Written by Wasatch on 19 May, 2009
At Ruby’s Inn, the largest hotel near Bryce Canyon, 75% of the guests are from outside the USA. Foreign visitors are 80% of those staying in the hotels between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks to the north and Monument Valley and the…Read More
At Ruby’s Inn, the largest hotel near Bryce Canyon, 75% of the guests are from outside the USA. Foreign visitors are 80% of those staying in the hotels between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks to the north and Monument Valley and the Navajo Reservation to the south. Utah is in many ways an odd place, unlike any other state in America because of its domination by the Mormon Church, so for the most successful Utah vacation, the foreign visitor needs not only to know what to see but also to be prepared for Utah’s oddities. We retired and moved to Utah to go skiing and see the scenery. Before moving to Utah, we had visited Europe many times. After six years of traveling around Utah, we resumed going to Europe once or twice a year for something entirely different. Foreigners should visit Utah because you have never seen anything like this place, and you never will again unless you return, which a lot of foreign visitors do. Everything Europe has, Utah has the opposite, except for mountains, but I rescued a lost Italian in the mountains across the valley from where we live one day who explained why he was lost there: "these mountains are so different from the Alps that I had to see more of them." Utah covers about 222,740 square kilometers. The Navajo Reservation (65,000 sq km) is larger than Austria. 3,000,000 people live in the State, 2,000,000 of them within 80 km of downtown Salt Lake City. The rest of the state is empty. There are thousands of square kilometers with fewer than 2 people per 5 sq km. Utah is a place where you come to see the works of nature, not of man.Like Gaul, Utah’s scenery divides into three parts– the northern mountains, the Western Desert, and the Colorado Plateau. The vast Colorado Plateau, occupying parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, home of the most remarkable scenery scenery in the world, is a land of deserts, canyons, and mountains. Except in the mountains, rain is rare, less than 25 cm per year. There is scant vegetation, leaving Mother Earth fully exposed, not hidden by vegetation. Utah’s top sights are scenic drives, State and National Parks, and the landscape in between. Since most other nations have or are close to mountains, limit your mountain visits to UT Rt 92 ($5 fee) near Provo and UT Rt 150 ($5 fee), the Mirror Lake Highway near Park City unless you are a dedicated mountain fan. For those who want to maximize mountain scenery, add Logan Canyon (Logan), UT Rt 35 (near Price), and the La Salle Mtn. Loop (Moab, near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks). The blockbuster sights are,all on the Colorado Plateau: Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, scenic routes UT Rts 12 and 9, Monument Valley and the Navajo Reservation. And as long as you are here, try to get to Hovenweep (ancient Indians), Natural Bridges and Cedar Breaks National Monuments; and Kodachrome Basin, Petrified Forest, Edge of the Cedars(ancient Indians), Goblin Valley, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Freemont Indian (ancient Indians), and Goosenecks of the San Juan State Parks.Mesa Verde and The Grand Canyon North Rim National Parks are each about a two hour round trip drive from the roads connecting the major Utah sights. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is 600m higher than the South Rim, less expensive, and much less crowded. The National Parks charge an admission fee from $5-20, depending on the park, which is good for seven days entry to that park. One use and weekly, fortnightly, and yearly admissions are available for all State Parks. The best way to see Utah is to rent a car and drive. Las Vegas or Salt Lake City are the closest major airports to Utah’s great sights. Once out of town, roads have little traffic and travel is fast. For example, when we drive to Las Vegas, once out of Salt Lake City, we set the cruise control for 125 km/h and go that speed for hours at a time. Our average speed for the trip is more than 90 km/h, including stops for gas and lunch. On side roads, we typically average 80km/h. American highway maps show miles between places. To convert miles into time for a trip, dividing by 50 will give a pretty good estimate of the hours needed. On side roads in Europe, our travel rate is about 30 miles per hour. There are two alternatives to rental car: a bus tour or hire a car and driver. Public transportation does not exist, except in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Three typical bus tours are 1] Rapid City, South Dakota to Las Vegas via Mt Rushmore, the Black Hills, Yellowstone National Park, Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, and Zion National Park. 2] Differs from # 1 by starting in Bozeman, MT, skipping Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills., and 3] Denver to Las Vegas via the Rocky Mtns., Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park , Capitol Reef National Park scenic UT Rt 12, Bryce Canyon National Park, then finishing like #1. Within the National Parks, there is no public transportation in Yellowstone, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, or the Grand Canyon. A shuttle bus runs from late May to mid-September along the full length of the park road in Bryce National Park (35 km one way). The Zion National Park shuttle bus travels the 12km, one way, Zion Canyon road. The major problem with a bus tour is that you must go where and when the tour goes. If you hire a car and driver or drive yourself to follow your own itinerary, no problem. The major problem with hiring a car and driver is the cost. The major problem with driving yourself is that the driver has to pay attention to the road, which limits sight seeing. The per person cost of a car and driver can be reduced by taking 4-8 people and hiring a mini-bus and driver. Google "transportation services" for Park City, UT, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas. A cautionary note: 15 passenger vans are much more dangerous than other highway vehicles unless driven by a very experienced driver. There is no lodging within Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks, so don’t be upset when your tour puts you outside these parks. The Bryce Canyon shuttle stops at Ruby’s Inn, the major lodging for overseas visitor’s.When to come. Summers in the National Parks are crowded and hot. The average daily high temperature in Zion National Park is 39C. Although 39 degrees is hot by any standard, it is somewhat mitigated by the very low– 2-10%-- humidity. Still, its best to visit in the spring or fall to avoid the hottest weather and the crowds (summer school vacation, the high travel season in America are from the end of May to the last week of August or first week of September). Except for Las Vegas, all the other places mentioned here are cooler because they are at higher altitudes. Zion Canyon is about 1,000m. Bryce Canyon Lodge, Yellowstone, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon visitor's center are at 2,400m. The end of the road in Bryce is 2,700m. Yellowstone is 800 km north of Zion, which is 150 km north of Las Vegas. If you are traveling on your own, advanced reservations near the parks is a good idea, but not essential. You will find some place to stay in the vicinity, which could be an hour a way. If you want to stay inside any of the parks with lodging, advanced reservations are essential. The best Utah trip is UT Rt 9 from I-80 to Capitol Reef National Park via UT Rt 9, US Rt 89, and UT Rt 12 with visits to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef National Parks. From our home near Salt Lake City, we do this in three days, but we do it 2-3 times a year and we do not try to see everything at once. You should allow at least one day to get to the start of the tour from Las Vegas or Salt Lake City, one day for Zion National Park, one day to go from Zion to Bryce, one day at Bryce, one day on Rt 12, and one day at Capitol Reef. A one day side trip to the Grad Canyon North Rim will provide a sufficient visit to this great hole in the ground. Close
