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Our Southern UT, Northern AZ, by RV Trip Report

North Carolina
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Our Southern UT, Northern AZ, by RV Trip Report

Just returned from an 11 day RV trip through Southern UT, Northern AZ via RV. Thanks for all the help in planning! We flew into Las Vegas, from NC, and rented an RV from Cruise America. I will add some notes regarding the RV experience at the end of this report.

Arriving in LV, we checked into the MGM Grand for one night. Had received the $69 internet price that I think I heard about on this board. When we checked in, they offered us an upgrade to a suite for $25 additional, so we took it. Check in was easy, quick and friendly; and it was only about 1pm….early for check in but they had a room ready.

Large suite with king bed, living room area, wet bar with ‘fridge, huge bathroom w/ tub and separate shower, and it was close to the elevators. I was not prepared for how hot it would be in Vegas. I wish now that we had rested during the afternoon and gone out on the strip later when it was not so hot. We walked all the way to Caesers, Bellagio, etc.

My husband had not been there since the 60’s, (I was in LV a few years ago for a conference) and I was eager to show him all the sights. Had a salad at the Stagedoor Deli at Caesars Forum. Then walked back to MGM hot and tired. I think we were asleep by 9pm! Next morning I was up early, went to McDonalds in the MGM food court and brought breakfast up to the room. We were scheduled to pick up the RV about 1pm, so we had a few more hours for sightseeing. Took the tram to the Luxor and Mirage, just to look around. Checked out of the MGM by 11 am, leaving our luggage at the bell desk (everyone else seemed to be doing that also!) Went to NY NY for a Nathan’s Hot Dog.

(We are not into “fine dining”, as you can see!)

Took a taxi to Cruise America to pick up the RV. Friday is a busy day for them, but it did not take too long…there is a 20 minute video to watch. Finally on the road, first stop was Super Walmart just mile or so away, to stock up on groceries. Then on to our first destination, Zion NP. We had reserved 2 nights in Zion. The scenery leaving Vegas got sort of boring, until after we entered UT, then the mountains became all shapes, sizes and colors….then descending into Zion Canyon area, lots of greenery between towering red cliffs. Our campsite was B-46, right on the river under the cottonwood trees. Got our groceries put away, unpacked, and organized the camper and it was soon dark. We fell asleep listening to the soothing sound of the river rushing by. Up early the next morning. Enjoyed watching the birds around the campsite. One of our favorite activites while traveling is seeing and identifying birds and wildflowers that we don’t have back home. We bought an Audubon Field Guide to the Southwest, which has flowers, birds, trees, geology, and info about various Parks….not totally comprehensive but adequate for this trip. We packed the backpack with water, snacks, camera, and headed to the visitor center, then took the Watchman Trail hike, which winds it way up to some great views of the canyon, the river, the Watchman, etc. (I know, it’s not Angel’s Landing, but I had to be realistic!) Saw lots of wildflowers along the way, and very few people. I think it is about 3 miles round trip. Best hiked in the morning, while the sun is on the other side of the mountain. The Zion Map and Guide you receive at the entrance has good info about the hikes, and other info, be sure to get one and read it! Back at campsite for lunch, then to the visitor center to catch the shuttle. Rode all the way to the end, to the Temple of Sinewava stop, where we hiked the Riverside Trail. Nice hike, but sort of crowded. This is the beginning of the Narrows. I enjoyed just sitting on a rock with my feet in the cold water! The canyon walls begin to get steep here, so it is great scenery even if you do not do the Narrows Hike. Took the shuttle back to the visitor center. Would have liked to do some more of the shorter hikes, but we were really worn out by this time, and it was getting hot by afternoon. We saw wild turkeys and mule deer from the shuttle. Back at campsite, cooked burgers on the grill and just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. One thing we liked about camping at Zion, is that you are surrounded by great scenery, just watching the canyon and hills change colors as the sun sets. We went to the ranger program in the campground at 9pm; very interesting slide show and talk about how the National Park system was started.

Next morning, we packed up to leave, we wanted to go to the museum, but it did not open until 10am and we wanted to get on the road. We could have spent a lot more time in Zion, we never had time to take the shuttle into Springdale for example.

