RV Trip Update Week 20: Grand Teton National Park, Salt Lake City, Zion

(Some links in this post are affiliate links. I will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking those links. See my disclosure page for more information)

In a matter of hours this week we went from jeans and a sweat-shirt weather to shorts and a tank top weather–and thankfully I think that is where we will be for the remaining two and a half weeks of our trip.

RV road trip | week 20 of 22 | Grand Teton National Park.

We started our week with a second try at a long hike. You might remember that back when we were in Glacier National Park we attempted a mountain hike that turned out to be just a bit too much for one of our crew.

This week we tried a slightly shorter loop with minimal elevation (hills). We went 10 miles in total around the rim of Hermitage Point on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

The loop trail was full of beautiful lake and mountain views, but I think the prettiest views on the entire trail were those near  Heron pond (pictured above).

Weather that afternoon was perfect for hiking– not too hot with just the right amount of breeze. The entire family enjoyed it.

RV road trip | week 20 of 22 | Grand Teton National Park.

My husband and I got to see moose up close on our first afternoon in Grand Teton National Park, but unfortunately, our kids were not with us. I don’t know why, but I was suffering some self-imposed mother guilt from this fact that only got worse when I saw another moose early one morning while I was all by myself working at the Jackson Lodge.

So I asked the park rangers when was the best time and place to have a chance of seeing another moose. Using her suggestions, we took the kids out moose hunting the next two nights just as the sun was beginning to sink. The first night we came back without seeing a single one. However, the second night I convinced my husband to drive just a bit further (okay–a lot further), and we were rewarded for our efforts.

There on the side of the last road, my husband was willing to drive down was a moose! And it was extremely close too.

 

RV road trip | week 20 of 22 | Errand night in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tuesday morning we left Grand Teton National park while bundled in sweatshirts and long pants. By mid-afternoon, we arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah where we all changed into shorts and t-shirts. Although we all have enjoyed the mountain and wildlife views of the last week or so we were so happy to see what we consider normal temperatures for May.

That evening we left our campsite in search of dinner out and groceries. We ended up stopping at Chick-fil-A for dinner. Normally we like stopping at locally owned restaurants or at the very least chain restaurants we don’t have in Indiana, but I was craving Chick-fil-A sweet tea, and the family was kind enough to help me give in to my craving.

After dinner, we spotted a Great Clips and decided we would all take care of our scruffy hair. Well, except for my husband who doesn’t have any. The hairdressers did an excellent job except for my cut–I asked for chin length, and it is ear length. Oh, well. It will grow.

Finally, we headed to the Super Target across the parking lot and picked up everything we needed to restock our cupboards before heading back to our campground.

 

RV road trip | week 20 of 22 | Antelope Island State Park, Utah.

 

Wednesday morning my husband finished off a few more errands while I worked and then that afternoon we headed out to Antelope Island State Park.

After exploring several national parks in a row, a state park seemed small even though it does cover quite a large area of land just outside the city.

When you first enter Antelope Island State Park, you drive along a very narrow strip of land with water of the Great Salt Lake on either side of you. The water is very still and reflects the view of the nearby hills and mountains so perfectly.

RV road trip | week 20 of 22 | Antelope Island State Park, Utah.

 

I have never been to a salt water lake before, so I wanted to go down to the water at the beach within the park to see if it was similar to the ocean water I grew up by–it isn’t at all. The water was so brown and yucky at the shore that I couldn’t even get my water loving self to put a single toe in it.

I apologized to my family when we reached the shore because I felt kind of bad that I had asked them to walk down to the water. The walk wasn’t that long; the problem was the sand was super painful. Everyone was barefoot because we thought it would be soft sand and we wanted to avoid sandy shoes. However, there were these small flat rocks mixed in the sand that were impossible to miss and really hurt the feet.

Lesson learned: salt lake water and salty ocean water are not the same and neither are their beaches.

RV road trip | week 20 of 22 | Salt Flats, Utah.

Thursday we decided to see one more salty site –the Salt Flats. They reminded me a lot of Badwater Basin that we saw while in Death Valley, although the area they cover is much larger. In fact, the Salt Flats cover over 30,000 acres of land west of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

RV road trip | week 20 of 22 | Salt Flats, Utah.

