Departing the Grand Canyon

4 06 2017

Goulding’s RV Park, Monument Valley, UT

Without a lot of campground options outside of the Grand Canyon, our first night on the way home will be back at Monument Valley, Goulding’s RV Park.  We’ve parked in site #34 for our quick overnight stay.  This is an end site, lots of room for the picnic table and fire pit.

From Monument Valley we headed directly north to Moab.  We’re going to check out Portal RV in Moab, with both short term rental sites and lots that can be purchased.  Located just north of town, the park is set back from highway 191 about a 1000 feet and still east of the river by about a mile.  The rental sites occupy the first 46 sites on the north side.  These sites are gravel and include a concrete pad and picnic table.  There are also grills on some of the sites, but no fire rings.  The 36 “resort” sites are  to the south with concrete parking areas and pads and extensive landscaping.  In the first row of 12 resort sites (#M13-M24), 5 or 6 of these owners have added 2 and 3 story homes next to their RV parking space.  These homes are quite impressive, but leave RV’s parked deep into a site with a 3 story adobe wall as their “view”.  These home sites obviously are not built for living in the RV – you live in the house and simply park the RV nearby.

With afternoon temperatures pushing into the 100’s, and no shade near our parking spots, we opt to check out the swimming pond.  Surrounded by big cottonwood trees all around, the water is a nice cool-down, but not quite as luxurious as the pool on the resort side. If you’re looking to be near the town of Moab, this is a nice park.  Otherwise, we’d opt for a space on Dead Horse Point or even at one of the parks further out of town.

From Moab we’re headed back to a favorite overnight stop, Rifle Gap State Park.  More from there…


A Mundane Memorial Weekend

22 05 2015

As has become a tradition, we’re once again in Moab, UT for our “kickoff to summer” trip, this time over Memorial Day weekend.  This is our 4th trip to the Moab area:

  1. 2011, On to Moab, UT
  2. 2013, Devil’s Garden Campground, Arches National Park
  3. 2014, Dead Horse Point State Park

As in 2011, we’re once again parked at Horsethief Campground, a first-come, first-serve BLM area with 56 sites about 25 miles northwest of Moab.  This campground wasn’t our first choice – instead we were headed to Ken’s Lake, a smaller campground of 31 sites on a small lake 10 miles south of Moab.  But, even arriving early on Thursday we find all sites here full.  And even at Horsethief, there were only a handful of sites available – we were lucky to find two across from each other.

Possibly it’s the disappointment that we were unable to get into Ken’s Lake, or maybe it’s the cooler weather with highs in the low 70’s, or the nearly constant threat of thunderstorms – but in all this has been a boring stay in Utah.  We’re ready to find someplace new for early-season camping.

More from Dead Horse Point

4 05 2014

WP_20140504_010After spending the day at Canyonlands National Park yesterday, we’re sticking closer to home today and will explore some of the hikes & views from within Dead Horse Point State Park. We’ll start our explorations at the very tip of the mesa, a small point of land beyond the narrow neck that legend tells of being used to corral horses.

From the campground, the paved road passes through a picnic area before ending at a parking lot right at the tip of the mesa.  The views from here are amazing, maybe even better than some at Canyonlands.  Not only can you see large sections of the Colorado River as it flows from Moab, but you can also see the emerald pools of Intrepid Potash, the nations largest producer of potassium chloride.  At the Moab site, a water and salt brine is pumped up to 4000 feet below the surface into potassium rich areas where it dissolves the potassium and becomes a heavy, double saturated solution.  Pumps carry this solution from cavern low points into the evaporation ponds where it is mixed with blue dye to better concentrate the sun’s rays and speed evaporation.

There are several hiking trails and overlooks that pass this point, or the Visitor Center. There are also 3 mountain bike/hike trails that leave the Visitor Center.  The Intrepid Loop to the Colorado River Overlook – 1.1 miles.  The Great Pyramid Loop, to Pyramid Canyon Overlook – 4.2 miles and the Big Chief Loop that to the Big Chief Overlook – 9 miles.  On the West Rim hiking trail is the Big Horn Overlook, Rim Overlook,  the Shafer Canyon Overlook. and the Meander Overlook.

