Roadtrip Leg 2 – Grand Canyon

Roadtrip Leg 2 – Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon- South Rim

Grand Canyon |Desiree Dabbles

Going from Las Vegas, our next stop was the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We visited the visitor center first thing. I love going in to those, with their cool displays and free information. We decided to take the bus out to Hermits Rest. It’s nice that you can hop on and off at the various stops whenever you like. Being a hot summer day, and having 4 kids, the bus was the perfect way to see all those sights.

Grand Canyon |Desiree Dabbles

Grand Canyon |Desiree Dabbles

We caught the sunset from Yavapai Point, which was gorgeous. It was a little crowded, but everyone was pretty polite about making sure others had a fairly unobstructed view.

We camped at the Mather Campground. I am so glad I thought to get our reservation early, it was full.

Grand Canyon |Desiree Dabbles

The next day we headed out of the park by way of the Desert View Watchtower. It ended up being a perfect pit stop (since my kids never seem to go before we leave, even when I tell them to). From the Grand Canyon we headed out to Monument Valley.

Grand Canyon |Desiree Dabbles

Monument Valley

Of all the iconic places in the southwest, this is one not to miss. We went to the Navajo tribal park, and paid to be able to drive around in the monuments. There were plenty of people around, but it didn’t feel crowded. The views were amazing. And there were a couple stops where the kids could get out and walk around, which they needed after a long drive.

Monument Valley |Desiree Dabbles

Monument Valley |Desiree Dabbles

Horseshoe Bend

I know it’s an unconventional route to take, but after Monument Valley we actually returned to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Along the way we had to stop and see Horsehoe bend, which we got to just as the sun was setting. The kids preferred to eat their dinner in the car while I hiked out to the bend. I didn’t mind, it was kind of crowded (being sunset), and it let me think more about getting photos and taking in the view than watching the kids.

Horseshoe Bend |Desiree Dabbles

Grand Canyon- North Rim

The next day we visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We only spent a little time there, just for the view by the lodge. It is amazing how the view can change so much just by seeing the canyon from the other side. The kids enjoyed the hike/walk to the viewpoint, and the steep sides of the canyon below.

Grand Canyon |Desiree Dabbles

Part 3 – Utah’s National Parks

Roadtrip Leg 1- Nevada and Death Valley

Roadtrip Leg 1- Nevada and Death Valley

The first stop on our roadtrip was visiting family in Oregon. Then we shot down into Nevada. We made it to the Bob Scott Campground in the Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest. There are no reservable campsites in the area, so we had to just drive and trust our luck. We got the last open spot at the campground, which was surprisingly full for a Monday night. Not too far from the camp is the Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area. We were just passing through and didn’t have time to stop, but if we had an hour to spare it would be on our list because I love things like that.

Roadtrip Leg One | Desiree Dabbles

After a night camping, and waking early with the sun (because it got hot by 9am there), we continued our drive south. We filled our gas in Goldfield, and decided to drive to the International Car Forest of the Last Church. It’s a neat little roadside attraction with old junk cars planted vertically in the ground and then painted. We drove through it and enjoyed the artwork.

Junk Car Forest | Desiree Dabbles

From Goldfield we drove into Death Valley National Park. I grew up in southern California, but had never actually been to Death Valley. We ended up being there on one of the hottest days, it as 126 degrees out. We drove down to Badwater to walk around at the lowest point in the US. Being oppressively hot, we were really only out for 5 minutes, took a few pictures and hopped back into the air conditioned car. On the way out we drove through Artist Palette Drive, which was very pretty. We did stop at the visitors center to see the displays, check out souvenirs and refill water bottles. Then, we took a little detour through Twenty Mule Team Canyon. It is a narrow dirt road, quite bumpy, and a favorite of my husband (who is always wanting to go off-roading). Too bad it was much to hot to go hiking, especially with the kids. But I think we got a nice little taste of the park all things considered.

