Best Hikes and Cheapest RV Route in Utah
If you have been reading our blog, then do you know that we like to travel and we like to adventure, and in order to do both of these things frequently, we need to live very inexpensively. This blog will hopefully show you how we traveled, hiked and adventured through Utah for two weeks and spent less than $1,200 for two people.
First, we had to get our RV ready for the trip. We rent our RV through Outdoorsy.com and RVshare.com, so our RV is ready to go most of the time. However, as it turns out, the renter that had rented our RV just before we were to go on vacation, blew out a tire while making a right turn and thrashed our awning, because they left it unattended in the desert and the winds came up and damaged it thoroughly.
We had to scramble to get a new tire put on and secure the awning so we could drive with it safely.
We were delayed one day, but this is a small price to pay to rent out our RV. It does help us financially to rent our RV, especially since we make it mandatory that our renters get the provided insurance and roadside assistance on each rental.
OK, back to the amazing and wonderful trip we had. We left in the evening around 10:30pm to avoid traffic and made it out to the Zion area the next morning.
I researched a lot of BLM land to boondock on, using our Campendium app and website. We found a great spot near the Virgin River dam about 20 minutes outside of Zion. The price = free.
A few months earlier, I tried to obtain a permit to hike The Subway in Zion National Park, however there were none available at that time. I opted to go for the online lottery seven days before-hand and pay a five dollar (each) service fee, for both myself and Melissa. I did this at 10:01 PM the day that the lottery opened, since I knew that Utah’s time zone was already past midnight and it was 12:01 AM. I was the first one to apply for that day. You have to wait until two days before you arrive to find out if you were one of the lottery winners. They only allow 80 permits per day to hike The Subway. We were one of the lucky ones and received our confirmation that we got the permit. If we did not win on the online lottery, we would have driven to the Zion National Park Visitor’s Center and applied in person, early, the day before we wanted to go. They usually leave a few permits for last call.
When we travel with our RV, we pull a tow-car (on a dolly) behind our RV, so we can zip around when and where we need to, once we set up a base camp.
The first day, we went to the visitor center in the afternoon when it is less busy and obtained our formal permit. We also loaded up our hiking Camelback‘s with water at the visitor center.
That afternoon and evening we basically just prepared for our hike in the morning.
We got up early the next morning around 5:30AM and since we were already packed and ready to go, we ate a quick breakfast and got on the road. We were only about 15 to 20 minutes away from the The Subway’s parking area. The trail at The Subway was well-maintained and easy to follow,
however there were some steep areas that may be challenging.
Please check out this video, as it takes you with us through the entire trail up to The Subway.
For the rest of this blog post, I will just do an overview of each area that we camped at and separate the hikes and camp sites in more detail for each blogpost.
NOTE: We purchase the Annual “America the Beautiful” National Park and Federal Recreational Lands Pass for $80 (a year) which allows us and our vehicles unlimited access to all National Parks and other Federal Lands. Well worth it. You can get it online (early) or at any major National Park entrance.
The next day, we woke up early again and drove our car up to the upper parking area just outside of Canyon Junction within Zion National Park. We took the shuttle bus up to The Grotto, which is the trailhead for Angels Landing. We hiked up to Angels Landing and had a wonderful morning. Afterwards, we drove our car back to the RV and prepped it for departure. We drove our RV off of the BLM road and then put our car up on the tow dolly on a nice flat surface.
Melissa and I decided to drive our RV through Zion National Park and go through the tunnel. We had to pay $15 at the ranger kiosk to do this. Since our RV is over 11’4” high, we needed to do this. As part of the $15 fee, they block off the tunnel and you and your follow cars, drive down the center of the tunnel and they block off traffic from the other side. It was actually really cool. We did this as a gas savings, since it was the most direct route to our next destination.
