Month 2 on the Road – Best Slot Canyons of Utah and Self-Isolating

How have we been on the road for two months already? On the one hand vanlife feels like our normal life now, as we explore the best slot canyons of Utah and watch as many sunrises and sunsets as we can. On the other this is still all crazy and new. Welcome to our second monthly update on our overlanding adventure!

 

Toyota Tacoma and Four Wheel Camper Swift Model at Sunset

 

April was a difficult month on the COVID-19 front. Many states were (and are still) in complete lock-down. Even in Utah, many National and State Parks closed due to COVID-19 which made vanlife incredibly difficult. Our daily tasks involved checking the news and doing a lot of research on where we were going to camp and what we were going to see and do.

Luckily for us, there is one thing Utah has plenty of and itโ€™s called BLM Lands. BLM stands for the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the public lands where it is free for anyone to camp and explore. So that is exactly what we did!

 

Couple Walking Towards Monument Valley at Forest Gump Hill Utah

 

 

Hole in the Rock Road - Walking Amongst Dinosaurs

 

We started our second month on the road in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which has over 1 million acres of BLM land to explore. Hole in the Rock Road is a historic Mormon trail, which has great outdoor activities all along it and as it turns out, the best slot canyons in Utah!

 

While we like to do the occasional hike, here we did 3 hikes in 3 days, all with unique sights. We made an attempt at hiking Zebra Slot Canyon. I say attempt, as when we reached the slot canyon it was partially filled with water. We waded in up to our knees, but it got deep fast and we couldnโ€™t see the bottom anymore after a few feet in. It didnโ€™t help that the water was incredibly cold! We decided to turn back and admit defeat. Luckily, Tunnel Slot Canyon is close-by which saved the hike from being a failure!

 

Bettina Hiking to Golden Cathedral Utah

 

Our second hike was the longest, over 9 miles (15 km) including a few river crossings. The day was a bit overcast which was a very welcome change given that we trekked across the desert with nobody else around. We made it to the Golden Cathedral as another hiker was ending a spontaneous concert. The acoustics of the Golden Cathedral were incredible, and her voice was amplified throughout the slot canyon which sounded incredible.

 

@thenexttrip

 

Bettina at Golden Cathedral Utah

 

Hole in the Rock Road also offers some other incredible sights, which are much easier to access and worthy of exploring if you are in the area. Devils Garden is full of hoodoos and rock formations, just waiting to be explored. In case you are not familiar with the term, hoodoos are columns of weathered rock and while a pile of rock doesnโ€™t sound overly exciting by itself, these piles are a lot of fun!

 

Bettina at Devil's Garden Escalante Staircase Utah

 

Bettina at Devil's Garden Escalante Staircase Utah

 

For any ancient history and dinosaur lovers, exploring 20 Mile Dinosaur Tracks is a must! The area has over 350 individual dinosaur tracks created by plant eating sauropods over 150 million years ago. The footprints have been preserved over time as they are pressed in sandstone. It was incredible to think that we were walking in the exact same spot as these creatures from so long ago.

 

20 Mile Dinosaur Tracks in Escalante Staircase Utah

 

Our third hike along the Hole in the Rock Road was our favorite as it includes some of the best slot canyons of Utah. The hike led us to Spooky Slot Canyon and Peekaboo Slot Canyon.

 

The Best Slot Canyons of Utah - Spooky Slot Canyon and Peekaboo Slot Canyon

 

With names like Spooky and Peekaboo, these slot canyons better be good - spoiler alert, we think these are the best slot canyons of Utah! And no, we are not making this up! You start the hike into a dry canyon where access to the slot canyons is relatively quick and easy. We read online that the best route is to start with Peekaboo and end with Spooky, travelling in a loop, so that is exactly what we did.

 

Overlook of Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyon Utah

 

Peekaboo starts with a 12 foot (4 meter) climb up the slick rock to the entrance, which is fairly manageable due to multiple footholds and handholds. Once you find yourself in the canyon, you quickly see where Peekaboo gets its name from! The slot canyon is a compilation of very curvy twists and turns with smooth sandstone.

 

Peekaboo Best Slot Canyons of Utah

 

These curves allow you to play a quick game of peekaboo along the way. We spent at least an hour hiking through the canyon and taking tons of photos along the way.

