Goblin Valley State Park Utah – One Gigantic Playground!

April 2018 – Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is a filled with exotic red rock formations known as “hoodoos” that look for all the world like little people, martians and goblins, and it is a favorite with kids and families because it is one gigantic playground.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

Goblin Valley is a great place for a family camping trip!

We visited Goblin Valley during our first year of full-time RVing eleven years ago and absolutely loved it. The campground is nestled into a huge rock formation that has cathedral-like buttresses, and tents and RVs tuck into these alcoves for a snug night’s sleep.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

11 years ago we visited Goblin Valley State Park as new full-timers in our 27′ travel trailer and loved it!

It is located a little away from the concentration of red rock beauty in southern Utah but is an easy detour from I-70 when you’re heading east-west between Utah and Colorado. However, our travels hadn’t taken us in that direction since our first visit in 2007 (blog post here). When we pulled into the area we stopped and let our new pup Buddy out, and we all soaked in the dramatic scenery — just gorgeous!

Goblin Valley State Park Utah Puppy's view-min

Buddy checks out the fabulous scenery.

There are wonderful trails to hike or bike on.

Mountain biking Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

What a place to ride!

The most famous and iconic part of Goblin Valley State Park is the Valley of the Goblins amphitheater where all the hoodoos stand in a tight huddle, but we decided to do the Goblin’s Lair hike before venturing into the valley of hoodoos.

Welcoming Committee Three Sisters Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

The Greeters welcomed us to Goblin Valley State Park.
They are also known as the Three Judges, the Three Kings or the Three Sisters!

The Goblin’s Lair hike shares a trail with the Carmel Canyon hike until the two trails fork and the path to Goblin’s Lair takes a right to go around the outside of the hoodoo amphitheater. Here the land is wide open and vast, carved by the massive earth moving forces of Nature, wind and water.

A 24-hour hair whipping wind storm had just swept through Goblin Valley, and the dust had been swirling so thickly in the air we had to stay inside for an entire day while our trailer got sandblasted.

When we finally ventured out on the Goblin’s Lair hike the next day, the air was so heavy with dust you could taste it on your tongue and feel it on your lips.

So, we didn’t have the iconic bright blue sky and crisp colors that set off the red rocks in famously dramatic fashion, but the whole atmosphere was wonderfully ghostly and ghoulish.

Beginning Carmel Canyon  and Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

With dust providing a ghoulish haze, hikers head out on the hike to Goblin’s Lair.

The trail has several promontories that are fun to walk out on.

Carmel Canyon  and Goblin's Lair Trail Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

The scenery dwarfs us.

Carmel Canyon Trail Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The best way to see Goblin Valley is with kids. Since we didn’t have any kids or grandkids with us, we were delighted to find ourselves sharing the trail with a bunch of families both ahead of us and behind us.

It was Spring Break for the local Utah schools and all of Goblin Valley was teeming with kids. As we started down the trail we heard them excitedly running around and calling out to each other. “Sand, wonderful sand!” one boy said as he scooped up a huge handful of soft pink sand worthy of the best tropical beach and let it fly.

Hiking to Goblin's Lair on Carmel Canyon Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Solitary boulders stood here and there.

Carmel Canyon and Goblin's Lair Hike views Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip

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We stopped to trade selfies with some other hikers and then began the ascent up towards Goblin’s Lair.

Selfie Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Hiking up to Goblin’s Lair

There is a bit of a scramble in the last part of the climb to Goblin’s Lair, but all the grandmas and grandpas made it while their grandkids cheered them on from the top.

Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Looking down at hikers scrambling up to Goblin’s Lair

The lair itself is a big cave, and smart hikers who have read the literature before they start hiking bring flashlights with them. Those of us who just saw the sign “Goblin’s Lair” in the parking lot and started hiking right away ’cause it sounded cool arrived at the cave without one!

The crowd at the cave entrance was sizeable. More people kept scrambling up the trail behind us, and we all kept shifting positions perched on the craggy rocks at the top to make room for the new arrivals. Mark and Buddy slithered to the front and took a peek in the cave and said “Wow!” and then we started back down to make room for others coming up.

We took our time hiking back and saw people peering down at us from the towering red rock cliffs. They had climbed up on the cliffs from the crowd of hoodoos on the other side in the Valley of the Goblins.

Carmel Canyon Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

A hiker on the edge of the Valley of the Goblins looks down at us.

Snow and solitude Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Solitude in the red rocks with snow in the distance.

The hike is three miles round trip, and even though the sun was filtered through the dust in the air, it was getting warm. So, one of us found a bit of cool shade under a rock and took a break.

Resting during Goblin's Lair Hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Buddy takes a load off in the shade.

Carmel Canyon hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The Valley of the Goblins is the main attraction at Goblin Valley State Park, and you can look down into it from many overlooks at the parking lot before you head on in.

Valley of the Goblins hike Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Valley of the Goblins with snowy peaks in the distance.

Valley of the Goblins amphitheater Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Hoodoos stand cheek-by-jowel in the Valley of the Goblins inviting kids of all ages to climb on them.

There is no real hiking trail, just a million goblins standing together waiting for kids to come and play on them.

Valley of the Goblins Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

There’s no specific trail in Valley of he Goblins — you can just run anywhere have a ball!

Kids giant playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

Goblin Valley is a fabulous natural playground.

The shrieks of excitement from the kids as they climbed up to the tops and yelled to their friends and parents down below was infectious.

Valley of the Goblins playground Goblin Valley State Park

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Goblin Valley State Park Utah Giant Playground for kids-min

There were kids all over the rocks — how fun!

Even kids of the canine variety were having fun climbing the hoodoos in Goblin Valley!

Dog's giant playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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The last time we were here we hunted for recognizable shapes among the hoodoos and found space ships and martians and turtles and ducks. That’s the fun of this place. It’s a natural playground for kids of all ages. Your imagination is set free and you can run and climb as much as you want.

Or, you can just take photos, and we got a kick out of that too.

Valley of the Goblins at Goblin Valley State Park-min

Out in the middle of it all a hiker captures the scene on his cell phone.

Families hike Valley of the Goblins Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Photography playground Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

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Goblin Valley is a very fun place to get creative with a camera.

Triangle window Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV trip-min

A triangular window.

Chess pieces Goblin Valley State Park Utah RV Trip-min

Chess pieces.

Goblin Valley State Park is a Utah treasure that would easily be declared a National Park if it were located in a less scenic state, and we’ll definitely be back again.

