Petroglyphs and Pictographs
From the ancient Barrier Canyon people to the pervasive Fremont to more modern ancestral puebloans or Anasazi, the modern Indian tribes had ancient brothers living here. These ancient people left behind cliff dwellings, graineries, pueblos, kivas. The rock art sites known today as petroglyphs (painted on) and pictographs (carved into) are scattered all over the state. IMHO the best are in Horseshoe canyon section of Canyonlands. But there are plenty of others including some in Capitol Reef, or Arches, the newly protected Nine Mile Canyon near Price (also near there the only recently opened Range Creek) or the Newspaper Rock SP near Needles area of Canyonlands, or the Butler Wash near Bluff, or the Buckthorn panel in the San Rafael. What they mean, what purpose they served is highly debated and currently unknown. But they are interesting to explore and look at and curious to contemplate. Please take only pictures, leave no oil from your fingers to mar them.Related to:
Revisit the 2002 Olympics
There are several places that echo the spectacle that was planned so meticulously, celebrated and enjoyed over a couple weeks in February of 2002.
You can play in the Olympic fountain at Gateway, or tour the small Olympic Cauldron museum on the U of U campus. Or you can skate on the Olympic oval or slide down the bobsled run near Park City. Olympians still train at many of the facilities. One of the Gold medal bobsledders from this last year got his start and training in Utah.
The Olympics were a fantastic experience to have come to our home town.
San Rafael Reef - Wild Horse Creek.
Updated from trip Sept. 2009. - This is one of the easiest slots in the Reef to do because where the narrows are if it gets too tight it's not much of a climb to get out and walk back along the bench top. About a 10 km hike on a there and back basis. Very hot and exposed, no high canyon walls to protect from the sun, so start early AND bring plenty of water and good maps to get here. From the parking area described below the canyon goes DOWN, so remember that on the way out and don't overtire yourself. A couple of nice narrows, two small arches and apparently some pictographs and petroglyphes to watch out for, but I didn't see these.
Turn off Hwy 24 at Temple Junction and drive up past the Goblin Valley road (8 kms) for approx another 2/3 kms to the old Temple Mountain townsite. Nothing left to see here though except a parking lot so just after bear left behind the San Rafael reef on Chute Canyon road. The road from Temple Junct. is paved then graded to here with some dirt. Passable in a 2 WD. I was in 2WD both times I came here w/o problems.
This can be done in a full day trip along with Goblin Valley.
You can see where the Virgin River eons ago crossed along the top of this rock fin washing away the softer sediment. But then it hit the harder Navajo Sandstone and had to go around. The hike to the top starts at the flat river bottom, winds up the switchbacks through Refrigerator canyon, then up the swiggles known as Walter's Wiggles, reaches the shoulder where long ago the river ran and then heads up the narrow spine to a wider flatter top with an unparalleled view. If you are in good condition and not afraid of heights then give it a go.Related to:
- National/State Park
See the biggest manmade excavation in the world
What started as Bingham Canyon Mine, became Utah Copper and then Kennecott, now owned by Rio Tinto and through all the transformations has continued to grow and deepen and widen. Cooper ore was discovered here in the late 1800's. It was good quality but low quantity and the only way to make any money from it was an open pit mine. It has grown to what is being called the largest man made excavation in the world. At over 3/4 of a mile deep and 2 1/2 miles wide it is certainly impressive. A visit here will take about an hour to see and about an hour from downtown Salt Lake to get to.Related to:
- Family Travel
Visit a Hot Spring
Though not known for any large hot springs there are several small springs that are fun and worth visiting.
The best known is Homestead Resort in Midway. The waters of the pool are naturally warmed. They also have cut a tunnel though what I grew up calling the Hot Pot and what is now known as the Crater. This is a naturally warmed spring that you can swim in or learn to dive.
Crystal Hot Springs north of Brigham City is also fairly civilized with a large pool and several hot tubs.
Then you get the less civilized off the beaten path kind of places. Two that are lots of fun to visit are Msytic Hot Springs in the small rural town of Monroe which is privately owned and Fifth Water springs in Diamond Fork of Spanish Fork canyon which is not.
