After celebrating the world cup in Jackson, WY, we started heading south towards Salt Lake City. As we came down in elevation, temperatures reached 95+ degrees again, too hot for any serious outdoor activity. After a stop by the Orem Mercedes dealer for some spares, and a quick walk in Provo Canyon, we decided to move on towards Moab – which was even hotter.
We headed into Arches National Park for the night, where we stayed at Devil’s Garden (?) campground. Apparently you have to book this one way in advance, but a quick drive around the place revealed an unreserved spot (after the host had assured us that everything is booked out…). Sunrise at this campground was absolutely stunning, seeing the desert slowly come to life with rays hitting the red rocks. We went for a hike early in the morning and then headed towards the more touristy spots in the park.
Continuing on the typical tourist trek, Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands were our next stops. Everything is easily accessible from paved roads, which made exploring the park slightly boring – even though the sights are very impressive. Already the hoards of people and campervans everywhere started to get on our nerves, which would continue on throughout the national parks around there.
Further south, we camped out for the night and headed to Monument Valley early in the morning. There’s a nice dirt road loop that doesn’t allow motorcycles or RVs – Jakob has yet to do this loop with an officially sanctioned vehicle. Hey, we drive a Sprinter, not an RV. Nikki proved once again that she’s the born offroader.
When heading into southern Utah / Arizona, Nikki had been most excited about seeing some of the slot canyons, so we drove towards Page, AZ, where famous Antelope Canyon is. After finding out that you can do this one only on a guided tour, we passed on it and headed to the Navajo tribal office, where we got permits for Water Holes slot canyon. It’s an easily accessible, awesome experience. The pictures speak for themselves.
To round out the complete tourist experience, we stopped by the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion. We can’t emphasize enough that we’re developing a strong preference for National Forests vs. National Parks – no crowds, pets allowed, and just a much more tranquil and outdoorsy experience. At least in July, we haven’t found the National Parks we visited enjoyable at all.
Near Bryce Canyon, though, we found a pretty nice spot for running and mountain biking. Most people just pass by Red Canyon, even though it looks very similar to Bryce. We were told the Thunder Mountain trail is perfect for mountain biking, and we ran parts of it. The run was absolutely beautiful.
So as we headed towards Vegas, the takeaways were:
- You have to be strategic when heading to the desert in the summer. High altitude makes a big difference. We learned our lesson and started looking for camping in higher elevations.
- The crowds are just insane along the major tourist spots this time of the year. Everybody is on the same track. There is probably a lot of cool stuff right off the beaten path, but we should have done more research rather than just hitting the national parks.
- Time and again, people in Utah are super friendly. Except, they can’t drive.
- Lake Powell was a great place to cool off and go swimming.
- Water Holes slot canyon was the highlight for us. We also read about The Subway, which could be another really cool one.