Boondocking in the Uinta Mountains, Utah

On August 27, 2020, we left for a three-night stay somewhere in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. We had no reservations but were open to staying in a campground, returning to the last location where we camped, or trying something new. As we headed up the mountain, we realized we would arrive just before dark. We determined to try a new boondocking spot we had investigated during our last trip. We ended up staying right on the Hayden Fork of the Bear River at 40.806183, -110.874523. The view from our trailer was phenomenal, as pictured. The site was quite sloped towards the river, but some previous occupant had dug a hole for the left trailer wheels that brought us close to level. A few blocks under the right wheels, and we were all set.

We fished the Hayden Fork for a few hours on Friday and Saturday and caught some small trout. We also took our float tubes and kayaks to Butterfly Lake on Friday. At the lake, my son and I were completely schooled by our mother/wife. The fish were larger and more plentiful than on the little river. On Saturday we fished the Stillwater Fork of the Bear River where we had great luck last year. The three of us only caught one fish this time around. The Stillwater Fork was much lower, being a month later than last year’s visit.

While at this location, we checked out a few of the surrounding sites. Our favorites are at 40.805357, -110.875007, 40.804432, -110.875664, and 40.807726, -110.873388. All three are within walking distance of our campsite. Our favorite is the first of the three, and for a group of two or three trailers, we liked the last of the three.

This was a quick and relaxing trip. We slept in each day, fished, hiked, played board games, watched movies, and ate great food. It was the last of summer in the Uintas. The highs were in the mid 70’s and the lows in the high 30’s. While I don’t think it has yet frozen at this location, there were very few insects, and virtually no mosquitos. It was simply beautiful and relaxing.

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Boondocking in the Uinta Mountains, Utah

On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, we decided to get out of the valley heat and go camping for a few days in Utah’s high mountains. We determined to go to Washington Lake, believing there would be some walk-up sites available if we arrived early. We arrived at noon, and there were plenty of walk-up sites with nothing and no one in them but had reserved signs hung on their posts. Evidently, the camp hosts in this area routinely reserve these sites for people who drive up and pay for their site days in advance. I think this defeats the purpose of walk-up sites, but who can argue with camp hosts that believe they’re kings of their realms. We tried nearby Trial Lake Campground and Lost Creek Campground but found the same behavior – reserved walk-up sites. No worries, we went over the 10,000-foot summit and headed for Sulfur Campground. It had a few sites available, but just north of Sulfur are a few dirt roads that offer boondocking opportunities, so we went there.

This place was quite nice. It had a great view of a vast meadow, distant mountains, a huge forest, and had a few trees of its own that provided shade and a great place to hang the hammock. Obviously, it was much less crowded than the nearby campgrounds, and the price was right!

On this outing, we tried our new pop-up screen room. It literally took a minute to put up, and it was easily moved afterward. It does take a few more minutes to insert some stakes in case of wind, but in less than five minutes, you can have a shelter that protects you from the rain and the mosquitos. However, when the sun strikes the roof of this beast, it radiates inward and cooks you alive. You can choose to be a bit too warm, but protected from the mosquitos, or enjoy the cool mountain air and get eaten alive. Fortunately, on this trip, we enjoyed a nearly constant gentle breeze that kept the bugs away.

Just north of our camping site on Highway 150, there are a couple of more dirt roads that offer excellent camping opportunities. These locations are closer to the river than we were camped, and we’d like to return and give them a try. Near one of the campsites, we discovered this beautiful beaver pond complete with a lodge. We use to enjoy fishing these ponds and would like to come back and give it a try.

We traveled a short distance south to Moosehorn Lake, where my son, wife, and I fished for a couple of hours. We’ve never had much luck fishing this lake, but it looked inviting. The campground associated with Moosehorn is nice but better suited for tent campers or very small RVs. The lake is quite small; I fished its length several times from my float tube.

The last couple of nights of our five-night adventure were shared with our daughter, her husband, and their beautiful children. We had fun playing with their children, playing board games, shooting BB guns, starting fires, etc. One of the best features of boondocking is no campground rules. There are no quiet hours, no occupancy limitations, no vehicle limitations, etc. Obviously, it is essential to be polite to others, but there is generally so much space between campers, nothing you do bothers others, it’s great.

As always, being in the mountains makes me appreciate life more. Being home makes me look forward to the next time I can go camping in the mountains.

