Canyonlands National Park UT – Island in the Sky (and Night Skies!)

April 2016 – Canyonlands National Park in Utah is so big and sprawling that it has two entrances at opposite ends of the park. The south entrance is a 50 mile drive to the south and west of Moab, and it takes you to the Needles District. The north entrance is a 30 mile drive to the north and west from Moab and takes you to the Island in the Sky district.

Hikers Utah Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky  Shafer Canyon

Canyonlands National Park in Utah – Island in the Sky

We had explored the beautiful pink and white spires of the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park a few weeks earlier on the Chesler Park hike, and we were eager to check out the vistas and views of the Island in the Sky district.

Shafer Canyon didn’t disappoint…Wow!!

Canyonlands Shafer Canyon Island in the Sky District Utah photography

Shafer Canyon, Canyonlands National Park Utah

Although all of America’s National Parks are best enjoyed in depth over a several day period, with hikes out into the scenery to see the various sights up close, on this RV roadtrip we were doing a survey and an overview of all the beauty surrounding Moab.

We dashed into Canyonlands National Park for a day to check out all the overlooks and scenery visible from the main road.

White Rim Road Shafer Canyon Canyonlands Island in the Sky District Utah

The wild White Rim Road zig-zags across the landscape

We wandered around the overlook at Shafer Canyon for a long time soaking in the view.

A fabulous and enticing dirt road snaked across the canyon. This is part of the 71 mile long White Rim road that we had seen a few days earlier at Dead Horse Point State Park.

An intrepid jeep driver was descending a wall of the canyon near us. What a cool drive that must be. Someday!!

Shafer Canyon Canyonlands National Park White Rim Road Jeep travel Utah RV camping

The White Rim Road looks like quite a ride!!

Each canyon and overlook in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands is beautiful.

Hiking boots Canyonlands Island in the Sky District Utah


Canyonlands National Park Utah RV travel Island in the Sky


It had rained a few days earlier, and some of the depressions in the wide flat rocks were filled with water.

Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah RV camping

Puddles had formed in the red rock depressions.

Funny thing is that we kept getting in each other’s photos!

Photography at Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky District Utah


And a few times we got in each other’s photos on purpose too…

Hiking Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah camping

Is that a painting behind us??

The red rocks of Canyonlands National Park and the white capped mountains in the distance made a beautiful contrast.

Red rocks snowcapped mountains Canyonlands National Park Utah

Red rocks and snowy mountain peaks – Gorgeous!

Utah Canyonlands National Park La Sal Mountains Island in the Sky


Without a doubt, Grand View Point has the most dramatic landscapes in Canyonlands National Park’s Island in the Sky district.

Canyonlands National Park Utah Grand View Point Overlook

Grand View Point looks out over a crazy landscape

Here the flat earth seemed to have been carved by an enormous stick that had been dragged across the land to gouge out a pattern.

Canyonlands National Park  Grand View Point Overlook Island in the Sky Utah photography camping

Nature’s handiwork – what a fabulous design!

The tiny White Rim Road was still visible, but it was impossible to fathom the size and scale of this immense landscape before us.

Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Grand View Point Overlook

I just LOVE this pattern!


In the evening, our attention turned to the heavens. The southern part of Utah has some of the darkest skies in America, and the stars were thick above us.

Stars Canyonlands National Park Utah camping

There were layers upon layers of stars in the sky.

As the night wore on, the celestial dance in the stratosphere became ever more intense, and the clouds of stars that make up the Milky Way practically jumped out at us.

Milky Way Canyonlands National Park Utah Island in the Sky RV camping

The Milky Way came to life in the heavens.

Moab, Utah, is a wonderful destination for an RV roadtrip, and along with Arches National Park, Dead Horse State Park, the Canyonlands Needles District and Newspaper Rock, the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park has to be included in the Moab “to do” list.

RV Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky Utah

The whole area around Moab is wonderful for an RV adventure.

And it doesn’t matter what kind of RV you have: big, small, new, old, solar powered or not, any kind of RV that can be driven or towed will fill the bill, and while we were there we saw some pretty unusual get-ups!!

RV fifth wheel trailer towing_

If you can drive it or tow it, any kind of RV will do!!

For more info about Canyonlands National Park, check out the links below.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

Info and links for Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky:

More travel stories from our RV adventures in Southeastern Utah:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

<-Previous || Next->

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah – Magical Sunrises!

