of town just a little further, we come to Mount Crested Butte. This is where all the mountain action takes place. Although Crested Butte is known for its amazing ski slopes, it’s also considered the birthplace of mountain biking … well, I understand most mountain bikers might dispute this fact. The origin of mountain biking is something I’ll leave to the Colorado towns vying for that title. I’m merely repeating the Crested Butte information that I read online and at the visitor center.
Visiting the Back Country
One of my favorite things to do whenever I’m in the area is taking a little 4×4 backroad excursion. This is also where you’ll find the majority of wildflowers. During the Wildflower Festival, these backroads are active with tour companies and individual sightseers alike. The festival brings folks in from around the world, thus tourists are everywhere and it’s one of the busiest weeks of the year in Crested Butte.
Not to worry if you can’t make it for the festival. If you show up a week before or after, you’ll still be able to enjoy those blooms and with a lot fewer people around.
(This post is intended for entertainment purposes only. Please do your own research before driving any of these roads. Weather, rain, and flooding can impact the drivability of these roads and conditions can vary from one day to the next. If this is your first time to the area and you’re traveling with an RV, we recommend staying near Gunnison and explore camping options near Crested Buttefirst without the RV.)
Gothic Road, Slate River Road, and Washington Gulch Road are all worth exploring. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended as you travel further into the backcountry. A regular vehicle can traverse some of these gravel roads up to a given point and then road conditions can get a bit rough for the average car.
My Toyota Tacoma is perfect for these roads. With the exception of possibly a creek crossing, I don’t recall having to put the Tacoma into four-wheel drive. There are, however, a couple of real white-knuckle spots in the road on the backside of Mt. Baldy and above Emerald Lake. Yeah, those ledge type of roads that are the width of one lane, cut into the side of a mountain and are intended for two-way traffic are a real thrill!
During one of our first backroad excursions, we started off by heading up Slate River Road. We shared the road with other trucks, Jeeps, and ATVs/UTVs. We passed a large staging area for the trailered OHV (off-highway vehicles), as well as a camping area along the creek. We intended to make it a loop drive but decided to take a quick detour when we got to the turn for Washington Gulch Road where we decided to continue up toward Schofield Pass. At this point, we were on the backside of Mt. Baldy and the road gets narrower and more precarious. I couldn’t envision two vehicles fitting on this ledge type of road. Oh, and I initially forgot that we’d have to retrace our tracks to connect at the Washington Gulch intersection meaning we’d be driving this ledge to and from. Eek!
As we rounded a blind switch back, we encountered a pickup truck loaded with people heading toward us. The truck was lime green in color and set up kind of like an open-air safari vehicle with bench seating in the rear. My fearful thoughts had me mumbling, “Oh dear! How the heck are we going to pass each other?”
I needed to back up and get us as close to the side of the mountain as possible (thank goodness, I had the inside). The other truck and I both pulled in our outside mirrors and we slowly pass each other within inches. He was the one on the outside ledge and I could see his tourist passengers wide-eyed and a tad nervous. One slip, and down the mountain they’d roll. Once we successfully passed each other, the driver waves and comments, “Thanks, we got’er done hon”. The passengers started clapping. I’m sure, they too were as relieved as I was.
I love exploring these backroads, but not on those narrow ledges. I’m always grateful to have Al sitting next to me assisting and encouraging me. He and I decided long ago that I would drive on these exploratory day excursions due to my many photo-op stops. This way, he gets to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride and not listen to someone yelling, “Stop!” every five minutes. 😏
Al, me and Bear near Schofield Pass. Over 10,000 feet in elevation.
Heading into the backcountry
Exploring the high country
Lake Irwin, near Crested Butte, CO
Bear enjoyed our camping trip to Lake Irwin.
(To enlarge a photo in a gallery simply click on any image)
Not only do these backroads take you into some stunning countryside, but they also take you to some trailheads for some amazing hikes. Since we were traveling with an elderly dog during these summer visits, we had to pass on the hiking opportunities, but I assure you next time through, we will definitely add a little hiking into our schedule.
The itty bitty town of Gothic is also worth a short visit and a great place to use a public restroom before heading up toward Emerald Lake. I’m pretty sure the scenic drive to Gothic can be navigated with a regular car but do check at the visitor center in Crested Butte for up to date road conditions.
