Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks

March 2019 – The Utah red rocks are full of whimsical formations that are easily recognizable. One of the most charming is Mexican Hat, a rock formation that unmistakeably resembles a sombrero.

Mexican Hat Utah RV trip adventure

A Mexican sombrero caps off the landscape in Utah.

We were traveling through southeastern Utah with our RV, and before we arrived at this fantastic stone hat we found some wonderful patterns in the red rocks. We spent a little time doing some wide angle photography, playing with the colorful lines in the sandstone.

Leading lines in wide angle photo in Utah-min

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As the golden hour unfolded before sunset, I was astonished to look down at my feet and see a rainbow of colors!

Wide angle photography in Utah-min

So much color right at my feet!

The red, yellow, orange and gray stripes were beautiful, and we explored these unusual patterns at dusk and again at dawn.

Sunrise with puppy in Utah-min

Buddy watched the sunrise with us.

In some cases we focused our photos on the tiny patterns at our feet, but the size and scale of these immense rock landscapes was mind boggling.

Utah landscape-min

Huge landscapes dwarf Mark and Buddy on a rock outcropping.

In many places the sandstone was solid underfoot, but in other places it gave way to patches of red beach sand and small dunes.

Red rock patterns in Utah-min

Ancient sand dunes turned to stone — lines and patterns everywhere.

Buddy loved lying in the hot sand in the heat of the day and rubbing himself in its toasty warmth.

He also got a kick out of chasing the lizards and birds that live in this exotic land. Of course, the bigger birds just stood their ground when they saw the excited puppy coming.

One crow began to tease him, flying just out of reach and squawking. Buddy took the bait and tore after the crow, running and jumping as the bird swerved and dipped his wings near him.

Suddenly Buddy took a big leap, eyes focused intently on the crow. He misjudged the uneven ground beneath him, lost his footing, and crashed into the sand chest first in a cloud of red dust.

When he stood up and shook himself off he was wearing a pink bib and gloves!

Puppy in red rock sand Utah-min

Buddy sports a peach bib and gloves after taking a flying leap after a bird and crash landing in the sand.

Rivers and waterways are responsible for the fantastic landscapes in this area, and when we drove over a bridge crossing the Colorado River we loved the contrast of the crimson cliffs and snowy mountains in the background.

Colorado River in Utah Glen Canyon-min

Snowy mountains and red rock cliffs.

The landscapes were filled with color and vibrance.

Colorful landscape at the golden hour in Utah-min

Vivid colors at the golden hour.

We crossed the San Juan River at the town of Mexican Hat. After driving over a hundred miles through vast empty landscapes, this village perched above the river was a fun surprise, and we got out to explore a bit.

Colorado River Bridge at Mexican Hat Utah-min

The village of Mexican Hat is perched along one side of the river.

Someone had put a three-legged chair in a spot with a great view of the village on the opposite bank. You never know what you’ll find out here!

Town of Mexican Hat Utah-min

Have a seat — but don’t fall over!

We continued on and the skies clouded over. Storms brewed in the distance while the sun lit portions of the land here and there. What a magical place.

Storm clouds and rain over red rock landscape in Utah-min

Storm clouds and rain drift across the red rock landscape.

Storm and dark clouds in the Utah red rocks-min

The rain never made it to us, but what a wonderfully brooding sky this was!

The village of Mexican Hat is named for the fun rock formation that looks like a Mexican sombrero. It was easy to spot and made us smile. What a perfect name for this formation and the village nearby!

Mexican Hat rock formation under storm clouds in Utah-min

Mexican Hat is impossible to miss!

Buddy decided to try it out and see how it fit.

Sombrero Mexican Hat over puppy-min

Buddy tries the hat on for size.

Catching it from different angles and zooming in, the hat really dose look like a sombrero.

Mexican Hat Utah-min

It’s a true sombrero from this angle!

Just how big is this rock formation? Enormous! There were some hikers standing at its base…

Hikers at Mexican Hat Utah-min

It doesn’t look that big until you notice the hikers!

As the afternoon wore on, the hat cast its shadow across the valley below.

Shadow of Mexican Hat rock formation in Utah-min

In the late afternoon Mexican Hat cast a shadow across the valley.

And as the sun set it became a silhouette against the sky.

Mexican Hat Utah sunset silhouette-min

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And then it grew wings.

Sunset at Mexican Hat Utah-min

With colorful flying clouds!

Continuing on, we saw incredible wavy patterns in the red rocks.

Clouds over red rocks in Utah-min

We noticed vivid patterns in the distant hills.

We hopped in the RZR to drive into the landscape a little further. We rounded a bend and found a couple taking a break from their Jeep ride to enjoy a quiet moment in their camp chairs with a fabulous view.

Polaris RZR ride in Utah red rocks-min

We followed a jeep road into the landscape.

Exotic landscape in Utah-min

A couple relaxes in their camp chairs in the middle of their Jeep ride!

These landscapes just begged us to head off into the red rocks to take photos.

Photographer in Utah red rocks-min

Mark heads out to take some pics.

We were drawn to the swirling patterns on the hillsides and couldn’t stop our cameras from clicking away.

Swirling rock formations in Utah-min

Triangular patterns swirled across the base of the mountains.

Red rock swirl formations in Utah-min

Red rock waves.

Wave patterns in Utah red rocks-min

An undulating landscape.

Just how big are these wavy patterns? I had wandered around on foot exploring and then I looked up and noticed our RZR leaning up against this jaw-dropping landscape. Wow!

Wavy patterns in red rocks with scale shown by Polaris RZR-min

How big are those patterns? Pretty big!

With that in mind, here are a few more images taken as clouds rolled in overhead.

Wavy red rock patterns and swirls in Utah-min

Approaching clouds played with the light.

Utah red rock wavy patterns and swirls-min

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We wanted to stay longer, but it was still quite cold in this part of Utah. Our fingers and toes were tired of being numb! We had been in long pants and jackets for too long and we were ready to get back to central Arizona where the temps were hovering in the high 70s. Ahhhh….!

Fifth wheel trailer RV triple tow-min

What a great area. We’ll be back!!

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Zion National Park RV Trip – One AWESOME Canyon!

October 2016 – Zion National Park in Utah is filled with towering rock formations that rise up alongside the Virgin River. It’s located in the heart of National Parks country, just 70 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park, 70 miles from Cedar Breaks National Monument and 110 miles from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

RV Camping on an RV trip to Zion National Park in Utah

Zion National Park is a fantastic destination for an RV trip

The views in Zion Canyon are utterly breathtaking.

View of Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah RV trip

Zion Canyon view – spectacular!

We had visited Zion National Park before, both in a tent and also with our first full-time RV. But each of those visits had been more of a survey trip than an in depth immersion. This time we took our time exploring.

The Watchman Zion National Park Utah

The Watchman at sunset

There are many ways to enjoy Zion National Park. One of the most fun ways to get an introduction is to walk along the Pa’rus Trail that goes alongside the Virgin River right from the Visitors Center.

Hiking Pa'rus Trail Zion National Park Utah

We walked the Pa’rus Trail and crossed several bridges over the Virgin River

This is a popular trail both for walking (including dog walking) and for riding bikes as well.

Bike Pa'rus Trail Zion National Park Utah

Biking is a great way to get an overview of Zion National Park, especially on the Pa’rus Trail

We took our bikes on it one day and saw some fabulous views.

Bicycling Pa'rus Trail Zion National Park Utah

Cycling the Pa’rus Trail

Biking in Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah

Pa’rus Trail – What a ride!

Rock pinnacles thrust up from the earth on all sides, and the trees were changing colors here and there in the cool October air.

The Watchman Zion National Park Utah

The Watchman in fall color.

We saw some little critters. A bird flitted between the branches of a tree and a ground squirrel paused to have a look at us.

