NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California


Things To Do

Zion National Park

Camp

Camp at Watchman or South campgrounds just inside the Springdale entrance with the usual amenities of a major national park. Rustic types take the Kolob Terrace Road (trailers not recommended) to the 6-site Lava Point primitive campground at 7,850 feet.

Take the Bus

A well-done shuttle bus system (that carries up to 2 bikes) takes you down the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, with stops along the way at all major points of interest. Side trips are available at each stop. Take them all. As an alternative, you can bike the length of the drive, stopping at will, and bike or take the bus back.

Drive

Drive the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway past Checkerboard Mesa to the east entrance. There is a tunnel to be traversed, and oversized vehicles may need an escort- so check with the rangers. Drive the Kolob Terrace Road to Lava Point. A pretty but not spectacular drive and a nice change-of-pace.  Backtrack to Interstate 15 north and drive to Kolob Canyon Overlook at about 8,000 feet.

Hike

Grab a trail map at the Visitor Center and hike any of several trails scattered throughout the park. Nice day hikes can be had off any of the shuttle bus stops.

Bryce Canyon

Camp

Camp at the North and Sunset campgrounds for up to 14 days per visit. See the campground link for more info.

Hike

There are many trails. Two should not be missed; the Rim Trail is an easy jaunt along the rim and parallels the main park road, which goes for about 14 miles. But you can hike it in stretches. The Queens/Navajo Loop takes you three miles round trip down into the canyon and out, with close-up views of some nice hoodoos. Always carry water.

Backpack

Two trails are open to backpackers, the Under-the-Rim and Riggs Spring trails. A $5 permit is required. Get a trail map while registering.

Rough it in Style

Stay at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, a rustic inn completed in 1925 with a restaurant, gift shop and cabins. Open April thru October. 888-297-2757 or www.brycecanyonlodge.com. Horseback rentals can also be arranged.

Capitol Reef

Camp

At the Fruita campground if you want amenities, or the primitive Cathedral Valley or Cedar Mesa campgrounds if pit toilets and no water will do. See the campground link for more info.

Tour Fruita

A Mormon settlement dating from the late 1800's, there's a restored one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and the Gifford homestead, once a home and now a small shop offering coffee, scones, fresh pies, jams and syrups and other tasty goodies; the Starbucks of the rural world. A great place to start the day.

Backpack

Grab a map and permit and have a go at the backcountry.

Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument

Hike

Bring or buy a map. Possibilities include: Devil's Garden- A 1 mile walk amongst the hoodoos. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park- Walk a mile or less to petrified wood and scenic views. Kodachrome Basin State Park- several trails beckon. Lick Wash- 4 miles one-way into a box canyon. Escalante River Gorge- 15 miles one-way into a canyon.

Camp

Camp at developed sites at Calf Creek, Deer Creek or White House campgrounds on a first-come first-served basis. Camp in the backcountry with a free permit available at visitor centers or established trailheads.

Canyonlands

Camp

Two small semi-developed campgrounds are all there is in this large expanse of territory; Willow Flat in the Islands in the Sky district and Squaw Flat in the Needles district. Squaw Flat has drinking water; Willow Flat does not. See our campsite link for more info. Primitive campsites are available along many backcountry roads; permits are required. Bring or acquire a good map.

Off-road

Backcountry roads abound for those with high clearance 4 wheel drive vehicles and the ability to drive them. The most famous trail is the 100 mile White Rim Trail. Travel with a friend in another vehicle; this is the real world. Carry tools and plenty of water.

Arches

Camping

The 57 site Devil's Garden campground is the only developed campground in the park so a back-up plan is essential. See our campground link for some options. There are no designated backcountry campsites in the park.

Backpacking

Camping is allowed with a permit, but there are no designated campsites or marked trails. Consult a ranger. The nearby Canyonlands National Park, Islands in the Sky District, offers more to the backcountry enthusiast.

Auto Touring

Many sites are accessible by vehicle, usually necessitating a short walk to get up close.

Hiking

There are lots of trails suitable for day hikes. Examples worth doing include Balanced Rock (.6 miles round trip), Windows (2 miles round trip), Double Arch (.8 miles round trip), Delicate Arch (3 miles round trip) and landscape Arch (1.6 miles round trip).

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