As we got ready to leave and head towards Moab, we started looking for a place to stay. In this case, there were so many places it was hard to choose, and we had a conversation about staying at a campground with full hookups, a BLM campground for $15 a night, or just boondock outside of town. Ultimately we decided to go ahead and try boondocking, and ultimately I was glad we made that decision. Several of the BLM campgrounds are really beautiful, and on the Colorado River, but since they are first come-first serve, and only a couple have spots big enough for us, I was not sure what we would have found. Likewise several of the campgrounds were really nice, but at $45+ a night more money than we wanted to spend. So we headed that way with the idea of finding a boondocking spot, with a regular campground as a backup if we needed it.
The drive itself to Moab was really beautiful. Highway 191 is a gorgeous route and we saw several large rock formations along the route along with views of the amazing La Sal Mountains.
We did have several long 6 percent grades along the route and Lee found the drive pretty stressful as folks were weaving in and out of traffic to pass. It’s a heavily traveled road, and not all of it is 4 lane. Eventually we stopped at the Hole-in-the-Rock rest area, which was extremely nice, and had what looked to be permanent staff living onsite keeping it clean. After lunch, the driving was a bit better and then we arrived in Moab.
There are several places to dump and take on water in Moab, but I chose the Feed Store and RV Supply place. The sign was small, so we actually missed it and then had to turn around in the Marriott parking lot and go back, but it turned out to be a good choice. It was only $5 to dump and take on water, and since they were closed on Sunday, we left cash in the metal box by the dump station. The town itself was pretty congested and had a row of businesses on each side of the street. We took our time and made it through town and then came out near Arches National Park.
According to Campendium, the first boondocking area was off of Willow Springs Trail. We were a little worried about making a right off a major highway, but were pleased to see that there was a turn lane at the highway.
There were several large sites near the entrance, but since they were somewhat crowded we kept heading farther back. The road got rougher the farther we went and finally we felt we needed to turn around and head back. We made the mistake of turning into what looked like a circle, but actually was sliprock and not something we could pull the rig over. With some VERY careful maneuvering, Lee managed to get us backed up and turned back the right way and we ended up finding a site in one of the larger circles that at least faced the mountains. For the time we spent there we had a constant stream of people coming and going in different RV’s, but since our back was too them, it was OK. Plus it was pretty quiet, despite how many RV’s there were.
(GPS 38.6956, -109.6899)
So we made it and found a “free” spot, but it was a little stressful. We learned later that there was a much larger area at Dalton Well Road, an additional mile down HWY 191, that wasn’t as pretty, but definitely would be easier to get in and out of. Still it was good to be settled and as we explored the area over the next week, there wasn’t another place we found that was worth hitching up and moving to.
I did want to take a minute here though and talk about the concept of “free” in boondocking. Yes, the site itself is free, but there are some associated costs with boondocking that it is important to keep in mind. If you are only staying for a couple of days in between campsites, most of these costs will probably never come up, but when you are boondocking for extended periods of time, these are the incremental costs that we incur.
- Dumping/Fresh Water – We have paid everything from $5 – $10 to dump the RV. Fresh water is often free (or free with dumping, but that isn’t always the case. Some boondocking areas that charge a nightly fee have dump stations as well, like Lone Rock Primitive Beach. Outside of staying there, we have dumped twice and spent $7.50 and $5 respectively for a total of $12.50. Water for us has been free.
- Propane – We are set up to completely heat our rig on electric, so use minimal propane (stove only) when on full hookups. In the last 20 days we have gone through three tanks of propane or roughly $60 worth.
- Laundry – We have a washer/dryer Splendide combo unit and can do almost all of our laundry using that when on full hookups. Lee has gone to the laundromat twice since we started boondocking, which costs roughly $20 each visit, so again $40.
- Ice – We have an electric ice maker, which we use to make ice so that we can use our very small freezer for food. I am a big fan of ice, so we buy bags when we are boondocking and they last around 3 days each. At around $2 a bag that’s around $14.
- Trash – Trash is one of our biggest problems although we do separate out the paper from everything else and burn the paper, which reduces it greatly. Finding a place to take your trash can be a problem though, which is one of the big benefits of staying in a $15 a night boondocking spot that at least provides trash cans. Sometimes we ask when we fill up our truck with diesel and I have seen the occasional places that charge $5 for trash drop off. You can also use the local landfill if you can find it, which we have also done on occasion. This time out we haven’t spent anything on trash, but that isn’t always the case, so I thought I would mention it.
All in all, we have spent $126.50 on the items listed above, and $60 for our time at Lone Rock Primitive Campground and $50 for our time at Gooseneck State Park. Considering the prices of campsites in this area, $236.50 for 20 days of camping is a total bargain, but as you can see not totally free. We really like doing it though because the sites are often really great, and we have more freedom and space than in a traditional campground. For those of you who haven’t done it yet, I did want to mention that extended boondocking will have some costs associated with it.
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