There is just something about the salt covered earth that mesmerizes me. It seems so unreal to see nothing but salt crusted earth for miles and miles.

Week 20 of a 22 week RV road trip. Zion National Park.

Friday we left Salt Lake City and headed for Zion National Park. We arrived mid-afternoon, so my husband and I decided to head up to the park from our campground about 20 minutes away to grab a map and ask the park rangers for advice as to what to see during our full day to explore it.

Right away we noticed that the park was much busier than any other National Park we have visited to date. You see, this weekend is Memorial Day weekend in the States–the busiest camping weekend of the year.

We decided right then and there to get a early start on Saturday. We woke the kids up at 4:45 a.m. and were on the Zion free shuttle heading to Temple of Sinawava by 6:15 a.m.

The views in Zion were incredible. I once again spent an entire day saying, “Wow!” every 5-10 minutes.

Week 20 of a 22 week RV road trip. Falling in the Zion mud.

Wow wasn’t the word I said when I slipped in the mud on the Lower Emerald Pool trail, though. Although my choice words were not those containing four letters they were still pretty raw. Thank goodness for the bottle of water and my pack of travel wipes in my backpack.

I was able to get most of the mud off me with those two items, and the sun quickly dried my clothing. I don’t think my Birkenstocks will ever look quite the same though.

Week 20 of a 22 week RV road trip. Memorial crowds at Zion National Park.

Zion has nine shuttle stops altogether. The first stop is at the visitor center.  When we entered the visitor center parking lot in the morning, we were able to find parking with no problems. We also had no wait to get on the shuttle bus. However, by the time we got back down to the visitors center, there was a line for the shuttle that was so long I would estimate that people at the end of it were looking at close to two hours before they got on the shuttle–and it was only 11:30.  As for parking, people were parked miles away from the park (a free shuttle is also provided from stops in the nearby town to the visitor center).

I am so glad we decided to go early!

As I type this it is currently Saturday afternoon, and my husband and I were planning to enjoy dinner in the park and an evening hike  just the two of us in honor of our 22nd wedding anniversary. But as we left the park we decided to change our plans and head to St. George for dinner instead. Thank goodness the crowds should go down a bit once the long weekend is over.

Wisdom Learned On The Road

12 Tips For Long RV Road Trips

10 Things To Bring When Exploring The National Parks

Want to read more about our RV trip? Dig into the links below!

Finally on Our Way!

Week One Update: Nashville and Atlanta

Week Two Update: Atlanta, Savannah and St Mary’s

Week Three Update:  St Mary’s and Little Talbot Island

Week Four Update: Orlando and Niceville

Week Five Update: Niceville, New Orleans, and Sea Rim State Park

Week Six Update: San Antonio, Carlsbad Caverns, and White Sands

Week 7 Update: Gila Cliff Dwellings, City of Rocks & Sedona

Week 8 Update: Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam & Lake Mead

Week 9 Update: Red Rock Canyon, Death Valley, Palm Springs, Laguna Beach

Week 10 Update: Joshua Tree, San Francisco, Yosemite, and Sequoia

Week 11 Update: Sea Glass Beaches and The  Giant Redwoods of California

Week 12 Update: Seattle, Port Angeles, & Victoria

Week 13 Update: Nanaimo, Tofino, & Courtenay

Week 14 Update: Vancouver Island & Vancouver

Week 15 Update: Okanagan

Week 16 Update: Okanagan

Week 17 Update: Canadian Rockies, Drumheller

Week 18 Update: Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake

Week 19 Update Carters of The Moon, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton

Week 20 Update Grand Teton National Park, Salt Lake City, and Zion (you are here)

Week 21 Update Kolob Canyon, Red Cliffs, Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon and Estes Park

Week 22: Rocky Mountain National Park, Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Custer State Park, And Wind Cave National Park

The Final RV Road Trip Update: And Now We Are Home

RV Trip Update Week 20: Grand Teton National Park, Salt Lake City, Zion

Visit our RV Trip page for the story of how the trip came to be, a map of our route, and more

 

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10 Things To Bring When Exploring The National Parks

(post contains affiliate links: see disclosure)

Planning on visiting a National Park soon and not sure what to pack? 

