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Old 04-02-2021, 08:04 PM   #1
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Name: Diane
Trailer: Scamp 13’
Wisconsin
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Need advice for a Utah trip

My husband and I are considering a trip to southern Utah this year with our 2020 Scamp 13. We are new scampers, with only two week long trips so far, and our Scamp is pretty basic - no furnace, no AC, no bathroom. We prefer campgrounds like those in state parks with some amenities like electric hookups, bathrooms, etc., but can get by for a few days with just pit toilets and no electricity.
The problem we are running into is the difficulty of getting reservations in the popular areas. We were hoping to go in the next few weeks or so, but might have to postpone the trip till fall if we can’t find open campgrounds this spring. We are leery about just taking off on a trip from Wisconsin to Utah without reservations. Wisconsin state parks went to reservation only.
Do some Utah campgrounds still have first come first serve sites? How hard would it be to get a campsite that way?
Right now we don’t have the experience, knowledge, or equipment to boondock, but if this pandemic spurred surge in camping popularity continues we may have to rethink how we camp.
For now, any advice about the logistics of getting campsites would be appreciated.
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Old 04-02-2021, 08:56 PM   #2
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By mid April you are beginning to get prime time in southern UT, depending on the area. Everything is about elevation. Zion NP (3,500 foot elevation)gets booked six months in advance. You have to plan ahead. Bryce is high elevation (8,000 foot elevation), still winter there. But it has one campground (North Campground) that is first come first served. Plenty of private campgrounds too. And the state parks have nice campgrounds, again, depending where you are heading, they can be booked. Snow Canyon SP in St George is awesome, some sites are first come first served, but they will be BUSY. I've camped there in March and had trouble getting a site. To people that live in Utah, St George is the banana belt and you get spring breakers going to St George area.

Been going to Utah every year since 1979. Its been discovered for sure. Zion River Resort is super nice private campground. Wonderland campground in Torrey is another one of my favorites. From Torrey you can do day trips to Capitol Reef and even Bryce Canyon.

The first come first served campgrounds are all about when you arrive. Get there at 10AM, and you have a shot. Get there at 2PM they are full. I got a site at Bryce Canyon in June 2019 that way (PRIME TIME for Bryce as the weather is perfect!!).

I'll repeat myself but the crowds at Zion have gotten extreme! A reserved campsite is a must as you avoid having to go through the entry gate every day. I've seen the entry gate close at 1 PM in November (not prime time) due to no parking left. I've seen backups of a couple of miles at the entrance gate. Parking in town (Springdale) is all metered.

By late May, its too hot at Zion if you don't have AC. April is good. We took a trip out west a few years ago in May. It was 28F at Yellowstone and it was 102F at Snow Canyon. Zion might have been a few degrees cooler.

The "top" Utah NP campgrounds are full of rental motorhomes, mostly overseas visitors. Nice people. But you can imagine coming that far, they have reserved sites for their trips.

With RV sales at or near all time records, and no campsites being built, you have high demand, low supply. Its not unique to Utah. I just got up at 2AM to reserve a site in CO at my favorite campground there. Only a few sites left, and it was the first minute they were available.

We don't boondock but we do "dry camp", particularly on the way out and the way home. And a lot of the state and national park camping in Utah are dry camping. Zion has one campground with electric hookups. That is the only NP in Utah I can recall with hookup (there could be others, but not Bryce, Arches, Capitol Reef, Bridges to name a few). Snow Canyon has a handful of sites with hookups. The nicest ones are dry camping.

My compromise is to make reservations at my key destinations, dry camp at Walmarts and similar on the way to and the way home. And I have identified some NPs and some SPs that are not so busy where I can get a first come, first served site. I plan those arrivals to be weekdays, weekends tend to be full.

You really need to learn the reservation process. Popular NPs are often six months in advance. No getting reservations for a couple of weeks from now. SPs can be anything from 2 months to 13 months (Florida). The days of taking a major trip with little or no notice means camping at popular locations is out.
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Old 04-02-2021, 10:30 PM   #3
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Name: Eric
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It may be work to get all the reservations, find the spots, get there early, etc. but it is well worth it. Take the time to enjoy all the parks. They are each different, and beautiful in different ways. You will not be disappointed.
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Old 04-02-2021, 10:48 PM   #4
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Utah is an amazing place. How it was formed and the geology of the formations, the 200 million year long story of plate techtonics and the resulting strata, is beyond comprehension. But there it is, right in front of you, to study and touch, as the Buttes gradually erode and reveal the past.

We just got back from a trip to Escalante, San Rafael Swell and Lake Powell recreation area. I encourage you to go, and experience it, at least partly, away from organized camping.

