Badlands National Park is technically two units. The North Unit (park lands north of Highway 44) and The South Unit (park lands south of Highway 44). It became a National Monument in 1939 and was redesigned as a National Park in 1978. The park is 244,000 acres and gets around one million visitors a year!
Badlands National Park is in the Mountain Time Zone.
Park headquarters phone number: 605-433-5361
Park website: www.nps.gov/badl
Badlands National Park Visitor Centers
There are two visitor centers in the park. The Ben Reifel Visitor Center is open year round and has a 97 seat air conditioned theater as well as a bookstore and several interactive exhibits. There’s also a free station to fill up your water bottles with cold water. Hours vary from month to month with hours being longer in the summer months (typically 7am to 7pm) and shorter in the shoulder season and winter. Winter hours are typically 8am to 4pm. Be sure to check before you go if you plan on visiting.
The White River Visitor Center is located on the Pine Ridge Reservation off Highway 27. It is only open seasonally. Be sure to call before you go to make sure it is open.
Things to Know About Badlands National Park
This park has one of the world’s richest mammal fossil beds. Be sure to only take photographs. Do not take home any artifacts, fossils, etc. that you find. Collecting artifacts including plants, flowers, animals, rocks, etc can land you in jail and or with a steep fine.
Get gas before you go into the park. There are stations to fill up at on either end of the park (Interior is 2 miles away, Cactus Flat about 9 and Wall about 30) but there are no gas stations in side the park.
Badlands National Park Tips
Drones are not allowed!
Stay on the trail.
Bikes are allowed in the park but must stay on park roads. No bicycles are allowed on any of the trails.
Dogs are allowed in the park but are also not allowed on any of the trails. They must also be kept on a leash at all times. The leash can not exceed six feet in length.
The speed limit max is 45 miles an hour. Many other places are slower. Take your time, see all the sights and watch out for pedestrians and wildlife. We saw several bighorn sheep crossing the Old North East Road after a trail run one morning.
Park only in designated areas, not on the grass.
Backcountry permits are currently not required. Be sure to sign a register at the trailheads and let someone know where you are going.
Badlands National Park Safety
Be sure to drink water! The park is hot and you can dehydrate quickly.
Beware of intense weather that moves swiftly. During the beginning of August we experienced a storm that had lightning, strong winds and even hail. Make sure you know the weather before you go, fill out the back country registration book at trailheads, pack appropriate clothing and supplies, and use caution in the wilderness.
Watch out for rattlesnakes! There are signs on most trailheads reminding people to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes. They are venomous and one bite can surely ruin your trip. It’s recommended that you wear closed toed shoes and watch where you step.
Use caution when exploring. The rocks are slippery and also unstable. They can crumble beneath you if you are not careful. When it hasn’t rained the surface is dry and dusty and loose, making it hard to come down from places that you’ve climbed up. When it rains, that same dust turns into a slick clay-like surface that will have you slip-sliding all over the place. Falls can be extremely dangerous if not fatal so be careful.
To keep prairie wildfire risk down, campfires are not allowed.
Cedar Pass Lodge
Located just a short walk or drive from the visitor center and the campground is Cedar Pass Lodge. You can grab a meal in there. We didn’t do this because we were trying to save money but it seemed pretty busy! Here’s what people are saying about it on TripAdvisor (3.5 stars out of five) and Yelp.
Cedar Pass Campground
When we arrived the campsite sign said it was full but the woman working the booth told us to come back at 1:00 pm since sometimes people cancel and they have last minute openings. We went for a run and did just that, arriving about 30 minutes early and just hanging out until 1:00. We wanted to be first in line in case there were any openings and were super psyched to find out there was one! Unfortunately when we came back from a fun day in the park, we saw someone else at our site. They were in our parking spot and already hooked up to the electric. Our name was on the tag and some of Caroline’s clothes were in a pile on the picnic table.
To make a long story short we ended up going back to the booth where we were told that they had overbooked the campsite. She asked us to drive to the Minuteman campsite which was a new property they had just acquired, 8.9 miles up the road (17 minute drive.) We were sad to leave the park but it ended up being okay.
The Minuteman campground was a little less crowded and we ended up being fine with it, though the showers here required $1.50 to get 7 minutes of hot water. The sign said that 1 quarter after that would get you an extra minute but when I put a quarter in after the water cut out without warning, the machine just ate my money. I think if you add money while it’s still running that should do the trick!
If you end up needing to stay at Minuteman, it’s not on the map. Put Cactus Flat into your GPS and as you are leaving the park it will be on your right hand side, across from the Conoco gas station.
