Three Days in Sedona for a Couple’s Getaway

Looking to spend three days in Sedona for a couple’s getaway? If you love nature and want to explore this beautiful part of Arizona, this three-day itinerary will show you all the best parts of this gorgeous red rock community.

While the town of Sedona is small (there are only 10,000 residents), the town attracts over 3 million visitors every year. The area is well-known for its hiking, art, and beauty. Sedona boasts more than 300 miles of hiking trails, numerous art galleries, hotels, and day spas.

Allan and I recently visited Sedona for a much-needed couples getaway. It was the perfect mixture of relaxation and rejuvenation. We hiked, sipped coffee, kayaked, explored, and ate amazing food.

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, Sedona is the perfect place to visit. If you’re looking for an adventurous getaway, Sedona is the perfect place as well. One thing Sedona doesn’t do well is nightlife. But that was fine with us since we are more into nature than city life…most of the time.

DAY 1: SEDONA GETAWAY

Eat Breakfast at Wildflower Bread Company

On your first day of your three days in Sedona, start the morning off with a quick breakfast at Wildflower Bread Company. While we didn’t find the breakfast outstanding, the views certainly are! Snag an outdoor table on the patio with unbelievable mountain views. 

couple sitting on patio with view of sedona red rocks at wildflower bread company

Hike Soldier’s Pass Loop

(Brin’s Mesa + Soldier’s Pass Trail + Cibola Pass Trail)

A short distance from Wildflower Bread Company is the Jordan Road Trailhead. While you won’t be hiking the Jordan Trail, it’s a great place to park if you want to hike Soldier’s Pass Loop Trail.

First, using your debit or credit card, purchase a $5 parking permit from the kiosk in the parking lot.  Make a quick trip to the onsite vault-style restrooms (don’t forget to hold your breath).  Then, hit the trail. 

This 5-mile loop provides beautiful views of rock formations, and wildflowers (if you visit in spring), and stops by several well-known landmarks including Soldier Arch, Seven Sacred Pools, and the Devil’s Kitchen Sinkhole.

view of soldiers arch caves from soldiers pass trail in sedona

Have Lunch at Pump House Station Urban Eatery

You’ll be famished after all that hiking, so stop by the Pump House Station Urban Eatery and enjoy lunch on their back patio that butts up to Oak Creek. Large sycamores, green grass, and colorful flowers provide a peaceful ambiance.

beautiful patio garden at pumphouse station urban eatery in sedona arizona

Explore Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village

Take some time after lunch to explore the nearby art galleries and shops in the stunning Tlaquepaque Village. Cobblestone paths, beautiful landscapes, and arches will welcome you to stroll along and enjoy this area!

arch with colorful flowers at tlaquepaque in sedona arizona

Experience the Airport Mesa Vortex

From the village, head to Airport Mesa to experience a popular Sedona vortex: Airport Mesa. If you’re up for more hiking, walk the 3.2-mile loop. If you just need some downtime, make the short trek up the rocky knoll to take in the incredible 360-degree views of Sedona. Sit and reflect, try some yoga, or even take a nap. 

sedona airport mesa vortex view with clouds

Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross

While three days isn’t enough time to hike every trail Sedona has to offer, there are some places you can drive to without hiking. Many places in Sedona allow for hiking or driving. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of those places. Parking is free at the chapel, but the parking lot usually closes early, around 5 p.m.

This functional work of art was completed in 1956 and is uniquely situated on the red rocks.

chapel of the holy cross in sedona arizona on a stormy day

Relax at the Hotel

If you’re not ready for dinner, head back to the hotel and enjoy the pool or spa while everyone else is at dinner. A soak in the hot tub is a great way to unwind after all the hiking and walking.

Dine at The Hudson

The Hudson is rated as one of the best restaurants in Sedona. You can expect that they will be busy! Either make reservations online well in advance (3+ weeks) or go early and expect a wait. If you can snag an outdoor patio table, you’ll get amazing views of the towering rock formations.

After dinner, head back to your hotel and get a good night’s rest!

DAY 2: SEDONA GETAWAY

Grab Breakfast at Layla’s Bakery-Café

Swing by Layla’s Bakery-Café for breakfast. Conveniently located near the turn-off for the trailhead, you’ll find an assortment of coffees, pastries, or heartier (and healthier) options like avocado toast, sandwiches, and breakfast burritos and bowls. To speed up your experience, order online ahead of time.

Hike to Devil’s Bridge

(Mescal Trail + Devil’s Bridge)

Devil’s Bridge is one of the most photographed, and popular, locations in Sedona. However, no trip to Sedona is complete without having seen this phenomenon at least once.

Most people park along Boynton Pass Road and walk up Dry Creek Road (an ATV/4×4 road) to the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead. Don’t be like most people. Alternatively, park at the Mescal Trailhead and take the Mescal Trail to Devil’s Bridge Trail.

The hike is just over 4 miles round trip and fairly easy…except for the last half mile to the top of Devil’s Bridge. 

If you want to get your picture taken on the bridge, expect to wait 45+ minutes. When we arrived at 9 am, over 100 people were waiting for a photograph. Given the slowness of the line, I estimate that it would have been a 1 ½ hour wait. Having a photograph wasn’t that important to us, so we took a cheesy selfie and went on our merry way.

person walking on devils bridge in sedona arizona

Get a Sandwich at Wildflower Bread Company

Grab a sandwich to-go from Wildflower Bread Company. Their homemade sourdough is all types of amazing. I recommend their turkey and brie on sourdough–delish!  Either eat in the car on the way to your kayaking adventure or have a picnic lunch by the river when you arrive.

Kayak Down the Verde River

While it’s a bit of a drive, variety is the spice of life when you have three days in Sedona, and being on the water is always fun!  Enjoy a 2-3 hour float down the Verde River, located about an hour south of Sedona. If it’s windy, you will need to do some paddling, but overall, this is a low-key adventure that is suitable for most adventurers.  

woman paddling an inflatable kayak on the verde river south of sedona arizona

Meander Through Uptown Sedona

After your trip down the river, you’ll be ready to take it easy. Walk the streets and explore the shops of Uptown Sedona. Pick out a souvenir for the kids at home, and listen to the music being played by the locals.

Eat Mexican Food for Dinner

If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican meal, head to Tortas de Fuego, one of the top-rated Mexican restaurants in Sedona. They had me at chips and salsa.  If you’re looking for something more upscale, visit Javelina Cantina and enjoy some tacos and margaritas with a view.

Relax at the Hotel or Go Stargazing

After dinner, head back to the hotel to relax. Or, if you prefer, park your car under the dark night sky and do some stargazing. Favorite stargazing spots in Sedona include Airport Mesa, Two Trees, Jordan Road, and Crescent Moon.

