One of my goals in life was to adventure throughout Utah in the early spring when there was still snow on the ground. Mission accomplished!
This blog post is dedicated to the one and only Shawna Healy, and whoever else is venturing into Utah; I hope this helps you plan the most epic journey. Utah Is Rad! Seriously, social media actually has a hashtag dedicated to the beauty of Utah #BeaUTAHful. The land of mountains, deserts, red rock formations, bright starry skies, endless trails, rivers and red dirt; if you love the outdoors, I guarantee that you will fall in love with Utah. I try to venture to Utah twice a year, but this trip consisted of 30 days of solo road tripping with my pup and it was just what I needed. But let’s face it, I could never actually live in Utah full-time, it is a very red state, the alcohol laws are whack, it gets hotter than Satan's house-cat during the summer and there are just one too many Mormons (totally joking); but it is a spectacular place for a short term or long term visit. Immediately after I finished my corporate taxes in March, I drove straight to Utah to spend 4 weeks adventuring throughout Southern Utah eventually making my way up to Park City…where the skiing was terrible. Sorry Park City, but Mammoth has you beat by leaps and bounds. One of the highlights of my month long journey was spending 10 days in Moab, which was by far the most rad place I have ever been in the States. I mean how many places can you show up at a bike shop in town, looking like a complete dirt bag, and pay $5 for an unlimited hot shower, like it is totally normal? Only in Moab
Bryce Canyon National Park to Kodachrome Basin State Park
My trip started out at Bryce Canyon National Park, my favorite National Park in the U.S. and my game plan was to ski the rim of Bryce since I knew all the trails below the rim were closed due to high avalanche risk (they are currently now opening). I ended up staying in a hotel because the only winter campground was already full and although I did attempt to ski the rim, the snow was pretty horrible. For those of you who know me, I do not ski on bad snow and when I do, I become a pretty angry and bitter person. The snow at Bryce was basically corn snow gone bad…is that even possible? I skied for a day, photographed the snow covered Hoodoos at sunset, camped in the snow on my last night while catching up with work and then moved on to my next destination since a big snow storm was coming and I had no desire to be stuck. I ventured 45 minutes to lower elevations to spend the next 3 nights at the most glorious State Park I have ever visited, Kodachrome Basin State Park, which is literally 45 minutes from Bryce. This quaint little Utah State Park has 13 miles of hiking trails, hot showers, a Laundromat and zero cell phone service, which meant I could disconnect from the world and go on my own solo adventure with my pup. I had the entire campground to myself and spent my mornings sipping coffee, working on my computer and playing fetch with Moo while spending my afternoons and evenings on the trails and chasing sunsets. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty and serenity of Kodachrome and after the hustle and bustle of Bryce Canyon; it was great to not be around herds of people. I did have to drive 20 minutes into Hurricane to get Wi-Fi and cell phone service, which I did on a daily basis so I could stay in touch with my job. Although I left Bryce to avoid the big snowstorm, it ended up pouring rain and sleeting one day at Kodachrome so I headed into town and the spent the day working while watching the snowfall. The snow and cold weather continued to follow me and I kept wondering when I would see some warm temperatures, apparently not until Moab. The day after the storm I decided to visit Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, which is only about 1 hour from Kodachrome, and although this park was tiny with only 4 miles of hiking, the petrified wood was beautiful and it was all over the trails. Unfortunately, Moo and I ended up ankle deep in mud and we were constantly slipping and sliding throughout the entire 4 miles.
Goblin Valley State Park
Kodachrome Basin State Park to Goblin Valley was a solid four-hour drive and it was nothing less than stunning. I got to drive through Escalante, stopped at my favorite coffee shop in the area and was able to drive through Capitol Reef National Park, where the red rock formations outlined the snow-covered peaks. I made lots of photography stops along the way because the background was magnificent. Goblin Valley State Park seemed like a pretty awesome place to spend a couple of days on my way to Moab. Although the campgrounds were booked up way in advance at Goblin Valley State Park, there is tons of BLM camping right outside the park. A friend met me on BLM land where we set up camp and spent the afternoon exploring the beauty of this park. Goblins are another name for Hoodos but the ones in Goblin Valley are tiny compared to the ones in Bryce Canyon, still spectacular nonetheless. There are four hiking trails in Goblin Valley State Park and after we got our fill we ventured back to our campsite to cook dinner and take a look at the map for the following day. The next morning we packed up our cars after an epic rain storm (yep the wet weather was still following me) and headed to Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon about six miles from our campsite. We really had no idea what to expect but stumbled upon seven miles of beautiful slot canyons on BLM land and Moo loved every minute of scouring up boulders. We started early in the morning and did not see anyone until we turned around to head back to the trailhead. Apparently this spot is popular and does get crowded so I was pretty excited that we beat the crowds and the heat. My friend and I parted ways and I was officially headed to Moab!
