Life on the Open Road: Planning an RV or Tenting Vacation

One of the best ways to explore Utah, especially in the warm months, is in an RV -- a motor home, truck camper, or camper trailer -- or a tent, if you don't mind roughing it. If you own an RV, have the mechanical systems checked out before you go as there are some very steep grades in Utah. After that's done, pack up and go. If you don't have an RV or a tent, why not rent one for your Utah trip?

Why Camp? -- One advantage to this type of travel is that many of the places you'll want to go, such as Canyonlands National Park, have no lodging. If you can't accommodate yourself, you'll end up sleeping 30 or 40 miles away and missing the spectacular sunrises and sunsets and that feeling of satisfaction that comes from living the experience rather than merely visiting it. If you have special dietary requirements, you won't have to worry about trying to find a restaurant that can meet your needs; you'll be able to cook for yourself, either in your motor home or trailer or on a camp stove.

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There are disadvantages, of course. Tents, small trailers, and truck campers are cramped, and even the most luxurious motor homes and trailers provide somewhat close quarters. Facilities in most commercial campgrounds are less than what you'd get in moderately priced motels, and if you cook your own meals, you miss the opportunity to experience the local cuisine. But, all this aside, camping is just plain fun -- especially in a setting as spectacular as this.

Renting an RV -- Camping to save money is possible if you limit your equipment to a tent, a pop-up tent trailer, or a small pickup-truck camper, but renting a motor home will probably end up costing as much as driving a compact car, staying in moderately priced motels, and eating in family-style restaurants. That's because motor homes go only a third (or less) as far on a gallon of gas as compact cars, and they're expensive to rent -- generally between $1,000 and $1,500 per week in mid-summer, when rates are highest.

If you're flying into the area and renting an RV upon arrival, choose your starting point carefully. Because most of Utah's national parks are closer to Las Vegas than Salt Lake City, you could save by starting and ending your trip in Vegas. The country's largest RV rental company, with outlets in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, is Cruise America (tel. 800/671-8042; www.cruiseamerica.com). RV rentals are also available from El Monte RV (tel. 888/337-2214; www.elmonte.com). Information on additional rental agencies, as well as tips on renting, can be obtained online from the Recreation Vehicle Rental Association (www.rvra.org).

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Choosing a Campground -- After you get a rig or a tent, you'll need a place to put it. Camping in national parks, federal lands, state parks, and more is discussed in the relevant sections of this book. For a brochure on the campgrounds in Utah's state parks, contact Utah State Parks. Members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) can request the club's free Southwestern CampBook, which includes campgrounds and RV parks in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Major bookstores carry several massive campground directories, including Frommer's Best RV and Tent Campgrounds in the U.S.A. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); Trailer Life Directory (www.trailerlifedirectory.com); and Woodall's Western America Campground Directory and other Woodall's titles (www.woodalls.com).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.