There are picnic tables at each one and most of the sites were pull-through which is great if you have a big RV. They were also level.
Bathrooms are in the middle of the campground. There’s also a laundry facility.
They sell six packs of PBR, Corona and Budweiser. They also have a couple bottles of wine!
Best Hikes in Badlands National Park
Instead of hiking, we mostly did trail running. We were short on time and wanted to see as much as possible. Be sure to watch out for rattlesnakes, sign the registration log when it’s present, wear proper clothing, footwear and sunscreen and take enough water!
Medicine Root Loop
This was our favorite trail in the park because of the incredible scenery. The trail is 4 miles loop. On it you’ll see numerous jaw dropping rock formations and be able to experience the mixed grass prairie as well as the views. There are no major climbs but there are several rolling sections that are fun to run into and then out of.
We didn’t run the entire castle trail but we did about 4 miles of the 10 miles. It’s the longest trail in the park and you can pick it up at several places (the Door and Window parking lot or the Old NE road). If you’re looking to get a long hike in, this is the one. It’s relatively level but it’s almost all exposed so be sure to bring lots of water and snacks.
Fossil Exhibit Trail
This little trail is a great place to learn about the park. It’s on a boardwalk (that can be super slippery when wet!) and the whole thing is only a 1/4 mile long. It’s also wheelchair accessible and has several interpretive signs for you to learn about fossils and other creatures that used to live in the Badlands.
Door and Window Trail
The Door Trail is .75 miles long round trip and the Window Trail is .25 miles round trip. Both are easy to hike or run though they are both super exposed to the sun so just because it’s short, don’t leave your water in the car. These are some of the easiest places to get great photographs! The “Door” will give you a view of the Badlands and the “Window” will give you a view into a canyon. Both are awesome and must – do’s, even if you only have a little bit of time.
This trail is short but it is intense! It basically goes straight up the Badlands Wall and gives you a look over the White River Valley. It also connects with the Castle and Medicine Root Trails. This trail in particular can get very slippery when wet and may have you coming down on your butt. Use caution if rain is in the forecast.
Next time: Notch Trail
We didn’t have a chance to do this trail and are super bummed about it but eager to do it upon our return. It’s 1.5 miles long and involves climbing a ladder and walking along a ledge in order to get to “the Notch” which gives you a view of the White River Valley. You can pick this trail up near the Door and Window’s trail. Like Saddle Pass, it’s also not recommended during or after a heavy rain. The park also recommends not hiking it if you have a fear of heights.
Badlands National Park Recap
This is one of the coolest (though really hot) parks in the United States. It’s got some great hiking, some epic views and tons of great places to snap some photographs. Have you been there? If so, we’d love to hear from you!
Interested in what we’re taking pictures with? Check out our post on our Favorite Photography Gear to learn more.
Do you have an upcoming trip to the Bahamas? If so, read on to learn about some of the things to know before visiting the Bahamas!
Tips for Visiting the Bahamas:
The Bahamas are made up of about 700 different islands in the Atlantic Ocean. They are located North of Cuba and southeast of Florida. Nassau is the capital and is located on New Providence. The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1718 and gained it’s independence on July 10, 1973. Locals are referred to as Bahamian, not Bohemian.
Yep, you’ll need a passport when visiting the Bahamas. No tourist visa is required.
We were able to access LTE cell phone services in the Bahamas, both on New Providence and Andros. However, if you choose to use your cell phone, make sure your plan supports it. There are also payphones sprinkled throughout the Bahamas that work with calling cards and coins. Not all of them work, so be sure to have a backup plan!
None are required for entry into the country.
There has never been a recorded or reported frost in the Bahamas. Overall the Bahamas are typically sunny, averaging more than 3,000 hours or 340 days of sunlight each year. Summer, however, is the wet and rainy season and the bugs are the worst as well. Winter temperatures in the Bahamas range from mid to high 70’s and with lows in the 60’s. The bugs are least aggressive this time of year. Summer temps are typically in the high 80’s with lows in the mid 70’s. Humidity is often really intense in the summer as well. Be sure to bring sunscreen no matter what time of year you are visiting!
Hurricane Season in the Caribbean officially begins June 1 and ends on November 30 though most tropical cyclones typically develop between May and October. Be sure to check the forecast before departure and stay aware of conditions while you are in the Bahamas.
Driving and Transportation:
Vehicles are driven on the left hand side of the road. Seatbelts are mandatory. Many of the vehicles are Japanese and are also right hand drive. Visitors with a valid drivers license who are 25 year or older are eligible to rent a car. A foreign drivers license can be used for the first three months, after that you must obtain a Bahamian drivers license. Be very careful in the roundabouts AND when walking! Most American’s tend to look left and then right because we drive on the right, but it’s the opposite in the Bahamas!
