This was our first driving only road trip. Most trips we fly somewhere a little closer, rent a car, and start from there, but this year we started from Louisiana. We left around 3 am and headed for West Texas.
- 14 hour drive to Alpine, Texas
- Torchy’s Tacos for lunch in Houston
- Check in hotel
- Sunset at Hancock Hill
- Originally supposed to camp at Oliver Lee State Park and explore White Sands National Park on Day 2 but New Mexico state parks were closed due to COVID.
- 1 1/2 hour drive to Big Bend National Park
- Hike Lost Mine Trail (Moderate 4.2 mi)
- Drive to Santa Elena Canyon on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive (38 mi-takes about 1 1/2 hours)
- Hike Santa Elena Canyon Trail (Easy 1.2 mi)
- Exit park on other side to drive through Terlingua
- Back to Alpine hotel
- Drive to Marfa (about 30 min)
- 8 hour drive to Lyman Lake State Park
- Stop in Las Cruces for lunch at Matteo’s Mexican Food
- Set up camp-Site 29 B
- Originally supposed to camp at Catalina State Park and spend the next day in Saguaro National Park and explore Tucson but there were wildfires too close
- Lake day at state park
- Sunset hike on Peninsula Petroglyph Trail in state park (very easy 1/4 mi hike)
- Explore Petrified Forest National Park (about 1.5 hrs away)
- Drive to Cave Springs Campground in Sedona (about 2 hours)
- Set up camp-Site A 12
- Evening at Slide Rock State Park
- Early hike at Devils Bridge Trail (Moderate 4.2 mi)
- Explore Oak Creek Canyon
- Sunset at Airport Overlook
- Rest day exploring Oak Creek Canyon and hanging out at campsite
- Explore Flagstaff (about 30 min away)
- Lunch at MartAnne’s
- Drive to Grand Canyon National Park
- Set up camp at Mather Campground-Site 145
- Explore South Rim
- Sunset at Yavapai Point
- Sunrise at Yavapai Point
- Drive to Page, AZ (about 3.5 hrs, normally about 1.5 but the national park exit to Navajo Indian Reservation was closed due to the pandemic)
- Check into hotel in Page
- Dinner at Aliberto’s Mexican Food
- Rent boat from Powell Rental Adventures
- Spend day on Lake Powell
- Camped on boat that night
- Morning/day on Lake Powell
- Returned boat at 4:30 pm to rental company
- Stayed at Page Airbnb
- Hiked Horseshoe Bend (easy 0.5 mi)
- Drive to Zion National Park (about 2 hrs)
- Hike The Narrows (moderate to hard 2-8 mi)
- Camp Watchman Campground-Site D35
- Drive through Zion National Park
- Hiked Pa’rus Trail (easy 3 mi)
- Played in Virgin River
- Drove Zion Canyon Scenic Drive
- 27 hour drive home
Our original plans were to drive 16 hours to Oliver Lee State Park in New Mexico. New Mexico State parks were still closed at this point due to the pandemic so we last minute planned a trip to Big Bend National Park. We book a last minute Priceline hotel for super cheap. We stayed in Alpine (about 30 minutes to Marfa and about 1 hour from Big Bend). The closest towns to the national park are Marathon and Terlingua. Terlingua was not open at all when we passed through the next day. After our 14 hour Drive to Alpine we explored the city. Nothing was really open. Most restaurants in Alpine and Marfa are open later in the week (Thursday-Saturday). We arrived on a Monday. We hiked Hancock Hill behind the college that had an amazing sunset. The only restaurant open was Pizza Hut so all 4 of us split a $7 pizza this night.
