Hartman Rocks – A Different View of Colorado near Gunnison

July 2023 – During our stay in Gunnison, Colorado (our jumping off point to see the incredible wildflowers in nearby Crested Butte!) we visited Hartman Rocks Recreation Area just south of town. Hartman Rocks is a 22 square mile recreation area managed by the Bureau of Land management. It is filled with 4×4 roads, hiking and biking trails, camping areas and exotic outcroppings of rocks. And it’s a very different kind of landscape than the soaring mountain peaks of the Rockies.

Hartman Rocks Colorado RV trip

Hartman Rocks shows off a different side of Colorado — no towering snowcapped peaks here!

We drove our RZR side-by-side on some of the many 4×4 roads and stopped frequently to crawl around on the various rock formations.

Side-by-side at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Hartman Rocks Recreation Area is filled with 4×4 trails and roads.

View at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Huge boulders poke up out of the earth here and there.

There are some golf course communities just beyond the edge of Hartman Rocks Recreation Area that made a wonderful lush green contrast to the arid desert rocks.

Hartman Rocks Colorado

From our arid vantage point at Hartman Rocks, the lush golf course communities looked very inviting!

Golf course view from Hartman Rocks Colorado

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There are 50 dry campsites scattered throughout Hartman Rocks. The most picturesque spots are tucked between the rock formations and are a good size for tent camping.

Tent camping at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Some of the most scenic campsites at Hartman Rocks are set between the boulders, ideal for tent camping.

We did find two or three campsites that would have been big enough for our trailer, but it was way too hot for boondocking in the dusty high desert in July!!

Even though Gunnison, Colorado, is at 7,700’ elevation, we were surprised by just how HOT it was in the summertime. After all, Gunnison’s record high for the month of July is 95 degrees Fahrenheit! For August it’s 105!! Temps hovered in the low 90s during our stay.

But of course, every summer is different. The record lows in this area are the mid-30s…brrr! So, be prepared for any kind of weather!

The bottom line for us, though, is that Hartman Rocks would be better for boondocking in the spring and fall, especially since there’s no shade in the bigger campsites we saw.

Hartman Rocks Colorado

We had fun climbing around on the boulders.

View between the trees at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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Regardless of the heat, mountain bikers were having fun out on the trails…

Mountain biking at Hartman Rocks Colorado

There are 45 miles of single track mountain biking trails at Hartman Rocks!

And Buddy found a shady spot by a rock to take in the view.

Happy puppy at Hartman Rocks Colorado

Buddy found a bit of shade that was just his size.

Happy Camper Holding Tank Treatment

We returned at the end of the day as the sun was beginning to set and the rocks were beginning to glow. Buddy still kept to the shady spots.

Puppy explores Hartman Rocks Colorado

The rock formations took on a beautiful golden hue at the end of the day.

We loved seeing the rocks light up in the late afternoon sun.

Golden hour at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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There were rolling hills in the distance and mountains further on. The main 4×4 road through the recreation area squiggled off into the distance while flowers poked their heads out from between the cracks.

Rolling hills at Hartman Rocks Colorado

The views from within Hartman Rocks range from lush green grass to rolling hills to neighborhoods in the distance.

View from Hartman Rocks Colorado

Good evening, Gunnison!

Flowers at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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This whole area is definitely a dog paradise. Buddy was happy to meet several new furry friends. In between tail wags and sniffs with these new companions, he kept a close eye out for mice and chipmunks in the rocks!

Puppy sees the view at Hartman Rocks Colorado

“I know there’s a mouse out there!”

Suddenly, the sun sank behind the horizon.

Sunset glow at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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The colors and patterns of the sunset were a little different in each direction.

Sunset at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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Views at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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Hking Trail at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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Sunset at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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We headed back to the trailer for dinner. We were staying at Palisade Senior RV Park (55+). It is a very quiet park in a quiet corner of town, and most of the guests were staying for at least a month. Many were there for the whole season. We even met groups of friends who had been spending summers together at the park for the last 10 or 15 years!

Moon RV USA Routes

We appreciated the lush grassy lawn and big shade trees at this RV park as well as the proximity to downtown Gunnison.

We were fortunate to be visiting the area during the new moon, so after dinner, we headed back to Hartman Rocks to see the Milky Way. We stumbled around a little on the uneven terrain, but the night was clear and the Milky Way was easy to see.

Millky Way at Hartman Rocks Colorado

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On our way home, Mark noticed a very cool old motel sign, a throwback to another era.

Cool hotel sign at night Gunnison Colorado

They just don’t put signs like this on motels any more. We have expected the lower electric sign to say, “Color TV!”

While we were in this area, we spent as much time a possible among the wildflowers up in Crested Butte where the temps are cooler (Crested Butte is at 8.900’ elevation).

On our way, we often stopped at Mochas Coffeehouse & Bakery to get a muffin to go. They make absolutely scrumptious muffins!

Gunnison Sign in the IOOF Park in Gunnison Colorado

We really liked this small park in the middle of Gunnison.

There is a lot to see at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area (in addition to the 45 miles of single track trails, there’s 45 miles of 4×4 roads too!). We hope to get back there when it’s not so hot to explore it a bit more in depth!

RV hose Water Bandit

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Willow Lake (& more) around the Granite Dells in Prescott AZ

Willow Lake is like the quiet, hands-in-his-pockets, unassuming brother to its neighbor, the more popular, vibrant and beloved Watson Lake. Both lakes are situated on the edge of Prescott, Arizona, and they share the wonders of the stunning rock formations known as the Granite Dells. Willow Lake is on the west side of the Dells and Watson Lake is on the east side, and miles of hiking trails roam through the vast acreage of boulders between them.

Willow Lake Arizona & More!

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After taking in lots of “WOW” sunset moments at Watson Lake, we finally went over to Willow Lake to see what was there. It was midday and the light was harsh, but what a beautiful place it turned out to be. We wished we’d gone there earlier in our Prescott RV trip!

We started at the Willow Lake boat ramp on the north shore and were surprised to see waves incessantly lapping the shore and the trees trunks! The lake level was very high and the wind was strong that day.

Willow Lake Arizona boat ramp

High water on a windy day at Willow Lake.

Along the shore of Willow Lake there were huge expanses of boulders, and we were soon hopping from one to another. There were fabulous patterns in the rocks, like veins running all through them.

Willow Lake Arizona Patterns in the Dells at Willow Lake Arizona

Colorful veins meander through these rocks by Willow Lake.

Buddy was on the lookout for any stray ground squirrels that might be scampering about. Mark caught him up on his lookout perch from below.

Willow Lake Arizona It's a long ways down!

“Is there a squirrel down there?”

Willow Lake Arizona Photographer and pupppy

I see you!

Arizona Delorme Atlas

Some of the rocks in the Dells had quite a bit of color.

Willow Lake Granite Dells in Arizona

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Suddenly we heard the familiar haunting cry of a Gambel’s quail. I just love the way these guys dress up with very dapper trim on their bodies and faces and that wonderful little topknot on their heads.

721 Gambel Quail at Willow Lake Arizona

All dressed up and ready to go!

