Shay F.


Kent, WA

Joined September 2018

Always daydreaming about my next adventure! Road trips, car camping, backpacking, or Basecamping - I am always ready to go.

Best NFS Capground I have ever been to!

We headed out to North Cascades National Park for a close to home camping getaway on Labor Day Weekend.  After admiring the Alps of America and the turquoise blue waters we ended up on the east side of Hwy 20.  We drove through Lone Fir Campground first.  Everything was (not surprisingly) full.  Then we drove through Klipchuck and found a great campground!  We got a site that had just been occupied 10 minutes before, everything else was full.  We felt very lucky to have found this site on Labor Day weekend.

It was very hot, mid 90's all weekend.  We were in site 18 that did not offer a lot of shade until late afternoon.  Most sites, including ours, are very large with plenty of parking.  Clean, even sites, well spaced, and quiet. Water spigots were placed all over the grounds. There are several vault toilets that stayed well stocked and clean.  Garbage dumpsters are located throughout the grounds as well.  

There are several trails that lead from this campground.  The "Creekside Loop" is a short but steep trail down to Early Winters Creek.  It was at least 15 degrees cooler down by the water and the water itself was frigid!  Not fun for little kids to play, but great for us adults to cool off.  The "Scenic Trail" is Early Winters Trail.  We did not explore the whole thing, only 30 minutes in and back on the morning we left. 

Nearby Mazama is worth a stop.  The General Store has unique gifts, espresso, and grocery items.  Winthrop is a fun stop as well, a little further down the Hwy 20.  

I was really impressed with this campground it's one of the nicer National Forest Service campgrounds I have ever been to.  It was really clean and well maintained.  Many of the sites are well shaded, big, and private.  The inner loop seemed like the best for shade.

Beautiful Solitude for Boondocking

Ranger Review: Camp Fare Premium Meals at LT Murray Wildlife Area 

Camping Review: The LT Murray Wildlife Area is located in Thorp, between Cle Elum and Ellensburg. It is often referred to as Elk Heights or Joe Watt Canyon. This is primarily an ORV and horseback riding area in the summer. Hunting and elk feeding/wintering grounds area in the winter. This is also a great area to find elk sheds once wintering season is over. There are plenty of dispersed camping sites along the Forest Service roads. All you need is a Discover Pass and a high clearance, capable vehicle. 

We were looking for a close by, no reservation, free place to camp for a weekend. I remember riding horses up here as a kid but have not been up to this area for many years. Once you arrive to the Wildlife Area, you must let yourself in the gate and close it after you pass through. From the gate we drove down a rough, rocky road and passed a wide-open meadow where there we a couple other trailers camping, maybe living, along the road. We passed through some very narrow, brush lined roads. It was also steep and rutted with water wash out spots. The rocks that made the road are sharp, large, and loose. We did not go too far as we were not sure what shape the road would be in and did not want to get in a situation with our trailer that we could not get out of. Plug for our Airstream Basecamp. It's advertised as being "built for adventure and tough enough to go anywhere." I think I really believe it now. 

The spot we chose turned out to be beautiful. We had a view of the Thorp valley and the forested gully and ridge across from us. The stars were out and the comet NEOWISE was visible. We saw large elk, deer, many birds, and were visited by some wild turkeys in the night. It can get very windy in this area. Fires are not allowed due to red flag conditions. There is nothing out here. You must bring everything you need. Food, water, TP, lights. The best part was we saw two other cars, a couple ORV's, and a couple horseback riders total for the 2 days we were there. You can't get any quieter and more unplugged than that! 

Product Review: Camp Fare Beef Burgundy with Field Vegetables and Chicken Tikka Masala with French Green Lentils

 I ordered these meals a bit short of our last trip and was unable to make them. I was happy I had them saved for our trip up to LT Murray given we traveled quick and light. Camp Fare advertises their food as high quality, delicious, chef-crafted, and ready to eat- no refrigeration required. All you have to do is submerge in hot water for 2-3 minutes, tear open the pouch, and enjoy. Selection is limited but covers all the bases. Beef Burgundy, Chicken Tikka Masala, Wild Alaskan Salmon, and Brown Rice and Red Quinoa with Pink Beans. They all sound great! We had our camp stove and a pot of water but you could probably stuff the pouch into a larger Jet Boil for backpacking too. I chose the Beef and had my partner eat the Chicken. 