Lodging and Camping
Since Crested Butte is known as a tourist destination, finding a variety of lodging shouldn’t be a problem. During ski season, we usually opted for a condo near Mount Crested Butte. We’ve also stayed at the Comfort Inn in Gunnison which is about a one-hour drive south of the ski area.
Gunnison is a major town located along Highway 50 and makes a great home base to explore this area of Colorado. It’s also the perfect place to stock up on supplies.
Closer to Crested Butte are some national forest campgrounds suitable for tents and small travel trailers. Even at our modest 31 feet, we were too big and tall for most. We loved tent camping at Lake Irwin. Although we probably could’ve squeezed into a site or two with our 5th wheel, it was just much easier with the tent.
We’ve also seen some folks boondocking off CO Road 12 and 730 near Lake Irwin, but the most popular boondocking locations are off Slate River Road and Washington Gulch Road near Mount Crested Butte. The mountain meadows and views are beautiful, but this is a place for seasoned boondockers who are well acquainted with mountain travel. For first-timers, it’s best to leave the RV camped near the Blue Mesa Reservoir and take a day exploring camping options closer to Crested Butte with just a regular vehicle.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
As long as you’re in the area, you might as well head a bit further west on Highway 50 and take in the unique beauty of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. But keep in mind, if you’re camped in the town of Montrose, it’ll be even easier to access this park. And Montrose happens to be even closer to our next favorite mountain town.
Scenic overlook at Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado
Crusty Butt Crested Butte is the perfect place to chill and unwind. It’s lowkey, beautiful, and super dog-friendly. However, if you’re into music venues and festivals, I know just the mountain town for that. Stay tuned!
The mere mention of Grand Lake brings a smile to my face. We first discovered this charming little Colorado mountain town in the late ’90s. At that time, we were living in Colorado Springs and looking for an affordable place to take the children on a winter ski vacation. Plus, we wanted ski slopes that weren’t too challenging for beginner skiers.
What started out as a nice Colorado winter spot quickly turned into one of our favorite summer mountain towns. The fact that Grand Lake is also located near the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park and sits along the shores of a picturesque mountain lake just adds to her overall appeal.
While picking up my children from summer camp (1997), a staff member overheard that I was looking for a recommendation for a winter destination and mentioned we should look into Snow Mountain Ranch. Little did I know, Snow Mountain Ranch would quickly become our go-to place to spend Christmas and ring in the New Year.
Our adventures on the western side of Colorado’s Continental Divide were plenty. Over a ten year period, it was our family tradition to rent a cabin in the woods and savor the amazing views. As the week unfolded, the days were filled with outdoor activities; snow skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, tubing, snowshoeing. The evenings included games and storytelling near a toasty fire blazing in the cabin’s fireplace.
Snow Mountain Ranch is world renowned for its Nordic Center and groomed trails, but not for downhill skiing. For that, we would need to go to either Winter Park or Granby Ranch (previously known as Silver Creek and Sol Vista). Granby Ranch is the perfect place for beginners. Al and I would put the children in ski school while he and I lounged around the fireplace in the ski lodge exercising our arms by lifting mugs of hot chocolate. 😉
The outside deck offered a perfect vantage point for me to photograph and videotape the kids in ski school. As Al and I got more comfortable leaving the children in ski school, he and I would venture off (with the instructor’s knowledge of course) and explore the surrounding area. Those explorations always included lunch and shopping in the quaint little town of Grand Lake, about a 30-minute drive from the slopes. Strolling the wooden walkways connecting the rustic buildings made us feel like we had stepped back in time, a time when life was a little simpler and slower.
Our favorite cabin at Snow Mtn Ranch.
My daughter as we head into the backcountry on snowshoes.
When the kids needed a break from skiing, we would rent a couple of snowmobiles near the town of Grand Lake and make a day of exploring the backcountry at 9,000 plus feet in elevation on some of the best groomed and scenic trails around. Views of the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park were breathtaking. We always wanted to return during the summer to rent ATV’s, but somehow life got in the way. Sure, we returned to Grand Lake many a time during summer excursions but we never seemed to have enough time to hit the trail in an ATV. Oh well, I guess that gives us reason to return … again.
