The Ultimate Instagram Guide to the Fire Wave and Valley of Fire State Park

The Valley of Fire is one of those places highly recommended as a day-trip from Las Vegas, but not everyone makes the drive. However, you have probably seen countless photos of the spectacular Fire Wave or strange-looking Elephant Rock and thought it would be great to explore the state park.

I'm here to convince you that Valley of Fire state park is a must-see when in Las Vegas or Nevada!

The Valley of Fire has some of the most incredible scenery I have ever seen, even after spending 3 month living Vanlife and exploring Utah. Seeing the Fire Wave alone is well worth a trip!

 

Ultimate Instagram Guide to Fire Wave and Valley of Fire State Park

 

If you are looking to go on a road trip to see the Valley of Fire in Nevada, I am sharing everything you need to know before you go. And if you would like to snap a few photos for Instagram, I'm also sharing the 7 most instagrammable places in Valley of Fire State Park, including the spectacular Fire Wave.

 

What is the Valley of Fire State Park Known For

 

The Valley of Fire State Park is a nature preservation area south of Overton, Nevada. The state park is known for its incredible rock formations created from red sandstone. These formations stem from shifting sand dunes and were formed 150 million years ago. One of the most iconic of these rock formations is the Fire Wave which is an impressive hill with red and white zebra-like stripes.

 

Road Driving Through Valley of Fire State Park

 

With it's 40,000 acres, Valley of Fire State Park is home to some incredible sights, ancient petroglyphs, and a dream come true for anyone interested in geology, human history, and photography.

 

How to Get to the Valley of Fire

 

The easiest way to get to the Valley of Fire State Park is by car. It is a 50-minute drive from Las Vegas, Nevada, on I-15N and a 1 hour, 30 minute drive from St. George, Utah, on I-15S.

There is also a possibility to get to the park with a tour bus company. However, since the trail heads within the park are dispersed, I highly recommend you go there by car so you can explore the park at your own pace and spend as much time as you like at the Fire Wave.

 

Toyota Driving Through Valley of Fire State Park

 

Best Time to Visit the Valley of Fire State Park

 

Being located at the southern tip of Nevada, the weather at Valley of Fire is extremely dry with an average of 1 day of rain per month. Temperatures can get extremely hot in summer, with highs of well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). The best time to visit Valley of Fire is from October to April when the temperatures are cooler and you are able to explore the park all day long.

 

Rainbow Colored Rock Valley of Fire State Park

 

If you choose to visit during the summer months, make sure you are prepared for the heat by bringing a lot of water and having an air conditioned car. You can try to avoid the heat by entering the park right at sunrise and staying indoors between 11am and 3pm.

Many trails, such as the Fire Wave trail, are in direct sunlight with little to no shade. Hiking in the intense summer heat can be dangerous.

 

Valley of Fire State Park Details

 

Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle for day-use, $20 per night if you like to camp plus $10 for camping sites with utility hook ups.

Hours: the park is open 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset. These are the Valley of Fire sunset and sunrise times.

Cell Service and Wifi: You won't have cell coverage throughout most of the park but there are some spots such as at the visitor center or at the White Domes Trail parking lot which have cell reception. The park offers wifi access and a 24-hour access for 1 device is $8. You can find more details about the wifi access price plans here.

Visitor Center: The visitor center is located towards the entrance of the park and is open from 9am to 4:30pm.

Facilities: There are outhouses located throughout the park at Atlatl Rock, Seven Sisters, the Cabins, near Mouse's Tank Trailhead and White Domes parking lots.

Drone Usage: The usage of drones or any remote controlled aircrafts is not allowed in the park.

If you are looking for more information on the park and any fire restrictions which might be in place, visit the Valley of Fire State Park website.

 

Things To Do at Valley of Fire

 

With a landscape this beautiful, the Valley of Fire is more than just a compilation of rocks. The best thing to do in the park is to go on hikes and explore the different areas and rock formations. Most of the loop hikes are relatively short at only a mile or less, such as the Fire Wave Trail, the Rainbow Vista hike, and the White Domes Trail.

There are a few other hikes which are longer such as the Old Arrowhead Road, the Prospect Trail, and Charlie's Spring. For more information on the trails, you can find a full map of all Valley of Fire hiking trails here.

 

Fire Wave Trailhead Valley of Fire

 

In addition to hiking, Valley of Fire is also a great spot for rock climbing, camping with incredible views, wildlife viewing, and my personal favorite - taking photos of everything, especially the Fire Wave!

 

Wildlife at Valley of Fire State Park

 

Valley of Fire 7 Most Instagrammable Places

 

With a park this big and this beautiful, knowing the most picturesque places ahead of time will help you plan your trip as well as save time while you're in the park. I put together the 7 most Instagram-worthy locations in Valley of Fire State Park, including the Fire Wave, the best times to take photos there, and also added them to a map to help you plan your trip.

 

Fire Wave

 

The Fire Wave is by far the most impressive rock formation within the Valley of Fire State Park and it makes for an incredible Instagram photo. The combination of the red and white sandstone in zebra-like stripes across a wave-like hill is a sight like no other and also the reason why the Fire Wave is so popular.

 

Fire Wave at Valley of Fire State Park

 

How to Get There

 

From the Fire Wave parking lot, there is the Fire Wave hiking trail which will take you directly to the Fire Wave. The hike is less than 1 mile and relatively easy. Note that there is no shade along the way. Please make sure to bring lots of water and wear sun protective clothing.

 

Best Time to Take Photos at Fire Wave

 

Generally, the best times to take photos to have soft lighting are the first hour of sunlight in the morning and the last hour before sunset. However, if you want to capture the true vivid colors of the Fire Wave, taking photos later in the morning or early in the afternoon provides for some stunning shots as well.

Since there are no trees and is almost no shade at the Fire Wave, you won't need to worry as much about shadows in your photos.

 

Fire Wave at Valley of Fire State Park

 

Mouse’s Tank Road

 

Imagine a road which makes its way through the fire-colored sandstone rock at sunrise. You may not have heard of Mouse's Tank Road but chances are you have already seen a photo of this iconic road. The road itself is not anything out of the ordinary as it is part of the main road going through Valley of Fire State Park. However, it offers incredible views.

 

Instagram Photo at Mouse's Tank Road Valley of Fire

 

The best part about this instagrammable photo location is that you can create the illusion of a drone photo without actually using a drone thanks to the way the road is sloped. Make sure your photographer stands on the high point of the road and the model is further down the road. That way you can create the impression of an aerial view.

 

Girl Walking on Mouse's Tank Road in Valley of Fire

 

How to Get There

 

The perfect photo location is only a 12 minute drive from the entrance of the park and a 9 minute drive from the Fire Wave. It is right on the street and you can easily pull over with your car and snap photos as long as there is no traffic.

 

Best Time to Take Photos at Mouse's Tank Road

 

Since you are taking photos in the middle of the main road through the park, I suggest taking photos right at sunrise or sunset. That way, you will encounter the least amount of traffic and you will also have beautiful light without having to worry about harsh shadows.

 

Aerial View of Mouse's Tank Road in Valley of Fire

 

Elephant Rock

 

Elephant Rock is exactly what the name suggests: a rock which looks like an elephant. Now you might think that these rock formations might not really look like an elephant but trust me - they do! I didn't believe it either until I was there in person.

The entire rock and arch which forms the elephant trunk is extremely impressive to see in person and makes for the perfect photo opportunity.

 

Girl Jumping at Elephant Rock in Valley of Fire

 

How to Get There

 

Elephant Rock is a mere 3 minute drive from the park entrance and is on the right side of the road when driving in. Leave your car in the parking lot and take the super short hike to see the rock formation. The hike is pretty easy and is less than a mile.

 

Elephant Rock in the Sun at Valley of Fire

 

Best Time to Take Photos at Elephant Rock

 

Given the formation of the rock, the light is best at Elephant Rock later in the afternoon when the sun is low but has not yet disappeared behind the hills right next to Elephant Rock.

 

Welcome to Valley of Fire Sign

 

While this seems like an obvious place to take photos, there are so many unique locations within Valley of Fire that people forget to take a cute photo at the Welcome to Valley of Fire sign.

 

Greetings from Valley of Fire State Park Sign

 

How to Get There

 

The sign is located at the Elephant Rock parking lot, right where the Elephant Rock trail starts. You really can't miss it.

 

Best Time to Take Photos at the Valley of Fire Welcome Sign

 

Almost any time of the day would work well to take a photo here. Keep in mind though that the light might be softer and conditions generally better to take a photo early in the morning or later in the evening.

 

Rainbow Vista

 

If you are looking for rainbow-colored hills to take photos of, this is your spot! The entire rainbow vista hike provides beautiful rainbow rock views along the way and ends at the Fire Canyon Overlook. It is perfect for creating instagrammable content. There is even a mini arch on this trail which you can be creative with.

 

Arch at Rainbow Vista Valley of Fire State Park

 

Rainbow Vista Hike Valley of Fire State Park

 

How to Get There

 

The Rainbow Vista parking lot is only a 15 minute drive from the park entrance and a 6 minute drive from the Fire Wave. The hike to the rainbow vista is relatively easy and only a mile long.

 

Best Time to Take Photos at the Rainbow Vista

 

Given the hills surrounding this hike, taking photos right at sunset or sunrise might cause a lot of shadows to be in your photos so you will be better off taking photos later in the late morning and early in the afternoon.

 

White Domes Trail

 

White Domes Trail is another great place to take instagram-worthy photos as it is packed with colorful rocks and a slot canyon.

 

Rainbow Rock at White Domes Trail Valley of Fire State Park

 

Slot Canyon at White Domes Trail Valley of Fire

 

The beginning of the trail is marked with purple and yellow colored rocks whereas later in the trail you make your way through the slot canyon and stumble upon white and red striped rocks. It's a gorgeous spot to explore and has countless photo opportunities along the way.

 

White Domes Trailhead at Valley of Fire State Park

 

How to Get There

 

The White Domes Trail is the furthest trail from the park entrance but only a 23-minute drive from there, and a 3-minute drive from the Fire Wave. The drive itself is incredibly beautiful as you get to see the entire park and stop along the way to take photos.

The White Domes loop is only 1 mile and pretty easy to hike.

 

Best Time to Take Photos at the White Domes Trail

 

The best time to take photos along the White Domes trail is mid- to late-morning for the best light. If you are looking to take photos in the slot canyon, doing so later in the morning will provide for better light.

 

White Domes Trail Movie Set

 

While you're on the White Domes Trail, make sure you stop by the remnants of an old movie set to take a photo. It was used in 1965 to film the movie 'The Professionals'. You can watch the Professional trailer here. A small part of the movie set is still there and there is also a monument explaining the history of commercial filming in Valley of Fire State Park.

 

The Professionals Movie Set at White Domes Trail Valley of Fire State Park

 

How to Get There

 

The movie set is a few minutes into the White Domes Trail hike and impossible to miss.

 

Best Time to Take Photos at the White Domes Movie Set

 

Any time of day would work to take photos here, depending on what light you are looking for. However, if you are spending the morning hiking the White Dome Trail stopping by here makes perfect sense.

 

Map of Most Instagrammable Places in Valley of Fire

 

Valley of Fire is an incredible place to discover, take photos, and a perfect stop for any road trip in the Southwest US. Use this map to help you plan our your trip and include as many instagrammable places in Valley of Fire, such as the Fire Wave.

