Joshua Tree National Park, California

Destination: Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, CA

Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks Campground in Twentynine Palms, California
Joshua Tree National Park, Jumbo Rocks Campground in Twentynine Palms, California

In September 2015 @the_brenliest and I took our first cross country road trip together! We had a jam packed week of adventure and we knew after that trip that we wanted to see ALL THE PLACES together!

One of our favorite destinations on that trip was visiting Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms, California. This was the most spectacular place! We saw rain, rainbows, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets! In the Jumbo Rocks area where we camped there are boulders everywhere for you to freely explore and climb on. We were seriously like 2 kids on Christmas morning filled with awe and excitement!

This year we’ve decided it is time to take our kids out west to experience all that is Joshua Tree! We opened caravan invitations for friends and family to join us, but alas many aren’t very keen on our 5000+ mile road trips with kids in tow. We are often asked, “HOW do you do it?!”

The secrets to affordable road trips!

  • Plan ahead!
    • Waiting until the last minute will inflate costs, not allow you to find lodging and have you a frazzled mess trying to get everything together to head out the door!
  • Schedule, but don’t let it make or break your trip! 
    • Having a general idea of what you’d like to accomplish is a great idea. Trying to adhere to that schedule exactly will leave you feeling very unfulfilled and stressed. At the end of your trip you’ll have checked things off, but it could leave you wishing you spent more time just enjoying being together.
  • Camp to really experience the outdoors!
    • Camping will save you a TON of money! A lot of campgrounds have shower houses, yes, I know not all are created equal, but they will get the stink off feet. You will also have a much more personal connection with the places you visit if you sleep outside there.
  • Snacks in the car for 1 to 2 meals a day.
    • A healthy cereal that can be eaten dry is the best snack! We typically choose Frosted Mini Wheats. We also keep NutriGrain bars, crackers and protein bars on hand, too!
  • Stop at rest areas and avoid taking the little people into gas stations!
    • Getting in and out of rest areas with our 5 kids is typically a 20 minute stop. Everyone packs a water bottle(needed for hiking anyway!) and they refill those at the rest areas! This is a huge cost saver as they are not going inside of a gas station and seeing all those snack foods, sodas and other expensive items! PLUS, gas station restrooms are often iffy and can have long lines that add hours to your trip after a few stops!
Itinerary - Hikes & Exploration - A list of what we hope to explore in Joshua Tree on our December 2018 trip!
Itinerary – Hikes & Exploration – A list of what we hope to explore in Joshua Tree on our December 2018 trip!

Explore Joshua Tree

I can’t wait to come back from our road trip to Joshua Tree and share our many adventures with the kids! I hope you’ll come back and enjoy the photos!

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Adventure to Idaho – Road Trip Memories

Have you ever thought about Idaho and could only think of potatoes? Let me tell you, they have so much more to offer!

We recently embarked on a 9 day Idaho road trip with our 5 kids to see what we could find. Traveling on a budget we often stick to mostly campgrounds so we really get to experience the outdoors and it is always fun to see the night sky in different areas.

This trip we explored a lot of places briefly as a scouting mission for our next visit 😉

Let’s go on an adventure!

Driving through the plains can sometimes be daunting and this time we found a little gem in Kansas to explore to stretch our legs a bit. Have you ever heard of Monument Rocks? We found it going through some Google searches and couldn’t believe it existed in Kansas. We HAD to see it for ourselves!

Monument Rocks Oakley Kansas
Monument Rocks, Oakley, Kansas

Our next stop was at the GORGEOUS Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The rocks here are spectacular! We would have loved more time here to explore and check out some trails, but we only spent a couple hours on some of the trails by the main parking area. The crazy hail storm that happened just as we got out to see Balanced Rock made for a very memorable experience. Thankful we stayed and waited for the weather to clear up a bit!

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The scenic route 287 that we drove from Colorado to Wyoming and on up to Idaho was so beautiful and offered amazing views most of the way. We really enjoyed seeing the Wind River Range come into view with its snow capped peaks.

Wind River Range Route 287
Wind River Range in the distance while traveling along Route 287 in Wyoming

A point of interest along 287 is Split Rock and is well worth the stop if you enjoy a little bouldering. The kids really enjoyed playing on the rocks, discovering snake skins and viewing lizards all about the place.

Split Rock Wyoming
Split Rock, Wyoming

While heading towards the Tetons we took a detour to Brooks Lake to get everyone out and moving and boy did we pick a good one! This narrow, twisting gravel road was an adventure with a real treat at the end! Brooks Lake was everything you picture an Alpine lake to be. Picturesque mountains, water, flowers and even canoes! We really loved this place and hope to someday return to camp! The kids even found snow!

