Need advice on visiting Utah Nat'l Parks & Grand Canyon - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-06-2010, 10:39 PM   #1
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We are planning to visit many of the Utah National Parks and swing past the Grand Canyon's North Rim for three weeks this May. Has anyone else done this? Do we need camping reservations anywhere besides the Grand Canyon, or can we figure on doing the Gypsy thing and just move on when we think the timing's right and show up at a new Park? Any suggestions about what order we should do this thing in?
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Old 02-06-2010, 11:26 PM   #2
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Actually May in Utah is pretty much full swing camping season. It's gets hot sooner. Hopefully someone from that area can give you info, but I would be sure to have reservations on holidays as well as if I were pulling in to a campground on a friday/saturday. Moab is pretty busy that time of year, lot's of Jeeping going on with several jeep rally's. Again, hopefully someone who lives/camps there will be able to help you.
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Old 02-07-2010, 04:37 AM   #3
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Southern Utah is AMAZING! May's a great time to go, but be prepared for both heat and cooler weather. The big parks will be in full swing, and locals know to hit the little parks before the heat (and summer tourist season) really swings in. I lived in Green River, Utah, for spell, and have spent more than my fair share of time in the area, considering I'm a Californian. (I cheated, though - attended college in Utah and stuck around for a bit afterward.)

Whenever we pass through southern Utah, we make a stop at Goblin Valley State Park. This lesser-known park has some spectacular giant mud "goblins" which are all, at this point, accessible. The girls and I stopped over again last fall, and were told by a ranger that the park is currently undergoing a battery of studies which will most likely result in the valley floors being closed to public access. Get here now while you can still explore the goblins. It's a wonderful place to meander, take photos and marvel. The campground is very quiet, offers level, paved pads, and restrooms with hot running water, flush toilets, showers. Its popular among Utahns in the know, but not on the main tourist map. Still, get reservations if you plan to stay here. (We pulled in in late autumn and got one of the last sites available.)


This past fall, as the girls and I returned from Colorado along the southern route, we opted to take the "shortcut" from Goblin Valley to St. George via Highway 24 then Highway 12. Lemme tell ya - this is NOT a time saver. But the drive is BEAUTIFUL and worth the delay. I wish we'd had more time to stop along the way. The route passes through Capitol Reef, and provides access to Kodachrome Basin State Park, Bryce Canyon and, if you turn south on Highway 89, then onto Highway 9, Zion National Park. (It was dark and getting very late, so we opted to go with what we know - Highway 14 through the Dixie National Forest where we camped at a convenient, if not quiet, Cedar Canyon Campground (pit toilets, adjacent to highway, no water in creek in late summer/autumn). If you take this route and find yourself on Highway 24 between Hanksville and Caineville, watch for a funky little produce stand/bakery on the south side of the highway. Mesa Organic Farm Market, Bakery and Coffee is a great place for local information, freshly baked breads and other baked treats, organic goat cheese and other cheese products. (Try the Queso Blanco with peaches....MMMMmmm!)

If you find yourself in Green River, Utah around dinnertime and you like meat and local flavor, you might want to check out Ray's Tavern. They make a killer plate of pork chops, good burgers, and serve beer in (despite its name) an environment I've always found family friendly. You can pick up a game of pool on one of two tables while you wait, or just relax and watch the locals. Across the street is the Melon Vine, the local grocery store which has all you'll need (though perhaps not all the brands you're used to in bigger cities.)

If you're interested in seeing pictographs up close and personal, check out Nine Mile Canyon. (Don't let the name fool you - it's actually 70 miles long connecting Wellington to Myton.) The central portion includes the most easily accessible, dense collection of pictographs I've ever experienced and the drive is scenic, though dirt, potholed in places and tends toward the slippery side of muddy if it's been raining. Though it appears to be a locals-only byway, this road is heavily used by trucks involved in various mining and drilling operations off its branches.

Around Moab, of course there's Arches National Park. Get reservations for the Devil's Garden campground, 18 miles into the park and the ONLY campground in the park. It's a nice campground loop, very quiet and with fantastic park access. The road is entirely paved, the sites have relatively level pads. I love taking people to Arches for the first time. The trails are well maintained, the hikes lovely, and the natural formations far more impressive in life than they could ever be on any screen. Take the time to do a few hikes, even if you don't have time to stay over in or near the park.

Canyonlands is also popular for those with four-wheel-drive access, motorcycles or mountain bikes. Hiking is also encouraged here if it's not too hot. (Always, always, ALWAYS carry water - but especially in this area.) Though i lived in Southern Utah for a time, I confess I haven't spent a lot of time in this particular park. I've drive some of its four-wheel-drive routes, floated down its river and explored its fringes. My dad has explored a lot of the trails and backcountry, and I've only seen a sliver of it.

