Canyon Country Highlights – Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend & More!

January 2019 – Our wintertime National Parks Snowstorm Tour to Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon was incredible. What a thrill to see snow at both of those gorgeous National Parks. But the drive to get there and back was also spectacular, as it took us past many wonders of Utah’s and Arizona’s “Canyon Country.”

Canyon Country Arizona and Utah Glen Canyon Lake Powell Horseshoe Bend-min

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Just outside of Bryce Canyon is one of our favorite places, Red Canyon. We love the hiking trails there. What fun it was to see its two tunnels through the red rocks decorated in snow!

Snow at Red Canyon Utah tunnel-min

Red Canyon has two charming tunnels in the red rocks – and in winter they have snow!

The area around Bryce Canyon was beautiful in its winter finery, and we got a huge kick out of driving the scenic roads and seeing familiar red rock formations peeking out from beneath a layer of snow.

Red rocks and a stream in Utah during winter-min

A glimpse of the edge of Red Canyon across a wintry landscape.

Snow on red rocks approaching Bryce Canyon Utah-min

Bryce-like rock formations peered out from the mountains a few miles from the actual Canyon.

Snow at Red Canyon Utah-min

Red rock country makes for wonderful scenic drive in summer, but how beautiful to see it with snow!

The valleys near Bryce Canyon stood silent in their winter slumber save for a few homesteads here and there.

Winter outside Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah-min

The quiet life.

As we descended out of the high 8,000′ plateau where Bryce Canyon is situated, we said goodbye to the snow one last time.

Puppy poses in snow in Flagstaff Arizona-min

Buddy loved the snow, but it was time to leave it behind.

The wonderfully scenic US-89 passes through spectacular red rock landscapes as it approaches and then leaves Kanab, Utah, and we reminisced as we passed the turn-off for the incomparable Wire Pass Slot Canyon hike and the charming Toadstools Hike, both barely noted with small brown signs on the highway.

And then we were suddenly immersed in the beauty of Glen Canyon. This exquisite canyon was carved by the relentless flow of the Colorado River which has sculpted the surrounding colorful sandstone into a myriad of shapes.

Afternoon shadows Glen Canyon Utah-min

Late afternoon at Glen Canyon.

The Colorado River was dammed here to form Lake Powell, and the vivid blue of the lake set against the towering stone cliffs was jaw-dropping in the morning sun.

Glen Canyon and the Colorado River in Arizona-min

Lake Powell is the centerpiece of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

Glen Canyon in Page Arizona-min

Lake Powell (Glen Canyon).

Glen Canyon Page Arizona morning light-min

Lake Powell (Glen Canyon).

We had seen brochure pictures of Lake Powell like this, but to see it in person was a feast for the eyes. What a fantastic contrast — or complement — to the snow at Bryce Canyon and the mysterious light show at Grand Canyon that we had just witnessed days earlier.

Glen Canyon Page Arizona morning light-min

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Glen Canyon Arizona morning color-min

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We drove down to the beach to get a little closer to the water.

Driving on Glen Canyon beach in Arizona-min

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The stone monoliths towered on the other side of the small cove. What an exotic landscape!

Photography at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

This is a fabulous spot for photography!

There is a marina, hotel and restaurant complex on the shore at Lake Powell, and we could see the marina docks in the distance. The air became a little hazy as the day wore on, but the deep crimson red rocks were just stunning!

Red rock mesas at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

The distant red rocks were a deep crimson!

A group of houseboats anchored in the bay looked very inviting. We told each other we’ll have to do an overnight in one someday. A concessionaire for the National Park Service rents them out!!

Houseboats at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

Houseboats anchored in the bay. What a fun excursion that would be!

RV camping on the beach at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

Other worldly!

Lone Rock Glen Canyon Arizona-min

This guy loved the beach!

The eye-popping Horseshoe Bend Overlook is a little bit south of Lake Powell, and although we’ve visited before (blog post here), we couldn’t drive through the area without stopping in to take another look.

We were shocked when we arrived to see that massive construction is underway in the parking lot and on the hill between the parking lot and the overlook to make it easier to support the enormous crowds of tourists that flock here every hour of every day.

What used to be a small parking lot will soon be at least four times bigger. A slew of vault toilets have been installed, and it looks like a road is going in to take tourists right to the rim.

Horseshoe Bend Overlook Page Arizona-min

Horseshoe Bend

Right now visitors still walk straight up over the berm on a dirt path to the overlook. The new road will go around the berm on the south side. It’s not clear whether walkers or motorized vehicles or both will use the road, perhaps only tour buses. We were also quite astonished to see a railing protecting part of the rim now as well. Now, anyone who is unnerved by standing on the edge of a several thousand foot drop can stand by the railing with confidence.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona Colorado RIver-min

The rocks near the edge of the overlook have fantastic markings.

Most of the rim is still wide open and easily explored, however, and plenty of crazy people were doing their selfie stunts just inches from a lethal fall (a girl fell off and died over Christmas this year). But it was the beautiful lines and patterns in the rocks at our feet that really caught our attention.

This is a special little gem of a spot.

Horseshoe Bend Arizona fisheye lens-min

A fish-eye view catches the wake of a boat cruising by on the river below!

Whereas Horseshoe Bend is busy busy busy and a true jaw-dropper to boot, a nearby scenic overlook at Glen Canyon Dam is fully developed for people to explore but had no visitors but us when we stopped by one morning.

The Colorado River is visible four thousand feet below — just as it is at Horseshoe Bend a few miles away — and the rust colored canyon walls are incredibly sheer.

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook Page Arizona-min

The Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook was beautiful and dramatic — and we were the only ones there!

We just loved the lines in the rocks and the infinite variety of patterns they create.

Lines in the rocks Glen Canyon Dam-min

Such wonderful lines in the rocks!

It is a kid’s paradise for running around on the rocks.

Scenic Overlook Glen Canyon Dam Page Arizona-min

These rocks are very cool to climb on.

Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook with puppy-min

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Windblown puppy Glen Canyon Dam Scenic Overlook-min

Mark won a photo contest with this unique photo of a strong gust of wind blowing on Buddy!

Glen Canyon Dam is a short distance away tucked between massive cliffs!

Glen Canyon Dam Overlook in Page Arizona-min

To get a sense of scale, notice Mark in the upper right corner taking a photo of the dam!

Scenic Overlook Glen Canyon Dam in Page Arizona-min

Top dog.

Meanwhile, storms brewed above the mesas and mountains on the horizon.

Storm on the horizon Glen Canyon Lake Powell Arizona-min

Storm clouds gathered.

This whole part of Canyon Country between Bryce Canyon, Utah, and Page, Arizona, is exquisite, and is truly a delight for photography. We were up with the chickens one morning to see if we could capture something special down at Lake Powell. And sure enough, the sun gave us a show to remember!

Magenta sky and water before dawn Glen Canyon Arizona-min

When we first arrived at the shore at dawn, the sky and water took on shades of purple and magenta.

The sunrise was brilliant, but even as the sun made its appearance on one horizon, storm clouds were forming on the other. We loved the contrast of light and dark.

Sunrise at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

The day awakens.

As the sun cast its last glow across the land before giving in to the coming storm, it lit the horizon’s classic southwestern horizon of mesas and rock pinnacles.

Stormy skies at dawn at Glen Canyon Arizona-min

While the sun rose on one side the storm clouds grew darker on the other.

Mesas and rock formations Glen Canyon Arizona at dawn-min

Morning light.

What a beautiful way to end our quick trip through Canyon Country to see the Best of the West under snow!

Before long we were back in our trailer in Phoenix getting ready to head out with our new RZR and try our new triple-towing adventures. But this week-long interlude at some of America’s most beautiful places in mid-winter is a trip we will remember forever.

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Bryce Canyon in Winter – Snow and Lace on the Red Rock Spires!

January 2019 – When we dashed out of Phoenix and headed north towards a blizzard that was raging at Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, the weather forecast was for an even bigger snow storm at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah!

Bryce Canyon has been among our favorite National Parks since we first saw it while tent camping nearly fifteen years ago, and we have visited many times since we started traveling full-time in an RV. But we had never seen it with snow. What a fabulous opportunity this was!

Bryce Canyon National Park in winter with snow

Bryce Canyon is spectacular when blanketed with snow!