Gambel Quail at Willow Lake Arizona 2

“Are you taking my picture? I wasn’t ready yet!”

We noticed a young man expertly navigating the crazy boulder formations and discovered he’s a local who hikes around the Dells around Willow Lake all the time. He highly recommended that we follow a trail that headed to the north and east past an RV park on the edge of the Dells, and he mentioned intriguing things we’d see, including a red bench and a bridge.

This sounded like fun, so off we went.

Hiking at Willow Lake Arizona

“C’mon, Dad, let’s go find that red bench!”

As we hiked away from Willow Lake, we saw some wonderful old trees and lots of massive expanses of boulders.

Tree and shadow at Willow Lake Arizona

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Willow Lake Arizona granite dells

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We came to a sign with a large map on it and could clearly see the trail that went to the red bench. Woo hoo! This was definitely a really cool area. We hiked along the trail for quite a while.

But then the trail suddenly went straight up a boulder hill. Mark stayed below while Buddy and I checked it out. At the top it seemed like we were standing in a sea of boulders, but I sure didn’t see a red bench or a bridge anywhere.

Willow Lake hike through the Granite Dells in Arizona

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On the way down we met a couple hiking the Willow Lake trails with a dog. After the pups introduced themselves with a few sniffs, I asked the couple where the heck the red bench was. It turned out we’d missed a fork in the trail and had taken the Ascent Trail instead of the Red Bench Trail. Oops!

Oh well. What we saw was still cool and it was a beautiful day to be out hiking.

Suddenly, a mountain biker rode over the boulders past us. Wow! Then his friend appeared and the two of them rode up and down the boulders like experts. What fun!

Granite Dells at Willow Lake Arizona mountain biking

Don’t try this at home!

Mountain biker in the Granite Dells at Willow Lake Arizona

These mountain bikers at Willow Lake made it look so easy.

Granite Dells mountain biking at Willow Lake Arizona

Weeeee!

Arizona Highways Scenic Drives

Buddy watched the mountain bikers for a moment, but he was much more interested in athletes of the rodent kind.

Regal pup

“Not just rodents, Mom. I’ll chase anything that moves. Lizards are good!”

Willow Lake is definitely worth a visit, and we’ll be back at sunrise or sunset next time to add a dash of color to our photos. In the meantime, we found a few more photos of the Granite Dells at Watson Lake buried in our computers along with some more lovely shots of Lynx Lake that we thought you’d enjoy.

Here you go — the Granite Dells and cactus flowers at Watson Lake:

Granite Dells at Watson Lake Arizona

Granite Dells at Watson Lake (next door to Willow Lake).

Full moon at the Watson Lake Granite Dells in Arizona

Granite Dells under a full moon.

Red cactus flowers at the Watson Lake Granite Dells Arizona

Red cactus flowers in the Dells.

Red cactus flowers in Arizona

Happy cactus flowers smiling at the world.

Red cactus flowers at the Watson Lake Granite Dells Arizona

Look for these red beauties in the springtime!

And here’s the southeastern corner of Lynx Lake where the water trickles into the lake and forms wonderful shallow pools on its way:

A trickle of water flows into Lynx Lake in Arizona

The pools of water in the southeast corner of Lynx Lake are as clear as glass.

A glorious sunset reflected at Lynx Lake, Arizona

Tree reflections at Lynx Lake Arizona

A reflected archway in the lake.

Lynx Lake Sunset

Goodnight!

We really enjoyed our brief RV trip to explore the lakes in the area around Prescott Arizona. There are actually even more lakes nearby that were on our list but we didn’t get to…so now we have to go back, and we will!

Puppy fur blown by gentle breezes

Buddy is looking forward to exploring the Prescott area some more.

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Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott AZ – SPECTACULAR!

May 2023 – The Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott, Arizona, are a spectacular moonscape of rounded granite boulders that beg to be climbed on and explored. These gorgeous rocks line the shore of the lake and pop up out of the water here and there, forming mini islands. The views from every vantage point are magnificent.

Watson Lake Granite Dells in Prescott Arizona

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We have seen The Dells from a distance many times, catching brief glimpses of them as they appeared on the horizon for a split second while we drove to or from Prescott’s historic Courthouse Square.

This year, on an RV trip to nearby Lynx Lake, we had a chance to get a closer look at Watson Lake’s Granite Dells, and what a rewarding experience that turned out to be!

Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott AZ

The Granite Dells are a magnificent moonscape of rounded boulders on the shores of Watson Lake.

Kayak at the Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott AZ

The Dells are a fabulous place to explore on foot — or by boat!

We climbed and scrambled and followed the narrow hiking trails along the edges of Watson Lake. The trails dodged between the boulders and sometimes vanished to become just white dots painted on the rocks until the trail resumed on the other side of the boulders. It made for fun and easy route finding and gave each hike an amusing twist!

Hiking trail through the Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott Arizona

The hiking trails were gravel in some places but became white dots painted on the rocks in others!

Storage ottoman bench for RV

Buddy was totally in his element and scampered over the rocks in sheer delight!

Climbing the boulders at the Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott AZ

Buddy was in his element. We were too!

Hiking the boulders at the Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott AZ

All smiles!

We made a point to go to Watson Lake at dusk on several afternoons, hoping to catch the Granite Dells in the beautiful soft golden light of late afternoon and then watch a stunning sunset. Mother Nature has its own agenda for sunsets, however!

The boulders seemed to glow as the last rays of sun hit the Dells.

The Dells at Watson Lake in Prescott Arizona

Golden glow.

Sunset at Watson Lake Granite Dells Prescott Arizona

What a place!

As I began setting up for a shot, I noticed my shadow on the rocks. How cool is that?!

Photography at the Granite Dells and Watson Lake Prescott Arizona

A ghostly figure under a full moon across from me was busy taking photos of the incredible landscape!

Watson Lake is very popular with kayakers, and we saw lots of them out on the water. As the sun began to sink low in the sky, the kayaks came in from all directions to return to the boat ramp.

Kayaking on Watson Lake between the Dells in Prescott Arizona

Exploring the hiking trails was great, but checking out the views from a kayak might be even better!

Kayaking past the Granite Dells at Watson Lake in Prescott Arizona

Kayaks returned to the boat ramp at the end of the day.

Kayak at Watson Lake Granite Dells in Prescott Arizona at dusk

A kayaker navigates the island Dells to return to shore after a nice ride.

Every direction we looked we saw a stunning view, and we wandered happily from one dazzling photo op to the next. Some of the trees were standing in the water. They looked quite peaceful and very much at home!

Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott Arizona

Heavy rains this year raised the water level until the trees were immersed.

Granite Dells at Watson Lake in Prescott Arizona

The trees didn’t seem to mind this extra drink one bit.

Flashlight

When the sun slipped over the horizon, Mark caught a starburst between the tree branches. Just as he hit the shutter button, Buddy walked right into the picture! But we both love how it turned out.

Puppy at the Dells in Prescott Arizona Watson Lake

Buddy photo-bombed this photo at just the right moment.

Buddy then took a seat so as not to photo-bomb any more images, and he kept a close eye on us.

Puppy resting in the Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott AZ

Buddy patiently waited and watched as we took endless photos.

