Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park and Yellowstone NP

We spent four nights at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins during the latter part of May. It was cold, with temps below freezing most nights, and enough snow to stick. The weather we experienced at Yellowstone Grizzly in West Yellowstone was only heightened at higher elevations within the park. Yellowstone Grizzly is a large RV park just a few minutes from the west gate of Yellowstone National Park. The city of West Yellowstone isn’t large, making any location you stay pretty accessible to the grocery store, post office, visitor center, shops, and restaurants.

Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins

210 S. Electric Street, West Yellowstone, MT 59758

www.grizzlyrv.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Heated Water Spiggots
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Cabins
  • Store
  • Dump Station
  • Recycling
  • Large Pet Walk Area
  • Picnic Table

The RV park was at only about 25% capacity, which made it very quiet during our stay, but was also a source of contention for us when we arrived. Check in wasn’t until 1:00, but we arrived at 11:30ish (we were trying to beat some bad weather on the way). They would NOT let us check in early, contending that ‘people were still checking out (even though check out is 11) and all of the sites hadn’t been checked yet.’ We understand rules are rules and we try to adhere to check-in times the best we can, but depending on what time check out was at the last place we stayed or how long of a drive we had, sometimes we arrive early. We’ve NEVER been turned away and we would have no problem being turned away if it was the height of the season or they were close to capacity, but neither of those things were true. Anyway, per their recommendation, we drove over to the visitor center and parked. We walked to get some lunch, which we brought back to the Airstream to eat, and then we sat and waited. And it started to rain. Just before 1:00, we drove back over to Yellowstone Grizzly and checked in. We drove to our site and set up in the rain that soon turned to hail. It was a frustrating situation because it wasn’t necessary, but we put it behind us. Like many RV parks, the sites a fairly close together, but we were without neighbors for three of the four nights, so our site felt spacious. The laundry facilities were acceptable and the showers were decent – not the best I’ve seen, not the worst. We were in a pull-thru site, but I’d recommend to request one of the back-in sites that back up to the Gallatin National Forest so you have more privacy and a nice forest view.

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org

The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is located two blocks from Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park. It’s a not-for-profit wildlife park and educational facility that houses grizzlies, wolves, eagles, and raptors that were injured, abandoned, orphaned, or became habituated to humans in the wild. The center also serves as a bear-resistant container testing center where bear boxes, coolers, garbage cans, and dumpsters are tested. It’s a nice place to spend a few hours learning about animals native to the area. It’s $15 per person or $14 with AAA and your pass is good for two days.

Yellowstone National Park

During our stay in West Yellowstone, the weather was not great. It was even worse when we entered the park and drove up to higher elevation. During our time in the park, we visited Mammoth Hot Springs, Steamboat Geyser, Firehole Falls, the Grand Prismatic Spring area, and Old Faithful. Pictures never do anything justice, but that’s even more true with a gray, overcast sky above and the endless threat of rain/snow. It was a little too early in the season to visit Yellowstone as some of the roads were still closed for the season and many trails were closed due to bear coming out of hibernation and on the search for food. We also had to contend with some road construction that caused a decent delay on the drive up to Mammoth Hot Springs. And of course, traffic due to wildlife is always a possibility — bison like to walk down the middle of the road. Due to the traffic delays and the expanse of the park with a lot of miles between points of interest, I think the best way to experience the park would be if you’re staying in it at one of the lodges or campgrounds.

The gloomy, snowy drive to Mammoth Hot Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs – This part of the park has a lot to explore, including Historic Fort Yellowstone
Firehole Falls
The road to Firehole Falls was closed, so we had to park by the road barrier and walk a little bit in order to get this view.
We had a brief moment of sun and blue sky when we stopped at Steamboat Geyser, the tallest active geyser in the world.
Sapphire Pool
Grand Prismatic Spring – I wish the boardwalk in this area was elevated a bit more so that you can actually get a good view of the springs.
Old Faithful – We visited two years ago on a clear, blue day which makes for a completely different experience.
This guy walked out of the woods and on to the road in front of us where we had to wait a bit until the other lane of traffic was clear and we could pass him.

 

Henrys Lake State Park – Island Park, ID

We spent two nights at Henrys Lake State Park – the Thursday and Friday night of Memorial Day weekend. Surprisingly, for a holiday weekend, it was very quiet and peaceful, though the less-than-ideal weather might have had something to do with that. Henrys Lake is a big trout fishing destination, and on Saturday morning, the fisherman woke up to a glassy lake with a bit of sunshine. The park is home to beautiful mountain views, some nice hiking trails, and quite a bit of wildlife including moose and a variety of birds. The west entrance of Yellowstone National Park is 25 minutes away.

Check in wasn’t until 2:00, but seeing as we were arriving from West Yellowstone where we had an 11:00 check out, we arrived pretty early. Our check in day was the first day of the season the campground was open, so we had no problem checking in; though, the ladies in the entrance kiosk were VERY nice and I think as long as no one is in your site, they’ll let you check in at any time.

There are a few decent restaurants and a very small grocery store in Island Park, which is a little bit of a drive from Henrys Lake, so I’d recommend to come prepared with all of the supplies/food you need.

Henrys Lake State Park

3917 E 5100 N, Island Park, ID 83429

Website

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Picnic Table
  • Firepit
  • Dump Station
  • Lake Access
  • Firewood for Sale

We had a pull-thru site with full hookups, though I’d recommend one of the back-in sites numbered 46 through 51 (Caddis Loop) with water and electric only. These sites offer great views of the mountains and lake through the rear window of an RV. The bathrooms are probably the nicest and cleanest we’ve seen anywhere, offering individual shower rooms for safety and privacy, so for that reason and the fact there’s a dump station, you could get by without a sewer hookup for a week or more with no issues. Each site has a firepit and picnic table and the cell signal is strong on both Verizon and AT&T.