There is a lot of BLM land where you can camp wherever you want to, have a campfire and enjoy the magnificent surroundings.

Here are a few pix that may represent the area, but poorly at best.

Look closely for us on top of the butte. Smoky Mountain where underground coal strata may have been burning for up to 2,000 years, a glimpse of Lake Powell, and a wonderful road climbing its way up the face of the Butte.
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Old 04-03-2021, 07:12 AM   #5
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Utah is so worth it, you will go back again (maybe not every year). Reservations in Zion are a must. Go in the shoulder season like October. It will still be busy! Bryce is definitely worth it too. Arches is nice, camping there, not so great. In the summer, Zion and Arches are painfully HOT.

For Arches, I have camped at Portal RV resort several times. Not cheap! Another choice are the BLM campgrounds along the Colorado River on SR128. Very scenic, very popular, very affordable!!

We like Utah so much we have been considering buying a second home there. No matter where we have lived in the USA: WA, PA, GA, SC, NC; we found our way out to UT, southern UT.

One trick to scoring a first come site is to arrive during the week, Monday through Wednesday, and arrive early in the day. You can even try Sunday. By Thursday, people are grabbing sites for the weekend. And you have the multiple site grabbers, who will temporarily put a tent on a site to hold it for a friend. Its pretty competitive out there. I hate it when people just put a lawn chair on the site to "hold it". The shortage of sites sometimes brings out the worst in people.

And you might think with 6 month or 2 month reservation windows, that 100% of the sites open at once. It doesn't work that way. Once a site opens, most can be reserved for up to two weeks. So on any particular day, 6 months in the future, less than 10% of the sites are open to reservations. And if it is a popular holiday weekend, perhaps NONE open up. When reserving for Memorial Day weekend as an example, we picked a site for the Wednesday before Memorial Day (on the first day they opened up). Even then, less than 10% of the sites were available. We booked it through the weekend.


https://www.portalrvresort.com
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Old 04-03-2021, 03:07 PM   #6
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Visiting Utah

Southern Utah is best toured in October for good weather, less crowds, tree foliage is turning color, no Spring sandstorms. I always travel with my Scamp in September/October and reserve sites in/near parks only, and hope to find an open site by 2-3 pm everywhere else.

Camp in US/state forests, BLM, state parks, national monuments, county parks, Tribal parks, some utility companies have campgrounds (e.g. PGE in western states), Corps of Engineers near dams, reservoirs, rivers, private campgrounds, recreational areas.

Try reserving a campsite near a National Park you wish to visit. Sometimes, you can snag a spot overnight in an overflow area if available...be sure to ask. On the downside of parking lot/overflow camping, you still pay the regular campground fee, no hookups, and have to move the next morning. I had to do this in British Columbia at a regional park, and at Denali NP.

If you travel with a dog, your dog can only walk in NPS and many state park campgrounds/parking lots - dogs are prohibited on trails in these parks. In this case, look for a nearby doggie daycare/boarding.

And if you do Utah's "Grand Circle" trip, enjoy Monument Valley. Lee's Ferry, Canyon de Chelly, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, etc.
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Old 04-03-2021, 03:14 PM   #7
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I have talked on the phone with BLM agencies in different parts of the state, (Utah) mostly down south, a week ago. I have talked with S.P. reservation centers. I am told the state is a reservation nightmare this year.
We all want out, as campers.
As bill suggests arriving Tue and Wed. might work. There are New BLM sites going along the road to the Needles Canyonlands NP I have not seen before. I could find nothing available until July. I rarely go to Southern UT, after the 1st. of June, to hike or camp.
I ride mountain bikes. I ride at Moab Utah in Feb. It has changed from a few other riders to hundreds of riders. The Motels are packed.
Zion park, now has busses to take the millions of visitors into the park. You can ride a bike into the park. or put your bike on the front of a bus, to go into the park.

Later Kenny
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Old 04-03-2021, 05:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raspy View Post
Utah is an amazing place. How it was formed and the geology of the formations, the 200 million year long story of plate techtonics and the resulting strata, is beyond comprehension. But there it is, right in front of you, to study and touch, as the Buttes gradually erode and reveal the past.



We just got back from a trip to Escalante, San Rafael Swell and Lake Powell recreation area. I encourage you to go, and experience it, at least partly, away from organized camping.



There is a lot of BLM land where you can camp wherever you want to, have a campfire and enjoy the magnificent surroundings.



Here are a few pix that may represent the area, but poorly at best.



Look closely for us on top of the butte. Smoky Mountain where underground coal strata may have been burning for up to 2,000 years, a glimpse of Lake Powell, and a wonderful road climbing its way up the face of the Butte.