Grand Lake is NOT a winter destination
We loved our winter excursions to the high country, but summer is even better. Although visiting Grand Lake during winter conditions is beautiful and fun, the town is much more of a summer and fall destination. It is, after all, the western gateway into Rocky Mountain National Park. Actually, during the winter, about half the businesses in the town of Grand Lake appear to be closed, especially the galleries and tourist shops. Yeah, I don’t think they sell a lot of ice cream during the winter. Plus, once the snow starts falling, access into the national park is closed off at the western end. Crossing the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter is not an option.
What makes Grand Lake so popular during the summer months is the easy access into Rocky Mountain National Park and the summer recreation available throughout Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest. And let’s not forget about the beautiful lake itself; Grand Lake. (The town AND the lake share the same name. Hmm, that can get confusing.)
Grand Lake (the lake) is a popular draw for anglers and water enthusiasts. Personally, I can’t imagine engaging in any activity that would require me actually touching the water as the water temperature appears to always be COLD. I remember one time standing on a dock at the water’s edge and feeling a wave of coolness rise and sweep over me. It felt like I had opened my refrigerator’s freezer door and was greeted by a rush of cold air. Yep, that’s some cold water!
As the summer season winds down, leaf peepers and wildlife enthusiasts flock to the area. Actually, September is one of the most popular months to visit Grand Lake, Estes Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Can you believe this is also when the national park starts closing campgrounds … seriously? ☹
September is when the Elk are in rut, the boys are fighting and posturing for the ladies attention, and their bugling sound is easily recognizable. Spotting a herd of Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park during the rut season is not a problem. Fall is, in my opinion, one of the best months to visit the area.
As much as I love Elk, I’m a tad more drawn to Moose, and Grand Lake is the place to spot these fascinating animals. During one of our summer visits, I was on a quest to find and photograph a moose. I hear that it’s not uncommon to see a moose walking down Main Street early in the morning.
It wasn’t that easy for Al and me to find Bullwinkle. We had to spend a little time moose hunting searching for me to get that photo-op. Hint: ask a local. The gal in the ice cream shop shared a few moose hang-outs with us.
Finally found a moose after driving around for an hour.
After driving around for about an hour to the popular ‘moose hang-outs’, we were near the verge of giving up when Al spots the most gorgeous bull moose feeding in a small pond. Score! We pulled off to the side of the road and stayed a safe distance away knowing moose can be mean and deadly. Thank goodness for zoom lenses. He was such a treat to watch!
Between the amazing wildlife, the beautiful scenery, and the fond memories of our family adventures, it’s no wonder why Grand Lake, Colorado remains a favorite.
There are several private and national forest campgrounds in the area and of course plenty of little hotels. However, we’ve never personally overnighted in Grand Lake. We have stayed at the base of Granby Ranch mountain in a ski-in-ski-condo.
But our preference was renting a cabin at Snow Mountain Ranch which is about a 30-45 minute drive away from Grand Lake. The ranch also offers room style lodging and in the summer they have a campground.
While RVing, we quite often camped in the national park (close to the town of Estes Park) and then visited Grand Lake for the day. Camping and lodging options near Estes Park are plentiful considering its close proximity to Denver.
The drive from Estes Park to Grand Lake is not to be missed, but do note, the road does not open until the end of May and usually closes in October depending on snowfall.
How to get there?
There are three different routes to access the town of Grand Lake. All three routes are easily navigated with a regular vehicle but not so much with an RV.
Most scenic: From Denver, head west to the town of Estes Park, Colorado. From Estes Park, you’ll enter Rocky Mountain National Park. A leisurely drive through the national park via Trail Ridge Road is a memorable scenic drive with stunning views accompanied by wildlife sightings. I highly recommend this drive, but keep in mind, this road is not RV friendly. Depending on your personal comfort level with mountain driving will determine whether or not you should take your RV via this route. We’ve never driven this road with our RV in tow, nor do I think we ever will.
(This post is intended for entertainment purposes only and all road information should be researched and verified before driving. Road conditions change regularly.)