Mini buses can be used for getting around on Freeport and Nassau. On the out islands, vans that act like taxis are the main form of transportation. Most taxis have rates that are government controlled. Rates can typically be found at the airport on a posted board showing how much it costs to go from A to B.
The official language of the Bahamas is English. That said, some visitors have a bit of difficult understanding the Bahamian dialect.
One of the top things to know before visiting the Bahamas is how to purchase things! The Bahamian dollar is accepted everywhere in the Bahamas. So too, is the US dollar. Currently the exchange is 1:1. Understand that most often if you pay with US dollars you will get change back in Bahamian currency so be sure to spend it all before you return or only pay with the correct amount. Many places, even some of the out islands (outside of New Providence), now accept credit cards.
Banks are typically open Monday to Thursday from 9:30 to 3:00 and on Fridays from 9:30 to 4:30. Some banks are open on Saturdays with limited hours. Operation may vary on the out islands.
Many people skip flights altogether and visit the Bahamas via cruise. Most ships visit these main ports:
Nassau (New Providence)
Freeport (Grand Bahama)
Matthew Town (Inagua)
The drinking age is 18. I’ve never been to a place that cards but it could just be that my age is showing! The local beer to try is Kalik, pronounced Kuh-lick! If they have Kalik Gold, get one, they’re super strong. Sands isn’t bad either. Cheers!
The Bahamas are overall very casual. Fancy attire is not necessary unless you will be attending church or some other ceremony. Many visitors wear beachwear but it’s recommended that you cover up your bathing suit when you are away from the beach or pool. That is acceptable unless you are in a restaurant, church or casino.
Outlets in the Bahamas are like those in the US and will work with all American Devices. If you are coming from another country, be sure to pack a two-pin flat adapter and/or a 220 volt converter.
The Bahamas is in the Eastern Time Zone and has adopted Daylight Savings Time.
Some tourists want to be in the Bahamas during Spring Break and others want to avoid it altogether. Be sure to check dates in advance but spring break season is typically from late February to mid-April.
15-20% is customary. Be sure it’s not included in the service, however, before tipping since some places roll it right into your bill.
Things to Pack for the Bahamas:
Getting to the Bahamas:
We flew from Salisbury, Maryland (SBY) to Philadelphia (PHL) on American. Our layover was brutal. We arrived in Philly around 8:30 and left the next morning at 8:00. Luckily, between Gates A and B, the airport sets up complimentary cots. We were able to get two and though it was loud, they provided free eye masks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouth wash and a fleece blanket which we were allowed to keep. Promptly at 5:15 we were woken by someone in the airport because they were cleaning the area up, but it was much more comfortable than sleeping in a chair.
We flew into Nassau at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) via American and then after a short layover hopped on a flight with LeAir to get to Andros.
The US Embassy is located on Nassau, New Providence
P.O. Box N-8197
#42 Queen Street
Nassau, The Bahamas
Telephone: +(242) 322-1181
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(242) 357-7004
Fax: +(242) 356-7174
Things to Know Before Visiting the Bahamas Recap
If you have been to the Bahamas before then hopefully the above was a refresher for you. If not, we hope our travel tips for visiting the Bahamas has been helpful!
Delaware is a small state but it has some really great places to experience the outdoors. There are tons of activities to experience, one of which is running. In this post we share some of the best places to run in Delaware.
Brandywine Creek State Park – There are five trails within the park. Most of the terrain is easy to moderate. The Northern Delaware Greenway also happens to run through the park (a 2.9 mile segment.)
Gordon’s Pond Trail – This trail is only 3.2 miles long and is made of small crushed stone. It’s relatively flat and a great place to get in a short and easy recovery run. About 3/4 of a mile into your run you’ll come to the Gordon’s Pond Scenic Overlook. We recommend bringing bug spray!
Junction and Breakwater Trail – This trail is 5.8 miles long. It connects Rehoboth Beach and Lewes and follows a section of the old Penn Central Rail Road. The surface is mostly flat and the surface is a mixture of tiny crushed stone, pavement and a couple of wooden bridges. Look for signs behind the outlet shopping malls in Rehoboth for the trailhead.
Killens Pond State Park – There are four trails at this park that combine to make 8.5 miles. Located in Central Delaware it has some beautiful bridges and parallel forest to run over and through. Fall colors, if you time it right, can also be beautiful here.
Northern Delaware Greenway – This paved path is 10.4 miles long and links up Bellevue State Park, Brandywine Creek State Park and the City of Wilmington together. You’ll pass by both Bellevue Hall and Rockwood Mansion along the route and experience some hilly sections in the Alapocas Woods section of the trail.
