camping on Willow springs road

Moab: Willow Springs Road

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There are lots of things to do in Moab, but most the time I am here, I hike in or nearby the National Parks.  As a result, I have plenty of posts about different visits to Moab.

This time, however, while I still hiked in order to tire out Annie, it wasn’t the main focus of my camping trip on Willow Springs Road.  This trip was organized by friends from Winter Park, and I joined them and several others for a more leisurely experience.

Camping on Willow Springs Road

After my stay at Peachfork Orchards and Vineyard in Palisade the previous evening, I met up with Brad and Mark in Grand Junction to caravan to Moab.  We arrived at Willow Springs Road on a Wednesday in early May around 11:30 am and found hundreds of campers.

Fortunately, two medium sized spots were available for our two sprinters plus another van, fifth wheel, RV, tent and a few more cars that were joining us over the next day.  I saved the first spot while Brad kept scouting.

The second spot was much better and more interesting with some bushes and undulating rock terrain.  As a result, I left the dirt parking area with no shade to join Brad and Mark.  With our site saved, Brad and Mark went to help Mike who lost his brakes, and then pick Jeremy up from the airport.

By the evening Angela joined us and Marty was supposed to, but he had a blowout on his RV. He ended up staying near Grand Junction for the night. We had a mellow evening with delicious brisket (courtesy of Brad and Angie), and watched the Starlink overhead.  It’s amazing to see a strand of 25 satellites pass by at once.

Anyway, for the next few days, we came up with a variety of things to do on Willow Springs Road and beyond.  While we waited on Marty as well as Nick and Vi to arrive on Thursday, our group split up for the morning.

Take a Hike

I went hiking.  While walking down a road isn’t my favorite type of hike, cranking in my awning and maneuvering around our campsite seemed less appealing.  Consequently, Annie and I strolled along the road toward a mountain biking area called Klonzo Trailhead on the way to Dinosaur Tracks.

While I would have liked to see the dinosaur tracks, the Klonzo Trailhead was closer, thus a shorter walk on the road.  Fortunately, Brad and Jeremy spotted me on the road while they were exploring in the jeep, so they saved Annie and I ¾ of a mile and dropped us at the Hot Dog Trail.

Based on the picture I saw on AllTrails, I thought there was going to be an arch.  There wasn’t.  The relatively flat path just weaved by the sagebrush as it slowly ascended to a plateau with a view of the snowcapped La Sal Mountain Range.

Hiking on Hot Dog Trail off Willow Springs Road

While it wasn’t the prettiest place to hike in my opinion, it looked like a very good beginner mountain bike trail.  It was one of many, so while I saw some mountain bikers, I didn’t run into any of them on our short 1.5 mile walk.

It’s a good thing our walk was short, and that Brad and Jeremy found us on the way back too, because it was too hot for Annie.  She parked herself in the shade of a bush when we were only half-way through!

Explore in a Jeep 4×4

As I mentioned Brad and Jeremy went exploring on Willow Springs Road.  At the beginning, the road is just sand, but it travels several miles all the way into the back side of Arches National Park and requires a high clearance vehicle for 4×4 off roading.  On their way to Arches, they saw the dinosaur tracks!

Jeeping on Hell's Revenge
Taken on Hell’s Revenge (not Willow Springs), Photo Cred: Jeremy

Go Mountain Biking

While I hiked at Klonzo Trailhead, Mark and Angela actually mountain biked.  The network of trails extend to both sides of the road.  I went to the right, and they went to the left.  Most mountain bikers went to the left and the terrain looked more interesting.

mountain biking at Klonzo Trailhead off Willow Springs Road
Photo Cred: Mark

Drive a RZR

By noon, our party of nine was intact.  Brad and Nick had rented 4-seater RZR’s in town.  RZR’s are all terrain side-by-sides that can maneuver over 4×4 routes much faster than jeeps.

Upon picking them up, we drove them right out of the lot to Sand Flats Recreation Area as they are allowed on any streets with a speed limit less than 45 mph.  Sand Flats is managed by both Grand County and the Bureau of Land Management.  As a result, the National Parks pass doesn’t work, and a small $5 fee is required to enter.

Sand Flats Recreation Area

Sand Flats Recreation Area features several famous mountain bike and jeep trails as well as camping locations.  We selected the trail, Fins and Things.  The long undulating trail that climbs up rocks and turns through sand, crosses the main road several times.  This is nice because if we wanted to just drive part of the trail we could.

We, however, drove the whole thing and with beer stops and driver switches, it took about three hours.  I rode in a RZR with Angela, Nick and Vi while the boys Mark, Marty, Brad and Jeremy led in the other one.  Mike stayed at camp on dog duty with Annie, Whiskey, and Newman.  I took that job the following day.

Having only off-roaded in an SUV occasionally, I didn’t really feel like having the stress of driving.  I took the passenger seat while Angela took the wheel.  Nick, having just driven five hours from Denver, didn’t feel like driving either.  And Vi wasn’t comfortable.  As a result, Angie drove the first two stints.

Then I couldn’t contain my curiosity.  I’d never driven a RZR and wanted to try.  It was fun, and all my passengers were brave to ride with me, as I was switching between low and high gear to manage the obstacles.

Some of the terrain was so steep that you had to get out and spot.  And much of the time, once you hit the obstacle, you couldn’t see where you were going, so you had to rely on your memory or the distant view of the unfortunate black track left by the tires.  Fortunately, the RZR’s are pretty forgiving, and I finished my drive without any scratches.  The boys’ vehicle wasn’t quite as lucky!

RZRing on Fins and Things at Sand Flats Recreation Area
Can’t see what the boys are about to head down!

After our joy ride though the Sand Flats, we picked up trailers and took the RZRs to Willow Springs Road for some more fun.  Vi zipped along on the flatter terrain to fast that the boys yelled, “BRAKE!”

Balance on Dirt Bikes

Not only can you drive RZRs on Willow Springs Road, but you may also ride motorcycles.  There are some single track trails to the right where the gravel road dead ends and the sandy road with no camping begins.  When you see a bathroom and 25 RV’s parked nearby, you’ll know where I’m talking about.

view of willow springs road
view of campers from trail

Marty brought two motorcycles, so he got farther along than I did.  While I normally wouldn’t have selected a hike with motorized vehicles, this area was much closer than the Klonzo Trailhead which reduced my walk along Willow Springs Road.

Annie and I ventured on part of the Sovereign Singletrack Trail and onto a footpath where bikes weren’t allowed.  Sovereign Singletrack Trail is 11.3 miles.  I hardly made a dent in it. I was just trying to tire out Annie which didn’t take long.  We got an even later start than the previous day, so Annie seeked out shade anywhere it could be found!

Annie in the shade
Annie climbed up the cliff to get in the shade!

In summary, Willow Springs Road is best for activities that involve wheels.  Mountain bikers, RZR drivers, motorcylists, jeepers, vanlifers, and RVers will all like this area of Moab.  Camping in a large group was a change of pace for me.  It was fun to meet new friends and to try some firsts like driving a RZR.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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