My recommendation: If you drive a motorhome and pull a toad, I recommend you not tow, but rather, drive each vehicle separately. If you’re pulling a trailer/5th wheel, go early (before 8:00 a.m.). The tight switchbacks on the western side of the Continental Divide on Trail Ridge Road will require swinging into the oncoming lane (depending on your length and direction of travel) to make a few hairpin turns. The majority of scenic pull-outs and parking lots will not accommodate most RV’s, especially during busy traffic periods.
Altitude and elevation need to also be taken into consideration. The 50-mile drive between Estes Park and Grand Lake will take you up and over the Continental Divide with elevations exceeding 12,000 feet. Plan at least 2 hours to drive the 50 miles (no services) and more if you plan on stopping at any of the numerous scenic pull-outs. Note; the combination of grade and altitude may be too challenging for older vehicles. Also, anyone with health issues should take the high elevation into consideration. I highly recommend talking to a ranger for more information before embarking on this drive.
RV route: Although longer, these roads will be a little easier to navigate with an RV. From Denver, take Interstate 70 west to the town of Silverthorne and then head north on Highway 9. Once you get to the town of Kremmling, take Highway 40 east to the town of Granby, then north on 34 to Grand Lake.
Winter route: This is the route we often took during our winter excursions driving our F150. From Interstate 70, we would head north on Highway 40 through Berthoud Pass heading toward Winter Park. Although fine for a regular vehicle, we would not personally pull the RV up this road. The grade is such that it would put a tremendous strain on the engine not to mention navigating all the switchbacks.
During winter conditions, beware of avalanches. One year we cut our vacation short knowing weather (i.e. snowstorm) was rolling in. The day after we drove Hwy 40 over Berthoud Pass there was an avalanche that crossed the road and damaged some vehicles. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, and we were very glad we didn’t experience this personally.
Next week, I’ll take you to another one of my favorite Colorado mountain towns.
For those of us that spend our time exploring mountain states with big rigs, I highly recommend picking up the Mountain Directory for Truckers. This is not an affiliate link, but a product I’m glad we own. It has saved us from driving on roads, that due to our size, we shouldn’t. At the very least, it helped prepare us for the grade and width of a given road.
Have you ever looked at a map and been so curious about a road or town that you just had to hop in the car and explore? Well, that seems to happen to me a lot. First off, I love maps and have had an interest in geography as long as I can remember. I’m always wondering what’s around the next bend in the road.
This summer we’ll be traveling to some familiar and some unfamiliar territory. As much as I love exploring new places, I equally enjoy returning to some old favorites. During the process of planning out our route and schedule for our summer excursion, I found my mind wandering …. squirrel. 😆
Hmm, where exactly did my mind wander off to? Colorado! Ah, the wonderful memories I have in that beautiful U.S. state. After all, Al and I called Colorado home for over twenty years and agree it was a great place to raise our children. These days, Arizona feels more like home to us, but a part of our hearts will always remain in Colorado.
So, while scouring the map, I was met with a flood of fond memories. Could I pick a favorite Colorado mountain town? Could I pick a favorite scenic Colorado drive? Absolutely NOT! I do however have some favorites. And those favorites on my list are mostly due to the memories that were created in those locations. Of course, there are so many more amazing places to visit in Colorado than what I’ve listed here, but that would take me days to share. So, let’s start with these five for now.
Top 5 Must-Visit Colorado Mountain Towns
In no particular order, these are my top 5 favorite picks for must-see Colorado Mountain Towns; towns that I have returned to time and again because they’re just that lovely.
When we lived in Colorado Springs, we would take our children up to either Summit County or Grand County for winter fun.
While the kids were enjoying the slopes, Al and I would either sit by a roaring fire in the lodge or stroll the shops in a quaint mountain town. There’s no shortage of charm and character AND amazing views in Colorado.
I’m a bona fide flatlander and the thought of shooshing down a mountain slope with mini sleds strapped to my feet never did appeal to me. Once was enough for me! But my children grew up in Colorado, and therefore, they are avid snow skiers. However, snowshoeing, sledding, and snowmobiling were always a fun adventure that I never shied away from.
