We’re excited about our 2018 trip. This may be our most ambitious plan since we started RVing almost four years ago. Our 2016 “Grand Loop Trip” plan had a slightly higher mileage, but our 2018 “Mountain State Trip” involves dangling off cliffs, 4-wheel drive, petting wild bison, and mountain lion sightings.
We might not do all those things. Maybe we will.
Mountain State Trip 2018
We’ll depart Central Texas on March 3, following the second annual RV Entrepreneur Summit where we’ll be presenting again. Our typical travel rhythm is to drive a max of 250 miles, then stay for two weeks. In order to keep to that 250-mile max, we need to fill in some gaps on our map. But we know we want to visit the following places:
- Bison at Caprock Canyons State Park (north Texas).
- Drive across New Mexico and potentially revisit Sedona, where we botched wild camping in 2016.
- Hit all five national parks in Utah. I see this as the cornerstone of our 2018 trip. We plan to arrive at the end of April and stay through the beginning of June, hitting Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. I want to do lots of hiking and Eric wants to do lots of off-roading with our Jeep Rubicon.
- Bison at Antelope Island State Park (Utah).
- Wild camping in Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming).
- Back to Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) to hopefully focus on the north end of the park. We visited for a weekend in 2015 without our RV, but we have so much left to explore.
- Glacier National Park! The beginning of August should be the perfect time to reach the northernmost point of our 2018 RV journey (Montana).
- Depending on how adventurous we’re feeling, we might leave Meriwether in the States and take our Jeep up to Banff National Park in Alberta. I’ve been there and really want to show Lake Louise to Eric.
- Eastward to bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota).
- Lots of cool stuff in South Dakota: Badlands National Park (bison), Custer State Park (bison), Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Mountain Memorial.
- Wind down to Colorado, where I’d love to stay in Golden again. Golden is one of my top five favorite places we’ve stayed since we started RVing. It’ll probably be mid-October by this point, so we’ll see how the weather is holding up.
- Bison at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma).
Do I need to explain something? One of my life goals is to see all the wild bison herds in the United States. Thus the stalking and celebrating of bison throughout our 2018 trip.
If all goes according to plan (it won’t), we’ll add seven states to our map before the end of the year: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. We only count states if we spend at least one night there in our RV. Thus the awkward gaps in the current map on our blog sidebar!
Why Do We Want to Make This Trip?
People getting to know us always ask, “Where do you go in your RV?” My typical answer: “Wherever we want.” Yes, but the country is so big! How does our decision-process really work? I’ve written a big picture article about planning our RV travels that you can access here:
➡️ Keep reading: “Planning Our RV Travels and the Evolving Quest to Find Balance”
…More specifically, here are a few reasons we’ve chosen our 2018 route and the stops along the way:
- We want to finish our Grand Loop Trip: If you look at the map for our 2016 trip, we only made it as far as Seattle before we had to make a beeline back to Texas for the rest of my pregnancy. Glacier National Park is basically where we’ll pick back up on our Grand Loop Trip.
- We want to exercise our Jeep: Going to Moab, Utah is like a pilgrimage for Jeepers. There are a number of Badge of Honor trails in the area, so Eric is thrilled.
- We want to be outside/hike: I miss hiking, which I was really getting into back in 2016 during the beginning of my pregnancy. While I’m going to need to build my endurance back up, I am freaking excited about all the opportunities to explore out west–especially in Utah.
- We want to dry camp: We may have four years of full-timing under our belts, but we’re still newbies when it comes to off-grid camping. We plan to stretch our wings this year, though. We have brand new batteries, and we’ll at least pick up a portable solar suitcase before we start our trip. We aim to wild camp for a week at a time. Eric and I know we can easily go that long with just the two of us, but there will be a learning curve with #BabyNomad.
- We love National Park Service sites: It doesn’t seem possible to visit so many unbelievable national parks in one year. I sometimes use the phrase “dream come true” off-handedly, but in this case I’ll mean it literally.
- We have time: When we started traveling, I didn’t realize how much weather would play into our schedule. Yes, there’s the whole moving-away-from-the-equator factor, but I didn’t realize what a difference elevation makes (see photo comparison between Redding, CA and nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park). Since a lot of this trip is in the mountains, there’s a small window during the year that we can visit comfortably. With our March 3 departure date, I think the timing is going to work out. Spring should arrive before we hit high elevation, and we should have months to explore the northern states before we have to worry about winter.