Badwater Basin | Desiree Dabbles

Death Valley | Desiree Dabbles

Artists Palette | Desiree Dabbles

After leaving Death Valley we headed toward Las Vegas. We stayed the night in Hilltop Campground in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. From the campsite we could see beautiful views of the valley below, a gorgeous sunset, and even a family of wild horses that live in the area. The kids were most excited about the horses.

Hilltop Campground | Desiree Dabbles

Sunset | Desiree Dabbles

The next day we drove through Las Vegas. I have never actually been there, just driven through it. We stopped an visited a couple of friends, drove down the strip, and then left for the Hoover Dam. My great-grandfather was a plumber, and did some work there while it was under construction. It was pretty neat to drive over it and be able to walk around and see the massiveness of the dam. Although, I think the kids were more impressed with the height of the highway’s bridge going past. It’s funny how different their interests are. I want to see the dam and the lake, they spend their time looking at the bridge.

After visiting the dam we drove straight to the Grand Canyon.

Vegas | Desiree Dabbles

Hoover Dam Bridge | Desiree Dabbles

Hoover Dam | Desiree Dabbles

Hoover Dam | Desiree Dabbles

Roadtrip Leg 2 – Grand Canyon

Our Epic Roadtrip Across the American West

American West Roadtrip | Desiree Dabbles

Epic is a word that is probably used too often these days. And as far as true epics go, this trip probably wouldn’t qualify. But for us it was epic. About 3 weeks traveling with 4 kids, 11 National Parks, several National Monuments and other recreation areas, camping most of the way, seeing many parts of the west and southwest, an awesome trip.

Trip Map | Desiree Dabbles

This map is an overview of our trip. I had initially used Google maps to figure out where we were going, but found it had some drawbacks. So, for convenience on our trip I used Roadtrippers. I was able easily add stops, campgrounds, add dates, and save the route for offline viewing through the app on my phone (a great feature when you are out in the middle of nowhere with no internet or phone service). According to my Roadtrippers map we traveled over 5,500 miles. That’s a lot of driving for under 3 weeks of travel.

We have already taken the kids on roadtrips along the coast and through most of California, so we decided on this trip to do the southwest and rocky mountain areas.

We went to:

Death Valley National Park

Hoover Dam

Grand Canyon National Park

Monument Valley

Zion National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Canyonlands National Park

Arches National Park

Dinosaur National Monument

Bonneville Salt Flats

Grand Teton National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Glacier National Park

North Cascades National Park (and Ross Lake National Recreation Area)

We stayed 2 nights in a hotel, 4 nights with family, and camped the rest of the time. My kids are old pros at setting up the tent and campsite by now. Although, after the trip was over they all told me not to take them camping again for a while. I think a little rest is in order.

Spring Break at the Beach

Spring break at the beach | Desiree Dabbles

Westport, WA is a great beach vacation destination. For spring break this year I took the kids for a week at the beach. We stayed in a cabin at the Twin Harbors State Park. It was super affordable and a great alternative to bringing the tent. The kids were happy it had power and real beds, I was happy it was clean, dry, and even had a heater.     Beach holiday | Desiree Dabbles    Beach holiday | Desiree Dabbles

We spent time walking along the beach, flying kites, visiting the city and going into all the small shops along the waterfront.

Beach holiday | Desiree Dabbles

Beach holiday | Desiree Dabbles

The first day was pretty rainy, so we went for a drive into the Quinault Rainforest. It’s part of the Olympic National Park. We saw a bear crossing the road in front of us, and later a herd of elk also crossed our path. So neat. The lake and river were beautiful, definitely worth driving up the dirt/gravel road.

Rainforest | Desiree Dabbles

Rainforest | Desiree Dabbles

Hiking in the rainforest | Desiree Dabbles

Elk! | Desiree Dabbles

On another cloudy day later in the week we took a drive all the way down to Long Beach. The drive was so pretty. Long Beach was cloudy and windy (just like the beach in Westport was), but the drive was sunny and amazing.

