Backpacking in the Needles – Canyonlands NP

Day 1

Our backpacks are packed and ready to go, we leave at 8:30am to drive over 80 miles to The Needles District of Canyonlands NP to begin our hike for two days. We had to carry-in over 15 lbs of water because there is no water available in this area of the Park. We started at the Elephant Hill Trailhead to hike just over 3 miles to our campsite (CP1) in Chesler Park. The signature features in The Needles are the colorful sandstone spires hundreds of them poking up from the desert floor, and as we hiked along the trail these rock pinnacles heavily banded in red, white, orange and pink dominated the views in all directions. We were happy to reach the grassy meadows of Chesler Park and our campsite, CP1, after scrambling over rocks and through steep, narrow cracks between massive sandstone slabs. Continue reading

Arches National Park

Arches National Park, it has been 26 years since we visited this Park, and finally we are back exploring this amazing landscape. Only 4 miles north of Moab, containing the world’s largest concentration of natural stone arches, this 73,000 acre region has over 2000 of these “miracles of nature”. We started with a short hike to Park Avenue, massive sandstone red fins. Then on to Balanced Rock and the iconic Delicate Arch. We hiked the 1 1/2 miles to view this beautiful, perfectly shaped, Delicate Arch, at an elevation of 4829 feet it was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Continue reading

Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway

Fisher TowersOur adventure today takes us on a driving tour of the Upper Colorado River Scenic Byway along SR 128. Just north of Moab on HWY 191 we turn off onto SR 128 and follow the southern bank of the Colorado River through a narrow steep gorge. Looking through the roof of the jeep up at the sheer sandstone walls of the gorge was a spectacular sight. Along the river there were many campsites which are on a first come first serve basis and they usually are full by noon. We drove almost 40 miles to the Dewey Bridge which crosses the Colorado River. The River runs for over 400 miles in Utah and there are only 3 sites with bridges to cross it and the Dewey Bridge is one of them. The original Dewey Bridge, built in 1916, remained the longest suspension bridge in Utah until it was destroyed by fire in 2008. Continue reading

Dead Horse Point SP and Canyonlands NP

We left Durango yesterday in the rain and arrived at the KOA in Moab where we will be staying for a week. Today we are going to explore Canyonlands National Park and on the way we stopped to see Dead Horse Point State Park, situated on a high plateau at an elevation of about 6,000 feet. According to one legend, the point was once used as a corral for wild mustangs. Cowboys herded them across the narrow neck of land, only 30 yards wide, and onto the point. They were fenced off with branches and brush creating a natural corral surrounded by precipitous cliffs dropping into the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below. Cowboys then chose the horses they wanted and left the others to die. Thus, the name of the park! However, Dead Horse State Park provides a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands’ sculptured pinnacles and buttes of Island in the Sky District, walking along the East Rim and West Rim Trails. This is perhaps Utah’s most spectacular State Park, well worth a visit. Continue reading

Lake Powell and Rainbow Bridge

We saved the best for today a cruise on Lake Powell to the Rainbow Bridge Natural Arch. Lake Powell, named after John Wesley Powell, is 186 miles long and backs up into more than 96 major side canyons, and is the second-largest man-made lake in the US. Today we are going to take the cruise boat 50 nautical miles from the Wahweap Marina to Bridge Canyon where the Rainbow Bridge was discovered in 1909. The lake’s crystal clear blue water, more than 500 feet deep in places, is wonderful to explore as we cruised through narrow waterways, past sandstone cliffs and buttes, including the well known Tower Butte. Continue reading

Grand Staircase Escalante and Bryce Canyon

Grand Staircase-Escalante

Today we decided to take a road trip, a 200 mile loop, beginning at the Cottonwood Canyon 4-wheel drive road off of Highway 89. We entered the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and drove 25 miles along the wide dirt road until we reached the South Cottonwood Narrow Canyon entrance. The hike was about 1 1/2 miles through the canyon, with deep and wide walls of vertical cliffs of Navajo sandstone. At times the walls were so close I could stand on both sides. We came back out onto the road and walked the mile back to our jeep. Then it was on to Grosvenor Arch, to visit this unique sandstone double arch, named in honor of Gilbert Grosvenor, a president of the National Geographic Society. The two sandstone arches tower 150 feet above the ground and the largest arch is 100 feet in diameter. We walked right to the base of the arches and loved the rich color of the rocks and the impressive size of the arches.  Continue reading

Monument Valley, Utah

We left our campsite at 8:30am to drive to Monument Valley in Utah to take a private tour with a Navajo Guide, Don Mose. We met Don at the Hogan Village, the sun-baked mud covered homes are called Hogan, at 12 noon to begin the valley drive and back country dirt road for our 3 hour tour. Monument Valley holds a special place to the Navajo people, and the tranquility of the land, culture and tradition infuse the valley with a uniquely Navajo flavor. Therefore, Don began by explaining the Navajo language and culture to us. The Navajo tribe, Dineh, meaning “the people”, still adhere to their cultural, social and traditional values, and Don is teaching the young here and tribes as far away as Siberia the complex language and clan system, to keep it alive. Continue reading

Heber City, Utah

Monday, August 25th, we left Rock Springs and continued heading west to Heber City, Utah. We stayed at the beautiful, new Mountain Valley RV Resort just south of town, for four nights. Our first excursion was to visit the Sundance Ski Resort, founded by Robert Redford in 1969, 5,000 acres on the slopes of Mount Timpanogos, 12,000 feet, in Utah’s Wasatch Range. We drove over the Alpine Scenic Loop Backway (SR 92) a 27 mile long paved, narrow, windy road that begins at the mouth of America’s Fork Canyon at 5,000 feet and follows the canyon to its crest at 8,000 feet. Beautiful vistas of Mount Timpanogos could be seen through the impressive aspen groves. Then we went the The Sundance Resort and took the chairlift up the mountain to the top of Ray’s summit, from here we started on the trail to the Stewart Falls, a moderate 3 mile hike. It’s a beautiful hike through spruce and pine forests, open meadows and aspen groves to Stewart Falls, a tiered waterfalls. We continued on down the trail back to Sundance and stopped for a late lunch at the Owl Bar. The restored 1890’s bar was moved from Thermopolis, WY, to Sundance.the original Rosewood Bar was once frequented by Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang. We ate outside on the patio with a view of the mountain. All the Sundance buildings features rustically elegant mountain decor that echo the simplicity of their natural setting. Continue reading

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

Sunday, Aug. 24th, we left the AB Campground RV Park in Cheyenne, WY, and headed toward Rock Springs, WY. We arrived early in the afternoon at the KOA Campground and decided to do some sight seeing in the area. We were told that The Flaming Gorge Recreational Area, “fishing hot spot” of America, comprises 201,000 acres of scenic land, was a must see near Rock Springs. So we drove to Green River to start the Loop Road, 160 miles, on HWY 530 and drove south through desert scenery for along way, and we could see the reservoir in the distance. Then we took the Sheep Creek Canyon Geological Area following the Sheep Creek into the mountains east of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. We followed the visually dramatic Uinta Fault with unique rock formations, including towering monoliths next to the road. Continue reading