I have been there. Kelly Grade is not for the timid!
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Old 04-03-2021, 05:57 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Kenny Strong View Post
Zion park, now has busses to take the millions of visitors into the park. You can ride a bike into the park. or put your bike on the front of a bus, to go into the park.

Later Kenny
Even the shuttle buses inside the park now require tickets AND reservations! And the buses that used to run just late Spring to early Fall now run much more of the year. We will be back in that area next February, and yes, we already have reservations (Airbnb in this case). Booked over a year in advance.......

Snow Canyon SP, which also has been discovered, has some great scenery and hikes. And at least its not jammed packed like Zion NP.

Despite all the crowds, IMHO, Utah is still a MUST see. Late fall or even winter could be the best time crowd wise.
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Old 04-03-2021, 08:18 PM   #10
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Name: Jann
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Originally Posted by thrifty bill View Post
Utah is so worth it, you will go back again (maybe not every year). Reservations in Zion are a must. Go in the shoulder season like October. It will still be busy! Bryce is definitely worth it too. Arches is nice, camping there, not so great. In the summer, Zion and Arches are painfully HOT.

For Arches, I have camped at Portal RV resort several times. Not cheap! Another choice are the BLM campgrounds along the Colorado River on SR128. Very scenic, very popular, very affordable!!

We like Utah so much we have been considering buying a second home there. No matter where we have lived in the USA: WA, PA, GA, SC, NC; we found our way out to UT, southern UT.

One trick to scoring a first come site is to arrive during the week, Monday through Wednesday, and arrive early in the day. You can even try Sunday. By Thursday, people are grabbing sites for the weekend. And you have the multiple site grabbers, who will temporarily put a tent on a site to hold it for a friend. Its pretty competitive out there. I hate it when people just put a lawn chair on the site to "hold it". The shortage of sites sometimes brings out the worst in people.

And you might think with 6 month or 2 month reservation windows, that 100% of the sites open at once. It doesn't work that way. Once a site opens, most can be reserved for up to two weeks. So on any particular day, 6 months in the future, less than 10% of the sites are open to reservations. And if it is a popular holiday weekend, perhaps NONE open up. When reserving for Memorial Day weekend as an example, we picked a site for the Wednesday before Memorial Day (on the first day they opened up). Even then, less than 10% of the sites were available. We booked it through the weekend.


https://www.portalrvresort.com
Sometimes people put a chair on sites that they paid for and then take their RV and go site seeing. We've done that but you have to pay for the site and have a tag on the post. A lot of people have RV's and don't tow a vehicle.
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Old 04-04-2021, 06:32 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jann Todd View Post
Sometimes people put a chair on sites that they paid for and then take their RV and go site seeing. We've done that but you have to pay for the site and have a tag on the post. A lot of people have RV's and don't tow a vehicle.
No problem there. It's when they swoop in and grab four sites at once, put a tent at one, a chair at another, etc. Easy enough to pay and hang a tag on every site. I've seen people "reserve" a section of a campground this way. Friends/family/whatever arrive much later, meanwhile someone there early is aced out of a site. Not cool in my book.

Its gotten really competitive on campsites, can bring out the worst in people.
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Old 04-04-2021, 10:17 AM   #12
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Name: Diane
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Thank you to all

I have been taking notes and bookmarking websites based on your advice as I continue planning for our trip to Utah. It is obvious to me that we will have to postpone this trip until this fall (or even next spring).
I knew that it would be very difficult to get reservations at Arches, Zion, Canyonlands, but didn't mind that as we are traveling with our dog, and since dogs are not allowed in the trails on the national parks, I figured the state parks would be better. That way we could conveniently hike the state park trails, and do scenic drives through the national parks. Plus, the national parks have no monopoly on scenic beauty. What I didn't anticipate was the difficulty getting campsites in the Utah state parks. Early spring and late fall timing to avoid the crowds would not work well for us, as we have no heat in the camper except a little electric heater. (My biggest regret about the order I placed for the Scamp is that I didn't include a furnace. )
Bill, thanks for the suggestions on private campgrounds. We didn't think about that, as we are not the swimming pool resort types, but if it gets us a nice campsite in a good location, it would be worth it. And M Scott and Kenny Strong, you opened my eyes to some other options, like county parks and the new BLM sites.
Aside from putting together an agenda for this trip, I think we will need to get a solar system set up so we are not limited to sites with electric hookups. Plus, some more modest camping trips closer to home this spring and summer will give us more experience and confidence. But that’s another thread or two.
If anyone has any specific suggestions for a location or two in southern Utah that could serve as a good “home base” from which to take day trips, that would be great.
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Old 04-04-2021, 11:50 AM   #13
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One thing you have wrong, many Utah state parks have the same limitations on dogs on trails as do the national parks. Research each park separately. As I recall, Snow Canyon limits dogs to just one trail. Zion does the same.

