3 Days in Zion National Park

This has been my FAVORITE National Park so far. There is a lot to see and a lot to do. Here are our suggestions for an amazing 3 days in Zion NP.

FYI Utah Drinking and Eating Fact: In order to drink alcohol at a restaurant, you’ll need to order food. It’s a real law. You’re unfortunately not able to walk into a place and buy a beer or order a glass of wine without ordering some form of food.

Lodging

We stayed in Zion NP at the Watchman Campground. It’s right next to the Visitor Center and is electric hookups for RVs. It was the perfect location for us and our R-Pod 180 HRE named Bandit. Others option include the South Campground which has no hookups but great location near the Virgin River. There is also the town of Springdale right outside the gates where several RV parks and hotels have lodging. There is a Springdale shuttle that goes from various stops in town to Zion NP.

Day 1

Stop at Zion NP Visitor Center and get your naps, advice on trails, shuttle schedules, and hop on the shuttle for a nice ride to get an overview of the park. The Zion Canyon shuttle will take you from the Visitor Center 6.6 miles down Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to the Temple of Sinawava stop and back in about 1.5 hours. On the way you’ll also see the major geographic formations along the Canyon walls: Court of the Patriarchs, the Watchman, Angel’s Landing, and the Great White Throne.

View from the canyon floor

Be sure to stop at the Human History Museum and watch the park orientation video. It’s only 22 minutes and gives you basic information on the park’s natural and human history. While you’re out, get off the shuttle at stop 5 to make reservations for your day 3 trailride on horseback and day 3 dinner at the Zion Lodge.

At the end of your first day you can take a drive down the Zion-Mt Carmel Hwy (Hwy 9) through the tunnel and to the park’s eastern boundary. On this route you can see the Checkerboard Mesa and Canyon Overlook.

A short drive up from Canyon Junction (Shuttle Stop 2) lies Zion Mount Carmel Highway. Proceed up the highway East along the winding roads. Eventually, you’ll hit your first tunnel carved directly through the sandstone. Drivers are required to turn their headlights on as there is no lighting inside the tunnel. It takes about 2 minutes to go through. When you come out, you’ll soon go through one last dark, but much shorter tunnel. At the end you’ll pass a ranger post that doesn’t require a stop.

Now, get ready to experience a true feeling of freedom. This is one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever take. The roads will continue to wind in switchback style through the pink canyons and rock structures. There are plenty of small alcoves where you can park your car on the side of the road to get out and explore by foot (highly recommended!). One highlight includes Checkboard Mesa near the park exit. You’ll understand the name once you see it.

Day 2

Zion Canyon is starting point for Zion’s most popular hikes, including the easy Riverside Walk and Weeping Rock trails, and the more demanding Watchman, Angel’s Landing, and The Narrows Trail. The box below gives a few tips on the Angel’s Landing hike.

Angel’s Landing is rated one of the 10 most dangerous hikes in the world. That’s because after a strenuous 2 mile uphill climb (though mostly paved), you now have less than a half a mile to the “summit”. It’s not until this point that the hike begins to get difficult. If you made it this far, you’re sitting on a sandy plateau catching your breath and drinking some water.

But you’re not done. Now, you get to traverse sandstone rock structures that will make your hair stand on end. And they should. For the next half mile, your conditioning, foot placement and hand placement may determine whether or not your survive the next hour of your life. You’re going to have to leave behind the well manicured, paved trail and trade it for sheer cliff.

Luckily, much of the remaining trail now has well-positioned chains that allow for an easier climb through the difficult and dangerous junctures. A signifiant number of people were dying on a yearly basis until these were put in place. Now that the chains are there, it’s been over 5 years since there’s been a death. Note, however, that you are NOT tethered, so your safety really relies on how much you “grab, grab, grab.” Try not to look down, and take it one step at a time.

After conquering Angel’s Landing (the peak in the background)

I would suggest alternating a strenuous or moderate hike in the morning (6-8am) with a few easy hikes after lunch. You can ride your bike to the trailhead at at daybreak and be done before the heat of the day sets in. There is a quick grill and a sit-down restaurant that are both open for lunch at the Zion Lodge which is shuttle stop 5. On especially hot days be sure to include a hike that takes you along the Virgin River for a quick dip. It’s recommended that in the semi-arid climate you drink a gallon of water daily.

The Virgin River

At the end of this day I suggest you take a trip into Springdale for dinner at one of their several restaurant choices. My favorites are Switchback Grill and the Thai Palace.

Day 3

For this final day I would fill in with the hikes you didn’t accomplish on day 2. Plan any strenuous ones for the early morning. Stop with a packed lunch along the Virgin River in a shady spot. Finish out your day getting the last photos of the amazing scenery and take a trail ride on horseback from the Zion Lodge (shuttle stop 5). Reserve a dinner table at the Zion Lodge and watch the sunset as you enjoy the views of ancient cottonwood trees and striated Canyon walls.