Written by Wasatch on 25 Feb, 2009
A few years ago, two hikers set off from I-15 in southern Utah to walk to Moab. It took them123 days. I recommend driving.BY AIR You can fly into Moab, but its expensive. Salt Lake City is the closest major gateway andthe trip…Read More
A few years ago, two hikers set off from I-15 in southern Utah to walk to Moab. It took them123 days. I recommend driving.BY AIR You can fly into Moab, but its expensive. Salt Lake City is the closest major gateway andthe trip to Canyonlands, about 4 hours to several days, is impressively scenic. The fastest route is I-15 south to US 6 east to I-70 east to US 191 south. The scenery on thisroute features the trip over the Wasatch Mtn. Range and the desert landscape east of the Wasatch. From Helper to I-170, the long mesa on the left is the Book Cliffs. You will be impressed withthe isolation of Canyonlands, but Canyonlands is nothing compared to the Book Cliffs, perhapsthe most isolated place in the country. A side roads off US 6 ends in less than 20 miles at a ranchhouse. 60 years ago the rancher discovered the largest prehistoric Indian ruins in North Americaon one corner of his ranch. Fifty years later he donated the land to the State Archeologist. Thatwas the first the world knew of his discovery. For a half a century, nobody else came across thisancient city.Desolation Canyon is in the Book Cliffs. Desolation Canyon is 2/3 the size of the Grand Canyonand a mile deep. That’s big. Did you ever hear of Desolation Canyon? The closest roadaccess(dirt) ends 35 miles from the canyon rim. Zipping along at 65 mph for 84 miles along the base of the Book Cliffs in your air conditionedcar with MP3 player, cell phone, and laptop, look over at the Book Cliffs and reflect on thevastness of nature with Ozymandias, "gaze on my works ye mighty and despair."The problem with US 6 is that it is a very dangerous road, the number one killer in Utah becausethe State Legislature would rather see people slaughtered in head on collisions than raise the gastax to make it an expressway. Safer, but less scenic and a bit longer is to take I-70 south to US 50 to I-70 east. The Book Cliffs are on the left after passing the intersection with US 6 on I-70. Another pleasant alternative that misses the most dangerous half of Rt 6 is to leave Salt LakeCity on I-80 east to US 40 east to US 191 south. If you do this in early October, stop at theStrawberry Visitor’s center to see the salmon run. After US 40 passes Strawberry Reservoir (the big lake on the right), it climbs a hill. There isusually a Beaver Dam in the little stream along right side of the road on the downhill trip. If thefront seat passenger watches closely, he should spot it. I can spot it while driving, but I knowwhat to look for. Do you?From Las Vegas I-15 to UT Rt 9 to US Rt 89 to UT Rt 12 to UT Rt 24 to I-70 to US 191 to Canyonlands. This trip is described in detail below. Its about 460 miles. It can be done in one long day, butthat would be a big mistake. SCENIC ROUTESFrom Salt Lake City I-15 south to US 50 south to UT 24 to I-70 east to US 191 south. UT 24 is a scenic roadwhose highlights, and these are impressive, are Capitol Reef National Park and the badlands justeast of Capitol Reef. Canyonlands is a hole in the surface of the Colorado Plateau. Capitol Reefis an odd rock formation 100 miles long on top of the Colorado Plateau. Rt 24 goes throughHanksville, a strong candidate for the title ‘arm pit of America’. Hanksville is at the intersectionof UT 24 and UT 95. Don’t blink or you will miss it. Hanksville’s economy depends on a gasstation, a couple motels at the intersection, and 240 cows on small ranches. A few years ago, theriver running through Capitol Reef flooded and wiped out Hanksville’s irrigation canals, withoutwhich the 240 cows can’t live. The Federal government gave Hanksville $5,000,000 to rebuildthe canals. And you thought Kobe Beef was expensive! Four years later, every Republicanmember of Utah’s Congressional delegation who engineered this pork barrel voted against Pres.Obama’s economic stimulus package. From Las Vegas Drive over to Lake Mead and follow the road along the lake to Valley of Fire State Park–well worth a visit– and then to I-15. Near the Arizona-Utah border, I-15 runs through the veryscenic Virgin River Gorge, so rugged that I-15 is the first road to go through the gorge. Unfortunately, there is only one parking area in the gorge, near the north end and mostly out ofthe really scenic stuff. Somewhere north of Las Vegas, the scenery changes from the Mojave Desert to the ColoradoPlateau. Neatly shown on maps, these places in reality merge into each other in a messy fashion. The Valley of Fire has elements of both, but when you come out of the Virgin River Gorge, youare definitely on the Colorado Plateau, 135,000 sq. miles of the most scenic landscapes in theworld. Local slang for the Colorado Plateau is "red rock country", and you will soon know why.Turn right, east, on UT Rt 9 just north of St George. This is one of the world’s most scenicroads, especially when driven in the other direction, which you can do on your return to LasVegas. Rt 9 cuts through spectacular Zion National Park– stay at least for day. Rt 9 ends at US 89, another scenic road at Mt Carmel Jct. Go north, left, to UT Rt 12(seereview of) which rivals Rt 9 for spectacular scenery. Twenty miles down Rt 12 is the turnoff forBryce Canyon National Park, requiring five hours for a quick visit. Back on Rt 12 going east, theroad crosses the vast and desolate Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument. Rt 12 joinsUT Rt 24 just before Capitol Reef National Park (see above for the rest of the trip). The shortest way back to Las Vegas is to reverse this drive, but if that is what you are going todo, make this modification when going to c*. Stay on I-15 past Rt 9 for another 50 miles to UTRt 14, another scenic route, although not in the same league as Rts 12 and 9, which goes byCedar Breaks National Monument and joins US 89 about 25 miles from Rt 12. Then return viaRt 9, to go in the direction on Rt 9 that has the best views (east to west). This trip can be done in about seven days, minimum, or you can spend the better part of lifetimeexploring it.For a longer return from Canyonlands head south on US 191 through