Rita and I have explored southern Utah and northern Arizona on two extended trips last year. On these trips we visited over a dozen state and national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Goblin Valley State Park, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. Truck Camper Adventure has already published several articles regarding this stunning area, so I’ll focus on attractions and roads not already covered in previous articles.
We usually tow Rita’s Jeep behind our Lance 855s rig, then utilize the Jeep to scout boondocking sites and to further explore the surrounding areas. We also use the Jeep to provide extra storage, which is always limited in a truck camper. We usually boondock or camp without utility hookups. Rarely do we avail ourselves of even partial hookup sites. Sometime, though, we do utilize campgrounds to refill our water supply, dispose our trash, and dump our holding tanks.
The following details our experiences and thoughts and may be useful for others planning to visit southern Utah and northern Arizona:
Gold Butte National Monument covers nearly 300,000 acres of remote Mojave Desert in Southern Nevada, offering the opportunity to hike to rock art sites, arches, and other stunning features. Additionally, the opportunity to drive the Gold Butte Backcountry Byway to a mining ghost town and/or explore over 500 miles of motorized recreation trails. From Interstate 15 take exit 112 in Riverside/Bunkerville south across the bridge over the Virgin River and turn west on the first road past the bridge. The most popular camping area is near Whitney Pocket, accessible via a 21-mile poorly-paved road. This scenery and solitude is stunning, during our visit we encountered fewer than 20 people total. Be prepared as there are absolutely no services of any kind.
From Whitney Pocket we utilized the Arizona Road to explore a small portion of the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. The Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument (1,048,325 acres) shares its western border with Gold Butte National Monument. The monument is very remote (no paved roads or visitor services) and features stunning scenery and undeveloped solitude. During our visit, we did not see any other humans.
On this trip we camped at three Utah State Park locations; Kodachrome, Goblin Valley, and Snow Canyon. All three locations featured in incredible scenery, hiking, showers, dump stations and friendly, helpful staff. Kodachrome has the best showers we have ever encountered in a campground and as a bonus there is no additional fee for using the showers. Kodachrome also has a laundry facility, so we are able to give our Scrubba Tactical Wash Bag a rest. There are abundant excellent boondocking opportunities near both Kodachrome and Goblin Valley. Utah State Parks offer reasonable day use fees for those desiring to utilize facilities.
The Grand Staircase-Esclante National Monument (Grand Staircase for short) was originally established in 1996 comprising nearly 1.87 million acres of protected land in southern Utah, and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Grand Staircase is a paradise for truck campers offering stunning scenery, hiking and solitude. If you’re looking for paved roads, reliable cell service, piped water, hookups, trash service, dump stations or crowds we suggest you look elsewhere.
We boondocked at three locations within the Grand Staircase:
- The first location was southbound on Cottonwood Canyon Road, turn right (west) on Road 410 (just past Kodachrome State Park). We found a great campsite with a stunning view approximately half mile in on the right side of the road. There were numerous other excellent campsites along the road.
- The second location was located east of the town of Boulder, Utah. From Boulder, head east on Burr Trail Road and then right on Wolverine Loop Road (110). We found a good campsite near the intersection of Wolverine Loop Road and the Horse Canyon trailhead. Note: We traveled the entire Wolverine Loop Road from east to west. East of the Little Death Hollow trailhead, the road was passable; however it was washed out, narrow in sections and cambered toward a great precipice for several miles. We didn’t tip over in our hardsided camper but it was close as noted by my co-pilot. Additionally, there was a section of roadway that was solid rock with minimal clearance. We barely cleared; however there was substantial evidence of vehicles that were not as fortunate. We suggest utilizing the west entrance near Long Canyon Overlook (closest to Boulder).
- The third location was off Highway 12 between Boulder and Escalante near Calf Creek Falls on Spencer Flat Road (103). There were numerous dispersed campsites along both sides of the road, we found another great campsite about 2 miles from Highway 12, and overlooking the North Escalante Canyon/The Gulch Wilderness Study Area and Hole in the Rock Road. If you’re in the area and enjoy hiking, be sure to check out Calf Creek Falls, preferably early in the morning as the trail does get crowded.
We spent several days exploring Capitol Reef National Park while camping at the Fruita Campground. Fruita is truly an oasis in the desert, featuring a valley setting surrounded by a historical orchard. Fruita features running water (without RV hookups or showers), flush toilets, trash service, friendly hosts and a dump station (that needs some attention). Deer roam freely throughout the campground; outstanding bakery items are available at Gifford House each morning, mature trees provide shade and several hiking trails are within walking distance. Capitol Reef was the only Utah national park we had not previously visited, it was truly a gem that should be experienced.
