Finding Your Way to “Hidden” Beauty

One of my favorite things about hiking (and in some cases, paddling) is the chance to get to places that are off the beaten path.

There’s something special about witnessing beauty that only those willing to make the effort have seen.

Here are three of our favorites from family trips we’ve taken over the past few years. I’m sure you’ve got a list of your own. I want to hear about them!

cascade canyon, tetons
Can you find the three little people in the bottom of the photo above? That’s my brother, daughter and youngest son.

Inspiration Point & Cascade Canyon—Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

When a friend of ours heard our family was heading to the Tetons one summer, his advice was: “Don’t just look at the mountains—make sure you get into the mountains!”

Our last day in the Teton/Yellowstone region took us to Jenny Lake, where we were able to do just that.

The scenery is stunning enough from the parking lot! A short walk took us to the boat that would ferry us across the lake to the trail head. From there we followed the crowds (it was July, after all) along the trail and up to 700-foot Inspiration Point that overlooks the lake.

A Park volunteer on the boat had recommended continuing on from the Point,  taking the trail into Cascade Canyon, where few visitors venture.

Are we ever glad we took his advice!

We left 90% of the people behind and walked on another 15 minutes. The trees parted, the Canyon opened up with the peaks on either side, a clear mountain stream bubbled down towards the falls below. Gorgeous!

Dream lake, rocky mt nat'l park
Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Dream Lake—Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

This was another case of reaping the benefits of listening to the expert!

We were at the trail head to a number of different hikes—from 500 feet to one lake, to several miles into the mountains. The ranger advised us to take the 2-mile round-trip hike to Dream Lake.

Are we ever glad we took her advice!

This very moderate trail takes in some of the most gorgeous mountain views I’ve ever seen. And while in Rocky (as in most of our National Parks) there are stunners from the highways too, taking it in slowly and on foot is a different experience.

Our destination—Dream Lake—is the quintessential alpine lake. Just what we picture in our minds: clear, green, surrounded by trees and snowy peaks.

eddy falls bwcaw
This beautiful waterfall can be reached by about 13 miles of canoeing and portaging

Eddy Falls—Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

This one is the most remote of the three examples. The national parks mentioned above get a few million visitors each year, with a percentage of them going on the hikes we took.

This one is hidden away in the Boundary Waters, only reached by a 13ish-mile paddle-and-portage trip.

The BWCAW averages 250,000 visitors a year, with only a small percentage of them taking the particular route that uses the portage between the South Arm of Knife Lake and Eddy Lake.

The 75-foot elevation difference between the lakes creates a picturesque stream that cascades down amidst large moss-covered rocks and under criss-crossed cedar trees that have aged and fallen over.

Eddy Falls is the name we christened it with—I don’t know that it has an official name.


These are three of our favorite “hidden treasures” only accessible by self-locomotion. Maybe this has given you some ideas for your next family trip 🙂

What are your favorites? I’d love to hear about them—really!

(PHOTOS: All taken on family trips; the bottom one was taken by Scott Sorteberg)

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