 

 

What are Your Favorite Instagrammable Places in Valley of Fire?

 

Now that I have shared my favorite instagrammable places in Valley of Fire - especially the Fire Wave -  I am curious to hear what your favorite spots are and if I missed any to include any in this post. Please let me know in the comments as I would love to go back and explore the park more!

 

Make sure you pin this post to your USA road trip Pinterest board or Instagram Pinterest board for when you plan your road trip to the Fire Wave!

 

The Ultimate Instagram to Valley of Fire and the Fire Wave

 

The Ultimate Instagram Guide to Valley of Fire and the Fire Wave

The Ultimate Instagram Guide to Valley of Fire and the Fire Wave

 

The Ultimate Instagram Guide to Valley of Fire and the Fire Wave

 

The Ultimate Instagram Guide to Valley of Fire and the Fire Wave

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How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in Reno and 4 Best Day Trips from Reno

Reno is one of those cities that most people have heard of, but haven’t necessarily been to, and we think that is a shame! Here is how to spend the perfect weekend in Reno. We are sharing our favorite places, where to stay during your getaway, and the best day trips from Reno.

 

Perfect Weekend in Reno and Best Day Trips from Reno

 

Reno has a lot to offer the curious traveler for a weekend. With its cute downtown area, the impressive amount of street art, and vibrant restaurant scene, Reno is the perfect getaway for anyone looking to explore the USA more. There are also some super fun day trips from Reno for you to explore nearby attractions that you could easily stretch your weekend in Reno trip much longer.

 

Reno Mural

 

Make sure you scroll to our Top 5 tips for spending a weekend in Reno at the end of the post to ensure you have a great time!

 

What is Reno Known For?

 

Reno is most widely known as “The Biggest Little City in the World.” The slogan was chosen as a winner of a contest in 1929, and only a few years later became more widespread when the city began significant growth due to Nevada’s legalization of gambling and liberal divorce laws.

 

Gambling Chips in Front of Reno Arch

 

Reno is known for its casinos which are the biggest draws to the city. However, over the years, Reno has also developed an amazing art scene and is the home of the world-class art museum Nevada Museum of Art, the National Automobile Museum, and countless of incredible street art. Not to mention Reno is the closest city to Burning Man.

 

Playa Art Park Reno

 

There is no mentioning the city’s name without thinking of the festival which melds art, activities, and events in the Black Rock desert. The biggest little city in the world has a beautiful Riverwalk District which is incredibly vibrant and by far our favorite part of town.

 

Whales Art Sculptures in Riverwalk District Reno

 

We are not big gamblers ourselves, so luckily there is so much to do during a weekend in Reno besides gambling.

 

Casinos in Downtown Reno

 

There is something so exciting and thrilling about going to a casino. The thought of ending your night with double the money in your pocket makes for a great evening in itself. Paired with great company, good food, and music, you will have the night of a lifetime.

 

Bright City Lights Reflected in Window, Reno

 

With casinos being the main draw for most visitors to the city, we of course had to check out some of the main casinos in downtown Reno. Downtown Reno has some of the same famous casino brands as Las Vegas, such as Circus Circus, and Harrah’s, as well as the Eldorado, and the Club Cal-Neva.

 

Circus Circus Casino in Reno

 

Outside of downtown, you can easily see other famous Reno casinos such as the Atlantis, the Grand Sierra, and the Peppermill.

Make sure you stop by to play the slot machines or sit down for a round of poker during your weekend in Reno. (Please play responsibly and know that there is always a financial risk involved.)

 

What is There to Do in Reno Besides Gamble?

 

If gambling is not your thing, or you have already won big time, there are lots of other activities to explore during your weekend in Reno.

 

Walk Virginia Street in Reno

 

Downtown Reno is quite compact, which makes it very easy to walk to all of the nearby sights, bars, and restaurants. The Reno Arch is without a doubt one of the most famous attractions and is a must-see for your weekend in Reno itinerary. This iconic symbol of Reno was originally installed in 1926, however the current arch hails from 1987.

We recommend taking the time to see the arch by day as well as by night. At nighttime the Reno Arch is lit-up with neon lights, as are many of the nearby casinos.

 

Reno Arch Virginia Street.

 

As Virginia Street is the main street through downtown Reno, most of the downtown casinos are right here on the north side of the Truckee River, and many of the trendiest bars and restaurants are close-by on the south side of the Truckee River.

 

Believe Sign Reno

 

More famous signs are close at hand, as the ‘BELIEVE’ sculpture is located at the City Plaza, also overlooking the Truckee River. The sign was originally created for the Burning Man Festival in 2013, and the city later purchased the sign and placed it permanently at the City Plaza for everyone to enjoy.

 

Bettina Twirling in B of Believe Sign Reno

 

Reno Street Art

 

Speaking of the Burning Man Festival, as Reno is the closest major city to the festival, Reno has a number of the famous art sculptures from the festival over the years. Playa Art Park is the main attraction, with a rotating display of art sculptures. Unfortunately for us, when were in Reno the park had been closed, so we could only snap pictures from a distance!

 

Playa Art Park Reno

 

Make sure you visit the art park during your weekend in Reno though as it has some incredibly sculptures to admire and take pictures of.

 

Frida Kahlo Mural Reno

 

Elsewhere in Reno you will find all sorts of murals painted on buildings small and large. This really gives the city a positive and creative vibe, and we loved walking up and down the downtown streets looking at the art.

 

Mural in Reno

 

Snow Covered Tree Mural in Reno

 

Other Fun Things to Do in Reno

 

If the sun is shining during your stay (which it certainly should be as Reno has over 250 days of sun per year) there is no better way to unwind than a bike ride along the Truckee River Walk and explore the Riverwalk District during your weekend in Reno.

 

Bettina Biking under the Biggest Little City in the World Sign in Reno

 

This two-mile loop spans downtown Reno, and offers a great way to start your bike ride. The area around California Avenue is also well-known for trendy shops and restaurants.

 

Truckee River in Reno

 

For a city the size of Reno, there are also a number of popular museums to explore, including the Nevada Museum of Art and the National Automobile Museum.

 

Best Place to Stay in Reno

 

We stayed at the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel, which is located in a prime location smack dab in the middle of the city, on the banks of the Truckee River and overlooking the vibrant Riverwalk District. It is the perfect place to stay for a weekend in Reno.

 

Lobby at Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel

 

The hotel has an expansive lobby, with gorgeous details throughout, as well as all the entertainment, food, and drinks you need without even leaving the property! Onsite, The Shore Room restaurant has amazing indoor and outdoor views of the city and river.

 

Outdoor Bar at Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel

 

And of course if you are looking for great evening plans, the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel has a bocce ball court right in the lobby. The Bundox Bocce’s indoor and outdoor bocce ball courts are perfect for a fun evening during your weekend in Reno. In tune with the expansive art scene in Reno, the hotel even has a small gallery in the lobby where you can admire local artists.

 

Bike Rental at Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel

 

One of our favorite amenities are the bike rentals! The hotel offers bike rentals so that you can better explore the city and enjoy a ride along the river! You can pick up a cute old-school bike any time and ride away.

 

Hotel Room at Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel

 

Hotel Room at Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel

 

Our room at the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel was huge, and had a sophisticated, modern design. We loved the views of the Truckee River and surrounding mountains, especially as they were still covered in snow!

 

View from Hotel Room at Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel

 

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel. With its central location, stunning views, and beautiful modern design, it is the perfect place to stay during your weekend in Reno!

 

Hotel Room at Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel

 

Disclaimer: Our hotel stay was provided by the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel and we loved it. As always, all of our opinions on our experience and how much you should gamble are our own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support us!

 

4 Best Day Trips from Reno

 

If you are spending a weekend in Reno and are looking to extend your stay for a few days, there are a ton of great places to visit just a short drive away in any direction.

 

Home Means Nevada Floor in Elevator at Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel

 

Lake Tahoe

 

Situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe is a freshwater lake which is known for its beaches and stunning vibrant blues during summer. In winter, the Lake Tahoe area turns into a buzzing ski resort with stunning views of the lake while you’re on the snow-covered slope.

 

Bettina Holding Lake Tahoe Magazine

 

Lake Tahoe is only a short 45 minute drive from Reno and the perfect day trip from Reno if you’re looking for some beach time in summer or snow sports during the winter.

 

Pyramid Lake

 

If you follow the Truckee River to the north, you will get to Pyramid Lake which is famous for its unique rock formations which look like pyramids. Pyramid Lake beckons with water sports and is a great place to cool down on a hot summer day.

The drive from Reno to the Pyramid lake takes about 45 minutes and is well worth it!

 

Carson City and Historic Virginia City

 

Also a short 30 minute drive from Reno is Carson City. The city is close to Lake Tahoe and the historic Virginia City. The Nevada state capital is bursting with old-fashioned charm and combines shopping, dining, culture, as well as a happening nightlife scene.

Being so close to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Carson City offers a lot of outdoor activities and will be a great extension of your Reno getaway. You can find everything in Carson such as golfing, fishing, boating, and hiking.

If you would like to travel back in time, make sure to visit historic Virginia City. The city was growing during the a 19th century mining boom and is home to countless Victorian buildings which make it look like a movie set. It is definitely worth a visit during your weekend in Reno.

 

Loneliest Road in America

 

To the east is the famous “Loneliest Road in America” which we completed after our stay in Reno. The Loneliest Road is exactly what the name would suggest – lonely! The loneliest road in America is also known as the Nevada portion of the transcontinental Highway 50, starting in Carson City and going all the way across Nevada to the Utah border.

While the road lacks civilization, it makes for an incredible drive and road trip as you will get to see some beautiful sights along the way.

 

Sand Dune Recreational Area on Loneliest Road in America

 

Make sure you fuel up and bring enough food before starting your drive as there are only a few towns on the way. If you like camping, you’re in luck as there are campgrounds and BLM land along the road, making it a great place to relax and enjoy some star gazing.

The first stop on your drive is Sand Mountain Recreation Area which is a beautiful sand dune in the middle of nowhere and a great stop for anyone who loves ATVing or wandering around sand dunes.

 

Austin Nevada Ghost Town

 

Further along the Loneliest Road in America, you will come across the cute ghost town Austin, Nevada, which could be from a movie set and Nevada’s best kept secret: hot springs.

You may not know this but Nevada has more hot springs than any other state and it would be a shame to not take advantage of them. Spencer Hot Springs is right on the Loneliest Road in America and a great spot to relax and enjoy the view of the mountains.

 

Hot Springs Pool at Spencer Hot Springs Nevada

 

The loneliest road continues all the way to the Utah border, and can be completed easily over two days or as long as a week, depending on what timeline best meets your schedule. If you are only interested in completing a small portion of the drive as a day trip for your perfect weekend in Reno, it is still worth the drive!

 

Make sure you also check out more road trip ideas in the Southwest USA if you are keen on exploring more of the USA by car after your weekend in Reno.

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for The Perfect Weekend in Reno

 

Whether you're spending a fun weekend in Reno or are staying longer, here are our top 5 tips for an unforgettable time in the biggest little city in the world.

 

1) Rent a Bike

 

Reno has a beautiful downtown area and a great Riverwalk District which is great to explore by foot, but even more fun to bike along in summer. Rent a bike from the Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel and enjoy riding along the river during your weekend in Reno.

