During our trip through the southwest of the USA we visited a number of national parks and other nature reserves. At the entrance of the first national park we bought a National Park pass (America The Beautiful) for $ 80 (2017). This price applies to a car with occupants and the pass is valid for one year. It seems quite an expense, but if you consider that the entrance for Yosemite NP is already $ 30, it is a pittance if you plan to visit several parks.
In California we visited the following parks.
A beautiful park with lots of green, huge waterfalls, rock formations and visitors. On many points you have breathtaking views. There is a very good road through the valley flanked by high rocks and granite masses. El Capitan is the best known of these. In terms of vegetation you come across the famous Sequoias. If you want to enjoy some peace and quiet, you will have to go further into the park on foot.
The Tioga Pass crosses the park. This mountain pass is only open for a limited number of months per year because of the winter precipitation and is the highest road in the USA. The fact that this leads to beautiful views is to be expected.
We spent the night in Oakhurst and drove into the park past the south entrance. Through the valley we came to the Tioga Pass, which we followed to get to our overnight address in Mammoth Lakes.
Death Valley NP
You can not imagine a larger contrast than with Yosemite NP. Death Valley NP is bone dry and hot. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America.
Before we entered the park on the west side, we had expected a bald monotonous desert, but we found it more colorful and more diverse. We were surprised, among other things, about the difference in height that we covered; we kept on descending. That provides beautiful views. There were sand dunes, a salty lowest point where it was very hot, colorful rocks and here and there some lost vegetation.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP and Joshua Tree NP are other well-known parks in California.
The next state we visited was Nevada. Here we drove through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to Hoover Dam and along the west side of Lake Mead we drove through Lake Mead National Recreation Area to Springdale
Red Rock Canyon
It is a scenic drive of 13 miles, one-way traffic. This route continues along the most beautifully colored rock walls in all the reds you can think of. For the first time, we really got to know these beautifully colored stone masses. Something to never forget. This Conservation Area can be visited with the National Parks Pass. This park could be a nice trip if you are in Las Vegas and have enough of the casinos.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
The area is characterized by a rather bare landscape with a view of the reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam. When we drove through, it was very quiet. It may be because we were early, because we had the plan to also see some of Zion NP this day.
There are many national parks in Utah. We visited some.
We arrived in Springdale at the beginning of the afternoon. We were already able to complete the check-in formalities so that we could go to the park with the free bus in front of the hotel. We received the room key when we returned from the park.
Cars are almost not allowed in the park and the parking places at the entrance are busy if not full. The shuttle service is well organized. At the park entrance you get out, you go through the entrance and get on the next bus that can take you to different stops in the park. The route the bus follows runs over the bottom of the ravine. Steep bright colored rock walls are the entourage. We enjoyed this beautiful ride. If you do just this return trip, you can already conclude that this is a phenomenal park. We took a walk along the water stream at the end point. A bit busy but very worthwhile. It is also the approach route for those who actually want to wade through the cold stream, which will undoubtedly be a unique experience.
Bryce Canyon NP
In the morning we left for Springdale and the ride to Bryce Canyon ran between immense high red rock formations. You do not want to drive too fast through here, because it is an experience in itself.
We had booked a hotel close to the park entrance of Bryce Canyon. If you do not have too many days to spend and still want to see a lot, you should try to limit your arrival and departure times, so you can enjoy an early morning or just an afternoon visit. We were therefore able to enjoy all the beauty that this park has to offer from noon to sunset. Also a lot of red and orange, but now in the form of hoodoos. The scenic road offers many viewpoints to enjoy all the natural beauty. We took a walk at the end point. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to really walk among the hoodoos. Perhaps we will plan that for a next trip.
Capital Reef NP
Still enjoying the intriguing images that spoiled our retinas during the last two days we had to travel further. This day was a pretty long ride to Moab. We have taken the road that crossed this long stretched park and did not enter the park itself. If the park is even more beautiful than the surroundings we have seen, it is definitely worth a visit.
We stayed two nights in Moab. We had two parks in mind to visit on the intermediate day. The area is considerable in size, which could be a challenge.
Arches is a special park because of the many arches that you encounter there. After going through the entrance you first drive up a lot, after which a fantastic landscape appears. It is a very busy park, so make sure you arrive early, because parking is not really easy on a number of points. When we were there lots of roadworks were happening, which did not promote peace either. For us the crowds were really too big. We did not get a chance to visit certain parts, because you have to do it on foot and we could not park of the car. Too bad, but we couldn’t to help it. We have therefore gone to Canyonlands pretty quickly. We have seen the large double arches, but we think it could have been so much nicer!
The peace in this park against the bustle of Arches NP we found quite a relief. It is a big park and we have visited the northern part of it. Here you will find a rugged landscape created by the power of the flowing rivers like the Colorado and the Green River. A fascinating landscape will pass you by. There are more than enough viewpoints that are worth the effort. A fun movie is shown in the visitor center.
The day after these two parks we left Moab and headed for Monument Valley in Arizona.
Valley of the Gods
Since we have a habit of not taking the most direct road, we took a detour indicated on the map. We saw on signs that there were no trucks allowed a few miles further, but oh well we are driving a nice car so that did not bother us. At a certain point the wide asphalt road stopped and we were presented with a dirt road. The landscape became increasingly beautiful. Soon we approached turns and corners and looked into the depths. We descended tens of meters on a winding, dusty narrow path. The view was phenomenal for the co-driver. The one who was behind the steering wheel only hoped that there was no oncoming traffic. We were lucky. We could avoid them at the least unfavorable points.
Once down there was a dusty path. You can only ride it with a decent car and the necessary caution. We were there in October and it was hot. This adventure is not recommended in the summer months.
The most beautiful gigantic rock formations stood proudly above the surface of the earth. Very impressive and a ride that we will never forget. At a certain point we reached the appropriate route again. After Mexican Hat we had the enormous rock formations of Monument Valley in sight. We did not really go into that park anymore, because it was getting late and we had already gained so many impressions this day. After all, we also had the Grand Canyon to look forward to.
Grand Canyon NP
We had saved the most famous park in the USA for last. We drove along the South Rim and stopped at every viewpoint and enjoyed the most spectacular views. What a depth do you look in and what does the Colorado River seem to be a narrow river from that height. It will not be surprising that the peace we found in the Valley of the Gods was gone again.
We slept that night just outside the park in the town of Tasuyan. With this we ended the national parks part of our incredibly beautiful journey.
If you want to know more about the National Parks of the USA, we refer you to the website of the National Park Service.
Water, water and water. It is vitally important in the heat.
Try to avoid the busy times. The quieter it is, the more impressive nature gets
Seeing everything in one trip does not work, make choices and go back again and again and again…
If walking, take care of good footwear and adjust clothing to the weather, take the heat in mind but also the cold.