Utah, February/March 2024

Utah – don’t know where to start!  We really had to drag ourselves out of the state even after five weeks of touring.  Utah was a favourite of ours after our previous visit in 2016 and it’s still up there.

Utah, we love you.

The weather pretty much decided our route as we were initially stuck between two storm fronts – snow to the east and torrential rain to the west.  The weather in Utah was pretty perfect though.

Free park ups like this on BLM land.

Southern Utah has some of the most stunning landscapes and we spent most of our time in the National and State Parks hiking and drooling over the sandstone formations.  

Delicate Arch with us for scale 

It’s worth noting that some places control visitor numbers by requiring a permit or pre-registration especially during the busier months.  Arches National Park, for example, requires that from 1st April to 31st October you go to their website to get a timed entry slot.  There is no cost above the usual park entry fee for this.

Just beyond here we started to reverse as the snow got deeper.

Just as an aside, The America The Beautiful Pass costs USD80 for a year and gives you free access to a long list of national parks, monuments and other sites.  If you visit more than two parks then you’ll cover the cost of the annual pass so it’s great value for money.

Gooseneck State Park.

Several sights run lotteries for visitor permits.  The Wave allows 64 visitors a day and the application process is online with a cost to enter the lottery as well as the cost to visit the actual sight.  We tried to get permits for the Wave near Kanab in the daily lottery but after five attempts at a cost of $9 per try we gave up!

Stunning slot canyons

Some places are on Navajo land, eg Antelope Canyon and require guides to visit.  We like to explore on our own and whilst we missed the most well  known, we found plenty of other slot canyons which were free to visit.

Nice little hike to the Calf Creek Falls, just off State Route 12.

One road deserves a special mention – State Route 12, designated a Scenic Byway and is the only All American Road in Utah. Along its 123 mile length it runs through part of Bryce Canyon, Grand Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef National Park.  The Hogback follows a narrow ridge with steep drop off on either side of the road and to the eastern section rises to a height of 9,600ft through pine forests.  We have now driven this road three times and loved it so much the first time, we have a framed geological cross section of the route hanging at home!

From the Dugway Geode Beds you are allowed to take away a certain amount Geodes

We finally dragged ourselves away to begin our journey north.  We’ve done quite a bit of driving on gravel/mud roads in Utah and we did another 50 miles or so in the centre of the state.  We followed part of the old Pony Express Trail to the Dugway Geode beds where we indulged our rock collecting habit and dug for geodes.  We didn’t find any whole ones but did find some good pieces.

Our last real stop in Utah was Wendover and the Bonneville Salt Flats. We had to visit Wendover here as Bob can trace his ancestors in Wendover UK, through his mum, back to the 1600s.  The two towns couldn’t be more different and we were a little disappointed with the US version.

The Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats were, however, well worth a visit.  The flats are known for the land speed records set at the Bonneville Speedway although at the time of our visit much of the area was underwater so there weren’t too many vehicles out there!

There are quite a few Petroglyphs in Utah.

We did make a quick stop in Salt Lake City but mostly for shopping.  It was pouring with rain when we arrived and when we woke up the next morning with a plan to visit the city, it was snowing so we decided to move on.  That decision was also taken due to the amount of construction going on making getting around a little difficult.

Some routes are easier than others.

Just to say that whilst we post a few photos here, our Facebook page, ClewleysOnTour, is the best place to see photos of our travels and we are currently, slowly, posting the Utah photos, place by place.


Driving an RV in the southwestern US outside the big cities is so easy.  The roads are wide (even the “narrow” roads are 2 lanes) and the choice of overnight spots is beyond words.  We’re using iOverlander on a daily basis to find park ups, water, dumps and laundromats.  

In Southern Utah we used a lot of the first come first served campgrounds in the parks.  As it was winter, no services other than vault toilets were provided but prices were great value for the locations.  Prices ranged from $15 to $25 per night but from the campgrounds we could walk right out onto the trailheads of some amazing hikes.

We found some of the cheapest diesel here at $3.60 per gallon (around 75p a litre) but also paid $4.50 per gallon although that equates to about 95p a litre so still much cheaper than a the UK! 

LPG, or propane, is easy to get and prices are pretty much as they are at home.

Nevada, January 2024

We had to hang around in Nevada awaiting a part for the van to be delivered from the UK. 