 

2) Take A Picture with Street Art

 

There is no mentioning of Reno without thinking of its incredible art scene. If you don't feel like visiting museums, make sure you take some photos with the vibrant street art. You will find everything from fun geometric prints, landscape murals, and graffiti, to portraits of Frida Kahlo. Your weekend in Reno would not be complete without admiring some of the astonishing local art.

 

3) Explore the Riverwalk District

 

The Riverwalk District is very much the heart of the city and it is by far the most vibrant and fun place to be on a sunny summer day. Bike along the river and stop by some local restaurants and shops to enjoy everything the Riverwalk District has to offer during your weekend in Reno.

 

4) Prepare for Dry and Hot Summers

 

Summers in Reno can get very hot and dry. Make sure you are prepared and always bring water with you and wear sunscreen. A bad sunburn is not what you want as your lasting memory of your weekend in Reno!

 

5) Play a Game or Two at a Casino

 

After all, Reno is most famous for its casinos. Stop by a casino and play a game to get the complete weekend in Reno experience. There is nothing quite like the thrill of placing a bet with the hope to end your night with twice as much money in your pocket. (Please play responsibly and know that there is always a financial risk involved.)

Save this post to your USA travel Pinterest board for when you plan your next weekend in Reno and getaway in the USA.

 

The perfect weekend in Reno, Nevada and 4 best day trips from Reno

 

The perfect weekend in Reno, Nevada and 4 best day trips from Reno

 

The perfect weekend in Reno, Nevada and 4 best day trips from Reno
The perfect weekend in Reno, Nevada and 4 best day trips from Reno
The perfect weekend in Reno, Nevada and 4 best day trips from Reno

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Month 3 on the Road – Best Hidden Places in Utah for your Bucket List

I think we are finally starting to get the hang of vanlife and living on the road. We have slowly fine-tuned our daily and weekly routines, and while we could always exercise more, eat healthier, and be more productive on the blog, those were all things that we struggled with before – some things never change!

Welcome to our third monthly update on our overlanding adventure! This month is filled with hidden places in Utah, Utah bucket list places we were finally able to check off, exploring Nevada, and an abrupt ending!

 

Sunset at Utah Badlands - Hidden Places in Utah

 

May brought excitement and anticipation related to COVID-19 as almost all Utah state parks opened up, restaurants re-opened, and many National Parks began opening as well. We would finally be able to visit all the hidden places in Utah we have been wanting to see since crossing into Utah in March!

 

Bettina Twirling at Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef State Park

 

On the other hand, Bettina was fast approaching the 90-day expiration of her tourist visa to stay in the United States, which brought back a lot of the stress and anxiety that we were trying to avoid!

 

Clucking Along the Chicken Corners Trail – Moab, Utah

 

Moab is one of the most famous Utah towns for adventure, though in our case restaurants weren’t quite open, the nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks were very much closed, and you couldn’t even camp anywhere in the county. Moab has been on our “must visit” list for so long that we decided to find a way around the COVID-19 restrictions.

We decided to camp on BLM land just outside the county, spend the day exploring, and make sure to leave the county again every night.

 

Camping during Supermoon at Chicken Corners Utah

 

Not wanting to miss out on all the hidden places in Utah and what Moab area has to offer, I decided that we should tackle one of the most famous off-road trails in the area, The Chicken Corners Trail. This trail is about 20 miles (32 km) one-way and has some spectacular views of the Colorado River. Across the river is Deadhorse State Park and Thelma & Louise Point, made famous from the ending scene of Thelma & Louise.

 

View from Chicken Corners Utah

 

The 20-mile road took us about 4 hours as we tackled the various rock obstacles and sections of deep sand along the way. I should probably add at this point that Bettina is not a huge fan of off-roading but I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement and thrill to explore uncharted territory and discover more hidden places in Utah. We were rewarded with an incredible view at the end and nobody else around us for miles – a perfect place to spend the night.

 

Super Moon at Chicken Corners Moab, Utah

 

The next morning, we woke up early to take in the sunrise, and then tackle the same 20 miles back to civilization. It was just as bumpy as the day before but luckily we were able to shave off a half hour this time through!

 

Driving Chicken Corners Off-Road Trail, Moab Utah

 

We weren’t done with Moab just yet though! While on the Chicken Corners Trail we could see the brilliant blue lakes on the other side of the Colorado River. Bettina was immediately intrigued, as these days any hidden place in Utah with blue is a photo shoot opportunity. We learned that they were the evaporation ponds of a nearby potash mine. We were able to get decently close to the ponds, and the blue colors were even more vivid up close!

 

Blue Pools Potash Mine Moab Utah

 

One of the places we wanted to explore around Moab was Arches National Park. Unfortunately, the national park was still closed and we had to search for hidden places in Utah with arches that we could visit.

 

Wilson Arch Moab, Utah

 

As luck would have it, Corona Arch, came to our rescue (ironic name in this case). Getting to Corona Arch was a relatively easy hike and well worth the incredible view of the arch.

 

Hike Across Railway Tracks to Corona Arch in Utah

 

View of Corona Arch in Utah at Sunset

 

Walking Amongst Goblins

 

We thought we had seen it all when it comes to unique rock formations in Utah, but we had yet to visit Goblin Valley State Park. This beautiful state park has a field of goblins, all waiting to be explored. We spent the day hiking amongst the goblins and even venturing deep into the goblin’s lair.

 

Goblin Valley State Park Utah

 

If it looks familiar, Goblin Valley State Park was featured heavily in the movie Galaxy Quest. The intriguing looking rocks, or goblins, are formed from sandstone that has existed for 165 million years. The rock has unevenly fractured and eroded over time to form what we can see today.

 

Sitting on Goblins at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

 

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

 

On of the Best Hidden Places in Utah - The Utah Badlands

 

After spending over a month in Utah, we have become very used to orange-colored rock. It has become our new normal, and the resulting orange dust has found its way into every crack and crevice in Swifty. This is why we were so excited to see some exotic grey rocks in the Utah Badlands. The Utah Badlands are definitely one of those hidden places in Utah that nobody would think of visiting but they are well worth seeing.

 

View over Utah Badlands

 

In fact, the Utah Badlands would not look out of place on another planet, and apparently NASA agrees because there is a Mars Desert Research Station nearby. However, for us – the sight was quite unique!

 

Kyle at Utah Badlands

 

The skyline of the Utah Badlands is dominated by Factory Butte, a massive flat-topped sandstone peak, surrounded by desert nothingness.

 

Factory Butte at Utah Badlands

 

We explored the Utah Badlands, coming across all sorts of rock formations and colors before finding another epic place to set up camp for the night at the edge of a very steep drop-off.

And if you are feeling adventurous, there is a lone spire of rock begging to be climbed for the perfect photo. It was actually quite safe to get there, and appeared incredibly strong and sturdy, though that did not stop Bettina from, understandably, freaking out a bit.

 

View of Utah Badlands

 

The Utah Badlands were an incredible place to see, and even better place to camp! It is a completely hidden place in Utah as we hardly saw anyone around. There is almost no light pollution which makes for a great opportunity for star gazing.

 

Finally, Open! Capitol Reef National Park

 

It seems like we have been dreaming of this day ever since we arrived in Utah. The day that we would finally be able to visit one of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks: Capitol Reef National Park.

Only the remote backcountry of Capitol Reef National Park was open at this time, but that was okay with us. We set off on the remote backcountry byway, battling some of the dustiest and driest sand we had seen yet. If you have ever baked with large quantities of flour, then you can imagine how dusty this area was.

 

Back country drive through Capitol Reef National Park

 

We made it to the famous Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon in good time, but a storm was rolling in and our time there consisted of intense blowing sand and a bit of rain. We barely remembered to snap a picture before continuing on our way.

 

Temple of the Sun Capitol Reef National Park

 

We saw a few other really unique sights, such as a massive sinkhole and a striking line of vertical stone that ran across the desert floor, up the mountain, and continued as far as we could see. We reached the nearby campground and had one of our roughest nights of the trip as Swifty was pummeled by rain and intense wind gusts throughout the night.

 

View of Cathedral Valley at Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

 

We needed a lot of coffee to get going the next morning, but rewarded with stunning views of Cathedral Valley, the highlight of the backcountry area of Capitol Reef National Park and another of our favorite hidden places in Utah.

 

Best Views at Bryce Canyon National Park

 

With parks now opening, we weren’t going to waste any time to see the next park on our list: Bryce Canyon. Again, after a month of staring at the various rock formations in Utah, you would think that we become a bit jaded and unimpressed by rocks. It’s true, we now have a higher standard of what we deem “impressive” but apparently, we weren’t yet “rocked out” as Bryce Canyon blew us away!

 

Sunset Point at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

 

The area is so unique and surprisingly large. As a point of comparison, Goblin Valley State Park also had a fairly large area of densely placed unique rock formations, but Bryce Canyon was easily ten times larger.

 

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

 

Even more incredible than the size and shape of the rock formations, is the intense orange color. Bryce Canyon has a large number of relatively easily accessible viewpoints along the main road. We started at Sunset Point for the most impressive view.

 

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

 

We would have loved to complete the Navajo Loop hiking trail, however it was closed due to constructions, so we will have to wait to go back at some point! Another great nearby viewpoint is Inspiration Point with similar views but a slightly different perspective which will blow you away as well.

 

Bryce Canyon National Park

 

We followed the road to the very end at Rainbow Point, but were still most impressed by the Sunset Point view. Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually stay here until sunset, but had to hit the road, returning back to Cedar City.

 

 

Toquerville Falls - A Must Add to Your Utah Bucket List

 

While Bettina and I generally get along quite well, especially when we are traveling, there is an added level of difficulty when you have had no outside social interaction for the past three months.

When we were camping at Alstrom Point, which you can read about on our first monthly update, we met another couple camping who happened to be from Utah! Bettina kept in contact with them as we traveled around Utah, and as we were in the area where they lived, we decided to meet up for some appropriate social-distancing socializing. We were sure glad that we did!

We had never heard of Toquerville Falls but our Utah friends suggested we go there for a day trip. It is one of those stunning hidden places in Utah which is not known to tourists like us but very popular with the locals.

 

Twirling at Toquerville Falls, Utah

 

We all decided to make the trek out to the falls for some swimming, eating, and drinking. The road to the falls is very rough, and should only be attempted in high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle. The drive was totally worth it for us though as we were rewarded with these beautiful waterfalls.

What makes Toquerville Falls unique is that you can drive across the river just above the upper falls…

 

Driving Through Toquerville Falls, Utah

 

…and jump into the river below from the lower falls.

 

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The water was refreshing and clean, which made Toquerville Falls one of our favorite afternoons of our trip!

 

Midwest Detour

 

The start of our overlanding adventure was initially delayed a couple months due to my health, and while when we began our trip, I was in a pretty good spot, we were really looking forward to getting additional treatment at a specialty clinic in St. Louis. This treatment was originally scheduled for the end of March, but COVID-19 caused it to be rescheduled to the end of May.

Additionally, we initially planned and booked flights to fly from Salt Lake City to St. Louis, but with the elevated risk of flying (and the exorbitant cost) we decided to make the 24-hour, 1,500 mile (2,400 km) drive to St. Louis.

 

While our Toyota Tacoma with Swifty is pretty easy to drive, it is not by any stretch of the imagination, very speedy. We figured that we could drive at least 25% faster in a rental car compared to Swifty, and would save a lot in gas along the way. So we packed up Swifty and left her safely parked in St. George, Utah while we embarked on a few days of non-stop driving.