Since we were dressed for cold weather and ready to romp in the snow, this was the perfect time to trek another 285 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon around the east end of that great chasm and then northwards to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Happy camper and puppy in snow-min

Buddy loves the snow — and so do I (in small doses in scenic places!)

Of course, the problem with blizzards is that things tend to shut down due to the snow.

So, we were totally shocked (but shouldn’t have been) when we started heading east on AZ Route 64 on the way to Bryce Canyon and found that it was closed!! Argh!! Now the only way to get to Bryce was to go SOUTH back down to Flagstaff and then north on US-89, adding about 80 miles to our trip.

Well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do when chasing beautiful scenery in unique conditions. So off we went to Bryce via Flagstaff!

And how worthwhile this trip turned out to be. When we arrived, we went straight to the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park at Inspiration Point and were blown away by what we saw.

Bryce Canyon National Park view with pine tree and snow-min

Bryce Canyon is stunning all year long, but what a place it is when laced with fresh snow!

Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Snow and red rock pinnacles right to the horizon!!

The only overlooks that were officially open were Sunrise Point and Sunset Point (interestingly, both of those overlooks face east, so the names don’t really relate to sunrises or sunsets!).

Luckily for us, the parking area at Inspiration Point had been plowed too, and eager visitors had trampled a narrow trail through the deep snow to the incomparable views along the rim there.

Inspiration Point view with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The view at Inspiration Point

Bryce Canyon National Park is a fairy tale land of charming red rock turrets and castles nestled into a vast amphitheater that makes for jaw dropping images at any time of year. Now, in mid-January, the red rock spires peeked out from under a blanket of fresh snow.

Looking down into the snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Looking down into the depths between the spires.

Trail with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

A magical walk along the rim!

The views at Sunset Point were spectacular as the sun began to cast deep shadows across the landscape.

Limber Pine at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

A limber pine looks out at the Canyon at Sunset Point.

All three overlooks — Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point — were connected by a narrow trail that had been made by boots in the snow. We wandered between the overlooks, snapping photos with almost every step.

Deep Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park Sunset Point-min

Late afternoon shadows at Sunset Point.

Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow Sunset Point-min

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Blanket of Snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Sunset Point View Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

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Over the years, Rubys Inn, located 3 miles from the Park entrance, has grown from a small hotel and restaurant to a sprawling complex that now includes several motel buildings, a huge restaurant, a massive RV park, an expansive gift shop, a grocery store and a tiny US Post Office.

In the past we’ve stopped at Rubys Inn to relax in its beautiful hotel lobby, explore the gift shop and grocery store and do laundry at the laundromat, but on this trip we stayed in the Lakeside motel building which is pet friendly.

Icicles at Rubys Inn Bryce Canyon City Utah-min

Icicles hang from the roof at Rubys Inn.

Buddy was absolutely loving the snow, and each morning we went for a fast paced run in the powder out behind Rubys Inn between the snowed-in RV campsites.

Puppy in snow at Bryce Canyon-min

Buddy loved sprinting through the snow and then eating it!

All the trees in the woods around Bryce Canyon and Rubys Inn were heavily laden with snow, and the air was so crisp it felt brittle and harsh on our cheeks.

Snow on trees at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The trails around Rubys Inn were delightful. Some folks rented snowshoes.

Rubys Inn had a few big pull-through RV campsites in the center of the complex that were open to campers even now, but we saw only one pair of hardy souls camping in this bitter cold. They were in a truck camper, and they explained to us that Rubys Inn has full hookups in the summertime but at this time of year there are only electric hookups so no one has to worry about freezing pipes.

There is a shower building with hot showers, and of course the restaurant offers a full buffet breakfast everyday that is so filling you won’t need lunch and might even want to skip dinner!

Truck camper in snow Rubys Inn Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Campsites were available at Rubys Inn (electric only) and they even had some very hardy customers!

In the National Park one loop of the North Campground was open for dry camping too. We were impressed to see a van, but were frankly quite shocked to see two guys setting up a tent and then to see another tent already set up and waiting for its owners to return from their hike!

Tent camping in snow North Campground Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The nights were in the single digits…!

Out on the trails the days warmed up to 33 degrees each day we were there.

Deep Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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And the snow was deep!!

Deep snow at Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter-min

Buddy isn’t very tall, but still, this is deep snow!!

And each time we walked out on the rim our jaws dropped yet again. Bryce Canyon is such a unique and special landscape. To see it with snow is a divine treat!

Inspiration Point with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

These were the views we had driven all those miles to see.

Stunning Bryce Canyon National Park view with snow-min

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Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Several of the trails that go down into the Bryce Canyon amphitheater had been cleared by the boots of eager hikers.

Navajo Loop Trail Hikers at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

Hiking the trails was a lot of fun!

Hikers at Inspiration Point Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

Hikers on the trails below us showed the scale of this place!!

The white snow made the perfect backdrop to show the diminutive size of the hikers in comparison to the red rock spires that surrounded them in the Canyon.

Hikers at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

Two hikers approach an overlook on Queen’s Garden Trail below Sunrise Point.

Navajo Loop Trail with snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Hikers on the Navajo Loop Trail.

We walked down the Navajo Loop Trail a ways. It was steep in places, and we were grateful for the railings at the beginning of the trail because it was pretty slippery on the ice there!

Hiking in the snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

What a view!

Selfie shot at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

A moment to remember!

Hikers were having fun getting selfies, but not every spot was a great place to stand!

We noticed that the Park Service had posted a few signs warning the most daring selfie-takers not to venture out on the puffy snow in places where there might not be much support underneath!

Do Not Enter sign at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

“Do not enter!”

As we progressed down the Navajo Loop Trail we felt that familiar sense of inspiration and awe that always envelops us as the red rock spires rise up around us at Bryce.

Drifts of snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Hikers on an upper switchback.

Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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Snowy trails Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The turrets rose around us as we descended.

Bryce Canyon National Park snow on Navajo Loop Trail-min

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Hiking Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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The soft white snow, red rocks and blue sky were a perfect complement to each other in every view.

Hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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As we ventured out on the rim and wandered down the trails we were so glad we had made the long drive from Phoenix via the Grand Canyon to see Bryce Canyon dressed in the white lace of winter.

Fresh snow Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

A blanket of fresh snow…

Tree at snowy overlook Bryce Canyon National Park Utah-min

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View into Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

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Bryce Canyon National Park is a knockout at any time of year — definitely one of the most spectacular places in North America — but how special it was to see it blanketed with snow on these bright and sunny January days!

Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter at overlook-min

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During our stay, the moon rose bright and full over the canyon. I made a point to be at the Canyon rim for moonrise late one afternoon. I had visions in my head of photographing a huge round moon rising up from behind the distant mountains and glowing across the canyon.

I got to Sunrise Point fifteen minutes before moonrise and stood there full of hope for the next hour. But the moon didn’t make it to her appointment!

I finally left, totally discouraged and frozen to the bone. Dejected, I took Buddy for a walk in the woods behind Rubys Inn just after sunset. As we rounded a corner I suddenly saw the moon’s bright white face between the trees.

What the heck?! When did it rise? How did I miss it?

Peaks of snow Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter at overlook-min

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I kicked myself all that night and into the next morning, thinking that I had missed the most beautiful imagineable moonrise over Bryce Canyon because I had given up too easily and left too soon.

The next morning Mark and I were both up at oh-dark-thirty to catch the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. It was a mere 12 degrees Fahrenheit as we hiked out to find our own spots at Sunset Point. As I got set up, I chatted with another photographer who was walking by me about how sad I was to have missed the moonrise the night before.

“Oh! You didn’t miss anything. The moon was covered by clouds at the horizon when it was rising!” he told me. He’d been out on Queen’s Garden Trail and hadn’t seen it between the spires until an hour after it’s rising time either.

Phew!! That made sense! What a relief that I hadn’t blown a once in a lifetime opportunity after all. The moon had simply decided not to show up at the appointed time and instead hid behind a bank of hazy blueish-grayish clouds for an hour!

Mark and I headed to two different spots along Sunset Point for the sunrise. As the moment got closer, more and more cars showed up in the parking lot. I looked out along the rim and noticed several other eager photographers standing faithfully behind their tripods waiting for Nature to unleash her wonders.

Morning light Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

The snow glowed pink and orange at dawn.

