Stunning Grand Canyon with a Private View at Timp Point

July 2019 – We’ve been exploring back roads leading to the lesser known edges of the Grand Canyon for the past few weeks, and we’ve seen some fabulous views at Saddle Mountain and Point Sublime. But those overlooks require a long drive in a 4×4 high clearance vehicle to reach. This week we discovered an overlook called Timp Point that offers some gorgeous private views that can be reached — with a bit of patience — in a passenger car or truck.

Timp Point Overlook Grand Canyon Arizona-min

Timp Point Overlook at Grand Canyon Arizona

We took our Polaris RZR 900 side-by-side on a fun 50 mile round trip romp on a well maintained dirt road out to Timp Point, and we just loved the views we found at the end of the road.

Polaris RZR ride through ponderosa pine forest in Arizona-min

Our little RZR took us through the beautiful ponderosa pine forest to a glorious Grand Canyon overlook

For anyone venturing on this road with a car or truck, sticking to the main roads is a good idea. They may be a washboarded and dusty, but if you go slowly they’re passable. However, since we have a zippy little buggy that can take on just about any kind of crazy terrain, we decided to skip a few miles of the graded road and take a cool shortcut on a pretty two track road.

Dirt road through the woods on the Kaibab Plateau-min (1)

“C’mon guys. Let’s go!”

We’d driven a few miles on that two track road with our pup, Buddy, running ahead of us when suddenly Buddy screached to a halt and looked back at us with a huge question mark on his face. Mark put on the brakes too when we saw a huge ponderosa pine tree had falled right across the road, blocking our way completely.

Polaris RZR ride stopped by tree trunk across trail-min

Oops — there’s a tree blocking our way!

We got out of the RZR to see if we could find our way around it, but the woods were extremely thick with all kinds of evergreens and aspen in addition to ponderosa pines. There was no way to get around this blockage. So, we did a U-turn and made our way back to the main road.

Tree trunk across trail in the woods-min

It was impossible to get around this tree.

It’s about a 25 mile drive from the paved highway, AZ-67, out to the overlook, and no matter what kind of vehicle you’re in, a comfortable average speed is less than 20 mph. But when we finally reached the overlook the views were spectacular.

Grand Canyon overlook at Timp Point-min

It was a long dusty ride to get to the edge, but what a rewarding view greeted us!

Timp Point overlook at Grand Canyon-min

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Grand Canyon view at Timp Point-min

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View of Grand Canyon at Timp Point-min

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There was a small hiking trail that went out to the rim and followed the contour of the land for a while, giving us beautiful views of the Grand Canyon. We were surprised that at this part of the Grand Canyon, which lies northwest of the North Rim Visitors Center, many of the hillsides in front of us were covered in lush green vegetation.

Timp Point Overlook view at Grand Canyon-min

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Green hillsides at Grand Canyon-min

A blanket of vivid green

Limestone peaks at Grand Canyon overlook-min

Limestone pinnacles far below

The views were not unobstructed, however. We had to peer over bushes and between tree branches to take in the stunning landscapes. Unlike other parts of the Grand Canyon, especially within the National Park where the viewpoints are on huge treeless rock outcroppings, the tiny trail hugged a slope and it was a bit treacherous in some places to find solid footing where we could comfortably savor the views.

Polaris RZR ride through the woods to a Grand Canyon overlook-min

Mark makes his way towards the view

Timp Point Overlook at Grand Canyon-min

We had to scramble and balance precariously to get our photos…

Timp Point Overlook at Grand Canyon-min (1)

…but once we steadied ourselves, the views were spectacular.

The Rainbow Rim Trail is a hiking and mountain biking trail that goes from Timp Point north to several other viewpoints. Each viewpoint is reachable by a motorized trail as well, but each fork leading out to a viewpoint is several miles long, making it the kind of area that is fun to explore at leisure over the course of a few days. Trying to drive to all the viewpoints in one day would constitute a lot of slow bumpy driving on dirt roads for just a little overlook-gazing.

Overlook at Timp Point in Grand Canyon-min

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Likewise, a map of the Rainbow Rim Trail showed that it wandered away from the rim into the woods and then wandered out to a viewpoint in a zig-zag manner, flirting with the views of the Grand Canyon in between long treks through the woods.

Overlook at Timp Point in Grand Canyon-min

Greenery and red rocks

Red rock cliffs Timp Point in Grand Canyon-min

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Timp Point has two overlooks that are only 6 miles apart, so we decided to visit both. At North Timp Point yellow wildflowers were in vibrant bloom everywhere.

Wildflowers at North Timp Point Grand Canyon-min

Beautiful wildflowers were in bloom at North Timp Point

Wildflowers on trail at Timp Point Grand Canyon-min

The little hiking path was lined with flowers

The wonderfully fragrant Cliff Rose was in bloom too, and even Buddy was impressed by its incredibly sweet smell.

Puppy sniffs cliff rose at Grand Canyon-min

Buddy checked out the sweet fragrance of a cliff rose flower

We slowly strolled along a narrow hiking trail around North Timp Point, taking in the beautiful views. Fewer trees and bushes had grown up along this trail, so the views were a little easier to see, and they were magnificent.

Grand Canyon overlook at Timp Point Arizona-min

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Orange and green landscapes at Grand Canyon-min

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View at Grand Canyon Timp Point-min

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Beautiful overlook at Grand Canyon Timp Point-min

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Grand Canyon Overlook Arizona-min

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Patterns in Grand Canyon view-min

Intriguing patterns in the distant landscape

After enjoying a PB&J lunch break with a view, we hopped back in the RZR and made our way back through the woods. Once we got the RZR loaded back on its little caboose trailer behind our truck, we stopped at the North Rim Country Store to refill its gas tank.

This little country store is all there is for gas and groceries on the 45 mile long Highway 67 that goes between Jacob Lake and the North Rim. They carry all the essentials and have even more on their shelves than can be found at Jacob Lake. However, like the highway to the North Rim itself, it is seasonal and is open only between mid-October and mid-May.

North Rim Country Store Grand Canyon Arizona-min

North Rim Country Store offers a whiff of civilization in a vast wonderland of nature

Way back when we first started traveling full-time and visited the North Rim, we met the couple who had just purchased this country store, and we were delighted this year to discover that their son and daughter-in-law have opened a coffee kiosk right on the property.

How awesome it was after an early morning RZR adventure in the wilds of the Kaibab Plateau to be able to sip a luxe hazlenut latte with a heart drawn in the steamed milk on top! We might have been dusty and dirty, but this little bit of yumminess was a nice taste of modern luxury!

Meadow's Edge Coffee Kiosk North Rim Country Store Grand Canyon Arizona-min

Need a fluffy coffee before or after your adventure? The new Meadow’s Edge coffee kiosk has one for you!

If you have the time after visiting the more easily accessed and mind blowing overlooks at the end of the paved roads inside Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim, and you don’t mind a long slow and occasionally bumpy drive down a dusty dirt road, Timp Point makes for a fun day trip.

Road through the Arizona woods-min

As rugged dirt roads go, the one to Timp Point isn’t too bad for a passenger car or truck.

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Point Sublime – A Wild Ride to a Stunning Overlook in Grand Canyon!

July 2019 – While visiting the North Rim of the Grand Canyon this year, we made it a point to visit a few overlooks that aren’t easily reached by car. Saddle Mountain Overlook on the northeast side of the North Rim Visitors Center was lovely, but Point Sublime Overlook west of the Visitors Center was calling us. With a name like that, we just had to go see it!

Pt. Sublime Overlook at Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona-min

Point Sublime – It wasn’t so easy to get there, but what a feeling when we finally did!

There are two ways to get to Point Sublime, and both involve an 18+ mile long adventure on a rugged dirt road.

One day we started out on the more southerly of the two roads which is accessed from the Widforss turn-off of Highway 67 inside Grand Canyon National Park. But we forgot to bring our map and we weren’t really prepared.

We met a passenger car about a half mile down the road and asked them if we were going the right way. “You are, but it’s a four hour drive to get there,” the woman said. “And it’s a miserable drive.”

“Even in this?” We asked pointing at our RZR.

“Even in that!”

We sure didn’t want to embark on a four hour drive just then, especially without having studied the map a bit and brought it with us too! So, we decided to go to Saddle Mountain that day instead which we wrote about here.

Polaris RZR ride in the ponderosa pine forest-min

Our little Polaris RZR 900 has made it possible for us to get to some wonderfully remote places!

The more northerly route to Point Sublime goes through the Kaibab National Forest and is the route the Forest Service and Park Service rangers drive their trucks on when they have to get out to the Point Sublime area.

It is known to be very washboardy, but at least it isn’t super rutted or have any crazy steep sections. However, it starts with Forest Service Road 22 next to Demotte Campground, and we’d driven that road a little bit already and it was incredibly dusty.

The more southerly route is known to be a wild ride in any kind of four wheel drive vehicle. It has sections that are full of huge holes and steep grades, and it’s very narrow in places. It goes through the woods and isn’t especially dusty or washboardy, but it does a good job of shaking you up even so.