One night, the sunset was more subdued than we would have wished, but the setting was so glorious it didn’t matter. Such beauty!

Watson Lake Dells near Prescott Arizona the Granite Dells

The Granite Dells at dusk.

Watson Lake Granite Dells near Prescott AZ

Magnificent!

On another night, the brilliant colors in the sky we’d hoped for never appeared at all. But we were in seventh heaven anyway, crawling around on these rocks and savoring the gorgeous views.

The Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott Arizona plus a puppy

I noticed this wonderful dead tree by the side of the trail and Buddy watched me as I got set up. Behind him, Mark was busy creating another beautiful composition.

Watson Lake Granite Dells near Prescott Arizona

Watson Lake and the Granite Dells are such a surprise in the high desert and pine forests of Prescott AZ.

Watson Lake Granite Dells in Prescott AZ

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At last we got a sunset to remember. The sky and its reflections in the water went from bright orange to peachy pink to a rich pink and blue.

Granite Dells at Watson Lake Prescott AZ

Lots of people come out to Watson Lake to watch the sunset, and when the sky first lit up on fire, we heard a roar of cheers from somewhere high up in the rocks!

Sunset behind the Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott Arizona

Then the sky turned peach and pink.

Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott Arizona

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over

And then it settled into a rich pink and blue. Ahhhh!

Granite Dells at Watson Lake Prescott AZ.jpg

“That was such a rush, I’ve gotta rest for a while!”

We will always remember that afternoon!

If you visit Prescott, Arizona, be sure to wander down to Watson Lake Park and explore the Granite Dells. There are lots of trails to choose from. We stayed close to the shore but the Dells fill a huge area that extends all the way from Watson Lake to neighboring Willow Lake a few miles away.

Watson Lake is popular with both locals and visitors, and you’ll have plenty of company to share the experience with. But everyone around you will be grinning from ear to ear and will be very happy to be there. It’s that kind of place!

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Location of The Dells – Google Maps

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Brooks Lake, Split Rock, Adventure Travelers + Wyoming Highlights!

August 2022 – There are several routes in and out of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, and this year we exited on the eastern side of the Park on a road we’ve never taken before: US-287. This goes up and over a mountain pass and swings by beautiful Brooks Lake.

Brooks Lake Wyoming

Brooks Lake, Wyoming

Brooks Lake Wyoming 2

Mountains and cliffs surround pretty Brooks Lake

Brooks Lake is a very scenic spot, and it was a great place to wander around with a camera! Long ago, one of our readers had recommended that we visit Brooks Lake, and we are so glad we were finally able to take him up on his recommendation. It’s lovely!

Boat at Brooks Lake Wyoming

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Truck at Brooks Lake Campground Wyoming

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There are two USFS dry camping campgrounds in the area, Brooks Lake Campground and Pinnacles Campground. Each one is very nice and can fit small to medium sized rigs fairly easily. Unfortunately, there’s a five mile long dirt road to get there. But if you’re up for some back country driving, it’s a wonderful spot.

Truck Camper at Brooks Lake Campground in Wyoming

A truck camper in Brooks Lake Campground

Pinnacles at Brooks Lake Wyoming

The sun and clouds came in waves across the pinnacles.

Brooks Lake, like many lakes in the western states, has a tendency to get toxic blue-green algae blooms in late summer when the temperatures rise, and this algae is lethal to dogs. There were Forest Service signs everywhere warning people not to eat the fish they caught too. But it is a gorgeous spot nonetheless. In springtime the algae wouldn’t be a problem — and there would be snow on the peaks!

Fishing at Brooks Lake Wyoming

Fishing is popular here, but toxic algae blooms in late summer are something to watch out for.

Creek at Brooks Lake Wyoming

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30 miles south of Brooks Lake, a few miles south of the town of Dubois (more about that town in a later post), we came across a fabulous petroglyph. This one is really intricate. It has three fingers and three toes on each hand/foot, and it has a tail. There’s lots of detail on its skin or clothing. I’m not sure if this was a doodle gone wild, or if it has some hidden meaning or if, perhaps, the artist drank some toxic blue-green algae water and had a crazy vision… But whatever it is, it’s cool!

Petroglyph in Wyoming

An elaborate petroglyph pecked into the rocks a few miles south of the town of Dubois.

175 miles southeast of Brooks Lake, also on Wyoming’s US-287 highway, we found another wonderful spot for photography: Split Rock Overlook. It’s just a pullout on the highway with bathrooms and picnic tables, but we loved it. This place was super dog friendly and Buddy had all kinds of fun there.

Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

Buddy checks out the Split Rock Overlook.

The boulders were a blast to jump around on and were reminiscent of the Redstone Rest Area in Nevada. Kids would love playing on these rocks and they sure brought out the kid in all of us!

Dog playing at Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

“This is my kind of place!!”

Dog poses at Split Rock Overlook in Wyoming

Buddy takes a breather from running and jumping all over the boulders.

Happy dog at Split Rock Wyoming

In the spotlight.

We had stopped just to get a bite to eat, but we ended up spending the better part of a day there!

Happy Camper at Split Rock Wyoming

The boulders at Split Rock Overlook are just plain fun!

Photographer at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Boulders at Split Rock Wyoming

Cool rocks.

Buddy loves all of our adventures, whether it’s hiking or taking photos. He takes his job as Trail Scout very seriously and always runs in front of us on the trail to scope out what’s ahead.

Fortunately, he waits for us or runs back to check on us if we’re lagging too far behind, and if there’s a fork in the trail, he waits for us to decide which way to go.

Sometimes he runs a little ways down one leg of the fork or the other and then stands there expectantly, letting us know his recommendation for our route. But he always leaves the final decision up to us.

Dog on the hiking trail

“Are you coming?”

He also knows the tell-tale sounds and signs when we get our camera gear out to go take photos. He gets super excited and leaps down off of wherever he’s perched to sit by the door until we’ve got all our gear loaded up and are ready to go out.

Once we’re out taking photos, he goes back and forth between us, checking on how we’re doing, checking how the photos are turning out, and generally keeping an eye on our whereabouts as we move around.

Sunrise photography with a dog

Buddy watches me for a moment before running back to check on Mark.

Several places where we camped in this part of Wyoming were near the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the longest off-pavement route in the world, and we watched a steady stream of die-hard long distance mountain bikers making their way down this trail.

The trail starts in Jasper, up in Alberta, Canada, it ends at the US/Mexico border in New Mexico, and it takes a full summer for most cyclists to complete. Most of the cyclists we met had started in Jasper or Banff in late May or early June and were headed all the way to the border. Many were European. We met them on the trail, at our campsites and at the various grocery stores and post offices in the small towns that were near their route.

We chatted with Jenny and Romain from Switzerland for a while one day and were impressed with their bikes, their gear and their nonchalant attitude towards the full day of high altitude climbing that lay ahead of them.

They’d taken a year off to do some traveling as Covid waned, and they’d already camped all around Portugal and Spain for several months before they hauled their bikes to the American West to do the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

They’re keeping a blog of their American adventures at this link.