Mystic Hot Springs often has concerts from bands known and unknown. You can soak in an old claw foot bathtub and watch the stars come out and then sleep in a cabin or old bus.
Fifth Water requires a short hike and you never know what you'll find there. Though the sulfur smell can be strong the waterfall adds an extra joy to the warm water in the natural pools.
Christmas at Temple Square
If you are here at Christmas time the lights on Temple Square are a big hit. They wrap the trees and bushes with thousands of small lights, there are nativity scenes and music. Both the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall have concerts scheduled nightly sometimes more than one. It makes a wonderful atmosphere to contemplate the season.
Take a scenic drive
There are 8 National Scenic Byways in Utah and 22 drives Utah Scenic Byways throughout the state. It is hard to drive through the state without seeing some wonderful scenery.
Even I-70 which is not on either list has a very scenic drive through the San Rafael Swell west of Green River with several very worthwhile reststops you should take just to soak it all in.
Highway 12 between Bryce National Park and Torrey has been designated an All-American Road one of only 27 in the U.S. It is a wonderful road.
Even if you just drive through the state there are several scenic ways to do so.
Heading north from SLC to WY? Take off of I-80 to Hwy 40 towards Kamas. Then take hyw 150- The Mirror Lake Highway through the Western Uintas.
Wanting a slower route south from SLC to LV? Detour to hwy 6 at Spanish Fork and then head south on hwy 89 through the heart of central Utah.
Going to Jackson WY? North of SLC at Brigham City take hwy 89 north through Logan and Bear Lake.Related to:
- Road Trip
A trip to Salt Lake City is hardly complete without a visit to Temple Square. Well cared for gardens, visitors centers, the Tabernacle, Assembly Hall and of course the Salt lake Temple are all part of this walled block. It is possible to walk the grounds, tour the visitors centers, listen to the Tabernacle Organ recitals, watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during their early morning Sunday broadcast, hear free concerts on Friday and Saturday, and of course talk to the ubiquitous missionaries.Related to:
- Religious Travel
Zion National Park
Zion stood out for me among the Utah National Parks as being much greener, even in places lush. Yes, the characteristic red sandstone rocks and cliffs surround you, but here they are offset by the greenery of the river valley. You can hike across bare rock, but you can also stroll beside running water and duck beneath waterfalls. You can view the park’s stunning landscapes from a high vantage point, after a strenuous hike to Angel’s Landing, or through the window of the shuttle bus that circles the park (although the latter would be a real shame, given the easiness of some of the trails). You can spend weeks here, or just a few hours ...
We spent the best part of a day touring the park. We did two of the easier trails – the one just over a mile to the Lower Emerald Pool, and another along the Virgin River at the far end of the scenic drive, near the spot known as the Temple of Sinawava. The latter is handicap-accessible and about 1.5 miles long. I’ve read that the Lower Emerald Pool trail is very popular and prone to over-crowding but back in 1993 we didn’t find it so – I only recall meeting a few other people there. And it’s certainly a very pretty walk, and one that nearly everyone could manage to do, so if you only plan to do one walk I would recommend this one.
Nowadays private vehicles are not allowed to tour the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive from April to October, so you need to take the shuttle to the various trailheads and other sights. When we visited this was not the case and we were able to tour in our hired car, but even then it was rather crowded at some of the prettiest spots and on the easiest trails, so the introduction of the shuttle is a great idea in my view.
Apart from walking and hiking, activities here include horse riding and the usual comprehensive National Park Service programme of ranger talks and guided walks. We just spent a day here, but if you want to stay longer you can camp in one of three campgrounds (two in Zion Canyon itself, the other about an hour’s drive away on the Kolob Terrace Road) or stay at the Zion Lodge.Related to:
- National/State Park
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
If you have a camera with you, a stop here is a must – likewise if you enjoy hiking or off-highway vehicle riding, or simply want to play about in the sand! The colours are amazing, but perhaps less surprising when you consider the colours of the rock formations all over this spectacular state – red rocks make red sand. But whatever their origins, these dunes really capture the eye – and the lens! Furthermore, the rich hues of the sand are contrasted by the more sombre surroundings of pine-covered hills, making them all the more dramatic.