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Wedge Overlook Campground, Utah

On November 2, 2019, we packed quickly and made a mad dash to a nearby BLM campground called Wedge Overlook. We wanted to get away for one night to do some astrophotography under relatively dark skies. The skies at this campground are rated at a Bortle Class 2. We were surprised by the number of other campers this time of year, but we found site #6 available. Unlike most campgrounds, this BLM campground has no amenities other than a plethora of rock fire rings built by previous campers. The best part of these sorts of campgrounds is that the sites are 1/4 of a mile apart. It’s just like camping in complete solitude.

We arrived at the campsite at about 3 pm, set up camp quickly, and got the telescope set up for a night of photography. The sunset was at about 6 pm, and by 7 pm, it was dark enough to begin polar alignment. The moon set about 11 pm, and I used the dark skies to perform some needed telescope maintenance and to get used to my new ASIAir device to control the telescope mount and cameras. At 2 am, I focused my attention on the Horsehead Nebula area in the Orion Constellation. I configured the system to take 200 60 second exposures and went to bed. The image shown here is the result.

At 6 am, I arose to finish up the photography tasks, dismantle the entire system, and pack it carefully away. We joined a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Huntington, Utah, for their worship services. After church, we raced home for other activities. This trip was a quick 24-hour adventure, but it was surprisingly relaxing and pleasant to be under the bright stars.

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Twin Hollows Campground, Utah

On October 16, 2019, we set out for Twin Hollows Campground in southern Utah. We were searching for warmer weather, a BLM campground that would give us some space at a ridiculously low price (free), and that was near some other locations of interest.

Twin Hollows Campground is immediately west of Highway 89 just south of Mount Carmel Junction, Utah. The “sites” are simply dirt, sand, and maybe a rock fire ring. We were fortunate and acquired a site with a living tree. Some of the sites are too sandy for large RVs but may make excellent sites for those in light vehicles, jeeps, tents, etc. The sites west of the main dirt road are along the East Fork of the Virgin River. Those on the east of the main road are up against a steep hill/cliff that climbs towards the highway. The sites in the southern half of the campground are protected from the sounds and sights of the highway. However, the northern half of the campground was much noisier and exposed to highway traffic. Side-by-sides and other off-road vehicles routinely travel the main dirt road.

On the east side of the campground, there is a very short hike called the Belly of the Dragon. I would guess the length of the hike is about 0.5 miles roundtrip. There is a 5′ to 6′ ledge at the beginning, but the rest is extremely easy to navigate. The Belly of the Dragon is a manmade tunnel that crosses under Highway 89. It is made of soft sandstone and is covered in signatures and art of varying quality.

Twin Hollows Campground is approximately 15 miles from the east entrance to Zion National Park. The east entrance seems less traveled than the main entrance, but it was plenty busy even in October. After entering the park, we traveled through a 1.1 mile-long tunnel that has several windows out of the cliff face it’s carved along. RVs must pay a $15 fee to go through the tunnel. The shape of the tunnel forces tall vehicles to travel down the center of the tunnel, consuming both lanes and necessitating an escort.

I don’t much care for the crowds associated with Zion National Park, but our quick tour revealed a couple of gems worth the visit. The Fall colors in Zion were spectacular. The red rock, green trees, and blue sky are usually beautiful, but add yellow and red foliage, and it made every view amazing. The East Rim Trail was a good bang for the buck. The views were great, and the effort to get there was low, and the crowds weren’t too bad.

From the same parking lot that is used to access the East Rim Trail, you can access a nice slot canyon. It’s a simple climb down, a short hike through the slot canyon, and then back to the parking lot. I don’t believe this one is marked and so the crowds go the other way.

In addition to Zion National Park, we drove south for 30 minutes to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. The campground there looked interesting, and we may plan a trip back to try it out. We also headed south to Red Canyon and hiked in and back about 6 miles through sand. We were so worn out by the time we almost got to Red Canyon, we turned around and headed back. We’ll do this again, but we’ll bring a side-by-side or some other transportation to get us down the very sandy road. Transport in and out would make the slot canyon much more fun.

We returned from our Fall adventure on October 20, 2019, after joining an Orderville congregation of the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their Sunday service. It was a lovely trip with day time temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s and nighttime temperatures as low as 21, but usually in the mid 30’s. The weather was great, the site was spacious and free, the stars were beautiful, and the company was fantastic!

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Cedar Mountain Recreation Area, Utah

On March 29, 2019, we departed from a winter wonderland for a little camping in the Cedar Mountain Recreation Area in central Utah. We uncovered the trailer and prepared it for another spring, summer, and fall full of camping, relaxation, and fun.

