Yes, it is true.....Utah in general is a funny place. Especially if you enjoy a beverage every now and again. But if you want an incredible, visually stunning holiday escape, Salt Lake City you must come. Don't stay here....just pick up a vehicle and some provisions, then go, GO, go! My suggestions for a ~knock your socks off~ cheap, 5 day +, camping adventure in Moab, reads as follows:
Step ONE: Land in Salt Lake City. If your flight arrives after noon, plan on spending the night here in the city. Laid out on a grid pattern, it is pretty easy to get around. I suggest Hertz, but not from the airport, pick up your vehicle at the Marriott downtown. This hotel is spendy, but you don't have to stay here overnight, there are plenty of other less expensive options within a few blocks. If you take a shared shuttle from the airport, it should cost close to $10. If you pick up your car downtown and return to the airport, you can save hundreds of dollars. Skyscanner is a great app to keep you up to date on super deals on flights from your city of choice.
Step TWO: Goodwill and Big Lot's are your friends. Both are located near downtown with several locations. Be flexible with your wish list. I was able to get a tarp, rope, bungees, towel, folding chair, tin - foil* and a pillow for less than $50 from Big Lot's...which gave me a "tent" and comfort. From Goodwill I found a cot and a cooler for less than $10 total. You may also need a sleeping bag or comforter, depending on the time of year and your own sleeping habits. The point here is you can set up a nice camp for yourself and your travel buddy, pretty easily with some outside the box thinking and the ability to be flexible, for pretty much next to nothing.
Step THREE: Trader Joes. This is also located near the downtown core. Get some items which are easy to make on the road, which may or may not need heat. I like to pick up their fresh cut vegetables, hummus, rice crackers, guacamole, jalapeño- lime juice, breakfast bars, water, beer, wine, cooked chicken slices, tortillas, salad mix and cheese. This is where the *tin foil comes in handy...you can heat up pseudo quesadillas in your car window when it's hot outside and you are driving....as well as create foil packages of food to place on a grate over the fire where you are camping.
Step FOUR: Drive to Moab. This will take you about 4 hours, depending on how frequently you stop for photos.
Step FIVE: There are a plethora of camping options everywhere. Many on the side roads which parallel the Colorado River. There are also a few camp grounds actually in town...again, be flexible with your options. Shade is very important as the sun is pretty intense at 4,000 feet. If you will be creating a tent with your tarp, trees will also be quite helpful in this venture. Most campsites are $10 or so per night, paid by cash into a drop box at the entrance. They all have pit toilets. Some of the more expensive ones have showers as well. These camp sites are very safe, no need to worry about someone messing with your stuff. Of course keep your valuables in your locked car, but I wouldn't fret too much about your camping gear. I like Up the Creek Campground located right in the heart of downtown Moab, which is all of 4 blocks long. Not only does it have easy access, it is self catered, a lovely creek flows by, you can walk everywhere, and they have ice, showers and a grill to use. Even if you stay on one of the river access sites mentioned earlier, you can come use the shower facilities at Up the Creek for a $6 fee.
Step SIX: Have FUN! There are a multitude of National Parks/ Wilderness areas surrounding Moab, including: Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse and Islands in the Sky....explore! There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of trail options. They are everywhere. If you are from the land of sea level, beware, the altitude will cause your chest to burn as your lungs search for adequate oxygen. Don't distress, it happens to everybody. Always carry water, snacks, sunscreen...and be sure to wear a hat and sunglasses. It is best to start really early in the day, just at sunrise and be done hiking by 11 or so. Keep the afternoons open to swim in the mighty Colorado, nap in the shade or wander the many air condoned shops in town. There is also a lovely aquatic center for you to enjoy if you'd rather have chlorine in your water. Moab is a hiking/ biking / boating mecca, with tour operators on every corner. Rent a kayak for the day, take a river float, go bicycle riding, go jeeping up precarious rock walls. The world is your oyster, your days will fly by.
MORE: If you would like to add on additional days or wander a bit farther, there are some great day trips to take from Moab. Telluride is about a 3 hours one way; a jaw dropping, scenic trip, which will take you far up into the Rockies. Drive a loop from the La Sal turn off point, then back down through Dolores and Monticello. Additionally in Cortez you will find Mesa Verde National Park. Well worth a day of driving and exploring. Instead of heading back to Salt Lake City the way you came, drive a larger loop and include Zion and Capital Reef, which will add another 48-60 hours worth of stunning scenery onto your holiday.
While in Moab, be sure to visit Red Rock Bakery on Main street with made from scratch, pastries and incredible coffee. You may just get lucky enough to meet Greg MacDonald and watch him create his stunning watercolors. Also you will have to remember, Utah is funny with alcohol and that most bars will not open until after 2pm and that in some locations you may be able to get a beer earlier, but don't hold your breath. Lop's Pop Stop is amazing, like a coffee hut, but with incredibly flavored, made to order sodas, in massive, thirst quenching, cups. This adorable yellow drive - thru is found just South of town in the parking lot of a furniture store, and a sure bet to take off the heat of the day. Moab Brewery is also a good bet with a large selection of local brews, as well as a great menu and a variety of gelato's.
The Southwest can get hot, even at this altitude. Summer temps are in the 90's if not hotter, this is also the busiest time in the region, so prepare accordingly. Spring is my favorite, when the river is running high and you can still see snow covering the La Sals just South East of town. Fall is equally stunning, with turning leaves and a nip in the air at night. Daytime and nighttime temperatures usually vary up to 30 degrees or more, regardless of the season, keep this in mind as well, when packing. Layering is always a good option. Never hike in flip flops, always wear good sturdy shoes, not only to protect you from the slick rock and sand, but for any critters you may encounter on your travels. Be sure to chat up your campsite neighbors! You just never know how cool folks are, until you start conversing, making your trip even more memorable. I know I can never thank Steve and Richard enough for their help with setting up my camp as well as the terrific army stories they provided for hours of entertainment value.
Having owned and operated a Bed and Breakfast in SW Colorado for many years,
I have spent countless miles exploring this stunning area of the USA. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like help
preparing an itinerary or if you have questions about logistics.
Remember to always take the road less traveled, adventure awaits. Hello@AccordingtoUna.com