An RV National Park Road Trip to Highest U.S. Concentration of Natural Wonders #ABDRVing

My wife’s RV cross-country trek as a child was a formative experience, and we’ve dreamt of a similar trip with our own kids.  We love the National Parks, took our honeymoon in Yosemite, and went to Yellowstone to celebrate completing my PhD.  Finally, after years of trying – including our teens exclaiming, “National Parks are Boring!” – plans are in place for our own RV National Park road trip to the highest concentration of natural wonders in our country.  Continue reading to find out where we’re heading on our RV National Park road trip, and follow along for “live” updates from the road via #ABDRVing (as long as we have internet, and I wouldn’t mind it if we didn’t).

Apollo US Wanderer

Winnebago Wanderer RV, image courtesy Apollo Motorhomes USA

Las Vegas, Nevada

Viva Las Vegas! Our RV National Park road trip adventure starts in Sin City itself – not exactly the most family-friendly vacation destination.  However, Las Vegas, Nevada makes a great home base and starting point for trips to some of America’s great National Parks.  Just a few hours from Vegas, in three different directions, you can find three natural destinations like no place else on Earth.

After picking up our fully-equipped Winnebago Wanderer RV from Apollo Motorhome Holidays, we head northeast into Utah, checking in at the St. George/Hurricane KOA.  Click on the Google map below for a larger image of our route.

RV National Park Route

Zion National Park, Utah

First stop, Zion National Park, Utah’s most visited and celebrated park, with its steep cliffs, narrow canyons, and hanging gardens that cling improbably to the walls.  After a long day of travel, we’ll take it easy, get used to our RV, the altitude, and surroundings.  We plan on taking the free shuttle for the 6+ mile Zion Canyon scenic drive to enjoy the views from the visitor center to the Temple of Sinawava, and, if we’re feeling up to it, hike the Riverside Walk deeper into the canyon.  As this is desert, it’s a hot area in July with average high temperatures of 96 degrees.  Because we don’t want to bake in our camper, we’ll head to higher elevations by nightfall.

Zion National Park

Entrance to Zion National Park, image courtesy National Park Service

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah

Between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks lies Cedar Breaks National Monument near Cedar City, Utah.  At 10,000 feet elevation, the temperatures will be much cooler than Zion, with average highs of 70 degrees in July.  Cedar Breaks National Monument has topography and scenery similar to Bryce Canyon without the notoriety of its neighboring park sibling, therefore, we could secure an RV campsite inside the park itself (whereas, the National Park campgrounds are fully booked months ahead of time).  Another bonus of staying inside Cedar Breaks’ Point Supreme Campground is joining the evening summer Star Party between 8:00-8:30 pm every Saturday from May through Labor Day.  The annual wildflower festival also takes place during our visit, and the forest meadows should be ablaze with color from the wildflower blooms.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks night sky, image courtesy National Park Service

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Following two days at Cedar Breaks, we hop next door and park the RV at the Cannonville/Bryce Valley KOA just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.  Known for the hoodoos, fins, and sandstone spires of Bryce Amphitheater, the park sits between 8,000 and 9,000 feet like an otherworldly landscape.  I can’t wait to see rock formations such as Thor’s Hammer, the Alligator, Silent City, and Queen’s Garden – perhaps gazing upon them at sunset or even sunrise if I can get my teens out of bed that early.  Wait, I have an RV, a moveable bed!  I’ll just bring the landscape to them at first light.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon Inspiration Point, image courtesy National Park Service

Grand Canyon North Rim, Arizona

Our final park on this RV road trip adventure is Grand Canyon National Park.  Drawing up plans for this trek, I considered omitting the Grand Canyon.  Always including the family in the trip-planning process, I asked the kids their opinion.  Maggie (our 18 year old) said, “I’m not going all the way out there and not seeing the Grand Canyon.”  Note: this is the same girl who, when presented with this trip, said, “here’s an idea, how about we NOT go the parks and go to Europe instead.”  So I think she’s come around on our RV road trip adventure.

We’ll be visiting the less-crowded North Rim, 1,000 feet higher and 10 miles across from the South Rim.  Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon has been called, “the most spectacular gorge in the world.”  I can’t wait to gaze into its vast beauty for the first time with my family beside me.  We have an RV site reserved in the DeMotte Campground of the Kaibab National Forest outside the National Park on adjacent US Forest Service federal land.

North Rim Visitors Center

North Rim Visitors Center, image courtesy National Park Service

Return Trip to Las Vegas

Following the Grand Canyon, it’s time to turn the RV around, and start heading back to Las Vegas.  We’ll break up the drive with an overnight stop at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, just outside the east entrance of Zion National Park.  This will give us a chance to explore more of Zion we didn’t see the first time, or enjoy the resort and rest, relax, ride horses, and watch the sun go down lighting up Zion’s backdrop.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park Observation Point, image courtesy Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort

After a night at the ranch, we’ll cruise through Zion’s east entrance, down the Zion-Mt. Carmel Scenic Highway, and on towards Las Vegas, back where we started.  We’ll turn in our Apollo Motorhome, clean up, sleep, and fly home the next morning.

Las Vegas Sign

Las Vegas Sign, image courtesy Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

 

It may have taken us 18 years to get our daughters to the National Parks, but, since this is the Centennial Year of the National Park Service, perhaps the timing is right to inspire the next generation to “Find Their Park.”  I hope you’ll follow along on our RV National Park road trip as #ABDRVing.

DISCLOSURE: Adventures by Daddy was offered a media rate from Apollo Motorhomes, the RV Industry Association, KOA, and Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort in order to experience this National Park road trip adventure.  However, all opinions expressed are those of the author.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.