After Capitol Reef National Park we spent a couple days at the Singletree Campground in the Fishlake National Forest at an elevation of 8,200 feet to cool off during an unexpected heat wave. Singletree features running water (without RV hookups or showers), flush toilets, trash service, a friendly host and a dump station. As a bonus, Singletree is only 22 miles from Capitol Reef National Park.
We drove down Cottonwood Canyon Road in the Grand Staircase and asked for area information at the BLM Pariah Contact Station just off Highway 89. Unfortunately, the only employee on duty was not helpful at all, a great contrast to all of the other camp hosts and government employees we encountered on our trip. Perhaps he was just having a bad day. The do have a fresh water spigot, however, which is pretty rare in these parts.
Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be a lot of good dispersed camping options along House Rock Valley Road. Fortunately, we were able to secure a campsite at the BLM Stateline Campground, located on the Utah/Arizona border, at the Northern terminus of the Arizona trail and only 1.3 miles south of the Wire Pass and Wave trailheads. Each site had a picnic table, pavilion and fire ring. The campground also had clean pit toilets (no water, trash service or fees).
We had one day between our time at Stateline Campground and our reservation at the National Park Service North rim campsite. We had planned to spend the night at the Lees Ferry Campground located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation area. Lees Ferry, located in Marble Canyon, had outstanding views, bathrooms (no showers) and no hookups (a dump station was provided). Ultimately the temperature was 90 degrees (3,215 elevation) so we kept driving.
The Kaibab National Forest is loaded with great boondocking. We found an excellent location located off forest service road (FSR) 610, approximately six miles from the North Rim Fee Station (thank goodness the DeMotte Campground was full).
FSR-22 is just two miles south of De Motte Campground on Highway 67. If you follow this well-graveled road west you’ll come across several areas where you can boondock. FSR-22 intersects with other forest service roads that not only offer additional areas where you can boondock, but also areas where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Grand Canyon. Two popular boondocking areas are Crazy Jug Point and Locust Point. FDR-425 via FDR-206 will get you to Crazy Jug Point, while FSR-294 via FSR-206 will place you at Locust Point. Spots are limited at these locations, so you might have to come early.
We also camped at North Rim Campground located in Grand Canyon National Park. The North Rim Campground (8,200 elevation) does not offer hookups. However, water, trash service, dump station, a general store, nearby lodge and access to stunning scenery and hiking trails are all a part of the experience. The North Rim receives only 10 percent of all Grand Canyon visitors. During our visit, the showers and laundry were closed due to concerns regarding COVID-19.
We have also camped in Northern Arizona at the Bonito Campground, located 18 miles north east of Flagstaff in the Coconino National Forest at an elevation of 6,900 feet, about 2 miles east of Highway 89. There is also plenty of dispersed camping on the west side of Highway 89. The paved campground has plenty of pine trees, flush toilets, drinking water and trash service. The location makes it an excellent base camp to explore Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments. Sunset Crater National Monument features the cinder cone of an extinct volcano (at least it hasn’t erupted since 1085) at Sunset Crater and hiking through the area of former lava flows. Wupatki National Monument features six distinct pueblo structures all accessible via a short hike from your vehicle.
Another resource we found useful throughout our travels is the Maverick gas stations. We appreciate the competitively priced fuel, friendly staff, well-stocked convenience stores, separate RV lanes and complimentary, clean, and dump stations, which are at many locations.
We hope this article encourages others to explore southern Utah and northern Arizona. The area is deal for exploration in a truck camper. Fortunately, a treasure trove of information is available on Truck Camper Adventure and the Internet to assist your trip planning. Happy trails!
AND go to Swayze Cabin!! There’s some trails nearby I’m not sure the Jeep can handle, but it’s a beautiful area! I’m not a huge Goblin Valley fan, but some people go annually. :/
Hi Alex! Utah transplant here…please consider their Nitro card. Its free. Links to your debit (maybe credit…unsure) card & gives you 6 cents per gallon off fuel. While I’m NOT a Maverik rep, I visit a location daily. Did I mention buy 10 get one free on soda/coffee? Their breakfast sandwiches fit the bill as well. LOVE my Maverik!
I consider Utah the biggest bang for your buck as far as seeing state and national parks. Many of your listed to see places we’ve been to. Thank you for your story and reminding us of the beautiful places to visit.