Preparation was as quick and easy as promised. The meals may not look amazing, especially on a plate instead of the pouch or in a bowl, but they really are delicious. The Beef Burgundy was flavorful and tender. The Chicken Tikka Masala was Indian restaurant good, seriously. I would way rather eat these meals than something dehydrated ever again. Looking forward to trying the Salmon and maybe getting the Chicken again for future trips.

Great if you can get a river site

Summer has been cool and wet so far this year in western Washington. We decided to take a long 4th of July weekend and head over to the east side towards Mount Rainier National Park. 

There are many National Forest managed campgrounds and dispersed camping spots to choose from along Highway 410 in Washington. The American River runs along this road and there are many places to hike. Naches is about 45 miles away and has a great pizza place/brewery. We booked somewhat last minute so we did not have many open sites at campgrounds in that area to pick from. 

Hells Crossing has two loops, one on either side of the American River. Several sites border the river, the others border the highway which can be very busy. There are vault toilets on both loops. They started on Thursday very clean and pleasant but by Sunday they were pretty smelly and the toilet paper was running dangerously low. We did not see anyone come to check them over the whole weekend. The website says there is potable water, but it appeared that the water was either broken or still shut off as we had to go to another campground down the road to fill our 5-gallon jug when we started to get low. Fires were still permitted and you can buy wood at several other spots between this area and Naches. 

Our site (6) was heavily shaded and bordered the highway. There were many trees, great hammock spots, and plenty of space between us and the other campers. We have a small 16 foot trailer but we tow with a quad cab, long bed old Dodge truck. I think it's longer than our trailer. This campground is tight. We had to move the large log that was separating our parking area from the rest of the camp site back a few feet just so we could fit the trailer in and pull the truck in front. All traffic had to stop until we could level and unhook as there was no space to go around. The ants were terrible but if we wear shoes and prop your feet up when sitting, they are a minor annoyance. 

The river is lovely and very cold. It's a nice walk around the loops and there are a couple trails across the highway to explore. There are a few sites that are better than the one we had (10 is primo!) so with better panning this would be a place we would return.

A beautiful place to camp in the Tetons

First come, first served.  Thankfully they seemed to have plenty of spaces the week we were in Grand Teton NP.  We came down from Yellowstone with our trailer.  I was hoping to stay here as I love Jackson and this spot is fairly close to town, about 30 minutes.  It was raining so we went out to dinner a few times and spent the rest of our time driving and hiking.  Didn't hang out in our campsite during the day or evening too much.  

These sites seemed really small.  We got our 16 foot trailer in just fine but getting our SUV off the road would have been impossible if it were any longer.  We watched the neighbors struggle to back their trailer in for quite a while, with all the nastiness that goes along with that.  Road through the loop was blocked off and everything.  

The bathrooms were clean and right across the road.  Beyond the bathroom was lots of woods and stream bed full of animal trails.  If you are looking for wildlife, just camp here. Moose a plenty.  Also found a beautiful buck hiding back in the trees as we took a walk behind the campground.  

No hook ups but there is an RV dump and you can refill your water tanks if needed.  The scenery is gorgeous here.  I will camp here every time I come back.

Week long home base in Yellowstone

I really enjoyed camping here.  We were on A Loop which is right by ranger booth where you check in.  It was actually pretty entertaining place to be.  You get to see a wide variety of camping rigs, that's for sure.  Our site was in the RV loop so no hook ups but it was paved and really level.  We booked in February for our trip the beginning of September.  I was shocked at how huge this campground is!

The bathroom was small and basic, but clean.  Actual flush toilets and running water.  Every site has a large bear box for storage, a fire pit, and a picnic table.  You can buy firewood at the ranger booth for $7 a box.  

We stayed the whole week so it seemed like we had new neighbors almost every night.  Did not see any bears but we saw bison and a beautiful bull elk in the trees behind our site.  The elk were bugling almost every night.  There are Ranger led educational talks at the amphitheater every night.  I really enjoyed that.  We also went down to the Bridge Bay Marina and took their scenic boat ride.  So fun!  I recommend checking that out too.

Perfect halfway from Seattle to Yellowstone NP

We made a reservation here by calling them a couple weeks before we left for Yellowstone National Park.  We were driving from the Seattle, WA area and figured this was about half way.  There are several mountain passes to cross and we did not want to fill our water and propane tanks before leaving and carry a bunch of extra weight.  This place offered full hook ups and propane sales on site. 

