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Dolomites with kids: Complete guide to hiking Geisler Alm (Adolf Munkel trail)

The Adolf Munkel trail to Geisler Alm is hike-able for kids as young as 4.

By Grace Koelma

Geisler Alm/Adolf Munkel Trail in the Dolomites

Hiking the Dolomites with kids

So, you're planning (or dreaming!) of a trip to the Dolomites with kids, and wondering whether it's even possible to hike in those insane mountains with little (or bigger) ones? 

The good news is YES, it is possible, and will be one of the best things you'll do in Europe (it's that breathaking!).

This guide is specifically for parents with kids, who want to find the best kid-friendly hikes in the South Tyrol region.

We've been traveling the world for 2 and a half years with our (now) 4-year-old, and since we stopped carrying him in the hiking backpack, it's been tough to find hikes that match his little legs. 

Eric has also been nursing an ankle injury, which has meant that he can't really carry Leo at all on steep terrain. Before visiting Europe in mid-2019, we spent 14 months in North America, and hikes longer than 4km were pretty much off limits for us, which was a big disappointment.

There is nothing like Geisler Alm. Just magical!

That's why we were so excited to find that Geisler Alm was not only a perfect beginner hike with stunning Dolomites scenery, but achievable for our 4-year-old to do on his own. 

Note: Because I know that hiking with kids is unpredictable, I've put a ton of detail in this guide so you know where you're at every step of the way. The hike is really quite simple, but these steps will help you with route options and signage, so you're not confused when you're out there.

Take it on the trail - download the offline version (PDF) here. 

Our experience hiking to Geisler Alm made our Dolomites adventure absolutely unforgettable, so we hope this guide inspires you to get out there with your kids. If you do the Adolf Munkel trail to Geisler Alm and share pics on Insta, tag us @darelist.family. We'd love to see! 😍

Halfway through the hike and still going strong!

Adolf Munkel: trail overview

  • 8-10km (depending on route)
  • 4-5 hours walking time, easy trail for most part
  • Loop from Zanser Alm to Geisler Alm and back
  • With 2 extended refugio stops, we were out on the trail/mountain for 10 hours

The trail we chose on the Adolf Munkel trail was around 10km, a loop out from Zanser Alm to Geisler Alm and back to the Zanser Alm carpark. The loop is usually 9km but we took a few detours, including an additional pitstop at Glatsch Alm to break up the trip and give Leo's legs a rest.

This route involved about 5 hours of walking on alpine trails, which our 4yo managed without being carried once. (Yes, he did ask. But because he wasn't whining and was easily distracted by stories, we just kept saying no to see what his endurance really was.) 

We were astounded at how far he could go, and with two leisurely pit stops at alpine refugios (with playgrounds) along the trail, it ended up being an incredible 10 hour day spent in some of the most amazing scenery we've ever witnessed. We would do it again in a heartbeat!

P.s: We were all exhausted at the end, and drove straight to town (missing the iconic Dolomites sunset at Val di Funes!) where we subsequently ate a whole pizza each - mmmm. So worth it. 🤤

Know before you go

The Adolf Munkel trail to Geisler Alm is perhaps one of the most beautiful and accessible trails in the Dolomites.

Keep scrolling to see our photos of this place, and you'll see why we're in love!

The trail passes beneath the towering and very iconic Odle/Geisler mountain group, known as the 'Pale Mountains'. It's found in the Nature Park Puez-Odle and the Odle Massif, which are UNESCO world heritage sites.

  • The South Tyrol region of Italy borders Austria and Switzerland, and is the only part of Italy where German is the mother tongue. Therefore, in the Dolomites you'll find that all roadsigns, restaurant menus, hiking trail posts and place names are named twice - in German and Italian.
  • There is no park pass required for visiting Nature Park Puez-Odle, but in the Dolomites you generally have to pay for parking.
  • The hike begins at Zanser Alm carpark, in the Val di Funes (Villnöß / Vilnöss) valley.
  • It's open year round, but the park's peak visitor season is July and August, when the alpine wildflowers bloom in the meadows.
  • Be aware that small children may find it harder to hike in extremely hot or cold temperatures, so we'd recommend visiting in late May, early June or September, when the temperatures are more bearable.
  • Depending on when you are visiting, you may see wildlife on the trail, and cows and horses in the pastures, so use common sense and don't get too close or offer food, or attempt to touch.

Getting to the Geisler Alm trail

  • Drive to Zanser Alm (exact Google maps location here) which is where the trailhead and carpark for the Adolf Munkel trail to Geisler Alm begins. Zanser Alm is a 2 hour drive from Bolzano, 3 hours from Venice, almost 4 hours drive from Milan and 3.5 hours from Munich.
  • There is a fee to park at Zanser Alm, between €5-6, depending on which season you go. We paid €6 for the day. (Note: Zanser Alm is Malga Zannes in Italian).
  • The area is also accessible by bus and train. Catch a train to Bressanone or Chuisa station and catch bus no. 340 to Val di Funes (Villnöß / Vilnöss). 
  • We would strongly suggest hiring a car, as it gives you more flexibility with where you go, and what time you arrive. The closest airports are Bolzano/Bolzen (45km), Innsbruck (85km) and Verona (190km).
  • Bonus! Many guesthouses and hotels include a tourist guest pass which gives you free travel on all public transport services in the South Tyrol Transport Network, including regional trains, local buses. The pass also gives a huge discount on cable cars (we used ours to save €39 on our return trip to Seceda 2500!). Before booking your hotel, we'd recommend you ask your host whether you have access to this pass, because it can save you a ton!

The regional guest pass (each region gets assigned depending on their location).

What to expect on the trail (with kids)

  • This trail is listed as appropriate for beginners, and varies in length, depending on what you prefer and your children's energy levels. If you are out on the trail, you have the option to lake de-tours or more direct routes to Geisler Alm, which will affect how long you're out.
  • What we love about the Adolf Munkel trail is that there are refugios along the way, to stop and rest your legs and have a picnic. Refugios are small, family-run guesthouses and restaurants (often with cows in pasture) that almost always include a large sunny terrace to enjoy a beer on, and a playground for your children. Our son played happily here for hours, while we got to rest.
  • The trail to Geisler Alm is excellent, and signposted the whole way. Some parts are steeper, and the trail narrows, but nothing we felt unsafe doing with our 4-year-old. There are also sections that may be challenging for small legs, climbing over roots, and hopping across small streams but again - nothing too difficult.

An important note on trail signage

The signs can get confusing if you're not familiar with bi-lingual hiking naming procedures (or if you didn't research enough before hand, like us! Whoops!). Because we got a bit disoriented, we decided to document everything to make this guide simple to follow, so be sure to 'save to reading list' so you can view it offline.

Basically, every trail signpost shows the route numbers in red/white, and names of the final destination in both German and Italian. The time to walk is also shown in minutes shorthand (eg. 5', 40'), which is helpful when deciding on routes with kids, though add on 10-15 minutes from what is estimated.

Some sign posts have one destination - bi-lingual names - and others (like the very bottom one in the photo above) show that a trail leads to two destinations. With bi-lingual naming it ends up looking like 4 destinations, which is why we got confused - but it's actually two destinations. So if you know this simple fact in advance, you'll be streets ahead of us!

