The hike up Moro Rock offers stunning views of Sequoia National Park with panoramic vistas of California’s Central Valley and the Western Divide from its top.
Although the trail to the top of Moro Rock is only 1/3 mile, it’s pretty much vertical, climbing 300 feet.
You’ll want to keep a firm grip on your toddler here, if not take the added precaution of looping his safety harness strap to your belt with a carabiner (or D-ring) clip. Backpack carriers or frontpack child carriers work well here, with the exception of a couple of tight passageways you may need to shift slightly to fit through with a large frame backpack carrier.
Your little hiker will likely welcome a ride in your arms or on your shoulders before your visit is through. And there are stretches you may welcome the chance to hold him tight in your arms as well!
Still, it’s a beautiful place to experience during your visit to Sequoia National Park, and a memory that’s likely to stick with you for many years to come.
Moro Rock is near the Giant Forest Museum, just off the General’s Highway that runs through Sequoia National Park. For more information, head to www.visitsequoia.com and check out the related posts and pages below.
Related posts and pages:
- Important tips for your visit to Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park
- Review of family-friendly Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park
If you’ve never explored a marble cave that was carved and polished by underground streams, has been draped with ribbons of stalactites, and padded with sparkling puffs of stalagmites, you won’t want to miss spectacular Crystal Cave on your visit to Sequoia National Park.
However, you should be forewarned: Unlike many popular sites in National Parks today, Crystal Cave is not a “drive-in” attraction. It is not wheelchair-or stroller-accessible. And just getting to it in time for your tour can be surprisingly complicated. So before you, or any friend of mine, sets out to explore this geologic treasure, please be sure to read these important tips so you can be as prepared for your visit as possible.
- You cannot buy tickets to enter the cave at the cave itself. Tickets for the cave tours must be purchased at the Lodgepole Visitor Center, and you must commit to a tour time in advance. Late arrivals for tours will not be accommodated, and refunds or rescheduled tours are not an option. With that in mind, be sure to read the next point about timing.
- You MUST plan 1 hour 15 minutes (minimum) to get from Lodgepole Visitor Center to the entranceto the cave. This includes about 45 minutes’ drive that will take you well off the General’s Highway down innumerous narrow hairpin curves on which I ultimately found best results using low gear. Once parked at the trail head, you must check in and “sanitize” your shoes (and any camera that has been used in other caves over the past 5 years) at the top of the trail. Then, you can begin the approximately 15-minute steep decent down the trail to the cave’s entrance, where your guide awaits.
- Don’t wear any clothing or shoes that you’ve worn in a bat-inhabitated cave in the past 5 years. Seriously, it’s a rule here in order to protect the bats from a disease that can be carried into the cave even on clothing you’ve laundered several times. (Previously-caved camera’s they’ll allow after a sanitizing wipe-down.) Click here to learn more about the White-Nose Syndrome affecting bats.
- The hike back up after your tour is steep and HARD for many, many people.In addition to an approximate 400 ft climb, this is at over 6,000 feet elevation and the air is thinner than most of us are accustomed to. Still skeptical? I can tell you that, for us, hiking up Moro Rock the following day was actually much easier than hiking out of Crystal Cave. Those in poor health should really think twice before attempting the tour because of this, but those who are up to a good uphill hike, and accommodating their weary tots along the way as needed will no doubt enjoy the walk and views of waterfalls along the lower portions of the trail (yes, I got to hoist an extra 32 lbs. of toddler much of the way, myself! And I won’t tell you what the camera weighs…).
- You MUST bring your own drinking water to Crystal Cave. There is no potable water available in the parking area or anywhere near the entrance, except for what bottled water might be available for purchase at the tiny portable gift shop (yes, it’s on wheels). Even sinks for hand-washing have been removed from the restroom area here to eliminate confusion among tourists about whether or not it was drinkable. Bring plain, unflavored water with you on the cave trail. Any flavored water, sports drinks, or other beverages will not be allowed in the cave.
- A few bear-proof storage boxes are located at the edge of the parking lot, where you may store any food and beverage items, or scented toiletries you may have with you during your tour rather than keeping them in your car.