After mulling it over, we decided to give the more southerly route a second try despite its fearsome reputation. Why not have a true RZR adventure? So far, our trips on the RZR had been on pretty easy to drive dirt roads and two track trails.

At first the road went through a lovely wide open meadow, ideal for our energetic pup Buddy to run ahead of us and get some of his wiggles out before we got to the tough stuff.

On the road to Pt. Sublime with a RZR and a puppy-min

Buddy loves to hop out of the RZR and run ahead of us at top speed.

Pup runs ahead of the RZR on the road to Pt. Sublime Grand Canyon-min

Zoom zoom.

The 18 mile drive took us about 90 minutes all together in our RZR, going from the paved state Highway 67 out to the Point Sublime overlook. The only other people or vehicles we saw on the entire trip out there was a single guy on a dirt bike. He waved as he rode past us. For the whole rest of the trip we had the woods to ourselves.

Dirt bike heading to Pt. Sublime Grand Canyon Arizona-min

The only other person or vehicle we saw on our trip out was a guy on a dirt bike.

The two track deeply rutted road wound its way through the ponderosa pine forest. In many places the forest floor was carpeted with a beautiful tapestry of purple lupine wildflowers and lush green grass. We stopped several times to enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of the forest and its spring flowers.

Polaris RZR ride to Point Sublime Overlook at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona-min

Half the fun of our RZR rides is getting out of it to explore on foot.

Lupine blooming at foot of scorched ponderosa pine trees-min

Beautiful waves of lupine were blooming between the trees

Ponderosa pine and lupine in the National Forest-min

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Buddy loved sniffing all the earthy smells around him. At one point he climbed up on a log and did a little tightrope walk along it.

Puppy tightrope walks on a log in the ponderosa pine forest-min

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We had such fun taking pics.

Photographing model puppy in lupine wildflowers in ponderosa pine forest-min

Buddy poses in the flowers for Mark.

Beautiful dog in lupine wildflowers-min

Nice shot!

About five miles into the drive the road became extremely rough. We averaged 4-5 mph for quite some time as we navigated the deeply eroded ruts in the road.

At times the little RZR tipped wildly off camber, but it never seemed like it would tip all the way over (thankfully!). Side-by-sides are like miniature tanks. Mark put it in four wheel drive and it was able to grind up or down just about anything.

Eventually the road smoothed out a little bit and then the trees parted on our left side, revealing our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon stretching into the distance.

Limestone cliffs near Point Sublime Grand Canyon Arizona North Rim-min

Limestone cliffs on the outer fringes of the Grand Canyon

Exploring Grand Canyon overlooks near Point Sublime-min

We had a blast climbing around on the rocks (not too close to the edge, though!)

Grand Canyon overlook near Point Sublime-min

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Huge craggy boulders begged to be climbed, and rugged rocky outcroppings jutted out into the view. We wandered through the woods and along the edge of the overlook for a long time, thrilled by the extraordinary vistas and the utter solitude and peace we felt in this far remote corner of the earth.

Grand Canyon view just before Pt. Sublime at North Rim-min

The views were so immense!

Overlook near Point Sublime at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona-min

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This warm up spot for the “real thing” at Point Sublime was a good place for a snack and a little drink.

Water break on the road to Point Sublime at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona-min

Water break!

We climbed back into the RZR and followed the two track road a few miles further. We knew the Grand Canyon was just over our left shoulders, but the woods were thick and the road wandered away from the edge, so we waited patiently as the buggy rolled along until suddenly we were driving out onto a huge peninsula.

To our right, as we drove out on the peninsula, the late morning sun lit up the multiple layers and many rich shades of Grand Canyon’s red rock cliffs. Wow!

Brilliant red rock cliffs at Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon-min

Our first view at Point Sublime. Just gorgeous!

Colorful red rock cliffs Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon North Rim-min

Red and orange of every hue.

Spectacular red rock cliffs at Grand Canyon Point Sublime-min

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After not seeing a soul besides the one dirt bike rider at the beginning of our journey, it was a surprise to find a big pickup truck parked at the end of the Point Sublime overlook.

I asked the fellow standing next to it if he’d come the way we had, the southern route through the National Park, and he said no. He’d come through the National Forest on the northern route and he said it wasn’t too bad. This was good to know since we now realized we’d never consider taking our dually pickup (or any other car or truck) on the road we had just traveled!

The Point Sublime peninsula jutted so far out into the Grand Canyon that it gave us 270 degree views. We wandered along the edge utterly enchanted by the way the views changed from one side of the peninsula to the other because of the way they were lit by the sun.

Stunning view at Point Sublime on North Rim of Grand Canyon-min

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First glimpse at Point Sublime Grand Canyon North Rim-min

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Point Sublime Overlook at North Rim Grand Canyon Arizona-min

The views and lighting were different in every direction

Grand Canyon Pt. Sublime view at North Rim-min

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Point Sublime has a few rock outcroppings that hang out over the view and we took turns peering over the edge. Such majesty!!

Puppy checks out Point Sublime Overlook at Grand Canyon-min

Buddy takes it all in.

The remoteness and the vastness were overwhelming, especially after such a long drive through the woods to get there.

Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona-min

What a view!

Photographer at Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon North Rim-min

Mark takes it all in.

Point Sublime Grand Canyon North Rim Arizona extraordinary view-min

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Far in the distance we could see the Colorado River. There were some whitewater rapids out there, and undoubtedly there were river rafters riding down the narrow ribbon of water and gazing up at the sheer cliff walls, admiring the Grand Canyon from a totally different perspective!

Grand Canyon carved by the Colorado River at Point Sublime Overlook-min

The Colorado River was faintly visible far in the distance.

View of Rapids on Colorado River at Point Sublime Grand Canyon North Rim-min

There were probably rafters down there blasting through the white water rapids!

As we started back from Point Sublime in the RZR, we met a couple coming towards us in a pickup truck. They had just finished the most hair rising part of that more southerly route we’d taken.

The guy leaned out the driver’s window and we started to ask him how the ride had been. But we’d barely gotten a few words out when he blurted out in total exaspiration, “What’s the fastest way to get to a paved road?”

His wife was in the passenger’s seat, and she was white as a ghost. “It was horrible!” She said staring straight ahead out the windshield, eyes like saucers. “Just awful! The worst drive you can imagine.”

Tree and shadow Point Sublime Overlook Grand Canyon North Rim-min

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Unfortunately for them, the nearest paved road was at least an hour and a half away. But the Point Sublime overlook was just a few miles further on and the last bit of road to get there wasn’t that bad.

Best of all, they’d be able to confer with the guy in the other pickup at the overlook who could give them directions for the washboarded but slightly easier route through the National Forest back to the highway.

Fifth wheel RV camping at sunset-min

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If you have the chance and a rugged four wheel drive vehicle and a taste for adventure, give the trip to Point Sublime a try. It is well worth it.

But if you don’t have a way to get out there, the other North Rim overlooks that are accessible via paved roads are just as wondrous and every bit as breathtaking.

Sometimes it’s about the journey, but a lot of times it’s really about the destination, and the Grand Canyon is glorious from every angle!

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    Canyon Country Highlights – Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend & More!

    January 2019 – Our wintertime National Parks Snowstorm Tour to Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon was incredible. What a thrill to see snow at both of those gorgeous National Parks. But the drive to get there and back was also spectacular, as it took us past many wonders of Utah’s and Arizona’s “Canyon Country.”

    Canyon Country Arizona and Utah Glen Canyon Lake Powell Horseshoe Bend-min

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    Just outside of Bryce Canyon is one of our favorite places, Red Canyon. We love the hiking trails there. What fun it was to see its two tunnels through the red rocks decorated in snow!

    Snow at Red Canyon Utah tunnel-min

    Red Canyon has two charming tunnels in the red rocks – and in winter they have snow!

    The area around Bryce Canyon was beautiful in its winter finery, and we got a huge kick out of driving the scenic roads and seeing familiar red rock formations peeking out from beneath a layer of snow.

    Red rocks and a stream in Utah during winter-min

    A glimpse of the edge of Red Canyon across a wintry landscape.

    Snow on red rocks approaching Bryce Canyon Utah-min

    Bryce-like rock formations peered out from the mountains a few miles from the actual Canyon.

    Snow at Red Canyon Utah-min

    Red rock country makes for wonderful scenic drive in summer, but how beautiful to see it with snow!

    The valleys near Bryce Canyon stood silent in their winter slumber save for a few homesteads here and there.

    Winter outside Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah-min

    The quiet life.

    As we descended out of the high 8,000′ plateau where Bryce Canyon is situated, we said goodbye to the snow one last time.

    Puppy poses in snow in Flagstaff Arizona-min

    Buddy loved the snow, but it was time to leave it behind.

    The wonderfully scenic US-89 passes through spectacular red rock landscapes as it approaches and then leaves Kanab, Utah, and we reminisced as we passed the turn-off for the incomparable Wire Pass Slot Canyon hike and the charming Toadstools Hike, both barely noted with small brown signs on the highway.

    And then we were suddenly immersed in the beauty of Glen Canyon. This exquisite canyon was carved by the relentless flow of the Colorado River which has sculpted the surrounding colorful sandstone into a myriad of shapes.