If in doubt, just keep looking for signs to Geisler Alm / Rif. Delle Odle, and pair that with the trail numbers we mention (as several trails can lead to Geisler Alm, some more direct and others more scenic but longer).

Tip: We'd recommend downloading an offline version of this guide and Google maps too, which can be seriously helpful if you need to get your bearings on the trail.

Map of the route with markers

This is a rough guide from Google maps (link here), but your route may vary slightly depending on which option you take at the junctions. The numbers correspond with instructions below.

Hiking instructions: Geisler Alm loop, via Glatsch Alm

A: Trail to the ridge line junction: approx. 90* mins

1. Begin at the Zanser Alm parking lot, and take trail no. 6 toward Geisler Alm/Rif Delle Odle from parking lot main building (near the entry/toll hut). 

*Possibly longer, if factoring in time for perfect hiking stick selection and toadstool gazing 🍄😉

Waterfalls at the start of the trail.

2. For the first 20 minutes or so, you'll pass through beautiful farmland and wooded areas, past a small stream with waterfalls. In this section there's not much shade, so if you're hiking in summer, start early. (We started at 8.45am and the autumn temperature was perfect). Keep in mind that you cannot touch or pick flowers or toadstools. Read the park signs carefully at the trailhead.

3. You'll get to a fork in the path after a wide bridge, where you'll need to take trail no. 35 towards Geisler Alm. This is the path that turns left up the hill and goes through a turnstile.

The first 30 minutes of the trail is flat and wide, and passes through a lush forest.

4. The path winds up through gorgeous forest with views of the incredible white mountain peaks glimmering through the trees. You will reach a sign with no. 36B signposted - this is a more direct route to Geisler Alm. We chose to keep trekking along no. 35, as it goes closer to the base of the mountains, and is much more scenic.

5. After 10-15 minutes of ascending steadily uphill, you'll reach an alpine meadow right at the base of the mountains, with a few huge boulders and a great view of the base of the Pale Mountains.

The giant boulder in the meadow.

6. After that, it's a short walk along the ridge line under the base of the mountains to the junction on the ridge line, where trail no. 36 splits off the one you're currently on - trail no. 35. We stopped to have a snack here on the little benches.

Once out of the forest, the views from the ridge line are magnificent.

B: Detour to Glatsch Alm (optional): 30 mins walking return

7. Here is where you can take a little detour downhill to Glatsch Alm via trail no. 36 - which is just 15 minutes off the path, and 15 back again. We'd highly recommend this pit-stop to give their little legs a rest and get something to eat.

* If you don't want to take the detour, continue along trail 35, and skip to section D.

Sign post at the ridge crossroads. The trail you need to take is the last sign (that's hard to read due to the angle).

The trail signage is a little confusing here, as trail no. 36 goes in two directions (hence why we got lost 🙄).

If you want to go to Glatsch Alm, take the no. 36 route in the direction of Glatsch Alm / Malga Glatsch / Zans Zannes, which is the trail that goes uphill rather than staying on the ridge.

After you go up for a few minutes, you descend down the other side of the hill with stunning views into the meadow, and be able hear the cowbells clanging in the pasture. #swoon

C: Glatsch Alm refugio

Glatsch Alm is a mini version of Geisler Alm - a typical family-run refugio (guesthouse) and restaurant set among gorgeous alpine meadows. It features:

  • a licensed restaurant
  • sunny and partially shaded terrace (with live music if you're lucky!)
  • small playground with swings, slide, sandpit, toys and trampoline
  • cow pastures and stunning views 
  • restroom

Enjoy stunning views of the famous Pale Mountains, while you sip a beer in the sun, and your kids play happily. In the middle of a hike, a stop like this is basically paradise.

Glatsch Alm has a gorgeous view from the sunny terrace - grab a drink and enjoy while your kids play!

Sneaking a cheeky kiss while the kid is occupied 😉

Make sure you stop for a beer and apfel struedel

The Glastch Alm playground kept our 4yo happy for hours, until we dragged ourselves away.

Because we were disoriented, we actually thought Glatsch Alm was Geisler Alm for around an hour 😂, but we are so glad we accidentally ended up there. Best detour we could have made, and once we'd enjoyed some food and Bavarian folk tunes in the sun, we set off again for Geisler Alm, our energy renewed.

Quick exit strategy: if you need to finish the hike sooner than you'd thought and want to forfeit the Geisler Alm route (which adds a further 2 hours walking to your hike), you can take the trail no. 36 from the entry gate just below the refugio, down to the carpark at Zans / Zannes (Zanser Alm). I'm not sure what this path is like, but it is the most direct way back to the carpark at this stage (40-60mins).

Before we left, we explored around the Glatsch Alm meadows, and it is seriously beautiful, and gives you a stunning view over the refugio and cow pastures.

That's Glatsch Alm in the distance.

The mountain views are so stunning here.

8. We returned up the same trail, over the hill to the 35/36 intersection (on the ridge line, near the benches).

9. When back at the crossroads, look for the sign marked trail no. 35 Gschnagenhart / Geisler Alm / Rif. Delle Odle, which is continuing along the ridge line in the direction you were heading before you took the detour to Glatsch Alm.

10. Continue along the ridge line for a little while, where you'll come to another trail split.

Option 1: Take trail no. 36A downhill towards Geisler Alm / Rif. Delle Odle, which is the most direct way to Geisler Alm, approaching from slightly below the large meadow, and another approx. 30 mins of walking. We took this option because our 4yo was tiring.

Option 2: Take the more scenic but longer route along no. 36 (signposted towards Gschnagenhart Alm / Malga Gschnagenhart), which approaches from the ridge line above. 

Lush green on trail no. 36A

E: Geisler Alm refugio

Geisler Alm is simply stunning - a meadow with two refugios/restaurants with a breathtaking view of the Pale Mountains and back of the Seceda Ridgeline.

Geisler Alm in the foreground, and Gschnagenhart Alm peeking over the hill at the back.

It features:

  • two licensed restaurants (one in the main Geisler Alm house, and another at Gschnagenhart Alm, which is up the farm road towards the mountains.)
  • sunny and partially shaded terraces
  • large playground with a flying fox, animal farm swinging bridge and more.
  • cow pastures and stunning views 
  • ergonomic deck chairs on the mountainside to relax on
  • restroom

The playground at Geisler Alm.

The flying fox was a hit!

A pasture of hundreds of cows... and their cowbells. <3

Once you've checked out Geisler Alm and lounged on the deck chairs on the hillside above it, head up the wide farm road and through the gate to Gschnagenhart Alm, which is a much quieter refugio with incomparable views. 

A trail extends past the turnstile into the field, which leads to no. 36, the other way you can enter Geisler Alm (at the 36A intersection). We walked out into the meadow and were stunned by the views. This was probably our favourite moment of the day, the peace and quiet was lovely, and the sheer cliffs were so astounding almost made me want to cry.

Photos can't do it justice! This place is special.

F: Trail to the Zanser Alm carpark (via Dulser Alm): approx 60 mins

As the light was fading, we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from Geisler Alm, and returned to the main refugio, where there are two directions trail no. 36 takes towards Zans / Zannes (Zanser Alm). 

