No reservations. No plan. 45 days. 8 states. 8 US National Parks.
Everyone can agree that it’s been a very long, and very strange year. After months quarantining, Thrills BFFs Jenny and Jason Lee Parry decided they needed to get out of LA, so they bought a ’90 VW Westfalia (and named her Wylee) and hit the road with their two-year-old son Ryder.
Playlist by Jenny and Jason Lee Parry below, too so you can get into the road trip mood:
Check out their travel guide below. Words by Jenny herself.
Sedona is amazing. Red rock canyons and a very mystic, new-age vibe. So it was the perfect place for our first stop considering we drove 14 hours (usually takes 7 hours) through 106 degree weather. We found a first-come-first-serve campsite at Cave Springs in Oak Creek Canyon (so it was shady, very helpful because Sedona can get HOT). There’s a creek that runs through the campsite with a few swimming holes. Ryder loved it. Sedona is known for their vortex hikes and there are four main ones - each with their own masculine or feminine energy. We decided on the Boynton Canyon hike (which supposedly has both masculine and feminine-thought I might as well try to balance both energies out). Really beautiful hike, but by the end it was getting a bit too heated out…so we grabbed a pizza and a beer (this will become a post-hike tradition for us) and then got back on the road.
Jason wears the Chopped Denim Jean
Our first National Park that we visited. I had been there as a kid but it was still mind-blowing to see it again as an adult. It just feels so giant and endless, it’s hard to wrap your head around it. Decided to just stop there for an hour on the way to Lake Powell. Even though it was early fall it was still pretty touristy, but I’d love to come back and hike down to the bottom. On the way to Lake Powell we realized the road to get to there was closed. If we went all the way back around it would’ve taken us 4 hours longer, instead of an hour and a half. With the help of a really cool local we were able to get through, and see some rad parts of the Grand Canyon (minus the tourists).
Lake Powell isn’t a lake, it’s a reservoir on the Utah/Arizona border. And it’s absolutely massive! It’s like the Grand Canyon was flooded…giant bays surrounded by mesas and slot canyons that just go on forever. Highly recommend renting a boat to see it. We started off the day going down Antelope Canyon (which gets very busy with kayakers) and cruised our way around. The day flew by, we were just overwhelmed by the towering cliffs all around us. We pulled the boat up to a beach in the middle of nowhere for a swim and some lunch. You could easily get lost there, or feel like you are the only ones there. I’d love to rent a houseboat sometime and spend a full week exploring. At the end of the day it started pouring, and by the time we got back to the van there was a huge rainbow across the sky.
Jason wears the Zebra Lounge Crew Knit
Into Utah and on to Zion. Zion is a bit tricky right now because of COVID. You have to book a shuttle ticket online at a specific time the day before you want to visit the park. You can’t just drive into the park right now. It was easy to book but we had to make sure we got into the area the day before so we could find a campsite and be ready for our 7am shuttle time. Which was difficult, and stressful. BUT we found one last spot at a RV Park. Got up bright and early the next day to take the shuttle into Zion to hike the Narrows, probably the most well known hike in Zion. It’s a slot canyon hike, but pretty much 90% in water…upstream. At one point hiking in the river the water got up to our chests. And mind you, Jason had Ryder strapped his back and had to lift him over his head while treading water. You eventually get to a section called Wall Street, the narrowest part of the trail, where its wall to wall water with 1500 foot cliffs on either side. Is it’s definitely unique, and challenging. But it’s a hike I recommend doing at least once.
Bryce is only about an hour and a half from Zion, so we headed there next. Bryce was one of my faves, I loved hiking here. Bryce consists of these incredible rock formations in shades of red, orange and pink. It was like hiking on Mars and I think I had a smile on my face the entire time. Like a psychedelic wonderland. We stayed at the North Campground for three days which was super convenient, we could hike right into the park. So we drank some beers, watched movies on our projector and chilled.