    Afternoon shadows Glen Canyon Utah-min

    Late afternoon at Glen Canyon.

    The Colorado River was dammed here to form Lake Powell, and the vivid blue of the lake set against the towering stone cliffs was jaw-dropping in the morning sun.

    Glen Canyon and the Colorado River in Arizona-min

    Lake Powell is the centerpiece of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

    Glen Canyon in Page Arizona-min

    Lake Powell (Glen Canyon).

    Glen Canyon Page Arizona morning light-min

    Lake Powell (Glen Canyon).

    We had seen brochure pictures of Lake Powell like this, but to see it in person was a feast for the eyes. What a fantastic contrast — or complement — to the snow at Bryce Canyon and the mysterious light show at Grand Canyon that we had just witnessed days earlier.

    Glen Canyon Page Arizona morning light-min

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    Glen Canyon Arizona morning color-min

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    We drove down to the beach to get a little closer to the water.

    Driving on Glen Canyon beach in Arizona-min

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    The stone monoliths towered on the other side of the small cove. What an exotic landscape!

    Photography at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

    This is a fabulous spot for photography!

    There is a marina, hotel and restaurant complex on the shore at Lake Powell, and we could see the marina docks in the distance. The air became a little hazy as the day wore on, but the deep crimson red rocks were just stunning!

    Red rock mesas at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

    The distant red rocks were a deep crimson!

    A group of houseboats anchored in the bay looked very inviting. We told each other we’ll have to do an overnight in one someday. A concessionaire for the National Park Service rents them out!!

    Houseboats at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

    Houseboats anchored in the bay. What a fun excursion that would be!

    RV camping on the beach at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

    Other worldly!

    Lone Rock Glen Canyon Arizona-min

    This guy loved the beach!

    The eye-popping Horseshoe Bend Overlook is a little bit south of Lake Powell, and although we’ve visited before (blog post here), we couldn’t drive through the area without stopping in to take another look.

    We were shocked when we arrived to see that massive construction is underway in the parking lot and on the hill between the parking lot and the overlook to make it easier to support the enormous crowds of tourists that flock here every hour of every day.

    What used to be a small parking lot will soon be at least four times bigger. A slew of vault toilets have been installed, and it looks like a road is going in to take tourists right to the rim.

    Horseshoe Bend Overlook Page Arizona-min

    Horseshoe Bend

    Right now visitors still walk straight up over the berm on a dirt path to the overlook. The new road will go around the berm on the south side. It’s not clear whether walkers or motorized vehicles or both will use the road, perhaps only tour buses. We were also quite astonished to see a railing protecting part of the rim now as well. Now, anyone who is unnerved by standing on the edge of a several thousand foot drop can stand by the railing with confidence.

    Horseshoe Bend Arizona Colorado RIver-min

    The rocks near the edge of the overlook have fantastic markings.

    Most of the rim is still wide open and easily explored, however, and plenty of crazy people were doing their selfie stunts just inches from a lethal fall (a girl fell off and died over Christmas this year). But it was the beautiful lines and patterns in the rocks at our feet that really caught our attention.

    This is a special little gem of a spot.

    Horseshoe Bend Arizona fisheye lens-min

    A fish-eye view catches the wake of a boat cruising by on the river below!

    Whereas Horseshoe Bend is busy busy busy and a true jaw-dropper to boot, a nearby scenic overlook at Glen Canyon Dam is fully developed for people to explore but had no visitors but us when we stopped by one morning.

    The Colorado River is visible four thousand feet below — just as it is at Horseshoe Bend a few miles away — and the rust colored canyon walls are incredibly sheer.

    Glen Canyon Dam Overlook Page Arizona-min

    The Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook was beautiful and dramatic — and we were the only ones there!

    We just loved the lines in the rocks and the infinite variety of patterns they create.

    Lines in the rocks Glen Canyon Dam-min

    Such wonderful lines in the rocks!

    It is a kid’s paradise for running around on the rocks.

    Scenic Overlook Glen Canyon Dam Page Arizona-min

    These rocks are very cool to climb on.

    Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook with puppy-min

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    Windblown puppy Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook-min

    Mark won a photo contest with this unique photo of a strong gust of wind blowing on Buddy!

    Glen Canyon Dam is a short distance away tucked between massive cliffs!

    Glen Canyon Dam Overlook in Page Arizona-min

    To get a sense of scale, notice Mark in the upper right corner taking a photo of the dam!

    Scenic Overlook Glen Canyon Dam in Page Arizona-min

    Top dog.

    Meanwhile, storms brewed above the mesas and mountains on the horizon.

    Storm on the horizon Glen Canyon Lake Powell Arizona-min

    Storm clouds gathered.

    This whole part of Canyon Country between Bryce Canyon, Utah, and Page, Arizona, is exquisite, and is truly a delight for photography. We were up with the chickens one morning to see if we could capture something special down at Lake Powell. And sure enough, the sun gave us a show to remember!

    Magenta sky and water before dawn Glen Canyon Arizona-min

    When we first arrived at the shore at dawn, the sky and water took on shades of purple and magenta.

    The sunrise was brilliant, but even as the sun made its appearance on one horizon, storm clouds were forming on the other. We loved the contrast of light and dark.

    Sunrise at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

    The day awakens.

    As the sun cast its last glow across the land before giving in to the coming storm, it lit the horizon’s classic southwestern horizon of mesas and rock pinnacles.

    Stormy skies at dawn at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

    While the sun rose on one side the storm clouds grew darker on the other.

    Mesas and rock formations Glen Canyon Arizona at dawn-min

    Morning light.

    What a beautiful way to end our quick trip through Canyon Country to see the Best of the West under snow!

    Before long we were back in our trailer in Phoenix getting ready to head out with our new RZR and try our new triple-towing adventures. But this week-long interlude at some of America’s most beautiful places in mid-winter is a trip we will remember forever.

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    Bryce Canyon in Winter – Snow and Lace on the Red Rock Spires!

    January 2019 – When we dashed out of Phoenix and headed north towards a blizzard that was raging at Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, the weather forecast was for an even bigger snow storm at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah!

    Bryce Canyon has been among our favorite National Parks since we first saw it while tent camping nearly fifteen years ago, and we have visited many times since we started traveling full-time in an RV. But we had never seen it with snow. What a fabulous opportunity this was!

    Bryce Canyon National Park in winter with snow

    Bryce Canyon is spectacular when blanketed with snow!

    Since we were dressed for cold weather and ready to romp in the snow, this was the perfect time to trek another 285 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon around the east end of that great chasm and then northwards to Bryce Canyon National Park.

    Happy camper and puppy in snow-min

    Buddy loves the snow — and so do I (in small doses in scenic places!)

    Of course, the problem with blizzards is that things tend to shut down due to the snow.

    So, we were totally shocked (but shouldn’t have been) when we started heading east on AZ Route 64 on the way to Bryce Canyon and found that it was closed!! Argh!! Now the only way to get to Bryce was to go SOUTH back down to Flagstaff and then north on US-89, adding about 80 miles to our trip.

    Well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do when chasing beautiful scenery in unique conditions. So off we went to Bryce via Flagstaff!

    And how worthwhile this trip turned out to be. When we arrived, we went straight to the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park at Inspiration Point and were blown away by what we saw.

    Bryce Canyon National Park view with pine tree and snow-min

    Bryce Canyon is stunning all year long, but what a place it is when laced with fresh snow!

    Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    Snow and red rock pinnacles right to the horizon!!

    The only overlooks that were officially open were Sunrise Point and Sunset Point (interestingly, both of those overlooks face east, so the names don’t really relate to sunrises or sunsets!).

    Luckily for us, the parking area at Inspiration Point had been plowed too, and eager visitors had trampled a narrow trail through the deep snow to the incomparable views along the rim there.

    Inspiration Point view with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    The view at Inspiration Point

    Bryce Canyon National Park is a fairy tale land of charming red rock turrets and castles nestled into a vast amphitheater that makes for jaw dropping images at any time of year. Now, in mid-January, the red rock spires peeked out from under a blanket of fresh snow.

    Looking down into the snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    Looking down into the depths between the spires.

    Trail with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    A magical walk along the rim!

    The views at Sunset Point were spectacular as the sun began to cast deep shadows across the landscape.

    Limber Pine at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    A limber pine looks out at the Canyon at Sunset Point.

    All three overlooks — Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point — were connected by a narrow trail that had been made by boots in the snow. We wandered between the overlooks, snapping photos with almost every step.

    Deep Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park Sunset Point-min

    Late afternoon shadows at Sunset Point.

    Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow Sunset Point-min

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    Blanket of Snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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    Sunset Point View Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

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    Over the years, Rubys Inn, located 3 miles from the Park entrance, has grown from a small hotel and restaurant to a sprawling complex that now includes several motel buildings, a huge restaurant, a massive RV park, an expansive gift shop, a grocery store and a tiny US Post Office.

    In the past we’ve stopped at Rubys Inn to relax in its beautiful hotel lobby, explore the gift shop and grocery store and do laundry at the laundromat, but on this trip we stayed in the Lakeside motel building which is pet friendly.

