After our week of full hook-ups at Sand Hollow State Park we decided to go back out for some more boondocking. I mean, you can only take so many long hot showers before it gets old right? Actually, our original intention was to spend a week at the South Campground in Zion National Park. We stayed there for ten days back in 2013, and while the campground itself was only okay (smallish sites, no privacy, lots of tenters burning 24-hour smoky fires that will inevitably drift in your bedroom window and make your sheets smell nasty until the next time you find a laundromat), the location can’t be beat.
Of course, at that time neither of us were working much which meant we were able to fall into a routine of hoping on the shuttle in the morning, riding into the canyon and then hiking all day. Ahh…the good old days. Now that we have a more rigorous work schedule the thought of spending all day at the campground with only a few hours in the afternoon to enjoy the park was not nearly as appealing.
Also, the south campground is first-some-first-serve, and now that the dreaded rolling spring break has started (the least favorite time of year for full-timers, excluding Memorial and Labor Day) the only way to get a spot is to arrive bright and early and circle the campground until someone leaves, then slip in before the six RVs trailing behind you know what happened.
So we decided to scout out some boondocking locations instead. There’s a lot of BLM land around Zion, but only some of it is suitable for RV camping. While we have successfully found boondocking spots with the Airstream in tow, it’s much easier with just the truck. So one day while staying at Sand Hollow we armed ourselves with some potential coordinates found on Campendium along with our trusty Public Lands app to see what was out there. We found a few spots that would have been perfect if we had a 4WD truck camper, some on roads far too muddy for our newly polished Airstream, and a handful of really great sites on Sheep Bridge Road.
Of course, by the time we made it back there on Sunday the best spot that we found was already occupied, so we continued down the road and settled on this site instead.
I use the term “settled” lightly as there was nothing about this spot that felt like a sacrifice.
We weren’t far from the main dirt road (you can see it in the top photo ), but there wasn’t much traffic aside from people on their way to the network of bike trails at the top of the road, and an occasional OHV or two. The location was nearly perfect as we were only 30 minutes from the entrance of Zion, and a short 10-15 minute drive into Hurricane where there are grocery stores, restaurants, laundromats, and a really nice library.
By the way… for those who are interested, we always share our boondocking coordinates on our Where page. Simply click on the spot on the map, and then click on the map icon. Or scroll down to the list below the map, find the location that interests you and click on the map icon. Some of the best boondcoking sites we’ve stayed at have come courtesy of others, so we firmly believe in sharing the love.
If the amazing views and great location wasn’t enough, it turns out that this area is a mountain biking mecca. Now, we are in no way hard core mountain bikers. In fact, I like to say that my favorite kind of mountain biking is the kind that doesn’t involve mountains. But we do really enjoying getting out on our bikes, and lucky for us the extensive network of trails on Sheep Bridge Rd. called Hurricane Cliffs that are perfect for non-hardcore bikers like us. Because the trails are on top of a mesa you can expect mostly smooth, curved trails with few steep up and downhills.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means no hills though. The route we choose was pretty tame until we got to the edge of the loop where we had to climb up to the top of a second tier mesa. It wasn’t terribly steep, but the trail was narrow in spots with some severe drop offs.
And then when we got to top, the way down was a horrific, steep, loose gravel path that we both had to walk our bikes down. No photos were taken because I was concentrating too hard on not tumbling down the mountainside. Despite those challenging sections, for the most part these are great trails suitable for all abilities. And you really can’t beat the trailside scenery.
We intended to go back for more the next day, but then we heard about the nearby Guacamole Trail and had to try that one out. The Guacamole Trail (never did figure out why it was named that) is a 6 mile lollipop shaped loop on the top of a nearby mesa. Utahmountainbiking.com describes the trail as “upper-intermediate in tech requirement, with a short area of advanced tech at the southeast corner of the loop.” Not sure what part of this description made us think it was our kind of trail. Maybe it was the prettier sounding description on singletracks.com that said “Fantastic slickrock, awesome singletrack, big exposure, stunning scenery, great flow.”
In any case, we rode the trail and lived to tell the tale. Many sections were beyond both of our skill levels, and I was definitely way out my comfort zone for most of the ride, but I managed to stay on my bike for more than half of it, and I learned some stuff about my bike (and myself) along the way. Oh, and the views from the top of the mesa were stunning.
Not to be outdone by all that biking, we drove into the park twice for some hiking. As I already mentioned, a few years ago we spent 10 days in Zion and during that time hiked most of the trails in the park. So this time around we decided to re-hike just our favorites. First was the Many Pools hike located on the tamer, less-busy eastern side of the park. This hike is not listed on the official Zion website or trail guide which means the chances of having the trail to yourselves is very good. And if you’ve ever been to Zion you know how rare that is!