We arrived almost too late for in person check in.  Since we were hoping to leave early the next morning, we didn't want to wait for the office to open again in the morning.  We called ahead and the really nice lady in the office stayed a few minutes to wait for us.  They have a nice office with some local items for sale that make cute little gifts.  

Sites are typical for an RV campground.  Everyone is very close together.  Picnic tables and full hook ups are available.  There are also tent sites.  The bathrooms are great.  many stalls and several private showers.  The grounds are beautiful.  Green and watered.  Covered picnic shelters are available.  

Campers were quiet for a Saturday night.  Lots of folks out and about, everyone was so friendly!  The only downside is it's right next to the freeway.  Even in the middle of the night, it was loud.

Pitch your tent but you won't be alone!

I really like camping here, but it's a specific kind of camping.  I give it 4 stars since it has a lot of fond memories and we come here often.  We have a ton of fun on the water and with our friends.  If you don't like zero amenities, heavy day use, or the possibility of folks having a noisy party, it's probably not for you.   It's free, you can camp in the woods right on the water.  Do not expect privacy or peace and quiet.  There are also no facilities of any kind so come prepared and use leave no trace principals please!  

We have camped with groups of friends here for many summers.  The day use is very heavy.  People even launch their gas powered boats from shore.  We like to bring our kayaks and do some early morning or late night paddling and fishing.  We also bring our river inner-tubes and a little boat anchor to do some beat the heat floating.  

Access can be tough as the water level of the lake can vary.  From the Lake Easton/Sparks exit, head down Sparks Road and turn on NF 4818 which is a dusty, narrow, gravel road.  If the water is high most of the sites you will have to park on the side of the road and walk down to.  If the water is low, keep an eye out for a lake access pull off on the left.  It's rough but all sorts of cars and boats on trailers can be found making there way down.  You can drive along the lake in both directions until you find your perfect spot.  

Get there early if you want to camp. Lots of families but lots of loud parties too.   Great fishing for white fish and Kokanee.

Total seclusion, not around anymore

I loved this place. The drive up was rough, steep, and slick. I would never attempt with a trailer or even cab over camper. We took the tent and my Subaru Crosstrek up, took it slow and did just fine.

There were a lot of large downed trees being cut by the forest service scattered everywhere. Two loops of campsites, roughly 20 in all. Two very rustic pits and one typical vault toilet near the Rainier View Trail trailhead that departs from the parking lot at the beginning of the campground. No water, power, trash, tables, metal fire rings, or really people up here.

Total, almost creepy seclusion. We saw no animals either. A couple multi day trip backpackers came passing through.

Unfortunately, the large Norse Peak wildfire swept through in 2017. This road is permanently closed. I hear you can park and walk the roughly 6 miles up past the gate to the former campground. Not much left up there for camping. Maybe the Forest Service will reopen it someday? If so, it's worth the drive for the peace and quiet or to do what you do with a group and not be disturbed.

Epicenter for Summer River Floaters

Eastern Washington near the water is my favorite type of landscape.  It's a hot, windy, and a true desert climate.  When you get near a body of water like you do along the Yakima River, the diversity of life expands and makes for great wildlife watching.

Umtanum Recreation Site is part of several BLM campgrounds lumped together along the Yakima River known as the Yakima River Canyon Campgrounds.  All can be reserved ahead of time via the website:  Standard for most BLM camping in Washington, sites are very basic.  Gravel parking, pit toilets, and a picnic table.  This place does have a dumpster for trash, not all do.  There are no hook ups, no drinking water, and in our case, very little shade.  Neighbors are close and there is not a lot of privacy.  The day use area is right there too, close to camping and can be loud.  It is heavily patrolled by the wonderful BLM folks to keep everything clean and the people orderly.  They also give out tickets if you don't mind the warnings for correct passes or day use fees.

The campground itself is one little loop with six sites.  The loop is an offshoot of a very large gravel parking area for day use.  Mostly boat launching and hiking access to Umtanum Creek and Umtaum Ridge trails.   You can check the Information Board for rules on day use and camping fees, passes, and how to check to see if a site is reserved. 

We arrived on July 3rd in the afternoon.  The campground was very quiet and all the sites were reserved.  The morning of July 4th, the recreation site turned into a total madhouse.  BLM Rangers, Law Enforcement, making constant rounds to patrol the never ending hoards of people coming to park and float the river. There was a lot of noise, dust, drunk and rowdy folks.  Friday was calm again until afternoon, Saturday was not as bad as the 4th but still pretty crazy.  It was also hot!  No shade to be had in our site.  After hiking in the morning, we spent a lot of time across the bridge, in it's shadow, in the river.  