The view from Dead Horse Point State Park offer a spectacular look at what Canyonlands has to offer, but many people feel the entry fee which does NOT include Canyonlands, is a bit rich.

If you're interested in a relaxing day or two (or more) on the river, you might want to check out the float trips offered by Dee Holladay's Holiday River Expeditions out of Green River. He's one of the pioneers of Utah river rafting, and his paddlers typically offer great service. The food's not bad, either.

I hope that helps!

Jen n' Fam
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Old 02-07-2010, 08:17 AM   #4
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I don't recall which of the parks, but some used to permit drycamping (You bring it all with you and take it all with you) in different areas. I don't even recall the name of the park (or maybe forest area) or mountain we went camping on while gathering fire wood.

You could spend all summer in Utah and still not get tired of the beautiful sights.
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Old 02-07-2010, 01:31 PM   #5
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You could spend all summer in Utah and still not get tired of the beautiful sights.
I'd change that to lifetime, I've been going out there every year since 87 and
have barely scratched the surface.
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Old 02-07-2010, 01:35 PM   #6
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Thank you for the excellent narrative of your travels in Utah. We are planning a trip and made sure to copy you recommendations into my planning notes.
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Old 02-07-2010, 01:59 PM   #7
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Jen's was really a Not sure if much could be added, but I'll post what I have collected on Utah anyway. Maybe it will help as well, or added to what has been said.

When we wanted to see Bryce and Zion, we did the North side of the Grand Canyon as well, which is less crowded than the South. But we had to stay at a forest service camping area, campground was full in the park. Not a bad place and not far to the canyon. We had gone by Monument Valley on our way to the Canyon with a stop at Page which was so hot at night we had to go to a higher elevation, Grand Canyon. Cool there. But in May, no hot weather to worry about I am quessing. Maybe cold at times instead in some areas. Not expert on UT weather for sure.

We have always done "the Gypsy thing" on our trips, liked the spontaneity of going where and when as the situations develope. But that just our manner.

Not sure which would be easier to see Zion and Bryce then the Canyon, then to Monument Valley & Navajo National Monument, Canyon de Chelly and the other neat places in UT. There are some points East as well, some not tooo far away. :C

Here is a good Link to other Utah Sites.

We went to Fish Lake ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_Lake_(Utah) ) and Panguitch Lake, because we had a canoe and wanted to use it. We made a day trip from Panguitch Lake to Zion via the Dixie Nat'l Forest ( http://www.americansouthwest.net/utah/dixi...nal_forest.html )
& top part of Cedar Breaks National Monument ( http://www.americansouthwest.net/utah/ceda...l_monument.html ) because it was so hot in Zion (100 degrees or so) and to Capital Reef Nat'l Park as well as Bridges Nat'l Monument. All very neat. And not too far on to Mesa Verde Nat'l Park * Camping * Nearby Attractions

It wouldn't tooo far of a trip from Monument Valley down into AZ to Navajo National Monument and/or Canyon de Chelly by Chinle, which are unique with a free campgrounds and showers. Been there want to go again. Nat'l Park

Navajo National Monument is located at the end of State Highway 564 off of US Highway 160. We have not been to this one, but sounds very interesting. Two campgrounds, one open all year, somewhat isolated but no fees are charged. http://www.nps.gov/nava/" target="_blank">NPS Site</a> - Visit
Navajo

:C Of course, The Moab Area has many national parks and a nice state park to see as well. Arches National Park - Canyonlands National Park & Dead Horse Point. It really make you want to take a 4 wheel drive Jeep or something out and drive some of the trails you can see from the tops of bluffs or whatever on the way to Dead Horse and othe places in Canyonlands.

Moab is not far from Colorado Nat'l Monument which is really neat, with a campgound which is by Grand Junction. On the way from or toward Denver, Georgetown, CO has a Train Ride, my daughter & her husband rode it, seemed to have enjoyed it.

This is a nice link to the Parks, Monuments and other neat things to see.
http://www.americansouthwest.net/utah/

We liked the FLAMING GORGE National Recreation Area - dramatic red cliffs above a large artificial lake- over by Dutch John and Vernal, but this is in the Northeast UT.

Have a good trip, I'd like to go out there again myself. Happy Tavels!
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Old 02-07-2010, 02:54 PM   #8
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There is a lot of BLM camping available out on the trails, but I believe at this point, even the dry camping in Canyonlands requires a permit, and the permits are limited in numbers.

