New Travel VLOG Series Episode: Utah or Bust

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that we have begun our year of full-time living on the road and exploring this great country.We are going to document our travels and adventures with you through a new series on our YouTube channel. We have made it to Utah and we want to share the first leg of the journey with you. Check it out!

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Moab, UT- An Alien Planet of Adventure

When you make the turn on HWY 191 to start the descent into Moab, Utah, you transition from a world of pine trees and alpine peaks to a landscape splattered with globs of slick-rock and arches that are a million years old: it’s like being on Mars. We spent a week in Moab and found it to be a very interesting little town, with just the right amount of quirk.

Camping

Moab is a free camping paradise! The entire town is surrounded by either Forest Service (FS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Not to mention the fact that you could probably stealth camp on Main Street and no one would notice, or care. You can see all of the campsites we visited while in the Moab area, we have included GPS coordinates so you can find them on your next visit.

CAMPING IN MOAB

Considerations for boondocking in and around Moab: 

You can’t poop in the desert like you can in the woods

  • Due to the sensitive nature of the desert soil, defecating on the desert floor or even burying your poo is highly destructive to the environment. Bring along a portable toilet or use public facilities that are scattered all over town. Most campgrounds won’t allow you to stay unless you have a toilet set up.
  • It is a desert, bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and common sense

Seriously, temperatures can reach 100+ in the summer time and mixed with the dry heat can zap the energy right out of you. Remember to carry emergency water in your vehicle and always fill up at the visitor centers that offer free water. Below are a few of the free water locations we found in Moab:

  • 7-Eleven on Main St– FREE potable water to fill your RV or water jugs
  • Arches and Canyonlands National Park Visitors Center– The National Parks don’t want you falling out on the trail, use their water, you’ve paid for it already
  • Moab Visitors Center on Center St– The visitors center has every brochure and map       you could need to navigate Moab and they sell OHV permits for off-roading. Stop in and      ask the clerk about the guy from Louisiana with a strange accent.

Attractions/Activities

Moab is home to some of the most unique and beautiful landscapes in the world, most notably in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. These national parks boast some of the most premiere arches and canyons in the World. The town supports world class mountain biking, hiking, and off-roading with a fine mix of culture and entertainment to go with it.

Arches National Park

Based on the name, you can guess what you will see at Arches National Park. Countless 300-million-year old arches abound in the park. These sandstone structures litter the horizon of this well-kept park. We became spoiled in Arches, because the road was just finished in the Fall of 2017 and is in excellent shape. On your way into the park, be sure and stop in the Visitor’s Center and fill up plenty of water bottles and jugs if you have them. You will be surprised at how much water you can drink in the desert.

The Windows Section of the park gives a warm-up hike to a set of arches that are all within a half-mile of the parking lot on easy trails. North Window, South Window, Turret, and Double Arch are well worth the short walk from the car.

Delicate Arch is the main attraction for park visitors and it seems the only way to secure a photo of the arch with no one in the middle of it, is to hike up in the early morning and secure a spot before the sun rises. We did not do that and wished we had. The trail to Delicate was littered with hundreds of people trying their best to climb the moderate slickrock trail. It was hard to be frustrated with the number of people, because at least they are outside taking their kids on a hike. The arch itself is beautiful and well worth the 3-mile roundtrip hike.

Devil’s Garden is the furthermost section of the park and it boasts the most remote trail in the Devil’s Garden Loop Trail. On this 7.2-mile loop, you will see Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, as well as Landscape Arch. Landscape Arch was especially impressive due to its 306-foot span and interesting history. In September 1991, a massive, several hundred-ton rock fall caused a section of the trail to be blocked off. Hikers were the witnesses to the rock fall and had to scramble to safety.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands has a lot to offer both in Island in the Sky and the Needles District. The Island in the Sky offers views and trails from the top of the mesa, down. And the Needles District is known for its needle like features that grow out of the valley floor. The two districts are only 20 miles apart as the crow flies but take over an hour to drive between them.