 

The drive was long, but uneventful, and our time in St. Louis was relaxing as we celebrated Bettina’s birthday and I completed a few days of treatment.

 

To spice things up on the return 24-hour journey we decided to take a more southerly route through southwest Missouri, across Oklahoma, a small portion of Texas, a very large portion of New Mexico, and all of Arizona. This contrasted nicely with our route on the way there through central Utah, all of Colorado, all of Kansas, and 99% of Missouri.

 

In the end we drove just shy of 3,300 miles (5,300 km) in the span of a week, which was, a lot.

 

Oppressive Heat in the Valley of Fire

 

We were very glad to get back to Swifty and our “home” after a week away. After hanging around St. George for a day or two we set out further south, leaving our favorite hidden places in Utah and ready to explore Nevada.

 

Greetings from Valley of Fire State Park Sign

 

Our goal was to visit Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada, but as usual I wanted to take a more indirect and adventurous route to get there. We drove the Bitter Springs Trail to position ourselves near Valley of Fire for a sunrise photoshoot the next morning. The road was rough, but we got a nice taste of the scenery in Nevada, and found a great place to camp in a wash close to the trail.

 

Driving Through Valley of Fire Nevada

 

The area was so beautiful and quiet, and we even saw some wild horses nearby.

 

We surprised ourselves and were able to get up early – hitting the road before sunrise on a mission to explore Valley of Fire State Park. Luckily, Valley of Fire State Park is not an overly large park, which makes seeing it all in one day very attainable.

 

Bettina Sitting on Street at Valley of Fire Nevada

 

Bettina’s heart was set on getting the iconic Valley of Fire shot from the main road, and as we were there so early, we had more than enough time with the road all to ourselves to take as many photos as we liked. The temperature at this point was quite comfortable, and so we also decided to go on a short hike to rainbow vista.

 

Bettina Sitting on Rainbow Rock at Valley of Fire Nevada

 

Temperatures that day were projected to climb over 100F / 40C, so we were on a time-sensitive mission to check off all our bucket list place before it would get to hot. The hike to rainbow vista was not very long, because we had a few more that we wanted to do before it go too hot. However, it was not even 8:00 AM yet and it was already 90F / 32C.

The north end of the park has two great short hikes, one is called the White Domes Loop, and the other is The Fire Wave. Both hikes are relatively short and the views are incredible, making it very much worth your effort.

 

Wave of Fire at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

 

Fire Wave at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

 

If it wasn’t for the heat we would have spent a lot longer out exploring. As lunchtime approached, the temperature was fast approaching the high for the day, 108F / 42C. That was a bit too warm for us, so we headed for some shade to make lunch before stopping by elephant rock on the way out.

 

Melting Away in Las Vegas

 

As we drove into Las Vegas, we were filled with mixed emotions. This was our first properly big city in a long time, but also where we were supposed to fly to Europe from over a month earlier. Not only that, we now knew that our original plan to continue our vanlife journey to Mexico was in imminent danger as the US-Mexico border closures had both been extended by an additional month.

 

Welcome to Las Vegas Sign

 

Our first day in Las Vegas was spent trying to avoid the heat. Normally, we could park close to a Starbucks or McDonald’s and work in Swifty while on wi-fi, but it was far too hot to do so, and indoor seating was still closed. As a result we walked into some stores to cool down, then back to Swifty to work, and then back inside to cool down. Not the best solution, but it worked temporarily.

 

For the evening we drove south to camp near one of Bettina’s most anticipated locations: The Seven Magic Mountains.

 

Bettina at Seven Magic Mountains in Las Vegas, Nevada

 

After a restless sleep in the heat, we dragged ourselves out of bed and were still able to make it to Seven Magic Mountains as the sun was rising. If you haven’t been there yourself, surely you are familiar with the brightly colored towers of stacked rocks in the middle of the desert.

An unusual sight, but very interesting and also very popular. We were not the only ones there and around 6am, there were already well over 20 people walking amongst the rock towers. If you want the perfect picture, make sure to arrive very early!

 

The Long Drive Home

 

At this point we had tried to extend Bettina’s ESTA visa in the United States, but learned that it was not possible. We had also called the Canadian Border and Canadian Embassy in the United States to see if I could bring her into Canada, but that was also not possible. With plan A, B, and C out the window, she would have to fly back to Switzerland, and I would drive back to Canada.

 

Bettina Leaning Out of a Car

 

We left Las Vegas late on a Friday night, aiming to reach Seattle on Sunday night before her early flight on Monday morning. It was another few long days of driving as we had 1,200 miles (1,900 km) to cover over the next two days. The journey was mostly uneventful, but we did get rather rudely woken up while camping at a highway rest stop in Idaho by a hailstorm.

 

Flower field in Washington State

 

Arriving in Seattle, we had quite literally come full circle from where we began our journey just three months before. When we started in early March, the thought of our adventure ending like this so soon was not even a possibility in our minds.

The Stats – Month Three

 

Miles driven: 2,574

Nights in Swifty: 19

US States crossed: Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington

Number of Wild Horses Spotted: 3

In-N-Out Burgers Consumed: 10 (there’s two of us but Kyle had more than half!)

Number of Sunrise Photoshoots: 5

Number of Nights Hailed On: 1

Days over 35C / 95F: 8

Favorite Meal: Burgers at In-N-Out in St. George, Utah

Favorite Campsite: Utah Badlands

 

In Summary

 

Just as we were really starting to get a hang of the whole #vanlife thing, we’ve been forced to cut our trip short. It is disappointing, and made harder by not only having to stop, but be separated halfway across the world. At this point it is hard to know what the future will hold. I am not able to enter Europe to visit Bettina in Swizterland, and Bettina is not able to enter Canada.

With COVID-19 impacting so many countries around the world, especially Latin America at the moment, the future does look uncertain. However, we are remaining optimistic that borders will re-open at some point this year and we can continue an amended version of our trip. We are fully aware that our situation is still far better than many people who have had their lives impacted by COVID-19.

 

Bettina Walking on Street in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

 

As a result of having to put our #vanlife adventure on hold, this will also put a temporary hold on these monthly updates. At the moment, the hardest part is the uncertainty of when borders will re-open and it will be safe again to travel. Our travel adventures are not completely on hold as Bettina will be sharing much of her Switzerland stay on her Instagram. Make sure to stop by every once in a while to see the magic of Swiss summers.

 

Save this pin in our road trip Pinterest board for when your next road trip across the US!

Best Hidden Places in Utah to Explore on a Road Trip

 

Utah Badlands - Best Hidden Places in Utah to Explore on a Road Trip

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The Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary For The 5 Best Waterfalls in Oregon

From its stunning coastline to its mountainous regions, the Pacific Northwest of the USA is home to many incredible natural wonders and some incredible waterfalls. Oregon has undoubtedly some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the country. The best thing is, they are relatively easy to explore on an Oregon roadtrip and only a short easy to moderate hike away from your car.

 

Oregon Roadtrip to See Best 5 Waterfalls in Oregon

 

This Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip itinerary takes you to the 5 best waterfalls in Oregon, including the three highest waterfalls in the state! Plus, if you have some extra time we’ve included a few bonus nearby waterfalls and hot springs to take in while you are in the area.

 

Your Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary to See the Best 5 Waterfalls in Oregon

 

The best way to start your Oregon roadtrip is from Portland, the main city of Oregon. Portland is known for its independent breweries, great food, and its hip vibes and definitely worth a visit. Spend a few days there to explore its culinary specialties before starting your Oregon roadtrip to explore Oregon’s 5 best waterfalls.

 

Multnomah Falls in Oregon

 

Oregon Roadtrip Map

 

The below Oregon roadtrip map shows you the location of each waterfall and the driving distances included in this itinerary. The map closely follows our recommended itinerary but feel free to switch things up if you would like to explore other places along the way.

 

 

Day One of Oregon Roadtrip - Multnomah Falls and Abiqua Falls

 

The first day of this Oregon Waterfall Roadtrip Itinerary is a big day, knocking out arguably the most famous of Oregon’s waterfalls: Multnomah Falls, and also our personal favorite, Abiqua Falls. With so much packed into the first day, getting an early start is imperative, but getting up early should not at all a problem when you have the best waterfalls in Oregon to look forward to.

 

Multnomah Falls

 

Starting off from Portland, it is an easy half hour drive East along the Columbia River until you reach Multnomah Falls. You can’t miss this one as there are a ton of signs, and the waterfall is easily seen from the highway. The parking lot is actually in the middle of the highway, and from there it is a short 5-minute walk up to the base of the falls.

 

Multnomah Falls in Oregon

 

Multnomah Falls is incredible to see in person. The size of the falls is immense, as water plunges over 600 feet (180 meters) from the top of the cliff. As you get closer and closer you will be craning your neck to see up to the top of the falls! There is an accessible bridge halfway to better take in the falls, though be sure to get the famous photograph from below, including the bridge, before venturing up onto it.

 

Cost to see Multnomah Falls: Free

Estimated time to see Multnomah Falls: 1 hour

Difficulty Level: Easy. The entire walkway to the bottom of the falls is paved.

We recommend you wear: Something waterproof as you might get a bit wet depending on the wind direction. If you are planning to take professional photos here, consider bringing rain protection for your camera.

 

Abiqua Falls

 

As Multnomah Falls is easily accessible on the highway, and with only a short walk to the falls, it is easy to see another one of the best waterfalls in Oregon on the same day. Abiqua Falls is an hour and a half to two hours drive south from Multnomah Falls. You will pass through some of the Southeastern Portland suburbs, which is a great time to fill up on gas, water, and snacks to make sure you are ready for this mini adventure.

 

Bettina twirling at Abiqua Falls, Oregon

 

Abiqua Falls is the most difficult of the best waterfalls in Oregon to access, requiring some driving on gravel roads, and a steep hike down to the falls, but it is all worth it!

 

Start by driving to the town of Scotts Mills and then take the Crooked Finger Road almost 11 miles until you reach an unnamed gravel road. Turn right, and follow the road downhill for the last 2 miles. The road will get rougher as you go and the last 1.5 miles of this requires a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle. You can either park at the top of the hill and hike the 2 miles down the road, or drive as far as they can, and then park on the side of the road.

 

Tree covered in moss at Abiqua Falls Oregon

 

You will know you have reached the trailhead, when you come across a large gate blocking the road. About 100 feet back from the gate is the beginning of the trail, heading down on a forest trail towards Abiqua Creek. The trail gets very steep as you near the creek, and there are a number of ropes to help aid in getting up and down the hill. Use these ropes as they are very helpful!

 

Abiqua Falls in Oregon - Photo taken with Neutral Density Filter

 

Once at the creek level, it is a relatively short hike upstream to Abiqua Falls. The falls are absolutely breathtaking, cascading over a cliff of basalt columns, and reminded us very much of Svartifoss in Iceland. If you are curious to know what we are talking about, check out our weekend in Iceland guide here.

Enjoy your time here, and take in the quietness and solitude at the falls, but don’t enjoy it for too long as you still have to hike back up the hill!

 

Cost to see Abiqua Falls: Free

Estimated time to see Abiqua Falls: 2 hours (add more if you have to hike on the road)

Difficulty Level: Moderate. The hike to the falls is definitely a bit more involved and pretty steep in the beginning.