Brooks Lake Dubois Wyoming
Brooks Lake in Dubois, Wyoming

Our next view on the road was of the Tetons. What an awe-inspiring mountain range! One of my life goals was to see these mountains and I am so glad that I did! The sweet little prairie dogs had the best view! I even caught one having a nibble while trying to figure out what we were doing. 😉

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

After catching our breath from the Tetons we headed on towards Idaho. We ended up spending the night in Idaho Falls right on the river so we would be well rested and let’s face it, the feet were getting pungent in the van. Our hot breakfast served at the Rodeway Inn was super yummy and very filling! We packed back up and went south to find City of Rocks! As a family that loves big rocks, this place did not disappoint! We will definitely be going back here some day to have more time to climb around and explore!

City of Rocks Idaho
City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho

Our next stop and camping destination was Bruneau Dunes State Park and who DOESN’T love a giant sandbox? Our kids always love sand dunes and this place was no different. The view from our campsite was pretty amazing, too! My only qualm with this place was the amount of mosquitos we encountered on the trail leading around the lake. We used the highest amount of Deet bug spray we could find and they were still landing on us. We opted to turn around after the 2nd attempt and just explore the smaller dunes.

Bruneau Dunes State Park Idaho
Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho

Broken Wheel Campground Bruneau Dunes Idaho
Camping at Broken Wheel in Bruneau Dunes in Idaho

Once departing Bruneau Dunes we took the scenic 100 mile (mostly dirt) road through south western Idaho into a tiny part of Oregon and back in towards Boise. Our plan was to visit Babby Farms so that I could cuddle a sloth, but we didn’t make it in time due to time constraints. Maybe next time. 😉

Off the beaten path…

Anyway, Owyhee Uplands Back Country Byway was lots of fun and we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves besides the one car we passed towards the end. We pulled over a couple times and really enjoyed the view of a river from the top of a small mountain. There was also an interesting campground at the base of the mountain in a valley called North Fork that would be good for a quiet place with pit toilets.

Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway
Owyhee Uplands Backcountry Byway in Idaho

One place that was on our list from the start was Stanley Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains. We saw so many photos and wanted to see and experience it for ourselves. We ended up doing the Stanley Lake Trail to Lady Face Falls which was around 4.5 miles out and back. The trail was gorgeous leading through Alpine meadows with wonderful wildflowers blooming everywhere.


Word of caution though, if you do this hike to see Lady Face Falls please note that I climbed down a very steep embankment of granite with loose gravel to see and photograph the falls. We did not allow our children near the edge at all to see the falls. There may be another access point that is safer, but if so we did not see it.

Stanley Lake Trail Idaho
Stanley Lake Trail to Lady Face Falls in Stanley, Idaho

Lady Face Falls Stanley Lake Trail Idaho
Lady Face Falls via the Stanley Lake Trail at Stanley Lake, Idaho

You don’t see that every day!

After leaving the Sawtooths we headed toward our final camping destination at Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve and this place was like being in another world. Lava covered ground and lava tube caves to explore. We did most of our exploring in the late evening when we arrived and then the next morning to avoid the hot sun. There is no shade to be found here unless you are inside of a cave so prepare for that!

You will need to obtain a cave permit to explore the tunnels!

We explored the caves on Caves Trail as there were 4 and we were short on time.

Lava tubes are fun!

  • The first was a small one called Dew Drop, which was right at the trail fork.
  • We went right for Indian Tunnel which is about 800 feet long and doesn’t require a flashlight for most parts.
  • After returning to the trail fork we took the other and came to Boy Scout. The entrance was very small, 3 of our oldest kids decided to go in and see what it was all about. I commend their bravery!
  • The last on the trail is Beauty Cave, it was a little rocky going in, but with slow movements and 3 points of contact most people could make it inside. It gets very dark, very quick therefore you WILL need a flashlight for this one. Do look for the crack in the floor shortly after you lose light and you’ll spy ice!

Craters of the Moon Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve Arco, Idaho

Craters of the Moon Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve in Arco, Idaho

As our adventure was coming to an end and we continued back towards home we visited Scottsbluff in Nebraska. Due to the proximity I was blessed to be able to see a dear friend and be introduced to the famous “Runza” for dinner! Long ago we were Navy wives who met when we were about 4 months pregnant with our first babies. It had been EIGHT years since we had saw one another and this month both of our “babies” will be 13!

Scotts Bluff National Monument Scottsbluff Nebraska
Scotts Bluff National Monument in Scottsbluff, Nebraska

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