We started the morning super early before sunrise and headed to Big Bend National Park. It took about 1 hour to get to the entrance of the park. Once you are in the park there is still a ton of driving. We didn’t arrive to our first stop until about 9:30/10 o clock. Our first stop was Lost Mine Trail. They recommend you are off the trail by 11 am. The temperature was in the 90s but we had a lot of water and the trail had some shade so we felt pretty comfortable finishing after. We finished about 11:30. Next we drove the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. This is 30 mi and takes about 1 1/2 hours. Our second stop was Santa Elena Canyon. The ranger told us it is about 20 degrees hotter here than the north side of the park and she was right. It was between 115-120 degrees. We were only able to walk the short distance to see the Mexico/USA border and walked back to the car. On our way out of the park we drove through Terlingua Ghost Town. There are many campsites and Airbnbs through here. Most were closed at the time but I would love to stay here one day. After we headed back to the hotel. Most restaurants were still closed so we ate chicken and salad from teh local grocery store.
The day we were supposed to be drive to Tucson. We had a campsite booked for Catalina State Park. The wildfires were too close to the parks so we rebooked north in Lyman Lake State Park. It was still a super nice campground and very beautiful scenery. Our campsite was super dusty. I would recommend site 31 or lower. We booked the day of arrival so we only had a couple options. The bathrooms were super clean and every site had a view. On our way we did stop in Las Cruces, NM for lunch. We stopped at Matteo’s Mexican Food. They had really great food and amazing frescas.
This day we hung out by the lake and played in the water. We played games at the campsite. Since we weren’t planning on coming to this area we didn’t know any hikes in this are and we had no service at the campground. We just disconnected and enjoyed the day. That night we walked up the Petroglyph Trail. The girls loved this. There are a ton of rocks to climb on and there is a great sunset view from this side of the lake.
Leaving Lyman Lake state Park we detoured slightly to drive through Petrified Forest National Park. This is a super small National Park but still has amazing history and views. It is easily explored in a day. We hiked the Blue Mesa Trail. There was no one there with us and it was a nice stop. After we headed to Sedona. I reserved a campsite in Cave Spring Campground. I reserved this about 6 months before. Only 1 loop is reservable and the rest is first come first sere. The reservable loop is definitely the biggest and most quiet. There were groups of 50 people at some campsites. The A loop is right along the creek. Ours was across the road but still right next to the creek. A11 looked like the best site to me our drive. This means people are walking through your site at times though. We were in site A12. It was super shaded which was great in the summer heat. We set up camp then headed Slide Rock State Park about 2 house before it closed. We definitely could have spent all day here but going at the end of the day, most people were starting to leave. This place is amazing and so much fun. It is a must do! You definitely need water shoes. The rocks are so slippery. We ended the night at camp.
We woke up early to hike Devil’s Bridge. It gets busy really quick. There were no parking spots in the first parking lot by time we got there around 7:30. We were in a Jeep so we drove the first mile and parked in the small parking lot up the trail. It was so much fun to do a little off road trail. You have to drive so slow though. To compare the hikers we drove by ended up being ahead of us on the trail by time we got there and parked. HAHA. But still a little extra fun adventure. The hike was moderate. There are definitely parts you have to climb at little bit. We easily carried our 3 year old up the trail. We wanted to be off the trail early due to the heat, so I think we finished about 10:30. At this point there were tons of people on the trail. Once the parking lot is full people just park along the road by the trailhead. We only waited for our picture on the bridge about 5 minutes but I know other people have waited much longer. After we hiked up the river in Oak Creek Canyon. It was beautiful to explore. We found an area where people were cliff jumping. It is a great spot to hang out in that mid day heat. We ended the day with Sunset at Airport Overlook. It was an amazing sunset spot but you have to get there early to get a spot to sit or stand. I didn’t love being around a lot of people pre pandemic so it was pretty uncomfortable around so many people in 2020. We just wore our mask and had a spot away from as many people as possible. You do have to pay $3 to park at this spot. There is a trail to go up the mountain a little bit that I think would be much better. We saw it when we were leaving so I would recommend seeing where that leads and you may have more privacy.