DAY 3: SEDONA GETAWAY

Enjoy Breakfast at Red Rock Cafe or Casa Sedona

Start your last day with a leisurely breakfast. Either hit up Red Rock Cafe in Oak Creek Village or Casa Sedona Restaurant in Sedona.

Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte

Located at the southern end of Sedona and just north of Oak Creek Village, there are plenty of trails to explore around Courthouse Butte and Bell Rock. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try climbing Bell Rock and see how high you can get!

bell rock in sedona arizona from the south

Lunch at Momo’s Kitchen

The highest-rated eateries in Sedona is a food truck. Momo’s Kitchen is magic. I’m a huge fan of bibimbap, and Momo’s did not disappoint. The truck is located in Uptown Sedona, making it the perfect lunch stop as you head up Highway 89A for your next adventure.

Drive Scenic Highway 89A

Next, hit the road and take the scenic Highway 89A north toward Flagstaff. Go as far as you would like and enjoy the beauty of the creek as it winds through the rock-walled mountains.

rock outcroppings along arizona highway 89A between sedona and flagstaff

Visit Red Rock State Park or Swim at Grasshopper Point

If swimming is your thing, spend the afternoon at Slide Rock State Park. Located right off Highway 89A, you’ll find natural rock slides…and a fair amount of people. Additionally, visitors also enjoy swimming at Grasshopper Point where the crowds are a little thinner.

Enjoy a Couple’s Massage at Red Rock Healing Massage

Undoubtedly, the perfect way to top off your couple’s getaway in Sedona is to get a couple’s massage! Healing arts are widely embraced in Sedona, so there are plenty of options to choose from. We chose Red Rock Healing Massage. Patricia and Leigh were top-notch! They listen to your preferences and seem to know exactly what you need. They incorporated aromatherapy into the session, which I loved. I left feeling incredibly light and relaxed.

Dinner Creekside American Bistro

Finally, finish off your last evening in Sedona with a dinner at Creekside American Bistro. Weather permitting, outdoor patio seating is always a great choice!

Start Dreaming About How You’ll Spend Your Next Three Days in Sedona

Before our visit, I had heard so much about Sedona I was a little afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations—but I was wrong! Spending three days in Sedona for a couple’s getaway was the best decision!

Sedona is the perfect combination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and foodies alike!

If you have any questions about planning a couple’s getaway or a family trip to Sedona, drop them in the comments below!  I would love to hear from you!

Top 10 Things to Do in Avila Beach with Kids

Looking for things to do in Avila Beach with kids? We’ve got you covered!

We’ve lived on the Central Coast for over 30 years and Avila Beach is one of our favorite places to take the kids.

Avila Beach is a quaint little beach town located halfway between Los Angles and San Francisco. While it may be small, there are plenty of family-friendly activities to enjoy in this beautiful place.

When to Visit Avila Beach

In recent years, this oceanside village has gotten increasingly popular. Especially during the COVID shutdown, visitors swarmed to check out the magic of Avila Beach.

If you want to avoid crowds, the best time to visit Avila Beach is during the off-season. When is the off-season? Whenever kids are in school.  

We like visiting on weekdays, especially in the spring and fall. However, if we do decide to visit Avila on a weekend, we typically arrive on a Sunday afternoon when the weekend crowds are starting to thin out.

Why We Love Visiting Avila Beach with Kids

If you give our kids sand and water, they play happily for hours. Kids love playing at the beach; that’s a given!

What makes Avila Beach so special is that it’s more than just a beach. There are so many things to do in Avila Beach with kids that don’t involve playing in the sand. Hiking trails, biking trails, hot springs, playgrounds, wildlife, farm animals, fishing…Avila has it all!

overlook of shell beach bluff trail hike--things to do in avila beach with kids

Go for a Hike in Avila Beach

Hiking is a great family activity to enjoy in Avila Beach. It’s free, is doable for all levels of hikers, and allows you to see the ocean from a different perspective.

Shell Beach Bluff Trail

Perfect for young legs, this easy, .9 mile, out and back trail winds along the bluffs between Avila Beach and Shell Beach. Also, it offers stunning views of the ocean on an almost completely flat trail.

Ontario Ridge to Shell Beach Bluff Trail Loop

If you’re looking to add a little spice to your hike, combine the Ontario Ridge trail with the Shell Beach Bluff Trail! Be forewarned! The Ontario Ridge trail appears to have been designed with mountain goats in mind. There is one steep hill and another VERY steep, rocky hill. We would take our kids up this hill but likely would not take young kids or our parents.

Provided it’s a sunny, clear day, at the top of Ontario Ridge, you’ll have a jaw-dropping view of the pacific ocean that you can take in from a tree swing.

Bob Jones Trail

While you certainly can hike/walk this paved trail, we prefer to bike it. This dedicated trail is paved, making it easy to push a stroller or pull a child’s wagon. It’s a 5.2 mile, out-and-back trail with only one small hill.  

At the trailhead, you’ll find a vault toilet. You’ll want to bring a nose plug or practice your mouth breathing technique while visiting this necessary, albeit unsavory, facility.

Other Nearby Trail Options

There are many other trails within a 10-15 mile radius. Two favorites other trail options that are within the immediate vicinity are the Sycamore Crest Trail and the Johnson Ranch Loop Trail. Both of these hiking trails are rated as moderate and are more suitable for older children.

family biking on the bob jones trail -- things to do in avila beach with kids

Ride a Bike from the City to the Sea on the Bob Jones Trail

Riding the “City to the Sea Bob Jones Trail” is one of our favorite family outings. We park at the trailhead near Highway 101, pump up our bike tires, throw some water bottles in a backpack and head out!  

Because this is a dedicated bike path, and it’s paved, this trail is PERFECT for young riders. There are two street crossings: one at the start of the trail and one at the end. It’s a safe way to introduce young bike riders to sharing the road.

If your children are a little older, you can make the ride a little longer by riding north to Harmond Pier (AKA Port San Luis Pier). The road out to the pier can be busy, and there is no bike lane. It’s more suitable for older children who can be aware of the traffic and hug the side of the road.  

Combining a ride to the pier with the Bob Jones Trail will give you a relatively flat, 9-mile ride, roundtrip.

TIP: Don’t forget your helmets! Bike helmets are required by law in California for children under the age of 18 years.

sea lions laying in the sun in san luis bay--things to do in avila beach with kids

Search for Wildlife at Avila Beach

Seeing animals in their natural habit is always a treat! Seal and sea lions can regularly be seen sunbathing on floating docks, rocks, and around the pier. Sometimes, they will pop up in the water near swimmers. 

Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters

The best place to catch a glimpse of these creatures is from the Port San Luis Pier. They especially like to hang out near the restaurant Mersea’s, which happens to be located near the crab market–something they love.

If you find yourself swimming in the same area as a seal, it’s best to leave that area. Seals are usually friendly but can be territorial especially if they’re protecting young. There have been instances where swimmers have been bitten by seals. It’s best to observe these wild creatures from a safe distance.

In the bay, there are also sea otters. They’re a little more difficult to spot, but they frequent the area. These cute creatures are fun to watch as they roll playfully in the water or crack open a shell.

 

Tidepools

Just north of the main beach are some rocky bluffs. When the tide is low, this is a great place to search for sea creatures like sea stars, sea anemones, muscles, hermit crabs, and more. While this isn’t a prime place for tide pooling, you’re still sure to find a few interesting creatures!

Go Whale Watching

Avila Beach made national news in 2020 when a pair of kayakers got lifted out of the water by a whale. Moral of the story: don’t kayak near ocean mammals that can be 40-50 feet in length.

From July to October of each year, humpback whales pass through the area and often can be seen in the bay. Rather than paddleboarding or kayaking out to see them, we recommend a guided whale watching tour like San Luis Obispo Tours. Often, the whales can also be seen breaching from the shore or pier.

kaykers in san luis bay -- things to do in avila beach with kids

Kayak or Paddle Board

San Luis Obispo Bay is large and usually calm (except for breaching whales in the late summer, early fall), making it a great place to explore the ocean water. There is a rental company at Port San Luis if you can’t bring your kayaks or boards. There is also a launching area a Fisherman’s Beach.

At the south end of Avila Beach, you can explore the Avila Sea Caves. These caves are located along the bluffs, just north of Pirate’s Cove, a clothing-optional beach.

Play at a Pirate Themed Playground

If you prefer to stay on land and have young adventurers, you’ll want to check out the Avila Beach Community Park located right next to the main portion of the beach in the heart of Avila. There is a pirate ship, swings, slides, and more! It’s adjacent to the Central Coast Aquarium (this is a very small aquarium).

Older kids can enjoy a game of basketball on a court that butts up to the beach, or a game of sand volleyball!

Eat Good Food

Another one of our favorite things to do in Avila Beach with kids is…eating! No trip to the beach is complete without eating some tasty seafood. My personal favorite is having chilaquiles on the patio at Custom House for brunch after a morning hike.

Additionally, Mersea’s, located on Harmond Pier (AKA Port San Luis Pier) has unmatched ambiance! Dine on fish tacos, garlic fries, and piping hot clam chowder while sitting over the water and listening to the sounds of screeching gulls and barking seals.  

free things to do with kids near Paso Robles toddler feeding goat at Avila Barn in Avila Beach

Feed Barn Animals at Avila Barn

Avila Beach has its head in the city and its toes in the sand. The town is uniquely situated, providing unusual climate benefits. In the Avila Valley, just a couple miles inland from the beach is produce heaven. Berries, apples, corn, squash, and so much more can be found growing at this little farm called Avila Valley Barn.

For a few dollars, kids will love feeding fresh romaine leaves to goats, cows, and sheep. Also, there’s an emu, cow, chickens, and more! Take a hayride, pick a basket of berries, or enjoy a hot ear of corn on the cob! If ice cream or pie is more your style, they have that, too.

Entrance to the farm is free.

Soak in a Mineral Hot Springs Tub

While this may not be a little kid-friendly activity (we highly recommend pawning them off on grandparents for an hour or two), soaking in a mineral hot spring tub is always a great idea when you’re in Avila! Older kids, aged 14-17, can join you, but if you can get an hour to yourself, I would!

The tubs at Sycamore Mineral Spring can be reserved by the hour. The tubs are located outdoors on the side of a hill and have privacy fencing. Reserve your tub online and bring your towel if you don’t want to rent one. Leave feeling refreshed and ready to be the best parent you can be!

boy digging in the sand -- things to do in avila beach with kids

Enjoy the Beach

This should go without saying, but no trip to Avila Beach is complete without actually enjoying the beach! Whether you like boogie boarding, skimboarding, building sandcastles, or relaxing in a beach towel with a book, Avila has it all!

Avila Beach (Main Beach)

Located in the heart of Avila, this beach is often the busiest. Located within walking distance of restaurants and the park, the main beach is a great place to boogie board since the waves are bigger. Younger kids will enjoy frolicking in the calmer water of the creek that feeds into the sea. Flush toilets are easily accessible and outdoor, cold showers are available for washing off all that sand before getting in the car.

Olde Port Beach (Dog Beach)

Located just north of the main beach, this stretch of sand welcomes furry friends! The waves are smaller, but there’s plenty of room for Fido to run and meet new friends. There is a vault toilet located at the head of the stair leading down to the beach.

Pirate’s Cove (Nudist Beach)

While Pirate’s Cove is not at the top of the list when it comes to family-friendly activities in Avila Beach (it’s a clothing-optional beach), it’s always good to know these things. Pirate’s Cove is off the beaten path at the south end of Avila. It’s at the base of the Shell Beach Bluff Trail.

Fisherman’s Beach (Kayak Beach)

We don’t often see anyone fishing at the beach, but it is a great place to spend the afternoon! The water is very calm in this part of the bay. Located south of Port San Luis Pier and north of Olde Port Beach. It’s a great place to launch kayaks and paddleboards! This beach is the smallest of the four, but it’s also usually the least crowded. It’s also conveniently located near a restroom with flush toilets and hot showers.

There Are So Many Great Things to Do In Avila Beach with Kids

Avila Beach is a great place to explore and adventure with a family! If you need help planning an Avila Beach trip, let me know! Drop me a question below; I’d love to help answer it.

If you’re looking for other free activities for kids on the Central Coast, there are so many options.

Have you been to Avila Beach before? What activities did you enjoy the most?

7 Disney Trip Planning Mistakes to Avoid

If you like saving time and saving money, here are seven Disney trip planning mistakes you’ll want to avoid. Whether you’re in California at Disneyland Park or California Adventure Park, or in Florida visiting Walt Disney World, these are essential.

If you want to make the most of your time in the parks and make happy memories, these seven tips will help make your trip to Disney run a little smoother.

Mistake #1:  Buying Heavily Discounted Tickets from a Third Party (unless it’s at Costco or Target)

Just don’t do it. I get it. Disney is expensive. When you’re buying tickets for a whole family, it can be tempting to want to cut corners.