    Icicles at Rubys Inn Bryce Canyon City Utah-min

    Icicles hang from the roof at Rubys Inn.

    Buddy was absolutely loving the snow, and each morning we went for a fast paced run in the powder out behind Rubys Inn between the snowed-in RV campsites.

    Puppy in snow at Bryce Canyon-min

    Buddy loved sprinting through the snow and then eating it!

    All the trees in the woods around Bryce Canyon and Rubys Inn were heavily laden with snow, and the air was so crisp it felt brittle and harsh on our cheeks.

    Snow on trees at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    The trails around Rubys Inn were delightful. Some folks rented snowshoes.

    Rubys Inn had a few big pull-through RV campsites in the center of the complex that were open to campers even now, but we saw only one pair of hardy souls camping in this bitter cold. They were in a truck camper, and they explained to us that Rubys Inn has full hookups in the summertime but at this time of year there are only electric hookups so no one has to worry about freezing pipes.

    There is a shower building with hot showers, and of course the restaurant offers a full buffet breakfast everyday that is so filling you won’t need lunch and might even want to skip dinner!

    Truck camper in snow Rubys Inn Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    Campsites were available at Rubys Inn (electric only) and they even had some very hardy customers!

    In the National Park one loop of the North Campground was open for dry camping too. We were impressed to see a van, but were frankly quite shocked to see two guys setting up a tent and then to see another tent already set up and waiting for its owners to return from their hike!

    Tent camping in snow North Campground Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    The nights were in the single digits…!

    Out on the trails the days warmed up to 33 degrees each day we were there.

    Deep Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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    And the snow was deep!!

    Deep snow at Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter-min

    Buddy isn’t very tall, but still, this is deep snow!!

    And each time we walked out on the rim our jaws dropped yet again. Bryce Canyon is such a unique and special landscape. To see it with snow is a divine treat!

    Inspiration Point with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    These were the views we had driven all those miles to see.

    Stunning Bryce Canyon National Park view with snow-min

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    Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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    Several of the trails that go down into the Bryce Canyon amphitheater had been cleared by the boots of eager hikers.

    Navajo Loop Trail Hikers at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

    Hiking the trails was a lot of fun!

    Hikers at Inspiration Point Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

    Hikers on the trails below us showed the scale of this place!!

    The white snow made the perfect backdrop to show the diminutive size of the hikers in comparison to the red rock spires that surrounded them in the Canyon.

    Hikers at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

    Two hikers approach an overlook on Queen’s Garden Trail below Sunrise Point.

    Navajo Loop Trail with snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    Hikers on the Navajo Loop Trail.

    We walked down the Navajo Loop Trail a ways. It was steep in places, and we were grateful for the railings at the beginning of the trail because it was pretty slippery on the ice there!

    Hiking in the snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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    Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

    What a view!

    Selfie shot at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

    A moment to remember!

    Hikers were having fun getting selfies, but not every spot was a great place to stand!

    We noticed that the Park Service had posted a few signs warning the most daring selfie-takers not to venture out on the puffy snow in places where there might not be much support underneath!

    Do Not Enter sign at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

    “Do not enter!”

    As we progressed down the Navajo Loop Trail we felt that familiar sense of inspiration and awe that always envelops us as the red rock spires rise up around us at Bryce.

    Drifts of snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    Hikers on an upper switchback.

    Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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    Snowy trails Bryce Canyon National Park-min

    The turrets rose around us as we descended.

    Bryce Canyon National Park snow on Navajo Loop Trail-min

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    Hiking Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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    The soft white snow, red rocks and blue sky were a perfect complement to each other in every view.

    Hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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    As we ventured out on the rim and wandered down the trails we were so glad we had made the long drive from Phoenix via the Grand Canyon to see Bryce Canyon dressed in the white lace of winter.

    Fresh snow Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

    A blanket of fresh snow…

    Tree at snowy overlook Bryce Canyon National Park Utah-min

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    View into Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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    Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

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    Bryce Canyon National Park is a knockout at any time of year — definitely one of the most spectacular places in North America — but how special it was to see it blanketed with snow on these bright and sunny January days!

    Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter at overlook-min

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    During our stay, the moon rose bright and full over the canyon. I made a point to be at the Canyon rim for moonrise late one afternoon. I had visions in my head of photographing a huge round moon rising up from behind the distant mountains and glowing across the canyon.

    I got to Sunrise Point fifteen minutes before moonrise and stood there full of hope for the next hour. But the moon didn’t make it to her appointment!

    I finally left, totally discouraged and frozen to the bone. Dejected, I took Buddy for a walk in the woods behind Rubys Inn just after sunset. As we rounded a corner I suddenly saw the moon’s bright white face between the trees.

    What the heck?! When did it rise? How did I miss it?

    Peaks of snow Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter at overlook-min

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    I kicked myself all that night and into the next morning, thinking that I had missed the most beautiful imagineable moonrise over Bryce Canyon because I had given up too easily and left too soon.

    The next morning Mark and I were both up at oh-dark-thirty to catch the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. It was a mere 12 degrees Fahrenheit as we hiked out to find our own spots at Sunset Point. As I got set up, I chatted with another photographer who was walking by me about how sad I was to have missed the moonrise the night before.

    “Oh! You didn’t miss anything. The moon was covered by clouds at the horizon when it was rising!” he told me. He’d been out on Queen’s Garden Trail and hadn’t seen it between the spires until an hour after it’s rising time either.

    Phew!! That made sense! What a relief that I hadn’t blown a once in a lifetime opportunity after all. The moon had simply decided not to show up at the appointed time and instead hid behind a bank of hazy blueish-grayish clouds for an hour!

    Mark and I headed to two different spots along Sunset Point for the sunrise. As the moment got closer, more and more cars showed up in the parking lot. I looked out along the rim and noticed several other eager photographers standing faithfully behind their tripods waiting for Nature to unleash her wonders.

    Morning light Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

    The snow glowed pink and orange at dawn.

    We all wanted that magical moment of a sunny starburst spreading rays of sunshine across the Canyon. And we all worried it was going to be a dud as the horizon got brighter and brighter yet nothing happened. After missing out on the moon, I began to prepare myself to be heartbroken for missing out on the sunrise starburst too.

    But suddenly as I stared at the image on the back of my camera I saw the faint rays of a starburst beginning. I clicked the shutter repeatedly, and with immense satisfaction I watched the starburst grow and grow.

    Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

    Sunrise!

    A few hundred yards away Mark was having the same experience. After it seemed like nothing would happen, the sun suddenly reached across the canyon while the calls of ravens in the distance welcomed a new day. How beautiful.

    Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah winter visit with snow-min

    Good morning!!

    What a blessing to be alive and to be out here at this moment!

    As we hiked back to the truck, we compared notes with other photographers who were walking back too. One fellow told us he’d been hiking with a guy the day before who had been coming to Bryce Canyon National Park every winter for the last 40 years, and he’d said he had never seen the snow as deep and thick as it was this year.

    Blessing upon blessing!

    We had rushed out of the Sonoran Desert on a wing and a prayer because we’d seen three days of snow predicted for Canyon Country. Little did we know that we would be hitting Bryce Canyon when it had more snow than it had seen in many years!

    If you have a chance to get to Bryce Canyon during or after a snowstorm, jump on the opportunity. Even if the moon or sun plays games with you, you won’t be disappointed!!

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    Grand Canyon – A Winter Wonderland with Snow!

    January 2019 – Even though we have a new Polaris RZR waiting to take us on lots of exciting back road adventures, we’ve had a hankering to do a National Parks Snowstorm Tour for several years now. Our snowy day trip to Jerome a few weeks ago further whetted our appetites, so this week when a blizzard was predicted for the Grand Canyon, we hit the road!

    Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

    Grand Canyon National Park is a Winter Wonderland when it snows!

    We drove up from Phoenix to Flagstaff, Arizona, and when we got there we had to laugh at all the signs by the road advertising hats and gloves. Desert dwellers love to go to Flagstaff to see snow in the wintertime, and sometimes they forget their winter duds (or don’t even own any!).

    Snow had been in the forecast for Grand Canyon, but we saw only dustings and flurries until we climbed the last few miles to Grand Canyon’s South Rim about 75 miles north of Flagstaff. Then it began to snow hard, as it had been doing there for the last 24 hours.

    It was a little difficult to tell what was where under all the snow!

    Snowed in at Grand Canyon National Park-min

    Things looked a little different at the Grand Canyon than we’re used to seeing !

    But much to our surprise, despite the snow, Grand Canyon National Park was hopping. Cars zipped here and there, the shuttle buses from the hotels to the rim were packed, and as usual, the languages we heard around us were from all over the world.

    Exhilarated, we bundled up and hustled out to the closest overlook we could find on the Rim Trail.

    Ready to walk the snow trails at Grand Canyon National Park-min

    There was a lot of snow, but we were ready for it!

    What a shock it was to find that fog filled the entire Grand Canyon! We could barely see from one overlook to the next, never mind across the whole Grand Canyon to the other side 10 miles away.