Bird at Zion National Park Utah

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Ground Squirrel Zion National Park Utah

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The main road through the park is the 9 mile long Zion Canyon Scenic Drive which dead ends in the heart of the main canyon. Cars are restricted on much of this road and are forbidden for the last half of it from Spring to Fall, making it absolutely fabulous for a bike ride.

Bike Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

Cycling Zion Canyon Scenic Drive into the heart of Zion’s main canyon: Zion Canyon

Cyclists share this road with both chartered tour buses and the Park’s free shuttle buses, but the buses are infrequent enough that for most of the ride we had the entire road to ourselves. Awesome!

Cycling Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

We LOVED riding our bikes on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive

The erosive power of the Virgin River is responsible for Zion Canyon, and the stunning scenic drive runs alongside it.

Virgin River Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah

The Virgin River cuts between the rock walls.

The Virgin River is shallow and filled with small rocks in some places.

Virgin River Zion National Park Utah

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As we got deeper and deeper into Zion Canyon, the towering rock walls closed in all around us.

Virgin River Zion Canyon Zion National Park Utah RV trip

Tall cliffs and magical light in Zion Canyon

The canyon walls grew steeper and steeper, rising up around us on all sides as we approached the end of the road.

Bike Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

Views everywhere

Early in the morning, much of Zion Canyon was in shade because the rock walls are so high.

Zion Canyon RV trip Zion National Park Utah

Light and shadow change all day long on Zion’s cliffs.

But later in the day the sun rose high enough to light it up. As the sun traversed the sky, the walls on one side of the canyon were lit first. Then they became shaded and the walls on the other side lit up.

Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

A gorgeous view from Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Amazingly, Zion Canyon National Park has a brewpub right outside the park. After a day of sightseeing, no one had to twist our arms to join the other happy tourists and find a table with a view to quaff a pint!

Zion Brewery Zion National Park Utah

What a great way to unwind after a day of sightseeing.

Zion Canyon Brewing Company Zion National Park Utah

A brew with a view!

In the late afternoon we watched the full moon rise through the sunset.

Full moon Zion National Park Utah

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Full moon Zion National Park Utah

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Zion Canyon is essentially an enormous (and enormously beautiful) box canyon, i.e., a dead end. And Zion National Park is immensely popular. A ranger told me 4 million people had already visited the Park in 2016 when we got there in October.

So, getting all these people in and out of the box canyon is no small trick. Zion National Park has done an amazing job of handling the traffic and the crowds.

For starters, car traffic is highly restricted for all but the Winter season. The parking lot at the Visitor Center fills as early as 8:00 a.m. during the peak season between Spring and Fall.

RV Parking Zion National Park Utah

Forget about parking at the Visitors Center after 8:00 a.m.
Luckily, there is parking in the town of Springdale, especially at the south end of town.

There are two excellent free shuttle systems to ferry people around both the town of Springdale and Zion National Park.

The Springdale Shuttle takes visitors through town and runs all the way to the Zion National Park entrance and visitors center.

The Zion Canyon Shuttle takes visitors from there all the way through the National Park to the end of the box canyon (which is also the start of the very popular Narrows hike).

Shuttle Bus Zion Canyon Scenic Drive Zion National Park Utah

Free Shuttle Buses
The Zion Canyon shuttle (at bus stop #3 above) is efficient and easy to use.
A different shuttle — the Springdale Shuttle — serves the town of Springdale where you can park.
So… Park in town, take the Springdale Line to the Canyon Line which goes into the Park

There are about 9 stops on each route, and each one takes about 40-45 minutes end to end.

Passengers on the Zion Canyon Shuttle get to hear an interesting recording that tells all about the park, both its natural history and its human history. We took both shuttles quite a few times during our stay, visiting various overlooks and doing various hikes, and we found it easy and convenient.

Cars can drive into the park as far as the turn-off onto Route 9 East that goes through the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. People staying at Zion Canyon Lodge, which is beyond that point, can get a pass to drive as far as the lodge and park their cars there. However, during the peak season when the shuttle runs (Spring to Fall), all cars are forbidden beyond the Lodge. During the Winter, the shuttle runs only on holidays, and at that time cars are allowed to drive the full length of Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

Anyone entering the canyon with a big dually truck like ours, or towing a trailer or driving a motorhome, will be informed that their vehicle will require a pilot to go through the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on Route 9. There is a fee for this, as traffic in both directions has to be stopped. Years ago, we went through the Zion-Mt Carmel tunnel and drove the wild switchbacks of Route 9 in a minivan, and the drive is out of this world. So, if you have a car, do it!!

South Campground camping Zion National Park Utah

South Campground is right next to the Pa’rus Trail

There are two campgrounds that can accommodate small to mid-size RVs. Both are close to the Park entrance. South Campground is, ironically, the more northerly of the two. Watchman Campground is the more southerly one!

During our stay in October, the leaves were just beginning to change into their autumn colors. The peak for fall color is generally around the first week of November.

Fall color The Watchman Zion National Park Utah

Fall colors peak at Zion in the first week of November (this photo is late October)

RV trip Zion National Park Utah

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Zion National Park is a world class destination and we absolutely loved our stay this year! We’ll have more blog posts from our time there. In the meantime, we’ve got lots of links below to help you plan your visit.

Zion Canyon RV camping Zion National Park Utah

Zion National Park is an incredible destination

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The Burr Trail – A Fabulous Side Trip on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12

September 2016 – One of the most beautiful side trips along Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 is another scenic drive that branches off of Route 12 at the small hamlet of Boulder, Utah. Its called the Burr Trail.

Overlook Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

Looking out across the beginning of the Burr Trail

We first heard of this scenic back road from an old rancher who was a retired high school teacher and former football coach in Tropic, Utah, just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.

As we leaned up against a fence with him, admiring his cows grazing in the distance, and listening to his tales of teaching and coaching back in the 70’s, he suddenly asked us if we’d ever driven the Burr Trail.

Boulder utah Post Office Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12

The post office in Boulder, Utah, where the Burr Trail begins.

We’d never even heard of it! But the more he talked about it, the more we knew we needed to check it out!

The little village of Boulder, Utah, has just a few buildings in it, so it is easy to drive right through it while barreling along on Scenic Byway 12.

But there’s a little store and an RV park, and there’s a post office that puts the town on the map. The turnoff to the Burr Trail is at the big 90 degree bend in Route 12 right by the Burr Trail Grill.

Boulder Utah RV Park  Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12

The Shopping District in Boulder, Utah

As soon as we drove onto the Burr Trail, the scenery went from ordinary to extraordinary in a matter of minutes.

Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

Heading down the Burr Trail

The road is narrow. It’s fine for passenger vehicles but is not recommended for RVs. We drove it with our truck on a weekday, and during the morning to midday hours we were on our own and didn’t see any other travelers.

Scenery Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

Views along the Burr Trail.

The rock formations became more and more dramatic with each mile that we drove.

Rock formations Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

Gorgeous views at every turn!

Dead tree Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

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And then the canyon walls began to get very steep on either side of us as we drove down the middle of Long Canyon.

Canyon Walls Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

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The entire Burr Trail is 69 miles from end to end, but only the first 30 miles are paved. So, we drove until the pavement ended and then turned around and came back.

Cliffs Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

Long Canyon has towering rock cliffs on both sides of the road.

On our way out on the Burr Trail, we had noticed a few cars parked on the side of the road at one spot. On our return trip, we stopped there to see what was going on.

It turned out to be a lovely but very short slot canyon!

Trees Long Canyon Slot Burr Trail Utah Scenicy Byway 12

Beautiful shade trees lead to a slot canyon

The first hundred feet or so of the slot canyon had a fantastic canopy of trees covering the trail, providing wonderfully cool shade at midday.

Slot Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

These trees are actually very tall!