There’s nothing wrong with cutting corners on your Disney budget, but you just don’t want to cut them using this method.

Disney Ticket Scalping is Both Illegal and Risky

Buying Disneyland or Disney World tickets on Facebook Marketplace, NextDoor, Craigslist, or any other third-party app can be tempting. The tickets may be cheap, but they’re likely cheap for a reason. Chances are, they’re a scam.

Instead…Buy Slightly Discounted Tickets from Target or Costco

Costco has Disney ticket packages for their members that are available for purchase. At Target, you can use your Redcard to purchase Disney gift cards, saving 5%. Those gift cards can then be used to purchase your Disney tickets online or from Disney’s park apps.

Don’t Forget, Residents Can Buy Discounted Tickets

Southern California residents can buy discounted multi-day tickets for Disneyland. Florida residents are also eligible for discounted multi-day tickets for Walt Disney World. This is BY FAR the best way to save money on Disney tickets, providing the largest savings on tickets.  

Note: You will be asked to show proof of residency (usually a government-issued photo ID) at the gate. So, only buy a resident pass if your primary residence is located within the required area.

In addition to purchasing a resident ticket, another great way to cut corners at Disney is to use these 11 hacks to save money on food

minnie mouse giving smiling girl wearning frozen ears a hug and kiss

Mistake #2: Assuming You Can See it All

Unless you’re planning on spending at least two days in each park, it’s almost impossible to see it all. I’m ok with not seeing it all…it gives me a good reason to come back!

While some planning is necessary, planning every second of every day will suck all the magic right out of your vacation.

Between rides, attractions, character meet and greets, shows, shops, parades, and food, there’s so much to see, do, and taste! Go with the mindset of enjoying whatever you do see, and you’ll feel satisfied!

Mistake #3: Thinking You Don’t Need a “Must-See, Must-Do” List

Knowing that it’s impossible to see and do it all, we usually create a “must-see, must-do” list before visiting Walt Disney World and Disneyland. These don’t have to be fancy spreadsheets (but I’ve done that before, too).

Make a “Top Three” List for Each Member of Your Party

Just grab a pen and paper and ask everyone who will be joining you to name three things that they HAVE to experience. Also, have them name one or two special treat/food items that they want to try if that’s important to your family.

Having a list, even if we don’t take it with us, gives us a good idea about which attractions we want to make a priority during our day. This is especially helpful if you are traveling with different age groups. Your teen will likely have a different list than a younger sibling. If everyone gets to participate in the planning, it ensures everyone will have a good time!

Mistake #4: Expecting Your Children to be Happy All the Time

While Disneyland may be the “Happiest Place on Earth” and Walt Disney World may be the “Most Magical Place on Earth”, you can be sure that young children may be, at times, neither happy nor magical.

This unrealistic expectation was the biggest miscalculation I made when we visited Disneyland for the first time with kids–talk about Disney trip planning mistakes!

Disney is incredibly fun, but there is a lot going on. Too much of a good thing is still too much.  

Inadequate food and rest are the two main reasons my kids have meltdowns. Having healthy snacks on hand helps.  Fried foods and sugary treats are tasty but can mess with your body.  If a child needs some downtime, head back to the hotel for the afternoon, or escape for an hour to a quieter spot like Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland Park or Magic Kingdom.

Above all, expect some hiccups in your day. If you’re expecting some difficult moments, they’re not nearly as frustrating. Even if your day is peppered with a meltdown or two, your trip isn’t ruined!  We have found that the magical moments stick with everyone the longest, creating the best of memories.

happy dad spinning kids on tea cups ride at disneyland kids aren't always happy at disney - disney trip planning mistakes

Mistake #5: Not Creating a Trip Budget

As much fun as it is to say, “Who cares how much I spend?! I’m on vacation!”, lack of financial planning before a Disney trip could lead to a money catastrophe after the trip.

I love budgeting for trips. It’s just a way for us to choose ahead of time what’s most important to us! Save yourself some stress and draft a budget. If you need help getting started, check out these 9 easy steps to create a foolproof trip budget.

Mistake #6: Arriving Right Before or Right After Park Opening

As tempting as it is to sleep in while visiting the parks, you can always get the most done in the parks during the first couple of hours. Crowds are typically the lowest first thing in the morning, making lines the shortest!

It takes time to go through security and get through the gate, so we like to plan to be at the park 40-60 minutes before the park opens. With COVID, things are a little different, so 30 minutes may be adequate.  

When Disney states a park opening time, that time is the time the rides and attractions begin working. You can often enter the park up to an hour before the park technically opens! Sometimes, Disney will start allowing guests into attractions before their scheduled opening time, so it pays to get there early!

screenshot of disneyland app for common disney planning trip mistakes

Mistake #7: Forgetting to Download the Disney Park App Ahead of Time

You don’t want to forget to download the park app! If you’re visiting Disneyland, look for the Disneyland app on Google Store or the Apple Store. If you’re going to Walt Disney World, download the My Disney Experience app.

Not only can you purchase tickets directly from the app, but you can also use it to look up ride wait times, reserve dining, view menus, order food, find characters, discover parade and shows, locate restrooms, and more!

Avoid These Mistakes to Have a Magical Time at Disney

Make the best of memories on your next Disney vacation when you avoid these common Disney trip planning mistakes!  You’ll save time and money (and headaches), allowing you to focus on what’s most important.  

Have you learned from your mistakes at Disneyland or Walt Disney World?  Share them below!  Planning a trip to Disney and have a question?  Ask it!  I love hearing from my readers.

11 Magical Campgrounds for Families in the USA

We’ve partnered with several travel bloggers to provide you with details about some of the most magical campgrounds for families in the United States!

From the east coast to the west coast, you’ll find something that fits your style. Whether it’s the redwood forests of California, the unique rock formations of Utah, or the Little Grand Canyon of Georgia, these sites are the perfect place to pitch your tent for a night, or two…or more!

magical campgrounds at providence canyon state park in georgia

Providence Canyon State Park

Lumpkin, Georgia

Recommended by Mike from FivePax

Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia offers one of the most unique geological attractions in the Southeast United States. One of the seven natural wonders of Georgia, and known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” the park boasts excellent hiking around the rim and through towering chasms and canyon walls. Camping is available in either backcountry or pioneer sites, both options offering direct access to trails through the canyon. 

The canyon itself is an example of unintentional beauty caused by mankind’s interference with Mother Nature. Poor farming practices in the 1800s coupled with erosion cut through 150-foot canyon walls exposing stunning and vibrant sediment of salmon, scarlet, orange, yellow, and even purple. While about 1/30 the size of the actual Grand Canyon, Georgia’s version packs an accessible punch without the crowds.

