Utah loop road trip: Bend to St. George, Utah

Bend, Oregon, specifically the Thousand Trails campground nearby, was a week of family for us. We thought we were going to be there for several days before family arrived on Wednesday, so took our time getting there by camping at a couple of Harvest Host locations and arriving on Sunday.

Instead, we discovered that cousins were already there, and had been since Friday! We shared a few jokes (at least I think they were jokes) about how they were too embarrassed for us to meet the friends they were camping with. The friends (who were great) were going to be leaving just as the rest of the family started arriving. We moved to another site nearby so we were able to have three huge campsites together, creating what would become a tent village by the time everyone had erected their abodes.

Before we knew anyone else was around, we drove to Tumalo Falls in the Deschute National Forest. The falls can be seen from a viewpoint that is just a few steps from the parking area. A quarter-mile hike allowed us to see the falls from a different perspective and the creek that feeds it.

We kept busy with twilight (and daytime) mini golf, swimming, pickle ball, rousing games of corn hole, and card games, all lubricated (mostly in the evenings) with mojitos, margaritas (me), wine, beer, whiskey, bourbon, lavender vodka and lemonade, and the odd G&T.

Communal meals—sometimes planned, other times thrown together from whatever we all had in our coolers and fridges—kept us fully sustained.

Leaving Bend, we had about 14 hours of driving to get to St. George in South Utah, our starting point for accessing the national parks and monuments we planned to visit.

We weren’t sure where we wanted to stop, but thought we would drive until we thought we were a few hours ahead of that. The problem with this plan was that we lost cell service for much of the trip and needed our apps to locate a boondocking (AKA dispersed or free camping) site. Once we realized our folly, we kept our eyes on our cell service icon and stopped as soon as we had one bar of access. I searched with a few different apps, but I was successful with Campendium in finding a well-reviewed spot to stop about 1 ½ hours away, which felt like a perfect time to take a break.

Just outside of Carlin, Nevada, behind a mountain and overlooking a river, we found a lovely little spot to stop for the night. A few other RV owners had the same idea ahead of us but, being small, we were able to tuck into an end spot away from the others (especially a large motorhome with a loud generator). Though we were right alongside a road, only two vehicles went by from the time we stopped until the time we left the next morning.

The next morning, we finished the trip into St. George, stopping briefly at Snow Canyon State Park. Most of the drive the day before had been similar terrain—massive plains covered with tiny scrub bushes in between low mountains. We would go up and over or through a mountain range only to come out the other side with a long, straight road ahead, masses of acres of scrub on either side, and another mountain range in front of us.

As we approached the southwest corner of Nevada, the scrub got much larger and the mountain ranges became more imposing and began to show more interesting features.

It was much too hot and late in the afternoon for us to stop and hike through Snow Canyon State Park, but just driving toward it made it very clear that we were in a very different terrain.

Just past Snow Canyon, deep red rock formations lined the highway as we made our way to a Costco and Albertsons to gather provisions and top up Artie’s fuel tank. We called a nearby KOA campground (where we could get a 20% discount with our Thousand Trails membership) and wound our way through more red-rock cliffs to get there. We took advantage of the electric hookup and showers, filled our water tank, and emptied the other tanks, ready for more boondocking in the coming days as we explore the national parks of Southern Utah.


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