The Valley of Fire

Part of one of our rear light clusters wasn’t working and as it’s an integrated Hymer part rather than a change of lightbulb, we had to have the whole unit shipped out to us. Luckily we have friends in Boulder City who were happy to receive it for us!  From ordering to delivery it was nine days and the costs were £34 postage plus £25 import duty – many thanks to Darren at Brownhills for his assistance with this, we were really happy with the service.

Lake Mead

We spent much of this time around Lake Mead camping on BLM land close to the lake – no facilities but free so we weren’t on our own.

The Valley of Fire

We originally visited the Valley of Fire State Park back in 2016 but just drove through the park.  This time we had time to do some hiking in the park and spread our visit over two days ($15 per day entry fee).  The small hikes within the park are worth doing as you really get in amongst the rocks and a couple of small slot canyons.

The Valley of Fire


Driving an RV in the southwestern US outside the big cities is so easy.  The roads are wide (even the “narrow” roads are 2 lanes) and the choice of overnight spots is beyond words.  We’re using iOverlander on a daily basis to find park ups, water, grocery stores and laundromats.  

Many of the campgrounds in the national and state parks have service points outside their entrances and therefore accessible to everyone, so we’ve had no problems finding water.

We were finding fuel around $3.80/$3.90 per gallon (around 80p a litre).  It is worth keeping an eye on fuel prices as garages on either side of the road can have widely differing prices, as well as having different prices for cash or credit card.

LPG, or propane, is easy to get and prices are pretty much as they are at home.

California, January 2024

Having completed Route 66 we hightailed it out of Los Angeles as quickly as possible and headed back into nature – California does have the most diverse landscapes. 

Wild camping at
The Trona Pinnacles

We went from the snow covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada to below sea level in Death Valley (one place we keep returning to!).  

We visited the huge redwoods in Sequoia National Park and hiked out to Moro Rock where unfortunately the cloud cover gave us pretty much zero visibility.  

Not much of a view but still worth the hike up Moro Rock

As well as the largest trees we also tried to visit the 4,000 year old trees in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest but were sadly defeated by snow (there will be an amusing/nail biting video of us trying to turn the van around on a narrow, snow covered mountain road on YouTube in due course).

Retreating from the deep snow

Manzanar National Historic Site is the site of a former internment camp which held US citizens of Japanese heritage during WWII following the attack on Pearl Harbour.  Some of the buildings have been restored and descendants of the camp residents plus volunteers are working in the grounds to bring the gardens back to life.  A fascinating place to visit.

Manzanar National Historic Site
Manzanar National Historic Site

Our second visit to Death Valley this month took us to the northern section and we managed to get in some hiking.  We walked around the Ubehebe Crater and into Mosaic and Titus Canyons.  This was definitely a good time to visit before temperatures start to become unbearable.

Ubehebe Crater
Great hikes in Death Valley


Driving an RV in the southwestern US outside the big cities is so easy.  The roads are wide (even the “narrow” roads are 2 lanes) and the choice of overnight spots is beyond words.  We’re using iOverlander on a daily basis to find park ups, water, grocery stores and laundromats.  

Many of the campgrounds in the national and state parks have service points outside their entrances and therefore accessible to everyone, so we’ve had no problems finding water.

We have paid for a couple of campsites in the national parks but these were very basic with no facilities (as above the service points were outside the actual campgrounds).  Many campgrounds are currently closed but we used Potwisha Campground in Sequoia NP, USD32 a night, and Mesquite Spring Campground in Death Valley, USD14 per night.

Fuel has remained cheap right up until the California border where it immediately increases by a couple of dollars a gallon, if not more especially in the more remote places – the most we paid was $8.50 whereas back in Arizona it had been around $3.90!

LPG, or propane, is easy to get and prices are pretty much as they are at home.

Into the USA – 4 to 9 Nov 2023

Five states in as many days from New York to Illinois via Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana!

The border crossing at the Peace Bridge

The border crossing at the Peace Bridge from Fort Erie to Buffalo was easier than we expected and took us just over an hour. At the first checkpoint we were asked if we were carrying any alcohol, tobacco and uncooked or fresh meat, fruit or vegetables, which we weren’t. There are several official websites which occasionally seem to contradict each other on what is permitted food wise, so we erred on the side of caution and emptied the fridge!

