Big Red Wagon
Big Red Wagon
Take a road trip from Portland, Oregon, to Aspen, Colorado. It’s a beautiful drive through the amazing scenery that can be viewed out your window, as you pass through Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. On your journey, be sure to stop in the amazing wilderness areas and at interesting attractions in and near urban centers such as Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, Idaho.
Your starting point in Portland is a hip, happening city on the Willamette River. Before departing Portland, take in the Portland Saturday Market - it’s open Sundays too - or the Pittock Mansion, which is a fascinating museum in a grand old house. There are beautiful gardens in this lush urban location, such as the Portland Japanese Garden, or you can stroll down “The Pearl”, a vibrant entertainment district with live performances, shopping, and fine dining opportunities.
Your 1174 mile journey will begin by heading east on Interstate 84, which becomes Interstate 15 as you approach Salt Lake City. Continue south to Spanish Fork, where you will take Highway 6 east until it becomes Route 191, then continue south to Interstate 70, which will take you east to Glenwood Springs, where you will take Highway 82 southeast to Aspen.
Looking to camp near Portland before your trip begins? The Camp Carton Campground is located just east of the city and is run by the local country. The campground is situated in Barton Park on the Clackamas River, which provides numerous river recreational activities. There are 112 campsites available, 103 of which have water and electric hookups for RV units.
To get a bird's eye view of the area surrounding your Aspen destination, take a ride up Aspen Mountain on the Silver Queen Gondola. Not only will the ride up the mountain provide you with amazing views of the beautiful mountain area, but there are several free activities at the mountaintop included in your gondola ticket, depending on the day you take your trip.
On select days in June through August, you can take in a mountaintop yoga class. Summer weekends include live music performances, classical on Saturdays, and bluegrass on Sundays, and there is a high altitude 18 hole disc golf course. The first nine holes of the golf course are relaxed on easier terrain, but the last nine are more challenging. You can also enjoy a meal on the Sundeck, a casual restaurant, with a variety of cuisine options to choose from.
While at the mountain you can trek out on amazing hiking trails and kids aren't left out of the fun, there are lawn games and special kids shows available too. The gondola ride itself will take you 12000 feet in the air in an enclosed gondola and is available Mid-June to Mid-September and select weekends in May, late-September, and early-October from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Cross into Colorado as you continue towards Aspen, and you can easily visit the Colorado National Monument just south of Grand Junction. This 205000-acre high desert plateau, was established in 1911 to preserve the wilderness ecosystems and wildlife here.
The Monument Canyon runs the width of the park and has sheer sandstone walls with towering granite formations rising from the canyon floor which create a dramatic effect. RVers should take it slow through the park, and keep an eye out for wildlife that can wander out onto the road. Wildlife you may spot on the park roadway includes bighorn sheep, coyote, and deer.
There is a visitor center with a natural history museum in the park which also provides plenty of information on activities and interesting sites in the park. Enjoy hiking and exploring the region, but please note that while pets are permitted at the campground, they do not have access to all the other areas of the park. Also, biting insects are an issue, so take lots of bug spray.
Looking for an overnight camping spot enroute? Try the Saddlehorn Campground. This campground has 79 unserviced sites accommodating RVs up to 40 feet in length and is just four miles from the west entrance and 19 miles from the east entrance, making it accessible for RVs. The campground is uniquely situated amongst the red rock formations, with some shady juniper trees, and near the visitor center. There are vault toilets year-round and flush toilets during the peak season. No shower house or RV hookups are available here.
The largest national park in Utah is situated just south of your route though this scenic state. The Canyonlands National Park has over 337000 acres, and is chock-full of colorful rock formations, spires, arches, canyons, buttes, and broad mesas which create an iconic western landscape.
This huge park is divided into four districts. The nearest to your route is the Island In the Sky area, which features a visitor center and overlooks from sheer sandstone cliffs. The Needles section is in the southeast and contains the most colorful rock spires, sandstone mesas, and unique geological features. The Maze is the most remote, but the unique orange cliffs and jagged rock formations are well worth the trip, and the Rivers section is located where the Colorado and Green Rivers converge between high canyon walls.
Visitors here in the summer will encounter extreme temperatures, so be sure to bring head coverings and sunscreen, and plan activities like hiking earlier or later in the day when it is cooler. Hiking, wildlife watching, geological discovery, and sightseeing from scenic overlooks are all popular activities in the park. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the moment in this desert wilderness wonderland.
While visiting the park, you can stay at the Island In the Sky Campground at Willow Flat which has 12 year-round campsites. This campground has Wi-Fi access from the visitor center, and is the most readily accessible for RVs, although sites are limited in size to 28 feet and under. Reservations are available during the peak seasons in the spring and fall, and first-come, first-serve in the summer and winter.
Prehistoric discovery awaits you in Price, Utah, where the Utah State University Eastern Prehistoric Museum is situated and features fascinating exhibits you can share with your friends or family on your RV road trip. Visitors can stop in for a quick look or while away the day viewing the paleontology archaeology, and geology exhibits here. Check out Visitor Information to get the most out of your prehistoric museum trip.
Utah is a treasure trove of archaeological, paleontological, and geological wonders, and the university museum is an excellent showcase for these local finds, most of the display items were discovered in the local vicinity. Exhibits that can be viewed at the museum include an Allosaurus, Animantarx, Camarasaurus, Camptosaurus, Huntington Mammoth, Peloroplites, Stegosaurus, and Utahraptor.
But it's not just prehistoric creatures that can be viewed here. There is also a Hall of Archeology exhibiting cultures from the Ice Age on, and a hands-on discovery area for children as well as a museum store.