View from Zion Lodge’s restuarant

What To Pack For Hiking

Spring:

  • Insulated, light jacket or fleece for the mornings and evenings
  • Gloves
  • Warm hat
  • T shirts
  • • Pair of shorts
  • • Pairs of pants
  • • Long sleeve shirts (to layer if needed)
  • • Bathing suit
  • • Hiking Boots
  • • Sneakers
  • •Water shoes / sandals
  • • Neoprene socks
  • • Dry pants
  • • Walking stick
  • • Dry bag
  • •Camelbak or Water Bottle

Summer:

  • Windbreaker
  • T shirts
  • Shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking sandals
  • Pair of light pants
  • Walking stick
  • Dry bag
  • Camelbak or Water Bottle

Fall:

  • Fleece or insulated wind breaker
  • T shirts
  • Shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking sandals
  • Pairs of pants
  • Walking stick
  • Dry bag
  • Camelbak or Water Bottle

I’ll definitely be back to Zion NP soon!

SOURCES

Zion National Park Brochures and website

WineTraveler Blog at https://www.winetraveler.com/travel-resources/4-day-zion-national-park-itinerary-utah/

Navajo National Monument

After driving through Four Corners we headed for the Navajo National Monument. We had heard there were free campgrounds there so that was our initial reason for stopping. It was the halfway point between Pagosa Springs, CO and Zion National Park. I’m so glad we stopped there because it was such a great experience that we would have missed.

The free campgrounds are Canyon View Campground and Sunset View Campground. There are no RV hookups at these sites. Sunset View has spaces for small RVs, but no RVs longer than 28′ are allowed because there is limited turnaround space. Our truck and r-pod fit in the pull through space perfectly.

Road view of our campsite

The views at this campground are lovely. The campground also has flush toilets, a potable water station, and picnic tables/grills at each campsite. It was well maintained and very clean. It was also super peaceful and serenely quiet.

Canyon side view of our campsite, with wild Chianti growing out of the rocks

We walked to the visitor center to view the videos on the Anasazi and Dineh (Navajo) people. There are 3 videos that cycle through and take about 45 minutes. We did a little shopping, too, picking up a hat with 50 SPF shade for hiking and a few medicinal balms.

The medicinal balms are made by Navajo healers and contain natural botanical ingredients from the flora of the area to treat things like insect bites, sore muscles, sunburn, eczema, dry lips, and dry skin. I bought several and can’t wait to try them all. They are the “Medicine of the People” brand.

On the way to Aspen Trail

Next we walked the trails. There are three short trails that originate at the visitor center and take you to different views of the canyon and of the 13th-century Betatakin alcove dwellings of the Anasazi. There are two longer hikes that are lead by a ranger. The first is a 5-mile hike to the Betatakin dwellings that takes 3-4 hours. The second is a 17-mile hike to the Keet Seel archaeological site that can be an overnight trek.

Perhaps in the future when I’m in better shape I can take the longer hikes. We definitely plan to return to the Navajo National Monument when RVing through this area.

Taos New Mexico

So, let me begin by saying we arrived in Taos, NM on May 3rd and the overnight low was 31 degrees. Come mentally prepared for this. We were not, as we left New Orleans with balmy 89 degree days.

We stayed for just one night before heading to boondock in Pagosa Springs, Colorado so we wanted hookups to dump and add a little fresh water.

We found Taos Valley RV Park to be clean, comfortable, easy to find, and a great location with lovely views. I highly recommend it for short or long stays in Taos. Just down the block from the RV Park on the main highway there is a restaurant called Guadalajara Grill with yummy tacos. My husband was tickled that he got to eat “Tacos in Taos”.

We hooked up and then took an Uber into the downtown area for dinner at the famous Taos Inn. They have a great bar, a fabulous restaurant, and live music most nights in the lobby. We had the Cowboy Buddha margarita and it was well made with no shortcuts on the ingredients or the tequila.

We slept well as the RV Park was quiet and woke up the next morning to head to Pagosa Springs. We planned four morning stops: Carson National Forest headquarters for a map, Albertsons on the main highway for Starbucks coffee, a boutique called Substance of Taos to sample their Vapour organic beauty products, and the historic Taos Pueblos.

We nixed the Pueblo because it was 40 degrees and we didn’t want to be outside. Our southern skin wasn’t acclimated enough to the cold yet.

We got maps for the trails because next time we come this way we will boondock in Carson NF.

