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Old 08-16-2013, 05:09 PM   #1
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AZ to UT to CO, and back

This trip was designed to explore quite a bit of Utah and Colorado in not too much time (8 days). In hindsight, it kept us on the road (aspalt) probably more than what is good for a ‘vacation,’ but every night we marveled at all we saw.

The trip is our first multiple-night venture that includes a revised bed in the rear of the van and some new features on board the trailer.

Phoenix > Kanab > Bryce Canyon > Hanksville > Green Valley > Moab > Glenwood Springs > Crested Butte > Gunnison > Ouray > Telluride > Phoenix.

https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=phoe ... ls&t=m&z=6

The total miles was 1,700. My V8 got about 11.5mpg. Nothing to brag about. I'm past the MPG thing. On board is my fiance, Karla and two Vizsla. You may ask why the RTT on trailer. Its for when we have kids along. We opted to leave it on as a reminder how nice it is to have/not have them with us.

I’d much prefer to camp in the wild. When we head out for a weekend a campground is about the last place I’d pick. But for this road trip they ended up being a matter of convenience. If I did it again, or had we a 2nd vehicle, I think we’d have opted for a road and campsite less traveled.

We left Phoenix (temp near 110) at 4pm. So we pulled into the campground north of Flagstaff at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (+35° 22' 43.29", -111° 34' 30.51"). Nice enough campground and we were on our way early.


[The trailer kitchen got all new shelving made of starboard. The board is very easy to cut and is great to clean up. All the effort leads to a happy camp chef, and good meals.]

We ran up AZ-89 and 89A to get to the north side of the Grand Canyon. Then through Fredonia, AZ and by noon hit Kinab, UT. Needing a few small parts we stopped for lunch. Big Al’s Burgers cooks up a tasty buffalo burger.

Given the high temps, we opted to skip Zion and head up to Bryce.

Just before Hatch, UT we spotted some promising camp spots along the Sevier River. Our 2nd night would turn out to be our best camp spot. The little river (37.619632,-112.45413) offers great access. Lacking a UT fishing license, we could only enjoy watching two dogs chase the trout around the pool in front of our spot. We had seen a few campers with quads on the way in but were able to get far enough back that we didnt see or hear another person the entire time.

Bryce Canyon National Park much like most national parks. Amazing scenery, lots of people.


[to be continued]
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Old 08-16-2013, 05:13 PM   #2
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

Next destination was Moab. We opted to take UT 12 (http://www.scenicbyway12.com/) and UT 24. The combination takes you through an amazing assortment of elevation changes and fascinating landscapes. It’s July and there was still a bit of snow in the shadows atop Boulder Mountain. Hwy-12 in review is just too much to take in with one ride. Hwy 24 follows the Freemont River. Over and over I spotted roads leading back to the outback that really tugged on the steering wheel. Both are worthy of a week’s exploration. We considered staying at the campgrounds in Fruita (http://www.nps.gov/care/planyourvisit/f ... ground.htm), which is beautiful historic area, but opted to put a few more miles behind us.

By now I’ve learned that the nicer the campsite, the more stuff we unfold, the more relaxed we get, and the later in the morning we pull out. So in need of water, laundry and a real shower, night #3 had us paying for a slot at Duke's Slickrock Grill / Campground & RV Park in Hanksville. This was quite a letdown given the gorgeous country we just past, but we were on the road at 6:20am so I got my money’s worth.

We roamed across the remainder of UT-24 and into Green River on the I-70. I had spent some time looking on the map for where I could get down to the river for a late brunch and to explore a bit. We took the Little Valley Road which goes by some interesting abandoned missile sites. The river (38.926765, -110.134778? +38° 55' 36.35", -110° 8' 5.20") proved tough to access as the vegetation is too thick. Breakfast was 2 delicious egg burritos.


We then got back I-70 east, went south on the 191 and into Moab.

My plan was to spend a few days here. We’d explore both the town and the trails, but with temps near 105, some revisions were needed. Camping would be brutal so I searched VRBO and found http://www.cliffroseflats.com. Michael has a really nice set of rooms downtown with a lot on the side thats perfect for parking.


After walking to main street for lunch we took a long cool siesta. Close to 6pm we unhooked the trailer and headed to Arches National Park (http://www.nps.gov/arch/index.htm).