- Baby backpacks are not allowed on the tour through the caves. Because anyone over 5 feet 5 inches tall runs the risk of bumping their heads on the tour in certain areas, and some “key hole” passageways require even children to turn sideways and squeeze through while ducking, they just wouldn’t work here. Guides did share with me that those parents using soft front-pack carriers or slings for babies should be accepted, as long as they allow you to lift and shift your small load as needed.
- Bulky regular-size backpacks (daypacks) may be rejected for the tour for the same reason. Mine was. Fortunately, I was able to use the waist-pack I had stuffed inside instead.
- Photography is allowed in the cave, though tripods are NOT. And neither are walking sticks, so you’ll have to be extra clever in getting your low-lighting shots.
In spite of all the hoops to jump through to gain entrance into the cave, and the tough walk back up after our tour, we were all very, very glad we made the effort. The resting area at the bottom of the waterfalls was espacially nice, and we were delighted to find our own waterfall waiting for us there!
Other helpful information:
The basic Crystal Cave tour is 45 minutes, and tours run mid-May through Mid-November, weather permitting. Current prices are Adults $13, kids 5 to 12 $7, kids under 5 years $2. Four additional tours are available, including a historic candlelight tour; and a Junior Cavers tour for kids ages 8-13 with helmets, lights and knee pads included (parents can purchase tickets for a simultaneous tour and meet up with kids at cave entrance afterward). Through summer, the first regular tour each week day is for adults only. For more information, visit the Sequoia Natural History Association’s website http://www.sequoiahistory.org/ or go to www.visitsequoia.com. For information about Sequoia National Park’s nearby Wuksachi Lodge, click here to read my complete review of Wuksachi Lodge.
Like caves? Love stalagmites? Don’t miss this virtual visit to the Nerja Caves in Spain – home to the world’s largest natural column.
When my mother bravely loaded our Chevy hatchback with the faulty second gear to drive us down America’s scenic highways and on through several of its National Parks, our unforgettable journey not only taught us the value of bonding through family travel (and adventure!) but showed us firsthand what natural wonders had been set aside for us by our country and should never be taken for granted.
This month, from April 21 through April 29, you’ll have the opportunity to visit ANY of America’s 397 National Parks for FREE. Many of the parks will also be offering special Earth Day activities and events while you are there. Some you might want to check out if you’ll be in California include:
Yosemite National Park will have a guided bike tour of the valley for $5 each, including bike rental (or FREE if you bring your own bike – our favorite way to see Yosemite!), face painting and crafts for kids, and a family night that includes a sing-along and dramatic staging of Dr. Suess’s The Lorax in the Yosemite Lodge amphitheater. More special events, activities and offers are mentioned here.
Grand Sequoia National Park will have family-friendly events including an Earth Day Fair with numerous giveaways, guided forest tour, and evening meteor shower viewing at Wuksachi Lodge. More info about these and other special events here.
If you can’t take advantage of National Parks Week this month, these FREE entrance dates are also scheduled for later this year:
MORE FREE NATIONAL PARK DAYS IN 2012:
- June 9: Get Outdoors Day
- September 29: National Public Lands Day
- November 10 – 12: Veteran’s Day Weekend
Some of our National Parks, it should be noted, are always free. And of course, if it’s easier to see a National Park this year on your own time and your own dime, it can still be well worth every penny of the entrance fee.
For ideas and inspiration in planning your trip to a National Park this year:
- You can check out Ken Burns: The National Parks - America’s Best Idea: or follow this link to dowload the individual park episode you want.
- Explore these 35 National Park Adventures for Kids in this online brochure from the National Parks Foundation.
- If Yosemite National Park is on your list, be sure to see my tips for visiting Yosemite with young kids, biking, managing your car seat in bear country and more!
As we sang so often on our trip several years ago, “This land is your land; this land is my land.” I hope you’ll get a chance to get out there and share some of it with your own family this year.
Last weekend, we traveled to Monterey to help celebrate two very special birthdays in my family, plus the 25th anniversary of the world class Monterey Bay Aquarium. While it goes without saying that the aquarium is glorious and is a must-see for any family traveling to or through Monterey, CA, it’s the unexpected OTHER attraction that I’m even more excited to share. (And unlike the aquarium, it’s free!)