Hot Pools and a Friendly Campground in Lava Hot Springs, ID

We stayed in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho for four nights in mid-May. Lava Hot Springs is located in Southeast Idaho on the Portneuf River along the old route of the Oregon Trail. The city is known for its numerous hot springs and rough tubing on the river, which draws thousands to the city of about 400 residents. There’s a small, historic downtown with shops, restaurants, and hotels, as well as a grocery store, a library, and a number of places to rent tubes for a river adventure. In addition to the hot pools, there is also an outdoor swimming complex open during summer months and an indoor aquatic center open year round. There are plenty of options for accommodations, ranging from a place to pitch a tent to a resort with tiny homes, a lodge, and it’s own hot springs pool. There are a number of places to stay with an RV and we chose Lava Campground.

Lava Campground is a private, family-run campground with 13 RV sites, 4 retro campers, and a number of tent sites. A fabulous couple named Cameron and Annie turned part of their alfalfa field into this quaint campground about two years ago. This is a low-frills place, offering water and electric at each RV site, and a picnic table and fire pit at every site. There are a couple of really nice pit toilets throughout the property, as well as a couple of community water spigots. Currently, there is no dump station and no showers available, but they are considering adding those features in the future. There is a dump station available 15 minutes up the highway at the Pilot Flying J in McCammon, which is also where you get on I-15. If you visit the hot pools in town, showers are available there.

Lava Campground

11759 E Fish Creek Road, Lava Hot Springs, ID 83246

www.lavacampground.com

  • Water & Electric Hookups
  • Tent Sites
  • Retro Trailers for Rent
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Pit
  • Pit Toilets
  • Swingset
There are four adorable trailers on the property available for rent.
Who knew a pit toilet could be so cute?!
And I know this may sound weird, but they smell good inside too!
We were lucky to have one night without rain during which we were able to enjoy a fire.

Unfortunately, when we were in Lava Hot Springs we had a lot of rain. The driveway to get in the campground is gravel and was in rough shape when we arrived. Apparently, the water lines are being replaced in the city and the company that is laying the new pipes needed to use Lava Campground’s driveway and other parts of their property for access. This left the driveway in rough shape which got very mucky when it rained, which is what it was doing practically nonstop. Any time we came back from being out, we had to spray inches of mud and rock off our truck with the hose. The driveway was supposed to have already been fixed by the contractor, but it took one final, strongly-worded call from Cameron in order for it to finally be done. New gravel was poured on Saturday and we were able to drive out without incident (or mud) the following morning. Cameron and Annie felt so bad about the conditions that they refunded us for two nights of our stay. They really seem to go above and beyond to make sure their guests are happy, which is why if we ever find ourselves in Lava Hot Springs again, we will definitely stay with them!

The two main draws to Lava Hot Springs are their hot pools and river rafting. It’s not river rafting season yet, so we did not partake in that, but we did visit the pools twice. There are five different pools, with one ranging from 102ºF-105ºF, two at 105ºF, one ranging from 106ºF-111ºF, and one at 112ºF. Most of the pools have structures that protect from the sun and rain. It costs $6 per person to enter the pools, and there is a locker room with showers and a small gift shop with snacks onsite.

Above image from Visit Pocatello website.

Lava Hot Springs is small, so there aren’t a lot of great food options, but I think we found the two best places. We had dinner at Portneuf Grill & Lounge in the Riverside Hot Springs Inn. The restaurant is downstairs (kind of in the basement) and isn’t the fanciest of fine dining establishments, but the food was fantastic. We split the seared scallops and the butternut squash gratin and both were delicious.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it’s a little hard to find, but you won’t be disappointed!

We decided to get lunch at the Mexican food truck (bus, actually) one day before heading to the pools. Taqueria Pelayo is a converted school bus that sits at the front of the property of the city center KOA. The beauty of using a bus instead of the typical food truck setup is that there is seating inside, which was nice on the cold, rainy day we visited. We both had quesadillas and rice, both of which were tasty.

While the weather didn’t really cooperate, we still enjoyed our time in Lava Hot Springs. The city is about 15 minutes off of I-15, so staying in McCammon or Pocatello might be more appealing to some. If you’re looking for a place with more amenities (FHU, laundry, restrooms, etc), then the Lava Hot Springs KOA Holiday might be a better fit. From what we could tell as we drove by, it’s a very nice KOA and is a couple of minutes closer to town. Just a warning for staying in Lava Hot Springs in general — the city is nestled along the Portneuf River, as well as Highway 30. You’ll have highway and train noise pretty much anywhere you stay; however, we didn’t find it very disruptive at Lava Campground.

Lakeside RV Campground – Provo, UT

After leaving Hurricane, we hopped on I-15 North to start our trek to Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. We spent one night in Provo, Utah along our route before we continued on to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. The stretch of the 15 from Provo to Ogden is pretty rough, with a bit of construction, heavy traffic (even at 10:30am on a Wednesday), and bumpy/wavy roads that caused quite a bit of upset in the Airstream.

Lakeside RV Campground

4000 W. Center Street, Provo, UT 84601

www.lakesidervcampground.com

  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Full Hookups
  • Tent Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Dump Station
  • Propane Fill
  • Dog Park
  • Store with Snacks & RV Supplies
  • Cable
  • Wifi
  • Pool
  • Playground
  • Picnic Table

We were assigned site B1, which is a full-hookup, pull-thru site. When we stay somewhere for just one night, we get a pull thru if possible, as it makes setting up super easy and gives us more time to relax between drive days. We typically won’t get full hookups for a one-night stay, or if there are full hookups, we generally don’t use them. However, since our next location was going to have water and electric only with no dump station on the property, we hooked up the water and electric upon arrival and emptied the gray and black tanks before departing the next morning.

