Kingsville, Texas to Whidbey Island, Washington Road Trip
My husband and I embarked on a 16-day journey from Kingsville, TX to our new place of dwelling in Washington state. I had decided if we were going to drive this 2500 mile trek (and drive two cars at that), we were going to make a trip out of it. And that we did.
DAY ONE: KINGSVILLE, TEXAS to TERLINGUA, TEXAS
Our first day we spent nine hours driving from Kingsville to Terlingua, Texas. For being a ten hour day in total, it was not an awful drive. We went up through San Antonio, and pretty much after San Antonio the drive became quite scenic. West Texas is comprised of rolling hills, oil rigs, mesas, buttes, and windmills. We stopped in Kerrville (about 3.5 hours out), Bakersfield (about 6.5 hours out), and Fort Stockton (about 7 hours out). The last two hours of our drive were especially pretty, as we passed by the Davis Mountains and then the mountains around Big Bend at sunset. The sky painted the most beautiful pastel blues and pinks, to then turning a fiery rainbow as the sun sank beneath the mountains gave us a great welcome to Terlingua.
We arrived after dark at our lodging for the night: a glamping-style Lotus tent with Basecamp Terlingua. Our tent was very spacious, with AC, a space heater, a queen size bed, two lamps, running water in a sink, a refrigerator, and a Keurig. There are heated, clean bathrooms about 20 feet away as well.
DAY TWO: BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK to ALPINE, TEXAS
We woke up to a frosty morning in the high 20s, and the most gorgeous sun rising behind the mountains. We enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate outside and then made our way into the park. For breakfast we grabbed some quick food from the Big Bend Motor Inn Store and Restaurant. It wasn’t anything fancy but there are not too many options out there!
We drove about an hour into the park to the Chisos Basin. The Chisos are a stunning mountain range, with jagged peaks and strange rock formations. There was also an unprecedented amount of snow; according to a park ranger it had not snowed this much since the 1980s! Of course, cacti abound throughout the park. Our favorite were the Purplish Cacti (which is apparently the actual name). We hiked the 4.8 mile out-and-back Lost Mine Trail. It did pretty consistently climb uphill, but it was not too strenuous. Basically the entire hike gave sweeping views of Casa Grande, Juniper Canyon, Pine Canyon, and Sierra del Carmen. We really enjoyed this hike. We then walked along the paved, 0.4 mile Window View Trail. This simple trail gave us fantastic views of what they call “the window”, two mountains framing a valley view.
We stayed at a Hampton Inn in Alpine, Texas, a small town about an hour outside of Big Bend. The town has several local restaurants, some gas stations, and a food mart. We ate at Reata Restaurant which was very good.
DAY THREE: ALPINE, TEXAS to EL PASO, TEXAS
Our hotel offered a limited breakfast, so we just grabbed food there before heading on to El Paso. This day we only drove about 3 hours out to El Paso, so we made more stops along the way. Our first was in Marfa, an eclectic hipster town in seemingly the middle of nowhere. There were a shocking amount of coffee shops. I bought a horchata latte and cinnamon toast from Do Your Thing coffee. Both were pretty good (if pretty pricey). On the way out to El Paso we stopped at the iconic Prada Marfa.
Upon arriving to El Paso, we drove into the Franklin Mountains State Park. I had never really heard of these mountains prior to about a day before us arriving, but they were cool! We hiked the 4 mile Mundy’s Gap, a slight uphill climb with open views of the surrounding mountain and El Paso. We stayed at the Tru by Hilton in El Paso, which was conveniently located adjacent to a Walmart and Julio’s Mexican Food (where we ate for dinner).
DAY FOUR: EL PASO, TEXAS to TUCSON, ARIZONA to SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA
We got up and out on this fourth day to begin our 7-hour drive to Scottsdale. Just a heads up: there is near to nothing from Los Cruces, New Mexico until just outside of Tucson, Arizona. The drive to Tucson wasn’t awful, even though it was pretty desolate. Mountains always lined the horizon, and the vast emptiness was different if anything.
We arrived in Tucson around 2pm at our first stop, the Pima Air and Space Museum. This museum has over 350 different aircraft in their six hangars and sprawling outdoors area. I am not a huge plane person and I thought this place was very interesting. There are three hangars devoted soley to World War II planes, tons of prototype and early verions of current day USA planes, and a bunch of other aircraft from other countries too (like Russian MiGs and German fighters from WWII). My favorite planes are the SR-71 and the Super Guppy.