We opted to stay in the park at the Willow Flat Campground. The campsites were super clean and much closer to the attractions in the park than they would be if we drove in from Moab. Just down the road from our site was the Green River Overlook which sports an amazing view of the Green River from a couple thousand feet up.

Rachael’s Pick in Moab

If you only get time for one stop in Canyonlands make it Mesa Arch. This is a very short hike from the parking lot, about 300 yards. The arch itself was not the grandest we saw, but the view behind the arch was spectacular! We got up just before the sunrise and biked to the trail. It was a cloudy morning, so the sunrise wasn’t awe-inspiring, but as the rays of the sun began to light up different parts of the canyon it seemed like every few minutes the view would change just a little bit. The distant horizon started as just a dark expanse but had so many shapes and colors as the sun brought it to life!

If you have enough time for a little bit longer of a hike take the two-mile round-trip hike out to Grandview Point. Island in the Sky gets its name because the park is on a big mesa. This hike takes you to the southernmost point of the mesa. As you walk out and look to the east there are several layers you will see below you. About 1,500 feet down is the White Rim. It is a layer of rock that looks white compared to all the red rock around you. On this layer there is a trail, the White Rim Trail (they thought really hard about the name), if you are lucky you will see either 4x4s or mountain bikers making the 100-mile trip around the mesa. As you look past the white rim and even further down you can see the Colorado River several thousand feet below you. As you approach the point look to the west and you will see the Green River. At the point you can almost see the confluence of the two rivers and you realize the shape of the mesa is formed by these two rivers.

Both hikes each had great features of their own, but the commonality of the two is the vastness of the views. It was amazing to realize just how far into the distance you could see.

Mountain Biking

If getting off of the road is your thing, then Moab is for you. Whether it is in a 4×4 or on a mountain bike, you can find a perfect trail system in Grand County. Because we live in a bus, we chose to hop on our Mountain Bikes and check out a couple of Trail Systems in the area.

Gemini Bridges

 This trail system has something for everyone. Easy, rolling blue/green runs or black diamond expert runs are available from most every trailhead. We chose to start at the top of the Mesa and ride the downhill first on the Getaway Trail. In hindsight, we would have started at the bottom and ridden up to enjoy the downhill on the way back to the trailhead. You are rewarded at the bottom with a short hike down to the Gemini Bridge which has formed over a stream and is a real sight to see.

Slickrock

The world-renowned trail at slickrock is world renowned because it is difficult. The entire trail is, you guessed it, slick rock. The terran is steep and you must have the appropriate gear and attitude to ride it successfully.

Bring the appropriate bike

It seems that the most successful of riders on Slickrock were on 27.5-29” full-suspension bikes, with flat peddles. Most had some sort of knee protection and had aired down their tires a bit.

Have a good attitude

If you never rode in Moab and you expect to fake it until you make it, you will be very frustrated at the experience. Come in willing to learn and willing to try a section a couple of times before you get it right.

 

Zach’s Pick in Moab

Klonzo

Klonzo has something for every skill level of rider, even specifically for young riders that are new to the sport. This park is located off of Willow Springs Road and is located on BLM land. The trails are well marked and well mapped. I really enjoyed the Wahoo and Vertigo lines on the North side of the road as they really pushed me and my riding ability. The trails combine slickrock and dirt singletrack as well as tough climbs and spirited downhill sections.

Start on the South side and warm up on Rollercoaster, then head over to try your hand at the more difficult but much more rewarding North side.

Food, Groceries, and Ammenities

We typically don’t eat out very much and Moab was no exception, the only place we visited in town for food was a coffee shop, Moab Roasters. The coffee was high quality and they sold pastries and gelato, but no gluten free food options. Other than the coffee shop we did not eat-out, so this review is really only for the grocery store. The City Market on Main Street had plenty of GF options and they were clearly marked with reasonable prices. If you are willing to cook your own food Moab can accommodate!