Jenny’s native tongue is German and Romain’s is French, so they alternate the two languages with each other, speaking German together for three days and then switching to French for the next three! How cool is that?! Of course, their English was excellent too…

Continental Divide Mountain Bike Trail cycilsts

Long distance mountain bike adventurers Jenny and Romain.

We also met several hikers walking this same trail, and a few were doing the full distance as well. One hiker was on his fourth pair of hiking shoes so far and the other was on his third.

We are always amazed by long distance hikers and walkers and have now met quite a few people who have hiked the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail or simply walked across the entire United States from coast to coast (one gal we met had done it twice!).

One time we met a Lady Long Rider who was riding her horse (and towing a second horse to carry her gear) on a long distance adventure (more about her adventures at this link).

Bikers on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in Wyoming

So long!!

While grabbing lunch at Split Rock Overlook, we met a solo road cyclist who was riding his bike from New York to California. That is not the typical direction, since the prevailing wind goes from west to east, but he was having a ball and was very fit. He hailed from England, and his 3-month visa had run out mid-ride in late July. So he flew home, visited family and friends for a week, renewed his visa and returned to finish riding his bike across America. His favorite places so far had been Niagra Falls and Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is open to motorized vehicles as well as non-motorized, and our new Swiss friends said they had seen lots of side-by-sides like our Polaris RZR. At another campsite we met up with a pair of long distance dirt bike riders who were doing a cross-Wyoming dirt bike ride on a new Backcountry Discovery Route that had just opened up.

Dirt bike adventure travelers in Wyoming

Off to ride the new Backcountry Discovery Route in Wyoming

Sometimes it’s these little discoveries — the backwoods lakes and campgrounds and unique highway rest areas and unusual fellow travelers we meet — are the most memorable highlights of our travels. The big name places like Sun Valley and Grand Teton National Park are stunning but the lesser known places can be just as fulfilling to visit.

Dusk at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Sunset at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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Wyoming sunset

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Moon at sunset at Split Rock Overlook Wyoming

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RV under Milky Way in Wyoming

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Cedar Breaks National Monument – Glorious Amphitheater of Red Rocks!

July 2019 – After enjoying many trips to the edge of the Grand Canyon this summer, we were ready for a little different scenery, so we headed north to one of southern Utah’s most dramatic yet less visited red rock wonders, Cedar Breaks National Monument.

Cedar Breaks National Monument RV trip in Utah-min

Cedar Breaks National Monument – An Amphitheater of Red Rock Glory!

Located close to the famous National Parks at Zion Canyon and Bryce Canyon but situated at of 10,000 feet, a much higher elevation than either of the other two Parks, it is a place that is forever haunted by wild weather patterns that make the extraordinary red rock vistas and dense woods even more dramatic.

As we arrived in the afternoon, the sky was wearing a forbidding grimace, and we quickly changed from the shorts we’d been wearing for the last few months into long pants and jackets!

Even more startling, we saw patches of snow in the woods as we drove. Holy smokes! It was late July and there was knee deep snow on the ground in some places!

Storm clouds over fifth wheel trailer-min

Wild storm clouds greeted us as we arrived at Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument is known not only for its eye popping amphitheater of red rock hoodoos but for its vibrant display of summer wildflowers. The wildflower season runs from mid-July through August, and the flowers were showing off their most brilliant colors everywhere.

Puppy in a field under storm clouds-min

Our first glimpse of the colorful wildflower display was a field of yellow flowers – under threatening clouds!

Wildflowers and storm clouds-min

How cool is this?!!

We hustled out to Point Supreme, the main Cedar Breaks overlook, as quickly as we could. Rain clouds were threatening, but what really caught my eye was the wonderful contrast of the soft green hillsides peeking over the mile high walls of red rock cliffs.

View Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

At the main Cedar Breaks overlook, Point Supreme, the layers of colors were just fantastic.

Green mountain and red rocks at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

Green hillsides above the red rock cliffs and hoodoos where the mountain has fallen away.

If doesn’t matter how many times we see these red rock cliffs and spires, whether here at Cedar Breaks or over at nearby Bryce Canyon, they are spectacular. The bright colors and the towering “drip castle” types of formations that look like they were made by kids at the beach are just astonishing.

And from the top of the canyon, looking down into the bowl shaped amphitheater, we always find it so hard to comprehend just how enormous the seemingly tiny pinnacles are. But a look at the tall pine trees snuggled up to the bases of the hoodoos gave us a sense of their immense size.

Red rock pinnacles Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

How big are those red rock hoodoos? The tall pine trees are dwarfed by them!

Pinnacles at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

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Brilliant red rocks Point Supreme Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

Fabulous layers of color and texture.

The sun was obscured by the threatening black clouds which softened the colors of the canyon and eliminated the harsh contrast of light and shadow on the ridges.

Then, suddenly, the sun came out in force for a little while, and the amphitheater was bathed in golden light.

Colorful red rocks Point Supreme Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

The nuances of the red rock hues are easily seen when the rocks aren’t lit by the sun.

Red rocks at Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah-min

Bright sunshine created dramatic contrasts.

Golden hour Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

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Amphitheater Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah Point Supreme-min

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Like all of America’s National Parks and National Monuments, dogs are allowed on leashes but only in certain areas. Point Supreme, which lies directly behind the Visitors Center, is one of the few areas at Cedar Breaks where pups can get a look at the eye-popping view, and Buddy gave the grand vista a cursory look and sniff.

But he was much more interested in other things at Point Supreme, like watching the ground squirrels running around the base of a tree in the distance, and he quickly took up a position in the middle of the overlook with his back to the view to keep an eye on the squirrles and also act as the Official Greeter.

Puppy is the greeter-min

Buddy turned his back to the view so he could greet everyone arriving at the rim and keep an eye on the ground squirrels too!

There was only one other couple at the overlook, and they had already given Buddy a pat on the head, so they resumed admiring the breathtaking views. But Buddy sat stock still for several minutes until a family suddenly appeared on the path walking towards him.

They had a little toddler with them who was as thrilled to see a puppy as the rest of the family was thrilled to see the views for the first time. As I watched Buddy and the toddler interact, I wasn’t sure who was more fascinated by their new friend, the puppy or the baby!

Puppy makes a new friend-min

Who’s more intrigued by whom? These two played together very happily while the adults savored the views

While the toddler and her old sister played with Buddy, our focus returned to the incredible 270 degree views surrounding us. What a place this is!

Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah Point Supreme-min

Cedar Breaks

Towers and pinnacles Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

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Suddenly, the sun began to play games with the clouds, and we watched in awe as light and shadow chased each other across the vast landscape and the heavens opened above us with shafts of light between the clouds.

Monsoon light Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah81-min

The weather turns on a dime at Cedar Breaks, and suddenly the heavens opened above us.

Cedar Breaks National Monument Stormy sky-min

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Mark grabbed his 12 mm fish-eye lens for a very creative shot.

Fish-eye view of Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

A fish-eye view!

And then he asked me and Buddy to pose by the railing. Sure!

Happy Campers at Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah-min

Two happy campers

Little family groups came and went at Point Supreme, but we stuck around for a while to watch the show.

Vivid colors Point Supreme Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

Vivid colors.

