Almost two years ago on a separate road trip, I had the opportunity to visit Zion National Park. Since I was driving cross country at the time and was on a time limit, I only had about a day and a half to spend there. Since then, it has been my goal to get back. Hence the inspiration for our 14-day national park road trip.
We decided the easiest way to do a road trip was to rent a campervan so we could be as spontaneous as we’d like and make any stops we’d like. We rented through a company called VanCraft, located in Oceanside, CA. These vans have everything you could need for living on the road. They have a whole bed, an outdoor shower, small sink, a gas stove with two cook tops, plenty of storage space, and they also provide you with lawn chairs and towels/kitchen appliances to use while you are renting. I highly recommend traveling this way, it was so much fun. My favorite part, not having to pack up all of our things again when we went to a new place! However, one rookie mistake we made was traveling through the desert in the middle of July. The heat was unbelievable. We would have liked to do so much more hiking but the heat was extremely limiting and we were constantly trying to find activities that offered some relief. In addition, the campervan did not have A/C (when the vehicle was not in motion), which made for the sweaty sleeping conditions.
We had an amazing experience with them and absolutely loved our campervan. Since we were picking up the van in southern California, we decided this would also be a good place to start our road trip.
Our 14-Day National park Road Trip Itinerary
* Bryce Canyon was apart of our original itinerary but we were having so much fun in Moab, UT we decided to stay an extra day and didn’t make it to Bryce Canyon. However, I highly recommend making this a stop on your national park road trip.
And yes, I know Las Vegas is not a national park but after all that hiking, we needed a few drinks.
The first stop on our campervan road trip was Joshua Tree National Park. This park was absolutely beautiful and big! I highly recommend visiting with some mode of transportation. The park itself is pretty big and most of the places you’ll want to visit can only be reached by car.
Where to stay around Joshua Tree National Park
We stayed at the Black Rock Campground which is located right by the entrance of the park. Technically it is in the park, but to get into the main area of the park you will still need to drive out, over and back in. This was a beautiful location and had several hikes available right from our campsite.
Hikes to do in Joshua Tree National Park
From Black Rock Campground, there are several hikes available. We went on a short loop trail called High View Nature Trail. This hike was just over 1 mile and gave amazing views of the mountains in the distance and Black Rock Campground. If you want a longer hike, the West Side Loop Trail goes around the High View Nature trail and is almost 5 miles in length.
Must See Stops in Joshua Tree National Park:
- Keys View – This is a beautiful lookout point that you don’t want to miss. It’s also a great place to post up and watch the sunset!
- Skull Rock
- Arch Rock
- Cholla Cactus Garden
Exploring the Town of Joshua Tree
The town right outside of Joshua Tree National Park, Joshua Tree, is so cute. It is a very small town but it has a few hidden gems. On our last morning in Joshua Tree we decided to grab breakfast in town and explore a bit. We stopped at a little breakfast place called, Crossroads Cafe. The food (and coffee) was so good and the portion sizes were right up our alley.
The Grand Canyon was one of my favorite stops along our National Park Road Trip. The views of the canyon are jaw dropping and amazing.
There are two possible sides you can visit to see the Grand Canyon. You can do the South Rim or the North Rim. Most people visit the South Rim since it is a lot easier to get there and has more accommodations.
Where to stay
We picked a campsite right in the park and were very happy we did. We stayed in Mather Campground on the South Rim. The park itself is very large but has a great shuttle system in addition to most things being walkable. We were able to park the campervan and leave it at the campsite the whole time we were there.
Activities to do
We decided to rent bikes for the day and I am so glad we did this. We were able to bike along the entire rim and see so much more than we would have if we were walking or even taking the shuttle. We were able to stop wherever we wanted and stay as long as we liked. We ended up taking a long stop at Yaki Point, the very end of the South Rim. We found a nice shaded spot by the edge to sit and each lunch and take in the views.
We didn’t end up doing any hikes while we where there because it was unbelievably hot and would just get hotter as we climbed down. However, if you are visiting during the cooler months there are a lot of great hikes you can do here that offer amazing views of the canyon.