If you are using this spot as a base to do some hiking, fishing, or floating it's very convenient.  I am sure in Spring and Fall when river floating is not at it's peak, it's gorgeous and peaceful.  The raptors and songbirds are splendid.  We saw Bighorn sheep on the hill, big rock squirrels, wild turkeys with babies, and fish.  No rattlesnakes or ticks, but this is prime territory.  Hiking down the Umtanum Creek trail, over the suspension bridge, is one of my favorite hikes ever.

Ranger Review: Grubstick Master Kit at Upper Bumping Lake Campground

Campground Review:

Bumping Lake is a beautiful area of the Cascade Mountains and the campground itself is pretty large.  There are two sections, Upper and Lower.  When I was looking online researching which part of the campground I wanted to reserve, I could not figure out what was on the water or what was closest.  I got so lucky with site 43!!!  Site 43, 44, and 45 are in a separate little loop in the Upper Campground right on the lake.  From the number of reserved signs after ours, I would say the secret is out.  3,5,7,8,9, and 10 are also technically on the lake, but they are quite a bit above the shore.  You can get a peek of the lake, but you have a little walk through the woods to get down to the water.   The Upper Campground has no hook ups, vault toilets, water spigots throughout.  The sites were nicely spaced and wooded.  The Lower Campground is not on Bumping Lake and seems to be set a bit more for RV camping with pull through sites, mostly paved pads, and a bit closer together than the Upper.  Same as Upper, no hook ups and vault toilets.

The campground is clean and well maintained by the folks at Hoodoo Recreation.  They checked the vault toilets several times per day and also have fire wood for sale at their host site.  The campground also has a really nice Day Use / Picnic area and Boat Launch. It was still chilly in mid June and there were plenty of open sites.  I would imagine this is a very popular campground in the summer.  We reserved through but will do the job as well.

Bumping Lake Marina is not part of the campground but is on the other side of the lake just down the road.  There is a little store with firewood, snacks, non alcoholic drinks, and fishing tackle.  You can also rent a little boat from them if you would like fish the lake.

Product Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, occasionally I get to test products.  This trip I got to play with The Master Kit from Grubstick: .  It arrived in a nice nylon storage bag.  My immediate thought was this would be a really nice gift!  Maybe a wedding present for a couple who loves to camp!  I took everything out, washed it, and planned my meals.  We made bacon cups with cheesy scrambled eggs and pico, burgers and veggies in the cages, hotdogs (of course!) and crescent roll tubes as buns.  We did not make s'mores even though we brought the ingredients.  However, we did make the S'Maffle that I found on their website under recipes.  Oh man!  What a treat!  For the most part, everything worked really well, cleaned nicely, and was well built.

I had an issue with one of my Gubsticks.  As soon as we telescoped it, right out of the package, it fell apart.  After we got home from camping I sent Grubstick and email.  I let them know what happened and I also gave them suggestion for the Master Kit.  A huge reason I bought the big kit was so my husband and I could make meals at the same time and eat together.  This kit only came with one bacon clip.  As we made breakfast, it took forever with one clip to make four cups.  As a suggestion, I felt like the big kit should come with 2 clips.  Randy emailed me back right away.  He not only sent me a replacement stick, but 2 more clips and another Grubpocket!  Now we can have bacon together for breakfast and beyond!  

This is such a fun product.  I am looking forward to trying the other recipes they have on their blog and thinking of creative new things to make.  I am hoping this lasts years to come.  Their customer service is top notch, beyond expectations.  My outdoorsy friends will most likely be getting Grubstick kits in the future!

Ranger Review: RovR RollR 60 at Potholes State Park, Othello, WA

Campground Review:

Potholes State Park is located in Central Washington, a bit south of Moses Lake. The climate is arid desert so expect hot days, cool nights, and occasional gusty winds. The park itself has some fun features and if you are into fishing or wildlife watching, I found it to be a great spot for both. The campground is divided into RV or hookup sites, a separate area for tent sites with some cabins mixed in, and a large day use section with a boat launch, restrooms with showers, a huge tree filled lawn with picnic tables, and a pretty fun little play ground. You can reserve ahead on the Washington State Parks reservation website. We did not make a reservation and there were a lot of open sites when we arrived on Saturday, even with the beautiful weather. I strongly doubt that will be the case as the summer continues. I would check ahead to see what you can get before heading out.  

