I think that this past week may have been the most epic one we have ever had! After a whole month of being in Colorado, we finally decided to see some of the famous mountain towns before leaving the state and heading further West. We slept at our favorite campsite we have ever found in Hanksville, Utah and went on adventures that blew our minds.
After living in the van for seven months, I can confidently say that our time in Hanksville, Utah was some of the most memorable experiences we have had. When you visit there, you feel like you’ve been transported off of earth and onto another planet. Read below to find out more about our amazing times in these wonderful places.
Table of Contents
Van Life in Steamboat & Hanksville
Steamboat & Mountains in Colorado
After a long weekend of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, Dylan and I were very ready for some relaxation. Luckily, my uncle offered for us to stay in his rental condo in the middle of Steamboat, Colorado. Even though we had to drive a bit out of our way, we knew that it would be worth it to get to spread out in a space, do our laundry, and actually take real showers.
We got to Steamboat and memories came flooding back of my college ski trip. I felt so at peace being in the place that I had fallen in love with years before. Dylan and I went immediately to my uncle’s place and we were immediately impressed. A rental company runs the lodge, so there were gifts when we walked in and all the amenities of a hotel like free laundry detergent, shampoos, and conditioners.
Dylan and I were basking in all of the space. We threw our laundry into the machine and plopped directly onto the couch to lounge. That’s one of the things that I miss most about living in a van, not having access to a comfortable couch. I love hanging out on a couch, relaxing, and maybe even watching television to unwind. Originally we were only going to stay for two nights, but we ended up extending our stay so we could enjoy the space a little longer.
While we were in Steamboat, we got delicious burgers from Back Door Grill, went shopping in the downtown area, saw Fish Creek Falls, and soaked in the geothermal pools at Strawberry Hot Springs. You can read more about the hot springs here. Basically, it was a perfect few days in Steamboat and I will continue wanting to go back there every single winter. It’s just a magical town with great energy and vibes.
Once we left Steamboat, we drove through a few other mountain towns in Colorado: Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Vail, and Breckinridge. We had plans to stay in these areas longer, but honestly each of them just seemed like bougie ski towns and they lacked the personality that we love in various places. Also, it kept snowing on and off and at this point we were sick of being in the cold weather. We ended up just driving through to see them and heading on our way further West.
Finally, we made it to the warmer area of Colorado when we got to Grand Junction. On Friday night we decided to see a movie and enjoy being downtown before our weekend ahead. Our original plans were to hike in Colorado National Monument and then head to the Salt Lake City area, but that soon changed.
On Saturday, we woke up and I checked my instagram. I realized that we had van friends in the same area. I peeked outside my window and saw that they were even staying in the exact same parking lot as us! I immediately messaged them and told them to come say hello. Well, what I thought would be a quick hello ended up being six hours of hanging around our vans in the Cabela’s parking lot.
We just got along so well. It was so delightful to make new van friends and talk about future plans to meet up along the road! They even told us that we should go somewhere we had missed in Utah. They said that we had to go to Mars (the Bentonite Hills), so we changed our plans, left the parking lot, and drove directly to Hanksville, Utah. This ended up being one of the best last minute decisions we have ever made.
While Dylan drove, I started making plans to see Hanksville, Utah. I had seen other instagram friends going there in the past and I knew that there were actually a lot of hidden gems in the area. It took a lot of research and digging, but eventually I came up with a game plan. We were about to have the most epic 24 hours of van life that we have ever experienced!
First, we drove by the impressive Factory Butte to get to a campsite that I had only seen in pictures. It seemed like the kind of place that would leave you completely slack jawed. We took one of the bumpiest roads to get there and luckily our van remained all in one piece. As soon as we got close, we saw multiple cars racing down the mountain. We thought that was kind of weird, but we continued on.
When we got to the campsite, we were floored. The views outside were otherworldly and absolutely insane! I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was seriously something that I had never witnessed before. However, I also realized why all the cars raced down the hillside, because the wind at the top was howling like something I have never experienced before! I was scared to get out of the van, because the winds were so strong.
Luckily, they quieted a bit during the sunset, so Dylan and I managed to explore the area and take it all in. There’s no question, it was the best campsite we have ever slept at. That being said, during the night the wind was howling so loudly that we barely got any sleep. I managed to get about two hours of shut eye in before our alarms went off to see the sunrise. There was no way I would miss that.
When we got out of the van, a small group of people had come to the spot to watch the light change over the landscape. Although I was sad to not have the place to ourselves anymore, I couldn’t be that upset because it was so stunning. Dylan and I just watched in awe as the colors changed and transformed the landscape beyond. This place really does look like the moon! If you ever get the chance to go, you have to do it! It’s one of my favorite places I have ever been.
We continued our morning, by driving to one of the destinations that had been on my bucket list for a while: seeing Mars! Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Wow, first the moon and now Mars, is this girl crazy?” Well, once you’ve seen these places you’ll understand why they are compared to areas that are on different planets and out of this world.
Dylan and I drove past the Mars Research Station, where they do actual research about Mars (!!), and continued to the hills beyond. Again we were shocked at what we were looking at. This place seriously looks like it’s from a science fiction movie. We walked on top of the hills and we had the entire place to ourselves. Dylan and I took the drone out to get some insane footage from above! Honestly, if you don’t have a drone, then you should definitely get one. The bird’s eye view of this place is insane! We stayed for about an hour before heading to the next crazy spot.
Long Dong Silver
I only knew about this spot, because one friend on Instagram told me that I had to go. She sent me coordinates to park alongside the road and then told me that we just walk for two miles to get to the spire itself. Although Dylan and I were a bit skeptical of just walking out into the open desert, we thought we might as well give it a try.
The walk was flat and easy, but as we got closer to the spire itself, the wind started to pick up. At exactly two miles we made it to one of the craziest rock formations that I have ever seen. Two dark brownish/blackish rocks jut up into the air and it resembles scenes from Lord of the Rings. We felt like we had been transported to Mordor.
Dylan and I spent time playing around and running up and down the hillside near the spires. We marveled at the landscape and felt extremely grateful to be living this incredible life. We started to head down the mountain, just thinking about the crazy day we had when the wind picked up even more. All of a sudden, we couldn’t even see in front of us, because sand and dust were flying everywhere. Dylan and I started to walk backwards to avoid the dust, but we were laughing the entire way.
When we got back to the van, we assessed the damage. We looked like we were completely different skin tones from the dust and even our ears were full of dust. So, we knew that we needed to get showers immediately. Unfortunately, the closest Planet Fitness was three hours away and we were desperate. So, we ended up taking our first ever truck stop shower at a Loves. It was honestly a wonderful experience, the showers were hot, the room was clean, and it felt like a hotel. If they didn’t cost so much, I would do it all the time.
Our week started with relaxation, but ended with some of the most epic adventures in that we have had in the van. That’s what I love about living this lifestyle, you never know what’s going to happen next. We have been able to experience so many new things and see places beyond our wildest imaginations. I am so grateful to be spending time in the van, seeing this beautiful country, and doing it all with my favorite person around. I can’t wait for the future adventures, so make sure to stay tuned for the next van chronicles!
Let me know if you enjoyed this van chronicles in the comments!
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