I had planned every stop to the last detail until now. At the beginning of our trip we decided not to do any more reservations after Joshua Tree. We figured we’d wait and see if we had killed each other yet or burned through our funds after three months. Since we were already hitting unseasonably low temperatures we decided to skip Arizona and shorten our time in Utah. The little camping we did in the Nevada and Utah parks made me happy we made this decision! What can I say, I got spoiled with those sunny LA days!
Valley of Fire State Park
This state park was our first stop after Joshua Tree. Just a couple hours away from Zion, it seemed like it would be a nice stopping point. We made our way through Las Vegas pulling off at the Seven Magic Mountains installation by Ugo Rondinone.
If you ever read online that Valley of Fire is a virtually unknown quiet spot (like we did!), just know that may have been true years ago, but not anymore. When we arrived during the week we couldn’t get a campsite and were told to come back by 9am the next day if we wanted to try for one. The landscape here is beautiful, but as far as parks go, this was a low point. The few trails aren’t marked well and the campground -we actually got in after being in the car parade circling like vultures all morning- was really disappointing. The hikes were all relatively short (hello crowds) so we were able to take our time and enjoy the sunny day. We climbed around on the rocks and checked out ancient native petroglyphs up close. The picnic area was really peaceful, and we enjoyed a relaxing simple day. That night would’ve been had it not been for our supremely nasty neighbors. Their attitudes put such a damper on my mood – needless to say I was ready to get to Zion!
Zion National Park
The slogan for Zion might as well be, Welcome to Mars! because it feels like you’ve entered another world. You’re just a tiny spec winding up and down and around the color changing mountains. If any place made me wish I had done more research beforehand it was Zion. As one of the most visited parks, campsites are hard to come by and you have to use their shuttle system to get around the park. The one night we were able to stay at the park we found they have the nicest campground. Since we weren’t staying long we didn’t have time to do the more impressive hikes to Angel’s Landing or Observation Point, just the little ones. Fortunately, even just driving around here (and really the whole route to Arches) was an experience. We did get to hike up the Watchman trail to watch the sunset over the mountains.
That night we huddled around the campfire to make dinner and drink Coors Banquet – you can’t find any beer over 4% here so you might want to come more prepared than we did!
Arches National Park
I’m starting to see why people go a little nuts over Utah. Woah. Wow. Seriously?! I don’t think it gets much better than this. We camped outside the park and spent a couple days in Arches and a day exploring Canyonlands. I was so cold and windy while we were here, but these views made it worth it!
If we ever get to go back, this is the one place doing something like a Jeep tour would actually be worth it. There is a ton of Arches and Canyonlands that you’re not able to see without 4WD. You can still easily spend 2-3 days here without it and still have plenty to do, but I want to see all the arches!
These are our last stops camping for the big trip! The rest of the way we are lucky enough to be keeping warm with family and friends. Excuse me for bragging a little, but we’ve officially proven we can survive sleeping in a tent when it’s below freezing, putting up a tent in a huge rainstorm, cooking around the campfire, and so so much more. I’m calling it a success!!
Next Up: Dallas