Road trips are awesome.
There is just something about them that relates to our whole inner sense of adventure, the freedom and the unknown of the open road, is a classic calling.
Planning or um in our case, unplanning -cause you know, thinking too many days ahead is overwhelming – our own mini road trip within a road trip we went National Park hopping on our way to California and man-oh-man was it a trip!
Whew, what a drive!
Just one week shy of celebrating two months of fulltime travel, and we hit our first official um, bumps in the road! We can call a twice flat tire, collapsed closet rod, and crushed shelving bumps, right? Oh, the shenanigans!
It’s easy to look at the pictures of this magical thing we call our life and think its all sunshine and roses but the truth is just like with any lifestyle there are challenges and occasionally swear words. Bad stuff happens, the attitude you approach it with is what makes the difference!
Zion National Park
We’ve been to our fair share of National Parks and there is no arguing that Zion easily falls within our top ten favorites. It’s incredible in any season. The landscape is dynamic and constantly changes based on the weather, lighting and time of year. If you haven’t already been to Zion, add it to your list! You will not be sorry!
Planning your own trip to Zion? Check out our posts about Zion National Park grab all the info you need to be ready to hit the trails! You can find those posts here:
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is stunning. Honesty hour… they need to rename it something like, “Valley of supremely awesome views” because on the level Death Valley just isn’t all that inviting of a name!
Death Valley is the largest National Park in the Continental United States it is also the hottest, driest, and lowest of all our National Parks. Matter of fact if you choose to spend the night in the park you’ll actually be sleeping roughly 100 feet below sea level, pretty cool stuff!
We only had a little less than 24 hours to explore this seemingly unending and ever-changing landscape, which was definitely not even close to enough time. We will be back! But we did have the chance to catch a sunset at Zabriskie Point, a must do for any traveler to Death Valley.
There is always room at the inn so to speak in Death Valley; there are tons and tons of campsites available around the Furnace Creek District open to RV’s and tent campers alike, the park rarely if ever runs out of sites so reservations aren’t at all necessary.
All sites are dry camping but there are bathhouses, potable water and dump stations available. Prices vary slightly per campground ($14-$22 per night or $7-$11 with an access pass). We found all the campgrounds are really equal to each other, so we opted to save our money and stayed at Sunset Campground across the street from Furnace Creek and cheaper. There is also a ton of BLM land outside of the park boundary perfect for boondocking. We had planned on stayed at one of these sites but with the twice flat tire issue we ran into on the way, we thought a night near services and other RVer’s just in case we needed them would be for the best
You can find a full list of campgrounds and services at Death Valley National Park here.
Critters To Keep An Eye Out For
The name Death Valley strikes again. We honestly didn’t expect to run into any wildlife while in the park but as it turns out Death Valley is home to a huge variety of wildlife including bighorn sheep, coyotes, foxes, and these very curious and oh so cute burros that we encountered on our way out of the park.
Tips For Visting Death Valley
We’ll keep this brief since generally speaking spending 24 hours or less in a place doesn’t really make us experts! But it is worth noting that while there is gas available within the park, it is outrageously expensive even by California standards. Fill up before entering the park and if you think you’re going to do a lot of exploring/ driving while you’re there it might be worth considering buying a jerry can to fill up.
Trona Pinnacles National Monument
Springtime in the Sierra Nevada Mountains means unpredictable weather and more than likely a shirt ton of road closures. Our road trip was not exempt from these predictably unpredictable circumstances. The good news that although our drive time was doubled, we did get the chance to pop by the Trona Pinnacles.
The Trona Pinnacles are massive Calcium Carbonate rocks also known as tufas. The dry lake bed and stunning contrast of the towering pinnacles have made these the ideal spot for filming numerous car commercials, movies, and tv scenes.
If we hadn’t been in a rush to get to the Coast so DJ could hop a flight East we would have loved to have stayed a few nights here. Boondocking is free as the pinnacles are located on BLM land, just be aware there is no water or dump facilities are located here.
What You Need To Know About Visiting The Trona Pinnacles
- No Entrance Fees
- The road to the pinnacles is rough. 5 long, looooong miles of washboard dirt road. Unless you plan on camping at the pinnacles, unhook your camper or tow car from your RV and leave it by the pull off the entrance to the pinnacles. First-hand footage of this insanity on our Youtube! Long story short, we now need an alignment!
- The Trona Pinnacles are located on a BLM dirt road (RM143) that leaves California State Road 178, about 7.7 miles east of the intersection of State Road 178 and the Trona-Red Mountain Road, 20 miles East of Ridgecrest.
Yosemite National Park
It’s a very natural thing for most people to hear the words National Park strung together and either envision Yosemite or Yellowstone National Parks. There’s an excellent reason for this. While Yellowstone has the honor of being America’s first National Park, Yosemite was technically the first federally protected wildlands in the country. There is no doubting that Yosemite is a rare and incredibly special place.
Yosemite quite obviously deserves it’s very own post. With details, tons and tons of details. Don’t go anywhere, this is coming very very soon- hot tip: if you follow the blog, you’ll get instant email alerts when this is available! In the meantime here are some basics that you need to know.
- Yosemite Is Awesome In Any Season– In winter lodging rates drop and so do the sheer number of people in the park. Throw on your snowshoes, cross country skis, and or a trusty pair of foot traction, and get out and explore this winter wonderland
- Spring– Waterfall and wildflower season arrives! Even though some park roads will still be closed through early May its a more than worthy time to visit!
- Summer– Peak season at it’s best, the trade-off for large crowds means every trail in the park is open to exploring!
- Fall– Almost private park anyone? Shoulder season means fewer crowds and wide open trails!
- Rock Stars– Yosemite is home to two of the most iconic rock walls in the world, Half Dome and El Capitain ( El Cap).
- The roots of what is considered the modern rock climbing revolution reside within Yosemite. Pioneers of the sport including legends such as Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia), Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, and Tom Frost all were among the original tribe of dirtbags that made Camp 4 what it is today. Want to know more? Check out the award-winning film about the early day of Climbing in Yosemite: Valley Uprising
- Conservationists & Artists-
- John Muir, ever hear of him? He’s often referred to as the father of our National Parks. His letters and books describing his experiences in nature inspired thousands to take action and protect America’s wildlands for all to enjoy planting the seeds for our National Park System.
- Ansel Adams, another American icon first visited Yosemite Valley two years after John Muir’s death. His black and white photographs of the American West spurred on the conservation movement and brought images of the unimaginable beauty of America to thousands not only nationally but worldwide.
- Giant Trees-
- Mariposa Grove– most people associate Sequoia or Redwoods National Park with giant and ancient trees but the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoia’s is what started the entire National Park Movement.
- Merced Grove– While not as well known as the Mariposa Grove, the Merced Grove located just 4 miles past the Big Oak entrance into the park is the home to 20 mature sequoia trees, is generally less crowded than other areas in the park and is stunningly beautiful in any weather!