Nevada, Utah, Arizona - Grand Circle (Part II)
7th – 14th May
Total approximate miles: 934 miles (1,503 km)
Total fuel: US$347.84
Total groceries: $291.12
We thought our epic 1-year road trip had finished when we returned our car (Big Red) to his owners. But no, there was so much more of the US waiting to be explored.
Last year I attended an industry event, the Travel Media Showcase (TMS), and met a wonderful lady, Joanne. Some months later I was working away on my laptop when I received an email out of the blue that said, “Call me.” Intrigued, I called. Joanne’s spirited New Jersey accent captivated me, and as soon as she asked if the Benders had ever considered an RV trip, I knew the answer. And the rest, my friends, is history.
We want to share our heartfelt thanks to TMS, Go RVing, El Monte RV and KOA Kampgrounds, who helped put together our very first RV trip. And what better itinerary than traversing Arizona and southern Utah to explore some of the most scenic US national parks.
But first. If you want to know the advantages and disadvantages of travelling in an RV, read this article. Then come back and follow our itinerary for the best things to see, best places to stay, fuel costs and tips to create a journey to remember.
7th – 9thMay
Accommodation: KOA Hurricane (check latest prices...)
Collection time is between 1 and 4pm at El Monte RV and we were there spot on 1pm. Maybe even a little bit early. We could not contain our excitement. My sister had flown in the day before from Washington DC and was joining us for this trip. It was to be the first RV trip for everyone.
El Monte were busy, to be honest the premises could have used a few more staff. The ones on duty worked non-stop. There was a significant waiting period before we were called to the desk to fill in required paperwork and iron out some details.
A few things to note when collecting an RV:
- It does not include sheets, towels, pots and pans unless you buy/rent a set. So bring your own or make arrangements to borrow theirs.
- If you do not specify that you would like a new RV, you will likely get an old one. When making your booking specify you would like the newest model possible.
- There is a set of shelves at the front of the office where other RV renters drop off leftover items they didn’t use on their trip. You can raid this… for free! We picked up drinking water, a king-size bed topper, 2-minute noodles and more. We also left a lot of stuff (including a bike!) when we finished. What goes around comes around!
- Make sure you set aside a lot of time for collection. We had quite a few hiccups that meant we didn’t leave the premises until after 5pm. A typical turnaround time is 1 – 2 hours.
Make use of the waiting area which offers free coffee, free water, kids play corner, magazines and comfy couches.
Anyway, after our brief initiation to our RV we were left to drive away. It is such a weird and wonderful feeling pulling out of a parking lot in your home for the first time. The abundance of storage space for our luggage made us feel like lotto winners, after being used to cramming it all in the back of a car.
We drove straight out of Las Vegas to Hurricane, Utah. Surprisingly driving the RV was exactly the same as driving a car. It was comfortable cruising at highway speeds and we made good time to our destination.
By the time we pulled into the campground it was dark, but our good friends Live World Travel were there waiting for us. They had just arrived in the US, bought a car and were joining us around Arizona for our RV adventure. After quick hugs we said our goodnights to get ready for the morrow.
There was no breakfast in bed this Mother’s Day. Nope, instead I opted for adventure. I was still rubbing sleep from my eyes when we met our tour guide, John from ATV & Jeep Adventure Tours at Utah’s Sand Hollow State Park. He was ready for us, standing by a 6-seater ATV that reminded me of Bumblebee from Transformers. Oh yeah!
Strapping on gloves, helmets and face masks, we embarked on a thrilling sand dune adventure. John lead the way on his 4-wheel ATV while I drove behind.
Technically much of the terrain we explored belongs to the Bureau of Land Management, but it’s managed in partnership with the State Park.
I honestly had never heard of Sand Hollow State Park before this adventure, and we were all utterly stunned by it’s raw natural beauty. From towering cliffs to steep desert-like sand dunes, our guide took us on a real fun and dirty adventure. This area is only accessible via off-road motorbike or ATV. The perfectly isolated location added to the exhilaration and we thoroughly relished every minute of the half-day tour.
After our tour came to an end and we said our goodbyes, and met up with our friends at Zion National Park. Opting for one of the simpler hikes with the kids, I think everybody was pretty exhausted by this time so we didn’t last long.
Given the choice again I would go with the ATV tour over Zion National Park. Sand Hollow hides in the shadow of it’s better-known neighbour Zion National Park, but in my opinion is far more beautiful.
Back at the KOA Hurricane campgrounds we ended the evening with a birthday party for my son. I thought he’d be too exhausted, but that candy-filled Darth Vader piñata got the beating of it’s life. Full on sugar, happy memories and laughter, we retreated back to our cosy beds.
Monument Valley, Utah
Accommodation: The View (check latest prices...)
Another early morning as we departed Hurricane for our long drive to Monument Valley, situated on the border of Utah and Arizona.
We noticed a leak from the city water inlet on the side of our RV that morning, so the roadside assistance asked us to stop in Page, Arizona. The fix only took 5 minutes before we were back on the road. Amazing service.