We all wanted that magical moment of a sunny starburst spreading rays of sunshine across the Canyon. And we all worried it was going to be a dud as the horizon got brighter and brighter yet nothing happened. After missing out on the moon, I began to prepare myself to be heartbroken for missing out on the sunrise starburst too.

But suddenly as I stared at the image on the back of my camera I saw the faint rays of a starburst beginning. I clicked the shutter repeatedly, and with immense satisfaction I watched the starburst grow and grow.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

Sunrise!

A few hundred yards away Mark was having the same experience. After it seemed like nothing would happen, the sun suddenly reached across the canyon while the calls of ravens in the distance welcomed a new day. How beautiful.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah winter visit with snow-min

Good morning!!

What a blessing to be alive and to be out here at this moment!

As we hiked back to the truck, we compared notes with other photographers who were walking back too. One fellow told us he’d been hiking with a guy the day before who had been coming to Bryce Canyon National Park every winter for the last 40 years, and he’d said he had never seen the snow as deep and thick as it was this year.

Blessing upon blessing!

We had rushed out of the Sonoran Desert on a wing and a prayer because we’d seen three days of snow predicted for Canyon Country. Little did we know that we would be hitting Bryce Canyon when it had more snow than it had seen in many years!

If you have a chance to get to Bryce Canyon during or after a snowstorm, jump on the opportunity. Even if the moon or sun plays games with you, you won’t be disappointed!!

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Bear Lake, Utah – A Turquoise Paradise in Snowy Mountains

April 2018 – Bear Lake is a stunning lake in northern Utah that shimmers in gorgeous shades of turquoise, and the drive to get there via Logan Pass is truly dramatic.

Scenic drive towards Logan Utah RV trip-min

Heading north towards Logan Pass and Bear Lake we drove into this view – Wow!

In late April the mountains behind the pretty farmlands were still covered with snow.

Logan Utah scenery on RV trip to Bear Lake-min

Beautiful scenery on the way to Bear Lake.

Farmhouses and snowcapped mountains RV trip Logan Utah-min

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As we crested the summit of Logan Pass, it started to get foggy, and the snow crept close to the road. Soon we were driving between snow drifts.

Logan Pass Utah with snow on RV trip-min

Approaching the summit of Logan Pass fog rolled in and we saw more and more snow.

Snow on RV trip over Logan Pass Utah_-min

Snow drifts and fog at the top of Logan Pass!

So, when we descended the far side of the pass and the fog began to lift and the snow vanished, it was a fabulous shock when Bear Lake suddenly burst into view. Wow!!

Bear Lake Utah first view on RV trip over Logan Pass-min

After all that snowy scenery, the bright blue of Bear Lake was a wonderful suprise.

As the sun and clouds played hide and seek, the lake changed shades of aquamarine and a rich blue.

Turquoise water Bear Lake Utah RV camping trip-min

Caribbean turquoise in the Rockies!

Bear Lake Utah RV Trip-min

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Bear Lake is immensely popular in the summertime, and the communities along the shore are filled with ice cream shops and burger joints. But when we were there it felt like we had the lake to ourselves. The village of Laketown at the south end of the lake was really quiet and none of the summertime shops were open.

Bear Lake Utah RV camping trip reflections-min

The reflections of snowy mountains shimmer on the surface of Bear Lake.

Ripples on water Bear Lake Utah-min

Long after a solitary boat passes, waves ripple in towards shore.

There were a few fishing boats out on the water, and a kayak paddled by a family of ducks.

Kayaking with ducks at Bear Lake Utah-min

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The ducks were unusual looking.

Duck swimming in Bear Lake Utah-min

Now THAT’s a hairdo!!

We heard the haunting cry of loons and then spotted them floating around on the lake.

Loon Swimming in Bear Lake Utah-min

We heard the loons first and then saw them drift past.

Loon shakes feathers out Bear Lake Utah-min

A loon shakes the water out of his feathers.

One day we drove around the lake and marveled at the beauty. Farms and occasional homes grace the shore.

RV trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

The drive around Bear Lake was beautiful

Waterfront farm living Bear Lake Utah

Waterfront living with the cows grazing out back… Wow!

Lakeside living Bear Lake Utah-min

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One house really caught our eye. It was the home from the nursery rhyme about the old woman who lived in a shoe! We stopped and took a long look and noticed that the walls were painted with murals of nursery rhymes. Jack’s Beanstalk ran right up the back of the shoe!

Shoe fairy tale house Bear Lake Utah-min

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…” Who knew she lived on Bear Lake in Utah?!

Farm and ranch land runs right down to the shore of Bear Lake, and as we drove with the windows down Buddy hung out the window to get a good look at the cows we passed.

Puppy in truck checks out cow at Bear Lake Utah-min

Buddy checks out a cow…

Puppy looks at cow at Bear Lake Utah on RV trip-min

…and leans over for a better look!

Early spring can bring some crazy weather, and the lake was quite rough at times. We loved the jade green hues in the curl of the waves.

Rough waves Bear Lake Utah RV camping trip-min

The color in each wave just before it broke was delicious.

As the sun set, the sky lit up over the mountains.

Sunset on RV camping trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

The sky was on fire at sunset.

Mark put his camera down on the ground to capture a dramatic image of waves breaking on the shore with the sun setting behind the mountains. When we looked at it later we both said, “No need to go Iceland for a shot like this… We’ve got it all right here in Utah!”

Sunset with waves at Bear Lake Utah-min

Wow!

Where we had fire in the sky with a bright orange sunset one night, on another afternoon the day slipped away into pastel shades of pink, peach and lavender that reflected in the undulating water.

Sunset Bear Lake Utah-min

Shades of pink, peach and lavender in the sky and on the water.

Sunset on RV trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

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On a few occasions the water was perfectly calm, and Buddy just loved wading out in it.

Puppy in still water Bear Lake Utah-min

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Bear Lake is incredibly photogenic, and we had a lot of fun just watching the lake transform before our eyes as we snapped pics here and there.

Photography at Bear Lake Utah-min

Mark is in his element taking photos from the shore.

In early Spring the weather varied from ideal sunny days to blustery cold days to freezing rainy days. For photography they were all sublime!

Wild skies Bear Lake Utah-min

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During the day we captured some wonderful images of seagulls landing in the water and taking off again. As night fell the birds all flew off to roost. A lone duck made his way across the water in the last light of sunset.

Duck swims at Sunset on RV trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

Good night, Bear Lake.

At night the sky was brilliantly clear. Before the moon rose, the stars were especially bright, and we loved seeing the stars of Orion before the constellation slipped over the far horizon.

Orion Constellation on RV trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

The stars of Orion (four outer ones and three in his belt across his waist) watch over the lake.

If you are traveling through northern Utah, Bear Lake is well worth visiting. The few campers we saw pre-season told stories of how lively and fun it is for families come mid-summer, but even if you get there a few months before or after the warm weather months, it is a great RV destination.

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Utah Back Roads – Lakeside RVing Near Salt Lake City

April 2018 – We have been enjoying an RV travel theme of rivers and lakes since we first camped on the beach at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah six months ago. Over the winter we explored Arizona’s Salt River, Lake Pleasant, Canyon Lake, Lake Havasu, the shores of the Colorado River. In early Spring, as we traveled north, we stopped by Lake Mead and Gunlock State Park and then frozen Strawberry Reservoir in Utah.

Now, as we neared northern Utah, we were looking for a route around Salt Lake City that would avoid the traffic and high speeds of I-15. When we veered off to the east by Park City we got a fabulous view of Jordanelle Reservoir over our shoulders.

Jordanelle State Park Utah-min

Our first lake sighting on this leg of our journey: Jordanelle Reservoir, home of Jordanelle State Park.

There is a state park campground there that we camped at years ago, but on this trip we slipped by and relished the view from a distance.

The 80 mile north-south stretch of greater Salt Lake City from Provo in the south through the heart of Salt Lake City and on to Ogden in the north is bounded on the east side by towering mountains and on the west by the Great Salt Lake.

This makes for a tight funnel of congestion, so we were delighted to find a back road route with almost no traffic to take us along the eastern side of these same mountains and skirt greater Salt Lake City all together. Life was so tranquil on this side of the mountains we’d never guess a huge metropolis lay on the other side of the snowy peaks!

Farm and ranch land in northern Utah-min

In this peaceful farmland it’s hard to believe we’re just outside Salt Lake City.

