USA

Hiking in Phoenix Arizona: Camelback, Papago, and Pinnacle Peak

DSC_0943.jpg
hiking in arizona

hiking in arizona

The Southwest USA is filled with red rocks and natural wonders that look like they'd be from a different planet. It's amazing how beautiful our world is. Within the USA alone you can go hiking through pretty much every terrain imaginable.

While lush forests are the first to come to mind when you think "hike," you may (or may not) be surprised that the only plants you'll see on Phoenix hikes are wispy trees and cacti.

Three fun Phoenix area hikes include Camelback, Papago, and Pinnacle Peak.

Camelback Mountain

Difficulty: Intermediate (Cholla Trail) or Advanced (Echo Canyon Trail)

View from top of Camelback

View from top of Camelback

Phoenix's most popular hiking spot is Camelback. Situated next to Downtown Scottsdale just northeast of Phoenix, it provides easy access in terms of getting there from anywhere in the Phoenix area, especially if you're staying in Scottsdale.

The Cholla Trail provides great exercise for those in shape but still provides a challenge. Echo Canyon is said to be for those more experienced.

Read more about tips for hiking Camelback here.

Hiking Camelback Mountain

Hiking Camelback Mountain

Papago Mountain

Difficulty: Easy

Papago Mountain Phoenix

Papago Mountain Phoenix

Papago is more of a rock formation that you can walk around on than a mountain and is a great spot for checking out views of Downtown Phoenix from afar.While the address is technically Phoenix, Papago is more in the Tempe area.

Young kids and families with dogs were easily able to get around this area.

DSC_0178

DSC_0178

Pinnacle Peak

Difficulty: Moderate-intermediate

Pinnacle Peak Hike Scottsdale AZ

Pinnacle Peak Hike Scottsdale AZ

Situated in North Scottsdale, Pinnacle Peak is a good spot that provides variety to hikers. Parts of the trail are more flat, parts of it are steep, and there are good lookout points along the way. If you're in Phoenix from out of town, you'll love all the cacti scattered up close around the well-maintained trail.

The intensity varies at times - while you definitely get more of a workout on Pinnacle than Papago, it's not as difficult as the Cholla Trail on Camelback.

Pinnacle Peak Arizona

Pinnacle Peak Arizona

Photos of an Amazing Rooftop View in New York City

Rooftop-Midtown.jpg

If you don't live in a big city, a trip to New York will have you awestruck at all the skyscrapers. Rooftop patios, bars, restaurants - you name it - on a nice day, these are some of the best places to be if you're looking for a nice view. Here are some photos from my hotel in Midtown that provided panoramic views of tall buildings - you don't have to look out at Rockefeller or the Empire State Building (or pay $$$) for views like this.

Rooftop Midtown

 

Pod 51 Midtown Roof

New York Rooftop View

New York Views

Pod 51 View

Hiking Camelback Mountain For The First Time

Hiking Camelback Mountain Coming from the Pacific Northwest, hiking in the Arizona desert is a completely different experience. Arizona was definitely a scene change for me. Lush forests with thousands of evergreen trees on treks through the Cascades were replaced by big piles of rocks with a few cacti thrown in. Jokes aside, hiking in Phoenix is very beautiful, especially once you realize that it's going to be very different from a traditional forest setting. Plus, absolutely perfect weather in the springtime is the cherry on top.

Last weekend a friend and I hiked Camelback Mountain, the most popular mountain to hike in the Phoenix area.

The weather: Mid-April, low 70s in the morning, mid-80s around noon, clear skies and sunny

The trail: Cholla. There are two trails to choose from: Cholla and Echo Canyon. Since neither of us had hiked the mountain prior, a friend suggested we start with the Cholla Trail, which is a more moderate route (unlike Echo, which is known for its intensity and difficulty).

Time: A little over two hours round trip, including time to stop and take photos/rest at the top (plus 15 min. walk each way to get to/from our cars).

Hiking Camelback Mountain For The First Time

Beginning of Cholla Trail on Camelback

We arrived in the trail area around 7:00 am. The skies were starting to clear and the weather was in the low 70s; very comfortable for 7:00 am. We parallel parked on Invergordon (64th Street) quite far down the road since there were plenty of early risers that beat us to it.

The trail was simple to start. The path is somewhat wide and smooth. Once we started to increase in elevation, the trail started to get rockier and there was more "fancy footwork" to be done.

As someone who's not an experienced hiker by any means, I will say that while I started to feel a little more of a workout at this point, it was still fairly easy. We kept going and stopped at the first viewpoint to take photos. Downtown Phoenix looked so small!

