Christmas in Utah

I’d been wanting to do this trip for a while now because my girlfriend, Olivia, has never been to these areas and one of my oldest/best friends Charlie has been wanting to go on a trip with me for a while now. We loosely talked about doing it a couple of months ago, but nothing was set in stone. A week before Christmas we decided to just do it! I had the route planned out from previous trips so it didn’t take long to get ready. We just had to download the appropriate maps offline, confirm the route, and pack the fridge. Here’s the crew: Olivia, me, Charlie, and Theo.

We set out to leave on the Wednesday after Christmas with the plan to get to the falls before sunset, but that didn’t happen given how short the days are right now. We got to the little town near the falls and picked up firewood and gas and then headed toward camp. Social media sharing has really made this place unpredictable in popularity, which is a real shame because in the few short years I’ve been coming here, I’ve watched it just get trashed and crowded. I think it’s important to keep places like this more discreet; there’s no reason to geotag your camp spot. Keep your spots to yourself and your close friends! Anyway, we got there and lucked out with only having one other truck there and they were on the side of the falls I don’t like camping on (perfect!). We set up, made dinner, and relaxed by the fire.

It was cold that first night. You can see the glow in the bed of my truck, in the photo above, of my Mr. Heater Buddy pre-warming the Flippac. Charlie and Theo slept on the ground tent for the first and last time of the trip that night. Sleeping on an air mattress proved to be too cold for them, so for the rest of the trip they moved into the flippac with us. We got up, made a good breakfast, and explored around the falls as Charlie had never been there before. After exploring the falls we took the low trail out, which not many people do! It’s a fun trail that can be difficult depending on water/mud level, and takes you in and out of the creek below.

Our plan for the day was to head east toward Lake Powell and get to Alstrom Point. I have never been to Alstrom Point mainly because it seemed like a heavily visited/tourist spot which is the exact opposite of what I normally like. I wasn’t exactly wrong—we did see a lot of cars leaving as we were heading there, but we lucked out and camped near Alstrom where there wasn’t anyone near us and only a couple of people camping at the point. I will say that I think Grand Bench is not only a better view of the lake, but also a much more deserted view because the trail to get there is pretty difficult, and your average truck/SUV can’t get there. So if you plan on going to this area near Lake Powell and don’t have a built-up truck, definitely go to Alstrom Point. It’s very cool! This is a big chunk of photos from our entire trip so it includes driving there and camping.

From Lake Powell we headed back west to go to some slot canyons I visit often. This is another one of those places I will complain about oversharing. The first time I went here a few years back there wasn’t a single person there and it didn’t look like many people went there. Unfortunately, this summer I went here on a trip and saw a Jeep tour. These slot canyons are often confused for some with a similar name in Escalante, Utah, but they are not the same! Luckily, when we arrived, a family was just packing up to leave, so we had the canyons to ourselves.

After spending a couple of hours walking through the canyons, we got back in the truck to head to camp which took us through Zion. Now anyone that’s read my trip reports before probably knows that National Parks are almost never on my to-do list. They’re overcrowded and often underwhelming given the traffic, trash and shear amount of people you run into. However, we lucked out and when we arrived at the gate there was no one working so we were able to drive through without paying the fee.. Luckily we didn’t hit too much traffic and we did get to see some big horn sheep, which I had yet to see in the wild.

After driving through Zion, we left the park and headed to camp which was nearby. We set up not knowing what was surrounding us as I had never been here before. This location was bestowed upon me by a good friend. We made sausages and sweet potatoes for dinner followed up by some s’mores for dessert. We just relaxed and talked by the fire for the next few hours. That was probably the best night for all of us, such a calm and somewhat warm night where we could really just chill with one another. It hadn’t been such a long day in the truck so that also felt good.

I woke up early to an absolutely beautiful sunrise, which revealed that we were atop a very large mesa. I kind of had an idea from the night photos I took but wasn’t exactly sure what it all looked like. The first photo is a cell phone shot out of the window in the Flippac, and the next is how we slept for the majority of the trip. The Flippac can easily sleep four people or more depending on their height.

After enjoying the sunrise we got ready to leave without making coffee or breakfast (sinful, I know) but we had plans to stop in La Verkin and get breakfast at a local roaster there. It was well worth it. If you haven’t been to River Rock Roasting company and you’re near Hurricane, Utah, make sure you stop and get a cup or some food! After breakfast we had to stop to get a whip flag because where we were going requires them as it’s mostly sand dunes. With that said, our destination for the day was Sand Hollow OHV park. I had heard a lot about Sand Hollow and it did not disappoint. There is something for everyone there whether it’s sightseeing, sand dunes, or rock crawling. We had to play it safe with how heavy my truck is and the deep sand. We ran a few trails where I let Olivia and Charlie take turns at the wheel, and I could snap some pics which is always fun.

That’s about it for the trip report, although we did camp in Mojave National Preserve our last night. We didn’t take any photos because it just wasn’t a spectacular spot. We just wanted to be somewhere closer to home to avoid a 12-hour day of driving on New Year’s Eve. This was again a trip of a lifetime! Utah is such a beautiful place; if you haven’t been I urge you to go and see it for yourself. Thank you to Charlie and Olivia for making it such a fun trip, I was very glad to be able to share these places with you and make some awesome memories together. And with that, I leave you with one more photo of the truck.

To see more of Jim’s adventures, follow him on his Instagram here, and view more of his photography on his website here

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Jim is from Santa Barbara, CA and works as a professional videographer/photographer that has a passion for the outdoors, wildlife and anything with an engine.