A Gateway to Utah’s Outback!

June 2022 – The wonderful slogan on every license plate in Utah is: “Life Elevated.” This refers, of course, to the extraordinary red rock hoodoos, spires and bridges that abound in southern Utah and to the towering mountains that dominate the northern part of the state and also to the overall gorgeousness and good feelings Utah exudes. Our lives are definitely elevated every time we visit the state.

Genesis Supreme toy hauler at Hoover's Rest Area - Life Elevated in Utah

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We have been moving in a northerly direction as the June temps heat up and, as is usual for us, we’ve been staying off the interstates and traveling on country highways and byways instead.

We find these roads are not only more interesting, but are often in better shape than the interstates, and we’ve found we’re much more likely to bump into special places we’ve never heard of before.

Such was the case when we saw a blue sign saying “Rest Area ahead” and decided to turn off to stretch our legs. As we turned into the rest area, we thought we’d stay for 10 minutes at most. A few hours later, we finally pulled out again! It was a beautiful and unusual little spot.

A Rest Area in Utah

Is this a Rest Area or a National Park?

Right next to where we’d parked the rig was a sign, “Please, no overnight camping.” We’ve never seen “Please” on a sign like this before. How unusual!

RV parked at a Rest Area in Utah

No overnight camping…please!

Our trail scout, Buddy, noticed a trail we didn’t even see, and he led us down to a pretty tree-lined stream.

Stream at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

Ahhh…a cool and shady stream!

And then he took us up another short trail that went high up on a bluff where we had views of jagged peaks in all directions. What a spectacular place!

Scenery at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

We had a wonderful view from up on a bluff.

We noticed two spires framing two teepees in the distance. What was that?! We had to go down and find out more!

A Area in Utah with Teepees

Hey, there are teepees down there!

We scrambled down and followed a dirt road that went towards the spires. We hunted around but never did get a very good view of the teepees. However, as we walked along the dirt road, a guy we’d seen unloading his mountain bike from his Lance camper back in the parking area suddenly rode past us. Hmmm….where was he headed?

A few paces further on, we found another towering rock spire that had an old western town of store fronts at its base!

Spire at a Rest Area in Utah

At the bottom of this spire there’s a cool old western town of storefronts.

A babbling brook tumbled over rocks and boulders, making a lovely composition with the western town in the background. Our cameras were going full speed and we were loving it!

Babbling brook and rock spire with western town front

The western town is over the river and through the woods.

The old western town appeared to be on private property, but we still got a good look at it from the road. There was a hotel, a saloon, a mercantile store and a jail — everything you need!

Old western town store fronts at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

A taste of the wild west!

Buddy was having as much fun as we were. He ran all around excitedly, so full of life!

Running pup in Utah

This is one happy pup!

As he zoomed this way and that, we snapped pics of this unique place. A tree was in full bloom with beautiful pink flowers.

Beautiful pink wildflower in Utah

Springtime!

A little further down the road we came across a collection of boulders and stone spires that had a swinging bridge between them.

Swinging bridge at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

This could be fun…but I think I’d like some railings!

One towering rock had metal hand-holds affixed to it so you could climb the rock face without rock climbing gear!

Ladder Rock at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

“Awesome view at the top…Agility and strength required!”

The road crossed a little bridge, and when we got to the other side we heard a side-by-side coming up behind us. The guy sped by and then another side-by-side crossed the bridge behind him.

Side by side crosses bridge at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

A side-by-side followed us over the bridge.

I was snapping photos of the second UTV crossing the bridge when the driver slowed down and stopped next to me. I looked in the door and his passenger was holding a video camera. “We’re YouTubers!” the driver said excitedly.

“Cool! We’re bloggers!” I said. “So, you were filming me as I was taking photos of you!”

He laughed and handed me his card for their channel, Our SxS Adventures with Curt and Charlene. “We’re just getting started with it.”

YouTubers SxS Adventures

YouTubers showed up in blue — out of the blue!

Curt went on to explain that this trail was part of the huge Paiute ATV Trail system and the guy ahead of them was a local guide who was going to show them the best spots. He suggested we grab our RZR and come along with them!