“Dennis the Menace Playground” is located in the heart of El Estero Park in Monterey, on a small peninsula surrounded by waters navigable by rented paddle boat. The sprawling play park was created by the author of the Dennis the Menace comic strip as a gift to the city, and has something for kids of all ages, with baby swings and a separate fenced toddler playground on up to a climbing wall and skate park for teens.
Its more unique features include the wide suspension bridge, a small shrub labyrinth with play structure in the center, and the fabulous red-roller slide popular with preschoolers and tweens alike. The retired Southern Pacific steam engine at the entrance is also a popular climbing structure.
More tips for your visit:
- Bring a picnic or buy burgers and refreshments at the booth on the parking lot.
- The playground is open daily from 10 a.m. to dusk, and is closed on non-holiday Tuesdays Sept. through May.
- The Monterey Municipal Beach is across Del Monte Ave. from the park and offers great late-day lighting for pictures with its rare (for the West Coast) northern orientation.
- Click here to see a Google map with Dennis the Menace Playground.
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This post is part of Photo Friday at Deliciousbaby.com. Head over there for more fun travel shots and ideas for your own travels.
After we rambled on through Yosemite, catching waterfalls and wildflowers in their prime, we dipped down to Mammoth Lakes where we had the great pleasure of building a snowman on summer vacation (don’t miss my Mammoth tips & review on TravelSavvyMom.com—with video!). Then it was time to head north on our Eastern Sierra family road trip adventure.
As we drove along the almost lunar landscape of Mono Lake, we were faced with a tough decision: To Bodie, or not to Bodie? Bodie State Historic Park is one of the United States’ biggest and best-preserved ghost towns. While it sounds like a natural road stop for any family traveling along Highway 395 you should be forewarned, as we were, that “The Road to Bodie” is a 13-mile stretch that may take a few years off your tires. And when you get there, don’t expect to find flush toilets and shave ice. Or shade. As you can see, we decided to go for it.
The Road to Bodie (a.k.a. CA 270) quickly transformed to a glorified asphalt that somehow reminded me of hiking Hawaii’s Big Island. After 10 miles, it became an official washboard, dirt-rock affair which may have added another mile to the final stretch as we dodged and veered the jagged monoliths and marveled that horse-drawn carriages had ever survived passage here. I braced the baby’s head between my hands as he jiggled in his infant car seat. But it was too late, and too narrow, to turn back.
At last Bodie came into view. Our eyes popped, seeing buildings stretch for several city blocks, and dirt roads wending on up to the old mill on the hill. I could see now that the $2 self-guided tour book I’d purchased at the entrance was going to be more useful than I’d expected (proceeds support the Friends of Bodie). We found space in the dirt parking lot and quickly determined the stroller (with its thankfully rugged pneumatic wheels) would be the best option for keeping Baby Theo shaded and sheltered from the wind.
With sunhats, water, and snacks, we set out to explore the streets of Bodie. At around 8,500 ft. elevation with nary a shade tree in sight, hit by the full force of the Eastern Sierra winds at high noon, I was suddenly reminded of an expression I’d often read in history books: “Died of exposure.” How this town, which began with a handful of miners in 1859, somehow supported a population of 10,000 just 20 years later is a true marvel.
It was not an easy place to live—in fact, someone died there nearly every day. Most deaths, however, were due to gunpowder-peppered disagreements among the salty miners, prospectors, gamblers, and outlaws who largely populated the town (that’s a Bodie-style hearse in the one-room museum you’ll find on Main Street). But there were also plenty of families in Bodie, as well, and I nearly stopped in my tracks as I ventured inside the Tom Miller home and found this antique baby “dining booster” parked on a kitchen chair.
The layers of linoleum also found in this house reveal the story of how the town rose and finally fell in the late 1930s. Bodie has been a California State Park since 1962. There are nearly 200 structures still standing in Bodie, and some 80 headstones remaining in the Bodie Cemetery. There are no hotdog stands, however, so be sure to bring plenty of snacks and refreshments for your crew.