Lakeside RV Campground is located a third-mile from the entrance to Utah Lake State Park and directly across the street from the Provo Airport. There was some road noise and plane noise, but nothing too disruptive. The property is very green with a number of mature trees. As with most RV parks we’ve stayed in, there are some full-time residents, but everything is kept nice and orderly. The onsite dog park is one of the nicest we’ve seen with a huge fenced in, grassy area. We didn’t use any of the amenities, so I can’t comment on the restrooms, showers, or laundry. The pool was not yet open (we stayed the night of May 14), but they appeared to be repainting it and getting it ready to go. The water pressure was pretty light, so we ended up filling our freshwater tank so we’d have good water pressure for showers.

Site B1 is a large, nicely shaded end site with a large, grassy front yard.

After dinner, we walked up the road to Utah Lake State Park. Utah Lake is the state’s largest freshwater lake and is popular for fishing, boating, personal watercraft and swimming. There’s a campground with 31 sites with water and electric hookups, fire pit, and picnic table, and has restrooms with showers as well as a dump station. There are both pull-thru and back-in sites for $30/night. We didn’t stay in the park long as the bugs, including mosquitoes, were pretty bad.

Beautiful Views at the Marina in Utah Lake State Park

WillowWind RV Park – Hurricane, UT

This was our second stay in Hurricane this spring, with our first being for two weeks at Sand Hollow State Park. After two weeks of getting things fixed up in Albuquerque and a very active week in Moab, it was nice to settle in to WillowWind RV Park for a month. It was also nice to get a great monthly rate ($500 + electric) in order to absorb some of the unexpected costs of our time in Albuquerque.

Hurricane has all of the necessities a person needs — grocery store, gas stations, fitness center, Walmart, pharmacy, some restaurants, movie theatre, community pool, car wash with RV bay, etc. The nearby cities of Washington and St. George can provide anything else — Target, In and Out, Petco, Barnes and Noble, better restaurants, etc. It’s a 35-minute drive to the main entrance of Zion National Park from WillowWind and less than 30 minutes to the Kolob Canyons (west) entrance. Sand Hollow State Park, Quail Creek State Park, and Snow Canyon State Park are all within 35 minutes.

The location also worked well for us work wise when Travis had to drive to Las Vegas for a conference (2-hour drive) and fly to Wisconsin for a business trip (St. George Airport is 25 minutes away).

WillowWind RV Park

80 South 1150 West, Hurricane, UT 84737

www.willowwindrvpark.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Cable
  • Wifi
  • Fitness Center
  • Laundry
  • Communal Fire Pits
  • Tent Camping
  • Horseshoes
  • Dog Wash Station
  • Clubhouse with Kitchen & Pool Table
  • Dog Run

WillowWind is a nice, fairly quiet, very clean RV park located right in the middle of Hurricane, within walking distance to the grocery store, Walgreen’s, movie theatre, and a number of places to eat. We were in site 31, a grassy back-in site that got shadier as the month progressed and the leaves on the trees came in. There are A LOT of trees on this property which comes in handy when the temp starts to rise, which it did while we were there (April 13 to May 14). If you visit during the warmer months, I recommend looking at the satellite image on Google Maps to see which sites receive the most shade as not all sites are created equal — I’d recommend sites 110-122 (pull-thru sites) and sites 124-153 (back-in sites) for maximum shade. The electric and cable hookups are at the back of the site while the water and sewer hookups are at the middle of the site, which may require longer cords/hoses depending on where the hookups are on your rig. The office doesn’t accept mail on your behalf, but FedEx and UPS deliver directly to your site and the post office, which is a block away, accepts general delivery mail.

 

Site 31

It was nice to have a month of having a normal daily routine. While we were in Hurricane, we joined Performance Fitness 24/7 gym for the month. They don’t charge any initiation or cancellation fees, and at $15 for the month, it’s the best deal we’ve found to date since being on the road. There’s no fancy pool or classes, but the machines are nice and they have saunas, hydromassage beds and tanning for an extra fee. We were also able to get an issue with the timing chain fixed on the truck at the Ford dealership in Washington. We had our mail sent to us a handful of times at the post office and we were able to order some things from Amazon that we’ve been needing for a bit. All three of us got haircuts and we were able to stock up on dog food and the good RV toilet paper from Walmart. Before leaving, we washed both the truck and the Airstream. Basically, Hurricane and the Washington/St. George area were perfect for getting errands done that we usually have to put off. We enjoyed our stay at WillowWind and would definitely return.

Of course, we also explored Zion a bit, but that’ll be another post!

Magical Moab: Arches NP, Canyonlands NP & Dead Horse Point SP

We absolutely loved our time in Moab. We had a tough few weeks before arriving in Moab. We had problems with the Airstream, a large project for work that was wrapping up, and a longer than usual business trip. We needed time to decompress and unwind, and our week in Moab was just that. From the red arches to the deep canyons to strolls along the Colorado River, we spent more time in nature this week than we had in months. Moab was everything we had hoped it would be and so much more!

We visited Moab April 7th-13th, which ended up being the perfect time of year. While the temps got cold at night, it wasn’t cold enough for us to worry about pipes or tanks freezing. Even though it tried hard to snow one morning, our days were mostly sunshine and mild temps perfect for hiking. We left Moab the morning Jeep Week started, which is when 4×4 vehicles are allowed on trails they aren’t otherwise allowed on. According to locals, it gets pretty crazy in town — very busy and trafficky — and should be avoided unless you are participating.

Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground

1773 North Highway 191, Moab, UT 84532

www.sunrvresorts.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Store
  • Pool & Spa
  • Playground
  • Putting Green
  • Life-Size Chess & Checkers
  • Bike Wash & Repair
  • Tetherball
  • Dump Station
  • Wifi

We stayed at Moab Valley RV Resort & Campground during our time in Moab. It’s a little pricy at $420 for the week (that’s with a 10% Good Sam discount), but the location is perfect. We were minutes from the entrance to Arches NP, about 35 minutes from Canyonlands NP and Dead Horse Point SP, across the street from Lions Park which has a nice green space and paved trail along the Colorado River, and a short drive into downtown Moab for restaurants, groceries, and anything else you might need. The sites are a little shorter and narrower than other RV parks we’ve stayed at, but our 28′ trailer and truck fit with no issues. Unlike other RV parks, they have plenty of overflow parking for people whose vehicles can’t fit in their sites. In the full hookups section, the sites are laid out in every other direction, meaning you share your ‘front yard’ with the people next to you, although there is a picnic table for each site. While this layout can be a little awkward, we had very nice neighbors during our stay and the benefit is that you aren’t looking at your neighbor’s sewer hose while sitting outside your trailer. There are a lot of tent sites which were pretty popular during our stay, even though it hovered around freezing during some nights we were there. The pool is small but nice and I’m sure it’s incredibly refreshing when Moab starts to heat up. We will definitely stay here again when we return to Moab.

Shared front yards, though each site has its own picnic table and grill.
Shared front yards mean hookups are side by side in the backyard.
The 2.5 mile paved path that starts in Lions Park was a great place to walk Max in the evenings and enjoy the beauty of the Colorado River and surrounding rocks.

Arches National Park

Delicate Arch Trail: The trailhead for this 3-mile roundtrip, strenuous trail can be found at Wolfe Ranch, which is a 25-minute drive from the Park’s entrance station. The most popular times to visit are sunrise and sunset, but we made the trek at about 10am. There isn’t much shade on this trail, so make sure to be prepared with sun protection. The first half mile is a wide, fairly easy trail. Next, is the slickrock portion of the trail. This is where you’ll feel the elevation gain, which is 480ft overall.

Next, you reach a 200-yard-long ramp that hugs the side of a cliff. It’s here where people that have an extreme fear of heights may have an issue. However, the path is quite wide — wide enough for two people to walk side by side, so just stay close to the inside of the path and you’ll be fine.

Finally, you come around the corner and there it is, all 60 feet of it. It was much larger than I expected, probably because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of Delicate Arch with people in it.

We did the hike on a Thursday, entering the park about 9:30am. When we reached the arch, which took us a little over a half hour, there weren’t that many people. Everyone took a few pics under the arch and then most would sit and enjoy the views for a bit before making the hike back. It was considerably busier on our way back (the picture above of the slickrock portion is from our hike back), so what we’ve experienced in other national parks seems to hold true here — the hours between 10 and 3 are the busiest and are best to be avoided, although Arches is one of the least busy parks we’ve visited. Delicate Arch is a must if you visit Arches!

Double Arch: This is any easy, half-mile trail that should be combined with a visit to North and South Windows and Turret Arch. Double Arch is the highest arch in the park and is very impressive in person.

Windows Trail: The park’s busiest trail leads to North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. It’s about 1 mile roundtrip and fairly easy.

North Window and South Window
North Window
Turret Arch

Balanced Rock: There’s a short, third-mile, wheelchair-accessible paved trail along the base of balanced rock.

Fiery Furnace: Our only experience of Fiery Furnace was from the viewpoint, but we definitely want to explore this area in the future. The Furnace is a maze of slot canyons, arches, fins, and bridges with no real trail. Because of this, a permit is required; though unless you know the Furnace well, it’s recommended to take a ranger-guided tour.

Three Gossips: The Three Gossips stand in the Courthouse Towers section of the park. Other rock formations nearby include Nefertiti, the Organ, and the Tower of Babel. The Park Avenue Trail is a one-mile, one-way trail from the Park Avenue Viewpoint to the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, passing the Three Gossips along the way.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore the Devils Garden portion of the park. Arches is on the smaller side for a national park, but there is a lot to discover!

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is a difficult park to visit. The Colorado and Green Rivers have divided the park into three districts: Island in the Sky, The Maze, and The Needles. Island in the Sky is the closest to Moab, just 35 minutes from Moab Valley RV Resort. Even though the pictures below show blue sky and sunshine, not long after we entered the park, storm clouds rolled in and it began snowing. We drove the main road to the Grand View Point Overlook, but it was a white out. It seems that to thoroughly explore this park, one needs to venture onto the unpaved roads (second picture below), many of which require 4-wheel drive. As we had Max with us, we weren’t able to get any hiking in. We decided instead to head over to Dead Horse Point State Park, a short drive from Canyonlands, where Max was welcome to get out of the truck and enjoy the park with us.

Dead Horse Point State Park

The road to Dead Horse Point State Park is right outside the entrance to Canyonlands, so if you’re visiting one, you should definitely visit the other. The views at Dead Horse definitely rival those of its neighbor. The park is a popular destination for mountain biking, but it also has about seven miles of hiking trails that connect eight fantastic overlooks, with Dead Horse Point Overlook offering up a view of the muddy Colorado River and Canyonlands NP. The best part for us is that the park is completely dog friendly, so Max was able to explore with us. There are great picnic areas throughout the park as well as two campgrounds with some sites offering electricity. The entrance fee is $20, good for three days, or $75 for an annual Utah State Parks pass. Fun Fact: The final scene of Thelma & Louise was filmed here. State parks never cease to amaze us, but Dead Horse Point is one of the better ones we’ve visited!