13. We chose to return the way we'd entered - down the path past the playground, along the boardwalks to the turnstile.

We took trail no. 36 downhill from there (signed in the direction of Zans / Zannes / Dusler Alm). 

This trail is fairly steep in sections, and probably the hardest part of the hike, partly due to getting tired after a big day hiking, and partly because there are many roots and steep sections to navigate. Our 4-year-old still managed it all cheerily though (with lots of stories/songs/games of 'I spy' for distractions).

14. At the bottom of this narrow forest path downhill, the path widens, and you'll reach an unsealed road in both directions. At this point you have the option (look at the signpost) to reach Zans / Zannes from two directions. Left is no. 36B, and is on the unsealed road taking 50 mins. To the right is no. 36, and it begins on the wide road for 100m, but after passing the Dusler Alm refugio, it becomes a narrow path through the forest, taking about 40 mins to complete with kids.

We took this option, as we didn't want to walk on the road, and preferred a quicker route.

After Dusler Alm, the path flattens out and is very pretty!

15. When you've been following the forest path after Dusler Alm for 35 mins, you'll come to a final signpost, indicating that trail no. 33 will take you to Zans / Zannes (Zanser Alm). You are so close - only 5 minutes away!

16. The path joins the road again right before the Zanser Alm carpark. It enters at the other end, which was disorientating, but just keep walking until you reach the original building and find your car from there.

You're done, and if you're anything like us, tired but very, very happy with our achievement, especially for our little guy!

This guide was a huge one, because we wanted to make our instructions as clear as possible. Let us know if it was helpful and tag us @darelist.family if you share pics on Instagram!

Happy hiking,

Grace, Eric and Leo

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Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

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The Ultimate USA West Coast Road Trip: 2019 Guide

There's a reason countless songs, books and movies have paid homage to the classic USA West Coast road trip... It's an iconic adventure of a lifetime. From deserts to mountains to miles-long beaches (it even has places where mountain and ocean meet!) the USA West Coast is a gem waiting to be explored. Here are 20 of our favourite spots.

A highlight - McWay falls on the Big Sur coast

By Grace Koelma.
All images our own unless otherwise credited.

The USA West Coast Road Trip of a Lifetime

Are you ready for an unforgettable trip down the USA West Coast? For as long as I can remember I felt a inexplicable pull to America's western coastline. My intrigue came mostly from Beach Boys song hooks, snippets from movies and the thrill of letting exotic words like Yosemite, Mojave and Joshua Tree roll off my tongue.

In 2018 we arrived in Vancouver, Canada and renovated a 1991 RV, and then set off on a 12-week trip to explore America's far western states. And it truly was the #vanlife trip of a lifetime.

This guide contains what we consider to be the absolute visual highlights of this part of the United States. We're photographers, so we're always on the lookout for the best vantage points and diverse scenic landscapes. This USA West Coast road trip had it all. Snow-capped mountains, canyons, waterfalls (going into the ocean!), giant Redwood forests, cliffs dropping into the ocean, deserts, long beaches and wildlife (deer, seals, otters, whales, birds).

Our road trip ride was pretty sweet! #valourthevan

What you'll find in this guide

We're a classic example of the 'opposites attract' rule for couples. Grace is a travel research ninja and likes to travel with an emergency item and contingency plan for every possible situation. "But I haven't read the reviews on it yet!" is one of her oft-repeated phrases.

Eric is the most laid-back traveller on the planet, and likes to be more spontaneous. "Let's cross that bridge when we get to it" is one of his favourite expressions.

We also travel with a toddler, so keep an eye out for our bonus kid travel tips.

So, whether you have kiddos or not, this guide has the perfect balance of planning, spontaneity and toddler-induced chaos prevention.

Choosing your USA West-Coast route

The iconic Big Sur stretch of Highway 1.

There are tons of ways to do the west coast line, and you can drive south to north (starting San Diego and finishing in Seattle) or north to south (Seattle to San Diego). 

We'd recommend driving north to south, since you'll be driving on the right-hand side of the road and many of the coastal routes are much prettier when you're driving south (because your vehicle lane is closer to the ocean).

You may be tempted to hug the coast the whole way down, but there are some incredible natural wonders to see just a few hundred miles inland, so we'd recommend doing a similar itinerary to what we did - we loved the mix of coastal cliffs versus inland forests, deserts and canyons.

Below is a map of our journey (the major points) and if you click the image you can view/save it in Google Maps.

Map of our USA West Coast route

Click the image to see the route on Google Maps

Our top 20 stops for your USA West Coast road trip

WASHINGTON

1. Mount Rainer National Park

Mt. Rainier National Park is a Washington state gem, and its iconic snow capped peak is a fixture of the Seattle skyline. We visited in Autumn (so no wildflowers) and only had a day here, but would recommend 3 days to fully experience the beauty of this park. 

Read our full Mt. Rainier guide here.

Spot the deer grazing at the vibrant  foothills, bursting with colour.

  • The national park is a glorious landscape of sub-alpine meadows, wildflowers (in season), lakes, waterfalls and wildlife viewing opportunities.
  • Our top recommendations (photography and general hiking) are Tipsoo Lake (and Little Tipsoo Lake), Paradise meadow and Skyline trail, Sunrise area and Christine Falls.

Part of the Paradise meadows.

Vivid autumn colours.

2. Olympic National Park (and Seattle)

Seattle is a trendy, cosmopolitan city on the USA West Coast with some fantastic family options. While we didn't spend long here on our road trip south (we were chasing the Californian warmth), it's definitely worth a stop.

  • Highlights for families include the Museum of Pop Culture, Pacific Science Centre, Pike Place Market and boarding one of the Washington State ferries for a trip through Puget Sound.
  • Olympic National Park is a breathtaking coastal park near Seattle, and while we couldn't fit it in on our trip, it's been highly recommended by many others since, which is why we're including it here. We'll just have to go back.

Olympic National Park (image used with permission by Zetong Li, Unsplash)

Take some time to walk by the water and look at the Seattle Great Wheel.

OREGON

3. Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast may just be one of my favourite sunrise locations in the world. It's not hard to see why.

  • Cannon Beach is well-known in the area for its monolithic titan, Haystack Rock, formed from volcanic lava millions of years ago. It's striking from all angles, but possibly prettiest at sunrise and sunset, when the light hits its peak.
  • At low tide you can walk up to Haystack Rock and explore the tide pools, and the anemones and sea stars hiding within. 
  • During the day there are stunning views of the beach from Ecola State Park.

4. Hug Point

Hug Point State Recreation Site is just south of Cannon Beach, and is a unique beach with a fascinating history. At low tide, you can walk around the northern cliffs and explore the little cove beyond - including a waterfall, caves in the sandstone cliffs and tide pools.

Any excuse for a family hug!

  • We took the opportunity for a cheeky embrace photo, but that's not where Hug Point got its name. Before the highway was built, stagecoaches used to travel along the wide, sandy beaches. They would always hug the point, even at low tide, which is where the name originated.
  • Exercise caution, and read tide charts and the weather conditions carefully. People can become stranded when the tide comes in quickly.

5. Otter Crest area

If you're on the hunt for wildlife during your USA West Coast Roadtrip, make sure you stop in the Otter Crest area.