Our family has recently explored several of America’s National Parks while on our 22 week RV road trip across the USA and into Western Canada. Once we had gone to several we realized that we had come up with a mental packing list of essentials we needed to explore the National Parks each day.

Planning to take a road trip to one of the USA National Parks? Here is a list of what to pack for a day of exploring.

Below is our list of essential day exploring items, but first let me tell you about one essential you are going to want to buy if you plan to visit more than two National Parks this year–a National Parks pass. A National Parks pass is good for one year and currently costs $80. Considering most National Parks cost around $30 for entry, if you visit just three in a year you are starting to save money. By the time our trip is over our family will have visited at least a dozen National Parks, making our pass purchase a huge money saver.

10 Things To Bring When Exploring The National Parks

1. A Map And A Plan

National parks are often very large in size and if you go into them without a plan you are going to waste precious time.

My husband and I spend a bit of time researching online what there is to see at each National Park before we arrive. We enter into Google “top 10 things to do at…” and usually a listing from the website TripAdvisor will come up and we are able to see pictures and reviews of top hikes and sights in the park.

We have found it very helpful to head first to the visitors center upon arrival at the park we are visiting and ask the rangers for  suggestions. Generally they will give you a map and highlight features that best suit your group’s wants, such as length of hike or desire to see a certain geographical feature.

Craters of the Moo National Monument

Craters Of The Moon National Monument

2. Good Hiking/Walking Shoes

Even if you just plan on doing the driving loop around a National Park, you are still going to do a lot of walking. Many of the best sites are not available right on the road, instead you have to walk a 1/2 mile or so to them. These paths are generally very user-friendly, but the walking does add up and if you are not wearing good footwear you are going to end up with tired and achy legs very quickly.

Our family didn’t invest in hiking shoes, although there are days that we wish we did. Instead knowing that we would be sticking to beginner/moderate hikes we purchased everyone in the family a good pair of walking shoes. My husband and daughter have Asics, I have Brooks, and my sons have Nike brand, These are not the “fashion” grade, lower cost footwear, but instead their higher grade walking/running shoes that come with more support.

Good socks are also another great investment. Ill fitting socks can cause blisters, our family likes the ones that hug the arches (like these ones) leaving less chance for a sock to bunch and create the perfect environment for a blister.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

3. A Weather Appropriate Hat

On cold and windy days a winter hat that covers the ears (we have one in this brand and find it very warm) is such a blessing on short walks out to see the sites. On a hot and sunny day a good summer hat that shades the eyes can make it easier on your eyes  and will help you avoid heat stroke (a simple ball cap will do, but if you want a bit more sun protection a hat like this is perfect).

Death Valley

Death Valley

4. Sunglasses

Protect your eyes not just from the sun, but from snow and water glare with a pair of good quality sunglasses. Our family has several tifosi brand sunglasses and we find them to be good quality at a fair price.

The Grand Canyon, South Rim

The Grand Canyon, South Rim

5. Sunscreen

A sunburn after a day of exploring is a painful souvenir. Avoid it by applying sunscreen before you head out for the day and make sure to slip a small bottle of it in your backpack for reapplying. A chapstick with SPF is also a good idea.

Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest

6. A Small Backpack

My husband and I both have small, sling style backpacks that have come in super handy for day hiking through the parks. This is the one my husband has (his is tan in color), and this is the one I have.

Packed in mine is our Canon digital SLR camera, my iPhone, my wallet, a few first aid items (more on that later), a water bottle, a snack bar for each of us and a travel sized container of wipes. I also like to slip in a hair elastic and/or a yoga headband so that I put my hair up if it is a windy day. The yoga headbands I buy can also cover my ears to keep them just a bit warmer if a cool breeze is blowing.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

7. A Good Camera Or Smartphone Camera Accessories

If you can afford it, I highly recommend investing in a good digital SLR camera and a zoom lens. Our family has a Canon Rebel and find it to be a great camera. Also make sure you bring along an extra camera card in case you either forgot yours in the laptop in your travel trailer (yep, I have done that several times) or in case you should fill your card before you finish exploring for the day (I have also done that).

