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By Kim Merryman

Now that it’s the new year, our holiday decor is packed up in the back of the storage closet for the rest of the year, and we’re back in the grind and routine of everyday life. To beat the early winter blues, I’m planning an Escape campervan trip to the deserts of Utah. There are a few 3-day weekends coming up I’m hoping to take advantage of to get out on the road, not to mention spring break a couple of short months away. The problem with holiday weekends and spring break in Utah? The crowds! 

Instead of following all the other long weekend warriors to the big national parks in the desert, I’m going a little bit off the beaten path. I like to search maps for state and regional parks near the national parks or base my trips around a special hike or bike ride. Here are a few alternatives to the popular National Parks in Utah that will have everything you’re looking for without as many cars or people.

Towers in Moab

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks 

These two major national parks near Moab, Utah are quintessential red rock dreamlands. But everybody knows it. Starting this April and lasting through October, Arches will have timed entry reservations because of the long wait times to enter the park. However, the area around Moab has tons to do without the lines. Hike or bike the canyon trails off Kane Creek Road. Need to see an arch? Try the 3-mile Corona Arch Trail. 

Go for a run on Highway 128’s canyon pedestrian path. To really get away from the Moab crowds, head a little further south to Bears Ears National Monument and respectfully visit ruins along the hiking trails. It’s important to remember that spring and summer camping in Moab still takes some planning, even if you aren’t in the parks. 

 

Alternatives to National Parks in Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park 

Bryce Canyon has a unique landscape of orange hoodoos and pink and white cliffs. You don’t have to go to the park to see it, though! Cedar Breaks National Monument isn’t far up the road, outside of the tiny ski town of Brian Head, Utah. 

The Monument has a campground open in the summer months (it’s at 10,000 feet elevation), but the area around Brian Head offers dispersed camping as well. You get the views of Bryce Canyon and hoodoos with a late summer bonus: the most wildflowers I’ve ever seen in one place. 

Alternatives to National Parks

Zion National Park 

Zion is already a little difficult to get into with its long lines to take the shuttle into the canyon. In addition, this year, the park is piloting a permit lottery for its most popular hike, Angels Landing. While there’s nothing quite like that canyon or that hike, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument–vast and easier to access–has some incredible views and sites. 

The drive through the Monument on Highway 12 is one of the most unique and scenic in the country, and there are many hiking trails with waterfalls, cliffs, and hoodoos. The Monument has both established campgrounds and many possibilities for dispersed BLM camping

Capitol Reef National Park

Compared to the other Utah National Parks, Capitol Reef National Park with its big canyons and red and white rock formations is relatively less crowded, so check it out if you can. But if you still want fewer people with red rocks, head over to Goblin Valley State Park to camp and wander among its strange rock formations. Like Capitol Reef, Goblin Valley is also an International Dark Sky Park, so you can get the same spectacular stargazing. 

National Parks in Utah

Book A Campervan And Check Out Some Alternatives To The Popular National Parks

You can have an amazing camping trip in Utah’s magical desert landscapes without setting foot in a national park or worrying about getting permits. Just book your Escape Campervan and head for the red rocks!

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