Prickly Pear Trail – We hesitate to even tell anyone about this trail because we love it so much! It’s a flat, easy, fairly shaded path of fine gravel and some sand. It’s wide too, great for both running and riding bikes. In addition, it’s proximity to Bethany Beach, Dewey and Rehoboth make it a go-to for any runner looking for a workout that doesn’t involve Route 1.
Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk – Though the boardwalk is only a mile long, we still think it’s one of the best places to run in Delaware. If you go early in the morning, you watch the sun come up over the ocean and join all of the other walkers, runners and sunrise gatherers. If you go later on in the day you can people watch. Watch out for boards sticking up at odd angles, though. I’ve tripped more than once because I’m preoccupied with everything around me lol.
The beach – This idea might be super obvious but it’s still one of the best places to run in Delaware. Not much beats looking at the ocean as you run. Make sure that once you get on the beach, you know where to turn to get back to your car or hotel! From the sand a lot of the places look identical. In addition, please be sure to stay off the dunes and only cross back along the designated paths.
Best Places to Run in Delaware Recap
How many of these places have you logged some miles on? We love that there are so many great places to run in DE. The state is tiny but it’s not lacking in variety! Most of the places listed are also great for walking and biking. Did you know there were so many trails in Delaware?
If you’re going to be visiting the beach, be sure to check out our story series on the Best Places to Eat in Ocean City and the Delaware Beaches, the Best Bars at the Beach, the Best Things to Do in OC and DE and Free Things to do at the MD and DE Beaches!
A while ago we assembled a list of our favorite Asheville Instagram accounts. It was a fun way to acknowledge some of the people who’s work we really love. Playing off that theme we’ve decided to create a new list: Best Van Life Instagram Accounts.
Asheville Van Life – Stay up to date with the Asheville Van Life Rally and get a daily dose of sweet rigs from the southeast and beyond.
Camper Lifestyle – Vans and campers that make you go ‘WOW!’
Chloe Mayne – This wandering DJ might have you rethinking your life and trying to catch up with her on the road or at the beach.
Dustin, Noami + Irie – Digital nomads and sustainable thinkers with a beautiful feed.
Franzi and Toni – Two humans and two pups, all of them living in a 27 year old VW van.
French Vanlifer – Have yellow van, will travel. If his rig doesn’t make you drool, we don’t know what will.
From Our Vantage – Excellent photography, a kick ass van and all around good vibes.
GoWesty Campers – If you’ve got thing for VW’s then brace yourself. This Instagram account has been known to suck IG users into the vortex, only to return hours later.
Harriet Carpenter & Dan Ingram – Great landscape photography and sneak peaks into their van.
Noël Russell – Cute pictures of pups and vans and mountains. Need we say more?
Peter and Shruthi Lapp – Love their photography and their captions are often short stories worth reading.
Pine Pins – Two German travelers and a two tone van named Rudi with a very clever inside.
Slow Car Fast Home – Not exactly a van per se, but you know how we have a thing for Toyota Motorhomes. We’re living vicariously through their adventures in their 1992 Toyota Odyssey.
The Bus and Us – A teal VW bus and one that you’re probably already following. You and 108K others!
The Ladies Van – Bre and Lacey did their own van build out on the weekend. Lots of photos of the process as well as tons of positive vibes about love.
The Van Nation – Cool vans in epic locations. Hardly a boring shot in the lot.
Travel Many Roads – Full-time van lifers living the dream in Europe. Incredible rig, too. It’s a Volkswagen LT28D.
Vanlife Diaries – One of the biggest van life Instagram accounts around. Daily features of awesome vans.
Van Life Explorers – Need a little motivation to go exploring? This is one of the best van life Instagram accounts for stoking wanderlust.
Van Life Magazine – More dreamy pictures of vans. Volkswagen gets a lot of love on this account, all kinds of Volkswagens.
Van Lifer – Doodles of awesome vans. This account is basically a continuous stream of square happiness.
Van Lifers – Another monstrous account, it’s still one of the best Van Life Instagram accounts around.
Vehicle Living – This IG account has more than just vans. It’s got all kinds of overland vehicles, trucks and buses on it. And all of them are awesome.
Viktoria and Michael – Lots of gorgeous mountain shots and photos of their blue VW van with a pop up roof.
Wayfarer Vans – These guys are the ones who helped us with our van conversion. They took our Dodge Ram Promaster City and turned it into an adventuremobile! To read more about our van life conversion kit go HERE.