Our initial stop was on BLM land just south and east of Cleveland, Utah. The precise location is at 39.270189, -110.743703. We arrived at this location in the early evening of the 29th and stayed until about noon on the 31st. While in this location we had one vehicle pass by on the nearby road; the solitude was delightful.

The sky was quite dark in this location, but lights from Huntington and Cleveland were visible on the horizon to the west. The location would be good for stargazing, observing, and astrophotography. We experienced some scattered clouds in the evenings we were there, so we didn’t use telescopes or other equipment to enjoy the stars. However, we took a few moments each evening to enjoy the creation.

On Saturday we drove north to and then through the Nine Mile Canyon. It was a couple of hour drive away, but we’ve wanted to see Nine Mile Canyon for some time. It doesn’t seem to be on the way to anywhere, so now was as good as a time as any.

One of the more famous petroglyphs is the hunting scene illustrated here. There were many others worth seeing. Also, there are a few ancient ruins, a balanced rock, some old cabins, and some beautiful scenery. Well worth the drive.

On March 31st we moved to Goose Island Campground near Arches National Park. We met a couple of our sons and their families there and occupied the group site at the north end of the campground. The campground is in between the Colorado River and the highway. Also, there is a well-used bike path that goes right past the group site. Finally, each evening, just before sunset, a tour boat cruises up the Colorado River with a guide pointing out things of interest. After dark, the boat returns down the river with an associated truck on the highway outfitted with a huge spotlight and generator. The spotlight shines through the campground, across the river, and onto the cliffs. The guide in the boat points out things of interest illuminatef by the light, and they slowly move on. The light is amazingly bright and shines through tents, RVs, etc. During our stay, this occurred at about 9 pm, but in the summer months, this might happen as late as 10 pm. Good luck sleeping through this artificial 10-minute long sunrise. These conditions make this campground a bit busy and noisy. However, camping is always restful and relaxing and our six nights were wonderful.

We played games, sat around a campfire, played with grandchildren, read books, and rejuvenated. On one of the days, we drove to Canyonlands National Park. We walked to the top of Whale Rock and had lunch and enjoyed several of the scenic views. It was also fun watching my sons deal with their children in the gift shop. I watched, remembered the good old days, and thought how much better they are at fathering than I was.

We entered Arches National Park twice and enjoyed various hikes and views. I’ve wanted to hike the Fiery Furnace for years, and my son acquired a permit for six of us. It was a fun hike involving some simple climbing, squeezing through short narrow canyons, and experiencing several dead ends. The scenery was spectacular. I would like to return and hike the Fiery Furnace again and take many more of the small side trips.

We also drove to Dead Horse Point State Park. Fortunately, we have an annual state park pass that allowed us to enter for free. We drove to the overlook, took a look, took a picture, and left. We noticed that camping at the state park is $40 per night, but that likely includes hookups for RV’s and is a reasonable alternative for summer camping in the heat.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week of camping. It was relaxing, fun being with family, hiking, and enjoying the breathtaking scenery of southern Utah. In closing, I include the following panoramic view from Canyonlands National Park which captures the essence of our trip.

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Wedge Overlook Campground, Utah

In this post two separate visits to the Wedge Overlook Campground in central Utah are described. Our first visit began on Friday November 2, 2018 and ended on Sunday November 4, 2018. A week later we decided to revisit the same location and take advantage of the dark skies for astrophotography.

While the location is called the Wedge Overlook Campground, there is nothing there but dirt roads and huge cul-de-sacs where RVs and tent campers may stay. There are 10 sites, but there are no restrooms, no water, and no other facilities. The sites are hundreds of feet apart providing ample privacy, each site has one or more rock fire circles, and best of all there is no cost!

The area is part of the San Rafael Swell and has many interesting geological points of interest. The landscape includes red cliffs, yellow formations, interesting hills, bluffs, drainages, and canyons. The most prominent local feature is the Little Grand Canyon of Utah. This deep gorge contains the San Rafael river and an abundance of trees showing their fall colors late into the season.

On our first visit we stayed in site 3 which is on the south side of the main road. The site has a long entrance road and a large area sufficient for several RVs. There are some trees that would provide privacy for tent campers. This site is close to a fork of the main attraction in the area, the Little Grand Canyon of Utah. This fork is fun to explore, and is sufficiently distant to make this site manageable with small children.

On our second excursion to this area, we stayed in site 4 which is across the road from site 3, is smaller, and has a spectacular view to the north. This trip was intended to provide dark skies so I could perform some astrophotography. The skies cooperated and we enjoyed two clear nights that were cold, but most importantly dark with no moon. I have wanted to photograph the Andromeda galaxy (M31) since I was a very young man, I finally got the chance.