We were then pointed towards immigration where we were asked a few questions on why we were entering America and for how long we would be staying.  We had previously obtained a B2 Tourist Visa in the UK which allows, subject to the immigration officer’s approval, stays of up to 180 days as opposed to the 90 days allowed on an ESTA.

We were granted leave to stay for the full six months and after paying $6 each immigration fee, we were free to go on our way.

Very agricultural

Our first mistake was getting on to the interstate out of Buffalo! It’s a toll road and we, incorrectly, assumed there would be toll booths to pay but it’s all automated based on your number plate and when trying to pay online the only option is for US and Canadian registered cars. After a conversation with a very helpful lady on the helpline, we were assured that we’d be OK with not paying provided we don’t use a New York State toll road again. We had no option to pay despite trying so let’s hope she’s right!

After that little hiccup we ticked off the states on our way to Chicago from where we were going to start Route 66. Much of the drive was rolling agricultural land and we passed through a couple of Amish townships.

We loved the river cruise

We spent a couple of days in Chicago, walking miles and taking a boat tour to see the city from the river. Two days really wasn’t long enough but it gave us a feel for the city and it’s definitely worth a visit.

The start of Route 66. We would drive past this a day or so later. Now complete with one of our stickers.


We joined Harvest Hosts (US$84.15 for the year) as they offer non-campsite park ups and are found all across the country. Typically stays are free and in exchange you are encouraged to purchase something (lots of these are on farms, vineyards or breweries) or leave a donation. Our first stay was at a Law Enforcement Dog Training Centre where the owner had installed hook up points and provided fresh water.

Law Enforcement Dog Training Centre Park up

Walmart is known for allowing overnight stays in its car parks (check though as not all stores do this. Boondock WM is a good app to check this on). We also stayed at a Bass Pro outlet. These are obviously not the quietest of nights but they come in handy for the odd overnighter.

Not the best view from our window but needs must sometimes.

Chicago has a designated RV parking area within a truck car park just to the south of the city. There are no facilities and it costs $38 per night but the city is walkable from there or you can take a Metra Train from a short distance away – the short ride cost us $2 each. Despite it being a fairly open car park (although there is an extra/eit barrier) it felt safe and we were happy to leave the van to explore the city.

Park up in Chicago

Four weeks in the USA?…. OK if we must

After a long but uneventful flight where we discovered Greenland from the air we landed in the US to the usual queues at immigration. We stayed at the Handlery Union Square hotel a huge sprawling hotel which is in a great location for shopping and the cable cars.

Cable Car San Francisco

Our first impression of San Francisco was dirty, smelly with lot of rough sleepers. Having said that the city grew on us but still a shame to see so many people with mental health issues out on the streets. We will be coming back though.

With breakfast included we made the most of it and ate heartily before the first day’s exploring. The cheapest way to get around is on public transport and we bought 3 day Muni passes for $31 each. With the cable cars being $7 for a single journey or $20 a day, we soon got our money’s worth.
Fisherman’s Wharf was just as the guide books said and very touristy but a great place to people watch which we did over a nice lunch at Alioto. We soon realised that the advertised prices didn’t always include the local tax and tips. We had booked a night trip to Alcatraz before we left the UK and it is well worth doing. The cost of the trip ($40 per adult) included return boat trip and audio tour and the bonus of the night tour is you get to see San Francisco and all its lights on the return boat trip.


A bit of a later start but paid for the lie-in with a 25 minute wait for breakfast. The hotel was very close to the end of one of the cable car lines but there was always a really long queue, so we followed the advice in the guide book to walk to the next stop where the queue was inevitably shorter.


