Alan B.
Salt Lake City, UT
Joined June 2018
@idahomefotography
Ranger Review: Red Ledge Free Rein Jacket in and Around the Valles Caldera

Campground Review: 

Imagine 1.25 Ma ago an eruption blew apart the landscape of Northern New Mexico that would rival the shear volume erupted by the world famous Yellowstone hotspot!  Jemez Falls and its namesake campground are the closest, largest, and most developed CG to the Valles Caldera proper and the entrance to the caldera's access roads.  The Jemez Falls CG is more developed than the nearby primitive (dispersed) sites that surround the flanks of the caldera proper, this CG offers 50 single sites and 2 double sites, $10 and $50 respectively.  Most of the sites can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 40' in length with good options for tent camping as well.  Each site has the usual metal fire ring, along with picnic tables and a paved driveway/parking area.  You can reserve sites from mid May through Mid September.

Even if you plan to stay here for a couple weeks (which is the limit) you'll have more than enough to keep you preoccupied!  If you want to drive around and hike or fish in the caldera proper then you will need to go to the Valles Caldera Visitors Center and buy a pass.  They typically cost $25 but when we visited during the International Balloon Fiesta the fee was waived.  If they are charging when you arrive, you can also use your National Parks Pass to get entrance.  Be sure to arrive early on the weekends as they restrict the # of permits they hand out.

Now with all this exposed rock you know there's going to be some amazing climbing!  All of the rock in the immediate area was created by the caldera and related volcanic and magmatic activity in the area in the past few million years.  This gives you the opportunity to climb on some "bulletproof" welded tuff (hardened volcanic ash) much like what exists at the world famous Smith Rock State Park in Oregon.  If you want to find out more about the interesting geology of the area you can look Here

Product Review:

Being a Ranger for the Dyrt allows us to test and review gear from time to time!  This time we got to test out the Men's Free Rein Jacket by Red Ledge.

Pros:

  • First thing I want to say about this jacket is that it is super cheap for a rain jacket this rugged and with this many features!  It was only ~90$ after shipping and is comparable to some of my other jackets that were 2-3x as much! 
  • I also really liked the mesh fabric on the inner portion of the breast pockets.  It added another dimension of breath ability to the jacket to prevent condensation from building up on the inside.  This was a nice addition to the gusseted armpits flaps to help air out.
  • The last thing I really liked about this jacket was the amount of high-vis color options you had to choose from!  I went with the Hi-Vis Orange which is close to a hunters orange and came in very handy as there was active hunting while we were hiking in the Valles Caldera.

Cons:

  • There were only a couple of things that we thought could have been improved.  The first was to have the armpit openings be meshed on the inside to prevent it from opening wide up.  We really liked that feature in the breast/side pockets and wished it had been incorporated into the armpits as well.
  • The other thing was the inability to zip the jacket from the top or bottom, which would have allowed you to kind of blouse the bottom of the jacket.  

Score: 4/5

  • While other jackets have more features, this is a great, durable rain jacket at a price point that is reasonable and affordable for most.  This was a great jacket to test and I anticipate using it for many more rainstorms and windy belays in the future.
Not a Campground but Offers Amazing Access!

This is one of the best day use areas that we visited while on a 2 day tour in and around the Valles Caldera!  It has over 250 climbing routes spread out along the East Fork of the Jemez River with something for every level of climber!  The belay areas are nice and flat and the approach will at most take you an hour to get to the furthest walls.  Some of the climbs even allow for setting up top ropes from the tops of the cliffs.  You can access the cattle wall easily from the east parking lot but if you want to walk along the creek then use the parking lot that is to the west.  If you plan on staying overnight then the closest developed campground is the Jemez Falls CG just up the road to the west.

Great Spot for Free Camping before the Caldera!

This is a nice secluded dispersed campsite on the eastern flanks of the Valles Caldera.  It's the closest CG to Sante Fe along the 4 before it enters the caldera proper.  While most of the trees in this area were burnt by fires less than 10 years ago, it still provides great views of the valley below and the highest mountains in all of New Mexico!  The campground has no amenities so bring everything you'll need and bring along a high clearance vehicle if you plan on heading up the road beyond the campsites that are right off the pavement to the right.