We recommend you wear: Good shoes with traction and pants you don’t mind getting dirty as you will have to climb over tree trunks.

 

If you are hiking in the summer, there should still be a few hours of daylight left after you see both falls. We would recommend the 45 minute drive to Silver Falls State Park in the evening. The park has a great campground, or cabins to stay at, which puts you within walking distance of South Falls, which you’ll explore on day two. If you are new to camping and are worried about sleeping under the stars, make sure to read these Camping Tips for Beginners and you will be all set.

 

 

Day Two of Oregon Roadtrip – Hiking to the South Falls

 

Day two includes another great waterfall, South Falls, located within Silver Falls State Park. The best part about Silver Falls State Park is that there are over ten great waterfalls and you can walk behind 4 of them! We completed the Trail of Ten Falls hike to take them all in, and highly recommend spending the time to enjoy this park while you are here.

 

South Falls and Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

 

South Falls

 

South Falls is unique in that you can walk completely behind the falls! There is something so magical about walking behind a waterfall and seeing it from a completely different angle.

 

Walking Behind South Falls in Silver Falls State Park

 

If you have camped at Silver Falls State Park, South Falls is an easy 20 minute walk away from the campground. Alternatively, if you are driving into the park for the day, there is a very large parking lot near South Falls.

 

You will hear the thundering sound of the water plunging over the edge and see the mist rise into the air, well before you see the falls. The falls are impressive to see from any angle, but the best is surely from underneath the falls, on the narrow trail that circumnavigates the falls. You will likely get wet, but it is totally worth the experience!

 

South Falls at Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

 

While at Silver Falls State Park, we would highly recommend you to hike the Trail of Ten Falls hike which continues from South Falls, and meanders throughout the park, taking in (you guessed it) ten more waterfalls, including more that you can walk behind! The full hike should take about three hours, and is on an easy to follow 7 mile (11.5 km) trail. We really enjoyed hiking through the peaceful backcountry of the park, taking in the waterfalls and meandering river all to ourselves on a brisk March morning!

 

Oregon Waterfall in Silver Falls State Park

 

Cost to see South Falls: $5 park day-use permit

Estimated time to see South Falls: Thirty minutes to only see South Falls. Just over three hours for the Trail of Ten Falls

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate. The ground might be a bit slippery if it rained recently and some of the inclines can get your heart rate up.

We recommend you wear: Good shoes with good traction as the muddy trail can be slippery when wet. Also make sure you bring a rain jacket and a protective bag for your camera as you will likely get wet when walking behind the waterfalls.

 

After spending most of the day exploring Silver Falls State Park, you can either stay another night in the campground here, or drive an hour and a half south towards Eugene, Oregon where there are many accommodation options.

 

Day Three of Oregon Roadtrip – Exploring Salt Creek Falls and Watson Falls

 

The third day is the last day of your ultimate Oregon roadtrip to see the 5 best waterfalls in Oregon. Packing in two more powerful waterfalls, this day also requires the most driving. If you spent the night at Silver Falls State Park, it is a two and a half hour drive to Salt Creek Falls, or just over 1 hour from Eugene.

 

Salt Creek Falls

 

Once you reach the Salt Creek Falls they are super easy to access, as there is a parking lot right near the falls. Salt Creek Falls is known for it’s main drop of 286 vertical feet (87 meters), the third highest in Oregon! Third only to Multnomah Falls (check!), and Watson Falls (coming up next!).

 

Cost to see Salt Creek Falls: $5 park day-use fee

Estimated time to see Salt Creek Falls: Thirty minutes

Difficulty Level: Easy

We recommend you wear: Anything you would like.

 

Back on the road, it’s an hour and a half drive to Watson Falls which are in the Umpqua National Forest.

 

Watson Falls

 

Watson Falls involves a short but steep hike up a heavily trafficked path. The hike will take you past beautiful mossy rocks and trees, as well as some small rapids, before Watson Falls comes into view. Watson Falls are the second highest falls in Oregon and are just as impressive as you would imagine. There are multiple viewing platforms and a bridge that crosses the river below the falls, allowing you to get the perfect viewpoint.

 

Watson Falls, Oregon

 

After snapping a few photos, you can take an alternate path back down to the parking lot for some more variety in your hiking views.

 

Cost to see Watson Falls: Free

Estimated time to see Watson Falls: Less than 1 hour

Difficulty Level: Moderate but short. The hike is steep and can be a bit muddy.

We recommend you wear: Good shoes with traction.

 

Day Three Bonus - Toketee Falls and Umpqua Hot Springs

 

While you are visiting the Watson Falls in the Umpqua National Forest on your Oregon roadtrip, make sure you check out a few other highlights, only a few miles away – namely Toketee Falls and Umpqua Hot Springs.

 

Toketee Falls

 

The drive to Toketee Falls from Watson Falls is less than five minutes and the hike to Toketee Falls is relatively easy and less than one mile. The falls are viewed from a platform, high above the river below, and you can feel the power of the water as it cascades over the edge. Toketee Falls is very impressive as it is also surrounded by basalt columns, similar to Abiqua Falls.

 

Toketee Falls Oregon

 

Cost to see Toketee Falls: Free

Estimated time to see Toketee Falls: Less than 1 hour

Difficulty Level: Easy to moderate. It’s a relatively steep but short walk to the platform on forest ground.

We recommend you wear: Good shoes as you climb over some roots.

 

Umpqua Hot Springs

 

The road that the Toketee Falls parking lot is on, also happens to be the road to Umpqua Hot Springs, which is only a few miles further. If you haven’t heard of Umpqua Hot Springs before, they are a series of pools on a hillside overlooking the North Umpqua River which we visited on our first month of vanlife. The pools are filled with natural hot mineral water, pouring out of the hillside, filling the top pool and continuing to flowing into lower level pools. The way the hot springs are situated, you will experience the hottest water at the top. The water temperature cools down the further down the hill you go.

 

Bettina at Umpqua Hot Springs Oregon

 

If you enjoy cold water, you can walk downhill to the North Umpqua River for a short dip and warm back up in the hot springs.

To get to the Umpqua Hot Springs from the parking lot, you will do a short but steep hike. Note that the Umpqua Hot Springs can be extremely popular. We recommend you visit early in the morning or during the week and either in Spring or Fall.

 

Cost to see Umpqua Hot Springs: $5 day-use fee

Estimated time to see Umpqua Hot Springs: Less than 30 minutes hiking time; stay as long as you like in the hot springs pool!

Difficulty Level: Moderate. The hike to the Umpqua Hot Springs is steep on forest ground but short.

We recommend you wear: Good shoes with good traction. As the hot springs are completely natural, there are no changing rooms. If you would like some privacy to change into your swimwear, you would have to do so before starting the hike. The area is also popular with nudists so don’t be surprised if you end up seeing more than expected.

 

The drive back to Portland to complete your Oregon roadtrip is 4 hours and if you have spent all day exploring the Umpqua National Forest, you will likely want to camp in the area rather than driving through the night. As an alternative to visiting Umpqua Hot Springs on Day Three, you could also extend your Oregon roadtrip by one day and enjoy the hot springs the next day, first thing in the morning.

 

Kyle Standing at Abiqua Falls, Oregon

 

It will be hard to leave the state after completing the ultimate Oregon roadtrip to see the 5 best waterfalls in Oregon. We were simply amazed at the power of nature, and impressed by the natural beauty of Oregon! The state of Oregon has so much to offer, with these 5 waterfalls, being some of our favorite places to visit! If you are yearning to explore more of Oregon, check out our summary of the first month on the road of vanlife, where we also explored nearby Crater Lake in Oregon!

If you are looking for a road trip adventure in Colorado, make sure you check out these tips for the perfect 6 day Colorado road tip!

 

Bettina twirling at Crater Lake in Oregon

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for Your Oregon Roadtrip

 

1) Prepare for Muddy Trails

Most hiking trails to these waterfalls on your Oregon roadtrip are on forest ground and can be quite muddy in spring after the snow melt or after rain. Make sure you have good shoes with good traction to facilitate the hike. Also prepare to have your clothes get dirty on some of these hikes.

 

2) Expect to Get Wet

Expect to get wet! You are at a waterfall after all and any wind gust can transport the waterfall mist and get you soaked. Especially if you are planning to walk behind waterfalls or get close to them, be prepared to get wet and bring a rain jacket. We also recommend bringing water protection for your camera if you are planning to take professional photos.

 

3) Let Someone Know Where You're Going

Many of these places on your Oregon roadtrip don't have any cell reception or only spotty reception. Before you leave, make sure you let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back. That way, in case something happens, they know where to look for you.

 

4) Pack Some Snacks

Some of these waterfalls are remote and there aren't any restaurants or coffee shops nearby. Make sure you pack some snacks for your Oregon roadtrip so that you don't end up being hungry on your hike.

 

5) Plan Your Oregon Roadtrip for Between April and October

Due to the higher elevation in these locations, it can get quite cold and snowy during the winter months. The best time to go on your Oregon road trip to see the best waterfalls is between April and October. Any earlier or later in the year and you might still have snowy and icy trails.

 

Save this post on Pinterest to plan your Oregon roadtrip to chase waterfalls!

 

The Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary to the 5 Best Waterfalls in Oregon

 

The Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary to the 5 Best Waterfalls in Oregon

 

The Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary to the 5 Best Waterfalls in Oregon
The Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary to the 5 Best Waterfalls in Oregon
The Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary to the 5 Best Waterfalls in Oregon
The Ultimate Oregon Roadtrip Itinerary to the 5 Best Waterfalls in Oregon

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Month 2 on the Road – Best Slot Canyons of Utah and Self-Isolating

How have we been on the road for two months already? On the one hand vanlife feels like our normal life now, as we explore the best slot canyons of Utah and watch as many sunrises and sunsets as we can. On the other this is still all crazy and new. Welcome to our second monthly update on our overlanding adventure!

 

Toyota Tacoma and Four Wheel Camper Swift Model at Sunset

 

April was a difficult month on the COVID-19 front. Many states were (and are still) in complete lock-down. Even in Utah, many National and State Parks closed due to COVID-19 which made vanlife incredibly difficult. Our daily tasks involved checking the news and doing a lot of research on where we were going to camp and what we were going to see and do.

Luckily for us, there is one thing Utah has plenty of and it’s called BLM Lands. BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the public lands where it is free for anyone to camp and explore. So that is exactly what we did!

 

Couple Walking Towards Monument Valley at Forest Gump Hill Utah

 

 

Hole in the Rock Road - Walking Amongst Dinosaurs

 

We started our second month on the road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which has over 1 million acres of BLM land to explore. Hole in the Rock Road is a historic Mormon trail, which has great outdoor activities all along it and as it turns out, the best slot canyons in Utah!

 

While we like to do the occasional hike, here we did 3 hikes in 3 days, all with unique sights. We made an attempt at hiking Zebra Slot Canyon. I say attempt, as when we reached the slot canyon it was partially filled with water. We waded in up to our knees, but it got deep fast and we couldn’t see the bottom anymore after a few feet in. It didn’t help that the water was incredibly cold! We decided to turn back and admit defeat. Luckily, Tunnel Slot Canyon is close-by which saved the hike from being a failure!

