Tag Archives: Utah

Home / Adventure Travels / Travel America | Along the Colorado River Discover Utah Off the Grid

Travel America | Along the Colorado River Discover Utah Off the Grid

Updated: June 26, 2017
By: Emily Long

Moab Utah Outdoors Arches Landscape Rocks

The western United States is famous for its rocky mountains, alien deserts, big skies, and endless opportunities for adventure. Before I moved to Utah from the hot, humid, and flat East Coast a few years ago, I’d never seen anything like the Wasatch range towering over Salt Lake City or the rolling red rocks and arches around Moab. There’s just so much…space. I immediately set out to explore every national park I could drive to, from Glacier National Park in northwest Montana all the way to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Utah alone claims five unique national parks, along with miles and miles of open federal and state land.

National parks offer a friendly gateway to adventure for families and outdoor newbies, but after several summers of busy campgrounds and highly-trafficked trails, I was ready for something new. After all, national parks attendance is hitting record highs, it’s becoming harder to get off the grid, and nature in general feels more crowded.

Moab, a bustling desert town in southern Utah that serves as the jumping-off point for Colorado River float trips, ATV excursions, and all manner of mountain biking, hiking, and camping adventures, is a great base for exploring the desert. It is just a few miles outside of Arches National Park and within an hour’s drive of Canyonlands National Park, so it can feel like a circus during peak season. Luckily, as with much of the western U.S., it’s possible to find complete isolation within spitting distance of busy cities—if you’re willing to.

Our plans took us west from Moab out Kane Creek Road, which quickly meets and follows the banks of the Colorado River. The pavement ends just under five miles, and that’s where the fun begins. There are plenty of camping spots, mountain biking and hiking trails, and rock climbing routes. The road turns to red dirt leading up to Hurrah Pass (~mile 10) and then into jeep track with big boulders and steep dropoffs and all manner of off-road fun. For those with a high-clearance vehicle, the road also leads to one of the three most extreme disc golf courses IN THE WORLD, as well as remote riverside camping and caving. We spent two days playing in the desert—doing yoga on the rocks, exploring dark caves, hiking sun-soaked trails, and watching sunsets over the Colorado—before heading back to the real world.

Mountain Biking Adventure Moab Utah Red Rocks Bike

 

As incredibly fun as this trip was, it wouldn’t have happened without some careful planning. Here’s a newcomer’s guide to preparing for off-road adventures:

Do Your Research

Experienced travelers of all shapes and sizes know that there’s a time and place for spontaneity—and a trip out to a remote location is not it. Know where you are going, what obstacles you might encounter, and what there is to do along the way. Preparedness is the key to a safe and fun off-road experience.

Prepare for the Remote

Your smartphone more than likely won’t be much help out in the wild. Download offline maps, write down any key information about your destination, or simply use an old-school paper map.

Take Maintenance and Emergency Prep Seriously

There’s no excuse for heading out on any road trip with overdue service issues. Get your oil changed, check your tire pressure, stock your emergency kit, and fill up with gas. Take high clearance and 4WD recommendations seriously, and never head out on a road for which your car isn’t suited!

Gear Up

There’s nothing more exciting than gear—and having the right gear matters when you’re out in the desert (or in the mountains, on the water, anywhere in nature). In addition to having the right tools for your vehicle, prepare yourself for all weather conditions and scenarios. Take warm layers, camping gear (if appropriate), plenty of food and water, and any equipment for hiking, biking, or other activities. Remember that you’ll likely be several hours from resupply resources.

 Slow Down

Much of the fun of off-roading is in the bumpy ride, the unplanned stops, and the views along the way. Focus on the journey rather than the destination, and enjoy!

Share you comments below to let me know what adventures you found off the grid and how these tips helped you discover something new!

Home / North America / USA / Travel America| 5 Best Car Camping Spots in Southern Utah

Travel America| 5 Best Car Camping Spots in Southern Utah

Updated: May 1, 2017
By: Krystal Rogers-Nelson
Utah, US - Southern Utah Camping in the wilderness (iStock)

Utah, US – Southern Utah Camping in the wilderness (iStock)

While Yellowstone National Park may get a lot of attention, southern Utah’s national parks are waiting to steal your heart. Utah hosts striking red rock formations and diverse wildlife like gray foxes and desert horned lizards. Rivers slice through deep canyons. Cool lakes, perfect for dipping in after an afternoon hike, abound. You can even spot petroglyphs and other testaments of humanity’s attempts to tame the wild.

Even though Utah doesn’t fall in the ten largest states, it still has the third-most national parks—which means you don’t have to travel far to visit them all. The Mighty Five national parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion—listed here follow a travel itinerary starting in Salt Lake City and finishing near Las Vegas. Each section below includes must-see sites, best campgrounds to stay at, and a safety tip to keep you well rested, protected, and ready for adventure.