Monument Valley, perhapswith a 60 miles detour to see the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park to Petrified WoodNational Park and then across the Navajo Reservation to the Grand Canyon National Park, thenacross Hoover dam and to Las Vegas.From Denver This is a long haul, but a pleasantly scenic mountain drive. Head west on I-70 from theDenver airport– I recommend skipping Denver, a pretty dull place, in favor of spending moretime visiting the outstanding scenery in the Colorado mountains. Georgetown, about 50 milesfrom the airport is an attractive well preserved old west mining town. Give it a look. Turn southon scenic CO Rt 91 six miles west of Frisco to US 285 to US 50 west The Black Canyon of theGunnison National Park. Both the Black Canyon and Canyonlands are big holes in the ground,but they are as different as different can be. At Montrose head south on US 550. In 20 miles atthe intersection CO 26 comes a dilemma. Here starts the loop road around the San Juan Mtns.,one of the best mountain drives in North America. If you don’t have time for the whole loop,which way to go? US 550 to Durango(home of the famed Silverton Train) is a bit more scenic,but the other side of the loop enables a visit to Telluride. Whichever way you choose, at US160, go see Mesa Verde National Park. Then contiune west on US 491 (until a few years ago,this was US 666, but the right wing religious nuts got GW Bush to ban the "Devil’s sign" as ahighway number). US 491, né 666, crosses the heart of the America’s pinto bean farms. Northon US 191 brings you to Canyonlands. For the return to Denver, take scenic UT 126 just north of Moab to I-70 east to Denver, with avisit to Colorado National Monument. Close
Written by callen60 on 27 Nov, 2007
We drove into Capitol Reef from the west, having left Monument Valley, crossed the Colorado at Hite, and turned west on Highway 24 toward the park at Hanksville. The rain that threatened during our stop at Natural Bridges was now pouring down, washing out any…Read More
We drove into Capitol Reef from the west, having left Monument Valley, crossed the Colorado at Hite, and turned west on Highway 24 toward the park at Hanksville. The rain that threatened during our stop at Natural Bridges was now pouring down, washing out any thoughts of seeing what this tiny junction town in the wilderness had to offer. As we headed west into the canyons, the rain began to let up, and by the time we reached the park’s western boundary it had stopped.But its after-effects hadn’t. Sheets of water now poured off the white domes of rock all along the road, and we lost count of the impromptu waterfalls as the road wove upstream through the canyon carved by the Fremont River. We thought we’d picked out the capitol-shaped dome that gave the area its name, but it was easier to see as we headed east later that evening.The skies were still gray as we arrived at the Visitor Center in late afternoon, but looked like they might clear soon. The center was both larger than it looked and larger than I expected, with a good-sized bookstore. The slide show in the small theater on the north side is shown on request, and we headed there after picking up maps and trail guides. I remember thinking that it was a decent presentation, but any specific memories of were wiped out by the way it ended—as the last image faded, the portion of the wall containing the screen rose up, leaving the large red rock formation called ‘The Castle’ perfectly framed in the exposed window.We’d planned to take a trip down the Scenic Drive, but the rangers at the desk were just announcing that the rain had washed out the road, closing it after a mile, just south of Fruita. We switched our plans, headed to Torrey to check in at Austin’s and eat at Brinks, and then headed back into the park about 7pm. The skies were now perfectly clear, just in time for the terrific light ahead of sunset.The fading sun really brought out the colors in the rocks along the north side of the highway. As the sun continued to set, they looked increasingly golden in the late-day light. This made it a particularly nice time to see the Twin Rocks and then Chimney Rock, both of which are visible from Highway 24 just inside the park boundary. The turnoff to Goosenecks and Panorama Point is just a bit past Chimney Rock, and is well worth visiting for a good view east along the Waterpocket Fold before the highway descends into Fruita.Panorama Point is not far off the highway. The road continues past here to a short hike to the Goosenecks, the deep bends in Sulphur Creek. The trail isn’t well marked, but it’s not too hard to sense the general direction you should take. There were just enough markers along the one-third of a mile to get us to the overlook, which is nearly directly above the big turns in the river. A small fenced platform is directly on the edge of the bluff. The Goosenecks are far enough down that they were deep in shadow by the time we arrived. I was up for returning the next morning for a better view (and better photos), but the urge to head on to Bryce Canyon won out with the rest of our crew. We retraced our steps to the parking lot, and then sprinted the short distance out to Sunset Point. There was another good view of the Waterpocket Fold and the Henry Mountains beyond, but any thought of staying for the actual sunset was squashed by my oldest kid’s desire to get to the Petroglyphs before we lost the sunlight. Our experience of Capitol Reef was directly tied to Highway 24. Our minivan wasn’t appropriate for Cathedral Valley, the Scenic Drive was closed, and we’d chosen not to risk the drive north along Notom-Bullfrog road for both time and safety reasons. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this park nearly as much as any of the others. The combination of wilderness and pioneer community was intriguing, and the large stretches of the park that remained off-limits to us meant that we’d only scratched the surface here. The Grand Canyon aside, I’d probably return here first before revisiting any of the stops on this trip. In part, the additional time we spent at both places gave me a better sense of each location. In addition, I know I’d be more likely to experience this place without the crowds that fill those two parks. Close
Written by Linda Hoernke on 25 Jun, 2007
Pine Valley covers about 50,000 acres in what's known as the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness. The mountain is part of a huge rock outcrop that forms the Pine Valley Laccolith...the largest in the United States. Mixed spruce, bristle cone pine, and Douglas-fir are found throughout…Read More