Our first stop at the shore of a lake was at Rockport Reservoir, home of Rockport State Park. We romped around at a few overlooks and beaches on the western shore and waved to the state park on the far side.

Rockport Reservoir Utah back roads RV trip-min

Rockport Reservoir, home of Rockport State Park.

A little further north we found the town of Coalville which has a fantastic Union Pacific Rails to Trails path that runs alongside the Echo Reservoir.

Union Pacific Rail Trail back roads Utah RV trip-min

The Union Pacific Rail Trail runs from Park City past Coalville to the Echo Reservoir.

The weather began to deteriorate as we continued north, making for some wonderful drama in the skies above the farmland.

Storm clouds over farm Utah back roads RV trip-min

Brewing storm clouds.

We arrived at Pineview Reservoir to find the sun playing with its shadows across the the mountains and the farm houses on the far shore.

Pineview Reservoir Huntsville Utah back road RV trip-min

Pineview Reservoir after a dusting of snow in the mountains.

Pineview Reservoir with snowcapped mountains Huntsville Utah back roads RV trip-min

Pineview Reservoir.

A few miles north of Pineview Reservoir is the town of Eden, aptly named for its truly picturesque spot in a valley between three tall mountains that are now home to ski resorts. This has brought a trendiness and cuteness to the village that wa evident on every corner.

Yoga Tea and Espresso shop in Eden Utah on backroad RV trip-min

Yoga – Spa – Tea – Espresso – Gifts, all in a beautiful Victorian house.
Nearby ski resorts give the pastoral area around Eden a trendy vibe.

Cute log cabin shops in Eden Utah on a back roads RV trip-min

A circle of log cabins joined by a boardwalk has a cute boutique store in each one.

Behind the combination General Store and Mexican Cantina a fence around the outdoor eating area was made of snow skis, lest anyone forget that this area is a winter skiing paradise when they’re hanging out over beers in the summer sun.

Ski fence in Eden Utah on backroad RV trip-min

Ski country.

Despite the chill in the air, Spring was doing its best to get underway. In one garden beautiful hyacinths were beginning to blossom, and a robin was making the rounds looking for worms.

Hyacinth blooming in Eden Utah on back road RV trip-min

Spring is coming!

Spring robin Mantua Utah backroad RV trip-min

A robin reminds us that any snowfall we get should be pretty much the last of the season!

But Spring was playing hide-and-seek with Winter, and one morning we woke up to snow. It melted quickly on the ground but hung out long enough on our RV stairs for Buddy to make some paw prints and get a taste of snow.

Puppy sniffs snow on RV steps-min

Snow on our trailer’s steps capture some paw prints from our furry friend.

Then the skies cleared, and the dusting of snow on the mountains flanking Pineview Reservoir began to light up.

Snowy mountains Pineview Reservoir Huntsville Utah back roads RV trip-min

Pineview Reservoir reflects the mountains after the snowstorm.

Snowy mountains Pineview Reservoir Huntsville Utah back roads RV trip-min

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As we continued north, following a meandering path, on two occasions our back roads RV trip took us over the mountains separating the Salt Lake and Ogden area from this bucolic wonderland. Fog and brightly lit low clouds hung in the valleys between the mountains as we crossed over in the morning.

Fog and snow on mountains near Ogden Utah on back roads RV trip-min

Clouds and fog light up in the morning sun.

We had gotten a very early start, and when we arrived in the village of Mantua it was a winter wonderland worthy of a Christmas card.

Mantua Utah backroad RV trip-min

The village of Mantua was enchanting.

The town sits on the western shore of the small Mantua Reservoir, and we were delighted to find that there is a wide path that goes along its edge.

Mantua Reservoir in Utah with snow on mountains RV trip-min

An inviting path led us partway around the lake.

As we walked along the path the views ahead of us were just spectacular.

Snowcapped mountains Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

How glorious to arrive on the morning after a Spring snowfall.

Thistle and Snowcapped mountains Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

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Horses ambled across a frosted pasture. What a pretty scene!

Farm by Mantua Reservoir on Utah RV trip-min

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Fresh snow Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

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We had never heard of any of the towns or lakes on this back country route, but this particular morning in Mantua, strolling leisurely along the banks of the Mantua Reservoir, we felt like we were strolling through the pages of a picture book.

Mountain trail Mantua Reservoir Utah-min

A trail wanders up between the mountains.

We made our way back to the village and were mesmerized by the quaint views going in that direction too.

Sun and snow Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

Mantua, Utah.

Fall color and snow Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

Reminders of last Fall’s golden colors complemented the white snow and blue water.

As we’ve often said, getting off the Interstate and staying off it is our favorite way to travel with our RV. Some of these roads looked really small on the map, but once we were on them, the driving was easy and the scenery was eye-popping.

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More info about the things along this route:

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Wonderful places to visit in Northern Utah

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Escapod Teardrop Trailers – Rugged Campers for Off-Road Adventure!

April 2018 – In our RV travels we love taking small roads from one destination to another because there’s more to see and you never know what you’ll bump into.

As we were towing our trailer in Utah from Strawberry Reservoir to Huntsville, we found ourselves driving through the village of Wanship. As we turned a corner, we noticed several cute tear drop trailers parked by the sidewalk.

Escapod teardrop trailer rugged RV for backcountry off-road travel-min

What a cool looking teardrop trailer!

Our heads whipped around to get another look as we drove by, and we noticed two big red garage bay doors were open and a teardrop trailer was peeking out of one of them.

Escapod Trailers manufacturing facility Wanship Utah-min

There was a teardrop trailer in one of the garage bays.

Did they build teardrop trailers here? We quickly found a place to pull over and walked back to see what this was all about. We noticed a petite trailer frame glinting in the sun and the company name “Escapod” on the building.

Escapod Teardrop trailer manufacturing Wanship Utah-min

Out front there was a trailer frame waiting for a teardrop body.

Manufacturing Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Escapod trailers are ruggedly built with strong frames made from 2×2 inch steel tubing.

We’d never heard of Escapod trailers before, but we LOVE teardrop trailers. So, we went over to one of the models to have a closer look.

Escapod Teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Sturdy, tough and ready for back country camping.

Then we heard a voice behind us and a tall, lanky fellow came over and introduced himself. He was Chris Eckel, and he had recently moved to Utah from New York to become a partner in Escapod Trailers alongside the founder Chris Hudak.

“Would you like me to open it up for you?” He asked.

Yes indeedy!!!

Escapod trailer rugged backcountry off-road teardrop trailer RV

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Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The back end lifts up to reveal a galley with drawers, shelves, a high end cooler and a cooktop.

We were very impressed with the quality of the woodworking and the craftsmanship of the trailer all around.

Galley kitchen Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The woodwork is top notch.

Like most teardrop trailers, the galley is in the back. There is a stove set into a stainless steel countertop, and sliding doors in the back open up to shelving. Three finely crafted drawers are set next to a high end cooler.

Stove in Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The stove is recessed into the countertop.

Chris explained that the origin of Escapod was the desire for a well built and rugged trailer that could handle anything the backcountry might throw at it but could be purchased at a reasonable price.

Too often teardrop trailers are either relatively plush and unsuited to off-road travel or they are sufficiently sturdy yet astronomically priced.

Escapod is filling the void of top quality off-road durability for those who are budget conscious.

Front exterior Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The front of the Escapod is aluminum, ready for tough back country travel.

Hitch and battery Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

A Group 27 12 volt battery powers the rig.

There are lots of options that can be added to an Escapod trailer. The unit we were looking at has an awning, but you can even add a rooftop tent to make the trailer a double-decker and have more sleeping options than the residential sized queen bed inside.

Tour Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

An awning provides shade and the propane tank is easily accessed.

There is a door on either side of the trailer, and we poked our heads in to see more beautifully finished cabinetry inside. There is storage space at the head and foot of the bed, an opening hatch vent with a fan, opening windows in each door and a fixed window at the head of the bed.

Besides having wonderful air flow through the trailer for hot summer days, Escapod trailers are very well insulated for winter travel as well.

Interior Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Inside: a residential queen bed, storage space with push button latches and a hatch vent with a fan.

Inside Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The doors on either side both have opening windows and the front cap has a fixed window.

What a neat little package!

The foundation of any trailer is the frame, and with large fifth wheel trailers almost all the frames are made by Lippert Components. However, with small trailers like the Escapod and other independently manufactured teardrop trailers, the frames are often made by the trailer builder.