Colorful Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah Point Supreme-min

Each cliff, hillside and hoodoo was unique in color and shape

Then we took a stroll down a path that was lined with beautiful wildflowers. The little bluebells were so delicate!

Wildflowers at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

The wildflowers peak at Cedar Breaks between mid-July and mid-August

Wildflowers Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

The tiny bluebells start as pink buds and then open up to a pretty shade of blue

Wildflowers at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

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And the columbine wildflowers were dancing in the slight breeze. Some of the columbine were pure white and others wore a wonderful combo of blue and white with yellow trim at the center.

Columbine wildflower at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

A beautiful two-tone columbine flower

There are lots of things to see at Cedar Breaks National Monument, and we’ve written about them in the past.

The Alpine Pond Trail hike is a great place to savor the wildflowers and the Spectra Point Trail hike is an absolute Must Do if you don’t have a dog or don’t mind leaving him/her in the car. The hike takes you out on a long peninsula that juts into the red rock amphitheater, and at the end you find yourself surrounded by thousand year old bristlecone pine trees.

We didn’t do those hikes on this visit, but we marveled at the power of summer storms as huge black clouds let loose a deluge that afternoon and all the next day.

We got hail interspersed with heavy rain punctuated with ferocious growls of thunder and too-close-for-comfort bolts of lightning.

So, we bundled up and Mark baked banana bread and put turkey pot pies in the oven too to keep our rolling home warm inside.

All this was happening during a blistering heat wave all across the country that delivered the hottest week of the summer to almost every corner of our beautiful nation!

During a brief break in the tempest around us, we snuck out to the rim of Cedar Breaks at Sunset View Overlook which is at an elevation of 10,354 feet. The sun was nowhere to be found, but the rain let loose once again, and we laughed along with a handful of other tourists who ran out of their cars in raincoats, braving a downpour to take a look at the red rocks in whiteout conditions!

Cedar Breaks National Monument whiteout-min

You never know what you’ll see at the Cedar Breaks rim til you get there. Pouring rain and swarming mist is a very good possibility!

Cedar Breaks National Monument is a fabulous RV destination in any kind of weather. And it’s almost guaranteed you’ll have some kind of intense weather if you visit mid-summer when the southwest monsoon season is underway. Bring shorts but pack long pants and a raincoat too because you just never know!

Puppy watches the sunset-min

Sunset at the end of a red letter day!

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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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Hiking the “Pig Trails” in Sedona, AZ – Breathtaking! (oink oink!)

May 2019 – The hiking trails in the area around Sedona, Arizona, are so spectacular that they are worth many return visits. The thing is, the trails never look the same because the views and the air and the feeling change as the weather changes.

Sedona Arizona Pig Trail Hikes in red rocks on an RV trip-min

The hikes in Sedona’s red rocks are glorious in any weather.
Here dark clouds loom over the views from the “Pig Trails” hikes.

We decided to explore the trail system that is known collectively as the Broken Arrow system, and specifically within that system we wanted to see what could be seen from the various Pig Trails.

The what?

Well, whoever named these hikes must have seen a lot of javelina rooting around here, because quite a few hikes have pig-related names.

Javelina (pronounced “have-a-leena” despite being spelled a bit like the Greek throwing spear) are not pigs at all, but they have a piggish look about them from snout to tail.

They eat prickly pear cactus pads (ouch!) and leave very fibrous poops behind.

Dead tree and red rocks in Sedona Arizona-min

A dead tree and dark skies — what a delicious morning on the trail in Sedona!

So, the trails we wandered around on had names like “Pig Tail Trail,” “Hog Wash,” “Peccary,” and “Hog Heaven.” How funny!

We got started on our hike a little before 6:00 in the morning on a blustery and overcast day, and the trail was damp from rainfall the night before. We breathed deeply in the crisp fresh air.

I especially loved the smell of the wet creosote bushes. It is a pungent smell that somehow evokes the essence of the southwestern desert for me. That unique creosote smell is especially thick in the Phoenix area during “Monsoon Season” in the summertime.

Buddy didn’t say anything about the smell of the wet creosote leaves, but he barreled around the corners in sheer delight.

Puppy runs on hiking trail-min

Buddy flies around a corner to tell me what’s up ahead!

There was a little archway between the trees on the trail, and we took some fun pics of each other with the red rock spires in the distance.

On the hiking trail in Sedona Arizona-min

Two Happy hikers.

Another happy hiker!

The gloomy clouds made the views particularly dramatic, and with each turn in the trail we got a different glimpse of the distant spires in a natural frame.

Sedona Arizona red rock pinnacles with storm clouds-min

Distant red rock spires framed by dark clouds and darker hills.

As an aside, we just saw the article I wrote that offers a few of our photography tips in the June 2019 issue of Trailer Life Magazine, and it is truly eye-popping.

The editors kindly set aside six full pages for the article — all without ads — and called it, “Shoot to Thrill.” How perfect!

Some of our favorite pics appear in the article along with some notes about things we think about when we take photos in our travels.

I don’t know if they’ll eventually post the article on their website or not, but for those who subscribe to the magazine, please keep an eye out for it! The article talks about framing, among many other things that are all very straight forwar, even with a smartphone camera, and we used an example of the framing technique from Arches National Park since we hadn’t yet taken these photos in Sedona!

Red rock pinnacles with storm clouds Sedona Arizona-min

We kept seeing these cool framed images as we hiked.

Sedona Arizona red rock spire-min

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As we rounded a bend, the trees that had been partially blocking our view disappeared and our jaws dropped as we looked out at the fabulous stormy sky hovering over the red rock peaks.

Sedona Arizona red rock view with stormy sky and puppy-min

Wow!

Sedona Arizona red rock view-min

Will the storm clouds break?

Suddenly, we heard a clap of thunder in the distance. Uh oh! That was it for hiking! We hightailed it outta there and ran for the safety of a coffee shop in town where we enjoyed a latte and a muffin while it rained.

Storm clouds over Sedona Arizona-min

The storm clouds got darker and then thunder sent us scurrying off the trail!

Storm clouds continued to swirl around the Sedona area and dump rain now and then for a few days. One afternoon we saw the most amazing cloud form over our rig.

Fifth wheel RV under storm clouds in Arizona-min

What a cloud!

Then the sun set in brilliant color right over some blooming cactus flowers.

Cactus flowers at sunset-min

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Sunset with cactus flowers Sedona Arizona-min

Cactus flowers give the sunset a nod.

While the skies did the wild thing above us, we spotted some spring wildflowers blooming at our feet. Beautiful!

Pretty wildflowers Sedona Arizona-min

More pretty wildflowers.

Red cactus flowers-min

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When we were out and about around town we saw some gorgeous views as the skies slowly cleared. That’s the unusual thing about this area: even driving around town you’ll see awe-inspiring views!

Red rock views Courthouse Butte Sedona Arizona-min

As the storms began to give way, we saw some gorgeous view around town.

We decided to check out the pig-related hiking trails once again on another morning, and this time, as day dawned out on the trail, there was sun in the sky.

What a difference that made. The subtle coloration on the distant peaks became washed out and the sky was a beautiful blue but not too exciting, so our focus shifted a bit.

We quickly teached the point where we had turned around before and kept going to see what was ahead.

