This part of the trip we were joined by some of Jonas’s friends, excited to get away from the cities and explore a little more of the nature America has to offer! The best tip we were given and would like to pass on is to purchase the ‘National Park annual pass’ for $80. This worked at every stop except Monument Valley and Valley of Fire. It allows up to 4 guests in 1 car straight into the parks. If we hadn’t had got this, we could have been spending up to $20 per person per national park!
Tip: Get there early as you will be in queues at the entrance. be prepared for many tourists around. It’s a lot of driving in the park so definitely for glacier point and tunnel view. The rest you won’t miss, just stop and start as you please. Take the shutter to Mariposa for a gentle stroll through the HUGE sequoia trees.
We then took the Tioga pass as we left headed towards Las Vegas. It was a quieter, less touristic mountain pass road which was absolutely spectacular. A mix of forest, lakes, beaches and snowy mountains. However, we didn’t see any bears this time!
Tip: A definite highlight for us! In simple terms its vast, deserted and extremely hot! Fill up the gas tank and don’t forget the water, snacks and sun cream. Once within the Death Valley you’ll only see 1 small shop and gas station within hours! Out of all the great stop off points within there we would definitely recommend ‘Bad water’. A truly unique hexagonal formation of salt along the basin floor that sits below sea level.
Tip: This was Jonas’s favourite! It’s not as famous as the other parks but it was something different for sure! Take the relatively easy half an hour hike down to the ‘wave’ rock formation. Be sure to follow the footpath markers and you definitely won’t miss it once you arrive!
Tip: Park your car on the street in the town before the national park as shuttle buses are free from there. You can only experience this park from shuttle bus with bus stops at different points along the way. Be aware this can get really busy so long queues at bus stops are expected! We unfortunately didn’t have long here so did a quick 20 minute walk to the leaking rock which was lovely, but if we could go again we would allow many more hours, prepare for proper hiking and attempt the angels landing route. Google it – it looks incredible!
On the way out we stopped by the Canyon overlook by The Great Arch. A lovely hike ending in some stunning views over the National park.
Tip: A smaller national park area which is easily accessible by car. Take the walk along the cliff edge from the sunset view point to the sunrise view point and allow and hour or two to descend down into the spectacular red rock formations. The even offer horse back riding through the canyons here which looked great fun!
Tip: Allow a whole day for this! There are around 10 different arches to explore here. Some are right next to the road so can be viewed quickly, some are a walk away. We explored the landscape arch which was a short gentle walk. Then Jonas and I took the longer walk (took us around 2 hrs with stops) to explore 3 separate areas which included The Broken Arch, Sand Dune arch and the Tapestry arch. It wasn’t as popular as some of the other walks but we would 100% recommend it. We had most of the walk to enjoy completely to ourselves!
Don’t go into the actual park if you don’t plan on doing the round trip (3 hours of very bad dirt roads -> the rental car is definitely not insured for that!) and aren’t really interested in the native Indians background and history. It’s also expensive (our national park annual pass didn’t cover monument valley). The views on the main road and from the Forrest Gump point on the road are identical without spending the money.
A quick stop off point as we headed towards the end of our national park road trip but definitely worth the stop. Currently free parking, and a quick walk down to the edge where there were many different viewing points. We feel lucky we saw this area when it wasn’t such a big tourist attraction. As we speak they’re doing works to the area to make it more assessible to the masses!
Tip: expect the unexpected! We attempted to visit the southern rim view point, driving down from the Horse Shoe bend but were met with a snow plougher, a road closed sign and snow settling on the road! We were forced to change our plans and attempt a different view from the next day. Unlucky for us, the ONE day of our trip with snow was the night we had to stay in an airstream! An amazing experience but a cold one at at that! The next morning we got up early and had a quick stroll along the grand canyon edge. We got a different view to the most famous ones you see, ours was the famous canyons entwinned with mist and snow caps. Very special.