Limited Options in Bozeman, Montana

There’s just something about Bozeman, Montana that has drawn us back for the third year in a row. That something is definitely not an array of options for RVers, however. There are three RV parks/campgrounds within the city, and none of them are anything to write home about. We stayed at Bozeman Hot Springs Campground and RV Park the last two years, and you can read about those visits here and here. The other two options are Bozeman Trail Campground (formerly Sunrise Campground, which is how it’s still listed on Campendium) and Bear Canyon Campground. Another option is the Gallatin County Fairgrounds as well as a handful of national forest campgrounds.

When we were in Bozeman last year, we drove through Bozeman Trail Campground and Bear Canyon Campground to see what the other options offered. At the time, they both seemed average-ish, with smaller sites that were close together. Even though it’s pricy and some of the sites are not nearly as nice as others, in our opinion, the hot springs campground is the nicest place to stay in Bozeman.

Bozeman Trail Campground

31842 Frontage Road, Bozeman, MT 59715

www.bozemantrailcampground.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Dog Run
  • Propane Fill
  • Wifi

Bozeman Trail is the closest to what the city has to offer, being literally a 1-minute drive from Bozeman’s historic downtown. Bozeman Trail was also the only place open for us to stay when we made our way to Bozeman this year. We arrived May 2nd, and the hot springs didn’t open until May 15th and Bear Canyon didn’t open until June 1st. I don’t know if those are the opening dates every year or if they delayed opening due to COVID-19. Speaking of which, the fairgrounds and area national forest campgrounds were all closed due to COVID when we arrived. So, Bozeman Trail was literally our only option.

I had tried to glean from a number of reviews as well as Google Map satellite images what the best sites were — and I think we actually did end up with the best site. We made our reservation online, I selected site 37, and a message popped up stating that they can’t guarantee the specific site I chose unless I pay a $25 site lock fee. Seriously? Even though I definitely wanted site 37, as it was a pull-through at the end of a row, I did not pay the fee and hoped for the best. The day before we arrived, I called Bozeman Trail to request a non-contact check in and get our site number. We had done this at the last three places we stayed — actually, the last three places we stayed had contacted us. When I hadn’t heard from Bozeman Trail, I called to get our site number and they said they wouldn’t definitively know our site until the next day when we arrived. I then asked if I was able to call as we were pulling in to find out our site number so that we could have a non-contact check in and she said no, she needed me to come in to sign something. Again, seriously? During this pandemic, we kept our traveling to a minimum and our contact with others to none except for grocery stores, and that’s all we were trying to do here. But we weren’t allowed to and it pissed me off.

The next day, we arrived, I went in the office and found that zero precautions were being taken to protect staff or guests. I was wearing a mask, but the employee was not. There was no partition in place. She stood behind a podium and expected me to stand a foot away from her while signing a paper that didn’t need to be signed and writing down our license plate numbers that could have been collected during the reservation process. I grabbed the paper, walked over to a table, and signed it with my own pen. I returned to the truck and we followed a guy in a golf cart to our site. Between the site lock fee and the lack of COVID-19 precautions, we already didn’t feel great about this place.

Site 37 is on the end of a row of pull-thru sites that face every other way so that you share a front yard with your neighbor. However, seeing as 37 is on the end, we did not share a front yard, but had a decent sized grassy area. The parking pad was gravel, narrow, and a bit unlevel. It seemed as though they had just put in a new sewer hookup, because the area around the hookups was dirt, though this time of year it’s actually mud. The hookups were pretty spread out, but we didn’t have an issue hooking the electric up at the back of the site and hooking the water up towards the front of the site. Our site was large enough to park the truck, but I’m not sure that would be possible in all sites.

The campground itself is decent. The layout of some sites is a little wonky, and at first glance, it seems really run down, but that’s only because there were a number of rigs that looked as though they could never hit the road again. There are a number of RVers that get frustrated with places that have an age limit on RVs, but this campground is an example of why some places choose to have an age limit. Could it use some sprucing up? Yes; however, if you can look past some of the dilapidated vehicles, this place is okay. Ish.

But, the noise. Oh my goodness, the noise! The noise is unlike anything else we have ever experienced. The campground is nestled between a frontage road that has an active train track running parallel and I-90. This is the absolute loudest place we have ever stayed. We are not normally disturbed by highway noise or a distant train, but here, the noise was endless. And even with the door and windows closed, we could still hear the traffic. The train ran a number of times through the night, whistle and all. Some reviews for Bozeman Trail say the noise isn’t that bad, so I don’t know if it was the location of our site, or we have overly sensitive hearing, or those reviewers have diminished hearing, but it was bad. The noise is our main complaint and the reason we hope we’d never have to stay here again.

