When our motorhome broke down just a day before my husband and I were set to take off on our much-anticipated road trip to California, I’d briefly considered scrapping our entire itinerary and just booking a (very!) last-minute trip to Mexico for our summer vacation.
But I’d spent hours and hours planning this trip and booking campsites at California national parks. I was looking forward to the romance that RV travel brings — in more ways than one. Plus, we’d just enjoyed a fabulous Mexico beach vacation. I wanted to sleep in a camper and wake up in a different place nearly every day, and I longed to experience parts of the United States I hadn’t seen before. That was the plan, and I do like my plans!
Thankfully, I was able to score a last-minute RV rental from RVshare (read more about that experience here) and could salvage much of our planned road trip. The trip included everything from a fancy meal on the Las Vegas Strip and a random outdoor wine tasting on a 100-degree day to awe-inspiring hikes in one of America’s most popular national parks.
Of course, RV aficionados know that traveling by camper is never without its issues, especially on multi-day trips that cover multiple states. But dealing with a leaky water tank (my husband’s job) and sorting out a few navigating miscalculations (my fault!) are part and parcel to RV travel. It’s one of the reasons I love traveling in a motorhome with my husband: I enjoy coming up with solutions to problems we might face along the way, simply leaning into the unexpected.
And for this vacation, our rented RV wasn’t just “part” of our summer vacation — it’s what allowed it to be a particularly amazing and memorable one.
Here are just some of the highlights we experienced on our road trip — taking us from St. George, Utah, through Nevada, to California, and back to Utah — and how traveling by RV enhanced our trip along the way.
Camping In A Las Vegas Strip Parking Lot
Admittedly, it sounds a little nutty. Why stay in a concrete parking lot at Circus Circus Hotel & Casino when there are some really great, scenic, amenity-filled RV parks in and just outside of Las Vegas? Well, I do like my bargains. And at only $53 a night (at the time) for an electric hook-up, this was quite the deal to stay on the Strip, within walking distance of key attractions and restaurants.
And that was my plan for our one overnight in Sin City, also our first stop on this RV road trip. I wanted to eat well in a glamorous location, so I booked a dinner reservation at Lakeside at the Wynn, an upscale seafood restaurant.
We got all dolled up, walked to the glitzy Wynn Las Vegas high-rise hotel, and dined on delectable tuna tartare, mahi mahi, and king crab pasta, accompanied by some fine wine and topped off with a little dark chocolate cake for dessert. Sure, we splurged on dinner, but that’s often our modus operandi — where we save money on accommodations, we’ll spend on experiences. I’m glad we had our RV that allowed us to camp for cheap on the Strip!
Camping In Kings Canyon National Park
We scored a fabulous campsite in Azalea Campground at Kings Canyon National Park. Like many campgrounds at popular national parks across the country, you can only book reservations up to a month before your stay. So exactly a month before our trip, I hopped on the reservations website to lock in our campsite.
When we arrived, we were delighted to find we had a bit of privacy away from other campers (it’s not always easy to tell what your site might be exactly like from online maps). But our site was close to a hiking trail that would bring us to Grant Grove and General Grant Tree, a giant sequoia and one of the tallest living trees in America. We appreciated having a quiet home base on pine needle-covered ground amid towering trees — a far cry from the hot cement campsite in Vegas!
During our 3 days at Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park (they’re adjacent, so they’re grouped together, but technically two different national parks), we also took our camper for a drive on the winding roads of Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. Whoo-whee! That was a little scary at times, with curvy mountain passageways that featured steep canyon drop-offs. But the gorgeous vistas of pristine scenery were worth it.
Stumbling Upon A Boutique Winery For A Tasty Tasting
One of my favorite memories of this RV road trip occurred during our two-night stay at Sequoia RV Park, just outside Sequoia National Park. The RV park itself wasn’t much to talk about — it served as a perfectly suitable place to rest our heads for a couple nights. But when my husband checked out what’s “near me” on Google Maps, only to find a winery was located just a few minutes’ walk from our campground, I may have let out a whoop of delight!
We had such fun chatting with the owners of Delilah Ridge Winery, sampling their delicious wines in a private outdoor tasting and noshing on the prettiest and most generous charcuterie board I’d ever seen. We never would have come upon this nifty place with guinea hens running around and old license plates tacked on fences if we hadn’t been staying in our RV nearby, so in this instance, our rented Class C camper absolutely enhanced our trip.
Hiking In Pinnacles National Park
By this point in our vacation, when we reached Pinnacles National Park, central California was in the middle of an early summer heatwave. Temperatures were reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for multiple days in a row. But I was determined to get in a good hike at this lesser-known national park, so we woke before the sun to get going early, before the trails became too toasty.
I’m proud that my husband and I conquered the 5-mile loop that made its way through a scenic gulch, weaved around giant rock formations, and landed us in a cool forest. Along the way, we had to conquer some steep steps carved into rock — the metal rails were nearly too hot to touch in the scorching sun! Afterward, we were thrilled to return to nearby Pinnacles Campground to celebrate our hiking success with ice-cold beers from our RV’s fridge.
Sitting By The River Near Yosemite National Park
The heatwave temperatures followed us to Yosemite National Park. My husband had visited this iconic location, but I’d never been, and indeed the incredible rock formations and waterfalls did not disappoint. We only had a couple of days in the area — staying in an outside-the-park campground about 20 miles from the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center — but we made the most of it by, again, waking early to hit some of the more popular hiking trails before it simply got too warm to enjoy being active outdoors.
While, of course, I was awed by the vistas found at Yosemite, what was most memorable about our stay in the area was our afternoon spent lounging on the banks of the Merced River. The first night at the campground, I’d overheard another camper chatting with someone while I was standing in line for the shower. (Our gray tanks were getting full, and we didn’t have a place to dump at this campsite, so we used the campground’s shower facilities.) He was talking about taking a dip in the refreshing river not far from our campsite. I asked him for directions, and then the next day, after our morning hikes and sightseeing in the national park, we walked with our camping chairs and picnic goods to a quiet sandy beach right on the river.
We spent a delightful 3 hours in the shady trees, reading our books, and watching families frolic in the slow-moving current. This serendipitous experience wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been staying in an RV park and followed the advice of an intrepid fellow camper. Our marvelous, unexpected afternoon by the river represented what my husband and I’s mode of travel is all about: embrace the unexpected and enjoy the ride.
RVshare is the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace. With thousands of satisfied customers and a broad inventory ranging from travel trailers to luxury motorhomes, RVshare has the perfect RV for your vacation, tailgate, or temporary lodging needs.