But we’re kinda Slow Road / Picture Taking UTV riders, and we weren’t sure we could keep up. We aren’t adventure side-by-siders at all. We stop all the time on our RZR and we get out every mile or so to take photos. What’s worse, in UTV terms, is that we turn around when the going gets any tougher than pretty flat ground! So, we wouldn’t have been good company for them!

We thanked them for the invitation and followed them up the trail a little ways as they drove off. The view around that bend was stunning!

Beginning of the ATV trail at Hoover's in Utah

How inviting! Where does this trail go??!!

Curt was right. We just had to go back to the trailer and grab the RZR and do one of our slow-poke rides. Thanks for the inspiration, Curt!

This was only our second time unloading the RZR from the back of the toy hauler, so we were really pleased that, unlike the first time, it went smoothly and didn’t take any longer than unloading it from our old flat bed utility bed trailer that we’d towed behind our fifth wheel. Yay!

Walking the trail at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

Lured by the possibilities on that trail, we walked back to get the RZR.

We’d first heard of the Paiute ATV Trail system at the Quartzsite RV Show back in January. A fellow from Piute County came to the show to let folks know about the wonderful ATV/UTV riding all around the county, and I ended up chatting with him for while. We had hoped to ride some of the trail system on this trip but hadn’t figured out exactly where, when or how. This little impromptu intro was perfect!

The theme of dramatic cliffs framing both sides of the trail that we’d glimpsed when we were on foot continued for the first few miles of the ride. It was gorgeous!

ATV trail at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

The trail took us between towering canyon walls.

After a few twists and turns between these fabulous canyon walls, we just had to stop and get out and sniff around (Buddy) and take some photos (us).

ATV trail at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

We’d barely gone a half mile before we stopped and got out!

We were very happy campers!

Happy photographer

I love these kinds of adventures.

Wildflowers and rock cliffs in Utah

A spray of penstemon flowers gave the scene a splash of color.

We continued on with Buddy leading the way on four paws. He’d run ahead and then wait for us or come back to see what was holding up the slow poke grown-ups.

Dog on the ATV trail at Hoover's in Utah

Our trail scout runs back to tell us what’s ahead.

Other folks were out enjoying this beautiful trail too.

UTV on the trail at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

Other side-by-sides were out on the trail too.

A side by side on the ATV trail at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

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A stream ran alongside us and then crossed over the trail in front of us. A water crossing!

It was just a few inches deep and the RZR handled it fine. Again, our cameras urged us to stop the RZR and get out. Further down the trail, we caught sight of a fantastic waterfall. Out we went again!

That’s how we roll in the RZR…ride a little and walk around a bunch!

Photographing a waterfall in Utah

Mark and Buddy check out the stream.

Waterfall at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

The waterfall.

Next to the waterfall was the carcass of a 1950s era car on its side. It was half buried in the dirt and had lost everything but its rusted metal frame long ago. We suspected that kids might have deliberately rolled it over the edge as a lark decades ago. At least, we hoped it was that and not a car crash!

Rusted car frame by a waterfall

Who knows what happened here, but hopefully everyone was okay.

Mark and I were having a ball taking photos in this particular spot where the water splashed vigorously over the rocks. But Buddy isn’t as into photography as we are. He sniffed everything that was sniffable in the area and then laid down for a little rest.

Our pup waits patiently by a waterfall in Utah

Our trail scout took a break while we milled around the waterfall taking photos.

After a while, the trail narrowed and became quite rocky, and the views of exotic rock formations were replaced with thick vegetation on each side. We weren’t sure how much further we’d have to ride before the views returned, and the going was getting rough. So, we decided to turn around, get lunch in the toy hauler and continue down the country highway we’d been on (US-89 south of Sevier).

Right before we got back to the beginning of the trail, we noticed a small building with a paddle wheel deep in the woods. We got out one last time to explore and we spun the wheel for a fun pic. The structure was too new to have been an original paddle wheel from way back when, but it was a neat find.

Paddle wheel at Hoover's Rest Area in Utah

Off the trail, we spotted a small building with a paddle wheel and a flume.