The RV sites have power, water, and sewer. They are arranged like a wheel, you drive around the small center and the other trailers are the spokes in the wheel. There is no barrier between you and your neighbor, but all the sites are grassy and the loops are surrounded by a ring of poplar trees. There is a bathroom with flush toilets and token operated showers centrally for all to share. There are 6 wheels like this, a total of 60 RV sites just opposite of the boat launch and day use area. 

We stayed in the primitive or tent sites in the lower area of the campground. The sites along the water are in full sun most of the day, so be aware if that's not your thing. The sites along the inner part of the loop have a mix of poplars and other trees. That provides some shade and tress for a hammock.  No designated tent pad, but plenty of flat spots. All have a picnic table and fire ring. Not a ton of privacy, but it's much more secluded than the RV sites. Also, the bathrooms down here are vaults. No hand washing or showers for us, at least without a walk. There is a loop towards the group tent site and another towards the boat launch, for a total of 61 sites. Mixed into the primitive sites are cute cabins with air conditioning, if you really want to get away from the heat!

When we arrived, the Ranger at the park office offered to let us drive down and choose what site we wanted. I was sure from looking online, that I wanted one by the water. Once we got to the site I chose, we realized that we would be baking in the hot sun all day with no relief. It was at the beginning of the loop so we got the traffic and dust from everyone driving by and we were right on top of neighbors on either side. My husband went up to see if we could move and the Ranger was so nice! It was no problem to move across the road to a shaded site with trees so we could hang out and put up our hammocks. We had no neighbors the entire time. It got a little noisy on Saturday night with the sounds of other campers having fun, but by Sunday night we were alone and when we left on Monday, there was one other camper in our end of the tent loop with us.  

We encountered lots of animals in the park. The bird sounds are incredible. I wish I would have made a recording. Mourning doves, quail, robins, and red wing blackbirds among the many. Deer walked through the campground and beavers and otters were swimming in the reservoir while we did some fishing from the group camping area. We did not encounter too many bugs, but the season is still early. We did see two snakes. One swimming towards us while we were fishing on the boat, the other in our camp site. This was a baby rattlesnake, not a gopher snake. My husband noticed it as he walked by our picnic table because it hissed at him. It was curled up underneath. Very angry with us and ready for a fight when we got a stick to move him. It put up a good fight. I am just glad we noticed it before we stepped too close in shorts and sandals! I want to be clear, this is not anything against the park. You are in snake country and this is that animals home. Just be aware especially if you have little kids running around. 

We went to Potholes to go fishing with some friends on the reservoir for Walleye and Bass. If fishing is your thing, this park is great. You don't need a boat either. There are plenty of shore fishing spots and hiking trails to pass the time. The businesses right beyond the park have good food, a bar, gas, a golf course, and really good ice cream! I love this area of Washington and I can't wait to go back.  

Product Review:

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, from time to time I get awesome products to put to the test while camping. On this trip, I got to test the RovR RollR 60 Cooler. Check out the product website here:

First, the basic stats on this RovR RollR 60. This is a 60 quart capacity, rotomolded body cooler. It has foam insulation and an airtight gasket. It has a fast flow drain plug and is certified bear resistant. It sports all terrain, puncture resistant tires and has an aluminum dual sided padded handle so you can pull it from either side and not clip your heels. The color offering is green, orange, white, or pink at least for this size. The fun features that really set it apart are the inside dry bin, the top mount soft wagon bin for extra gear hauling , and all the extra attachments you can purchase to make your RovR perfect for you. You can add on, for an extra cost, a fishing rod/umbrella holder, dual cup holder, cutting board, stash bag, or bike hitch. Yes, you can attach it to your bike and tow it around! You can also get the wagon bin in other colors /designs. This cooler according to the website promises to compare to the other “high end” pricey coolers out there, if not outperform. RovR even promises to keep ice for 11 days under proper use and conditions!

I was excited to take it to sunny, warm Eastern Washington and test it on a fishing trip with friends. I knew it would spend a full day out in the direct sun, be opened and closed countless times, get banged around at speed, and have to be drug to the boat and back by hand. Also, my friend is a fishing guide and a Yeti fan, so I was looking forward to his opinion.