Besides exploring the caldera there are plenty of amazing things to do in nearby Sante Fe!  Our favorite attraction was the MeowWolf permanent art exhibit.  It's an absolutely amazing surreal piece of art that you walk through and interact.  I cannot stress enough how much you should visit because in addition to being an art pillar in New Mexico they also contribute to local and soon regional art and philanthropic endeavors.

First to Review
Right Next to the Creek and the Best Climbing in the Stansbury Mountains

Stumbled upon this campground while fishing around at Grantsville Reservoir and decided to head up South Willow Canyon to review all these unreviewed campgrounds!  While the campground itself is officially closed for the season you could probably still camp here until the dirt road gets back enough that they close the gate towards the beginning of the canyon.  The main attraction for this and the Lower Narrows CG's is the extremely close proximity of amazing water carved bulletproof limestone climbing!  The Narrows climbing in South Willow Canyon is the premier HARD climbing spot for those in SLC that want to test their grit and push grades.  The routes here go up to 5.14a with very few routes under 5.11, although you can find moderates elsewhere in the canyon.  The 5.14a was but up by world renowned climber Chris Sharma and has been sent by other pros in the area like Jonathan Siegriest who claims it as "one of the top 5 5.14's in Utah."

Now enough about the absolutely amazing climbing and on to the actual campground!  This is one of 2 campgrounds that has very large group sites, so if you're coming here with a mob then this is one of the places to check out!  The group sites cost $50 and $90 and can hold 30 and 50 people respectively.  There are also 6 single sites @ $15 a night.  During the peak season May-Sept you can reserve the group sites on the recreation.gov website but at all other times they are first come first serve.  Like all the other campgrounds in the canyon you also need to bring your own water and trash bags.

First to Review
Great Views of Deseret Peak at the End of the Road CG

A wonderful place to set up camp for a week for a week or to use as a basecamp to climb the high peaks that surround the terminus of the South Willow Canyon road!  On the way into the campground you get a great view of the rugged 11,000 foot Deseret Peak that looms over the campsites.  While you can't really see it from most of the campgrounds, the serenity afforded by the trees and distance between the sites is more than enough to satisfy most outdoors people.  For those that want to get a little closer to the peak, there is a 7 mile one way trail to the top of Deseret Peak that offers amazing views of the Great Salt Lake Valley!You can see all the way to the northern end of the lake as well as beyond the Bonneville Salt Flats into Nevada.

As for the campground itself it is fairly primitive and is very much like all of the other campgrounds in the canyon.  It is however a little bit larger, having 12 single sites for $15 and a double site for $31.  Like the other campgrounds you also need to bring your own water and trash bags as those amenities are not supplied.  There are fire rings and picnic tables at every campsite and enough room for 1 car to park off of the dirt road.  Another thing that is a little unique about this campground is that the stay limit is 7 days instead of the usually 14 that I see at most places

Beautiful Creek Access w/ Expert Level Climbing Routes a Stones Throw Away

Let me start off by saying the other review for this CG is about 250 miles off target.  The Narrows CG the other person is talking about is located in Zion National Park near St. George/Springville in southern Utah.  There are no soaring sandstone walls here!  There are however amazing overhanging water sculpted limestone cliffs that contain some of the hardest climbing that the west desert of Utah has to offer!  There are a decent amount of routes on either side of the road with the majority of the routes being near the Upper Narrows CG. 

This CG is setup in much the same way as the Upper.  There are metal fire rings and picnic tables at each of the campsites with a vault toilet within a couple minutes walk from any of the sites.  There are only 3 sites and there are no water or trash facilities so bring all you need and then pack it all out!  The creek offers a nice respite from the heat in the summer and would probably be decent fishing as well.  I only saw a couple trout while wandering around but I'm sure there are more!

First to Review
Smaller CG with great Creek Access!

This is the 2nd campground that you come across after you enter the Wasatch National Forest.  It is only a couple miles in after the dirt road starts.  Surrounding the campground are these amazing looking rock cliffs and outcrops that look like volcanic flows or maybe a pyroclastic flow or tuff.  Its really crumbly and doesn't make for good climbing but forms pretty "melting mud" walls.

There are 5 single sites all aligned in a row next to the creek.  2 of the sites are on the opposite side of the road, however, away from the creek.  As with all the other campgrounds in the canyon there are picnic tables and fire rings.  There are also vault toilets and you'll have to pack in all of the water you'll need (unless filtering?)  and pack out all your trash as there are no garbage cans.  Please be aware of this and help us keep this area clean and beautiful!