Climbing rock formations at Otter Crest Beach.

  • In season, you can view whales migrating north up the Oregon coast. They typically begin their journey in late March, but can often be sighted well into late summer. We even spied a few spouts in September. 
  • Some of the best whale viewpoints near Otter Crest are Otter Crest Scenic State Viewpoint, Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint and Devil's Punchbowl.
  • The beaches surrounding this area are favourite haunts for seals, so keep an eye out, but don't interfere with or touch the animals as they are protected.

6. Seal Rock State Recreation Site

The coast of Oregon is dotted with incredible rock formations, and they give each beach their own personality. Seal Rock State Recreation Site has some interesting formations, but the beaches north and south are worth a look as well. 

  • Watching the sunset over the ocean is a must on the USA West Coast, and as you drive south you'll be spoilt for choice.
  • Many beaches also have picnic areas with BBQs, so bring a picnic and enjoy your evening as you watch the sun go down.

Watching sunset at Seal Rock Beach... with popcorn of course!

CALIFORNIA

7. Redwood Coast

The towering redwood and sequoia forests of California are a must-see on your USA West Coast road trip, and you will have many options to choose from. These trees are peaceful giants on earth, and truly have to be seen to be believed. Many grow over 300 ft tall, are between 8 and 20 ft in diameter and some are almost 2000 years old.

There are multiple forests dotted along what's called the 'Redwood Coast', stretching from the Oregon/Californian border down to Shelter Cove. As the map below shows, some of the forests hug the coastline and others are a little further inland, but are definitely worth leaving the coast for. 

Image source: visitredwoods.com

Because you likely don't have time to check them all out, redwood forests we recommend are:

  • Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
  • The Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park
  • Shrine Drive Thru tree (you can drive your car through)
  • Muir Woods National Monument
  • Hendy Woods State Park
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park (close to San Francisco)

8. Stout Grove

We chose to explore Stout Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, just south of the Oregon/California border. Stout Grove isn't the largest forest or boasting the tallest trees, but it is possibly the most picturesque grove, particularly when the late afternoon light hits.

Because the Grove is off the beaten path, it's often much quieter than the forests closer to Highway 1, which is why we ventured out there. We timed our visit for late afternoon to catch the rays filtering through the leaves, and it was a photographer's dream. 

Stout Grove trees aren't so stout.

9. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a few hour's drive inland south of the Redwood Coast, but is a place that is definitely worth a stop on your USA West Coast road trip. There is so much to explore in this crystal clear lake, we'd recommend 4-7 days at least.

  • Lake Tahoe straddles the border between California and Nevada, so it's a unique place with two distinct cultures. As well as the border divide, Tahoe is also divided into the South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe regions. The high-rolling town of Reno is close by as well.
  • In terms of nature, Lake Tahoe has it all... pine forests leading down to crystal clear water, hiking trails, water sports, incredible view points, and stunning sunrise and sunset views. The best months to visit to enjoy the water are summer and early autumn, but we visited in mid-Autumn and it was still beautiful (but too chilly to swim).
  • In the north of the lake, Sand Harbour, Secret Cove and Chimney Beach are popular and very scenic spots, perfect for photography. They will tend to get crowded in the warmer months, so if you want a truly deserted paradise, we recommend hiring a boat, kayak or paddle board and exploring the beaches that are only accessible by water.

Sand Harbour, Lake Tahoe

Secret Cove, Lake Tahoe

  • In the south of the lake, Emerald Bay State Park has some gorgeous walking trails (Rubicon and the trail up to Eagle Lake), and the road up to Inspiration Point viewing area is one of the most exhilarating ridge roads we've driven on.

10. Yosemite National Park

It's fitting that Yosemite comes in geographically at number 10 on our USA West Coast list, because it's a 10/10.

Just 2.5 hours drive south of Lake Tahoe is one of our favourite spots on earth... Yosemite National Park. 

Yosemite is known for its sky-scraping, jaw-dropping cliffs and striking landscapes, and it really does feel like another planet when you're there. It's one of the most popular parks in the USA, and it's not hard to see why. 

The most iconic view in the park - Tunnel View

We visited in October, which was perfect because the nights weren't yet too cold, but there were far less tourists than summer. If you're visiting in spring or summer, you may also be able to see wildflowers and wildlife in the meadows in and around the park. We'd recommend devoting at least 4 days to exploring Yosemite, but longer if you're an avid hiker or climber. 

Read our full guide to Yosemite National Park here.

The sunsets from the top of the park are breathtaking.

The Yosemite Valley truly takes your breath away.

11. San Francisco

A road trip down the USA West Coast wouldn't be complete without a stop in at one of the most iconic cities in the world... San Francisco and its famed Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge, viewed from the north side of the harbour.

There is so much to see in this city, and you could spend anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks and still not see it all. If you're travelling in a van (like we did) San Francisco can be a tricky place to find campgrounds. There are a few dotted throughout the north and south of the city, but they are quite expensive ($100+ a night for just a basic unpowered site). Rules on city streets are strict, and you can't park overnight, so we'd recommend looking for where other vanlifers are staying, and follow suit. If you see signs, obey though - you will be fined.

Sunrise wake up to see Karl the Fog.

Hanging off a San Francisco Cable Car is a classic experience.

The top highlights we'd recommend seeing in San Francisco are:

  • Wandering the Sunset District, stopping for an authentic Vietnamese or Mexican lunch and heading to Ocean Beach to join hundreds of other locals and tourists for sunset.
  • Riding or walking over the Golden Gate Bridge is a must while you're in town. We'd recommend early morning or late afternoon if you're visiting in the hotter months.
  • Take a San Francisco cable car. As touristy as this is, we were pleasantly surprised by how fun the conductors were, and impressed with the way they worked the century-old manual operating system.
  • For views of the Golden Gate Bridge, go to Presidio, Horshoe Bay or Baker Beach at sunrise and catch that iconic fog. The fog is called Karl, and even has its own Instagram account @karlthefog.
  • Head to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 to see the sea lions.
  • In terms of iconic photo moments, make sure you check out Twin Peaks Viewpoint, Dolores Park, The Painted Ladies in Alamo Park (for all those Full House fans!) and the hilly hairpin turns of Lombard Street.

Classic SF street. So many hills!

Sea Lions on Pier 39.

12. Highway 1

Once you leave San Francisco, you'll begin one of the most famous drives on the USA West Coast - the coastal highway to Los Angeles, called Highway 1 (or sometimes State Route 1).

Highway 1 is the longest state route in California at 659 miles long (1,055 km), and runs from Leggett in Mendocino Country to Dana Point in Orange County.

You'll get stunning coastal views like this the whole 659 miles (or 1,055km) drive.

13. Garrapata State Park

Drive south from Carmel-by-the-Sea on Highway 1 and you'll reach Garrapata State park in less than 30 minutes. This is a place with stunning rock formations, colorful cliffs and little rocky paths just waiting to be explored. Pull over in one of the many pull outs, and take a walk to admire the view. We visited in autumn, and the colours were spectacular.

Views from Garrapata State Park.

The colours in fall are magnificent.