Cannonville Visitor Center
We needed to arrive in Cannonville and go to their Visitors Center, since permits are required for all overnight camping within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The permits are free. We arrived and talked to the ranger and she asked when and where we were going to be camping. We thought we were going to be camping in one destination, however after we got our permit, we missed our turn and since we were pulling a tow vehicle, it is not easy to turn around, so we kept going forward. It actually worked to our benefit since the next BLM land we were going to check out was actually amazing and right near where we wanted to basecamp anyway.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
We found Hole in the Rock camp site just off of BLM-200 Road. For us, this was a perfect area since it was wide open land, so we could turn our RV around easily with our car on the tow dolly and it was right near all of the hikes that we wanted to do. The price = free
From this base camp, we went to some amazing hikes; Peekaboo Gulch, Spooky Gulch, Devils Garden, and Zebra Slot Canyon. All of these hikes were down BLM-200 Road. We stayed here for two days. We even went into nearby town to fill up our Camelback’s and a Jerry jug with free water at the Escalante Visitor Center.
When we left, we drove back into town with our RV and dumped our tanks and filled up with freshwater at the Escalante RV Park for $10.
The drive through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was beautiful. We ended up that same afternoon just outside of Capitol Reef National Park on another BLM land named Beas Lewis Flat just outside the town of Torrey, UT
Capitol Reef National Park
Our BLM campsite again, was free and we only had one other RV within 100 yards of us. Driving through the town of Torrey, we saw an RV park that was 100% completely packed and it did not look like the experience we were looking for. We love wide open spaces and views to die for and our campsite did not disappoint.
We drove our scout vehicle through the top sights within Capital Reef NP and came back and enjoyed a sunset cocktail overlooking vast emptiness.
The next day we drove through Capital Reef once again and boondocked at another place just outside of Goblin Valley.
We drove out to Wildhorse Road which is just outside of the Goblin Valley State Park. We took, Pepe the Prius off the tow dolly, so we could scout out the road, since parts of it looked weathered. We found an amazing spot about 300 to 400 yards in and we still couldn’t believe we were finding all of these spots for free.
We set up base camp once again and then drove our scout vehicle to the Goblin Valley State Park. The entrance fee was $15 and we played around in the valley for a few hours and it was definitely worth the small amount we paid.
We went back to our campsite and still didn’t feel like we had enough hiking in for the day, so we hiked out another 6 miles and then came back for a cocktail.
We left the next day and found a great little BLM site just outside of Moab, Utah. It would have been free, however when we showed up, there were only 2 other RV’s there, by the time we left, there were 10. There was a little “honor box” that asked for $5 parking fee for larger vehicles, so we paid the $15 for our three nights, just to keep things honest. It was worth every penny, since this site was right off of the highway and it poured rain one night and the road in/out was well maintained.
Arches National Park
We did a fast scouting mission to Arches National Park and then coordinated with a sponsor of ours, for our sunset 4×4 land tour along Devils Backbone and Hell’s Revenge.
Coyote Land Tours
We will do a separate post on this amazing and fun tour outfit that sponsored us with an incredible 3 1/2 hour 4X4 tour, but wanted to mention Coyote Land Tours and the owner John, in this blog post, since the tour was so much fun!
The next couple of days we spent hiking and sightseeing in Arches National Park. We hiked Delicate Arch, Broken Arch, and several other sought after hikes and we even obtained a permit and hiked the world famous Fiery Furnace (we laid the first tracks early in the morning, the day after a rain). We did pay a permit fee of $15 for that amazing hike.
This National Park is awe-inspiring and most beautiful at sunrise and sunset, however anytime you visit, it is beautiful. We LOVE our National Parks!
We were going to boondock at the Horsethief Campground, which is up towards Canyonlands National Park, however the boondocks site that we found was much better for traveling in and out of Arches , Canyonlands NP and Moab.
Canyonlands National Park
We spent an evening at sunset and early the next morning on our fourth day at BLM 261 at Canyonlands National Park. It was completely different and almost like the Grand Canyon, where there is so much to see, your brain goes into sensory overload.
Our good friend Mike, that we visited last year in Alaska, used to be the park ranger here and we’re sure he had a blast here, on his days off. There is so much to see and do.