Bike Ride Day

Today was to be a cycling day. From the sea front we hired a couple of bikes from Blazing Saddles to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. Having paid our money we were given a very quick talk about the bike and route and off we went…along with a lot of others from several different companies. At times the bridge was a little congested with both riders and people on foot. Some were totally unaware of their surroundings and you have to keep your eye out for sure.
Before we crossed the bridge we stopped for coffee and cake at the Warming Hut. Once over the bridge we carried on to Sausalito, a quaint little seaside town. Lunch, shopping and a large serving of local ice cream killed any ideas of cycling back but luckily plenty of ferries run across the Bay so there was an easy option back to get back the city.
The cycle hire cost $36 each with $5 insurance and $10 ferry fees on top (shorter trips can be booked and paid for by the hour). If you decide to cycle back the ferry fees will be refunded. The ferry is really well getting hundreds of bikes on very slickly.
Earlier start to check out and pick up the hire car…. Not just any hire car it was a Ford Mustang Cabriolet. A beautiful car. Maybe I should provide some background to this trip. It is June’s ‘special’ birthday this year and she always wanted to be on a Harley Davidson cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway. However the stumbling block was neither of us can’t ride bikes! However Bob did arrange a trip on a Harley a couple of years ago in the Warwickshire countryside with the help of a mate…well done Rod. With this under her belt she was happy with a convertible for Highway 1.
After our first Uber ride to National Car Hire and a quick checkout we were on our way towards the night’s stop at Fernwood Resort a couple of hours south of San Francisco along Highway 1. This of course included a few stops for photos and a brief shop before a couple of nights glamping in amongst the redwoods. The riverside site takes tents, motorhomes and caravans and on the site there were a few permanent residents. It also has a bar and restaurant and breakfast stuff and fresh coffee can be picked up at the site shop. The glamping option gave a us a proper double bed, heater, outside chairs, firepit and two clean bathrooms shared between the three glamping tents all of which had parking.

Our Adventure Tent

We decided to head south further along the Big Sur but unfortunately lots of the park areas were closed due to fires. It’s a fantastic road to drive, all twists and turns dipping in and out of the banks of coastal mist which led to endless photo opportunities.
We got as far south as Elephant Seal Beach (the name is a big clue as to what you can see there!), and stopped at Ragged Point Inn for the obligatory coffee break in both directions. The Nepenthe Café was a worthy recommendation for the final coffee stop with its terraces and their stunning views of the coast. We caught a brief glimpse of the McWay Falls ($10 entry fee) as the sea mist cleared for a few minutes and stopped off at Pfeiffer Beach ($10 entry fee) to see the purple sand…albeit you had to dig for it.
Evening meal at Fernwood again which is a great place to stay if a little noisy at times. The Adventure Tents are cleaned daily and the towels are changed. Certainly different and great for a couple of nights!

Another early start as we left Fernwood and headed back north to Carmel and then Monterey. We took the 17 mile drive around the Pebble Beach peninsula. $10 to see the big houses but a very scenic coastal drive.

We didn’t really stop in Carmel but both really liked Monterey which although obviously catering for tourists, it wasn’t too tacky. Lunch at Sly McFly and June had a sneaky little Margarita.
Off then to Marina and the Sanctuary Beach Resort…our one night of full on luxury where we were driven to our room on a golf cart. The beach was right outside our windows… really stunning and a great sunset, albeit a little on the cold side in late September! A late email told us the hotel’s restaurant was closed for refurbishment but we found a nice little Vietnamese that hit the spot in a local strip mall.

Busy day! We felt like we were sneaking out as we tried to avoid the over helpful staff – neither of us is particularly comfy with top end hotels. Having dropped off the car at San Francisco Airport, it was then the air train to the terminal where we grabbed our second Uber to take us to Fremont on the other side of the Bay to pick up the RV. Arrived a little early but the staff at Cruise America could not have been more helpful and we managed to get off to a quick start. First impressions of the RV was it was a little ‘willowy’ but Bob soon got used to it. Stopped off at a nearby Walmart, much more of them later, to stock up with ‘stuff’ (as regular motorhomers we just forgot the basics that we always have on board…took a bit of thinking). We had prebooked the personal kits so had towels and bedding and the kitchen equipment so we could eat and drink!
With road works and a few detours the total time from Walmart to Yosemite was 6 hours but we had prebooked the campsite so were able to pull straight on to our allocated pitch. We arrived in the dark and had no idea to what was out there for us to wake up to…..

Our home for 3 weeks

Woke to a neighbour starting their generator up at 7.00. Most sites that allow generators post the hours that you can run them. Typically 7.00 – 9.00 and again 16.00 – 20.00. Our RV package came with unlimited generator use and although we didn’t expect to use it, it did come in handy a few times.
We opened the van up to find ourselves surrounded by huge pine trees, clear blue skies and lots of rock faces. We walked into Yosemite Village and totally gob smacked with the scenery. There was lots and lots of ‘upness’. Very majestic and maybe one or two photos taken!
We took the Valley Loop Tour which is on the back of a trailer and guided by a park ranger. It was a really good orientation trip, costing only $25 each and lasting 2 hours. Not something we’d normally do but glad we did and would thoroughly recommend.