All in all, we are very glad we went. Particularly since we made it out without a flat tire or broken axle. If you’re heading to Bodie with a baby or young children, I offer these additional tips:
Tips for your family’s visit to Bodie:
- A jogger or all-terrain stroller may help protect your child from the sun and wind, but it will limit your access to the few old buildings that are open to visitors.
- In the summer, expect it to feel hot in the sun and most likely cold in the shade (where you’ll find it along the old store fronts and in buildings), so dress everyone in breathable layers.
- If you need a breastfeeding stop, there are benches in front of the museum. While they’re shaded in the afternoon, it’s a pretty cold shade and not exactly private. Both good reasons to bring an extra baby blanket along.
- It’s windy. And dusty. You’ll be glad to have a lightweight windbreaker and sunglasses (also for the kids).
- Make sure your vehicle is in good shape and well-fueled before turning onto the Road to Bodie, as you cell phone likely won’t help you if you should need roadside assistance, and it can be tough “catching a ride out” for help when you have a family-size group, some of whom ride in car seats. (And I wouldn’t want to be left behind!)
- Stock up on extra provisions (O Pioneers!) at the towns of Lee Vining or Bridgeport before visiting Bodie, and be sure to carry your water and some snacks with you as you explore. Once you get started, it’s a long way back to the car.
- Bring the camera, and extra batteries or film. You could go crazy taking photos of this place.
View Bodie Historic State Park, California in a larger map
The park is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer months, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in winter—though subject to weather conditions. For more information about Bodie, including some of the legends and lore, and a great slideshow, check out www.Bodie.com. This post is part of Photo Friday at DelciousBaby.com.
Silver Falls State Park, OR – Within moments of entering Silver Falls State Park, I had to wonder how I’d managed to stay away for so many years. It’s not only the largest State Park in Oregon, but it has waterfalls that rival any I’ve seen in Hawaii or Yosemite National Park. I had my earliest experiences at Silver Falls as a girl when I got to be lucky enough each summer to come and get assigned my very own horse to groom and ride for one glorious week of “horse camp.” Naturally, I grew up with the impression that this is what all forests and waterfalls are like. But this time, setting off down the path toward the magnificent 177-foot high South Falls, I marveled that this hasn’t been made a National Park yet. Though I admit, I’m glad it doesn’t pack the crowds we battle at some of the better-known big parks we visit.
This photo that I snapped while standing behind the South Falls only shows a part of the waterfall, but it’s a good example of the landscape you’ll find here and the memorable experiences to be had throughout this park–even if you only take the .5 mile hike to this very vantage point. Standing here, you can feel the roar of the falls travel your bones as the mist settles on your cheeks. There are several short hikes with impressive pay-offs, or you can opt to see all of the water falls on the 7-mile “Trail of Ten Falls” (a.k.a. Canyon Trail). You can view the park’s trail map online as a PDF at: http://www.oregonstateparks.org/images/pdf/silverfalls_trailmap.pdf . William Sullivan, author of the “100 Hikes” guidebooks, has some good hiking suggestions for Silver Falls online that may also help you plan your attack.
With ten water falls impressing visitors even at summer’s end (though spring snow melt makes for the most spectacular falls), Silver Falls is truly a special–if not magical–place to visit. Anyone wanting to see Oregon’s lush, green temperate rain forest, will find one of the best examples here. Layer upon layer of ferns and shamrocks, Douglas fir trees, hemlocks, and mossy rocks crowd happily into every view. I marveled as I strolled beside a hedge of maidenhair ferns as high as my hips, and that’s when I saw the fabled “fairy train” caterpillar (black with a row of yellow windows down its side), which my great grandma always said brought good luck. I am lucky to be here, I thought, as I showed the fairy train to my daughters.
Good to know:
While there are some safety fences here and there along the trails, there are still steep staircases, drop offs, and slippery areas on trails, especially where you walk behind the larger falls. With my active toddler wanting (and needing) to be very much on her own two feet, I was glad to have our Safe-Fit backpack harness along for her (with an extra diaper/wipes, snacks, and sippy cup) to attach to my belt loop as a back up (I recommend a carabiner clip for quick attach & release–and of course, a sturdy belt loop).