Corona and Bowtie Arches

There are plenty of great hikes in Moab outside of the parks and the hike to Corona and Bowtie Arch is a good one. The trailhead is about four miles north of Moab and has a large gravel parking lot. We did the hike on a Friday at 10:30 and there was hardly anyone on the trail. Dogs are allowed on this trail; however, there’s a ladder and steep section with a chain handhold, so they either need to be very agile, or you’ll need to be able to carry them. The hike is 2.5 miles roundtrip, fun, and has great views. There aren’t any signs marking the trail along the way, but there are green marks on the ground that will keep you going in the right direction.

There’s a short section that’s pretty steep with chains to help you reach the top.
The ladder is easy to get up, but a little more difficult to get down. Note the green mark in the bottom center of the picture. These marks mark the majority of the trail, so keep an eye out for them.
Bowtie Arch
Corona Arch
A little arch love…
This was a great hike option for avoiding crowds with the added bonus of being free and allowing dogs!

Food

We ate at a few different places while in Moab, but two of our favorites were Moab Garage Co. and Quesadilla Mobilla.

Moab Garage Co.

Open most days from 8am-8pm, Moab Garage serves up delicious food that feels good in your tummy. The menu isn’t large, but everyone should find something they like, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. They also have a great coffee bar and make nitrogen ice cream on the spot.

Quesadilla Mobilla

You’ll find this quesadilla food truck on Main Street, near the entrance to Moab’s Food Truck Park. They serve up delicious cheese and tortilla concoctions from 11am-6pm daily, or until they run out of food.

 

Our week in Moab was one of the best weeks we’ve had since we started Airstreaming full time. We look forward to returning in the future and exploring more of this amazing area!

USA RV Park – Gallup, NM

We stayed in Gallup for one night as we drove from Albuquerque to Moab. The park is clean, the people are nice, and it seems to be a place where people stop for a night or two as they’re making their way somewhere else. It looks like it was once a KOA, so it offers everything that a KOA Journey would. We were in site 1, a very spacious end site.

USA RV Park

2925 W Historic Hwy 66, Gallup, NM 87301

www.usarvpark.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Cabins
  • Store
  • Dump Station
  • Playground
  • Pool
  • Propane
  • Cable TV
  • Wifi
  • Pet Run

The city of Gallup is a decent size, with a Walmart, a Home Depot, and plenty of places to eat. There’s a municipal airport not far up the road from the RV park that receives flights around the clock. It’s so close and loud that planes coming in for a landing set our truck alarm off a couple of times, including in the middle of the night. I’m not sure why planes are landing at this tiny airport in the middle of the night, but between that and a nearby train track, we didn’t have the most restful night of sleep. After getting set up, we went into town for lunch and ate at Jerry’s Cafe, a Mexican restaurant that seems to be pretty popular with the locals. We also drove past the Hotel el Rancho, a hotel on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by film director D.W. Griffith’s brother in 1937 on Route 66 and served as a temporary home for many movie stars that filmed Western movies in the area. Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Katherine Hepburn and John Wayne all spent time there, and now each room in the hotel is named after a previous famous guest.

 

Albuquerque: The KOA, a Bad Converter, and a Long Hotel Stay

Where to begin? I guess I’ll begin with how we ended up in Albuquerque when it wasn’t part of the plan.

We were in Hurricane, Utah and were supposed to be moving on to spending the weekend in Zion National Park at Watchman Campground. We drove through the campground a week before when we visited Zion and we weren’t super impressed. Due to the crazy winter the area had been having, there were parts of the campground that were under water. The original loop that we had reserved our site in was all torn up and closed. There was also a lot of work being done in the area surrounding the campground and nearby visitor center. I don’t know if this was due to weather-related issues or planned. Regardless, we weren’t super pumped about the current conditions of the campground, but we would deal with it. As the weekend approached, the weather outlook was not so great, adding to our apprehension. We made the decision to cancel our two nights, which would’ve been Friday to Sunday, and start driving towards our next destination, Santa Fe. We didn’t want to stay in Zion just for the sake of staying in Zion — we wanted to enjoy it, including the site and the weather. Besides, we’d be back in Hurricane in a month, staying at a place a little closer to Zion than Sand Hollow State Park is, and we’d make sure to explore the Park more then.

We found Valles RV Park in Mexican Hat, Utah on Campendium. Mexican Hat is home to Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods. I had seem so many pictures of the area and wanted to see it for myself. We decided to spend two nights here, Friday and Saturday, before we moved on to Santa Fe. After spending one night, we decided to leave Mexican Hat early Saturday morning. You can read more about why here.

I know, I know. We’re starting to sound super picky about the places we stay. We really aren’t, but when something doesn’t feel right for whatever reason, we listen to our instincts. It’s done well for us so far, and as you’ll soon read, our instincts didn’t fail us here.

While we were still in Mexican Hat Friday night, we had already decided we were leaving in the morning; therefore, we needed to figure out where we were going. We had a reservation for one night in Kirtland, New Mexico on Sunday, as our original plan had been Zion –> Kirtland –> Santa Fe. We decided our new route would take us from Mexican Hat –> Albuquerque –> Santa Fe, with two nights (Saturday and Sunday) at the Albuquerque KOA. Yay, we had a plan!