We used the free shuttles to get around for the rest of the day, visiting the really well stocked Village Store. More fresh food that Walmart! Back to the van where we started our generator to charge all the tech.
The campsite we used was Upper Pines, $26 a night with a bus stop just outside the front gate. We did book as soon as the pitches were released though. They are up for grabs on the US National Parks website 3 months in advance.
Early shuttle through the valley to the trail head for Glacier Point via the 4 mile trail, which is actually 4.8 miles each way although we had planned to come down via a different route. The views from the trail are stunning and we both welcomed the stops to take photos as the track is quite steep.

Glacier Point

At the top Glacier Point gives views to die for and worth every aching muscle (driving and shuttle options are available for those less inclined to walk!).

Glacier Point

After a #clewleystopsforcoffee at the café at the top, we started our way back down via the Panorama Trail. Not quite so stunning views, still beautiful though but definitely the harder route. Total walking time 5 hours (double that for the whole day) with 15 miles under our boots including 4000 feet of ascent! Arrived back in the van in the dark, totally exhausted yet feeling exhilarated at what we had accomplished.
Despite thinking he was prepared for anything, on the way down Bob felt outkitted when we passed a guy with an ice axe on his rucksack. Not a drop of snow in sight or forecast.
As we left Yosemite we bought an Annual National Parks pass for $80 which seems a lot to pay out but it would cover us for all the national (not state) parks we intended to visit and with each park costing around $25/30 it would pay for itself in a couple of days.
It was overcast and raining slightly as we drove to Kings Canyon and Sequoia to see the really big redwoods; firstly the General Grant tree and then along the General’s Highway to the General Sherman. The size of these trees needs to be seen to be believed but Bob was able to stand fully upright in the trunk of a fallen tree.

June does like a tree

Vans greater than 25ft long are not allowed to exit the park through the southern gate due to the gradient and twisty road so we decided to find a campsite in the Sequoia NP. Only one seemed to be open which was Lodgepole but it turned out to be a good choice! Hundreds of places, self service check in (something we’d get used – find an empty pitch and drop your money in a safe box), a cafe and a laundry and all for $22. The campsite is at 6,720 ft and with no light pollution we were afforded stunning views of the clear night sky.

Vegas bound!
A long boring driving day (446 miles) although we did go through part of the Mojave Desert and past the Andrews Airforce Base. Having spent the previous few days in the mountains, this was a total contrast.
We had three nights booked at the Stratosphere Hotel which has a car park for oversized vehicles so the RV would be fine for a couple of days. Staying on the Strip was just something that had to be done so after a quick dinner in Dennys (free wifi!) there was time for a walk to see the sights closest to the hotel. A lot of the Strip is being rebuilt so there are several huge empty plots.

One of a few very early starts of this trip as we were being picked up by limo at 5.30am for our helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon. A stretch limo is not our usual style but totally in keeping with being in Vegas!
The helicopter sat six passengers and we were lucky enough to get the front seats on the way out. We left around 7am, flew over Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead before landing in the Canyon for breakfast. Words cannot describe the stunning views of the Canyon as the sun was rising. The area where we landed for breakfast was a little overcrowded once an another half dozen helicopters had arrived but it was still one of the most awe-inspiring places for our little picnic breakfast. We used Sundance Helicopters and although it was an expensive morning out it was worth every penny.

Single engine too! Bob is used to having a second engine as back-up

Having got back to the hotel by 10am, we had plenty of time for shopping and with outlet malls at either end of Las Vegas Boulevard we had plenty of choice too. We used the buses to get around with a 24 hour pass costing $8 per adult. The Deuce service runs up and down the Strip but the SDK also goes to the northern mall.
After a quick afternoon nap and cocktails from the viewing deck of the Stratosphere it was back on the bus to the far end of town to see all the hotels we had missed the night before. Dinner at the Harley Davidson Restaurant – yes there is a recurring theme on this trip!

Action day!
Part of the reason for staying at the Stratosphere was so Bob could do the jump off the top of it and today was the day. An 855Ft drop attached to a couple of ropes and it’s all over in seconds! $120 or $100 to hotel residents.
From there we headed downtown to the Fremont Street area which we decide is the US equivalent of Blackpool. The purpose of this visit is to do the Zoom zip wire which runs the full length of the arcade. You are strapped in to a harness Superman style and emerge from a slot machine to fly across the heads of the crowds shopping below. Great fun and $40 for an afternoon “flight”.

