I am finally posting “part one” of our Big Southwestern Road Trip from last fall. No, I haven’t been lazy, it’s taken me this long to go through the 2500+ photos that I took on our great journey. Wow! We saw some amazing scenery. The United States of America offers some of the most spectacular vistas that you can imagine. I have seen some amazing sites around the world in my life but 2018 opened my eyes to a whole new level of beauty.
Big Southwestern Roadtrip
This past summer, after acquiring an RV, we decided to explore America. We went on an Ultimate Summer Road Trip that took us through Colorado, Utah, Idaho, through Oregon, California, up the Oregon coast, Washington, back through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and back to Colorado. That trip was amazing. Boy, we experienced some neat things. But, in reality, it was over-ambitious as we drove over 5500 miles in 3 weeks. It really didn’t allow us to spend as much time in areas that we really enjoyed.
This past fall, we decided on another “tamer” trip. As the weather was beginning to change and we wanted to go someplace a little warmer, so we decided to head to the American Southwest. I mapped out a trip that left Colorado, went through southern Utah, Northern Arizona, to the 4-Corners region of Colorado and back to Denver. This was going to be a more manageable, lovely 1500 mile two-week trip. However, things change and we were having too much fun, so we added another week and went through Northern New Mexico before heading home.
Follow along on our Big Southwestern Road Trip to see where we went, tips on camp spots, unexpected surprises and the must “see” places that you don’t want to miss!
First off, I must say that the only plan that we ever make is the general route that we will be traveling. We never make reservations or know where we will be the next day. This is good for us as neither of us likes to have the pressure of a timeline. That’s why we bought the RV. We have everything that we need all contained in our 27-foot vehicle. We will never have to worry about “where” will we be staying. Heck, there is always gonna be a Walmart parking lot and thankfully we have never had to use it.
That being said we also prefer to stay off the grid, dispersed camping and boondocking in national forests or off a dirt road with no facilities. Our goal is not to pay or pay as little as possible for our camp spot. We are not the RV’ers who need hookups or who need to run their generator or watch tv so as long as we have propane and extra batteries, its are all good! I can say that we are not immune to everyday life when we are away because we logon to the internet every day or two to at a local coffee shop to catch up. We do need to work!
Moab Utah/Arches National Park
As much as we try to stay off the grid, camping in and around Moab, Utah can pose a problem as it is so overly populated. Long gone are the days (30 years ago) when I just camped anywhere and never paid a dime. Nonetheless, it’s still a great area that offers amazing scenery. We stopped in the visitors center for info and directions to the Slick Rock area where I used to stay. This was our only “bummer” experience of our trip. The staff was less than accommodating and very unhelpful. They told us that finding a camp spot without a reservation is impossible and that they couldn’t believe that we don’t make plans. Whatever, the staff was less than helpful so we moved forward and went up to the BLM land, got a killer spot with to die for views.
The next day, we went into Arches National Park. After driving around and seeing the sights, we decided that we really didn’t want to leave and then come back the next day. So we took our chances after being told there were no camp spots available and checked out the camping at Devils Garden. Sure enough, we got a spot and were lucky enough to be able to take a great hike that evening!
We got up early the next day and hiked up to Delicate Arch with all the hoards of people before heading west towards Capitol Reef National Park.
Capitol Reef National Park
After leaving Moab, we traveled up HWY 191 towards I-70. We headed west on I-70 then turned south on HWY 24 South towards Hanksville. Here your life will change as you are in for a true surprise. You are literally in the middle of God’s country. There is hardly a soul out there and certainly no facilities (Make sure to gas up in Green River). Before you reach Hanksville, you will see Goblin Valley State Park on your right. We pulled in there and decided that the $30 a night fee was too much. Fortunately, there is a ton of dispersed camping off the road and it’s free! That was a special place. We had a great campfire and the stars that night were so bright that they practically kept us up. Wow!
We headed out the next morning towards Capitol Reef. I can’t even begin to tell you how remote and beautiful this drive is and I wish that I could post all my pictures. It’s hard to describe but trust me, simply amazing.