Hikes to do in the Grand Canyon:
- Bright Angel Trail – this was the trail we had planned to do and is one of the more popular trails
- South Kaibab Trail
- Rim Trail – We biked along this trail but you can also walk it
- North Kaibab Trail
- Cape Royal Trail
Arches was a beautiful spot to stop although it was the farthest along our trail. The park is not walkable as most of the rock formations to see are very spread apart. There are plenty of hikes to go on and all of them allow for a great photo opportunity. I would say you don’t need more than 1 day inside Arches, most of the hikes are on the shorter side and you can drive between everything.
Where to stay in Moab, UT
While you can camp inside of Arches National Park if you don’t book in advance the campsites fill up quickly and since we had the campervan we wanted to make sure we had a stop with water hookups and plenty of space to park. We ended up finding an amazing RV park less than 10 minutes outside of the entrance, Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground. This place is perfect. They have showers (we did have a shower head in the van but sometimes its just nice to take a long shower indoors), great spots for larger vans or tent camping, a covered picnic table in every spot and a pool with amazing views of the Utah mountains in the backdrop. I highly recommend if you’re planning a trip to Moab, check this place out. I believe they also offer small cabins to stay in if you don’t have an RV or tent.
Arches to see in Arches National Park:
There are so many Arches to see I couldn’t possibly name them all, these were some of our favorite ones.
- Delicate Arch
- Pine Tree Arch
- Skyline Arch
- Fiesta Mexicana
- Zax Restaurant
- Dewey’s Restaurant and Bar
- The Spoke on Center
- Gloria’s Corner Cafe
- Cafe & Lounge Italiano
- Moab Brewery
- MOYO – Moab Frozen Yogurt
Since Zion was basically the inspiration for this trip, I had this part almost completely planned out before we even landed in California. Having been here previously, I had some things I wanted to make sure Mike was able to experience and a few trails that were closed on my last visit.
Where to stay in Zion National Park
The South Campground we stayed at in Zion by far took the cake for the whole trip. We had amazing views of the mountains right next to us and were steps away from the river that flows through the whole park. The site is walking distance to the shuttle busses for both Zion and the town of Springdale.
If camping isn’t your thing, check out where I stayed on my last visit to Zion.
Hikes to do in Zion National Park:
- Angels Landing
- Emerald Pools (upper and lower)
- The Narrows
- P’arus Trail (this is a great trail to leisurely walk or bike)
These are the more common trails in Zion and tend to get very crowded. We noticed so many people were getting up early to try and beat the crowds that it actually ended up being the more crowded time since everyone had the same idea. I recommend either getting up extremely early to catch the very first shuttle into Zion or catching another hour of sleep before venturing up.
Springdale is a cute little town just outside the entrance of Zion. There are a ton of food places to chose from, some cute boutique stores and great coffee shops. The whole downtown is basically a two mile strip. You can easily walk all the way through, stopping in shops at your leisure. One of our nights in Zion we ventured into town for dinner and found Bit and Spur. The food was amazing and the margaritas were right up my alley, I highly recommend making a stop here after a long day of hiking. The morning we left Zion we made a point to check out a new coffee shop in town, Feellove Coffee. I still find myself craving the honey and lavender infused latte I had.
Ah, Las Vegas. This was the last stop along our roadtrip. We made this a stop because Mike had never been to Vegas before and I think its one of those places you have to experience at least once in your life. It was slightly challenging trying to find a place to stay with the campervan. We ended up getting a room in the Travelodge since the rooms were almost as cheap as the campsites we’d been staying at and it had an open air parking lot where we could park the campervan. While the location was great, right in the center of the strip, I would not recommend anyone stay here who does not need to.
We spent our only full day in Vegas getting brunch, bouncing around between casinos, stopping in at museums, watching a comedy show and eating way too much food! We had a great time but we both agreed one day was more than enough.
Things to do in Las Vegas:
- Visit Madame Tussauds wax museum
- Take a Gondola ride in the Venetian
- Catch a comedy show
- Get brunch at Hex
- Walk through the casinos
Restaurants to go to in Las Vegas:
- Hex in Pariz Las Vegas
- PF Changs
- Señor Frogs in Treasure Island
- The Egg & I
- Maggiano’s Little Italy