Utah Rocks...I guess my friends have heard that theme enough and this year, 2 of them joined me for a 3 week journey throughout southern Utah. I jumped at the chance to visit in the fall and to explore more of the area! We flew into Vegas, rented a car ( camping out of a Ford Fusion turned out amazingly successful for 3 weeks!) and headed off after a stocking up visit to St. George's Walmart. ( We even bought pillows as a splurge!) Our first stop was Cedar Breaks National Monument, a beautiful Bryce-like area above 10,00 ft. A little snow greeted us and a great hike from the visitor center provided a few hours of fantastic views!
We decided to drive to Red Canyon where we set up camp for 3 nights in a lovely campsite! The next morning had us hiking up Losee Canyon in Red Canyon (Part of the Dixie National Forest) and onto a great plateau with a maze of trails and awesome views! A beautiful and much quieter area close to Bryce Canyon.
We explored Bryce Canyon the following day and hiked the Peekaboo/Queens Garden loop before heading out on the scenic drive with a short trek on the Bristlecone Pine trail. Absolutely exquisite color and formations in this area make the camera very useful...Wow!
We packed up and headed into the Escalante area the next morning and after setting up a camp at the Petrified Forest Park ( state parks have showers and national parks don't), we hiked along and in the Escalante River. A great hike in a beautifully colored canyon and lots of fun walking in the shallow water!
The Escalante area offers so many choices and we decided to hike to Lower and Upper Calf Creek Falls. We used many different sources for our choices but found the best guides to be Copeland's new book "Wow Utah Canyon Country" and Michael Kelsey's Guide to the Colorado Plateau ( with extra hours for his hikes as he must be a gazelle!) These 2 hikes displayed a nice cross-section of the rock layers and offered a nice swimming hole...well, really a very cold dunking pool!
After a very cool hike through the petrified forest, we hit the road again with first stop a great visitor center out of Boulder ( the most amazing highway is from Escalante to Boulder)! A very informative museum about the area and the ancestral puebloans that lived here over 800 years ago! ( More about that later!) And then another fun drive over Boulder Mtn. and a high pass to Capitol Reef National Park, with the perfect camp spot in an old Mormon orchard.
A beautiful sunny afternoon had us climbing up to Cohab Canyon and along the Frying Pan trail to a highpoint with huge views! The canyon offers amazing formations and color and the slickrock hiking along the trail is awesome! Strategically placed cairns guide you along sandstone ledges and through saddles...trail-building here would be fun!
After setting up a car retrieval the next morning ( thanks to fellow campers Val and Arlo!), we spent the day in Spring Canyon with a fun crossing of the Fremont River at day's end! Another gorgeous canyon with soaring walls above and neat rock below!
Our last day in Capitol Reef had us climbing again, this time to Navajo Knobs with a detour to the Hickman Bridge. Another great hike along sandstone ledges with constant awesome views!
A short drive brought us to Goblin Valley Park, a fun area for scrambling amongst bizarre rock formations!( And a great camp...with showers!)
The weather was even warmer here though the second day, the winds arrived with the requisite Utah sand everywhere! We had a great day in Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon(fun slot canyons) learning how to negotiate small pouroffs and chokestones! We then climbed a slickrock mountain near Temple mountain with huge views of southern Utah...Wow!
The next morning we awoke to red skies and for the first time for me, a day of storms! Intermittent rain and wind accompanied us on our drive to Natural Bridges National Monument, a beautiful drive past Lake Powell, to another great camp in the Monument. This area is far from settlements and provides marvelous night skies that we viewed at the visitor center through a telescope the following night! We decided to prove ourselves the gnarly Canadians we had been dubbed by fellow hikers and ended up doing a marvelous hike down into the Bridges for which this park is named! Amidst thunder and pouring rain, we made our way down steep slickrock, ladders, and fast-flowing brown runoff to the bottom of the canyon. Thankfully it was wide enough to avoid flashflood and the shortterm waterfalls visible on the sandstone rock walls were magnificent. We were even blessed with a rainbow later in the afternoon...following a great scramble up to Horsecollar Ruins, amazing ruins in huge alcoves above the canyon floor!
We awoke to sun the following day and decided to hike the south fork of Mule Canyon, an area rich with ruins! ( According to a local ranger, you can hike up any canyon and find ruins) We found our first ruins above the canyon floor and were able to stay up on various sandstone ledges with a little creative route-finding and found 7 more sites!! The previous day's water filled potholes and the wash and added to the beauty. We then headed back along the route on the canyon bottom to complete another great hike! We still also saw beautiful fall colored foliage and seemed to be following it along this trip!
Off again, this time to Canyonlands National Park, the Needles area. We set up another great camp in the Squawflat campground and headed out on a 4 hour loop from Big Spring to Squaw Canyon. Beautiful canyons and an exciting slickrock scramble at the pass were the perfect intro to this awesome area!
The next day had us exploring the Needles, Chesler Park and the Joint...it is amazing how unique each area of Utah is!
A hike along the Peekaboo trail filled our last day in the Needles, providing a great slickrock walk to another area rich with pictographs and granaries. This is an awesome hike with incredible views...I love slickrock hiking!
Back on the road again and a lower key rest day planned...it of course turns into a 2 hour hike and then another route-finding, tough few hours searching for Jeep arch out of Moab. And they call us obsessive...I think it is just passion! We set up camp in a decadent private site in Moab ( with a nice laundry room to stay warm in the cold evenings!) and headed out to Corona Arch and then the elusive Jeep Arch, which to our delight, we found!
Arches Park was our goal for the next day and we hiked to Delicate Arch ( Utah's license plate) in the morning and then a fun loop through the Devils Garden, viewing many different arches and scrambling up slickrock slopes. We also did a fun off-trail scramble around Delicate Arch and back through Window Arch. We wished we had more time in this park as well...we have already starting planning next year's trip!
Our last day in the Moab area was cut short by a changing forecast of snow through the passes between Moab and Zion, our next destination. We headed out for our only long drive of the trip towards Zion and thankfully arrived early in the evening. Canada's cold weather gift to Utah had us moving to a motel in Zion, a lovely change from tenting! And affordable as later October is classified as lo-season, though the weather is usually much warmer at this time of year! But first we had one last morning in Moab, where we explored Canyonlands Isle in the Sky by hiking the Grand View, the Crater View and Mesa Arch in blustery but dry weather! Another area that needs more exploration...next year!
Zion was beautiful..still cool and windy but dry and snowfree! And gorgeous! We started with a very windy hike up Angel's Landing ( a little nerve wracking with the gusty wind!) and then a lovely hike up the West Rim, providing beautiful views of the Park!
Though it was still cool, we decided to hike/wade up Zion Narrows with rented drysuits, neoprene booties and canyon booties! A great day and comfortably warm with the gear...we could actually swim with the drysuits!! A fun adventure for sure...and the huge hottub at the Cliff Rose Motel was sure welcome at the end of the day!
Our last day of the trip was warmer and sunnier....sure wish we could stay longer! We chose to hike to Observation Point with a detour to Hidden Canyon ( very cool trail to this canyon) and another detour to a great little slot canyon as we headed up! A beautiful view at the top of the whole Zion Canyon! The last bit of the day was spent hiking to Emerald Pools ( a short, well-peopled trail but we just didn't want to quit!)
A great trip over and back to the real world after a quick trip to Vegas! As forementioned, next year's trip is already in the works...with more participants interested! Utah is amazing to discover...and the longer hiking season is an awesome bonus! Thanks to my friends for a great trip!!!!