This post is part 3 of a 5 part series of our road trip from Minnesota to Utah! Here’s a recap!
- Planning for the trip + what to pack
- Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde
- Arches and Canyonlands
- Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon
Don’t forget to check out my tips for traveling to a National Park before reading this post!
The next leg of travel in our ultimate Utah road trip was to Arches and Canyonlands! We were feeling ambitious and hit both of these in a day!
Arches was up first! We came from Mesa Verde National Park which was a 2.5 hour drive (~130 Miles).
When we arrived, we found a pull out where we could pop up our iKamper to enjoy lunch before exploring the park! One reason why we wanted to get a rooftop camper was because we loved our experience renting a camper van in Yosemite, and wanted a similar feel for our jeep! We loved how we could simply pull over and relax by taking 2 minutes to pop the top up on our Skycamp! It was also just wonderful for camping because we knew we would be exploring until the sun went down, and we didn’t want to have to deal with setting up a tent in the dark. The iKamper rooftop camper sets up in only a couple of minutes, so it makes life easy on the road!
We mainly explored the park by car since we had our dog, Chevy, with us and none of the hiking trails or overlooks. Here are the pet rules for Arches.
We did get out and do two really quick hikes because the weather was cool and Chevy was sleeping like a King in the car. Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint was the first. It was a pretty and short hike, and the view was pretty far away. But if you have time and do not have pets with you, I would recommend seeing the Arch up close by hiking the Delicate Arch Trail, which is 3 miles in and back trail to get up close to the iconic Arch.
The next short hike we did was Sand Dune Arch Trail.
If you have a pet with you and want to explore by car, the drive through the park is beautiful and there are 5 cool viewpoints right away when you drive in: Park Avenue Viewpoint, Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, Tower of babel, Organ, Sheep Rock, 3 Gossips.
Up next was Canyonlands! The drive from Arches to Canyonlands was about 35 minutes (30 miles). Canyonlands was basically a smaller version of the Grand Canyon and I actually really loved this park! We went during sunset and we hardly saw anyone there. Our favorite tip for exploring National Parks is to explore the main attractions during sunrise or sunset. Not only are the parks pretty empty at this time, but you will get the best lighting for photos! We are always surprised by the low number of people in the parks around sunset. I think that everyone likes to explore during the day and by sunset they are tired and ready for food- which is great for those of us who love hanging out at the parks during this time.
If you’re a planner and are booking your Canyonlands trip far enough in advance and have a 4WD vehicle, we highly recommend booking a primitive campsite along the Shafer Trail, which is a high clearance, 4WD Vehicle only road! Driving along the Shafer Trail down the canyon was my favorite part of our trip to this park! We only took the trail for a little bit, but if you have some time to kill at Canyonlands, I would HIGHLY recommend taking that road down and reserving one of those camping spots at the bottom of the canyon. The road is long and will give you an amazing view from below without having to hike in and out!
After taking a trip down and up the 4WD road, we drove all the way through the park and watched the sun set at the Green River Overlook.
On this night, we camped at the KOA in Green River Utah, which was approximately 1 hour drive (60 miles) from Canyonlands. Nothing particularly special about this place- but it had clean bathrooms and showers and a place to park the jeep which was all we were looking for!
On to the next day! Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon are up next!