The final section of our USA campervan trip saw us head south into Arizona and then south west back to California, completing a loop of over 4,000 miles in a month.
By this point, we were getting a little bored of red rock. However, Monument Valley ended up being our favourite rock-based sight of the trip.
I’m not sure exactly what is was, but the massive monoliths dotted around the valley were impressive and looked especially good at sunrise. The fact it looked familiar from John Ford films such as The Searches and Stagecoach added to the appeal.
Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon
We found a campground on beautiful Lake Powell that had a swimming pool so we whiled away a few hours around the water but we were really here to see two amazing natural phenomena.
First up was Horseshoe Bend, a meander of the Colorado River where it does a spectacular 180 degree turn. The viewpoint gave us an amazing view from 300m above (with no guardrails to stop you falling to you death).
Afterwards we drove a short way to Lower Antelope Canyon, one of two slot canyons in the area. These are famous due to the amazing contours and colours that the sandstone rock produces. Many famous photos have been taken here including the one of the old Windows desktop backgrounds. It was truly stunning and we took loads of photos.
Grand Canyon National Park
Probably the most famous natural landmark in the USA, the Grand Canyon was created by the Colorado River over millions of years. The thing that struck me most (which probably sounds stupid considering it’s name) was just how massive (277 miles long and 1,900 metres deep) it was. You can visit both the north, south and west rims but from one side it was impossible to see another, it is that wide (up to 18 miles).
We walked all along the edge and were surprised that along most of the way there was no barrier to stop you falling into the canyon (apparently 2 to 3 people die this way each year). The colours of the different rock layers were also stunning.
The ‘Mother Road’ used to be the main route between Chicago and Los Angeles, however once the freeways were built most settlements along it were bypassed and became ghost towns. This has meant that these places have become bizarre tourist attractions and a reminder of a specific moment in time (1950s) when the traffic stopped.
We spent a few hours in Seligman and Hackberry soaking up the weirdness…
Back in California, the temperature rose and the landscape became more deserty.
Joshua Tree National Park
On the way to the national park, we stopped at Pioneertown for some more bizarre Americana. It was a town that was built as a live-in Old West movie set, built in the 1940s. A numbers of Westerns and TV shows were shot here including The Cisco Kid and most of the structures still stand today.
Joshua Tree was made famous by a U2 album and is full of the quirky eponymous trees which look like something out of a Dr Seuss book. They were just so unusual we kept pulling over to take more and more photos as we drove around.
We also scrambled over rocks for a few hours to see the 49 Palms Oasis:
Orange County beaches
We wanted to spend our last night on the Californian coast so found a scenic campsite in Orange County from where we could hear the waves lapping against cliffs.
Here we stayed with our friends again, which was nice and relaxing after being on the road. As well as visiting Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Downtown.
Next stop: French Polynesia