Coffee in hand we found Substance and waited for them to open as 10am. It was SO worth the wait. Monica was very knowledgeable about Vapour organic cosmetics and they had a great sample display so I could test out the colors and shades. I’ve been interested in this cosmetic company because they are organic, mineral based with not a lot of water in the products so bacteria doesn’t grow as fast. They have natural-looking buildable multi-use pigmented products that I think would be great for a travel beauty routine. I was not wrong! Monica walked me though their primers, their “multi-use stick” colors, their foundations (which I ended up buying even though I usually don’t wear makeup), and their lip glosses.

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I bought a multi-use stick in the color called “Lure”, a velvet lip gloss, and a soft-focus foundation. Monica threw in a few freebie samples for me to try on our trip.

The boutique was amazing in other ways, too. They sold other bath soak salts, soaps, lotions, jewelry, clothing, and hair salon services. If you visit Taos do stop in. You won’t regret it. It’s on the corner of La Placita and Rancheritos.

Leaving Taos and heading north on US 64 you cross the Rio Grande River Gorge and Rest Area. Make plans to stop.

 

 

The gorge views are SPECTACULAR.

 

After the rest area there is the world headquarters of Earthship Biotecture and you can tour their off-grid sustainable homes.

Avenue of the Saints

Avenue of the Saints is a highway system that goes from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Saint Louis, Missouri.
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When we left the Chippewa National Forest from Walker, Minnesota we headed towards Waterloo, Iowa. We didn’t know if we would make it in one day of driving but in our haste to get back home to Louisiana so our dog could get treated for the ACL tear he suffered while in Sleeping Buffalo, Montana we had to try.
Heading to Waterloo our trip meter read 7289 miles (on 7/21/17). So 7,000 miles in less than 3 months for the #transamericanroadtrip !!
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The Mississippi “Great River Road National Route” is what we drove for a bit of the way after Saint Louis. The “Great River Road” is a well-marked series of different roads and highways that roughly follow the winding course of the Mississippi River. All along the Great River Road, travelers will find white signs displaying the green pilot’s wheel logo. The familiar pilot’s wheel symbol denotes which roads are part of the designated route. The route has been selected for its natural, cultural, historical, recreational and scenic properties.
Illinois River Road was marked from about from Quincy, Illinois to Hannibal, MO. We could see corn and bean crops everywhere along the routes in Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. On July 22 we hit 7550 miles!
From Hannibal, MO to St. Louis, MO on Hwy 61 there is a Mark Twain Cave and Campground. We will likely visit there next time we drive that route.
We stopped at Cozy C Campground in Bowling Green MO. It was good for overnight. Clean restrooms/ showers, plus ice cream in the office.
We had to make a pit stop in Ste Genevieve, MO to visit The Cave Winery and it was worth it. They have seating for 100 down below the main buidling in a cool cave.
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Anacortes, Washington & San Juan Islands

My BFF since first grade now lives in Anacortes, WA. I miss her terribly and hope one day she gets sick of the PNW and moves back to south Louisiana. Well, at least I thought that before I got to know where she lives now. She has invited us to visit several times but we hadn’t made the trip.

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So, after a year or two of invites we have finally made the trip and boy should I have gone sooner! First off, it’s GORGEOUS there.

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We stayed in the uplands and had Norweigan Fjord Horses for neighbors. I found the whole town (of just 16,000 people) to be cute, quaint, and full of little gems that I found during my stay. Compass Wines become my new favorite wine shop as the owner loves Lambrusco… and I love anyone who also loves my favorite wine.

 

I even got to try Ferry Witnessing for the first time. The Friday Harbor Ferry has pretty views, including some of Mount Baker.

 

 

Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink… but the mountains that pop up out of the water and make up these islands offer much to do in the way of hiking and biking so we took advantage of that while there. Use the Washington Trails Association website to find trails near you (wta.org)

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Cap Sante Park is just up from the town marina and has lovely views.

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Sharpe Park has several trail loops to take you to an amazing view of the San Juan Islands. I will caution you to choose wisely as some of the trails are steep.

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Deception Pass State Park is breathtaking. We will be sure to camp there on our next trip.

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Mount Erie is part of Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL) and offers several great trails with outstanding views.

 

Mount Erie ACFL (from wta.org)

 

Fragrance Lake Trail was a bear! It’s so steep, so skip the Fragrance Lake Trailhead and go the easy route from a trailhead on Cleator Road or one on Fragrance Lake Road that is a mile from the lake… use the WTA website for directions and reviews. The lake is worth the hike either way, though 🙂

 

Lady of the Sea statue is a must see. It’s a quick drive to the marina for this one.

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Rooftop dining at the Majestic Inn & Spa.

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We visited the mainland towns of Mukilteo, Bow, and Edison (make sure to get coffee at Tweet’s in Edison!).

 

Titan had a good time, too.