Women on the Road – Not everyone featured on this account lives the van life but all of the women are badass adventurers worth learning about and learning from.
Best Van Life Instagram Accounts
We didn’t put ourselves on the list of the best van life instagram accounts to follow but if you’d like to follow us on Instagram, you can find us at @authenticasheville and @carolineperdue and @e.mcgrady
Before living in Asheville, North Carolina, I lived and worked in Frederick, Maryland. It’s a great small city (about 70,000 people live there) with close proximity to Washington, DC and Baltimore. It’s also got enough of a fun food scene that you don’t really need to leave to get a great meal. Here are our best places to eat in Frederick, Maryland:
Ayse Meze – Greek, Lebanese and Turkish food. Nice little spot for happy hour.
Black Hog – This is where you go to get your barbecue fix in Frederick. If the smells from the parking lot don’t have you drooling by the time you hit the door …
Brewer’s Alley – It’s fun to sit out on the patio and people watch while you eat and drink. The burger is good and so is the crab dip.
Cacique – Really good margaritas. Almost always get the chips and salsa (add guacamole!) Nice little happy hour menu.
Cakes to Die For – Brownies, cake, cookies … get one while you stroll up Market Street.
Family Meal – Fried chicken, the burger, the duck fat fries and dipping sauces … oh and brunch is good here, too. Easily one of the best restaurants in Frederick. Plus the parking is easy.
Firestone’s Culinary Tavern & Raw Bar – They have a steak there that cuts with a butter knife. Don’t want to spend a lot? Go for the steak salad or the chophouse burger and fries.
Frederick Coffee Co. & Cafe – Love the black bean burger (it comes with a small side salad). The breakfast bagels are good, too.
Glory Doughnuts and Diner – Get there before the sell out. The flavors are unique and the doughnuts are vegan! (They’ve also expanded their menu beyond doughnuts so you can order things like salads and Banh Mi Tacos).
Il Porto Fine Italian Restaurant – Romantic, intimate atmosphere. Solid Italian food. Ziti for me please.
Jojo’s Restaurant and Tap House – Big menu of American food. Pretty much something for everyone. They also have happy hour drink specials and live music.
Isabellas Taverna and Tapas Bar – Asparagus fries, goat cheese fritters, mussels. So many good small plate things to eat and share here. The paella is good, too!
La Paz Mexican Restaurant – [EDIT] The outside patio and margaritas are good but the food seems to be a hot topic. Seems like people are really passionate about the place – they either love yet or hate it. I honestly had no idea people felt so strongly about it one way or another! Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts.
Lazy Fish – Always had a great experience at this sushi restaurant but I never think about it! Could be because it’s upstairs location isn’t at eye level?
Lucky Corner Vietnamese Restaurant – Probably my favorite restaurant in Frederick. The chicken pho is so damn good. Also love the vegetarian spring rolls.
Pistarro’s – Wood fired pizza. You can build your own or pick from one of their specialties. One of my favorite pizza places ever. This will probably spark a debate but I think it’s one of the best restaurants in Frederick.
Sabor De Cuba – Can’t really go wrong with anything here though I’m partial to the Ropa Vieja (pulled flank steak) and the Papa Rellena (a mashed potato stuffed with ground beef) YUM.
Sumittra Thai Cuisine – Lots of stir fries, some soups and a red, yellow and green curry on the menu. I almost always get pad thai and they give you so much there’s enough for lunch the next day.
Tasting Room – One of the fancier places in town. Filet with lobster whipped potatoes. Yes, please. (Cover photo is of the Tasting Room).
The Orchard – Their homemade tomato tamari dressing is delicious – tangy and light. Start with the hummus appetizer (it comes with homemade flat bread) and get the crispy southwest chicken sandwich or one of their amazing stir fries!
The Wine Kitchen – Locally sourced food. Never had a bad meal here. Be careful how much wine you pair with the food lol.
Volt – Beautiful presentation. A place to go for a fancy date or celebration. Tasting menu is $125.
Places we are looking forward to visiting after hearing about:
Hootch and Banter
White Rabbit Gastropub
Doner Bistro – been there once when they first opened. Eager to go back.
Best Places to Eat in Frederick, Maryland Recap
How many of these places have you been to? Did we miss any of the best restaurants in Frederick? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.
