Grand Teton National Park: Backpacking the Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop

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Bonus points if you can find Chris in this picture ūüėČ

Oh, Grand Teton National Park! Of all the places we dreamed about visiting on our two-month road trip, I think I was MOST excited about the Tetons. A quick Google photos search will show you why I had permanent heart-eyes daydreaming about this place.

Of course, with our adventure pup Callie in tow, our options for national park sightseeing were mostly limited to scenic drives and the occasional paved trail‚ÄĒbecause those are (generally) the only spots where you’re allowed to take dogs. But we simply couldn’t visit the Tetons without a little backpacking action! After researching local¬†kennels, we decided to board Callie for a few days so we could get out in the backcountry.

As for which trail to hike, the choice was obvious: the 19-mile Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon loop. This popular trail circles¬†through the center of the park, cutting into the mountains¬†through Paintbrush Canyon on one side and Cascade Canyon on the other. In between, the trail reaches its pinnacle at the¬†Paintbrush Divide: a 10,700 ft. vista offering a sweeping 360-degree view of the Tetons’ signature rocky peaks.

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This is the route, as outlined on the free map that the park provides. Green areas are where camping is allowed (but only on designated sites and with a permit).

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This land is our land: a love letter to our national parks

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A few months ago, I won an Instagram contest.

Let me just reiterate that for emphasis: I WON AN INSTAGRAM CONTEST!!! I don’t often win things, so it was pretty¬†exciting.

The contest was from one of my favorite brands, Greenville-based The Landmark Project.¬†They make gorgeous clothing and other goods inspired by the outdoors, and give a portion of their proceeds to helping at-risk teens through outdoor adventure. (Go ahead, click that link and check them out. I’ll wait. I should also clarify¬†that I have no affiliation with this company whatsoever. I just really love their work!)

Anyway, on the National Park Service’s 100th birthday this summer, they ran this contest: re-post a photo of their line of national park graphics¬†with a caption about why you love the¬†parks for a chance to win a free T-shirt. The timing was perfect‚ÄĒChris and I had just left on our two-month road trip, where we planned to visit 11 national parks (spoiler alert: we actually hit up 15!) This is what I wrote:

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A good day in the Badlands

After our wonderful¬†stay in Wisconsin, we said goodbye to family and‚ÄĒclean, rested, with the car neatly packed and a cooler full of cheese‚ÄĒstarted our journey west.

Fast-forward nearly¬†400 miles of incredibly boring southern Minnesota interstate…and we finally crossed into South Dakota! We ended up camping in Palisades State Park for the night‚ÄĒjuuuust over the border to the east of Sioux Falls.¬†After a good night’s sleep,¬†we decided to do a little exploring before getting back in the car. And it was the coolest place! Originally an old mining town, the park featured a winding river¬†with crazy rock formations and trails all along¬†the shores.

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We went for a short hour-long hike, and at 9:30 a.m. on a weekday, didn’t see another soul. It ended up being one of those unexpected road trip surprises: a hidden gem just outside of Sioux Falls. If you’re ever in the area, you should definitely check it out.

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After that, it was onward to our next destination: Badlands National Park, the first national park of our trip! It was just a few more hours of boring interstate (and about 8 million tourist trap billboards) away, about an hour east of Rapid City. After we took photos with the sign¬†(obviously) and¬†purchased our pass (we’re official card-carrying NPS annual pass holders now, NBD) we¬†headed into the park.

dsc_0678And about two minutes later, we felt like we were on another planet.

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5 tips for first-time Yosemite visitors

Two years ago, Chris and I checked a BIG item off the bucket list: visiting Yosemite National Park!

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It’s still one of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken.¬†Recently, I posted a throwback picture to Instagram, and a friend‚ÄĒwho’s planning his first visit to the park this summer‚ÄĒasked if I had any tips. I promptly wrote him a novel of an email. So, with Yosemite on my mind and most of this already written,¬†I thought it would be fun to share some of my experience¬†here!

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