Spring break in Utah

Published March 19, 2006 12:01 am
Hatching plans for Easter escape? Reserve early
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Spring break means travel time for families, desert lovers and students.

While some may head to Florida, Southern California, Mexico or Hawaii, thousands of Utahns stay close to home.

Popular southern Utah destinations, including Moab and St. George, usually experience their busiest time of the year during March and April as Wasatch Front residents roll the dice with the weather and head south for a desert vacation. Here's a look at several Utah hot spots:

St. George: "March is our busiest month of the year," said Pam Hilton, marketing director for the Dixie Center in St. George. "The weather is generally good and it can still be winter in the rest of the state. We get a lot of conventions in March and it is a prime month for golf."

While the number of Wasatch Front teens who flocked to St. George on Easter weekend, April 15 and 16 this year, has declined in recent years, many still come, Hilton said. An art festival in St. George, a car show at Hurricane High School and a Peter Breinholt concert at Tuacahn Amphitheater will add to the Easter weekend crunch.

St. George has new hotels either open, close to completion or just breaking ground, including the Hilton Garden, Courtyard by Marriott, La Quinta, Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn and Suites that should help in the future.

Still, if you don't have a room in St. George in March and April (especially on weekends), you may be looking at staying nearby in Cedar City, Springdale, Kanab or Mesquite, Nev.

Moab: Finding a room or campsite in Moab can be at least as difficult, especially during Easter week when thousands of four-wheel-drive enthusiasts converge on the southern Utah recreational center for the annual Easter Jeep Safari.

"We're already full," said Marian DeLay of the Moab Travel Council, which works with area hotels to find out about cancellations.

That means families and students looking to vacation in southwestern Utah may be considering Green River, Monticello, Blanding or Cortez, Colo., for lodging.

Or they can hope to find a camping spot at numerous Bureau of Land Management sites surrounding Moab or at a private campground.

Because of the nearly 2 million visitors a year on BLM lands around Moab, the agency recently announced new limitations in six heavily used areas on dispersed camping - the term for staying outside developed campgrounds, without toilets, treated water or fire grates.

Dispersed camping will be limited to marked and designated sites in the area north of Highway 313, south of the Blue Hills Road, west of U.S. Highway 191 and east of the Dubinky Well Road. In addition, dispersed camping will be limited to designated sites in the area where the Hurrah Pass Road crosses Kane Creek, around Dripping Springs in Ten Mile Wash, on the west side of Spanish Valley, within one mile of developed recreation sites in the Canyon Rims Recreation Area and along the Pack Creek and Black Creek Roads.

While there is no fee to use these dispersed sites, campers are required to carry out all garbage, including solid human body waste. There is also no wood cutting allowed.

Russ von Koch, who supervises recreation for the BLM's Moab office, said campers who hope to use one of his agency's 500 developed or semi-developed camp sites in the Moab area on Easter week need to find one on Wednesday of Easter week. Otherwise, the only alternative may be a private campground.

"April and May are the two busiest months in Moab followed closely by October," said von Koch. "In April and May, camping areas near Moab are filling early Friday."

This is the 40th annual Jeep Safari. The event, in which four-wheel-drive enthusiast challenge their vehicles on difficult trails and redrock around Moab, was started by the Moab Chamber of Commerce. To register in those days, drivers showed up on Saturday morning and signed up for the trail they wanted.

These days, the event is run by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers and many of the trips fill well in advance. The cost starts at $50 per vehicle for the first day and $25 per vehicle for each additional day. Only mailed applications are accepted, though registration at the event may be possible at the Spanish Trail Arena south of Moab on a first-come, first-served basis.

Little Sahara Recreation Area: While Moab and St. George host large crowds, perhaps the largest single Easter weekend gathering occurs at the Little Sahara Recreation Area, 60,000 acres of sand dunes, trails and sagebrush flats in western Utah. Its developed campgrounds and dispersed areas at the base of 700-foot-high Sand Mountain host thousands of all-terrain vehicle, dirt bike and dune buggy riders. The normal daily entrance fee of $8 increases to $10 on Easter weekend. For information, call the Little Sahara Visitor Center Office at 435-743-3100.