 

Bettina Twirling at Peekaboo Slot Canyon Utah

 

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Once out of Peekaboo, it was a relatively short hike cross-country to the entrance of Spooky Slot Canyon. Spooky is definitely not for the faint of heart. It was incredibly narrow in spots (we had to take off our backpacks, and shuffle sideways as there wasnโ€™t even enough space to turn our hiking boots sideways). Spooky also has rougher rock and is much deeper and darker than Peekaboo.

 

Bettina in Peekaboo Slot Canyon Utah

 

The piece-de-resistance is a massive car-size boulder that you need to climb up and over while in the slot canyon, and then proceed to climb back underneath it, and then crawl through a passageway to continue. The fact that we saw a random shoe stuck in a crevice here definitely added to the spookiness!

 

Kyle in Peekaboo Slot Canyon - Best Slot Canyons of Utah

 

All in all, this was one of our favorite hikes and both Spooky and Peekaboo live up to their names! The canyons made it one of our favorite days this month and they are easily some of the best slot canyons of Utah.

 

Big City Living in St. George, Utah

 

After a few days spent in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we headed to Cedar City for some rest and relaxation at an Airbnb for a few days. Pizzas were baked, movies were downloaded, and clothes were washed. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and rainy, so we again hit the road to somewhere warm. We headed further south to St. George, Utah, the largest city we had been to in a long time. We were looking for some of the best things to do in St. George, Utah so we hit up In-N-Out take-out for delicious burgers (more than once), indulged in Sugar Cookies take-out (more than once), and went a bit nuts at Costco โ€“ all while social distancing of course.

 

One thing we havenโ€™t really talked about yet is Wal-Mart, the savior of all overlanders and vanlifers in the US. Most Wal-Marts allow overnight camping in their parking lots for free, which is a great way to keep costs down in cities, where camping options are few and far between. Since most campgrounds are closed due to COVID-19, we were even more grateful to have the option to camp at Wal-Mart. We spent a couple nights at the Wal-Mart in St. George, but donโ€™t have any photos to share as it is just a parking lot and not as exciting as hiking the best slot canyons of Utah!

 

Mountain View in Yant Flats Utah

 

We wanted to explore the area around St. George and drove to the surrounding forests. One of the great things to do in St. George is taking a quick drive to hike to Yant Flat Cliffs. The Yant Flats are an area with beautiful swirling sandstone and very much reminded us of White Pocket, which we explored just a few weeks ago and which you can read about here.

 

View of Yant Flats Utah

 

Getting to the Yant Flats is an easy 3.4-mile hike from the parking lot (return) and you are rewarded with incredible views, peculiar rock formations, and vibrant orange wavy sand stone. If you are in the area, seeing Yant Flats is one of the best things to do in St. George, Utah.

 

Bettina at Yant Flats Utah

 

Run Forrest Run to Monument Valley

 

Monument Valley was one of the destinations we were most looking forward to in Utah. But once again, COVID-19 forced us to change our plans as Monument Valley closed. We held off going here as long as possible, hoping the Monument Valley loop would re-open. However after a bit more research we realized that some of the most famous views are actually just from the main highway near Monument Valley, so off we went!

 

Girl looking at Monument Valley Utah

 

Toyota Tacome at Forest Gump Hill Monument Valley Utah

 

The most famous of all is the Forrest Gump Hill, where Forrest Gump ended his cross-country run in the movie with Monument Valley in the background. We were fortunate to have this famous area almost to ourselves. We spoke with one other traveler who had been here before, and said that there are usually tour buses and tons of other travelers at this exact spot.

 

Bettina at Monument Valley Utah

 

Luckily there isnโ€™t much traffic on this road as we took our time taking a lot of photos, although we did have to run to save the tripod more than once as a semi-truck barreled down the highway.

 

Bettina and Kyle at Forest Gump Hill Monument Valley Utah

 

We spent the night camping at nearby Mexican Hat. Weโ€™ll let you take a wild guess where this town got its name from.

 

Bettina Twirling at Mexican Hat Utah

 

Campsite at Mexican Hat Utah

 

And while we were in the area, we checked out Goosenecks State Park, also aptly named. Goosenecks State Park seems like a few Horseshoe Bends all in a row. In case you havenโ€™t seen Horseshoe Bend, make sure you read up on it as it is one of our favorite road trip destinations in the Southwest US.

 

Goosenecks State Park at Sunset

 

Here at Goosenecks, the San Juan River flows over 6 miles, but only travels about 1.5 miles from East to West as the crow flies, not exactly the most direct route.

