When we left Torrey, Utah, we knew we were headed to Bozeman, Montana. As Idaho was under a 14-day quarantine rule for anyone traveling from outside of the state due to COVID-19, we wanted to drive right on through to Montana without stopping. We found the furthest north RV park in Utah that was along our route, where we stayed for two nights until we made the final push into Montana. We typically would have only spent one night between drive days, but both days were long travel days and we remembered how not fun driving north on I-15 was last year. For some reason, even during a pandemic (though Utah had somewhat lifted it’s stay-at-home orders by this time), the drive from Provo through Orem and Salt Lake and past Ogden just kind of sucks. It’s trafficky, the road is wavy (which is much more noticeable when pulling a trailer), and there was construction (isn’t there always). We figured the two nights of rest would be appreciated, which they were, and we were all rested and ready for our last leg when we left Aspen Grove RV Park in Tremonton, Utah.
Aspen Grove is a fairly new park with very large, paved pads and lots of grass. While the park is very clean and well manicured, there aren’t any trees, so it could be a bit toasty during the height of summer. When we arrived, we were instructed to call the office for a non-contact check in. Someone came by in a golf cart to lead us to our site. We had previously received all rules and a map via email and paid in full the day before arrival.
Besides getting gas, we didn’t leave the Airstream, so I’m not sure what else the immediate area has to offer. Aspen Grove’s website does list some area attractions, including hot springs, a bird refuge, and the Golden Spike National Historical Park.
We left the Zion National Park area on April 3rd and headed to Torrey. Originally, we were supposed to spend a few nights by Bryce Canyon National Park before making our way to Torrey and Capitol Reef National Park, but due to COVID-19, we wanted to keep our travels to a minimum. We had one week booked at Wonderland RV Park in Torrey, but after arriving and feeling it out for a few days, we decided to extend our stay to a month. Our next three reservations had been cancelled anyways, so it was nice to find a safe, quiet place to land for a bit.
The small town of Torrey (population ~250) is the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park and home to Wonderland RV Park, a very well kept, small RV park only three miles from the Park’s entrance. We received our site number before arrival, so we were able to do a contactless check in and drive right to our site. The owners disinfected the common areas regularly and made sure there was plenty of room between occupied sites. We spoke to the owners at one point during our stay and they said they had been at about 95% capacity for the months of April and May, but when the coronavirus struck, almost everyone cancelled. During our month-long stay, there was usually only about 6-8 other RVs. We’re really glad we chose to spend our time here and help out a small business that needed it. They were very gracious hosts, allowing us to receive FedEx deliveries, and even wiping the boxes down before they brought them to our site. (The FedEx guy eventually just started delivering right to our site, cutting out the need to involve the staff.) Our site was a long, level pull-through with lots of green grass between us and the next site, though no one was ever next to us. The only amenity we used was the laundry, which has four washers and dryers each. Whenever someone was in the laundry room, they would just keep the door open, signifying to others that it was in use. Between that and all of the surfaces being disinfected a couple of times a day, we had no worries with entering the common space. The only complaint we have about our stay here is that the water pressure is pretty low. We ended up filling our fresh water tank and using our water pump most of the time so that we had better pressure.
Capitol Reef National Park was still open to visitors when we first arrived in the area, though all services such as restrooms, visitor centers, gift shops, the campground, etc. were closed. We didn’t know much about Capitol Reef before we arrived in Torrey, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise — the park is gorgeous!
We took a post-dinner drive through the park on our first night in Torrey to check things out. We were lucky to experience the strangest sunset we’ve ever seen as it looked like the horizon line was on fire!
In the photo below is the Pendleton Barn, part of the Gifford Homestead. The Gifford family lived here, in what was then the small town of Fruita, until 1969. The Fruita Historic District, as it is now known, is still home to orchards containing approximately 3,000 trees, including cherry, apricot, peach, nectarine, pear, apple, plum, mulberry, quince, almond, pecan, and walnut, including the orchards own unique strain, the tart Capitol Reef Red apple. Visitors to the park are able to pick fruit from designated orchards — visit the NPS website here to find out more info about the orchards. The Gifford House today, in the background, is part museum, part store and sells what are rumored to be the best pies ever. Unfortunately, due to being closed during our visit, we didn’t get a chance to see if that’s true.
There’s also a beautiful campground in this area, appropriately names Fruita Campground, that is the nicest national park campground we’ve ever seen. It’s dry camping, though there are restrooms; however, there is no cell signal if that’s important to you.