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We took the Port Townsend ferry to Port Angeles and drove over to the Olympic National Park visitor center. There is nothing about the Olympic Peninsula that I don’t like 🙂

 

This picture sums up Anacortes. It’s a shabby chic, rustic place just bursting with evergreens and wildflowers in July. I will definitely be back.

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R-Pod 180 HRE Named “Bandit”

I want to introduce you to Bandit, our R-Pod. We bought her in Arizona right after our trip to the Grand Canyon. She is a 180 Hood River Edition (HRE) model, 180 meaning she has a kitchen slide and a dry bath up front with lots of storage for a ultra-light micro travel trailer. HRE means she was made in Oregon, has more ground clearance (via axle risers) for off-road travel, 15″ all-terrain tires/wheels, two steps, and diamond plating on the front.

In this post I’ll list out our decor changes, mods, and RV accessories that we have found to be of great use on this road trip (6,000 miles and counting!).

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Smokey (our 1999 Ford Expedition) and Bandit (our R-Pod)

 

She has a grey/blue exterior with seaglass (read: brown, grey, and slate blue) interior.

 

I (CityGirl or CG for short) decided to decorate the inside with a coral and aqua palette with some shades of grey and blue.

Coral and Aqua

 

We also decided to add some more storage using our favorite stores; Amazon and IKEA. First we added the GRUNDTAL series kitchen rails, s-hooks, and a magnetic rack. Next, we installed a BEVKÄM wooden spice rack using 1/2″ screws (r-pod walls are 1 5/16″ thick and the door is 1 1/2″ thick) that we bought from Lowe’s. We also hung a key rack (Command Quartz Key Rail) that you can get at Target, but we found it at Camping World. We ordered hanging baskets for inside the bathroom door and inside the kitchen cabinet door from Amazon. We put suction cup accessories from the STUGVIK series on our bathroom mirror. We also installed the famous “over the bed” shelf using just a simple board from Lowe’s that we will paint when we return home (we are on a 3-month road trip as we are modding the pod). Lastly, we ordered a hanging storage system in grey to go over the outside of the bathroom door.

The result: we increased our storage and made it more efficient for our needs.

 

Some things I don’t know about yet are: tablecloths that actually fit the table and stay on, a comforter or quilt that doesn’t remain too bulky for the size of the bed, and more coral accents like this tea towel set from Cynthia Rowley.

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Additionally, my sweet Country Boy (CB for short) used the time we spent at a friend’s home in Olympia, Washington to install:

  • dual propane tanks,
  • a dual battery system with boxes,
  • a tongue mounted dual bike rack,
  • an under-trailer tire rack for Bandit,
  • and a Zamp 200-watt solar panel system.

While in Oregon we stopped in Lincoln City and purchased a Honda generator and companion so we could start the a/c if necessary while not on shore power and also jump off our tow vehicle if we got stuck out in the mountains with a dead battery. Couple that with lots of sun out west and we can boondock for 4 days at a time (or more if we conserve food and water).

 

When we set up, we use a few extras for protection of our r-pod travel trailer and for our peace of mind at campgrounds:

Whew! I think that is all for this post. We will cover reviews of these components in a later post.

 

California RV Park Reviews

Needles, CA

Desert View RV Park was very nice for an overnight stay. Easy check in, clean, organized, quiet, with privacy shade shrubs on both sides of every pull though. Has a suitable dog run. Offers Wi-Fi, electric, water, and sewer. Pool at the small, dated clubhouse. Only $35. Desert view TV.com

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Our spot at Desert View RV Park in Needles, CA

Bakersfield, CA

River Run RV Park was super easy to find, and had a very nice aesthetic. It has a beautiful modern clubhouse, pool, and hot tub. They give you the gate access code to walk along the river on the sandy bank. Trees and grassy spots at each lot. Nice paved streets to walk your dog on. We paid $45 for a pull through.

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Our spot at River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, CA

San Rafael, CA

We stayed with friends there and had a glorious time in the hills. We visited Farifax, Inverness, Olema, Novato, San Anselmo, and Petaluma.

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Visiting the Fairfax Kingdom Hall

Highway 101, NorCal

We stayed at wineries! I found a site called Harvest Hosts where you pay just a $44 annual fee to stay overnight at over 500 scenic wineries and farms. You must arrive early, before dark, to meet your contact and find out where to park. That day or the next day you can tour the farm/winery, pick your own fruits/veggies, or do a wine tasting. Visit harvesthosts.com to sign up. If you sign up please let them know that countryboycitygirl username “CBCGblog” referred you 🙂

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Crescent City, CA

Here we stayed at a campground in the Redwoods State and National Park. No hook-ups, but lovely. The drive up CA 101 and CA 128 was also spectacular. The park, established in 1929, is 6400 acres with approximately 50% old growth coast redwood and 8 miles of wild coastline. The park is a World Heritage Site & Biosphere Preserve.

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Now… off to Oregon!