Once you pull your jaw up and stop saying, “wow”, you enter Capitol Reef. To date, this was the best national park that we have been too. I say this because I don’t like crowds and this park was virtually empty. Probably because there is no easy way to get there and it’s completely off the beaten path. It’s nice to explore without sharing trails with tons of people. Capitol Reef was a nice change from all the folks at Arches and equally as beautiful! I’m sure you will agree from the pictures below.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante
Once we left Capitol Reef we headed south on Scenic Bi-way 12 through the Dixie National Forest. Um wow! That’s an epic road. I’d be hardpressed to think of a prettier drive than this. From the high mountainous roads going through the national forest to coming down into the Escalante-Grand Staircase, to crossing over the ‘hogback”, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the endless landscapes. You have to stop and take lots of pictures and there are plenty of places to do it. Which is good. Plan on taking your time. It’s well worth it!
We found a great dispersed camping spot in the town of Boulder, Utah. There is an entrance for the Grand Staircase there. We went back about 5 miles or so to find our spot. The road was maintained enough for us to get our RV down without too many bumps! There is also a great coffee shop there with a lovely breakfast. You can’t miss it. It’s the only one there!
Kodachrome Basin State Park
After we crossed the “hogback” on Scenic Bi-Way 12 and on our way to Bryce Canyon National Park we had another unexpected surprise. We stopped in Cannonville, Utah for some groceries and gas. We also stopped by their visitors/historical center. They were super accommodating and recommended that we camp at Kodachrome Basin State Park.
After a few nights of boon-docking, it was okay to pay to play. I have heard of this place but I had no idea what a treat that we were in for! Holy Cow! If you are going to pay to play, this is the state park that all other state parks need to pay attention to. Hands down, no questions asked the BEST state park ever. In my opinion, all other state parks should be embarrassed, They should use this as the benchmark park to aspire to be. Let me tell you why!
Kodachrome Basin not only provides the cleanest state park that I have ever seen, the best hiking and jaw-dropping views ever, but it’s also like staying at a 4-star resort. Period. Well here is my theory. Do You know those bundles of wood that you buy for $5 a pop? Well, the BOY SCOUTS sell them here, (brilliant) as a service project. They do projects around the park with the money that they earn from selling wood. I don’t know for sure but I’m fairly certain that they fixed up the bathrooms with the money that they earn. Seriously the bathrooms have rain showers from the ceiling and are beautifully tiled. Whoa!
Bryce Canyon National Park
After we finished our incredible hike in Kodachrome, the wind picked up and it got cold, Really, really cold. We hunkered down, cooked inside and even tested the heater for the first time! Needless to say, our trip to Bryce Canyon was the next day. Yikes! We would make the best of it!
Bryce Canyon National Park has the highest elevation in southern Utah. Obviously, we were going to go because it was part of the plan. But it was cold. We went in and out of the park so quick. Basically, we only spent enough time to take a pretty picture or two! Burr! I got some nice shots though. I’d love to go back and spend some more time hiking. It’s all good. We can’t control Mother Nature and when she is cold, I’m out! LOL!
Leaving Bryce Canyon
After we scooted out of Bryce Canyon quickly, we headed towards Zion National Park! Since it was later in the day, we stopped for a slice of pie in Panguitch and checked our emails. This town is super cute with a ton of history. Definitely worth a stop before heading south.
We headed south on Scenic HWY 89 towards Mt Carmel Junction. There was virtually no camping in this area so beware. It’s mostly commercial camping and places that have closed for the season. We pulled off on a road and ended up camping in what looked like an old gravel pit. The views were stunning but it felt a little odd. Nonetheless, we had a huge fire and cooked in for the night. It was cold.
Zion National Park
And then this happened… we landed in Zion National park. In my opinion, Zion is one of the top 10 most beautiful places on earth. If it’s not on your bucket list, add it. The views are incredible from wherever you are, the hiking is abundant, and it’s one of those peaceful places that you can gain inner calmness. The beauty that surrounds you makes you feel small but gives you the sense of the strength of something much larger than yourself. Zion is magical!
By the way, we camped in the park for a night so we could do an extra day there. It was no problem without a reservation. We took a primitive spot which was perfectly ok!
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
After we left Zion and as we were heading out of the GREAT State of Utah, we had one more night. We ended up camping near the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. It’s a gorgeous place with pink sand dunes that hug the Utah/Arizona border. If we had off-roading vehicles this place is a dream. Sadly, we don’t so we found a terrific dispersed camping spot nearby. There is a lot there to choose from here and the camp spot that we were at had enough huge BBQ grills to grill a whole hog! Clearly, this area gets a lot of campers and um, grilling experts!
These Sand Dunes are outside of Kanabe, Utah which I will begin part two of this adventure!!! I hope that you have enjoyed and learned something from our travels from the Big Southwestern Road Trip!
Enjoy and stay tuned for the next installment!