Looking for camping near Asheville? Check out the Mount Pisgah campground! We stayed up there for three nights in our Dodge Ram ProMaster City with a Wayfarer Conversion Kit. Here’s the things to know before you go camping at the Mount Pisgah Campground aka the Mt. Pisgah campground:
Directions to the Mount Pisgah Campground
- Know where you’re going! If you put in the address of the campground, 408 Blue Ridge Parkway, Canton, NC 28716, into Google Maps or even just the Maps app on your iPhone, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up near Cruso on a dead end road scratching your head and going “what the heck.” Trust us, we did this. Now before you think, what a bunch of idiots, we decided to let the GPS take us on a “new route” thinking we might see something new or learn a new way. Well we definitely saw something new but we ended up driving twice as long to reach the campground! If you want to use your GPS, use these coordinates instead:
- Coming from Asheville, take Brevard Road (Highway 191) all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway and then head south. When you see mile marker 408, go just a little further and the campground will be on your right. (You’ll pass the Country Store and the Pisgah Inn on your left.)
Mount Pisgah Campground Info
Sites are $20
The campground is open from late May to late October.
Elevation is around 4,980 feet!
There are 52 sites available for advanced reservation and 74 campsites which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Reservations can only be made online. They can be made as early as 6 months ahead of time or 2 days ahead of time. To make a reservation, go HERE.
The Mt. Pisgah Campground is dog friendly.
Amenities at each campsite include: picnic table and fire ring. Some campsites have a food locker for bear safety.
Campground amenities include: showers with hot water (it was clean!), flush toilets, potable water and wi-fi near the ranger station. Some of you will be ecstatic to know you can stay connected. Others will probably dread having it available. Note that it only works near the ranger station and is “on” from 6am to 10pm.
Cell phone service is almost non-existent up at the campground. I did get a couple texts but wasn’t able to send any out. We have Verizon cell phone service but it mostly bounced between 1x and No Service. You can get a signal once you’re back on the Parkway headed back towards Asheville.
For those of you who are van lifers, there is no overnight camping at the nearby Pisgah Inn.
There is a dump station at the campground.
A camp host is also on-site in case you have questions or concerns. There are also ranger programs – look for the schedule of events on the bathrooms and at the ranger station.
Are you looking for some awesome hikes in the area? We recommend heading over to our friends at Asheville Trails. They’ve got details like maps, directions and photos to help you make a good decision.
Mount Pisgah Campground Recap
We visited the Campground three days in early July because we wanted to avoid the heat in Asheville. Though it meant leaving town to sleep, we felt it was worth it. The temperatures were in the sixties at night and there was very little humidity. The bathrooms were also clean and the campground was quiet. Unlike some other campgrounds where you can literally hear and see your neighbor, this one is a bit more spread out so you have a good bit of privacy.
We recommend this campground to anyone looking to enjoy all that Asheville has to offer but also wants to get away from the city and be in nature. Was this information helpful to you? If so, please like, pin or share with a friend.
Curious what we packed? Check out our Summer Packing Guide HERE.
Recently we’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to buy a bike rack for our van. Turns out it’s a little more complicated than just getting a bike rack. We’ll need a hitch and a part that allows the rack to pivot out and away from the vehicle so that we can still access the back of the van. It hasn’t been an easy decision but after riding in Key West and on Jekyll Island we realized just how much we love our bikes. It’s one of the main ways we get around when we’re in Asheville. Why not do it on the road? After weighing the pros and cons we chose the Yakima Backswing Bike Rack for our Dodge Ram Promaster City.
Yakima Backswing Review
Pros of the Yakima Backswing
- The rack was easy to install. The directions were simple and clear. All you need is an adjustable wrench. The whole thing took about 20 minutes to install.
- It fits nicely onto our 2 inch hitch. (This didn’t come with the van or the rack. It was something we had installed after we bought it.)
- The pivot system of the Yakima Backswing opens up to 90 degrees. This allows us to access the back of the van and even open the doors.
- Once open, the rack will lock in place which is great in windy conditions or on a slope because it won’t swing back at you.
- The Yakima Backswing can carry up to 250 pounds (rack plus bikes).
- It’s easy to uninstall. You simply loosen the bolt and slide it out of the hitch.
Cons of the Yakima Backswing
A lot of these cons are actually overall cons to having a bike rack. They’re not specifically limited to the Yakima.
- Putting a bike rack on your vehicle means it’ll no longer be stealth. It’s pretty obvious that you’re either living or traveling in your van when you’ve got a couple of bicycles attached to the back.
- Theft is an added worry. We got a lock for the rack and also have one for the bikes but no system is perfect. When we really worry we throw them inside the van.
- Finding a hitch for our van was difficult. U-Haul and even the Ram Dealership both told us we could expect a hitch to come out soon but that newer models sometimes takes a while. After about a dozen phone calls we finally found a hitch in Maryland at the Fruitland Pasco.
- It makes the length of the van a bit longer.
- Hitting your shin on the rack hurts so. damn. bad.