Other recreation destinations: The Knolls Recreation Area, a 35,877-acre off-highway playground east of Wendover and south of Interstate 80 that is managed by the BLM, has imposed changes this year as well. A $6-per-day, per-primary-vehicle fee is being charged for the first time. Fees are being used to upgrade and improve the main access road, the installation of two restrooms, the construction of parking lots and the installation of informational bulletin boards.

New rules at the Knolls this year prohibit target shooting and the use of glass containers outside enclosed vehicles. Fires are not allowed outside the confines of a fire pan or other containers.

Southern Utah's state parks are also quite crowded, especially on Easter weekend. Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Dead Horse Point, Escalante, Goblin Valley, Kodachrome Basin, Sand Hollow and Snow Canyon are already booked. Goblin Valley is booked on most spring weekends between now and Easter.

While much of the spring break emphasis is on heading south, many of Utah's ski resorts plan to stay open through April 16 to take advantage of the later-than-normal Easter weekend.

"Park City's resorts are staying open an extra week," said Hilary Reiter of Ski Utah. "They are expecting to be busy through the close of the season."

Alta will close April 16, but reopen April 21 through 23 if conditions permit. Sundance and Wolf Mountain are scheduled to close the first weekend in April. Snowbird will be open through May 7 and then on weekends through Memorial Day. Solitude is expecting to close April 16 while Brighton has yet to determine its closing date. Southern Utah's Brian Head will stay open through Easter weekend.

The long ski season makes it possible to ski in the morning and then head into the valley and play a round of golf in spring weather.

Whether you plan to visit dunes, deserts or mountains, expect to run into large crowds of sun worshippers. The key is to plan ahead or, if that is too late, consider slightly colder weather alternatives such as Cedar City, Logan, Wendover or Vernal.


Contact Tom Wharton at wharton@sltrib.com or 801-257-8909. Send comments to livingeditor@sltrib.com.

Spring break info for parents

The phone and fax numbers of the hotels being used on the trip.

The 24-hour contact information for your child's travel provider in case of an emergency.

Whether the travel provider is experienced in youth and student travel.

How many chaperones will be on the trip and who they are.

Whether the hotel has 24-hour security.

Whether the tour director or group's escort will have a cell phone at all times to use in case of emergency.

Exactly what is included in the price (meals, admission to attractions, etc.) and what additional costs should be expected on tour.

- Student Youth Travel Association

Safety tips for students

Keep your hotel door locked and chained. Never open your hotel room to a stranger.

Never give out your room number or phone number to strangers.

Do not travel alone at night or accept rides from a stranger.

Keep the name, address and phone number of your hotel on you at all times as well as your tour company's 24-hour hot line.

Keep a small amount of money in your pocket to pay for small purchases, such as drinks, snacks and souvenirs, so you don't have to open your wallet in a busy place.

Travel with a partner at all times.

Don't stray from the group on your own. Do not carry too much cash.

Pack a simple first-aid kit including adhesive bandages, antibiotic cream and pain relievers.

Find out if your family health plan covers you abroad.

- Student Youth Travel Association

Utah spring break travel Web resources

Utah travel information: http://www.utah.com

Utah state parks: http://www.stateparks.utah.gov

Moab Jeep Safari: http://www.RR4W.com

Moab travel information: http://www.


St: George travel information: http://www.


Utah Bureau of Land Management recreation: http://www.ut.blm.gov

National Park Service information: http://www.nps.gov

National Campground Reservation System: http://www.reserveusa.com

Ski Utah: http://www.skiutah.com

Utah Golf Association: http://www.uga.org

Wharton's picks for spring break in Utah

1. Moab Jeep Safari

2. ATV and dune buggy riding at Little Sahara Sand Dunes.

3. High school Easter weekend spring break and art show. St. George.

4. "Eastering" - camping outside developed campgrounds - in San Rafeal Swell.

5. Spring skiing.

6. Camping at southern Utah state park, national parks and Bureau of Land Management developed areas.

7. Moab mountain biking.

8. Golf in St. George, Moab and, weather permitting, along the Wasatch Front.

9. ATV riding in the West Desert.

10. Hiking and backpacking in southern Utah.



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