This is a unique geologic feature, the only major sand dune field on the Colorado Plateau. There is a particular reason for its presence in this spot. To create sand dunes, you need sand (obviously!) and high winds, strong enough to carry the grains of sand. Near here, the Moquith and Moccasin mountains are separated by a notch, through which the wind is funnelled. This narrowing of its path causes the velocity of the wind to increase, and as it passes it picks up grains of the eroding sandstone from which these mountains are formed. Once through the notch and into the wide open valley beyond, the wind speed drops, the grains of sand can no longer be supported, and they are deposited here, heaping up into these colourful dunes. This process has been going on for thousands of years – these dunes are estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old.
There is a nature trail here, and we enjoyed following the boardwalk and taking photos, but if you want to stay for a longer visit you could camp here (there are 22 units) and spend more time hiking.Related to:
- National/State Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
The first thing to say is that we didn’t do Bryce Canyon justice. We allowed too little time, and what time we had was made even shorter when we arrived in the middle of such a heavy storm that we were forced to take shelter in the car. In the end we could only drive some distance along the road that follows the rim, stopping here and there for photos and for a few short walks. These included the popular (too popular!) walk between Sunrise and Sunset Points, although not at the right time of day to see either of their namesake events.
Yet even in such a short time, what we saw was spectacular. This is no regular canyon, awesome though these can be. In fact, despite the name, this is not strictly speaking a canyon, since it was carved not by a river but by the work of snow and ice. The central area of the park is described as an amphitheatre, which gives an indication of its shape as well as providing an appropriate sense of drama. The valley floor is full of so-called “hoodoos”, spires, formed by ice and rainwater wearing away the weak limestone that makes up the Claron Formation. These have taken on an almost Fairyland-like appearance, twisting their way up from the depths below to peer over the rim at the astounded visitor. What must the first white explorers in this region have felt, when they came across these formations for the first time?
Apparently on a clear day the visibility at Bryce Canyon National Park often exceeds 100 miles – on our visit it was barely a mile I think, maybe less. So perhaps it’s not surprising that, of all the Utah national parks, this is the one to which I most want to return ...Related to:
- National/State Park
We stayed overnight in Escalante on our route from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon, and it appeared to us like a town that time forgot – a piece of small-town 50s America just as we know it from old films. From the “Mom & Pop” motel where we stayed (the Quiet Falls, which appears to be still there) to the Frosty Shop ice-cream parlour to the one café (the Golden Circle), the whole town felt like a film-set. There’s nothing much to do here, unless you share our fascination with 1950s Americana and welcome the opportunity to take a few different photos. Stroll down to the Frosty Shop and enjoy a cone in the shade of the nearby pines; peer into the dusty windows of the few shops on Main Street; dine on burger and chips at the Golden Circle – that’s about the sum of the fun to be had here, but fun it is, for an hour or two.
Of course the town may have changed since our visit in 1993, but somehow I doubt it. According to Wikipedia Escalante has a population of “818 people, 304 households, and 220 families”, so it must still be a pretty sleepy place. One thing that has changed though is the relatively recent popularity of nearby Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument. If this was there when we visited (and the landscape must have been, even if it weren’t then a national monument), somehow it managed to escape our attention totally, and its presence in the vicinity had not at that stage at least made much impact on Escalante itself in terms of tourist infrastructure.
Check out the website below for information on lots of the attractions in this area, including Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument. Oh, and unless things have changed a lot since our visit don’t be fooled, as we were, by the Coors neon sign in the window of the Golden Circle – this is dry Mormon country and you won’t be able to wash that tasty burger down with anything stronger than non-alcoholic beer!