Then, after another few paces and a slight turn in the trail, the slot canyon suddenly ended.

Long Canyon Slot Burr Trail Utah Scenicy Byway 12

End of the trail.

Sometimes this canyon is called the Singing Canyon, and we quickly found out why.

A group of hikers was just coming out of the slot canyon as we approached, and they passed by us on the way to their cars out on the road. When we got to the far back end of the slot, out of sight of the road, the hikers had made it to their cars and were standing around in the road talking with each other.

Starburst Long Canyon Slot Burr Trail Utah Scenic Byway 12

The sun shines through the slot.

Amazingly, we could hear everything they were saying, as if they were on the opposite side of us, beyond the impenetrable back end of the canyon!

I didn’t believe the sound could bounce around like that at first, but as soon as they drove off in their cars, the echoes of conversation at the back of the canyon fell silent.

Singing indeed. You’ve gotta be careful what you say out loud by the road when your friends head into this slot!

The Long Canyon Slot Burr Trail Utah Scenicy Byway 12

This canyon has incredible echoes!
Here a starburst from the sun dwarfs me… cool!

At the mouth of the sot canyon there are some beautiful red rock formations that beg to be climbed. We obliged, of course!

Red rock formations Long Canyon Slot Burr Trail Utah Scenicy Byway 12

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As we were leaving, we spotted the first signs of fall down on the ground. Yellow leaves were lying at the base of the tree trunks here and there.

Fall leaves and tree trunk

A golden harbinger of fall.

Back out on the Burr Trail, the rock formations were bright white and a rich burgundy red set off by dark green trees.

Red rocks and trees Burr Trail Utah Scenicy Byway 12

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We drove back through Long Canyon and watched in awe as the canyon walls rose up around us once again.

Red rocks Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

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Motorcycles Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

A pair of motorcycles takes in the view.

And then we were back in the open, sweeping vistas of the beginning of the Burr Trail.

What a drive!!

Wide vistas Burr Trail Scenic Byway 12 Utah

The Burr Trail is a wonderful excursion off of Scenic Byway 12 in Utah.

The Burr Trail is a really easy sidetrip for RVers traveling along Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, and is well worth taking a few hours to do.

Jewels like this are so easy to miss in this part of the world because the bigger, more famous stuff gets all the attention.

Thank goodness we met that old rancher in Bryce Canyon and hung out with him for a while by his fence, chatting about his cows, his former students and his football team, or we never would have learned about this beautiful place!

RV on Utah Scenic Byway 12

There are lots of gems for RVers on Utah’s Scenic Byway 12!

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Red Canyon Utah and the Bryce Canyon Bike Trail!

On the way in to Bryce Canyon National Park, visitors pass through stunning Red Canyon. The red rocks in this magical canyon are such a vivid color and such a huge surprise that visitors are instantly in a quandary — should they stick around and check out this gorgeous canyon they’ve never heard of before, or continue on the remaining 12 miles to Bryce Canyon, full speed ahead??

01 721 Hoodoos in Red Canyon Utah

For many visitors to Bryce Canyon, the warmup act at Red Canyon is a fantastic surprise.

Red Canyon is a beautiful area the has several wonderful hiking trails and lots of incredible scenery.

Hiking Pink Ledges Trail in Red Canyon Utah

Hoodoos at Red Canyon

We hiked the easy Pink Ledges trail that took us right into the heart of the red rock hoodoos in just a few uphill steps.

Hiking Pink Ledges Trail Red Canyon Utah

Views on the Pink Ledges Trail

We’ve hiked the beautiful trails in Red Canyon before, and it was wonderful to be immersed once again in this lovely red rock canyon that so many tourists blow right by.

Huge caves and holes in the rocks

Huge caves and holes in the rocks

The various hiking loops in Red Canyon can be mixed and matched to make a hike of any length, and the Pink Ledges Trail soon merged into the Bird’s Eye trail.

Heading out on the Bird's Eye Trail Red Canyon Utah

Views on the Bird’s Eye Trail

This took us out along the edges of the red rocks and rose higher and higher.

Hiking the Bird's Eye Trail Red Canyon Utah

Hiking the Bird’s Eye Trail.

Bird's Eye Trail hike in Red Canyon Utah

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We wandered back to the central part of the canyon and admired the twin hoodoos that stand like sentries high up on a ledge.

Closeup Hoodoos in Red Canyon Utah

Enormous stone sentries guard Red Canyon

Below them, we ran into a young couple sitting on a park bench enjoying the shade of a ponderosa pine and the views all around them. We found out they had just gotten engaged moments before, and they proudly showed us her beautiful brand new ring!

Couple on park bench in Red Canyon Utah

What a lovely spot to get engaged!

Red Canyon holds a special place in our hearts, because it was where we discovered the wonders of the RV lifestyle.

We were on a whiz-bang weeklong tour of Grand Canyon’s South and North Rim, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park with our tent and bicycles, back in our workaday lives long ago, and we wound up camping at Red Canyon on the suggestion of a forest ranger we spoke with when we stopped in at the ranger’s office on the way to Bryce Canyon.

After a beautiful day at Bryce Canyon, we returned to the Red Canyon Campground to a massive deluge and thunderstorm that was followed by two days of rain.

Tent camping Red Canyon Campground Utah

Camping at Red Canyon Campground holds special memories for us

After scurrying from coffee shop to lunch bistro to dinner restaurant around Panguitch and Brian Head, desperately trying to stay warm and dry, we returned to the campground to find all the other campers happily kicking back in their RVs. They were reading books and playing board games with the lights on in their rigs, while we crawled back into our dark soggy tent.

RV Camping in Red Canyon Campground Utah

Life can be pretty sweet in an RV

Within a few days, we were the proud owners of a Toyota Tundra truck and a popup tent trailer!

RV Camping in Red Canyon Campground Utah

Camping at Red Canyon in a popup – Fun!!

Of course, tent camping is absolutely wonderful too, and we look back on our tenting days with fondness. But there’s nothing like being warm and dry and having a comfortable place to sit that is sheltered and high up off the ground when Mother Nature decides to let loose with a storm!

Tent camping under the stars

Camping under the stars

Red Canyon Campground is an absolute delight. You can camp within view of the red rock hoodoos, and there are a few campsites that are big enough for a big trailer like our fifth wheel.

Another treat at Red Canyon is the paved bike path. Being at 8,500′ elevation, we had to work a bit with each pedal stroke, but the scenery was second to none.

Red Canyon Bike Path in Utah

Riding in the Red Rocks at Red Canyon

The Red Canyon Bike Trail goes all the way from Red Canyon to Bryce Canyon City, the little hamlet that used to appear on maps as “Rubys Inn” because it is home to Ruby’s Inn, a family run operation that includes an inn, restaurant and an RV park.

Biking on the Red Canyon Bike Path Utah

We love this bike path

Every time we’ve been to this area in the past, we’ve wished that the bike trail went all the way into Bryce Canyon.

Bicycling the Red Canyon Bike Trail in Utah

There’s a little bridge on the east end of Red Canyon

Bicycling the Red Canyon and Bryce Canyon Bike Path

The bike path runs parallel to the highway for some of its route

Lo and behold, the National Park Service granted our wish this season and extended the paved bike trail all the way into Bryce Canyon as of a few weeks before our arrival!! It is now 17 miles long and you can ride from the west end of Red Canyon all the way to Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon.

This project was undertaken and completed for the 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks this past August, and it takes a wonderfully winding route through the ponderosa pine forest right to the Bryce Canyon Visitors Center.

Bicycling on the Bryce Canyon Bike Trail Utah

The new paved bike path in Bryce Canyon passes through Ponderosa Pine forest

From the Visitors Center, the Bryce Canyon bike trail passes all the main overlooks and wanders away from the rim for a bit too as it swings by the Bryce Canyon Lodge.

