As you travel from Joshua Tree, named for its quirky part-tree and part-cactus plants, to the higher elevations of Durango, with its old mining town feel, you'll have plenty to see along the way. You'll see desert landscapes dotted with cacti and rock formations, as well as waterfalls set within lush greenery. Your possible activities on this road trip from Joshua Tree to Durango include swooshing down a natural water slide, exploring a world-famous cliff dwelling, and riding a narrow-gauge railroad.
Joshua Tree National Park
One of the most interesting stops is right at the beginning of your Joshua Tree to Durango RV road trip. Joshua Tree National Park hosts intriguing scenery with its rocky landscapes and "trees" that seem right out of a Dr. Seuss book. The Joshua tree is not actually a tree, though; it is in the Yucca family. This is one of the few areas in the world where you can see Joshua trees, and they are all over the park, as are some very interesting rock formations. Follow Skull Rock, White Take Campground, or Wonderland of Rocks trail to see another of the park's star attractions: boulders in shapes you've never seen before. Some of them look like piles of melted wax, while others almost seem to have faces or animal-like shapes. One of the most impressive rock formations is Arch Rock, which is 30 feet tall. Once you have taken in the surreal sights surrounding you, it might be time for a rock climb. There are more than 8,000 known rock climbs in the park. Another option is hiking the 2 miles to the Lost Horse Mine to learn about the gold mining history of the area.
Grand Canyon National Park
Plan a detour visit to the Grand Canyon as it is a must on this Joshua Tree to Durango road trip. Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, you do not want to pass on this opportunity to take in this gorgeous natural landmark. Once you reach William, Arizona, head north for 60 miles, and you will reach the south rim. From there, you can see the south rim viewpoints: Desert View Road, Grand Canyon Village, and Hermit Road. They each offer slightly different views, so if you have time, try to see them all. You can hike, bike, ride a mule, or even take a helicopter ride for different perspectives of the Grand Canyon. For a nice break from the midday heat, watch the Grand Canyon movie in the IMAX theater at the visitor center. To learn more about the second-most visited national park, visit the Yavapai Museum of Geology.
Mesa Verde National Park
Soon after you pass the Colorado state line, you’ll be able to stop at Mesa Verde National Park. You can see over 600 Ancestral Puebloan Cliff dwellings here, but the star of the show by far is Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in North America. About 100 people lived in Cliff Palace's 150 rooms. This is quite large in comparison to most of the other cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, which tend to have one to five rooms. Before you start exploring, stop at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center to sign up for self-guided tours. Cliff Palace is popular, so try to sign up early.
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
Riordan Mansion was built in 1904 for two families in a small logging town. The historic mansion features Arts and Crafts style architecture with a log exterior. With 13,000 square feet of living area and servants quarters, it's a prime example of gracious living in the early 1900s.
Red Rock State Park
About an hour south of Flagstaff is Red Rock State Park. The red sandstone canyon surrounds you with amazing views everywhere you look. This is where you access Red Rock Crossing, from which you can see Cathedral Rock, one of the most frequently photographed landscapes in Arizona. Stop at the visitor center to learn about the area and the many options for exploring.
Slide Rock State Park
Close by is Slide Rock State Park. This park is also home to beautiful scenery, but it has a more unusual feature: a natural water slide that is 2.5 to 4 feet wide and 80 feet long. Visitors are welcome to take a ride along Slide Rock, which is in Oak Creek and has a seven percent decline. The algae along the bottom provides the necessary slipperiness. You can also swim and wade in Oak Creek. This is a popular spot, so you might want to arrive early.
Jerome Ghost Town
Jerome used to be a busy mining town. After the gold rush died down, residents started to slowly drift away until it became a ghost town. One of the interesting things you'll find in Jerome is the sliding jail. During the 1930s, the jail began sliding downhill very slowly, and it is now 225 feet from where it started. Visit the Mine Museum to get the flavor of the old town, and then make a stop at the world's largest kaleidoscope store. Take a ghost or history tour for even more odd and interesting facts about the town.
Coconino Lava River Cave
A volcanic eruption in Hart Prairie about 700,000 years ago created an interesting geologic feature: the mile-long Coconino Lava River Cave, located in Arizona. As the river of lava flowed, the top, bottom, and sides solidified first while the hot lava inside continued to flow. The rounded cave that formed as a result almost looks manmade because it is such a perfect tube. Stone icicles hanging from the top of the tube were created when a final blast of heat caused parts of the tube to re-liquefy and drip.
Silverton and Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad
The railroad was completed in Durango in 1881, and it has been in continuous operation since that time. The line was mostly used to transport silver and gold ore from the San Juan Mountains, but it is now appreciated mainly for its amazing views. Visit the railroad museum before your ride to learn some interesting facts about the narrow-gauge railroad and the area in general.
Lake Havasu City
Lighthouses on an inland lake? That is only one of the many surprises to be found at Lake Havasu City. As if that isn't enough, Lake Havasu offers something you can see nowhere else: the actual London Bridge. London Bridge is not falling down, and it is right there in Arizona, brought over from England. The lighthouses are another attraction; you can visit more than 27 replica lighthouses at Lake Havasu, and they are adding more all the time. The lighthouses actually work, and they help boaters navigate on the lake. Lake Havasu is actually a dam formed by Parker Dam on the Colorado River. It is a popular destination for its water recreation, off-road vehicle fun, and its beautiful waterfalls and hiking. For a little history, stop by the Lake Havasu Museum of History to learn about Native Americans and the steamboat history of the area. Many off-road trails offer the chance for a little more adventure with all-terrain vehicles. You will also find plenty of comfortable campgrounds at Lake Havasu. There are several dump stations to be found as well in Arizona.
Flagstaff provides a change in elevation and cooler temperatures. It is right by Humphreys Peak, the tallest mountain in Arizona and home to the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort. A popular hike is a 10.4-mile out and back trail. You’ll find many comfortable campgrounds in the area for your RV. Arizona has several dump stations as well.
Durango was a gold-mining frontier town in the Wild West that has become a destination tourist town. It has big mountains, great skiing, and a historic railroad. It also offers outstanding fishing and many historical sites. In Durango, there are many campgrounds to choose from, as well as convenient dump stations.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Joshua Tree to Durango, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Joshua Tree or Durango.