    Drifts and blowing snow at Grand Canyon National Park overlook in snow-min

    Fog filled the Canyon and even obscured one viewpoint from the next!

    Nevertheless, tourists slipped and slid down the icy trails and out onto the overlooks to see what they could see — which was nothing!

    Grand Canyon overlook in snow-min

    Tourists filled the overlooks even though there was nothing to see!

    Despite the lack of a real Grand Canyon view, the fresh snow was beautiful and gave the Canyon a mystique we don’t often see.

    Fresh snow in Grand Canyon National Park-min

    Fresh snow, fog and mist gave the Grand Canyon a special beauty.

    Grand Canyon National Park snow and fog-min

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    The fog blew in and out and the snow began to fall harder and harder. A woman standing next to me wondered why I was hanging over the edge taking photos.

    Photographer in snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

    A photographer takes photos of…fog?

    This was her first trip to the Grand Canyon, and although the snow and mist was lovely, she was really disappointed not to see the real view. “What does it usually look like?” She asked forlornly.

    Snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

    When you’ve come all the way to the Grand Canyon, you’ve gotta get out on an overlook,
    even if there’s nothing to see!

    Grand Canyon National Park overlook in snow-min

    Usually this tree has a great view!

    If only she’d been able to stay another day. When we got to the rim the next day, the snow had stopped falling and sunlight had begun to shine through.

    Rim Trail Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

    The sun came out and cast shadows across the Rim Trail.

    And what an appearance it made. The light show across the canyon was spectacular!

    Clouds and snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

    The sun and clouds chased each other across the Grand Canyon.

    Grand Canyon National Park stormy sky-min

    What a glorious light show!

    We were blown away, and so was everyone else. A crowd began to form, and the usual dance of tourist antics and selfies began.

    Tourists at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min

    Word got out that the Canyon was on display again, and the tourists lined up!

    Views and snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

    Embracing the view.

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    This Aussie/American couple was narrating a video about visiting the Grand Canyon in a snowstorm.

    We were mesmerized watching the light and shadows chasing each other through the billowing curtains of mist and fog.

    Light and shadow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

    Meanwhile the light show went on.

    Fog and clouds Grand Canyon National Park-min

    Puffs of misty clouds swept by.

    Snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

    The Grand Canyon is magical at any time of year, but this was a special moment.

    Everyone was taking selfies and handing their cameras around, so we joined right in and did the same.

    Happy campers at Grand Canyon National Park-min

    We joined the selfie mania. Why not?!

    Puppy in snow at Grand Canyon National Park in snow-min-min

    Buddy loved the view and being part of the view too!
    Fortunately for him, leashed pets are allowed on the trails above the rim.

    Most of the Grand Canyon overlooks were closed because the road to them hadn’t been plowed. The whole drive to Hermit’s Rest on the west side of the South Rim was closed and the road to Desert View on the east side was closed as well.

    Grand Canyon National Park after a snowstorm-min

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    Great Crevasse Grand Canyon National Park-min

    The canyon walls in that crack are thousands of feet high!

    So, everyone stayed on the Rim Trail and visited just one or two viewpoints. The funny thing is that even though the total number of tourists at the Grand Canyon was a tiny fraction of what you’d see midsummer, because we were all concentrated in one small area it was still packed!

    But it didn’t matter and the makeshift nature of things kind of added to the fun. This was a very special moment to be in this place, and everyone was thrilled to be here.

    Blizzard at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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    Virgin snow Grand Canyon National Park-min

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    We all knew the sun would last for only a short while this afternoon because more snow was on its way. So the mood was almost giddy.

    Grand Canyon National Park after snow storm-min

    What a view!

    Grand Canyon National Park snowy view-min

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    Grand Canyon National Park snow-min

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    We had buzzed up from Phoenix in our truck and left our fifth wheel trailer behind. Even though the trailer camground was open at Grand Canyon and we saw some rigs with snow on their roofs, we’d decided to take a vacation from our vacation and stay in a hotel.

    Snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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    Grand Canyon National Park snow view-min

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    The fantastic thing about the Grand Canyon in the wintertime is that a lot of folks cancel at the last minute when they see snow in the forecast. So rooms were available for 50 cents on the dollar.

    Clouds and snow at Grand Canyon National Park-min

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    Grand Canyon National Park snow at overlook-min

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    If you’re in Arizona for the winter and you want to see something very special, watch the weather forecast at the Grand Canyon and head there when the snow falls!

    Clouds and fog Grand Canyon National Park-min

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    Puppy plays in snow in Flagstaff Arizona-min

    Next time you see snow in the forecast for the Grand Canyon, go for it!

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    Bighorn Canyon – A River Runs Through It in Montana!

    July 2018 – The Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming have given us many special moments recently. We traversed the beautiful Bighorn Scenic Byway this past spring and spent part of last summer nestled alongside the Bighorn Mountains in the charming town of Buffalo, Wyoming.

    In Buffalo we not only enjoyed a festival for the Longmire TV show but also took part in an unusual celebration of the Basque sheep herders who settled the area over a century ago.

    During our time in this area the word “Bighorns,” in our minds, had become synonymous with “Mountains in Wyoming.” So, it was a huge surprise when I opened a Montana travel magazine a few weeks ago and saw a stunning photo of sheer canyon walls plunging down to a winding river with the caption: Bighorn Canyon. This we had to see!

    Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Bighorn Canyon Montana and Wyoming

    Bighorn Canyon.

    Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is managed by the National Park Service, and there are two districts, the South District which is accessed from Lovell, Wyoming, and the North District which is accessed near St. Xavier, Montana.

    Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

    The drive into Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area from Lovell, Wyoming, is very scenic.

    The two districts are connected by the wonderfully twisting Bighorn River that snakes its way between the canyon walls for miles and miles in both Montana and Wyoming.

    However, the Bighorn National Recreation Area is not contiguous for visitors unless you travel on the Bighorn River by boat. The dirt road connecting the South and North Districts crosses through the Crow Indian Reservation which is private property.

    So, we decided we would check out the South District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area since it is not too far from Cody, Wyoming, and then loop around to the North District and see the canyon from that angle.

    Bighorn Canyon National Rec Area Scenic Drive Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

    Bighorn Canyon Scenic Drive.

    The shock to our senses after spending several weeks in the high elevations of the Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Highway just outside Yellowstone National Park was incredible. Not only did we descend from cool summertime mountain temps in the low 70s to the baking heat of the desert in the mid-90s, but we went from lush greenery with wildflowers to a dusty crusty land full of red rocks.

    Bighorn Canyon scenic drive Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

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    Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Scenic drive by RV-min

    Red rocks!

    The most famous view on the southwest end of Bighorn Canyon is Devil’s Canyon Overlook just over the border on the Montana side. As we turned onto the road that heads out to this overlook we noticed a female bighorn sheep standing by the side of the road.

    Bighorn sheep ewe Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

    A bighorn sheep stops grazing to look at us.

    BIghorn sheep ewe Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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    After taking a few pics we noticed that there were several more bighorn sheep munching the grass by the side of the road. A mama and her sweet little lamb caught our eye.

    Bighorn sheep at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip Montana and Wyoming

    Mama Bighorn (shedding her winter coat) and her baby.

    We got out of the truck to have a closer look.

    Bighorn sheep lamb Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Montana and Wyoming

    So cute!

    We noticed two other little lambs close by. They were adorable!

    Bighorn sheep lambs Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

    Twice as cute!

    Bighorn sheep lambs Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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    What a treat it was to see all these bighorn lambs right by the road!

    Bighorn sheep lamb Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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    Just a little ways further on the view suddenly opened up and we were looking at the fabulous sheer walls of the Devil’s Canyon Overlook. Wow!

    Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

    The view at Devil’s Canyon Overlook is very dramatic.

    Devil's Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Horseshoe Bend RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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    The towering canyon walls and the thin ribbon of water snaking between them reminded us a little of both Goosenecks State Park in Utah and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.

    We had the place to ourselves and we ran around taking pics like mad.

    Photographer Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

    What a spot to take some pics!

    Buddy trotted along the fence line, and he seemed to be enjoying the views too, although maybe he was just keeping an eye on the mice and other varmints that were scampering near the edge!

    Puppy checks out view Devil's Overlook Horseshoe Bend Overlook Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip-min

    Puppy Chow checks out the view and the varmints!

    The Devil’s Canyon Overlook is a big area and we walked along the edge peering into the canyon for a ways.

    Horseshe Bend Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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    Backtracking a little into the Wyoming side of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, we found the Horseshoe Bend Marina and Campground. We loved seeing the boats tied up to the docks with the rich colors of the red rocks behind them.

    Horseshoe Bend Marina Bighorn Canyon Montana and Wyoming RV trip-min

    Horseshoe Bend Marina.

    At dawn we ran down to the beach to catch the sunrise.

    Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

    Sunrise on the Bighorn River.

    Wild yellow daisies swayed to and fro by the water’s edge.

    Daisies at sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

    Daisies dancing at dawn.

    The water in the Bighorn River reflected the sunrise beautifully.

    Sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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    Sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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    Red rocks at sunrise Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

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    The red rocks on the far shore took on a rich shade of burnt orange.

    Sunrise Red rocks Horseshoe Bend beach Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming-min

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    The beach and shoreline were deserted except for the three of us, and we had a wonderful time together playing by the edge of the water and watching the day wake up.

    Photographer and puppy Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

    Happily busy on the beach at sunrise!

    Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is most popular during the spring and fall when the temperatures are cool. But for visitors who stop by mid-summer, there are electric hookups at the marina campground at Horseshoe Bend, and the air conditioners of a handful of campers were happily purring away 24/7!

    Horseshoe Bend Campground Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV trip in Montana and Wyoming

    Camping at Horseshoe Bend Marina and campground.

    We will be back again at a more comfortable time of year, and we plan to visit the North District of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area when it’s cool too. Our visit this time was a brief but wonderful detour that took us out of the snow capped mountains and into red rock country, and it whetted our appetites for a return trip!

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    Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park

    April 2018 – Utah Scenic Byway 24 between the towns of Loa and Hanksville goes through Capitol Reef National Park and is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in America. We have been fortunate to drive it several times in each direction, and every single time our jaws have hung open for the entire 64 miles as we’ve been utterly blown away by the dramatic scenery and wild rock formations passing by our windows.

    Here’s a series of photos showing how it looked from the passenger seat of our truck as we towed our trailer across the magical wonderland of Capitol Reef Country from west to east.

    It started with a lovely view of red rocks as we rounded a bend.

    Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

    Our first big red rocks view begins to take shape on Utah’s Scenic Byway 24

    Then our eyes popped open as the contours and texture of the land grew bigger and more complex.

    Utah Highway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

    Wow!

    Suddenly, we started down a hill and the view exploded in front of us and became knock-your-socks-off stunning!

    Utah 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

    Wow, Wow, WOW!

    A group of horses and cows live in this view all day every day, so they weren’t quite as impressed.

    Horses on Utah Scenic Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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    But we were loving every minute as we drove head on into that view.

    Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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    Views on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

    View out the side window.

    Utah Byway 24 is easily driven in an RV, even though there are lots of twists and turns and climbs and descents, and we saw plenty of RVs on the road.

    RV on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

    There are lots of RVs on this route.

    Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

    The road curves, climbs and descends, but it’s easy driving.
    Just don’t get too distracted by the sensational views and drive off the road!

    Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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    RV on Utah Route 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

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    The red rock views just kept coming and coming and coming.

    Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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    Red rocks Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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    Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Red rocks RV trip-min

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    Exotic rock formations Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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    The heart of Capitol Reef National Park is an old Mormon farming community called Fruita. As we drove past the village on Utah Highway 24, we noticed that the trees were still showing off their nakedness for winter. However, on other spring and summer visits, we’ve seen these trees lit up in brilliant shades of green that are the perfect visual contrast to the red rocks and blue sky.

    Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

    These trees turn vivid green in spring!

    Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

    Trees line the road near Fruita.

    Fruita is a beautiful and tranquil little community, and there are camping options, a fantastic scenic drive into the depths of the red rocks, and some terrific hikes to historic Mormon sites. We have a detailed blog post about some of the highlights of Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita from our visit a few years back (blog post here).

    However, on this trip we were just driving through on Utah Highway 24. So, on we went, reminiscing when we passed some favorite spots and then quickly becoming immersed in the majestic scenery of Utah Scenic Byway 24 once again.

    We had left red rock country behind and were now driving between rock walls that Mother Nature had painted in lighter shades.

    Rock canyon Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip_-min

    We’d left the red rocks but were still surrounded by dramatic canyon walls.

    Pinnacles Scenic

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    Views Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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    Sheer walls Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route Scenic Byway 24 RV truo

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    There were still some hints of red rocks here and there, and we were mesmerized as we drove. A UPS truck went by in the opposite direction and we had to laugh. Surely, that driver has the best UPS route in the country!

    Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

    Not bad scenery for the few lucky folks who have to drive this route for work every day!

    Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

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    Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Scenic Byway 24

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    Gradually, the soaring rock walls on either side of us receded, and the land opened up, punctuated by occasional towers of stone.

    Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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    RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24-min

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    Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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    Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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    Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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    RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24-min

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    Then the rock formations changed shape and the rock walls were filled with steep and angular channels that were carved with Nature’s sharpest chisels.

    Exotic landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Highway 24 RV trip-min

    Fine chisel work…

    We were no longer in Capitol Reef National Park, but the landscapes in Utah pay no attention to such artificial boundaries. Utah Scenic Byway 24 was still giving us a magic carpet ride through some of the most exotic scenery America has to offer.

    Desert landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV trip-min

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    Rock uplift Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

    Massive rock uplifts make faces.

    The chiseled walls returned, but the cows grazing underneath didn’t notice.

    Spectacular landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV

    Dinner with a view!

    Flowering tree Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

    A pink tree shows off its springtime finest.

    Farm field Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 by RV-min

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    As we neared the hamlet of Hanksville, the road took a few final sweeping turns past some walls of stone.

    Stone canyon Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

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    Towering rock formation Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24-min

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    And then, in a final burst of glory, we passed a “mitten” rock formation that seemed to be advertising some of the other wonders of America’s southwest. “If you liked this road, you should check out Monument Valley!” it seemed to be saying.

    Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Monument Valley lookalike-min

    A mitten formation reminds us of Monument Valley.

    What a glorious drive that was! I looked over at Mark to exchange happy glances and did a double take. Hey, who was doing the driving?

    Puppy drives the truck and trailer

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    We will never tire of driving the many wondrous scenic drives in Utah, and Utah Scenic Byway 24 is well worth experiencing many times in both directions. It attaches to Scenic Byway 12 and the fabulous Bicentennial Highway and is close to the little known Burr Trail too.

    Even if your itinerary doesn’t include visiting Capitol Reef National Park for its hikes and camping, if you happen to be in southern Utah, treat yourself to an east-west detour and spend a few hours driving Utah Scenic Byway 24!

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    Dolly Steamboat – Gliding Through the Arizona Desert on Canyon Lake

    February 2018 – One of the most enjoyable ways to experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona is to take a boat ride on one of the lakes around Phoenix. Years ago we rode on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake and absolutely loved it. This past week we took a ride on the Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake.

    Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip

    Dolly Steamboat floats through the Sonoran Desert on Canyon Lake in Arizona.

    While we were camped in our RV on Canyon Lake, our new puppy Buddy loved going down on the beach, especially during our early morning photo sessions. He liked to show us how fast he could zip between the legs of our tripods.

    Photography at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

    Buddy shows us his slalom skills.

    When he wasn’t busy doing that, he was sprinting across the lakeside lawn carrying his favorite pink rope toy.

    Puppy Chow plays fetch at Canyon Lake RV Park-min

    Canyon Lake Marina & Campground has a big open grassy area that’s great for playing fetch.

    Late one afternoon while he was down on the beach playing with the waves, he noticed an inflatable boat that had been pulled up on the beach. Hmmmm… a boat ride might be pretty fun!

    Boating at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

    A little sailor dog is born.

    While we were out walking the next morning I was busy snapping pics of our shadows on the ground when we looked up and noticed the Dolly Steamboat moored at the dock.

    Walking with puppy at Canyon Lake Marina Arizona-min

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    The Dolly Steamboat was patiently waiting to take her first group of passengers out for a nature tour on Canyon Lake.

    Docked Dolly Steamboat at Canyon Lake Arizona on an RV trip-min

    Dolly Steamboat on Canyon Lake

    Dolly Steamboat docked at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

    Dolly Steamboat rests at dawn.

    A steamboat ride definitely seemed like it would be a lot of fun to do together.

    Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

    What would the pup think of a boat ride?!

    Canyon Lake is a beautiful big, blue lake in the middle of the desert, and we had been getting lots of photos of it from the shore as we drove up and down the Apache Trail. But seeing a lake from the shore isn’t the same as seeing it from the water.

    Canyon Lake Arizona RV Trip-min

    Canyon Lake is a big blue expanse of water in the middle of the desert.

    We talked about doing a boat ride on the Dolly Steamboat over dinner.

    Puppy enjoys dinner in the RV-min

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    And Buddy slept on the idea too.

    Puppy relaxes in RV-min

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    He slept right through the enormous rising full moon!

    Full moon Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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    He’s a very quiet little pooch, but he does know how to express himself and let us know what he wants.

    Puppy Chow in our RV-min

    “I’ve been really really good for days. Can I go on that boat ride now?”

    The next day we went to stand in line at the Dolly Steamboat dock. A group of kids in front of us eagerly waited for Dolly to come in from her last excursion.

    Kids wait for Dolly Steamboat ride at Canyon Lake Arizona-min

    Kids wait for the Dolly Steamboat to arrive at the dock.

    Finally, she appeared, and we made our way down the dock and onto the boat.

    Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

    There she is!

    Walking down to the Dolly Steamboat ride on Canyon Lake Arizona-min

    Mark and Buddy walk down the dock.

    Captain Jason was very friendly.

    Captain Jason Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

    Captain Jason.

