We towed our Little Guy from Texas to California and back in a two-week teardrop adventure (III). The return journey took us through the southwestern states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. By now, we entered the teardrop trailer fan club: camping in Southwest USA allowed us to enjoy the scenery from dusk till dawn.
Las Vegas | Nevada
We stopped for lunch in Las Vegas on the way from Death Valley to Zion National Park. Although neither of us is a big Vegas fan, we couldn’t bypass a quick stop in Sin City.
Pandemic Las Vegas had little in common with the loud and tacky city we experienced before. We left undecided on what version we preferred.
Zion National Park | Utah
The drive into Zion National Park from either side of Highway 9 is spectacular. Coming from Las Vegas, we entered through the western entrance in Springdale.
We stayed at the Watchman Campground inside of Zion National Park. This was one of our favorite camping experiences in the National Park System. The campground fills up quickly in summer, so we had to change campsites within the same loop on our two night-stay. No matter what spot you are able to snatch, the views are equally stunning.
There are a lot of great hikes in Zion, but we opted for the most unique one. As the name suggests, The Narrows is a narrow section of Zion Canyon. There is no trail through the canyon, meaning you’ll need to get your feet wet.
To reach the trailhead, you’ll ride the Zion Park Shuttle until the last stop, Temple of Sinawava. Private vehicles are not allowed onto the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The full bottom-up trail to Big Springs is 8.9 miles out and back, which takes a full day given that the trail in this case is a river. A permit is needed to go beyond Big Springs and make it into an overnight hike.
We traversed three miles upstream in two hours, and loved every minute of it. After a picnic on a dry section, we turned back. We hiked in running shoes and hiking boots and didn’t have walking sticks, which worked just fine for us. If you do prefer more stability on the slippery rocks, you can rent specialized gear in Springdale.
The next morning, we exited east through the Mt Carmel Junction. This requires passing the narrow one-mile Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel. RVs and large trailers need to pay a fee and can only enter at certain hours, as a park ranger needs to halt oncoming traffic. Another advantage of a teardrop trailer, which isn’t any wider than a regular car and can pass without issues.
The Wave | Arizona
Our trip took place in the summer of 2020, when the pandemic made international travel practically impossible. Although most national parks did fill up with American visitors, the large share of European and Asian visitors was absent. We thought this would be the perfect time to try the walk-in lottery for The Wave.
Only 64 people per day are allowed to visit the Coyotte Buttes North area, home to The Wave. 48 of them receive a permit three months in advance through the online lottery system. The remaining 16 permits are awarded one day before, on a walk-in lottery at 8:30 AM at the Kanab Center in Kanab, Utah.
Despite our increased chances, we weren’t lucky. If driving from Zion to the Grand Canyon North Rim like us, Kanab is on the route. Chances at the walk-in lottery are considerably higher than the online version, so it’s worth a quick stop.
Grand Canyon North Rim | Arizona
The Grand Canyon North Rim receives just 10% of all visitors to Grand Canyon National Park. Add the pandemic in the mix, and we almost had the park to ourselves.
We started our day at the North Rim Visitor Center. A short paved trail leads to Bright Angel Point, one of the best viewpoints on the North Rim. We couldn’t see very far into the canyon due to a thick haze, caused by smoke and air-pollutants that can travel all the way from Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Even covered in haze, the scenery is still incredible. Sit back and take in the views at the Grand Canyon Lodge patio.
We returned to the car and headed deeper into the park, onto the Scenic Drive. The full drive takes a little over an hour and passes five overlooks. The first one is Point Imperial, the highest point on the North Rim.
Vista Encantada and Roosevelt point are located just five minutes apart. The views are equally stunning.
From Walhalla Overlook, you get a first look at the Angels Window. There is a short trail that actually runs on top of Angels Window. It can be accessed from the next stop, Cape Royal.
The last stop on the Scenic Drive is Cape Royal. A short, paved trail along the North Rim ends at the impressive Cape Royal viewpoint. There are plenty of prime picnic spots along the trail.
From the Cape Royal trail, a short side trail leads to the top of Angels Window.
The North Rim Campground was closed at the time we visited. We stayed at Jacob Lake Campground, an hour north of the North Rim Visitor Center and part of the Kaibab National Forest. The campground is very peaceful, with large sites surrounded by trees. It’s first come, first served.
Horseshoe Bend | Arizona
Before heading back to Texas, we made one final stop in Arizona. When I visited Horseshoe Bend for the first time in 2018, it was packed with people and selfie sticks. In 2020, we found just a handful of visitors walking the newly paved trails. Although the entrance fee probably contributed, we had the pandemic to thank for this.
Just five minutes down the road is the Glen Canyon Dam, one of the biggest reservoirs in the US. The result of this dam is the scenic but man-made Lake Powell.
In our quest to have lunch by the lake in Wahweap, we almost had to call roadside assistance. The parkings are completely packed with boat trailers and don’t leave much room to manoeuvre a Challenger plus teardrop.
From Lake Powell, a 1000-mile return trip to Dallas awaited. We initially planned to spend some time in New Mexico, but covid-restrictions stood in the way. Any overnight stop in New Mexico implicated a 14-day quarantine. After traveling 5000 miles in six states, we were back home in Texas.