Puppy playing in the red rocks-min

We hit the Pig Trails on a sunny day and the features that captivated us were completely different!

We came to an open area in the trail where we could prowl around on huge wide flat rocks. Buddy sat down to take it all in and wait to find out what was next on our hiking agenda.

Puppy in the red rocks of Sedona Arizona-min

Buddy takes a break and enjoys the view.

The rain had created puddles in places where there probably aren’t any most of the time. There was a narrow ribbon of a stream flowing along a crevice in the rocks.

Sedona Arizona hikes are great for photography-min

Our focus shifted from the distant views to the trickle of water and puddles near our feet!

Mark spotted me with my reflection, and after yelling to me to stand still so he could get a pic, we both started to look around for reflection images. You have to get low for these. Buddy is already low, so he helped out in the search.

Red rock reflections in Sedona Arizona hike-min

Seeing my reflection, Mark gave us both an idea to look for other reflections in a cluster of small puddles!

Photo op in Sedona Arizona on Hog Heaven trail-min

Buddy kept an eye out for lizards while we scouted for reflection images!

Wow, what fantastic reflections we found! For my birthday a few months ago, Mark had given me a Nikon 12-24mm wide angle lens, and this jewel of a lens creates jewel-like images!

Red rock reflections Hog Heaven hiking trail Sedona Arizona-min

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Reflected Red Rocks in Sedona Arizona on Hog Heaven hike-min

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Of course, sometimes just as I get a cool shot lined up it gets photo-bombed by our four-legged friend.

Red Rocks in Sedona Arizona on Hog Heaven hike-min

Oops! Photo bomb!

The little puddles made some beautiful images and an hour quickly passed while we crawled around on our hands and knees peering at the distant red rocks with our faces and cameras just above the water.

Puppy leaps across the red rocks-min

We loved crawling around these shallow puddles, and so did our furry friend.

Puddle reflections in Sedona Arizona on Hog Heaven trail-min

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Interestingly, we ended up on this trail a few days later and the puddles were all but gone!

Mountain bikers love riding the trails in the Broken Arrow system, no doubt because they are very challenging! In some sections you ride on an exposed sandstone ledge — not for the faint of heart!

Fortunately, we had hit the trail so early in the morning that we didn’t see a soul until the final few hundred yards when a mountain biker approached.

Mountain biker in Sedona Arizona-min

At the very end of our hike we saw the first person on the trail — a mountain biker!

We’ve begun to realize that if you are lucky enough to get to Sedona, Arizona, whether with an RV or without one, you can’t go wrong on any of the hiking trails.

Some trails have funny piggy names while others are named for features in the landscape, but either way, they are all fabulous and they are all worth doing!

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Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks

March 2019 – The Utah red rocks are full of whimsical formations that are easily recognizable. One of the most charming is Mexican Hat, a rock formation that unmistakeably resembles a sombrero.

Mexican Hat Utah RV trip adventure

A Mexican sombrero caps off the landscape in Utah.

We were traveling through southeastern Utah with our RV, and before we arrived at this fantastic stone hat we found some wonderful patterns in the red rocks. We spent a little time doing some wide angle photography, playing with the colorful lines in the sandstone.

Leading lines in wide angle photo in Utah-min

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As the golden hour unfolded before sunset, I was astonished to look down at my feet and see a rainbow of colors!

Wide angle photography in Utah-min

So much color right at my feet!

The red, yellow, orange and gray stripes were beautiful, and we explored these unusual patterns at dusk and again at dawn.

Sunrise with puppy in Utah-min

Buddy watched the sunrise with us.

In some cases we focused our photos on the tiny patterns at our feet, but the size and scale of these immense rock landscapes was mind boggling.

Utah landscape-min

Huge landscapes dwarf Mark and Buddy on a rock outcropping.

In many places the sandstone was solid underfoot, but in other places it gave way to patches of red beach sand and small dunes.

Red rock patterns in Utah-min

Ancient sand dunes turned to stone — lines and patterns everywhere.

Buddy loved lying in the hot sand in the heat of the day and rubbing himself in its toasty warmth.

He also got a kick out of chasing the lizards and birds that live in this exotic land. Of course, the bigger birds just stood their ground when they saw the excited puppy coming.

One crow began to tease him, flying just out of reach and squawking. Buddy took the bait and tore after the crow, running and jumping as the bird swerved and dipped his wings near him.

Suddenly Buddy took a big leap, eyes focused intently on the crow. He misjudged the uneven ground beneath him, lost his footing, and crashed into the sand chest first in a cloud of red dust.

When he stood up and shook himself off he was wearing a pink bib and gloves!

Puppy in red rock sand Utah-min

Buddy sports a peach bib and gloves after taking a flying leap after a bird and crash landing in the sand.

Rivers and waterways are responsible for the fantastic landscapes in this area, and when we drove over a bridge crossing the Colorado River we loved the contrast of the crimson cliffs and snowy mountains in the background.

Colorado River in Utah Glen Canyon-min

Snowy mountains and red rock cliffs.

The landscapes were filled with color and vibrance.

Colorful landscape at the golden hour in Utah-min

Vivid colors at the golden hour.

We crossed the San Juan River at the town of Mexican Hat. After driving over a hundred miles through vast empty landscapes, this village perched above the river was a fun surprise, and we got out to explore a bit.

Colorado River Bridge at Mexican Hat Utah-min

The village of Mexican Hat is perched along one side of the river.

Someone had put a three-legged chair in a spot with a great view of the village on the opposite bank. You never know what you’ll find out here!

Town of Mexican Hat Utah-min

Have a seat — but don’t fall over!

We continued on and the skies clouded over. Storms brewed in the distance while the sun lit portions of the land here and there. What a magical place.

Storm clouds and rain over red rock landscape in Utah-min

Storm clouds and rain drift across the red rock landscape.

Storm and dark clouds in the Utah red rocks-min

The rain never made it to us, but what a wonderfully brooding sky this was!

The village of Mexican Hat is named for the fun rock formation that looks like a Mexican sombrero. It was easy to spot and made us smile. What a perfect name for this formation and the village nearby!

Mexican Hat rock formation under storm clouds in Utah-min

Mexican Hat is impossible to miss!

Buddy decided to try it out and see how it fit.

Sombrero Mexican Hat over puppy-min

Buddy tries the hat on for size.

Catching it from different angles and zooming in, the hat really dose look like a sombrero.

Mexican Hat Utah-min

It’s a true sombrero from this angle!

Just how big is this rock formation? Enormous! There were some hikers standing at its base…

Hikers at Mexican Hat Utah-min

It doesn’t look that big until you notice the hikers!

As the afternoon wore on, the hat cast its shadow across the valley below.

Shadow of Mexican Hat rock formation in Utah-min

In the late afternoon Mexican Hat cast a shadow across the valley.

And as the sun set it became a silhouette against the sky.

Mexican Hat Utah sunset silhouette-min

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And then it grew wings.

Sunset at Mexican Hat Utah-min

With colorful flying clouds!

Continuing on, we saw incredible wavy patterns in the red rocks.

Clouds over red rocks in Utah-min

We noticed vivid patterns in the distant hills.