First to Review
Great Medium Sized CG with Small and Large Group Sites

Despite its name this campground is for everyone, not only boy scouts!  I honestly have no idea why they named it this.  It's probably due to the fact that this is the only campground in the canyon that has a large group site capable of fitting up to 50 people.  This campsite lies at the end of the campground and has parking for 10 vehicles at least but you'll have to pay extra beyond what's included in the booking price.

The campsites in this campground have all the same amenities as the other campgrounds in the canyon which includes a picnic table, metal fire ring, and vault toilets withing walking distance.  It also appeared to have horse corrals but they could have just been a fence to keep people out of restoration areas.  As with the other campgrounds bring all the water you need or a filtration system and then trash bags to haul all your garbage out as there are no trash cans!

Fantastic for Accessing the Lake and Checking out Fossils!

This was my 2nd favorite spot that we visited other than the place we stayed at for the wedding.  First reason it was so great was because of the seclusion due to it being on the south side of Lake Ft. Peck and away from any city.  Be warned though you are pretty much on your own out here so be sure you have a full tank of gas before exploring.  The 2nd and arguable more important reason I loved this spot so much was due to it being surrounded by the Hell Creek Geologic Formation which has some of the highest concentration of vertebrate fossils in the world!  While it is illegal to take any vertebrate fossils you can get cool imprints of leaves and other invertebrate animals that lived right alongside the dinosaurs!

Another Beautiful Spot On the Shores of the Fort Peck Reservoir!

This is a similar spot to other areas located around the reservoir in that it is wide open giving you that fantastic Montana Big Sky feeling.  During the week there's hardly anyone up here so there's a good chance you won't have any neighbors.  Each site has a fire ring and picnic table.  There are also vault toilets nearby and a fish cleaning station!

Wonderful Little CG by the Creek!

This is the very first campground that you come across after transferring from blacktop to dirt road past all the private houses.  It lies a little over a mile up the road and is the smallest campground with only 2 campsites.  This makes it one of my favorite as it will seem you have the forest and the creek all to yourself!  Be warned that all of the campgrounds in the canyon do not supply water or trashcans so you'll need to bring all you need to drink as well as trash bags to haul out all of your garbage.  There was an interesting little dam on the east side of the campground and I scared a bunch of trout out from under it as I walked across so bring your fishing pole or fly rod if you want to!

Not Much Shade and Exposed but you can Fish!

I wouldn't recommend staying here unless you have an RV.  With that being said it is a good spot to come fish for a day trip.  It offers beautiful views of the Oquirrh and Stansbury Mountains to the east and west respectively and the reservoir is stocked with trout almost 1 a month during the spring though fall.  The reservoir is also completely man made so you get the feeling that you're in a bowl within a bowl!

As for the campground itself there are the standard concrete fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets.  There are also a few gazebos around with the campsites radiating off of them like spokes of a tire.  Now the reason I said that I wouldn't camp here without an RV is because there are absolutely NO TREES anywhere!  So it can get super windy and uncomfortable in a tent if a storm blows through.

Amazing Scenery and Solitude!!!

This is an amazing secluded spot deep into the Sawtooth Mountains of Central Idaho.  We've been coming here for years and my fathers been coming here since the 60's.  Not much has changed except for better upkeep of the roads and the occasional vault toilet that are scattered across the area.  The campground is free to stay at and has a dispersed feeling to it.  There are no developed rings or tables but you can tell where people usually set up camp.  For the most part this is an RV campsite mostly because of how the spots are arranged.  You could put a tent in here if you wanted but there are way better spots just up the road out of the RV'ers reaches.  These forests are pretty wild still so definitely keep an eye out for black bears.  We haven't seen any Grizzly in this area but they are definitely in the Salmon/Challis area which isn't too far away.  Also if you're from Idaho this is a good spot to ride around on your motorcycle or ATV and get some pristine alpine fishing in!

More Shady Camping Right by the Namesake Trailhead

This was a really really small camping area that's located along the creek road going through the south hills of Idaho.  There are absolutely no amenities here however so take care of business at one of the more developed campgrounds along the road!  It had wonderful shade everywhere but there wasn't any flat ground to be able to lay out a tent.  There were also only 2 maybe 3 campgrounds if you squeezed it in and it required a high clearance vehicle to get to 2 of them.  Good thing is if you get these sites you will have no one around you and personal access to a great hiking trail and in the winter snowshoeing back country skiing trail!

