How to Move from Boulder to Los Angeles in July with a Dog and a Parent

Camping & Hiking expert Hannah K. moved from Boulder to Los Angeles with a goal of hitting Utah's Big Five. Read about her adventures with her mom and dog here.

A roadside sign reads "Welcome to Utah. Life Elevated."

Photo by Arturo Rivera

Published on

In January 2021, I moved to Boulder, Colorado. I had never driven through snow, didn’t have the best tires, and didn’t have an ice scraper to clean off my windshield. I essentially had to deal with winter—something I never previously had to do growing up in Southern California. On that trip I didn’t make too many stops along the way besides getting food, making bathroom runs, or letting the dog run around. My favorite stop was when we pulled over to a random fenced-in baseball field and played fetch.

In July 2021, a mere 7 months later, I decided to move back to Los Angeles, California. Here is how I drove through the desert in summer with a dog, all my stuff, and my mom, and, of course, all the stops we made along the way (now that there wasn’t any snow to stop us)!

Day One

That morning I still had a few last-minute errands to run (returning internet equipment and giving back my keys), and we ended up officially leaving Boulder at 11 am. At that time, my car had 99,244 miles. I kept watch of the mile tracker so I knew where I would hit 100,000 miles—which is probably way more exciting to me than it should be.

We didn’t make any major stops until we got to Fruita, Colorado where we stopped at the Colorado National Monument around 4 pm. It was 97 degrees and too hot to do any major hikes. In fact, the entire trip we had only planned on one hike. Most of the time was driving around, getting out, maybe taking some pictures, and getting back in the car. At the monument, we did a short driving tour before arriving at our Airbnb by 5 pm. The three of us stayed in a back house on a farm. My dog and the cow kissed.

A black dog and a brown cow touch noses through a fence.

Photo by Hannah K.

Some people have asked me: Why didn’t you guys camp on this road trip? Well, my mom is not the biggest camper. It would also reach 90 degrees by 5 am, and I didn’t want my dog to die of heatstroke in the middle of the night. A huge part of this trip was designed around my dog, Raya. She is part cattle dog, part shepherd and does not like the heat. When you have a furry companion, your trip becomes about their needs, not your own. So we didn’t camp!

By the end of the day, we had 99,500 miles on the car.

Day Two

The next morning, we woke up at not the most desirable time, 3:45 am, packed up the car, and made the two-hour drive to Moab, UT. Our first stop was Dead Horse State Park. This time last year, I did a similar trip with some friends, and in this article, you can compare the things we did then vs now.

Most State Parks in Utah are dog friendly, so we took the dog on a short 3-mile hike called the East Rim Trail, whereas last year we did the full 7-mile loop. But the 3-mile version was perfect because the heat was still tolerable by the end of our hike. If I saw Raya start to pant heavy or slow down, we took a break in a shady spot and I poured some water over her neck and back. I also tied a soaking wet bandana around her neck and gave her plenty of water breaks.

Normally I would never recommend taking your dog to the desert in July, but I couldn’t move home without her. So we made it work.

After our hike and a breakfast break, we drove 15 minutes to Canyonlands National Park. By now it was too hot to get out of the car so we did an hour driving tour, only stopping at overviews and stretching our legs. By the end of our tour it was 11 am and I was hungry and tired and a bit grumpy from the heat, so we drove 30 minutes back into the town of Moab and got some iced coffee.

On my trip here last year, we found a really nice section of the Colorado River to swim in and in an attempt to cool down we went for a swim. So we did it again this year! The water was warm but it was a really relaxing place to sit.

Three girls stand with their feet in the water of a shallow river. The mud and background canyon walls are red.

Photo courtesy of Hannah K.

We were finally ready to go to our Airbnb for the night which was right in downtown Moab. From around 1:30-6 pm we stayed indoors, took naps, ate, and rested. By 7 pm we drove a total of 5 minutes to Arches National Park. Moab is a really amazing town and you only need to drive a few minutes to get anywhere beautiful which I really appreciate.

In case you don’t know, dogs are not allowed on any trails inside national parks. There are a few exceptions, but the majority of the time dogs must stay on paved roads. Of course, in July the paved roads are too hot to stand on for their paws, so I would put a towel down to let her get out while my mom and I would take turns walking to the overlook. At every break, I would offer Raya water, lead her to a pee spot, and give her a new toy to entertain herself with. Roadtrips are especially hard for dogs if they don’t get enough exercise so this was my attempt at getting some of her energy out.