When we arrived in Albuquerque Saturday afternoon after six rough hours of driving on Northern New Mexico’s lovely highways, we pulled into what is the nicest KOA Journey that we’ve stayed at. As we were getting set up, I noticed an issue with the converter fan. The converter is what converts the 120 volts of AC shore power to 12 volts of DC to supply power to all of the 12 volt appliances and accessories in the trailer. The converter basically prevents the batteries from draining when you’re plugged in. The converter fan helps to cool the converter unit down when needed. There was no need for the fan to be kicking in, yet it was — very, very often. We also noticed that any time the fan kicked in, the battery voltage would drop from the usual 13.6 to as low as 12.3, which is pretty low but not quite in the danger zone yet. By danger zone, I mean so low that the batteries won’t recover and recharge and are basically dead.

We had no idea what was going on so we got on the Google and various Airstream forums. From everything we read, it seemed as though our batteries were on their way out. This made sense, as the batteries were still the factory installed batteries which are not known to have the best longevity. We looked online to find a place nearby that we could get new batteries and low and behold — Airstream of New Mexico was only a half mile away! We drove over to Airstream and explained what was happening and they agreed with us; it sounded like the batteries. We bought two new ones and made our way back to the KOA where we figured out how to swap them out.

Here’s the thing, neither one of us is very mechanically inclined. Anything electrical is foreign to us and the idea of having to fix something electrical is a bit terrifying. This is a good time to mention that I have no idea if I’m using the proper terms for everything. Please do not take anything I’ve typed here as sacred, legit information. Before pulling the old batteries, we took pictures and notes. We successfully removed the old and installed the new! We were so proud of ourselves that we fixed our issue. That is, until we plugged back in and realized that, in fact, the issue had not been fixed. The converter fan still kept running for seemingly no reason and the battery voltage still kept decreasing when the fan kicked in. We started to notice exactly WHEN the fan would kick on, and it seemed to be whenever there was a certain level of movement in the trailer. Whenever the door was slammed or a cabinet or drawer was closed, it would kick on. So this changed our course of thinking. By this time, Airstream of New Mexico was closed for the day, so we weren’t able to get their input. We eventually figured out that if the fan kicked on, we could get it to kick off by pressing on the metal panel that is in front of it. This made us think that something was loose, so Travis removed the metal panel and removed the circuit board. He sprayed the area with air and made sure all of the connections were tight. He put everything back together and it seemed to work for a while. The fan didn’t kick in and the batteries stayed at their normal level — until they didn’t.

Just a reminder, this was on Saturday. Not only was Airstream of New Mexico closed for the day, but they were closed until Tuesday — they aren’t open Sundays and Mondays. We were supposed to be driving to Santa Fe on Monday where we would be spending two weeks. And to make things more complex, Travis was supposed to fly out of Santa Fe on Friday for a week-long business trip to Minnesota. We decided that we would definitely need to book a third night, Monday, at the KOA so that we could call Airstream Tuesday morning and try to get the trailer in to get looked at. We made it through the weekend by being careful about making the fan kick in, pulling the panel off for a second time to make sure everything was connected tight, and unplugging the trailer whenever we left just to be on the safe side.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. We called Airstream and….

….they told us they had no service appointments available until May, a good five or six weeks away. Well, crap.

Due to Travis’s impending business trip, we needed to make some decisions. We felt that no matter what, we would be staying in Albuquerque and not going to Santa Fe. This meant we needed to change his flight. We wouldn’t be able to stay in the trailer in its current state, so we booked a room at the Homewood Suites for the next week and a half. This still didn’t take care of what to do with the trailer, so we decided to go in to Airstream to plead our case. We explained our situation. We explained that we’re full timers so unfortunately, this wasn’t as easy as just not using the trailer until it could get fixed. Even though they weren’t able to look at it, they did have a solution. They recommended another RV service center (Tom’s) down the street from them that they do work with often. Airstream called Tom’s and they said if we could bring it in right now, they could fix it. Yay! We hurried back to the KOA and quickly got the Airstream hitched up to take over to Tom’s.

For those of you that aren’t RVers, let me explain what ‘quickly’ means. We had to disconnect the sewer hose, water hose, cable cord, and electric cord. We had to raise the stabilizers. We had to put the hitch on the truck and back it up to hitch up the trailer. We had to remove the chocks and roll off the levelers. As we weren’t getting on the highway, we didn’t hook up our sway control bars, which saved us a step. Inside, we had to get everything off the kitchen and bathroom counters and secure them for towing. Thankfully, the night before we had proactively taken everything out of the fridge and freezer and shut it off, thinking we would be dropping the trailer off at Airstream in the morning. I then ran into the KOA office and extended our stay again, as we were supposed to check out and leave by noon. We extended our stay for a week and a half, thinking we could just cancel the hotel. After all that, we got it over to Tom’s and they started working on it immediately. After checking things out, they agreed that the converter needed to be replaced. Only one problem — they didn’t have one to replace it. The parts supplier in town that they usually get their parts from didn’t have one. Airstream didn’t have one. It was determined that they would order one, receive it the next day, and then install it, meaning we were taking the Airstream back to the KOA for the night and would bring it back again the next day.

Fast forward a few hours and we receive a call from Airstream. I don’t know what was discussed between Tom’s and Airstream, but all of a sudden Airstream was like, bring it in so our certified Airstream technician can take a look at it and we can see if it’s covered by warranty. So, we did. We hadn’t hooked anything back up again when we returned from Tom’s, so we were able to get it over to Airstream pretty quickly.

Also, please keep in mind that we have a small, 14-year-old, grumpy dog that usually gets a bit anxious on travel days. He had no clue what was going on and his anxiety added to our stress as well.

We got the trailer to Airstream, the technician inspected it, confirmed there was an issue with the converter, and they submitted it to Airstream (corporate) to make sure it would be covered under warranty (we’re still under our two-year warranty). Thankfully, it was. But again, the issue arose that they didn’t have the part to replace and would have to order it.

