Our Big Family RV Trip Out West {Utah + Arizona}

June 17, 2022

When I began instagramming some of our trip out west, I received so many comments and DMS from other moms who wanted to do the same thing. Since I’m not usually that mom who does big things like this, I wanted to take the time to blog the details, the good, the bad and the ugly of our trip! Nearly all of our photos were taken with an iPhone 13. I took my big girl camera on a few hikes, but had my husband get the newest iPhone before we left, so we could have an easily transportable device that could take good quality video and photos.

Let’s start with why I wanted to plan this trip.

Early 2021, I read the book Adventuring Together By Greta Eskridge and after that – I was hooked on the idea of more adventures. Growing up, I hardly saw outside of my home state, Indiana. So I knew I wanted my kids to be more comfortable with traveling than I was as an adult. I had anxiety for a long time with road trips, and that has mostly subsided. I still cry on airplane flights and haven’t yet flown with my kids. I might need a prescription drug to get through it.

I knew after the Covid Era, my family needed this trip. We needed 2 weeks to bond. We had been through a lot with the stress of Covid and job changes and my son going through puberty. we had shifted so much as a family and while we weren’t disconnected when you look at all families, I felt we needed some strengthening. I also felt that my kids were growing up entitled to some degree. I was raised by a single mom and was adaptable to any situation, because we had moved every 2 years. My kids have grown way too reliable on their comfort zones. They take their lives for granted. And while I don’t think that’s an issue I need to harp on them about, I do want to find ways to push them out of their comfort zones. In contrast, my husband had the same home for 30 years and had extreme stability. While this is healthy, it also has lead to a man who doesn’t like to be outside of his comfort zone and is a tad too bougie in my opinion  ???

Family Rv trip Out west Arizona Utah

After late 2021 and early 2022, my job began picking up speed to where we could afford this trip. We started planning in February and early March. Mainly what National Parks we wanted to go on and how many days we would be gone. A few friends warned me that Campgrounds would be booked up already and to book them early. That really stressed me out. But one friend said to book each site the day of to give flexibility – so that’s what our plan was!

My husband a year ago was adamantly not a fan of this idea, btw! I have been getting him used to the idea since! He is honestly too bougie and just doesn’t like to rough it at all. This was really good for him. Not only did he get out of his own comfort zone, but he has some bougie ideas for owning a top of the line RV ???

My plan is take my kids out on the road for 2 weeks every summer until they graduate. Next year our plan is Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and maybe South Dakota as we turn to head back to Nashville, Tennessee.

Renting an RV.

I originally planned for us to take a pull behind trailer. It was less than 30′. I figured let’s go small since were total newbies!

We get 24 hours out from leaving and the RV Share owner contacts us about our hookup to the camper. Come to find out, we were going to need a special electrical thingy. No one could do it that day! For about an hour, we wanted to cry. We got the owner to cancel and refund us completely. (He even admitted it was a question he should have asked long before then). and then began a frantic search for a drivable RV.

Family Rv trip out west Utah Arizona

We ended up finding one at Cruise America. Everyone was so excited about being able to ride in the RV on the trip instead of a car. I cannot tell you how major this was for how our trip went. The entire trip would have been significantly harder had we had the camper we originally planned. We faced SERIOUS winds on the road at various times. Many days were winds exceeding 20MPH. It would have been so much harder pulling a camper. We also had more space, because we rented a 30′ Motorhome. We were able to potty on the road. I usually have to pee every 2 hours on a trip, so this was extremely helpful. Getting in and out of parking lots etc would have been a lot harder. One plus side to pulling a camper is you can take your car and travel about easily, but we found the pros of having a drivable RV way outweighed the cons. The days we spent within National Parks, we were in the RV and able to take breaks and cook, and change and nap etc. One of our parks you had to reserve and entry, so we could not leave the entire day and the RV allowed us to have comfort and ease while in the park. Other parks were far from our campsite. You need a reprieve between 1-3 mile hikes with the Desert heat. A car would have been much more challenging to get this. We didn’t need to run the RV for a cooling effect, nor the generator. It was just cool not being outside. Propane operated our stove. So we would go back to the RV around 1 and eat and rest and hydrate and go back out about 3.