Jackson Hole, WY/Grand Teton
After living in our camper van with a toddler for about 2 weeks it was time for a hotel room. We arrived into the country chic mountain resort of Jackson and found a room at Mountain Modern. It was nice to be in civilization for a few days and Jackson is a good place for that…so many cool restaurants, bars, galleries and shops. We had dinner at the hip Italian spot Glorietta, had a nightcap at Coelette and wine at Bin22. We hadn’t planned on visiting Grand Teton National Park but after the food (and drinks) we needed to get some exercise. And I’m really happy we did. We hiked around Jenny Lake up to Inspiration Point and it was a such the perfect autumn hike…and about 7 miles round trip. So of course we grabbed a pizza and beer at Hand Fire Pizza after (located in the old Teton Theater).
To get to Yellowstone from Jackson you have to drive through Grand Teton again and by the time we got into Yellowstone it was getting dark. Most of the campgrounds were either closed because it was the end of the season, or because of Covid so we decided to just check out Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring (which I’m happy we did because the rainbow colors were wild) and keep on moving. Made it to the North Entrance and the town of Gardiner, Montana before we got too tired, parked on the side of the road, made some soup and passed out. Woke up to elk roaming the streets, grabbed a coffee and went on our way.
Jenny wears the Exhibition Pant
I think Jason was most exited about Glacier. To be honest, I had only heard about this national park from him a few months prior to our trip and it was so absolutely stunning. We spent the first night in the town of Whitefish (also a cool little mountain resort town) and found a campsite the next day. Drove in to the park to hike to Avalanche Lake which did not disappoint. Glacier feels like you're in the Swiss Alps, instead of Montana. After the hike we made it back to Lake McDonald to check out the technicolor sunset and drink some tequila. Finished the day off by driving up to Logan’s Pass (the highest elevation reachable by car) to do some stargazing. You could see the Milky Way. It was pretty much a perfect day.
Jason is from Oregon so we spent a full week there catching up with a couple friends and family. Took Jason’s mom to Cannon Beach for her birthday. Met up with his brother in Portland and went camping with him and his nephew in the Umpqua Forest. Stocked up on some natural wines from Ardor Wines and got our favorite Mac n cheese from Montage. In the rain. Stayed at the Adobe Inn in Yachats where we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Visited his hometown of Roseburg, went to the Wildlife Safari (for Ryder) and stopped at a winery (for us). Took our friend’s sled boat out and flew over some rapids. Hung at a friend’s house on a Friday night which felt extremely normal. And then, it was back to California.
Jenny wears the Paige Jean
Big Sur/Carmel, CA
From Oregon we took the coast all the way down to Big Sur. It was cool starting at the actual beginning of Highway 1. We saw the enormous Humboldt Redwoods, drove through adorable Mendocino, stopped in Jenner for a bite to eat and then made it down to Santa Cruz and Carmel. Carmel is one of my favorite places so we wandered around it’s idyllic village, had some champagne at lunch, spent the night at Hotel Carmel and got all dressed up for dinner at Casanova. We tried booking a Hipcamp spot at a farm outside of Santa Cruz…but when we showed up it was vastly different than advertised. No animals, an electric fence surrounding the yard, just us in some random person’s backyard. So we headed straight to Big Sur. We lucked out by finding a campsite at 3pm on a Friday, because Big Sur was a total scene, and packed. Being the weekend before Halloween, it felt like a party. People tubing down the creek, kids running around in skeleton costumes. I think Ryder had his first crush there.
Jenny wears the Zebra Lounge Crew Knit
Our last stop! We were meeting friends in Yosemite for their son’s 3rd birthday so it was nice to have an event to end this trip. We all stayed at Autocamp, where you stay in Airstreams. The first night we barbecued for the birthday party and the next day caravanned into Yosemite to see the sights and have a Hot Toddy, one of the best I’ve ever had, at the Ahwahnee Hotel. We planned on taking our time heading home down the 395 but after a brake scare we knew it was time to just get home.
This trip was really such an amazing adventure. As I said to Jason, my mind was blown by nature too many times to count. It was such a relief to feel so free, no time restraints, no real responsibilities except to be present. And we had anything and everything we needed in the camper van. Wylee did good.