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View Full Version : OT: National Parks and RV camping out west


mef
06-12-2008, 10:36 AM
Me and the fam are headed to New Mexico, Arizonia and possibly Utah this summer. We plan to visit the Sante Fe - Taos area and then head to the Grand Canyon for a couple of days. On the rebound (back to Arkansas) I was thinking of checking out one of the National Parks in Utah such as Arches in the Moab area or possibly others. My question is twofold- 1. Can anyone recommend camping sites in any of these areas with hook-ups for RV's? We usuall prefer to stay in the parks if they have nice facilities, opposed to KOAs. 2. Which park in Utah would you recommend? Due to the family, this won't be a hardcore bike trip so riding will take a back seat to sightseeing and hiking. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

chuckred
06-12-2008, 11:08 AM
Check out Zions - spectacular. I believe they've closed the main road to private vehicles during the summer to minimize traffic. Would be a beautiful and not to hard or a ride for families. Hiking is amazing there (check out Angel's Landing if you're not afraid of heights). Bryce Canyon is great also but more out of your way.

There are good campgrounds that seem farily spacious - but they will fill up quickly on weekends. I don't remember them taking reservations. Plan your arrivals to the extent you can for Sundays or early Mondays maybe. Call the Park headquarters for specifics.

Arches has been one of my all time favorite places since I first saw it in 1977 or so! It's probably the area closest to your route. The camping is very limited, but if you can get a spot, some of the nicest around. Canyonlands is definately worth checking out. Try Deadhorse Point (State Park) - up high (=cooler), great views of Canyonlands. In that area, you can find one spot to set up camp, then drive to the other parks for day trips very easily.

A great way to beat the heat there is a day raft trip on the Colorado - relaxing, rapids aren't too much for kids, beautiful scenery.

In AZ, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is both closer to Southern UT and less crowded than the South (and cooler!). Be sure to eat at the lodge around sunset!

Sounds like a great trip! The hiking down there is great and you won't miss your bike a bit!

EDITS - My comments on camping are related to the campgrounds in theparks as opposed to the commercial ones outside. Inexpensive, limited services - no utilities, outhouse type facilities, etc. In most cases you can find a commercial campground and pay for a shower when you're ready for one. Not sure what your RV situation is, but I much prefer the lesser developed campsites, myself.

Lincoln
06-12-2008, 12:16 PM
Kids? How many and ages?

RPS
06-12-2008, 12:54 PM
Me and the fam are headed to New Mexico, Arizonia and possibly Utah this summer. We plan to visit the Sante Fe - Taos area and then head to the Grand Canyon for a couple of days. On the rebound (back to Arkansas) I was thinking of checking out one of the National Parks in Utah such as Arches in the Moab area or possibly others. My question is twofold- 1. Can anyone recommend camping sites in any of these areas with hook-ups for RV's? We usuall prefer to stay in the parks if they have nice facilities, opposed to KOAs. 2. Which park in Utah would you recommend? Due to the family, this won't be a hardcore bike trip so riding will take a back seat to sightseeing and hiking. Any advice is greatly appreciated.My wife and I did a similar trip last September, but since we don't have little ones and prefer to travel in May or September to avoid the crowds, this info may not be as useful.

I also like the North Rim of the Grand Canyon better than the south, although for little kids there may be more things to do on the south side. I haven't camped on the north side because it was full, so we stayed in a rustic cabin (hard to get also but we lucked out with cancellation).

If you happen to go to the North Rim and want to go to Utah, I have to recommend Zion. I have camped there and as I recall they only have electricity. Nice facilities otherwise and within short walking distance to shuttle bus that will take you into park. There is also a nice bike trail we used on our latest trip there that will take you and the family from campground into the park. Once inside cycling is great because the road is closed to most traffic (except buses and those staying at the lodge).

We also visited Arches and stayed at a campground just outside of Moab on highway 191 (just south of highway 128) which was close enough to cycle to the park. For fit adults cycling through the park may be OK but for children it may be too much distance. By the way, if you come into Moab from the east on I-70 I recommend driving highway 128 which is more scenic.

If you go to Bryce Canyon there is a large campground just outside the park entrance (I think it's called Ruby's Inn and Campground). However, Bryce is much farther out of your way.

I'd go with Zion if limited on time.

staggerwing
06-12-2008, 01:22 PM
I've done other western NP's, just not the ones you mention. However, from my recent experiences, if you want a place to stay, in the park, with hookups, get online and reserve NOW.

Last year we did Badlands NP, Custer SP, Yellowstone NP, and Grand Tetons NP. Badlands and Grand Teton were no issue. Even several months ahead, we did not get our first choice of campground in Yellowstone. Custer is pretty popular too, and required prior reservation. And, we were car camping with a tent. From what I understand, if you want a full hookup site in Yellowstone, you better reserve around Christmas.

