The Bear Den - Sleeps up to 10
The Bear Den - Sleeps up to 10
Austin in Texas is a city in the central region of the second-biggest state in the United States, and while the coast may be over a two-hundred-mile drive away, it's still a city where you can enjoy plenty of water-oriented activities. The Colorado River flows through the center of the city, Ladybird Lake is a ten-minute drive from Downtown, and both Lake Austin and Lake Travis are within thirty minutes traveling time.
As far as outdoor recreation goes, Austinites have got it all on their doorsteps. That and the fact that Austin holds some of the best festivals and events in the world - the Austin City Limits Music Festival is just one example - also means Austin receives an incredible amount of visitors every year. Think around twenty-eight million and you'll only be a few thousand out.
Such a high number of visitors doesn't go unnoticed. Add those figures to a resident population of around one million and you'll soon realize finding a quiet, solitary spot in Austin is practically an impossibility. When you've been in such a big, bustling city as Austin for a while, it's great to escape and get back in touch with the natural world where there are fewer folks to spoil the views. One solution is to hit the I 10 westbound and roll out of Austin for a seven-day RV road trip to California. Motoring from Austin to Anaheim, you'll be able to stargaze in solitude, hike trails through deserted sand dunes or up to a monument that'll make your vacation snaps look like you're in Rio de Janeiro - and that's all before you're even halfway.
After you cross over the border from Arizona into California, there will be so many places you want to stop at that you'll be hard put to decide which to choose. As you travel west along the I 10 you'll pass by the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park. If you decide to keep going and save a visit there for your next road trip, don't miss turning off in Palm Springs to go into the Mount San Jacinto State Park to take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. After the desert landscapes you've seen on the way, the alpine scenery is a massive contrast and breathtakingly spectacular.
The tramway journey is two and a half miles long and rises to an altitude of eight and a half thousand feet while rotating through three-hundred and sixty degrees. Get off at the top for coffee or lunch before hiking some of the trails on the mountainside then take the tram back down. It will be an unforgettable end to your week on the road.
The prominent mound of Picacho Peak is hard to miss as you're driving along the I 10 through Arizona. Surrounded by flat prairie lands, the peak rises over three thousand feet and is one of Arizona's emblematic rock formation. Pitch camp in the campground of the Picacho Peak State Park for a couple of nights to make the most of the desert environment's peace and quiet. The park has a fully equipped campground with around eighty campsites for RVs with standard electric hook-ups. There is water available on the campground but this can be out of service during prolonged dry spells so take extra just in case.
There are some great trails in the state park and one of the best is the Sunset Vista Trail, though it's not the easiest by any means. The three-mile-long trail winds up the side of Picacho Peak and you'll need to use cables to assist you over some sections, but the views from the top are incredible. If you're not that energetic or the weather is too hot, there are shorter trails that are easier to negotiate. There's also nothing wrong with getting out those folding chairs, setting them up facing west and watching the sun go down while you're relaxing.
If you're making your road trip early in the year, get as far as Tucson and are missing the hullabaloo of the Austin crowds, check out La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros. The celebration is a major rodeo and street parade that takes over Tucson toward the end of February. The event lasts for nine whole days and on the day of the street parade, parking is at a premium so you'll need to park up your RV on the outskirts of the city or leave it at a campground somewhere nearby like the Saguaro National Park.
The rodeo events of La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros take place in the Tucson Rodeo Grounds on 6th Avenue and are a celebration of all things related to cowboys and their trade. There are both amateur and professional participants who show off their skill bareback riding, bronc and bull riding and steer wrestling. The street parade has a fantastic Western carnival atmosphere and attracts a couple of hundred thousand visitors to the city so if you're there that day, you won't be missing the Austin crowds for long.
As you continue driving along the I10 on your RV road trip from Austin to Anaheim, you'll motor through Cochise County in Arizona. The county is named after the Native American chief Cochise and the area is rich in tribal and pioneering history. Turn off the I10 at the signs for the rural community of Dragoon, follow Dragoon Road a couple of miles and you'll come across the Amerind Museum.
