I'd been wanting to visit Valley of Fire for months, but we can get out on a six-hour trip in the summer, winter, and spring only. Summer would be too hot for us Arizonans trying to escape the high temperatures, and I've heard the springtime is really, uncomfortably windy there. So. Winter won and we found that it's quite possibly the best time to visit Valley of Fire. The daytime temps were in the mid-60s, and the nights went into the low 40s. What I forgot was that Nevada is on Pacific time so sunset was early at 4:30, but we kept a campfire going and enjoyed the evenings even if we had to come in for the night by 9 pm. That made waking up to awesome sunrises more enjoyable anyway.
We stayed at Atlatl Campground, which is first come/first served. When we arrived, we saw a lot of RVs and nearly lost hope, but there was one spot where we could park our 25ft trailer and it turned out to be one of the best campsites there. Site #8's tent pad, grill, table, and fire ring are behind a huge rock, so if privacy is what you're after this is the place! However, the site doesn't have hookups, so if you're looking for those you would have to be in the more open spaces. They aren't right on top of each other, but there isn't a lot of things blocking views of other RVs. We found the non-hookup sites were more desirable here in terms of camping ambiance. Besides, no hook-up sites were open so it wasn't a decision we had to make. :) We could hear generators occasionally, but for the most part this place was very, very quiet.
The hosts are friendly and keep the place neat and tidy. The restrooms and showers were clean, with flush toilets and hot water in the showers. The dump station was fine, and there is fresh water available to fill your tank. Also, each site has a water spigot, so that was handy! You can't easily fill your tank because the spigot doesn't have rings to connect a hose, but it's doable. We know this because we forgot to fill our tank before getting our spot. We were so worried about getting a space. Ha! It worked out.
The campground is surrounded by giant red rock formations, and there are some in the middle of it, too. It's perfect for kids and adults both to climb for hours and days. It's kind of like Joshua Tree, but the rocks are easier to climb on--closer together and the spaces between aren't as sketchy. Plus the rocks are soft sandstone so they don't scratch as much. It really is fun to explore all around the rocks and see the park from high vantage points.
It's the desert, so expect a lot of dust. What I hadn't expected was so much sand on the hiking trails. I find it difficult to trudge through soft sand, so although the park's popular hikes are short, expect them to be more of a challenge due to the sand. The awesome views make up for it, though. Bighorn sheep, awesome rock formations, slot canyons, so many different colors, and even ancient petroglyphs are pleasant distractions from the workout on the legs. Don't miss the Fire Wave, White Domes, and the hike to Mouse's Tank. Very cool.
Our T-Mobile service came and went with the wind all through the park.
Overall, Valley of Fire did not disappoint. We were busy and entertained and loving being there at this perfect time of year.
We had a nice stay at this campground. The hosts and rangers were friendly, the sites and restrooms were clean and plentiful, and the park was beautiful at sunrise and sunset. The stars at night exploded in the night sky. We'd never seen so many stars.
We arrived on a Wednesday around noon, and the campground was about half full. We had plenty of sites to choose from, and we were lucky enough to find one on an end that also had a decent amount of shrubbery to provide some shade on the west side of our rig in the afternoons. It was sunny and windy, so we were happy we didn't need the shade canopy and the awning wouldn't have done much at that angle anyway. All the sites are pull-through and face west (which is strange but I guess since the time to camp here is in the winter and campers want sun). Sites have a grill (ours looked brand new), picnic table, and the rigs sit on a concrete pad. No fire ring, but they do allow fires if you bring your own portable pit that's off the ground. We filled up the Airstream with water at the dump station when we got there, and the free solar showers were nice to have. We stayed in one of the three generator-free rows. Pretty much everyone in the campground had their truck or camper hoods up and undercarriage lighting on at night to prevent packrats from setting up shop. Yuck.
Wednesday through Saturday, there is a ranger program at 7 pm in the amphitheater. These were very well done and enjoyable. We saw one on desert flora and another on space exploration.
Hiking in the park is easy to moderate, but it wasn't very exciting to us Phoenicians as it was a lot like home. Luckily home is very pretty so it wasn't a big drag. :) There's an easy one-mile loops around the campground that is nice to do first thing in the morning or at sunset.
The campground is five miles from the Mexican border, and we could hear plenty of traffic heading south on 85 to Rocky Point for spring break. Other than the occasional coyote howl, that was really the only noise as everyone else seemed to head into their campers at 8 pm, immediately after the ranger program. To be honest, the campground had the vibe of a 55+ active adult community. Everyone was friendly but we felt a little like the record scratched when we pulled in with our adolescent children. haha
Overall, we had a nice, if uneventful and even a bit boring, trip to Organ Pipe.
This is a decent campground close to cool hiking trails and the "big city." Flush toilets and showers are a bonus! We were only there one night, so I'm guessing that's why we got the site we did. Right in the heart of it all, but easy access in and out. No big deal. You can't pick your own site at KOAs, and we could have gotten worse.