These days, Al and I save our visits to the high country for summer. As a matter of fact, some of these mountain communities have become even more popular during the summer months than they are during winter.
Summit County includes the towns of Frisco, Breckenridge, Dillon, Keystone, Silverthorne and the village of Copper Mountain, and is located about a two-hour drive from Denver’s International Airport. So it’s super easy to get to and the area offers plenty to see and do.
As much as I enjoy visiting Breckenridge and think that it too is a must-see, I personally prefer the quaint mountain town of Frisco. Frisco is much more low-key and less touristy than Breckenridge. Thus, Frisco is our first stop on my “top 5 favorite Colorado mountain towns” tour.
Frisco has a population of less than 3,000, sits at over 9,000 feet in elevation, and was incorporated in 1880 during the mining boom. Today it’s a gateway to several major ski resorts. Main Street offers plenty of unique shops, restaurants, and a historical park with a museum. During one of our RVing visits to the area a few years ago, Al and I discovered the Frisco Historic Park & Museum. This is a free, self-guided museum preserving Frisco’s heritage.
Just down Main Street is a local coffee shop we enjoy. After purchasing a couple of Lattes, we strolled over to the museum. Al and I aren’t huge museum-goers, but we found this historical park to be quite entertaining and worth the stop. I was particularly entertained by the fashions on display as well as learning the importance of red lipstick during World War II … boosting courage.
During WWII, women showed their support by wearing red lipstick. Popularized by the movie industry, women demonstrated their patriotism by wearing makeup, especially the red lipstick. While mascara and rouge were rationed, lipstick was kept in production because of its benificial effect on morale.
We spent a couple of hours exploring the grounds and the buildings at the museum. Each building offered a little something different enlightening us on the town and its history over the past century. We found it to be a worthwhile stop, and we’ll probably return someday.
Scenic Road – Swan Mtn Road
Off Swan Mountain Road, between Breckenridge and Keystone, is a scenic overlook high above the Dillon Reservoir. The views from the Sapphire Point overlook are stunning. There’s a short loop trail that can be accessed from the parking lot. We hiked this trail in winter conditions several years ago and I remember the views being very nice.
Aside from the stunning views, there’s the entertainment from the chipmunks to consider. These little guys are used to folks bringing them sunflower seeds and aren’t shy about begging.
We timed our visit perfectly for a free Bi-Plane air show over the lake.
In the town of Dillon, along the shore is a great interpretive trail.
Lots to do and see
As many times as we’ve visited Frisco, we always discover some new shop, a new restaurant, or a new hiking trail. And the scenery never disappoints. During one of our visits, we attended a bi-plane air show which was so much fun to see.
Shopping is not a problem around Summit County. Between the towns of Frisco, Dillon, and Silverthorne, you’ll find several groceries stores, including a Whole Foods. There’s also a Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, sporting good stores, and even an Outlet Mall.
My favorite is a little shop strolling in Breckenridge. We always look forward to picking up a treat at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and perhaps purchasing a T-shirt (or two) from a local store. I wonder if Al has noticed that I’m encroaching on his half of the closet…. ssshhh, that’ll be our secret!
The dining options are endless. You’ll find everything from fast food places, to chain restaurants, to independent breweries, to fine dining, and everything in-between. Our biggest problem was always deciding where to eat because of all the choices.
Lodging: When we would visit the area during the winter, we usually stayed at one of the chain motels in Dillon like the Comfort Inn. There are so many lodging options through-out Summit County. You’ll find motel chains, ski-in-ski-out condos, high-end resorts, and private properties available. Yep, no shortage of lodging, but keep in mind premium pricing on weekends … all those Front Range dwellers like to head up to the high country on weekends.
Camping: Parts of Summit County are within the White River National Forest (Dillon Ranger District). There are five different campgrounds located around the Dillon Reservoir, as well as some dispersed camping further into the national forest. We never found any boondocking sites that we felt would comfortably accommodate our 31′ Fifth Wheel. Thus, we’ve always stuck with one of the campgrounds. With several campgrounds to choose from, we’ve never had a problem showing up without a reservation, but that’s for dry camping, no hookups, and no dump station on-site. Weekends might be a problem though without a reservation.
