Hiking National Parks in southern Utah & more

[Note – This is the fifth of five posts describing my 2010 Road Trip]

After we finished backpacking the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon, the guys flew back home and I headed for Las Vegas to meet my wife. I got a room and some needed rest before picking her up the next morning. I provided her with a quick tour of the main drag in Vegas, and then a quick tour of Hoover Dam before we headed for Zion National Park (NP). We simply drove through Zion, a small NP straddling Hwy 9, stopping only for a few pictures along the way.

 

Zion NP (1)

Zion NP (1)

 

Zion NP (2)

Zion NP (2)

 

Big Horn Sheep, Zion NP (1)

Big Horn Sheep, Zion NP (1)

 

Big Horn Sheep, Zion NP (2)

Big Horn Sheep, Zion NP (2)

 

We continued  southeast to Kanab, then through Fredonia, AZ where we camped briefly at Jacob Lake on the Kaibob Plateau. We got only a few hours rest before rising before morning light in order to drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, about 50 miles south. Hwy 67 was a dark, narrow highway, and we saw numerous deer along the roadway -needless to say it was slow going! We successfully arrived just before the sun was up.

 

Grand Canyon Lodge- North Rim

Grand Canyon Lodge- North Rim of Grand Canyon

 

Sunrise at the North Rim

Enjoying sunrise at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

 

A sunrise glance- Grand Canyon

A sunrise glance into the Grand Canyon

 

Sunrise at the North Rim

Sunrise at the North Rim

 

After hiking around the Rim a bit and taking some pictures, we enjoyed a great breakfast in the Lodge. Then, once again we were back on the road, this time we headed north to Bryce Canyon NP, in southern Utah. We spent a couple hours at Bryce, taking pictures with all the other tourists.  These initial stops were intended as only brief visits, since the focus of the trip was on Arches and Canyonlands National Parks where we planned to camp and hike. But make no mistake, both Zion and Bryce are beautiful and worthy of further exploration, as can be seen in the photos of Bryce Canyon, below.

 

Bryce Canyon (1)

Bryce Canyon (1)

 

Bryce Canyon occupies about 36,000 acres and was established in 1928. Elevations range from about 8,000 to 9,100 ft. The towering rock pillars are known as hoodoos. If you hike, bring plenty of water and a snake-bite kit wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

 

Bryce Canyon (2)

Bryce Canyon (2)

 

Bryce Canyon (3)

Bryce Canyon (3)

 

Bryce Canyon (4)

Bryce Canyon (4)

 

Bryce Canyon (5)

Bryce Canyon (5)

 

From Bryce Canyon, we caught I70 east and stopped to visit the John Wesley Powell River History Museum and spent the night in Green River, UT.  Major John W. Powell, the one-armed Civil War veteran (and later head of the US Geological Survey), led an exploratory expedition of 10 men down the uncharted Colorado River in 1869. After 95 days, 6 men survived and the river was mapped. See The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons, by J.W. Powell for the full account. Another excellent resource on Powell’s adventure is Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, by Wallace Stegner.

 

J.W. Powell River History Museum, Green River, UT

J.W. Powell River History Museum, Green River, UT

 

Next morning we continued east on I70 to 191 and south about  25 miles to Arches NP.   Arches is a great Park and has many good trails -mostly short ones, and plenty of loops, to say nothing of the scenery. Be sure to carry lots of water, a map and compass. We lost the trail on one hike and being able to use a back-bearing probably saved us an hour or more in getting back on track. Again, a snake-bite kit is worth carrying if hiking the trails.

Moab is just south of Arches, and is a great town to visit after a hot day on the trails. There is always plenty going on in Moab, year around. Supplies of ‘everything’ can be readily found in Moab.

 

Entry to Arches NP

Entry to Arches NP

 

Arches NP (1)

Arches NP (1)

 

Arches NP (2)

Arches NP (2)

 

Arches NP (3)

Arches NP (3)

 

Colorado River borders Arches NP on southwest

The Colorado River borders Arches NP on the southwest side

 

I believe it was a Bureau of Land Management Campground along the Colorado River where we camped for two days while visiting Arches. It was only about five miles from the front entrance to the Park, very handy. The Campground is east off Hwy 191 on 128, and the Campground is left off 128, visibly located between the road and the Colorado River. The Park entrance is just north off 128 on 191. And Moab is just south of 128 on Hwy 191. Canyonlands NP is about 75 miles south of Moab.

 

Campsite along the Colorado River

Campsite along the Colorado River, just across the River from Arches NP

 

Upon entering the Park you’ll find the Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead with a number of interesting rock formation located along about a two mi. hike (one way).

 

Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead

Park Avenue Viewpoint and Trailhead, Arches NP

 

Most landmarks are located off of five trails within the Park. I especially recommend the Devil’s Garden section (including the primitive trail at the north end of Devil’s Garden Trail), and the Window’s section just northeast of Balanced Rock. The Park occupies about 73,000 acres, and was established in 1971. There are signs of human habitation at Arches that go back some 8,000 years.

 

Arches NP (4)

Arches NP (4)

 

Landscape Arch

Landscape Arch on Devil’s Garden Trail, Arches NP

 

Arches NP (5)

Arches NP (5)

 

Arches NP (6)

Arches NP (6)

 

Arches NP (7)

Arches NP (7)

 

One night we drove into Moab for dinner and visited a couple of local brew pubs, it’s quite the place and I highly recommend a visit. We had a cooler along and while in Arches, relied on sandwiches, dehydrated meals, filtered water and energy bars for sustenance.  Arches is a small Park and you can see most landmarks and hike 10-30 miles in two-three days. It’s great!