We were lucky to get two hikes in in the Park before it closed completely to all recreating. Both of them were surprisingly great with amazing views. The first was Chimney Rock Trail, which is a 3.75-mile loop trail with (according to my watch) about 870′ of elevation gain. It’s labeled by the Park as strenuous, and I’d agree, as all of the elevation gain is in the first 1.25 miles. We were surrounded by fantastic views during every part of this trail, and honestly, this trail made us really fall for Capitol Reef.
The second hike we did was the Hickman Bridge Trail. It was approximately 2 miles out and back with about 450′ of elevation gain. The Park rates it as moderate, and again, I’d agree as there are quite a few steps and the elevation gain is noticeable, but is definitely doable by most able-bodied people, including kids. The trail starts along the Fremont River, continues up a couple of switchbacks, and after snaking through some wide open spaces, culminates at the Hickman Natural Bridge, which spans 130′ and rises 125′ above the trail. This was another really enjoyable trail that again was very scenic throughout.
After the park closed completely, we found another hike within a short drive from Wonderland RV Park. It’s called Sunglow Trail and starts in the Sunglow Campground in Fishlake National Forest near Bicknell, Utah. AllTrails lists it as a 1-mile out and back, but we logged a little more than 1.5 miles. We also recorded almost 350′ of elevation gain, as opposed to AllTrails 213′. This trail is very fun but involves A LOT of scrambling and an unclear path, though you’re in a canyon, so you can’t get lost. The trail ends when you reach the canyon wall and a tree growing out of a boulder, cracked open like a pistachio. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but there are quite a few little prickly cacti along the way and at times, very large boulders to scramble over.
Pretty much everything was closed in Torrey while we were there, except for the two other RV parks, gas stations, hotels, and a burger stand. The closest grocery store is about a 20-minute drive to the town of Loa, and is pretty decent considering how remote the area is. If RV parks aren’t your thing, there is a lot of boondocking to be had in the area.
Please note, we understood and were very considerate of the impact travelers can have in a rural area during COVID-19. We visited the grocery store as infrequently as possible, always wore face coverings, wiped down the cart, and hand sanitized frequently. When we got gas, which was only once, we used a disposable glove. When we took the truck and Airstream to a self-serve carwash, we wiped everything down that we touched both before and after use. When we went on hikes, we made sure to give plenty of space to passing hikers, which were few and far between. As full timers, we don’t have the option to ‘stay home’. After spending a few nights at Wonderland RV Park, we felt that it was the perfect place to isolate, so we extended our stay to a month. The owners of the park were incredibly welcoming and thanked us for staying with them. If anyone needs a place to stay near Capitol Reef National Park, please consider Wonderland RV Park — it’s a great property run by amazing people.
Zion River Resort is a beautiful little RV resort located less than 20 minutes from Zion National Park’s south entrance. The grounds are well kept and welcoming. Amenities abound, but because our stay was during the coronavirus pandemic, we didn’t take advantage of any of them. The office, gift shop, and what seems to be a pretty extensive convenience store, were all closed to guests. We received a pre-arrival check-in email the day before arrival that let us know what our site number was with a map attached. It also stated that staff was able to deliver ice, firewood, and grocery items to our site and they would charge the credit card on file. As we pulled in, guests vacated the site across from us, and a staff member showed up immediately to wipe down the picnic table and electric and water hookups. They took every precaution they could to keep staff and guests safe, and were flexible with us when we called on two different occasions to adjust our arrival and departure dates.
The bulk of Zion National Park was closed before our arrival in Virgin, including shuttle service, visitor centers, restrooms, campgrounds, stores, Zion Lodge, and many trails, including the ever popular Angel’s Landing. Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, usually only accessible by shuttle, was open to vehicles. We took a drive through the park on a Wednesday evening and were happy to see that there were few cars parked throughout the canyon. Two days later, the day we checked out of Zion River Resort, Zion National Park was closed completely to all visitors.
While we didn’t get to do any hiking in the park during this visit, we did a great hike in the area that had some pretty epic views of the park. Eagles Crag is a 7-mile out and back rated as hard on AllTrails, but is closer to moderate. The trail is a combination of loose rock and sand with some elevation gain. There were only four other parties on the trail, so it was easy to practice physical distancing. Dogs are allowed, but there are A LOT of prickly little cactus along the way, so I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s a small parking lot and pit toilet at the trailhead, which is an adventure to get to in itself — I would say a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle is a necessity.
I wish I had more to report from our stay at Zion River Resort, but due to the coronavirus, we really didn’t do much — we were just happy to have a safe place to stay for a week!