Blake’s family came to visit us in St. George for a week of camping and riding in the Sand Mountain OHV area in the end of April. We headed into St. George from Kanab to restock the rig and get a head start on finding a good camp spot since we’d be staying for 6 nights in one spot. We wanted a good spot that also had cell signal, because the service is generally pretty bad in this area, but we...
We’ve mostly been in Utah since returning from Hawaii with a couple days dipped into Colorado and Arizona. First we drove to St George to meet up with a couple friends during their spring break and did the following activities:
Elephant Arch in Red Cliffs Conservation Area: A short 4 mile hike mostly through a flat, sandy wash. It ends at this arch shaped like an elephant’s head, but it takes a second to find it tucked into the cliffs. You can hike up and around for a closer look. The arch was much smaller than I expected!
Lava Tubes at Snow Canyon State Park: We only went into the state park for a half day to check out the lava tube hikes which was recommended to our friends by a local, but the state park has tons more hikes that we hope to return for another day. The hike to the lava tubes is only a mile each way, but brings you to three different underground caves that you can hike into and explore. The largest one has lava tubes in multiple directions requiring ducking into low tunnels that open in giant rooms with no light. There’s nothing technical required to explore, but you do have to crawl around and scramble onto some short ledges. Bring a flashlight/headlamp, and make sure not to bonk your head on the low ceiling. Its best not to bring a large pack, and don’t wear clothes that you wouldn’t want getting scraped up by the sharp lava rocks.
The Vortex: This is a short, but steep hike up to a rock formations known as the Vortex, which is what I would call a “hot tub” or a bowl shaped impression in the rock shaped by wind. It’s pretty fun to see, but anything shaped by wind will mean hiking through wind to go see it. The hike mostly takes you up a red slick rock slope to see this formation, with nice views out to the surrounding mountain ranges. The road to get here was a washboard dirt road for several miles, but we were surprised to see the parking lot full when we were leaving and a school group there with 30 kids or so.
Camping on W. Silver Reef Road: Anytime we’ve come to St George it’s mostly been for dirt biking and we camp by the Sand Mountain OHV area. This area can get packed though, and since we weren’t dirt biking, we looked for some alternatives north of town since we were all headed that direction anyway. We couldn’t believe the traffic coming into St. George on a Friday night and we’re glad we were heading north. It was a spring break weekend after all. We tried for some iOverlander spots on W. Silver Reef Road, and thought every spot was taken, but we just kept driving further and further and eventually came upon this amazing camp spot that was a perfect convergence of pine trees and red cliffs desert. We had cactus and pine trees and snow capped peaks in the distance. It was pretty chilly and windy, and barely had cell signal, but after camping in the desert for so long the past several months we were so excited to feel like we were in the pine trees again. There was a small stream running next to camp, and a short hike nearby to a historical kiln oven. We really enjoyed this spot even for one night and would highly recommend it!
Meadow Hot Springs: Both us and our friends were heading back to I-70 east, so we decided to go slightly out of our way to check out the Meadow Hot Springs, which they had been to before but we hadn’t. There’s three really deep natural hot spring pools in the middle of a field. This is on private land but the owner lets people in for free and asks that they clean up after themselves and consider donating. The road to access the pools is graded dirt and there are fences to park at right next to the pools, but the last couple hundred feet of road were totally washed out and full of mud when we were there. Two of the pools are luke warm and one is hot. We could park by the luke warm pools and had to walk over (carefully through the mud) to the hot one, which is also where everyone else was. This isn’t a secluded unknown hot spring. I think its a local teen’s hangout, and also families with kids come here. I’ve heard cars can get very stuck in the mud here, so be careful, and respect the land! It was definitely worth checking out the hot spring despite the crowds. The water still felt clean, and its very unique because the pools are super deep, probably more than 10 feet deep at some point. It’s fun to bring glow sticks or some kids were even trying to snorkel to the bottom.