14. Bixby Creek Bridge

Just a few miles south of Garrapata State Park, on the outskirts of Big Sur, is the famed Bixby Creek Bridge. There are several smaller bridges close by, but you'll know you've reached Bixby when you see all the cars parked beside the road. The map point is here. 

It's a popular photography spot, and you'll likely see groups of bikers or cyclists here as well, cracking open a cold drink and taking jovial group photos. Due to the high volume of traffic and tourists parking on road shoulders and crossing the road, take car when driving through here.

There are two sides to Bixby - the main viewpoint is on the ocean side of the road, and is where most people stop. But there is also a trail going up a small hill on the mountain side (northbound side of the road) which has excellent views as well, and is less frequented.

This is the most popular view of Bixby, and you may struggle not to get other tourists in your shot.

The back side of Bixby Bridge. Image used with permission: By Connor McScheffrey Unsplash.

15. Big Sur

You can drive the Big Sur stretch of Highway 1 in one day, but we'd recommend taking 2-3 days in this part if possible, to truly soak in the beauty. Planning in advance where you'll spend your nights is key, as cell reception becomes spotty when you enter the Big Sur State Park, and accommodation can be few and far in between, as are campgrounds. 

Views for days in Big Sur.

16. Julia Pfeiffer State Park - McWay Falls

McWay Falls was one of our USA West Coast road trip highlights. It's like something from a dream... where else can you find a waterfall spilling from a cliff face into foaming aqua ocean?

McWay Falls at sunset - absolute perfection.

While McWay falls is beautiful throughout the day, we'd 100% recommend visiting at sunset for views like this. You'll likely find other photographers with tripods set up on the shoulder, and the cliff is rocky and uneven, so walk with care. We held onto our son's hand tightly the whole time, but we wouldn't recommend the cliff spot if you have multiple children, as you need to keep them close.

Many cars park on the side of the road, but there is a carpark on the eastern side of the road, with a short trail that takes you through a tunnel under the road to a lower viewing platform. We took photos from both that viewing platform and this cliffside spot on the roadside.

17. Morro Bay

As you leave Big Sur, make sure you stop in at the Elephant Seals Viewing point (map point here) to see the hundreds of seals lying on the beach. It's free to walk to the viewing platform, but be prepared... they're a pretty noisy bunch!

Then head to Morro Bay, a sleepy but beautiful coastal town. It's famed for its single monolith, Morro Rock which (according to our 3-year-old) looks like "a bald head rising out of the water." He's not wrong.

Morro Bay township.

More of those West Coast sunsets we can't get enough of.

Morro Bay area is a great place to spend the night after driving Big Sur, and there are a number of great RV campgrounds to choose from. We chose the state-run Morro Strand Campground, and were rewarded with excellent views right outside our door.

The sunset view from Morro Strand Campground.

18. Orange County beaches

The beaches north and south of Los Angeles are plentiful, clean and gorgeous.

Here are our top recommendations:

  • Take a stroll along the Santa Barbara and Santa Monica boardwalks.
  • Venice Beach is perhaps the most famous LA beach, known for its street food, volley ball nets and long cycle paths packed with roller skaters and motorized scooters. It is crowded, and a difficult area to find parking for bigger vehicles.
  • We love the quieter beaches south of the city: Newport beach, Corona del Mar, Crystal Cove and Laguna beach are all stunning options.
  • Be aware that at most Los Angeles beaches you'll need to pay for parking.

The Pirate Tower in Laguna Beach is a local's secret.

Long afternoons on Californian beaches.

19. San Diego

The laid back surfer-vibe culture of San Diego is the perfect stop on a USA West Coast road trip. The Beach Boy's 'good vibrations' are strong here. 

After weeks of non-stop road tripping and taking in the plethora of incredible natural sites on California's coast, stopping for a week or longer in San Diego is a treat. The pace of life is slower here, and it's a fantastic place to soak up the sun, go for lazy morning rides around the beautiful lake and slurp a smoothie bowl.

Our top must-sees in San Diego are:

  • Take a morning walk along Mission Beach boardwalk, famed for its smoothie bars and taco joints.
  • Hire a bike and go for a cycle around Mission Bay. It takes 2-3 hours to do a lap, but there are lots of playgrounds and gorgeous foreshore parks to picnic at along the way.
  • Head to Balboa Park for the day (San Diego's version of Central Park spanning a huge 1,200 acres), to enjoy the many gardens, hiking trails and an impressive 16 museums.
  • Drive to La Jolla and Torrey Pines to watch the hang gliders.
  • Discover the California Missions and the intriguing Spanish heritage. There are over 21 missions in the area, including the notable Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala.

Balboa Park gardens. Image used with permission. Matthew T Rader (Unsplash).

20. Joshua Tree National Park

About 3 hours drive inland from San Diego, Joshua Tree National Park is the perfect place to end your USA West Coast itinerary. 

Joshua Tree is a National Park spanning 800,000 acres in the desert. It's the perfect escape from civilisation into a place where boulders balance in piles as if they were marbles dropped by giants.

Exploring Hidden Valley Region.

Our tips for exploring the park:

  • Go during the peak tourist months (October - May), as the summers are boiling, reaching over 100°F (38°C) during the day.
  • Remember that deserts, while hot in the day, get quite cold at night. While winter days are mild, night temperatures can be well below freezing in winter, so be prepared. 
  • Accommodation in the park is limited to campgrounds with tent sites and sites for RVs and trailers. There are 8 campgrounds in the park, and during peak season it's a good idea to make a reservation. Check the Park Website for more information.

The views from the tops of boulders are magnificent, but always climb with care and keep little ones close.

  • There are a number of boutique hotels and motels on the outskirts of the park, in Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley and, of course, the famous Palm Springs.
  • There is no cell service in the park, but you won't need need it with the million stars above you. If you do need to make an emergency call, you can get 1-2 bars of service by climbing the rocks.
  • Take care when climbing and follow park guidelines. Some rocks have huge crevices and slippery surfaces. Wear appropriate footwear at all times.

Is the West Coast is calling you? Happy travels, and drop us a comment if you found this guide helpful, or have any questions!

The best place to contact us is on Instagram (where we hang out regularly). @darelist.family.

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Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

Our blissful week in Tulum, Mexico

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

We spent a blissful week by the ocean in Mexico, soaking up the sunshine, and discovering our new obsession... cenotes (which are the most amazing way to cool off in hot climates!). Watch our vlog to see what we got up to in Tulum and surrounds.

Stay tuned for our Tulum travel with kids blog, coming soon. It's going to be packed with tips!

« Have you been to Mexico with kids? Are there any tips we missed? «

Watch the video on YouTube or view it in the video above.

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Travel Guide: Yosemite National Park with kids

We've been asked a lot for our tips on Yosemite National Park, especially for advice on accessibility with kids, and photography locations. This guide has everything you need to know.

The stunning Sentinel Dome lookout at sunset.

By Grace Koelma

The magical place that is Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is arguably the most well-recognised national park on the planet... situated in the western Sierra Nevada of Central California. The only national park more globally famous would be the Grand Canyon.

You've likely have heard of Yosemite (pronounced "Yow-sem-it-tee"), but what you may not know is that it's the oldest national park in the USA, opened officially to the public in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln (thanks, Abe!) 