When in Moab…
Moab was about 2.5 hours from Goblin Valley State Park and I had about 12 BLM campgrounds mapped out so I was not concerned about grabbing a coveted spot. When I drove into Moab I could not believe what I saw. Every van-lifer and famous mountain biker appeared to be hanging out in Moab. The town was full of custom made off road jeeps; ridiculous customized vans, ATVs, UTVs and tons of hot looking male dirt bags. I have to say, I was pleasantly over stimulated. I headed to a coffee shop to send some work emails and take a few phone calls before I decided to grab a beer at the brewery and figure out my next week or so in Moab. I decided to look for a campsite along the Colorado River and rookie mistake; these sites get taken ASAP. Literally every morning at 9am, people are lined up waiting for a spot to open up. I was frantically searching for my phone for other campsites at 11 PM and was beginning to feel defeated until I read,
“Campsites at the Ledge rarely ever fill up because of the distance from town”
“Sold” I said to myself.
It was about a 30-minute drive from town up a windy, steep dirt road but I did not care. I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. Long story short, I ended up staying at my campsite up at the Ledge for eight nights because it was spectacular. It was not crowded, the views were stunning and it was peaceful. The Ledge is up by Kane Creek and has some great hiking trails, specifically Hunter Canyon, that Moo particularly enjoyed. My friend came out to visit me on the weekends and I spent my days exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Arches National Park could be done in one day but I decided to go there on the evenings to capture the most stunning sunsets. Canyonlands National Park is composed of four main districts with two park entrances spaced out 1.5 hours apart from each other. It is a massive park and can take weeks to explore every corner. I spent three full days exploring both the Needles District and Island in the Sky and I felt that after miles of trails and hours of driving, I got my fix.
La Sal National Forest and Dead Horse State Park
I spent one day in the snow covered La Sal National Forest where I did some backcountry skiing with Moo and we had the trails all to ourselves. La Sal was gorgeous, off the beaten track and I noticed there were quite a few campgrounds. National Forests are dog friendly so this was a great find!
My friend and I also spent some time checking out the famous petroglyphs at the golf course in town and watching the climbers at the famous Indian Creek.
After 8 days of tent camping out at the Ledge, I decided to mix it up a bit and head to Dead Horse State Park where I reserved a campsite for one night (I reserved this site about 2 months in advance). Dead Horse was gorgeous and the only hiking trails in the park are on the perimeter. Unfortunately, there are no showers and the campgrounds are a bit crowded so I was pretty happy that I was only spending one night here. Moo and I hiked 8 miles of the rim and were ready for our next adventure.
I packed up early the next morning to score a coveted first come first serve campsite along the Colorado River at Grandstaff Campground, one of the 6 BLM campgrounds in town along the Colorado Riverway. I saw one guy packing up his truck, asked if he was leaving and I waited for about 30 minutes. As I was off in lala land listening to my audiobook in my car, he knocked on my window to ask if I planned on going into Arches National Park because his pass did not expire for another few days. I graciously thanked him and told him that I have already been four times and I truly appreciated his kindness. I came across so many people who reached out to me in similar ways and every time I was taken back by how kind and generous they were. Moab is truly filled with great people! I spent the next four nights camping along the Colorado River and although the views were amazing and it was only a 10 minute drive into town, the loud traffic along the road at night was jarring and to be honest, I am glad I was able to experience camping at other areas in Moab. There are also tons of BLM trails along the Colorado River and a paved bike path that is dog friendly.