Moab Easter Jeep Safari: We left our friends and drove down to Moab to meet with one of our clients, Rugged Radios, and get out on the trails during EJS for some filming! That’s one of the perks of filming off-road is that we get to combine work with having fun on the trails. We took the Rugged Jeep out on Hell’s Revenge for a day to get some content for a brand piece we’ve been working on with them. EJS is one of the busiest weekends in Moab, so we decided not to stay in town after filming. Instead we wanted to ride a new trail we’d always talked about but never done!
White Rim: White Rim is a 100 mile loop that goes through Canyonlands National Park and along the Green River with scenic views the entire way. There’s nothing technical about the road, some of it is dirt, some slick rock sections, a few short ledges, but mostly easy, a lot of people take jeeps and trucks through the whole thing. A lot of mountain bikers also do this trail. We wanted to do it on the dirt bikes, and it would be an all day adventure requiring extra gas and 7+ hours. We camped at the entrance to Gemini Bridges road on the way to the national park, so that way we only had to do about 10 miles of pavement to enter Canyonlands and then turn onto the Shaffer trail. We used our National Parks pass because it can have two names on it, so it covered each of us to get in for free. Then we started the loop clockwise taking us through the Island in the Sky section of the park and towards the Green River, back up along the Green River and out on Mineral Bottom road. The loop took us back almost exactly to our camp spot so we only had to do another mile of pavement at the end.
You do have to be street legal to complete this trail, which both of our dirt bikes are. No OHVs are allowed. It also requires a permit from recreation.gov for $6 , but this was really easy to obtain and there were still 23 of 24 open permits when I purchased ours the day before. A lot of people doing this trail by car or mountain bike plan to make it a multi day trip and camp on the trail. There are designated camping areas with pit toilets. In our opinion the dirt bikes were the best way to do this trail without it getting dragged out. The views are fantastic the whole time, but the road itself is a bit monotonous after 100 miles. I imagine it would take 3 days in a vehicle to do it slow enough that you don’t feel like you are getting beat up by the bumps.
In order to do the entire trail on the bikes, we brought an extra 2 gallons of gas in our Giant Loop gas bag, plus 2 extra liters of gas in aluminum bottles. We strapped our Wolfman saddle bags to my bike and strapped the gas bag to the saddle bags. It made it a little heavier for my bike, but on a road it didn’t matter as much. We refilled both bikes after 33 miles, and we still had a half gallon left or so. We didn’t have to refill our bikes again at all, so had plenty left to spare. We got really good gas mileage because we were just cruising along the rim enjoying a slow pace. It took a total of 7 and a half hours with a quick stop for lunch and quick photo stops. We tried not to stop very much since we knew we had a long way to go, and because we didn’t get on the trail as early as we should have. We had a cold spell on the day we chose to do this trail, and it was 23 degrees outside at 8 am, so we slept in later and didn’t start until 10:30. We got back with an hour of sunlight left, so it was perfect timing despite the late start.
The White Rim trail is 100% worth doing once. It isn’t the kind of trail you need to do again and again because its so long, but the views are stunning the entire way. You can stop and walk right up along the rim, and the switchbacks at the start and end of the trail are pretty amazing. If you do the trail counter clockwise, I don’t think you would have to pay the park entrance fee because there’s no booth or anything to pay when you enter the park from Mineral Bottom.
We left Moab but had a week to spare in between my parents visiting in the same area, so we decided to check out some new stuff in the San Rafael Swell and Green River that we’d never done before. We camped on the north side of the Temple Mountain exit off of I-70, which we didn’t actually realize was a pretty popular area for OHVs. There were tens of other rigs there, but we still got a decent spot to ourselves. From here we did two dirt bike trails, and also had a layover day where we didn’t have to move and just caught up on rest.
Black Dragon Wash: This is a short wash road that goes through the San Rafael Swell with towering canyon walls and some petroglyphs. It’s an easy road, but connects to several camping areas farther east on I-70 and other jeep roads that someday we’ll have to explore more of.
