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Southwest Canyons and Parks

Author: Amelia aka ibfern
Date of Trip: April 2003

I recently returned from a fantastic trip to Northern Arizona and South/West Utah. I had never been to many of these places, most notably Monument Valley and the numerous National and State Parks in Utah’s Color country. Monument valley was delightful but be warned, if you wish to photograph the monument from the Navajo Preserve they close it well before sunset. We stayed in Kayenta at the Hampton Inn and it was great. They even had decent southwest food in the hotel. We “did’ Monument Valley at sunrise and it was great for photographing.

The road to Utah was beautiful we passed through the Valley of the Gods (there is an interesting B&B right in this valley) and drove up the Moki-Dugway switchbacks . These switchbacks are not for those who have a fear of heights, by the way! My husband made me drive…

Natural Bridges National Monument is great. This park affords astounding views of these natural bridges, as well as views of canyonlands and gorges, There are easy hikes to any of these bridges. Canyonlands National park is huge and we were only able to visit the needles district and the Island in the sky district. The drive to Needles is amazing, following a river through a verdant and lush valley. We hiked “cave springs” through slickrock and up ladders, passing petraglyphs, abandoned Cowboy retreats and an interesting cave spring. This is the land of the weeping rocks!

We stayed in Moab for several nights. This town is not nearly as friendly as what I might have liked. It seemed filled with self absorbed types and I was turned off by it. Too bad, it is a beautiful place. Also, the food was bad I could not find one decent restaurant.

Arches National park was probably my favorite park. We spent an entire day just hiking around all the amazing arches. Don’t miss the hike to delicate Arch. Its a great Sunset hike.

Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky district is right out of Moab. We Don’t spend too much time there because of the height thing and decide to take another dirt road filled with switchbacks and astounding views, called Potash Road. I drive 🙂 We pass the White Rim Road and descend towards the Colorado River Red canyon Gorge that is Potash Road. This is very scenic but a little bumpy and there are hairy cliff like switchbacks that are challenging for those with Height fears!

The road to Capital Reef National park is lovely, we take the Bicentennial highway (95) across Glen Canyon and the Colorado crossing the northern tip of Lake Powell at Hite. The road leads past canyons and grazing lands and as we approach Capitol Reef, the landscape gets more lush. The historic town of Fruita is inside of the park. It is filled with fruit orchards all run by the National Park Service, and when the fruit is in season you can pick your own!

Capital Reef is named for its Capitol shaped domes and the reef like color of the cliffs and rocks. Lots of reefs and swells here but no water. This park is great, its definitely a “be-back!” There are so few people, I am comfortable riding my bike on the scenic drive. We explore several cool slot like canyons. The town is nice, there is an abundance of nice motels and good restaurants. The campground looks lovely all grassy sites with great views.

Our next destination is Bryce Canyon National Park. This is a photographers paradise, it is even more colorful than the Capital Reef but now there are an abundance of “hoodoos” which are those eerie freestanding rock shapes. The park is very high up at its highest almost 10,000 feet up. My husband has a particularly difficult time here because all the hikes involve heights that are, well, way too high! We leave without taking any hikes and decide to hit Lake Powell the following day.

The drive to Page Arizona is great. We follow Cottonwood Creek Road, a delightful scenic backway. Backway means dirt road in Utah, by the way ! Along this route we find the coolest Slot Canyon which is relatively easy to get into called “Cottonwood creek Slot” ( what else) and we enjoy an hour long hike into the canyon. We meet some other hikes and they point us to more slot canyons. I think I might enjoy getting into canyoneering.

Lake Powell is nice. We stay in Page at a decent hotel (Marriott Courtyard) and decide to rent a power boat on the lake the next day. The boat is costly $150 for the entire day but the gas costs a fortune at $2.60 a gallon, considering these tanks hold 50 gallons! It ends up costing us an additional 100 for gas, as well as some achy bones and muscles but the day is exciting and fun and definitely worth it! We explore Antelope canyon from the water and Navajo canyon, the scenery is amazing. We got our boat stuck in a slot canyon and spent a half hour learning to park the boat at the floating bathrooms! We laughed and laughed! We got lost most of the time and had to ask a few boaters where we were! I cannot wait to go back but a word to the wise: do not bother renting any boats beyond 1-2 in the afternoon because the wind gets bad! That is when most people hurt themselves getting jostled around. We learned too late that it really helps to go slow!

Our final destination was Zion National park. Zion is great but it is a Zoo, there are many people. They are closing the scenic drive down to cars later this month permanently because Zion’s canyons are choking from the car fumes. This is great news for us we are bicyclists and cannot wait to have the road to ourselves. But for this trip we must share the roads with cars. We Bicycle from our hotel Flannigans to the end of the scenic road. This is a lovely ride, about 20 miles round trip. I always see so much more when I cycle rather then drive. We stop to get up close and personal with some deer and stop for frequent hikes. Emerald pools hike is nice, we hike up to the upper and middle pools. At the end of the scenic road is the Temple of Sinawava and a delightful 2 mile walk along the Virgin River towards the Zion narrows. Zion is worth coming back to visit again.

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