Pine Valley covers about 50,000 acres in what's known as the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness. The mountain is part of a huge rock outcrop that forms the Pine Valley Laccolith...the largest in the United States. Mixed spruce, bristle cone pine, and Douglas-fir are found throughout the area. Beautiful tree lined meadows are the summer home to a large deer herd along with many birds including the red-tailed hawk. Pine Valley Mountain is actually an island surrounded by desert with summer days being warm with cool nights and winter months becoming a recreation area for skiing and other winter sports. The scenery is amazing with hiking trails that will take you to overlooks of the Dixie Basin and Zion National Park. There are over 150 miles of hiking trails in the area. There are short trails that will take you around Pine Valley Reservoir and backpack trails like the 15 mile Whipple Trail. Located north of St. George, the Pine Valley Recreation Area is a great place for camping, hiking, fishing, or relaxing. The reservoir is filled with rainbow and brook trout...a nice addition to a meal around the campfire. There are no boat ramps and fishing from boats or float tubes are not allowed so this makes the Reservoir popular with fly fishers. Horseback riding is popular in the area and one of the campgrounds have horse facilities. Blue Springs Campground is one of five shaded campgrounds in the Pine Valley Mountains. There are 18 sites with drinking water and flush toilets. The cost of the sites are $11 a night and they are open from May to October. For reservations, call (877) 444-6777 or (800) 287-CAMP for the Equestrian campground. The town of Pine Valley is at 6,500 feet and has had an interesting history. It was a lumber and livestock area before it became a thriving town. People moved away and it became a ghost town. Later it was appreciated as a recreational area and now it is back to a community with year-round residents. One of the most famous historical buildings still in use is the Pine Valley Chapel. Logs from a gorge west of Pine Valley were hauled by ox cart to the site in 1867. Built by Ebenezer Bryce, the interior resembles an upside down ship. The chapel was dedicated in 1868 and is the oldest continuously used chapel by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The chapel can be visited and tours are given. The address is 52 W Main Street, Pine Valley. Pine Valley Lodge is located at 960 East Main Street in Pine Valley. They rent cabins for $59 a night or you can stay in the lodge for $79 per night. Their cabins are one room with a small TV and the shower house is across from them. They are cute and comfortable. Some have bunk beds plus a double bed. The lodge also has a cafe which serves great food and across the street is the Branding Iron Restaurant. Reservations for the lodge can be made at (435) 574-6475. Directions to Pine Valley: From Vegas head north on I-15. Take Exit 6 in St. George. Turn north on Bluff Street. Bluff turns into Hwy. 18. Keep traveling north on Hwy. 18 to the turn off for Central. Turn right and continue through Central and into Pine Valley. Turn left at Main St. near the Pine Valley Chapel and continue into the Pine Valley Recreation Area. Distance from St. George is about 40 miles. Close
Written by callen60 on 28 Jan, 2007
It’s 20 miles down Utah 63—the park road—from its junction with Utah 12 to the end at Rainbow Point. The first 3 miles lie outside the park, and another mile takes you to the central amphitheatre, where the great majority of visitors cluster, and where…Read More
It’s 20 miles down Utah 63—the park road—from its junction with Utah 12 to the end at Rainbow Point. The first 3 miles lie outside the park, and another mile takes you to the central amphitheatre, where the great majority of visitors cluster, and where the easiest access to the canyon lies. A mile past Sunset Point is a spur to three overlooks, of which the first Inspiration Point, where a set of three overlooks are built progressively south along the Rim Trail. Further down the road is a fork in the road whose northern side leads to Bryce Point, which looks into the amphitheatre from its southernmost point; the south heads to Paria View, the first overlook into the rest of the park.
We watched our first sunrise in Bryce from Inspiration Point, arriving just after 6am on a brisk morning—with temperatures barely above 40°, sweatshirts were proving not quite adequate to the task. The clouds added some additional color to the sky, but kept the canyon from bursting into Technicolor with the day’s first rays.
Satisfied by 6:30 that we wouldn’t be treated to an extended, beautiful display, we headed off to the lodge for the buffet breakfast and copious amounts of coffee and hot chocolate to shake off the chill.I came back this way the next morning to watch the sunrise at Bryce Point, and to hike into the canyon during the first hour of daylight. As I drove back out to the scenic drive after that excursion, I decided I had time for the turn out to Paria View. This location hadn’t drawn any photographers, and just past this spur is another landmark: the gate used to close off the remainder of the road in wintertime. I had this location to myself, along with the evidence that erosion never sleeps, as it gradually works its way back into the paved path of the overlook.
The most spectacular hoodoos are in the amphitheatre, but the other general features remain the same: the plateau edge falls away in a cascade of orange rock, providing spectacular vistas to the east and along the rock edges to north and south and below.
Later that morning, with our whole crew in tow, we headed back down the Scenic Drive past the spur to Rainbow Gate, which closes the lower half of the road in winter and seems to keep most summer visitors out as well. Most areas below Sunset Point seem to experience only a fraction of the crowds at the other places. Clearly, their proximity of the central viewpoints to each other leads most folks to stay where they can move from site to site in near-record time. Unfortunately, that also results in many people treating Bryce as a 1-day, rim-top stop. Even if you don’t hike the trails into the canyon, the rest of the park road offers another way to escape the crowds.Here at the southernmost end of Bryce, the road turns north into the parking area at Rainbow Point, which looks north back across the rest of the park and the Dixie National Forest to the east.There’s a paved trail that runs along the rim, and actually connects with the Under-the-Rim-Trail, which runs along the Canyon floor north to Bryce Point. Off to the east is the Bristlecone Loop Trail, a short nature trail that cuts through several strands of its namesake, ancient trees, many located out at the southern end. Three of us hiked this path, marveling at the tough, twisted pines whose oldest member was over 1,800 years young.Yovimpa Point looks off the plateau’s south edge to Arizona, which is actually visible on a clear day. Here, you stand atop the Pink Cliffs, the top stair of the Grand Staircase, which descends from here across the Grey Cliffs and White Cliffs to the Vermillion Cliffs that stretch into Arizona. In the distance, you may see the trees of the Kaibab Plateau on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.
The view is spectacular, and the three of us stood in the stiff breezes and remembered all the places we’d been over the last 10 days in this magnificent country. The Riggs Spring Loop Trail heads south from here to Yovimpa Pass before twisting east and north back to Rainbow Point over its nearly 9-mile length. The Park Service lists this as a strenuous backcountry hike, and I’d love to return for what could be a challenging day-hike, or a more leisurely overnight outing (there are four campsites along the trail).Two miles north is Black Birch Canyon, where the floor is close and thickly forested. The Under-the-Rim Trail is only a half-mile from the viewpoint, but there’s no access here.