Anasazi State Park
This is a partially excavated ancient Indian village in the heart of Utah's canyon country. It was once one of the largest Anasazi communities west of the Colorado River, possibly housing as many as 200 people. It is believed to have been occupied from A.D. 1050 to 1200. The village remains largely unexcavated, but many artefacts have been uncovered and are on display in the little museum, which I gather has been updated since our visit. As always with such sites, it takes a little imagination while exploring to visualise the village as it once would have been, but you are greatly helped by the reconstructed six-room dwelling (see photo) which you can go inside.
The people who lived here would have been farmers, growing corn, beans and squash in plots near the village. In the surrounding mountains and canyons they would have hunted deer and desert bighorn sheep, and gathered seeds, nuts and berries.
Around A.D. 1200 the inhabitants left, never to return. It is unclear why they went – outgrowing their resources or trouble with neighbouring tribes perhaps. Now, hundreds of years later, it is well worth a stop here if passing on your way between the various National Parks and other scenic attractions, if only to provide a human dimension to the story of the shaping of this landscape.
There’s a fee of $5 per person, and picnicking areas and rest rooms available, but no camping or overnight stays.Related to:
- National/State Park
Capitol Reef National Park
This is one of the less well-known and less visited of Utah’s National Parks, it seems. Indeed, it has only been a national park since 1971, and access by standard motor vehicles only possible since the construction of Highway 24 just nine years before that.
The main geological feature here is the Waterpocket Fold, a nearly 100-mile long warp in the earth's crust. This is a “monocline”, a good description of which can be found on the National Park Service website:
“A monocline is a "step-up" in the rock layers. The rock layers on the west side of the Waterpocket Fold have been lifted more than 7000 feet higher than the layers on the east. Major folds are almost always associated with underlying faults. The Waterpocket Fold formed between 50 and 70 million years ago when a major mountain building event in western North America ... reactivated an ancient buried fault. When the fault moved, the overlying rock layers were draped above the fault and formed a monocline. More recent uplift of the entire Colorado Plateau and the resulting erosion has exposed this fold at the surface only within the last 15 to 20 million years.”
Whatever your interest in geology, the scenery here is as dramatic as in many other parts of the state, and the park relatively quiet compare with others. There is also a lot of human interest here. A pioneer community known as Fruita once stood here, and its inhabitants farmed in the narrow valley of the Fremont River. Their orchards still remain, offering shade and greenery in what is otherwise mainly a desert environment. Visitors are allowed to stroll in the orchards and pick fruit when it is ripe, for which a fee is charged according to weight. But we were here in June, much too early in the season to enjoy these delights. However another memento of the Fruita community appealed to me a lot – the little school-house (photo 1). This dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, although the roof is an early twentieth century replacement for the flat mud one that originally sheltered the pupils. You can’t go into the school-house but can peer through the windows; it is furnished as it would have been about 100 years ago and it is easy to imagine it full of children at their lessons. There is a lovely description of life at the school, again, on the National Park website:
” The first desks were homemade, constructed of pine, and seated two students each. These were sometimes used to quiet unruly students. The teacher would seat a troublesome boy with a girl, and the resulting blow to his ego would often bring him under control. Teachers taught the "three-Rs" to the eight grades at the one-room school. If a teacher felt qualified and had enough textbooks, other subjects such as geography, were added. Students were full of pranks. To delay the start of class, they often hid the teacher's alarm clock in the woodpile. Lanterns used during night meetings were stored in the school, and a few enterprising students found that dropping a small piece of calcium carbide, taken from a lantern, into an inkwell produced a reaction that would cause the ink to overflow. If the inkwell was tightly capped, it would explode and spatter ink all over the room.”
Elsewhere in the park you can visit a typical farmhouse from that period, the Gifford Homestead, but despite it being only a short distance from the picnic area where we enjoyed our lunch (and spotted two deer – see photo 2), we seem to have missed this (although it’s possible that it wasn’t open to the public back in 1993).Related to:
- National/State Park
This is the nicest hotel in the city located in Temple Square amid all the attractions.more
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This is the only campground in Arches National Park. There are 52 site to choose from. Current...more
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