Hey readers! We’re doing a series this week to highlight an easy weekend road trip built for just about anyone. This road trip will take you to three highlights of southern Utah beauty. Today’s blog will give an overview of the entire trip. Three other blogs will break down the actual locations we stopped at:
Date of Trip: November 11th – 12th, 2017
How to do it like we did:
We started a little tradition of taking a weekend trip for Kenon’s birthday. We do not have a three day weekend in November, so we have to fit something in over just two days. We leave Salt Lake City Friday night and return Sunday night.
For this trip, we started driving Friday after work and made it as far as Moab. We camped at Gold Bar Campground near the Corona Arch Trailhead. Nestled between cliff and river, this is first-come, first-served campground. There are many of these little camping areas strewn along the Colorado River, reaching East and West of Moab. The amenities are low (just a pit toilet, and no electricity) and they lie right on a road that has traffic passing by regularly. It is cheap camping, though, and you get to fall asleep under bright stars and wake up to sun glinting off red cliffs. If you have a large group going you can reserve electric spots at recreation.gov.
We woke up around 7 am and continued down US – 191 to Natural Bridges National Monument. There is also camping at Natural Bridges but we did not want to drive that far in one evening. You can find a link to camping options here. There are only 13 sites so book early.
There are a few ways to experience Natural Bridges. The top three choices are: 1) You can do the Bridge View Drive with easy-access viewpoints to the main bridges. 2) You can park at Owachomo Bridge and do the entire loop trail, hiking from Owachomo Bridge to Sipapu, Sipapu to Kachina, and Kachina back to Owachomo. This will take you on an 8.6-mile loop trail that shows the highlights of the park. 3) Park at Kachina, hike to Sipapu, back to Kachina and then drive to the Owachomo overlook. This is a 5.4-mile hike, plus the short 0.2 miles to get to the Owachomo overlook.
After hiking Natural Bridges, we continued on our drive, taking UT – 261 S. Our destination was Monument Valley but we had one stop we wanted to make: Mexican Hat rock formation just outside of Mexican Hat, Utah. This formation can be seen from the road so it was going to be an easy stop. What we did not know was the stunning tourist attraction we would run into on the way. Moki Dugway came out of nowhere and shocked us with its surprising twists and astonishing views. Visit the post to find out more about Moki Dugway.
We did make it to Mexican Hat rock formation. The photo below shows this intriguing structure. We drove up to it, marveled for a moment, grabbed a quick photo, then continued on our way to Monument Valley. We arrived in Monument Valley around 3 pm and set up camp. This part of the trip is actually mostly in Arizona. We did some sightseeing the next morning and cruised out before lunchtime. Even though we spent a short time there, Monument Valley leaves a big impact. This post gives you the highlights of this lovely little stop.
We ended the trip with a stop at Gooseneck State Park. Check out the photos below! It is just a small space and looks unassuming as you drive in. It is as if someone set aside a dull gravel parking lot and added a pit toilet and some RV hookups. Walk to the lookout, though, and you will see why this spot is protected. The word “meander” could have been coined in order to describe this river. You can scramble down a trail that starts at the lookout in order to get some better views of the river. Be careful not to scramble down too far, in case you cannot get back up. Only go as far as your abilities will safely allow.
1. Camping when it is cold outside. It is easy and can be comfortably warm if you plan well. This is what you need to know: When you are sleeping in the cold, the main problem is not the heat escaping above you. The main problem is your body heat escaping into the frozen ground beneath you. In order to maximize your sleeping setups “R” value (this is how warmth is measured in outdoor gear) you have to insulate beneath you. To do this, we use “Space All Weather Blankets.” These are super-insulating blankets that help you retain up to 80% of your body heat.
>We pack the following bedding for a shared air mattress. I am listing them in the order of our layers:
1. Space blanket (silver side up)
2. Air mattress
3. Space blanket (silver side down)
4. Sleeping bag (unzipped, laid flat)
5. Space blanket (silver side down)
6. Two-person sleeping bag
7. Space blanket (silver side down)
8. Sleeping bag (unzipped, laid flat)
>This is our set-up for temperatures hovering around freezing. You can add and delete layers as needed. The two-person sleeping bag can be replaced with a sheet + large quilt. We have found that having the sleeping bag or sheet wrap around the sleepers (a.k.a us) blocks out cold air even better than just a quilt or otherwise laid over the top.
>Also, do not place a Space Blanket as the final layer on top. Placing a space blanket over the whole sleeping setup traps in moisture. There is not very much moisture in the desert, to begin with, so we were slightly surprised by this. We woke up with a layer of frost between our space blanket and sleeping bag, so we deleted that as a layer. If you do not want to bring four space blankets, you can just bring two and use them to insulate the top and bottom of the air mattress.
Buy the same space blanket we bought here buy clicking the picture:
Gear of the Trip:
Emergency space blankets. So toasty! They trap heat to keep you warm all night long. Get yours here:
Many people have asked us, “But wasn’t it FREEZING?” No, the weather is actually pleasant during the day – not too hot, not too cool. Yes, the desert gets surprisingly cold when the sun goes down in the winter. However, this is no reason to avoid adventuring from October through March. With the right clothing layers and the right bedding layers, you can stay more than warm enough to enjoy your trip!