    Seen from our truck window on the Apache Trail (Route 88), Canyon Lake doesn’t look all that big. But to our surprise, we traveled three miles into the hinterlands, winding our way through fabulous rock canyons that were studded with saguaro cactus.

    Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

    Canyon Lake turns out to be a lot bigger than it seems from the Apache Trail.

    Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat ride in Arizona-min

    The Dolly Steamboat heads into the canyon where it will disappear from view.

    There is seating out on deck, and we found a seat at a table to take in the view.

    Puppy on Dolly Steamboat Cruise Canyon Lake Arizona-min

    There are wonderful seats on the deck that offer a great view.

    While we marveled at the scenery, Buddy enjoyed the new smells.

    Admiring views Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Arizona-min

    Buddy tests the air with his nose.

    We were startled at how rugged and dramatic the rock canyons were. As music by Enya played softly over the loudspeaker, we floated past exquisite desert landscapes.

    The Captain was hoping to spot some big horn sheep, which are a fairly common sighting on this tour, but the herd was somewhere else that afternoon.

    It didn’t matter, though, the scenery was so stunning.

    Views on Dolly Steamboat Ride Canyon Lake Arizona-min

    The rocky canyon is extremely craggy and rugged with saguaro cacti poking up all over the place.

    Canyon Lake Scenery Dolly Steamboat Cruise Arizona-min

    There were always more views around the next bend. There are two free boat-in campgrounds too!

    The Dolly Steamboat has indoor seating down below, as well as snacks and goodies for sale.

    Admiring the views Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona-min

    If it’s too hot on deck, there’s a cool spot in the cabin with big picture windows.

    But Buddy’s favorite spot was a place in the shade up on deck where he got a dog’s eye view.

    Puppy enjoys the view on Canyon Lake Dolly Steamboat Ride Arizona-min

    Buddy found a cool spot of his own down a narrow passageway on deck.

    Finally, after about an hour and a half of gliding through the desert on glassy water, it was time to head back in to shore.

    Dolly Steamboat Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

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    If you are traveling through the eastern side of Phoenix, Arizona, and have an afternoon or evening to spare, take a ride on the Dolly Steamboat. They have starlit dinner cruises too!

    Dolly Steamboat Cruise with puppy Canyon Lake Arizona RV trip-min

    This simple little boat ride is a definite “must do” if you like the desert and want a scenic outing.

    Note: The Apache Trail (Route 88 from Apache Junction to the Roosevelt Dam) is one of the most famous and popular scenic drives in central Arizona. It is full of hairpin turns and sweeping views, and there are serious drop-offs too! If taking your rig, scout with your tow vehicle or toad first. As of February 2018, the 18 mile paved portion is under construction for it’s entire length, and the winter traffic is significant, so allow plenty of time for delays — or wait until next year!

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    Kanab – Hub for the National Parks + Gorgeous Canyons Nearby!

    November 2017 – Southern Utah is loaded with eye-popping scenic drives. From the stunning and famous Scenic Highway 12 to the little known Burr Trail to the dramatic Bicentennial Highway (Utah Route 95) and Scenic Byway 24 through Capitol Reef Country, almost every road in southern Utah is impossible to drive without stopping every few miles to take a photo!

    RV trip to Zion National Park Utah-min

    There are loads of gorgeous scenic drives in southern Utah!

    Driving through the red rocks near Kanab Utah-min

    Whether it’s a freeway or a back country byway, almost every road in southern Utah is a stunner!

    Scenic drive on the way to Zion National Park Utah-min

    Typical southern Utah scenery at dusk.

    Scenic road near Kanab Utah-min

    Southern Utah inspires us every time we visit!

    We’ve loved our travels in southern Utah so much that I’ve had to split our Utah travel page to list southwestern Utah and southeastern Utah blog posts separately. Looking them over, it’s impossible to say which area we love most!

    But our travels this year focused on the area around Kanab, a little town that is within easy striking distance of the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon, three of America’s most popular and awe-inspiring National Parks.

    Like many western towns, a hillside on the edge of town sports Kanab’s first initial.

    Red rock mountain in Kanab Utah-min

    The letter “K” for “Kanab” on a nearby hillside.

    Kanab, Utah, has a long history of hosting Hollywood movie crews whenever they descended on the area to film scenes set in the dramatic landscapes nearby.

    Not only are there movie sets to visit, both renovated and dilapidated, but there’s a historic motel in the center of town that has lots of photos of the various celebrities who have used their facilities as a home base while making their films.

    Sign at Historic Parry Lodge in Kanab Utah-min

    Historic Parry Lodge was the motel of choice for visiting Hollywood stars.

    But our favorite aspect of Kanab is getting out into those landscapes and exploring. The amazing thing is that simply driving towards the big name destinations automatically becomes a trip through gorgeous scenery.

    Taking Route 89 a few miles north of town in the direction of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon, we found a stunning red rock wall that was throwing fabulous reflections across the water.

    We’ve driven this road dozens of times and barely noticed this gem passing by at 60 mph. This time we stopped to take photos!

    Red rock reflections Kanab Utah RV trip-min

    Just north of town on Route 89 thousands of people zip past this beautiful spot!

    Red rock reflections Kanab Utah RV trip-min

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    Heading east of Kanab we drove into Johnson Canyon where, again, the views were breathtaking.

    Johnson Canyon scenery Kanab Utah RV trip-min

    Johnson Canyon offers some gorgeous views.

    We spotted an exotic looking rig camping among the towering rocks. At first we thought it was an EarthRoamer, a very expensive go-anywhere type of ultra rugged motorhome. But it turned out to be a work truck front end with a small travel trailer perched in the bed! Now there’s a creative way to go…!!

    Unusual RV near Kanab Utah-min

    An EarthRoamer? No, a utility truck with a travel trailer on the back!

    Johnson Canyon Road veers off onto various dirt roads that can take you on a very long back country adventure through Grand Staircase Escalante before returning you to one of the distant highways. There isn’t a whole lot back there, but we were thrilled when we spotted a roadrunner that wasn’t sprinting away as they usually do.

    Roadrunner Kanab Utah-min

    This roadrunner stopped running just long enough for a portrait.

    This little guy wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere.

    Roadrunner Kanab Utah-min

    He wasn’t too worried about ut.

    He sat on his perch and looked this way and that, letting us get incredibly close.

    Roadrunner in Kanab Utah_-2-min

    “Here’s my better side.”

    Roadrunner in Kanab Utah-min

    Did you know roadrunners have that cool patch of bright orange behind their eyes?

    Then he hopped to face the other way, and after showing off his tail, he took off.

    Roadrunner's tail Kanab Utah-min

    A final tail shot gave us a view of the color patches almost meeting in the back of his head.

    This is ranching country, and cattle grazed peacefully in the fields. We noticed a crowd of cows and a huge flock of mockingbirds were grouped in one spot. We slowed to get a closer look and were floored to see a lone coyote standing over a dead deer in the middle of them all.

    As we approached, all but a few mockingbirds (which look like flying saddle shoes) scattered to the winds. The cows swayed and turned their attention to us. But the coyote didn’t budge. He stood over his kill and even licked his chops.

    Coyote protects deer kill Kanab Utah-min

    Dinner.

    We often hear coyotes yipping at night. They hunt in groups and let out a whoop and holler of excitement when they get a kill. But this guy appeared to have taken down the deer by himself, as there were no other coyotes around. It is astonishing that a coyote could take down a deer, but we did a little research later and found that it is not that unusual, although several friends think he was just an opportunist who came along at the right moment!

    It was strange, though, to look at the big herd of cows standing around and realize that they had witnessed the whole thing. What did they think as they watched the coyote chasing that deer down?

    Coyote and cow Kanab Utah RV trip-min

    What did the cows think of the grisly slaughter that became a banquet feast for dozens of creatures?
    Five days later we drove by again and only a few bare bones were left.

    There are some red rock walls in Johnson Canyon that sport petroglyphs left by the ancients. Not far from the familiar rock art images of hundreds of years ago there are also some scratchings that were left more recently.

    Kids from the class of 1941 made a few etchings, and a “Store and Garage” owned by Jensen and a partner which sold Eastman Kodak film had something of an advertisement pecked out on one rock wall.

    We saw this funny kind of antique advertising at Montezuma’s Well in Arizona too. Those wily proprietors knew that tourists were out searching the landscape for petroglyphs. What better way to lure them to your store back in town than to put an ad right alongside?!

    Old sign on red rocks near Kanab Utah-min

    Petroglyphs from 1941

    Kanab is quite a hub for RV travelers, especially international travelers, and rental RVs are as common as privately owned rigs. One year we saw several rental RVs with flags from the tourists’ home countries, and another year, while we were waiting to use the RV dump station in town, we met a couple from Germany who had taken their rig around the world.

    South of town lie the mysterious sand dunes of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

    Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park Utah-min

    Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

    But without doubt, the most popular destination for folks that swing through Kanab is Zion National Park. Before reaching the incredible scenery that lies in the main canyon or the stunning vistas that lie in the western section of the Park at Kolob Canyon, tourists coming into Zion from the east end up driving one of the most dramatic roads we’ve ever seen.