The Escapod frames are purpose-built for off-road travel in the outback.

Escapod Trailer frame-min

The frame is built right here at the Escapod manufacturing facility.

Sideview trailer frame Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

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The Escapod foundation includes high end gear like torsion axles, heavy duty Firestone Transforce AT tires and Mickey Thompson wheels.

Escapod Teardrop Trailers off-road rugged frame-min

Torsion axles ready for the Firestone Tranforce AT tires mounted on Mickey Thompson wheels.

While Chris Eckel told us all about the Escapod teardrops, we saw Escapod’s founder, Chris Hudak, hard at work welding a new frame.

Welding trailer frame Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Escapod founder, Chris Hudak, welds a frame.

A nearly finished Escapod teardrop was in the next bay. Escapod builds two trailers a month, and each one is built to order for a particular customer. When we visited in April they had trailers on order through July, so the wait for a new trailer was about 3 months.

Although all Escapod trailers have the essential basics in common, Chris works with each buyer to understand exactly how they intend to travel with their trailer, and they discuss which options will make the most sense for their particular needs.

Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Somewhere out there an excited buyer is eagerly waiting for this Escapod to be finished!

The GVWR for an Escapod trailer is 3,500 lbs, and the basic model with a few options and a full 20 gallon water tank is just 1,500 lbs. So you have a whopping 2,000 lbs of Cargo Carrying Capacity to work with, making it easy to carry a kayak or bicycles or a rooftop tent system on top or load up the cupboards and cooler with anything that might be needed on a camping trip.

Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

These tough little teardrop trailers can take you anywhere you want to go.

Folks who live in relatively gargantuan fifth wheel trailers like our 36 footer may raise an eyebrow at the idea of doing any kind of long term travel in a teardrop trailer. However, it’s feasible. Last year at Sturgis Bike Week we met a man who designed his own teardrop trailer that he could tow with his motorcycle. It had a twin bed inside. He had lived in it for nine years and was truly loving life!

Homemade motorcycle teardrop trailer-min

Home for nine years to a very happy motorcycle camper!

The Escapod motto, “Born in Utah. Bred for Adventure. Tow and Behold” invites customers to go boondocking with their trailers out on America’s public land down remote and precarious dirt roads that those of us with big fifth wheels would never dare try.

And you can go for weeks at a time. Chris told us he took his girlfriend on a six week trip all around the back roads of the west in an Escapod last year and they had a blast.

A hot water heater and shower nozzle hookup are possible, but a solar shower bag is also a great way to go. We used one on our sailboat all through our Mexico cruise on days we’d been at anchor so long that our engine heated hot water was no longer hot.

Slogans Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Born in Utah. Bred for Adventure. Tow and Behold!

The Escapod we looked at came in at just under $14,000, a remarkable deal for a quality trailer. For those who are worried about such a big purchase, Escapod has several teardrops available for rent so folks can try before they buy. Even better, they have plans down the road to build rental fleets and partner with outdoor outfitters in America’s most beautiful locations.

We are so tickled we bumped into Escapod as we rounded the bend in Wanship, Utah. What a neat discovery!

Escapod owners Chris and Chris and dog Milo-min

Chris Hudak (left, he’s the founder) and Chris Eckel (right) and canine camping companion Milo

It turns out that Trailer Life recently did a fabulous article surveying the many teardrops that are being built today. The article is here: Tiny Trailers: New Era Teardrops. Escapod is the third teardrop in the list under a fabulous photo of an Escapod in Utah’s red rock country.

Unlike the market for larger travel trailers and fifth wheels that has less than a handful of independent builders and is dominated by a few conglomerates, teardrop trailers are the wild west of trailer building. Independent builders are staking claim to portions of this unusual market and building trailers to suit their special niche. How fun!

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Strawberry Reservoir, Utah – Springtime Beauty with Ice & Snow!

April 2018 – We left Goblin Valley State Park with big smiles on our faces, but a layer of sand covered everything in the RV! It was time to get away from the dusty desert.

Starvation Reservoir Utah Indian Bay campground RV trip-min

Starvation Reservoir, Utah. Windy, but not dusty!

The fun thing about getting away from the red rock hot spots that are so popular in Spring and going into the greener, more mountainous areas that are filled with RVers come summer, is that we can get ahead of the crowds.

As we headed towards northern Utah, we found ourselves so far ahead of the season that at the interestingly named Starvation Reservoir one campsite’s picnic table was awash in waves!

Picnic Table in water Starvation Reservoir Utah RV trip-min

Pre-season camping sometimes involves unusual situations like waves breaking over the picnic table!

But it was at Strawberry Reservoir where we found true beauty and solitude. This fabulous and enormous lake is surrounded by campgrounds that are filled with weekenders and vacationers in the summer, but when we arrived in April all we found was closed campgrounds and a vast sheet of snow covered ice!

Strawberry Reservoir Utah frozen lake RV trip-min

Strawberry Reservoir was completely iced over with snow on top!

Strawberry Reservoir Utah snow on frozen lake-min

Strawberry Reservoir, Utah – The whole lake was iced over.

Ice and snow Stawberry Reservoir Utah in early Spring-min

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Strawberry Reservoir Utah in snow and black and white-min

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It was absolutely beautiful, and we did a slow drive all through the park. The roads weren’t all open, so we had to turn around before seeing everything, but how cool it was to be the only souls there.

Snowy landscape frozen Stawberry Reservoir Utah in early Spring-min

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Snow and Melting ice Strawberry Reservoir in Utah-min

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The ice was melting along the shoreline, creating beautiful patterns of white and blue.

Strawberry Reservoir melting ice on lake Utah RV trip-min

There was a thin strip of by the shore.

Strawberry Reservoir Utah frozen in early spring-min

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Strawberry Reservoir in Utah Early spring RV trip-min

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Despite the melting ice by the shoreline, there was snow on the mountains and a wonderfully brisk chill in the sun-filled air.

Early spring Strawberry Reservoir in Utah RV trip-min

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Melting ice Strawberry Reservoir in Utah RV trip-min

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Melting ice Stawberry Reservoir Utah in early Spring-min

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Some herons and other water birds were fishing at the shore.

Herons fishing at Strawberry Reservoir Utah in snow and black and white-min

Birds fish by the shore.

And a brave ice fisherman was set up at a fishing hole carved through the ice in one of the coves!

Ice fishing Strawberry Reservoir Utah in Spring-min

An ice fisherman waits patiently by a hole in the ice.

There are boating and camping facilities along the shores of Strawberry Lake, and we drove down to Strawberry Bay Marina. There wasn’t anyone around, although the buildings looked like they must be full of life and activity in the summertime.

The floating docks had been pulled up into the parking lot for the winter. and Buddy hopped up on them and had a look around.

Puppy explores the docks at Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

These docks will be floating in the lake soon.

At the Strawberry Reservoir Visitor’s Center there’s a nice little nature trail on a boardwalk that runs alongside the Strawberry River and crosses it a few times on the way to a fish hatchery. The Visitor’s Center wasn’t open, and when we first took a look in the morning, the boardwalk was covered frost.

Frost on fish hatchery boardwalk trail Strawberry Reservoir Utah RV trip-min

The boardwalk on the nature trail was frosted over when we first stopped by.

When we returned a little later, the frost had melted and we took a walk through some very pretty scenery.

Walking the boardwalk to the fish hatchery Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

Frost-free by afternoon, we enjoyed this brief elevated nature walk.

Boardwalk to fish hatchery Strawberry Reservoir Utah snowcapped mountains-min

Several bridges crossed the Strawberry River.

There wasn’t a soul around, and the fish holding pens at the fish hatchery had been drained for winter. But then we noticed a car parked in a dirt lot and saw a fellow emerge from a doorway. It turned out he was a Fisheries Biologist who works at the reservoir year round studying the fish and managing the stock.

We had a fascinating conversation about fish and fish management, and he described the long term study he had been working on.

Boardwalk to fish hatchery Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

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It struck me that this isn’t a bad place to work collecting fish lifestyle data and helping the fish thrive, even if it is a little remote and very cold in mid-winter!

There are three primary fish species in Strawberry Reservoir that live at different depths: Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon.