RovR’s instructions are to pre-chill the cooler 24 hours prior to loading with a sacrifice bag of ice and only add cold items to the cooler when ready. When it was time to load, none of my “sacrifice” ice had melted at all from the prior day. We were able to fit most everything we needed for food into the cooler for the whole long weekend. It is large but fit in the back of the SUV without an issue. When we arrived at Potholes, we set it out in out campsite and got to work with dinner and beverages. Everything was icy cold with no melt. Our fishing guide friend came over and fully checked out the RovR. He was pretty impressed! He thought it was cool looking and loved the wheels and handle, a feature his large Yeti does not have. That and his Yeti is poo brown not beautiful green like my RovR. The next day, we drug the RovR across two campground loops over to the boat launch. The mini monster truck tires handled all the dirt and gravel with ease. It was easy to pull and maneuver. We loaded it on the boat and had a full 9 hour day of fishing for Walleye and Bass in full sun. Even at speed, the RovR did not bounce or wander around on the bow. Overall, it did a great job and I am very happy with its performance!

My favorite feature has to be the dry bin inside. It keeps items cold but dry. I can’t tell you how many wet egg cartons and soggy zip lock bags I’ve dealt with over the years. If you camp for any length of time, at some point you inevitably have a chilly swimming pool of food. Not with the dry bin! I was able to load my salsa, meat and cheese, eggs, but it will also hold liquor or wine upright and cold. The bin is held down with a screw in disk so it’s removable if you have a need for more room. While my ice was fairly melted by Monday, everything was still icy cold. I am also sure that if it was not left out in the 80 plus degree sun ALL day, it would have performed admirably. But again, all my food and drinks were still as cold as before the day of sun, so that’s really saying something about performance potential. Also, when we arrived home, the wagon bin was great for throwing the headlamps, shoes, hammocks, and all the other loose items into it and hauling them down to be put away in one trip. It never leaked or showed condensation. It was also easy to open and close, unlike some of the other fancy coolers, even though it has similar rubber gasket type latches.

The only issue I have with my RovR RollR 60 is that it’s heavy! Fully loaded, my husband and I had to team lift it into the back of the SUV. My kitchen is also downstairs so to load it and get it to the garage I have to maneuver it up and down our stairs. It’s not an easy task. The other super minor, picky complaints are the handle, which is really comfortable to pull and hold in your hand, hangs centimeters from the ground. In our dusty campsite, the handle got really dirty which makes your hands really dirty. If you are trying to prep food out of your cooler that might be an issue. Finally, the wagon bin that the RovR comes with is white in color, initially. I don’t know about you, but I get pretty dirty while camping. White is an unfortunate color choice for the outdoors. We left it behind completely for fishing even though when flat it makes a nice cushion to sit on. You can get other super cool prints, but you have to buy them separately. Once my white bin becomes super gross I will definitely upgrade.

It doesn’t matter if you have an RV or prefer the tent, a good cooler is an absolute must. And, if you are going to invest the money in a cooler, why not buy one that not only performs at an outstanding level but has some neat features and a little spunk as well?

Right on the Water

We spent the day touring Antelope Canyon nearby and had a long drive ahead the next day. We had no plans to stay anywhere, so we pulled down to Lone Rock Beach campground.

There are lots of dispersed camp spots in the dunes and bushes along the road down to the water. There is also a typical state park type bathroom. You can drive along the beach in the hard pack and camp wherever you want though. We drove the van right up to the water. There were a couple strange toilets, think double metal portable units with a large base and stairs. If you were disabled, it would be wise to camp closer to the the bathroom building. These were a steep couple steps up, and no light. Bring your own.

It was raining when we arrived. The next morning dawned beautiful and warm so we were able to appreciate the splendor of the canyon. I hear summer and weekends can be a crazy paty zone, but here in April, it was quiet and nice.

Don't take a chance, plan ahead!

My husband and I typically plan our trips pretty loosely and I think that's part of the fun. We don't know where we will sleep every night and don't plan out every second of our day. When we decided we wanted to take a trip to Utah, we had a rough idea of what we wanted to see and do. The ONLY solid plans we made were reservations at this campground 6 months in advance and knowing we had to be in Zion by a certain date to keep that site.