The campsites are remote, primitive, exceptionally large, and magical. The clearings above the campsites are large enough to expose one of the few areas of excellent stargazing in the southeast. Families camping in pioneer sites enjoy a solid 200 yards from the neighbors with large open space, lean-to sheds, picnic tables, and dedicated outhouses.

Nearby attractions include the Coca Cola Space Science Center, which hosts the largest collection of NASA artifacts in Georgia, swimming and additional camping at Florence Marina State Park, and the National Infantry Museum

 

About Mike

Mike Baron is an outdoor enthusiast, husband, and father of three wild boys. When he’s not outside, he’s usually writing about it, either on his own Family Travel Blog, FivePax, or as a freelance travel writer. 

www.instagram.com/fivepax

magical campgrounds at watkins glen state park in new york with tents in a wooded forest

Watkins Glen State Park Campground

Watkins Glen, New York

Recommended by Neha from Travelmelodies 

Watkins Glen State Park is the most visited state park in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is famed for its scenic vistas and numerous waterfalls, and it’s amazing to spend a night at the Watkins Glen campground. 

The campground in the State Park is spread over a large area with around 300 campsites and wooden cabins. The Watkins Glen campsites are spread out in six loops, with each loop identified with a village name that can be easily booked online at the Watkins State Park website. 

Each campsite is spacious and equipped with a fire pit, benches, and tables, with parking for cars. The best part is the campground is being surrounded by lush green trees, fresh air, and serenity.

The campground is best for families and includes facilities like restrooms, showers, a dumping station, and a firewood shop.  There are food concession shops, gift shops, and cabins. Near the campground are a kids’ playground and swimming pool, making it a hit amongst families.

During the day, explore the state park by hiking the scenic gorge trail that traverses the 19 waterfalls formed in the creek. The hike can be done with the kids! There are other trails to choose from as well! 

The fee for a campsite ranges from $18 – $30 with some additional booking charges. Non-residents of New York state pay an additional $5.

Summer is a popular time and hence it is advisable to book the campsite well in advance.

The Pines Campgrounds in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley, California

Recommended by Melanie from SuitChase

If you think that camping in one of the most beautiful valleys in the world surrounded by granite cliffs 3,000 feet tall sounds like the stuff dreams are made of, we would agree! Yosemite Valley boasts some of the most magical campgrounds, not just in the United States, but in the world.  

The campsites themselves aren’t the most magical part–it’s the setting. Everyone else seems to agree, as these campsites can be difficult to come by. They typically are booked within seconds of becoming available on the reservation system. And that’s not an exaggeration.

There are three “pines” campgrounds in Yosemite National Park: Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines. All three sit along the Merced River and can be used for both tent or RV camping. Be advised that while there are no hookups, there is a dump station available.

Yosemite Valley allows campers to enjoy the beautiful wilderness with the modern conveniences. Pay showers are available at the nearby Curry Village that includes body wash, shampoo, and a towel! If you need ice or almost anything else, it can be purchased at the General Store.

Visitors enjoy hiking to any of the stunning waterfalls, participating in the Junior Ranger Program, rock climbing, visiting the museum, or riding bikes around the valley. If you’re traveling with kids, check out four of our favorite family-friendly hikes in Yosemite!

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ACT Campground

Moab, Utah

Recommended by Angela of Life by the Horns

Are you looking for a campground that is close to National Parks, has plenty of amenities, and is still accessible to civilization? Look no further than ACT Campground in Moab, Utah.

ACT is truly unique in its approach to sustainability, community, and exploration of the natural world. Located in downtown Moab, ACT is close to Arches, Canyonlands (Island in the Sky), the La Sal Mountains, and Dead Horse Point State Park.  Within reasonable driving distance is Natural Bridges, Canyonlands (Needles District), Goose Neck State Park, and Monument Valley.

ACT Campground is perfect for campers from all walks of life. In fact, it attracts travelers from all over the world! Whether you prefer tent camping, have an RV, or prefer one of its cabins, ACT delivers.

This campground views its visitors as a community! It offers both indoor and outdoor gourmet kitchens where people from all walks of life often come together to share their adventure stories and love of the outdoors. They also have a business center and lending library. 

Self-sustainability is also one of its core values. The property is solar operated, has a garden, and guests are encouraged to recycle and compost on-site

Our family has visited ACT each year for the past five years, and it is one of our favorite places. It’s like coming home.

entrance sign of magical campgrounds at fort wilderness in florida

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

Orlando, Florida

Recommended by Margie with DQ Family Travel

Fort Wilderness is not your typical campground. It is located in the “most magical place on Earth”, Disney World.

While sites here can easily run over $100, the people who choose to camp here, know that location comes at a premium. Fort Wilderness is located on Disney property and has free transportation to all the four theme parks and the shopping/dining area of Disney Springs.

In addition to being so close to Mickey Mouse, Fort Wilderness offers guests a pool with a waterslide, food trucks, walking trails, a country-themed dining show, character appearances, and some of the largest and cleanest Comfort Stations (showers) I’ve ever seen. 

While most guests who stay here take advantage of the boat rides to Magic Kingdom and bus transportation to the theme parks, some just visit Fort Wilderness to get away from the hustle and bustle of Disney hotels. Some of the best things to do in Disney World besides the parks can be found at Fort Wilderness. Guests staying at the campsite or cabins have access to some great amenities and rentals. Some activities available are archery, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, and using the various sports courts found around the property. So, if you’d like to combine some Disney magic with a campground experience, then Fort Wilderness might be the place for you. 

Enjoy Fort Wilderness, one of the most magical campgrounds on the east coast!

view of river of magical campgrounds at longhorn ranch in wyoming

The Longhorn Ranch RV Resort

Dubois, Wyoming

Recommended by Brittany of Family on Standby

As if Wyoming weren’t stunning enough, the Longhorn Ranch keeps the magic coming. It offers plenty of grass and shade, which is not so common throughout Wyoming. The sites are spread out enough so you’ll have your own large, green space. And you can choose from a variety of sites: big rig friendly, riverfront, tent camping. Not only does this place have all the standard amenities like showers, laundry, playground, free wifi, and a general store, but you’ll get the views to go along with it. The campground is located on a gorgeous river with beautiful mountain views in the background.  It’s perfect for strolling around and admiring the scenery.

But the best part: its location. Longhorn Ranch is nestled in Dubois, Wyoming – a true cowboy town. You’ll feel like you stepped into an old western movie, but without the cheesy touristic side. Dubois is charming and authentic. While staying at the Longhorn Ranch, visit the famous Cowboy Café in downtown Dubois.