We hopped in the RZR to drive into the landscape a little further. We rounded a bend and found a couple taking a break from their Jeep ride to enjoy a quiet moment in their camp chairs with a fabulous view.

Polaris RZR ride in Utah red rocks-min

We followed a jeep road into the landscape.

Exotic landscape in Utah-min

A couple relaxes in their camp chairs in the middle of their Jeep ride!

These landscapes just begged us to head off into the red rocks to take photos.

Photographer in Utah red rocks-min

Mark heads out to take some pics.

We were drawn to the swirling patterns on the hillsides and couldn’t stop our cameras from clicking away.

Swirling rock formations in Utah-min

Triangular patterns swirled across the base of the mountains.

Red rock swirl formations in Utah-min

Red rock waves.

Wave patterns in Utah red rocks-min

An undulating landscape.

Just how big are these wavy patterns? I had wandered around on foot exploring and then I looked up and noticed our RZR leaning up against this jaw-dropping landscape. Wow!

Wavy patterns in red rocks with scale shown by Polaris RZR-min

How big are those patterns? Pretty big!

With that in mind, here are a few more images taken as clouds rolled in overhead.

Wavy red rock patterns and swirls in Utah-min

Approaching clouds played with the light.

Utah red rock wavy patterns and swirls-min

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We wanted to stay longer, but it was still quite cold in this part of Utah. Our fingers and toes were tired of being numb! We had been in long pants and jackets for too long and we were ready to get back to central Arizona where the temps were hovering in the high 70s. Ahhhh….!

Fifth wheel trailer RV triple tow-min

What a great area. We’ll be back!!

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RVing Wyoming – Lakes, Mountains and Waterfalls

May 2018 – Wyoming is best known for the eye-popping beauty of its National Parks on the western side of the state. Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton blew us away with easy to see herds of big animals, and seeing Jenny Lake glittering in the middle of the towering snow-capped Tetons is an image we will always cherish.

But when we took our RV across the northern part of Wyoming recently, we found some wonderful lakes, mountains and waterfalls that are less well known just a bit off the beaten path.

Cliffs on the shore of Keyhole State Park on RV camping trip to Wyoming-min

Keyhole Reservoir, Wyoming

Keyhole Reservoir is a horseshoe shaped body of water that is lined with rocky cliffs, and we had a ball strolling on the hiking trails along the shore and taking pics as we walked.

Rock cliffs at Keyhole State Park Wyoming RV trip-min

The steep rock cliffs on the water’s edge were an unexpected surprise.

Even though it was early Spring, there were lots of boats out on the water. There were pleasure boats zipping around and there were fishermen slowly trolling and reeling in the catch of the day.

Boating at Keyhole State Park Wyoming RV camping trip-min

Lots of boaters were out on the lake.

We were within earshot of the fishermen drifting past in their boats, and we called out to the guys in one boat. We had seen fish jumping clear out of the water in a small cove nearby, and sure enough, these fishermen had a big fish to show off for us before they threw it back in the water.

Fishing at Keyhole State Park on Wyoming RV trip-min

Buddy looks down at the fishermen below.

Fishing at Keyhole Reservoir Wyoming-min

Nice catch!

Around the lake signs of Spring appeared in patches here and there on the ground in beautiful sprays of purple flowers.

Wildflowers in rural Wyoming RV trip-min

Spring is here!

But having flowers on the ground didn’t guarantee sun in the sky, and the sky was overcast for most of the day! Finally, in the late afternoon, the sun made an appearance just above the horizon and cast a yellow glow across the cliffs.

Steep rock cliffs Keyhole State Park Wyoming RV trip-min

The landscape took on a glorious golden glow in the late afternoon.

Golden hour Keyhole State Park rock cliffs RV camping trip in Wyoming-min

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Keyhole State Park Wyoming RV trip shee rock cliffs-min

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The next morning we awoke to a wonderfully mystical layer of fog.

Keyhole State Park RV trip - stone cliffs with fog-min

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Foggy morning Keyhole State Park RV trip-min

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About 120 miles west of Keyhole State Park we found Lake De Smet. The water was mirror-calm and the eerie light of an impending rain storm made for some beautiful reflections.

Cloudy sky reflections De Smet Lake Wyoming RV trip-min

A wonderful moodiness sets in at Lake De Smet, Wyoming.

De Smet Lake State Park RV camping in Wyoming-min

No rock cliffs here, but lots of wonderful reflections.

There were a few fishing boats on the lake and quite a few birds were out fishing too.

De Smet Lake Wyoming RV camping trip-min

A cormorant takes off.

And the fishing went on until dark!

Lake De Smet fishing at sunset-min

A fisherman keeps fishing even as the sun sets around him!

Around the lake and in nearby gardens, we found some lovely flowers blooming.

Bleeding heart flowers in Spring in Wyoming-min

Bleeding hearts.

Lupine with rain water droplets on each petal-min

Lupine glisten with droplets of rain.

Silvery spring flowers in Wyoming-min

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Spring blossoms in Wyoming-min

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We had taken I-90 to get between Keyhole State Park and Lake De Smet, but on the next leg of our journey we traveled on the fabulous Bighorn Scenic Byway that crosses the Bighorn mountains between Sheridan and Ten Sleep on US-14.

Scenic drive on RV trip in rural Wyoming-min

We headed out on the Bighorn Scenic Byway.

What a great drive! We had been a little concerned about tackling all the hairpin turns and steep climbs at the beginning of the Bighorn Scenic Byway, but they are big sweeping gentle turns that are easy with a big rig, and the gradients are not difficult if you have a strong tow vehicle or motorhome engine.

Wyoming Bighorn Mountains scenic drive Route 14 RV trip-min

Parts of the Bighorn Scenic Byway passed between towering rock walls.

We loved the rolling hills and views as we climbed, but it was the waterfalls that really got our attention. We noticed one as we rounded a bend and quickly pulled over to hike down a berm to get a few pics.

Waterfall in Bighorn Mountains RV trip-min

When we spotted a waterfall we quickly pulled over.

This first waterfall was like a warmup for the magnificent waterfalls we found at around the midpoint of the Bighorn Scenic Byway at Shell Falls. These falls have been beautifully developed to allow visitors to view the falls and surrounding canyon from many viewpoints.

Shell Falls Bighorn Mountains RV trip Wyoming-min

Shell Falls, Bighorn Scenic Byway, Wyoming

Shell Falls Bighorn Mountains RV trip Wyoming-min

There are several levels of walkways at beautiful Shell Falls

The sound of the falls was a thunderous and never ending roar.

Waterfall at Shell Falls Bighorn Mountains Wyoming RV trip-min

What a rush!

Shell Falls waterfall RV trip in Wyoming Bighorn Mountains-min

Hear me roar!

I imagine that later in the summer season the falls are a little more tame, but with the snow melt in the mountains filling the streams leading here, the volume of water was enormous.

Shell Falls waterfall Bighorn Mountains RV trip in Wyoming-min

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Shell Falls Canyon Wyoming RV camping trip-min

Looking deep down into the canyon.

