Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

Andrea’s Epic Utah Adventure – 2021

While I love mountains and forests, there is also something about the Utah desert that calls to me and asks me to explore. There’s a lot to cover on this page, but it’s 3 weeks’ worth of hiking, exploring, and adventuring. Feel free to get your beverage of choice, sit back, and enjoy the trip with me.  Or, click on one of the links here to go directly to a specific hike or area:

Bryce Canyon NP  |  Grand Staircase-Escalante NM  |  Hwy 12 Scenic Byway  |  Capitol Reef NP  |  Little Wildhorse Canyon  |  Goblin Valley  |  Canyonlands NP Needles District  |  Dead Horse Point State Park  |  Arches National Park  |  Canyonlands NP Island in the Sky District Zipline

 

CRATERS OF THE MOON NATIONAL MONUMENT

We stayed at Lava Flow campground within the Monument. We didn’t need more than ½ day here, but it was still fun. The first come-first served campground filled quickly, and by evening there were many people driving through looking for a spot and not finding one.

This area reminds me of the black lava in Hawaii. There are several small caves here, but for me most were a bit disappointing compared to Ape Cave near Mt. St. Helens that I’m used to. The one cave that I enjoyed was Indian Tunnel well worth going through the whole cave from start to end. Boy Scout Cave was a no-go for me, with a very narrow entry tunnel that would have required me to crawl on hands and knees. My knees said “no thank you” to that.

BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK

I stayed at Sunset campground inside of Bryce Canyon National Park for 2 nights, and Ruby’s RV park for 1 night (can you say showers and laundry?). Reservations here are a must.  

Yovimpa Point – The first afternoon I drove the scenic drive to the end and wandered at Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point.  I hiked about 1.5 miles to the end of Yovimpa, looking directly south toward the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Was hazy so it was hard to tell what I was seeing, a map would have been nice to point out landmarks. Regardless, it’s a vast, expansive view and well worth seeing.

Queen’s Garden to Peek-A-Boo Loop and Wall Street on the Navajo Loop.  After talking with rangers at the Bryce Visitor Center and getting suggestions to create a figure-8 loop, I hiked about 8 miles down into the main Bryce Amphitheater area. Stunning!!  Peek-A-Boo Loop has the best views if done clockwise, and there were far fewer people on this loop since the access from Bryce Point was closed. The area called Wall Street on the Navajo Loop was steep and hard, but very fun hiking up that narrow canyon! Bryce Canyon NP is named after a cattle rancher named Ebenezer Bryce. His only comment on record about the amazing landscape here was, “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”

Explore the Bryce Amphitheater with me via video HERE.

Fairyland Loop – Perhaps my favorite hike at Bryce Canyon.  I left my little teardrop trailer at the camp host section of Sunset Campground because I wouldn’t be back in time to check out of the campground; the campground hosts were so nice!

I started hiking near the General Store and connected with the Rim Trail from there, hiking north to the top of Fairyland Loop, about 2.5 miles along the rim. The views looking down are gorgeous, but the real magic begins when you actually descend into the hoodos and other-worldly scenery. This trail doesn’t get nearly as many people as other trails, exactly the way I like it. Absolutely stunning, with a little side trip to Tower Bridge before the long slog back up to the rim and the car. This is one of those places that you have to physically BE IN to take it in, like the Grand Canyon, because photos simply don’t come close to conveying what it feels like to be here in person.

GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT

I camped at Petrified Forest State Park just outside of Escalante – A very nice campground, quiet and small with clean restrooms and showers. It’s well worth exploring the trails here.

Burr Trail Road / Long Canyon – I decided I was in need of a scenic afternoon drive, so I headed down the paved Burr Trail Road. This is a wonderful drive through beautiful scenery. I went into the short (very short) Long Canyon Slot, in and out in less than 5 minutes, but a great “intro” for anyone who wants to feel what a slot canyon is without committing to a longer and more strenuous hike.

Dry Fork Narrows (and an attempt at Peek-A-Boo and Spooky slots).

I had checked in with rangers at the visitor center the afternoon before and was told that Peek-A-Boo and Spooky slots were do-able and fine for me to head into. I began at daybreak, driving about 25 miles down the dirt Hole-In-the-Rock Road, all washboard, bone-jarring, dusty, and beautiful. My theory is the dirtier my car is, the more fun I’ve had. I parked at Upper Dry Fork trailhead, and hiked to and dropped down into the Dry Fork Narrows, which is a beautiful slot canyon that is very easy to navigate with no technical skills needed.