Before leaving the rest area, we visited the restrooms and were impressed at how clean they were. For a lonely spot in the middle of nowhere, I was surprised to see a woman cleaning them. But she disappeared before I could ask her who managed this very interesting place.

We hopped back in the truck and hit the road again all full of smiles. Unexpectedly, our “boring” day of driving had turned into an exciting day of exploring. This little gem will go down in our memories as a sweet mystery deep in Utah’s hinterlands!

Genesis Supreme toy hauler RV in Utah

We’ve found that taking the slow road often brings us gentle adventures that are really fulfilling.

It is unanticipated moments of pleasure like this that are our favorite aspect of this lifestyle. We wake up with one agenda in mind (if any), and within a few hours we’re doing something completely different that’s even better!

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Heavenly Theatrics in Utah’s Red Rocks

September 2019 – We spent a lot of time roaming around in the backcountry of Utah in recent weeks, and some of our best days were when we the skies grew gloomy or when the sun and clouds chased each other across the beautiful vistas.

FB 1200 Light and Shadow in the red rocks of Utah

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Some of the trails and two-track roads we ventured out on started out simply enough.

Backcountry trail in Utah-min

Red rocks beckon in the distance.

And then within a few minutes we’d find ourselves staring at the most amazing view from up on a plateau.

Red rock vista Utah-min

What a view!

Sometimes storm clouds would gather, and we’d notice the patterns they formed in the heavens complemented the patterns of the rock formations on the ground.

Red rocks and clouds Utah-min

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As we would gawk at the mysterious wonder of the beauty before us, Buddy would keep it real and look for chipmunks in the bushes!

Puppy in red rocks Utah-min

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There are vast networks of trails and two track roads through all the Utah National Forests, and the possibility of discovery lured us down one trail after another.

Red rock view from a Polaris RZR in Utah-min

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Cloud formations and red rocks in Utah-min

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On some excursions the dramatic views changed with every turn in the road or trail. Our little Trail Scout would lead the way, but sometimes he’d have to run back to us to see what was taking so long (we’d be busy with our cameras!).

Red rock trail in Utah-min

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Puppy on the trail in the Utah red rocks-min

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Running on a red rock trail in Utah-min

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Shades of orange and red dominated many landscapes, but we found the most curious patch of yellow rocks mixed in with the orange ones in one spot.

Yellow patches in the Utah red rocks-min

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The cloud patterns were astonishing and everchanging. One day, we watched one group of clouds that looked like space ships moving across the sky. It was amazing how these clouds and others seemed to mirror the shapes of the rock formations below.

Crazy clouds in the Utah red rocks-min

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Wild cloud pattern over red rocks in Utah-min

Wow!

Beautiful red rocks in Utah-min

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One afternoon the sun came out and chased the big fluffy clouds all over the sky. The sun spread warmth and light across the hills only to have the clouds sweep everything into darkness for a brief moment. Then the sun would return and embrace the land once again.

Dramatic sky and red rocks in Utah-min

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Light and shadow on red rocks in Utah-min

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Red rocks in Utah light and shadow-min

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Utah red rock cliffs and clouds-min

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Afternoon sun in the Utah red rocks-min

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Utah continues to be our favorite state, and it’s easy to see why: breathtaking views like these are all over the place. It’s no wonder that lots of folks say Utah’s most minor destinations would likely be National Parks if they were located somewhere else!

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A Utah Backcountry Adventure!

September 2019 – We enjoyed several trips into the backcountry area near Capitol Reef National Park during our Utah RV trip.

View from one of the many backcountry roads in Utah.

On each excursion we just loved the sudden transition that came after riding our Polaris RZR through the woods of Fish Lake National Forest when the thick trees cleared and the red rock views of Capitol Reef National Park far below began to come into view.

Running the trails on Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

A backcountry road crosses a meadow in Fish Lake National Forest

Near the top of the woodsy mountains it was very cold, and we all bundled up in winter jackets, even our pup Buddy!

View of Capitol Reef National Park from Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

It’s coooold up here. But between shivers, what a view!

While we drove in our side-by-side behind him, Buddy zoomed down the twisting road ahead of us as the incredible views grew ever larger all around.