 

Bettina Hiking to Golden Cathedral Utah

 

Our second hike was the longest, over 9 miles (15 km) including a few river crossings. The day was a bit overcast which was a very welcome change given that we trekked across the desert with nobody else around. We made it to the Golden Cathedral as another hiker was ending a spontaneous concert. The acoustics of the Golden Cathedral were incredible, and her voice was amplified throughout the slot canyon which sounded incredible.

 

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Bettina at Golden Cathedral Utah

 

Hole in the Rock Road also offers some other incredible sights, which are much easier to access and worthy of exploring if you are in the area. Devils Garden is full of hoodoos and rock formations, just waiting to be explored. In case you are not familiar with the term, hoodoos are columns of weathered rock and while a pile of rock doesn’t sound overly exciting by itself, these piles are a lot of fun!

 

Bettina at Devil's Garden Escalante Staircase Utah

 

Bettina at Devil's Garden Escalante Staircase Utah

 

For any ancient history and dinosaur lovers, exploring 20 Mile Dinosaur Tracks is a must! The area has over 350 individual dinosaur tracks created by plant eating sauropods over 150 million years ago. The footprints have been preserved over time as they are pressed in sandstone. It was incredible to think that we were walking in the exact same spot as these creatures from so long ago.

 

20 Mile Dinosaur Tracks in Escalante Staircase Utah

 

Our third hike along the Hole in the Rock Road was our favorite as it includes some of the best slot canyons of Utah. The hike led us to Spooky Slot Canyon and Peekaboo Slot Canyon.

 

The Best Slot Canyons of Utah - Spooky Slot Canyon and Peekaboo Slot Canyon

 

With names like Spooky and Peekaboo, these slot canyons better be good - spoiler alert, we think these are the best slot canyons of Utah! And no, we are not making this up! You start the hike into a dry canyon where access to the slot canyons is relatively quick and easy. We read online that the best route is to start with Peekaboo and end with Spooky, travelling in a loop, so that is exactly what we did.

 

Overlook of Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyon Utah

 

Peekaboo starts with a 12 foot (4 meter) climb up the slick rock to the entrance, which is fairly manageable due to multiple footholds and handholds. Once you find yourself in the canyon, you quickly see where Peekaboo gets its name from! The slot canyon is a compilation of very curvy twists and turns with smooth sandstone.

 

Peekaboo Best Slot Canyons of Utah

 

These curves allow you to play a quick game of peekaboo along the way. We spent at least an hour hiking through the canyon and taking tons of photos along the way.

 

Bettina Twirling at Peekaboo Slot Canyon Utah

 

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Once out of Peekaboo, it was a relatively short hike cross-country to the entrance of Spooky Slot Canyon. Spooky is definitely not for the faint of heart. It was incredibly narrow in spots (we had to take off our backpacks, and shuffle sideways as there wasn’t even enough space to turn our hiking boots sideways). Spooky also has rougher rock and is much deeper and darker than Peekaboo.

 

Bettina in Peekaboo Slot Canyon Utah

 

The piece-de-resistance is a massive car-size boulder that you need to climb up and over while in the slot canyon, and then proceed to climb back underneath it, and then crawl through a passageway to continue. The fact that we saw a random shoe stuck in a crevice here definitely added to the spookiness!

 

Kyle in Peekaboo Slot Canyon - Best Slot Canyons of Utah

 

All in all, this was one of our favorite hikes and both Spooky and Peekaboo live up to their names! The canyons made it one of our favorite days this month and they are easily some of the best slot canyons of Utah.

 

Big City Living in St. George, Utah

 

After a few days spent in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we headed to Cedar City for some rest and relaxation at an Airbnb for a few days. Pizzas were baked, movies were downloaded, and clothes were washed. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and rainy, so we again hit the road to somewhere warm. We headed further south to St. George, Utah, the largest city we had been to in a long time. We were looking for some of the best things to do in St. George, Utah so we hit up In-N-Out take-out for delicious burgers (more than once), indulged in Sugar Cookies take-out (more than once), and went a bit nuts at Costco – all while social distancing of course.

 

One thing we haven’t really talked about yet is Wal-Mart, the savior of all overlanders and vanlifers in the US. Most Wal-Marts allow overnight camping in their parking lots for free, which is a great way to keep costs down in cities, where camping options are few and far between. Since most campgrounds are closed due to COVID-19, we were even more grateful to have the option to camp at Wal-Mart. We spent a couple nights at the Wal-Mart in St. George, but don’t have any photos to share as it is just a parking lot and not as exciting as hiking the best slot canyons of Utah!

 

Mountain View in Yant Flats Utah

 

We wanted to explore the area around St. George and drove to the surrounding forests. One of the great things to do in St. George is taking a quick drive to hike to Yant Flat Cliffs. The Yant Flats are an area with beautiful swirling sandstone and very much reminded us of White Pocket, which we explored just a few weeks ago and which you can read about here.

 

View of Yant Flats Utah

 

Getting to the Yant Flats is an easy 3.4-mile hike from the parking lot (return) and you are rewarded with incredible views, peculiar rock formations, and vibrant orange wavy sand stone. If you are in the area, seeing Yant Flats is one of the best things to do in St. George, Utah.

 

Bettina at Yant Flats Utah

 

Run Forrest Run to Monument Valley

 

Monument Valley was one of the destinations we were most looking forward to in Utah. But once again, COVID-19 forced us to change our plans as Monument Valley closed. We held off going here as long as possible, hoping the Monument Valley loop would re-open. However after a bit more research we realized that some of the most famous views are actually just from the main highway near Monument Valley, so off we went!

 

Girl looking at Monument Valley Utah

 

Toyota Tacome at Forest Gump Hill Monument Valley Utah

 

The most famous of all is the Forrest Gump Hill, where Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run in the movie with Monument Valley in the background. We were fortunate to have this famous area almost to ourselves. We spoke with one other traveler who had been here before, and said that there are usually tour buses and tons of other travelers at this exact spot.

 

Bettina at Monument Valley Utah

 

Luckily there isn’t much traffic on this road as we took our time taking a lot of photos, although we did have to run to save the tripod more than once as a semi-truck barreled down the highway.

 

Bettina and Kyle at Forest Gump Hill Monument Valley Utah

 

We spent the night camping at nearby Mexican Hat. We’ll let you take a wild guess where this town got its name from.

 

Bettina Twirling at Mexican Hat Utah

 

Campsite at Mexican Hat Utah

 

And while we were in the area, we checked out Goosenecks State Park, also aptly named. Goosenecks State Park seems like a few Horseshoe Bends all in a row. In case you haven’t seen Horseshoe Bend, make sure you read up on it as it is one of our favorite road trip destinations in the Southwest US.

 

Goosenecks State Park at Sunset

 

Here at Goosenecks, the San Juan River flows over 6 miles, but only travels about 1.5 miles from East to West as the crow flies, not exactly the most direct route.

 

Bettina Overlooking Goosenecks State Park at Sunset

 

 

Unearthly Views at Valley of the Gods

 

Valley of the Gods is the lesser known, slightly smaller version of Monument Valley, but we would have to say that it is almost even more impressive. That is because it is far less popular, and you can enjoy this incredible area with just a few others off in the distance. In addition, there is a ton of Valley of the Gods camping spots, allowing you to choose your favorite view. The valley is made up of many monuments, each towering higher than the last!

 

Drive Through Valley of the Gods Utah

 

Driving along the Valley of the Gods road, each monument has a specific name, and story to tell. Some of our favorites were Santa and Rudolph Butte…

 

Santa and Rudolph Butte at Valley of the Gods Utah

 

…Lady in a Tub Butte…

 

Lady in a Tub Butte Valley of the Gods Utah

 

… and the suspiciously shaped Castle Butte.

 

Castle Butte in Valley of the Gods Utah

 

We dragged ourselves out of bed before sunrise and scrambled up the slope above our campsite to take in the sunrise as the sun rays reached each of the monument towers. It was an unearthly sight and definitely worth waking up early for!

 

View of Valley of the Gods Utah

 

Kyle at Valley of the Gods Viewpoint Utah

 

We can highly recommend spending a night or two in Valley of the Gods camping. As a bonus it is also super close to another one of our other favorite camping spots, Muley Point!

 

Best Camping Views and Muley Point

 

We learned about Muley Point a few weeks prior when talking to some other travelers who highly recommended it. Once we saw the pictures of their campsite, we immediately added it to our list. To get there from our Valley of the Gods camping spot, we needed to drive up the twists and turns of the Moki Dugway, which is a road that has been cut into the cliffside and zig-zags to the top near Muley Point.

 

Campsite at Muley Point Utah

 

Once at the top of the plateau, the road to Muley Point is easy and smooth. There are a number of dispersed camping sites here, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. We picked our favorite and set up for the night, enjoying an incredible sunset.

 

Bettina Sitting on Cliff at Muley Point Utah

 

The views from Muley Point are unbelievable. You can see out over the valley with the San Juan River snaking in the foreground and Monument Valley in the background.

 

Sunset at Muley Point Overlooking Monument Valley Utah

 

A Taste of Moab

 

We continued our travels through Southeast Utah up to Moab, known for its location next to the famous Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and incredible scenery. Unfortunately, the National Parks are still closed due to COVID-19, and it is actually illegal to camp anywhere in this county at the moment. To avoid breaking the law, we drove out of the county each night to camp.

 

Bettina Sitting on Cliff at Needles Overlook Utah

 

Fortunately, we were able to look out at Canyonlands National Park in the distance, and we found a few other arches nearby. Stay tuned and on the look-out for the next monthly update to see some of our favorite spots around Moab!

 

The Stats – Month Two

 

We created a map and compiled stats so that you can follow along our trip easier and which you can use to plan your own adventure!

 

 

Miles driven: 1,188

Nights in Swifty: 28

US States crossed: Utah, Arizona (but we did cross this border 8 times)

Number of Slot Canyons of Utah Hiked: 6

Sugar Cookies Consumed: 12

Number of Nights the Police Woke Us Up and Told Us to Move: 1

Number of Nights We Had to Use the Furnace: 6

Days of Sunshine: 25

Favorite Meal: Burgers at In-N-Out in St. George, Utah

Favorite Campsite: Valley of the Gods, Utah

 

In Summary

 

We are now getting settled in to life on the road, but yearning to experience the full freedom of vanlife. As the COVID-19 closures are gradually re-opened, we have been able to see a few more new sights while still primarily living off the grid and self-isolating. The weather has been spectacularly warm for what we are typically used to for April, which has definitely kept our spirits high. And hiking some of the best slot canyons of Utah was a great highlight!

We are looking forward to the next month on the road as news of Utah’s National Parks gradually reopening are being announced, giving us a hint as to what is to come.

 

Tacoma and Swift Camper At Utah Sign at Monument Valley Utah

 

 

The Night the Police Woke Us Up

 

Oh, and if you are wondering about the stat of the number of nights the police woke us up and told us to move: here it is. We were camping in a park near a city. The spot was well known online and there were many reviews of people camping here, as recently as one week prior, without any issues. There were no “No Camping” signs in the area, and we didn’t think twice about camping there as we set up and went to bed. However, at 12:30AM there was a loud knock on the door and a man yelling “Police.”

 

Campsite at Valley of the Gods Utah

 

We were jolted awake, jumped out of bed immediately, and had flashlights shone in our faces. The policeman was very nice and apologized for waking us up. He told us it was a city park and that we couldn’t camp there, but there was public land a few miles down the road where we could go. So we packed up Swifty and made our way over to another campsite with our hearts still racing. It was fair to say that Bettina almost had a heart attack because of the entire situation. Overall, it was not a big deal, but definitely a night to remember!