After wandering around the museum for a couple of hours, we drove out to Saguaro National Park East for the sunset. There were very few people inside the park that we had to share with. I visited both Saguaro parks (there is an East and a West) last year around this exact same time, and the massive cacti were just as impressive again. Fun fact: the saguaro cactus only grows about one foot every ten years. So the cacti with multiple “arms” are at least 75 years old oftentimes! We wandered along the Loma and Squeeze Pin trail before heading into Scottsdale.
DAY FIVE and SIX: SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA
We spent all of the following two days in Scottsdale, Arizona with family. Neither of us had ever been to Scottsdale and were pleasantly surprised. Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale all sit within about 15 minutes of each other, giving the traveler many activities to do.
Our first day, we spent the morning walking around the sprawling Papago Park. This park consists of a myriad of intertwining dirt trails that wander in, up, and around massive red rocks. It was easy for us to spend two hours just walking. The most famous park of this park is probably the Hole in the Rock, a self-explanatory name of a rock with a big hole in it that overlooks the surrounding area. Papago park is dog-friendly, and is adjacent to the Desert Botanical Gardens (which I’ve heard are quite nice).
We lounged in the sun of our rental house backyard for a few hours before heading back out again to hike Camelback Mountain. This mountain was actually visible from our rental, and while it looked big it did not look that big. We were wrong. We hiked the Echo Trail up to the top (well my brother and husband did, I stopped part way up). This trail is extremely steep and rocky. While climbing up is not too straining for those who are in shape, going back down is extremely steep. There are railings on a small portion of the hike, but the majority of it is just rocks. The views even part way up the top are amazing though. Well worth the hike.
We enjoyed a great steak dinner cooked by my dad outside at our VRBO.
Our second day in Scottsdale beheld another glorious day of 70s and sunshine. My brother and I walked to Echo Coffeefor a yummy latte. I liked how they also had free dog treats and paper and pens to write letters to hospital patients. The whole family then went to Morning Squeeze for breakfast. They had delicious food and were dog friendly. Morning Squeeze is right by Old Scottsdale, a very walkable shopping area.
My mom, my husband, our schnoodle, and I then drove out to the Superstitions Mountains. These mountains boast some odd rock pilings, and a few hoodoos. We hiked the Peralta Trail to Fremont Saddle. An out-and-back with a steady climb, this trail carries on far past the Saddle where we stopped. The entire hike is in a beautiful valley, which eventually climbs above the tree line and ends at a sweeping vantage point of the valley and this massive rock structure. I do not know what is was called. Hence why I will insert a picture here. Keep in mind though, it is very dry in Scottsdale so bring plenty of water.
We spent the rest of the evening eating nachos and (for me) icing my sore Achille’s.
DAY SEVEN: SCOTTSDALE to GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
We spent the morning hanging around the house in Scottsdale, eating eggs and oranges, watching online church, and playing bocci ball in the backyard. My mom and I walked around Old Scottsdale a bit too, stopping at Cartel Coffee Lab. My husband and I then proceeded on to our four hour drive to the Grand Canyon.
We stayed at The Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon, which was about 2 minutes from the park entrance at the South Rim, very reasonably priced, and very nice. We watched the sunset from Mather Point inside the park. The sky turned the most beautiful rainbow color with the fading light. Well worth it. For dinner, we grabbed a to-go pizza from We Cook Pizza & Pasta. Although the price was a little steep, the pizza satisfied us.
DAY EIGHT: GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
We got up early in attempt to see the sunrise in the park, but clouds occluded the sky and the sunrise was a bit anticlimactic. We grabbed some food from the Bright Angel Café inside of the park, and walked about a mile along the Rim Trail to the Yavapai Geology Museum. The Rim Trail is up to 13 miles one-way of paved, minimal elevation gain trail running alongside the canyon. Some parts, like Mather Point, are more crowded due to their proximity to the visitors center and parking lot, while others were much less crowded with the same stunning views.
After walking to and from the geology museum, we went by car down the Rim Trail until we reached the end at Hermit’s Rest. There were plenty of points to stop, park, and walk around. I loved how many easily accessible vantage points there were along the entire rim of the canyon.