Running free near Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The descent had some fabulous views.

Overlook at Capitol Reef National Park from Thousand Lake Mountain Utah-min

View from an overlook.

Storm clouds were brewing overhead, giving the astonishing views a really dramatic flair. As we descended towards the valley floor, we hoped the clouds would clear once we got free of the mountains and out into the red rock desert.

Red rock views looking down at Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

An exhilarating run — with views!

Capitol Reef National Park Utah views during run on Thousand Lake Mountain-min

A new view with every turn.

Running above Capitol Reef National Park Utah Red rock views-min

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Storm and rain over Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Light and shadow.

By the time we got to the bottom, though, the sun had come out and the air had warmed up at least 20 degrees. Buddy shed his jacket but Mark and I hadn’t been running like he had, so we kept our hats, jackets and gloves on a while longer!

Taking a break-min

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The backcountry roads in and around this area go on forever with lots of little off-shoots and detours and diversions along the way. There were signs pointing out different destinations, but we just followed the roads that looked intriguing without a particular destination in mind.

RZR ride in Capitol Reef National Park-min

There are dozens of roads and just as many great destinations.

Lots of rain all summer long had left the valley unusually green. The lush verdant carpet of vegetation around the base of the red rock pinnacles and cliff walls was just wonderful. One especially prominent pinnacle was Solomon’s Temple.

Capitol Reef National Park view-min

First glimpse of Solomon’s Temple.

Pinnacle in Capitol Reef National Park-min

Solomon’s Temple.

As we walked around taking photos, the storm on the horizon seemed to intensify.

Photographing Capitol Reef National Park during backcountry drive-min

This whole area was wonderful for taking photos, especially as the storm rolled in!

Storm in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Rain was falling in the distance.

The backcountry road weaved and twisted and turned as it ran between the pink sandstone hills.

Backcountry road in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The gravel road was very squiggly!

Pink sandstone hills in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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There were storm clouds in every direction by now, and we began to feel droplets of rain here and there. We wanted to keep going, but the clouds were becoming really threatening.

Storm clouds Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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Storm threatens RZR ride in the red rocks-min

Hmmm… those clouds were getting very dark.

Storm clouds descend in Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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Storm clouds Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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We began to head back towards the mountain we’d come over hours earlier, but we noticed that a huge storm was pelting the very place where our road went. Yikes!

As we watched the thick rain cloud gathering steam over the distant hills, we realized it was headed our way.

Arriving storm

A particularly threatening storm cloud hung over the mountain we were returning to.

We looked around and noticed a group of ranch buildings and barns nearby. We ducked into a three sided barn for quick shelter. Luckily, the three walls around and behind us protected us from the approaching tempest.

Waiting out a storm-min

We hid out for cover for a few minutes

While we huddled inside waiting for the storm to blow over, Buddy noticed some rabbits zipping around. He could hear and smell them on the other side of the barn wall. Gosh, did he go crazy over that!

Puppy hears rabbits behind barn wall-min

Buddy passed the time eavesdropping on the rabbits on the other side of the wall

A bunch of old, used horseshoes had been hung on a half wall that formed a pen for smaller animals. How cool!

Horseshoes

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Fortunately, the worst of the storm missed us, and before long the sun had come out again. We made our way back up the switchbacks and over the mountain just in time to see a rainbow crossing our fifth wheel.

Rainbow over fifth wheel RV-min

A beautiful rainbow filled the sky after the storm passed.

The network of backcountry roads around the outside Capitol Reef National Park and in Fish Lake National Forest surrounding the Park is immense, and there are all kinds of interesting things to be seen, whether by 4×4 vehicle, side-by-side, mountain bike or horse!

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Capitol Reef NP – Cathedral Valley – A Stunning Backcountry Drive in Utah!

September 2019 – One day, while enjoying the beautiful lakes and woods of central Utah, we took our RZR up and over a mountain and found ourselves staring down into a world of stunning red rocks: Capitol Reef National Park’s spectacular Cathedral Valley.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah

We took our RZR for a ride in sensational Cathedral Valley — WOW!

The road wound around through the mountain woods and passed a few small ponds and meadows and then branched off on a spur to an overlook. What a fabulous view!

