10 Day utah National Parks Trip
One of our renters Leo K. took a ten day trip from Tucson to the southern Utah national parks and wrote down a very detailed itinerary with campgrounds and sights along the way.
We travel 2000 miles in 10 days through Arizona and Utah. We managed to visit a lot of places thanks to the easy-going setup of the RV and its perfect mechanical functioning.
Day 1: Departure from Tucson at 10 AM. Stop at the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument just a few miles north of Flagstaff. We arrived at Bonito Campground at 4 pm. The campground is right next to the lava rivers and cost 20 USD (no shower but super clean and quiet). We set up the rooftop tent in a few minutes and enjoyed a nice dinner with a view of the volcano.
Day 2: From Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument we drove to Monument Valley through US-89 N and US-160. Unfortunately, the park was closed due to COVID-19 but we managed to take a few pictures. We had lunch at Gooseneck State Park, just a few miles north from Monument Valley. Then we drove to Arches National Park and arrived at Grandstaff Campground at 5 pm. This campground is located just outside of the Arches' main entrance. It is next to the Colorado River. The of f the night sky was view stunning. There are many other campgrounds on the same road but we only found a spot in this one. It cost 20 USD and is far less clean than Bonito Campground (day 1). It was quiet enough despite being next to a road (UT-128 E).
Day 3: Visit Arches National Park in the morning, easy hike to Delicate Arches, and plenty of time to do the scenic drive before noon (The Windows Rd is particularly nice). We had lunch with a view of the Double Arch and started our way to Capitol Reef National Park. We drove through US-89 N up to 1-70 E and took the exit 165 to UT-24 E (we almost missed the exit and there was no way around so careful here!). We deviate a little bit to visit Goblin State Park and spend 1hr there. The roads were super chill with stunning views. Then we continued to Capitol Reef and stayed at Fruita Campground which is inside the park (reservation in advance using recreation.gov).
Day 4: In the morning we did the scenic drive of Capitol Reef. The paved road ends and an unpaved road continues, which is easy to drive and takes to great views and a super chill hike. Before noon we left the park and drove to Bryce National Park. We took the UT-12 E to Escalante, it a scenic byway! We spend the afternoon at Bryce where we visited the viewpoints. Around 5 pm we left Bryce and travel to main Zion National Park, our next stop. We arrived at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort at 6 30 PM, this place has a campground with hot showers 24 hrs and cost 30 USD. The campground is quite dispersed and full of shade. The Campground is close to Zion East entrance (~40 min drive) and the road is one of the best views of Zion.
Day 5: We visit Zion National Park and did the Narrows, a popular and amazing hike through the Virgin River. No doubt the best hike of this trip. It took us nearly 5 hrs, but we didn't use hike poles so we were a bit slow and we also stopped a lot to take photos. Before coming back to the campground we stopped at a grocery store in Springdale (south Zion entrance). The campground has a small grocery store though, where you can get ice and food, but no meat for BBQ as we wanted! A chill night with bbq, fire, and clean sky.
Day 6: Back to Zion in the morning to visit the Esmeralda Pools and hike the Watchman trail, a popular trail that starts near the visitor center parking lot. We wanted to do a hike to the Observation Point but it was closed. However, the campground at Ponderosa Ranch (way outside the park) has a nearly flat hike to the Observation Point that takes about - 1 30 hr. We were lucky to choose that campground! This hike gives an amazing view of the canyon, so don't miss it if you have the chance.
Day 7: We left the campground early in the morning with the hope of reaching the sunset at the Grand Canyon Southern Rim. Our first stop was the Coral Pink Sands Dunes state park, about 40 min drive from the Ponderosa Ranch campground. Then we drove to Page, stopped at Lake Powell, and had lunch at the Horseshoe bend (bad desition because there was no shade there). We continued our trip to Grand Canyon, although we had t to drive to Flagstaff instead of turning right in Cameron because Desert View Rd was closed due to COVID-19. We arrived at the Long Jim Loop campsites around 5 ~pm. This is a road with free campsites and no facilities. But this RV is perfect for that!
Day 8: Grand Canyon National Park (Southern Rim). We took our time to enjoy every spot of the Grand Canyon all day long. Sunset was amazing! We had a y clear night sky, we could s spot Andromeda with no problem. Unfortunately, the tripod of are brok my Binoculars broked just before we could take a photo of the galaxy. After a few hours of darkness, the Moon raised above the Canyon! Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars were also out there! A perfect night for stargazing. We went back to Long Jim Loop but it was late and the sites were all full. So we went to Forest Rd 688, another popular free camping road near Tusayan.
Day 9: We continued our visit to the Grand Canyon, and again decided to wait for the sunset, which is never a bad decision there. Again the night was perfect for stargazing, but this time a few clouds obscured Andromeda Galaxy. Once more time we wait until the Moon raised. We left the park around 10 PM. This time we found a spot at Long Jim Loop and spend our last night there.
Day 10: Back to Tucson! End of the trip. Because it was a Holiday we decided to avoid Phoenix and travel through Globe. After a short stop at Lake Roosevelt, we arrived at ~ 4 PM, returned the RV, and enjoyed the more than 2000 photos of this adventure.