Contents
  1. 1. Itinerary
    1. 1.1. Day 1: Joshua Tree National Park
    2. 1.2. Day 2-3: Grand Canyon National Park
      1. 1.2.1. Day 4 Part 1 (Morning)
    3. 1.3. Day 4 Part 2: Hoover Dam
    4. 1.4. Day 5: Death Valley National Park
  2. 2. Driving Route
  3. 3. Total Expenses

This content was automatically generated by gpt-4-turbo-preview (No human review). The original post is in Chinese.

This was the first time cuihao and I took our car for a road trip, and it was also the first time we planned a road trip ourselves. Over 5 days and 4 nights, we visited 3 national parks, and everything went smoothly. We wished to continue for a few more days, but due to sore legs that made hiking impossible, we reluctantly decided to head home a day early.

Itinerary

Day 1: Joshua Tree National Park

Links:

Spots:

  • Hidden Valley Nature Trail (Hiking, 1.6km, 29min)
  • Ryan Mountain Trail (Hiking, 4.8km, 2h)
  • Skull Rock Nature Trail (No Hiking, 2.7km, 48min)
  • Split Rock
  • Cholla Cactus Garden

Accommodation:

  • Haviland Rest Area Eastbound (overnight parking legal)

Time Table:

On the first night, we slept in our car at a highway rest area, which was our first experience sleeping in a vehicle. The rest area was quite noisy, brightly lit, and often visited by large trucks that kept their engines running. The weather was cold, around 2-4 degrees at night. After folding down the rear seats of our car, we found the space wasn’t that large. Cuihao couldn’t lie flat, so he slept in the passenger seat. I slept in the back, but kept sliding towards the trunk due to the incline; my legs constantly pressing against the trunk door made it impossible to relax my muscles. Sleeping in the car was a rather poor experience.

Day 2-3: Grand Canyon National Park

Day 2

Links:

Spots:

  • Rim Trail (Easy hiking)
  • Desert View Drive (Drive)

Camping: Mather Campground limited opening (~30 spots)

Day 2 at the Grand Canyon National Park was our first visit here, and the scenery was indeed spectacular. We arrived at the park around 11am and managed to grab a first-come-first-serve campsite at Mather Campground. This prompted us to decide on camping here for two nights. In the afternoon, we drove through several viewpoints along desert view drive, watched the sunset, and took plenty of tourist photos. (Disconnected for two days, I finally got online!

Day 3

Hiking: South Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch (Hard hiking)

Day 3 on the South Kaibab Trail, we spent another full day at the Grand Canyon, hiking. The three of us started at the trail head around 9:00 am and returned by around 4:30 pm. We had intended to reach the Kaibab Trail Suspension Bridge but, concerned about the return journey time, we decided to turn back 1km away from the bridge at 12:15. Surprisingly, the ascent took far less time than the descent—twice as fast, allowing us to finish over an hour earlier than expected. This was the longest, most beautiful hike I have ever done. The views we saw while hiking were much more varied and richer than those from the rim. (The weather forecast showed it was minus 10 degrees last night. We wrapped ourselves in several layers of sleeping bags and blankets inside the tent and thankfully didn’t freeze. Waking up to find ice on the tent, this was my first winter camping experience, and it felt more comfortable than sleeping in the car since my vehicle doesn’t lay flat…

Day 4 Part 1 (Morning)

Spots:

  • Hermit Road (Drive)

Day 4 still at Grand Canyon NP, we woke up early hoping to catch the sunrise but it had started snowing. The past two days were sunny, but today was cloudy/snowy, and the Grand Canyon was shrouded in thick fog. We missed the sunrise but the glow in the west was still nice. We drove to a few viewpoints on Hermit Drive. After somewhat getting tired of the same scenery and facing bad weather, we decided to leave half a day early. So, by 10 am, we returned to the campsite to pack up, and by 11 am, left the Grand Canyon, heading to Hoover Dam.

Day 4 Part 2: Hoover Dam

Spots: Hoover Dam (Easy hiking)

  • Official Map
  • Free Parking: Boulder Dam Bridge parking / or Arizona Side
  • Parking Garage & Arizona Pay Lot ($10)

Accommodation:

  • Quality Inn, Boulder City

Originally planned to hike the Arizona Hot Spring trail near Hoover Dam tomorrow. I’ve seen the hot springs from the river while kayaking and wanted to hike down from the top this time. Due to pushing ourselves too hard yesterday, we’re experiencing soreness in our calves, making walking a challenge, similar to post-marathon pain, forcing us to cancel the plan. The last destination is Death Valley. Last night’s tent sleep was somewhat warmer, but after three consecutive days of sleeping in the car/tent, I haven’t showered in three days. Hence, we arrived at the hotel around 5 pm today, finally able to sleep on a bed and take a hot shower, as well as enjoy some internet and phone time. /::D

Day 5: Death Valley National Park

Links:

Plan:

  • Hoover Dam → Death Valley Junction (Drive 2h10min, 120mi)
  • → Zabriskie Point (Drive 25min, 26mi)
  • → Badwater Basin (Drive 23min, 18mi)
  • → Artist’s Palette (Drive 17min, 10mi)
  • → Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Drive 21min, 11mi)
  • → Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (Drive 25min, 23mi)
  • → Father Crowley Overlook (Drive 46min, 41mi)
  • → Home (Drive 5h, 290mi)

Spots:

  • Zabriskie Point
  • Badwater Basin
  • Artists Drive
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
  • Father Crowley Vista Point

Day 5 Death Valley National Park, today, we drove from Boulder City to Death Valley, experiencing various weathers along the way: rain, snow, fog, and clouds. Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the continental US and also the hottest and driest. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, at 86 meters below sea level. We left Death Valley around 4:30 pm to head home, concluding our 5-day, 4-night road trip. Today was the longest driving distance and duration.

Driving Route

Below is the driving route we actually took, recreated from memory by cuihao after returning home: Google Map Link

Total Expenses

Spending 5 days out, it took another two days to sort out gear, do laundry, clean, and rest… This includes airing out the tent, sleeping bags, and cleaning hiking boots, etc… Then, there’s the three days spent planning and buying equipment before heading out, spread out over a week. So essentially, a 5-day trip required another 5 days of preparation at home… Mainly because we were newbies, we were extra cautious, making detailed plans ahead of time. Thankfully, the trip went smoothly, and we completed it safely. Driving 1500 miles in total, the two of us spent around $300 on accommodation, fuel, and food (excluding outdoor equipment).

Contents
  1. 1. Itinerary
    1. 1.1. Day 1: Joshua Tree National Park
    2. 1.2. Day 2-3: Grand Canyon National Park
      1. 1.2.1. Day 4 Part 1 (Morning)
    3. 1.3. Day 4 Part 2: Hoover Dam
    4. 1.4. Day 5: Death Valley National Park
  2. 2. Driving Route
  3. 3. Total Expenses