You mention New Mexico, which my wife and I enjoyed greatly. Like going to another country; remote and poor, but breathtakingly beautiful too. If you have any interest in "native" sites, Bandelier National Monument is a good stop, and Chaco Canyon National Historical Park is even better. At Bandelier, take the moderate hiking trail around the more remote Tsankawi section of the Park. Chaco is a world unto itself and considered a World Heritage Site. Be prepared if you decide to go as the closest services, of any kind, are over 50 miles from the center of the park.

mef
06-12-2008, 04:22 PM
Kids? How many and ages?
no little kids... just one 18 year old who is still engaged and not bored with life yet.

Lincoln
06-13-2008, 01:06 AM
Lived in Park City Utah for 20 years, spent a fair amount of time in Southern Utah. It is typically pretty hot that time of year so anything near the rivers will be a bit more tolerable.

One of the coolest trips I've done is hiking the Virgin River Narrows (in Zion NP). We did the overnight trip which I highly recommend if you can get the permit. If not then doing the full hike in a day is a good option and the out and back does give you a good bit of the taste, but really not the full experience. Virgin River Narrows (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_River_Narrows)

Moab and Arches are nice but will be dang hot, though there are river trips you can do there.

The drive up hwy 12 from Bryce Canyon NP through Escalante and Boulder to Torey and Capitol Reef NP and then Hwy 24 up to I70 and then down to Moab is a nice route.

At the Grand Canyon, the North Rim is WAY less touristy.

Did I mention it will be HOT?

Louis
06-13-2008, 01:24 AM
Check out Zions - ..... Hiking is amazing there (check out Angel's Landing if you're not afraid of heights).

I've never been to Zion, but a buddy of mine at work has a large poster of Angel's Landing at his desk. That looks incredibly cool. If I were in the area I would definitely check out Zion.

Have fun
Louis

chuckred
06-13-2008, 06:40 AM
Lived in Park City Utah for 20 years

I lived there from 1979-85 and worked up there until '89.

A "few" changes from then to now...!

victoryfactory
06-13-2008, 08:23 AM
Unless you have reservations, you will probably not get a camping
site in any of the parks mentioned above in summer.
This can be a bummer if your dream is to pop out of the camper in the
AM and see a National Park in front of you. (a rare treat, indeed)
Alternatives are national forest campgrounds which are more numerous
but also mostly packed, or
BLM lands which abound in Utah NM and AZ which allow at large camper
parking at established sites. Again, the most popular are usually full and
these places , though beautiful are not usually near the "big" parks.
and finally, private campgrounds like the parking lot style
places in Moab which may be a good bet because you are real close to
Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point and the services and restaurants
of Moab.

Good Luck, and, as stated above, GET RESERVATIONS!
You MUST have a plan or you will be driving that thing around with your
whole family whining at you. This is because a camper, though convenient,
is BIG and doesn't allow you the freedom to just dive in behind a rock somewhere
after dark.

VF

PS, My favorite NP campsite for hiking is squaw flat at Canyonlands NP:

Birddog
06-13-2008, 10:03 AM
If the Grand Canyon is your Western terminus, then Bryce, Zion, and perhaps the N rim are probably out of the question. It's better to do less more thoroughly IMO. At the GC, be sure to do the IMAX theater just outside the S rim entrance. It will give you a view of the GC that you simply can't get anywhere else. I'd recommend doing it first. The heli and plane flights are OK, but really not that great, and the plane is almost always bumpy, and in our case it was a barf flight. We didn't get sick, but almost everybody else did, and the smell almost got me.

When leaving the park, go up to Page and check out Glen Canyon Dam, it's really something. You can no longer go inside the dam on tour, but it is still pretty impressive. Travel from there out to Kayenta and head for the 4 Corners. This will take you through Monument Valley. It all looks like a Glenn Ford Western. Canyonlands, Arches, Hovenweep are all near Moab. A side trip to 4 Corners is not nec. unless you want some silly photo op of yourself or the family standing in 4 states at once.

Head SE to Durango after Moab and then to Pagosa and S to Chama NM. Take the train ride for a diversion, it's pretty neat. Check the schedule ahead of time, I think it eats a day. . It's better than the Durango to Sivetron IMO, but both are interesting. Just S of Chama, turn E at Tierra Amarilla and go over the pass to Tres Piedras and then Taos on US 64.