The Amerind Museum is full to overflowing with diverse exhibits relating to the Native American tribes of the region and provides a fascinating insight into their culture. The museum also houses a huge collection of Navajo jewelry hand-crafted from semi-precious stones like turquoise and agate which are a great inspiration if you're a rockhounder and create your own pieces. The museum opens every day apart from Mondays and major holidays from ten in the morning until four in the afternoon.
As you drive through New Mexico, you'll be able to make a road trip stop in a state park where there is another of Nature's wonders just waiting to be explored. The White Sands National Park is north of El Paso through the town of Las Cruces, so it does mean going a little out of your way to get there, but not too much. It's a few more miles on the rig's clock but ones you won't regret. There's no RV camping at this particular park but don't let that spoil your visit as there are some good campgrounds nearby.
The White Sands National Park contains an extensive area, almost three-hundred square miles, of brilliant white gypsum dunes that are the largest example of this type of dune anywhere in the world. The pristine landscape really is a sight to see. That said, it's also a massive area to explore on foot so why not consider driving through them instead?
You can do the Dunes Drive, a sixteen-mile scenic trip that starts at the visitor center, in your RV without a problem as the roads are either paved or compacted gypsum. If you prefer to hike through this amazing landscape you can, as there are multiple marked trails through the dunes, but on ranger advice, pick up a trail map first and don't set out if it's too hot.
As you're driving through El Paso on your week-long RV road trip from Austin to Anaheim, make a short detour to take a leg stretch in Sunland Park and hike up the Mule Driver's Mountain to the Mount Cristo Rey monument. You'll find parking for your rig outside the trailhead entrance gates but take care not to leave any valuables on display in the vehicle as they might not be there when you get back.
The Mount Cristo Rey is a twenty-nine-foot high statue of Christ on the cross and very similar, though smaller in size, than Christ the Redeemer who overlooks Rio de Janeiro. The hike up the mountain is around seven miles in total and steep in places. Many people make the climb as a pilgrimage while others do it for the exercise and to enjoy the views. From the top, there are panoramic vistas of El Paso below, the Franklin Mountains State Park to the north-east and the Ciudad Juárez to the south plus a whole lot more Mexico so it's well worth the climb.
Architecture created by man is amazing but often can't compete with what Nature can generate. Leave the I10 after you pass the signs for Sonora and take the Caverns Road for around fifteen miles to visit one of the wonders she blessed Texas with.
The Sonora Caverns are a series of subterranean caves that formed in a bedrock of limestone and have a high amount of sparkling calcite crystals. The caves are open to visitors all year but times do vary according to the season.
Go down underground over one-hundred and fifty feet to tour the spectacular caves, but expect it to be warm and somewhat sticky, as there is high humidity inside. The trail through the caves is around two miles and takes just under two hours to complete. For the extra adventurous there is a special tour that goes down different passages and includes a fifty-foot rappelling experience into the Devil's Pit.
The South Llano River State Park is only a two and a half hour drive from Austin, but far enough from the city lights to have some of the best dark skies in Texas. It's a fantastic first stop on your RV road trip escape, so pitch camp there to make the most of it. The five-hundred-acre park is located along the banks of the Llano River and has a campground with around sixty campsites fitted out with water and electricity hook-ups. Don't leave the lights burning in your rig too long after dark, though, or you'll spoil your vision for seeing the universe in all its glory.
There's no better way to forget about the bustle of Austin than sitting outside your RV after sunset and watching the stars appear. The park is renowned for its views of the Milky Way and if you know what you're looking for, you may even be able to spot the space station as it passes overhead. If you're not sure what you're staring up at, the park has some really useful maps and downloadable tools to help you make the most of your stargazing experience.
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As you roll into Anaheim after your week-long road trip from Austin, it'll be back to reality as far as large numbers of people are concerned. The Californian city is home to Disneyland plus several more theme parks, is focused on vacation entertainment and only just receives marginally fewer visitors a year than Austin. Seeing all those folks will be such a shock to your system after the tranquility of the previous few days, and you may well start to plan your next road trip before you've even finished this one.