I had a calendar reminder set for 6 months to the day and we barely got a site! There were months of studying the map and tiny pictures on the website; contemplating shade, bathroom locations, and proximity to the Virgin River that runs the outer edge. It was all in vain as by 9am PST, I had my choice of the three remaining tent sites in the C or D Loop. At least we got a reservation. The popularity of Zion is unbelievable. The amount of people moving through the park, on the trails, and the lines for the shuttles are massive. I personally think that detracts from the experience overall, but you can't discount that all the popularity is for a reason. Zion is incredible and this is a great campground to experience it from.

The bathrooms are big and clean. Flush toilets and stalls. Multiple sinks on counters with mirrors, important if you have been showerless in a van for over a week and finally want to access the damage. You can fill your water outside the bathrooms and there are dish washing stations as well. The sites have picnic tables, fire pits, and are pretty large and spread out. We had spotty tree coverage. It was warm out and I would imagine this site would be tough in the summer when you could not escape the sun. Not much privacy, at least in C and D loop, but that as much the natural landscape as it is the campground. The campground was clean, quiet, and the Rangers were friendly.

Nearby Springdale is a neat town. We rode the shuttle from the Visitor Center close by the campground. Had a nice meal, some drinks, and a good walk.

We hiked the Narrows, Hidden Canyon, Emerald Pools, and a few others. Drove down to the nearby ghost town of Grafton which is a fun side trip if you are into that sort of thing. Make sure your car can handle the rough road.

Getting a site at Watchman can seem daunting, that's the only reason it's not a 5 in my book. That and the crowds and wait lines, but that's really the park, not the campground. Keep at it. It's a great base camp for exploring Zion and its surroundings!

My Favorite Park, Get Close to The Rim

Bryce Canyon is my favorite place in the world. There are no words the do it justice. If you have not seen those rock hoodoo's in person that seem to emit their own glow, you just have to do it!

A great place to camp while you are there is the North Campground. Our van fit in one of the tent loops (<20ft long) which happens to be right along the Rim Trail with peek-a-boo views of the hoodoos. From our site on Loop C we could hop on the Rim Trail, stop at the General Store for a snack, keep going to Sunrise Point, and hike the Navajo Loop/Queen's Garden Trail. So nice to be able to park the van and forget it. We were able to catch sunset and sunrise just by walking out of our site and over to the edge.

Everything was first come, first serve. We got to Bryce Canyon early in the morning and started driving loops looking for paper slips on posts. If the post was empty, the site was open. Tent site was $20. Each site had a picnic table and fire pit, wood available for purchase at the General Store. Water spigots were centrally located and bathrooms were standard flush toilet, running water, tiny sink. Hardly any privacy between sites, at least in loop C, but I find that's the norm in National Parks.

Free camping, beautiful scenery. Is this heaven?

We were not planning on going to Capitol Reef on our Utah trip but we got some unexpected snow at Canyonlands so we headed out early. So glad we made the trip! Capitol Reef had lots of wildlife like Deer and Bighorn Sheep and petroglyphs that were really cool to hike to and see.

Me made a stop at Goblin Valley State Park so we arrived to Capitol Reef a bit later than we would have liked. All the standard campgrounds were full but the ranger at the visitor center told us to head out of the park towards the town of Torrey and almost immediately on our right there was free BLM camping land.

Totally free, no amenities, but what a beautiful night!! It was cold! But so quiet even though we had many neighbors on their own Utah adventures. Our neighbors were a single girl in a truck and cab over camper from Alaska, and a couple in a blue school bus. Quite the assortment. Obviously, a variety of vehicles will make it our there.

No toilet, leave no trace, no fires. Totally a park, sleep, and go spot. There is so much to see and do in Utah, that is ok by me! We woke up, drove into Torrey, picked up a cup of coffee, and started hiking down Capitol Gulch with no one else around.

Great Location in Moab

After a day of exploring Arches National Park and having Canyonlands in our sites for the next day, we needed a place to sleep. Being the "fly by the seat of our pants" folks that we are, we had made no prior plans. Dead Horse Point was full so we made our way over to Horsethief Campground. We grabbed the last open site!

It was pretty standard campground camping. Enclosed vault toilets, picnic tables, fire pits, designated tent pads, scrub and trees between sites. I will say the toilets smelled super clean and there was not a piece of trash or paper anywhere. Considering the place was totally full, there must have been a lot of detail paid to cleanliness. We did some walking, some chatting with neighbors, and some pictures of the sunset. The next morning we woke up to a couple inches of snow! Made for our day in Canyonlands a bit of a bummer as it was cold, snowy, and foggy.