The town of Moab is an adventurer’s dream. You can rent 4X4 Jeeps and other vehicles, mountain bike, go river rafting and so many other high octane sports. If we had more time, we would have done a lot more in Moab. It is on our list to go back.
Goosenecks State Park
We began our southward travel back towards home, however we had a few more stops that we wanted to take in. We ended up going to Goosenecks State Park just off of the San Juan River. It cost $10 a day to stay here and it was well worth it. We parked our RV just off of the thousand foot cliffs overlooking the river below.
From this base camp we ventured off to Monument Valley (which is actually a Navajo Tribal Park and not a National Park) the first day and the next day we went on a bucket list hike in Natural Bridges National Monument, where we saw Puebloan people’s ruins, built into the side of the cliffs.
We also saw the famous Mexican Hat rock formation just outside of our campgrounds, which is really interesting how mother nature creates her own art.
The Grand Canyon
Heading south once again, we were driving to our friends ranch and wanted to take a side trip to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, since it was somewhat on the way. We suggest, if you have a large RV, that you pull off at the first visitor center, since that is where the best parking is for a large size RV.
We went up into the Desert View Watchtower and it was very pretty. If you get a chance, we suggest to go inside and go up to the top viewing areas.
Driving along the rim of the Grand Canyon is beautiful, however it was hard to pull over in a large RV, so we also suggest that if you want to see the Grand Canyon in detail, take a smaller RV or park the RV at the visitor center and take your tow vehicle around the canyon viewing areas. There are a lot of little picnic areas which would be perfect for a smaller vehicle.
We continued on out of the Grand Canyon and ended up at my friends horse ranch in Chino Valley, Arizona.
My friend Kristi and her husband Todd were very accommodating and even ran power out to our RV. We also had dinner and drinks with them and she was actually great friends with my old junior high school teacher and her husband too, who were there too. It was a blast to catch up and talk about old times.
Sun City West, Arizona
We left the next morning and drove a couple of hours and ended up at my moms house in Sun City West, Arizona. It was great to be able to go into her house and have a guestroom and take a Hollywood shower. It was so funny though, because Melissa and I are so used to saving water, that when she got out of her shower and I got out of mine, we looked at each other and both laughed and asked each other if we turned off the water in-between shampooing and shaving and, yes, we both did, it is actually kind of fun to save water.
My mom had over a bunch of relatives and we had a great party and just enjoyed each other‘s company. We relaxed the next day and then the after that, we were off to drive back home to San Diego.
It was a perfect ending to a perfect trip.
Please stop by our other blogs for more in-depth information on all of our hikes and sites in the National and State Parks.
Below is a detailed list of our expenses and quick links for each campsite.
Costs for 14 Days in Utah/Arizona:
We did not count food, since we brought 95% from our home in San Diego
Liquor on the road: $47
Propane for RV: $30
1,700 Miles of Fuel for our 2018 Forest River Sunseeker RV: $721
700 Miles of Fuel for our 2012 Prius C: $50
BLM Campsite: Virgin River Dam: Free
The Subway Permit Lottery: $10 (for 2 people via online process)
The Subway Actual Permit @ Zion Visitors Center: $15 (for 2 people)
Garmin InReach Explorer Freedom Expedition Plan: $68 (Hiking GPS and SOS Device)
Campendium App & Website: Free
Zion NP Tunnel Fee: $15
BLM Campsite: Hole in the Rock: Free
BLM Campsite: Beas-Lewis Flat: Free
BLM Campsite: Wild Horse Road – Goblin Valley: Free
BLM Campsite: BLM 261 – Moab: $15 for 3 nights ($5 each night)
Dinner out in Moab: $38 (Great burgers at Moab Brewery!)
Coyote Land Tours 4X4: Free (SPONSORED)
Goosenecks State Park: $20 for 2 nights ($10 each night)
RV Dump in Arizona: $5
Kristi & Todd’s Ranch: Free
Mom’s House: Free
Total Cost for an amazing Utah/Arizona trip: $1,154
That is less that most couples spend for 1/2 month AT HOME.
We hope this blog helped in some way. Comment below and tell us your thoughts.