The Heaton Bay Campground does have one loop that has electric, it’s big rig friendly, and the most popular campground in the area. You’ll definitely need a reservation to stay here. The Lowry Campground, least popular and least desirable, also has some electric sites.
Campgrounds Peak One and Prospector are both large campgrounds with a mixture of sites (small, large, level, unlevel) and dry only. For those of you with big RV’s and setup with solar, you might want to consider the Pine Cove Campground. This is nothing more than a paved parking lot style of place, but it sits right along the shores of the Dillon Reservoir with spectacular views. Because the RV’s are parked so close together, generator use is frowned upon at Pine Cove CG.
For those interested in full-hookups and/or doing a little bit of winter camping, Tiger Run Resort might be worth checking out. Just be forewarned, it is pricey, but then again, it’s located in Breckenridge where everything is pricey.
In next Sunday’s post, we’ll move up the road to Grand Lake, Colorado … the west-end gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of connecting with a blogging pal. He had recently purchased a new Panasonic camera at my recommendation and was interested in a little help navigating the camera’s settings. Since I’ve been shooting regularly with a variety of Panasonic cameras for the past six years, I was more than happy to assist.
Actually, I loved the opportunity, and we had a fantastic outing where I think we both learned a few things. It’s always fun shooting with another photographer considering we all see things differently. We might be photographing the same subject, yet our images won’t look anything alike.
As my new friend and I were discussing this fact, I made the comment, “As photographers, we all see things differently, and therefore, create our own unique image”. My friend was very quick to respond to my comment by saying, “Oh, I’m not a photographer”. I immediately knew why he said that and could totally relate.
For years, I have felt uncomfortable referring to myself as a photographer. I consider myself more of a snapshot taker, picture taker, a novice, newbie, amateur, beginner … photographer wannabe.
What is a photographer?
So, after pondering those thoughts, I did a little Googling and this is what I came up with …
Photographers create memories and make special moments unforgettable. (check, that’s me)
Photographers produce and preserve images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event. (again, check)
Okay, well then maybe I am a photographer according to these two sentences. But then I dove a little deeper.
A photographer is a person who takes photographs, especially as a job.
A photographer is a professional that focuses on the art of taking photographs.
Photographers are artists with a camera.
Photographers can work as fine artists, wedding/event photography, or sell their photographs to commercial clients.
Hmm, we’ve got some keywords there that definitely don’t apply to me. Therefore, I am not a photographer but merely a snapshot taker … or am I? I’m so confused!
Professional vs. Amateur
Have you ever entered a photography contest or read the rules to one of those contests? They seem to always use the terms Professional Photographer and Amateur Photographer making a decided distinction that there’s more than one kind of photographer.
Perfect example; The Washington Post sponsored a photo contest a while back. As I read the rules, this sentence really resonated with me.
Only amateur photographers are eligible. Professional photographers (i.e., anyone who earns more than 50 percent of his or her annual income from photography) are not eligible.
The distinction has nothing to do with the quality of a photographer’s work, but rather with his/her income, and both amateurs and professionals are considered photographers.
After my research, I think I finally feel comfortable calling myself a photographer … an amateur photographer that is because I am most definitely not a professional photographer.
Whether its a hobby or a profession, we all love this thing called photography. The difference is we either sell our images or give them away. Does it really matter to those admiring a beautiful photograph? So, snap away on that iPhone, point & shoot, or nifty mirrorless camera and embrace calling yourself a photographer. After all, it’s so much easier than referring to yourself as a snapshot taker and a heck of a lot more fun too! 📷
Driving can be one of the most exciting and easiest ways to get around when traveling. Whether I’m traveling with our RV in tow or my daughter and I are off on one of our infamous road trips in her car, driving gives me that sense of freedom I relish.
Even on trips overseas, I enjoy renting a car or even a bike. Although my favorite would be renting an RV or camper van … renting a camper van in New Zealand remains on my bucket list. That freedom to simply hit the open road and explore as much ground as possible is absolutely the best. Traveling on our own terms, our own schedule, and off the beaten path can be an amazing adventure.
First, traveling anywhere is all about us. Adventure awaits! After all, we’ve set aside time to travel and do things with family, friends, our partner, or even just our self and organizing flights with potential tight schedules can be stressful and can get in the way of all our fun.
