Highlights of the Peaks and wonders of the desert tour
This suggested campervan tour will start you in Salt Lake, Utah and lead you through spectacular high mountain vistas and spectacles of deserts. We suggest at least a couple weeks for this bucket list tour. The goal of this tour is to take scenic routes connecting some great places in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and a quick dip into Nevada before returning to Salt Lake. There are 10 destination points on this tour but this route takes you through loads more places that warrant a stop including Vernal, Utah, Fort Collins, Colorado, and St. George, Utah. This trip is best done in late summer or fall in order to minimize the chance of snow in Colorado and avoid high temperatures in the desert.
The major stops along the trip are as follows:
1) Salt Lake City
2) Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
3) Dinosaur National Monument
4) Steamboat Springs
5) Rocky Mountain National Park
7) Grand Canyon National Park
8) Las Vegas
9) Zion National Park
10) Bryce Canyon National Park
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Flaming Gorge is a very unique reservoir in a very unique landscape. Highlights of Flaming Gorge are the visitors center located on the dam where you can take a tour of the dam that includes taking an elevator 500 feet down to the bottom of the dam where you can feed massive wild trout, gorgeous scenery along Highway 191 on your way to Vernal, and Big Brush Creek Cave with a year round ice column located just off of Highway 191.
Dinosaur National Monument
At Dinosaur National Monument you can see dinosaur tracks and fossils embedded in rock and enjoy spacious desert. Between Flaming Gorge and Dinosaur National Monument you will pass through Vernal, Utah. Here you can swim, stand up paddle board, hike, and bike at Red Fleet State Park. Plaza Mexicana is a great local Mexican restaurant that is the best place to eat in Vernal and definitely worth the stop.
Steamboat Springs is a classic vacation destination with great fishing, hiking, biking, and dining. A favorite local quick food spot is Azteca Taqueria which features a great spicy mango salsa. Enjoy the very scenic drive down Highway 14 along the Poudre River on your way to Fort Collins, home to New Belgium Brewing. The New Belgium brewery tour is definitely a tour worth taking. The tour can book out long in advance but locals often just show up and fill in on tours when reservations do not show up.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most iconic national parks in America. It features a stunning high alpine landscape and more hiking than can be had in a single visit. A great use of your campervan rental is to drive the Trail Ridge Road in the park. Trail Ridge Road is called the highway to the sky because of the sweeping views is affords as it goes over 12,000 above sea level.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is a different kind of stop on this tour. You can do all of the usual Vegas fun if you park your rental campervan at one of the many RV parks in Las Vegas. Less typical Las Vegas outdoor activities include going to Goldstrike Hot Springs, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and biking at Bootleg Canyon.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park, another of the Big 5, and Zion National Park are often seen as sister parks since they are relatively close together and both feature wondrous and unique desert landscapes. Check out our Bryce Canyon trip report here.