1. Arches National Park

Utah Arches

Utah, US – Delicate Arches in Utah’s Arches National Park are created from centuries and millennia of weather wear (Eric Nelson)

Arches National Park owes its name to an obvious feature: arches, naturally formed in the rocks. You will see many arches from bulky ones to ones so ethereal that they seem like something out of a fantasy novel. Delicate Arch is the most well known, and you should make time to see it. Try taking an early morning hike to beat the crowds (and the heat).

When planning your trip, be aware that the main camping area, Devils Garden Campground, will be closed for construction until November 2017. There are plenty of other BLM campsites nearby, such as Goose Island and Granstaff. But reservations go fast, so you may want to venture further out toGoldbar, Kane Creek Rd.  You can also try your luck at getting an individual site, but they are first-come/first-serve, so you need to get there in the morning and act fast.

Safety Tip: Visiting a national park puts you in close proximity to desert flora and rock formations.  Make sure to pack a 1st aid kit for hiking that can handle scrapes, sprains, and cacti spines.

2. Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands possesses four distinct areas separated by rivers. Some sections showcase majestic cliffs, mesas, pinnacles, and domes. Others are home to the Green and Colorado Rivers, which you can raft. Must-see sites include Island in the Sky and Mesa Arch.

You won’t find any proper campgrounds inside the park, but multiple options exist outside it. Squaw Flat Campground and Willow Flat rest near the Needles District and Island in the Sky, respectively. The Bureau of Land Management maintains much of the land in and around Canyonlands, so you can always rough it and pitch a tent.

Safety Tip: Many of the hikes in Island in the Sky are family friendly, but come prepared. Some of the hikes involve steep ascents and require good hiking shoes. Canyonlands is also more remote and far from services, so it’s a good idea to pack an emergency kit in your car and note that cell service may be spotty.

Green River Utah

Utah, US – Gaining perspective overlooking Green River Utah’s Canyonlands National Park,(iStock)

3. Capitol Reef National Park

Once inside Capitol Reef, you’ll see why Native Americans termed it “Land of the Sleeping Rainbow.” The park’s prismatic colors and historical sites, which include a harvestable fruit orchard, will capture your attention and possibly your affection.

Campgrounds for Capitol Reef are on a first-come-first-serve basis. The best sites include Fruita Campground, Cathedral Valley, and Cedar Mesa. Fruita offers more amenities while the other two are more primitive.

Safety Tip: Like the other southern Utah parks, you’ll do a lot of walking in Capitol Reef. Take plenty of water with you, even if it means your pack is a little heavier. You won’t regret it. Make sure to balance your water intake with salty snacks like trail-mix or add a powdered electrolyte drink to your water bottle.

Capitol Reef

Utah, US – Capitol Reef “land of the sleeping rainbow” (Bob Rogers)

4. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon boasts the largest number of hoodoos (tall, thin spires of rock) in the world, and the landscape feels magical, resembling castles in a fairytale. The park also displays ancient bristlecone pines, with some approaching 1,800 years in age. Also considered an oasis for stargazing, you can attend special Astronomy Ranger programs where you could see over 7500 stars on a moonless night!

Most travelers stay at a campground because of the chance to see the stars, as well as to see the sunrise and sunset transform the surrounding sandstone. The best-known sites include North and Sunset. Both accept reservations between May and September. You can also find yurt rentals nearby.

Safety Tip: Bryce Canyon starts at an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet, so swath your skin in sunscreen to avoid sunburns and drink lots of water.

Bryce Canyon

Utah, US – Bryce Canyon National Park (Bob Rogers)

5. Zion National Park

Zion tends to be the most visited national park in southern Utah, perhaps because of the Virgin River and the park’s towers and monoliths. For must-see sites, put Angel’s Landing (age 8+), Emerald Pools, and Weeping Rock on your list. Observation Point is also one of my favorites. Child backpacks are essential for hiking with babies and small children, though there are some paved paths that can accommodate strollers or wheelchairs.

Zion Observatory

Utah, US – Posing at Zion National Park Observatory in Zion National Park Utah (Krystal Rogers-Nelson)

Most people prefer to stay at the Watchman or South campsites. Travelers who enjoy a more rustic site may wish to stay at Lava Point, which is over an hour drive from the main entrance of the park. Watchman requires a reservation, but the other two are open. To stay off the beaten path but in luxury, reserve a spot at the glamping site Moonlight Oasis.

Safety Tip: Some of the hikes, like Angel’s Landing, have specific paths marked to keep you safe. Stay on the trails to make sure no one gets hurt.  If traveling with young children, consider a child GPS tracker since it can get crowded on the shuttle, at the trail-head and hiking on the popular trails.  I personally have found the My Buddy Tag to be useful with my rambunctious three year old, though cell coverage may vary depending on where you are in the park.

Overall, you can’t lose no matter which national parks you visit in southern Utah.

Have you been to any of southern Utah’s Mighty Five before?

Comment and share which places to camp are your favorites.