When you’re ready to start exploring, Grand Teton National Park is only an hour away.  Yellowstone is also within reach. Head to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton for one of the most gorgeous, and family-friendly, hikes, the Moose Ponds Trail. Admire the mountains from Schwabacher Landing. And snap your picture in front of the famous T.A. Moulton Barn in the historic Mormon Row.

The campground is the perfect distance for a relaxed stay, but close enough to enjoy all Grand Teton and Yellowstone have to offer.

magical campgrounds kids playing at Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara in California

Refugio State Beach Campground

Santa Barbara, California

Recommended by Melanie from SuitChase

Have you ever camped somewhere with the sound of crashing waves lulling you to sleep? If not, you’re in for a treat when you visit Refugio State Beach Campground just north of Santa Barbara in California.  Easily one of the most magical campgrounds on the California coast, you’ll want to add Refugio to your camping wishlist.

While the campsites themselves are on the small side, the palm-lined beach is the starring feature of this campground. Flush toilets and coin-operated showers are a nice bonus during your stay at Refugio State Park.

Kids will enjoy bodyboarding, playing in the sand, or going on a beach walk to hunt for seashells. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and surfing are other popular water activities. There’s also plenty of room on the beach to bump a volleyball or throw a frisbee.

For added adventure, drive 15-minutes south to visit Santa Barbara. Explore the marina, go for a bike or surrey ride, visit the zoo, or enjoy any of these adventurous family-friendly activities.

Refugio State Beach is popular, especially on the weekends, so make sure to secure your spot as soon as reservations are released (six months in advance). If you love sunshine, the best time to visit this enchanting campground is in the spring or fall.

magical campgrounds girls standing by water at sand hollow state park in Utah

Sand Hollow State Park

Washington County, Utah

Recommended by Kristina of Million Miller Mom

If you’re on the lookout for a camping experience that offers a gorgeous backdrop and plenty of amenities, be sure to check out one of Utah’s newest state parks, Sand Hollow State Park. With options for primitive camping, tents, and full hook-up, there is something for every visitor.

After you have settled into your campground, explore the Sand Mountain Dunes by ATV, go boating or simply enjoy the red sand beach and a dip in the reservoir. The mix of modern amenities, the number of options of things to do within the park, and the Mars-like red sand make this a truly unique place to camp.

Outside of the Park, Zion National Park is only 45 minutes away by car. Additionally, Utah has several state parks within the vicinity to check out including Quail Creek State Park (15 minutes), Snow Canyon State Park (30 minutes), and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park (1 hour). In nearby St. George, check out the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site, and Red Hills Desert Garden (free). For those traveling with younger children, be sure to add St. George Children’s Museum and Thunder Junction All Abilities Park to your travel itinerary.

Book your campsite here

 

About Kristina

Kristina Bullock is a family travel blogger based in San Jose, California. Follow her and her family on their adventures near and far on Million Miler Mom and Instagram.

kids playing on a redwood log in magical campgrounds in big basin state park near santa cruz

Big Basin Redwood State Park

Santa Cruz County, California

Recommended by Melanie from SuitChase

Camping in Big Basin near Santa Cruz is a fairytale experience. There are no words to describe these magical campgrounds! 

Sites are fairly private, especially in the Huckleberry Campground, with plenty of space behind the campsites for exploring and playing. The campsites are nestled amongst the tallest trees in the world, the Coastal Redwoods.

These redwoods are related to the Giant Sequoias that can be found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These awe-inspiring trees can grow to heights over 350 feet and typically live 500-700 years. However, some of these trees live up to 2,000 years!

Campgrounds boast coin-operated showers, a dish-washing area, picnic tables, fire-pits with grills, and bear boxes for food storage.

Kids will love climbing giant fallen trees, crawling inside trees hollowed out by fire, hunting for banana slugs, and hiking along the creek to a small waterfall.  For added adventure, take the Roaring Camp Railroad through the redwoods to the beach and explore the Santa Cruz Boardwalk!

While California wildfires in 2020 destroyed much of these campgrounds, most of the big trees survived. They are in the process of rebuilding this beautiful park, and hopefully, they’ll be open to overnight guests once again in the near future.

dock at magical campgrounds at sugar pine at lake tahoe in california

Sugar Pine Point Campground

Lake Tahoe, California

Recommended by Sierra from Free to Travel Mama

Of all the places in the United States, Sugar Pine Point Campground in Lake Tahoe, California is one of the most magical campgrounds. Located on the west shore of the lake, this campground offers 175 campsites with plenty of space to explore and relax. The sugar pine trees are some of the tallest in the world and can be heard beautifully swaying in the breeze. Wildlife is also abundant, so don’t be surprised if you see a black bear, and make sure to utilize those food lockers! Miles of hiking trails meander through the park, many of them paved, as well as a two-mile-long swimming beach.

This popular area requires early reservations that open six months before your arrival date. Summer weekends fill up fast so prepare to start your trip mid-week, if you can, in order to grab a spot. Luckily, every campsite in this campground is beautiful, spacious, and well-located within the park.

Across the street from the campsites, and still within Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, is a day-use area complete with lake access, kayak rentals, the historic Hellman-Ehrman Estate that is open for touring, picnic areas, walking trails, Nature Center, and a beautiful pier. Evidence of the Washoe Native Americans that inhabited the area for many years can be seen around the park. This beautiful stretch of the Lake Tahoe area is arguably the most picturesque and peaceful, yet its water activities and hiking can also keep you busy all day!

magical campground near haviland lake called chris park group campground in colorado near durango

Chris Park Group Campground

Durango, Colorado

Recommended by Melanie from SuitChase

If you’re looking for a campground that will accommodate a large group (or even a small group), check out Chris Park Group Campground near Durango, Colorado.

Located in the San Juan Mountains, a range in southwestern Colorado that is part of the Rocky Mountains, these  magical campgrounds are perfect for a summer getaway!

The largest of the group sites has a large pavilion with picnic tables that will keep everyone dry during afternoon thunderstorms. There is a 15amp electrical hookup, volleyball court, and horseshoe pits. Bathroom facilities are primitive, offering vault toilets and no showers. If you don’t have an RV, and swimming in the lake isn’t your thing, you can pay for a shower at the Durango Rec Center.

If you’re searching for family-friendly activities, you’ll have plenty to choose from! At the entrance of the campground, there is a stable offering horseback riding. The nearby Haviland Lake is perfect for activities like fishing, swimming, and kayaking/canoeing. Hike around the lake or explore one of the many trails in the area. For an additional adventure, ride the train from Durango to the mountain town of Silverton, where you can step back in time to the mining days of the 1800s.

