The Grand Circle boasts some of the country’s most diverse and magnificent scenery. Spanning 1,500 miles, 5 states, numerous national parks and monuments and various colors and geological shapes—woven together by impressive scenic byways—the Grand Circle Tour is one of the best road trips America has to offer.
From Utah’s Mighty 5 to the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and more, each stop is mesmerizing, but when seen together during a family-fun RV road trip, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
But before you take off traveling and camping around the Grand Circle, here’s what you need to know about traveling in an RV and tips for making your Southwestern U.S. journey more enjoyable.
Using an RV around the Grand Circle
The first thing to keep in mind with taking this trip in an RV is that you’ll be doing lots of driving between attractions, some of which is on rural roads. Plan on driving an average of 45-50 mph, and probably even slower on secondary roads, so make sure you tack on extra driving time when you’re mapping out your travel plans and time estimates.
A special driving note if you’re headed to Zion National Park in Utah, you need a permit to drive through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel if your RV is 11’4” tall or taller or 7’10” wide or wider. It costs $15, and means rangers at both ends of the tunnel will convert the two-way tunnel traffic into one-way traffic for you to safely pass. Have your vehicle measured before entering Zion, which is where you pay for the permit and park entrance fee. Your permit is good for the same vehicle to make 2 trips through the tunnel within 7 days of obtaining your permit. There are also time restrictions to when large vehicles, like RVs, can drive through the tunnel throughout the year.
Also remember that parking can be hard to find near popular sites on this tour, especially in a big RV. Some sites, like Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks and the Grand Canyon, provide shuttles that take you to and from the park so you don’t have to worry about parking.
The other important part of camping in an RV is knowing where you can camp. Most Grand Circle sites have RV-approved campgrounds inside the attraction, while others have RV parks in nearby cities. The following is RV campground information on some of the more popular Grand Circle Tour stops.
The most popular RV campground inside Zion is Watchman. It’s open 365 days a year and has 63 RV electrical sites that charge $30 per night. Due to its popularity, be sure to make a reservation ahead of time to ensure you get a spot.
When visiting Bryce Canyon, you can stay on-site at the North or South campgrounds for $30 a night. Neither have any RV hookups, but the North Campground does have a dump site. You can also stay a short half mile from this national park at Ruby’s Inn RV Park & Campground, offering full hookups, large pull-through areas and other amenities.
There are 64 RV/tent sites at Capitol Reef National park, costing $20 a night, but there aren’t any individual water, electrical or sewage hookups. There is an RV dump and water fill station, though. There are also numerous RV parks in nearby Torrey.
The Moab area includes stops at Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Arches has Devils Garden Campground, which has 50 campsites, but they don’t have any RV dump or fill stations. Canyonlands campgrounds are Island in the Sky and The Needles. The first has 12 campsites that charge $15 a night, while the second has 26 campsites charging $20 a night. Both can accommodate RVs up to 28 feet long. If you want a campsite that has hookups, check out the numerous RV parks in Moab, which is only 5 minutes from Arches and about a 35-minute drive from Canyonlands.
This Navajo Tribal Park straddles the border of Arizona and Utah. There are a handful of RV parks and campgrounds in the Monument Valley area, including Goulding’s Monument Valley Campground (full RV hookups), Cottonwood RV Park (full RV sites, 13 for extra-long RVs) and The View Campground (no hookups).
On the South Rim, you can camp in your RV at either Mother Campground, Desert View Campground or Trailer Village. Both Mother and Desert View campgrounds don’t have any hookups and have a 30-foot maximum RV length, while Trailer Village is a full-hookup spot and has a 50-foot maximum length. The North Rim Campground is the only campground in the North Rim, and it doesn’t have RV hookups or an RV length limit.
Lake Powell has 4 RV-friendly campgrounds. Wahweap offers full hookups for up to 45-foot long RVs. Bullfrog has full hookups and can accommodate 50-foot long RVs. Halls Crossing has full-hookup RV spaces that fit up to 60-foot long RVs. Hite has 8 pull-through gravel RV sites that have water and sewage hookups.
This Colorado-based park has Morefield Campground, which is only 4 miles from the park’s entrance and has 15 full-hookup RV sites. It’s recommended to reserve a site beforehand.
Grand Circle Tour Tips for RV Travelers
Some of the best tips from those who have taken this tour in an RV are:
- Map out your driving route, and check road conditions and the weather before arriving.
- Reserve camp spots if you can, especially if you’re traveling during the peak traveling months (late spring to early fall).
- Check with each site you plan to visit to see what their maximum RV lengths are and available facilities so you can plan accordingly.
- Never let your gas tank get below a half tank, and always have food and water. Parts of the drive are long with no gas stations for several miles and sometimes no cell service.
- Visit during the fall. It’s the perfect time to tour the Grand Circle because the Southwestern states are no longer hitting triple-digit temperatures, the peak travel season is over and the leaves changing colors, making the tour’s attractions even more bewitching.
- This is a self-guided trip. You can alter what sites you visit and how long you stay at each based on the time you have. But most will tell you to plan for at least a week, and if you want to stop at every site, then plan for 3-4 weeks so you won’t feel rushed and can really enjoy your vacation.
Happy trails taking your grand trip through the Grand Circle!