RV camping Goblin Valley State Park Utah-min

Coming back to Goblin Valley after all these years was a blast!

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Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV Trip – Capitol Reef National Park

April 2018 – Utah Scenic Byway 24 between the towns of Loa and Hanksville goes through Capitol Reef National Park and is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in America. We have been fortunate to drive it several times in each direction, and every single time our jaws have hung open for the entire 64 miles as we’ve been utterly blown away by the dramatic scenery and wild rock formations passing by our windows.

Here’s a series of photos showing how it looked from the passenger seat of our truck as we towed our trailer across the magical wonderland of Capitol Reef Country from west to east.

It started with a lovely view of red rocks as we rounded a bend.

Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

Our first big red rocks view begins to take shape on Utah’s Scenic Byway 24

Then our eyes popped open as the contours and texture of the land grew bigger and more complex.

Utah Highway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

Wow!

Suddenly, we started down a hill and the view exploded in front of us and became knock-your-socks-off stunning!

Utah 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

Wow, Wow, WOW!

A group of horses and cows live in this view all day every day, so they weren’t quite as impressed.

Horses on Utah Scenic Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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But we were loving every minute as we drove head on into that view.

Utah Byway 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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Views on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

View out the side window.

Utah Byway 24 is easily driven in an RV, even though there are lots of twists and turns and climbs and descents, and we saw plenty of RVs on the road.

RV on Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

There are lots of RVs on this route.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

The road curves, climbs and descends, but it’s easy driving.
Just don’t get too distracted by the sensational views and drive off the road!

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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RV on Utah Route 24 Capitol Reef National Park Scenic Drive-min

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The red rock views just kept coming and coming and coming.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive RV trip-min

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Red rocks Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Red rocks RV trip-min

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Exotic rock formations Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive-min

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The heart of Capitol Reef National Park is an old Mormon farming community called Fruita. As we drove past the village on Utah Highway 24, we noticed that the trees were still showing off their nakedness for winter. However, on other spring and summer visits, we’ve seen these trees lit up in brilliant shades of green that are the perfect visual contrast to the red rocks and blue sky.

Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

These trees turn vivid green in spring!

Trees and red rocks Fruita Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

Trees line the road near Fruita.

Fruita is a beautiful and tranquil little community, and there are camping options, a fantastic scenic drive into the depths of the red rocks, and some terrific hikes to historic Mormon sites. We have a detailed blog post about some of the highlights of Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita from our visit a few years back (blog post here).

However, on this trip we were just driving through on Utah Highway 24. So, on we went, reminiscing when we passed some favorite spots and then quickly becoming immersed in the majestic scenery of Utah Scenic Byway 24 once again.

We had left red rock country behind and were now driving between rock walls that Mother Nature had painted in lighter shades.

Rock canyon Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip_-min

We’d left the red rocks but were still surrounded by dramatic canyon walls.

Pinnacles Scenic

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Views Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip-min

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Sheer walls Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route Scenic Byway 24 RV truo

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There were still some hints of red rocks here and there, and we were mesmerized as we drove. A UPS truck went by in the opposite direction and we had to laugh. Surely, that driver has the best UPS route in the country!

Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive-min

Not bad scenery for the few lucky folks who have to drive this route for work every day!

Canyon walls Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Byway 24 Scenic Drive-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Scenic Byway 24

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Gradually, the soaring rock walls on either side of us receded, and the land opened up, punctuated by occasional towers of stone.

Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park RV trip Utah Route 24-min

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RV Scenic Drive Capitol Reef National Park Utah Byway 24-min

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Then the rock formations changed shape and the rock walls were filled with steep and angular channels that were carved with Nature’s sharpest chisels.

Exotic landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Highway 24 RV trip-min

Fine chisel work…

We were no longer in Capitol Reef National Park, but the landscapes in Utah pay no attention to such artificial boundaries. Utah Scenic Byway 24 was still giving us a magic carpet ride through some of the most exotic scenery America has to offer.

Desert landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 RV trip-min

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Rock uplift Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

Massive rock uplifts make faces.

The chiseled walls returned, but the cows grazing underneath didn’t notice.

Spectacular landscape Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV

Dinner with a view!

Flowering tree Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

A pink tree shows off its springtime finest.

Farm field Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24 by RV-min

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As we neared the hamlet of Hanksville, the road took a few final sweeping turns past some walls of stone.

Stone canyon Capitol Reef National Park Utah Highway 24 Scenic Drive by RV-min

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Towering rock formation Capitol Reef National Park Utah Scenic Byway 24-min

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And then, in a final burst of glory, we passed a “mitten” rock formation that seemed to be advertising some of the other wonders of America’s southwest. “If you liked this road, you should check out Monument Valley!” it seemed to be saying.

Capitol Reef National Park Utah Route 24 Monument Valley lookalike-min

A mitten formation reminds us of Monument Valley.

What a glorious drive that was! I looked over at Mark to exchange happy glances and did a double take. Hey, who was doing the driving?

Puppy drives the truck and trailer

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We will never tire of driving the many wondrous scenic drives in Utah, and Utah Scenic Byway 24 is well worth experiencing many times in both directions. It attaches to Scenic Byway 12 and the fabulous Bicentennial Highway and is close to the little known Burr Trail too.

Even if your itinerary doesn’t include visiting Capitol Reef National Park for its hikes and camping, if you happen to be in southern Utah, treat yourself to an east-west detour and spend a few hours driving Utah Scenic Byway 24!

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Sand Hollow State Park, Utah – An Oasis in the Desert!

November 2017 – Sand Hollow State Park is another jewel in southwestern Utah‘s stunningly beautiful crown of red rock scenery. Situated just 30 miles from Zion National Park, it is a newer state park that opened in 2003, and it boasts a beautiful blue reservoir, vivid orange beaches and a spectacular mountain backdrop.

RV camping Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Sand Hollow State Park in Utah

Just like nearby Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Sand Hollow is a lesser known gem in an area that is overflowing with beautiful National Parks.

As we noted in our post about Kanab, Utah, with Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon so close by, many RVers and other travelers have no idea there is even more to see in the area.

Boating at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful reservoir is at the heart of Sand Hollow State Park.

The man-made lake is bordered at one end by a dam which captures the flow of the Virgin River. At the other end there’s an inviting collection of red rocks. The beaches surrounding the reservoir are filled with vivid orange sand. The overall effect of blue sky, blue water, red rocks and sand is very dramatic and makes for a fun time wandering around with a camera.