We had 2 nights reserved at Bryce, so taking the Mt. Carmel tunnel ($15 if you are driving an RV….they stop traffic at the other end so large vehicles can go thru using both lanes) We did not have to wait at all. The other side of the tunnel the scenery changes, but still impressive. It gets really pretty as you approach Bryce, thru Red Canyon. Stopped at a pull-out for lunch. Another reason we like RVing….we always have our food, and bathroom with us! Checked into the campground at Bryce. It is very “piney-woodsy” and much cooler than Zion. We were in the North Campground and you don’t really see the typical Bryce scenery from the campground, but it was okay. Seemed like the campsites were close together, lots of really big RVs (we were in a 26’…..little guys on the block).

We walked the rim trail, our first sight of the hoodoos was stunning and moved me to tears. Walked to Sunrise and Sunset Points, words cannot describe the scenery here. After supper we drove back to Sunset Point to watch the sunset, but it was a little overcast and the light on the hoodoos was not as dramatic as expected. It got cold during the night, down to about 32, turned the heat on in the RV the next morning to warm up. By 7:30 we were at the lodge for my ½ day mule ride with Canyon Trail Rides. This was one of the highlights of the trip. My husband opted out….offering to do laundry instead! It was a little bit scary, but the scenery down in the canyon, looking up at the hoodoos was great.

I had not been on a horse for over 40 years, but the cowboy guides were great; really looked out for us, and were fun to ride with. Some of the switchbacks were so narrow and steep, but I felt like I had really accomplished something when it was over! Vivid blue sky, red sandstone rock formations, the green of the ancient bristlecone pines…just a perfect day. After lunch and a look at the visitor center and store, we drove to the start of the Mossy Cave hike. By the way, the high altitude did limit our hiking abilities; we decided the hike down into the canyon and back up was more than we wanted to tackle.

The nice thing about the Mossy Cave hike is that you drive down to a bottom, and can hike a short trail and get the experience of looking up at the hoodoos. There is also a pretty waterfall. The Mossy Cave is a deep rock overhang with a dripping spring, making it a refreshing destination. After returning to the RV in the parking lot, we realized that a U-turn was not possible on the road, so we continued into the small town of Tropic, where we enjoyed some ice cream at a general store and gift shop, and bought some homemade baked goods.

To be continued……

Salt Lake City, Utah
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1. Re: Our Southern UT, Northern AZ, by RV Trip Report

This sounds wonderful! I'm so glad to hear everything you saw and did and what you thought worked and what didn't and how long it took. It sounds so far like you took your time and enjoyed the moment.!

Waiting for more....

Catlin, Illinois
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2. Re: Our Southern UT, Northern AZ, by RV Trip Report

I am glad to see you had a great trip. Just reading your report brings back fond memories of last year when we were there.

You were worried about bringing your own water on the mule ride. Was this a problem?

I will be watching for the rest of your report...

North Carolina
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3. Re: Our Southern UT, Northern AZ, by RV Trip Report

Thanks, I will continue.

rwdw- I did take my own water, a plastic bottle in a "sleeve" with a shoulder strap. They provided water 1/2 thru, but I would have needed more than that. I think the reason they were so specific about "no canteens, backpacks,etc." is that if you drop something, it could spook the horses and mules. The other thing about the ride is that you get very dirty....bring an extra pair of jeans just for the ride, or plan on doing laundry!

Next installment….

Next morning we left Bryce and headed for Capitol Reef, up the beautiful Hwy 12..

