Rocky Mountain/Black Canyon National Parks + Norrie, CO

Early September my best friend of 22 years, Katie, and I took a best friend road trip to Colorado and Utah. Now, this best friend road trip has been 10 years in the making. We have been wanting to do a best friend road trip together since we were fifteen.  Katie and I have taken plenty of weekend road trips, but this is our first six-day adventure! We definitely made the most of it! We landed in Denver at 7:15 a.m. and we were immediately off to our first destination, Rocky Mountain National Park. We ended day one with a four-hour trek west to Katie’s family cabin in Norrie, CO. Day two we visited Maroon Bells in Aspen, CO., Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and eventually back to the cabin. As always, links to everywhere we went will be in the post. So without further ado, here is day one and two of our epic best friend road trip.


We arrived at Rocky Mountain National Park around 10:30 local time. We only did the scenic drive via Trail Ridge Road, as we were sadly limited on time at this park.

Unfortunately, there were nearby fires in Colorado, so we didn’t get to see Rocky Mountain in its full glory, but nonetheless the views were majestic.

Middle photo: Katie naturally had to climb up any rock she could.

Luckily, our trip fell during the beginning transition of the leaves from summer to fall. I just love Aspen trees!


Day two: We started the day with a 4 a.m. wake up call to get to Maroon Bells by sunrise. The view was 100 percent worth the lack of sleep! It is hands down  one of the top five most gorgeous views I’ve ever seen.


Next we headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Here we had quite the shambley experience as we ended up on the wrong side of the canyon. (Two hours off of where we were suppose to be). Moral of the story, don’t trust Siri with directions to this park. Luckily, both Katie and I are extremely laid back so we went along with this minor hiccup. We ended up on the north side of the canyon and did the North Rim Road. The North Rim Road consisted of a gravel road, whereas the South Rim Road has a paved road and more amenities (more ranger stations, gift shop, etc.) Either side of the canyon provides grand views of the canyon.

Photos don’t do this canyon justice. The view down is a little unsettling. (Honestly gave me mild anxiety if I looked too long. Ha!) This canyon is narrow in comparison to the Grand Canyon, and with that you can literally look straight down 2,000+ feet.

Fun fact: This canyon is constantly eroding deeper each year thanks to the Gunnison River, but strangely enough it is not eroding nearly as quickly width wise. I can’t imagine in five or 10 years how even more unsettling the view down will be.


At the end of day two, we headed back to Norrie, CO. Unlike the first day, we actually drove back before dark so I got to see the mountains around where we were staying. Norrie is a colony in Colorado. Katie and her family own a cabin in the colony. I have heard of the cabin in Norrie since elementary school because Katie and her family always visited in the summer. It was a neat experience to finally see where Katie spent every summer growing up. I definitely understand the appeal of the place. The river and reservoir amongst the grand mountain range, it draws you in and embraces you like an old friend.

Left: Entrance to Norrie. Right: the lovely cabin we stayed in

The Fryingpan River runs right behind the cabin. I loved listening to the river all night. It was so relaxing. The water though was frigid. Thus, I didn’t venture in much more than the photo on the right. Also note, Katie and her pizza in the left photo.

That’s all for this part of the trip. Part two is coming soon!

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Oregon Adventures: Crater Lake National Park

Next on our Oregon adventure, we drove four hours south of Portland to Crater Lake National Park. The drive in was breathtaking in itself! Crater Lake National Park is home to America’s deepest lake, a lake so blue it almost doesn’t look real. Surrounding the lake is an old-growth forest and cliffs with sheer drop offs. There are many options to get the most of your trip to Crater Lake including, a road that goes around the entirety of the lake (depending on the time of year), hiking trails, boat tours and trolley tours. We chose to drive around the lake, which took approximately two and a half hours. During the drive there are many lookouts to view the lake at different perspectives. The day we went it was extremely windy, with winds from the north. That made the temperature, with wind chill, a lovely 36 degrees with occasional freezing rain and snow flurries. Even with the cold weather the views were incredible and definitely worth the occasional numb fingers. Tip: Bring gloves.

So what should you see?  If you have half a day to a day, I would recommend driving around the lake. If you plan to stay longer than a day, hike down the Cleetwood Trail. It’s the only trail that safely goes down to the lake surface. There you can take a boat tour to Wizard Island. No matter what you do, you’ll be enchanted by the beauty of this place.
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Please do not crop, edit, or alter the image(s) in any way. All images and their copyright are property of Samantha Kurtz Photography, LLC. All rights reserved.