The end of Dry Fork opens up into a wash, and not far off is the entrance to Peek-A-Boo slot. I thought better of climbing up the 20-foot wall to the entrance, and instead hiked up the left side to where I could drop down into Peek-A-Boo canyon from above. The first narrow section I came across was about 10 inches wide and I made it through with some very interesting contortions (thank you, yoga!). At that point I decided to not go any further since I was solo, and turned around. I had a hard time climbing back out of Peek-A-Boo but figured out a safe place to climb out. Back through Dry Fork Narrows to the car.

Even though I didn’t get through the 2 slots that I had originally intended, I was more than happy with Dry Fork Narrows, and I always err on the side of being safe, especially when I’m solo!!

Explore Dry Fork Narrows slot canyons via video with me HERE.

You can see my decision to not continue in Peek-A-Boo canyon HERE.

Devil’s Garden – This is such a fun, quirky area to explore 12 miles down Hole-In-The-Rock Rd. There’s not a trail per se, just wandering and rambling through rock formations that look like they were created by Dr. Seuss. Definitely worth a stop if heading down the Hole-In-The-Rock Road (speaking of this road, it’s fun to look up the history of it). 

UTAH HIGHWAY 12 SCENIC DRIVE between Escalante and Torrey, UT

Driving from Escalante to Torrey, Utah — Wow!!! On this section of Highway 12, it’s hard to keep eyes on the road because the scenery is so stunning. I skipped hiking at the Calf Creek area since I’ve done it before. Boulder Mountain Pass is 9600 feet elevation, open range, and aspen turning to yellow this time of year. So pretty!!  I stayed at Singletree campground in Dixie National Forest, about 30 minutes from Capitol Reef NP, for 1 night instead of 3, due to freezing weather and torrential rain. I switched to 2 nights in Torrey to be safe.

If you’d like to take a virtual road trip with me along this stunning section of scenic byway, join me HERE.

CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK

Capitol Reef National Park – where have you been all my life??  So much to explore here, but shhhhh…don’t let anyone know lest it gets overrun like Zion and Arches NP have. This Utah national park is highly underrated; let’s keep it that way!

Cassidy Arch – My plan was to head down Scenic Drive and have a mellow day, but sometimes plans change. Without much thought, I turned onto the road into to Grand Wash and I’m glad I did.  At the end of the road, since I had my pack ready for adventure, I did an impromptu hike to Cassidy Arch. I broke my own rule about hiking in the heat of the afternoon, but wanted to make use of the day.

After a short walk down Grand Wash, the trail heads up up up the side of the canyon before leveling out. After a while Cassidy Arch is visible across a canyon/gulch, but that’s not where the magic is 🙂  The real fun is continuing the hike to the point where you’re standing directly on top of the arch, looking down into it through a giant hole in the top of the canyon wall.

It was just under 4 miles round trip, but felt more like 8 from the heat of the afternoon reflecting up off the rocks and the climb. Worth every single hot step, there are not many arches you look down into from above.

Join me for a virtual video trip of this area HERE.

Scenic Drive to Capitol Gorge – The Capitol Reef Scenic Drive follows about 10 miles at the base of the 100-mile Waterpocket Fold – a massive upheaval in the earth’s crust that has created beautiful canyons as it erodes.  At the end of Scenic Drive, the road becomes dirt and heads into Capitol Gorge – a truly stunning (and slow) winding drive through massive canyon walls. It reminds me of the Zion Narrows, but with a dirt road instead of a river.  

I filmed the whole drive, so if you’d like to ride along with me, grab your beverage of choice, buckle your seat belt, and watch it HERE 🙂  Wow.  Just beautiful!!!

Cohab Canyon & Fryingpan Trail – It’s possible to through-hike from Cohab Canyon to Cassidy Arch and out at Grand Wash (or vice-versa) if you have a car shuttle. Since I was on my own and had hiked to Cassidy Arch the day before, I parked by Fruita Campground to hike from this starring point also.  Of course had to start the morning with a fresh-baked apple pie from Gifford House.

There are 22 switchbacks to the entrance to Cohab Canyon, and looking back down gives beautiful views of the area around Gifford House, Fruita campground, and the orchards that are nestled into this otherwise harsh landscape. Cohab Canyon is beautiful with some small side slots to explore. After Cohab I followed the wash for a ways and turned onto Fryingpan Trail, which connects later with Cassidy Arch trail. There were very few people on Fryingpan trail, just how I like it.  Stunning scenery but getting hot and very exposed, so I turned around – Just under 8 miles total with a lot of ups and downs through canyons and washes. Definitely a great place to get away from people and feel immersed in the wide open spaces and vistas.

Weather very quickly turned in the afternoon after hiking Cohab Canyon, with BIG rain, hail, and wind. By the time I got back my campground there was rolling thunder and lightning and hail and wind.  It went from 80 degrees at end of my hike down to 45 degrees in less than 30 minutes, with flash flood warnings – So very glad I hiked in the morning.

Wander through Cohab Canyon and Fryingpan Trail with me HERE.