Many Pools is a tame(ish) kind of hike up through a wide canyon of slickrock dotted with depressions in the rock that fill with water creating natural pools. There is no official marked trail to follow, but once you see the first pool it’s easy enough to simply follow them up into the canyon.
We didn’t hike very far since it was getting late in the day, instead finding a scenic spot to sit and simply enjoy the scenery and solitude for awhile. If you want to read a more in depth description and see more photos check out this post from last time.
For our second Zion hike we picked our all time favorite — Observation Point. This 8-mile, straight uphill hike will get your blood pumping and your heart racing. It also offers some of the best views in the park, with only a fraction of the crowds that flock to Angel’s Landing. Once again, I’ve already blogged about this hike — in fact I wrote a pretty extensive post about it — so I’m going to keep it simple this time around with just a few photos. I would definitely recommend clicking on over to the post from last time though as it tells the complete story of the hike.
And that wraps it up for our week near Zion. Up next: Bryce Canyon and beyond…
There is a small but beautiful campground on the west side of I15 near Hurricane called Red Cliffs. Add it to your bucket list. Be aware that it is very popular on the weekends and that you have to drive through a viaduct to get under the interstate. We made it so you will too.
When at Bryce forget the NP campgrounds, they are horrible and always packed. Either stay at Red Canyon Campground or boondock off Toms Best Spring Rd. Lots of nice places in there.
Thanks! I’m putting Red Cliffs on the list for next time. Sounds great. We actually ended up at the North CG in Bryce because we wanted to be close to the action for after work hiking. So far it’s been great. I think the cold is keeping the crowds away, but I can see how it would be terribly crowded (and noisy with generators) in the busy season.
We’re going to be camp hosts at Bryce NP North Campground. Will get there Thursday. Stop by if you’re still around. We’re in a 30FC.
How fun! We’ll definitely stop by and say hi.
Mountain biking is challenging, is it not?!?!?! Thank goodness for amazing scenery!
Yes! It’s always more challenging then I think it will be. The scenery makes for a good excuse to stop and rest :)
The trails off Sheep Bridge Rd are fun but I didn’t get very far on Guacamole. Enjoyed hiking there more than attempting to ride. Jim fell three times because he doesn’t know when something is beyond his skill level.
We’re impressed you made it around the entire loop!
Well, we made it around the loop with a fair amount of walking near the far end of the loop. I would love to go back and hike it. So much to see on top of that bluff.
Great blog, thanks for the information :-)
You’re very welcome.
My husband and I are heading out to Zion in Mid April in our own Airstream. Thanks for blogging about your experience! This is great info for when we make our trip!
Enjoy! It is such a great area with so much to explore.
Oh My!! Such beautiful pictures…the sunshine looks so wonderful but now you are in snow, must be such a big change for you from the desert temps. So many fun travels ahead for you in 2016!!
Thanks for sharing,
Thanks Barbara! Yup, the change from warm and sunny to cold and snowy has been a shock. But the beauty of Bryce helps ease the pain of the cold :)
More beautiful photos and great descriptions of hikes and bike rides. I really enjoy your blog. Thanks.
Pamelab in Houston for now
Hello….I see where you are now close to Bryce…wanted to let you know that friends of ours are hosting there now. They have a 30′ AS, and so very very nice. We met them at the Balloon Fiesta…and we actually went to Alb. because of your great blog posts. We used your tips and hints on the Fiesta. If you see Benn and Meribeth, tell them hello from the Janel and Jim….thanks again for your wonderful photography and travel updates. Enjoy!
We met them yesterday!
[…] visit short and did not have the chance to see our friends again. And we completely missed seeing Amanda and Tim, who were staying nearby. We drove to Anza Borrego and found a nice spot to boondock […]
Here now! 10-7-16, Friday .
Beautiful site. Will explore tomorrow .
Thank you for your blog, and for this tip.
Made it to Zion today and searched out your site via your pin. We made it to the site only to find it roped off and listed as Private Property! No boondocking on Sheeps Head for us (although there were plenty of campsites all around via varying degrees of off roading. We decided on North Creek BLM for our Airstream adventure. Enjoyed reading about your adventure.
Thanks for letting us know. We’re actually headed that way in a few weeks and planned to stay in that spot again. It seems strange that is was roped off because we assumed it was BLM land! I know there are multiple other spots along Sheep Bridge Rd. so maybe we’ll try one of those. Have fun in Zion!
Thank you for posting this. We are headed to Zion and have reservations at Watchman for part of our stay. We will Boondock for the other part of the stay.
Enjoy your stay!