Another half-mile brings you to an overlook of Ponderosa Canyon. Although you’re surrounded by firs and spruces, down on the canyon floor the lower elevation supports the much larger Ponderosa Pines. You can access the the Under-the-Rim Trail here, via a connector that heads north and then descends Agua Canyon. Rainbow Point is an 8-mile hike south from here via this trail.Agua Canyon is another mile north, and features the return of hoodoos similar to those in the central amphitheatre. The large ones to the right and left are among the few that still retain names. Although many hoodoos bore distinctive names in the park’s early days, a few decades of erosion have changed their features so significantly that the names no longer make sense. (By the way, the one on the left is ‘The Hunter’, and on the right is ‘The Backpacker’).
Having mastered the difference between ‘arch’ and ‘natural bridge’ during our visit to Natural Bridges, NM, we were already prepared to critique the naming of the principal feature at this overlook. With no running stream to carve the rock, the span of rock just down the slope is truly an arch, created by a combination of other processes.We ended our tour of the Scenic Drive overlooks a mile north at the aptly named Farview Point, another place where the tiers of the Grand Staircase are visible. A very short trail leads to Piracy Point, looking northeast towards the rest of the park.
Farview PointOn your way north to this location, the road passes a picnic stop at the head of the Whiteman Connecting Trail, the next-to-last opportunity to head down to the Under-the-Rim Trail From here, it’s 3 miles to the last overlook at Swamp Canyon, where the canyon floor really is moister than usual. This is another place to descend to the Under-the-Rim Trail, or the more roundabout route north to the head of Sheep Canyon and then down to the floor.Farview Point was our last stop at Bryce. We'd only spent a few hours on this part of the scenic drive before leaving Bryce for the trip to Cedar Breaks and Cedar City. We were happy with how we’d spent our 2-night stay here, but on a return visit I’d be sure to come back this way, and include some long hikes starting from one or more of the beautiful overlooks along this route. Close
Written by callen60 on 27 Jan, 2007
This is one of Bryce’s most popular highlights, so you’ll have to plan accordingly to avoid the crowds. The Queen in her Garden is indeed a must-see destination, but the hike’s real beauty is the intimate experience it provides among Bryce’s hoodoos, where it often…Read More
This is one of Bryce’s most popular highlights, so you’ll have to plan accordingly to avoid the crowds. The Queen in her Garden is indeed a must-see destination, but the hike’s real beauty is the intimate experience it provides among Bryce’s hoodoos, where it often feels like you have landed on another planet.
Shortly after leaving Sunset Point, this connector descends a very steep hillside down a lengthy series of switchbacks. Another family was behind us, with a rambunctious 7-year-old who kept running up on my wife’s heels. Her requests for a little more space didn’t do much, and his behavior only changed when he fell off the trail, sliding 15 feet down the hillside onto the switchback below. That shook him up a little bit, made him anxious to stay next to Dad, and made the rest of our descent a little more peaceful.
At the bottom of the switchbacks, the connector ends and the true loop begins. To the left is the Two Bridges side, to the right, the famous Wall Street. Three weeks before we arrived, a rockslide closed the trail through Wall Street. Local newspaper clippings posted in several places around the park told the story of how a chance conversation between two hikers kept one from entering that narrow stretch just before the rocks collapsed. The rubble begins not far from the junction, and you were allowed to hike to the edge of the rubble that closed the pathway—a 15’ high pile of rock over a 60’ stretch. Wall Street features a large spruce tree that grows in the middle of the trail, reaching up out of the chasm for its sunlight, a fantastic sight. The Park Service plans to begin clearing the trail in Spring 2007, although whether it will ever fully reopen is in question.
But fear not: the other side of the loop is not without its own attractions. A very short spur leads up to Two Bridges, where two short natural bridges span the 6-foot gap between two steep, high walls. It’s very neat to see these rare formations within yards of each other. (The light here is dim, so those wanting a good picture may want to bring along a tripod.)
At this point, you’re on the floor of the canyon. The trail meanders northward, weaving around hoodoos and other stone obstacles, in and out of shade, all in a peaceful quiet. Not far down the path lies a bench under a rock overhang, a site that’s probably a popular rest stop in the afternoon heat.
Soon, the trail leads to another short spur into Queen’s Garden, a small, pleasant amphitheater with a few bench seats, rock nooks to rest in, and shade. Roughly 20 feet up, a hoodoo is topped by a 5-foot tall, stone, dead ringer for Queen Victoria, complete with crown and 19th century bustle.
In the past, many more hoodoos were named for objects they resembled, but the Park Service has moved away from that practice—both to let the natural world speak for itself, and also because erosion can rapidly alter features here (witness the rockfall at Wall Street).It took just under an hour to reach the garden. We sat and enjoyed the surroundings, chatting with a pleasant couple from St. George. They’d abandoned their native Ohio 30 years ago for southern Utah, and after a week in their neighborhood, we could see why. Eventually, we both moved on—they headed south to the Loop, we began climbing back out to Sunrise Point.
The path up had a different character than the Navajo Loop descent: more of the trail lay out in the open, instead of running along the base of steep cliffs. I enjoyed the contrast between the two routes—the Queen’s Garden Trail offered more opportunities to stop and disguise a rest as a look out at the canyon. Our legs tired a bit as we neared the top, making us glad we didn’t have an additional 200 feet to ascend.
After a few moments to let everyone’s heart rates head back toward normal, we gazed out over the route we’d just climbed from the overlook at Sunrise Point, and then headed south for the half-mile walk back to Sunset Point and a picnic lunch on the porch outside our room. The skies were still amazingly blue, and the crowds were growing now. Fortified by salami sandwiches and peanut butter crackers, we headed to the corral to explore Bryce on horseback, ready to let another creature do the climbing for us.
