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After our visit to Arches, it was time to head north and east toward the I-70. I looked at our map and saw that there was a scenic highway designated by dots along the road. It "seemed" like a short cut to the junction of the I-70 near Cisco --- a mere 43 miles.
NATIONAL SCENIC BYWAY 128 begins 3 miles north of Moab. Sheer walls of red sandstone contrast with the flowing waters of the Colorado River, which runs adjacent to this scenic route. This road, which gets quite narrow in some places, has some of the most amazing scenery I have seen in a long time. There was also so many great river side camping areas and as it was getting late, I even jokingly suggested to Hans that we camp there overnight, after all we brought a little two-man tent. hehe! Except that there wasn't any restaurants or even little MOM & POP places to eat and it was cold. So we carried on and carried on. We seemed to be getting nowhere fast. When the river faded away, the landscape got boring. Is 43 miles sooooo far? Finally, we got sight of traffic in the distance - yeah! It's the I-70.
Written Oct 18, 2009
Monument Valley may conjure visions of John Wayne and the Wild West but this is Navajo country. It is not a National Park as some would have it but a full fledged Tribal Park. While it is true that many a spaghetti western was filmed here and the scenic bluffs that dot the otherwise bleak horizon are about as American as apple pie, Native Americans have held the place sacred long before John Ford emblazoned it on celluloid. Would it be run better as a National Park? Probably. Would they be building a big hotel visible from its famous Mittens bluffs? Probably not. For better or worse, this is one park you will experience in all its Native glory. Its beauty shines through despite what feels like mismanagement. You will somehow feel you are no longer in the good old USA. That's okay, you're not. You're in Navajo country.
Monument Vally Tribal Park is in Arizona, but right up against the Utah border in the far north of the state. You can visit if from Utah at their state park with the same name.
Updated Aug 10, 2009
This looks like a really touristy stop and I guess it is but if you don't do any shopping it can be a very pleasant place to have lunch. There are your usual trinket shops and a restaurant but there is also a free park with nice rest rooms for the budget traveler. It's just on the outskirts of Moab but it came in handy for us as we'd spent a bit of time checking out the Matrimony Springs and gorge north of town. It gave us a place to enjoy a nice lunch before tackling the drive to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, about 100 miles away.
Updated Jul 15, 2009
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park would likely have National status if it were not for its misfortune of being located within a day's drive of eight other National wonders in its home state alone; not to mention the North Rim of the Grand Canyon a stone's throw below in Arizona. Framed by scenic red cliffs ala Zion and dense green forest of Juniper and Pinyon, the coral colored sand dunes stand out in stark contrast to form the 3700 acre State Park. ATV drivers rejoice in their good fortune but at least some of the stunningly scenic area is off limits to motorized vehicles and the gorgeous campground remains fairly tranquil. Climb the dunes or sit in serenity, but most of all let nature's beauty seep into your heart like tiny grains of sand trickling from above.
Written Jul 13, 2009
Kodachrome Basin State Park both benefits and suffers by its proximity to neighboring Utah National and State Parks. While true those drawn to parks like Bryce Canyon National Park will likely be intrigued with a stop here if time permits, it is inevitable there will be comparisons between the two. Most would probably rate Bryce as more spectacular than Kodachrome but each park has its own merits and if one is seeking a little solitude it is far more likely in the latter. With evidence of a Geothermic past ala Yellowstone, Kodachrome Basin stands as a more profuse conglomeration of colors and its array of odd shaped and multi-colored chimneys stand testament to being dubbed Kodachrome after the Kodak Film Company's popular product of the time of its inception. However you shoot it, Kodachrome Basin State Park offers a great place to camp in a beautiful desert terrain with nice short hikes amongst some very scenic rock formations.