Bryce Canyon Lodge Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon Lodge is on the route for the new Bryce Canyon bike trail

We had to get off our bikes and walk when we visited the overlooks in Bryce Canyon, but what a fabulous addition this bike trail is to one of the National Park Service’s premier parks. We were absolutely thrilled by the new bike path, and we rode it many times during our stay.

New Bryce Canyon Bike Trail to Inspiration Point

In Bryce Canyon we walked out to the overlooks

Hopefully the National Park Service will continue building bike paths at other National Parks. The bike trail at Grand Teton National Park is superb as well, and keeps getting longer each time we visit.

The best way to experience a National Park is to be outdoors in the thick of it, and how fantastic it is to be able to fly along and enjoy the views from the seat of a bike!

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Our previous RV trip to Red Canyon:

Red Canyon Utah – An Overlooked Treasure09/15/11

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Bryce Canyon National Park – Fairyland Trail – A Beautiful Hike!

September 2016 – Bryce Canyon National Park knocked our socks off at the main overlooks of Inspiration Point and the Rim Trail, where we shared our awe with thousands of other visitors. But a foray out onto the Fairyland Trail from Fairyland Point gave us a wonderful feeling of solitude and peace.

Hoodoos Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Looking down at Fairyland from the rim of Bryce Canyon

Driving into Bryce Canyon National Park, Fairyland Trail is the very first left-hand turn-off, and it comes up quickly, right after the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance sign and before the fee station.

Dawn Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Spires in Fairyland Canyon.

During our visit, one of the reasons this trail may have been so little visited is that there was no sign at the turn-off for people driving into the Park!! We zipped right by it on our first drive in.

Flowers at Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Wildflowers at sunrise.

We first visited the Fairyland Trail in the wee hours of the night to do some star gazing. It was an incredible experience that was both eerie and awe-inspiring.

After navigating the trail with flashlights in the pitch dark, it was quite an eye-opener to hike the Fairyland Trail by day and see what it actually looked like, minus the stars!

Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The beginning of the trail leading down into Fairyland Canyon

At the outset, the Fairyland Trail promptly descends into the depths of Bryce Canyon, and we walked between delightful spires and hoodoos that rose up around us.

Hike Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hikers slip between the hoodoos as they descend into Fairyland.

After a few twists and turns, the views opened up with rows of hoodoos close at hand and cliffs in the distance.

Hike at Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Turret formations Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

White and pink pinnacles.

Hiking Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The far south end of Bryce Canyon at Rainbow Point is home to a collection of ancient Bristlecone Pines. However, a few of these gnarly trees reach out over the Fairyland Trail too!

Bristlecone Pine on Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A Bristlecone Pine defies gravity and hangs out over the hiking trail.
What a way to spend a few centuries!

Bristlecone Pine Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hanging on by a thread!

We started our hike shortly after sunrise, and we were utterly alone on the trail for the first two hours.

Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The trail snakes its way through Fairyland Canyon.

We are slow hikers these days, because our cameras are very demanding, and they insist that we stop every few feet to take yet another photo! But we gradually passed through both wooded areas and beautiful open areas too.

Trees and walls Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

The woods were thick in spots.

Red rock walls Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Red rock walls frame our view.

As we got deeper into the canyon, the pinnacles rose higher.

Hoodoos and trees Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hoodoos clustered on one side of the trail.

Hoodoos and spires Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Towering spires…

The red rocks are mostly a burnt orange kind of hue, but in certain places we found a rainbow of sandstone colors.

Colorful hoodoos Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Shades of pink…

Pink orange hoodoos Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

…and shades of yellow too

Finally we came across some other hikers on the trail. They were coming from the other trail head for Fairyland Trail near the center of Bryce Canyon and had been enjoying total solitude on their hike as well.

Fairyland Trail Hike Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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The Fairyland Trail is an 8 mile loop with one trail head near Sunrise Point and North Campground in the heart of Bryce Canyon’s visitor area and the other trail head, where we started, by the Park entrance.

After following the Fairyland Trail through the canyon, you can return to your starting point by hiking on the Rim trail from one trail head to the other.

Hiking Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hoo dat in da hoodoos?

Or, in the summertime when the free shuttle bus is running, you can leave your car (if you drive into the Park) at one trail head, hike the loop to the other trail head, and then catch the shuttle back to your parked car and skip hiking the Rim Trail portion.

Beautiful Fairyland Trail Hike Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

What a view.

Glowing hoodoos Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A little closer.

One of the things we found really intriguing on our hike was all the dead and denuded ponderosa pine trees. Each one had a fascinating twisted wood grain like a candy cane that was clearly visible without the bark on the tree.

It made me wonder if, when they were alive and growing, the trees loved their surroundings so much that they continually turned around and around so they could take in the views in every direction!

Spiral wood grain ponderosa pine Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Spiraling wood grain of a dead ponderosa pine tree.
Did it turn as it grew to see the views in every direction?

Hikers we met on the trail told us a tour guide had explained to them that Ponderosa pines spiral spontaneously and instantly when they are hit by lightning!

This sounded a little far-fetched to me, so I poked around online and discovered that the current theory of why the ponderosa pines have a twisting wood grain is actually because it helps distribute water across the full breadth of the tree. By spiraling as they grow, each root can supply water to the entire tree. If one root dies, the impact on the health of the tree is minimized.

In addition, the angle of the spiraling turn of the wood grain is such that the tree can be as supple as possible and bend without breaking as it withstands high winds and heavy snow.

If you enjoy mathematics and mechanics, here is an interesting paper from the University of Utah that explains the theory in lots of detail: Why Grain in Trees’ Trunks Spirals

Along with the twisted wood grain in the dead ponderosas, we were equally fascinated to find some Abstract Art on another tree trunk where some worms or bark beetles had etched an elaborate pattern.

Wood carving Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Nature’s wood carving is a work of art!

As we hiked and the sun rose higher, the red rock formations began to take on an ethereal glow.

Windows Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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We got down to the base level of the hoodoos, and the pinnacles soared to immense heights.

Size of scale Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

A tree is dwarfed by a stone pinnacle.

Magic Fairyland Point Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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Even though we had completed a good portion of the Fairyland Trail loop hike, we decided to turn around and retrace our steps. On our return trip, all of the views we had enjoyed all morning had a slightly different look now that we were in the light of midday.

Glowing spires Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

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If you plan to take your RV to Bryce Canyon National Park and you have time to do some of the less visited hikes, Fairyland Trail is really rewarding, and early in the morning you will have the trail to yourself!

Hiking Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Hikers on the Fairyland Trail.

There are links for planning an RV trip to Bryce Canyon below.

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Cedar Breaks National Monument – A Hidden Jewel in Utah

August 2016 – Cedar Breaks National Monument is a jewel of a destination in the heart of southwestern Utah’s many spectacular State and National Parks. It looks a lot like Bryce Canyon National Park, but it’s smaller, more intimate, less well known and much much less visited. On our last visit we wondered, “Is Cedar Breaks better than Bryce?

Photographer Sunrise Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Cedar Breaks National Monument – WOW!

Cedar Breaks National Monument lies just above Cedar City, Utah, at a lofty elevation of 10,000 feet, ideal when the summer temps in the surrounding desert get unbearable.

Prior to visiting Cedar Breaks, we had an incredibly heartwarming experience while in Cedar City. Some of our readers might have missed this post, thinking it was just another bird story about the release of a golden eagle back into the wild.

However, if you have ever been a First Responder — working in law enforcement, search and rescue, fire fighting, EMT services or other professions that send you headlong into danger to help others get out of danger — this story will have special meaning for you. For those that have lost a loved one in the line of duty, this post will touch your heart.