Yosemite is known for its sky-scraping, jaw-dropping cliffs and striking landscapes, and it really does feel like another planet when you're there. The park attracts over 4 million visitors a year, most arriving in the summer months and exploring mainly in the Yosemite Valley area.

Yosemite Valley's Meadows - stunning all year round (this was in October)

Adventure-seekers and extreme sports enthusiasts often go further afield are drawn to Yosemite because of its challenging natural climbing landscape. Raising your eyes from the valley floor to see climbers (tiny red and blue dots) scaling the sheer, 3000 ft tall rock face of El Capitan - Yosemite's most striking cliff - will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. As incredible as the climbs are, there are hundreds of accidents each year, so if you're thinking of climbing, make sure you follow the park's safety guidelines carefully.

The park is huge (an impressive 748,436 acres) so there is a lot to explore, including giant sequoia forests, lakes, waterfalls, and vast meadows. We would recommend 4-5 days as a minimum. We only had a 3 day window, and it was far too quick. That being said, if you only have 3 days, we would 100% recommend driving out there from San Francisco, because it is a place that has to be seen to be believed.

Put simply, Yosemite is a destination everyone should visit at least once in their life. Read on - this guide will give you all the info you'll need to plan your visit.

A road winding into the Yosemite Valley

Getting there

Yosemite is located a fairly long way from major towns. Here is a run down of the various ways to get there.

By car 

The simplest, hassle-free way to get to Yosemite (bar a private helicopter!) is by car. If arriving from interstate or overseas, you can fly into San Francisco International airport (SFO) and pick up a hire car, or drive your own car. 

  • From San Francisco International airport it takes roughly 4 hours to reach Yosemite Park's outskirts and 5 hrs to reach Yosemite Village (the centre of the action).
  • From San Francisco downtown area it takes about the same time (or longer sometimes, if you're leaving in peak hour traffic).
  • You can drive your car into and around Yosemite, though the park encourages visitors to use shuttles in some areas.
  • Fees: see below for advice on entry fees for vehicles.
  • We drove our RV into the park, and would recommend this method of transport if you're traveling with little ones, as it's far more convenient. If you're visiting Yosemite as part of a West Coast roadtrip, you can also find campsites in the National Park, which is a fantastic option for affordable accommodation (see the Accommodation section below).

By flight

Here is a list of the commercial airports closest to Yosemite, arranged by distance (nearest to furthest) to Yosemite Valley. You'll need to research rental car options and public transport individually for each airport, as it's available seasonally, depending on snowfall.

  • Merced airport (MCE) - 2 hrs to valley
  • Fresno-Yosemite International airport (FAT) - 2.5 hrs to valley
  • Mammoth Yosemite airport (MMH) - 1 hr to Tuolumne Meadows (2.5 hrs to Yosemite Valley) when Tioga Road is open (typically late May or June until November). 
  • Stockton Metropolitan Airport (SCK) - 2.5 hrs to valley
  • Oakland International (OAK) - 3.5 hrs to valley
  • Sacramento International (SMF) - 3.5 hrs to valley
  • San Francisco International (SFO) 5 hrs to valley

See the full list of nearby airports and public transport schedules here.

By public transport

Bus services are available to Yosemite Valley (and, during summer, to some other areas of the park) from cities throughout California and the rest of the United States. Amtrak and Greyhound also have services to the park.

By private tour

There are a range of private tours available leaving from San Francisco and major central Californian cities, too many to list here. Simply search 'Yosemite tour + [city of your choice]' for options.

Yosemite Valley Meadows

Park entry fees

  • If you drive into the park, you'll need to pay the $35 entry fee (valid for cars, vans, trucks and RVs for 7 days).
  • Alternatively, you can purchase an annual pass for $80 (the best value if you're doing multiple national parks, as it gets you into all the USA National Parks). 
  • You can purchase passes in advance here.
  • You can also pay the entrance fee or purchase an annual or lifetime pass at any park entrance station. If the station is unstaffed when you arrive, you can pay on your exit. You must display your 7-day or annual pass clearly in your windscreen window at all times. Rangers do patrol.

Seasonal info

Yosemite is open all year and visually stunning in every season, though some areas of the park are inaccessible by car from approximately November through May due to snow. Check the park's website for condition updates before you visit (even if you think you're coming outside of snow season.)

We visited in October, which was perfect because the nights weren't yet too cold, but there were far less tourists than summer. If you're visiting in spring or summer, you may also be able to see wildflowers and wildlife in the meadows in and around the park. Check out this National Parks guide for information on how to spot them, and taking care around the native plants.

Top photography locations

An iconic sunset view in Yosemite: From the top of Sentinel Dome, featuring El Capitan on the right.

Location #1: Sentinel Dome

Without a doubt, this was our favourite location in the park, both for views and photography. You'll need to drive up Glacier Point Road, and park on the side of the road near the Sentinel Dome trailhead - you'll likely see lots of cars parked nearby. I've included a map pin of the location below. 

Our tips for Sentinel Dome

  • The walk only takes about 15 minutes, and leads up a large rocky outcrop to a dome. Make sure you keep children close as there are steep drop offs, but it is safe if you use caution.
  • Make sure you get there about an hour before sunset, and sit with a picnic or drinks to let the spectacular show begin.
  • You can also drive up to the far more popular Glacier Point Lookout (at the end of the road) which has stunning views as well. Here's the Google map pin.
  • There are a bunch of other moderate hikes off Glacier Point Rd that we didn't have time to explore, but look incredible. Check those out here.

Sentinel Dome Gallery

Just in case you need more convincing 😉

Make sure you keep small children close at the top.

The trail up to Sentinel Dome

Location #2: Tunnel View

This has to be the most iconic view of Yosemite, shot at the lookout point for Tunnel View. The lookout point is located about 45 minutes drive from the Oakhurt and Mariposa borders (map pin here), and you'll see the viewing platform on the left after you come out of a long tunnel.  There are carparks on the left and right, but take the right one if you're in a larger car, bus or RV.

Our tips for Tunnel View

  • Go for sunrise like we did, it's totally worth the 6am wake up (earlier in summer) to drive the 40 or so minutes from the outer campgrounds. If you have kids, sunrise is an excellent time to see this view.
  • Watch the light as it moves over El Capitan, it is truly breathtaking. By going at sunrise you'll also beat the crowds.
  • Take your breakfast outdoors and enjoy the view.
  • Pro photography tip - underexpose your photos and set the light balance to get light on the peaks without washing them out - you can brighten the foreground detail later in Lightroom. 
  • (Check out our photography course for tips for photographing with kids, learning to shoot on manual settings and learning to edit in Lightroom. It has rave reviews!)

Sunrise at Tunnel View - Light on El Capitan

Tunnel View Gallery

Our 3-year-old enjoying his cereal with this stunning view.

It was chilly in the mornings - October in Yosemite.

Behind-the-scenes: Tunnel View

The carpark as you exit the tunnel.

The viewing platform, photographers waiting for sunrise.

Location #3: Yosemite Meadows

Located on the Valley Trail, the Yosemite meadows are absolutely breathtaking. Take a bike (there are designated bike paths) or wander by foot. Just pay attention to signs as there are some areas you are not allowed to leave the trail on.