Written Jul 13, 2009
Though only under state protection since 1964, Goblin Valley State Park was already an attraction as dubbed “Mushroom Valley” by Arthur Chaffin during his photographic shoot in 1949. His attraction to the area dates back to the 1920s but cowboys ran cattle through here long before that. Despite the remoteness of the valley, it would seem very unlikely that Native Americans did not hold it in some reverence when one looks upon the amazing conglomeration of mystical rocks.
Erosion and the raising of the Colorado Plateau may explain this unusual formation but the story of its effect on man when he first saw it can only be imagined. Fortunately for us, we can imagine it pretty well as it is likely the same one we have when stumbling upon this jumble of red rock that seems to stand to this day as an army of goblins acting sentry to the Henry Mountains just beyond. A visit here at sunset is truly magical.
Written Jul 13, 2009
This is a wonderfully hidden gem of a place. Most people speed through Capitol Reef quickly anyway and most never hear about or have the vehicle to allow them to reach this northern section. Thus it has remained remote, and a quiet desert place seldom visited. It is only recently that I was finally able to reach this place myself and it was so worth it. The round trip loop which I highly recommend is a 60 mile dirt road suitable only for high clearance vehicles, 4x4 may be needed at times and it is completely unpassable when wet due to it going through the Bentonite hills which form a particularly sticky, heavy clay. If you have less time then you can take the Caineville Mesa road (portions are very rough) into the Lower Cathedral Valley (30 miles rt) where you can see the Temples of the Sun and Moon and Stars. You will also pass a great section of Bentonite hills...Queen of the Wash is a 400 foot pyramid of maroon and gray stripped clay.
We loved learning about the monoliths which are the stars of the valley. They are so much better in real life than any picture - which cannot convey their massive presence.
The one campground on Hartnet Mesa has a pit toilet, six sites with tables and firepits, but no water and all waste must be packed out. From here you can see 360 degress around to the Henry Mountains, Caineville Mesas, Thousand Lake Mountain, Aquarius Plateau and Upper Cathedral Valley.
Written May 4, 2009
In the south of Utah, more or less at the border between Utah and Arizona, Paria Canyon stretches out for miles.
(however, this would be another off-the-beaten-track tip).
For now, Paria River Valley Road leads through a stunning scenery of the typical rock formation of Utah - all different red-orange-yellow-pink colors, depending on the iron oxide content.
Paria River Valley Road starts at HWY 89 (between Kanab/UT and Page/AZ) at milepost 31 (that's what the website says; when we were there, we just saw the roadsign saying "ghosttown") to the north. It's non-paved, so drive carefully (but possible with a non-4x4 car).
At the end of the road, there is a kind of ghosttown, with an old abandoned movie set (however it might be destroyed by now).
Wonderful quiet landscape, small hikes are possible. Remains of the old mormon town Pahreah, even with an old cemetry.
Updated Apr 18, 2009
The spectacular Great Gallery is awesome to behold with ghostlike images, most without arms, just long flowing robes. Some of the images are over 2 metres high. On other parts of the gallery can be seen hunting scenes, the bighorn sheep are quite clear. But, what does it all mean ? Nobody has worked it out yet, although there are plenty of theories.
I urge you to have a look at the pdf file booklet on the archaeology of the area from the NPS site address or directly with address given in the previous tip. Very interesting for those interested. The Moab visitors centre has a leaflet available to help you find other sites, but nothing as large as the Great Gallery.
Although I haven't visited it yet there is another major pictograph and petroglyph site at 9-mile canyon near Price, Utah. http://climb-utah.com/Misc/ninemile.htm
Updated Mar 16, 2008
This is an experience for those that have a sense of adventure and a head for heights. This road takes from near Boulder to Escalante as an alternative to Hwy 12. Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930's it is an unpaved spectacular drive up through the Dixie Forest. I stopped at the Hell's backbone bridge for a walkabout and to take in the views. The bridge is actually just a one lane wooden one with steep drop-offs down to Box/Death Hollow Canyons that meet up at this point, and it is nearly 2800 metres high. On the way back down we met up with some curious wild mule deer.
Written Mar 13, 2008
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