It was one of the most moving experiences we have had in our nine years of travel. The link is here and also at the bottom of this page:

Eagle Whisperer & Healer of Angels – Martin Tyner of Southwest Wildlife Foundation in Utah

Soaring high above Cedar City, Cedar Breaks National Monument is a mammoth crater filled with pink and orange sandstone spires that jut up from the canyon floor like turrets in a fairytale castle. We snuck onto the trail before dawn to catch the soft colors in the sky above the canyon.

Sunrise Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Sunrise at Cedar Breaks National Monument

Suddenly the sun peeked over the horizon.

Sunrise starburst Cedar Breaks National Monument Amphitheater Utah

“Here comes the sun…”

All the exotic sandstone shapes in the canyon came to life in vivid color.

Dawn Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Early morning light at Cedar Breaks

Amphitheater Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

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The neat thing about hiking as the sun is rising at Cedar Breaks National Monument is that no one else is out there.

Sunset light Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

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Cedar Breaks is a quiet park to begin with, but at dawn the silence in this majestic canyon was broken only by the occasional bird chirping in the trees or the rustling of some small critter in the underbrush along the trail.

Dawn Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Patterns of light and shadow dance across the canyon.

There are quite a few overlooks that offer slightly differing views looking down into Cedar Breaks from above or across the canyon to the colorful walls on the far side.

Colorful Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Vivid colors — and dark pine trees — on the canyon walls

It is impossible to comprehend the size and scale of this canyon unless you are standing on the rim trying to take it all in.

Pinnacle red rocks Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Looking down into the Cedar Breaks amphitheater

Looking down from above, the red rock turrets at the bottom seem miniscule, yet the the tall pine trees offer a hint of their size.

Orange rock formations Cedar Breaks National Monument Amphitheater Utah

The tall pines were dwarfed by the fairy tale spires.

There are no hiking trails that go down into the Cedar Breaks National Monument amphitheater of rocks. This is a canyon that is enjoyed entirely from the rim up on top.

pink rocks Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

We could peer down from the rim, but there are no trails to the bottom of Cedar Breaks.

Even though people can’t crawl around in the depths of this beautiful canyon, the local marmot population wanders freely all over the place. These little guys are quite fearless, and I was amazed at how close they let us come.

Marmot Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A marmot pauses in the middle of his busy morning.

Cell phone and internet access is very sparse in this area, but I discovered that one place you can get a reasonable signal is at the overlook by the visitors center. One morning, I perched my laptop on the railing at this overlook, and started writing emails that were many days past due while I savored the view between sentences. Suddenly, I noticed a marmot was sitting on a ledge right in front of me.

Marmot Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

“Who are you writing to on your laptop??”

Darn if “being in touch with the world” on the internet wasn’t getting in the way of snagging a great photo at one of America’s most beautiful National Monuments!! What was I thinking doing email silliness instead of taking pics? Mark wandered by and snickered while he got a great photo of the little guy with the canyon in the background.

Marmot at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A marmot’s eye view of Cedar Breaks!

But my camera was way down in the parking lot in our truck! Oh well. I just watched the marmot as he went about his business with grass in his mouth and I went about mine on my laptop.

Fifteen minutes later, when I finally put away the darn computer, I was amazed that the little guy was still sitting there right in front of me, doing his thing with the grass in his mouth. So, I ran back to the truck, got my camera and came back to the overlook to get some photos of him myself.

Not only was he still there, he was kind enough to pose for a few shots.

Marmot Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

This marmot did his thing while I did mine until I finally went and got my camera!

Cedar Breaks National Monument is home to one of my all time favorite hikes, the Spectra Point Trail. This trail follows the rim of the canyon from the parking lot right out onto a huge peninsula that juts out into the middle of the red rock amphitheater.

It starts with a fabulous passage through tall pine trees that heads towards the rim. The heavenly scent of pine needles nearly knocked me off my feet!

Hiking trail Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Spectra Point trail heads through pine trees to the canyon rim.

We did this hike at dawn one morning, and as we looked back towards the parking lot, a dead tree was silhouetted against the colorful sky.

Dead tree at sunset Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

The bright colors of sunrise played behind an old dead tree.

This is an easy hike that has stunning canyon views the whole way. However, even though the path is wide and smooth, it goes uphill and downhill a lot, and being at 10,000 feet elevation, not only are the views breathtaking but you end up out of breath too!

Red Rocks Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

The views on the Spectra Point Trail were stunning.

One of the special treats at Cedar Breaks National Monument is the neighborhood of Bristlecone pines that lives near the end of the peninsula at Spectra Point. Many of these unique trees are 1,000 years old or more, and one beautiful biggie has celebrated its 1,600th bithday. We could see him standing half naked at his sentry point out near the end.

1600 Year Old Bristlecone Pine Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A 1600 year old Bristlecone pine tree stands sentinel at the end of the trail.

As we walked out onto Spectra Point, the Bristlecone pines crowded in around us. These trees are the very definition of “gnarly,” with claw-like roots that snake across the ground without bothering to tunnel underneath.

Bristlecone pine Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Bristlecone pine trees are gnarly and tenacious, hanging onto the rim of the canyon in brutal weather.

Life is tough here where they like to live, with high altitudes and strong winds, nasty cold winters and all too brief summers. I think these trees must slumber through life with just one eye open. Whole branches and trunks of these trees are totally devoid of any signs of life.

Yet there are a few branches on every tree that are covered in the softest bristles. For such craggy trees that are entirely bald and bent like little old grandpas, their short pine needles are as soft and as full of life as can be.

The 1,600 year old great-grandaddy Bristlecone of them all gave me pause for thought as I walked around and around it to try and fit its expansive branches into my camera’s viewfinder.

1,600 years is a very long time!

1600 Year Old Bristlecone Pine Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A 1,600 year old Bristlecone pine tree – a true antique!

There are lots of tree species that live a long life. In Arizona, the “ancient” saguaro cactus that preside over the Sonoran Desert with a regal (and whimsical) air don’t even bother to grow their first branches until they are 75 years old. And the grand multi-branched 150 year old beauties that dot the scorching desert were mere babes when Americans were first settling the Arizona Territory.

But this Bristlecone Pine in front of me predated those juvenile saguaro cacti by centuries PLUS a millenium. It even predated the “ancient” Native Americans who roamed this area! The prehistoric Anasazi people of the southwest who left their artwork behind on canyon walls didn’t make their mark until this Bristlecone pine already had a few hundred years under its belt.

This tree put its roots down right around the time that the Goths sacked Rome!

And it has looked out on this fabulous view at the end of Spectra Point the whole time.

Sunset light Spectra Point Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Spectra Point overlook at the end of the trail.

Besides red rock beauty and ancient trees, Cedar Breaks National Monument is also known for it’s incredible wildflower displays in mid to late July. The monument even celebrates with a special wildflower festival.

We got there a little late for seeing the blankets of wild color in the meadows, but brilliant yellow Snowy Goldeneye were blooming thickly everywhere, right up to the fencing by the visitors center.

Snowy Goldeneye wildflowers at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

Snowy goldeneye swarm a fence post.

Snowy goldeneye wildflowers Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

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There were a few other pretty wildflowers here and there.

Wildflowers Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

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We just loved finding a bright red Indian Paintbrush tucked in between some low lying pine boughs.

Indian Paintbrush in pine branch

Indian paintbrush — surrounded by pine needles!

The weather in late August at Cedar Breaks National Monument can be very unpredictable. While many folks in other parts of the country were enduring an intense heat wave, we got hit with lots of afternoon thunderstorms that made the nights downright chilly.

Thunderstorm brewing over Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

August is thunderstorm season at Cedar Breaks.

One day we even got a wild hail storm that left a sheet of icy pellets on the road!!

Hail storm Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah

A surprise hailstorm left a layer of ice on the road… yikes!