Photography at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Bright orange beaches and rocks – a great spot for photography!

The lake at Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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The reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park is beloved by people who like to play outside in nature. Out on the water in the distance, we saw some folks in a canoe making their way from shore to shore. The mountains rose behind them in awesome colors as the sun played hide and seek, casting shadows across the hilly contours.

Kayaking Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

What a backdrop for canoeing!

We no longer have our inflatable Hobie kayak, but being here on the water’s edge watching kayakers out on the reservoir got our minds turning. It sure looked like fun out there!

Kayaking Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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Down at our feet, the water was extremely clear. Tiny wavelets lapped the shore, and we could see every detail of the rocks under the water.

Clear water Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

The water is extremely clear.

Sunlight in water Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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There are several RV campgrounds and camping options within Sand Hollow State Park. Westside Campground has full hookups, paved loops, big sites and wonderful views.

RV camping Westside Campground Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Westside Campground.

RV camping Westside Campground Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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What we loved, though, was being down by the water where the reeds grow thick and tall.

Dramatic light Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Tall reeds hug the lake along the shore.

Wonderfully dark storm clouds hung over the mountains late one afternoon, but just as the sun started its final descent into the horizon behind us, it lit up the red rocks on the far shore as if pointing them out with a spot light.

Reeds and light at dusk Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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Light and shadow Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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At dawn pastel pinks filled the sky and water.

Pink reflections Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Soft light at dawn.

The orange sand beaches set aside for day use and picnics are endless. Deep soft sand dunes run down to the lake, and big groups of seagulls pierce the air with their haunting calls.

In one spot I caught a reflection of the distant mountains in a mirror-like pool in front of me.

Dramatic Light Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Reflections.

We were blessed to have been able to live on the water in our sailboat for a few years, and I’ve been lucky enough to live on the water in other boats and in a beach house for a few years in previous lives before that.

There is something about a large expanse of water filling a landscape that makes it come alive. It is ever changing, going from placid to fierce, from white to dark blue, and at Sand Hollow it even turns shades of pink, red and orange by the shore.

Rippling waves at RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Small waves ripple across the reservoir’s red sand bottom.

Sand Hollow State Park has a second campground with paved loops, gravel campsites and hookup options ranging from dry camping to water/electric. There’s also a spiffy toilet and shower building. It’s called Sand Pit Campground, which is a little unfair, because it isn’t a pit and it isn’t any sandier than anywhere else in the park.

I mean, if you go to Sand Hollow, you go to play in the sand and on the beach, right?!

There is also open boondocking (“primitive camping”) too, but you’ve got to scout it out very carefully and evaluate whether your RV can make it down and back on the soft sand trails that lead there. We gave it a shot with our buggy and were glad we have our new truck with its limited slip differential and rock solid four wheel drive.

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

Home Sweet Home.

The view out our door was breathtaking. And what we loved was the way the view was constantly changing.

View out RV door Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful sunny view right out our door.

View out RV door Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A beautiful cloudy view right out the door!

Claude Monet is famous for his series of impressionist paintings of haystacks. Each painting is unique, and the series shows how the light playing on the haystacks totally changed their look and feel, morning, noon and night.

For the same reasons, we became enraptured by the picnic table at our campsite.

Following Monet’s infinite simplicity in choosing the name “Haystacks,” we call our series of photos “Picnic Table.”

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A photo series called “Picnic Table” 🙂

RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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RV campsite Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

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During our stay, not only did the sun and clouds chase each other around the sky, leaving a continuous trail of beautiful artwork behind, but the moon played her part too. During sunset one evening, we caught her silent ascent as she peeked between the clouds and winked at us over the mountains.

Full moon rising Sand Hollow State Park Utah-min

A rising full moon smiles down on Sand Hollow State Park.

If your RV travels take you to the southwestern part of Utah, drop by Sand Hollow State Park and dig your toes in the sand!

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The beach and sand are wonderful to play in at Sand Hollow, but we did see notices posted about what to do if you go swimming and end up with “Swimmer’s Itch.” Read up a bit on this before you jump in for a dip!

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Arches National Park Utah – A Playground of Soaring Red Rock Bridges!

April 2016 – Arches National Park lies just outside of Moab, Utah, and it has the highest density of natural stone arches in the world. Like all the National Parks, it deserves a week’s stay, at the least, but on this particular RV roadtrip we spun through in just a day.

Double Arch Arches National Park Utah

Double Arch in Arches National Park Utah

There are dozens of arches, each with its own name and personality. Our first stop was at Double Arch, so named because it is exactly that: two arches that are joined together at one end.

The thing that is impossible to grasp from photos of these magnificent sandstone sculptures that Nature has crafted by way of water, ice and wind, is the immense size. We crawled all around the interior of this beautiful pair of arches for quite some time and then got a selfie at their doorstep.

People at Double Arch Arches National Park Utah

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All of the arches at Arches National Park are gargantuan, and people exploring them disappear into mere specks.

Arches National Park Utah

One of the most fun things at Arches National Park is crawling all around these beautiful arches.

Every arch has a different shape, and they all change shape as you hike towards them and through them.

Arches National Park Utah

There are arches of every imaginable size and shape.

Some have a long staircase leading up to them, courtesy of the National Park Service.

Staircase leading to the Windows arches at Arches National Park Utah

Stairs lead up to a beautiful arch.

And some offer a wonderful framed view when you stand beneath the peak of the arch and look out.

Sandstone arch at Arches National Park Utah

A peek at the world from inside Double Arch

Sometimes, the view through the arch is sensational!

Turret Arch within an Arch Arches National Park Utah

View of Turret Arch from the South Window

Arches aren’t all there is to see at Arches National Park, though. There are towers and cliffs of all kinds.

Truck at Arches National Park Utah

Arches National Park has wonderful pinnacles and red rock walls too.

The red rock sandstone is very sheer in places, forming immense walls and giant corridors.

Arches National Park Utah

Park Avenue — Nature’s version!

Arches National Park Utah

“Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue!” — Green Acres

Arches National Park is an ideal family destination, with room aplenty for the kids to run around. The tourists were thick — it was Spring Break while we were there — and people were having a blast climbing all over the rocks everywhere.

Walking around Arches National Park Utah

Arches National Park is a fabulous place for families with a little something for everyone.

