Attending Coachella was a long-awaited trip. After the event was canceled for 3 years in a row, we were about to finally let loose and dance away under the hot California sun. Having been cooped up for years, we wanted to take full advantage of this vacation. While others were flying, my friend and adventure buddy Lisa and I decided to drive down to California from Vancouver, Canada.
Let the cross-border adventure begin
The border finally opened to travelers and we were ready to embark on a 2-week road trip that would encompass six states, eight national parks, and the famed music festival. Having researched the weather and road closures, we had a rough plan for our road trip. Black Beauty, my Ford Escape SUV, was packed to the brim with clothing for all seasons and we hit the open road.
We breezed right through Washington and stopped for the night in Portland, Oregon. We had a lot of ground to cover and wanted to get south as fast as possible to enjoy the warmer weather. April in Oregon is still rather chilly. In fact, we had to traverse a snowy path to access our first stop, McCredie Hot Springs. The geothermal water soothed our cold bodies while beanies kept our heads warm.
The first major disappointment
One doesn’t normally think that snow will ruin their plans in April, but if you’re touring through mountain passes, think again. We had high hopes of visiting Crater Lake National Park; however, due to an unseasonably cold bout, the park had just received 6 feet of snow, closing the access road. Sad, but not defeated, we continued on our way.
Since we weren’t able to explore Crater Lake, we had extra time for a scenic picnic lunch at Hedge Creek Falls. A short hike from the parking lot, it was the perfect place to both stretch our legs and enjoy a relaxing lunch behind the falls. Thankfully, we hadn’t booked a spot to stay that night, so we decided to drive further than planned in order to have more time at Yosemite National Park the following day.
The familiar beauty of the Pacific Northwest
I grew up in the coastal rainforest of Vancouver, and Yosemite reminded me a lot of British Columbia. As we drove the winding roads surrounded by trees, Lisa and I agreed that we could just as easily be back home. For anyone unfamiliar with lush, green forests, sky-high trees and cascading waterfalls, Yosemite is a must.
We weren’t able to see all of Yosemite, but what we did see was majestic. We drove through the Sierra National Forest on our way to stop in Fresno, California, for the night. Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park were on the agenda for the next day, and they didn’t disappoint. We had a blast exploring these parks, feeling dwarfed by the giant trees. We ran through the Fallen Monarch tree, hiked to the top of Moro Rock, and drove through the iconic Tunnel Log not once, but several times.
One advantage of visiting these national parks in April is that they weren’t crowded. There wasn’t even a line to stand in front of General Sherman, the world’s largest tree. We were able to get all of the photos we wanted without anyone else in sight. While some of the roads may have been closed, I think we saw a lot more because the park wasn’t crowded. We certainly got our fill of forest bathing before we arrived in Palm Desert.
Itching to get back on the road
This was one of those instances where the journey far surpassed the destination. The catalyst for this road trip was attending Coachella. It may have been the reason for the trip, but it wasn’t the highlight. Not even close. Unfortunately, it was a letdown. We made the best of it, enjoyed our Airbnb, and geared up for the drive back home. Truth be told, the route home was the part that Lisa and I were most excited about. Having seen pictures of Utah’s red rocks, deep canyons, and hoodoos, we couldn’t wait to see it all first-hand.
Leaving Indio, California, we spent the entire day driving to get as close to Zion National Park as possible. After all, we were going to visit both Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks on the same day. We spent the night in a tiny home at Zion’s Tiny Getaways, and it was adorable. The bedroom had a skylight for stargazing, but sadly it was an overcast evening.
Up bright and early, we headed to Zion National Park. Thankfully, there’s a lot that you can see by simply driving through the parks and stopping at the main scenic points on the park’s maps. We aren’t big hikers so we didn’t feel like we missed out by skipping the 5-mile hikes.
After Zion, we headed to Bryce Canyon National Park—all I can say is, Wow. I was in awe of the landscape presented to us at every turn. The same can be said for the next day when we drove through Capitol Reef and Canyonlands national parks. Again, due to a lack of crowds, we were able to view the famed Mesa Arch without anyone else in our way. We even enjoyed a picnic overlooking one of the vast canyons.
Our final stop was Arches National Park and we continued to be amazed by what we saw. While it was a whirlwind few days, I’m glad we decided to try and do it all. Just don’t ask me to pick a favorite park because that’s impossible.
Heading back home, we stopped for what we thought would be a brief moment at the Bonneville Salt Flats and ended up spending hours there. We walked on the flats, drove on them, did donuts, and took photos with random props we found. Black Beauty looked like we’d driven her through a snowstorm by the time we left. After giving her a much-needed car wash, our final stop was Shoshone Falls Park in Idaho to break up the long drive back home.
Our 16-day road trip was full of adventure and we certainly learned the value of being flexible and adapting when plans fell apart. I’m grateful for this experience and for having the best road trip buddy anyone could ask for.