National Parks of Utah - Trip Planning

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Travel2Learn

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Hi all,
We are headed to southern Utah for a week in early April. The plan is to visit all five National Parks starting with Zion and ending at Arches. Looking for suggestions and tips on such a trip. Our hope is to disperse camp where possible, but I am having trouble finding out where it is allowed. All we are finding online is that there are many formal campsites available on a first come, first serve basis. We would love to hear which of Utah's National Parks (Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonlands and Arches) allow dispersed camping and if so what experience can anyone share with us? If dispersed camping is not allowed, is it a challenge to get camping spots at the first come, first serve sites in early April? Finally, we would love to hear about any particular places, hiking trails and/or experiences we should consider including on this trip. Thanks in advance for the help anyone from the OB community can offer.

Mark and Debbie
 
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Gary Stevens

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I can give you a bit of background on Zion. I was there a couple of months ago. There is some off site camping but generally it is about an hour away from the main park. If you have not been to Zion you want to send some time in the park regarless of the crowds. Here is how you do it. Hit it during the week, go right to South Camp, that is drive in no reservations. You must get there early and get in line for the camp host. You will see it as you turn in and down the drive lane. Wait for the host, get there by about 7:00 am and you should be fine, earlier the better, and just wait. Once someone leaves they will assign spaces on a first come first serve basis. You should be able to get in. There are options if you fail, including the outside areas or high camp area. Ask the rangers or camp host. Also the town maybe accomandating for an evening. Don't worry it will work out. Once in go see Embreld pools, weeping rock, and both hikes off the weeping rock trail. They are Hidden Canyon (shortest) and Observation Point (long) Those are a lot of work if you want to do both in a day. At hidden canyon don't be affaird of the big rock, climb it and desend down the fallen tree with your hands pressed against the canyon wall. You must be in shape. Angels landing everyone talks about, but it takes the better part of a day, up paved switch backs with crowds. If you do this, start as early as possible and bring lots of water and food for a day trip. Now the Narrows if you so adventure and I would, rent the shoes and bring your own pair of hiking poles. You will be in water the whole time, check the weather, DO NOT go if the weather is shows any chance of rain. Go about 4 to 5 miles up to Wall street and the water falls. You will know it when you see it. Lots of other people will be there also. GET the shoes from the rental places. Do not do this as a day hike from the top down if your are not experienced with canyons. It is 16 miles and lots of work, more than you think!!!. I did it last time as an overnighter which has its own extensive needs of preparation.
 

Travel2Learn

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Thanks so much for the information everyone. Great photos Gary! Can't wait to see it for ourselves. We were able to get a camping reservation for Zion for two nights, but we are going to figure the rest out as we go as everything else is FCFS. Looking forward to the adventure!
 

ASNOBODY

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Not sure if this helps BUT… Just outside of one of the South entrances is a GREAT free camping area at the end of a dirt road called Daltons Wash. There is a pretty fun trail to climb to get up on top too. I spent 10 days at this one spot last year because there was literally no one else there and it was beautiful and a 5 minute drive to the park entrance. It sits directly next to Zion. Where the grey marker point on the map is, is exactly where I camped.







I took this photo from my tent…



And this one from about 100 yards from campsite…



There are a bunch of fun little trails around there too… VIDEO HERE

I should add, I did see several 4x4 vehicles and ATV's but everyone seemed to be very respctful of the campsites. After the first day I was fine leaving my campsite alone for the day. I did lock my tent and keep my valuables with me in the truck though.
 

Knitron

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I went to arches last October. There is a nice campground that is affordable that you can reserve called Pack Creek Campground. It's a really nice place. Arches has some good off road trails. I've attached a kmz of trails and points of interests in Arches.
 

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Anchor Mtn

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There are a lot of camping options in the Moab area. There is dispersed(free) camping north and south of town. Sand Flats Recreation area fills up fast and it first come, first serve. If you travel about 10 miles out Kane Springs Rd (McDonalds turn off) there are a few campgrounds called the "Ledges" that dont usually fill up unless there is a big event in town. They are really nice and put you out by Hurrah Pass and Kane Creek Trail if you want to explore that area more.
 

Harkr6

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Check out Gooseberry mesa around Zion also the east entrance of Zion good off road and camping on highway 89 and Pine lake around Bryce and lots of open BLM land around the Kodachrome area for sure if you follow highway 12 and go through the Grand Staircase the best part of all lots of off the grid open BLM land there..Stop at the Kiva Coffee house and hike the calf creek falls. And from there you might want to check out the Burr trail or on to Torrey


Harkr6
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theMightyGoose

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Check out Gooseberry mesa around Zion also the east entrance of Zion good off road and camping on highway 89 and Pine lake around Bryce and lots of open BLM land around the Kodachrome area for sure if you follow highway 12 and go through the Grand Staircase the best part of all lots of off the grid open BLM land there..Stop at the Kiva Coffee house and hike the calf creek falls. And from there you might want to check out the Burr trail or on to Torrey


Harkr6
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1979 4wd truck trail-rig
We are headed to Utah at the end of September. We originally were going to Capitol Reef, but after doing some more research, I think we prefer Gooseberry Mesa. This is the only thread I could find here which mentioned Gooseberry Mesa. We plan to disperse camp. Do you have any good spots you're willing to share?
 

djbkm

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Lots of awesome info in here. Wife and I are planning a road trip through CO and into UT next fall, planning 5 parks between the 2 states. Probably no camping as my wife isn't into that, but we'll be out in the parks a few days each most likely, wanting to hike some awesome trails, and get the rig on some relatively easy trails as well.
 

ahbot

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Great info. I've camp a couple nights at Gooseberry awhile back (2014). I'm planning on staying here this weekend after visiting Zion. How's the condition? The Dalton Wash looks pretty amazing as well. Is there anyone going out there this weekend?
 

theMightyGoose

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Here are some pics from Dalton Wash Road. It was an amazing trip and great location to camp.
So we hit Dalton Wash last week. Checked out the area but couldn't find anywhere to camp. Everything was private property with fences. The one road which looks like it might lead to where you camped was closed with a gate. We ended up camping just west of that area in the designated primitive camp off Kolob Road. Wish I knew where you took those photos, it looks amazing.
 
Road trip with my oldest son to run my booth at the Phenoix Gunshow and wanted to try my new RTT out on the trip so we are planning to break up the drive into two days and stop at the Daltons Wash for the night, and maybe a hike. Thanks for all the info ! If anyone needs a great Mobile App to track your offline adventures check out Gaia GPS, I have a few promo codes that give you a year of the premium features for free.