When driving ourselves, we get to make our own schedule and if we don’t want to keep to it, we don’t have to. During the process of us driving, if we discover a pristine beach or find that perfect mountain meadow and we want to stay a little longer, we can.
Let’s not forget about photographic opportunities and the freedom to stop, snap, and stay. It’s all solely based on ourselves and how we want to spend our day.
Ah, doesn’t that sound wonderful? Yep, I’m looking forward to our summer excursion!
The number of new things we can discover when driving ourselves is pretty amazing. We’re more likely to go off the beaten path with the freedom we have traveling with our own transportation.
I’ve never been one to enjoy taking public transportation unless I have no other option, and the thought of making plans around an airline schedule no longer appeals to me. And this coming from a former Flight Attendant. These days, air travel is the last resort for me, but necessary at times, especially if I ever want to rent that camper van in New Zealand. Yeah, it would be a necessity to take that long flight from America to New Zealand to check that adventure off my bucket list.
But once I’m in my own transportation, I try to set aside time to explore something new each day to make the most of that sense of freedom.
Let’s face it, road trips are usually more cost effective. Flying can be expensive, and taxis can cost a lot of money if we rely on them regularly while on vacation. Sure, sometimes we’re left with no option. Yeah, I don’t think there’s an easy way for me to get my RV to Hawaii (or New Zealand). So, flying it is, and then I’ll rent a car.
By renting my own transportation, I can explore on my terms, stop at a grocery store for healthy eating options, and save some money from having to go out to eat all the time, especially when traveling with a family of four.
One of my families most memorable trips was to Hawaii several years ago. My family still likes to tease me about our day excursion to the top of Haleakala, dormant volcano on the island of Maui. There was a thick layer of low-lying clouds along with a slight drizzle of rain, and I was convinced that if we drove to the top, we’d be above the clouds. Wrong! Once at the top, the thick layer of fog made it nearly impossible to see anything. After a few laughs, we headed back down the mountain. Near the base of the volcano, we noticed a newly opened zipline venue and quickly turned in.
I had packed a picnic lunch that day. The money we saved by not eating out or not booking a guided tour to Haleakala National Park, allowed us to go ziplining for the first time. It was so much fun and made for great family memories.
One of the biggest benefits of driving is packing. This is probably my favorite benefit to road tripping. I have the extra room to take a few more frivolous items … you know, like that cute pair of shoes that I may not even wear.
Luggage in an airport can be a nightmare not to mention the fear of it getting lost. Therefore, I’ve always been a ‘carry-on’ only kind of traveler. Even when I’ve traveled to Europe for a week, it was just with my carry-on. So, those cute shoes were always left behind, sigh.
There’s no better feeling than being comfortable when traveling, and with your own mode of transportation, it’s so much easier. I think we’ve all been on a flight or bus with screaming kids. That’s the worst!
With our own vehicle, we don’t have to worry about sitting next to strangers and we can come and go as we please. Yep, that’s the ultimate comfort while traveling.
Chance to be spontaneous
I love the spontaneity and freedom of driving. Spontaneity is an amazing luxury that I don’t take for granted. A random day trip, a detour along the way, or even just the decision to go somewhere different for happy hour is all at my fingertips when I have my own vehicle.
Whenever and wherever I travel, I always keep safety in mind. It’s also important to understand the rules and laws of the states or countries we visit.
Did you know there’s a law in France for having an unused breathalyzer in your vehicle? I guess it’s still a controversial law, but even so, I found that tidbit of information interesting.
Here in the U.S., we need to think about laws regarding cell phone usage while driving. Every community, county, and state has its own laws about talking or texting while driving.
As my daughter and I do more research and brainstorming on potential travel locations for our next mother/daughter adventure, we’re finding a lot of useful information. 1Cover’s The Secret Traveler offers tips on how to stay safe while on the road along with other helpful information and travel ideas. Hmm, our travel list seems to be getting longer instead of shorter!
Research and knowledge are the best ways to plan for any travel journey. Happy road tripping!
