Exploring the Southwest by camper van is a unique bliss–part camping, part glamping. Pick up the van called Hayduke in Flagstaff and start checking things off your bucket list. Here’s a list of five must see destinations for your road trip in the Southwest.
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon offers jaw dropping views and amazing, virtually unlimited, hiking. It certainly is well deserving of its title as one of the seven natural wonders of the world! The National Park is extremely busy in the summer, but you’ll be able to enjoy the area with much more solitude in the winter. The North Rim receives fewer visitors and is a great add on if you’re visiting the Vermillion Cliff area, but plan on adding a few extra days to make sure you have time to thoroughly explore!
Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki National Monument is home to over 800 ancient Ancestral Puebloan sites. This fascinating site was once a cultural hub when the Hopi and Zuni Puebloan communities inhabited the area. The red rocks make for a gorgeous backdrop as you explore the history of the park. While you’re there, make sure to check out Sunset Crater Volcano, just 20 miles away.
Lake Havasu, known as “Arizona’s Playground” is an ideal launching off place for any sort of water activity or hiking in the Sonoran Desert. Whether you rent a boat, or just go for a swim, the cool lake is sure to be a welcome escape from warm Arizonan temperatures – even in the winter! The lake provides enough activities to keep you busy for days, but don’t miss the fun hikes in the area.
Coconino National Forest
No Southwest road trip would be complete without a visit to the Coconino National Forest, one of the most diverse national forests in the country. As you hike the area, you’ll be able to explore desert and tundra landscapes, red rocks landscapes and ponderosa pine forests. Coconino National Forest is also a good place for dispersed camping, but take note that over use in this area is becoming a major issue. Remember to pack it in, pack it out and follow all fire restrictions and bans. This desert landscape is very fragile and can be damaged easily. After a good night sleep in your van, just start up the engine and you’re ready to get out and keep adventuring! Make sure you and your van companion check out the Scenic Mogollon Rim Drive.
Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen pictures of the iconic “Wave” in Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness. That awe-striking feature is a little hint of all there is to explore in the vast expanse of pristine wilderness in this area. When you visit, you’ll be treated to some of the most interesting hikes and breathtaking night skies in the United States. Many of the hikes require permits and are on Reservation lands, so plan ahead if you want to do one of those hikes!
Whether you’re an experienced van camper or just dipping your toes into vanlife, the desert Southwest is one of the most beautiful places to explore.