Behind-the-scenes: Yosemite Meadows

Cycling along Cook's Meadow Loop

Northside Dr - the valley loop Rd. From here you can see climbers scaling El Capitan.

Location # 4: El Capitan Meadow

Take a drive around the valley loop, which comprises of Northside and Southside drives and stop in El Capitan Meadow. It's a one way road, so you'll need to follow signs carefully. 

Parking by the side of the road on Northside Dr and taking a photo in front of El Capitan is a classic Yosemite experience.

Prepare for some jaw dropping views - the loop drive takes about 30 minutes without stopping but you'll be pulling over to take photos a lot, so factor in 2-3 hours here if you want time to see it all. There are loads of spots to park on the side of the road, and picnic areas too, so pack a picnic lunch!

Other notable photography and viewing locations around the valley loop are:

  • Valley View Yosemite
  • Bridal veil falls viewpoint
  • Cathedral beach picnic area
  • El Capitan picnic area

Having an RV that you can stand on doesn't hurt either! 😉

Yosemite is family-friendly

Trails and walks suitable for kids

  • Lower Yosemite Fall Trail: 1 mi / 1.6 km (entire loop). This is a very accessible trail for families traveling with kids, flat and easy. We recommend walking the loop in a clockwise direction for best views of Yosemite Falls. 
  • Cook's Meadow Loop: 1 mile (1.6 km) loop. This is a lap around the Valley Floor, starting at the visitor information centre. We cycled this as there were bike paths. Allow 1-2 hours, and bring a picnic as there is a lot to explore.
  • Bridalveil Fall Trail: 0.5 mi / 0.8 km (round trip) Bridalveil Fall is often the first waterfall you'll see when entering Yosemite Valley. This easy trail takes you right to the base for a spectacular view of the rushing torrent of water.
  • You can see a list of all the hikes available (moderate - strenuous) on the Park's Website here.

Kids' Junior ranger program

Yosemite, like most National Parks, has a Junior Ranger program and loads of educational opportunities for your little ones. Find out more here.

Where to stay

There are a range of accommodation options inside the valley, with styles to suit every budget.

Hotels

  • The Ahwahnee (formerly known as the Majestic Yosemite Hotel) has to be one of the most iconic establishments in the valley, with its historic architecture and magnificent grand dining hall. It's the only lodging in the park boasting a 4 diamond rating and while the rooms will set you back a few hundred dollars, it's definitely worth a visit for afternoon cocktails on the back lawn.
  • Other options are Yosemite Valley Lodge, Curry Village (tent cabins), and the Wawona Hotel.


RV and trailer campgrounds

  • Yosemite has 10 campgrounds that can accommodate RVs and trailers, including 5th wheel.
  • Sleeping in vehicles in non-designated campgrounds is prohibited throughout the park (like all American National Parks), though there are a number of free campsites just outside the park perimeter. Download iOverlander to find them.
  • Wawona Campground - we stayed in our RV at Wawona Campground, which was about 45 minutes from Yosemite Valley. 
  • From April - September campsites are $26 and reservations are required. You can reserve campsites online. Reservations during the Summer months are hard to come by, and campsites are usually booked out. Be sure to book early.
  • From October - March it's on a first-come-first serve basis, so we recommend arriving before 10am to get a spot. Registration is self-serve and is $18 a night, payable in cash.
  • Information on Wawona Campground here.

Our RV site in Wawona campground

Wawona campground

Surrounded by large trees with ample shade.


Campsites

  • Camping is perhaps the most magical way to experience Yosemite, as you are so close to nature and can watch the million stars at night, and wake up to misty views of the towering cliffs each morning.
  • There are 13 tent sites in Yosemite National park. See them all here.
  • The 4 sites in most demand are right in the centre of Yosemite Valley, and each have incredible views of the canyon. These sites are Upper Pines, Lower Pines, North Pines and Camp 4. Reservations are required in advance all year and if you don't get in early, they will be booked out. Make reservations here.

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Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

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Guide to Mt Rainier National Park with kids

Mt. Rainier National Park is a Washington state icon.

By Grace Koelma

Mount Rainier National Park: a guide with kids

Know before you go

Mt. Rainier National Park is a Washington state gem, and its iconic snow capped peak is a fixture of the Seattle skyline.

  • The national park is a glorious landscape of sub-alpine meadows, wildflowers (in season), lakes, waterfalls and wildlife viewing opportunities.
  • It's open year round, but its peak visitor season is July and August, when the alpine wildflowers bloom in the meadows. 
  • You'll need a park's pass to visit the pass. You can pay the entrance fee or purchase an annual or lifetime pass at any park entrance station. If the station is unstaffed when you arrive, you can pay on your exit. You must display your 7-day or annual pass clearly in your windscreen window at all times. Rangers do patrol. More information here.
  • You are likely to see wildlife on the trail (we saw deer grazing), so use common sense and don't get too close or offer food, or attempt to touch.

Spot the deer grazing at the vibrant  foothills, bursting with colour.

Hikes and photography locations

  • Our top recommendations (photography and general hiking) are Tipsoo Lake (and Little Tipsoo Lake), Paradise meadow and Skyline trail, Sunrise area and Christine Falls.
  • The hikes vary in difficulty, and children between the ages of 3-6 may struggle with the distance (being too heavy to carry easily) so check with the guides at the Henry M Jackson Visitor Centre before attempting with children.
  • We unfortunately only had a day to spend here, but wished we had longer because the scenery is stunning and the park is large (we'd recommend 3 days to explore it all if you have time).
  • Check out this excellent guide by Renee Roaming for a more detailed itinerary and recommendations. 

Sunrise view of Mt Rainier from Little Tipsoo Lake.

Vivid autumn colours. In summer, these are patches of wildflowers. 

Frolicking in the alpine meadows

The air is so pure up there.

Viewpoint in the Paradise meadows.

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Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

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The Dare List 2.0

Image © The Dare List Family 2018. 

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

We are the Dare List Family, one kid and two big kids-at-heart on a worldwide adventure that both exhilarates and scares the crap out of us daily. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We always knew we wanted to travel, but we never knew that our Pinterest-sized wanderlust was only the beginning of an incredible journey. Instead of having a bucket list of destinations WHERE we’d travel to, we wanted to create a list of HOW we would travel and let the journey itself define us.

Back in 2016, living in our home on the East Coast of Australia, we felt penned in by routine and obligation, living as safe, in-the-box, creatures of habit (with a huge mortgage hanging over our heads).

One day, we woke up and realised we had forgotten how to be brave. We couldn’t remember the last time we took a risk or tried something new. Watching our 14 month-old-son learn to walk, falling down multiple times a day with a huge smile on his face as he got back up was a stark reminder that we as adults had become afraid of failure. We’d wrapped ourselves in cotton wool and couldn’t shake the fragile feeling that one fall would break us. We needed to seek ways to brave, fail often and get used to the feeling so it wouldn’t feel so foreign.

Ariana Huffington said “failure is not the opposite of success. It’s part of success.”

So, we began a journey to bring brave back. 

The way we tell it now, it sounds so planned, but at the time this was an organic, natural process. It still is, and it’s evolving as we evolve and grow as individuals and a family.

But back to 2016. We made a verbal list of things that challenged us, words that hung in the air between us and became so embedded in our daily conversations they were permanently adopt- ed into our consciousness. Ultimately we sought out those experiences to practice being brave again. But that step was just the beginning.