Great fun

Then spent a couple of hours at “Whiskey Licker” drinking cocktails whilst listening to an amazing busker who even did “You Make Me Feel Brand New” for us.

Dinner that night was at Lotus of Siam, a great Thai restaurant off the Strip which was recommended by one of June’s friends. The food was great and it’s obviously a popular place as we hadn’t made a reservation and had to wait a while, albeit sat at the bar!



Left the big city lights of Vegas and drove a short distance to spend the day with friends in Boulder City. Tony took us out kayaking on the Colorado River and as well a great day out on the water, Tony also gave us some of the history of the river. At one point we got out to walk on the “Catwalk”, one of the original gaugers’ trails from when they were first surveying the river. It was then back to join Marge for an early dinner and a quick tour of the City including a building with a mural painted by Tony. Having seen the Hoover Dam from the helicopter, today we got to drive across it and also view it closer up from the new bridge built across the river. Also saw the “Concrete Critters” (literally as the name suggests, statues of concrete animals!) and the long-horned sheep who live wild on the edge of the city.


Kayaking on the Colorado
Kayaking on the Colorado

A fantastic day with two of the most hospitable and welcoming people you could ever meet. Tony has boundless energy and even in his late 70s (we think) he still participates in triathlons and indeed had one the following day.

Spent the night at Canyon Trail RV Park where we were dwarfed by the full size rigs you could only find the America and hook-ups to the mains water and sewers. $45 per night with all the facilities except decent wifi.


Grand Canyon bound but all via main rounds so no exciting driving! Stocked up on supplies at Safeway where it’s worth getting their membership card (don’t need to be resident) as we saved ovre $35 at the till. Also picked up fuel – we’ve noticed the full prices vary widely and we’d seen as high as $3.29 (at this point) and as low as $2.09 per gallon. Also worth noting that some places charge less for cash.

We hadn’t realised it was a three day weekend and hadn’t booked a campsite so we arrived at the entrance to the Grand Canyon to find all the campsites full. We spoke to a ranger who advised that whilst you cannot “boondock” (wild camp to us Brits) in the National Park you can do so in the surrounding forest. We still went into the Park to get out bearings and stopped briefly at Mather Point to watch the lightning bolts across the Canyon as a rainstorm set in.

We found a spot to camp just off the main road to the Grand Canyon (lat: 35.9791, long: 112.1301) and not too high tonight at around 2000m.

Total driving today: 244miles


An easy start as we head straight to Desert View Campsite within the Grand Canyon National Park in the hope of grabbing a pitch as people leave. The plan worked as there are plenty of empty spaces at 10am although it does fill up as the day goes on. Another great little site at $12 per night but no facilities other than toilets (water filling, grey waste dump and toilet emptying facilitites can be found at the main campground and are open to non-residents).

Watchtower Campsite
Watchtower Campsite

We wondered down to the Canyon Rim and the Watchtower – so many photo opportunities. A quick scoot around the souvenier shop/supermarket and it was back to the van for a relaxing afternoon although as we got back we found a rather large elk grazing by the van!

Watching the sun go down later over the Canyon is a must and we get our seats early to enjoy the sunset with a beer in hand. We bought wood for a campfire (all the sites provide fire pits) but as tomorrow will be an early start we keep the wood for another night.


Another must do – watching the sun rise so it’s up at 5.45am to get to Navajo Point. We try to leave the campsite as quietly as possible but that never works and at least we weren’t the only ones with the idea to start early. Got to see the sunrise just before the obligatory influx of Chinese tourists arrived all jostling to get the best photo!

Sunrise Over the Grand Canyon
Sunrise Over the Grand Canyon

We stopped at several viewpoints along the way to the Visitor’s Centre to pick up the shuttle bus to the Bright Angel Trailhead but before that it’s breakfast in the car park. We’ve learned that it’s often best to get to a car park early to be assured of a RV parking place which are often used by cars who can’t be bothered to drive round for a space.

Today we are walking down into the Canyon via the Bright Angel Trail. We’re not going all the way to the bottom but to one of the resting places three miles along the Trail and about 600m down from the rim. That does mean it’s another three miles back up again but it’s not too difficult and the trail is quite busy.