When I asked my kids if mule rides and horse rides should be part of our Southwestern swing, they wondered why I bothered to ask at all. After settling the anxiety about descending into the Grand Canyon (everyone remembered reading Brighty of the Grand Canyon),…Read More
When I asked my kids if mule rides and horse rides should be part of our Southwestern swing, they wondered why I bothered to ask at all. After settling the anxiety about descending into the Grand Canyon (everyone remembered reading Brighty of the Grand Canyon), the chance to mount up at Bryce and the North Rim quickly became the most anticipated part of the trip. The same company—Canyon Trail Rides—runs the stables at Zion, Bryce, and the North Rim, and one January phone call set up both our hour-long rim-top ride at the Grand Canyon and our 2-hour descent to the floor of Bryce.We arranged for a 2pm ride on our second afternoon in the park. As we headed north on the Scenic Drive after breakfast, we saw one of the hands leading a long string of horses and mules down the path, across the road, and over to the corral just west of Sunrise Point. We joined them shortly after lunch, part of a group of 20 who would ride a combination of horses and mules on the 2-mile loop.We lined up outside the corral on a warm afternoon.The cowboys moved through the group, matching up each rider with a horse or a mule, based on size and temperament of both rider and animal, and family group. We were among the last to mount up, and all four of us ended up aboard mules. Each of the hands set out with a group of 6 to 8 riders, perched atop an animal notable for recalcitrance as we headed down a cliffside. As a novice rider, I tried hard not to think about that, but once you’ve had that thought...The route enters the amphitheatre north of Sunrise Point, away from where most people congregate. The path goes downhill pretty steeply, and somewhere along the first set of switchbacks the entire chain of animals stopped. It was unnerving how close we sat to the edge while each animal took turns relieving themselves in exactly the same place (the ‘Mule Pools’, the cowboys informed us), a sequence of events that did not go unnoticed by any of the kids in our party.
Looking eastWith that settled, we continued down the switchbacks. It took me a while to quit looking at where my mule would place her feet, or to wonder why she kept choosing to walk along the downhill side of the path. My struggle was helped by the fantastic view out to the east, over the frozen dribble-castle hoodoos and to Point Powell in the distance, which—as described—really does appear to be the bow of a sinking ship, ready to follow its stern down under the water. Our cowboy reminded us to keep the mules close to each other, and urge them forward with a combination of our heels and judicious application of the whip provided to each rider. Threatening this animal with violence didn’t seem like the smartest choice, but then I guess she was interested in returning safely, too.We alternated riding for 15 minutes with stopping to allow the intimidated mule riders—those unwilling to show their animal who was boss—to catch up. Frankly, that didn’t leave much time to ask the guide questions once I’d rejoined the pack. In the few seconds left after I caught up, it seemed that he provided a nice combination of informative commentary, quiet for enjoying the surroundings, and cowboy humor (such as pointing out the recent cowboy work at propping up one of the hoodoos, now supported by a foot-long, quarter-inch diameter twig).
On the Canyon FloorThe path headed east for about a quarter mile, before turning straight south on to the east side of a nearly mile-long loop. This area is well past the edge of the central amphitheatre, out among the hoodoos with just your riding group for company—we didn’t see any hikers during the 2-hour ride. The landscape was more open than the Navajo Loop/Queen’s Garden hike this morning, and covering ground by riding seemed a good option in the day’s heat. The southern most part of the trip was just about a quarter mile east of the bottom of the Navajo Loop. Those on the half-day ride (which lasts 3 to 4 hours) would continue south to the Peekabo Loop before heading back north, a trip I’d gladly take the next time.As we reached the switchbacks leading back to the rim, lots of groaning was heard. None of my daughters wanted to say goodbye to their animal or the canyon, and surprisingly, my backside was holding up well. I was in such a good mood that I even sprung for the full set of obligatory $5 "Here I am on my mule" pictures back at the corral. The whole experience was well-run from start to finish, and gave me an interest in something I never considered before—more horseback riding in the West. Close
This is probably the most sought-after activity in Bryce. The Moonlight Hike takes place only 2 nights a month, on days near the full moon, and word has obviously gotten out about this evening expedition (a list of scheduled dates is at the NPS Bryce…Read More
This is probably the most sought-after activity in Bryce. The Moonlight Hike takes place only 2 nights a month, on days near the full moon, and word has obviously gotten out about this evening expedition (a list of scheduled dates is at the NPS Bryce website). Getting tickets is no easy matter—the hike is limited to either 30 or 60 people (depending on the night’s itinerary), and tickets are only available on the day of the hike. They go fast, too—we arrived at the Visitor Center well in advance of the 8am opening, and found a substantial number of folks already in line for tickets. I’m sure some of those who showed up at 8 or even earlier didn’t get what they came for. But shortly after walking through the doors, we were handed tickets 21–25, along with instructions on where to meet that evening.The Park Rangers work hard to keep the hike’s path a secret—unlike other hikes and programs, they don’t post the location for the hike on the visitor center bulletin board, and they quietly point out the place to gather as they hand you your tickets. Evidently, they’ve had problems with interlopers tagging along without tickets.We rendezvoused at our secret spot at 6:45pm, and reconnected with our new friends from the morning’s ticket line. Our young ranger—a recent college graduate with a minor in astronomy—announced that the night’s hike would focus on the planets, since several were visible that night. Our group descended the Queen’s Garden Trail, starting when the sun was about an hour above the horizon. We’d stop every 10 minutes, and our ranger would describe the moons of one of the other planets in the solar system. I confess that, having taught astronomy, I spent much of my time lingering at the back of the pack and quickly setting up my tripod during the stops. The ranger’s presentation was good, though, and everyone who did pay attention was clearly enjoying the talk as well as the surroundings.Nearing sunsetWhile we were still near the rim, the sun gradually retreated below the horizon, streaking the amphitheater with long shadows from the hoodoos. Our descent took about 45 minutes, and we reached Queen’s Garden just before deep dusk.Moonrise from Queen's GardenIt was a neat experience to descend the same path we’d climbed at noon, the bright blue skies gradually replaced by increasingly darker purple hues. The bright colors appeared to gradually seep out of the rocks, leaving the white stone a dull pale, and the orange nearly a drab, lifeless gray.Hoodoo at NightIt seemed as if the day’s show were over, the vivacious performers having left the stage for home and hearth. Both the crowds atop the rim, and the hundreds on the trail were also gone, and if our group was momentarily silent, you heard only the quiet of the canyon.The Queen in EveningAt the bottom, the stone Queen still held court, her silhouette against the twilight sky an even better likeness for her English namesake. The full moon was now distancing itself from the horizon, providing some terrific views of the bright orb above hoodoos and through arches.We began retracing our steps back up to the rim, the stops wisely a little closer for those feeling the various effects of age, altitude, or aerobic deficiencies. The group spread out a little more during the ascent, leaving more time for conversation and questions as we grouped together at each stop.Not long after leaving the Garden, the news quickly made its way to the front and rear of the line—you could see your shadow! The full moon’s illumination was enough to outline each hiker on the rock walls, providing a major distraction as you tried to keep your feet on the darkened trail. Twilight ended not long after we reached the top, and by the time we emerged, the shadows were unmistakable. There are precious few places still dark enough to observe this neat phenomenon, and we spent more minutes walking along the Rim Trail, pantomiming and gesturing excitedly at each other and our dark outlines, as if we’d never engaged in shadow play before. The night cooled off quickly with the sun gone. Waiting for us along the rim trail were members of the local astronomy club, showing off Jupiter and its moons and other delights with their array of telescopes. The dark, dark skies of Bryce are fantastic for astronomy, with amazingly little light pollution—after all, it’s a long, long way from here to a city of any size. We chatted for a while, until the chill of the night air proved too much for my kids. (Yet another lecture on how my astronomy students reliably under-dress for evening observing sessions failed to turn their attitude around.)We headed back to the Lodge, still marveling over the night’s experience. If possible, I’d strongly recommend timing your visit to Bryce to coincide with the full moon. Bring a book and head to the visitor center around 7am—the hour you’ll spend waiting will be well worth it. Close
Written by callen60 on 21 Nov, 2006
It’s easy to think that the wonderful areas set aside as National Parks are simply of a different character than the rest of the country—whether you’re thinking of ‘country’ in a broad, nation-state sort of way, or just ‘the general area around here’. A trip…Read More
It’s easy to think that the wonderful areas set aside as National Parks are simply of a different character than the rest of the country—whether you’re thinking of ‘country’ in a broad, nation-state sort of way, or just ‘the general area around here’. A trip to any of Utah’s National Parks will soon disabuse you of that notion: the places you pass through are often sculpted by the same processes, with the end result often nearly as noteworthy as those set aside as a public trust.Bryce is famous for the richly colored hoodoos lining its natural amphitheatre for dozens of miles—but hoodoos are found in a number of places on the Colorado Plateau. The last, lonely remnants of buttes and mesas dotting Monument Valley are a ghostly, solemn, oddly moving landscape—but you’ll see similar structures as you head toward and beyond the Navajo Park, and can visit Valley of the Gods for a mini-version of this landscape.This isn’t to minimize the merit of these special places, but rather to highlight the spectacular nature of the country you’ll traverse while headed for your ‘destinations’. This is remote, empty country—roads run on its periphery, not through it. Highway 12, the lone exception, cuts through the terrain that was the last on the continent to be explored and mapped. The last river discovered in North America—the Escalante—flows here. The last town to receive its mail by mule—Boulder—is here. The landscape is rough and raw, with craggy rock rising up abruptly, cut deeply by water-carved canyons that twist and turn in ways that would confuse anyone attempting to cross it on foot. Death Canyon, Desolation Peak, No Man Mesa—the names make it clear what kind of welcome the landscape extended to those who charted it. It’s little wonder that so much of southern Utah remained unsettled and unclaimed.Here, it really is all about the journey. And the best ‘main’ roads on which to experience that journey are the justly famous Highway 12, as it heads south from Capitol Reef to Boulder across the Hogsback to Escalante and then to the turnoff for Bryce Canyon, and the underappreciated Highway 95 (the Bicentennial Highway) from Blanding past Natural Bridges to Hanksville.Utah 95Highway 95’s nickname comes from its completion date of 1976. (The recent dates when these roads were paved is another indication of this region’s rough, forbidding terrain). Passing along the western edge of Natural Bridges, the view down into Armstrong Canyon features walls no traveler could scale. As the highway heads north, past Fry Canyon (whose Uranium motivated the construction of the perilous Moki Dugway to reach Mexican Hat), the weather cleared, and we were treated again to the sight of beautiful, perfectly blue sky over red and white rock. Utah 95 near Fry CanyonIn another hour, we approached the Colorado, here in the northernmost reaches of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. We left 95 to head down to Hite, a marina nearly left high and dry by the recent drop in water levels. Aside from the owner of the small store, we found no one around: no rangers, no boaters, no sightseers. The rock here was beautiful bright red, as if someone had poured a river through the Vermillion Cliffs southeast of here. The Colorado River at HiteReturning to 95, we negotiated the switchbacks leading to and from the bridge across the Colorado. It was an odd feeling to cross one of the nation’s grandest rivers in solitude. I’d guess that along all of 95, we saw six cars in the several hours of our journey northeast. Utah 12Perhaps America’s most scenic route, Highway 12’s most famous and spectacular stretch is from Torrey and Capitol Reef down to Escalante. It’s a challenging, thrilling road to drive: the grades reach 12% in some areas, and the winds threaten to bounce your car across the highway. But the scenery is fantastic, and the several hours it really takes is time well spent. View from Boulder MountainLeaving Torrey, you immediately climb Boulder Mountain, passing through the Dixie National Forest. Several switchbacks feature scenic turnouts with wide vistas every direction but west, looking back on Capitol Reef and the Waterpocket Fold, and south to Arizona. We stopped at several, including one in a high mountain meadow where we had the most company—a motorcycle tour was stopped to help one member fix a bad tire or wheel. That blowout could have been traumatic., Located in a beautiful but nearly inaccessible setting, Boulder received its mail via mule until the 1930’s. The town sits on the edge of a broad, curved plateau, with a 10,000-foot mountain protecting it to the north, and a breathtaking series of canyons and ridges blocking access from the south. It makes you wonder how people got here at all. (I can see why stayed—it was probably a better option then heading back out). Boulder features Anasazi State Park, where we stopped for lunch and explored the Ancestral Puebloan ruins. If you’re captivated by this people and the remaining evidence of their civilization, chasing down their story can take you across all parts of this region. In Boulder, Highway 12 briefly turns west. If, instead, you head east at the junction, you’re on the Burr Trail Road, a backcountry cattle path pioneered by John Atlantic Burr in the