Solar is a must, or a generator. Most state park camping is dry camping too.

Panguich makes a good base location for Bryce and Zion. Torrey makes a good base for Highway 12 and Capitol Reef. Moab for Arches.
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Old 04-04-2021, 10:18 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by thrifty bill View Post
No problem there. It's when they swoop in and grab four sites at once, put a tent at one, a chair at another, etc. Easy enough to pay and hang a tag on every site. I've seen people "reserve" a section of a campground this way. Friends/family/whatever arrive much later, meanwhile someone there early is aced out of a site. Not cool in my book.

Its gotten really competitive on campsites, can bring out the worst in people.
A lot of Colorado State Parks make you register in person and you can't reserve more than one site or take more than one site if you show up for a drive up situation. I do hate people to do what you said.
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Old 04-05-2021, 07:23 AM   #15
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A lot of Colorado State Parks make you register in person and you can't reserve more than one site or take more than one site if you show up for a drive up situation. I do hate people to do what you said.
NY has a similar system with their state parks. You cannot reserve 2 sites for the same time period, at least on line. If you want to camp with a friend in another trailer, each individual needs to make the reservation. While I don't condone mass reservations, it would be nice to have a way of getting sites next door when traveling with a neighbor.

As to unoccupied reserved sites, NY Rules: "Campsite occupancy is limited to 6 persons per campsite, two tents or one hard-wheeled equipment and one tent, and two vehicles. All campers will occupy and place equipment only on the assigned campsite. Any tent or other camping equipment left unoccupied for more than 48 hours may be taken down and removed."
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Old 04-05-2021, 07:39 AM   #16
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My favorite camp location in CO is booked on the first day reservations open. Anyway, so we showed up one time, and the best site was unoccupied. Huh? Looking closer, it had a hang tag so it was reserved. It remained unoccupied for over a week. I asked the manager, "Hey what is going on here?" "Its paid for."

Finally the camper showed up. They admitted they wanted the site for the holiday weekend, so to get it, they reserved it for the week before and through the holiday.

While they did pay for the site, it was sad to see other campers not being able to use the site while it remained vacant so this person could lock in the holiday....

This particular campground was built by the local town. I am sure part of the "economic return" on this campground is campers going to local restaurants/bars/stores/whatever, all within easy walking distance of the campground. An empty site obviously has no benefit for town businesses.
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Old 04-05-2021, 12:56 PM   #17
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Bill I saw a site I think Wyoming, " site must be occupied when reserved " nice if this were a common practice.
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Old 04-07-2021, 11:10 AM   #18
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Good /excellent and helpful reply
Great area hopefully you have a good ceiling fan and a fixed or plug in solar panel.
We seldom hookup it causes us to pull up morning roots drive like crazy to next destination to be there for first come. We operate from a 17’ Escape and have disperse camped in Utah then could get up unhooked and troll for campsites.
This area was trip of a lifetime. Take the time to plan it but go.
We even loved Moab (though pretty commercial) commercial campground at n end of town. The famous now newspaper wall there will amaze you.
Petroglyphs to the 30th power.
What no furnace? Don’t they ice fish in Wisconsin?
Good luck and travel safe.
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Old 04-07-2021, 11:11 AM   #19
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Try Hipcamp.
https://www.hipcamp.com/utah/ranchit...ranchito-feliz
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Old 04-07-2021, 02:52 PM   #20
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Good /excellent and helpful reply
Great area hopefully you have a good ceiling fan and a fixed or plug in solar panel.
We seldom hookup it causes us to pull up morning roots drive like crazy to next destination to be there for first come. We operate from a 17’ Escape and have disperse camped in Utah then could get up unhooked and troll for campsites.
This area was trip of a lifetime. Take the time to plan it but go.
We even loved Moab (though pretty commercial) commercial campground at n end of town. The famous now newspaper wall there will amaze you.
Petroglyphs to the 30th power.
What no furnace? Don’t they ice fish in Wisconsin?
Good luck and travel safe.
Yes, Ballman, lots of helpful advice in the thread. Thank for weighing in with your tips.
We do have a good fan, but no solar yet. That’s the next step for us.
As far as the furnace goes, we thought “Why do we need a furnace? We don't want to winter camp.“ Then we took a northern Wisconsin camping trip in September and the night temperatures went down into the 30s. Live and learn.
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