After an hour of driving through the main spots of Arches, we headed home for the night and got ourselves ready for another long day ahead of us.

We ended day two with 99,760 miles on the car.

Day Three

After another 3:45 wake-up call, we left Moab at 4:45 am and made our way to Capitol Reef National Park. This park is like no other and I urge everyone to go experience it. There were orchards where we could stop and pick our own fruit, a museum and shop, and of course gorgeous views.

The park was named after an interesting Waterpocket Fold, or a “wrinkle” in the geology formed years ago that inspired the “reef” section of the name. Capitol Reef is also an international dark sky, offers horseback riding, has been a national park for 50 years now, and is home to a natural bridge. Petroglyphs, rare desert species, and epic hikes are only some of the perks this park has to offer. We spent an hour driving through and made our way to the next destination.

By 9 am we arrived at the Grand Staircase-Escalante on our way to Bryce Canyon. This monument is dog-friendly, offers insane views, and is a great scenic drive to connect national parks. We didn’t hike of course, because by now it was 107 degrees outside. But we did stop to admire the view, take some pictures, and eat our daily peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

We also drove through Dixie National Forest which is beyond beautiful. We decided to stop here and go for a short 2-mile hike to get our legs moving and let the dog run around. I highly encourage everyone to go but keep in mind, there are cows everywhere: the sides of the road, the middle of the road, everywhere on the road, and of course along the grassy pastures. We loved driving through the maze and seeing each cow's personality shine through. One was feeling particularly brave and licked my window a few times before deciding it didn’t taste as good as the grass.

And another huge thing happened: we hit 100,000 miles on the car!

We finally made it to Bryce Canyon, which does have one short trail that dogs can hike on. Dogs are allowed on the paved trail between Sunset and Sunrise Point as well as the paved shared-use path between the park entrance and Inspiration Point. Unlike other national parks, Bryce Canyon allows dogs to walk to overviews and lookouts which was a nice change of pace. It was also a lot cooler here than in Moab which was thoroughly enjoyed. We could actually roll down the windows and turn the air conditioning off!

The author stands with her feet wide apart and her arms open. Her dog stands nearby.

Happy because it wasn’t 117 degrees outside anymore! Photo courtesy of Hannah K.

Bryce Canyon was easily the busiest place we went to, which was overwhelming and took away from the serenity of the place. Because of this we didn’t stay long and made our way to St. George for the night.

We ended day three with 100,201 miles on the car.

Day Four

Day four was not what we expected. We had planned to go to Sand Hollow State Park and Zion National Park. The night before, I was looking into the parks and specific places to hit while there when I found out that you aren’t allowed to drive the scenic route of Zion when the shuttle was operating, and of course we can’t take the shuttle because we can’t take the dog on the shuttle. And we can’t leave the dog at the Airbnb. After mulling it over and getting sad we decided to drive home a day early to Los Angeles.

Just a reminder and cautionary tale to thoroughly do research before you make plans and be ready to change your plans and be flexible for those curveballs that inevitably come your way.

Although my goal was to hit the Big 5 of Utah within this trip, the three of us were tired of the heat. I woke up with headaches and nausea most mornings despite the insane amount of water and electrolytes I was consuming. I could tell Raya was tired of long driving days, and I felt guilty for putting her through that.

So, we left St. George by 4:30 am Mountain Time and got back to Los Angeles by 10:30 am Pacific Time.

We ended day four with 100,583 miles on the car.

Final Thoughts

That is how I moved from Boulder, CO to Los Angeles, CA with a dog and a mom in July. Ultimately, moving in the summer through a desert is not necessarily the best time and it was definitely type-two fun.

  • Type-one fun: you are having fun while you are there
  • Type-two fun: not really enjoying yourself in the moment but look and think about how fun it was

If it had been cooler out, we would have expanded the trip another few days and stayed in places longer. We would have taken longer driving breaks to help the dog get out some energy and anxiety. I would have felt more comfortable not rushing through everything.

The heat is no joke and you always need to be flexible to change your plans for health and safety purposes. However, the views and places we went to were gorgeous and I am already planning my next road trip (just not in the desert in summer)!

Have any questions about where I went and what I did? Hit me up through my profile and let’s chat!

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Although I've been hiking for most of my life, I didn't start backpacking and camping until college when I joined the University Outdoors Club at my school. My first backpacking trip was ambitious, the Batona Trail in the Pinelands in New Jersey done in two days. To do that, we had to walk a maratho...

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