I was surprised to learn that, when they are ready, the fish migrate out of the reservoir and up the Strawberry River towards the hatchery at night rather than during the day. When they sense the electric field of an electric fence they make the turn that takes them into the hatchery!

Golden willows Strawberry Reservoir Utah with snowcapped mountains-min

Spawning fish swim up the Strawberry River overnight and are then guided to the fish hatchery.

Bushes in the landscape all around the Strawberry River and Reservoir were a beautiful golden hue, and the Fisheries Biologist explained that these were willows that had been planted in huge numbers all around the area to help with erosion.

Colorful willows Strawberry Reservoir Utah early Spring RV trip-min

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Golden willows and fenceposts Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

Willows planted to stave off erosion erupt in golden tones in the afternoon.

What we loved was the way these willows lit up our photos. What gorgeous colors!

Willows and snowcapped mountains Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

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Strawberry Reservoir is undoubtedly a fantastic Utah destination to visit for boating and fishing during the warmer months of summer. And even though it’s 7,200′ elevation makes it slow to warm up in the Spring, it is still well worth a stop to see the beauty of the lake when it is iced over and the surrounding mountains are covered in snow!

Golden willows Strawberry Reservoir snowcapped mountains in Utah-min

It wasn’t camping season yet, but our stop at Utah’s Strawberry Reservoir was very rewarding!

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Another fun fish encounter we bumped into:

The Salmon Festival in Stanley, Idaho – A neat celebration of all things salmon, about halfway down the post.

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Goblin Valley State Park Utah – One Gigantic Playground!

April 2018 – Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is a filled with exotic red rock formations known as “hoodoos” that look for all the world like little people, martians and goblins, and it is a favorite with kids and families because it is one gigantic playground.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

Goblin Valley is a great place for a family camping trip!

We visited Goblin Valley during our first year of full-time RVing eleven years ago and absolutely loved it. The campground is nestled into a huge rock formation that has cathedral-like buttresses, and tents and RVs tuck into these alcoves for a snug night’s sleep.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

11 years ago we visited Goblin Valley State Park as new full-timers in our 27′ travel trailer and loved it!

It is located a little away from the concentration of red rock beauty in southern Utah but is an easy detour from I-70 when you’re heading east-west between Utah and Colorado. However, our travels hadn’t taken us in that direction since our first visit in 2007 (blog post here). When we pulled into the area we stopped and let our new pup Buddy out, and we all soaked in the dramatic scenery — just gorgeous!

Goblin Valley State Park Utah Puppy's view-min

Buddy checks out the fabulous scenery.

There are wonderful trails to hike or bike on.

Mountain biking Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

What a place to ride!

The most famous and iconic part of Goblin Valley State Park is the Valley of the Goblins amphitheater where all the hoodoos stand in a tight huddle, but we decided to do the Goblin’s Lair hike before venturing into the valley of hoodoos.

Welcoming Committee Three Sisters Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

The Greeters welcomed us to Goblin Valley State Park.
They are also known as the Three Judges, the Three Kings or the Three Sisters!

The Goblin’s Lair hike shares a trail with the Carmel Canyon hike until the two trails fork and the path to Goblin’s Lair takes a right to go around the outside of the hoodoo amphitheater. Here the land is wide open and vast, carved by the massive earth moving forces of Nature, wind and water.

A 24-hour hair whipping wind storm had just swept through Goblin Valley, and the dust had been swirling so thickly in the air we had to stay inside for an entire day while our trailer got sandblasted.

When we finally ventured out on the Goblin’s Lair hike the next day, the air was so heavy with dust you could taste it on your tongue and feel it on your lips.

So, we didn’t have the iconic bright blue sky and crisp colors that set off the red rocks in famously dramatic fashion, but the whole atmosphere was wonderfully ghostly and ghoulish.

Beginning Carmel Canyon  and Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

With dust providing a ghoulish haze, hikers head out on the hike to Goblin’s Lair.

The trail has several promontories that are fun to walk out on.

Carmel Canyon  and Goblin's Lair Trail Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

The scenery dwarfs us.

Carmel Canyon Trail Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The best way to see Goblin Valley is with kids. Since we didn’t have any kids or grandkids with us, we were delighted to find ourselves sharing the trail with a bunch of families both ahead of us and behind us.

It was Spring Break for the local Utah schools and all of Goblin Valley was teeming with kids. As we started down the trail we heard them excitedly running around and calling out to each other. “Sand, wonderful sand!” one boy said as he scooped up a huge handful of soft pink sand worthy of the best tropical beach and let it fly.

Hiking to Goblin's Lair on Carmel Canyon Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Solitary boulders stood here and there.

Carmel Canyon and Goblin's Lair Hike views Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip

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We stopped to trade selfies with some other hikers and then began the ascent up towards Goblin’s Lair.

Selfie Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Hiking up to Goblin’s Lair

There is a bit of a scramble in the last part of the climb to Goblin’s Lair, but all the grandmas and grandpas made it while their grandkids cheered them on from the top.

Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Looking down at hikers scrambling up to Goblin’s Lair

The lair itself is a big cave, and smart hikers who have read the literature before they start hiking bring flashlights with them. Those of us who just saw the sign “Goblin’s Lair” in the parking lot and started hiking right away ’cause it sounded cool arrived at the cave without one!

The crowd at the cave entrance was sizeable. More people kept scrambling up the trail behind us, and we all kept shifting positions perched on the craggy rocks at the top to make room for the new arrivals. Mark and Buddy slithered to the front and took a peek in the cave and said “Wow!” and then we started back down to make room for others coming up.

We took our time hiking back and saw people peering down at us from the towering red rock cliffs. They had climbed up on the cliffs from the crowd of hoodoos on the other side in the Valley of the Goblins.

Carmel Canyon Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

A hiker on the edge of the Valley of the Goblins looks down at us.

Snow and solitude Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Solitude in the red rocks with snow in the distance.

The hike is three miles round trip, and even though the sun was filtered through the dust in the air, it was getting warm. So, one of us found a bit of cool shade under a rock and took a break.

Resting during Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Buddy takes a load off in the shade.

Carmel Canyon hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The Valley of the Goblins is the main attraction at Goblin Valley State Park, and you can look down into it from many overlooks at the parking lot before you head on in.

Valley of the Goblins hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Valley of the Goblins with snowy peaks in the distance.

Valley of the Goblins amphitheater Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Hoodoos stand cheek-by-jowel in the Valley of the Goblins inviting kids of all ages to climb on them.

There is no real hiking trail, just a million goblins standing together waiting for kids to come and play on them.

Valley of the Goblins Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

There’s no specific trail in Valley of he Goblins — you can just run anywhere have a ball!

Kids giant playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Goblin Valley is a fabulous natural playground.

The shrieks of excitement from the kids as they climbed up to the tops and yelled to their friends and parents down below was infectious.

Valley of the Goblins playground Goblin Valley State Park

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Goblin Valley State Park Utah Giant Playground for kids-min

There were kids all over the rocks — how fun!

Even kids of the canine variety were having fun climbing the hoodoos in Goblin Valley!

Dog's giant playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The last time we were here we hunted for recognizable shapes among the hoodoos and found space ships and martians and turtles and ducks. That’s the fun of this place. It’s a natural playground for kids of all ages. Your imagination is set free and you can run and climb as much as you want.

Or, you can just take photos, and we got a kick out of that too.

Valley of the Goblins at Goblin Valley State Park-min

Out in the middle of it all a hiker captures the scene on his cell phone.

Families hike Valley of the Goblins Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Photography playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Goblin Valley is a very fun place to get creative with a camera.

Triangle window Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

A triangular window.

Chess pieces Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV Trip-min

Chess pieces.

Goblin Valley State Park is a Utah treasure that would easily be declared a National Park if it were located in a less scenic state, and we’ll definitely be back again.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

Coming back to Goblin Valley after all these years was a blast!

Related books:

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Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park

April 2018 – Utah Scenic Byway 24 between the towns of Loa and Hanksville goes through Capitol Reef National Park and is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in America. We have been fortunate to drive it several times in each direction, and every single time our jaws have hung open for the entire 64 miles as we’ve been utterly blown away by the dramatic scenery and wild rock formations passing by our windows.

Here’s a series of photos showing how it looked from the passenger seat of our truck as we towed our trailer across the magical wonderland of Capitol Reef Country from west to east.

It started with a lovely view of red rocks as we rounded a bend.

Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

Our first big red rocks view begins to take shape on Utah’s Scenic Byway 24

Then our eyes popped open as the contours and texture of the land grew bigger and more complex.

Utah Highway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

Wow!

Suddenly, we started down a hill and the view exploded in front of us and became knock-your-socks-off stunning!

Utah 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

Wow, Wow, WOW!

A group of horses and cows live in this view all day every day, so they weren’t quite as impressed.

Horses on Utah Scenic Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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But we were loving every minute as we drove head on into that view.

Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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Views on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

View out the side window.

Utah Byway 24 is easily driven in an RV, even though there are lots of twists and turns and climbs and descents, and we saw plenty of RVs on the road.

RV on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

There are lots of RVs on this route.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

The road curves, climbs and descends, but it’s easy driving.
Just don’t get too distracted by the sensational views and drive off the road!

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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RV on Utah Route 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

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The red rock views just kept coming and coming and coming.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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Red rocks Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Red rocks RV trip-min

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Exotic rock formations Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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The heart of Capitol Reef National Park is an old Mormon farming community called Fruita. As we drove past the village on Utah Highway 24, we noticed that the trees were still showing off their nakedness for winter. However, on other spring and summer visits, we’ve seen these trees lit up in brilliant shades of green that are the perfect visual contrast to the red rocks and blue sky.

Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

These trees turn vivid green in spring!

Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

Trees line the road near Fruita.

Fruita is a beautiful and tranquil little community, and there are camping options, a fantastic scenic drive into the depths of the red rocks, and some terrific hikes to historic Mormon sites. We have a detailed blog post about some of the highlights of Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita from our visit a few years back (blog post here).

However, on this trip we were just driving through on Utah Highway 24. So, on we went, reminiscing when we passed some favorite spots and then quickly becoming immersed in the majestic scenery of Utah Scenic Byway 24 once again.

We had left red rock country behind and were now driving between rock walls that Mother Nature had painted in lighter shades.

Rock canyon Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip_-min

We’d left the red rocks but were still surrounded by dramatic canyon walls.

Pinnacles Scenic

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Views Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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Sheer walls Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route Scenic Byway 24 RV truo

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There were still some hints of red rocks here and there, and we were mesmerized as we drove. A UPS truck went by in the opposite direction and we had to laugh. Surely, that driver has the best UPS route in the country!

Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

Not bad scenery for the few lucky folks who have to drive this route for work every day!

Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Scenic Byway 24

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Gradually, the soaring rock walls on either side of us receded, and the land opened up, punctuated by occasional towers of stone.

Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24-min

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Then the rock formations changed shape and the rock walls were filled with steep and angular channels that were carved with Nature’s sharpest chisels.

Exotic landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Highway 24 RV trip-min

Fine chisel work…

We were no longer in Capitol Reef National Park, but the landscapes in Utah pay no attention to such artificial boundaries. Utah Scenic Byway 24 was still giving us a magic carpet ride through some of the most exotic scenery America has to offer.

Desert landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV trip-min

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Rock uplift Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

Massive rock uplifts make faces.

The chiseled walls returned, but the cows grazing underneath didn’t notice.

Spectacular landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV

Dinner with a view!

Flowering tree Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

A pink tree shows off its springtime finest.

Farm field Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 by RV-min

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As we neared the hamlet of Hanksville, the road took a few final sweeping turns past some walls of stone.

Stone canyon Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

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Towering rock formation Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24-min

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And then, in a final burst of glory, we passed a “mitten” rock formation that seemed to be advertising some of the other wonders of America’s southwest. “If you liked this road, you should check out Monument Valley!” it seemed to be saying.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Monument Valley lookalike-min

A mitten formation reminds us of Monument Valley.

What a glorious drive that was! I looked over at Mark to exchange happy glances and did a double take. Hey, who was doing the driving?

Puppy drives the truck and trailer

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We will never tire of driving the many wondrous scenic drives in Utah, and Utah Scenic Byway 24 is well worth experiencing many times in both directions. It attaches to Scenic Byway 12 and the fabulous Bicentennial Highway and is close to the little known Burr Trail too.

Even if your itinerary doesn’t include visiting Capitol Reef National Park for its hikes and camping, if you happen to be in southern Utah, treat yourself to an east-west detour and spend a few hours driving Utah Scenic Byway 24!

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A Back Roads RV Trip – AZ to NV to UT – Colorado River & Spanish Trail

March 2018 – We love getting off the beaten path in our travels, and as we headed north from Arizona in our seasonal migration this year, we looked for new treasures and new routes through Nevada and into Utah.

Colorado River overlook Arizona RV trip-min

Our first detour at Katherine Landing in Arizona took us to a beautiful overlook on Lake Mohave.

We had driven the North Shore Road alongside Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas last fall (blog post here), and we had been smitten by the beauty and quiet we found along the way. So in our Spring migration we drove back up that route, but this time we drove down as many of the tributaries leading to the Colorado River and its two lakes in the area, Lake Mohave and Lake Mead.

Before reaching Lake Mead, we drove along the east side of the Colorado River in Arizona and discovered beautiful Willow Beach Marina and Campground.

Wildflowers at Willow Beach Colorado River Arizona RV trip-min

Wildflowers at Willow Beach, Arizona

Tucked into a bend in the Colorado River where the rugged mountains loom up on either side, Willow Beach has a marina for boaters and a pretty campground for RVers. We loved the views from the overlooks and found that some of the sites in the campground have spectacular views too.

Willow Beach Marina and Campground Colorado River Arizona-min

Willow Beach has a big marina…

Willow Beach Campground and Marina Colorado River Arizona-min

…and a campground.

US-93 doesn’t offer too many views of the Colorado River as it runs between Kingman, Arizona, and the outer eastern edges of the Las Vegas suburbs, but one scenic overlook just north of the Willow Beach turn-off was lovely.

Colorado River Sunset Willow Beach Arizona RV trip-min

A glimpse of the Colorado River in Arizona at sunset.

We didn’t have a sunny day for our drive along Lake Mead’s North Shore Road in Nevada, but it was striking and dramatic nonetheless.

Lake Mead North Shore Road scenic drive on an RV trip-min

The North Shore Road around Lake Mead east of Las Vegas has some great views.

At times the landscape was filled with red rocks.

North Shore Road Scenic Drive Lake Mead NV-min

Driving into the red rocks.

There are lots of pullouts on the North Shore Road and quite a few hiking trails as well. We stopped at several and hiked up to dramatic vistas overlooking the otherworldly land.

Magical stripes of color on Lake Mead North Shore RV trip scenic drive

Layers of color in the landscape.

Views on Lake Mead North Shore Road scenic drive Nevada-min

There are lots of pullouts and some fun hikes along the North Shore Road.

Red rocks on Lake Mead North Shore Road scenic drive Nevada-min

The tiny ribbon of road is almost lost in the sea of red rock ripples.

There was very little traffic on the road, but we weren’t the only RVers!

RV trip on Lake Mead North Shore Road scenic drive in Nevada-min

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Last fall we stopped at Redstone Trailhead and did the pretty half mile hike around a red rock outcropping, and we couldn’t resist doing it again this spring. This time we had a spirited companion with us who wanted to check out every nook and cranny in these glorious red rock formations!

Red rock hiking at Redstone Trailhead Lake Mead North Shore Road scenic drive-min

Buddy explores the Redstone Trail.

In addition to dozens of pullouts and hikes along this route, including some that go back to natural springs (very cool!), there are also quite a few turn-offs that go down to the water’s edge.

Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

Lake Mead, Nevada.

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Like all the desert lakes that have been created from wild rivers in the West, the places where the desert meets the water around Lake Mead are stunning, and we loved photographing all we saw.

Golden hour Lake Mead Nevada back roads RV trip-min

Magical light at the golden hour on Lake Mead as a storm threatens in the distance.

Photography on Lake Mead Nevada RV trip-min

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Before the landscape was filled with river water to make Lake Mead, there were deep canyons and washes everywhere. These became islands and peninsualas when the Colorado River water rose, and today there are endless coves and promontories all around the lake.

Lake Mead Nevada North Shore Scenic Drive-min

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Views on Lake Mead North Shore Road Scenic Drive in Nevada-min

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The water in Lake Mead is well over 100 feet below where it was intended to be when the lake was created. The water height fluctuates a little through the seasons each year depending on rainfall in the desert, snowfall in the mountains and water releases at the various dams upstream.