April 2016 – The area around Moab, Utah, is teeming with exotic red rock canyons, towering natural stone arches, snowcapped mountains, exotic ancient rock art and exhilarating hikes that go through it all.

Photography at Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

The rim of Dead Horse Point State Park is fabulous for photography at sunrise!

There is a joke that southern Utah’s landscapes are so spectacular that many places would be National Parks if they were located in any other state. But they get relegated to mere State Park or even lower status because they are located in Utah.

Dead Horse Point State Park is such a place.

Dead Horse Point State Park Utah Overlook at dawn

Dead Horse Point State Park in the pre-dawn hours.

Lying just 12 miles from Moab as the eagle flies across the canyons — or 33 miles as the roads go around them — Dead Horse Point State Park is tucked into a dramatic bend in the Colorado River that resembles some of the curves in its big brother, the Grand Canyon, a few hundred miles downstream to the southwest.

Dead Horse Point State Park Utah Sunrise


The overlooks at Dead Horse Point State Park are eye-popping at any time of day, but to watch the sunrise there is a magical experience. We snuck out in the pre-dawn hours and tip-toed around the edges of the canyon in the semi-darkness, passing endless wonderful, gnarly old trees.

Tree at Dead Horse Point State Park overlook Utah

Fantastic old trees line the rim of Dead Horse Point State Park

One tree in particular kept drawing us back. It leaned over the edge as if wanting to take a closer look at the canyon.

Tree at Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

This tree captivated us…

Tree at Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

…so it wound up in quite a few photos!

Another stood watch over a bench at a viewpoint.

Bench and tree Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

A tree looks out at the view over a visitor’s bench.

As dawn flirted with us on the horizon, the curves and contours of this magnificent canyon slowly began to take shape. Gradually, the wispy clouds in the sky took on the brilliant peach and orange hues of sunrise.

Sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

The sky lights up as the sun begins to rise.

What a blessing it was to be there on a day when there were enough clouds to create a colorful sunrise!

Dead Horse Point State Park Utah sunrise

What colors!
The thin trail along the river is the 4×4 White Rim Road that crosses into Canyonlands National Park.

All of a sudden, the sun crested the horizon over the mountains to the west, and it sent shafts of orange light across the canyon.

First Light Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

First light at Dead Horse Point State Park

Then a few of the red rock peaks lit up in the distance.

Sunrise Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

As soon as the sun peeked over the mountains to the east, shafts of light cut across the canyon.

If there is a place in this world to watch the sun come up, this is it. And what a spot for photography!!

Until this moment, we had had the entire canyon to ourselves, but we’d heard a car drive up and park. As the sunlight grew brighter, we noticed a person sitting out on a ledge and soaking in the miracle of a new day arriving in this special place.

Overlooking Dead Horse Point State Park Utah Before Dawn

“Morning has broken…” — Cat Stevens

Slowly, the sun’s rays lit up more and more of the canyon.

Dead Horse Point State Park Utah at dawn

Gradually, the shadows crept down the canyon walls as the sun highlighted their peaks.

As the sun rose higher, the Colorado River began to reflect the orange cliffs in its depths. Magnificent!

Sunrise Dead Horse Point State Park Utah


As we watched the splendor before us, we were surprised to hear the squawking of Canada Geese in the distance. They seemed to be way over on the opposite side of the canyon to the west. They never did come into view, but for about 5 minutes we could hear the flock talking together as they commuted down the river and across the canyon from the west side of the horizon to the east!!

Dawn Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

Light and shadow play on the rock faces of Dead Horse Point State Park.

After the sunrise was over, we returned to our campsite where we noticed the most beautiful little blue bird flitting about out the back window of our trailer. He kept landing on the handlebars and shifting cables on our bicycles mounted on our bike rack. He seemed quite enamored of our bicycle bell!

Mountain Bluebird on bicycle bell Moab Utah

When we got back to camp, this little guy was hanging out on the handlebars of our bikes!

Fortunately, he didn’t seem to be fazed by our movements inside the rig, and he settled down long enough for us to get a good look at him through the window and to get some really nice photos. We checked him out in our bird guide, and he was a Mountain Bluebird. How cool!

Mountain Bluebird Moab Utah

What a handsome fellow!!

Then his little girlfriend stopped by. She was a real cutie too, with soft brown wings and a splash of Mountain Bluebird blue on her back! We never found out what these birds’ fascination was with our bikes on the back end of our RV, but they hung around for a very long time.

