Off-roading and Jeep culture are a huge part of our lives. Ever since we bought a Jeep Rubicon in summer 2016, we’ve gotten really into meeting people in the Jeep community, modifying our Jeep, and challenging ourselves with harder and harder trails. Jeeping is definitely Eric’s #1 hobby (though he’d probably use a more intense word).
For my part, I enjoy 4×4 trails that combine beautiful scenery with interesting obstacles. (I’m not super into jolting over rocks for hours.) I do appreciate the places our Jeep allows us to access, that we’d never be able to get to otherwise.
Though my passion for Jeep life may not be as strong as Eric’s, we were both looking forward to staying in Moab, Utah. Moab is an international destination for off-road enthusiasts, and we’d never spent any time there to speak of.
Hiking is my favorite outdoor pastime, and this natural playground has plenty of opportunities for it. Plus, I had my mind set on dry camping for the full three weeks we were in town, and there are so many places to do that, to0. All in all, Eric and my interests were aligned for an unforgettable time in this town.
We stayed in Moab from April 29 to May 19, 2018.
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Dry Camping Options in Moab, Utah
Before we got to Moab, I spent a lot of time researching dry camping locations on Campendium. We arrived in the area just before lunch on a Sunday, and there was bumper to bumper traffic out of town as everyone was leaving for the work week.
The following places are on BLM land and completely free. They originally caught my attention because they seemed big rig friendly, reportedly had cell coverage, and had decent reviews. Before we made a decision, we wanted to see each spot for ourselves. We spent an hour or two scouting for the best dry camping location.
- Willow Springs Trail seems to be the most popular place, probably because it’s closest to town. But popular means more crowded. Most of the sites are right on the road, so there’s noise all the time, and especially on the weekends. Still, this is where Eric wanted to stay and I seriously considered it.
- Klondike Bluff Road has some beautiful spots with gorgeous views of the La Sal Mountains. Good Internet signal, too. But getting to the best places requires inching over a rocky road for two miles. We could’ve done it, and we almost did it. But considering that two-mile stretch and the fact Klondike Bluff Road is the farthest BLM spot from Moab, I was dissuaded.
- Dalton Well Road has some nicer, more secluded camping spots compared to Willow Springs. But none of the areas we liked had a decent Internet signal. The larger areas were like dirt parking lots, which didn’t appeal to me at all. In the Campendium reviews, some people voiced concerns about getting a Class A through the sandy wash. The road seemed fine when we were there, but I’m sure conditions change with the weather.
- BLM 261 Lot is a weird one. Campendium showed one couple staying in the parking lot of a deserted western town amusement thing, but that area is gated off now. It seemed most people were staying in a small parking lot just off 191. This might be okay for a night, but I would never do this for an extended stay. There are so many prettier places to stay. Internet signal was in and out, too.
Hopefully this scouting info is helpful for anyone who’s been researching with Campendium. But we didn’t end up staying at any of those free spots. Instead, we landed at Sand Flats Recreation Area.
Where We Landed: Sand Flats Recreation Area
Here’s the story. Sand Flats Recreation Area is awesome and I think it’ll always be our camping preference on future visits to Moab. Reasons:
- Ten minutes or less into central Moab (groceries, gas, laundry, coffee, playground, etc.).
- Home to tons of outdoor recreation, including biking trails, hiking trails, and two Jeep Badge of Honor trails.
- The staff members are friendly and helpful.
- It’s absolutely gorgeous.
The only downside is that it isn’t free. Camping is $15/night with no hookups or amenities, other than basic toilets. (I actually never used the toilets, but there’s no roof if that’s any indication.) The good news is there’s no additional day use fee.
There is a 14-day stay limit, though the staff cut us some slack and allowed us to stay almost three weeks.
Our unboosted Internet was a bit slow (AT&T), but super solid with the use of our weBoost.
Kicking Butt With Dry Camping
Our long-time readers know we’ve been laughably bad at dry camping, despite four and a half years of fulltime RVing. We wrote a cute article in 2015 when we dry camped for a week at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Escapees’ very first convergence. We had the best intentions of dry camping for a week in Sedona in 2016, but that ended in failure. Other than that, we’d only ever dry camped for a night or two on the weekend.
As we prepared for our Western Mountain Loop Trip this year, I wanted to do things “right.” I knew there was so much public land out west and didn’t want to be relegated to sardine-style RV parks, when we could be dry camping with gorgeous vistas and peaceful nights under the stars. We prepared by upgrading to AGM batteries and buying a portable solar panel.
Moab was the first big test of our dry camping capabilities. How long could we go without hookups? Would our batteries and solar be enough, or would we still have to run our generator?
Humility be darned: we kicked butt. We lasted 16 days without dumping or refilling with water. At the 16-day mark, we left our site to dump, fill up with water, and get diesel at the Maverick gas station (425 N. Main St.–dump station and water both free). After that, we drove back to Sand Flats for another six days. Twenty-two straight days of dry camping.
I’d be lying if I said it was perfect. We had three really hot days, and our patio faced the sun during the hottest time of day. We literally couldn’t be at home because of how hot it was. Moab is red sand desert, and that red sand got through our screens and on almost every surface. We didn’t take many showers, and the ones we did take were only because we had friends staying at an RV resort in town. And we did run the generator a few times (less than 10 in 22 days), mostly on cloudy days.
But I would do it again (I am right now, as I write this). I feel so empowered by the experience, and I’m super excited about the possibilities it opens for our future. If you’ve hesitated about dry camping, just get out there and do it. If I can do it with a 17-month-old while working full-time, then you can do it, too!
We fit a ton into three weeks, so watch for other Moab articles on our visits to the national parks, off-roading trails, and local restaurants. Lots of restaurants.