One fascinating effect of all this water management is the plethora of sea shells everywhere. Piles of clamshells and crustaceans can be found half a mile from the water’s edge! By the same token, lots of trees and bushes wind up immersed in water for a season or two.

We loved the ripples in the sand under the water.

Ribbed sand in Lake Mead Nevada-min

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Buddy romped all over the place. We’ve discovered he loves climbing rocks and he’s very good at it too. Naturally, our cameras clicked away. What a shock it was to look at one of our photos later and see the big fish swimming by him in the water!

Dog on shore and fish in water Lake Mead Nevada-min

Nevermind the dog. Look at that fish!

Sunrises and sunsets were especially beautiful in this exotic land.

Lake Mead Sunset

Sunset at Lake Mead.

We wanted to go to Valley of Fire State Park, a fabulous little jewel in southern Nevada. We had been twice before (blog posts here and here), and we had loved every minute of those visits, but the last one had been nine years ago.

Both times we had gone during the first week of October and there had been plenty of room in the campground for folks without reservations. Not so this time during the Utah schools’ Spring Break. There was no room at the inn. Darn!

Studying our atlas of southern Utah, we decided to try a route we had never driven before. This led north from Littlefield up towards Gunlock State Park, well away from the heavily traveled south-to-north routes that go into Utah’s most dramatic red rock scenery.

But there were still some glorious views to be seen!

Scenic drive approaching Gun Lock State Park Utah-min

Red rocks fill our views on the way to Gunlock State Park, Utah.

Gunlock State Park has a small campground on the edge of the water with pretty views of the small lake.

Gunlock State Park RV camping views-min

Gunlock State Park embraces Gunlock Reservoir, a small lake.

The campground was vacant except for one fifth wheel perched on the edge of the reservoir next to a staircase leading down to the water.

RV camping at Gunlock State Park Utah-min

What a spot!

One thing we just love about wandering through rural regions, going from one village of 2,000 residents to the next, is that each town has its own flavor and claim to fame. When we arrived in Veyo, Utah, and pulled into the gas station to fuel up, we noticed a huge red sign across the street telling us, “You have reached your Pie Desination!”

All Right!! We hadn’t even known a Pie Destination was on our itinerary!

Mark is a big pie lover, and I hold my own too, so we made a beeline over to Veyo Pies to sample their chicken pot pie for lunch and take home a blueberry pie for dessert. Yum!

Veyo Pies in Veyo Utah-min

Mark the Pie Man found his Pie Destination (even though he wasn’t looking!).

Nearby, we stopped at Baker Dam to play along the edges of the small lake. Baker Dam Campground was chock full with families for the local Utah schools’ Spring Break, but the sunset views along the river were very pretty.

River sunset

Sunset during the full moon at Baker River.

It is always a gamble in the spring to leave the growing warmth of the southwestern deserts and head north into the mountains. As we continued towards Cedar City we got our first glimpse of snowcapped peaks.

Snowcapped mountains in Southwestern Utah-min

In early spring the mountains were still capped in snow.

The nights grew cold and we had to dig out an extra blanket, but the views during the days were worth it!

Snowcapped mountains in southwestern Utah-min

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Continuing north on secondary roads, we stopped at a few Recreation Areas along our route. Only a few intrepid RVers and fishermen in winter jackets and hats were out enjoying them.

In a month these places would start to get busy, but at this early season they were very quiet.

Farm fields and snowcapped mountains near Cedar City Utah-min

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In true Spring fashion, Nature teased us with some beautiful warm sunny days in between chilling reminders that Old Man Winter hadn’t retired just yet.

Mountain biking near Minersville Utah-min

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We swung through the tiny hamlet of Minersville, stopping briefly at Minersville Recreation Area, and continued on through to Beaver. Portions of our route through Utah had followed the Old Spanish Trail which is marked in many places with large metal cutouts of riders on horseback.

Spanish Trail metal cutouts

We saw metal cutouts like these in several places along the Old Spanish Trail.

If you are heading out of Arizona to points north, consider trying a route that includes one or several of these smaller roads instead of battling it out with the big rigs on I-15!

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Zion National Park’s Hidden Jewels – Off the Beaten Path in an RV!

December 2017 – Last year we took our RV to Zion National Park during the incredible fall foliage season in late October, and we were blown away by the beauty. We had visited Zion National Park several times before, but never when the leaves were turning.

We published two posts with pics and stories of our travel adventures at the time (here and here), and I had photos all ready to go for a third post, but by the time I was able to sit down and turn those photos into a blog post, it was January and our other more recent travel adventures were taking precedence.

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

The scenic drives in and around Zion National Park are spectacular!

But I’ve got a window of time now, so here are our photos from “Hidden Zion,” the back roads that wander through the lesser known parts of Zion National Park and the surrounding area.

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons-min

We will never tire of visiting Zion National Park. It is one of America’s best!

The “front side” of Zion National Park is accessible from the village of Springdale and is visited by massive numbers of tourists every year. 4.3 million people jammed themselves into Zion Canyon in 2016, a 50% increase over 2014 which had been the busiest year until then. 2017 is surpassing that record by another 5%!!

Zion Canyon — the major canyon in Zion National Park — is without doubt the most dramatic part of the Park, but isn’t all there is to see…

Zion Canyon National Park Kolob Canyons view-min

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As I noted a few weeks back, just stopping the car along Route 9 on the east side of Zion National Park and walking 100 yards in from the highway can be a fabulous experience (blog post here).

View on Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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Cattle grazing Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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Over on the west side of the Zion National Park lies “Kolob Canyon,” a wonderful area full of towering red rocks and home to a few excellent (and little traveled) hiking trails.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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There are roads leading towards the Park from several directions, and we poked our truck’s nose down a few to see what we’d find. After climbing for a long way, we were suddenly in the middle of an aspen grove.

Golden aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

Aspen trees light up in fall!

The yellow trees were shedding their leaves in showers of gold, and we walked down a small road deep into the heart of the aspen grove, bewitched by the leaves swirling in the autumn breezes around us.

Yellow Aspen lane Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

An inviting road for a golden stroll…

We love aspen trees. There’s something about the way the leaves shimmer on the branches and the the way the white trunks grow in thick crowds, many adorned with little eyes, that we find very endearing.

Aspen Trees Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

White aspen tree trunks.

What better time for a selfie?!

Aspen Zion National Park Utah Kolob Canyons-min

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We roamed around some more and came across an unexpected pond. The sky was alive with fantastic patterns of clouds high above.

Kolob Reservoir Zion National Park Utah-min

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We started back down again and were enchanted by the golden glow of the fields of gently swaying grass.

Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon at Zion National Park

Kolob Canyons View Zion National Park Utah-min

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We passed a rancher on horseback moving among his cattle. What a place to graze your herd!!

Cattle Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

Just another day at the office for this cowboy!

In the late afternoon light, the Kolob Canyon views were truly jaw dropping. I was very busy in the passenger’s seat snapping pics!

Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Kolob Canyon is knock-your-socks-off gorgeous!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

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Every bend in the road yielded another stunning image.

Kolob Canyons Drive Zion National Park Utah-min

These views kept my shutter finger very busy!!

Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Breathtaking!


Scenic Drive Kolob Canyons Road Zion National Park Utah-min

Talk about a scenic drive!

Zion National Park is one of those places that offers layer upon layer of wonder and is worthy of much leisurely wandering.

Hiking Kolob Canyons Zion National Park Utah-min

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We thought we’d “been there and done that” years ago on a tent camping trip when we zipped through Zion on our way from Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon. On our next visit during our first year of full-timing we saw just a little bit more. Finally, on our RV trip to Zion last year, we hung around the area long enough to start exploring the nooks and crannies in depth.

Yet we still haven’t done any of the iconic hikes that make Zion National Park so famous, so it is still rock solid in its position at the top of our bucket list of “must see” places!!

Zion National Park Kolob Canyons RV Trip-min

Zion National Park is worthy of many return RV trips!

When I was in Paris a few months ago, a new friend asked me if we still find new places to go even after ten years of traveling around North America full-time. I had to laugh because we still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of seeing anything.

What a beautiful life we are blessed to be living that we can go back to a place like Zion National Park again and again and still find ourselves awe-struck by the scenery and curious to find out what lies around the next bend.

Full moon Zion National Park Utah RV trip-min

A nearly full moon rises at Zion National Park.

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