View of Downtown Phoenix from Camelback

After this section was complete, next came the infamous rock climbing portion. I had heard from numerous other people that you have to "legit rock climb to get to the top." (Before I had left that morning, I idly thought about bringing my rock climbing shoes from when I used to take climbing classes. I obviously didn't though. Ha!)

The thought of rock climbing slightly freaked me out, but when I saw that there were numerous jagged edges and pieces of rocks to hold onto - and that it wasn't literally a vertical slab of rock (it's at a slight angle) - my nerves ceased. Don't get me wrong - it's still pretty vertical, but not where you'd need ropes and a harness.

Camelback Mountain

I really enjoyed the "climbing" part of the hike, and before we knew it, we were at the top. Once there, we took in the views of the valley and snapped a few photos to celebrate our effort up the mountain.

On the way down we realized the importance of hiking shoes. Both of us were in Nikes, which were fine, though the trail is well-worn and the gravel made it slippery. We had a few moments where we almost fell, but even if we had fallen, it probably would've only amounted to a few scrapes and bruises.

View from top of Camelback

Tips For Hiking Camelback Mountain

Start with Cholla

I haven't done the other trail, though from countless stories from friends (and reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp), Cholla is the best one to start out with. It's not a walk in the park, but it doesn't require the expertise that Echo does.

Go early in the morning, and be careful depending on the time of year

Spring in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is actually summer in Phoenix. Starting the hike a little after sunrise in April was the perfect temperature - comfortably warm and not too hot. Since it's snowbird season the trail was a little crowded but it was still enjoyable. Also, the earlier you get there, the better chance you have at getting a closer parking spot.

When I first moved to Phoenix last July, I looked into hiking Camelback and was reading Yelp reviews. The reviews read more like warnings: many were saying that people can have heatstroke, pass out, or even die from the heat in the summer. The desert temperatures rise well over the 100s in the "true" summer months, so please be careful if you consider hiking during that time of year.

At top of Camelback Mountain, Phoenix AZ

Wear hiking or sturdy athletic shoes

While the Cholla Trail is more of a moderate hike, you'll be making a mistake if you try to do it in flip flops. The path begins to get rocky about 1/3 of the way up, and sandals would definitely slide off in the last portion toward the top. On the way down it gets a little slipperier with loose gravel.

Bring - and drink - water

This is a given for any physical activity, but considering the heat is dry and not humid, you may forget to hydrate as you move along. I used my Nalgene water bottle which came in handy as I attached the handle onto my backpack when I needed to use both hands for the climbing portion.

Camelback Mountain Views

Overall, my first experience hiking Camelback was a very positive one. It was a beautiful day, the weather was perfect, and it was just enough of a good workout without being brutal. I'd definitely return to try this trail again, or even work my way up to Echo Canyon.

Phoenix Flea 2015

Inspirational-Prints-_-Phoenix-Flea-2015.jpg

Inspirational Prints _ Phoenix Flea 2015 Phoenix comes to life on the weekends, with numerous festivals, outdoor markets, concerts, and food trucks. And with the March weather officially ringing in spring at a delightful 86 degrees, one simply must take advantage of everything going on in the valley.

I had the pleasure of attending this year's Phoenix Flea, which features booths selling locally made art, food and baked goods, crafts, and vintage fashion.

The event is located in downtown Phoenix at Heritage Museum Square with the entrance behind The Rosson House.

The Rosson House _ Heritage Museum Square

We couldn't resist getting waffles loaded with Nutella, raspberries, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream from the Waffle Crush truck.

Waffle Crush at Phoenix Flea

These macarons from A BakeShop almost looked too pretty to eat. Their treats are delicious, by the way!

a BakeShop macarons

Loved the woodwork art pieces from WhiteFive Designs.

Small Steps Turn Into Miles _ Phoenix Flea

Float Balloon Tours were handing out yummy samples of virgin mimosas. I've wanted to ride in a hot air balloon for a while, so this is definitely something I'm going to look into!

Float Balloon Tours _ Phoenix Flea

There were a number of booths selling artsy prints that would liven up any room.

Inspirational Prints _ Phoenix FLea

It's been nice to have weekends back to do fun things like this. Traveling to faraway places is amazing, but I feel like we often get caught up with only exploring abroad and don't take the chance to explore our own backyard. I'm definitely looking forward to discovering more of what Phoenix has to offer!

Around The World On A Budget

baobab-trees.jpg

Is traveling expensive? It can be, but it doesn't have to! Instead of getting discouraged immediately after checking the price of flights, start to think outside the box when it comes to planning your next trip. If your dream destination is somewhere warm on a beach, look into Southeast Asia - there are hoards of beaches there. If it's classic European architecture, check out the castles and cathedrals of old-world Eastern Europe. If it's something adventurous or outdoors-y, look into Central or South America. For somewhere totally exotic and different, head to Central Asia.