Wow! First it is free. And we just marveled at every turn. We went all the way to the end and took a great hike at the Devil’s Garden. The campground back there would be my first choice in right weather. It was 100% full nonetheless. We returned to downtown Moab rather late and enjoyed our best meal of the trip at Miguel’s Baja Grill.

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Old 08-16-2013, 05:21 PM   #3
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

So given the heat, we decided it was high time to head towards Colorado the next morning. From Moab, we took the scenic highway 128 along the Colorado River rather than head directly back up to the I70. Great choice as we slowed well below the speed limit to take in all the beauty and sites. I saw some dirt roads that headed up into the hills below the cliffs that looked very intriguing.

Once on the I70, we made it to Glenwood Springs just after lunch. I knew I wanted to run Kebler Pass (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kebler_Pass) in the morning so my plan was to head south on 133 and camp at or near Paonia St Park (http://www.parks.state.co.us/Parks/Paon ... kHome.aspx)

Bad idea. We found camp sites right away and immediately discover why they were empty - misquitoes! Lots and lots of them. On to plan B. We found the turnoff to Kebler and my plan was to roll through Erickson Springs Campground (38.953836,-107.271459) and either stay there or nearby. We rolled in and chatted with the camp manager. He was a friendly guy with an interest in the trailer, so we opted for a nice spot.

Kebler Pass into Crested Butte is Colorado at its finest. Great dirt road. Well maintained. And nothing but great views and endless lush trees, creeks and meadows. Had I known the road was so good, I would have driven an hour further last night and ventured of the road to Lost Lake. And having driven the road once, I’d probably just take any number of small roads/trails that appear along the way and camp near a creek running through all the gorgeous meadows we rolled through.

[Half way in, we spotted Zack, his wife, pup and SMB. Zack runs Bike-n-Bean in Sedona, AZ]
As we neared Crested Butte, we began to see more and more sedans out for a scenic drive.

[We followed this guy for a few miles on Kebler. Boy would you see oncoming cars ducking for cover]
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Old 08-16-2013, 05:25 PM   #4
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

Karla’s and my ideas of exploring arent exactly the same. I like to go down a dirt trail where I think no one will be. Karla likes to find a long shady stretch of sidewalks that lead from one quirky store to another. Elk Street in Crested Butte offered up the perfect chance for her to ‘explore’ one little store and cafe after another. And at 9’000’ we could leave the dogs in the van and take a stroll. And as long as I have a camera, she can shop almost as long as she wants.


We wanted to further explore Crested Butte so we thought we’d find a campground near but those we found werent all that nice and were full (mostly people with their serious mountain bikes). So we took a detour at Almont and began heading up the Taylor River. This again is beautiful country. The cliffs are popular with the climbing folks so again, the camp sites were full. After almost settling on one near a few diesel haulers, we opted to drive to Taylor Resevoir.

At 9’600 feet, the campground at Taylor Park Reservoir would be our highest altitude for a campsite. Site 46 offers an amazing view and we had deer walking in the meadow behind us in the evening.

As we travel, I’m learning that the proximity to camps and campgrounds that allow quads and side by sides is a rather big consideration. They have there place and sure are fun, but boy are they annoying when you’re hoping for a quiet peaceful evening.

We set off mid-morning for Ourey, Colorado. I had thought we’d check out Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (http://www.nps.gov/blca/index.htm) for a camping spot and spend the late afternoon exploring. But not one site was available, and I didnt actually like the area. So we headed further towards the west coast (of Colorado).

In Montrose we had to detour for their annual dog walk down Main Street. And in keeping with the spirit of our venture, we had to let the Vizslas mingle.
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Old 08-16-2013, 05:38 PM   #5
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

This got us in to Ridgeway State Park (http://www.parks.state.co.us/parks/ridg ... kHome.aspx) just north of Ourey after dark. Nice enough place if you like RV’s but $30/night isnt my style. Plus we spent $10 in quarters for showers and laundry. But again, it got us on the road early. Well almost, because a forum bud stopped by and we chatted for a few hours. He too rolls in a wheelchair, owns a 4WD van and a Vizsla. Go figure.

He suggested a good trial for the van just outside of Ourey.

Ourey is just about perfect. As always, we trekked up and down Main Street and enjoyed a great meal on the patio.