We did laundry at Moab Laundry Express and it was exceptional. The building was on a quiet street, the inside was clean, and the machines worked great. There are also 24-hour security cameras on the premises, which made us feel even better about the location. The next time we are in Moab, we will do laundry here again.

Moab, UT is such a unique and strange little town that everyone should come and see. Even if you aren’t a die-hard mountain biker or if you don’t like 4x4s, Moab has something to offer everyone. Come check it out before it gets too big and too developed to enjoy.

As always, you can keep up with our photographs and stories on Instagram and Facebook as well as our YouTube page. We hope you are enjoying this journey and we are glad you are following along.

FREE Camping in Moab, Utah

Below we have organized the campsites that we used while visiting the Moab, UT area and hope that you find them useful alternatives to paying high dollar for other spots in Moab.

Manti-La-Sal National Forest

GPS: 38.486044, -109.322178

This site ranks in the Top-10 campsites that I’ve ever stayed in. Thick pine forest, snowcapped alpine peaks in the distance, and a great view of the Moab area from around 8500 feet of elevation.

To get here you take the Manti-La-Sal Loop Road off of 191 and follow it around. It loops back to the Colorado River some 60 miles later. Only 15-20 miles from Moab, you enter the National Forest and begin seeing pullouts and campsites along the road. The site that we stayed in was a few hundred feet off the road and extremely flat and easy to get to.

The site is fairly short on downed wood so I would bring your own. Also, there is not a water source nearby, so pack in plenty of water. Don’t be the guy that cuts down green trees and leaves trash. Pack it in and pack it out.

 

Old Airport on 191 (Easter Time Frame ONLY)

GPS: 38.487989, -109.451691

This is a unique campsite as it is only available the week before and the week after Easter Weekend. These spots are intended for the influx of Jeeps that come into town for the Moab Jeep Safari on Easter Weekend. By the time we got there the following week, it was a ghost town. A few rigs stayed behind to ride some more trails, but there were hundreds of spots left. We camped on a nice level slab away from everyone else.

To get there, take 191 South out of town and turn at the Ken Lake turn. Once past the cement plant, continue straight instead of turning to Ken Lake. You will cross a cattle guard and have your pick of the lots.

 

Willow Flat Campground- Canyonlands National Park (Island in the Sky)

GPS: 38.384107, -109.888016

We typically don’t pay for camping. In this case, we did. We simply wanted to be closer to all of the attractions in Canyonlands National Park and we would have almost spent the $15 that it costs to camp, in fuel waiting to get in the park in the morning.

This campground is pristine. Even the vault toilets are the cleanest that I have seen. Each spot has a pull-in, fire ring, and pergola over a handicap accessible picnic table. The campground got very quiet around nightfall and was very calm all night.

It is a short walk (or drive) to the Green River Overlook and a short bike ride of car ride to a ton of the attractions in the park. These are first-come, first-served campsites and there are only 12, so get there before the 10AM checkout to stake your claim.

 

Willow Springs Rd. BLM

GPS: 38.695904, -109.681283

When people talk about free camping in Moab, they talk about BLM land on Willow Springs Rd. It is a little out of town (~15 minutes), but what you give up in convenience, you make up for in community and scenic beauty.

There are hundreds of spots along Willow Springs Road that can accommodate big rigs and small rigs alike. Get there early in the day and on a weekday if able to ensure that you get a good spot. When we were there in Early April, after Jeep Safari, there were hundreds of rigs scattered through the desert.

This spot has no facilities and you are required to have a portable toilet to camp there due to the sensitive nature of the desert soil. Be sure to pack out any trash or waste.

*The bonus to this site is its proximity to the Klonzo Mountain Bike Trail System. Klonzo is less than a mile down Willow Springs Road and was an absolute blast to ride.

 

Castleton Tower BLM-Castle Valley, UT

GPS: 38.642299, -109.376715

If your style is to get out of town and meet new people than the Castleton Tower BLM access point is a great choice near Moab. The Tower is popular with climbers, but there were plenty of non-climbers there as well.

