Joshua Tree is an interesting little California town right next to Joshua Tree National Park; it's quirky but fun with a thriving artist community and hippie vibe. As you take your RV from Joshua Tree to Santa Fe, you'll travel through the southwest desert of Arizona and New Mexico with its rocky landscapes and amazing national parks. Grand Canyon, anyone? Yes, that's one possible stop as is a petrified forest and a famed archeological site. Your route includes something for everyone, so pack up the RV, and get ready to roll.
Grand Canyon National Park
If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, you need to see it. Over 5.9 million visitors a year come to see the canyon that is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and 1 mile deep. The mighty Colorado River, which formed the canyon through millions of years of erosion, looks tiny down below from a viewing area along the edge. You can drive around the sights or walk, hike, bike, or ride a mule for an up-close-and-personal look. Another fun way to experience the Grand Canyon is to take a rafting trip on the Colorado River. Any lodge in the park can help you get started.
Petrified Forest National Park
It takes a unique set of circumstances to create petrified wood. Millions of years ago in the petrified forest area, trees were uprooted by flows of lava or floods and then buried by volcanic ash and silt. Over hundreds of years, multicolored silica replaced the organic material. What you see today in the park is the result: logs that have turned to stone. The petrified logs are naturally the main attraction at the Petrified Forest National Park, but there are a lot of other things to see here as well, including wildlife and wildflowers, fossils, buttes and mesas, badlands, ancient petroglyphs, and beautiful vistas in the Painted Desert.
Pecos National Historical Park
If you enjoy archeological sites, be sure to stop at Pecos National Historical Park, which is just outside of Santa Fe. There are over 800 archeological digs here, including the Pecos Pueblo, a rock-and-mud village from about 1100 CE. Other things to see include the Santa Fe trail, the wagon trail that brought people to the American Southwest in the 19th century; and the Glorieta Pass Battlefield, where the Union successfully fought Confederate forces threatening to cut off the West from the Union.
Lake Havasu State Park
If you like water recreation, Lake Havasu is worth a stop on your Joshua Tree to Santa Fe RV road trip. Lake Havasu has many options for getting out on the water. You can rent a boat, jet skis, kayaks, and more. The fishing is great here, as is the hiking, biking, and golfing. Lake Havasu is actually a reservoir along the Colorado River that was formed by Parker Dam.
Slide Rock State Park
A 13-mile drive at Slide Rock State Park enables you to see the stunning red rock surroundings in the 286-acre nature preserve. A popular activity here is the natural slide along the slick bottom of Oak Creek. Slide Rock State Park also has many hiking trails for closer views of the rock formations and plants.
Hyde Memorial State Park
The desert offers many beautiful vistas, but you might be ready for a change of climate and scenery by the time you reach New Mexico. Hyde Memorial State Park, which is New Mexico’s first state park, takes you to a higher elevation for some welcome cool air and green forests. This national park is in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and in the summertime, it’s a perfect spot for walking along nature trails to see birds, wildflowers, and other wildlife. In the wintertime, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and sledding are popular.
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park
Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is a wildlife preserve in Albuquerque. It’s located along the Rio Grande River, and you can walk along 2 miles of nature trails in the riverside forest or bosque. Bird watchers will especially enjoy this state park; there are 250 species here, and you might just see a roadrunner or wood duck.
Does Winslow, Arizona, sound familiar? It might be because of the famous Eagles song “Take It Easy.” In homage to the classic song, the town of Winslow created the Standin’ on the Corner Park. The park corner recreates the scene in the song: a girl in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at the singer. Winslow, Arizona, is at the famed crossroads of Route 66 and Interstate 40, and it is a fun little stop on your road trip from Joshua Tree to Santa Fe.
Jerome Ghost Town
You’ll find plenty of interesting old and odd objects in Jerome Ghost Town. You’ll see all kinds of machinery and vehicles from the past as well as an old dentist's office, schoolhouse, and other buildings. Tour the town, and then stop at the modern-day shops and restaurants with a ghost town theme.
Jemez Springs, New Mexico
Jemez Springs is a tiny village about an hour from Albuquerque in the Santa Fe National Forest. Its attractions are twofold: it's a popular stop both for its historic ruins and its natural hot springs. When you walk the trail to the historic site, you’ll see a 16th-century church and the stone ruins of a 700-year-old village. At the visitor center, you can learn more about the area. After the history and culture tour, you might want to soak in the mineral waters of the many natural hot springs in the area.
Petroglyph National Monument
Within a canyon right outside of Albuquerque, you can find over 24,000 petroglyphs from about 1300 to 1600 CE. The Petroglyph National Monument is a volcanic escarpment with five dormant volcanoes and hundreds of archeological sites. Three trails lead to the petroglyphs, which are on broken lava blocks on the ground. The basalt boulders provided a perfect medium for the primitive art that you see. The designs were made by scratching or chipping the dark outer layer of the lava blocks to reveal the lighter color underneath.
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Lake Havasu City is a popular destination for everyone from college-age spring breakers to retirees. One of the most interesting things about Lake Havasu City is that you can see the London Bridge here that is said to be "falling down" in the children’s song. The bridge was built in to 1830s to cross the River Thames, but was dismantled and moved to Lake Havasu in 1967. The London Bridge crosses a channel that leads from Lake Havasu to Thompson Bay. Lake Havasu City is also home to many lighthouses that are scale replicas of lighthouses from all over the world. They are working lighthouses that aid navigation on the lake. You'll find many campgrounds to suit your needs at Lake Havasu.
Flagstaff is near Humphreys Peak, where you can ski at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort or hike a 10.4-mile out-and-back trail. Humphreys Peak is the tallest mountain in Arizona. Flagstaff is a nice place to stop during the summer months because its higher elevation provides cooler temperatures. Its average high temperature in July is 81 degrees Fahrenheit in contrast with Phoenix's average high temperature of 107 degrees. Flagstaff has many comfortable campgrounds for your RV. There are also plenty of dump stations in Arizona.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque is famous for its hot air balloon festivals, and you can often see the colorful balloons in the sky. You may want to take a ride yourself while you're there. A popular stop in Albuquerque is Old Town Albuquerque, which was established in 1706. Old Town is the city’s arts and culture center, and it’s very walkable. The white towers of Albuquerque’s oldest church mark Old Town from a distance. For spooky fun, you can book a ghost tour in the evening. There are many campgrounds in Albuquerque where you can park your home away from home, as well as dump stations for your convenience.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Joshua Tree to Santa Fe, 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 Santa Fe.