Moms and dads were very busy with young kids who’d discovered that Arches is one enormous playground.

Kids climbing on rocks Arches National Park Utah

Two adorable girls kept dad busy in the mammoth “playground” that is Arches National Park.

The scenery is astonishing, and it is impossible to take more than a few steps without getting yet another photo.

Turret Arch Arches National Park Utah

We were blown away by the landscapes.

Picture in a picture Arches National Park Utah

So many folks were taking photos, lots of pics became photos of photographers taking photos!

Like the Needles at Canyonlands and Valley of the Gods and Horseshoe Bend, we couldn’t help but join the crowd of selfie takers to get a shot of ourselves in this extraordinary setting.

Turret Arch Arches National Park Utah

What a great day and place!

Turret Arch Arches National Park Utah

Aww, we had to take more than one. Turret Arch makes a wonderful backdrop!

The clouds rolled across the sky in thick battalions, and there was an intense threat of rain on the horizon.

People at Arches National Park Utah

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As we watched one particularly menacing black cloud gathering steam in the distance, we decided to hustle back to the truck to avoid getting drenched.

Storm clouds at Arches National Park

Time to get moving!!!

We had had hopes of catching the arches at sunrise and sunset, playing with twinkling starbursts and the Milky Way.

The Spectacles Arches National Park Utah

The Spectacles!

But the weather didn’t cooperate, so we’ll have to return. Once again, rather than checking a destination off of our bucket list, all we did was whet our appetites to come back with our RV for more!

RV on road to Arches National Park Utah

Arches National Park is awesome for an RV roadtrip.

If your RV travels take you to the Moab area, Arches National Park is stunning and a definite “do not miss” destination.

A word of caution: Arches National Park is extremely overrun with tourists. By noon everyday, the line of cars waiting at the entrance numbered at least 15 or more while we were in Moab. But it is for very good reason: Arches is fabulous!

If you can sneak into the park before sunrise (camping inside the park helps!) or shortly thereafter, you’ll have the first arch or two to yourself. After that, it’s a big old party. But what a great party it is!!

Snowcapped mountains and red rocks Moab Utah

The roads near Arches National Park offer magnificent views.

And if you go during Jeep Safari Week in Moab, the scenery in every direction will be decorated with colorful Jeeps!!

Jeep Safari Moab Utah

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Love red rock bridges and arches? There are three true beauties at Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah, and more info and links for Arches National Park below.

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Tourists at Arches National Park Utah

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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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Canyonlands National Park Utah – Hiking in the Needles District!

March 2016 – Canyonlands National Park is a stunning and massive National Park full of red rock hoodoos and towering red rock cliffs and wonderful hikes.

Happy Hikers Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

We’d often heard about Canyonlands National Park and were excited to get here at last.

There are three districts within the Park, two of which can be accessed by car on a paved road: the Needles District in the south and the Island in the Sky District a 100 mile drive around the park to the north. After our brief stop at Newspaper Rock outside Monticello, Utah, we continued on the same road about 25 miles further north to the Canyonlands southern entrance at the Needles District.

Red Rocks Canyonlands Needles District Utah

Just standing in the parking lot at the trailhead our cameras began to click!

As we stopped at the entrance station to flash our pass and get maps, Mark joked with the attendant who had been making change and issuing passes to a line of cars all day long.

“So, this is what a degree in Forestry gets you…” Mark winked. “You might as well be working at fast food joint!”

The ranger gave him a wry smile. “Actually, it’s even better than that.” He said. “I have a master’s degree in Geology.”

We both got a chuckle out of that, but we understood exactly what he meant when went on, “All my colleagues are in Houston making six figures. But guess who’s jealous of whom?!”

Log Canyonlands Needles District Utah

All along the trail there were fabulous gnarled limbs and logs that were bleached by the sun.

We found out later that this ranger does a Night Sky lecture that is really awesome, but we were there for a daytime hike. He recommended we do the Chesler Park hike, and before we even got the truck parked at the trailhead, we were already immersed in red rock beauty.

This is a 6 miles out-and-back hike that is loaded with fabulous scenery right off the bat, so whether you go the whole distance or do just a small bit, it is really rewarding.

Needles District Canyonlands National Park Utah

On the Chesler Park hike, the scenery is awe-inspiring as soon as you begin.

Right from the get go, after a fairly steep bit of climbing, we were within range of the “needles” red rock formations that give this area its name. Along with the spiky needles, we were surrounded by cool rock formations of all kinds, and it was really tempting to stop hiking and just play in the rocks.

Playing in Canyonlands Needles District Utah

So many cool rock formations lured us off the trail, we found it impossible to stay on the trail!

The sandy dirt trail is very clear and easy to find in spots.

Hiking Trail Canyonlands Needles District Utah

In places the trail was a thin ribbon of sand.

But in other places it wanders off across vast flat rocks. Fortunately it is very well marked with little rock pile cairns.

Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands Needles District Utah

The trail wandered off over the boulders, kept in check only by the rock cairns rangers had built for hikers.

The fun thing is that there are hundreds of places to sneak off the trail and explore.

Gnarly Tree Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands National Park Needles

The views were inspiring in every direction.

As we followed the trail, continuously tempted by things that were off the trail, it occurred to me that you could do this hike a dozen times and have a totally difference experience each time.

Hiking Canyonlands Needles District Utah

Some rock formations resembled spires.

The “needles” stand in neat rows, and some rows are more needle-like than others.

The Needles Canyonlands National Park Utah

Suddenly we found ourselves standing among the needles themselves.

Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

The needles rose up hundreds of feet in the air.

The sky was filled with clouds, and the sun played with the rock formations, alternately shading them and lightening them up.

Trail to Chesler Park Needles Canyonlands National Park Utah

The entrance to Nature’s Cathedral…

Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands National Park Utah

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I was caught up by the incredible vistas of rock formations standing all around us, but Mark looked down at his feet and noticed some beautiful wildflowers.

Wildflowers Canyonlands National Park Utah

While I gazed at the mammoth rock faces, Mark noticed the little smiling faces of wildflowers at his feet.

We had been enjoying all kinds of different scrambles here and there as the trail wandered in and around the rock formations. Then, suddenly, the trail descended into a slot.

Skinny slot Canyonlands National Park Needles Utah

We shimmied through a skinny slot.

It was just wide enough to fit a person. We love little slots like this.