We didn’t use any of the amenities, so I can’t comment on those. They claim to have a playground, but it consists of one swing and one of those little boxy, plastic Little Tykes-type play sets. There are plenty of places to dispose of trash throughout and as I said earlier, the location can’t be beat for visiting downtown Bozeman.

Site 37 fit our 27′ Airstream and tuck without issue. When most other sites had picnic tables, we had that weird permanently-in-the-ground table.
Our front door faced the gravel campground road, but it wasn’t bothersome.

 

 

 

Capitol Reef NP and Wonderland RV Park — Torrey, UT

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.

Wonderland RV Park

44 South Highway 12, Torrey, Utah

www.capitolreefrvpark.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Car/Van Sites
  • Picnic Table at Each Site
  • Cable TV
  • Wifi (Pretty Decent, Actually)
  • Restrooms
  • Individual Showers
  • Laundry
  • Community Fire Pit
  • Large Dog Run
  • Basketball Court
Site 6 is a level pull-thru with a few trees for shade.
It was this empty for most of our stay, so Wonderland RV Park was a great place to social distance/quarantine/shelter in place.
We got a visit from the resident ducks on a daily basis.
The RV park is surrounded on two sides by fields where cows and horses graze.

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.

A Week at Zion River Resort in Virgin, UT

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.

Zion River Resort

551 E State Route 9, Virgin, UT 84779

www.zionriverresort.com

  • Full Hookup Sites
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Private Restrooms with Shower
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Pit
  • Take-Out Grill with Sandwiches, Salads, and Soups
  • Convenience Store
  • Gift Shop
  • Pool
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Dog Park
  • Propane
  • Social Hall with Events, TV, and Board Games
  • Shuttle to Zion National Park
Site 72 is a Back-In, Full-Hookup Site

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.

Parts of the road were this muddy and rutted, which is why a high-clearance, 4×4 vehicle is a good idea.
Even the parking area has a nice view!
The trail is well marked and easy to follow.
Beautiful views throughout the hike!
This overlook is about 2.5 miles into the hike, so you don’t need to do the entire hike in order to get the best views.

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!

Social Distancing at Sand Hollow State Park

We arrived at Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, Utah on March 16, 2020 and spent 12 days there. Sand Hollow was never on our itinerary, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we altered our route from two state parks in Nevada so that we could stay somewhere familiar and with full hookups (so we didn’t need to use the public showers). We spent two weeks at Sand Hollow during almost exactly the same time last year. You can read about that stay along with our review here.

Due to last minute reservations and extending our stay to longer than we had originally planned, we stayed in three different sites during our stay. All of the sites are full hookups, and many of them are pull-thrus, though the back-in sites are large and easy to maneuver into. The campground is comprised of one-way roads, so the pull-thrus on the right side of the road have the hookups on the roadside of the trailer, with your door opening to your ‘front yard’. The pull-thrus on the left side of the road have the hookups on the front yard side of the trailer, with your door opening to the road. Those sites aren’t ideal, and two of our sites, 32 and 19, had that layout, though site 19 was still decent due to its size.

Our ‘front yard’ in Site 31
View of Site 31 from the road
A sunset from Site 19
The view from our door at Site 19 – as you can see, our door opened to the road at this site.

Even during a pandemic, the day-use area of the park was pretty busy on the weekend. There’s a reservoir where people fish and sand dunes where people ride OHVs. Also, the campground was full on the weekend, but fairly quiet during the week. Because we weren’t a fan of how many people were around on the weekend, we didn’t extend our stay to the 14-day limit allowed; instead checking out on a Friday to move to a nearby RV park. This ended up working out well for us, as the governor of Utah finally issued a ‘stay home, stay safe’ order for the state on the Friday evening that we left, which included all state parks being open only to residents of the county they are located in. So, it’s possible we may have gotten kicked out.

It’s easy to see why this place is so popular!
Beautiful views throughout the campground!

We did our part to social distance during our stay. We walked a lot, taking in the beautiful views, and saying a polite hello as we passed others that were out getting fresh air. We worked out a bit with the equipment that we carry with us, and Travis also ran. We skipped hitting the laundromat in town and instead washed some laundry in the kitchen sink and hung it to dry from the awning.

Never thought we’d have to do this, but here we are.

The nights at Sand Hollow SP are very quiet and very dark, lending to a perfect atmosphere for stargazing and sitting by the fire. Firewood can be purchased at the entry kiosk. There’s a Maverick gas station and Walmart close by for necessities.