Car camping for FREE in Moab featuring TWO National Parks

This trip was unbelievable as I got to see Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse State Park for the very first time. Read about my adventures down in Moab.

Car camping for FREE in Moab featuring TWO National Parks

If you prefer a video version of the weekend, I highly encourage you to check out the YouTube video I made which recaps the highlights from the weekend!

It was February 18th, and I was getting out of work at 3pm on a Friday. Filled with excitement, I quickly rushed out of the office to my car, already packed from the night before. I had my car camping platform set up, food all ready, and plenty of gear that would allow me to experience the perfect weekend in Moab. If you hadn't guessed it by now, I was heading car camping... in winter? Yep. In winter. While I was worried about cold temperatures at night, Utah had been pretty warm recently, I was heading south, and Moab was supposed to be in the 50s throughout the day.

And man what a perfect weekend it ended up being. If you aren't familiar, Moab, Utah is a city in southeast Utah right next to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse State Park.

Camping For Free

I rolled in to Willow Springs Campground that Friday night and set up my bed to sleep on. This was a completely free campground. Utah is a hotspot for BLM and national forest land that often feature free spots to camp. Willow Springs even had port-a-potty's which is a luxury for free camping standards.

I pulled out some marinated chicken and got to work on some chicken tacos for dinner. After enjoying my meal, I hit the hay inside my camping setup. Like I mentioned earlier, I was a bit nervous as it was supposed to get down to 25 degrees at night. I only had a 32 degree sleeping bag and two blankets. I ended up sleeping well, only being interrupted by the need to pee.

Polaroids I captured during the trip

Canyonlands National Park

It was a bit cold the next morning, but once I got up and got moving I quickly warmed up. I started on a bit of breakfast then set out for the day. On today's agenda was Canyonlands National Park. I arrived to the park and immediately did the short walk to Mesa Arch. Honestly, the arch was a bit underwhelming. It is mostly covered by rock and isn't as majestic as other arches in the surrounding area. I could see the allure of viewing it at sunset though, when the sun peaks through the small gap between the arch and the rock. Still, it was nice to check off my list.

I enjoyed Grand Viewpoint much more. This hike took you along what was essentially a large peninsula of rock overlooking the area over the cliff below. There were some beautiful rock features to admire. The one area carved out of the flat rock resembled a dinosaur footprint!

View from the Grand Viewpoint Hike

Dead Horse State Park

Following the short adventure in Canyonlands, I stopped at the nearby state park to admire one of the more famous river bends in the area at Dead Horse State Park. I spent a few hours in the state park, walking around the visitor center, then cooking up some lunch on my backpacking stove. I found a nice quiet place up on a ridge to enjoy my lunch while reading a book. The main attraction though was definitely Dead Horse Point.

Dead Horse Point

Moab and Corona Arch

To round out the remainder of my only full day of the trip, I drove into the city of Moab. The city is a very cool tourist town. There are many shops, restaurants, and tons of fun to be had. I found a cute little coffee and sweet place called Moab Coffee Roasters that I would highly recommend. The truffle and ice cream I had were delicious. The place smelled INCREDIBLE too.

Enjoying my sweets at a table outside Moab Coffee Roasters

My last adventure of the day after leaving Moab was to hike Corona Arch. This may have been my favorite part of the entire trip. The best part about this hike too was that it is completely free! It isn't inside a national/state park, and you can drive right to the trailhead about 10 minutes outside Moab.

This was about a 3-mile hike through some rocky terrain ending at the most stunning arch I have ever seen. Just look at this picture.

Someone even climbed on top of the arch while some photographers snagged some pictures of him. This is 100% a hike you don't want to miss.

A Fire To Wrap Up An Amazing Day

Even though I have a propane stove to cook all my food on, I always try to have at least one fire when I am out camping. After my hike to Corona Arch, I returned to Willow Springs campground and set my bed up. Then, I sparked my kindling and brought the blaze to life.

I love just watching the flames flicker, illuminating the darkness. Enjoying the serenity of the outdoors supplemented with a crackling fire really brings me peace.

Cooked some hot dogs over the fire as well

After sitting around the fire and staring up at the stars in the night sky, I retired to my bed in the back of SUV. Again, I slept pretty well. I made one adjustment this time around, electing to crack my window to reduce the condensation I woke up with in the morning. It worked really well, and I had another great night of sleep in the wilderness.

Arches National Park

The next morning, the only thing on my agenda was my fourth Utah national park, Arches. I began the morning with breakfast again. After enjoying eggs and sausage paired with some hot chocolate, I packed up my site and set out. I got to Arches early in the morning. One thing to note, is that once Arches is full, they close the park. I didn't realize this, but it was a good thing I got to the park early.

My first stop was Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch might very well be the most famous Arch in Utah, if not the whole country.

Delicate Arch
Photo by Photoholgic / Unsplash

Unfortunately, the parking lot was full, and I had to settle for only seeing it from a viewpoint. Still, Arches was filled with many more treasures. I hiked a loop just south of Devil's Garden Campground that allowed me to see Sand Dune Arch, Broken Arch, and Tapestry Arch.

Broken Arch

After that 4-5 mile hike, I was feeling satisfied. However, one cannot go to Arches without stopping in the Windows section of the National Park. This area is just stunning, and you can see unbelievable arches just from the parking lot.

Double Arch, just 100 feet from the parking lot

An amazing trip came to a close, and I got back in my vehicle to head back to Salt Lake City. I packed so much into that short weekend, but still had plenty of time to relax and enjoy my time.