Female Mountain Bluebird Moab Utah

She keeps her vibrant blue colors under wraps…

Where our visit to Arches National Park had been shared with a gazillion other visitors, and our visit to the town of Moab had been a little wild during Jeep Safari week, the utter calm at Dead Horse Point State Park was intoxicating. At twilight we snuck back to the rim of the canyon and got some shots of the sunset on the horizon with a tree in the foreground.

Twilight tree at Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

At twilight, the horizon turned vivid orange.

The sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park is worth getting up for on any morning you are nearby, so we set our alarms each morning we were there, reminding ourselves as we groaned when it went off that it isn’t everyday you have a view like this within driving distance.

Dead Horse Point State Park Utah Before Dawn

Sunrise is worth getting up for in this neck of the woods!

It was tough to climb out of our snug, warm bed to go stand at the rim of the canyon (in four layers of jackets) and wait for the sun to come up. But the beautiful photos and feeling of tranquility that reached across the miles and miles of canyon were well worth it.

Sunrise Dead Horse Point State Park Utah

Little puffy clouds marched across the sky at dawn.

One morning as I hiked across the huge, flat boulders towards the rim, I looked up and was astonished to find myself face to face with a white desert fox. I was loaded down with my camera, my pack, my tripod and my travel coffee mug, and I knew there was no way I could juggle it all and get his photo without scaring him off.

So, I simply basked in the moment, and talked to him softly. His ears perked up in my direction and he took a long look at me. I admired his bushy white tail, tipped with a little black tuft at the end. To my utter surprise, he sat down for a moment! Then he got up and trotted away in silence on velvet paws.

Dead Horse Point State Park at dawn Utah

Once the sun was up, the puffy clouds turned white.

The sunrises at Dead Horse Point were sensational, but that private moment with the desert fox in the dim pre-dawn light was extraordinary.

Inspired by the professional videographers we met at Horsehoe Bend in Arizona, I set up a timelapse sequence on my camera to show the shadows retreating from the red rock canyon walls as the sun rose. What fun!!

For those with limited bandwidth, this video is 19 MB and 20 seconds long.

Dead Horse Point State Park is a fabulous place for outdoor lovers of all kinds to visit, and for RVers especially.

There is a campground with electrical hookups within the park (no need for solar power!) and loads of other campground options nearby (links below). In early April there were few people, if any, at the rim at dawn, but we have heard the place can be very busy at sunrise later in the season.

We enjoyed the sunsets at Dead Horse too, but the sunrises were most magical for us.

Happy campers at Dead Horse Point State Park at dawn Utah

Does life get any better than this??!!

The best viewpoints at dawn are to the west of the main overlook. Simply follow the paved trail heading to the right of the parking lot, and then cut across the rocks to the rim at whatever point looks appealing to you.

It’s all wonderful!

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah:

Posts from similar river bend overlooks:

Other posts from our RV travels in Southern Utah:

<-Previous || Next->

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

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


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


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


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.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Arches National Park:

Related posts from Utah’s Awesome Red Rock National Parks, State Parks & National Recreation Areas:

<-Previous || Next->

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

Tourists at Arches National Park Utah


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


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


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


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


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


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!

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info:

Other blog posts from our RV travels to southeastern Utah:

<-Previous || Next->

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

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


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


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


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.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about Canyonlands National Park:

Other blog posts from our RV travels in Southeastern Utah:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

<-Previous || Next->

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.


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.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info:

Related posts from our travels about the Rock Art of the Ancients:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

<-Previous || Next->

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


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


Puddle Reflections Valley of the Gods Utah


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


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.

Never miss a post — it’s free!

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

Other blog posts from our RV travels in Southeastern Utah:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU above.

<-Previous || Next->

Paria Rimrocks “Toadstools” Hike to A Hidden Canyon!

Fields of wildflowers in Southern Utah

OMG – When we’re not looking, we come across a gorgeous field
of wildflowers bursting with color!

May, 2014 – All spring we had deliberately searched for wildflowers in Arizona, using the excellent book Wild Arizona as a guide.

We had driven down crazy back roads and hiked into the hinterlands, stalking these colorful little beauties.

We had found lots of pretty flowers scattered here and there, but the vast fields of color we’d hoped for never materialized. Continue reading

Wire Pass Trail – Slot Canyon Hiking!

Wire Pass Slot Canyon view from outside

The slot canyon is barely visible from the outside.

May, 2014 – The beautiful red rocks and views of Sedona, Arizona, are utterly enchanting, but the exotic Vermillion Cliffs two hundred miles north lured us away.