We grabbed some food for lunch in a surprisingly well-stocked general store within the park, and then rented bikes from Bright Angel Bike Rentals. We had so much fun and were able to see so much more of the canyon from our two hours on bikes. We were able to bike the South Kaibab trail to Yaki Point, with many stops along the way, in under two hours. We watched a spectacular sunset from the geology museum. It was probably one of the most vibrant sunsets I’ve ever seen.
DAY NINE: GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK to CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
Driving. Lots of driving. But probably the best eight hour drive one could have, if one is to drive eight hours.
We left the Grand Canyon at 7:30am and drove through Flagstaff to Monument Valley, and then up through Mexican Hat and over to Capitol Reef. It snowed a decent amount in Flagstaff, and then on and off for the rest of the drive. I don’t really even know the words to describe this drive besides lots of rock formations, valleys, canyons, mesas, buttes, red rocks, strange rock structures, lots of open space, cows alongside the road, very entertaining scenery, desolate but stunning, and long. Pictures shall have to do.
We stopped a lot within the last two hours to our hotel, because we were the only ones on the road and the landscape just intrigued us. Southern Utah looks like an entirely different planet. I do not know the names of all the places we got out, but I do know Glen Canyon Recreational site was one of them. Unfortunately, Monument Valley was closed due to covid and it snowed during our drive on road passing by the structures so we did not even see much of the buttes.
We finally arrived at our hotel, The Capitol Reef Resort, around 5:30. The resort has motel-style room set-ups but our room was nice and clean. The resort also has a restaurant (with surprisingly good food), a gift shop, a fire pit, hot tub and pool, and fitness center. There were maybe ten other people staying at the resort this time of year, so we had it almost to ourselves.
DAY TEN: CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
We had planned on spending this entire day in Capitol Reef, exploring the many dirt roads and rocky hikes unique to this park. Attempting to catch a sunrise, we headed out to the Goosneck Overlook. This overlook is named after the winding river carving out the canyon walls seen from the viewpoint. It is only a 0.1 mile walk, basically right next to the parking lot.
Next, we hiked the Hickman Bridge Trail, a 1.8 mile out-and-back to an impressive natural bridge. The hike itself climbs up moderately steep for a short amount of time, placing you up on top of a more exposed area with fantastic views of the surrounding formations. Of course the bridge itself is cool too.
We had planned on driving up to the cathedrals area a few hours away inside the park, but unfortunately had to alter our plans due to a contact lense shard stuck in my eye. We ended up driving 70 minutes into Richfield, Utah so I could go to the Mountain View Vision Center. If you ever have an eyeball emergency in Utah, go to this practice! They were so kind, working me in very quickly, and the doctor was so helpful. He really took his time to determine the problem and help me solve it.
After our slight derailing of the day, we ended up driving an hour up a dirt road in the park to go hike Headquarter’s Canyon. I hyperlinked someone else’s really good blog post that describes this hike well. The drive is on a dirt road for a good portion, but it is extremely scenic. This hike is located in the Waterpocket District (a fold in the Earth’s crust) south of the main park (highway 24 and the scenic drive loop). It is a very remote, rugged region of the park with no water or services (or really anything for that matter). This hike is only 2.5 miles but packs in a lot of sights. It wanders across a flat field for a bit, then into a wash that takes you through a short slot canyon that opens up into a wider and much taller canyon.
After this hike, we took the truck off-roading up to the Strike Valley Overlook. This overlook took about another hour to drive to (from the dirt road by Headquarter’s Canyon), but the actual hike to the overlook is only 0.6 miles roundtrip. This hike begins after driving the Burr Trail road, a very steep and sharply turning road, and about 3 miles of off-roading. The overlook gives viewers a vast, sweeping view of the 100-mile valley and cliffs.
DAY ELEVEN: CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK to GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK
Our time in Capitol Reef ended with a short hike around “the castle”, an iconic, blocky rock right next to the visitor’s center. This is not an official hike anymore (probably due to the massive propensity for rock slides it appears to have), but it is marked fairly well still. The trail begins going up a wash in a canyon, and then climbs up to the back side of the castle. Behind the castle lie hoodoos, spires, and mammoth boulders.