 

Bettina Overlooking Goosenecks State Park at Sunset

 

 

Unearthly Views at Valley of the Gods

 

Valley of the Gods is the lesser known, slightly smaller version of Monument Valley, but we would have to say that it is almost even more impressive. That is because it is far less popular, and you can enjoy this incredible area with just a few others off in the distance. In addition, there is a ton of Valley of the Gods camping spots, allowing you to choose your favorite view. The valley is made up of many monuments, each towering higher than the last!

 

Drive Through Valley of the Gods Utah

 

Driving along the Valley of the Gods road, each monument has a specific name, and story to tell. Some of our favorites were Santa and Rudolph Butteโ€ฆ

 

Santa and Rudolph Butte at Valley of the Gods Utah

 

โ€ฆLady in a Tub Butteโ€ฆ

 

Lady in a Tub Butte Valley of the Gods Utah

 

โ€ฆ and the suspiciously shaped Castle Butte.

 

Castle Butte in Valley of the Gods Utah

 

We dragged ourselves out of bed before sunrise and scrambled up the slope above our campsite to take in the sunrise as the sun rays reached each of the monument towers. It was an unearthly sight and definitely worth waking up early for!

 

View of Valley of the Gods Utah

 

Kyle at Valley of the Gods Viewpoint Utah

 

We can highly recommend spending a night or two in Valley of the Gods camping. As a bonus it is also super close to another one of our other favorite camping spots, Muley Point!

 

Best Camping Views and Muley Point

 

We learned about Muley Point a few weeks prior when talking to some other travelers who highly recommended it. Once we saw the pictures of their campsite, we immediately added it to our list. To get there from our Valley of the Gods camping spot, we needed to drive up the twists and turns of the Moki Dugway, which is a road that has been cut into the cliffside and zig-zags to the top near Muley Point.

 

Campsite at Muley Point Utah

 

Once at the top of the plateau, the road to Muley Point is easy and smooth. There are a number of dispersed camping sites here, and you really canโ€™t go wrong with any of them. We picked our favorite and set up for the night, enjoying an incredible sunset.

 

Bettina Sitting on Cliff at Muley Point Utah

 

The views from Muley Point are unbelievable. You can see out over the valley with the San Juan River snaking in the foreground and Monument Valley in the background.

 

Sunset at Muley Point Overlooking Monument Valley Utah

 

A Taste of Moab

 

We continued our travels through Southeast Utah up to Moab, known for its location next to the famous Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and incredible scenery. Unfortunately, the National Parks are still closed due to COVID-19, and it is actually illegal to camp anywhere in this county at the moment. To avoid breaking the law, we drove out of the county each night to camp.

 

Bettina Sitting on Cliff at Needles Overlook Utah

 

Fortunately, we were able to look out at Canyonlands National Park in the distance, and we found a few other arches nearby. Stay tuned and on the look-out for the next monthly update to see some of our favorite spots around Moab!

 

The Stats โ€“ Month Two

 

We created a map and compiled stats so that you can follow along our trip easier and which you can use to plan your own adventure!

 

 

Miles driven: 1,188

Nights in Swifty: 28

US States crossed: Utah, Arizona (but we did cross this border 8 times)

Number of Slot Canyons of Utah Hiked: 6

Sugar Cookies Consumed: 12

Number of Nights the Police Woke Us Up and Told Us to Move: 1

Number of Nights We Had to Use the Furnace: 6

Days of Sunshine: 25

Favorite Meal: Burgers at In-N-Out in St. George, Utah

Favorite Campsite: Valley of the Gods, Utah

 

In Summary

 

We are now getting settled in to life on the road, but yearning to experience the full freedom of vanlife. As the COVID-19 closures are gradually re-opened, we have been able to see a few more new sights while still primarily living off the grid and self-isolating. The weather has been spectacularly warm for what we are typically used to for April, which has definitely kept our spirits high. And hiking some of the best slot canyons of Utah was a great highlight!

We are looking forward to the next month on the road as news of Utahโ€™s National Parks gradually reopening are being announced, giving us a hint as to what is to come.