If you can’t afford to invest in a digital SLR camera, you can still get really good pictures using your smartphone. I suggest investing in a selfie stick, but not primarily for selfies; the stick allows you to just a bit closer to what you are snapping a picture of much like a zoom lens does on a camera. You might also want to look into purchasing a set of zoom lenses for your smartphone. I have not tested these attachable smartphone lenses, but the reviews on them seem to say that they work fairly well.

Two other smartphone accessories to bring along are a car charger and a portable battery charger so that you never miss a shot because you smartphone died.

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

8. A Small Cooler or Backpack Cooler

With five of us on our trip across North America we have both a small cooler and a backpack cooler. We keep the cooler in the truck packed with drinks for the day. This not only saves us money, but it also means we have something to drink even if we are miles from the National Park facilities offering food and drinks.

We use our backpack cooler to pack a lunch for the day. We really like it because it makes transporting our lunch to a great view so simple.

We have about half a dozen small freezer packs that we rotate between the coolers and the freezer so we are never without something to keep our drinks and food cool for the day.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

9. A Few First Aid Essentials

Blisters happen, bugs bite, brambles scratch and all can be taken care of quickly if you pack the right supplies.

In my day pack I keep a few band-aids for blister and scratches. I also keep after bite cream to quickly soothe a bee sting. In our vehicle we keep a larger first aid kit that includes numerous items–seriously, it is huge–but my husband is an RN so he likes to be prepared for anything. What we have used most out of this huge first aid kit is pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, and anti-nausea medications, such as Dramamine (roads can get really rough in some areas of National Parks).

Yellowstone

Yellowstone

10. Snacks

When exploring a National Park to its fullest, you tend to walk a lot! All that physical activity can make you a little more hungry than usual.

Our family is ready for hiking hunger with a gallon sized bag full of various granola bars and trail mix sleeves in the truck as well as one for everyone in my day pack.

Here is a list of our favorites

psst…all of these bars are include in Prime Pantry, one of many services available to Amazon Prime members. You can try Amazon Prime for free with their 30-Day Free Trial. I really enjoy the convenience of having essential, everyday items delivered right to my door at good prices.

A bonus item for wildlife and bird lovers

If you love watching wildlife and/or birds, make sure to pack a small pair of binoculars.

Experienced explores of National Parks, what would you add to my list?

See pictures of our 22 week RV road trip here.

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RV Trip Update Week 19: Craters Of The Moon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton

(Some links in this post are affiliate links. I will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking those links. See my disclosure page for more information)

We saw so many beautiful things this week it was tough to pick just ten pictures. I have a feeling that is going to be the case for these last few weeks of our trip. Looking at our agenda, we have crammed these final weeks with a lot of travel and sightseeing.

Craters Of The Moon: seen during week 19 of a 22 week RV road trip.

We started our week with an incredibly long drive from Polson, Montana on the shores of Flathead Lake to Arco, Idaho–just a short drive from Craters of the Moon.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at Craters of the Moon National Monument, but once again I fell in love with yet another National Park–or monument, I should say.

The area was full of different types of volcanic features. From the Inferno Cone Mountain pictured above to the caves created by lava tubes such as Indian Tunnel Cave pictured below.

Indian Tunnel Cave In Craters of The Moon: Seen during week 19 of a 22 week RV road trip.

Indian Tunnel cave went on for quite a while and turned out to be a bit of a climbing adventure in parts as we maneuvered around piles of rubble and snow.

Buffalo seen just outside Yellowstone during week 19 of a 22 week RV road trip.

Tuesday we moved to a KOA just outside the West gate of Yellowstone. We woke up Wednesday morning to snow! My mind had a little trouble wrapping itself around the idea of snow in mid-May. Thank goodness for the long johns we bought everyone before we entered the Grand Canyon area back in February where we got over a foot of snow. They have come in handy several times now as we have faced exploring in freezing temperatures.

The morning brought more surprises than snow though, as we also got to see our first Bison–or Buffalo–whatever you prefer.

Later in the week we also saw bears (seen here), and even moose (seen here).

Sapphire Pool in Yellowstone: Week 19 of 22 week RV road trip.