Waterfall Trail/Temple Mountain: This trail was recommended to us by another couple on Instagram, and happened to be in a trail system in the San Rafael Swell that we’ve been to before but hadn’t done this specific one. Temple Mountain Road connects from I-70 where we camped all the way to highway 24 on the way to Goblin Valley and Hanksville. We took Temple Mountain Road all the way from camp to the crack canyon trailhead, which is a hiking trail we’ve actually done before and were planning to do the following week when we parents visited. This was 22 miles of road, and then we turned off onto a 13 mile singletrack. Part of it went through a wash, and then turned into singletrack with some really fun rocky climbs, some slickrock, and some flowy sections. There was a funny sign halfway through the trail saying that this trail wasn’t meant for this specific 50 year old street bike and that someone had to helicopter this bike out. Blake had to help me with one steep rocky drop, but other than that it was a really fun but slightly technical trail. The trail dropped us back off on Temple Mountain Rd north of where we started and we took the road back to camp.
From here we went to our other favorite riding area by Green River, UT. We love this place because it’s unassuming as you drive into some low brown hills that don’t look like there would be fun riding, but then you get behind these hills and it becomes a singletrack mecca! We needed to go scout some trails because Blake would be guiding a bunch of guys coming out from California on a weekend ride in this area the following week. Blake rode here the previous year, but there’s endless trails that interweave throughout the hills. We set out to make two different loops that Blake could take the guys on. We made a really fun loop that goes on a petty technical trail with a bunch of boulders and rocky obstacles, with some slickrock and fast flowy sections and some rocky cliff sections.
After ten years together, I’ve never seen Blake crash on his dirtbike, but at one point on this trail while going about 1 mpg, he tipped over backwards and did a total summersault by accident, and it broke his killswitch. He was totally fine though. But the next day, the clutch on my bike wasn’t working, and considering that my bike is 15 years old and doesn’t get a lot of maintenance, Blake thought I needed a new clutch. He still needed to plan out the route for the guys trip, so he went out without me for a day to plan another 40 mile loop. We aren’t normally fans of solo dirt biking, but it was okay in this scenario because Blake was taking it easy just doing a lot of navigation, we had cell service, and we also have our Garmin Inreach mini that pings tracking points every ten minutes, so I can always see his location. The funny thing was that halfway through his solo ride, like 20 miles from camp, Blake’s bike wouldn’t start. He was racking his brain for ten minutes trying to figure out what the problem could be, and was even about to take the tank off, when he remembered that his crash the day before broke the kill switch, and two wires were being touched together that acted like the kill switch. So he just needed to separate the wires and it was all fine! Then, Blake had another epiphany when he remembered that he had tried to adjust my clutch the day before, and he over adjusted it to where it seemed like it had no power. So my clutch wasn’t actually broken, and I missed out on that day of riding. But we thought we had two close calls on broken bikes and neither one turned out broken. We got a great camp spot along some awesome boulders and cliffs. We had cell service, and only one camp neighbor not too close, and had some awesome sunsets.
Crystal Geyser: There is a man-made cold water geyser in Green River Utah that I never knew existed! Blake’s been here as a kid, and said that it used to erupt 20 – 50 feet high, and pretty often. People have messed with it over the years, dropping rocks into it, and now there’s a stove pipe over it, and it barely erupts a couple feet only every 8 to 24 hours. It’s still neat because the sulfuric rock surrounding it is all orange with mineral deposits, and along the Green River. We took the dirt bikes from the town of Green River to the geyser, but didn’t stay to see it erupt. There were several families down there and a few cool spots to camp along the river. I think if you want to see it erupt, you’d probably have to hang out all day or just camp overnight. I think waiting around for the eruption would be a little lackluster, but if you have nothing to do, it’s probably a fun place to check out for a day for families.