We had driven the southern scenic drive across the Bighorn mountains along US-16 last year after spending time in the charming town of Buffalo, and it was lovely, but this northern route via US-14 has quite a few jaw-dropping moments that make it particularly stunning.

After we left Shell Falls, the mountains closed in around us in sheer rock cliffs and then slowly subsided as we descended into the town of Ten Sleep.

Bighorn Mountains scenic drive Route 14 Wyoming RV trip-min

Views on the Bighorn Scenic Byway in Wyoming.

If you are traveling through northern Wyoming with your RV, a stop at Lake De Smet or Keyhole Reservoir makes for a delightful waterfront excursion, and the Bighorn Scenic Byway is an exhilarating drive that is very doable with an RV. Just keep your eyes on the road because the views will knock your socks off!

RV camping trip to Wyoming Bighorn Mountains-min

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Goblin Valley State Park Utah – One Gigantic Playground!

April 2018 – Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is a filled with exotic red rock formations known as “hoodoos” that look for all the world like little people, martians and goblins, and it is a favorite with kids and families because it is one gigantic playground.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

Goblin Valley is a great place for a family camping trip!

We visited Goblin Valley during our first year of full-time RVing eleven years ago and absolutely loved it. The campground is nestled into a huge rock formation that has cathedral-like buttresses, and tents and RVs tuck into these alcoves for a snug night’s sleep.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

11 years ago we visited Goblin Valley State Park as new full-timers in our 27′ travel trailer and loved it!

It is located a little away from the concentration of red rock beauty in southern Utah but is an easy detour from I-70 when you’re heading east-west between Utah and Colorado. However, our travels hadn’t taken us in that direction since our first visit in 2007 (blog post here). When we pulled into the area we stopped and let our new pup Buddy out, and we all soaked in the dramatic scenery — just gorgeous!

Goblin Valley State Park Utah Puppy's view-min

Buddy checks out the fabulous scenery.

There are wonderful trails to hike or bike on.

Mountain biking Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

What a place to ride!

The most famous and iconic part of Goblin Valley State Park is the Valley of the Goblins amphitheater where all the hoodoos stand in a tight huddle, but we decided to do the Goblin’s Lair hike before venturing into the valley of hoodoos.

Welcoming Committee Three Sisters Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

The Greeters welcomed us to Goblin Valley State Park.
They are also known as the Three Judges, the Three Kings or the Three Sisters!

The Goblin’s Lair hike shares a trail with the Carmel Canyon hike until the two trails fork and the path to Goblin’s Lair takes a right to go around the outside of the hoodoo amphitheater. Here the land is wide open and vast, carved by the massive earth moving forces of Nature, wind and water.

A 24-hour hair whipping wind storm had just swept through Goblin Valley, and the dust had been swirling so thickly in the air we had to stay inside for an entire day while our trailer got sandblasted.

When we finally ventured out on the Goblin’s Lair hike the next day, the air was so heavy with dust you could taste it on your tongue and feel it on your lips.

So, we didn’t have the iconic bright blue sky and crisp colors that set off the red rocks in famously dramatic fashion, but the whole atmosphere was wonderfully ghostly and ghoulish.

Beginning Carmel Canyon  and Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

With dust providing a ghoulish haze, hikers head out on the hike to Goblin’s Lair.

The trail has several promontories that are fun to walk out on.

Carmel Canyon  and Goblin's Lair Trail Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

The scenery dwarfs us.

Carmel Canyon Trail Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The best way to see Goblin Valley is with kids. Since we didn’t have any kids or grandkids with us, we were delighted to find ourselves sharing the trail with a bunch of families both ahead of us and behind us.

It was Spring Break for the local Utah schools and all of Goblin Valley was teeming with kids. As we started down the trail we heard them excitedly running around and calling out to each other. “Sand, wonderful sand!” one boy said as he scooped up a huge handful of soft pink sand worthy of the best tropical beach and let it fly.

Hiking to Goblin's Lair on Carmel Canyon Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Solitary boulders stood here and there.

Carmel Canyon and Goblin's Lair Hike views Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip

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We stopped to trade selfies with some other hikers and then began the ascent up towards Goblin’s Lair.

Selfie Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Hiking up to Goblin’s Lair

There is a bit of a scramble in the last part of the climb to Goblin’s Lair, but all the grandmas and grandpas made it while their grandkids cheered them on from the top.

Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Looking down at hikers scrambling up to Goblin’s Lair

The lair itself is a big cave, and smart hikers who have read the literature before they start hiking bring flashlights with them. Those of us who just saw the sign “Goblin’s Lair” in the parking lot and started hiking right away ’cause it sounded cool arrived at the cave without one!

The crowd at the cave entrance was sizeable. More people kept scrambling up the trail behind us, and we all kept shifting positions perched on the craggy rocks at the top to make room for the new arrivals. Mark and Buddy slithered to the front and took a peek in the cave and said “Wow!” and then we started back down to make room for others coming up.

We took our time hiking back and saw people peering down at us from the towering red rock cliffs. They had climbed up on the cliffs from the crowd of hoodoos on the other side in the Valley of the Goblins.

Carmel Canyon Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

A hiker on the edge of the Valley of the Goblins looks down at us.

Snow and solitude Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Solitude in the red rocks with snow in the distance.

The hike is three miles round trip, and even though the sun was filtered through the dust in the air, it was getting warm. So, one of us found a bit of cool shade under a rock and took a break.

Resting during Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Buddy takes a load off in the shade.

Carmel Canyon hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The Valley of the Goblins is the main attraction at Goblin Valley State Park, and you can look down into it from many overlooks at the parking lot before you head on in.

Valley of the Goblins hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Valley of the Goblins with snowy peaks in the distance.

Valley of the Goblins amphitheater Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Hoodoos stand cheek-by-jowel in the Valley of the Goblins inviting kids of all ages to climb on them.

There is no real hiking trail, just a million goblins standing together waiting for kids to come and play on them.

Valley of the Goblins Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

There’s no specific trail in Valley of he Goblins — you can just run anywhere have a ball!

Kids giant playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Goblin Valley is a fabulous natural playground.

The shrieks of excitement from the kids as they climbed up to the tops and yelled to their friends and parents down below was infectious.

Valley of the Goblins playground Goblin Valley State Park

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Goblin Valley State Park Utah Giant Playground for kids-min

There were kids all over the rocks — how fun!

Even kids of the canine variety were having fun climbing the hoodoos in Goblin Valley!

Dog's giant playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The last time we were here we hunted for recognizable shapes among the hoodoos and found space ships and martians and turtles and ducks. That’s the fun of this place. It’s a natural playground for kids of all ages. Your imagination is set free and you can run and climb as much as you want.

Or, you can just take photos, and we got a kick out of that too.

Valley of the Goblins at Goblin Valley State Park-min

Out in the middle of it all a hiker captures the scene on his cell phone.

Families hike Valley of the Goblins Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Photography playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Goblin Valley is a very fun place to get creative with a camera.

Triangle window Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

A triangular window.

Chess pieces Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV Trip-min

Chess pieces.

Goblin Valley State Park is a Utah treasure that would easily be declared a National Park if it were located in a less scenic state, and we’ll definitely be back again.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

Coming back to Goblin Valley after all these years was a blast!

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