RV Road Trip- Part III (Monument Valley & the Grand Canyon)

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In October of 2011, Sam and I set off on an 8-day RV road trip adventure through the National Parks of Utah and Arizona, also known as the Grand Circle. (We purchased the America the Beautiful Pass for $80 which would give us access to ALL of National Parks.)

This is Part III of III of our RV Road Trip Adventure
(Click here to view Part I and here to view Part II)

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This portion of our trip would require the most time spent in the RV. The distances from Zion to Bryce to Capitol Reef to Canyonlands to Arches were relatively close. But the drive from Moab, Utah to the Grand Canyon in Arizona would take up most of the day! We decided a stop by Monument Valley would help break up the drive.

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Monument Valley is close to 150 miles from Moab.

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This drive and the views of the red sandstones and the vast land of the Colorado Plateau is what most of us envision when we think of the Wild West!

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Monument Valley is located right near the Utah-Arizona border.

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In fact, we decided to pull the RV over on the side of the road right by the Arizona State Line Sign so we could enjoy our lunch. We lined the RV up perfectly, so I was sitting on the dining table on the Utah side and Sam was sitting across the table from me, eating his lunch in Arizona! I know… we’re dorks!

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We got out and took a few photos, but didn’t walk around much. We still had quite a drive ahead of us.

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We were heading to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for a day before heading to South Rim. I had read that North Rim was less populated and I wanted to explore a part of the canyon that not many people visit. We were a little nervous though, because the Park Service says that the road to North Rim could close due to heavy snow fall during this time of year. Although we kept an eye on the weather and the road would most likely be open, we decided in the final hours to cancel our reservation at North Rim Campground, which had no hook-ups for the RV anyway. Prior to cancelling, we had called Trailer Village in South Rim to ensure that we could add a night to our reservation, which we could.

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Because the Grand Canyon is, well… a canyon, you can’t easily drive from the North Rim to the South Rim without going completely around the canyon. (The canyon is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 15 miles at its widest.) When coming to the canyon from Utah you hit a fork in the road in which you must decide whether to go north or south on US-89. If we had decided to go to the North Rim, it would have been over 140 miles in the opposite direction. That’s a lot, considering we would have to take that same route back get to South Rim. That didn’t seem like a good idea just for a few hours at North Rim, considering our RV was only averaging about 8 miles to the gallon! So, off we went to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon!

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Since we came in on the East Entrance, we started on the back end of Desert View Drive, which is a scenic route that follows the rim of the canyon for 25 miles.

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Our first stop was Desert View Point, where we climbed the 70 foot tall Watchtower for our first view of the canyon!

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The top of the tower provided great panoramic views of the canyon and of the Colorado River winding through the canyon.

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This historic watchtower is a replica of the prehistoric towers found on the Colorado Plateau. It was designed in 1932 by legendary architect, Mary Jane Colter and contains historic murals by Hopi painter Fred Kabotie.

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Further down Desert View Drive is Navajo Point. This is a great stop because this viewpoint offers a great view of the watchtower. Navajo Point is the highest overlook on the South Rim (unless, of course, you’re standing on the top observation deck of the watchtower). Here you can also view several bends of the Colorado River.

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We continued on down Desert View Drive stopping frequently and admiring the beauty of the canyon.

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We then drove through wooded area and came across a family of elk.

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Since I am writing this blog post exactly 2 years after our original date of travel, I cannot remember exactly where we stopped off to enjoy the sunset on our first night, but the location turned out to be perfect!

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We set up our tri-pod and took some photos as we watched the sun dip below the canyon.

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As we arrived back at our campsite, we were greeted by some of friendly elk wandering through the campground.

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The next morning, we awoke early to get in a full day of canyon exploration!

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We had to take advantage of the free park shuttle bus to explore to western portion of the canyon (west of Grand Canyon Village), as Hermit Road is closed to private vehicles from March 1-November 30, and we were there in October. The shuttle stops at 9 canyon overlooks on the 7 mile trip out to Hermits Rest and only 4 (Hermits Rest, Pima, Mohave, and Powell Points) on the way back to the Village Route Transfer Station.