Bright Angel Trail
Bright Angel Trail

A quick shower in the car park (in the van of course!) before heading to the Camping Services area to fill the water tank and empty the grey and black tanks.


Desert View to Page – a fairly non-eventful few hours on the road. We picked up fuel and gas in Cameron and then straight to Walmart in Page. Topped up supplies and confirmed it was OK to overnight in the car park. Turns out we weren’t the only ones with that idea as there were at least a dozen vans parked up by the time darkness fell.

We spent the afternoon around Lake Powell – the Glen Canyon Dam, a few hours by the beach and then up to Antelope Point.

Lake Powell
Lake Powell

A couple thoughts so far on the trip:

  • Start early to be on the campsite by mid-afternoon as even in mid-October sites were full by 4pm

  • Don’t underestimate travel times – speed limits are lower than the UK and winding roads add time too


Another 5.30am start and this time to get to Horseshoe Bend for the sunrise and we weren’t the first there by any means. Another magical moment!

Horse Shoe Bend Page
Horse Shoe Bend Page

Horse Shoe Bend Page
Horse Shoe Bend Page

Breakfast in the car park to prepare for the long drive to Moab. We stopped in Monument Valley but as most of the main rock features can be seen for the road we didn’t do any of the tours. We drove through numerous non-descript towns on the 191 and had lunch overlooking Church Rock.

We arrived in Moab to find that it stretches for miles along the main road and we quickly lose count of the number of massive RV sites. We finally settle on Sliprock on the edge of the town. It’s $39+tax for the night but it’s a well equipped site and has laundry facilities. If you like outdoor sports Moab is the place for you as you could find pretty much anything here!


Today’s plan – pop into the National Parks at Arches and Canyonlands before heading towards Brice. Ha!!!

OK a slightly later start as we didn’t take into account the time change from Pacific to Central and a quick FaceTime with Amy back in the UK, so we finally got to Arches about 10am. More gob-smacking moments which neither of us expected and we basically ended up spending the entire day there. We then drove 50miles or so to find a campsite in the Canyonlands area but they were all full so we ended up back in Moab on the same campsite as yesterday but with no choice other than a fully serviced (ie mains water and sewer again) pitch at $62.62, including tax. We therefore plugged in and charged everything we could!

The Arches National Park
The Arches National Park

The Arches National Park
The Arches National Park


Back on the early starts so on the road by 8.30am. First stop was Dead Horse Point State Park (not covered by National Parks ticket so $10 entry) for stunning views over the Colorado River and gorge.

Onto Canyonlands where we used the same approach as we did at Arches – take every right turn and viewpoint to see everything. Totally different scenery here but equally as breathtaking.

Dead Horse State Park
Dead Horse State Park

Then hit the road again for a few hours to find a camping spot in the Dixie National Forest. We tried a couple of campsites but they were either full or closed so we ended up wild camping in the trees just off the 12. The scenery had continued to be amazing throughout the whole drive and each tunr bought different views and geology – some of the strangest we had seen. En route we passed through Capitol Reef National Park which is well worth doing of time allows.


We continued our drive along route 12 from Dixie National Forest to Cedar City via Bryce. The scenery continued to be stunning, so much so that when we found a geological map of the route a few days later we just had to buy it!

Safe to say we had one of out most unique driving moments ever as we drove along the top of a ridge around Escalante with sheer drops on either side!

We arrived in Bryce to discover more jaw-dropping yet different geological features as we walked amongst the “hoo doos”.

Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon

Spent most of the day at reasonable altitude – 9600ft in the Dixie Forest and Bryce at around 8000ft. Tonight’s choice of accomodation was another Walmart car park in Cedar City. We wondered when we arrived why some motorhomes were parked across blocks of spaces rather than in them but as the night progressed and the wind picked up we understood the reason why as a couple of times it felt like we would topple over! We obviously should have followed the local experts lead and parked nose on into the wind.


Another early start to get to Zion National Park and walk up to Angel’s Landing before it gets too hot although both of us were shattered after being battered by the wind the previous night!

We reached Zion at about 8.30am and the park was already filling up so we headed straight to the shuttle to the trailhead. It ws definitely the best decision to go early as a lot of the trail was in the shade at that point and not as busy as when we came down. We did the chain section to make it to the top without any problems but why do they make all the steps for people with long legs (June not being blessed with them!). The views from the top were as spectacular as we expected!