View from a RZR Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The red rock towers of Cathedral Valley beckoned from a distance.

Lookout at Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Buddy looks out at the astonishing view.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Cathedral Valley lay far below us.

In the distance we could see a dirt road crossing the valley floor heading off towards the towering red rock cathedrals.

Road to Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

A road through Cathedral Valley wound towards the pinnacles.

Towers in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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The road descended quickly and made some sharp switch-back turns.

First glimpse Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We got down towards the level of the valley floor.

We stopped on a little promontory and wandered around on a narrow sandy trail. Such views!

View of Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Exotic stone towers seemed to jut up from the desert floor.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah views-min

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We rounded one final hairpin switchback turn and then the view widened. The towering cathedral pinnacles seemed within arm’s reach.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah view-min

“Cathedral Valley” is the perfect name for this place.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah pinnacle framed by tree-min

View through the branches of an old dead tree.

Some of the rock formations were sharp and jagged, while others had a more rounded and softer appearance.

Sandstone towers Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Some rock towers had knife-like edges. Others were softly rounded.

Striped sandstone formations Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Horizontal stripes and undulations

Pinnacles Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Varying shapes and layers.

Once we got down to the valley floor, our little canine trail scout, Buddy, insisted on showing us the way.

Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The views made Buddy want to run run run!

Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

What a place!

We were all alone in a fantastic and desolate land. The sun was warm on our skin and there were exotic red rock cliffs and pinnacles in every direction around us.

RZR side-by-side ride in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Moon unit in a moonscape!

We hopped out of the RZR onto the sandy trail, and down at our feet we noticed that even though we felt like we were alone, there were lots of other creatures enjoying this beautiful place along with us.

Footprints in the desert sand-min

We were not alone out here!

Further down the road a thin wall of pinnacles rose up on one side of us.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

Some pinnacle walls were very sheer.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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At one spot there was a a U-shaped window in the thin wall.

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

The razor’s edge of the cliff wall can be seen in this unique window

Window Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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A little further down the road we saw an old dead tree permanently arched as if blown by a persistent wind.

Old tree in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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As we progressed down the road we had to stop every 100 yards or so to get a closer look. Such beauty absolutely everywhere — it was breathtaking!

RZR side-by-side ride in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We hopped in and out of the RZR a lot. There was just so much to see up close on foot!

Pinnacle peaks Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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The name “Cathedral Valley” is perfect for this area. One formation in particular seemed to have buttresses along the flanks of the cathedral and a steeply pitched roof.

Cathedral buttresses and roofline Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

All it needed was a tall steeple at the far left end!

While Nature has created these fabulous rock formations, ranchers have put their imprint on the land as well. We came across a small wooden building that was used by the cowboys of yesteryear when they brought their cattle to this valley for summer grazing.

There was a hitching post out front and a small corral for their horses off to the side. Inside was a table and set of shelves that held many of the relics that have been found around the property: rusty cans and utensils, bits of pottery, cookware and some leather straps and buckles.

There was a row of hooks on the wall for coats and cowboy hats.

Old cabin and hitching post Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

We found an old cabin cowboys used to use in the summertime.

Window view old cabin Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

It was ultra-simple living out here in this remote land, but I’m sure the cowboys loved it.

Back on the road we savored the views in every direction. While we snapped endless photos, Buddy pranced along on his own four paws.

Pinnacle in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

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Puppy runs in Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah-min

These glorious open spaces make some people want to grab their cameras and other people want to run!

Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah puppy on the trail-min

Working up a thirst!

Water break

Ahhh! A cool water break in the shade!

The back roads through Capitol Reef National Park are open to highway licensed vehicles, bikes, horses and hikers, and they are drivable with a 4×4 passenger vehicle if you take it slowly.

Some parts are narrow, steep, twisty and washboarded, and in a few places the road was covered with fairly deep sand, but we did see a pickup go by. We loved driving in our “little tank” because it is open air, it floats over the bumps and is so easy to hop in and out of.

Side-by-side RZR ride Cathedral Valley Capitol Reef National Park Utah

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This remote back side of Capitol Reef National Park is gorgeous. As with all the National Parks, though, we recommend that first time visitors check out the sights by the front door of the Park at the outset.