At this point, Travis and I decided that we just wanted to leave the trailer with them and stay in the hotel. He would be leaving on his trip in three days and felt more comfortable with us being in a hotel rather than the trailer. The other issue is that I don’t tow the trailer, so it wouldn’t have been possible for us to go back to the KOA and for me to bring the trailer to Airstream when the part came in. They were 100% fine with that, so then the process of packing everything we needed to take with us began. Sounds easy, right? Well….

Again, we had already assumed we weren’t going to be in the trailer for a few days, so we had packed some stuff. It was Tuesday. Travis was leaving on Friday and would return the following Friday. We wouldn’t be able to pick the Airstream up until Saturday after he got back, so this meant we’d (me & the dog) would be in the hotel for 11 nights. Travis needed to pack everything he needed for his business trip. We needed everything necessary in order for us to work. We needed clothes and dog stuff and bathroom stuff and we packed up all the dry food too, not knowing what we would need. After getting everything we needed loaded into the truck (though I did make another run to the Airstream after realizing we forgot some things) we handed the keys off, stopped at the KOA to cancel our remaining stay, and made our way to the hotel.

The next ten days were pretty uneventful. Airstream called to say they’d be receiving the part on Tuesday. Travis went on his business trip. When Airstream received the part, they called to say that they put us on the schedule for Thursday morning. Travis was able to shorten his trip by a day and fly back Thursday night. This allowed us to pick the Airstream up Friday and stay one more night at the KOA to make sure everything was working properly before we left town on Saturday. We were able to get everything moved back into the trailer, do laundry, clean, and get the fridge turned back on to get it ready for food.

For some reason I did something that I never do the day before we tow — I turned the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) on to make sure the tire pressure was good. It wasn’t. One of our tires was reading at 33psi when it should be about 65psi. We inspected the tire and didn’t see anything wrong with it. We measured the pressure with both a tire pressure gauge and the air compressor to make sure the tire pressure monitoring system wasn’t acting up. Everything showed around 33psi. There were only really two explanations. One, someone let air out. Two, the tire was punctured. The first option didn’t make sense so we had to assume that it was the second. While you can pick up a nail or some other sharp object anywhere, the only thing we can figure is that something happened to the tire when the trailer was at Airstream. Seeing as anywhere that could help us was closed for the day, we filled the tire and waited until the next morning to make phone calls. Even though we didn’t think they did, we called Airstream to see if they sold tires. They do not, but said they use Discount Tire for all their tire needs, which was going to be our next call anyway. We called Discount Tire and they said all of their appointments were booked, but they weren’t busy yet, so if we could get there soon, they could take care of us. We had already prepped the Airstream for towing that morning as we waited for Airstream and Discount Tire to open, so we were able to hitch up and get there pretty quickly. They had us checked in even before we pulled in the driveway and they changed out all four tires in about 45 minutes. We decided to buy four new tires because the tires that come on an Airstream aren’t the best quality. We upgraded to Goodyear Endurance, which can carry more weight, have a higher speed rating, and just seem to more durable all around. We didn’t even have them look at the flat tire to see what was wrong with it, because it didn’t matter to us at this point.

So, after new batteries, a new converter, and new tires — we were finally on our way! If you’re ever in the Albuquerque area and are need in of assistance, I cannot praise these businesses enough: Airstream of New Mexico, Albuquerque KOA Journey, Homewood Suites Albuquerque Uptown, and Discount Tire located at 1119 Juan Tablo Blvd. Everyone was so nice and helpful and understanding and they all provided excellent service on a moment’s notice.

As you can see, a few of the gut decisions we made brought us to Albuquerque which brought us to Airstream of New Mexico. If we hadn’t cancelled our weekend in Zion and instead booked in Mexican Hat, where we then left a night early and skipped Kirtland, heading straight for Albuquerque instead, we probably would have been in Santa Fe when our issue with the converter started. Santa Fe is only an hour drive from Albuquerque, but we wouldn’t have been able to just stop into Airstream and plead our case face to face. For some reason, we ended up in the right place at the right time!

Now, about the places we stayed…

Albuquerque KOA

12400 Skyline Road NE, Albuquerque, NM 87123

www.albuquerquekoa.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Cable TV
  • Wifi
  • Picnic Table
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Dump Station
  • Dog Runs
  • Pool with Hot Tub
  • Playground
  • Propane Fill
  • Mini Golf
  • Horseshoes
  • Community Fire Pit
  • Camp Store

As I stated above, this is a very nice KOA Journey. Like most Journeys, the sites are close together, but our site (128) was was plenty long. The people that work here are so nice and were super flexible when we added a third day, and then added a week and a half, and then cancelled a week and a half. The location is pretty decent to everything Albuquerque has to offer and we would definitely stay here again if we were to return to the area.

Homewood Suites by Hilton Albuquerque Uptown

7101 Arvada Avenue NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110

www.homewoodsuites3.hilton.com

  • 1 or 2-Bedroom Suites with Kitchenette and Living Room
  • Dog Friendly
  • Free Breakfast
  • Social Hour with Snacks Monday – Thursday Evening
  • Accepts Mail Delivery
  • Swimming Pool
  • Guest Laundry
  • Fitness Center
  • Wifi
  • Business Center
  • Snack Shop

The Homewood Suites in Uptown was a great place to stay for a week and a half. The room was nice, the breakfast was decent, and the social hours with food during the week were a nice perk. Not only does the hotel allow dogs, but they also have a grassy area outside complete with dog waste bag station. The location is absolutely fantastic — the Uptown area of Albuquerque offers great restaurants, shopping, grocery stores, fitness centers and every possible service needed, all within walking distance. Travis was in Minnesota for work during most of our stay, but Max and I enjoyed sleeping in a king size bed, lounging on the couch, and generally just taking advantage of having more space. Personally, I enjoyed the long, hot showers and having dry towels of my very own every day. One of our favorite places to eat nearby is Fork & Fig, but there are so many options. And by the way, Uptown is only a 10-minute drive from the KOA and Airstream dealership, so it was also convenient to drive back and forth.

