GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: MAREN WRIGHT VOSS, USU EXTENSION ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
As much as we love family, being cooped up at home and nowhere to go for the past two and a half months can make anyone a little stir crazy! Fortunately, even with some travel plans cancelled because of safety concerns, you can still get away and have an incredible adventure. This is an opportunity to save money and build family memories. You can do a road trip with your family for almost nothing—and you can do it right here in Utah.
The beautiful thing about a road trip is that you can tailor it to you and your family’s needs, and make it unbelievably affordable.
Where to go?
Utah is packed with beautiful national forests and green canyons, national parks with stunning rock formations and hiking, and state parks built around reservoirs that make it easy to go swimming or boating. Where you decide to go will depend on what interests your family—but fortunately, there are free or low-cost camping options almost anywhere.
Roughly 63% of Utah is federal public land, and most of it is free for camping—for up to 14 days at a time. Whether you want to head north into forests or south into the desert, or even over to the salt flats in the west, chances are there is some nearby public land that will give you good access to and views of the site you’re interested in, with no charge to you. Just run a quick Google search for “Free Camping in Utah” or “BLM [Bureau of Land Management] Dispersed Camping” and explore your options from there!
Dispersed camping will be pretty rustic and simple, with no facilities available. So if you would prefer a campground with greater access to services (bathrooms, grills), Utah is full of those too; fees for individual campsites are usually no more than $10-20 a day. If you chose to camp inside a state or national park, there is usually an additional park fee of $15-35.
If you think you’ll be visiting any of the 62 national parks more than four times in the next year, you’d be wise to consider investing in an Annual National Parks Pass—for only $80, you have unlimited access to every national park for the whole family for the next year!
What to bring?
If you’re keeping it simple, you won’t need to bring much. You can save costs by stopping at the grocery store and bringing your own food along. If you don’t already have a cooler, you can get a large 50-quart cooler for $30-50; fill that with cold sandwich supplies and maybe a gallon of milk for cereal in the mornings, and bring a couple loaves of bread, and your family will be set for almost nothing!
Other simple camping supplies include a tent, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads if you’re planning on an overnight trip. But with so much natural beauty so close by, you could easily make your road trip a day trip! Capitol Reef National Park, for example, is less than three hours from Provo; there are many hot springs, reservoirs, and state and national parks that will be within a 2-3 hour drive. You could leave at 9am, spend 5-6 hours enjoying the park, picnicking, playing, exploring, and be back by a 7 or 8pm bedtime.
With just a little bit you of planning, you can create an affordable, exciting road trip adventure for your family. With unlimited sites of interest in Utah, surrounded by free and cheap camping options, the only cost to you will be some basic camping supplies and a couple tanks of gas to get there and back. The trip is sure to be a memorable family vacation, and a chance to escape where you’ve been quarantined the past couple months. The only limit is your imagination!
Maren is an occupational scientist—which means studying flow and engagement in everyday activity. Her engagement includes hiking, vacationing on a dime, yoga and family time.
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