It’s a rare thing to have free time where the world really is your oyster, unbound by the Monday blues. I live in the bay area where most of my outdoor activities can be done right in my backyard. Allas, I had the time to venture further while between jobs with two goals in mind; finally see the Grand Canyon and experience the super bloom of wildflowers down south. Turns out after having the wettest winter in nearly a century doesn’t only make for killer skiing but it blankets the hills with color. So I hit the road with a tentative plan in mind that turned into a 2000+ mile road trip to 6 national parks and 2 weeks full of me constantly repeating, “this is nuts”.
Pinnacles National Park
With only being 2 hours south of the bay this is the perfect weekend getaway! With abundant camping where the sites are quite private and the ability to buy firewood on site, we were quite impressed. We woke up early to check out some of the caves that Pinnacles has to offer. Don’t forget to bring a headlamp!
This was one of the main destinations for me as the super bloom is in full effect here. The terrain is unprotected and we spent a good portion of our drive on dirt roads while visiting Carrizo Plain. We decided to camp in Los Padres National Forest just a bit down RT 33 which still had a featured performance of the super bloom!
~Pit stop in Los Angeles~
Check out The 14th Factory if you are in the area- quite the instagram hotspot with interactive installations and trippy cinema.
Hike the Solstice Canyon Trail in Malibu which leads you to a custom built stone cottage. The cottage was burned in the 2007 Corral Canyon Fire despite the fire resistant measures that were made.
The Hotel Cafe did not disappoint as a more intimate venue.
*Royal Jelly Jive *The Rainbow Girls
The food at Maré Silver Lake is not to be missed!
With the intention to hit the Grand Canyon but not wanting to drive 7+ hours in 1 day, we picked the first green blob on the map to camp in along the way. Turns out the Mojave National Preserve is so much more than just a one night stand! We stayed at the Hole in the Wall Campground which was close to the Hole in the Wall Rings Trail. This is a short loop allowing you to interact with the literal holes in the walls! They installed metal rings so you could climb down a canyon in the volcanic rock. Catch the sunset in the cave in the mesa the hike leads you to!
If you are like us where we only had one day at the Grand Canyon I would recommend hiking the Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge (3 miles total round trip) or Skeleton Point (6 miles total). Trail begins south of Yaki Point on Yaki Point Road. You have to park at the visitor’s center and take a shuttle bus to the trailhead (Kaibab Trail Route). It is not as bad as it looks when you are hiking down and worrying about the climb out!! Amazing views, little shade, no water. Mather campground was obviously full and the Ten-X Campground was closed for the season. We drove east on RT 64 towards RT 89 and camped off a fire road in the national forest- super easy! Fire pit and everything.
~Pit stop at the Horseshoe bend just off the 89 on the way to Lake Powell- short walk~
Oh.My.God. This place is mind blowing. All I knew is I wanted to kayak. There are multiple marinas you can rent from but it just so happens that Antelope Point Marina (Upper Antelope Canyon) is not only the most affordable option ($20 for a ½ day single kayak, 5 hrs total) but also has the best kayaking. We did a 7 mile kayak into a canyon where you can dock the boats and hike even further into the canyon if you’re feeling extra adventurous. A beer at the marina restaurant was calling our names so we saved the hike for next time. *FYI this is considered a national park so there is an entrance fee. I purchased an $80 annual parks pass which paid off.*
Zion National Park
Definitely a crowd pleaser this one. If you haven’t made it to Zion yet I recommend you push it up to the top of the list. The Narrows is an amazing river hike through a canyon that is often closed due to high water levels so if it is open when you are there, do it! We hiked the Angels Landing which has multiple switchbacks leading up to the top and a very narrow path along a sheer cliff with nothing but a chain to hold onto. I couldn’t believe they were letting us scramble up this mountain but it was epic. Spend some time at the landing once you get up and take it all in!
There is a lot of free camping just outside the park but if you arrive in the AM you can wait in line to secure a camping site in Zion. We waited about 1.5 hrs and made an egg scramble and planned our day (checkout is at 11AM so part of the wait is due to that). Check out one of the rock and gem stores on your way out in Springdale to pick yourself up a keepsake!
Feeling so fortunate to have been able to go on this trip and feel the freedom of the open road. A lot of what was so great about it was being able to have the flexibility to go exactly where I wanted/ what made sense. Not to mention the great company along the way! If you find the time for an adventure like this one, don’t overthink it and jump in the car!