Angels Landing
Angels Landing

We checked into the Watchman campsite ($30 with electric) but unfortunately there was no space for a second night although we had the option to queue from around 7am for a pitch at the next door campsite the following morning but with no guarantee of a spot. So one night it was to be and after a short nap and some retail therapy we finally had our campfire.

Angels Landing
Angels Landing


With no campsite in Zion National Park for tonight we moved the van to the RV carpark early to ensure a parking place and had a leisurely breakfast there.

We took the Park Shuttle Bus to the end of its route for our walk along the Narrows. We normally try to keep our boots dry when walking so it was a bit strange today to walk straight into the river wearing them. A fun walk and boots aside we managed to stay dry and we then headed back to Zion Lodge to do the Emerald Pools trail. Probably because it was the end of the summer but the pools certainly weren’t emerald coloured – more like a sludge green!

The Narrows
The Narrows

We left Zion NP to spend the night a short distance away at Zion River Resort, another huge campsite. $55 inclusive for a fully serviced pitch and pretty good wifi.


A driving day going from Zion to Death Valley covering four states – Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California, and mostly on highways for a distance of around 300 miles.

Valley of Fire
Valley of Fire

We broke the day up with a visit to the Valley of Fire State Park (entrance $10) where we saw more amazing sandstone features and some petroglyphs. We had booked into a campsite in Beatty but decided to wild camp at a derelict RV site on the way to Death Valley. It was a good choice being surrounded by nothing and nobody and with a clear sky the Milky Way was on full view.

Valley of Fire
Valley of Fire

Wild camp at a derelict RV site on the way to Death Valley
Wild camp at a derelict RV site on the way to Death Valley


Before entering Death Valley we went to Dante’s Peak for an overview of the area and then to Zabriskie Point. It was then straight to Furnace Creek to check out the campsite options (plenty) before going to the Ubehebe Crater (extinct volcano) where we had an interesting conversation with an American couple regarding the upcoming election. Their comment was that it was a choice of a criminal (Clinton) or a joker (Trump). Well as we know the latter triumphed and time will tell what his legacy will be.

Ubehebe Crater
Ubehebe Crater

We explored the rest of the Valley via the Sand Dunes and Badwater Basin which is the lowest point at 282ft below sea level.

Badwater Basin
Badwater Basin

We camped at Sunset campsite just across the road from the Furnace Creek village. $14 per night but no facilities other than water filling and waste dumping (all we really needed).

A note re fuel in Death Valley – fuel in Furnace Creek was $3.89 per gallon but a few miles away in Stovepipe Wells is was “only” $2.93. It was quite a distance though before we found another garage.


And so the journey back to San Francisco starts but in true Clewley style it will not be the quickest. most direct route! We always have an “old-fashioned” paper map open alongside Tomtom and through this we found a gem of an area around Lake Isabella. We had lunch by the lake and drove another “wiggly” road until we could avoid the freeway no longer! Tonight’s destination is another Walmart car park but for the first time we didn’t feel comfortable at out first stop so we moved on to another, larger store.

Lake Isabella
Lake Isabella


A relatively short drive (two hours) to our final campsite so before leaving it was into Walmart for some shopping as an extra bag was required to pack everything in (luckily we had upgraded coming home so had extra luggage allowance!). In a bid to delay the big cleaning the session (van was supposed to go back clean to avoid an extra charge and it was definitely going back cleaner than when we collected it!) it was another detour via Bob’s favourite US store – “Bass Pro Shop”. For a UK person, these shops have to be seen to be believed (last time we were here the girls were looking at child size pink shotguns!) but only clothing bought.

The final stop was at the Alameda Fairgrounds RV Site and we arrived only to find a dog show in full process! So not only were we surrounded by huge RVs but these ones all had the biggest cages around them for the pampered pooches.

This was possibly the worst site of the trip ($40 fully serviced) but it served its purpose and allowed us to clean the van and empty all the tanks.


A leisurely start as it was only 30 minutes or so to the Cruise America depot so plenty of time to fill the fuel and gas tanks (the latter at U-Haul) and give the van the final once-over before dropping it back. A smooth handover with only a cursory check and it was then off to the airport for a long wait for the flight – we got there before midday although the flight wasn’t until 19.15 but unfortunately the return time for the van was before 11am and we couldn’t really go into San Fransisco with all the luggage.

June at the helm
June at the helm


Post trip thoughts:

To come…