Below are a few destinations around the world on a budget that will still satisfy your desire to travel that won't drain your bank account. This list can help get you started when thinking about where to go!

Also read: Where To Find Cheap Flights

Asia

Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, etc.

Countries in Southeast Asia are extremely inexpensive to travel to. This region is often called a "backpacker's paradise" due to being safe, cheap, and with multiple countries that are easy to get to. Get started with a Full Moon party in Thailand, waterfalls in Laos, pristine beaches in Cambodia, delicious fusion food in Singapore, or bright green rice fields in Indonesia.

South Korea

For an Eastern Asian adventure without the Tokyo price tag, head to South Korea. Sing karaoke, eat Korean barbecue, and take trips through the lush countryside to see this stunning country.

Europe

Eastern Europe and The Balkans: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania

This region of Eastern Europe is far cheaper than its western counterpart. While London and Paris are amazing cities, you can find accommodation for days in parts of Eastern Europe that cost the same as one night in the former two. You'll get a more in-depth experience and set foot in parts of Europe that many travelers never get to. The castles and architecture are gorgeous, too!

DSC_0256

Turkey

Istanbul is one of the most interesting cities in Europe, partially due to its influences with both the West and East. It's really cheap, and the farther east you go, the cooler it gets. Hot air ballooning in the Cappadocia region is a popular activity these days, as is taking a cruise along the sparkling Mediterranean Coast.

Greece

Greece is a European country that many people assume is outrageously expensive but is far more affordable than you'd think. Read the Greece section on this post for more reasons why.

Africa

Morocco

Morocco tends to be more on the inexpensive side for tourists, especially if you're getting there from Western Europe (in which case, it will seem very inexpensive). Avoid tourist scams to save your money, and enjoy the beauty and exotic flavor of this country.

Madagascar

If you can get to Madagascar, you'll notice that prices are on the lower range for accommodation, transportation, etc. You never know, it could be worth it to see the Avenue of Baobabs in person, where baobab trees reach heights of about 100 feet.

The Americas

Peru

Peru has Machu Picchu which is already awesome, but you'll also find jungles and beaches in this South American country. Go to Lima or Cuzco for a city vibe, or head out to Lake Titicaca to marvel at this huge lake that sits over 12,000 feet above sea level.

USA

North America in general can get pretty pricey, but if you want to go to the US, shave down the cost of seeing big cities in different parts of this large country by driving instead of flying. This will significantly cut down your costs and allow you to stop at unexpected spots on the way! Popular routes include:

-Historic Route 66 (California-Arizona-New Mexico-Texas-Oklahoma-Missouri-Illinois)

-Deep South (Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama-Georgia)

-Pacific Coast Highway (Washington-Oregon-California)

-California to New York

-Florida

-I-90 (East-West interstate highway along northern states)

-Southwest loop (Los Angeles-San Diego-Phoenix-Grand Canyon-Zion NP-Las Vegas)

Panama If you're craving Central American beaches but aren't digging the idea of Costa Rican prices, go a little further south to Panama. Rainforest, tropical birds, beaches, diving, and surfing are a few of many great things to see and do in Panama.

Oceania & The Pacific

Islands: Fiji, Northern Mariana Islands

Aside from Australia and New Zealand, which are both notorious for being pricey, look into islands in Oceania. Fiji is a great alternative to the Caribbean if you're looking for a beach getaway. Also check out some other islands, such as the Northern Mariana Islands - Saipan is on the US dollar and is relatively inexpensive (read more about Saipan here and here)!

Sedona: The Beauty of Southwest USA

Sedona 7 I took a quick day trip to Sedona with a few friends over Labor Day Weekend for the first time in years and forgot just how beautiful of a place it was.

In Central Arizona, Sedona is a small town surrounded by massive red rocks. There are plenty of spas, resorts, and boutiques to visit and hiking trails ranging from easy to advanced.

If you find yourself in Arizona, I highly recommend at least a day in Sedona. Whether you're visiting nearby Flagstaff, Phoenix, or the Grand Canyon, this quaint town is sure to not disappoint.

