Zion National Park

Zion was our last stop in Utah and the last of the Mighty 5 parks, it also had the longest wait at the gate of all the parks we’ve visited over the last year. One mile, 1 hour and 25 minutes. I overheard someone in the park say the backup when they arrived was 7 miles and the park service was redirecting folks to the southern entrance, so I suppose it could have been worse. Still, it was worth the wait!

When you enter Zion from the east there are two tunnels, the first is short and not a big deal, you just drive through. But the second tunnel is a mile long and has height and width restrictions. If you exceed the width dimensions then you pay $15 round trip and the rangers close oncoming traffic for you. They’ve got their system down, we barely had to wait either time and it was kinda fun, but because the rangers have to be there the hours are a bit limited. Be sure to read about this if you plan to use the east entrance and are driving something bigger than a car.

Zion was also the only Mighty 5 park we camped in, and I’m so glad we did! We stayed at the Watchman Campground, which was great, very convenient and beautiful views! I spent an entire day in our hammock at the campground watching little critters run about, and our first night there we had a deer in our campsite.

We enjoyed Zion and look forward to coming back here someday!

Zion National Park

While we ended up getting a permit for Angels Landing (recommend Googling a video of this hike 😳), we decided not to go. The day before we went on a 1.5 mile hike to the Emerald Pools, I hadn’t worn hiking boots in several weeks and my feet were quite angry about it, Beau had a stomach thing happen, and it was all feeling very last minute. Instead we rested and enjoyed the scenery around the Watchman Campground. We enjoyed the Emerald Pools hike, which was a good easy hike for us. Much of the park can’t be accessed by car, but the shuttle buses make it easy to get around. Someday we’ll go back to Zion National Park and try to do the Angels Landing hike again!

Zion National Park

The last of the Mighty 5 parks we visited, I wondered if Zion would live up to the hype, if it would pale in comparison to the others, if we did enough while there for it to leave an impression. When I look at all the photos we took, though, I marvel at this life we’re living, and I have to fight back the tears that come with such joy. Honestly, road life isn’t always sunshine on towering cliffs and deer munching on grass just feet away, sometimes it’s doing hard things and going outside your comfort zone and too much stuff in a tiny space. BUT it’s also living the life we want now, no waiting for someday. After 10 years of working with cancer patients, I know that too often someday doesn’t come. Zion, to me, is overwhelming gratitude to have stood there, in that place, at that moment, with the sun and the cliffs and the deer, the person I love, and our RV named Reba.

Bryce Canyon National Park

We went to Bryce on National Public Lands Day, probably among their busiest days, and admittedly we did almost no research before showing up. So we were a bit caught off guard when we were told a large area of the park was a no go for the RV, which largely related to parking, and after seeing the parking lots we better understood why. No worries though, Bryce has a shuttle that stops at all the lookouts where RV’s can’t go, and we were able to take the RV on the park’s 18-mile scenic drive!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park has more hoodoos, a type of rock spire, than anywhere else in the world, and the orange and yellow colored rock formations are amazing to see in person. We did one of the hikes along the rim between viewpoints, which I highly recommend to get a better perspective of all the beautiful rock formations!

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park has the largest orchards in the National Park System, and you can pick and eat the fruit for free! We didn’t, but you can! The 8-mile scenic drive within the park was beautiful, as was the drive into the park via I-24. Since Beau had to work that day we arrived late in the day and the sun was already beginning to set as we were leaving the park. Just outside the park we stopped for gas and found some random farm animals, one of whom was not very happy that I didn’t bring it food 🐐 We still had a bit further to drive to get to our campsite for the weekend at Otter Creek State Park, so we didn’t get to do any of the hikes in Capitol Reef this time around, but maybe we’ll come back here someday as there’s obviously a lot more to see and do here!

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is a monocline, a fold or wrinkle in the earth, and the resulting rock formations are incredible! Most of southern Utah got 1-2 inches of rain in 24 hours, including Capitol Reef National Park just a couple of days before we visited. Remnants of flooding were visible and all non-paved roads within the park were closed. We wouldn’t have taken them anyway, so it wasn’t a loss to our experience, but it was interesting to see how a little rain can have such a big impact in the desert.

Moab, UT

If you go to Moab, stay at Dead Horse Point State Park. It’s very close to Canyonlands National Park and offers incredible viewpoints of the canyons on three sides. When we asked the ranger at Canyonlands where to watch the sunset, she said Dead Horse 🤣 and Beau has declared it one of the coolest state parks he’s seen.

You’ll have to BYOW (bring your own water), but they do have electrical hookups and a dump station.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands has 4 districts - Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers that divide the districts. No roads connect the districts within the parks and it takes several hours to reach each one, so we focused on the closest, Island in the Sky. We went on several short hikes, enjoyed the scenic drive to several viewpoints, and watched the sunset from Green River Overlook. Next time we hope to visit The Needles!

Many thanks to the lovely couple from Atlanta that took our photo and marveled at our life adventures! We get to meet lots of people on the road, each with their own beautiful and probably hard fought life stories, and each helps us to appreciate not only theirs but our own a little more.

Arches National Park

A few of my favorite photos that we took at Arches National Park! Plus a video at the end. One of the (many) things that we really like about our visits to all of these national parks is getting to decide what places we want to come back to and spend more time at later. Neither of us could think of a single park that has disappointed us, there’s been something to appreciate about all of the ones we’ve seen, and several we’ll definitely return to someday!