late 19th century (his middle name commemorates his birth enroute to America). I hoped to have time to head part-way down, now made easier by the controversial paving of the first 15 miles or so. The blacktop runs out at the boundary of Capitol Reef National Park, and a gravel/dirt road continues up and down across the terrain, eventually descending a steep, steep series of switchbacks in Burr Canyon. This is a deep cut in the Waterpocket Fold, the principal feature of Capitol Reef, a huge ridge of rock that effectively divides this country into two separate halves. The road continues on to Bullfrog, a marina in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Just south of Boulder, the road ascends through Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. The Civilian Conservation Corp carved the 60 miles to Escalante out of the terrain during the Depression—it wasn’t paved until 1971, and it’s an audacious route, sometimes called "the Million Dollar Road". You head in and out of canyons, mostly high along their sides, and then notice the road rises even higher. You’re warned that steep drop-offs and sharp turns are ahead, which is puzzling, since it’s a pretty good description of the roadway you’ve already traversed. Then, you’re on top of the world as the Hogsback begins.It’s only a quarter mile long, but then, a quarter mile takes some time to cover at 5 miles an hour. The highway lies on the ridge top, with 1,000-foot drop-offs to either side. In one of the many complementary pairings that make for a successful marriage, my wife insists on driving such roads, and I’m happy to ride shotgun, gape at the surroundings, and request pullouts at the scenic overlooks. (Maybe she knows I’m likely to try rubbernecking and driving at the same time). Thankfully, the Hogsback has a large pullout on the western side that gives you a closer look at that drop-off and the rugged country below. Canyons from atop the HogsbackFrom here, Highway 12 descends to cross Calf Creek, where a surprisingly large parking lot accommodates those making the 2-mile hike to Calf Creek Falls. Just past the turnoff, the road climbs to Boynton Overlook, with a good view down into the Canyon. The lot was partially full, and it was a shock to imagine that many people in this remote spot. With Bryce Canyon on our minds, we kept heading south to Escalante. The town’s name honors Fr. Escalante, a Spanish priest who with his compatriot, Fr. Dominguez, left Santa Fe on a failed attempted to reach California, the first Europeans to explore this area. (‘The Crossing of the Fathers’ on the Colorado, now submerged beneath ‘Lake’ Powell, was their discovery.) The town owes its name to A.H. Thompson, who mapped this area during John Wesley Powell’s western expeditions, and suggested this tribute to theMormon settlers on their way to start a settlement here.An hour after leaving Escalante, we arrived at Mossy Cave, on the eastern edge of Bryce Canyon National Park. Two days later, we headed to Panguitch, completing our trip along Highway 12. This route heads out through Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest, where bike trails along the highway allow you to see this country in a more intimate fashion. There’s a nice visitor center here, and some appealing trails that we weren’t able to follow. Red Canyon, Dixie National ForestFrom here, the landscape becomes merely pretty, a route that by itself might otherwise be the highlight of your day behind the wheel. Those with the rest of Highway 12 behind them may find it hard to stay awake. Close
Written by callen60 on 20 Nov, 2006
Although pathfinders and settlers viewed the Colorado Plateau as empty, they were of course not the first ones here. Scattered across the southwest is the evidence of a large number of native peoples, a fair amount of it preserved in national monuments and state parks…Read More
Although pathfinders and settlers viewed the Colorado Plateau as empty, they were of course not the first ones here. Scattered across the southwest is the evidence of a large number of native peoples, a fair amount of it preserved in national monuments and state parks in barely accessible locations: Hovenweep NM in Colorado; Navajo and Canyon de Chelly NMs in Arizona, and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico are just a few of the tens of thousands of sites of the ‘Anasazi’ and others.Several of southern Utah’s State Parks preserve dwellings and other evidence of this vanished civilization: Edge of the Cedars in Blanding is the central museum for Southeast Utah; our decision to take the Moki Dugway ‘shortcut’ took it off our itinerary. Fremont Indian State Park sits northeast of the I-15/I-70 junction, just north of our route. Given the excitement petroglyphs generated in our family, we wouldn’t miss it on a subsequent trip. As plans were made to put I-70 through Clear Creek Canyon in the 1980’s, archaeologists uncovered not only Icicle Cave (containing petroglyphs and other evidence of long inhabitation), but an entire Fremont village with over 100 structures, dating from around 1000 AD. In the end, the hill containing the site was used for fill on the freeway project, and the Park preserves the artifacts discovered as a result.It’s somewhat ironic that peoples who nearly disappeared almost a millennium ago thrived in locations that are now almost inaccessible to Americans. Highway 12 from Escalante north to Boulder wasn’t paved until 1971; the section north of Boulder wasn’t fully paved until 1985. The large dwelling (~200 inhabitants) preserved at Anasazi SP was occupied from 1000 to 1200 AD, road or no road. Located just north of Boulder on the east of Hwy 12, it’s a nice place to recover from the daredevil trip across the Hogsback south of Boulder. We had a quick picnic lunch in the front of the park, and then headed inside the museum. Its exhibits provide a good introduction to the southwest’s most mysterious inhabitants, who farmed throughout the region for 1,000 years and then abruptly left the area—around the same general time this site in Boulder was abandoned. Although commonly (but less so) called ‘Anasazi’—a usage that gained currency among archaeologists in the early 20th century—this name highly inaccurate. This people are the ancestors of the later (and current) Pueblo culture, and are more accurately described as ‘Ancestral Puebloan’. ‘Anasazi’ is actually a Navajo term that means ‘ancestors of the enemy’ or ‘ancient stranger’; understandably, today’s Puebloans find the term close to a slur. Of course, any terms used to name these people are a later invention.Behind the museum, the site has been partially excavated, over an area of several hundred square meters. The initial excavation was in the 1950’s, and apparently, little has been done since. The wooden posts that framed some of the buildings clearly show evidence of fire, suggesting that the complex was deliberately burned—but by the residents themselves? By aggressors? Like many things about this time and people, it’s unclear.Until recently, the best answer for why the Ancestral Puebloans left the region is drought and a resulting famine. More recent evidence suggests that this drought wasn’t any more severe than others previously weathered by the society. Internal strife, competition (perhaps violent) with other growing peoples, emergence of new religions to the south, rigid adherence to longstanding sites—any or all of these may have contributed to the widespread move south around 1300 A.D.This State Park won’t answer those questions for you, but it will give you a running start on asking more of your own. We spent 90 minutes here, and it fed our new-found hunger for learning more about this region and its first inhabitants. Close