My time in Moab consisted of hiking, photography, playing fetch with Moo, figuring out how to get a new sleep pad (mine took a tumble), drinking way too much beer, meeting new friends, working at coffee shops, driving for hours, hanging out with old friends, crossing lots of rivers and chasing sunsets. All good things must come to an end so after 13 days of tent camping in Moab I decided to head to Park City for some fancy adventuring in the snow (or at least that was the plan)
My favorite places in Moab: Here’s why
Moab Coffee Roasters (great coffee and Wi-Fi)
Moab Market (groceries and Wi-Fi)
Moab Brewery (full strength beer)
Moab Made (the best handmade jewelry)
Moab Gear Exchange (2 stories packed full of used outdoor gear…my poor bank account)
Golf course (for rad petroglyphs)
GearHeads (most impressive outdoor gear store with the nicest staff conveniently located next to the Laundromat)
Dennys (breakfast and Wi-Fi)
Moab cycle (the best $5 hot showers in town)
The Ledge campgrounds at Kane Creek
Hunter Canyon hiking trail
The food Co-op across from Moab Coffee Roasters (I was in vegan heaven and they have Wi-Fi)
Camping and showers in Moab
Camping in the parks gets booked up way in advance and like many National Parks, these campgrounds are inundated with your typical National Park tourists. Island in the Sky has first come first serve campgrounds but they are about one hour from town. There are over 100 BLM campsites around town mainly along Kane Creek and the Colorado Riverway. All of these campsites are $20 per night, have picnic tables and fire pits, are super dog friendly and have pit toilets. There are no showers or water. I am a total dirt bag and would bring my face wash into bars, coffee shops and any place that had a sink and would wash my face and dry it under the hand dryer. Since none of the parks have showers in their campgrounds (with the exception of Island in the Sky at Canyonlands), I paid my $5 at Moab Cycle in town and enjoyed a long hot shower where I could wash my hair and shave my legs without having to feed the showers with tokens (thru hikers you know what I am talking about…). There are a few other places in town where you can pay for a shower but I was pretty loyal to the bike shop. I would highly recommend camping on BLM land since it is the most spectacular BLM land I have ever camped on.
Dogs in Utah
Utah State Parks are dog friendly and allow dogs on 90% of their trails. Unfortunately National Parks in Utah are typical National Parks in terms of not being dog friendly (womp womp). These parks are also very exposed and even on a 75 degree day, your car can easily heat up to over 95 degrees since these parks are super exposed, therefore leaving your pup in the car for an extended period of time probably is not the wisest choice you can make in these National Parks during the warmer months. Most of Utah is full of BLM campground and trails and of course, dogs are always allowed on BLM land. You must leash your dogs in designated BLM campgrounds but dogs can be off-leash and under voice control in all other BLM areas, including trails. Most of the establishments in town are not dog friendly so be prepared to leave your pup in the car or tie them up outside for a brief moment. I personally, found my stay in Utah very welcoming to Moo and I was lucky that it was early spring so the temperatures did not rise above 65 degrees. Also, there is a dog park in Moab but be prepared for lots of dog humping (I was out of there in seven minutes).
Park City: what a bust
I will be the first person to admit that I love fancy ski resorts! Whether I am in Colorado, Wyoming, France or California, if I visit a ski town you bet that I will be the first one running to find the nearest Nordic ski center (yeah I am a nerd and I am obsessed with cross country skiing). However, I do not deal with bad snow or pretentious crowds ever (I am moving out of OC to get away from pretentious people and bad snow is just never okay). Park City was nothing but full of rude drivers, extremely pretentious people and literally the worst Nordic skiing I have ever experienced in my life. It also did not help that my camping spot consisted literally of a boat launch parking lot in Jordanelle State Park (that was a hard NO) and my friend joined for a weekend with his out of control child (second hard NO). My favorite things about Park City were 1) The Holiday Inn gave me $30 off per night because they thought Moo was charming (I refused to camp in that parking lot) 2) there is a city owned open access ski and bike area that is dog friendly but is covered in dog poop, 3) leaving Park City. I briefly stopped over in Salt Lake City, which was not much better, but the Patagonia outlet store made the stopover completely worth it.
All in all, I visited FOUR National Parks, FIVE State Parks, lots of BLM land and one National Monument:
Bryce Canyon National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Arches National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Kodachrome Basin State Park
Jordanelle State Park
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
Goblin Valley State Park
Dead Horse State Park
Escalante National Monument
Hunter Canyon hiking trail BLM
Little Wild Horse Slot Canyon BLM
The Ledge BLM
Colorado Riverway BLM
I would be more than happy to answer any questions about the places I visited. I have also explored many other places in Utah and I am excited to adventure there once again this summer!
Thanks for reading and hope to see you on the trails!