We then packed up and began the four-hour drive to Great Basin National Park in Baker, Nevada. We stopped for lunch in Richfield at The Ideal Dairy, a local shop with many different sandwich and milkshake offerings.
I found the drive to Baker very interesting, if extremely vast and desolate. Besides a handful of miniscule towns, the majority of the drive had nothing but wide open land, cows, and mountains.
We stayed at The Stargazer Inn in Baker, Nevada. This inn is owned by two partners from New York (who also own and run the restaurant located by the inn) and is located less than 10 minutes from Great Basin National Park. There is also a very friendly hairless cat that roams the property. The town of Baker is highly seasonal, and The Border Inn was the only restaurant open during our time there. Due to it being winter, much of the park roads were closed off to cars so we just wandered around the snowy campsites.
DAY TWELVE: GREAT BASIN NATIONAL PARK to TWIN FALLS, IDAHO
We got up with the sunrise and headed out into the chilly national park to do some snowshoeing before leaving for Idaho. The pristine, untouched snow seemed to sparkle in the rising sunlight as we trekked through the pine trees. Great Basin is known for Mount Wheeler, the highest peak in Nevada, ancient bristlecone pine trees, alpine lakes, and the only glacier in Nevada. Admittedly we did not get to see any of these things due to the park being mostly closed off for the winter, but we had a great time wandering around the Upper Lehman Campsite trails. There is an actual formal trail that branches off from the campgrounds to a lake, but we just wandered around the river that flowed around the sites.
We then began the five-hour drive to Twin Falls, Idaho. There was not much on this drive besides mountains in the distance and open, yellow fields. We grabbed breakfast at Hunter’s in Ely, and that was pretty much the biggest town till we hit Twin Falls.
We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Twin Falls. We visited Shoshone Falls (the “Niagara of the West”) these gorgeous waterfalls on the Snake River, ate sandwiches from Capriotti’s, and called it a day.
DAY THIRTEEN: TWIN FALLS, IDAHO to JOSEPH, OREGON
From Captiol Reef and onwards is really where this roadtrip began to go off the beaten path. My husband found the quaint mountainside (and lakeside) town of Joseph, Oregon by looking at Google Maps images, finding a neat looking mountain range with a lake, and searching bed and breakfasts nearby. Thus we ended up staying this night at the Kokanee Inn in Joseph, Oregon. The six-hour drive from Twin Falls to Joseph started out a little dull on the interstate but within two hours the scenery became more lively with snowy mountains, winding rivers, and bucolic countrysides. We stopped for coffee at Mountain Timber Coffee in Meridian, Idaho, a surprisingly cute and delicious coffee shop.
Back to Joseph, this small town is located right by Wallowa Lake State Park. This pristine, crystalline lake is surrounding by miles of hiking trails, towering 9000 foot tall mountains, and tons of beautiful views.
Konakee Inn is a bed and breakfast located less than a mile from the lake, and within walking distance of delicious restaurants in town. The inn is hosted by a very kind couple who cooks yummy breakfast in the morning, helps guests with hiking and food recommendations, and make everyone feel welcome. The inn is a large, modern rustic house with several bedrooms, common areas, and outdoor decks and balconies. We loved our stay.
We walked around Wallowa Lake for a bit, then had a wonderful dinner at The Dog Spot. This restaurant is actually a pet-accessories shop combined with an eatery. The owners are a husband and wife who frequently vacationed in Joseph before deciding to open up their own place. They serve a new menu every 1-2 weeks of fresh, whole-food meals. The husband does all of the cooking himself, which is pretty amazing.
DAY FOURTEEN: JOSEPH, OREGON à LEAVENWORTH, WASHINGTON
We had a delicious breakfast of maple-pecan French toast before heading over to the Bavarian tourist town of Leavenworth, Washington. The six hour drive became progressively snowier, and upon arriving to Leavenworth the ground had become completely blanketed in a fresh layer of white snow. We stayed at the Alpine Rivers Inn, which although dated, is situated right along the river and every room has a balcony view. We wandered around downtown Leavenworth, which was still decked out in all of its Christmas lights from the holiday season.