Everything we had read about the beauty of this route was true. We marveled at the variety of scenery; red sandstone, layers of colors, huge rock formations eroded away to resemble the remains of Greek and Roman temples, sinking ships, stone “people” and so on. It was hard to keep from taking pictures constantly! In the distance we saw some mountain peaks covered in snow. We drove through cool alpine forest….so much variation in the scenery. One thing we noticed in our travels is that for the most part, the vistas are so huge and expansive that even the driver can enjoy the sights, and keep an eye on the road at the same time. Arrived at Capitol Reef, Fruita Campground mid afternoon. We thought Capitol Reef was spectacular, maybe because you don’t hear as much about it as Bryce and Zion, we did not know what to expect. Spectacular scenery all around. The Fruita campground was a pleasant oasis amidst all the surrounding towering rock cliffs. It is a fruit orchard, a historic Mormon settlement, with some old buildings and interesting history. The campground was very spacious, wide open grassy areas under the trees, a river along one side; just a nice atmosphere. We did not have reservations here, and had no problem getting in, early-afternoon. We took the hike from the campground to the visitor center, very pleasant walk, saw lots of wildflowers blooming. Later that day we drove back further into the “scenic drive”. The camp host assured us we could do it in our RV and turn around to get out, and he was correct. It is about 10 miles of narrow winding road with great scenery all around. Where the paved road ends, we took the left fork on the gravel road and the road got narrower, the canyon walls got taller, but we kept going. You finally come to a large gravel parking lot, where some hiking trails begin. We chose just a short walk to some petroglyphs and back. The drive back gives a different view, it was a really neat drive. Back at camp we looked in our field guide for an unusual bird we had seen; it was a chukar.

Next morning we left (sadly) Fruita and headed toward Monument Valley. Would have like to take time to go to Goblin Valley, but that will have to wait for another trip. We are finding that there is so much to see on this trip, we are just getting a taste of what is offered. The scenery today is just as beautiful and varied. Especially great as you near the Colorado River. There are several overlooks of the River, and we took time to stop. This was our longest driving day so far. Rt 95 to RT 191 just below Blanding. The scenery started to get kind of monotonous around this area, but near Mexican Hat (yes there is a rock shaped like a man wearing a sombrero…have camera ready) then the rock formations start to appear as you approach Monument Valley. MV was a must see for us. Husband is a huge John Wayne/ John Ford fan, so this was sort of a “pilgrimage” for him. I am the trip planner but always try to plan something special for him. In anticipation of this stop on our trip, we watched many old westerns filmed at MV.

We stayed at Gouldings campground, had no reservation, and could net get a cell phone signal to call, but we did get in. With the exception of one very nice man in the campground office, the staff was indifferent and unfriendly, including the servers in the restaurant. But we were here for the scenery, and had read reviews prior to this trip that prepared us for that. We had full hook-ups though, and used the AC in the RV for the first time. Took the the camp shuttle to the restaurant/ museum area. Ate dinner in the restaurant, awesome views, mediocre food and service. I loved the prickly pear ice tea, but was never offered a refill. After dinner, we visited the interesting museum, took pictures (there is a stagecoach, and some other western stuff….hubby was in heaven!)

At 9pm they show a John Wayne movie in a very small theatre. We watched the classic “Stagecoach”. The shuttle never showed up to take us back to the campground, but some very nice campers offered us a ride.

Next morning we took the ½ tour offered by Gouldings, with a Navajo guide. It was quite good, the monuments are so much larger in life! Our guide stopped several times so we could get out and take photos and walk around. If you have an interest in Monument Valley as we did, it was very good. Otherwise I am not sure if an overnite here is justified. We left by about 1 pm, continuing on toward Kayenta, then took Highway 98 toward Page. Stayed at the Wahweap Marina campground. Page and Lake Powell were very nice, wish we had more time here.

They did not have any full hook-up sites left, but that turned out to be a blessing. We got campsite 1-1, up on a hill with a fantastic, unobstructed view of the lake. Just relaxed and watched the sunset, and the rabbits and lizards around the campsite.

To be continued.....

Salt Lake City, Utah
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4. Re: Our Southern UT, Northern AZ, by RV Trip Report

<We thought Capitol Reef was spectacular, maybe because you don’t hear as much about it as Bryce and Zion, we did not know what to expect. Spectacular scenery all around.>

That is one of the reasons I love CapitOl Reef. The scenery just keeps getting better and better the more you explore it and people don't plan near enough time for it because they don't know about it.... which makes it less crowded. Works just fine for me. :-)

I'm glad you were able to enjoy MV, it does sound like it was a must see for you.

5. Re: Our Southern UT, Northern AZ, by RV Trip Report

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