    Welcome to Zion National Park Utah-min

    Entering Zion National Park, a world of wonder!

    Route 9 between Zion’s hometown of Springdale, Utah, and the intersection with Route 89 travels through a kaleidescope of color and a series of switchbacks that are mind boggling. I will never forget our first trip on this road with a minivan years ago. Unfortunately, part of the road goes through a low and narrow tunnel, and dually trucks and larger vehicles can’t go through the tunnel without paying a fee for a pilot because traffic must be shut down in the opposite direction.

    Old truck Zion National Park east entrance Utah RV trip-min

    Right next to the entrance sign there’s an old truck. Maybe the owner is waiting for the tunnel to be widened!

    We weren’t traveling to the main part of Zion this year, so we didn’t go through the tunnel to the dramatic switchbacks on the other side, but we still enjoyed a glorious few hours exploring the scenic drive east of there.

    Driving Route 9 to Zion National Park on Utah RV trip-min

    It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road!

    Airstream trailer drives scenic road to Zion National Park Utah-min

    RVs drive this road but must pay a fee at the tunnel.

    Since we had plenty of time and just a few miles of distance to cover, we made a point to get out of the truck a bunch of times and wander way back into the exotic landscape, far from the road.

    This little excursion was well worth doing because everyone on the road was whipping past at high speeds on their way to the main part of the park, but there was nobody out in the red rocks.

    Scenic route 9 to Zion National Park Utah-min

    Just a few steps from Route 9 we were enveloped by some of Mother Nature’s best handiwork.

    Exotic rock formations Route 9 Zion National Park Utah-min

    Exotic swirling patterns in the rocks.

    The Fall foliage season was in full swing, and quite a few trees were bursting with yellow, orange and red colors.

    Fall foliage Zion National Park scenic drive Route 9-min

    Fall color comes to Zion.

    The peace and tranquility out on these unique rocks was delicious, and we just soaked it all in.

    It was fascinating to run our hands on the exotic swirls of rock and imagine the days eons ago when these exotic mounds were sand dunes. The sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes flies so freely in the wind…

    Enjoying the view at Zion National Park-min

    Back here, 100 yards from the road, you’d never know there was a road!

    Stone dunes Zion National Park RV trip-min

    These colorful, striated mounds were once sand dunes, not unlike the ones over at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park a few miles away.

    Star burst and stone sand dunes Zion National Park Utah RV trip-min

    Wow!

    Looking at the rock patterns up close, it seemed very similar to wood grain. I love the way the different grains intersect and criss-cross each other.

    Red rock veins look like wood-min

    Up close the rock looks an awful lot like wood!

    We made our way back to the road and the traffic had intensified. Zion National Park is extremely popular, and the road leading to it from the east was becoming non-stop cars and RVs.

    RV on scenic Route 9 Zion National Park Utah-min

    Scenic Route 9 heading into Zion.

    if your RV travels take you through Kanab, there are wonders to see in all directions. But some of the greatest beauty and quietest spots can be found along the roads leading to the big name destinations, so take your time getting there!

    RV camping under the Milky Way near Kanab Utah-min

    I couldn’t resist posting another awesome Milky Way shot with our rig… 🙂

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    Canyon de Chelly – Breathtaking Views Under Vibrant Skies

    April 2017 – We left the wondrous Petrified Forest National Park with its incredible hikes and nearby Route 66 nostalgia and headed due north from Holbrook, Arizona, on Route 77 towards Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

    Route 77 in the Navajo Nation Arizona

    Wide open lands on Route 77 in the Navajo Nation, Arizona

    This interesting (although occasionally bumpy) rural road goes through the vast Navajo Nation. We were mesmerized by the classic southwestern vistas that filled our views for the first twenty miles or so. My long lens was in the trailer (sigh), so I didn’t get good shots of the amazing rock formations we passed.

    A few years back we made a similar trek on the parallel Indian Route 12 and really enjoyed it. So, again, we decided to forego the more major highway (US Route 191) and take another scenic route instead.

    Little did we know it was going to snow on us as we got into the higher elevations!

    Snow on road Navajo Nation Arizona

    When we climbed from 5,000′ to 6,500′ elevation, we got a spring snow storm!

    This was our third trip to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced Canyon d’Shay), but like all of the National Parks and National Monuments, there always seems to be something new to see.

    In past visits we explored the overlooks along the northern scenic rim road through the park and hiked to the jaw-dropping White House Ruin. So, this time we decided to explore a few spots along the southern rim road.

    Tunnel Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Tunnel Overlook, Canyon de Chelly

    Canyon de Chelly is a massive canyon formed by uplifts and the relentless flow of water, and today the sheer red rock canyon walls tower 700 feet above the lush green valley floor.

    Far below us we saw trucks bashing through the water from recent rains.

    Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Tsegi Overlook.

    The only way to see the valley of the canyon is to take a private guided tour offered by the Navajo who live on the reservation that surrounds Canyon de Chelly National Monument. However, the North and South Rim Drives are open to everyone to enjoy for free without a paid guide.

    Car driving in wash at Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    The only way to get into Canyon de Chelly is on one hiking trail (White House Trail) or on a commercial tour.

    As we zipped in and out of the overlooks, the skies began to brood…

    Tsegi Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV trip Arizona

    The clouds were moving fast at Tsegi overlook.

    …and the red rock cliffs seemed to swirl around each other in fabulously exotic shapes.

    Junction Overlook Canyon de Chelly South Rim Road Overlook Arizona

    The rocks formed beautiful shapes that were so much fun to climb on.

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook at Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook

    Eventually, we made our way to Spider Rock Overlook, one of the iconic images of Canyon de Chelly. We reached the overlook right at the golden hour before sunset when the rock itself was lit in rich burnt orange hues.

    Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Spider Rock.

    The day had been very cloudy and windy, but as if by magic, right as the sun began to set, we were blessed with the most astonishing display of colors in the sky.

    Sunset spider rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    As the golden light faded on Spider Rock and the red rock cliffs, the sky began a light show of its own.

    We each ran back and forth on the rim, unsure where to get the best views and which part of the sky would light up next.

    Sunset at Spider overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Mark lines up his shot on the next rock outcropping (upper right corner).

    Spider rock lost its glow but the fire in the heavens was just getting started.

    Spider Rock sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona RV trip

    Sunset’s brilliant display begins at Spider Rock.

    Once the drama had played itself out in shades of orange, the skies turned vivid pink.

    Pink sunset Spider Rock Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    .

    The light show intensified and our two-way radios crackled as we called each other from opposite ends of the overlook.

    “Did you see THAT??!!”

    Colorful sunset Spider Rock overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    .

    That sunset was breathtaking, but when morning came the next day and we ventured back out on the south rim drive, the drama in the sky was gone. We returned to Sliding House Ruin overlook because there is such a huge area to prowl around there, and looking down into Canyon de Chelly was as astonishing as ever.

    Valley at Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Sliding House Ruin Overlook.

    At Sliding House Ruin overlook there are endless stretches of flat and undulating boulders that head out in all directions on a promontory. Before we knew it, we had been there for hours running around on the tops of these cliffs and peering down into the tree-filled valleys below.

    Of course, if you get too close to the edge in a place like this, it’s all over. A sign near the rim was a good reminder!

    Sheer cliff warning sign Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    .

    Red rock cliffs and green valley floor Sliding House Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    It’s a long way down…but what a view!

    When I finally had gotten my fill of staring at the immense views in front of me, I glanced down at my feet and was taken with the rich hues and artistic patterns of the colorful lichen that was growing in and around the creases in the rocks.

    Nature's artwork Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Nature’s artwork on the rocks.

    Standing back and surveying the vast flat lichen covered boulders that stretched in all directions around me, I felt like I was looking at a modern art painting. Perhaps this is where Jackson Pollack got his inspiration!

    Lichen on red rocks Jackson Pollack painting Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Jackson Pollack — Or colorful lichen on red rocks?

    A little movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned to see a lizard scampering past. He stopped and stared at me as I snuck closer and clicked my camera’s shutter.

    Lizard Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A lizard looks over at me as he runs by.

    The spring wildflowers had started blooming, and Mark found a beautiful bouquet of Indian Paintbrush flowers.

    Indian Paintbrush Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A dash of scarlet…

    We stuck around and soon the sun was sinking low in the sky, and the shadows were growing long and deep.

    Shadows at sunset Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    Long shadows made for a surprise selfie at Sliding House Overlook.

    The clear sky meant there were no colorful theatrics in the sky for our sunset at Sliding House overlook, but the sun gave me a coy wink for a split second before it slipped out of sight.

    Starburst sunset Sliding House Ruin Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    A fleeting starburst at sunset…

    It was hard to set the alarm for a pre-dawn hour the next day, but we bundled into our truck with hot tea and coffee in hand and drove out to Sliding House overlook once again where Mark caught the sun giving us a wink on its way up.

    Sunrise Sliding House Ruin Overlook Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona

    …and another at dawn.

    Canyon de Chelly is a special place deep in the heart of the immense Navajo reservation. There is a dry camping campground in the town of Chinle that is run by the Navajo, and a few sites are big enough for a big RV.

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