DAY FIFTEEN: LEAVENWORTH, WASHINGTON à NEW HOME
When we woke up, the sun was brilliantly shining upon all of the fresh, white snow. We grabbed coffee (and toasted marshmallow hot chocolate) from Argonaut’s, a little espresso stand on the corner of the downtown area. Nothing is open in Washington at this time for dining in, so we ate waffles from a local restaurant sitting outside in the snow. I also bought a cortado from J5, and it also was delicious. Waterfront Park and Blackbird Island are located right behind the downtown strip, although with how quiet the parks are it was hard to tell they were located so close to the bustling downtown. There are several walking trails running alongside the river and through the snowy woods. We walked along this trail until the time came for our Leavenworth Reindeer Farm tour. This farm lies about a 7-minute drive from the central part of town and is home to many reindeer. The tour is about an hour long and includes an informative talk about reindeer, time feeding the deer, and hot chocolate or apple cider. We enjoyed our tour and getting to be so up close to the reindeer. After our tour we began the drive to our new home. We had a great time seeing all the sights of southwestern America and are so thankful for being able to take this roadtrip!
Big Bend Links
https://basecampterlingua.com/ Basecamp Terlingua
https://www.bigbendresort.com/cafe-and-store Big Bend Motor Inn Store and Restaurant
https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/mountain_hikes.htm Chisos Basin Hiking Trails
https://www.reata.net/alpine/ Reata Restaurant
https://www.reservations.com/hotel/hampton-inn-alpine?rmcid=tophotels5&utm_source=googleads&gclid=Cj0KCQiA9P__BRC0ARIsAEZ6irhtj0D5_i7P98aCOf0XTksGcxEhpiXtvNV_FfMgK6rxetA8T-xNr58aAqhAEALw_wcB Hampton Inn Alpine
Marfa/El Paso Links
https://www.doyourthing.us/ Do Your Thing coffee
https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/franklin-mountains Franklin Mountains State Park
https://www.juliosmexicanfood.com/ Julio’s Mexican Food
https://pimaair.org/plan-your-visit/general-admission/ Pima Air and Space Museum
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_SR-71_Blackbird Lockheed SR-71
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aero_Spacelines_Super_Guppy#:~:text=The%20Aero%20Spacelines%20Super%20Guppy,for%20hauling%20outsize%20cargo%20components.&text=The%20Super%20Guppy%20is%20%22the,of%20the%20Saturn%20V%20rocket. Super Guppy
https://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm Saguaro National Park East
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/camelback-mountain-via-echo-canyon-trail Camleback Mountain via Echo Trail
https://www.echocoffee.shop/ Echo Coffee
https://morningsqueeze.com/scottsdale/ Morning Squeeze
https://www.experiencescottsdale.com/old-town/ Old Scottsdale
https://www.cartelcoffeelab.com/ Cartel Coffee Lab
https://www.grandcanyongrandhotel.com/ Grand Hotel at the Grand Canyon
http://wecookpizzaandpasta.com/ We Cook Pizza and Pasta
https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/day-hiking.htm Grand Canyon Hiking Trails
https://bikegrandcanyon.com/bike-rentals/ Bright Angel Bike Rentals
https://bikegrandcanyon.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/websiteversion3.pdf Grand Canyon Bike Trails
https://navajonationparks.org/tribal-parks/monument-valley/ Monument Valley
https://capitolreefresort.com/ Capitol Reef Resort
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/hickman-bridge-trail Hickman Bridge Trail
http://www.mountainviewvisioncenter.com/ Mountain View Vision Center
https://www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/capitol-reef/strike-valley-overlook Strike Valley Overlook
https://the-ideal-dairy.business.site/ The Ideal Dairy
https://www.stargazernevada.com/ The Stargazer Inn
http://huntersdrivethru.com/ Hunter’s Drive Inn
https://www.nps.gov/grba/index.htm Great Basin National Park
https://www.tfid.org/309/Shoshone-Falls Shoshone Falls
https://mt-timber-coffee.business.site/#details Mountain Timber Coffee
https://www.kokaneeinn.com/ Kokanee Inn
https://www.lovethedogspot.com/ The Dog Spot
https://www.alpineriversinn.com/ Alpine Rivers Inn
https://www.leavenworthreindeer.com/ Leavenworth Reindeer Farm
http://www.argonautespressobar.com/ Argonaut Espresso
https://www.j5coffee.com/ J5 Coffee
https://leavenworth.org/ Leavenworth, Washington