Slot Canyon Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

This was fun!

It wasn’t very long, though, and soon we were out at the other end. We took a break under an overhang.

Resting on Chesler Park Trail Canyonlands National Park Needles District

At the other end of the slot a huge rock overhang stretched over us.

We were both going crazy taking photos. Back in the rig, Mark played with one of his in black and white. Cool!

Old time photo Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

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We turned around to retrace our steps and saw the needles from another vantage point. What a spectacular area.

Red Rocks Needles Canyonlands National Park Utah

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This is a popular hike, and as we walked back we saw dozens of people of all kinds starting out. It’s a great hike for all ages. Lots of families had brought little kids who ran around on the trail, and older couples came with hiking sticks. We even saw a young couple doing the hike as a trail run. Wow!

Chesler Park Hike Canyonlands National Park Needles District

Hikers of all ages love the Needles!

When we passed a woman carrying a little while pooch with pink and purple ears, we knew we’d seen it all.

Dog on hiking trail Canyonlands National Park Utah

Even stylish pooches enjoy an outing on this red rock trail.

The Needles District of Canyonlands is stunning, and there are hikes galore. Lots of families were camping there for Spring Break (and more than a few mentioned having been caught in the snow in their tents a few nights back like we were).

Needles Red Rocks Canyonlands National Park Utah

The Needles District is said to be the more beautiful and less touristy side of Canyonlands National Park.

On the way in and out of Canyonlands National Park, there is a tiny homestead on the west side of the road that begs for exploration.

Tiny house homestead Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

We found an abandoned cabin just outside the park. Our “tiny house” on wheels is bigger than this!!!

This little cabin couldn’t have been much more than 250 square feet. We couldn’t resist poking around for a bit.

Tiny house antique homestead Canyonlands National Park Needles District Utah

I could barely stand up straight inside!

“Tiny houses” are very popular these days, and lots of people want to downsize into minimal square feet, whether on a foundation or on wheels. Imagine living in this wee cabin, miles from nowhere, during the winter. To stay cool in summertime, it even had an outdoor fireplace!

Tiny house outdoor fireplace hearth Canyonlands Needles Utah

The summertime fireplace was just beyond the front door.

If your RV travels take you through southeastern Utah, it is well worth the detour to visit both Newspaper Rock and Canyonlands, to check out the intriguing sites in between, and especially to do the Chesler Park hike into the Needles red rock formations!

More info and links below.

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Newspaper Rock Utah – Petroglyphs and Rock Art from the Ancients

March 2016 – The one thing about desert camping is that it can get very dusty when the wind blows. And out in the desert, once the wind picks up, there is little to stop if from howling. A rule of thumb we’ve heard is that if it is windy one day, it will be windy for three days.

During our stay in the Valley of the Gods and Goosenecks State Park region of southeastern Utah the clouds gathered steadily each day, and then the wind pick up. Oh my, how the dust was flying. It was in our eyes and our noses and in everything in our rig. We packed it up and hightailed it out of there to the north as fast as we could.

Of course, every region has their own manifestation of bad weather, and the dusty wind storms in Valley of the Gods morphed into threatening dark storm clouds outside of Monticello.

Storm Clouds in Utah

Dust storms give way to menacing storm clouds as we climb in elevation.

Temps plummeted from 80’s in the desert to the 40’s near Monticello and were rapidly dropping as we climbed in elevation to the pine forests. Storm clouds were gathering overhead and the world suddenly looked very ominous.

We looked around, and suddenly, in unison, we both blurted out: “It looks like it’s gonna snow!”

We laughed at this absurd nortion, but I checked the weather forecast on my laptop anyway. My eyes flew open when I pulled up the forecast for Monticello, Utah.

“It IS gonna snow…in the next hour!!!”

Snow on RV in Canyonlands National Park Utah

OMG – It’s snowing!

And snow it did. As the skies turned black and the wind picked up and the temperature fell further, we found a place to hide for the night.

What a shock it was to see the snow flying thickly around us. It began to pile up on everything, from the trees and leaves to our bike seats on the bike rack on the trailer to our front door steps.

Snow on RV steps in Utah

One small step for an RVer…

The next morning we were in an icy winter wonderland!

Fifth wheel RV in snow in Utah

Who ordered this? I don’t know, but if you can stop shivering it’s very pretty!

It didn’t last, though. In no time at all the snow melted and we were on our merry way. We had come into the high country of eastern Utah to visit Newspaper Rock, a fabulous rock art panel that appears to be just what its name implies.

Newspaper Rock is an enormous slab of rock covered in natural “desert varnish,” which gives it a dark, smooth surface, perfect for pecking out images. It stands under a natural rock overhang, just like a huge sheltered bulletin board, out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods and other rock cliffs.

Newspaper Rock Indian Rock Art Petroglyph Panel Utah

Newspaper Rock is the Facebook of the Ancients!

The slab is absolutely covered with ancient Indian petroglyphs and rock art.

Newspaper Rock Ancient Indian Petroglyph Rock Art Panel in Utah

What a cacophany of conversations!

Apparently, the older art on Newspaper Rock is attributed to ancient Puebloan Indians who lived in the area for 1,600 years, from 100 B.C. to 1540 A.D. The more recent rock art on the panel is thought to have been created by the ancestors of the Ute people who still live in the area.

Newspaper Rock Art petroglyph panel Utah

If you look closely, there are all kinds of crazy and fun images here.

We were mesmerized by all the different images. They are packed in tightly, with animals and odd looking creatures and images of hands and feet and geometric shapes all crammed together. There’s barely an open inch anywhere on the panel.

Another woman and I excitedly pointed out various images and even possible stories to each other. There was the weird snake charmer guy who wore a fancy horned headdress and fringe leggings and had a very curvy snake crossing right over his neck. All around him were frolicking horned animals, bison, a four toed foot and another guy with a horned headdress.

Ancient Indian Petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah Mixture

With horns on his head and fringe on his legs, this guy has a snake winding across him!

In another area there was a very clear image of a hunter shooting an elk or a deer. He had a bow and arrow and the animal had a huge rack of antlers on its head.

Right above this image there were two odd looking space alien creatures. Each had horns, of two different types, and one had four fingers on each hand while the other had only three. Their bodies (or clothes) were very boxy and they had impossibly short legs with no feet.

Hmmm…

Around them were images of feet with only four toes as well as a spoked circle that looked like a wagon wheel.

Petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah Elk hunt and people with horns

A hunter on horseback aims at an elk, but who are those chunky guys with horns on their heads?

I find this three, four and five finger and toe thing fascinating. Some rock art depicts the modern day number of human fingers and toes and some just doesn’t. I doubt these people had trouble counting. Scientists working with African Grey parrots have proven they can count to seven very easily. I think there must have been another reason they omitted the toes and fingers — but what was it?

The amazing thing about petroglyphs like these is that they are pecked out of the rock. It isn’t easy to peck this rock. All over the American Southwest there is rock art that has been vandalized with graffiti in the last 200 years, and none of the graffiti comes close to the quality of the original rock art.

In another part of the panel four horned animals are marching in a row. Three are alike, but the one behind them is bigger and looks like it might have been created at a different time. They look a little like Santa’s reindeers!

Next to them is a flying squirrel caught mid-flight. I discovered Northern Flying Squirrels can be found in the conifer forests in Utah, so there he is on the rock art panel!

Petroglyphs Rock Art Newspaper Rock Utah Herd of deer

A deer track and then a line of deer like Rudolph, Dasher, Prancer and Vixen.
Graffiti in the upper left area barely penetrates the “desert varnish” of the rock.

Two other images of flying squirrels are prominant on this panel. One has a Superman S on him and the other has three fingers on each hand!

I imagine the flying squirrel had significance to the ancient people who pecked these images on the rocks. I couldn’t find any Ute or western Indian references to flying squirrels, but several eastern Indian tribes have flying squirrels in their folklore.

Beneath them is the ever-present foot — with 5 toes.

Newspaper Rock Petroglyph rock art Flying Squirrels Utah

Flying squirrels, one with a Superman S on his chest and the other with 3 fingers on his little hands.

Hands and feet are everywhere on this panel of rock art petroglyphs, and in one section it is a veritable track of two people wallking up the rock, a larger person on the left and a smaller person on the right. Some have four toes, some have five and a Very Large Person to their left sometimes has six!

A graphic artist or characature style hand outline also appears above some feet.

Feet and hand petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah

Tracking the human race with a bigger person and a smaller person together and a Very Big Person to the left.
What about that cool hand?!

Nearby there are two very cute and small deer, each with a very elaborate pair of antlers on his head.

Below them is a bison that has the same outline styling as the hand in the previous image.

Rock Art Newspaper Rock Utah with deer, foot and bison

A slick bison outline and two deer with very intricate and mature antlers

Bison are very popular on the Newspaper Rock art panel. One image near the bottom of the panel shows a hunter on horseback with a bison. This image is in the lighter color that the Bureau of Land Management says is more recent rock art dating to some time after 1500 AD.

Buffalo roamed all over the North American continent for thousands of years, and many Indian tribes were totally dependent on them.

In 1840 there were 60 million free roaming bison thundering across America. By 1886, 46 years later, there were fewer than 100. They all died at the hands of hunters who were encouraged by the US Army, as they knew the extermination of the buffalo would be the end of the Indians. Buffalo hide also became more popular than cowhide in the eastern states and in Europe, and an average hide hunter could kill 60 bison in a day.

Newspaper Rock Art petroglyph Utah horseback hunter and bison

Buffalo hunting was essential to the Indians.

One bison is depicted with cloven hooves, and it’s little details like these that make these images resemble children’s drawings where one feature or another is drawn with careful detail at the expense of other details that sometimes go missing all together.

Along with bison, those animals with the curved horns are really popular images at Newspaper Rock. They are commonly referred to as Big Horn Sheep, but as I noted in another post about rock art in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, the horns don’t resemble big horn sheep horns at all. Oh well. They are a mystery bovine!!

There is also a creature with a wide tail, perhaps a beaver, and animal which was once abundant throughout Utah.

Petroglyph rock art at Newspaper Rock Gazelle, bison and beaver tadpole

This buffalo has cloven hooves, and is that a beaver near him, or something else?

There is also a very cool bird with a long beak standing near a horned animal and a very small person.

Bird petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah

A very birdlike bird, a horned bovine and a small person here.

Some of the imagery is geometric and some is, well, who knows what it is. There’s also a difference in pecking skill when it comes to creating these images on the rock panel.

Rock art Newspaper Rock Utah Deer, feet geometric designs

Some images are obvious while others a little obscure.

Down near the grass there’s an intriguing double sun that appears to have something inside it.

Newspaper Rock Art Utah Twin Sun Design

A double sun. There is something wonderfully mystical about this.

I loved studying all these crazy images. What do they mean and why were they on this particular rock? There are millions of square feet of smooth flat rock walls covered in desert varnish throughout Utah where there are no petroglyphs. And then there’s a place like this that is packed to the gills with images from different people of different eras.

A newspaper indeed!

One of my favorite images was one I spotted just before leaving. It is a ladder with three fingered hands at the top. What the heck?! Nearby is a guy with his three fingered hands in the air. He sports a tail and horns.

There are also some deer tracks marching right throught the image from bottom to top, and a doodle that looks like a flying saucer or satellite.

Petroglyphs Newspaper Rock Utah Ladder with hands

A ladder with hands, some bizarre shapes, a few feet, and deer tracks running through it all.

In the bottom right is a very elaborate paw print, complete with claws. There are an aweful lot of toes on that paw. Maybe it’s a flower!

Newspaper Rock is a fantastic roadside stop for RVers and other travelers heading into the southern Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. It is right on the way in to the National Park, and it is without doubt the best rock art we’ve seen anywhere.

When we were there after a snowstorm in late March there was hardly anyone there because it was absolutely freezing. But I imagine in warmer seasons the place can get insane because the parking lot is not very big and there are signs up and down the sides of the road before and after the site saying, “No Parking.”

Note: Newspaper Rock is within the boundaries of the 3,000 square mile parcel of land that the Navajo Indians and 25 other tribes have asked the public land agencies to convert into Bears Ears National Monument. It is currently a State Historical Monument managed by the BLM. More info at this link.

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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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Flaming Gorge Utah – Fiery canyons, a cool river, and nearly tame bighorn sheep

Flaming Gorge Utah Rainbow over our RV

A rainbow frames the buggy

Early September, 2012 – Leaving the northern half of Flaming Gorge in Wyoming, we settled down near the heart of the gorge in Utah where it is a part of the National Park Service.

Flaming Gorge Utah RV Views

Mark gets a front row seat to the view.

The storms continued to march across the sky every afternoon, and one day, just as the sun was setting, the sky went black and a brilliant rainbow formed right over the buggy.

Flaming Gorge Utah Greendale Overlook

Kids monkey around for the camera

The overlooks and walking paths near the Visitors Center offer the most impressive views of the gorge, and we wandered out to the edge of the cliffs repeatedly to see the breathtaking scene from every possible vantage point.

Flaming Gorge Utah Canyon Rim Hike

The Canyon Rim hike goes through the woods too.

Brilliant mornings complemented the brooding afternoons.  As we paused one afternoon to enjoy the views from one overlook, a crowd of young families showed up.

Flaming Gorge is a perfect area for families, as there are all kinds of things to do, from hiking to biking to camping to visiting with herds of grass-eating animals to taking a tour of the dam.  This group of families was having a ball.  Half the parents were out on mountain bikes somewhere while the other half chilled at the overlook.  The kids romped all over the place in very high spirits, despite the gathering afternoon storm.

RV boondocking view of Flaming Gorge Utah meadow at sunrise

Meadow at sunrise.

They posed for their moms to take a photo, and they were all so cute I had to get one too.  Just minutes after that the skies opened up and we had a downpour that pelted everyone and everything and soaked us all to the bone.  The kids laughed it off, but we felt badly for the late returning dads who had to hurry in the driving rain to get all the mountain bikes back on their bike racks before they drove off in a blur of spray.

RVers coming to Flaming Gorge will find stunning views and camping

Breathtaking views at every turn.

Between storms we were gifted with glorious sunshine.  We hiked the Canyon Rim between the visitors center and the Canyon Rim Campground, taking two photos for every five steps.  What a place!  Rock outcroppings hang out over the edges of the cliffs all along the rim, making for dramatic views (and a little bit of stomach churning if you stand on the edge and look straight down).  Campers can set up in sites with marvelous views.

RV boondocking offers amazing views of Flaming Gorge

Now it’s my turn to perch on a cliff.

The big horn sheep are very much at home in this terrain, though, and a large herd was mingling with the campers in the Canyon Rim Campground.

Another woman watching them through the viewfinder of her camera (just like we were) told us they had been wandering between the campsites  all four days she had been there.

Bighorn sheep at Flaming Gorge's Canyon Rim Campground, an RVers delight

A herd of bighorn sheep hung out at the campground. Rangers track their movement by radio.

As we chatted, the group of sheep stood and stared at us, barely moving.  They formed something of a protective circle, facing outwards.  They stood there so long the young ones got bored, as we did, and eventually two of them laid down behind the shield of their parents’ legs.

Big horn sheep at the Flaming Gorge Canyon Rim Campground

We watched each other carefully.

These guys were very accustomed to humans, and they let us get close enough to see that the largest one had been outfitted with a radio collar.  A large antenna stuck out from the radio on his neck like a third antler behind his head.  Rangers told us they track the herd very closely.

Flaming Gorge Dam

Flaming Gorge Dam

Flaming Gorge used to be a free-flowing river, and one afternoon we took a tour of the Flaming Gorge Dam.  Built in the late 1950’s, it was one of the West’s many water reclamation projects of the mid-1900’s that tamed the west’s wild rivers and provided electrical power to nearby communities.

Flaming Gorge Dam turbine

An original turbine was replaced recently and is now on display.

The most amazing thing about these dams, I find, is that in order to build them the rivers had to be re-routed temporarily.  At Flaming Gorge, as at all the other major western dams, a huge tunnel was dug into the cliff so the water would bypass the dam construction area.  The concrete is so thick in Flaming Gorge dam that it will take 100 years to cure fully at its center.

Turkey vultures dry their wings on the scaffolding outside the Flaming Gorge dam.

When the sun came out, the whole flock dried off its wings.

That means the concrete at the core is only half cured now, and it puts the cure date sometime just before 2060!

A turkey vulture at Flaming Gorge Dam

Seeing an original turbine that had recently been replaced was interesting, but what really caught our attention was the huge flock of turkey vultures sitting on the scaffolding outside the dam.

Sweeping views from the Flaming Gorge Visitors Center in Utah

Flaming Gorge was an awe-inspiring place to visit.

When we started the tour raindrops were falling, and these guys were hunkered down waiting for the typical afternoon deluge.  But when we emerged from the bowels of the dam’s massive structure an hour later at the end of the tour, we discovered the sun had come out and all the turkey vultures were now sitting with wings outstretched, drying off their feathers!

Flaming Gorge is a magical place, and we dallied for a while.  But eventually the lure of dinosaurs drew us away and we drove further south to Vernal Utah and Dinosaur National Monument.

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Capitol Reef National Park Utah – Awe-inspiring!

Capitol Reef National Park captivated us with its natural afternoon light show at Sunset Point, its Mormon history at the Pioneer Register and the natural rock Hickman Bridge. Capitol Reef National Park: Sunset Point. Vivid colors come to life at Capitol Reef National Park: Sunset Point.

Vivid colors come to life.

Capitol Reef's Sunset Point is a romantic spot for taking photos. Sunset Point at Capitol Reef National Park.

Mark disappears in the vast landscape.

Evening shadows at Sunset Point Trail, Capitol Reef Nat'l Monument.

Late afternoon shadow-play at Sunset Point.

Evening shadows at Sunset Point Trail, Capitol Reef Nat'l Monument. Twisted trees resemble driftwood on an inlad vermillion sea.

Twisted trees resemble driftwood on

an inlad vermillion sea.

We were way too excited to sit down!

Utah wildfire smolders int the distance.

A wildfire puffs smoke in the distance.

Spectacular views along Capitol Reef's

Views along the park's "Scenic Drive"

An antique plough sits out in a field.

An antique plough sits out in a field.

Pioneer Schoolhouse at Capitol Reef.

Pioneer Schoolhouse

The Capitol Gorge wash where pioneers arrived by car.

...and now.

Capitol Gorge Wash then...

It must have been exciting to

arrive here.

Pioneer Register, Capitol Reef National Park.

Hiking to the Pioneer Register.

Pioneer Register, Capitol Reef National Park.

Pioneer names from September

24th, 1910.

M. Larson, Nov. 20th, 1888

M. Larson, Nov. 20th, 1888

Wildflowers soften the canyon walls.