We departed Arches, stopped for a meal in Moab, and headed south about 75 mi. to Canyonlands NP. Canyonlands was established in 1964 and encompasses about 338,000 acres.

The Colorado River runs through Canyonlands from the northeast to the southwest, and is joined by it’s main tributary the Green River, originating in Wyoming. Canyonlands is divided into three sections: Island in the Sky District in the north; the Maze District in the west, and the Needles District in the south. Canyonlands NP is a vast expanse of beautiful and often near-desolate lands. It is an amazing place! Bring lots of water, maps, a compass and a snake-bite kit!

We camped in Dead Horse Point State Park, just northeast of Canyonlands NP. It is a nice camping area and has an interesting history. Camping is also available within Canyonlands NP.

We only visited the Needles District for three days and barely scratched the surface; miles upon miles of trails and natural beauty. We will return to Canyonlands many times in coming years -there is just so much to do and see! And it’s less crowded than many of the National Parks around the country, at least in most places. It is vast, rugged and demanding! Don’t miss it!

 

Buck Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands NP (1)

Buck Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands NP (1)

 

Buck Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands NP (2)

Buck Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands NP (2)

 

Green River Overlook, Canyonlands NP

Green River Overlook, Canyonlands NP

 

Canyonlands, Needles District (1)

Canyonlands, Needles District (1)

 

Canyonlands, Needles District (2)

Canyonlands, Needles District (2)

 

Canyonlands, Needles District (3)

Canyonlands, Needles District (3)

 

A friend along the trail

A friend along the trail

 

My favorite hike in the Needles District on this trip was the Confluence Overlook Trail that led to an overlook of where the Green River joins the Colorado River. It is an 11 mi. round-trip hike, an excellent hike with varying terrain and exceptional scenery.

 

Confluence Overlook Trail, Canynonlands NP (1)

Confluence Overlook Trail, Canynonlands NP (1)

 

Confluence Overlook Trail, Canynonlands NP (2)

Confluence Overlook Trail, Canynonlands NP (2)

 

The Confluence Overlook Trail goes through this ‘keyhole’ before dropping into Elephant Canyon. Most of this trail is dirt, some runs over hard rock where the trail is marked with rock cairns you have to watch for. One section of trail before the ‘keyhole’ even has a ladder to climb up a steep rock wall, then the trail continues up and down over more rock.

 

Confluence of Green and Colorado Rivers- Canyonlands NP (1)

Confluence of Green and Colorado Rivers- Canyonlands NP (1)

 

Confluence of Green and Colorado Rivers- Canyonlands NP (2)

Confluence of Green and Colorado Rivers- Canyonlands NP (2)

 

Canyonlands Needles District (4)

Canyonlands Needles District (4)

 

And our quiet campsite in nearby Dead Horse Point State Park, provided a place to eat and get rested up for the next day’s activities.Water was available, as were pit toilets. Plenty of other campers were around to share conversations and adventures with at the end of each day.

 

MSR Dragonfly always got the job done

MSR Dragonfly always got the job done

 

Campsite in Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

Campsite in Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

 

The campsite was at a higher elevation and got very windy, very often. It offered a cool night’s respite to the heat of the day, and a good night’s sleep! We will be back again to visit Needles District, as well as Island in the Sky District and the Maze District. It may take a few years, but we’re planning on it!

The time came to pack up and head to our next destination. We were headed southeast into New Mexico, passing through Gallup, driving sections of the old Route 66 and eventually meeting friends  for a few days reunion. We visited  the Gila Wilderness for a couple of days, then met friends up in Santa Fe before heading back to the Twin Cities.

 

Storms in Gila Wilderness

Storms in Gila Wilderness

 

The rain is near, lets get the tent up!

The rain is near, lets get the tent up!

 

Gila Cliff Dwellings (1)

Gila Cliff Dwellings (1)

 

Gila Cliff Dwellings (2)

Gila Cliff Dwellings (2)

 

Gila Cliff Dwellings (3)

Gila Cliff Dwellings (3)

 

A current resident

A current resident

 

Gila Wilderness

Gila Wilderness

 

Always good to get home after a long trip, but what memories!

~~~~~~~

 

 

 

About Mike Hohmann

I did lots of camping/hiking as a kid in the Scouts, and I still strive to 'be prepared.' After high school, I got bored with more school and enlisted in the Army Corps. of Engineers, doing two tours in Vietnam. Post military, I completed BS and MBA degrees and spent several decades with Corporate America, working mostly in the areas of conventional and renewable energy. I also spent over a decade as a self-employed small business consultant in marketing and finance. As a young family man with a wife and two kids, we spent many vacations camping and hiking in northern Minnesota. I spent additional long weekends fishing the rivers and camping/hiking along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I retired early and hit the trails hard-- in the lower-48, Alaska, and western Canada. These days I backpack, car-camp and day-hike, go snowshoeing, and try to get the grand-kids out to teach them the ways of the trail. Other interests include American Revolutionary War and Civil War history, 19th and 20th century firearms, Native American history; business and macroeconomics. I'm a recently-licensed amateur (Ham) radio operator, and I look forward to many radio-related adventures in coming months. Life is good! Member, Superior Hiking Trail Association; Member, Appalachian Mountain Club; Member, REI; Member, ARRL- Amateur Radio Relay League, the National Assoc. for Amateur Radio; Twin Cities Metro Skywarn Spotter; Twin City FM Club; Richfield Amateur Radio Club; QRP ARCI, Low-Power Amateur Radio Club International; Honorary Member, Toronto QRP Society; Life Member, National Rifle Association
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One Response to Hiking National Parks in southern Utah & more

  1. Jack says:

    Nice Mike! Thanks.

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