2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Denali

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
Previous       2015 Journal Topics       Home       Next
 

   ANOTHER SCENIC MOUNTAIN & CANYON DRIVE: 
 HILL AFB TO RED CANYON, UTAH

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17

 
"Happiness is not something you postpone for the future;    
it is something you design for the present ."
 
~ Jim Rohn
 
 

Happiness this week for us was finding a warmer, drier place to park our RV on our way south to our winter snow-bird haven. We are really tired of cold rain -- but we aren't yet ready for the almost-100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures that continue in Black Canyon, Arizona.

We found some middle ground.

It was still overcast and raining in the greater Salt Lake City area when we left Hill AFB this morning. I took this shot of the clouds -- and new snow on the Wasatch Mountains -- as we were driving off the base:


A gloomy start

By the time we reached the southern end of the very long metro area the sky was mostly blue and remained gorgeous the remainder of the way to Red Canyon. Thank you, Mother Nature!

TODAY'S DRIVE

I've driven in 49 of the 50 United States (Jim has been in all 50) and I think Utah has got to be in the Top 10 Most Beautiful. The mountain ranges and canyons are so scenic on I-15 and the western end of 1-70, as well as numerous two-lane roads through the region.

And now we're in gorgeous red-rock country. Utah rocks!

Today's 306-mile trek included a few bonus miles at the end when we weren't able to get a campsite at our intended destination and had to backtrack a few miles.

Above and below:  sunny scenes from I-15 south of Salt Lake City

Here's our route:  UT 193 west from Hill AFB to I-15; south on I-15 through SLC to exit 132; east on I-70 to exit 23; south on US 89 through Panguitch to UT 12; east to Red Canyon.

Traffic and road conditions:  We thought we left Layton, which is north of the long Salt Lake City metro area, late enough at 9:50 AM to avoid "rush hour(s)." Ha! I don't think there is any time during daylight hours when you can avoid traffic through this area. Even from 10-11:30 AM it was heavy.

We finally knew we were out of the metro area when the speed limit jumped to 80 MPH. Jim maintained an average of 62 MPH hauling the Cameo and folks just zoomed around both of us on the freeway. (I drive the Odyssey minivan separately behind Jim when we're moving from Point A to Point B.)

Above and below:  the far western part of I-70

There was some construction in several places on I-15 south of metro SLC but it didn't slow us down much. The pavement was mostly smooth today. The biggest highway problem towing the camper in the Lower 48 this fall has been bumpy bridge approaches.

We left Hill AFB about 9:50 AM and reached the visitor center at Red Canyon about 3 PM with three rest stops.

One was at exit 188 on I-15. It looked like a regular rest area on the AAA map but was at Flying J!  There was another "rest area" at another truck stop farther south. We haven't seen this before. The one where we stopped had a petting zoo with a camel, llamas, and other animals. It looked rather permanent (all summer). I wasn't able to get a good picture of the critters as I passed by.

 
This and the next two photos are along I-70.

 

I haven't been on the far western end of I-70 for many years. It begins/ends at I-15 in Utah. I think the fifteen miles we drove on it are probably the least-traveled section of the entire length of 1-70 from here to the east coast.

It's also very scenic. I took lots of canyon and red-rock photos as we drove that part of the route (photos above).

We also stopped at a scenic pulloff along US 89. The northern section of that road winds through mountains along a creek:

 

 

 

Farther south on US 89 between Circleville and Panguitch the terrain is flatter near the road, with more distant views of the red rocks to the east and national forests (Fishlake and Dixie) to the west:

 


Piute Reservoir looked mostly dry.

 
Irrigating a field


Cows grazing near Panguitch; starting to see red rock formations to the east.

DESTINATION:  RED CANYON

A few miles south of Panguitch we turned left (east) on UT 12, the scenic route that goes through Red Canyon, past Bryce Canyon, and through colorful Staircase-Escalante National Monument to Torrey, Utah.

Our goal was to camp at the Red Canyon National Forest Service campground about ten miles west of Bryce Canyon. You can't make reservations here, so it was a crapshoot. It's a Thursday in mid-September. How full can the campground be this late in the season??

Just about as full as the campgrounds in and near all the other popular western national parks, we discovered. This close to both Zion and Bryce Canyons the public campgrounds remain full until they close for the winter, it turns out. So do most of the private campgrounds in the area.

After we entered the rock "portal" to Red Canyon (next picture) we parked at the nice NFS visitor center and drove the car another half mile to the campground to see if there were any available sites large enough for the Cameo.

We were disappointed to find the campground completely full. It's a nice campground and it remained full or mostly full the whole time we were in the area.

We were naive to not even consider any other options in this area before we came down here. We knew it would be hard to get a spot IN the park but didn't think a Forest Sservice campground fifteen miles away would be full.

Our assumption that the parks would be less crowded this time of year was a mistake, of course. Airline fees are lower in the fall and foreign visitors are all over Bryce and Zion Canyons, just like they are at Teton, Yellowstone, Alaska, etc.

Our bad.  

 
Jim enters the Red Canyon NFS visitor center the next day; note the hoodoos in center background.

I talked with the campground host couple, who have a Carriage Compass (same brand as our Cameo, but different model). They suggested several other Forest Service campgrounds in the area, including two closer to Bryce Canyon and two near Panguitch.

The two toward Bryce are several miles back dirt roads. The two between Panguitch and Cedar Breaks National Monument are quite farther away. None of them appealed to us unless they were our last resort in the area.

The CG hosts didn't think much of the private campground three miles down the road when I inquired about it -- Red Canyon Village RV Park -- but we checked it out next:


Bright sunshine most days at Red Canyon:  that's what we're talkin' about!!

I had noticed this campground when we passed it on our way to the NFS campground. It looked fine from the road -- trees, grass, decent-sized sites, full hookups, WiFi, and cable TV! (the local Forest Service sites don't have hookups, let alone WiFi or cable TV) -- so we went back there to inquire about sites.

Most of the pull-thrus were full but we saw several that were empty, plus back-ins along the large field farther off the road. We were able to snag the long pull-thru site shown in the photo above. And to our surprise, the price was very reasonable for a private campground.

We liked the RV park and the whole area so much we ended up staying for 31 days!!  [We also retuned for another month in May, 2016 and a month in fall, 2016.]

I'll talk about our stay at Red Canyon Village in the next entry. I'll also have about twenty additional entries with photos from our day trips, bike rides, and hikes in this part of southern Utah from September 17 to October 17, when they threw us out. (Not quite, but they did close the campground down for the winter before we wanted to leave!)

Next entryliving at Red Canyon Village RV Park for a month + activities in the nearby town of Panguitch

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

Previous       Next

2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-