A quiet town of 4,000, Blanding makes an excellent basecamp for outdoor adventures in southeast Utah: Take a short drive north for the wonders of Canyonlands, Arches, and Moab; head west to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell; or enjoy the nearby Manti La Sal National Forest and Natural Bridges National Monument. Blanding sits on Highway 191 just south of the Abajo Mountains (the Blues). Check out local scenic drives and hikes, including one auto tour to the top of Abajo Peak (11,360 feet). For in-town attractions, visit Dinosaur Museum or Edge of the Cedars Museum/State Park, the site of a 1,000-year-old Pueblo Indian ruin.
Well-known as the gateway for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Escalante also makes a great basecamp for visits to Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon NRA and Lake Powell. (It also lies just south of Dixie National Forest.) Check out nearby Escalante State Park, where you'll wander past petrified wood, fossilized dinosaur bones, and ancient Indian relics and petroglyphs. Many Escalante residents are descendants of the original white settlers, and you'll find old traditions present in modern-day life, from local crafts to cattle drives. The diverse Escalante area offers everything from desert slot canyons to Alpine lakes and high-country plateaus.
For the best access to Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA), make your basecamp Page, Arizona. Now a bustling town of 8,000, Page began as a construction camp for the workers who built the Glen Canyon Dam. Page lies just seven miles from Wahweap Marina, one of five marinas on Lake Powell and your best bet for goods and services. Lake Powell is a hot spot for fishing, swimming, sea kayaking, and other water sports. Many visitors rent a power or deck boat and camp out on the water to really get a sense of the lake, which is nearly 200 miles long. Don't miss the free tour of Glen Canyon Dam, and be sure to hit Antelope Canyon, a stunningly beautiful slot canyon located just east of Page. If you want to escape the crowds, head into the desert-and-canyon backcountry of GCNRA.
One of Utah's most cosmopolitan small towns, Moab (pop. 5,000) offers live theater, galleries, concerts, and arts and music festivals. The La Sal Mountains and a portion of Manti-La Sal National Forest are just 18 miles east of town, offering a forested, Alpine contrast to the desert and canyons below. Between the area's moderate climate and the scenic diversity, Moab is a popular destination for year-round outdoor recreationespecially mountain biking. Fat-tire pilgrims flock here for the gravity-defying slickrock trails. Moab also makes a great basecamp for parkland trips: Arches lies just four miles north, while Canyonlands' Island of the Sky District sits about 45 miles southwest.
Parks and Preserves
Camping in Arches National Park
Camping in Canyonlands National Park
Camping in Capitol Reef National Park
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication