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 LA guy on 14 Nov, 2005
With one look at Canyonlands, I wonder why it doesn't enjoy a more significant reputation. Whereas the Grand Canyon was just big, Canyonlands was more intimate. With less crowds and closer viewpoints, it was much easier to appreciate the geological process at work here, creating…Read More
With one look at Canyonlands, I wonder why it doesn't enjoy a more significant reputation. Whereas the Grand Canyon was just big, Canyonlands was more intimate. With less crowds and closer viewpoints, it was much easier to appreciate the geological process at work here, creating the delicate buttes, canyons, rivers valleys, that made up the canyons within this park. Canyonlands was vast, with a 18-mile scenic road that runs north to south. As we drove from one viewpoint to another, it was like getting a first-hand experience in canyon-making. Looking down into the canyons, we could easily see how giant floods in the past swept across the riverbed, creating a basin. Then, later on, a river would carve a deeper canyon on the bottom of the basin, forming the double canyons that we saw. One especially scenic stop was the Green River Canyon overlook, where the river had carved such a gigantic hole in the bottom of the basin that it looked like two canyons were stacked on top of each other. Then, from another viewpoint at Buck Canyon, the scenery must look like what the Monument Valley had looked like millions of years ago. From this viewpoint, we saw numerous baby buttes starting to “rise” out of the river basin.Also, another unexpected attraction was the Upheaval Dome. The name was unique and peaked our interests. So we hiked the 0.5-mile trail to see the dome up close. As it turns out, it's a grayish dome located in the center of a 1-mile-wide crater of red rocks. On the overlook, a poster said that there are two theories about its origin; one is the meteor impact theory, the other is the salt layer erosion theory. Judging from a crack in the crater, where I think rainwater must exit, I sided with the salt layer theory. One part of park also featured another trail that lead to Mesa Arch. We decided to take on this short 0.5-mile hike to visit it up close. It is not a giant arch like Delicate Arch. However, it is still quite beautiful, as it is surrounded by flush desert vegetation and slick rock all around. After we finished touring Canyonlands, we also paid a visit to the nearby Dead Horse Point. For a fee of $7, we got ourselves a panoramic view of the Green River Canyon in its most significant display, where it snakes around a bend of rocks before heading out of the horseshoe like canyon that it had created. On top of the viewpoint platform, I took a peak over the guardrail, looking down the cliff below my feet, and the 3,000-foot drop in elevation below made me queasy in my stomach. Close
Written by unorthodox traveler on 12 Jan, 2001
Often it's just being in the right place at the right time. After driving up the scary, white-knuckled switch-back very narrow Shafer Road (named after ranchers Frank and John Shafer) leading to the Island in the Sky, I finally arrived at the location where the…Read More
Often it's just being in the right place at the right time. After driving up the scary, white-knuckled switch-back very narrow Shafer Road (named after ranchers Frank and John Shafer) leading to the Island in the Sky, I finally arrived at the location where the final canyon death scene of Thelma and Louise was filmed. There I saw a large film crew, preparing to make a commercial for the Mazda Car Company. Not ever having witnessed a commercial being made, I invited myself into the surroundings of this film-set and after talking to a few film-workers, was invited to witness the actual filming.
I had no idea how complicated and expensive it is to film a commercial. First of all, the Park Service requires that any wildlife disturbed must be replaced so there were a number of local Moab residents who were hired to restore plants, rake tire marks, etc. The actual commercial involved driving a new Mazda Miata over the canyon. Obviously this was impossible so a ramp was built with a stunt driver driving the car over the ramp, into the air...the car, by the way, stops inches from the edge of the cliff...gutsy driver but well paid.
To appreciate this experience take a look at my photos.
I spent most of the afternoon talking and learning about making commercials. This particular location I was told is used for scores of commercials because of its spectacular views. Close
Written by El Gallo on 25 Sep, 2000
This is the book that, if it didn't put Moab on the map, certainly makes the place more interesting. It was written by king desert rat and arch-enviromental curmudgeon Edward Abbey. Abbey had a passionate love affair with the desert, living deep in…Read More
This is the book that, if it didn't put Moab on the map, certainly makes the place more interesting. It was written by king desert rat and arch-enviromental curmudgeon Edward Abbey. Abbey had a passionate love affair with the desert, living deep in the solitude while writing his essays, working as a ranger in Arches Park.
"The Monkey Wrench Gang" is his best known work, a sort of "Fear and Loathing" for enviro-nazis. The eco-terrorists in the novel don't just bewail the destruction of nature, they fight back. They blow down power lines and billboards--they plot to blow up Glen Canyon Dam and give readers a blueprint on how to do it. The book did much to inspire Green Peacers, Earth First, and the current generation of tree-sitters and WTO-baiters. It's a fun book and worth a read, though full of philosophical contradictions such as the way the main character (ecomessiah George Hayduke)tosses beer cans into canyons as he plots to foil the spoilers of the environment. It makes Moab, the Maze, Glen Canyon more interesting to see what they look like after reading about them in context of the book--or more like, it provides you a better visual vocabulary for imagining the illustration of the book.
For more info on The Monkey Wrench Gang just click. Close
This is the place Edward Abbey (author of "The Monkeywrench Gang" and the Kirk Douglas movie "The Brave Cowboy") called "the most beautiful place on earth"--and it's hard to argue. The carved arches and spires seem more finely crafted here, more delicate and "alien…Read More
This is the place Edward Abbey (author of "The Monkeywrench Gang" and the Kirk Douglas movie "The Brave Cowboy") called "the most beautiful place on earth"--and it's hard to argue. The carved arches and spires seem more finely crafted here, more delicate and "alien civilizationish". The rock is a deep, deep red, the shapes what all those expressionist sculptures are trying for but not making. With the deep blue Utah sky in the background and the green of pines nourished by the water trapped by the rock sprayed around, the scene is like a bold painting/sculpture that you can walk around in. Remember "Indian Jones and the Last Crusade", when the young Indy nabbed the cross and was running down out of the red rocks. These were them rocks. This is just a cool place to hike around in. You can just loaf along the trails looking up at the scenery, or start walking up the rocks, getting dimensional in your stroll. And what a great place for taking picures--it's pretty much made out of gigantic stone frames.
Devil's Garden is like a sculpture garden of over 50 arches--you just stroll through with your camera. Landscape arch is the big sucker, with some really scary walkways. Delicate Arch is the most photogenic and lovely of them all, a drive up to the perfect example of the whole red southwest rock thing in one easy shot. If all this sounds too easy for you, you might enjoy the Fiery Furnace Trail.
There is camping in the Park, but no reservations, so in summer you could be out of luck at Devil's Garden (none of those Mormon spiritual names around here).
It's not a reef, and lord knows where they got "capitol" from, but it's quite the example of extreme geology. A giant fold in the earth left a tortured landscape of canyons, pockets, and dead-ends, all studded with a potpourri of strata and fossils…Read More
It's not a reef, and lord knows where they got "capitol" from, but it's quite the example of extreme geology. A giant fold in the earth left a tortured landscape of canyons, pockets, and dead-ends, all studded with a potpourri of strata and fossils from other eras. This is my least favorite of the parks around Moab, but it provides some fun driving, feeling like you're in a commercial or movie. There's a 25 mile sceneic drive along the cliffs, whitch will take you by Panorama Point, Chimney Rock and The Castle, some major bizarre pieces of stone. There are also millenia old petrogylphs on these cliffs, an impressive conterpoint to contemporary art. It's good hiking area, but hot as hell in summer and prone to deadly flashfloods if it rains. But don't let that stop you.
There is plenty of camping available, and a good deal for a night's stay is the Trading Post in neaby Torrey, (425)3716) where small cabins for up to four people cost only $30.
Call the park at (425)3791.
Warning, if you are Jewish or Rastafarian and trying to move to this area, you should know right off that it's not THAT Zion. What it is, it's the ultimate slickrock, a huge cap of red sandstone carved thousands of feet deep by the…Read More
Warning, if you are Jewish or Rastafarian and trying to move to this area, you should know right off that it's not THAT Zion. What it is, it's the ultimate slickrock, a huge cap of red sandstone carved thousands of feet deep by the Virgin River. This, even more than the Grand Canyon, is "Erosion's Greatest Hits". The maze of canyons and weird rock formation is definitely awe-inspiring, even religious. Which is why formations here have names like Angel's landing (an exhilerating and steep walk where one false step can lead you to landing on first name basis with angels), or Great White Throne--a dramatic chunk of rock that is sort of the icon for Zion.
Just drive in, hit the visitor's center and check it out. This is a good walking, hiking place, but you can also rent rafts or bikes from Bike Zion(772-3929) or horses from Canyon Trail Rides (772-3810). Close
This is my favorite of the canyon parks. It's not big and awesome, which is one of the nice things about it. You can pull up in a car, get out, look down and pretty much see the whole thing in one take.…Read More
This is my favorite of the canyon parks. It's not big and awesome, which is one of the nice things about it. You can pull up in a car, get out, look down and pretty much see the whole thing in one take. What you see is a sort of watercolor by Max Ernst, spires of sandstone like an Indian Temple or Ankor Watt rising up through a spectrum of red, pink, yellow, and whitish stone, like a tequila sunrise, or one of the those crystal gardens you grew when you were a kid. It's really beautiful, and even more so with a snowfall. You can also walk down through the spires (called 'hoodoos', though old timers would call this place a 'breaks') and wander around looking up through God's very own natural cathedral. It's all on a very homey, human scale. And not that many people hike down, so it's a nice experience. From the bottom you can ramble around the little clumps of willow and aspen, getting better views of the peaks sticking up like a tie-dyed, hooded tribunal.