- The real thing is so much better than photos: I’ve spent four years looking at photos from RV friends, showing breath-taking scenery in Glacier National Park and across Utah. I’m more than ready to see it for myself.
We could use your help with our travel plans. Knowing our general route, what do we have to see? Where should we camp? Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
What about Capital Reef National Park in Utah? That is a fifth one 🙂
You are so right, @gillianhatko:disqus. Guess we’re going to make it five!
Such an incredible list of places! If you’re looking for jeeping you might want to look into the White Rim Road in Canyonlands. The Mount Rushmore KOA was a good home base for us when we visited the Black Hills. The Route of the Hiawatha on the Montana/Idaho border is so much fun. It’s a 15 mile downhill mountain bike trail (it’s an old railroad line so it’s low grade) through some absolutely gorgeous scenery. You ride over trestle bridges and through tunnels. It’s pretty epic. I wrote about it on my blog but there’s also a website with more info. If you haven’t been to southwest Colorado I’d highly recommend you check it out. The four-wheeling in the San Juans near Ouray, Silverton and Durango is out of this world. It’s high elevation though so weather may be an issue in October. Happy planning!
@disqus_6jV76Folkl:disqus, so many good tips! Thank you. Just to confirm, The Route of the Hiawatha is just for mountain biking? It sounds amazing. We have heard lots about SW Colorado from other RVing friends, as well. Not sure we’ll have time to really dig into it, since our focus is going to be Utah. But we may not be able to pass it up…
You can also hike it but I believe biking is more common. It’s basically a jeep road (only open to bikes and people) so it’s not true mountain biking. There’s a shuttle at the bottom that will take you back to the top if you don’t want to hike or bike back up 15 miles.
A couple of stops on the tail end of your trip. You will want to take the train at the Terry Bison Ranch on the WY/CO border. I believe it is the only privately owned “interstate” railroad in the country at this point–the ranch straddles the border, so that little railroad crosses the state line. They sell you bags of pellets that you can actually feed to the bison when they stop the train for them to come over.
There is also a brand new herd of “pure” bison just outside of Ft. Collins (https://www.cpr.org/news/story/small-herd-pure-buffalo-be-released-northern-colorado). I don’t know if they allow you to access them, though.
I live in South Park (along US285 just southwest of Denver), and there are also private bison herds up here–especially at the intersection of CO 9 and US 24. There are also many places to dry camp up here–but at 10,000 feet, snow is going to be a possibility by October.
If you want to meet some wolves up close and personal, there is a wolf rescue (www.rmwf.org) just outside of Guffey, CO. They do only private tours (and operate strictly on a donation basis), so only the people traveling with you would be on your tour. They also let you go INTO the pens with a few of the more social wolves, so you can actually pet them. Probably not a good place to take Baby Nomad, but if you can find daycare, it is a great place to visit!
You also want to make sure to hit the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park while you are here.
Let me know if I can help you with any of your plans out this way!
Taking notes furiously! What great insight. We did Grand Sand Dunes on our last swing through CO, but didn’t make it to Black Canyon.
Honestly the Black Canyon is my favorite of all of Colorado’s National Parks……
@disqus_aKJkyELmzJ:disqus, the public radio link didn’t work. Could you repost? I’m interested.
Try this one: https://www.denverpost.com/2015/10/07/genetically-pure-bison-to-return-to-northern-colorado/
Or this: https://www.thefencepost.com/news/csu-releases-herd-of-genetically-pure-bison-into-soapstone-prairie-natural-area-and-red-mountain-open-space/
Thanks much. Going to see whether we can work this into our route.
Check out Pink Coral Sand Dunes state park in Kanab, Utah . We did 3 hour guided atv tour, outstanding. Saw dinosaur tracks at Mocassin Mountain and the sunset from the top of a sand dune. Johnson Canyon outside Kanab is part of Grand Staircase Escalante. They have hiking information at the visitor center in Kanab. Also Cedar Breaks National Monument is a scenic drive. We spent 3 1/2 weeks in June 2017 doing the Grand Circle in southern Utah. If you can, the white water rafting at Glacier was excellent, just not sure if babynomad up to it yet.
Thank you, @disqus_kAmw6L8DNJ:disqus! It’s starting to sound like we should just camp out in Utah for a couple of years, so we can get to everything.