I LOVE to just gypsy it, go with the flow, you know...stay when you want, split when you're ready. But I hate it when it's growing late and everything I find is already full. I've always just driven in to Goblin Valley and had incredibly good luck, but the last time our luck was drawing thin. Arches is always full, that's why we make reservations and stick with a plan there. Elsewhere, it's a crapshoot.
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Old 02-07-2010, 07:22 PM   #9
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Peter, Thanks for a good question, we are headed out to the Southwest starting with the Blue Bonnet and no particular agenda or schedule as yet. I think that area will be when we are headed back towards the east again. Kudos to you guys who made some suggestions, we'll need all the ideas we can find
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Old 02-09-2010, 08:32 PM   #10
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Peter,

If you go north from the Grand Canyon through Page think about going to Wire Pass. It is on 89 just after entering the UT area. There was a BLM station very near Wire Pass. Stop to ask for directions and check the weather. If there is any rain in the area you won't be doing this slot canyon. We did not have the trailer so you need to ask where you can park the trailer so you can take the road to the trailhead.

There is a pay area near the trail head. I do not believe you need any pass to just use Wire Pass for a day walk (ask at the BLM station in case this has changed). One does need special pass and permit to overnight in Buckskin Gulch.

The dam tour at Page was also interesting if you are into that.

http://www.americansouthwest.net/slot_cany...ass/canyon.html

Do a web search of wire pass, you will see lots of pictures.

We really wanted to do Hwy 12. That year at the end of April there was snow and we were not able to take the trailer over 12. We are going to try that drive again this May. We will wave if we pass you.

Nancy
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Old 02-10-2010, 10:33 AM   #11
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Peter,

We were at the North Rim early last June, and from there went north into the Dixie National Forest. Wonderful.

The NP campground at the North Rim is heavily booked, months in advance. As we were committed to a 'no reservations' trip, we had no chance to camp at the Rim. However, either side of the main road into the Park is Kiabab NF. We camped off the first 'fire road' to the east coming out of the park, and found what we consider to be the best dry camp we've ever found. If you're inclined to dry camp just a few miles from the park entrance, take a look at the topo quads just north of the park - there are several very private dry camps within sight or an easy walk from the rim of the Kiabab plateau - the view from there is incredible, you can see the mountain that Flagstaff is rooted on, 90 miles away, and see what appears to be the whole of the Grand Canyon in one picture frame.

The only draw back to the area is its altitude, a little over 9,000 feet. It snowed on us, in the first week of June, and was down right cold every night. The offset, however, was an abundance of firewood - a crazy amount on the ground in every direction.

Dixie National was also fantastic, we stayed (for five days because it was so good) at a NF campground called White Creek, about 15 miles west of Panguich, UT. It sits on a stream that flows out of Panguich Lake - that is loaded with trout. I caught trout from the campsite, and one morning took a short stroll along the creek and released 15 trout before breakfast. If fishing is your thing, I highly recommend it. This area too was fairly chilly in early June, I think it's at about 6,000 feet, maybe a tad more. We daytripped from there to several canyons, Cedar Breaks (where it snowed on us) and a few other highly productive trout streams.

Happy Trails.

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Old 02-14-2010, 08:36 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the ideas and suggestions! Lynne and I are trying to sort through everything and figure out what fits into the time we have available. Three weeks is not nearly enough.
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Old 02-15-2010, 04:47 PM   #13
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Thanks for all the ideas and suggestions! Lynne and I are trying to sort through everything and figure out what fits into the time we have available. Three weeks is not nearly enough.
We toured the area last year.
If you like, you may read about our tour on http://biod.info/2009na
Have a great time
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:59 PM   #14
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My wife, kids and myself have been going to mainly southern Utah for the past 3 summers usually for 5 or 6 weeks per trip. This summer is no exception it'll be 5 weeks in August.

We are totally hooked.

We usually do lots of miles offroad exploring some fantastic areas. Moab and surrounding country is great and last summer we spent some time around Bluff. The cliff dwellings along Comb Ridge and Butler Wash were outstanding so this summers trip will include time there as well as a return to Paige Arizona to explore some more slot canyons although the slot canyons south east of Escalante were much tighter. The trip also won't be complete without a couple of nights in Arches National Park just north of Moab (make reservations if possible, something we like to avoid doing!!)
I can't say enough good things about our travels in this part of the USA. We have seen some amazing things, met many friendly and helpful "locals" and have given our kids many great memories. And we've only scratched the surface of what this area has to offer!!!!
We are looking forward to many more trips to southern Utah in the years ahead.
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