Ever return home from an epic day of adventure filled with amazing photo-ops only to download the images onto the computer and realize your photographs don’t appear sharp? Unfortunately, that has happened to me more times than I’d care to admit. You’d think by now with all the photographs that I take, I’d know better.
Making our photographs sharp, clean and crisp is something most of us want, but isn’t always easily achieved. Camera shake, subject movement, and poor focus are usually the main reasons behind poor image quality.
So, let’s talk about some ideas to help capture sharper photographs.
6 tips for beginners to take sharper photos.
1. Is it me or the camera?
The first thing we need to consider is our vision. When was the last time you had your vision checked? Oh, how embarrassing to have learned this lesson the hard way. Amazing how much sharper my images appear with new glasses.🤓 Or consider the resolution on your computer screen. Computer screens can have a huge impact on how our images are displayed. So, let’s make sure it’s the actual photograph that isn’t sharp and not our vision or computer screen. Have someone else review your images and then check the images on different devices.
2. Holding the camera steady.
Camera shake is a common reason for blurred photos. While the best way to tackle camera shake is to use a tripod, there are times and situations where using one isn’t always possible … and then there’s lazy ole me who usually leaves the tripod at home. But there are other options such as holding your camera with both hands, keeping the camera close to your body, and using a wall, tree, or another solid object for support, all of which, can help steady and minimize shake. Also, be sure your image stabilization is turned on.
3. Make sure the equipment is clean.
Make sure your lens and sensor are clean of any dirt and dust. Eliminating smudges, dust, and grime can impact your photographs.
4. Exposure Triangle
Understanding the exposure triangle is huge; ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed. The first thing we need to think about in our quest for sharp photos is the shutter speed we select. I’d like to think the camera gets it right when we shoot in auto, but that isn’t always the case. Plus, if we want to improve our photography skills, we really do need to move beyond auto. Remember, the faster the shutter speed, the less impact camera shake will have on our image and the better chance of freezing any movement. But we still need to think about aperture and ISO.
Aperture impacts the depth of field, the range that is in focus in our image. Decreasing the aperture to F11 will increase the depth of field meaning that both close and distant objects will be in focus. By doing the opposite and moving your aperture to F2.8, we’ll need to be more exact where we focus. With a large aperture, only our subject will be in focus.
ISO – When I think back to the era of film photography, ISO was directly correlated to the speed of the film loaded in our cameras. I still think of it that way. To achieve the sharpest and most crisp image, shooting with an ISO of 100 or 200 is ideal, but lighting conditions may not always be ideal. We’ll need lots of light to shoot with an ISO of 100.
ISO has a direct impact on the noise and grain of our images. If we move up to an ISO of 1000, we’ll be able to use faster shutter speeds and a smaller aperture but we’ll suffer by increasing the noise and decreasing crispness in our photos. Depending upon our camera and how we intend to use the photograph, we can usually get away with using an ISO of up to 400 or even 800 without too much noise. A good quality DSLR/Mirrorless can easily go up to an ISO of 3200 or more. My Panasonic FZ300 is good up to 400 and then noise really starts to set in and I lose the sharpness to the image. Each camera is different which leads me into the next tip.
5. Sweet Spot
Cameras and lenses have spots in their aperture or zoom ranges that are sharper than others. In many cases, this ‘sweet spot’ is one or two stops from the maximum aperture or zoom. So instead of shooting with your lens wide open (ie where the numbers are smallest) pull it back a stop or two and you might find you get a little more clarity in your shots.
The same with zoom lenses. I know with my Point & Shoot as well as my Bridge camera, I don’t shoot with the lens zoomed in or out all the way and I also know F4 is my FZ300’s sweet spot (F8 equivalent to a DSLR). It just takes some trial and error to get to really know and understand your equipment.
6. Check focus
Always check what part of the image is in focus before hitting the shutter. Consider setting the camera to one autofocus point instead of several. This is especially important when shooting wildlife or people. Also, depth of field is something we need to consider. A large aperture like F2.8 will usually have only one autofocus point in focus versus a small aperture like F11 will have several of the autofocus points in focus.
Final thoughts …
Practice, practice, practice! And remember, photography isn’t a science. It’s a creative art of expression. And in the end, what matters most about an image is how it makes YOU feel and the memories that photo evokes within you.