The best way to get here is to take a day and drive the scenic La-Sal Loop Road from 191 in Moab and follow it 60-ish miles until it terminates in Castle Valley. You will see the campsite at the base of the tower. Another option is to take 128 out of Moab and turn South toward Castle Valley.

There are several tent sites scattered throughout the hillside below the tower, and enough parking for 10-12 normal sized rigs (sprinter van or smaller). There is a vault toilet, but as always, bring your own TP. This is a very popular climbing area, so be prepared for climbers to stumble into the site at any given point in the evening. It was a very quiet site with beautiful views of the stars.

 

Yellow Circle Rd. BLM

GPS: 38.426955, -109.419636

Similar to the spots on Willow Spings Rd., this location has a spot for everyone. It is the last left turn on 191 heading South out of Moab and the road climbs several different levels of camping. There are large spots at the bottom for big rigs and tent sites at the top, plus everything in between. The higher you drive, the more difficult the spots are to get to.

These spots boast great views of the La-Sal’s and of Moab. Like most areas in Moab, this is the desert and extreme caution should be had with the disposal of human waste.

That’s the list! We will be preparing one of these for each of the regions that we travel to as an aid to other travelers coming to  a new area. Let us know if we missed any good ones, we would love to add them to our list when we come back through town.

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FREE CAMPING: Carson National Forest- Tres Piedras, NM

GPS: 36.655331, -105.977997

We had planned on pushing through to Durango, CO and instead opted to stay near Taos, NM in the Carson National Forest. We found this campsite at www.freecampsites.net and it was spectacular.

We are big fans of boon-docking and not paying for a campsite, but we also want to be out and away from town and other people. This spot was perfect for that. The pine trees create a very secluded feeling even though you could be a couple hundred yards from another camper. There was one other camper there when we stayed in early April 2018 and it was quiet!

The best part about this spot was that the ambient light from Taos, NM doesn’t quite drown out the stars like it does down on the Mesa. The result is a beautiful show!

 

There is much to do in the Taos, NM area including mountain biking, river rafting, skiing/snowboarding in the winter. If you get the chance, check out the Rio Grand River Gorge Bridge near this campsite.

FREE CAMPING: Texas Travel Center- Amarillo, TX

FREE Camping on I-40 near Amarillo, TX (EXIT 76)

GPS: 35.19151, -101.725334

In a previous post we showed you a wonderful little public park to camp in on the side of Interstate-40 if you don’t want to drive any farther. But what if you can’t make it to San Jon, NM? Stop in Amarillo!

*Previous Post: Free Camping- San Jon City Park

Right off of I-40 and near a Flying J truck stop is the Texas Travel Center. This property is paved, well lit, has 24-hour security, and was immaculately clean when we visited in April 2018. We arrived late and there were already several trucks, motorhomes, and passenger cars there. We pulled right in, used the facilities (which were spotless and warm) and slept soundly. The noise from 40 was not very noticeable, and this was one of our more enjoyable urban camping experiences.

We camped here in our skoolie conversion and felt right at home. If you are travelling along I-40 and can’t drive much long past Amarillo, consider this stop.

BONUS: The infamous Cadillac Ranch is nearby and is a must see if you’ve never been. These mid-century automobiles were erected in 1974 by the art group Ant Farm. Each caddy is arranged at an angle supposedly in line with the pyramids of Giza and is affixed in the ground nose down. The cars are now covered in graffiti and have been recovered and re-decorated for several PR campaigns in the area.

Cadillac Ranch is FREE and open 24/7 and is a unique piece of public art that everyone should see. Also, if you see my wife, ask her how she got purple hands and purple paint all over her jacket.

SaveSave

New VLOG episode is LIVE-Land Run Redemption

Last year we got hailed on and got pulled out of the race 35 miles in. This year we entered Land Run for the 50 mile distance on single speed bikes; a new challenge for a new year.

This episode documents our training as well as our troubles on race day. Check it out and give us a subscribe and a like if you enjoyed!

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