Missile Silo: There is also an abandoned missile silo in Green River that I don’t think a lot of people know about! We found it by chance looking on iOverlander for spots to camp, and one of the spots said “should’ve brought my geiger counter.” We were super curious and started researching and it was right outside of town. We took the dirt bikes after visiting the geyser, and the road leads to an open gate to an abandoned missile testing site. It’s a huge abandoned complex with a main bunker and three test sites, which each have a silo, disassembled tower, blast shields, etc. It looks like the missiles were built on a platform under a huge warehouse looking building that is on a track, and when it is ready to test, the building slides on the track to reveal the missile. There were old server racks inside the main bunker, but everything else had been ransacked, smashed and graffitied. The floor was completely covered in glass and the walls were smashed in. It was actually perfect to explore in dirt bike boots with gloves and helmet, and not get cut by anything or step on something. We looked around the complex for probably an hour and you could probably spend a lot more time there. From what we found online it was from the cold war era and would do missile launches that would impact at White Sands, New Mexico. The last launch was in 1975 and deactivated in 1983. As far as we can tell, the gates are left open and buildings unlocked, so it’s open for people to look around. There’s no signs about no trespassing, and it looks like some people have camped up there. I don’t know if theres any radiation or anything, so I wouldn’t stay too much longer than we did!
Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon: Next my parents visited us for a hiking trip. My dad has wanted to do the Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon hike for a long time, so even though Blake and I have done this hike before (last April), we did it again with my parents. This one is an 8 mile loop near Goblin Valley and is super popular for families and kids. The loop is made up of two separate slot canyons, Little Wild Horse on the right, and Bell Canyon on the left. The two slots are connected by a 3 mile stretch of road/wash that turns this hike into a loop. Little Wild Horse Canyon has narrower skinny sections, and requires a couple big steps up, but nothing technical and no rope climbs. It is super popular because it’s not technical and the road is paved all the way until the parking lot, so the parking lot gets really crowded with huge groups with tons of kids coming through. This slot canyon lasts about 2.5 to 3 miles and then opens up into a wash. Bell Canyon is a wider slot canyon, with a couple rock slopes you walk down/climb up that aren’t technical. It’s more like walking through a wash with only a couple narrow sections, but the canyon walls still tower over you. This canyon lasts about 2 miles. The three mile connecting road is less interesting, but still beautiful. You are above the slot canyons so you get views looking down into the San Rafael Swell as well as the surrounding snow capped mountains. It’s also a good place to eat lunch between the canyons, and get away from the crowds because not even half of the people probably do the full loop. The first time we did this hike I think it was very worth doing the entire loop, especially if you want a good workout. The sand in the canyon isn’t too deep, but it still is more difficult than walking on hard-packed dirt, so it’s a great glute workout. We probably wouldn’t have done the entire loop again if my parents weren’t visiting. The other option is to go up each canyon a ways and turn around. You have to hike .4 to get to where the loop starts, however, and then you could go 2 miles up Little Wild Horse, come back to the junction, and go 1 mile up Bell Canyon and turn around. If you did the hike this way, you would still end up hiking about 7 miles, but you’d get to be hiking in the slot canyons for the entire 7 miles instead of on the connecting road. I think either way to hike this is super fun and beautiful. If you have limited time and want the shortest option, just hiking up Little Wild Horse and turning around would be about a 5 mile hike. You could even just go halfway up the slot canyon and back with super little kids.
Crack Canyon: This is another popular slot canyon hike in the San Rafael Swell, but this one requires 2 or 3 rope climbs and a bit more route finding. You also have to drive several miles of dirt road to get here with a few potholes and slickrock sections.. My dad’s Subaru Outback was totally fine for the drive. The parking lot is much smaller and can fill up fast. The slot part of this canyon goes for about 2 – 2.5 miles, and then continues in a wash for quite a while. You can technically make this a loop with Chute Canyon, which we have not done, and haven’t heard much about. The first time we hiked this last year we just kept walking in the wash for a long time expecting to get to a cool overlook of the swell, and I don’t remember coming to any cool overlooks. We just kept walking, trying to find shade at midday to eat lunch, and then eventually just turned around, and I think our hike ended up being closer to 8 miles in a lot of sand. This time, I knew to turn around after the narrows section at about 2 – 2.5 miles into the canyon. This hike takes you through a series of downclimbs, sometimes over big boulders, and sometimes you had to climb around the edges of the canyon to bypass some of the higher drop-offs. A couple of the spots are definitely tricky and take a second to figure out how to get down. You have to stem your legs in a couple situations (one on each wall of the slot canyon) to get down. And on the way back up these spots didn’t feel like they had good handholds and you kind of have to just pull yourself over a ledge. It’s definitely easier in a group where you can help each other, and it always helps having a tall guy around. My parents did fine on this hike, they are 60 and pretty active and avid hikers. After most of the downclimbs, you walk through a narrows section where the canyon gets really skinny with towering canyon walls. This is where most of the fun stuff ends and we decided to turn around.
