Now that we’ve been in 12+ national/state parks and monuments in the last month, I have some tips and obserations for others, especially anyone camping.
- Reserve a campsite or lodging in advance if you can! We’ve been really lucky with our play-it-by-ear strategy, but the park campgrounds are super popular and many parks, believe it or not, have just one small campground and no lodges, so it’s a total crapshoot being able to stay IN the park. Most people vacate their campsites between 7-8:00am, so that’s the time to stalk! After that you’re screwed. Although, I will admit that some of my favorite camp nights have been when we’re denied a campground and we find a pretty bluff somewhere with an amazing view (price is right, too).
- Don’t dismiss the state parks and national monuments – Vermillion Cliffs, Natural Bridges, Kodachrome, Goblin Valley have been some of our favorite stops! (Dinosaur NM was just recommended to us, too, so we might try to hit that on our way out of Utah). The state parks also often have better amenities.
- Do your research – there are a ton of opportunities to get back-country permits at most parks, but all need to be purchased in advance (lesson learned)! If I come back, especially to Grand Canyon & Canyonlannds, I will have a bunch of back country permits and hike the hell out of the rest of those canyons!
- Take the scenic route – the fastest way is not always the best. I have absolutely loved Hwy 89 in AZ (through Vermillion), Hwy 12 in UT through the Red Canyon, and Hwy 95 in UT as some of my most breath-taking drives ever.
Park Tips (the fun stuff):
- Zion: take the shuttle bus to town (Sprindale) and have lunch or dinner at Oscars. Best tamale I’ve ever had. Everything is fresh & homemade. It’s delish!
- Capitol Reef: don’t miss Gifford House – it’s like walking into a store from Little House on the Prarie! Everything is homemade – pies, jams, ice cream, pickled items. Stock up. We left with 6 pies – they’re amazing!
- Moab: hit the brewery! It may be the only beer in the state of Utah >3.2%! Seriously good local brews (my fave is the Red Rye IPA) and food. Needless to say, we did not leave empty handed.
- Arches: get an advance permit for the guided tour of the Fiery Furnance. We did it solo because the guided tours were booked, but we got serously lost. It’s really cool!
That’s it for now. We’re still in Utah for another week or so. I’m enjoying camping without bugs and bears. That will end soon as we head into Wyoming, Montana, Canada, and Alaska!