- The pivot arm is not for standing on. Hopping in and out of the van, we have to constantly remind ourselves not to use the rack as a way to get down since it’s not meant to support additional weight.
- The rack is fairly low and will hit the curb if you’re not careful.
- Our bikes extend a couple inches past the side of the van (this will vary based on the size of your bike and van.)
- The bikes impact the view in the rearview backup camera which is a huge piece of information when driving this van site we don’t have windows.
Van Life Bike Rack Considerations:
- We wanted something that allowed us to get into the back of our van. We found three companies that make something like that: Thule, Yakima and Kuat. The part works with a 2 inch receiver. There might be others out there but those are the three we’ve considered. Thule’s were backordered around the country for 6 weeks. Our local REI had a couple Yakima’s in stock. We ended up ordering the Yakima Backswing through Amazon.
- The bike rack that I bought to use with my old Toyota Matrix will actually do the trick. Though I sold my car in an effort to downsize (more on that HERE) I kept the rack thinking, well maybe someday it’ll come in handy. And it has! It’s a simple system, a Thule 958 Parkway 2-Bike Hitch Mount Rack (2-Inch Receiver) (pictured below).
Why we did not buy a roof rack:
We’re short. Caroline is 5’6 and I’m 5’4. I’ve had a roof rack for bikes before that went on top of my Toyota Corolla and it was a struggle to get them up there. I could do it but I had to be next to a curb. And I almost always dinged up the paint on my car getting it up there. I know there’s ways to prevent this but the van is even higher and we don’t really want to have to drag a ladder out (not to mention carry one) with us just to get our bikes up and down off the van.
Reduced gas mileage
I’ve read that having things on the roof can really negatively impact your gas mileage. How much depends on what you’re carrying up there. We’re getting about 24 miles a gallon in our Dodge Ram Promaster City (21 city / 28 highway) and we’d like to keep it there because fuel is one of our most expensive costs. To learn more about how certain gear impacts your gas mileage, check out this piece by Men’s Health: How Adventure Gear Strapped to Your Roof Affects Gas Mileage. We were shocked to realize just how much two mountain bikes on a roof will impact gas mileage. No joke, the fuel economy impact percentage is 31%. As in a 31% reduction in gas mileage.
Access to parking garages
Sounds like a weird thing to be worried about but we do a good bit of city travel for work and there are numerous times when the only option for our vehicle has been a parking garage. We want to be able to get in and out of these places when we need to rather than become limited due to our rack.
Yakima Backswing Review and Recap
If you are doing a bit of traveling in a van and want to bring your bikes, we recommend the Yakima Backswing. We think it’s the best bike rack for van life (at least for us). It allows us entry to the back of the vehicle due to it’s unique pivot system. In addition, we can still gain access into the back of the car without having to take the bikes off the rack.
Do you have a bike rack for your van? If so, we’d love to hear about the pros and cons of your setup.
Chincoteague Island is small but there are a surprising number of great places to eat. If you’re heading there for vacation, be sure to check out some of our favorites. They’ve got several great seafood restaurants, some nice family dining options, a couple fancy restaurants and of course food trucks and trailers. Here’s our picks for the Best Places to Eat on Chincoteague. Meet us there, it’s time to eat!
AJ’s on the Creek – Crab cakes are the name of the game here.
Bill’s PRIME Seafood & Steaks – They’ve been in business since 1960 and for good reason. Locals call this one of the best places to eat on the island.
Black Narrows Brewing Company – They’re the first brewery on Virginia’s Eastern Shore!
Captain Zack’s – The hours changing depending on the season but the seafood is on point. Especially the crab cakes. Some say it’s one of the best seafood restaurants on Chincoteague.
Don’s Seafood Restaurant – This is where you go on Chincoteague for oysters. This is another one of those mentioned when they talk about best seafood restaurants on Chincoteague.
Etta’s Channel Side Restaurant – Looking for waterfront dining? Head to Ettas!
Famous Pizza – Putting out delicious pies for over 25 years. (There’s a coupon on their website for a $1.00 off)
Island Creamery – Homemade dessert? Heck yeah! There’s a lot of flavors to choose from so save room for dessert!
J & B Subs – Grab a sub before you head out on a fishing charter. They make the best cold cuts on the island.
Maria’s Family Restaurant – Went there on a Sunday and the breakfast buffet was in full effect. Locals love this place.
Mr. Whippy’s – Amazing soft serve. You’ll be thinking about it long after the last bit is gone.
Pico Taqueria – The Chincoteague Classic is your choice of chicken, pork, beef, or fish, with lettuce, pico de gallo, cotija cheese and crème fraiche. Do it.
