Salt Lake City to El Paso Road Trip Guide


For a major urbanization, and one that's the capital of the state, Salt Lake City in Utah is surprisingly scenic. The four and a half thousand square kilometers of the Great Salt Lake border the city to the west and the impressive Wasatch Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop to the nucleus of Salt Lake's skyscrapers. In truth, as well as being a cultural hot spot with countless museums, theaters, and art galleries, the city has above average outdoor recreational activities and hosts almost as many annual events and festivals as it has high rise towers.

Go hiking along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail or through the Wasatch Mountains State Park and if you're a photographer you'll find plenty of fantastic landscapes to capture in digital. The city skyline makes a dramatic subject too whether you snap it by day with the mountains behind it or from a high point at night when it's illuminated and glittering like the proverbial Christmas tree. As beautiful as Salt Lake City may be, it's good to have other things to focus on sometimes. Take a weekend, or if you have the free time, a five-day RV road trip from Salt Lake City to El Paso in Texas to ignite your creative muse while traveling through some of North America's most photo-worthy states.

Leave Salt Lake City on the I 15 southbound and you'll have the majestic scenery of the Wasatch Mountains to the east for a good few miles. As your journey progresses, stop off at Instagram-able hot springs, pitch camp near a waterfall, trek to some incredible rock arches, catch images of a flock of birds in flight at a wildlife refuge and get snap-happy at a photogenic lake in New Mexico. By the time you get to El Paso, you'll have enough stupendous shots to set up your own poster store. If you're not a photographer, no worries, you'll still enjoy the scenic drive.

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Max RV length
Max trailer Length
Road trip length: 3-5 days
Recommend rig: any
audience: all

Point of Interest

Fifth Water Hot Springs

Once you're through Provo and on route to El Paso, keep an eye out for the signs for the town of Spanish Fork. When you see it, don't take the turning but head instead down the UT 6 eastbound until you find the junction with Diamond Fork Road. That will lead you to the trailhead for the hike up to the Fifth Water Hot Springs. It won't be easy going in a rig, but it can be done, though if you have an ATV you may want to park up further away and use that instead.

The trail to the hot springs is out and back and around four and a half miles long. It's an easy trek and not over strenuous but if you do find yourself with any aches and pains, they'll soon disappear when you have a soak in the mineral-rich, thermally heated, natural spring waters. The multiple soaking pools of the springs are on the Fifth Water Creek, and as they're all at different levels, surrounded by rocks and trees, and have three stunning waterfalls, they really do make a pretty picture. It's a beautiful spot to relax in the daytime and even more special at night when you can take a dip under a sky full of stars.

Price Canyon Recreation Area

The Price Canyon Recreation Area is a BLM managed campground that will have you getting your camera out of its carry case before you've even pulled on the parking brake. The campground has twelve campsites for RVs that can be used on a first-come-first-served basis. The access road to the recreation area is not suitable for rigs over thirty-five feet and if you're in a medium or small one, make sure to keep an eye out for deer crossing the road. If your RV is too long to be able to get to the recreation area, you'll find an alternative campground in the Scofield State Park nearby.

Once you've pitched camp set out to explore the area and you'll find the Price River runs adjacent to the campground. For the most part, the river in this region is slow-flowing, but there are several places where it cascades over rapids creating picturesque mini waterfalls that are ideal for practicing your long exposure shots. There's also a nature trail leading out of the recreation area through the woods to a ridge that overlooks Price Canyon. The vistas from the ridge are totally breathtaking.

Arches National Park

To capture images of landscapes with unusual frames provided by nature, make a stop at the Arches National Park. The park is located in Grand County a few miles north of Moab and if you want to stay after dark to capture shots of the night skies you can pitch up in the Devil's Garden Campground. If you're heading there between March and October, you'll need to reserve your campsite before arriving. The rest of the year is first-come-first-served.

In the Arches National Park, there are more than two-thousand rock arches many of them displaying multi-colored strata. Weathered by time and the elements, the arches come in all shapes and sizes. As you trek around the park, you'll encounter some that are at a higher elevation and through which you can see far into the distance. The park has good dark skies at night so, with the right equipment, you could even be adding shots of the Milky Way to your photographic portfolio and if you have a quick shutter finger, some of fast-moving reptiles like the western collared lizard or a northern whiptail.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge sits between the Gila National Forest and the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. The refuge covers an extensive area totaling almost sixty-thousand acres of wetlands created by the flood system of the Rio Grande River. Surrounded by mountains, it's an idyllic haven for the migratory birds that arrive there to rest and breed in their hundreds of thousands.

Whatever time of the year you're making your RV road trip from Salt Lake City to El Paso, there is always something to see. November to January is when the large flocks of snow geese and other waterfowl settle on the waters of the refuge. Sunrise is the best time to catch the flocks in mass flight. The species change in the springtime and you'll be more likely to spot sandpipers and curlews as well as a variety of shorebirds. If you find the heat of summer is too much for trekking through the refuge, you can also drive around the special auto loop through the wetlands and around the ponds.

Caballo Lake

If one of your photographic ambitions is to catch shots of a sunrise or sunset reflected on tranquil water, you could well achieve both if you camp out in the Caballo Lake State Park. Caballo Lake is an eleven-thousand-acre reservoir near the small rural community of Truth or Consequences – yes, that really is a place name and a very unusual one at that. The scenic reservoir was formed by the damming of the Rio Grande River, is surrounded by the peaks of the Caballo Mountains, and catches the sun coming up as well as going down.

While you're waiting for those two major events of the day, there's plenty of other things to do to keep you occupied. The lake is ideal for all types of boating activities including kayaking, canoeing and there's a ramp if you want to launch a motorized craft. The fishing in the lake is good, and there are trails for hiking around its perimeter and a swim beach if you just feel like chilling out.


El Paso in Texas sits snug up against North America's border with neighboring country, Mexico. The suburbs of the city virtually blend into the ones of the Cuidad Juarez so, not surprisingly, El Paso has a combined American – Hispanic cultural aspect distinct to many other places. That's even more apparent during the celebrations of the city's festivals which diversify between the Fiesta de los Flores and the Neon Desert Music Festival.

For the best photographic opportunities though time your RV road trip to coincide with the El Paso Balloonfest or the El Paso Downtown Street Festival. Either of the colorful events will add a whole new perspective to your vacation photos.

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