We are known for spur-of-the-moment trips, and this was definitely our best so far! After years of planning for the Super Moon to be in just the right spot, Axle knew we had to get to this amazing place. We packed up the Subie and spent the next 60 hours driving from Northern California to the majestic Southwest and back again.
To some this might sound crazy, but if you’re like us, you don’t mind the drive to see some of the most spectacular places in the U.S. If you find yourself in the American Southwest, don’t miss these must-see locations.
Coal Mine Canyon
There are some beautiful places in this world that are still relatively unknown, and Coal Mine Canyon is one of them. A short drive down a dirt road brings you to this gorgeous canyon. The views are spectacular, and there are so many areas to explore. We arrived just as the sun was rising.
We captured some beautiful images of the colored formations and hiked around the area. We highly encourage sunrise chasers and explorers to check out Coal Mine Canyon. Map
Of all the places we’ve visited so far, Monument Valley is one of the most spiritual and unique places we’ve experienced. The lands belong to the Navajo and are well protected; hiking is not allowed to protect and preserve the monuments. You will find some of the most unique sand stone formations here. Mittens, Totem Pole and Elephant are our favorites.
Fans of westerns will recognize some of them; many movies are filmed here because of the beauty and true Southwestern feel of the land. We were lucky during our journey to find a pack of wild horses roaming the area.
The park charges a $35 admission fee, and it’s worth every penny to drive the dirt road and get a closer view of the monuments.
SUV/trucks are encouraged; the road is rough and not well maintained. As you drive through the park, you will meet locals selling their gorgeous handmade jewelry.
The best time to visit the park is mid-spring. If you’re up for a real adventure, wait until snow has fallen for beautiful colors. If you’re staying overnight, we recommend Gouldings Lodge. They have cabins, camping and RV parking. Ask for Scott Laws; he’s a local and very knowledgeable of the area. Make sure and check out the gift shop for handmade jewelry and art by local artists.
While the desert is always a bit warm, winter is really cold. Pack accordingly and wear layers. Axle wore his KÜHL FIREFLY JACKET to stay warm, and Royce stayed cozy and comfortable in the KADENCE JACKET.
If you’re an athlete like Royce, an adventurer, or a movie buff, you have to stop on Gump Hill. This is the spot in the movie Forrest Gump where Forrest stops running. The drive is about 15-20 minutes from Monument Valley and has a large pull out spot so you can take your fun photos or even a quick run! The best times to visit are sunrise and sunset for stunning views of the monuments in the distance.
Teardrop and The Anasazi Ruins
We finished our evening watching the Super Moon rise with friends at Teardrop; this sacred location is only accessible if you’re with a local who’s willing to show you the way. After meticulous planning, all of our calculations were correct, and the moon lined up perfectly. We captured incredible shots that made the land feel even more magical.
Afterwards our good friend and guide took us on a short hike to a truly special place to see some Anasazi Ruins. These are remnants from the Anasazi tribe. The Anasazi, or Ancient Ones, are well known for their architecture. To be so close to these ruins and know the Ancient Ones were once in the same location is something you can’t accurately describe. You must experience it firsthand to truly appreciate the sacredness of this place.
It goes without saying that the preservation of these ruins is highly important and educational for all. Always be respectful of the land. Don’t wander off the main roads and trails, and be considerate of the locals’ way of life. If you want to see some of the hidden gems in this area, take a guided tour.
Just outside Tuba City, AZ, follow the signs for Dinosaur Tracks for a great stop for kids of all ages. A local Navajo family owns the land and is very knowledgeable about the area and the history of the tracks. Take a guided tour and walk right along footprints and fossilized eggs. The owners of this prized piece of land allow tourists to stop here and only ask for a donation. We highly encourage you to leave a tip for the family or support them by purchasing a handmade item.
The Grand Canyon, South Rim
While you’re in the area, take a short detour to magnificent Grand Canyon National Park. Such a beautiful place, you can get lost just looking at it for miles and miles. The canyon is so deep and the ridges are so colorful. It’s hard to explain the feeling you get from standing at the overlook; you have to visit to truly immerse yourself in its beauty and amazement.
Take a drive through the park for some awesome lookout points over the canyon. You’ll never be disappointed; it’s truly an unbelievable sight. Our top spot for views at South Rim is the Desert View Watchtower. There’s also a cute little gift shop and a small cafe open daily for visitors.
Axle and Royce began their adventures together in Spring 2017. After serving in the Air Force, Axle found his passion in photography. Royce is an athlete, an outdoor adventurist and a photographer. They’ve combined forces to inspire others to get outside. Living in Northern California, they’re lucky to be in close proximity to mountains, desert and beach. There’s no shortage of adventure where they live, and there’s no destination they won’t explore. Follow their adventures on Instagram @axleethington and @casunshine0508