After lunch in the RV we headed to Horseshoe Bend. This had long been on my husband’s bucket list and a hike in the scorching hot desert sun was not going to deter him.
It was beautiful. A cliff view that has to be seen to be believed. Photos truly do not do this place justice.
Once we had gawked at the winding Colorado River from the 1000-foot-high lookout long enough, we continued on to Monument Valley. It was late afternoon by the time we pulled in to The View and parked outside our cabin.
If you want to soak up the iconic perfectly golden desert sunset, I highly recommend grabbing a cabin overlooking Monument Valley. Simply unforgettable.
Josh stayed up late to capture a midnight view of the Milky Way over The Mittens. Compared to a typical city sky, you can see up to 10 times more stars out here in the clear desert night sky.
10th – 13th May
Accommodation: KOA Williams/Circle Pines (check latest prices...)
We only had one night at Monument Valley, but staying at The View gave us ample opportunity to “sleep in” before meeting our tour guide at 8am in the hotel lobby. Read more about our behind-the-scenes tour of Monument Valley.
Thoroughly enthralled, our lofty expectations of Monument Valley were satiated, and we were off. Another long drive today from Monument Valley to Williams, Arizona.
Be careful when booking a KOA campsite in Williams as there are two campgrounds and we were arrived at the wrong one, whoops! Once we arrived at the correct KOA we quickly fell in love. It was definitely the best one we stayed in on the whole trip.
They had a swimming pool, go karts, peddle carts, a playground, mini golf, an arcade and so much more. The decision was made to stay on the campgrounds the next day and not go anywhere.
What a fun day! The KOA Kampground was perfect for a day of relaxation that we all needed. The kids played mini golf, went go kart racing, swam in the pool, played on the playground and my friend, Jen and I even visited Flagstaff to do a bit of shopping.
We grabbed dinner for everyone and, of course came back with firewood, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for some good ol’ fashion s’mores.
We were suppose to move onto Kingman, Arizona today, but realised our 6am tour the following morning was much closer to Williams. Plus, we were utterly in love with our campground so we decided to spend another day.
We did manage to take a side trip out to the world’s best preserved meteor crater - a collision between Earth and an asteroid travelling 26,000 miles per hour some 50,000 years ago.
They offer a quick introduction movie and multiple lookouts. From one of the free telescopes we could spot a life-size astronaut figure in the middle of the crater. It gives you an unimaginable perspective on the size of this thing - nearly one mile across and 2.4 miles in circumference, with a depth of 550 feet.
The sun really beat down out there. So we checked out the crater fairly quickly, and walked through the on-site museum which featured a bunch of neat hands-on exhibits that the kids enjoyed, before heading back to Williams for an early night.
13th – 14th May
Accommodation: KOA Kingman (check latest prices...)
A 4am start is very unusual for us. After all, I gave up the 9-to-5 lifestyle so we could sleep in!
We left the kids sleeping in their beds as we drove 1 hour to the Grand Canyon International Airport for our Arizona Highlights tour with Viator. If you don’t have a week to tour around Arizona like us, all you need is this tour. Read all about our sunrise scenic flight over the Grand Canyon, tour of Antelope Canyon, lunch at Horseshoe Bend and rafting down the Colorado River here.
We were sightseeing for 12 hours while my sister spent the day relaxing in the RV, enjoying a solitary moment to herself after sharing an RV with our family of 4.
Inspired after the breathtaking tour, Josh wanted to go back to the Grand Canyon for one more photo (shooting from a moving bus doesn’t count as far as he’s concerned), and we drove to Mather Point lookout.
It was late by the time we started the 3-hour drive to Kingman and we didn’t arrive until well after 9pm, the kids already fast asleep.
Josh and I popped into our friends’ cabin, who had been chilling out all day and we chatted the night away.
Because of our late start on the first day we called El Monte RV to see if we could return our vehicle later that afternoon instead of at the usual 11am time. They agreed. This meant we could squeeze in one last morning and lunch with our friends.
Time passed quickly and before we knew it, it was time to head back to Las Vegas and drop off our mobile home, concluding our #BenderGoRVing road trip.
We dropped my sister off at the airport, unpacked all our belongings and released our home back into the care of El Monte RV.
The Bottom Line
While the RV lifestyle took a couple days to get used to, by the end of our 1-week trip, I was converted and part of the choir.
The Grand Circle, a scenic region bordered by Las Vegas in the west, Santa Fe in the east and Phoenix in the south and Salt Lake City in the north, represents the ultimate setting for road trip enthusiasts and nature lovers. And the best way to see this region is in an RV.
While we squeezed in a lot to this particular trip, there’s still many more jewels from the Grand Circle we couldn’t fit in, and I’m left yearning for more.
Add to that the freedom and flexibility we experienced road tripping in an RV, I’m left with only one question… when’s our next RV trip?
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
I've been full time RVing for about 6 months now and love it. We have mainly been in the Southwest to all these spots you've been and more and our now in the Pacific Northwest to explore there. It is so fun to have our home on wheels, I highly recommend it!
I love seeing this summary of our RV trip! We did see some beautiful pieces of nature, so glad I got to come!
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