Part 1: The Ultimate Roadtripping Guide to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona
The Great Outdoors…
As I was watching Forrest Gump as a small child the scene with the orange desert and pointy rocks stuck out to me. I knew I wanted to visit one day, but it seemed it would stay a dream as I was living in Nashville, a 22-hour drive away. The Great American Roadtrip was always something I wanted to do, but living closer to the East coast I knew it would be expensive and possibly out of the question.
Flash forward to 2019. We had been living in Colorado for about a year when we finally decided to just get out there and explore. We wanted to drive out west with a vague plan and see our country, gosh darn it!
The drive from Denver to Monument Valley is a long 8-hours with plenty of empty desert in between and the occasion tumbleweed, yes they’re a real thing. We arrived in Monument Valley around sunset which put us in the perfect mood to set up camp. We stayed at Goulding’s Resort RV & Campground for, I believe, about $30 a night for a camping spot. The views were great, but we thought the price was too high and we were placed right next to another couple in an empty campground. Rex cooked dinner while I set up camp and we settled into a routine that we would soon adopt for the rest of the week.
The next morning we packed up camp, bought our $20 pass to enter the park and explored Monument Valley. (Sadly, the National Parks pass won’t work here). There are strict rules on what you can and cannot do during your time at Monument Valley because it is sacred Najavo land so hiking was out of the question. We, in turn, decided to drive the 17-mile loop to view all the historic buttes, canyons, and wildlife. There are so many great photo opportunities everywhere you look!
A little after lunchtime and a full morning of jumping out of the car to take a million pictures we drove 4 hours farther down south to Grand Canyon National Park.
There is nothing quite like the drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon let me tell you. What seems to be a large crack in the ground slowly starts growing larger, but then, BAM, it disappears. Until… you enter the park. Whoever says the Grand Canyon is boring is out of their mind, because this was nothing like I had seen before! It was God’s country.
This time we could use our National Parks Pass which was great to have because it gives you so much freedom to come and go as you please, especially if you’re trying to avoid the National Park food prices. The National Parks Pass is $80 for a full year and it paid for itself many times over for us.
I honestly did little research on the Grand Canyon before we got there so we drove around for hours just in awe of the beauty and going with the flow. We climbed up the stairs of the Desert View Watchtower, which I highly recommend visiting, and saw tourists attempting to pet the elk (smh).
As the sun was setting we realized we didn’t have a spot to camp. I had two locations that I researched before, but because it was so late in the day they were completely full. With daylight dwindling I started to get anxious. I am a planner and I like to know where I am sleeping at night. We drove around for two hours without any luck when we decided to chat up a park ranger. He was very informative and helped us find a disperse camping spot because we were relatively new to the whole disperse camping world. We followed his directions and found an amazing spot that was secluded and better than the campgrounds I had planned on staying at earlier.
Fun Fact: You can camp anywhere in a National Forest! These spots are usually found off dirt roads with limited signs and zero bathrooms. Rex and I now only disperse camp because we end up saving a ton of money because it’s free! Another perk is that your only neighbors are usually wildlife. Read more on dispersed camping here .
The next morning we chose to hike the South Kaibab Trail and I highly recommend it, but please make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen because there is no shade whatsoever. The hike is 3.1 miles long with a 1,177 elevation gain and you see that gain the whole time hiking back up so save some energy. What I found interesting is that some people paid for a tour and road horses or hire alpacas to carry their supplies. That’s when it hit me. I was in the Wild West.
This is Part 1 of my Great American Roadtrip. Stay tuned to read Part 2 where I visit Antelope Canyon, find the coolest campsite I’ve ever stayed at, and meet up with my friends!