Beach holiday | Desiree Dabbles

I think the kids were just happy to have sand to play in, since the island we live on has so few sandy beaches.

Beach holiday | Desiree Dabbles

Beach holiday | Desiree Dabbles

Touring Plans

So Cal Touring Plans | Desiree Dabbles

Here is a quick run-down of the ‘touring plans’ for the southern California theme parks we visited in February. We tend to plan around what the kids want to see/do and try to make for as little walking around as possible, so we don’t zigzag around the parks much. These general plans worked well for us.

1 Day in Legoland California:

Legoland is pretty much a big circle. We started at the main gate, and worked our way clockwise, we went in February, so most of the water stuff was closed for the season.

  1. Explorer Island: Costersaurus ride and Dig those Dinos for the little ones. Safari Trek, then Fairytale Brook
  2. Heartlake City: Mia’s Riding Camp (merry-go-round)
  3. Fun Town: Driving School, and Junior Driving School, then Sky Patrol and the Fun Town Police and Fire Academy
  4. Pirate Shores: Splash Battle and Captain Cranky’s Challenge
  5. Miniland USA: Star Wars! Then wandering through the rest of the USA, ending with the Coast Guard Build-a-Boat
  6. Castle Hill: The Dragon, Knights’ Tournament, and The Royal Joust
  7. Land of Adventure: Pharaoh’s Revenge, Beetle Bounce, Lost Kingdom Adventure
  8. Imagination Zone: Bionicle Blaster, Build & Test (play with all the Legos!), and last the Lego Movie 4D
  9. Ninjago (wasn’t open when we went)


1 Day in Disney’s California Adventure:

We started the day getting Fastpasses for Radiator Springs Racers.

  1. A Bug’s Land: Flik’s Flyers, Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train, Tuck and Roll’s Drive ’em Buggies (we saw “It’s tough to be a bug” in Florida, so we skipped it this time)
  2. Hollywood Land: Meet Anna and Elsa, Turtle Talk, Sorcerer’s Workshop, Animation Academy, Monster’s Inc
  3. Cars Land: Radiator Springs Racers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree
  4. Grizzly Peak: Grizzly River Run and Redwood Creek Challenge Trail for those who didn’t want to ride the rapids
  5. Paradise Pier: Little Mermaid, King Triton’s Carousel, Goofy’s Sky School, *parade*, Jumpin Jellyfish, Golden Zephyr (California Screaming was closed)
  6. Back to Hollywood Land to ride Tower of Terror in the dark, then back to the pier for the World of Color


1 Day in Disneyland Resort:

We started off by signing up for Jedi Training Academy

  1. Tomorrowland: Big kids went on Space Mountain while little kids went on Astro Orbitor, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Innoventions, Jedi Training, Submarine Voyage (Autopia was closed)
  2. Fantasyland: Big kids went on Matterhorn while little kids did the Teacups, It’s a Small World
  3. Toontown: Gadget’s Go Coaster, Goofy’s Playhouse, Roger Rabbit
  4. Fantasyland: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
  5. Frontierland: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, while I took the little ones to Casey Jr (kids said no to Splash Mountain)
  6. Adventureland: Tiki Room, Indiana Jones (Jungle Cruise was closed)
  7. New Orleans: Pirates of the Caribbean (we did Haunted mansion in Florida, so the kids said no this time)


1 Day in Universal Studios Hollywood:

  1. Studio Backlot Tour
  2. Lower Lot: Mummy, Transformers, and Jurassic Park, while the little kids play in the Jurassic play area
  3. Upper Lot: plan around show times if you want to see all the shows.
    1. Harry Potter (it wasn’t open when we went, but in the future would be our first stop in the upper lot)
    2. Special Effects Show
    3. The Simpson’s Ride
    4. Shrek 4D
    5. Despicable Me
    6. Super Silly Fun Land
    7. Animal Actors
    8. Water World