After all, visitors centers and major overlooks are always located at the most spectacular spots, and there is much to see along the truly eye-popping Highway 24 “All American Scenic Drive” as it goes through the main part of Capitol Reef National Park before venturing into the Park via this more rough hewn back door!

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Fish Lake Utah – Fun Things To Do in the Lakes and Mountains

September 2019 – The area around Fish Lake is a wonderfully remote corner of Utah that we’ve enjoyed exploring, and the tiny spot that is at the heart of this place is the Fish Lake Lodge.

Fish Lake and Forsyth Reservoir Natural Beauty in Utah

The Fish Lake area of Utah is remote and full of Nature’s wondrous beauty

Fish Lake Lodge is open only during the summer, and we arrived late enough in the season that the fantastic dining room in this decades old log lodge was closed. But we were able to tip-toe into the dining room and take a peak. Wow!

Fireplace in dining room at Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

Fish Lake Lodge has an inviting dining room and very cozy fireplace.

The dining room has a wall of windows that face the lake. Talk about dining with a view!

Dining room in Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

Dinner with a view at Fish Lake Lodge

FIsh Lake reflects in the dining room windows at Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

Outside on the deck, the wall of windows reflects the image of Fish Lake

Built between 1928 and 1933, this historic lodge made from locally harvested spruce logs has hosted travelers for nearly 90 years. Modern day travelers can rent charming lakefront cabins on the property, and RVers can set up camp with full hookups in the RV park.

The deck at Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

Fish Lake Lodge

Exterior of Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

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As we wandered around the outside of the building, we came across an absolutely fabulous old door.

Cool doorway at Fish Lake Lodge Utah-min

What a cool door!

There are lots of trails for hiking, walking and slow strolling in the area around Fish Lake, and every morning Mark took our pup Buddy out for a run.

Running with puppy

Buddy leaps into action — all four paws off the ground — at the start of his morning run with Mark

Buddy just loves his morning run, but his fast pace makes it tough for two footed runners to hang with him.

He likes to start his runs with a steady four minute mile pace, and he doesn’t throttle it back to a five minute mile pace until he’s gotten a mile or two under his belt. Yikes!

Running with puppy-min

Four short legs are a lot faster than two long ones!

My absolute favorite trail in the Fish Lake area is the portion of the miles-long Lakeshore Trail that goes southwest from the Fish Lake Lodge. It winds along the water’s edge for a mostly shady mile or two.

Lakeshore trail through aspen grove Fish Lake Utah-min

Lakeshore Trail heading southwest from Fish Lake Lodge was my favorite.

Buddy loves this trail too. It goes through a beautiful grove of aspen trees and is just wide enough to walk, run or bike comfortably yet stil feel intimate as you progress under the canopy of trees.

Aspen grove on Lakeshore Trail at Fish Lake Utah-min

Some folks run this trail and then have to wait for their slower companions to catch up

Puppy leads the way on Lakeshore Trail at Fish Lake Utah-min

The trail winds along the lake

Along the Lakeshore Trail there are lots of places where you can get down to the edge of the lake. We zipped up and down these short paths, and at one point we found a few aspen trees that beavers had gnawed on. One was even toppled over and had a huge pile of small wood chips next to it!

Beaver chewed aspen tree at Fish Lake Utah-min

Beavers had been busy!

In the middle of the aspen grove, the trees suddenly parted and the trail opened up to the sky. Looking down at our feet we found a wonderful area of rocks, wildflowers and deep puddles where Mother Nature had done some exquisite landscaping.

Mother Nature's landscaping at Fish Lake Utah-min

Beautifully casual landscape designs by Mother Nature

Flowers at Fish Lake Utah-min

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The Lakeshore Trail wanders all along the shores of Fish Lake both north and south of the Fish Lake Lodge, and it is a truly delightful walk.

Pretty view at Fish Lake Utah-min

A nice spot to rest a spell…

Fishing at Fish Lake Utah-min

Pretty in Pink!

