Spring Break Camping in the Desert of Utah

Updated: Dec 28, 2020

By Helena Artmann. Photos by Crista-Lee Photography

Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


Two weeks of spring break and a seven almost eight year old at home. What do you do? I go camping! The plan was to go to Squamish, close to Vancouver, for a camping/climbing trip. Two days before leaving I got a phone call from Crista-Lee, the other mom on the trip, saying that a week of rain, tent and kids wouldn’t work for her and she suggested heading south to a place called Indian Creek in Utah, famous for having some wild and very hard sandstone climbs.

Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


If there is something that will not mix is rain, tent and kids for a week. So I immediately accepted her suggestion, without thinking too much and while I drove to my last ski lessons of the season, which means I didn’t have a map to look at and everything sounded quite reasonable. It did make sense after all. At least at that moment! When I got back home and started checking maps and distances, I got a bit worried about it but not enough to stop me from going. My son would have two other kids to play with and a visit to a desert with the possibility of spotting some snakes was certainly high in his priorities.

The author. Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


We left on a Saturday at noon, drove for nine hours till Helena, a town I always wanted to visit because of the name, where we spent the night; drove 11 hours the following day and spent the night in Price, four hours away from the campsite  and where we arrived on our third day on the road. We crossed the charming town of Moab this day and I wished I had more time to explore its coffee shops and restaurants. Moab sees more than a million visitors per year but has around 6000 residents, which reminded me of Banff, AB, our neighbour to the west.

Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


To get to Indian Creek you have to take the second entrance to Canyonlands National Park. It is an hour drive from Moab, so we packed food and water for three days, two adults and three kids. Ah! And a dog! Spring in the desert can be quite cool and we had temperatures around 0oC at night, going up as high as 20oC during the day. Dry, with the typical desert vegetation and amazing red sandstone, a visit to Indian Creek will guarantee that all your gear, car and clothes will be covered in a fine red dust. After three days camping and no shower, you will find red dust even in your mouth, inside the sleeping bags, and on top of anything you have. But this is not enough to cover the beauties of this region.

Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


And kids couldn’t care less, so they would wake up at around 8 am when it is still cold, eat and play hard until the end of the day, around 9 pm, when it is cold again. They roasted marshmallows on the fire pit, played around, chased lizards, fought (that’s what kids do, right?), explored and enjoyed a freedom that they rarely have nowadays. One day, out of three we spent there, was used to explore and play around the base of a climb. It was the first time my son had the opportunity to try rock climbing as opposed to indoor climbing and he didn’t go too far for the difficulty of the route but said that it was more fun than the gym. I couldn’t agree more!

Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


The second day I took the three kids for four short hikes at Canyonlands National Park and we learned a great deal of that interesting ecosystem, including the very delicate biological soil. This soil stabilizes the sand so other plants can survive and one footstep can kill hundreds of years of growth, so they were very careful to not step on it. The kids also had the opportunity to practice their route-finding skills, climb in boulders and check for little creatures thriving in the water that can be found on the Pothole Point. Roadside Ruin is the smallest hike and the last one so they were tired by then, but they loved the Cave Spring hike, with its two ladders, a historic cowboy camp and prehistoric pictographs. They had fun and so do I, despite some complains about the distance – they were all short hikes being Slickrock, a 4 km loop, the longest one of the day. We hiked for a total of 6.5 km. My vast experience as a mom for the last seven years of my life taught me that kids might lose interest, but never energy. So, if you keep them entertained, they will last for hours.

Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


Our third day was used to visit Arches National Park. This park will not disappoint: The amount of arches and interesting red sandstone formations is impressive. We drove most of the time and hiked very short distances to see incredible arches in different locations. It is hard to pick up the best one, but I think the Sand Dune Arch was the kids’ favorite. That’s what a Gypsy Guide’s tour told us and they were right. Good tip. Double Arch is also impressive and Landscape Arch is the biggest arch on earth, with a span of more than a football field in length and an easy 2.6km round trip from the car.

Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


The end of this day was also the end of our stay at this beautiful area of USA. With more than 18 hours to drive home, I opted to drive small chunks a day, giving us some rest and enjoying the places we were going through. Four hours later we were at a hotel for the night. The next day we had the longest day of our return route, around seven hours of driving through the most beautiful road of the trip, from Idaho Falls to Bozeman, Montana, passing through a narrow part of Yellowstone National Park, still closed for the season. A beautiful river called Gallatin accompanied us most of the way as we slithered through the valley on highway 191.

This story will continue on my next blog post.

Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


Photo by Crista-Lee Photography


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