Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

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Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby vttrampers » Wed Jan 31, 2018 3:07 pm

By way of background, I finished construction of Mr Towed, our Benroy-ish teardrop, last spring. (I couldn’t have done it, by the way, without the Generic Benroy series and a ton of delving into the encyclopediac knowledge base that TNTTT represents. There are lots of you who have been enormously helpful, even though you had no idea! A special shout-out to TNTTT-er Ryan and his outstanding Wyoming Woody website). We immediately set off on Mr Towed’s Wild Ride I: a 3,000 mile shakedown trip from our home in Vermont out to Wisconsin, visiting family and exploring a variety of parks and other sites along the way. The trip was great fun and was followed by several shorter stays in state parks around Vermont. Once Vermont’s winter set in Mr Towed settled into the barn and I made use of the time to make some upgrades (in particular back-fitting a Dexter axle – but that’s another story) and generally getting ready for another year.

Which brings me to Mr Towed’s Wild Ride II, a cross-country loop that will include (among lots of other things) a medley of National parks: Shenandoah, Mammoth Cave, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Yellowstone and Badlands. Our departure date is April 1 (of course) which is fast approaching. It took a while to nail down the timing for stops to see friends and family along the way so we are just now getting down to locking in campground reservations.

And that brings me to my Utah “Big 5” dilemma. Of the in-park campgrounds, Arches is already booked through July, Zion won’t take reservations until March 1, and Bryce, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef are all first-come-first-served, with warnings that sites fill up by mid-morning. I’m holding out hope for scoring a site in Zion, but it is clear we will need a Plan B in hand.

So... any recommendations from veterans of camping in that region for alternate sites? We are life-long backpackers and have no problem with boondocking, but hesitate to charge off with no idea of good sites. Just to be more picky, the idea of big commercial RV parks has no appeal either. Still, I’ll bet there tons of options out there, but we are clueless.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Steve & Cyndy
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby djohnsonnv » Wed Jan 31, 2018 3:35 pm

try to go private. there are multiple private campgrounds near Springdale, UT (Zion). Unfortunately I don't have any specifics.
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby rkanz » Wed Jan 31, 2018 4:08 pm

I would highly recommend staying at Kodachrome State Park when visiting Bryce. One of the best campgrounds I have visited with some really nice hiking. Make a reservation. We gave up on Zion. Private campgrounds outside the park are the only real option. I am not willing to line up before 6:00 a.m. and wait hoping to get a campground. I use the Allstays Apple app to find campgrounds, really useful.Image


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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby Woodbutcher » Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:19 pm

We did this trip in June of 17. For Arches, Canyonland and Dead Horse Point SP we used the Moab valley rv park as our base. https://highwaywestvacations.com/properties/moabvalley All three of those parks are close enough to day trip from. Plus Arches entrance is only 2 miles away. They put us in the back between the small rental houses and the wall that opens to a huge field. Nice place for an RV park. Pool , clean showers and rest rooms and a Laundry and you are on the end of town so supplies are near by. Tell them a group of 5 teardrops were there last year all in a row. They should remember us. If you are adventurous and have a high clearance vehicle, look up the Shafer trail. It is just inside the entrance to Canyonland. After you see CL instead of going out of the park, turn right on this trail. It will be the best day of scenery of your life. You will drop down onto the canyon floor. Several trails take you out to other areas of the park. Thelma and Louise filmed the car flying off the cliff out there. Get back on the Shafer trail and keep following the trail past the potash lake and you will end up back in Moab right by the CG. Keeps you from back tracking on the hard surface road.

For Capital Reef we stayed at thousandlakesrvpark.com Very close to the park and nice also. They put us in the back also. The sites were to short for the big Motor homes and were private and close to the showers. They should remember us also.

We used Kodachrome SP as our base for Bryce Canyon. Nice park, try and see Grosvenors Arch right out of the entrance to the park. Gravel road, maybe 5 miles to the arch. Short walk up. There is parking and a pit toilet there.

On the way by run in and see Goblin Valley SP https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/goblin-valley/ Very cool place and worth a couple hours stay.

My suggestion is find a reserved site. It is crowded especially in high season. Get to the parks as soon as they open. Best light for pictures and beat all the crowds, especially the tour buses. Once the parking lots get full your day will slow down a lot.

We skipped Zion. We did not want to ride around on a bus. We did you Monument Valley Tribal Park. Well worth it, we stayed at https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/goblin-valley/ DO NOT take the guided tours into the park. Drive in yourself. You will sit in the back of an open truck with just a roof. The dust will kill you.
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby tony.latham » Wed Jan 31, 2018 9:07 pm

There are numerous boondocking spots to camp in the Valley of the Gods (Which is part of the Bears Ears or maybe it's back to being BLM after Trump's downsizing).

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There's a great BLM campground just south of Bluff called Sand Island. It's a prime staging area for exploring Comb Ridge. (Also in the Bear's Ears or is it?)

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You're gonna have fun. Tons of it. :thumbsup:

Tony
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby teardropcastle » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:22 am

Sounds incredible. On a side note, it would be a shame to come all this way and miss Glacier NP in northern Montana. Several hours north of Yellowstone, but worth it in my opinion. Going to the Sun Highway (no towed vehicles, so day trip) is stunning, but crowded. A trip up the west side of the park to Polebridge and vicinity is a wonderful way to see the heart of the park without the crowds.