Forest shoreline Lakeshore Trail Fish Lake Utah-min

Shoreside view of Fish Lake

In addition to hiking and biking trails, there are also lots of two track motor vehicle trails, and we took our RZR on one two track trail that took us way up into the hills where we got a beautiful view of Fish Lake.

Fish Lake Utah-min

View from a bluff in the hills on a brilliant sunny day which made the water a vivid blue

Horseback riding is very popular around Fish Lake, and there are lots of horse-friendly trails.

Horses preparing for a ride near Fish Lake Utah-min

Horseback riders prepare for a trail ride.

One of the many US Forest Service campgrounds in the area is an equestrian-only campground. This unique campground has solid, well built horse stalls right next to each campsite. Some are single stalls and one can hold four horses! Most of the stalls are well shaded.

However, you can only stay at this campground if you have a horse with you!

Horseback riders near Fish Lake Utah-min

Riding at dawn

There are lots of smaller lakes in the area, and we spent some time at nearby Forsyth Reservoir, both walking and riding the RZR on the wide trails that criss-cross the area.

Forsyth Reservoir Utah-min

Forsyth Reservoir

Trail at Forsyth Reservoir Utah-min

Our little trail scout leads the way down the trail at Forsyth Reservoir

Forsyth Reservoir Utah-min

Our RZR took us high above the lake

Buddy absolutely loves water (but only wading…no swimming!), and he drank freely from a spring that flowed down to the reservoir.

Something about the fresh air, fresh water, and the little beach area brought out his inner puppy, and before we knew it he was doing high jumps!

Puppy jumping-min

Buddy jumps for joy…

Puppy jumps for a stick at the lake-min

…and throws in some dance moves!

Since this is a mountainous area, the weather was highly unpredictable and ranged from really hot to really cold to crystal clear skies to fabulous storm clouds.

Light and shadow with storm clouds Forsyth Reservoir Utah-min

Light and shadow play on the land at Forsyth Reservoir

Rainbow

After the storm…

Puppy watches storm clouds-min

Saying goodnight to the clouds at sunset

RV under stormy skies at sunset-min

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Late one afternoon we were surprised to see an almost full moon rising. We took note of the time, and the next day, about an hour later and a few degrees to the left of where the moon had risen the day before, we watched the full moon rise out of the trees on a distant hillside.

Full moon rises above the trees-min

The moon rises behind the trees on a distant hillside

Full moon rising behind the trees-min (1)

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Full moon rises from the trees-min

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Full moon rises from trees-min

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Full moon at night-min

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We’ve really enjoyed exploring this quiet part of Utah where it’s not uncommon to see deer crossing the highway and herons stalking fish in the lakes. We even had a troop of five elk walked right by our campsite one evening! If your travels take you to central Utah, Fish Lake is worth a detour to see.

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Fish Lake Utah – Alpine Beauty & Brilliant Stars in Dark Skies!

September 2019 – We loved our hike and RZR ride near Red Canyon, Utah, but at 7,500′ elevation it was pretty toasty in the afternoons during summer’s final big heat wave. So we dashed further north and up to an altitude of 9,000′ at Fish Lake, Utah, where the early mornings were downright cold and the night skies were incredibly clear.

Star trails over RV in clear night sky

Star trails over our trailer!

The area around Fish Lake is hilly and filled with babbling brooks, ponds and pretty lakes. The Fishlake Scenic Byway is a twisting and winding route that goes between the villages of Fish Lake and Loa, Utah. The scenery is just gorgeous.

Scenic vista near Fish Lake Utah-min

A pretty lake with a hillside full of yellow wildflowers.

Fish Lake Scenic Drive Utah-min

The Fish Lake Scenic Drive takes in some spectacular views

Stream near Fish Lake Utah-min

We found streams and lakes galore

Views near Fish Lake Utah-min

The hills were full of pines, aspen trees and open meadows

Up in the hills above Fish Lake there is a stand of aspen trees called the Pando Aspen that is thought to be the biggest and oldest single living organism on the planet.

Aspen trees are not individual trees. Each one is connected to its neighbors, and the Pando Aspen is over 100 acres in size and is estimated to be about 80,000 years old!