Pony Tails – If you like salt water taffy, you’re not going to want to miss this place.
Poseidon’s Pantry – Great sandwiches as well as growlers to go. (You can bring your own growler or buy one of theirs. Beers are always changing.)
Right Up Your Alley Also known as RUYA, this lil’ food trailer cranks out some top notch tacos.
Ropewalk – A seafood heavy menu with outside seating. It’s a small chain (there are other Ropewalks in Ocean City and Baltimore.)
Saigon Village Restaurant – Huge portions and vegetarian options.
Sea Star Cafe – Excellent sandwiches and wraps made to order. They have vegetarian and vegan options.
Smokey’s BBQ and Grill – It’s all about the barbecue here. Tender meat and full of flavor.
Steamers – If you’re looking for an All You Can Eat seafood place, this is the one on Chincoteague. They have steamed blue crabs, shrimp, snow crab legs and more.
The Village – Some say this is one of the best restaurants on the island. There’s white tablecloths, candlelight and a great view of the water.
Woody’s Beach BBQ – A tiny little place to eat some BBQ with a beach / surf vibe.
Best Places to Eat on Chincoteague
Eating on Chincoteague Island is a treat. There’s so many great options! How many of these places have you tried? We’d love to hear from you, especially if we missed a place you think should be on our list of the best places to eat on Chincoteague!
If you’re visiting Chincoteague, be sure to check out our top Fun Things to Do on Chincoteague.
Chincoteague Island is a small barrier island off the coast of Virginia. Only about 4,300 people live on the island but over a million people visit each year. The local vibe is strong (locals are called Teaguer’s) but it’s a friendly vibe and tourists are welcome. It’s a beautiful place to visit. Come see what it’s all about. To help you we’ve come up with a list of 25 fun things to do on Chincoteague!
Fun Things to Do on Chincoteague
On the water
- Daisey Island Cruises – Sit back and relax, this pontoon boat tour will give you a close-up view from the water of the ponies.
- Go fishing! – Fishing is one of the quintessential things to do on Chincoteague. Take a charter with a local who can put you right on some fish.
- Ride the Pony Express! – This little trolley makes seven stops around the island and is an easy way to see Chincoteague. Plus it only costs a quarter!
- Teaguer’s Tump Tours – Take a tour in a passenger van and learn about the island from a local.
- Chincoteague Island Museum – Get a little bit of history with your vacation.
- Captain Timothy Hill House – It’s free to visit this historic house though donations are accepted.
- NASA Visitors Center – Head to the visitors center (it’s FREE!) to learn about the space program and if you’re lucky, watch a rocket launch.
- Self – guided historic walking tour – The Chamber of Commerce has brochures for a self guided walking and biking tour. Pick one up and choose your own adventure.
- See the area from a plane! – Ever wanted to fly in a Cessna 172? Now’s your chance. Flights depart from Accomack County Airport (about 30 minutes south of Chincoteague).
- Chincoteague Pony Centre – Get a lesson, check out the stables or even attend a camp. It’s all about the ponies here!
Parks and Entertainment
- Funland – Bumper boats, arcade games, go-karts, mini golf. Be prepared for tons of kids and families.
- Maui Jack’s Waterpark – Waterslides, a splash zone, a cabana area and a lazy river.
- Visit the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – Ponies, ponies, ponies and even a lighthouse! (Tip: Bring bug spray!)
- Ride bikes! – If you need to rent them, check out The Bike Depot.
- Shop til ya drop – Easy to find some Chincoteague souvenirs.
- Sundial Books – Grab a book for the beach!
- Ride a horse! – Queen Hive Farm offers riding instruction, boarding AND trail rides for tourists!
- Take a hike! – There are several short trails that you can hike as well as a service road that’s about 7 miles long. For more info and a map, go HERE.
- See the ponies swim! This is an annual tradition. Come see the Saltwater Cowboys swim the ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island at Pony Swim Lane. Chincoteague provides a free Pony Shuttle service that starts as early as 4:00am.
- Mariner’s Point – Check out the view from this spot and be sure to bring your camera!
- Libertino Bowling Alley – When’s the last time you went bowling? It’s affordable and fun family entertainment. Whatcha waiting for?
Fun Things to Do on Chincoteague!
How many of these these fun things to do on Chincoteague Island have you done? If you visit, we’d love to hear what you think. Also be sure to check out or Best Places to Eat on Chincoteague!
This post was made possible with the help of my Aunt Dawn who’s lived on the Island for the last eight years.
Are you staying on Chincoteague but interested in a day trip off the island? Check out our top Things to Do in Ocean City and the Delaware Beaches!