When in Taos, go to El Monte Sagrada for at least lunch. It's pricey, but worth every penny. From Taos, take the old road or High road to Santa Fe. This will take you through some of the oldest villages in NM. You go S to Penasco then Truchas and Chimayo, before emerging just N of Santa Fe. Taos is now what Santa Fe was 30 years ago, and Santa Fe is now Californicated. If you want more info on the Taos area, PM me, I can tell you about some side trips. Bandelier and Chaco are very impressive, but not sure how you would integrate all this on one trip. You didn't mention a time line.

Birddog

Lincoln
06-13-2008, 11:58 AM
I lived there from 1979-85 and worked up there until '89.

A "few" changes from then to now...!

I left at the end of last summer. I need to update my profile (!). I'm in Boulder now. Yeah, just a couple of changes in PC. :beer:

jim in pc
06-13-2008, 11:58 AM
Drive the high road through Truchas from Santa Fe to Taos. Here you've traversed the the longest lasting fringe of Spanish Colonial New Mexico. The Spanish spoken in those parts is an archaic dialect analogous to Elizabethan English. Eat at Rancho de Chimayo along the way, though I've heard it's a mere shadow of its former self. In Santa Fe, eat at The Shed and at Tomasita's.

In Taos, see the Pueblo. From Taos head west through Los Alamos and stop at the science museum, then head for the cliff-dwellings at Bandelier. You've also passed two more pueblos, Santa Clara and San Ildefonso. Though not as tourist-accessible as Taos, definitely some of the oldest and most fascinating communities in North America.

From Bandelier, head out past the Valle Grande, huge and transcendantly beautiful high-altitude meadows. If you bring a bike, this is the place to ride it. NM4 (Los Alamos/White Rock/Bandelier Entrance/Valle Grande/Jemez Springs) is a **great** ride (at least it was 20 years ago).

From there (NM4 to US550), head out to either Canyon de Chelly or to Chaco Canyon. Along towards Farmington, you've passed another pueblo (Jemez), skirted the Jicarilla Apache reservation and, if you've been looking, seen more than few Navajo hogans tucked here and there. You can get Navajo radio stations out there, listen to the cadences of spoken Navajo for a while. (Once I could get only one radio station - a Christian station intermixing Spanish, English and Navajo.)

Once you're out to Canyon de Chelly, you're squarely in Painted Desert and Monument Valley area, next up is the Grand Canyon. From there, you've already gotten ample advice about Arches and Zions. Hit Telluride on the way back, if you can. There isn't a prettier mountain town anywhere. (Taos, Grand Canyon, Zion's, and Telluride is a big, big chunk, a lot of driving.)

Sorry, can't help on the RV.

There are five distinct cultures in the area: Pueblo, Apache, Navajo, Spanish and Anglo. It's easy to miss the richness and complexity. Here's some book recommendations to paint some of the the background:

- John Nichols' "The Milagro Beanfield War" is a funny novel set amidst the decline of subsistence farming by the Spanish descendants amidst Anglo encroachment in the 60s. Later made into a movie by Robert Redford.

- Frank Waters' "Man Who Killed the Deer" is a classic novel about pueblo culture.

- Leslie Marmon Silko's "Ceremony" is a great portrait of the seam between Native American and Anglo cultures. Similar to the story of Ira Hayes which you may know from the movie "Flags of Our Fathers".

- Anything by Tony Hillerman - detective novels set in Navajo country.

- Check into journals or histories of John Wesley Powell (first guy down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon); I can't recommend anything from personal experience, though.

- There was a great special on PBS about the interplay of architecture and astronomy in the Chaco complex a while ago. I don't have any more specifics than that, but there's more to many of those ruins than meets the eye.

- Richard Rhodes' "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" - much broader than just New Mexico but loads of background on Los Alamos, one the stranger communities in the US (my home town).

- Lastly, Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang."

Have fun, it's an amazing part of the world. (Just writing this has made me seriously homesick for sitting in the courtyard of an old adobe and having a plate of good carne adovada and homemade tortillas.)

chuckred
06-13-2008, 12:39 PM
- Check into journals or histories of John Wesley Powell (first guy down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon); I can't recommend anything from personal experience, though.



- Lastly, Edward Abbey's "The Monkey Wrench Gang."
)

Edward Abbey - Desert Solitare. The Monkey Wrench Gang is a cult classic type book (and a good read), but Desert Solitare will give you a real appreciation for Arches and the Canyonlands area. INSIST that your 18 year old read this one!

RE: John Wesley Powell - Down the Great Unknown. By Edward Dolnick.

Birddog
06-13-2008, 08:11 PM
I don't think anybody, myself included, mentioned going to Mesa Verde Nat'l Park just outside of Cortez Colo. Serious oversight on my part, but there is sooooo much in the area.

Birddog