Tomorrow we’re going to pack up and head east toward home.  We’re planning to stop just on the east side of Glenwood Canyon at the River Dance RV Park.  More from there…

Canyonlands National Park

3 05 2014
Caynonlands National Park

Caynonlands National Park

Today we’re headed to Canyonlands National Park, one of 5 national parks in Utah including neighboring Arches, Capitol Reef directly west and Bryce and Zion in the south west corner of the state. From Dead Horse Point State Park it’s a short 10 mile drive to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center at Canyonlands.

The park is essentially a huge “Y” shaped area, bounded by the Green River, the top-left of the “Y”, and Colorado River, the top-right of the “Y” and their confluence at the lower half of the “Y”.  At the top, or northern most area, bounded by the two rivers is the Islands in the Sky section. After the rivers join, the western area is knows as The Maze, and the eastern area is The Needles.

We’ll be visiting only Islands in the Sky since The Needles is nearly 100 miles south of Moab and The Maze is only accessible by 4WD jeep trails, floating the Colorado River or back country explorations starting in Glen Canyon NRA to the far west.

Grand View Point Overlook, La Sal Mountains

Grand View Point Overlook, La Sal Mountains

The main road past the Islands of the Sky visitor center runs almost directly south to Grand View Point Overlook, our first stop on our explorations of Canyonlands. The hike from the parking area  is 1 mile each way and wanders along the south rim for much of the way before crossing over to the north rim for spectacular views of the Green River valley to the northwest.  Working our way back toward the park entrance, our next stop is at the drive through Buck Canyon Overlook that looks to the east toward the Dead Horse Point mesa.  Detouring off the main road toward Upheaval Dome, we first stopped at Green River Overlook where the views across the Green River valley and into Glen Canyon NRA were almost limitless.

Upheaval Dome from Google Earth

Upheaval Dome from Google Earth

The only campground in Island in the Sky, Willow Flat Campground, is just before the Green River Overlook.  With only 12 sites, all on a first-come first-served basis, we thought it a bit too risky to try and camp here.  Continuing to the end of Upheaval Dome Road is a parking area with trails leading up to , around on the rim and even into Upheaval Dome, a huge 3 mile wide round depression.  Unique at the Dome are the center rocks thrust upward into the dome shape, surrounded by outer rocks that have warped downward. Two hotly debated theories are described – one of a deeply eroded salt dome structure, and one of an impact crater.  All of our group most enjoyed the impact crater view, of course complete with accompanying aliens.

WP_20140503_052Leaving Upheaval Dome back to the main road, our last stop is at Mesa Arch.  From the parking area it’s only about a half mile round-trip to the arch. This relatively small arch is most photographed at sunrise, but even at mid-afternoon the scenery through the arch is spectacular including the snow covered peaks in Utah’s La Sal Mountains to the east.  To see beautiful sunrise pictures of Mesa Arch, google “Mesa Arch” – you can even find free desktop wallpapers of the arch.  I think this is one of the nicest: Backcountry Gallery.

My overall impression of Canyonlands is that the vastness makes the scale of what you are seeing almost impossible to grasp.  When standing at the far south end of Island in the Sky at Grand View Point you’re looking well beyond the confluence of the two rivers, nearly back to Colorado to the east, and into Glen Canyon NRA to the west in an area covered with sprawling canyons and towering mesas.   From 2000 feet up on a huge 10 mile long mesa, the largest river in the western US looks like a small, lazy stream winding it way through the valleys below.

Dead Horse Point State Park, UT

2 05 2014

Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park occupies a mesa towering 2000 feet over the gentle bends of the the Colorado River in the valley below. Legend tells of cowboys corralling horses beyond the very narrow “neck” onto the small point of land where many died due to lack of water – all within sight of the mighty Colorado River.  The small campground of only 21 sites MAP is organized around a loop that slopes toward the east rim, and views of Canyonlands National Park.  Site #14 is at the uppermost part of the loop, sites 1, 3 and 4 occupy the lowest points.  We’re parked in back-in site #18 with friends in a pull-through site #16.  These two sites are both on the inside of the loop, with a shared area with 2 large tent sites.  Site #16 is open with beautiful views over the campground toward the East Rim.  Site #18 is set among trees that prevent awning deployment, but does provide a bit more privacy.