Chris Park Group Campground is a wonderful place for family reunions or just to meet up with a group of friends!

START PLANNING YOUR FAMILY CAMPING TRIP

Are you ready to start planning a camping trip?  If you’re planning your first tent camping trip, check out A Beginner’s Guide to Tent Camping: 102 Things to Pack to get you started!

Which of these magical campgrounds do you want to add to your bucket list for your next family adventure? Do you know of any other campgrounds in the United States that are perfect for adventurous families? We’d love to hear about them! Drop your recommendation in the comments below!

Visit Mesa Verde National Park (Includes a 1-Day Itinerary)

Visiting Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado is a must for families.

While Mesa Verde National Park may not be as popular as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, or Yellowstone, this park is a huge hit among kids and should be part of a family road trip! 

Mesa Verde is home to some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the United States. These ancient ruins are truly remarkable. 

Kids love the hands-on exploration

Hiking to Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling

About Mesa Verde National Park

Who Lived in the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings?

For over 700 years, Native Americans called the Ancestral Puebloans (also known as the Anasazi) inhabited the flat mountaintops and eventually constructed living quarters in the sandstone mountainsides of Mesa Verde National Park. 

 

What Does Mesa Verde Mean?

Mesa means “table” in Spanish and verde means “green”. So, Mesa Verde literally translated means “green table”. Some mountains are flat on top with no mountain peaks. These are commonly referred to as mesas because they are straight like tabletops! Green likely describes the shrubs that grow on top. 

VISITING MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK

Where is Mesa National Park Located?

Mesa Verde is located in southwest Colorado within a short driving distance of Four Corners Monument (where Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado meet) and the popular travel destination of Durango, Colorado.

 

How Many Days Do You Need at Mesa Verde?

Most people find that a one-day visit to Mesa Verde National Park gives them a good overview of the park. If you want to see as much as possible, a two-day trip is advised.

The park is 52,000 acres and has over 600 cliff dwellings.  Most of the dwellings are small with only one or two rooms, but the larger dwellings, like Spruce Tree House, has over 100 rooms!  Not all rooms are accessible to the public, but there is plenty to see and experience during one full day in the park.

 

When is the Best Time to Visit Mesa Verde?

During the winter months and into early spring, park guests aren’t able to explore the cliff dwellings and ruins, but they can still view them from scenic lookouts. If your family wants to physically explore the Mesa Verde ruins (highly recommended!), plan a visit when the cliff dwellings can be toured, preferably during late spring through fall.

 

Can You Explore the Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde?

Yes! While not all the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings are open to the public, some are. Places like Spruce Tree House allow self-guided tours, while places like Cliff Palace and Balcony House are paid, ranger-guided tours.

Visit the park website for tour details and to check for any closures or alerts that may be in effect.

 

Mesa Verde Hiking and Trails

For those families who love to hike, Mesa Verde offers almost a dozen trails to explore! Most hikes are in the 2-3 mile range.

1-Day Mesa Verde Itinerary

To help you plan your visit to Mesa Verde National Park, we’ve put together a one-day itinerary to help you save more, see more, and enjoy more!

 

Stop by the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center

After entering the park, you’ll want to stop by the visitor center. It’s here that you can learn more about the park, get a Junior Ranger booklet for the kids, and schedule a ranger-guided tour. While tours can be reserved online before your visit, you’ll still need to get a hard-copy ticket from the visitor center.

 

Become a Junior Ranger

The National Parks Junior Ranger program is a fun educational opportunity…with the benefits of a free souvenir! Kids who complete the program (usually a small activity booklet) and take the Junior Ranger pledge, will receive a small wooden Mesa Verde Junior Ranger badge!

It doesn’t take a lot of time, it’s free to participate, and the kids can complete pages while driving from one location to another or while sitting on the side of the trail. Each booklet teaches about the park’s history, ecosystem, and geology.

Simply return your completed booklet to a ranger at the visitor center at the end of the day and claim your reward!

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My kids love asking the rangers questions–park rangers are the best!

Tour the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum

From the Visitor’s Center, you wind your way through the mountains to the hub of the park, The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, and the trailhead for Spruce Tree House Cliff Dwellings.

The museum has a variety of exhibits about the people of the park as well as a 25-minute film that gives an overview of Mesa Verde.  

While you certainly can hike before watching the film, we like learning some of the park’s history before exploring.

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Hike to Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House is visible from the museum, and it’s a fairly easy hike to the cliff dwellings. Kids will love exploring at their own pace, climbing ladders, and peeking through ancient windows.

visit mesa verde national park

Eat a Picnic Lunch

Find a picnic table, or sit cross-cross-applesauce on the ground, and enjoy the beautiful scenery while you eat your packed lunch. If you didn’t pack and lunch, you can also grab a bite to eat at the Spruce Tree Terrace Cafe.

 

Take a Ranger-Guided Tour of Another Cliff Dwelling

After lunch, take a guided tour with a ranger! The cheapest one to two-hour tours include Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House.  

Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde while Balcony House has a short tunnel. All tours require visitors to climb large, sturdy ladders, so they may not be suited to very young guests…although we all know that 18-month-olds are the world’s fiercest mountain goats. 

 

If You Have Extra Time in Mesa Verde

If you find yourself with extra time in your day (some of us hike and eat faster than others), try exploring Petroglyph Point Trail (more challenging) or Soda Canyon Overlook Trail (easy)!

young girl climbing ladder in kiva at mesa verde national park
family hiking spruce tree house trail at mesa verde national park

Enjoy Your Day in Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde is such a unique place and the perfect place to spend a day exploring. Are you planning a trip to Mesa Verde? Do you have any questions? Ask me in the comments below!

Packing List for Yellowstone National Park–FREE Printable! (22 Essential Items)

You’re headed to one of the most iconic national parks in the world, but you’re not sure what to put on your Yellowstone packing list.  Don’t worry!  We’ve got you covered!

Visiting Yellowstone National Park was one of the most memorable road trips our family has taken (you can find our detailed 3-day itinerary on our blog).  We try to be minimalist packers, but we also like to make sure we have all the important things.

I have a love for beautiful, useful things, so I created a FREE, printable pdf of our Yellowstone Packing List for you!

Here’s what’s on our packing list for Yellowstone:

Bear Spray

Bears were my number one concern when we started planning our trip to Yellowstone.  We’re from California and bears are a normal part of mountain exploration…but not grizzly bears. 

Black bears in California will break into your car, crack open your ice chest, tear open your backpack, and eat all your food.  But, generally, they leave humans alone.  

