March 2018 – We love getting off the beaten path in our travels, and as we headed north from Arizona in our seasonal migration this year, we looked for new treasures and new routes through Nevada and into Utah.
We had driven the North Shore Road alongside Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas last fall (blog post here), and we had been smitten by the beauty and quiet we found along the way. So in our Spring migration we drove back up that route, but this time we drove down as many of the tributaries leading to the Colorado River and its two lakes in the area, Lake Mohave and Lake Mead.
Before reaching Lake Mead, we drove along the east side of the Colorado River in Arizona and discovered beautiful Willow Beach Marina and Campground.
Tucked into a bend in the Colorado River where the rugged mountains loom up on either side, Willow Beach has a marina for boaters and a pretty campground for RVers. We loved the views from the overlooks and found that some of the sites in the campground have spectacular views too.
US-93 doesn’t offer too many views of the Colorado River as it runs between Kingman, Arizona, and the outer eastern edges of the Las Vegas suburbs, but one scenic overlook just north of the Willow Beach turn-off was lovely.
We didn’t have a sunny day for our drive along Lake Mead’s North Shore Road in Nevada, but it was striking and dramatic nonetheless.
At times the landscape was filled with red rocks.
There are lots of pullouts on the North Shore Road and quite a few hiking trails as well. We stopped at several and hiked up to dramatic vistas overlooking the otherworldly land.
There was very little traffic on the road, but we weren’t the only RVers!
Last fall we stopped at Redstone Trailhead and did the pretty half mile hike around a red rock outcropping, and we couldn’t resist doing it again this spring. This time we had a spirited companion with us who wanted to check out every nook and cranny in these glorious red rock formations!
In addition to dozens of pullouts and hikes along this route, including some that go back to natural springs (very cool!), there are also quite a few turn-offs that go down to the water’s edge.
Like all the desert lakes that have been created from wild rivers in the West, the places where the desert meets the water around Lake Mead are stunning, and we loved photographing all we saw.
Before the landscape was filled with river water to make Lake Mead, there were deep canyons and washes everywhere. These became islands and peninsualas when the Colorado River water rose, and today there are endless coves and promontories all around the lake.
The water in Lake Mead is well over 100 feet below where it was intended to be when the lake was created. The water height fluctuates a little through the seasons each year depending on rainfall in the desert, snowfall in the mountains and water releases at the various dams upstream.
One fascinating effect of all this water management is the plethora of sea shells everywhere. Piles of clamshells and crustaceans can be found half a mile from the water’s edge! By the same token, lots of trees and bushes wind up immersed in water for a season or two.
We loved the ripples in the sand under the water.
Buddy romped all over the place. We’ve discovered he loves climbing rocks and he’s very good at it too. Naturally, our cameras clicked away. What a shock it was to look at one of our photos later and see the big fish swimming by him in the water!
Sunrises and sunsets were especially beautiful in this exotic land.
We wanted to go to Valley of Fire State Park, a fabulous little jewel in southern Nevada. We had been twice before (blog posts here and here), and we had loved every minute of those visits, but the last one had been nine years ago.
Both times we had gone during the first week of October and there had been plenty of room in the campground for folks without reservations. Not so this time during the Utah schools’ Spring Break. There was no room at the inn. Darn!
Studying our atlas of southern Utah, we decided to try a route we had never driven before. This led north from Littlefield up towards Gunlock State Park, well away from the heavily traveled south-to-north routes that go into Utah’s most dramatic red rock scenery.
But there were still some glorious views to be seen!
Gunlock State Park has a small campground on the edge of the water with pretty views of the small lake.
The campground was vacant except for one fifth wheel perched on the edge of the reservoir next to a staircase leading down to the water.
One thing we just love about wandering through rural regions, going from one village of 2,000 residents to the next, is that each town has its own flavor and claim to fame. When we arrived in Veyo, Utah, and pulled into the gas station to fuel up, we noticed a huge red sign across the street telling us, “You have reached your Pie Desination!”
All Right!! We hadn’t even known a Pie Destination was on our itinerary!
Mark is a big pie lover, and I hold my own too, so we made a beeline over to Veyo Pies to sample their chicken pot pie for lunch and take home a blueberry pie for dessert. Yum!
Nearby, we stopped at Baker Dam to play along the edges of the small lake. Baker Dam Campground was chock full with families for the local Utah schools’ Spring Break, but the sunset views along the river were very pretty.
It is always a gamble in the spring to leave the growing warmth of the southwestern deserts and head north into the mountains. As we continued towards Cedar City we got our first glimpse of snowcapped peaks.
The nights grew cold and we had to dig out an extra blanket, but the views during the days were worth it!
Continuing north on secondary roads, we stopped at a few Recreation Areas along our route. Only a few intrepid RVers and fishermen in winter jackets and hats were out enjoying them.
In a month these places would start to get busy, but at this early season they were very quiet.
In true Spring fashion, Nature teased us with some beautiful warm sunny days in between chilling reminders that Old Man Winter hadn’t retired just yet.
We swung through the tiny hamlet of Minersville, stopping briefly at Minersville Recreation Area, and continued on through to Beaver. Portions of our route through Utah had followed the Old Spanish Trail which is marked in many places with large metal cutouts of riders on horseback.
If you are heading out of Arizona to points north, consider trying a route that includes one or several of these smaller roads instead of battling it out with the big rigs on I-15!
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More info about this area:
- Willow Beach Marina and Campground
- Lake Mohave Campgrounds (Katherine Landing and Willow Beach)
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- Gunlock State Park
- Minersville Recreation Area
- Map of our route
Other drives we’ve done on America’s back roads:
- Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Shoreline – Cute Towns & Great Sunsets! 09/28/18
- RVing Central Montana – Great Falls, Cool Coffee & Amish Buggies 06/29/18
- Montana Road Trip – Wildflowers, Bison, a Mission Church + Good Eats! 06/08/18
- RVing Wyoming – Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls 06/01/18
- Wyoming Back Roads by RV – Rugged, Remote and Wild! 05/18/18
- Utah Back Roads – Lakeside RVing Near Salt Lake City 04/30/18
- An Idaho Panhandle RV Trip on US-95: Sandpoint, Moscow & McCall 09/10/16
- Whitefish to Libby – Big Surprises on the Back Roads of Montana 08/28/16
- A Backcountry RV Roadtrip in SE Idaho – Quiet Splendor! 05/04/16
- Georgia’s Antebellum Trail – Milledgeville, Eatonton & Madison 05/23/15
- Into the Great Wide Open – Nevada to Oregon 06/11/14
Our most recent posts:
- Black Hills Back Country Byway – Spring Flowers in Arizona! 04/12/19
- Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks 04/05/19
- Traces of Antiquity and the Not-So-Ancient in Utah! 03/29/19
- SE Utah – A Mars Colony, Wide-Angle Photography & Snowy Mountains! 03/22/19
- Monument Valley & Hite Scenic Overlook – Stone Towers from Below & Above! 03/15/19