We have driven past the fantastically colored rock walls along routes 89 and 89A between Page, Arizona, and Kanab, Utah, many times in the past.

However, this time we stopped for a while to explore the area in a little more depth. Continue reading

Natural Bridges National Monument Utah – Vertical Hiking!

Early June, 2012 - We left Mesa Verde and drove the dramatic Bicentennial Highway to Utah's unique Natural Bridges National Monument.

At the top of Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

A wwoden ladder on the Sipapu Bridge trail.

Some folks were put off by the

trail's wooden ladders.

Looking down a wooden ladder on the Sipapu Bridge trail of Natural Bridges National Monument.

Looking down is a bit unnerving!

climbing a wooden ladder at Natural Bridges. On the trail at Natural Bridges NM.

The trail hugs a sheer canyon wall.

Hiking behind a barefoot person at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Barefoot tracks...

Exotic rock formations along the trail. Dramatic cliffs line the walls along the Sipapu Bridge Hike in Natural Bridges National Monument.

Dramatic cliffs and rock

formations everywhere

Down by Sipapu Bridge. Natural Bridge Nat'l Monument Natural Bridges National Monment

Full sized trees at the base of the cliffs.

Stiped cayon wall at Natural Bridges NM.

Massive leaning walls are painted in vivid stripes.

Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument

Sipapu Bridge

Ladders are central to the hike to Sipapu Brige.


The NPS has carved stairs in the sandstone on the trail at Natural Bridges National Monument.

…and carved stairs.

Cactus flower, Natural Bridges National Monument Striped cliff walls, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Striped cliff walls.

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Kachina Bridge

Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Mark is dwarfed by Kachina Bridge.

More ladders and steep hiking at Natural Bridges National Monument. Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Owachomo Bridge - delicate and soaring.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

Owachomo Bridge.

Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument.

The base of Owachomo Bridge.

"Bears Ears"

The Cheesebox, Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

The Cheesebox.

Jacob's Chair, Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

Jacob's Chair.

Scenic Bicentennial Highway.

Scenic Bicentennial Highway

Driving through Glen Canyon on the Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah. Bridge over the Colorado River, Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Bridge over the Colorado.

Colorado River, Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Colorado River.

Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah. Scenic overlook along the Bicentennial Highway, Route 95 Utah.

Scenic Overlook on the

Bicentennial Highway.

Ghost town Hite City was buried by Lake Powell.

Ghost town Hite City lies underwater here.

SR-95 Bicentennial Highway. Rock formations along State Route 95, the Bicentennial Highway, Utah.

The gods were messing with finger paints.

Scenic Route 24, Utah.

Fruita in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Driving along Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

Natural Bridges and Utah's Bicentennial Highway

Early June, 2012 - After leaving Mesa Verde National Park we were

totally enthralled by the scenery that surrounded us on Utah's

Bicentennial Highway.  This area is rich with exotic rock formations, and

three special ones are clustered at Natural Bridges National Monument.

While getting our hitch extension fabricated in Blanding we had learned

that our welder, Jack, had grown up playing among the bridge

formations before the modern park rules became so strict.  "It was in

our backyard and we could camp anywhere in those days.  I grew up

climbing all over those bridges."

Now it is a formal tourist attraction,

set aside and protected by the

government, with signs telling you all

the things you shouldn't do.

However, rather than having to scramble down scary drop-offs and wondering how the heck all

these formations got here, the National Park Service has built beautiful trails to the bridges and

offers all kinds of literature and books that explain everything about the geology, the wildlife, and

nature in general at their terrific visitors center.

Just like Canyon de Chelly where the canyons

are equally as stunning as the cliff dwellings, we

found the setting, the vistas and the hikes as

thrilling here as the bridges themselves.  There

are only three natural rock bridges, but there is

an infinite number of spectacular views.

All together it's just four miles of hiking, but you

can skip doing your stair stepping workout on

the day you go.  Each bridge hike is a nearly

vertical descent to the base of the bridge, and

then, after admiring it, you've gotta climb out.  We quizzed

everyone we passed whether each hike was worth the

effort.  Most said "Yes!"  But one couple was put off by the

rickety looking wooden ladders.  We found the ladders were

actually really fun!  They're rock solid and shiny smooth

from thousands of hands and feet using them.