As with any slot canyons, remember that flash flooding is always a risk, and common sense should be used when preparing to hike in the extreme heat (or extreme cold) in the desert. The first time we did these hikes was late April and it was 90 degrees out. We started early enough that there was still protection in the canyon, but at midday there’s no shade. The second time we did these hikes (in mid April), Utah was getting a cold spell and I actually had to bring a puffy jacket because it was cold when we started and cold in the slot canyons. It’s also important to never trust any old rope that someone put in a slot canyon (or any hike for that matter). Try not to put full weight on ropes and always inspect the anchor.
Moab: My parents love Moab and have visited plenty of times over the years, but still wanted to go stay in Moab a night during their visit. I warned them that Moab has become way too busy over the years and we’ve seen videos on social media of it taking hours just to get through the Main Street of town on busy weekends, or an hour to get from Arches to town or from the climbing area of Potash back to town. We like Moab, but in our opinion that just doesn’t sound fun. We used to go to Moab like twice a year before we lived in a camper. We always camped on Willow Springs Road, and every year we started noticing it get busier and busier. BLM started having to add fencing and pit toilets because it started getting so busy. We’ve tried to show up there on a Friday night in the dark in the past and you can’t find a spot because every single RV or tent camper is parked shoulder to shoulder with maybe two feet of space between camps. We’ve squeezed into a site before and then woke up in the morning to find out that someone else squeezed into the same spot we thought we squeezed into. We used to camp along this long section of rocks, and then started finding that everyone was pooping in those rocks. Honestly it got gross and we haven’t had any interest in going back ever since we started full timing. We’ve only gone into Moab if we have to meet a client, or if we have a specific activity planned, and then we went and camped up closer to I-70 just to not have to deal with other campers. But we went in for a night since my parents wanted to. After our hikes in Goblin Valley, we drove into Moab and stopped for a sunset hike in Arches, using our National Parks pass. At 5 pm we didn’t have a problem getting into Arches, but we’ve heard that if you try to go in the morning, you have to be in line at 7 am or else you won’t get in. That sounds brutal. We just hiked less than a mile into Park Avenue and back. It wasn’t really necessary after our 8 mile hike in Goblin Valley, but my dad insists on maximizing his vacation time.
Honestly over the years of going to Moab, we’ve never actually found a lot of restaurants that we liked enough to go back to. We always used to go to the Moab Brewery and there’s nothing really special about their food. We did get into Pasta Jays, though, which is normally packed and does have really good Italian food. Moab has a food truck plaza, but every time we’ve been lately, they are all closed for some reason.
