1. Nikita’s coffee habit knows no limits. He diverted to a parking lot to boil some water for coffee on the way to Badlands National Park in South Dakota on our west coast road trip.

2. Stalking through the unforgiving prairie grasses in Badlands National Park. Camping is allowed on open grasslands as long as you are half a mile from a road or trail.

3. The Badlands have a rich geological history. Through the epochs, the Badlands have evolved. Transforming from seas, tropical lands, and open forest. These ecosystems deposited layers of sediment through hundreds of millions of years. The sediment is now eroding, causing the mystifying formations you see in this photo.

4. The Badlands erode 1 inch per year and have been eroding for 500,000 years. The formations are expected to be completely gone in another 500,000 years.

5. Sally looks out at the Badlands after climbing the short but strenuous, Saddle Pass Trail.

6. The majority of the Badlands can be seen from your car. These striped formations were photographed right off the road.

7. Chicken? Dog head? We’re still not sure!

8. Bighorn sheep call the Badlands their home. These rams were slowly grazing when they stumbled onto the road as we were passing through.

9. The perfect Grand Teton sunset: the last rays of the day stretch out from behind the three Tetons. As observed from our FREE campsite on National Forest land.

10. Who knew squirrels had hands? It can snow in the Grand Tetons at any time of year. When we arrived a large snow storm had just covered the backcountry.

11. Our trunk/pantry. Two jugs of water, some veggies, and lots of ramen and oatmeal.

12. The Grand Tetons as seen from the backcountry. The South Fork Cascade trail brings you up close and personal with the three Tetons that feature prominently in photography of the park.

13. Another epic view of the Grand Tetons from the backcountry in Cascade Canyon.

14. Paintbrush Divide was the most difficult pass in the Grand Tetons, but well worth it for the views.

15. Fall was just beginning to turn the leaves yellow at higher elevations. Groves of Aspens explode into bright yellows and orange along the mountainside.

16. See Old Faithful many times at once: once with your own eyes and several more through tourists’ smartphone screens.

17. The Yellowstone geysers were as beautiful as expected and definitely worth a visit. Thermophilic bacteria makes groovy, lava lamp-like blobs inside the scalding volcanic pools.

18. Visitors walking along the boardwalk to Grand Prismatic Spring, probably the most famous spring in Yellowstone.

19. The bison in Yellowstone don’t really care if you have somewhere to go. If they want to stand in the road, they will!

20. A bull elk in his prime…

21. And his harem. It’s a lot of work looking after all those females. While they grazed peacefully he stood watch and bugled at nearby rival males.

22. Arches National Park, Utah is completely empty at sunrise. A great time to get great photos!

23. Sally looks out at Arches National Park near Delicate Arch, which was covered by tourists by the time we arrived.

24. Park Avenue is a 1 mile downhill hike that has a parking lot in the end where you can get picked up if you are too lazy to hike back up the gradual hill. Many people stopped us to ask us why we were climbing back up the hill to our car!

25. What looks like scenes transmitted from the Mars rover is actually Canyonlands National Park, Utah. This amazingly textured canyon was formed by water millions of years ago, and today the Snake River runs through it.

26. A glowing sunrise at a free campsite outside of Canyonlands National Park

27. The landscape in the Needles section of Canyonlands changed dramatically mile by mile. This particular section was within a small canyon and lush with vegetation.

28. Hikes in the Needles feature steep climbs up solid rock.

29. Looking out from the Big Spring to Squaw Canyon loop hike in the Needles.

30. Another great free campsite, this time outside of Capitol Reef National Park.

31. Grand Wash, a large slot canyon walk, at dawn.

32. Capitol Reef was the least busy of all the national parks we visited, giving us sole access to amazing hiking trails throughout the park.

33. The views at Capitol Reef were some of the best in Utah.

34. Capitol Reef was unique in the texture of the rocks around the park. Many of the rocks looked like beautiful hand painted canvas or raku fired pottery.

35. Sometimes the small details can be beautiful in themselves. Desert plants get a bad rap.

36. Some of the formations in Capitol Reef rivaled those at the more popular national parks in Utah.

37. We were amazed at the number of people that arrived to see the sunrise over the famous hoodoos at Bryce Canyon. We are usually the first ones at a trail head, but not this time!

38. Sunrise at the Bryce Canyon hoodoos, the spire-like sediment formations the park is famous for.

39. Bryce Canyon from another vantage point. The hoodoos have to be experienced in real life to fully appreciate their wonder.

40. The majority of visitors strayed no further than half a mile from their cars, but the Peek-A-Boo Loop, 2 miles into the canyon, offered spectacular views.

41. Zion National Park, Utah was the most epic of all the parks we visited in Utah. Angel’s Landing is an ‘extreme’ hike with narrow trails and steep cliffs. A number of hikers have died hiking Angel’s Landing over the years, but this hike should not be missed!

42. The Narrows is a hiking trail in Zion National Park that requires you to spend much of your time walking in a river.

43. Depending on the water level you will find yourself anywhere from knee-deep to head-deep in water. The hike was beautiful, but walking in a river felt more like a novelty than anything else.

44. Many people appeared to rent water proof booties for their river hike, but we thought there were unnecessary. Your regular old tennis shoes will do just fine.

45. The walls and canyons in the Narrows were truly stunning at times. We recommend a full day in the Narrows so you can see how the lighting changes in different parts of the canyon through the day.

46. Zion isn’t all about hiking, some of the most magnificent views could be seen from your car on the windy road into the visitor center.

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