When passing through Salt Lake City, take advantage of a unique opportunity to “go to the birds” at the Tracy Aviary. The aviary is located in Liberty Park, where you can also take in a Friday evening farmers market, or a Sunday drum circle and craft market.
The Tracy Aviary is one of the world's longest established aviaries and is packed with feathered friends, and once in a lifetime opportunities to interact with the aviary residents. There are 19 indoor and outdoor exhibits to tour and daily events include an indoor bird show and various exhibit tours. In addition, special events are held throughout the year. Check out the daily Schedule to find out what's happening during your Tracy Aviary visit.
Features and exhibits at the aviary include a pelican pond, duck pond, Andy the Andean Condor, who has an amazing 11-foot wingspan, North American Eagles, Southern Ground Hornbills, Sandhills Cranes, Chilean Flamingos, Macaws, King Vultures, Swan Pond, Owl Forest, South American Pavilion and a Rainforest exhibit which is full of colorful critters.
Included with admission are several “nose to beak” opportunities including the 30-minute bird show, a Lorikeet Adventure, Pelican Encounter, Discover the Rainforest tour, Beetle Battle, and Rainstorm Experience. Other interactive experiences for a fee can be booked in advance and include a Flamingo Flock experience, Raptor Round, a Behind the Scenes Tour, a Private Walk with Cranes, a private walk with Andy N. Condor, an Indoor Corvid Experience, Indoor Raptor Experience, the Paint with Picasso experience, and a four-hour Keeper for a Day opportunity.
Continuing south on your RV road trip down Interstate 84, you will pass through Boise, Idaho. A unique enhanced Whitewater Park is situated north of town, on the Boise River.
The Boise Whitewater Park is a public park with “waveshapers”, adjustable structures that create waves for the sport of “green wave” surfing. When the river is experiencing normal flow, the waveshapers create 20 foot wide primary waves, and 25 foot long secondary waves for “green wave'' surfing with specialized boards. During the spring when water levels are higher, the whitewater features may be more suitable for advanced whitewater users.
A nearby outfitter provides hybrid SUP boards designed for whitewater surfing, along with kayak rentals, so try your skills at this unique park. More water features are being continually added to expand this whitewater playground, which is a real treat for surfers, stand up paddleboard enthusiasts, and kayakers.
Try out river surfing and freestyle kayaking on the wave configurations at the park for a thrilling experience, but remember safety first. The whitewater park is used at your own risk, and you should be aware of safety considerations beforehand. Check out the FAQ for answers to safety concerns, and check conditions and schedule using the following link, Wave Schedule. During low water, the features can become hazardous due to exposed boulders and activities may not be recommended.
During spring runoff, debris in the river can cause the park to be temporarily closed until debris can be cleared. The water is cold, and wetsuits or drysuits are recommended, depending on the time of year. Parking and change rooms are available on site.
As you continue east down Interstate 84, you will pass through the rugged natural landscape of the Umatilla National Forest. RV travelers can camp here at the Jubilee Lake Campground, which is the largest and most frequented campground in the park, with 45 sites open from July until Mid-October. Sites are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and grills, and have large cleared areas that can accommodate RVs with parking pads from 20 to 50 feet in length. There are no hookups, but there are vault toilets and potable water supplies. The lake is excellent for fishing and boating, and you can also swim here, although there is no designated beach or lifeguard.
The campground is first-come, first-serve, so be sure to get there early on a weekend or plan your stay during the week when it is less crowded. To camp at the Jubilee Lake Campground take Route 11 east from Pendleton, then Route 204 south to Skyline Road. From Skyline Road take Forestry Service Road 20 to service Road 64 which provides access to the campground. The trip is just 50 miles off the interstate.
The National Forest itself has over 1.4 million acres with widely fluctuating elevations, between 1600 and 8000 feet above sea level. Hiking opportunities abound, with 715 miles of trails, but be aware that the terrain is rugged, and cooler weather can be expected at higher elevations.
Before departing on your cross country roadtrip to Colorado, visitors to Portland in early September have the opportunity to take in the Grand Prix of Portland. This annual race is part of the IndyCar Series, and features top-level Indy car racing at the Portland International Raceway. This raceway is a 1.967 mile, fairly level course, with a dozen hair raising turns. If you're looking for exciting finishes, this is a likely place to find them. The track has set all-time records for the closest race finishes ever.
RV travelers will appreciate the ability to camp near the track. There are onsite paid parking spots, but they are limited so get there early. RV camping sites are available at the venue, and you can camp trackside for a prime view of the race right from your site, or choose a spot a little further back if you want some distance. There are no RV hookups, but you can use a generator, and generators are available for rent. Sanitation services can be purchased.
Alternatively, you can camp further afield at nearby county, state, and national parks. It is still very warm in Portland at the end of the summer, so be sure to bring a sunhat and sunscreen to watch the race. The track area is very dry and dusty so closed-toe, comfortable shoes are recommended.
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Your Aspen, Colorado destination is known for its winter activities, with world class downhill ski resorts, but if you visit in the summer, you won't be disappointed. There are wonderful activities available here for visitors year-round.
During the summer, take a gondola ride up the mountain, or enjoy live entertainment, including ballet performances, concerts, and music festivals. The downtown area of Aspen has shopping opportunities to explore with hundreds of shops, boutiques, and consignment stores, that feature gifts, designer and vintage apparel, art, sporting, and home goods. Stroll the pedestrian malls to discover some unique finds.
The river that flows through Aspen provides great whitewater activities, and local outfitters can take you on thrilling rafting and kayaking trips on class I to class IV rapids. Calmer waters east of town are perfect for SUPs, and there are excellent fishing spots as well! During your Aspen stay you can camp in the White River National Forest. Reservations camping accommodating RVs is available at Gore Creek Campground, Bogan Flats Campground, Redstone Campground and Chapman Campground.