Bryce Zion Campground

For our trips to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, we decided to stay at the Bryce Zion Campground.  Since we didn’t pack all of our camping gear, we reserved one of their Kozy Kamping Kabins.  The Kabin was a super cute log cabin with a double bed and twin bunk beds.  Keep in mind, this is in place of a tent and not much bigger than one.  Actually, our family tent is bigger than the cabin but this was for convenience.  The cabins do not have anything besides the beds and a tiny desk and chair.  Outside, there is a small bench and porch at each cabin, a grill, a firepit, and a picnic table.  We did bring some of our essential camp cooking supplies as we were planning on camp cooking for this portion of the trip. There is a communal camp bathroom with showers which was always very clean.  The property had horses that are usually used for trail rides.  There was a sign saying rides were temporarily suspended but the horses were fun to watch and pet anyway.  They had ice and firewood for sale and a small convenience mart with some food and toiletries.

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The biggest NEGATIVE to staying here…they never told us that we were supposed to supply our own bedding.  We’ve never stayed in the cabins before so we didn’t know.  I called the day of check in, as we were driving between parks, to see what time we could check in.  They informed me at that point that we supplied the bedding.  There was nowhere for us to buy bedding without going 50+ miles out of our way.  They ended up having a bedding set for the double bed that we could rent.  Luckily, we had Poppy (dad’s dad) with us and we were able to forage enough blankets out of his truck for the girls’ bedding.  Providing our own bedding was not an issue but we needed to know that was the deal!  I have since checked their website and our confirmation emails and it doesn’t state that anywhere…so if you ever stay somewhere like this, be sure to double check!

But overall, we really like the location and the cabin was a great place to stay if you want the camping experience without hauling the tent out.

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Grand Canyon

Last spring, we crossed the Grand Canyon National Park off of our bucket list.  We went in mid May.  The daytime weather was perfect for hiking but it got pretty cold at night.  We tent camp and weren’t using air mattresses so we were freezing at night!  Our last morning, we woke to SNOW! In ARIZONA!  We knew in theory that it snowed in AZ but since we’re in southern part of that state, we don’t see it.  It was fun for the girls but a pain trying to get everything packed up.

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We camped in Mather Campground inside the park.  It was a great campground!  We were able to get a site near the potty which was important with A.  Really big campsites with picnic table and fire rings.  The best part?  The wildlife came to us!  There were deer and elk literally walking right through our camp.  The girls and I were amazed.  Dad was less than thrilled as he is a hunter and felt they were taunting him!

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The visitor center is huge with an awesome map of the Canyon spanning the wall.  They have short movies to watch and exhibits with various Canyon features.  We started off our hiking by doing the rim trail to Mather Point that is right off the visitor center.  It’s a short walk but gives you a great first look at the Canyon.  Our big hike this trip was The Bright Angel Trail.  We went as far as the 1.5 mile resthouse (3 miles roundtrip, 1120 ft one way elevation change).  Both girls were in backpack carriers.  The way down, you feel great…like you could go the whole way!  Dad wanted to keep going but I put the kibosh on that and after our snack/potty break, suggested we head back up.  Good thing too because you really feel that elevation change on the way back up…our calves were killing us.  But we made it!

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We also did the Desert View scenic drive.  There were a lot of scenic pullouts on this drive, mostly just ‘side of the road stuff’ and not many small trails to take but that’s because the road is literally on the edge of the canyon.  We went to a museum of ruins that is on this drive and it gave a nice break to get out of the car, run around, and of course, see the ruins! The drive ends at the Desert View Watchtower which you can climb for a top view of the canyon  (this is also a visitor center and snack shop now).

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We loved our visit to the Grand Canyon and there are just no words to describe how you feel looking over it for the first time.  It is truly one of the wonders of the world and I am so glad we were able to experience it and show it to our children!

Look for our next National Parks posts in August…we’re visiting 3 Utah parks in July!!

Saguaro National Park

Most people have a life bucket list or a travel bucket list.  While there are plenty of places in the world that we would love to visit, there are so many amazing places right here in the United States!  Our travel bucket list is to visit all of our National Parks.  We started before we had kids and we are continuing with them….they love hiking and camping too!  There are 59 National Parks and so far, we have been to about 10 with 3 more planned this summer.  We are chipping away at that list.

Our most recent trip was in March.  We visited Saguaro National Park near Tucson AZ for my 30th birthday trip.  I consider myself a mountain, forest kind of girl so I was not expecting to love Saguaro as much as I did.  It just proves that there is beauty in everything.

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For this trip, we stayed in the Tucson Mountain District of the park (there are 2 sides to this park, separated by the city of Tucson).  Technically, there is no camping IN the park but we stayed at the Gilbert Ray Campground which is minutes from the park visitor center.  The campsites are a good size but it should be noted that they are surrounded by cacti. Obviously, I should have been expecting that since we were in a CACTUS park but I just didn’t think of it.  We strategically placed our coolers around the edges of our site to keep the kids from accidentally running or falling into a cactus.  Mom was the only one who got stuck this trip.

The Red Hills Visitor Center was a really awesome place to visit.  They have a few museum type attractions, including a mini desert habitat and cactus ‘bones’.  There is also a walking trail around the visitor center that was really great to get the kids used to walking a lot and give them an overview of the different cacti and wildlife.

One of our favorite way to explore the National Parks with kiddos is doing scenic drives with small trails sprinkled throughout.  At Saguaro, we did the West Bajada Loop drive.  We got out and did the Signal Hill Trail to see the petroglyphs and had a picnic in what the girls dubbed “a three little pigs house”.   We did one longer hike that we believe was “Panther Peak Wash” but it wasn’t marked so we aren’t 100% sure (the really huge cacti in the pictures above were on this trail).  This was A’s first long hike by herself (not being carried in a backpack like K) and she did awesome!  We did about 2 miles roundtrip.

Other places we visited this trip and highly recommend were:

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: They had a great program where the kids get a booklet to collect animal track stamps throughout the museum (it is more like a zoo with live animals) and if they complete it, they get a Nature Tracker Badge at the end.

Trail Dust Town: An old west kind of town. GREAT steakhouse. Gold Panning. A few small rides. Stunt show. It is free to get in and most attractions are free as well.  [Old Tucson is a similar type place that is closer to the Nat’l Park but it is pretty expensive to get in and then all attractions are extra.]

Hiking and camping with kids is definitely different than it was pre-kids but we don’t let it stop us and you shouldn’t either!