High Desert Camping with a Lot of Shade!

This is another great campsite on the road that heads up to Lake Cleveland and Mt Harrison.  It lies just before the turnoff to descend down to Lake Cleveland and is a great option just in case all the sites at Lake Cleveland are taken.  This should only happen on holidays and weekends though.  The campground itself is pretty primitive with the only amenity being a vault toilet and some scattered corrals.  A large open area is where most of the RV's camp and if you drive along the outskirts of the trees you'll be able to find excellent tent campsites nestled within the trees.  Definitely one of the best sites for lounging around in a hammock all day!

Gorgeous Alpine Camping in Southern Idaho!

This is one of the last campgrounds you come across before arriving at the turnoff for Lake Cleveland.  It has a ton a ton of spots but they are pretty close together so try to camp here during the weekday or if you have to come here on a weekend go to the campground immediately before Lake Cleveland as it is a little more secluded and the sites are more spaced out.  If you're planning on having a large get together or party in the mountains then this is the best campground to come to!

Each campsite has a minimum of a metal fire ring and BBQ grill, picnic tables and some even have a large metal BBQ pit thing.  The large sites also have massive fire rings where you could basically get a bonfire going!  There are trash cans and vault toilets scattered throughout the campground.  The only problem I had with the campground is that there isn't a map and the roads through it are narrow and confusing.  Other than that this is an amazing spot to spend the weekend or a few days during the week

More Great Creek Spots with Ample Parking!

This is a no frills campground located in the South Hills of Idaho about 20 miles south of Twin Falls.  Each site has its own fire ring and picnic table with most also giving you a shady spot to set up a tent if you want.  There is only 1 vault toilet though near the info sign.  The campsites are all lined up in a row next to the creek and trees.  There are not many sites so get here early if you plan on coming during the weekend.  It also seems like you could just park your RV in the giant dirt area to the east of the creek.  This area will be hot in the morning and shady in the afternoon as there are no shade trees to the east of the campsites.  A bonus of staying at this campground is that you have walking access to the Third Fork Trailhead!

Wonderful Spot on the Reservoir, but not Much Shade

This is the spot to camp if you plan on spending most of your time here out on the water!  It seems like the entire west side of the campground where it meets the water could be used as a boat ramp and offers nice easy access to the reservoir for any age!  It is also the campground that is closest to the interstate (read busiest)  We were there on a Tuesday and almost half of the campground was full.  I can't even imagine what its like on a weekend let alone a holiday.  

The campsites themselves are pretty basic.  A fire ring and picnic table are at each of the sites with vault toilets within walking distance.  There are pretty much no shade trees so plan on bringing an umbrella or something similar to keep yourself cool.  If you cross over the dam to the west side of the reservoir you'll also see a sign that is exactly half way between the north pole and the equator!

Beautiful Spot by the River w/ Fishing & Climbing Nearby

We've stopped here in the past but this was the first time we've seen the area so green!  It is a great pit stop or last minute spot right along the interstate going towards Dillon, MT.  There are plenty of spaces to pull up your RV or to toss a tent into the big open grass yard.  The north side isnt very shaded but close to the amenities and the south side has plenty of cottonwood trees to hang out under.  Nearby is a great river to fish in and the Native American site known as Rattlesnake Rock that looms over the river and park to the east.  There are some good albeit "spicy" sport and trad routes on the rock but as the name implies keep an eye out for snakes!  Nearby is the large Clark Canyon Reservoir where you can cool off and do some exhilarating cliff diving as long as the reservoir pool is high.

Surreal Desert Landscapes Close to Wendover

We happened upon this pretty little desert campground while we were out looking for agate one day around Volcano Peak.  It is a completely primitive site with absolutely no amenities except for rock fire rings.  It sits on the east side of Volcano Peak but there are also sites on the west side as well.  Both sides of the peak have the same quality of campgrounds but it just depends on if you like sunrises or sunsets more!  We personally loved the never-ending sunsets and shadows that grew to tens of miles long!  If you want to rock hound there are better pieces of multicolored agate high up near the ridges of the range.  There are still some lower on the slopes but are mostly clear to white from being thoroughly picked over.