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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby tony.latham » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:42 am

teardropcastle wrote:Sounds incredible. On a side note, it would be a shame to come all this way and miss Glacier NP in northern Montana. Several hours north of Yellowstone, but worth it in my opinion. Going to the Sun Highway (no towed vehicles, so day trip) is stunning, but crowded. A trip up the west side of the park to Polebridge and vicinity is a wonderful way to see the heart of the park without the crowds.


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Our departure date is April 1


Castle... I think you missed their departure date. ;) Either that or you've forgotten those Montana winters down there in 'Bama! ;)

:beer:

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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby vttrampers » Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:38 pm

Thanks for the helpful suggestions! We are going to start out by focusing on the Utah state parks, which look very nice and appear to have reservable slots for the time we will be there.

Oh, and 'teardropcastle', Glacier (and lots more) is on the list for a Northern Tier trip - maybe next year. Also want to do a Key West excursion tho... So many places, so little time!
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby tony.latham » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:57 pm

We are going to start out by focusing on the Utah state parks,


Keep in mind, most of the state is BLM ground and you can camp damn near anywhere. (The BLM calls it "dispersed camping.") And to us, those are the best spots.

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Tony :thumbsup:
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby TheOtherSean » Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:58 pm

I visited Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef in 2016, but did not camp at Capitol Reef. The trip was right at the end of May and start of June, camping out of a van.

At Zion I camped at the Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort, which is in Springdale. It was a bit more tightly-spaced than I'd have liked, but there were a good number of trees for shade and it backed up to the Virgin River, on the other side of which was the park and some nice scenery. The showers and restrooms building was modern and kept clean and available any time, and the pool was a nice refreshing way to relax after a long day of hiking. It was maybe a ten minute walk from the park visitor center and the in-park shuttle bus stop. There was a couple camping there with a Silver Shadow teardrop; at the other end of the scale was a massive German motorhome, possibly a custom job, that had been shipped over for a vacation.

The North Campground at Bryce was fairly nice. As you noted, it is first come, first serve (except for 13 sites in loop A that can be reserved), but I had little trouble finding a spot when I arrived around 11 AM. Shower hours are a bit more limited than at the private place in Zion, IIRC being limited to the hours of the campground store. There were decent but not as nice or modern as at Zion. I think they're doing construction there this year so you might want to double check details. I spotted no teardrops in Bryce, but did see a mutant mini-motorhome, that looked like somebody combined a modern van chassis and cab with a 50's style canned ham body that could have been custom fabricated - or salvaged from a Shasta or such.

In all the campgrounds in the west, private and public, I caught sight of a large number of rental vans and minivans for camping, colorfully painted. Some had murals or just bright patterns. A number had roof-top tents as well.

I hope this information is of some use and interest.
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby daveesl77 » Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:26 am

Tony is absolutely correct. BLM, National Forests are fantastic places to camp. Yes, for the most part you need to be fully self contained, but with costs of $0 to maybe $20 per night, it is amazing. You should also check out the Corps of Engineer locations in certain States you would not think of as places with lakes, such as NM. Examples: Yellowstone - 20 miles east towards Cody is Wapiti BLM campground. On the river, electric on-site, water nearby. I think the cost was like $20. Grand Canyon - South Rim - 8 miles south of the park is Ten-X National Forest campground. Just beautiful, central water location price was maybe $10. The advantages to these types of places are not just the price, but the amount of privacy and not crowded. Outside of Moab are numerous BLM camping areas. On the west side of Glacier is a great Nat'l Forest campground, located in Idaho. You can't get in there until like June due to snow.

You should DEFINATELY try to visit Chaco in NW New Mexico. 22 miles of bone jarring road (hope they never fix it), very small campground, but you are right in the middle of one of the most important historical and cultural sites on the planet, Chaco Canyon. You HAVE to bring everything. There are absolutely NO supplies of any type, other than 5 gals per day per person of water. We love it there and the reason to keep the road a mess is to keep down the crowds. No big rigs at this place!

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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby tony.latham » Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:09 am

You should DEFINATELY try to visit Chaco


Dave:

Chaco is on the top of my bucket!

Tony
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby shootr » Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:30 pm

Sounds like a great trip!

We're heading to Zion and Bryce March 1st for a week - we'd rather go off season and soak up the cool weather that fight too many crowds. A little apprehensive about doing the Narrows hike that time of year but what the heck!

Thanks for all the great info - we're looking for ways to fill a couple days afterwards and I'm learning a lot here.
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby vttrampers » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:22 am

As usual, the TNTTT community is an amazing resource! Here is the plan:
    Zion - Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort
    Bryce - Kodachrome Basin SP
    Capitol Reef/Goblin Valley - Goblin Valley SP
    Arches/Canyonlands - Moab KOA (!) for the 1st night, find a BLM spot for next 2 nights
We clearly underestimated the demand, especially for the Arches/Canyonlands area - nothing open anywhere except the KOA. Not a good sign. But we figure having a reserved spot the 1st night will do and we can find a BLM campground or boondock for the last 2 nights. Should be a good mix of sites, overall.

And we are trying to squeeze in a stop at Chaco in NM - thanks for that tip!
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Re: Utah “Big 5” campground recommendations?

Postby rkanz » Sat Feb 03, 2018 6:07 pm

Might be too late for Bears Ears. https://www.ecowatch.com/bears-ears-mon ... 87057.html


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