DSC_0896 Sedona 4 DSC_0888 Sedona 3

The Ultimate Travel Guide For Seattle

Pike-Place-Market-Seattle.jpg

This is your ultimate guide to the must-see attractions you'll need to check off your Seattle bucket list. If you're headed to Seattle soon, you've probably taken note of the typical sites to see, like the Space Needle or the original Starbucks. Already been to the city or want to get away from the tourists? Scroll down halfway to hit off-the-beaten-path gems I recommend as a Seattle native. The Main Attractions:

Space Needle

The Space Needle is the most iconic Seattle landmark and is nestled just a smidge off the downtown skyline in order to make it stand out from the crowd. You'll notice it driving south along I-5 on your way into the city, or peeking out from the buildings as you wind around the exit leaving I-90. Ride up to the top of the Space Needle to get the best panorama view of the whole city.

The Original StarbucksAny Starbucks fan must make a pilgrimage to the original shop that started it all. Right in Pike Place Market you'll find the original Starbucks, in all its glory, back from when it first opened in 1971. Though it's often crowded with tourists, you'll get to be at the original shop that spawned the 23,000+ locations worldwide. (Know what's crazy? I get Starbucks every single day, though I haven't been to the original shop, ever, in my 17 years of living in the Seattle area. Why? Well...there literally is a Starbucks everywhere you turn, so I don't really need to. I know, shame on me for not being a better Starbucks fan.)

Pike Place Market

Now if you're headed to the original Starbucks, you're already in Pike Place Market, so you might as well explore the rest of it. Pike Place is the downtown farmer's market with local produce, inexpensive but beautiful flower bouquets, and lots of fish. The fish even fly. Locals often wander around playing music on saxophones or guitars, which adds to the overall ambiance of the market.

Seahawks, Mariners, and Sounders Games

If it's sports season, find yourself rooting for the pro teams of Seattle. Cheer on the Hawks (2014 Super Bowl champs, I might add) and the Sounders at Century Link Field, or for the Mariners at Safeco Field. Lining the streets by Safeco are snack stands with hot dogs and kettle corn, but inside holds the true fan favorite: garlic fries. Just make sure to bring a breath mint - or three.

Experience Music Project

EMP is the museum of every music buff's fantasies. I've been a few times and it's pretty cool. Some of the current exhibits include Nirvana and Jimmy Hendrix.

Sculpture Garden & Seattle Art Museum

For the modern artists. Personally, I haven't been to the SAM but have heard great things about it. I have been to the Sculpture Garden a few times though. One of those times included a school field trip in the pouring rain. Needless to say, I did not enjoy it at all. However, the sculptures are unique and if you're into it, then it might be a place to add to your list.

Woodland Park Zoo

A fun zoo that I went to with family and relatives growing up. Great for families, first dates, or going with friends and reliving childhood memories.


For a More Local Feel:

Local Coffee Shops

Seattle is known for its coffee, but not just because of Starbucks. Find one of the many indie coffee shops around town and you're sure to not be disappointed.

San Juan Islands

The San Juans may not be "lesser-known," but not as many people venture out to the islands in the Puget Sound since they're only accessible by ferry. However, Bainbridge Island is so close that you can still see the skyline from it. Whidbey Island, Friday Harbor, and Roche Harbor are popular summer spots for all kinds of summer activities.

Lake Washington

Take a boat out on Lake Washington in the summer when it's sunny and I guarantee you'll have a good time. On a clear day you'll get the best view of Mt. Rainier. Your Instagram uploads will be so #nofilter they'll rival any others in the feed. You can also rent canoes by the hour through the University of Washington.

Snoqualmie/Cascade Mountains

Drive a little east to the mountains and you'll have plenty of skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing options in the winter. Hiking or camping in the summer is great too with spectacular views from the top.

Dick's Drive-In RestaurantHow could I not include Dick's Drive-In on this list?! Dick's is THE iconic, local fast food restaurant of Seattle where you can get a greasy (and delicious) cheeseburger for only $1.65 all day/night until 2am. (We stopped by for late night food after my high school prom, so you know it's good. Oh, the memories.) There are five locations throughout the Seattle area. Burgers, fries, and milkshakes await as you sit in your car like a classic drive-in, or eat on a bench outside. (Oh, and it is way different than the Dick's in Spokane, WA which is owned by a different person.)

 Lake Chelan

Drive east past the mountains to Lake Chelan in Central Washington, a popular summer spot. Great for lounging in the summer sun, spending some time on the lake, or wine tasting at the vineyards. It's a small town so if you're not there in the summer, there's really not much to do.

Craft Breweries

For beer fans, check out the craft breweries and alehouses from the northwest. There are plenty to choose from, and the Seattle Alehouse (home to Pyramid) is right across from Safeco Field, giving you a great opportunity to cheer on the Mariners game from their beer garden.

Alki Beach

For the BEST views of the Seattle skyline, head to Alki Beach on Lake Washington. It's sandy so it's great for the summer, but sunsets and city views are stunning all year round.

Photos, top to bottom: 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15