With all of the ‘excitement’ we had in Albuquerque, we didn’t get out to explore too much. We did a very brief, self-led Breaking Bad tour one evening and visited one of the sites of Petroglyph National Monument one afternoon.

Breaking Bad’s Walter and Skyler White’s House
Breaking Bad’s Walter and Skyler White’s Car Wash
There are five locations for Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque: the Visitor Center, Volcanoes Day Use Area, Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and Piedras Marcadas Canyon.
Dogs are allowed at three locations, including Piedras Marcadas, which is where Max & I visited. The trail is an easy 1.5 miles round trip, level, sandy and, has dog waste bags with a trash an at the trailhead.

 

 

Valles RV Park – Mexican Hat, UT

Valles RV Park

US 163, Mexican Hat, UT 84531

  • Full Hookups
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Store w/ Restaurant

There have been very few places that we’ve felt uncomfortable leaving the Airstream to go out exploring. This is one of the few. Possibly because no one else was staying in the ‘RV Park’ the same time as us. Possibly because there were rows of vehicles parked just 30 yards from us that didn’t seem to belong to anybody in the vicinity. Possibly because the owner is a tad creepy and his father (they both live above the office/store/restaurant) was apparently watching our every move – he didn’t like the way we parked in our spot and called down to his son to let him know. Whatever the reason, even though we paid for two nights, we decided to bug out early after just one night. We also learned the lesson to pay day by day at places that allow it; places like this that don’t take reservations or even write your name down – just take your money.

There are 11 or 12 sites with full hookups. See the random rows of vehicles parked behind us? Yeah, that was a little weird.
This building houses the office, restaurant, restrooms, laundry and the owner’s apartment.

Why would we have chosen to stay at a place like this, you might ask? We needed a place along our route (there wasn’t much to pick from) and this place actually had a few decent reviews on Campendium. RV park reviews are so incredibly subjective and it can be difficult at times to glean the important facts.

Regardless of where you stay, this part of the country is incredibly beautiful, which is why we wanted to visit. Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods made for some fantastic views during our drive.

The infamous Forrest Gump Point — watch for people in the middle of the road!
“Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run at this spot (1980)”
A very over exposed pic of Mexican Hat Rock. We drove past it as the sun was rising when we ducked out of Mexican Hat early. There was an Airstream boondocking right next to it — they had the right idea!

Sand Hollow State Park – Hurricane, UT

Sand Hollow State Park – Westside Campground

3351 South Sand Hollow Road, Hurricane, UT 84737

www.stateparks.utah.gov

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Fire Pit
  • Dump Station
  • Firewood
  • Picnic Table with Shade Structure
  • Reservoir with Boating & Fishing
  • Sand Mountain with OHV Access
  • Restaurant
  • Rentals (ATVs, UTVs, Paddle Boards, Kayaks)
  • Dive Shack (During Summer Months)

We spent two weeks in the Westside Campground at Sand Hollow State Park. When I made the reservation, I made sure to research the best sites in the campground and I feel pretty confident in saying that I booked one of, if not, the best. During this time of year (March 9-22), you probably don’t need to book a site right when they become available, which I believe is four months in advance, unless you’re staying for a few weeks like we did or you want to have a choice of spots, also like we did. We were in site 18, which is on the edge of the campground with a nice view of the mountains. I would recommend this site as well as 20, 22, 23 and 26. Our site was a super long pull through with full hookups, a picnic table with shade structure, and a fire pit. There are two other campgrounds in Sand Hollow State Park — Sandpit Campground and the Primitive Camping area that is tent only along the shore of the reservoir.

A major draw for this park is the OHV area on Sand Mountain. Even with OHVs, the Westside Campground is still pretty quiet as all OHVs must be trailered in and out of the campground unless they have current street legal registration and plates. Even then, they can drive on the asphalt only and only at 10mph.

While we didn’t use the restrooms, they were nice and clean and the separate, individual showers were as well. Also of note is that we had great cell signal on both AT&T and Verizon here.

The view from site 18 is fantastic!
Sand Hollow Reservoir offers boating, fishing and personal watercraft use.

Things To Do

While at Sand Hollow, we used our Kokopelli Packrafts for the first time. When the wind is calm, the reservoir is great for personal watercraft.

Zion National Park is a 45-minute drive from Sand Hollow. We only went into Zion once during our stay as we’ll be returning to Hurricane soon and will be staying a little bit closer. We took Max with us and walked along the Pa’ Rus Trail, the only trail in Zion that allows dogs. We also drove the Zion – Mount Carmel Highway to the east entrance and back. The main route through the park is Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and is only accessible by park shuttle.

There are many hikes in the area but the only trail we made it to was Mollies Nipple Trail. It’s a VERY steep trail of clay soil and loose rock that is, according to my AppleWatch, 2.75 miles and has 1,277 feet of elevation gain. While the hike is tough, the views at the top are amazing and totally worth it!

After many months of being in RV parks, our two weeks at Sand Hollow was just what we needed. While we enjoyed it, if we were to stay at a state park in this area again, we would probably go back to Snow Canyon State Park in Ivins, Utah. The terrain there is more interesting and the park offers a number of great trails. However, Sand Hollow does make a long stay easier due to the full hookups, whereas the sites at Snow Canyon are water and electric or electric only.