Cedar Breaks National Monument is a little gem in Utah that gets overshadowed by the more famous National Parks nearby. But if you take your RV to southwestern Utah, a detour to Cedar Breaks is an absolute must!! There are some links for planning an RV trip to Cedar Breaks National Monument below.

Note: The road from Cedar City to Cedar Breaks (Rte 14) is steep and winding. If you have a strong engine in your motorhome or a strong truck to tow your trailer, it’s no problem. We towed our 14k lb. 36′ fifth wheel up the hill easily. Driving the road with your toad/tow vehicle first will help alleviate any concerns you might have (we did!).

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Moab Utah – Red Rocks and Snowcapped Mountains

March 2016 – Moab, Utah, is at the heart of some of the most majestic scenery that Utah has to offer. Situated between Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park, it is surrounded by fabulous, rugged red rocks and towering mountains.

Motorhome RV Moab Utah

Moab Utah in Spring is a dazzling mix of red rocks and snow-capped mountains

When we left the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park and Newspaper Rock to the south and drove up to Moab, our views were filled with stunning snow capped mountains framed by red rocks.

Moab Utah La Sal Mountains and red rocks

Everywhere we turned, we saw those magical snow-capped peaks with red rocks out front.

What a gorgeous mix!!

Red rocks and snow capped mountains Moab Utah

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Moab is the starting point for several scenic drives that fan out in every direction from town. It seems that any road you take is a Scenic Drive or Scenic Byway or Backway, and the views never quit.

Drive to Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky DIstrict Utah

There are scenic drives in every direction from Moab like this one near Canyonlands.

Snowcapped mountains and red rocks Moab Utah

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One day we chose a dirt road at random for exploring, and before we knew it we were high in the mountains, surrounded by evergreens, with the snowy summits right in front of us.

La Sal Mountains Moab Utah

A ten minute drive into the mountains and we were in the evergreens with snow on the ground

We just happened to arrive in town during Moab Jeep Safari Week. This is a wild week in March when Jeeps from far and wide descend on the town in the hundreds. Jeeps were crawling all over the place.

Moab Jeep Safari Week Rally

During the Jeep Safari Week Moab is inundated with Jeeps!

Jeep Safari Moab Utah

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They had a tradeshow going on at a huge outdoor venue, and we found all kinds of interesting things for sale. Jeepers have really clever camping goodies, and there were several vendors selling absolutely wonderful popup style campers that pop up, out and over a Jeep. We climbed the ladder into one built by Turtleback Trailers and laid down on the big bed with a 360 degree view around us. We were totally sold. What a fun way to get out on the back roads and into nature!!

Turtleback Trailers popup campers for Jeeps

Turtleback Trailers are super cute popup campers that give you a room with a view over your Jeep

We also bumped into the guys from Edge Products who sell the engine tuners we’ve installed in our trucks.

Edge Products Juice with Attitude Diesel Engine Tuner

At the Edge Products booth Mark gets the skinny on the Edge Juice with Attitude diesel engine tuner.

Lots of familiar RV goodies were for sale too, and I suddenly got caught up in a conversation with a fellow at the Dometic booth about RV refrigerators. He showed me a very slick portable Dometic fridge that can be operated as a freezer too. He mentioned in passing that his name was Jeff and he was a seasonal RVer, with a blog called Rolling Recess. Jeff’s wife, Deb, came over, and we suddenly discovered we have mutual RVing friends in common, Mike and Donna, whose blog is Flying the Koop. How fun!!

Moab Jeep Safari Week RV travelers at tradeshow

What a surprise to meet RVing friends-of-friends at the Dometic booth at a Jeep show.

We hadn’t been to Moab in years, and one of the highlights I remember from our previous visit was the coffee kiosk called Wicked Brew. Well, lo and behold, it’s still there. For coffee lovers out there, these guys make an awesome latte, and they top it off with a chocolate covered coffee bean. Yum!

Wicked Brew Espresso Coffee Kiosk Moab Utah

Wicked Brew — Wake up and smell the coffee!

Since Moab is in the heart of so much great outdoor country, it is inundated with vacationers every spring and fall. So, it has its touristy side. We came across a wonderful old west style tourist spot that happened to be closed and we had great fun getting pics of their props.

Cowgirl silhouette Moab Utah

We had fun playing with a collection of western tourist props.

Boot Hill tourist attraction Moab Utah

“Boot Hill” where the bad guys got buried with their boots on.

While driving around one day, we noticed a waterfall far in the distance. How could there be a waterfall in the desert? It turns out that this one is a fake. There’s a big pipe sticking out of the side of the mountain with water pouring out, so it’s called “Faux Falls.” But the waterfall it created as the water crashed over the red rocks below was very real and very beautiful!!

Faux Waterfall Moab Utah

“Faux Falls” is man-made, but the waterfall is very real.

Faux Falls Moab Utah red rocks

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One afternoon we drove the Colorado River Scenic Drive which goes along Route 128 from Moab out to the northeast. This was a lovely drive between steep canyon walls that eventually gave way to the open air at Castle Valley.

Travel trailer RV in Moab Utah Castle Valley Colorado River Scenic Drive

The scenic drive on Route 128 along the Colorado River to Castle Valley is gorgeous.

The beautiful snow-capped mountains peeked out at us from behind the red rocks, and we just had to stop and take pics.

Castle Valley Upper Colorado River Scenic Drive Moab Utah

Ooh… Look at that view and cool dirt road… Quick, grab the camera!!

It was selfie time, for sure. But with that kind of backdrop, who can resist??

Moab Utah Colorado River Scenic Drive Castle Valley RVers

Happy campers at Castle Valley

That afternoon was absolutely ideal, with warm air and bright sunshine. But our little flirtation with summertime didn’t last long. A wild storm front blew in, and we woke up in the morning to a whiteout of thickly falling snow!

Snow on truck in Moab Utah

It can’t be perfect and sunny ALL the time…!

The cold weather stuck around for a few days and we huddled indoors waiting for it to warm up. When the sun finally came out again, our little world around us seemed unfazed. Wildflowers showed their faces…

Wildflower Utah

After the snow, the wildflowers heralded the arrival of Spring.

…and the grounds squirrels did too.

Gopher ground squirrel Moab Utah

“I’m all right… nobody worry ’bout me…”
(sung by this guy’s buddy in the movie Caddyshack)

The stormy skies gave us some pretty sunsets as well.

Sunset over Moab Utah Mountains

A Moab Sunset

Sunset over mountains in Moab Utah

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Moab is a terrific place for RVers, with a wide variety of campgrounds and RV parks to choose from and loads of fun outdoor activities to take part in. No sooner did the Jeep people leave than a mountain bike festival set up shop at the opposite end of town. Like most visitors, we stuck around for a while to soak up all we could and spend some time in the National Parks!

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Valley of the Gods & Goosenecks State Park, Utah – Beautiful!

March 2016 – Just over the border of Utah and Arizona at the eastern edges of the two states, a few miles north of Monument Valley, lies a fabulous scenic drive through an area called the Valley of the Gods.

RV motorhome at Valley of the Gods Utah

Many RVers explore the Valley of the Gods on their way through the eastern AZ/UT region.

This is a 15 mile or so dirt road that winds through incredible rock formations.

Valley of the Gods rock formations Utah

The “golden hour” before sunset is a wonderful time for photography here.

Some of the rocks formations are reminiscent of the famous ones at Monument Valley, but this area is much smaller and much less visited.

Red rock formations Valley of the Gods Utah

A hand with a thumb similar to the more famous rock formations of Monument Valley!

It is a wonderful drive to do at any time of day, but sunrise and sunset are when the colors really jump out.

Tree at Valley of the Gods Utah

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When we were there in late March, we had the whole place to ourselves as the sun was dropping low in the sky.

Camping at Valley of the Gods Utah

What fun!!

This is a parched desert land, but it had rained in the past few days and there were still puddles on the ground that made for some fun reflection photography.