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We got off on a few of the stops admiring the layers and colors of the rocks that comprise the Grand Canyon. The first stop was Trail View where we could look down into the canyon and see hikers making the trek to the canyon floor.

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Another one of our stops was Mohave Point, which is where we came across a red-rock mesa cleverly named The Alligator.

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We rode the shuttle to the end of the line, Hermits Rest.

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What else were we to do, but… rest! We drank some hot chocolate in front of the fireplace (unfortunately, no fire was roaring).

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Since the shuttle doesn’t stop at all nine viewpoints on the way back, we again got off at Mohave Point and walked along the Rim Trail for less than a half mile to Hopi Point, where we stayed to watch the sunset.

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What a magical evening! The full moon rose up from behind the canyon casting a gorgeous glow on the colorful layers.

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There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and made for a perfect desert sunset!

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Fortunately the shuttle runs for an hour after the sun sets, so we were able to admire the beautiful colors of the Arizona sky as the sun dipped further below the horizon.

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The next morning, we stopped by Mather’s Point on our way out of the park. We could have stayed another day, but we decided to take the RV back a day early. Believe it or not, we had another mini-vacation planned for when we returned, so we were looking forward to day of relaxation (and laundry) in between!

Thanks for following along on our RV Road Trip Adventure!

For a short video (6 minutes) of our entire RV Road Trip Adventure, click below.


  1. Did the exact same parks this October. Only difference was we went to the north rim and an amazing side trip to Vermillion Cliffs National Monument on the Arizona Utah border. Beautiful trip.

    • We totally wanted to go to North Rim, but it was going to be a lot of extra time… and gas. And with a vehicle only getting 8 miles to the gallon, we decided to skip it that time. I hadn’t heard of Vermillion Cliffs until now. Just looked it up… WOW! We’ll have to visit there next time we head back to this region. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Beverly Messemore

    Enjoyed your blog so much. We are planning to do much the same trip in May or June 2017. We will be towing a small camper and wondered how the scenic highways are for small campers (especially concerned about Hwy 12 and the mile long tunnel) Any advice?

    • We drove the route and the tunnel in a 27-ft RV and were just fine! A small camper shouldn’t be a problem. Have a wonderful time. It’s a beautiful region of the country; we can’t wait to explore further.

  3. We are planing to go to this area in May. Could you please advice us on where to stop for hotels as we don’t want to change every day hotel We are hoping to start from Las Vegas and to do a round trip to Zion park Brice canyon Lake Powell canyon land Moab Salt Lake City Arches Monument Valley Grand Canyon to Las Vegas. Where would it be better to stay in hotels. Thanks

    • Hi Micky! As we did this journey in an RV, we literally have no experience with hotels along your proposed route. The distance between most of these locations is quite great and if you didn’t move locations each night, you’d be backtracking quite a bit. So, you probably either need to pick a hub and explore from there or be willing to move locations frequently. (Zion and Bryce are fairly close, so you could possibly stay in the same hotel for the nights you visit those parks.) I guess in this scenario, you’d need to ask yourself… would you rather a) stay in fewer hotels, but spend more time in the car driving back and forth or b) change hotels more frequently and not have to backtrack? That’s a call you’ll have to make. Though whatever you decide, you’ll have a great time, it’s a truly beautiful region of the US. One we can’t wait to get back and explore more!

  4. Thank you for all the info. We are embarking on similar trip this coming June in a 28ft RV. Two moms and 6 kids. Should be interesting. Any suggestions for Monument Valley? Were you able to really see good sites with the RV and hiking? Thanks so much

    • Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time in Monument Valley. We more or less just passed through on our way to the Grand Canyon, so we can’t be of much help with hikes. Wishing you a wonderful trip! 6 kids… you’re brave! 😉

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