National Parks in the Southwest

We are about to start the build-out on Creeper2… we are just waiting for a few more elements to fall into place before we can begin. We are excited to try our hands at filmmaking and to share our experiences with you! But in the meantime, we wanted to share some related van life thoughts. One of our favorite things to do on the road is visiting national parks to gather more stamps for our National Parks Passport.

Our National Parks Passport has been all over the country with us

The desert southwest has so much to offer for those in the van life community. Here are our thoughts on some of the region’s national parks.

Joshua Tree National Park

lies just north of Palm Springs, CA off I-10. Joshua trees are really cool, ancient members of the yucca family. They, combined with stunning desert sunrises and sunsets, provide a unique backdrop for creating stunning photos. The park offers lots of opportunities for hiking and rock climbing, as well as van camping.

Our stamp pages are a unique record of our adventures

Petrified Forest National Park

 is on the east side of Arizona. Don’t let the name fool you – there’s no actual forest there. But there’s plenty of hiking and exploration waiting for you, despite the lack of actual trees. The science and history behind the 200 million-year-old petrified wood scattered throughout the park is fascinating, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn about it at the visitor center and exhibits. Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds in this park and overnight parking is not allowed. Several camping opportunities lie just outside the park at national monuments and forests.

The Grand Canyon

is inarguably the mac daddy of all the national parks. When you park your vehicle and walk to the rim for the first time, it is so vast and beautiful that it doesn’t look real. The Grand Canyon is full of exhibits and hiking trails, as well as plenty of campgrounds. If you book your trip in advance, you can even enjoy a whitewater rafting adventure on the Colorado River, which cuts through the bottom of the canyon. You could stay here for a week and barely scratch the surface of this incredible park.

Monument Valley

is not a national park, so we are cheating a little bit with this one. It is a gorgeous Navajo Tribal Park in southeastern Utah, and it’s located on one of our favorite stretches of highway. You will recognize some of the incredible rock formations from their many film appearances. The nearby Natural Bridges National Monument was designated the first-ever International Dark Sky Park in 2007. If you’re lucky enough to get one of the 13 first-come campsites at Natural Bridges, you will enjoy unparalleled stargazing.

Giant sequoias are almost as unreal as the Grand Canyon!

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

are not technically in the southwest, but they are only six hours from Joshua Tree and it’s absolutely worth the drive. After all, if you are road-tripping out west, how do you not go see the largest trees on the planet? You could easily spend several days camping and exploring visitor centers and museums, taking guided tours with park rangers, and touring the Crystal Cave. Coming up on September 7-9 is the Dark Sky Festival which promises to be a stunning experience if you can make it.
So there you have it, our feedback on some of the southwest national parks we have visited over the last several years. Keep in mind that there are frequent, and sometimes constant fire restrictions in many of these areas. These restrictions often encompass charcoal barbecues as well. We recommend getting a portable propane campfire and a propane grill for your van camping adventures. These are almost always permitted in fire restricted areas.

Fall and winter are great seasons to visit these southwest national parks. If you just need an adventure van to complete your plan, you can book Creeper1 through Outdoorsy.

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