The second image captured was from my favorite constellation Orion. The belt of Orion contains the Orion Nebula (M42). It is beautiful, easy to see, and I think the image turned out nicely. Having the chance to capture these two images, spend a couple of days with my dear wife, and enjoy this beautiful part of Utah was amazing. I can’t wait for spring to arrive so we can go camping again.

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Subway in Zion National Park, Utah

 

We were invited to hike the Subway in Zion National Park in southern Utah. We didn’t want to pass up this rare opportunity, so we made plans to head out Monday August 27, 2018, do the hike, and return the evening of Tuesday August 28, 2018. We chose to go boondocking instead of trying to find an organized campground or RV park. The place we chose was just north of the Virgin River. The views were amazing and we were quite literally all alone until other members of the family arrived. Our trailer sat at location 37.2025525,-113.2318394 and can be seen on the Google map image to the left.

We were originally headed to the location just to the south of the one shown, but the dirt road between the two campsites was rutty, rocky, and fairly inclined in places. You may be able to travel east on the road leaving the spot we camped and then come south and back west to the site on the river, but we didn’t bother checking since our site was so nice for our needs.

On Tuesday morning we awoke early, ate breakfast, and headed through Virgin, Utah and up to the trailhead. The trail begins level, wanders through a beautiful forest, and then heads down through slick rock. At the bottom of the canyon you encounter a small stream. In many places the stream is the “trail” and at times it is deep enough that you have to swim and push your gear in dry bags. There are a few places where the drop-offs are significant enough to require rappelling, but this just adds to the fun and charm of the place.

The canyon views are simply amazing on this hike. There is so much to see and experience. There are cacti, water grasses, pines, sandy bottom stretches of the stream, boulder fields, fish, frogs, and much more. If you do this hike, the one thing you will experience, and likely remember for some time to come, is the icy cold water. It is amazing that water can be this cold in the middle of a dessert. At the places where you have to plunge in, it takes your breath away, but it is fun and refreshing.

The hike is named after a small portion of the canyon known as the Subway. Just before you round the corner and enter into the “Subway”, you come across a log that has probably been photographed more than any dead tree anywhere else in the world. I found the lighting so amazing that I was compelled to take my own image, just like everyone else. What puzzles me is that this log has been photographed so many times, but how? How does this log survive the flash floods that sculpt this place. They come frequently and they’re no doubt ferocious. They move trees, carve rock, and push huge boulders.

As much as I loved the color in the canyon, when I looked up and around I was blown away by the beauty of the entire place. There is red rock, green trees, and brilliant blue sky. It was quiet with just the noise of the stream flowing over the rocks.

Coming around this beautiful corner you are met with a view of the Subway. It looks like a huge rock pipe gouged round and smooth by those mysterious floods that do this, but leave that dead stick in place just up stream. What surprised me were the pools in the floor of this part of the canyon. The whole place was quite impressive. If the water temperature would have been 60° or higher we would have spent significant time in these natural hot tubs, but whatever temperature they actually are was too cold for long sessions of relaxing.

Further down the trail the canyon widens, the stream becomes shallow, and  hikers are greeted with views of beautiful waterfalls and scenery. The wider canyon exposes you and the water to more sunlight which in turn warms both significantly, making the water much more inviting.

Beyond these falls the hiking is primarily wading through the river or hiking on a mix of smooth trails and boulder fields. The final mile or so is a very steep ascent up the canyon wall and then across the rim to a parking lot. The climb is approximately 400 vertical feet, but after miles of beautiful hiking it seems like a vertical wall in the desert!

Now that I’ve been home one day my legs are sore and stiff, but I look forward to doing this hike again. It also makes me want to learn more about the area and other amazing hikes.

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Boondocking Near Goblin Valley, Utah

On Thursday May 24, 2018 we retrieved our trailer from its winter storage for the first time in 2018 and headed to an area near Goblin Valley State Park in Utah. We were joined by a son and his family and a daughter and her family. One of the families arrived on Friday and the other on Saturday. We chose not to stay at the state park, but rather boondocked in some neighboring BLM land at location, 38.569091, -110.743433. As you can see from the image, we didn’t have a lot of neighbors even though it was the Memorial Day weekend. More showed up as the weekend progressed, but none were close enough to be heard or bother us.