With smaller children, you’ll want a good backpack or frontpack carrier while on the trails. If you’re wearing a framed backpack carrier, take extra care of your child’s clearance above you if you need to duck beneath an occasional rocky overhang.
As with most lush, green places in Oregon, even a hot sunny day elsewhere may leave you wanting a jacket or at least long sleeves while hiking the falls. You’ll also want to bring along your own water, lunch and/or plenty of snacks if you plan to spend much time in the park since you’ll have a hard time finding it here.
The Pearsons, a local family living near the park, offer some more helpful tips on their own website: http://www.silverfallspark.org/PT/ParkTips.html, including the all-important note that there are no restrooms along the trails, so be sure to use the lovely pit toilets at the parking areas or restrooms at the picnicking/camping areas before you venture out too far.
When you go:
Silver Falls State Park is approximately a 1-hour drive from Portland, and you may save some time during heavy traffic by taking Hwy 99 E. If you come from Salem, or via I-5, it is 26 miles east of Salem on Hwy 22, just be sure to follow the signs for Hwy 214, which will lead you through Silverton and on to the park. You will need to purchase a $3 day-use pass for your visit, unless you are paying a fee to stay overnight in the park or have another Oregon State Parks pass. The park is open year-round, except in the case of a severe weather closure. More information at: http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_211.php.
Explore some more:
Just 15 minutes down the road, the city of Silverton offers up an irresistible small-town experience that’s stood the test of time and strip malls remarkably well. Seriously, they still have penny parking meters in the picturesque olde downtown and an annual pet parade–and don’t miss the “davenport races” if you happen through town during Homer Davenport Days, named for the late 19th century cartoonist who was born and raised in Silverton.
Antique shops, flea markets, boutiques, bohemian cafes, elegant eateries, and everybody’s favorite greasy spoon (you’ll know when you see it) are all within a pleasant stroll of the small downtown area, which is made all the more charming in summer months by dozens of hanging flower baskets overflowing with petunias (the likes of which will rival any window box in Europe). And if you have the chance, pop by for a show at the independent movie house on the corner where you’ll be treated to a slideshow of inspirational quotes and quick wit before the show, rather than a barrage of violent previews (the popcorn’s not bad either).
Silverton is also home to The Oregon Garden, an 80-acre botanical wonderland with 20 themed gardens and one house by Frank Lloyd Wright. Children under 7 years may visit the Oregon Garden free, and those that do will want to be sure and check out the special “Children’s Garden” made just for them. Note to the stroller set: Yes, it’s very stroller friendly as everything is wheelchair accessible. The Oregon Garden also hosts a summer concert series with names you will know, and children of all ages are welcome at the concerts, with free admission for those under 2 years.
For kicks, you can visit the “Gallon House Covered Bridge” on the edge of town. It used to be the oldest covered bridge in Oregon, but it had to be rebuilt in 1990. When Silverton was dry, this was the place where locals sought their booze in one-gallon home-stilled jugs. Nowadays, however, they can buy their liquor right in town at the one official liquor store–except, ahem, on Sundays (per Oregon state law).
Stay and play:
Overnight options right in the park include rustic 1- and 2-bedroom log cabins, modern cabins, modern lodges, two rentable ranches with their own bunkhouses, group camp sites, and individual tent and electrified RV campsites (backcountry camping is not allowed in the park). As you can imagine, it’s a popular place for weddings, family reunions, and group retreats–and with good reason. See the brochure Where to stay at Silver Falls State Park for detailed info on all the lodging options in Silver Falls park.
The Prestigious Tours site has a nice collection of the lodging options in and around Silverton, including the handful of charming small inns, historic B&Bs, and even an “outback bungalow,” though many of these accommodations are best suited to couples (click here to see their directory). Families might consider Cicily’s Guest House, which offers three bedrooms and a furnished kitchen for a flat rate up to 4 guests, and additional guests are welcome for $25 each per night (they’ll even leave your breakfast in the fridge).
In fall of 2008, the Oregon Gardens Resort will also open in Silverton.
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