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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Southwestern Utah - 2011

    My wife and I decided recently to just take an impromptu week-long little RoadTrip. After taking a look at where we could get to in a single day's drive, and eliminating all the places we've already been, we decided to visit some of the major national parks of southwestern Utah. We got an early start and made the drive up to Duck Creek Village where we'd set up our 'base camp' (in a fully equipped condo) for the next week. Once we got by Phoenix, the drive was one of the best the country has to offer as far as scenery goes: up the Mogollon Rim to the Colorado Plateau, skirting the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley, over the Glen Canyon Dam and around Lake Powell, under the shadow of the Vermillion Cliffs, and through Dixie National Forest.

    We spent our first day, as we usually do, visiting a nearby attraction and generally scouting out the area. So fist up was Cedar Breaks National Monument.



    While not as spectacular as some of the other parks in the area, this was a good starting point with no crowds and a quite intimate, lovely short trail through an alpine meadow along the rim. As always the rangers at the headquarters/information center were quite helpful in pointing out the corners of the park that best suited our interests and abilities. The 15 minutes or so that we spend talking to these people before exploring any national park amply pays us back in getting the most from our time and efforts. We also joined a ranger led talk on the geology of the park which was also a good introduction to that of the other parks we'd soon be visiting.

    On our way back home we stopped in Panguitch for dinner but not much open on a Sunday, especially in the way of restaurants, We did find one family style place but the entire town basically closes up shop for the day. So we took a little walking tour and then a short drive over to Bryce Canyon to scope it out before calling it a day.

    The next day we headed over to Zion National Park.



    One of the best parts about this park was the drive in from the east along the scenic road and through the mile long tunnel (with occasional windows!). Also, be forewarned that even though this route is a state highway (UT-9), in order to use it, even to drive from Kanab to St. George, you must pay the entry fee into the park. During the summer, the main canyon is accessible only by park shuttle busses, but that really is the only way to keep the canyon worth visiting. Otherwise it would simply be choked with traffic. We took one of the most popular hikes, the Riverside Walk at the head of the Canyon and had lunch at the Zion Canyon Lodge with a stunning view of the canyon walls. We were struck by the number of foreign visitors who seemed to easily account for nearly half the people in the park. We also completed the loop back to our 'home' by continuing around to the northwest side of the park, the Kolob Canyons section. Although not as spectacular as the main canyon, it is certainly worth taking the time to see and is considerably less crowded than the main area of the park

    Next up was a break from the 'canyonlands' and a visit to the town of St. George. On the way down we stopped at the ghost town of Silver Reef, which turned out to be not much more that a few abandoned buildings in the middle of a suburb. And it wasn't 'open' in any event. We then took the tour of Brigham Young's winter home and the Tabernacle.



    One thing the Mormon Church does very well is give guided tours of its historic sites. We had previously toured Nauvoo, IL and have always come away impressed with the depth of knowledge of the docents and the wonderful, almost one-on-one, intimacy of these tours. We then took another walking tour through the historic areas of the town and through a small park with a working carousel

    Having driven so many miles over the last few days, we just took a break next and stayed in the Duck Creek Village area. Specifically, we took a couple of hikes in the Dixie National Forest. One of the recurring recommendations on this site is that concentrating on the 'must see' locations that everyone heads for is fairly short-sighted. There are so many more wonders to be seen in the many public lands, and most of them are terribly underutilized. We found out about a couple of great hikes in this 'local' forest by stopping at the very rustic and easy to overlook visitors cabin just west of our little village. Otherwise we would have never have known about Cascade Falls and Navajo Lake



    In contrast to Zion, where the attractions, roads and services are in the canyon, at Bryce Canyon the main trails and lookouts are along the rim. The main attraction here are the views down onto the hoodoos and the multicolored sandstones reminiscent of the Painted Desert in northwestern Arizona.



    And again, while the most popular overlooks are at the northern end of the park near the entrance, some far more intriguing locations are deep inside the park, but still readily accessible by car, including a stunning arch and views out over the vast plains below the rock formations.

    On our final day, we simply relaxed, did some more checking into our local neighborhood, and got set up for an early departure for home the next morning. All in all, a great relaxing trip where in the best tradition of RoadTrips, most of our time was spent actually seeing and doing things, with just the right amount of driving to get us to those sights.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 09-16-2011 at 05:04 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    777

    Default

    NICE! (great pictures too)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Great report, and beautiful photos. I loved what you had to say about the underutilized areas of national parks and forests. That is so, so true. What's also true about many is that getting onto a trail that is a few miles long is a good way to leave a lot of the people traffic behind. Most people either don't want to take the time, don't have the inclination, or may not be able physically to get onto a trail and see what's past the parking lot.



    Donna

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    ... or may not be able physically to get onto a trail and see what's past the parking lot.
    My greatest frustration!

    That's why I like reading reports like this, and seeing the pictures of so many places I wiill never see.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Not That Far

    As I have noted elsewhere on a few occasions, we have a handicapped permit and are not able to walk long distances. None of the places that we 'hike' to are more than a mile or so from a trail head, or require significant elevation changes. But the rangers and guides are always more than willing to point out to us the easy trails (many are wheel chair accessible) and the tranquil spots. It is amazing how many people, having spent hours or even days driving to a park, will content themselves with a mere few minutes at the most crowded venues and say they've "been there, done that" when there is so much more just around the next bend.

    AZBuck

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    As I have noted elsewhere on a few occasions, we have a handicapped permit and are not able to walk long distances. None of the places that we 'hike' to are more than a mile or so from a trail head ...
    Buck, think 200 metres! Rare is the day that I actually get further. Many are the days I cannot cross the road. For someone who used to walk up to 20 kms in a day, it is the height of frustration.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default As Someone Once Said...

    Getting old ain't for wimps!

    (...and with the exception of Cascade Falls, none of the photos was taken more than 200 meters from a paved road.)

    AZBuck

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Alternative!!

    Buck, When it really gets me down, I remind myself of the alternative. :-)

    It is one thing for those lovely pictures to be near paved roads. It is a totally different thing to find a safe parking spot, when one sees something....

    And then I think of a couple of folk I know, who cannot anywhere near do as much as I, or go as many places as I do. I have actually become quite adept at sightseeing through the windscreen.

    But it's still frustrating!

    Lifey

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