After lunch we headed south on the Million Dollar Highway towards Silverton. Fred had suggested we check out The Ride Festival (http://www.ridefestival.com/home/) in Telluride and, oh by the way, there happens to be a ‘short cut ‘ up and over the peaks and into Telluride. <grin>

We found the turnoff to Ophir Pass, road 630 (37.847341,-107.724581) and preceeded down to the first bend where a sign stated, No Trailers Beyond This Point. I got on Google Map and could see two spots that might be tight. Both looked similar and the first wasnt too far. So I figured I’d go that far and see what I can do.


This is a great road. Perfect place to let the van just wonder up and down the mountains. I used low range just to avoid excessive throttle and braking. We saw 3 jeeps, a Tacoma and an old beat up Subaru station wagon along the 20 miles.

Tight turn #1 was a piece of cake. It was up hill and required no reversing. As we got to the top it was raining and I could feel the tires slipping here and there. From the summit I could see turn #2 (37.851399,-107.787339). Definitely tighter and not much room for error.

Obviously since i’m writing this we made it. But the sign is correct. Not a road for trailer if you also driving a van. We had to reverse five times and that meant four times the nose of the van was hanging over the edge. Wifey was directing and none too happy. I thought about handing her the GPS just in case. But I knew that would further increase the anxiety.

Once we got turned it was all down hill and a piece of cake. Its single lane but you can see all the way down to the treeline. its a very enjoyable ride along the Howard Fork (river).

Offir (http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/co/ophir.html) consists of some great looking cabins along the creek. We saw two SMB’s in a town off 100 people.


We turned north on Hwy-145 and roamed into Telluride.

The town was preparing for the music festival so there was limited space for anyone to park. Let alone a van and trailer. No luck at town campground. No hotel rooms. Nearby campgrounds all full. Rain.

We headed south on 145. I spied Priest Lake Campground (37.834874,-107.88032) and thought it might have potential. It was rather crowded so we opted to keep going but is a nice remote location. Rather than jump back on the highway, we poked around Trout Lake Road (63A).

We ended up boondocking beside our first trustle (37.812462,-107.870425)
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Old 08-16-2013, 05:40 PM   #6
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

The next morning we arose almost too early as I didnt quite get the photo I wanted. We wanted to make it into Phoenix around 8-9pm (or better said, when it drops below 105d), so we left the trussle for another day. I stayed on the dirtroad and came out at the Lizard Head Peak (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lizard_Head). Lots of good camping spots here and we even spotted a SMB in the meadow. Tempting photo but I wanted to put the hammer down.

Heading south on the 145, following the Delores River is a treat. At 7AM, a drive thru coffee in Rico, Colorado.

Next stop, Cortez, CO.

Ive never seen Monument Valley Navajo Park (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monument_V ... ribal_Park) so we detoured back on Hwy-162 into Utah. This allowed us to see more great country. Hwy-162 runs along the San Juan River. We took a promising sideroad in hopes of getting close but no luck. Let me add one sad comment. As we passed through the reservation(s) it was deplorable the amount of empty bottle littering the road side. Not just a few, but literally hundreds of thousands.

Having just seen The Arches (Moab), Monuent Valley wasnt quite as surreal. First, its touristy. Second, it was mid day. And these types of buttes should be viewed very early or very late to include the shadows. So we snapped a photo and said goodbye.

Of our entire trip, this was by far the worst section of dusty, bumpy trail we encountered. I guess they do this to insure the people who take the tour get the total experience.


Elephant Feet, Arizona Coordinates: 36.330833, -110.924722


We rolled in to Phoenix at 101 degrees. Having the trailer also serve as storage ofr our travel gear sure makes it easy to unpack, clean and start thinking about the next trip.
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Old 08-16-2013, 06:10 PM   #7
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

The last time Claudine and rode in Sedona Zack and his wife looked and our SMB saying how they wanted one and glade to see they found one. I hope our love for ours helped him make the jump.



[Half way in, we spotted Zack, his wife, pup and SMB. Zack runs Bike-n-Bean in Sedona, AZ]
As we neared Crested Butte, we began to see more and more sedans out for a scenic drive.
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Old 08-17-2013, 06:44 AM   #8
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

Great trip report. Thanks for sharing, pictures are nice too !
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:09 AM   #9
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

Looks like a great trip, and I love that trailer.


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Old 08-17-2013, 08:23 AM   #10
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Re: AZ to UT to CO, and back

Thanks! Great mix of environments.
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