Though extremely unlevel, the positive atmosphere here makes up for it in every way. It's a small campground with only eleven sites, but it's nearly impossible to see a neighbor. The trees and bushes are thick and high, and you feel like you're in your own private corner of the world.
We arrived around 11:30 on a Wednesday morning. Only three sites were taken, so we had a pretty good pick. If Site #4 was level, it could arguably be the world's greatest campsite. It's located right by the creek and is surrounded by trees and shrubs. There was a picnic table and a fire ring, too. The creek kind of splits upstream right before the site, so we had a little wading pool to cool off in after hikes. We foraged for wood, and it burned and smelled awesome. This campsite was a dream.
The dump station at the visitors center was down when we arrived, but they said there were places in Baker you could fill up. We had just come from there and were not excited to do more driving, so my husband filled up the tank manually with a six-gallon jug. He's my hero. :) It was doable and not that bad because there are spigots throughout the campground. When we left, we dumped at the gas station in Baker (which was oddly out of gas). Come prepared! Luckily we had enough to make it to Milford, Utah.
Lower Lehman is located at the base of the mountain, so be aware that it's about 10-15 degrees warmer here than it is at the top of the mountain. It was about 85 degrees in the middle of the day, but the shade and the creek helped. Plus, we stayed up on the mountain for as long as possible, and if you do a cave tour (which you should!) it's always 50 degrees in there.
Great Basin was a wonderful surprise. We loved the caves, the hike to the glacier, the alpine lakes, and the bristlecone pines. The scenery is breathtaking!
We stopped at Snow Canyon to split up our trip home. It's beautiful and reminded us of Kodachrome Basin, but St. George is HOT in late June. Phoenicians can take the heat, but we absolutely do no want it on vacation! We planned to stay for two nights, but when it was 97 degrees we figured we may as well just head for home. Our site had hookup so we could run the AC, but what's the point in being holed up in the Airstream?
We did take a hike after the sun when down around 8:30 pm. The petrified sand dunes were cool and the rocks across the street from the campground were fun to climb (you aren't permitted to climb the rocks in the campground).
As stated previously, the hookup sites are tight together, but 15A and B are around the corner from the "parking lot" ones. We plugged in but filled our tank with water as A and B share the spigot in the middle so you can't stay hooked up to the water. Also, bring your own shade canopy. Every site is pretty much in full sun.
Snow Canyon seems like a place we will revisit in a cooler season. Very pretty place, even if it is located at the end of a residential neighborhood.
If you love to camp in the woods, Duck Creek is the perfect spot. It's easy to get to (once you get through the mountain pass on either side) off of Utah 14 in the beautiful stretch of land called Duck Creek. Pines and aspen trees are all around, though some sites are more shady than others. If you like to be in the trees or if you like to have full sun for solar, this place has a mix. And it's huge! Nearly 100 sites to choose from in about 4 or 5 loops. We stayed in the A loop, which the major differences are it has flush toilets and all the driveways are paved.
Duck Creek has some nice hiking trails, but a lot of people seem to come here with their ATVs. The campground has an ATV parking lot and trail. Navajo Lake is close by for hiking and mountain biking, and Cedar Breaks and Brian Head are just about twenty and thirty minutes away, respectively.
We made reservations online so that cost an extra $10 in addition to the $17 nightly rate, but we enjoy the peace of mind that we're getting a site and the site that we want. #27 was relatively private and had a lot of trees. A deer visited one afternoon, and a robin was making a nest in the trees above us. It was a very peaceful stay.
The only negative was when we arrived. We came up a steep mountain so didn't have a full water tank, but the dump station was closed when we arrived. The camp host was in his trailer, so we asked where we could fill up water. I don't know if he doesn't have the keys to the gates on the station or what, but he said if our hose was long enough we could fill our tank from the water station there. He seemed put out and not very accommodating to someone requesting fresh water. It's not like we wanted fresh towels! After some creative backing up, parking, and combining and stretching hoses, we filled up our tank. Later, we noticed the gates to the station were open. Okaaaaaay. And when we left two days later, we were grateful the dump station was open.
There seemed to be a bit more trash around than we usually see in campgrounds, but we arrived on a Monday so maybe the weekend crowd was a little sloppy. We left our site cleaner than we found it for sure.
Overall, it was a nice place to spend a few nights as we visited the surrounding area.
It's a great base for visiting both Flagstaff (30 mins) and Grand Canyon (65 minutes), however the current construction on I-40 has closed the exit for this campground. It's not too inconvenient to go one mile west and backtrack to get off at 167 eastbound, but if you want to get on I-40 West to go one mile to the GC exit, the detour adds 30 minutes to your trip. If there are back roads, KOA should make them known because even Google doesn't have it.
Other than that, the campground is decent. Restrooms are clean and stocked. Showers are hot. The tent sites are more out in the open than I'd prefer, and you see and hear the freeway from your site. There's a pool, mini golf, gaga ball court, giant pillow, and go karts which were great entertainment for the kids during fire restrictions.