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Our plans were the Big 5 National Parks in Utah. Horseshoe Bend was high on my list. We had to skip Antelope Canyon because they required masks (its on an Indian tribe owned land) and we didn’t want to do that at high altitude in the desert heat outside. We also wanted to hit up the Grand Canyon. and from there we would wing it.

Park #1: Arches National Park, Moab Utah

We did the following trails: Delicate arch (moderate hike, at the very end steep drop off but manageable if you have kids that you can trust and that trust you to guide them). We also did Windows, Sand Dune Arch and Skyline Arch. We did 2 in the morning and 2 after the 1-3 PM heat of the day. Have a meeting before your hikes and really explain that parts might be tricky and to trust each other and watch out for others.  Bring plenty of water and snacks and LMNT salt packets. The dry air and elevation are difficult. If your oxygen suffers, its caused by dehydration.

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While we were in Moab, across the street from our RV park was lions park… we went over there one evening for a walk… It was fun and they had a “playground” with a real rock for rock climbing practice.

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Park #2: Canyonlands

Canyonlands has 3 sections that are super far apart. We only did island in the sky section. On that section, we did Mesa arch, White rim overlook, Grand view point and Upheaval dome first overlook. 

At Canyonlands grand view point they had a geology talk at 10:30 & 11:00 check times for the day you plan to go.

Also did you know the rock formations were made from sand and wind and built up? Not from erosion entirely.

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Park #3: Capitol Reef

At capitol reef, we did the Hickman Bridge Trail. It was a 1.7 mile out and back hike that took about an hour. We also saw Petroglyphs near the Hickman bridge trail, they were very cool.

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Park #4: Bryce Canyon

This was our favorite park! Our favorite hike was Mossy Cove which lead to a waterfall. We went off trail some and got into the water fall instead of just above it.

The othe two Bryce hikes we did were the combo of Navajo & queens garden. Very intense.  Wall Street was super cool. The second hike we did was easy and wonderful. It was called bristlecone – did you know it’s pine forest on top of a mountain growing out of a desert? It’s amazing.

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Park #5 Zion

So, Zion was our least favorite. We didn’t get to get into water, because there was toxic algae. One of our main hikes was shut down due to a huge rock fall (permanently). So those two things really make a big difference. We did a few hikes. We did riverside walk and grotto trail. We also wanted to bike Pa’rus but decided not to. We were all wiped after 4 consecutive days of national parks. (because we had lost 2 days in the initial RV issue).

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Bonus Parks in Arizona:

#1 Horseshoe Bend

This was a bucket list item for me. I have wanted to see Horseshoe Bend FOREVER! Its a quick mile (total) and worth seeing. There are a lot of people though which makes it challenging to get a good view – and we went in a less busy time of year, Early May.

horseshoe bend

#2 Grand Canyon

Okay, I will be honest. We only stopped here because if Im going all the way to Arizona, I need to see the Grand Canyon. But after seeing all Utah had to offer, it was meh. I hated the fences, they were very short and provided no protection. It was cool and I am glad we spent all of an hour just driving to a few lookouts. But nothing to shout about.

Grand Canyon

#3 Petrified Forest 

The Petrified Forest was formed from these ancient trees, given the scientific name Araucarioxylon arizonicum, and have morphed from wood to almost solid quartz, taking on colors from iron, carbon and manganese. It was really neat!!!! We have a piece of petrified wood that was handed down to my boys that I had wanted to toss. I kept thinking WHY DO I HAVE TO KEEP THIS ROCK? and now I don’t want it to go anywhere, its really cool to understand how it was formed.

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