 

Save this pin in our road trip Pinterest board for when your next road trip across the US!

 

VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!

 

VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!

 

VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!
VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!
VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!
VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!
VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!

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10 Best Southwest USA Road Trip Ideas – For When We Can Travel Again

Road trips are by far my favorite way to explore the USA. There is so much vast and remote beauty which is impossible to fully explore without really getting into nature. Given the sheer size of the country, this often involves driving for a few hours. For me the drive is just as much the fun as the destination! With endless roads disappearing over the horizon, roadside diners and classic motels, a road trip will transport you to all these places and more.

 

best Southwest USA road trip destinations

 

One of the most iconic road trip destinations is the Southwest of the US. You can find some of the most beautiful scenery and Instagram-worthy views here. If you’re ready to get out there on your great American road trip, here are our favorite Southwest USA road trip destinations from Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. For each location, we’re sharing the best time to visit, our tips for visiting the location, and the most useful resources.

 

Girl leaning agains canyon walls in Utah

 

Note: At the time of publishing this article, national parks in these states are closed and many of these destinations are not accessible. Make sure you save this post for when it is safe to travel again!

 

Why You Need to Visit the Southwest USA

 

The Southwest has all these natural wonders you usually only see in high gloss travel magazines. Think Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, Route 66, and more! You probably already know all of these from popular movies and TV shows but there is nothing better than experiencing these destinations first-hand doing a Southwest USA road trip!

 

Girl walking on rock formation at White Pocket Arizona

 

One note when driving through the Southwest, a lot of these places are very remote and require a fair amount of driving. You will get to see some incredible and untouched parts of nature but on the flipside, gas stations, restaurants, and hotels, are less frequent. It helps to bring a road trip planner with you so you are always prepared.

Make sure you fill up on gas before leaving a town if you don’t know where the next gas station will be. And the worst thing to happen on an iconic American road trip is to run out of gas!

 

Best Time to do your Southwest USA Road Trip

 

You will generally find the best weather in the Southwest between December and April. This area of the USA can get incredibly hot and dry and hiking to some of these places will become extremely strenuous in the heat.

Since some of the places in Utah are at relatively high elevation and could be covered in snow, I would recommend planning your Southwest USA road trip for March or April. During this time, temperatures are going to be around a comfortable 65 F (18 C) in the northern areas and 75 F (24 C) in the south.

 

Girl with sand running through hands at White Sands National Park

 

As most of the US Southwest road trip destinations are in the desert, it may get very hot during the day, but cool down substantially during the night. Make sure you bring a warm sweater or hoodie and a scarf for when the temperatures drop at night.

 

Map for an Iconic Southwest USA Road Trip

 

There are so many different attractions throughout Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico that it is hard to decide where to go. The below map shows all of our favorite attractions and the order in which we recommend seeing them in on your Southwest USA road trip. You can use this map to plan out and to figure out the best order these road trip destinations fit with your travel plans.

 

Utah Road Trip Destinations

 

Utah is one of those states that I had incredible expectations for, and you may too. It was the last state I visited out of all 50, and easily became one of my top favorites. You can read about our story on how we crossed into Utah and saw our last state here. These Utah destinations will make your Southwest USA road trip unforgettable.

 

Reflections at Bonneville Salt Flats

 

The Bonneville Salt Flats are exactly what the name suggests; an area with densely packed salt. They are located on Interstate 80 just outside of Salt Lake City, close to the Nevada border, and the perfect start for any Utah road trip.

Given the huge flat area, the salt flats make the perfect background to take photos and be creative. Get out there and have fun! Think about working with different perspectives, play with the reflection off the water, and just enjoy the view.

 

 

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Tips:

  • Given that the ground is covered in salt, don’t wear your favorite leather shoes or anything else that could be easily damaged by the salt. Salt can be extremely difficult to remove from clothing and fabrics afterwards. I recommend wearing rubber shoes or boots.
  • Keep in mind that the salt flats are covered in water which is also extremely salty, but more importantly there may be no dry place to set down a bag or anything you bring with you.
  • Temperatures on the salt flats vary greatly. In Summer, they often reach over 100 F (38 C) degrees and can drop below freezing in winter. Make sure you wear protective clothing and sun screen.

Hours: Open 24 hours a day. The Bonneville Salt Flats are managed by the Bureau of Land Management and open to the public most of the time. During events and/or filming projects, there might be restrictions. You can check out the event calendar here.

Facilities: There are no washrooms at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Cost: Visiting the salt flats is free!

Location: Bonneville Salt Flats

 

Explore Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Canyon

 

Have you ever heard of two slot canyons called Peek-A-Boo and Spooky? Me neither until I went there. These canyons completely live up to their names, are a lot of fun to explore, and definitely worth adding to your Southwest USA road trip. The canyons are closest to Escalante, Utah and are a 3-hour hike round-trip from the parking lot. The hike starts off on a flat sandy trail and continues to a climb down into the dry canyon area. The steep climb down is over smooth slick rock.

 

View at the Trailhead of Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Canyon

 

The best way to hike these two slot canyons is in a one-way loop, starting with Peek-A-Boo, traveling cross-country to reach Spooky, and then exiting Spooky in the original canyon area near the Peek-A-Boo entrance.

 

Peek-A-Boo Canyon Loops Utah

 

Once you reach Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon, you need to climb up about a 12-foot (3.7 meters) rock face to enter the canyon. I am 5’5” (1.7 meters) and managed to get up there on the first try. Once you start walking through, you quickly understand where the name Peek-A-Boo comes from.

The canyon has some fun rock loops you can climb through and each corner is hidden – providing the best peek-a-boo game! As the slot canyon is not overly deep, you can also play peek-a-boo with people in the canyon, while walking along up top.

 

Girl in Peek-A-Boo Canyon Utah

 

Man Standing at Tight Opening at Peek-A-Boo Canyon Utah

 

When you reach the end of Peek-A-Boo, there is an easy to follow trail that travels cross-country to the entrance of Spooky Slot Canyon. The canyon very much lives up to its name. It is incredibly narrow! In some places, we could only pass by taking off our backpacks, and shuffling sideways.

Spooky also has one technical section halfway through where you need to climb overtop some car-sized boulders, and then crawl back underneath them to continue through the slot canyon. These canyons will definitely make your Utah road trip more interesting!

 

Girl Leaning Against the Peek-A-Boo Canyon Utah

 

Tips:

  • Please don’t visit these canyons if you’re claustrophobic! Both canyons have some very narrow spots and are dark at times.
  • Bring enough water but carry a small backpack. A large backpack is much harder to squeeze through the tight corners of Spooky Slot Canyon.
  • There is weak to no cell reception on the hike with T-Mobile.

Hours: Open 24 hours a day

Cost: Visiting Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Canyon is free.

Facilities: There are two outhouses at the trailhead.

Location: Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyon. The slot canyons are located along Hole-In-The-Rock Road, and require driving about one hour on dusty gravel roads - the perfect adventure on your Southwest USA road trip. The roads are fine for a car when dry, but do not attempt to drive when the ground is wet as it instantly turns to slick mud.

 

Stunning Grosvenor Arch

 

If you love arches but don’t feel like battling the crowds at Arches National Park, Grosvenor Arch is your destination. It is a unique double arch about 150 feet (46 meters) tall and is located within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The double arch is an easy 5-minute walk from the parking lot and is extremely impressive to look at! You can’t climb around or on top of the arch but the view you get from the bottom is definitely worth it!

 

Girl Standing in Front Of Grosvenor Arch

 

Tips:

  • Grosvenor Arch is easily reachable by car but you will mostly drive on a gravel road. Make sure you fuel up before hitting the road as there are no gas stations anywhere close.
  • There is weak to no cell reception at Grosvenor Arch with T-Mobile.

Hours: Open 24 hours a day

Cost: Visiting Grosvenor Arch is free.

Facilities: There are two outhouses at the trailhead.

Location: Grosvenor Arch

 

Running Around at Devil’s Garden Escalante

 

Devil’s Garden Escalante is very much like a playground for grownups and offers so many photo opportunities. It is a perfect addition to your Southwest USA road trip. It is located in the Staircase-Escalante National Monument and known for its countless hoodoos and two small arches. Its location provides for some amazing views and given that it’s possible to climb onto the base of the hoodoos, you can let your creativity run wild.

 

Girl Sitting in front of Hoodoo at Devil's Gargen Utah

 

Girl sitting between two Hoodoos at Devils Garden Utah

 

Tips:

  • Devil’s Garden is easily reachable when driving down the Hole in the Rock road. Make sure you fuel up before your trip and bring enough water and food for the day.
  • Cell reception at Devil’s Garden is spotty with T-Mobile. I had the best reception at higher points.

Hours: Open 24 hours a day

Cost: Visiting Devil’s Garden Escalante is free.

Facilities: There are two outhouses at the trailhead.

Location: Devil’s Garden This is located on the same road as Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons and is great to combine into the same day.

Arizona Road Trip Destinations

 

Similar to Utah, Arizona is home to some incredible natural wonders and trying to figure out where to go can be a daunting task. These are our favorite Arizona road trip destinations, some of which you may never have heard of and which you cannot miss out on your Southwest USA road trip!

 

Girl Sitting on Rock Formation Wave at White Pocket Arizona

 

Off the Beaten Path in White Pocket, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

 

White Pocket is an area within the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. It has some of the most amazing rock formations. Think orange lined rocks like the Wave, white pillow-like rock surfaces and sliver thin rock layers. You are free to walk around and explore as much as you like.

The area is a 10-minute walk on a sand trail from the parking lot. It is one of the best kept secrets but a great addition to your Southwest USA road trip.

 

Girl Standing on Rock Formation Wave in White Pocket Arizona

 

View From White Pocket Arizona

 

Getting to White Pocket is a bit more difficult.. It is a 3-4 hour drive from Kanab, UT or Page, AZ. The first hour of the drive is on a paved highway, followed by a maintained gravel road. The last 5 miles are in deeply rutted sand. A high clearance vehicle with four-wheel drive is highly recommended. That being said, most rugged SUVs and pick-up trucks with four-wheel drive should be able to make it without issue.

 

Rock Formations at White Pocket Arizona

 

Girl Jumping at White Pocket Arizona

 

Tips:

  • There are no facilities at White Pocket. It’s very remote so be sure to bring enough water, food, and sun protection.
  • Don’t leave anything behind, not even personal waste. We recommend bringing bags designed to hold human waste.
  • I had surprisingly good cell reception at White Pocket. I had 2 bars LTE with T-Mobile.

Hours: Open 24 hours a day

Cost: Visiting White Pocket is free.

Facilities: There are no facilities at White Pocket.

Location: White Pocket Vermillion Cliffs

 

Catching the Light at Antelope Canyon

 

There is nothing quite as magical as catching the sunrays as they shine through a slot canyon! Antelope Canyon is one of the most famous slot canyons in Arizona and a must see on your Southwest USA road trip. It is completely worth a visit. You will need to book a tour to access the canyon and I recommend booking far in advance as the slot canyon is incredibly busy, especially in Summer.

 

Sunrays in Slot Canyon at Lower Antelope Canyon

 

You may not know this but there is an Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Lower Antelope Canyon is slightly less busy and tours are cheaper. We visited Lower Antelope Canyon and loved the tour and the canyon itself.