 

Tacoma and Swift Camper At Utah Sign at Monument Valley Utah

 

 

The Night the Police Woke Us Up

 

Oh, and if you are wondering about the stat of the number of nights the police woke us up and told us to move: here it is. We were camping in a park near a city. The spot was well known online and there were many reviews of people camping here, as recently as one week prior, without any issues. There were no โ€œNo Campingโ€ signs in the area, and we didnโ€™t think twice about camping there as we set up and went to bed. However, at 12:30AM there was a loud knock on the door and a man yelling โ€œPolice.โ€

 

Campsite at Valley of the Gods Utah

 

We were jolted awake, jumped out of bed immediately, and had flashlights shone in our faces. The policeman was very nice and apologized for waking us up. He told us it was a city park and that we couldnโ€™t camp there, but there was public land a few miles down the road where we could go. So we packed up Swifty and made our way over to another campsite with our hearts still racing. It was fair to say that Bettina almost had a heart attack because of the entire situation. Overall, it was not a big deal, but definitely a night to remember!

 

Save this pin in our road trip Pinterest board for when your next road trip across the US!

 

VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!

 

VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!

 

VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!
VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!
VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!
VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!
VanLife in Utah! These are the best slot canyons in Utah, the most instagrammable places in Utah, and the best campsites!

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27 Comments:

  1. Everything about your van life adventures are so dreamy! I totally want to get a van like this one day and see all of these amazing spots! Also, your dresses are always so gorgeous! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. What fun! Can’t wait to be out west to do lots of the same hiking and camping you’re doing now. Incredibly views of those buttes and canyons.

  3. SO many roadtrip ideas! This is stunning! I’m saving this for future planning.

  4. I would love to visit Hole in the Rock road! I am thinking about planning a road trip this summer if things open back up again. You have given me inspiration!

  5. Just wow! I need to make it to this part of Utah. So many amazing parks here. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos.

  6. Spooky and peekabo are so cool. Totally would love to visit this part someday.

  7. Amazing pictures! These landscapes are so spectacular! One of my dreams is to do a long US road trip and get to see all this beauty!

  8. Oh wow! This looks like such a cool place to see. Also love your photos Bettina and your van life sounds so adventurous!

  9. What an epic road trip and such great photos too. A road trip in Australia is at the top of my list for as soon as we are allowed to. This has been so inspiring!

  10. You guys probably had the best and most adventurous April of all! Utah looks stunning and great photos. I miss vanlife so much and would love to road trip USA next!

  11. This looks like the best trip!! As someone who studied Geography at uni I find this landscape so fascinating! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos!

  12. I am so impressed by the landscapes here! Such a stunning place to be in self-isolation! And I would have freaked out too if the police would wake me up at night!! So glad it was all right in the end!

  13. Oh wow!! Your post is amazing!! Doing such a road trip has been a dream of mine for so long, and after reading your post it only made me want to do it ASAP! Your photos are amazing, by the way!!
    Be safe on the road & enjoy it as much as you can!

    xo, Barbara | Porty’s Diary.

  14. I LOVE Utah!! I have explored the national parks, but it looks like you found many hidden gems. Saved so hopefully I can return and hike the slot canyon hikes! Your pictures are beautiful!!

  15. Wow these landscapes are incredible. I want to go hiking here!

  16. I’ve been out in some of these areas or near there and it’s such a beautiful part of the USA. And I’ve been in some of the slot canyons, canyoneering, near Hanksville. There are some narrow ones! And yes, the water can be very cold! I love the pic of Bettina jumping by the rock stack!

  17. Gorgeous photos! Stay well and healthy x

  18. Honest situation here: your blog made me research for ultralite RV and camper… and I kinda started planning a month-long trip across the US…

  19. It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.

  20. What a fun adventure! Your photos are gorgeous as well ๐Ÿ™‚ I’d love to visit this part of the US one day.

  21. I love Utah and I love reading about what yall are doing now. Especially your breakdown at the end. Glad the police were nice about asking you to move!!

  22. This area is truly my favorite part of our 18-month RV trip – we spent so many weeks in Utah and on the Utah/AZ border – the BLM land rocks there! Even after RV life, we headed there for offroad camping – nowhere more beautiful in the US!

  23. Love these pictures! Your pictures of Monument Valley were stunning!

  24. Utah looks absolutely amazing. Also looks like you are getting some good mileage out of good old Swifty! Love following along on social, and reading more about your experience here!

  25. I loved reading this! So many great places to see, and your photos are beautiful! Would you mind sharing where you went to camp after the policeman asked you to move? We will be out that way in about a week and were planning on car camping!

    • Thank you so much Amy! I am so happy you like it! We moved a few miles out of the city land along the 101, to BLM land. Send me a DM on Instagram or an email if you would like our exact camping spot. I’d be happy to send you a google maps screenshot!

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