That verbal Dare List shaped our late-night-conversations and key decisions over the course of many months. In October 2016 we quit our jobs, handed over the keys to our home, sold most of our possessions and booked one-way plane tickets to start a global adventure that would pivot our lives. To the people around us it probably looked like a spontaneous decision, but it had been a long time coming.

Image © The Dare List Family 2018. 

So what is on our (growing) dare list? 

Travel the world with a kid, live in a tiny home on wheels, investigate ourselves more deeply as intrinsically spiritual beings, worldschool Leo, run our own businesses, create content on YouTube, lose the attachment to possessions, be more sustainable in our eating and living practices, shed our attachment to living in one location, meet new people that expand our ideas about the world, that think differently than us, politically, religiously, culturally and ask lots and lots and lots of questions.

Tony Robbins said “the quality of your questions determines the quality of your life.” And so far, it seems like he’s on the money.

The verbal list is essentially a bunch of habits, goals, practices and values that we want to prioritise as we raise Leo. But at the heart of everything on our list is one characteristic that is the centre of all that we teach our son.

Be brave.

Being brave can be captured in an Instagram photo or dramatic video. And sometimes it does pop up that way as we document our travels (we still like getting dared to do crazy stuff). But we’ve learned being courageous and brave takes lots of forms, at home and overseas... being brave enough to do something the opposite way to your family, taking financial risks - spending money on travel instead of a house deposit, ignoring the haters but listening to real criticism without defence, being honest with yourself and others, being kind to others without expecting a favour in return, having hard conversations, telling someone you love them or telling some- one you need space.

Image © The Dare List Family 2018. 

Are we experts on being brave? 

We never will be. But all we know is that since we made the Dare List, we’re living larger than we ever have. We’re living more sustainably, more consciously and for the first time in what feels like forever we’re really paying attention to our words, our actions and our mark on this beautiful planet. The outsides are matching the insides. And it’s amazing.

We definitely don’t always get it right, but we are taking action. And bravery + action makes you unstoppable.

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Kitchen TOUR of our RV | Storage in a tiny home on wheels

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

If you're dreaming of #vanlife but wondering how on earth you can live, cook and clean in such a tiny space, take a look inside my RV kitchen and see how we've designed it for maximum efficiency, comfort and most importantly, STORAGE!

Living in a van doesn't have to mean sacrificing ALL your comforts of home or only cooking with a single pan and rusted spatula. While we have a lot of plastic crockery and cups (living with a toddler in a vehicle travelling at 100km/hour, y'all!) I still find ways to sneak in my fave ceramic mugs and wine glasses, and we've never broken a single one!

Have any questions??

Let me know in the comments below, and don't forget to SUBSCRIBE to our channel so you don't miss more #vanlife tips, tutorials and tours!

Watch our VAN RENOVATION IN 21 DAYS​.

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Van type: Ford Econoline E-350 (1991)

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How we do #vanlife with a toddler: Leo’s playspace + bed (renovation)

By Eric Koelma | Dare List Dad

We've been asked a lot of questions about the play space and bedroom mezzanine I built for our 3-year-old son Leo in our six-berth RV (for just $200!!!), so here are a few photos and a video detailing how I renovated the space. 

Watch how we did it

The space BEFORE we renovated

The play room and bed space now (could fit 1-2 small children)

Don't have time to read now?
Pin for later. ⤵

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Before & After Photos: Our incredible van transformation

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

We have had a lot of people curious to see how we renovated our 1991 Ford Econoline RV, so we thought we'd give you guys the juicy before and after photos (because who doesn't loooove a good before and after contrast right??)

Our story so far: We are an Australian family (Grace, Eric and 3-year-old Leo) who are living and working in Canada for 2 years on an IEC working holiday visa. We landed in Vancouver and spent 1 month settling in (staying in an Airbnb) and searching for the perfect vehicle to become our new #tinyhomeonwheels. We found our 1991 vintage baby on Craigslist, and negotiated with the owners for a great deal.

Watch all about how we bought #valourthevan here!

Then, we moved to our friend's house in outer Vancouver, and set to work gutting and renovating her! (We found a whole bunch of black mould in our demolition, more on that in the below video.)

Watch our 21 day renovation process

play

The finished van

Our van is now complete with a custom children's play space, brand new shower, bathroom vanity with a repurposed bowl sink, kitchen counter top, dining table, bedroom, floating floorboards, shelving and LED lighting throughout. We have been living in the van and travelling through British Columbia in Canada for a few weeks now, and we are absolutely loving our space. Subscribe to our YouTube channel if you want to follow our journey through Canada & USA (and maybe beyond!)

Before & Afters

LIVING SPACE

LIVING SPACE + CHILD BED/PLAY SPACE MEZZANINE

DINING TABLE

KITCHEN + CABINETS

LEO'S PLAY SPACE + BEDROOM

CABINETS ABOVE THE DINING TABLE

KITCHEN + LIVING

BEDROOM

FLOATING VINYL FLOORBOARDS

VAN RENOVATION DETAILS

Van type: Ford Econoline E-350 (1991), 24 ft, automatic

Van features before renovation: 3 deep-cycle batteries, grey + black water tanks, 100L fresh water tank, 2-way Dometic fridge, 4-burner gas stovetop + oven

Things that we couldn't do/fit into 21 days:

- Floating floorboards, caulking, solar panel install, fix heater and furnace

(So it may end up a few extra days, but the liveable conversion was done in 21 days)


Thanks for watching our 21-day renovation process and following our journey, we absolutely love meeting fellow #vanlifers and people aspiring to start this journey. So come over to Instagram or YouTube and say hi! 

Want more? Here's the van in detail

Want to see more on Leo's playspace + bedroom?

Click here.

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Pin for later. ⤵

Phew! Well if you made it this far, THANK YOU! And if you have any questions about the renovation, Leo's playspace or any other part of the build, then let us know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post, we'd love it if you could click like and share with your friends! And if you haven't already, subscribe to our YouTube channel below so you can find out about our newest videos. 👌🎥

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Van Renovation: We Transformed our RV Motorhome in 21 Days!

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

My friends, we are finally, FINALLY ready to share the story of our van renovation and reveal what she looks like now!!!

We’ve spent the last week trawling through all the footage we took as we documented the renovation process over 21 days. We've smooshed it all into a brief video wrap up of how we did this reno with no building experience, how we tackled the extensive black mould issues and rebuilt the internal structure, ceiling kitchen counter, Leo's play space and shower!

And there are some sweeeet before + after shots, so head over to the Youtube link in our bio to watch the big reveal and our van’s transformation from ugly 90s pink floral to the glorious, liveable space it is now!

Eeeeep, so excited to hear what you think??!

Watch the video on YouTube or view it in the video above.

If you enjoyed this video, we'd love it if you could click like and share with your friends! And if you haven't already, subscribe to our YouTube channel below so you can find out about our newest videos. 👌🎥

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<< Watch Our Previous Vlogs

Don't want to miss a Dare List Family update?

Remember to subscribe on YouTube or put in your email below and we'll send you DLF love every Thursday when we send our weekly vlog live. 💌✌️

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