Grizzly bears in Yellowstone generally leave people alone, too, but if they are surprised on a trail, they may attack.  So, you want to be prepared.  

While sounds scary, there’s good news:  we saw a grizzly bear, and we’re still here to talk about it.  The best news is that it was far enough away we didn’t need bear spray.

It isn’t necessary to carry bear spray on highly trafficked trails, but you will want it if you plan to hike in less-trafficked areas.  

Rent or Buy Bear Spray

Bear spray can be purchased throughout the park at gift shops and stores, or outside the park at sporting goods stores (think Walmart or REI).  You can also order it on Amazon, just make sure it’s an EPA approved bottle like this one.  If you want to save a few dollars, you can rent bear spray at Yellowstone Canyon Village.

Mosquito and Bug Repellent

If you’re visiting Yellowstone during the summer, you may encounter mosquitos.  The good news is, they typically only hang out around dawn and dusk.  The bad news is, there are A LOT of them.

My son and I tend to be mosquito magnetics (apparently we metabolize cholesterol quickly, creating a tasty smell on our skin that attracts mosquitos).

We use this natural repellent and opted to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants first thing in the morning and evening to help deter the crazy critters.

Also, eating around the campfire helps, too!

Poncho or Rain Jacket

Afternoon thunderstorms can occur, so pack your favorite rain jacket or poncho.  I prefer ponchos because they are nice and small, taking up less room in my suitcase.  They’re easy to throw over a t-shirt, sweatshirt, or jacket, depending on the temperature.

Long Sleeves and Pants (even in summer)

The elevation of Yellowstone varies several thousand feet throughout the park, averaging around 8,000 feet above sea level.  Even if it’s warm during the day, the evenings can get cool (plus, don’t forget about mosquitos).  Do yourself a favor and pack some jeans and long-sleeved shirts even during the summer.

Sweatshirt and/or Jacket

Layers are the name of the game when it comes to packing for Yellowstone.  Tanks, short sleeves, long sleeves, sweatshirts, and a jacket are all things you’ll want to put in your bag!

Camera

Your iPhone is great for many shots, but if you’re hoping to get some close-up shots of wildlife, you’ll want a camera with a telephoto lens.  Park officials advise that guests stay 100 yards away from wolves and bears, and 25 yards away from elk, deer, bison, and other large animals.

Binoculars

We brought and borrowed a few pairs of binoculars for the whole family to share, but we often wished we had a pair of binoculars for each person.  We spent quite a bit of time looking at wildlife–it was something that was a highlight of the trip for our kids (and us)!

Swimsuit/Bathing Suit

When I think Yellowstone, swimming isn’t usually the first activity that pops into my mind.  Swimming in hot springs is forbidden (dangerously hot!).  However, there are a couple of places that are recognized as safe swim areas.  Water from the hot springs mixes with the cold water of the river, making for perfect swimming temperatures.

These two areas are called the Boiling River (near Mammoth) and Firehole (near Madison Junction).  Check the National Parks website to confirm operating hours for swimming/soaking as well as updates and current conditions.

Sunglasses

While sunny and bright conditions aren’t guaranteed, it’s nice to have something to block the glare on those summer days (or any time of the year).  Plus, did you know that you can get skin cancer in your eye?  Yep.  That’s why I don’t go anywhere without my sunglasses…plus, I have unusually large pupils, making it hard to see on bright days.

Hat

Throw in your favorite hat to shield you from the afternoon sun.  I’m a baseball cap, trucker cap gal, but I probably should be a wide-brimmed hat type.  I do have long hair, though, that typically covers my neck and ears.  

Sunscreen

We try to keep a bottle in our vehicle and a small travel-size bottle in our backpack.  We didn’t notice the sun being particularly intense during our stay (you are pretty far north), but it’s always a good idea to protect your skin.

Refillable Water Bottle

Conserve space and reduce waste by bringing your refillable water bottle!  There are water refilling stations throughout the park.

External Charger

There are two places I like to take my external charger: Disney and on the trail.  Service is spotty and non-existent throughout much of the park (yay for unplugging!), but if you’re taking a lot of video or pictures, you may need to recharge your battery.  

First Aid Kit

Fortunately, we didn’t need this on our last trip, but you never know!  We keep one in the back of our vehicle…just in case!

Anti-Itch Cream

If you’re unlucky, like me, you’ll want something to help with the itching, post-mosquito-fest.  Some people like cream or lotion.  I’m a bit more natural (avoid chemicals as much as possible), so I like to bring along some activated charcoal or clay.  Just mix it with a little water and spread it over the bites.  It will bind to the toxins and help reduce the itch!

Maps

Because cell service is so spotty, you’ll want to have an old-school back-up plan.  When you check-into the park, you should receive a park map.  Otherwise, you can download a pdf before you enter the park.

Mailing Addresses

What?  Why do you need mailing addresses?  We love dropping a postcard in the mail to friends and family while we’re on a road trip.  It’s always helpful to save these to your phone before your trip for easy access!  

Backpack/Daypack

Even if you don’t plan to do any crazy hikes, it’s always nice to have a backpack or daypack for hauling around your essentials.  Throw in your wallet (yes, there’s ice cream in Yellowstone!), ponchos, water bottles, sunscreen, maps, phone charger, and snacks!

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots may not be your thing, but at the very least, you’ll want to bring some comfortable walking shoes.  Between exploring hot springs, boiling mud pots, waterfalls, and valleys, you can do a fair amount of walking over the course of a day.  Be comfortable!

Cash for Showers

We opted to stay at Canyon Campground because we’re tent campers and Cayon Campground has luxurious, hot showers.  Well, they’re not actually luxurious, but they sure seem fancy-pancy when you’re spending every living moment outdoors.

Showers aren’t your typical coin-operated type.  Instead, there’s a shower attendant that you give a few bucks to in exchange for unlimited hot water.  It’s all kinds of lovely.

Towel

If you plan to jump in the river (at the designated areas) or take a shower, you’ll want a towel.  They had some small towels at the shower facilities (that had to stay in the facility), but we prefer to take our own.

Flashlight or Headlamp

There are no street lights in the great outdoors.  You’ll want a flashlight or headlamp if you plan to do any walking (even if it’s to the restroom) at night.  Headlamps are also handy for setting up camp after dark, keeping your hands free so you can put together your camp faster!

Get a FREE Printable Packing List for Yellowstone

To make your life easier (I’m all about saving time and money), I’ve created a FREE Yellowstone packing list for you to download!

Use it in combination with your general packing list and my camping basics list and you’ll be ready to go!

Have any questions about packing for Yellowstone?  Drop them below!