There is camping available in the park (call them at (800) 280-2267. And right outside the grounds is the pink pueblo of Pine Cliffs Village, where cabins with bath are only $15! (800)834-0043
Nearby on State Route 14 is another nice set of breaks, the Cedar Breaks National Monument with camping available. This is sort of Bryce on a giant, high-altitude, stark scale, deeply cut and majestic with 2000 feet of vertical drop, but prettied up nicely with vegetation and flowers.
Written by jan&ray on 31 Aug, 2001
Natural Bridges National Monument is 120 miles from Moab, making it a long, but very rewarding, day trip. Along the way we travelled a portion of the "Trail of the Ancients", an area considered to be the "archaeological heartland of America". Other…Read More
Natural Bridges National Monument is 120 miles from Moab, making it a long, but very rewarding, day trip. Along the way we travelled a portion of the "Trail of the Ancients", an area considered to be the "archaeological heartland of America". Other attractions in this area are Edge of the Cedars State Park, the cliff dwellings at Butler Wash and the drive through the Valley of the Gods.
The Monument itself consists of three natural bridges – Sipapu, Kachina and Owachomo. The bridges are connected by a 9-mile one-way loop road. None of them is visible from the road, so those wishing to view them have two choices: hike down from each parking area to the bridge overlook or hike an 8.6-mile loop along an unmaintained trail. The long hike takes 6-8 hours to complete. We arrived midmorning, decided to make a day of it, and took the long route.
The loop hike can begin from any parking area. Every guidebook we had recommended starting at Sipapu. However, when we got to the Visitor Center, the ranger there told us that the easiest route was to park at the Owachomo parking area and make the 3-mile hike across the mesa first. By doing this, we could make the easiest climb out of the canyon and then be right at our car. Following this course turned out to be the best decision of the day. This loop hike is rewarding, but a bit tiring. We were very happy to call it a day after viewing the last bridge!
The hike across the mesa through pinyon pine forest and along slickrock was not very difficult. The fun began when we reached the Sipapu Bridge parking area. From here, the trail descended (with the aid of a staircase and ladders) 500 feet to the canyon floor. About halfway down the trail there was a large ledge which afforded the best view of this bridge. In Hopi mythology, Sipapu is the entryway through which all souls must enter and exit the spirit world. After Rainbow Bridge, this is the second largest natural bridge in the world.
We followed the river 2.3 miles through White Canyon to the massive Kachina Bridge. We did not take time to visit the Horse Collar Ruin, however we did linger over the handprints decorating the canyon walls. Kachina Bridge takes its name from the petroglyphs found nearby, which are reminiscent of Hopi kachina dolls.
This is an easy area to become lost in, and despite the warnings and directives from the park ranger and our trail guides, we took a wrong turn. We ended up at the base of the "Knickpoint" (a pouroff into the canyon) and had to retrace our steps back to the bridge. Once we got back on the trail, we ascended to the canyon rim and crossed from White Canyon into Armstrong Canyon. The 3.0 mile stretch from Kachina Bridge to Owachomo Bridge is not as well travelled as the section between Sipapu and Kachina. Although wildlife encounters are said to be more frequent here, our hike was uneventful.
The final bridge, Owachomo, is named for the rocks at the eastern side of the bridge (Owachomo means rock mound in Hopi). This is the oldest, smallest and most delicate of the three bridges. After viewing its massive neighbors, Owachomo appears to be in danger of collapsing at any time. The trail passes directly under the bridge, following the course that water once did. Unlike Sipapu and Kachina, Owachomo stands out against the desert landscape. The overlook provides an excellent view, making it the most memorable of the three bridges. From here it was only a short hike to the parking area and our car. It was a long drive back to Moab, but this hike was worth every minute!
Even if you think you know exactly what you want to do when you visit Moab, a visit to the Moab Information Center is a good idea. Here you will find brochures on nearly every hotel, restaurant and outfitter in town. There are…Read More
Even if you think you know exactly what you want to do when you visit Moab, a visit to the Moab Information Center is a good idea. Here you will find brochures on nearly every hotel, restaurant and outfitter in town. There are also free special interest brochures guiding you rock art, hiking trails and movie locations. If you want to know how to find dinosaur tracks, ancient petroglyphs or the spot where Thelma and Louise drove off the cliff, this is the place to ask.
The staff here is very knowledgeable about activities at all the nearby parks, including Arches, Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point. We spent some time talking to the folks behind the counter and picked up great tips for places to visit outside of Moab. The maps and directions we received here helped us make the most of our day trip to Natural Bridges National Monument and our return drive to Salt Lake City.