The trail to Sipapu bridge is

sandy and hugs a sheer canyon

wall.  There are all kinds of

footprints from previous hikers,

but the ones that caught my eye

were the barefoot ones.  I felt like

I was following an Indian.  But it

was just someone wearing those

newfangled Vibram FiveFingers


We scampered all over the place, soaking

up the towering cliffs and basking in the

silence.  It is hard to imagine that the

immense natural force of flowing water

created these formations.

Many of the rocks are beautifully striped,

carefully painted in vibrant hues by

mother nature.

The size and scale was hard to

capture with the cameras,

especially trying to draw into the

lens that sensation of being

embraced by soaring cliffs and very

hot sun.

Mark got to the

Sipapu bridge

first, and when

he called back

to me his voice



between the

rocks.  He let

out a few extra hoots

and whistles, enjoying

the effect.  I hooted

and whistled back and

marveled at hearing

the sound perfectly


Climbing back out we noticed

how the Park Service has not

only installed fantastic Navajo

looking wooden ladders, but

has carefully sculpted out lots

of stairs in the rocks as well.

And we learned these bridges

were first found by Cass Hite in

1884 when he was searching for gold.

Kachina Bridge was up next, and

again we descended on a nearly

vertical path into a vibrant green

wash filled with trees and refreshingly

cool shade.  The rocks here had

been painted in stripes too, and bird

songs echoed off the canyon walls as

they flitted from tree to tree.

We staggered around in the sandy wash at the base of the bridge, craning

our necks as we tried to take it all in.  This bridge is thick and squat, and the

underside is decorated with scraggly petroglyphs.  People have lived here

off-and-on for 9,000 years, including a few Mesa Verde cliff dwellers who

moved over here for a few generations around 1200 AD.  This must have

been a great spot to while away the hottest summer hours back in the days

when air conditioning was unavailable and people entertained themselves

by pecking out images on rock walls.

The steep climbs and descents began to blend together in a

haze of sweaty huffing and puffing as we put one foot in front of

the other and hiked up and down the canyons.

The last bridge in the trio is

Owachomo Bridge.  Where

Kachina Bridge had been thick

and massive, Owachomo was

thin and delicate.

Still mighty at its base, from a

distance the narrow stone

seemed almost wispy as it

soared across the expanse.

As we left Natural Bridges National

Monument we caught a glimpse of the

twin peaks the Indians called "Bears

Ears."   What a perfect name!

Many rock formations, cliffs and mesas

around here often beg to be named

because their shapes are just so

familiar.  The Bicentennial Highway

took us past the Cheesebox and

Jacob's Chair.

Back on the scenic Bicentennial Highway the views really got us excited as we

approached Glen Canyon and the Colorado River.  I was practically jumping up

and down in my seat with excitement as the truck swept around one gorgeous

curve after another.

Mark just puttered along, patiently driving, while I whirled around from side to

side snapping hundreds of photos out the windows.  I even climbed up to sit in

the truck window a few times to get pics over the roof.  It is just that gorgeous!

This section of the road must have

been a huge challenge to construct,

and I kept thinking of Ferd Johnson

from the visitors center back in

Blanding who described living out in

these canyons for over two years

while building the highway and the

bridges across the river.

What a place to work!

We stopped at a scenic overlook after

crossing the river and learned that

when the river was dammed back in the

1960's, the new Lake Powell flooded

not only countless ancient Indian

settlements complete with artifacts,

petroglyphs and other priceless

treasures of humankind, but it flooded

an old mining ghost town as well.  Hite

City had boomed when local miners got

"uranium on the cranium" and started

searching the area for "hot rocks."  Now

the entire town lies underwater.

Back in Blanding, both our welder, Jack, and highway builder Ferd

told us they remembered this canyon vividly from the days before it

was filled with water.  What an event it must have been when the

dam was completed to see the water rise against the cliffs and

transform the landscape.

Eventually the scenery along the Bicentennial Highway simmered

down to downright boring, and I settled down in my seat.  From

Route 95 we turned west onto Route 24, and then the views began

to build yet again.

Swirling patterns filled

the rock landscape.  It

seemed the gods had

gotten their hands

colorfully dirty, messing

around with finger

paints, and then had

smeared their prints

across the rocks.

We approached some

towering pale cliffs and

then found ourselves

deep in the heart of red

rock country.

We had arrived at Capitol Reef National Park.  What a

spot!  The bright green trees, burnt orange rocks and crisp

blue sky made a vivid feast for the eyes.  We happily

agreed to settle in here and explore the area for a while.