Since we stayed a night in Moab, we tried to find a hike that my parents had never done before, and chose to hike to the Cowboy Jacuzzies from the Rim Trail starting at Mill Creek. When we picked this hike, Blake and I thought we’d been to the “jacuzzies” before, but on a different trail than the Rim Trail, because we’d done a different hike to a watering hole from the same trailhead before. The Rim trail has a steep ascent out of the canyon in the beginning and then you walk along the top of the canyon with a beautiful view of the La Sals and the southern part of Moab. The Alltrails route takes you out and back along the rim, and doesn’t show that there’s actually a trail at the bottom of the canyon the whole way back out, but we were planning to make it a loop since we thought we’d been there before. The whole time we thought we were going to drop down into the canyon and end up at the watering hole we’ve been to before. We did drop down, but when we finally got to the Cowboy Jacuzzies, we realized they were a totally different destination than where we thought we were headed. There’s a small stream along the bottom of the canyon in the sandstone, and then two small pools built up that people can swim in, even though the water was freezing! We were so confused, but we got satellite image to load, and finally realized that the Mill Creek splits after the trailhead, and the hike we’d done before was on the north fork, but it was close enough for us to make our hike a bit longer and go check out the other watering hole as well. It turned into an adventure since we weren’t sure that the trail connected because it wasn’t shown on Alltrails, and required 5 or so water crossings! We were able to jump for several of the crossings and then it was better just to take our shoes off and walk in the freezing water. We even just walked the last few hundred feet barefoot because it was all sand. The north fork of the Mill Creek canyon is so beautiful, full of towering red rock walls that you can tell were shaped by the water. And since it was spring time, all the trees were green. It was the perfect contrast of red and green. It was cold when we started our hike, but warmed up immensely and was beautiful weather by the time we were checking out the water. As expected on a warm beautiful Sunday, the watering hole was packed with people. There’s a higher pool that flows over into a lower pool and people often cliff jump from the top, (about 10-15 feet or so). I would be too chicken to jump, especially because the water looked extremely low, but there was one spot to land in deep enough. We actually saw a beaver swimming in the water too. There’s another pool about a mile past this spot that not as many people know about. We hiked that extra mile to get to see it, and we also found petroglyphs on the side of the canyon when we went to find a pee spot! We heard that there is even a cave with fire pits and more petroglyphs, but it requires scrambling up to another level of the canyon, and we didn’t want to do that. It was really a very fun and pretty hike and felt good to do something different in a town that we’ve been to so many times.
On the last day of my parents trip, we followed them back to the Colorado border and into Grand Junction to have dinner with my uncle. We took HWY 128 out of Moab towards Cisco instead of going back up to I70. We’ve done this route before, but not in our camper. It is so beautiful, and we highly recommend this route if you haven’t done it before. It’s paved all the way to the intersection where you can either go east to Cisco or west to get back on I70. If you go through the town of Cisco the road is unmaintained. If you go west to I70, you go a couple miles out of your way, but directly to the highway, so it’s much better. This highway goes past Dewey Bridge, and multiple horse ranches, and the Fisher Towers, and it’s a side of Moab that not everybody sees.
For the final day of their trip, we decided to go into the Colorado National Monument, because I had never been, Blake hadn’t been since he was a kid, it’s included for free on my parks pass, and we were all okay with playing tourist for a morning since we’d already hiked probably 15 miles that weekend. The monument is south of Fruita, and you start by climbing over 1,000 feet to get to the visitor center. The scenic drive through the monument is only 23 miles and would probably only take a couple hours if stopped at the overlooks. There’s several short hikes you can do along the scenic drive. We stopped at viewpoints for Balanced Rock, Independence Monument, Coke Ovens, Highlands View, Upper Ute Canyon and the Red Canyon. We stopped for hiking at the Canyon Rim trail (1 mile) and the Coke Ovens trail (1.5 miles). This was a really good balance of overlooks and short hikes and we were still out of the monument by midday to go out for lunch. All the overlooks are super beautiful with red rock canyon views. You feel like you are still in Moab, but the red rock is mixed with pine trees, so it doesn’t quite feel the same.
My parents left, and we went up to our friends house in Mesa, Colorado, to have a home base for a couple days and utilize their heated garage and appliances. The boys did boat and bike maintenance, and we took Dan’s boat out in the Colorado river in Debeque. It was much needed time to get a few things done before the guys from California came out for the big group ride in Green River.
Blake had a ton of fun with the guys in Green River while I hung out in the camper/at the staging area, because I just can’t hang at their pace. Blake took them on the loops we picked out, and a lot of the guys said it was their favorite riding ever. We only sent one guy to the hospital, and Blake thinks he tore his shoulder…