PANDO

I had planned to hike again in Capitol Reef National Park the day after the storm, but weather was not very good and I also needed a zero-day to rest.  Instead, I drove out toward Fish Lake to stroll through Pando. This is 106 acres of a single stand of aspen, called the Pando Aspen Clone. It’s considered the largest known single living organism in the world. Timing was perfect, with autumn turning the leaves bright yellow, and fortunately I had beautiful blue sky as a perfect backdrop to Mother Nature’s stunning colors.

Take a walk through Pando with me HERE.

LITTLE WILDHORSE AND BELL SLOT CANYONS 

I adore slot canyons!!! Early in the morning I drove from Capitol Reef NP to East Temple Mountain BLM campground, near Goblin Valley State Park. I quickly unhitched the trailer, and went straight to the Little Wildhorse Canyon trailhead. I had gone part way through Little Wildhorse in 2013, but not all the way through. This time, I started with Bell Canyon, which is wider and very easy access for anyone not wanting too much adventure.

After exiting the far end of Bell Canyon, it’s a 1.6 mile walk on the 4×4 Behind the Reef Road to the upper entry of Little Wildhorse slot canyon. I saw very few people and was surprised by this, but certainly wasn’t complaining.  As I got further into Little Wildhorse Canyon, it got narrower and narrower.  I had heard there was water from rains a few days before, and I found it. Most of the puddles of cold standing water were up to my knees, but 2 spots had me wading thru water nearly hip-high. There were several down-scrambles within Little Wildhorse, the kind where you sit on your butt and slide down while holding on with both hands to the side walls. A few very narrow spots with only room for 1 person at a time, but nothing that was technical or difficult to get through.

I was surprised to see so few people the whole time, other than right near the parking lot and trailhead. I think the need to wade through water turned most people around, which meant I had the whole upper portion of this canyon to myself. This is such stunning scenery. It was a bit unnerving to be completely alone in a place like this, but also very empowering at the same time. My shoes and pants dried very quickly back at the campground – I was exhausted, but in a good and happy way.

Video adventure with me HERE.

GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK

This State Park is very close to Little Wildhorse and Bell canyons. It’s surreal, more like walking through a Star Wars film set than anything on Planet Earth. I got a very early start, only 1 other car in the parking lot at daybreak. I wanted to explore further than I had when I was here before. The beautiful thing about Goblin Valley is that you can hike as easy or as hard as you’d like to. There are areas that require a bit of rock scrambling, or just wandering through the main valley is very easy for most. I had a great time exploring further into the valley and up some side and back areas that I had completely to myself because 1) It was early in the morning and 2) Most people stay near the parking lot.  Perfect, exactly the way I like it. Mother Nature had a good sense of humor when she designed with Goblin Valley.

Wander through these incredible rock formations with me HERE.

CANYONLANDS ~ ~ NEEDLES DISTRICT  

The Needles area of Canyonlands is waaaaay out in the middle of nowhere, with literally nothing between Moab and it. It’s 35 miles from the nearest power lines and over 50 miles from the nearest gas station, very off-grid. On the way to the Needles area I stopped at a store in Moab and just about had a panic attack because it was so crowded and sensory overload compared to what I’d been around for the prior 2 weeks.

Chesler Park Loop and The Joint – 12 miles today, I was tired!!!

I drove to Elephant Hill trailhead and started the rocky climb up from there, with a lot of rock scrambling and following cairns for 3 hard miles to get to the beginning to Chesler Park, where I started the loop clockwise. Morning light all the way up to Chelser Park, and within the Park itself, was amazing. It felt like being in Stonehenge, but on the scale of thousands of acres. I skirted around the left side of the meadow/park, which is mostly level and easy walking. At the far end, it started venturing into rock again, which is where The Joint is.

The Joint is a section of trail that goes deep into fractures in the rock itself. At some points it is only as wide as shoulder-width, and could be a problem for anyone with claustrophobia. There is a small section that reminded me of The Subway hike at Zion National Park. At the end I took a wrong turn and ended in a tiny slot which I had to turn sideways to get through. I climbed out the far end using tree roots, feeling like Tarzan. When I got up top I realized it was the wrong way so had to climb back down again and retrace my steps.  The exit had been right in front of me and I never saw it. 


After leaving The Joint I followed the trail quite a way, expecting to hook up with the Jeep road that connects part of the trail, but I never found it. Retracing my trail back through The Joint and through Chesler Park was fine with me! This is a truly beautiful, remote area with amazing rock formations. Anyone who makes it out this far has truly earned it because of how remote it is. The last 3 miles of downhill rock scrambling to get back to the car wore me out, 12 miles total. I earned that Caramello bar!!!!