 

View at Lower Antelope Canyon

 

Tips:

  • The tour moves quite fast and taking a lot of pictures can be difficult. If you’re planning to take photos, consider booking a tour first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • The light in the canyon is best around midday, which is also the busiest time to visit.
  • The descent into the canyon is a very steep staircase. Make sure you wear good shoes.
  • It was incredibly windy when we were there and we found orange sand in our pockets days after we walked through the canyon. Expect to have sand blown everywhere.

Hours: You cannot access Antelope Canyon without a tour. Tour hours are 7:30am – 5:45pm.

Cost: Costs for a tour at lower Antelope Canyon starts at $40 for a 1-1.5 hours tour plus $8 Navajo Parks fee. Cost for a tour at upper Antelope Canyon starts at $54 for 1.5 hour tour plus $8 Navajo Parks fee. If you decide to take a tour of both Upper and Lower, you only pay the Navajo Parks fee once!

Facilities: There is a visitor center at the Antelope Canyon with washrooms.

Location: Antelope Canyon

 

Enjoying the View at Horseshoe Bend

 

Horseshoe Bend is one of the most iconic places to visit in Arizona and on your Southwest USA road trip and definitely worth a stop! We visited the Horseshoe Bend in 2017 and also just recently in March 2020. The river formation is just as stunning the second time we saw it as the first time. The area around it has completely changed though.

You can easily drive up to the parking lot and walk 5-10 minutes on a gravel trail to get to the bend. There are two covered areas where you can get some shade along the trail as it gets extremely hot here in Summer.

 

Guy Sitting on Rock at Horseshoe Bend Arizona

 

Once you get to the very tip of the cliff, there are some areas which are fenced off for safety reasons. However, you are still free to roam around in other areas and the iconic “rock” is not fenced in and you can get one of the most Instagram-worthy photos from here.

 

Girl Sitting and Overlooking Horseshoe Bend Arizona

 

Tips:

  • Take a lot of water! Yes, the hike is short – only 5-10 minutes. However, it gets extremely hot and there is not a lot of shade. We visited in March and didn’t think we would need the extra water but we wish we had brought some.
  • Apply plenty of sunscreen! Even if you’re not planning to stay very long, the sun reflects of the rock surfaces and is very intense.
  • Horseshoe Bend is extremely popular and gets super busy. Consider visiting early in the morning or late in the evening for some amazing sunset photos.

Hours: Open daily from Dawn to Dusk according to the City of Page.

Cost: Entrance fee to Horseshoe Bend is $10 per car. You pay upon entering the parking lot.

Facilities: There are washrooms available at the parking lot.

Location: Horseshoe Bend

 

Grand Canyon Road Trip

 

Any Southwest USA road trip would not be complete without a stop at the Grand Canyon! I’m sure you have seen countless photos of the Grand Canyon and might be wondering if it’s worth going there given that you have already seen it in photos. It is absolutely worth it! Standing on the edge of the canyon and overlooking the entire area is an incredible feeling and very much worth a trip.

 

Sunset at Grand Canyon South Rim Arizona

 

The Grand Canyon has a North and a South Rim. The South Rim includes all of the popular viewpoints and it is what people usually think of when you mention Grand Canyon. It is much easier to get to and unlike the North Rim, it is open all year round.

Getting to the North Rim is for those who like to take the road less traveled. It is generally closed in Winter and lodging is only open from May to October due to the snow. Make sure you make a reservation at the North Rim lodge or campground if you’re planning to visit the North Rim, as lodging options are very limited.

 

View of Grand Canyon South Rim Arizona

 

A Grand Canyon road trip can be as long or short as you like. The South Rim is a 4.5-hour drive from Las Vegas and you can easily see some of it in a day. If you’re short on time and only have one day to spend here, I recommend visiting the South Rim as it is much easier to access. Start your day at Mather Point which is a great place to view the sunrise or sunset.

Continue to Yavapai Point which is very close and make your way West. You can easily drive to all the viewpoints and if you have time, doing the South Rim Trail is an easy way to take in all the epic views. The hike is relatively easy with minimal elevation gain.

 

Golden Light at Sunset at Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona

 

Other viewpoints which are easy to get to by car and have an amazing view are Maricopa Point, Powell Point, Hopi Point, and Mohave Point where you can see the Colorado River. If you’re looking for wide views of the canyon, Lipan Point is another great viewpoint.

 

Sun Setting over the Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona

 

If you have more than one day here and are planning a longer Southwest USA road trip, I highly recommend waking up early and enjoying a sunrise over the canyon and seeing the sun set behind this majestic landscape. It truly is an experience like no other.

Tips:

  • There is a lot to see at the Grand Canyon, make sure you plan out your time here and know what you want to see.
  • The South Rim viewpoints can get very busy. Being here early in the morning and later in the evening helps avoid the crowds.
  • If you want to make the most out of your Grand Canyon road trip, bring water and food with you so that you don’t have to stop in the village but can chase the amazing views instead.

Hours: The South Rim is open 24 hours daily. The North Rim is closed to all vehicles from December 1 to May 15.

Cost: Entrance to Grand Canyon National Park is $35 per vehicle. Your pass will be valid for 7 days and includes both the North and South Rim.

Facilities: The South Rim has multiple visitor centers and is fully outfitted with facilities, restaurants, and lodging. The North Rim has one visitor center which is open from May 15 to October 15 and limited lodging.

Location: Grand Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon North Rim

 

Nevada and New Mexico Road Trip Destinations

 

You may not think of Nevada and New Mexico when planning your iconic American road trip. Trust me when I say that both states have some beautiful road trip destinations you absolutely need to add to your Southwest USA road trip!

 

Loneliest Road in America in Nevada

 

The Loneliest Road in America, also known as U.S. Route 50, goes straight across Nevada. It very much deserves the name of being the loneliest road as there is little to no civilization along the way, other than the odd ghost town. This is exactly why it’s the perfect Southwest USA road trip destination!

Fueled up and with plenty of water and food, you can hit the road and explore the vast countryside of Nevada which ranges from salty flat areas to mountains, and grass lands full of hidden hot springs. The road itself goes straight for a large portion and offers incredible photo opportunities, sharing the vastness of the state.

 

Sand Mountain on the Loneliest Road in America in Nevada

 

Stopping in a ghost town is a must if you like the idea of traveling back in time and seeing America as it used to be. I can particularly recommend Austin, Nevada which is full of old-school houses, store fronts, and signs.

 

Girl Walking along Ghost Town Store Front in Austin Nevada along Loneliest Road

 

Other fun activities along the way include enjoying a sunset on Sand Mountain, horseback riding through the wide grass lands, and searching for hot springs. Because of its remote location, the Loneliest Road in America offers the perfect opportunity for some stargazing.

 

Girl Sitting in Heart-Shaped Bartine Hot Springs in Nevada

 

Tips:

  • The Loneliest Road in America used to be only travelable by people with survival skills. While it’s definitely easier to drive these days, make sure you fuel up before you leave and get gas every opportunity you get. Gas stations are few and far in-between.
  • Make sure you bring plenty of water and food with you.
  • Nevada has an incredible amount of hot springs and no road trip across the Loneliest Road would be complete without taking a dip. Make sure to stop at the popular Spencer Hot Springs or smaller heart-shaped Bartine Hot Springs.
  • There is surprisingly good cell reception along the Loneliest Road in America. I had 2 bars LTE with T-Mobile.

Hours: Open 24 hours a day

Cost: Driving the Loneliest Road in America is free.

Facilities: There are only few facilities along the Loneliest Road in America, whenever you hit a ghost town.

Location: Loneliest Road in America

 

White Sands Monument in New Mexico

 

White Sands National Park is everything you think of when you hear the name. It’s in the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico and is covered in rare white sand. While you may have never heard of it, White Sands is extremely beautiful and definitely worth adding to your Southwest USA road trip.

The white gypsum sand is like nothing I have ever seen before. As you enter the park, you will notice how incredibly quiet it is. There is no sound other than the wind forming new sand dunes.

 

Girl in Dress at White Sands National Monument

 

Girl with Sand running through hands at White Sands National Park New Mexico

 

You can easily access the dunes on the Dunes Drive which is a looped road from the visitor center to the dune field. We were able to park almost anywhere we wanted and just get out of the car to explore the area. If you would like to spend more time in Mexico, you could visit the White Sand National Park in the morning and head to Albuquerque for a weekend.

 

Couple Kissing in White Sands National Park

 

Tips:

  • The White Sands National Park is a desert and as such extremely dry and hot. Make sure you bring plenty of water.
  • You can easily get lost wandering around the dunes as there is not a lot a variety in landscape. Make sure you don’t visit alone and follow trail posts.
  • The sun reflection off the white sand is very intense. Make sure you use sunscreen with high SPF and wear protective clothing. Visiting in the early morning is best to avoid the afternoon heat.
  • There is poor to no cell reception at White Sands National Park.

 

Hours: The White Sands National Park opens at 7am daily. Closing hours vary depending on the time of the year and are generally between 6pm -7pm in winter and 8pm-9m in summer. Make sure you check the current operation hours on the official website as there might be closures for missile testing.

Cost: Entrance fee to the park is $25 per vehicle and $15 per person if there is only one person in the vehicle.

Facilities: There is a visitor center at the entrance of the park with full washrooms.

Location: White Sands National Park

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for Your Southwest USA Road Trip

 

1) Prepare for the Heat

The weather in the Southwest US is very dry and hot. Especially during the Summer months, temperatures often rise over 100 F (38 C) and spending time outside can be unbearable. Make sure you are prepared for the heat  during your Southwest USA road trip. Make sure your car has air conditioning and if you plan to visit in Summer, plan accommodation with air conditioning as well. I would recommend doing your Southwest USA road trip in March or April when temperatures are more pleasant.

 

2) Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is key during the heat for safety but also to stay energized. Many of these incredible destinations are very dry and windy and you will end up needing more water than you expect. Make sure you bring plenty of fluids. I add Hydralyte to my water for extra hydration on all of my hikes to make sure I don’t get de-hydrated.

 

3) Bring Good Hiking Shoes

A lot of these Utah and Arizona road trip destinations are in rocky and sandy terrain. Make sure you bring good hiking shoes with great grip on the sole to get around easier. I have done some hikes in normal sneakers which slowed me down a bit as I wasn’t able to climb down rocky sections as easily.

 

4) Bring a Good Camera

You will undoubtedly see some incredible landscapes on your Southwest USA road trip. Make sure you bring a good camera and have it fully charged. You will want to look back to this iconic road trip years down the road and will want photos to remember all the incredible places you have seen. On our trip, we took thousands of photos of the amazing rock formations and continue to enjoy looking back on them.

 

5) Plan Around Sunrises and Sunsets

Generally, the best time to explore these places is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Temperatures are not as hot, there will be less people on the road, and the golden hour provides for amazing photos. Make sure you know your sunrise and sunset hours as traveling in the dark can quickly get very dangerous. I would especially recommend to not do any off-road driving or hiking in the dark.

 

Girl in Dress Behind a Plant at White Sands National Park

 

Have you ever taken a Southwest USA road trip? Let us know if we missed any places we should be adding to our list! We love to explore more and hear from you! What have been your favorite road trips to date?

 

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The 10 best Southwest USA road trip destinations you can't miss including Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and more!