All but the last couple of miles to this location were well maintained paved roads. The last couple of miles were on dirt roads with lots of ruts and bumps. While it wasn’t smooth, it was easily managed at low speeds. The boondocking sites are so large you simply drive around in them until you find a place that’s level enough to add the final touches. As others arrived it was easy for them to “circle the wagons”. It was a great spot, but I think in the future we’ll try someplace just to the north of this area where we expect to find a bit more slick rock and a bit less dirt and sand.

The temperatures were in the high 80’s and low 90’s each day, but cooled off rapidly in the evening. The wind came up each afternoon about noon and blew pretty good, about 15 mph. The wind kicked up considerable sand and dust and made for pretty uncomfortable conditions for a few hours each day. However, the landscape was beautiful and the night skies were spectacular in spite of the nearly full moon. The children had a great time climbing in the rocks and rolling down the nearby sand hills.

On one of the days we hiked the nearby Wild Horse Canyon trail. This is a slot canyon that is only a few feet wide in some spots. We spent one of our days walking through Goblin Valley. The kids liked this as well and even though I have been there many times, it was still enjoyable. During our next visit to this part of the state we’ll try and hike the Ding and Dang canyons. I have heard they’re amazing!

We returned home, cleaned the trailer thoroughly and returned it to storage until the next outing in the middle of June. It was fun having the trailer out and can’t wait for the next outing. Perhaps I enjoy the trailer too much. I’ve been telling people for a couple of weeks that I am unhappy to have to go to Hawaii for a week because it will get in the way of going camping. Truly I have a problem!

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Trappers Lake, Colorado

On July 11, 2017 we left Starvation State Park at about noon and drove nearly due east. We drove through Meeker, Colorado and headed up into the Trappers Lake area on Highway 8. We eventually turned right onto Highway 8a. Just after the turn we took a dirt road to the west and found a very nice spot for a few days of camping. This was the first time we had truly boondocked rather than staying in a campground.

We arrived at our private spot about 6pm, cooked dinner, fired up a generator and watched the latest Power Ranger movie as a family. Beautiful drive and an easy to get into spot. For an exact location of the places we have camped see the Where We’ve Been page. I have made my best effort to drop the pins on this page in exactly the spots we’ve camped. While this area had several great spots, we only saw one other car during our stay and they headed down the dirt road to the trailhead. It was quiet, peaceful and beautiful.

The next day we drove up the canyon to Trappers Lake Lodge where they helped us buy two Colorado fishing licenses. It turns out in this Internet age, small stores no longer sell fishing licenses because there is no margin and you can buy them online. They did let us come behind their counter, use their computer and print our temporary licenses. The folks at the lodge were friendly, sold the basics you may need, served food, organized horseback trips, and rented boats, toys and cabins.

From the lodge we drove a short distance to the Trappers Lake Trailhead. There are no roads to the lake because it is in a designated wilderness area. We hiked a quarter of a mile to the lake through sunshine, rain and hail. Yes we experienced all that in just a quarter of a mile. We arrived at Trappers Lake which was stunning. The lake is located at high altitude, in a wilderness area and surrounded by lovely mountains.

Walking around the lake a bit led us to the dock where the lodge’s rental boats were tied up. While at the lake we tried fishing from the shore with no luck. We decided that we’d rent a canoe the following day and try again.

At about 10 am the next day we repeated our trek up the canyon to Trappers Lake Lodge, collected a couple of paddles and life jackets and headed to Trappers Lake. The three of us got in a canoe and I set my fly line out the back trolling while my wife and son fished as I paddled slowly around the entire lake in a counter clockwise direction. I ended the day having caught two fish. My wife had two on and brought one all the way in, but it was the biggest fish of the day, a 16 to 20 inch Colorado Cutthroat. It was not only long, but it was fat and well colored. A beautiful day of fishing.

We returned the canoe at about 3pm after surviving quite a bit of rain, lightning and thunder. I’m always a bit concerned with 10 foot fly poles in a canoe out in a lake with lightning all around, but we survived yet again.

After fishing Trappers Lake we drove to a pretty little lake called Scotts Lake and gave it a try. We had no success at all. We could see lots of small fish jumping, but not even a bite for our efforts.

We returned to our trailer and cleaned up. While washing the dog under the outside shower we found a dead mouse in the wash basin. Later in our trip we found his best friend chewing on stuff inside the trailer and had to buy traps. We’ll keep a few traps on hand in the future. Evidently these little guys like trailer camping as much as we do.

We spent some time in the evening contemplating our next move. We decided to leave this area in the morning and head southeast towards the Pike’s Peak area. We didn’t have any connectivity in this area so we decided to go in that general direction and fine tune our decisions while driving with connectivity and the availability of Google Maps.

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