Nighttime: The stars here!! With no light or sound pollution, I felt like I was in one of the most pristine places I’ve ever been. I’ve never seen the night sky like this before in my life.

Explore the trail up to and through Chesler Park with me HERE.

If you’d like to venture through The Joint with me, HERE is the video [probably not a good idea if you’re claustrophobic].

DEAD HORSE POINT STATE PARK

Dead Horse Point State Park is a wonderful place to camp, because it’s central to Moab, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky District. I hiked from Wingate Campground to Dead Horse Point Overlook and back. There are several overlook side trails along the way that are worth wandering to.  To the west, Canyonlands Island in the Sky area is visible, and to the south, Canyonlands Needles District is visible far off in the distance. There are also beautiful views down to the Colorado River from here. Getting a camping site at either of the 2 campgrounds here is difficult, I think it’s one of the most in-demand places to camp in all of Utah.

ARCHES NATIONAL PARK

Devil’s Garden Loop – Even leaving Dead Horse Point in the dark before dawn and arriving at Arches at 6:45am, I was amazed at how many cars were there that early in the morning.  I drove straight thru to the end, the Devil’s Garden area. I began by hiking the loop, stopping for a few photos of Landscape Arch, which was already ridiculously crowded that early in the morning.

It’s possible to leave many people behind by heading past Landscape Arch along the “primitive trail” to Partition Arch, Navajo Arch, and Double-O Arch. Unfortunately, I kept leapfrogging a horribly large, rude, loud, inconsiderate, disrespectful group of hikers who had no concern that they were not the only people on the trail.

Past Landscape Arch, the trail climbs up a rock fin (not for anyone afraid of heights) and to the left to Partition Arch, which has beautiful views through the openings to the far landscape beyond. Navajo Arch is also beautiful, but in my opinion not as noteworthy as Partition Arch.

From there I continued on to Double-O Arch, by walking along the top of a long and narrow rock fin with drops down both sides. It was a bit disorienting but still fun. Views at Double-O Arch are best by scrambling through the smaller, lower arch to the opposite side and looking back through.

Because the crowds were so thick, and because I could not seem to get away the incredibly rude group, I decided to go back to the other side of the primitive Devil’s Garden loop until I hit a big puddle that had to be waded through, and decided to turn around at that point. About 8 miles today, and it would have been absolutely lovely were it not for some people who should not be allowed on public lands.

Wander along a rock fin and through the lower window of Double-O Arch with me HERE.

Double Arch – Another “on a whim” short hike. This is accessed from the same parking area as the Windows. At only 1 mile round trip, it’s a must-see. Beautiful!!!  The double arches are difficult to photograph, especially after scrambling up the rocks and into the arches themselves, because of the angles. I found a shady spot to rest for a while inside the 2 arches, trying to wrap my mind around how huge these actually are and taking in different persepctives.

After 9 miles, exhausted, I drove to the Moab Brewery for a BLTA and a cold beer, so good!  Then to the Rec and Aquatic Center in Moab for a shower that was much needed.

CANYONLANDS ~ ISLAND IN THE SKY DISTRICT

At this point in my trip I was tired and not up for any more long or strenuous hikes. Grand View Point at Canyonlands was the perfect hike for me. I again left at the crack of dawn to avoid crowds, and drove to the trailhead. The Mesa Arch parking area was completely full, so I skipped it because I’ve been before and was not up to dealing with crowds again after being at Arches the day before.

Light wasn’t very good for photos and weather was coming in, but it was still a nice hike out to the end and back. I spent quite a while staring far into the distance, resting, and thinking of the amazing things I’d seen and done for the past 3 weeks on this trip. It’s a good place for contemplation, it feels like there’s room out here to let your mind wander, to take slow deep breaths, and to just BE in the present moment.

RAVEN’S RIM ZIPLINE ~ Moab

I can’t pass up a chance at a good zipline.  We started by driving up a crazy dirt/rock road in an off-road vehicle that was an adventure in itself. There are 6 ziplines, 2 that were plenty long enough to get upside down on for a while, and a very bouncy suspension bridge. Beautiful views of Moab and the Slickrock mountain bike trail, and across to Arches National Park, where the South Window is visible from the first couple of lines. The staff was wonderful, and it was a treat to be able have this as a grand finale for my trip.

If you’re not afraid of heights, and if you don’t mind flipping upside down with me a few times, zip along with me HERE.


2 responses to “Andrea’s Epic Utah Adventure – 2021

  1. […] glorious hiking in Southern Utah, including hikes, slot canyons, scenic drives, and ziplines. Click here to go to that page, including links to videos for many of the different hikes/adventures, or click […]

  2. […] just finished uploading photos from my recent and wonderful 3-week hiking trip to Utah. Take your pick between scenic drives, hikes, slot canyons, or ziplines. It was all amazing and I […]

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