Views from the Golden Throne Hike at Capitol Reef Nat'l Park

Looking down from our hike to

the Golden Throne

Gnarled trees on the Golden Throne hike.

Gnarled trees on the Golden

Throne hike.

End of Trail.  And there's the Golden Throne.

End of Trail.  And there's the Golden Throne.

Views from Capitol Reef's

Views from the park's "Scenic Drive"

The setting sun plays with light and shadow on the rocks at Capitol Reef, Utah.

The setting sun plays with light and shadow on the rocks.

Gifford Homestead Barn, Fruita, Utah.

Gifford Homestead Barn

Horse grazing at Gifford Homestead.

Not a bad spot to graze.

Hickman Bridge at Capitol Reef NP

Hickman Bridge

Mark admires the view of Hickman Bridge.

Admiring the view.

Capitol Reef National Park & Fruita, Utah

Mid-June, 2012 - After our energetic hikes in Natural Bridges National

Monument and our awe-inspiring drive along the Bicentennial Highway

(Route 95), we were geared up to for more immersion in Utah's red rocks.

We found exactly that at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

On our first afternoon

in the area we visited

Sunset Point, a perfect

spot to watch the sun

fall lower and lower in

the sky.  The vivid

colors came to life in

the late afternoon.

It is a dramatic

setting - a

wonderful place

to get a photo of a

loved one with a

soaring backdrop.

There were clouds

in the sky, and

they wafted past

us overhead,

casting shadows

and playing with

the sunlight as

they passed.

Dead tree stumps were twisted into exotic shapes here and

there, looking a bit like driftwood that had been washed ashore

somehow in this burnt orange desert land.

Park benches invited us to take

a load off, but we were way too

busy running up and down the

hiking trails -- trying to see

everything at once -- to even

think about sitting down.

Off in the distance a

new wildfire smoldered.  A nearby plaque stated that this part

of Utah boasts some of the cleanest air in the continental US,

but the smattering of wildfires that were burning at the time

weren't helping that claim.

We wandered among the red rocks until the disappearing

sun had quietly stolen all their colors away.

Capitol Reef National Park is a

long skinny park (~5 miles wide

by ~50 miles long) that runs on a

north-south axis along the

Waterpocket Fold which is a

huge buckle in the earth's crust.

There are loads of backcountry

roads and trails leading to wild

and remote places, but on this

visit we stuck to the easy-to-

reach hikes.

The tiny community of Fruita is at the heart of this area, and Mormons settled there in the late

1800's.  By 1917 they had a bustling village filled with orchards.  Cherries, apricots, peaches,

pears and apples are still grown here, but we were just a little too early to take advantage of any of the harvests.

Remnants of Fruita's past still remain

along the edges of the scenic drive

through the park.  An old plow and a

pioneer schoolhouse were reminders of

a bygone era.

This area was extremely difficult to

reach for those pioneers, due to the

rugged terrain of the Waterpocket Fold,

but a route coming in did exist along the

bottom of a wash through Capitol

Gorge.  Between 1871 and the early

1940's Mormons arrived via this route,

first by horse and buggy and then by

car.  Looking at my photos afterwards I

noticed that Mark had been standing

pretty close to the spot where a photo

from the National Park Service showed

an antique car going through.

It took a group of men eight days to move all the boulders out of a 3.5 mile

stretch of the Capitol Gorge wash so it could be traversed by vehicles.  Then two

cars could just barely pass side by side.  Today the wash is regaining its natural

state and there are boulders and thickets of plants growing where it once must

have been smooth enough for a car to make it through.

As the arriving pioneers passed the towering cliffs, a lot of them stopped to

carve their names in the flat parts of the stone walls.  Today it's called the

Pioneer Register, and we saw names and dates from the late 1800's all the way

to 1942.  It is hard to imagine what those determined, rugged and travel-weary

people must have felt as they passed through this gorge to a new life.  Little kids

with grubby hands must have peered out the windows of the cars, while

flustered moms tried to keep all their kids in tow.  I can't imagine the exhaustion

and exhilaration they must have felt.  Yet the town where they were arriving

didn't even have the paved campground loops, the gift shop full of coffee table

books or the flush toilets that it does today.

In my excitement of spotting

a list of names high up on

one wall, I hastily took a

photo without looking

closely enough at what I

was shooting.  I managed

to get all the names in the

list but cut off the date -- it

was September 24th 1910.

Still mulling over the

immense changes that

have taken place in the

world since the last signatures from the 1940's were pecked out on these

walls, we started up the initial ascents of the Golden

Throne hike.  This hike took us to the tops of the rock

cliffs where we had magnificent views looking down on

the road far below.

Gnarled trees greeted us as we climbed higher and

higher, until finally -- and rather abruptly -- we came to a

sign that said "End of trail."  Behind it was the trail's

namesake Golden Throne, a huge round yellow rock.

Making our way back along the park's

simply named "Scenic Drive," the late

afternoon light was playing with the

rocks again, a game of hide-and-seek

that involved brights and shadows

on the burgundy rocks.

A lone barn belonging to the historic

Gifford Homestead and a horse

munching the grass in the pasture

across the street spoke of the

immense peace of this place.  The

trees rustle so softly and the birds

chirp so quietly.  The bustle of the

campground and the arriving cars of

tourists seemed to suddenly hush,

as if everyone knew to act as if the

were in a library in honor of the calm

that resides here.

If the pioneers had a tortuous trip getting

here, once they arrived and got settled they

must have paused for a moment on many a

luscious afternoon and murmured "This is

God's country," because it is, even today.

We fell under the area's spell and decided to do one more hike

before moving on down the road.  Hickman Bridge is a rock

bridge that is a cousin to the three bridges we had seen at

Natural Bridges National Monument.  It is an easy hike in to see

it, but once there we found it hard to get it lined up in such a way

as to prove that it was indeed a bridge.  The other rocks and cliffs

all crowd around it, like a city swarming around a man-made

bridge, and only when you get

underneath can you get it

framed against the sky.

Mark gave up trying to capture

it on camera and simply sat

across the way admiring it, legs

folded and very content.

As has been the theme for us

this season, the heat of summer

began to catch up with us and soon we were pushed a little further

north in Utah to Koosharem Reservoir and Fish Lake where the

fiery red rocks gave way to cool green mountains and seagulls

flying over the water.