Driving Johns Canyon Road near Goosenecks State Park, Utah

Inspired by fellow RVers to visit Goosenecks State Park, we spent 4 days in the area and found lots of wonderful things to do including a spur-of-the-moment drive on Johns Canyon Road.

One of many benefits of being full-time RVers is having the flexibility in a travel plan when advanced reservation is not required. Between Monument Valley and next RV park reservation in Moab we had 7 days of total flexibility of where we could spend our time. With the fresh water tank full and both holding tanks empty, we are happy as a clam at high tide and ready to roll. Our destination was Goosenecks State Park, near a community of Mexican Hat, Utah.

I first heard about Goosenecks State Park from reading Scott’s blog post. The idea of parking Stimpy on the rim of a rock cliff overlooking a deep canyon was all I needed to remember this place. So when our travel route brought us to the area, Goosenecks State Park was one of the stops we had to do. We were very happy that we did.

Goosenecks State Park

According to the park’s website, a deep river canyon at Goosenecks State Park is one of the most impressive examples of an entrenched river meander on the North American continent. This section of the San Juan River twists and turns through the meander, flowing a distance of over six miles while advancing merely one and half miles! The river not only meanders, but it also carved the desert and created a 1000-foot deep canyon below. It’s something to see.

The impressive goosenecks
The San Juan River, slowly meanders at the bottom of the canyon and continues to carve it deeper. Look carefully you can see rafts and inflatables on the river.

Although the park’s website said to camp in 8 designated sites along rim, where fire-ring and picnic tables are located, they allow dispersed camping beyond the designated camping area. Basically, you drive further and further in until you find the spot you like. For big rigs, the dispersed camping area is probably your only option. We picked a spot in a nice, open area next to the rim. We stayed there for 4 nights. Using the cellular signal booster, we were able to have decent T-Mobile signals for internet. Now, that really made us happy.

It’s hard to beat this $10-a-night view from Stimpy’s windshield.
Or this patio view. It’s fortunately not very windy when we were there.
Or this kitchen with a view
The last sunlight of the day over the rim. You may be able to spot 5 other RVs in this picture.
Satellite map of the canyon rim where we camped

This is a small park. It’s all about the view of the goosenecks. There isn’t much to do in the park. However, there are plenty of things to do nearby. We visited Natural Bridges National Monument (about 45 miles away), stopped at Muley Point, drove through Valley of the Gods, and drove on Johns Canyon Road.

Johns Canyon Road on the desert floor seen from Muley Point

Johns Canyon Road

When we visited Muley Point on the southern edge of nearby Cedar Mesa, while admiring the view of the canyons and desert floor from the Point, we noticed a dirt road running between Cedar Mesa and the San Juan River canyon. The road is indicated on online maps as Utah-244 or Johns Canyon Road. I had read that the road leads into Johns Canyon, but didn’t do much research about the drive itself.

On our last day in the area, we decided to drive the Johns Canyon Road, just to see what it’s like. I wasn’t sure what I expected to see, but it turned into a really nice drive. See for yourself.

Driving on Johns Canyon Road
For most of the drive, there were spectacular views of Cedar Mesa on the right side as we headed for Johns Canyon.
And on the left side there were the San Juan River canyon. At some spots, the road goes through the seemingly only possible strip of land to put a road on between the towering mesa and the steep drop-off. Yes, my palms sweat as I write this.
See what I meant? This is probably not a road to try to drive after rain.
Then we came to a closed gate. When we saw the gate from a distance we thought the road was closed and we weren’t in a spot where we could turn Ren around. It was a small oh-sh*t moment (Look at the picture above. That’s the spot we were when we saw the gate). Upon examining it, it’s passable, just close the gate after yourself.
Then the road goes around Muley Point, where we were looking down on this road a couple of days ago.
Johns Canyon Road continues on the southwestern edge of Cedar Mesa. We then came to another gate before the road turns northeast direction into Johns Canyon.
About 15 minutes after passing the second gate, we aarived at our destination, Johns Canyon Waterfalls.
There was actually little water in the creek, trickling down the falls.
It was a nice surprise and a great turnaround spot.
We had our lunch sandwich while enjoying the scenery before heading back.
On the drive back we spotted petroglyphs on a large boulder. What a treat!

It took us about 3 hours to drive to our destination spot and back to Goosenecks State Park. The entire time on Johns Canyon Road we didn’t run into any other cars or anyone and had the road and the place to ourselves. The condition of the Johns Canyon Road was quite good. There were a few spots where a high-clearance vehicle is required. We did put the truck into 4-wheel drive a few times. There were no cellular signals for most of the drive, so a paper map is essential. We had an off-line map with GPS for live update of our location.

A satellite map of our Johns Canyon driving route.

Note: Camping at Goosenecks State Park is on a first-come-first-served basis. Camping fee is $10/night. The campground has only vault toilet. No water.

Although there are 8 designated sites with table picnics and fire rings, self-contained RVs are better off camping in the dispersed camping area beyond the official camping area. This effectively means the park can accommodate many more than 8 sites. It’s unlikely that you won’t find a spot to camp. From our experience, almost everyone moved on after a night or two, so even if you couldn’t get a good spot, just park somewhere and move to a better spot in the morning.

7 thoughts on “Driving Johns Canyon Road near Goosenecks State Park, Utah

  1. Yes, this is a great place for the views and photos. I was there way back in 1996, but may get there next year when we visit Utah again. Thanks for sharing your experience there and the great images!

    Like

What do you think of this post? We love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.