This is a great spot to stay for it's proximity to Arches, Canyonlands, and Moab. Not much in the way of cover or protection so inclement weather may not be very fun. Shoulder season where you are not seeking shade or cover from rain, it's great! If location is everything, Horsethief gets an A+!

Moab Desert Beauty

We arrived in Moab late in the afternoon with no plans on where to sleep. After a brew and a meal in town we made our way out Kane Creek Blvd along the Colorado River. A dirt road, very scenic, there are many places to camp along the way. This particular site was about 10 miles from where we turned on Hwy 191. I know this review says "Group Site", but I believe there are several Ledge Camping areas. Seems to me this one was "D". We just kept going down the road looking for "the one". Boy, did we find it! Gorgeous evening, breathtaking sunset, amazing stars.

The site we pulled into was against a bluff so that made for a good wind break. The wind does pick up as the sun goes down. We had a picnic table and fire pit with a grate. We were close to the bathroom, but not downwind. This was coolest open air vault design I have ever seen. Super clean but the smell was the worst I have ever encountered. Like, the sour smell that lingers in your nose for a long time after. You start to think that maybe you smell like that now.

No amenities, other than what's at your site and the vault. Bring your water. I would also imagine in the heat of summer, it would be pretty harsh. There is no tree cover, no shade. We did some fun exploring right there around the campground. Lots of rock scrambling, higher viewpoints, and access to the creek way below. It was a perfect spot for shoulder season and I will be back next time I venture to Moab.

Quick Stop, Very Pleasant

Unplanned road trip from Seattle to Glacier NP. I had planned on staying in Missoula for the night, or at least camping close. It was terribly hot, around 100 degrees at 8pm. We started heading south from Missoula into Lolo Ntl Forest towards Idaho. Every campground we came across was full. Almost to Idaho, we pulled into this lovely place. We pulled into the upper (left) side. There were not many folks camping here, but the right or lower side was full. It was quiet, the vault toilet was clean and stocked. Our site was cut into a steep hill. Tent pad and table were level, but be careful heading the couple feet down to the car. The woods behind us gave me a little pause about bears and wildlife, but we were just fine. It was cool, shady, and quiet. A lovely last night to our trip before pushing back home.

You won't find a more beautiful drive than Hwy 12 through Idaho! I wish I would have taken pictures but I must have been camera'd out after our time in Glacier.

Last Minute Stop Before Heading Into Glacier

We drove from Seattle to Glacier in one day. Last minute road trip in early August. We did no planning other than what we wanted to do in Glacier National Park.

Stopped at Kalispell for groceries and White Fish for dinner. Decided that was as far as we were going to get for the night. Made some phone calls for a tent opening and no one could accommodate us but Sundance. It's pretty packed together, bordered by a fence on the side. Tents on the outside, trailers on the inside of the U shaped loop.

The good: The folks in the office were super nice. Told up we could pick anything that was free at this point. There is power and water at the sites, some have a shelter built for hammocks or tents. The bathroom had showers and stalls like a KOA or Encore campground. It was pretty nice!

The not so awesome: Our site was down on the far end. Close by train noise every 40 minutes or so. Our site was cramped and lot very even. Our table was so warped it was unusable. The bathrooms were a bit of a trek uphill. The trash was overflowing and pretty gross, we picked some of it up.

We were only there to sleep. Got in, set up, went to sleep, packed up at 5am and headed out to Glacier. It would be a fine base for GNP activities, maybe best in a trailer were you weren't relying on provided picnic tables and could drown out the train.

Well Worth It But Plan Ahead!

We took a last minute trip to Glacier in early August. Stayed in Columbia Falls the night before we arrived, hoping to make it to the campground to snag a last minute sight. Arrived at Many Glacier about 8am. Confused about the reservation vs first come first served process. Apparently you must be waiting for a campsite at 5am to be part of the first come first served lotto. We found a spot that we thought was open, as there was nothing posted on the sight number. Unloaded and got set up just to have the ranger come around and tell us we had to leave. They happened to have a last minute cancellation in the reserved area and allowed up to drag our tent over there. She saved our whole trip!

Many Glacier is a great location. Bathrooms are clean and bright, water, bear lockers, and trash are easy to locate. We hiked,rode the boats, chatted with some great neighbors, and heard many tales of bears in the campground. We'll be back, with a bit more planning next time.