This day were were pretty tired from the week so we relaxed at the campground and played games. We played in the creek some of the day. We did end the night with Sunset in the CVS parking lot, just the 4 of us and it was way better than the night before. Personally, I think there isn’t a bad view anywhere in Sedona so this was perfect for us.
We drove about 30 minutes to Flagstaff and walked around the town that morning. This town is more out style. It is super cute. Looks like they have a ton of great restaurants. We had to go lunch at MartAnne’s and it was amazing. The to go lates were huge. Definitely recommend that restaurant. There was super cute brewery by the train tracks called Lumberyard. It was open while we were there but their beers and food looked great. After this we drove about 1 1/2 hours to Grand Canyon National Park. Only the South Rim was open at this point. It really was a great time to go. We camped at Mather Campground Site 145. Great site. This site had a huge field of trees and flowers behind it. There were only like 10 other campers in whole campground while we were there. We hiked the Rim Trail as far as we could go. We saw so much wildlife. The park had only been open a week or so when we arrived, so the rangers said the animals were exploring all over the park again. There was not much open but it was still great experience since there were so little people there. There are cabins looking over the canyon that look amazing to stay in. We watched the sunset from Yavapai Point. It was great. I’m sure it would be wonderful from any point though.
We woke up at 4:30 and caught the sunrise also from Yavapai Point. This was our coldest night. Temperatures dropped to the 40s so be prepared if you are camping here. We were supposed to stay 1 more night here but since so much was closed we decided to leave early, mostly to shower, but to also be closer to our boat rental the next day. Desert View Road was closed. Normally the drive would be about 1.5 hours but to go around it took us about 3.5 hours to drive there. We got a super cheap Priceline hotel and stayed there for the night. We ate at Aliberto’s in Page and it was awesome.
We rented a boat for 2 days/1 night from Powell Rental Adventures. They were by far the cheapest boat rental I could find. It is a family owned company. They gave us great tips on where to play and where to park the boat for the night. It was super windy our first day so we quickly made it to a camping spot and played in the water that day. We were right by a large mountain/rock that we could hike up. Sunset was incredible here. We “boat camped” this night. Definitely not my best night of sleep but still a fun adventure.
This day the wind was a lot calmer so we spend the day going in and out of canyons and tubing on the water. We headed back in about 4:30 and they were there to pick the boat up from us. I highly recommend getting on the water at Lake Powell. Definitely something we want to do again. There were these amazing house boats with large families that looked awesome. Definitely look into that as well if you are traveling with a large group. We rented an Airbnb in Page that had a washer and dryer so I could do laundry. I only pack about 1 weeks worth of clothes then try to do laundry at some point. It was very clean and we had tons of room. Definitely something we needed after living in a tent/boat for the last week together.
We hiked the easy hike to Horseshoe Bend that morning. It costs $10 and is about a 0.5 mi hike. It was really beautiful but definitely not a must see in my opinion. After we drove about 2 Horus to Zion National Park. This is one of our favorites. We camped in Watchman Campground Site D35. It was on the outer rim and had a great view of the mountains. At this point in Zion, there were no shuttles at all to go up Scenic Drive. They only let a certain amount of cars up the road. So if 1 car would leave they let another one so you just had to get there at 3 am or just get lucky passing by as someone was leaving. We ended up getting lucky and was able to hike the Narrows bottom up. You start on a paved trail for about 1 mile then get to the water. You can hike as far as you want then you turn around. I think they farthest is 8 miles. We hiked between 3-4 with the girls. Every turn looks so different and more beautiful. We only had water shoes but waterproof boots would be best.
We spent this day hiking and playing in the river along the Pa’rus Trail and hung out around our campsite. We hiked Angel’s Landing a few years before (without kids) and I highly recommend it also. I also wanted to hike to Observation Trail while here, but it was closed during our visit due to the pandemic.
We drove 27 hours home to Louisiana.
This is an amazing part of the country and we can’t wait to visit again. Let us know what your favorite stops are in these areas so we can put them on our list for next time!