After a leisurely morning at the campsite, we bundled up and headed out to explore the portion of Yellowstone that was open that day. Several roads were closed, but we were still able to see many basins, geysers and of course–Old Faithful.

The basin above was called Sapphire Pool, and it was my favorite because of its beautiful color and clear water.

Canyon Falls in Yellowstone: Seen during week 19 of 22 week RV road trip.

Yellowstone has several beautiful waterfalls. Pictured is the upper fall at Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon.

I am a HUGE lover of waterfalls, and so, of course, we had to check them all out.

Mud pots in Yellowstone: Seen during week 19 of 22 week RV road trip.

Yellowstone is such a geographically diverse park with canyons, waterfalls, geysers, basins and more.

I liked pretty much all we saw, but the spitting mud pots I found most entertaining. I don’t know why, but it just made me giggle watching them spit mud up into the area–and oh, the sounds they make as they do it. Yeah, perhaps I am still not beyond 5-year-old potty humor.

Old Faithful: Seen during week 19 of 22 week road trip.

We stood for 20 minutes waiting for Old Faithful to put on a show. It was worth it in the end. Because it was so cold, there was a lot of steam mixed in with the water, so our pictures don’t do it justice.

Norris Basin in Yellowstone: Seen during week 19 of 22 week RV trip.

WARNING: If you ever go to Yellowstone on a wet day, be prepared to end up with really smelly shoes. As in so smelly that you can barely stand the smell on the ride home and when you get home you throw them outside, so they won’t smell up your home.

My guess is they pick up smells because you are walking on these wooden paths directly over ground that has a high concentration of sulfur. The ground is also steaming, making your shoes even wetter and helping the smell permeate further into them.

Grand Teton National Park: Seen during week 19 of 22 week RV road trip.

Friday we headed to Grand Teton National Park where we have been soaking up mountain views.

Anter Arches in Jackson: Seen during week 19 of 22 week roadtrip

We also headed into nearby Jackson for just a few minutes. Just long enough to grab a few pictures of the famous antler arches and grab some belated Mother’s Day frappuccinos from Starbucks.

My daughter and I have gone out every Mother’s Day for years to Starbucks for the 1/2 price frappuccino sale. But this year we were not near one on Mother’s day, so when I saw one in Jackson, she and I indulged in our ritual a few days late–and unfortunately at full price, but it put a smile on her face and mine, so it was worth it.

Wisdom Learned On The Road

12 Tips For Long RV Road Trips

10 Things To Bring When Exploring The National Parks

Want to read more about our RV trip? Dig into the links below!

Finally on Our Way!

Week One Update: Nashville and Atlanta

Week Two Update: Atlanta, Savannah and St Mary’s

Week Three Update:  St Mary’s and Little Talbot Island

Week Four Update: Orlando and Niceville

Week Five Update: Niceville, New Orleans, and Sea Rim State Park

Week Six Update: San Antonio, Carlsbad Caverns, and White Sands

Week 7 Update: Gila Cliff Dwellings, City of Rocks & Sedona

Week 8 Update: Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam & Lake Mead

Week 9 Update: Red Rock Canyon, Death Valley, Palm Springs, Laguna Beach

Week 10 Update: Joshua Tree, San Francisco, Yosemite, and Sequoia

Week 11 Update: Sea Glass Beaches and The  Giant Redwoods of California

Week 12 Update: Seattle, Port Angeles, & Victoria

Week 13 Update: Nanaimo, Tofino, & Courtenay

Week 14 Update: Vancouver Island & Vancouver

Week 15 Update: Okanagan

Week 16 Update: Okanagan

Week 17 Update: Canadian Rockies, Drumheller

Week 18 Update: Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake

Week 19 Update Carters of The Moon, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton (you are here)

Week 20 Update Grand Teton National Park, Salt Lake City, and Zion

Week 21 Update Kolob Canyon, Red Cliffs, Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon and Estes Park

Week 22: Rocky Mountain National Park, Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Custer State Park, And Wind Cave National Park

The Final RV Road Trip Update: And Now We Are Home

RV Trip Update Week 19: Craters Of The Moon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton

Visit our RV Trip page for the story of how the trip came to be, a map of our route, and more

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