Tree and rocks Valley of the Gods Utah

Recent rain left puddles that were lots of fun to photograph.

Reflections at Valley of the Gods Utah

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Puddle Reflections Valley of the Gods Utah

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We were hoping for a colorful sunset, but the skies darkened before any pink or red hues had a chance to form.

Truck at Valley of the Gods Utah

No sunset, but very cool anyway!

Early the next morning, we did the drive again (it is well worth driving through Valley of the Gods more than once!).

Valley of the Gods Scenic Drive Utah

At dawn, the sun played with its shadow.

For brief periods, the sun penetrated the overcast skies and played with its shadow on the rock formations.

Sunrise Valley of the Gods Utah

The rock formations were filled with vibrant colors in the morning sun.

The most beautiful part of this drive is a two to three mile section in the middle where it makes a series of s-curves between the rock formations.

Road through Valley of the Gods Utah

I love curvy roads!!

Each formation is lovely, and even though the sun decided to call it quits for the day, the muted light showed off the majestic scenery without the glaring brightness and shadows cast by sunny skies.

Truck at Valley of the Gods rock formations utah

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RV camping at Valley of the Gods utah

The sun didn’t stay out for long, but the colors were still beautiful.

Valley of the Gods Utah Scenic Drive

This is a jaw-dropping drive!

Not far from the Valley of the Gods is a phenomenal road that climbs through a series of very tight and steep switchbacks up to lofty heights. It’s called the Moki Dugway. This road was built in 1958 to move uranium ore from the Happy Jack mine to Fry Canyon.

Moki Dugway Valley of the Gods Utah

The Moki Dugway is a hair-raising drive up steep switchbacks on a dirt road. But what a view!

We climbed up the switchbacks and 10% grades in our truck. At a viewpoint part way up we watched a Class C motorhome making its way along this insanely steep road. What a brave driver!

Class C motorhome climbs the Moki Dugway in Utah

A Class C motorhome braves the Moki Dugway

On another day we took a daytrip to Goosenecks State Park. This park is basically an overlook with sweeping views of a tight turn in the San Juan River, reminiscent of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.

Goosenecks State Park Utah

Goosenecks State Park is a bend in the San Juan River, much like Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona.

I had always thought these two places were one and the same, but they are actually very different.

Horseshoe Bend has vast stretches of red rock sandstone slabs at the top of the rim> The Colorado River far below is blue, because at that point in its journey it has just emerged from the dam at Lake Powell. Goosenecks State Park has more of a crumble rock surface at the rim and has lots of vegetation on the canyon walls. At the bottom, the San Juan RIver is muddy and brown.

Overlook Goosenecks State Park Utah

Goosenecks State Park overlook.

Someone had placed a bunch of stones in spiral near the edge.

Rock Circles Goosenecks State Park Utah

What is this? Some strange meditation ring? A tourists’s artistic contribution to the state park?

Unlike the National Park Service’s Horseshoe Bend, which is overrun with thousands of international tourists and is free, Goosenecks State Park is $5 for day visitors, and $10 a night for camping on the rim, and there is hardly anyone there. When we stopped by, I doubt the daily fees were covering the salary of the gal sitting in the guard shack at the entrance!

Truck Camper Goosenecks State Park Utah

Goosenecks State Park has a handful of dry camping sites right along the rim of the canyon.

There were a few RVs parked along the rim. Some were camped in a cluster near the entrance, but one had claimed a spot far in the distance along the rim. What an incredible view out your RV window!

RV camping Goosenecks State Park Utah

Now here’s a fun spot to camp — with a view!

One RVer was enjoying the morning from his camp chair right at the edge of the overlook. How cool is that?!

RV camping on the rim Goosenecks State Park Utah

Now THAT’s a spot to put your camp chair!!

All three of these places — Valley of the Gods, Moki Dugway and Goosenecks State Park — are at the very southern end of the 3,000 square miles of Utah land that the Navajo and other Indian tribes are asking President Obama to set aside to become Bears Ears National Monument. This will protect their many ancestral archaeological sites that are scattered throughout the region. Currently, these areas fall prey to desecration and to mining and oil drilling activities.

National Monuments are under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service whose mission is the protection of national treasures. In line with their charter, the NPS usually takes a hard stance against free wheeling recreation, and they control access and use with an iron fist.

However, the land in question is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and even Utah State Parks, each of which has its own unique mission, from resource extraction to recreational use to tourism.

So, this unusual proposal will require these public land management agencies to cooperate in a way they never have before. With any luck, if Bears Ears National Monument is created, recreational use like scenic driving, hiking, biking and camping will still be possible.

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More info about Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park and Moki Dugway:

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The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek (Bell Trail Hike), Sedona, AZ

March 2016 – We really enjoyed mountain biking the Bell Rock Pathway during our RV travels to Sedona, Arizona, and one day we got chatting with young neighbors in an RV nearby about where the good mountain biking and hiking spots were around Sedona. They knew the area really well and asked if we’d ever been to The Crack at Wet Beaver.

Mark raised an eyebrow.

“No, no, not that!” They said. “It’s a really cool gorge on Wet Beaver Creek. It’s a great hike, and if you take your bathing suits you can swim there!”

Bell Trail Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

“The Crack” at Wet Beaver Creek

The next morning dawned sunny and warm, so we took off on the Bell Trail to hike into the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness to find this infamous Crack.

Beginning Bell Trail Hike Sedona AZ

The beginning of the Bell Trail hike into the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness goes through open grassland.

The Bell Trail is named for Charles Bell who built the trail in 1932 for moving cattle, and a sign at the trailhead indicates it is still used for that purpose today. It is about 3.5 miles from the trailhead to The Crack. The trail goes deeper into the Wilderness, but we figured 7 miles out and back was plenty for one day.

At the beginning, we hiked through open grasslands and under a canopy of trees alongside Wet Beaver Creek. After about two miles, we came across a red rock cliff soaring into the sky with a tree on top.

Hiking the Bell Trail Hike Sedona AZ

A red rock cliff with a tree on top juts into the sky

For the next mile or so we walked through gorgeous red rock scenery as the trail hung onto the edges of bright orange hillsides and zig-zagged under exotic red rock formations.

Hiking Bell Trail Sedona Arizona

How’s that for a cool trail?!

We were hiking in the morning, and the sun felt good on our skin, but later in the day this desert landscape would become very hot.

Bell Trail Hike Sedona Arizona

Desert plants, like ocotillo cactus and prickly pear, abound.

We could hear the sound of rushing water ahead of us, and soon we saw the creek splashing noisily over river rocks to our right. What a nice spot for a picnic!

Bell Trail Hike to Wet Beaver Creek Sedona Arizona

We stopped for lunch in a quiet spot where the water rushed over river rocks.

The whole area was filled with leafless deciduous trees that must bring true magic to the landscape in the fall. And what a great spot to do some flowing water photography!

Bell Trail Wet Beaver Creek Sedona Arizona

Wet Beaver Creek polishes the rocks in its path.

We hiked just a little futher on and suddenly the landscape opened up to massive shelves of boulders stepping down to sheer cliffs that plunged into the water below. This was The Crack!

View Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

“The Crack” is like a red rock quarry with huge flat slabs of sandstone and water far below.

Our friends had described crystal clear water that was a lovely shade of blue, but the creek was running fast from the snow melt and had swelled so much that lots of debris had been stirred up as the water tumbled down from the mountains. The water was murky and filled with foam from the crashing waterfalls upstream.

This made for some neat slo-mo photos!

Swirls Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

The fast moving water from the snow melt created cool foam swirls

The Crack is a stunning spot that is so unexpected in the dry dusty desert.

Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

The canyon walls were steep and the surface of the water was foamy!

The huge flat boulders are really inviting, and we scrambled around on them for quite a while.

Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

I just love that tree growing out of the crack in the rocks.

Photography at Wet Beaver Creek The Crack

This little oasis was such a surprise after the dusty, dry hike to get here.

We had the place to ourselves. Other than the distant sound of rushing water, it was quiet and still.

Hike to Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

We had the place to ourselves…for the moment!

I ventured out onto a cool looking precipice hanging out over the water and Mark got my photo.

Diving platform Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona Arizona

Little did I know that this is a favorite diving platform!

Suddenly, we heard voices coming down the trail. Two young couples appeared and set up beach towels right on that same rock precipice I’d been standing on and then stripped down to their bathing suits to get a tan.

“Are you going to jump in?” One girl in a bikini asked me.

I looked down at the murky water doubtfully. Diving into the its depths had not been on my agenda today!

Sunbathing Wet Beaver Creak The Crack Sedona Arizona

Sunbathers stretch out on the diving rock.

Then, I watched in amazement as she made her way down to a lower rock and jumped in. Brrr!! Then the other girl did the same.

“The water’s great!” They yelled out to me.

Well, I was happier taking photos of them than swimming, so I let them have all the fun in the water while I stayed warm and dry on shore.

They debated jumping off the rock precipice where they’d laid their beach towels, but because they couldn’t see the bottom — which they said you usually can — they decided not to. You never know what kind of submerged log might be lurking just below the surface.

Flying leap Wet Beaver Creek The Crack Sedona AZ

The water was too murky to dive from the upper rock, but this intrepid gal jumped in from lower down.

The bathing beauties climbed out of the water using a rope that someone had secured in the rock, and they settled in on their beach towels for a while.

We left them and began to make our way back along Bell Trail. The trail had gotten really busy, and we were amazed that the silence of the early morning was completely gone now, shattered by the continual voices and footsteps of other hikers making their way to The Crack on this warm Friday afternoon.

A snort and a whinny up ahead alerted us to horseback riders coming down the trail. What a neat sighting at the end of a very enjoyable hike.

Horseback riding Bell Trail Sedona Arizona

A pair of horseback riders greeted us on the trail going back.

If you spend some time in Sedona, whether you travel there by RV or some other means, a hike on Bell Trail to The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek is a really nice change of pace. More info and links below.

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More info about Bell Trail and The Crack at Wet Beaver Creek:

Other fun hiking and biking trails we’ve found in our RV travels:

More posts from our RV adventures in Sedona, Arizona:

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Bell Rock Pathway, Sedona AZ – Hiking & Biking the Red Rocks

February 2016 – We packed up our RV in Tucson, Arizona, when the daytimes highs began to creep over 90 degrees, and hightailed it back through Phoenix and on up to Sedona where the 4,000′ elevation makes the climate about 10 degrees cooler than down in the Sonoran Desert regions of the state.

We hadn’t been in the red rocks in over two years, and when we first caught sight of the towering red cliffs and rock formations that envelop the town of Sedona, we were almost breathless with excitement. We couldn’t wait to hit the trails, and one of the best places to immerse yourself in red rock scenery is right in the heart of it all on the Bell Rock Pathway.

Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Mountain Biking

Within a few moments of getting on the Bell Rock Pathway, hikers and bikers are immersed
in the best of Sedona’s red rock scenery

We were joined by special friends, and we set off on our mountain bikes.

Ready to ride bikes on Bell Rock Pathway Sedona AZ

Our friends Rich and Mark join us to ride the red rocks!

Bell Rock Pathway is one of the most popular hiking and biking trails in the area, and it is inundated with bus loads of tourists every day. But we were on the trail fairly early on a weekday morning, and there were just a few hikers here and there.

Hiking and biking Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

Bell Rock Pathway is shared by walkers, joggers and mountain bikers,
but there’s plenty of room for everyone.

The magic of the Bel Rock Pathway is that you don’t have to go very far to be totally wowed by the scenery. In fact, we always find we get swept up in the stunning scenery right in the parking lot, and many of the bus loads of tourists never make it past the asphalt!

Bell Rock Pathway Mountain biker and jogger Sedona AZ

What a place to go for a run — or a bike ride!

Bell Rock Pathway is beloved by walkers, joggers, and mountain bikers, and the path is wide and relatively smooth and extraordinarily scenic.

Jogger and biker Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

The views are great in every direction!

The Bell Rock Pathway parallels the main road, and there are three parking lots that give you access to the two ends as well as the middle of the trail. We started at the southern end, and the trail climbed steadily for about a mile. But the jaw-dropping vistas were worth every huff and puff as we went along.

Mountain bike Bell Rock Pathway Oak Creek Arizona

As soon as we got a little distance from the parking lot we had the trail to ourselves.

Bell Rock Pathway is a very easy mountain biking trail and is ideal for beginners. Yet there are just enough little challenges here and there to keep more advanced riders on their toes. The views become more and more spectacular with every pedal stroke.

Mountain bike Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

I couldn’t stop taking pics of Mark as he rode ahead of me!

After the first mile, the terrain goes up and down and sweeps around twists and turns qutie a bit. And then suddenly it opens up to this fantastic area of wide, flat rocks.

Bikers Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

After a mile or so the path opened onto wide flat rocks with outstanding views all around us.

Standing in the middle of this wide open area, there are eye-popping views every way you turn. It literally doesn’t matter which direction you look, you are surrounded by majestic, towering red rock formations.

Flat rocks MTB Bell Rock Pathway Arizona

These flat rocks are an ideal spot to take a breather and look around!

And then the trail takes off again, descending through wide turns.

Mountain bikers on Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

The middle portion of the trail sweeps through turns and rolls up and down small hills.

Bell Rock Pathway is a trunk route that has lots of little off-shoots, and all of those other trails are more difficult. We simply rode it to the end, about 3.5 miles from our strating point, and turned around to retrace our route.

Mountain biking Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

The Bell Rock Pathway is about 3.5 miles long one way.

The beauty of this hiking and biking trail is that the views on the way back are completely different than the views on the way out, and the lighting on the rock faces changes constantly.

Bell Rock Pathway Mountain Biking Sedona AZ

Weeeee! Bell Rock Pathway is easy and fun.

Riding behind Mark, I couldn’t stop clicking the camera, framing him inside of one magnificent view after another. Holding the camera up and riding one handed is a little dicey, though, and always makes for a rather exilharating ride!

Mountain Bikers Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

The return trip has all new views for us!

Mountain biker Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

Bell Rock Pathway is worth doing over and over again — it’s easy and it is stunning!

We enjoyed our bike ride on the Bell Rock Pathway so much that we came back to do it again a few days later.

Mountain bike Bell Rock Pathway Sedona Arizona

One very happy camper!

Mountain bike on Bell Rock Pathway Sedona AZ

We enjoyed riding our bikes on the Bell Rock Pathway, but most of the people out there were walking…

For RV travelers in search of a good way to get out into the Red Rocks without doing a strenuous hike or challenging bike ride, the Bell Rock Pathway is an ideal trail.

RV camping under the stars in Sedona Arizona

At the end of the day we all put our feet up under the stars…

Feeling a little rusty bike-wise? It might be time to get back on it again! Two years ago our 76 year old friend Marcel showed us that mountain biking is the Fountain of Youth (blog post here). Now 78, he’s still shredding the gnar out there, and all winter long he’s been mountain biking in Arizona!

More info and links for Sedona’s Bell Rock Pathway below.

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More info about the Bell Rock Pathway:

There are three trail head parking lots, and each one requires a parking pass, either the Red Rock pass or a Federal Interagency Pass (the old “National Park Pass” or Senior Pass). And be sure to get there early, especially on a beautiful sunny weekend.

Other posts from our RV travels featuring hikes and bike rides in red rock country:

Fun things to see and do while RVing in Sedona

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

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