Pando Aspen Fish Lake Utah-min

At over 100 acres and 80,000 years of age, the Pando Aspen in Fish Lake, Utah, is the largest and oldest single living organism in the world

There are lots of hiking trails and dirt roads to explore in the area around Fish Lake. We drove past the Lakeshore Trailhead and could see a cute little wooden bridge going over a stream in the distance. We just had to check out the wooden bridge, so we circled back and let our pup Buddy lead the way.

Puppy ready to hike the Lake Shore Trail in Fish Lake Utah-min

The little wooden bridge at the start of the trail was too cute to pass up


There were three trails to choose from, and Buddy promptly ran straight uphill into the woods on the trail marked “Crater Lake.”

Of course, this wasn’t THE Crater Lake of Crater Lake National Park fame in Oregon (the upcoming November 2019 edition of our Trailer Life Magazine back page column features one of Mark’s glorious photos of THAT Crater Lake!).

But we were curious what THIS Crater Lake was like. So up we went behind Buddy.

The trail went straight up. Not just a little up, but a whole lotta up and up, and then up some more. We huffed and puffed and kept looking for signs that the summit was just ahead, but the more we hiked into the heavens the less likely it seemed that we would ever get there!

I hate to say it, but we finally had had enough of climbing and decided that since we hadn’t brought any water or prepared for a big hike it was probably best to save the view of this Crater Lake for another time.

Down we came, having seen only woods!!

Hiking Crater Lake Trail near Fish Lake Utah-min

We didn’t make it to Crater Lake, but we got a good hilly workout!

The streams in the area were delightful, and on most hikes and walks we were able to find a stream where Buddy could get a drink and play for a while before we turned around and headed back.

Creek near Fish Lake Utah-min

There are lots of creeks and streams in this area

Stream near Fish Lake Utah-min

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One day he had so much fun sprinting through a stream that he splattered mud on his face. He looked like he had put on makeup or was dressing up as a tiger!

Puppy with mud mascara-min

The mud was flying when Buddy zipped along the riverbanks!

In one spot wer found horses grazing by a stream. Such bucolic scenery!!

Horse grazing in Utah-min

A horse grazes in the middle of a postcard setting

Horses

These horses were very friendly

Buddy found a trio of cows and began talking to them in a very loud voice.

Puppy with cows-min

Buddy gave some cows an earful

Smiling puppy with cows-min

They seemed to take it in stride.

There are lots of dirt roads to explore too, and we headed down one that looked especially inviting. Unfortunately, no sooner had we started than we found the way blocked with huge boulders in front of an old wooden bridge. The bridge was pretty rickety, so that’s probably why the road was closed to vehicles.

End of a RZR ride in Utah-min

Our RZR ride ended when we came to a small bridge that was blocked. So we hiked instead!

No matter. We hopped out of the RZR and walked on the wide dirt road which was now wonderfully free of any kind of traffic.

The road followed a stream that was lined with wildflowers, and I soon realized the theme for this little excursion would be “wildflowers.” They were all kinds of shapes and colors and sizes.

Stream with flowers in Utah-min

The dirt road went alongside a stream.

Pink wildflower in Utah

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Unusual wildflowers in utah-min

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Beautiful noxious weed in Fish Lake Utah-min

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While we snapped pics of the flowers, Buddy ran ahead to scout for chipmunks and squirrels. One squirrel watched him warily from a branch high up on a tree.

Squirrel teases puppy during hike at Fish Lake Utah-min

This squirrel eyed Buddy from the safety of a high branch!

The flowers continued to enchant us as we strolled slowly along the edge of the river, and we were surprised how many were in full bloom so late in the summer season. Then again, we saw leftover winter snow in the nooks and crannies of the mountains, so these flowers had had a long wait for the warm weather to arrive!

Lavender wildflowers Fish Lake Utah-min

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Yellow daisies Fish Lake Utah-min

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Dandelion gone to seed Fish Lake Utah-min

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Yellow wildflowers on Fish Lake Utah hiking trail-min

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Suddenly, we noticed a bush with the familiar spiky leaves of raspberries. And sure enough, there were hundreds of tiny wild raspberries. These weren’t the big cultivated raspberries we all see in the supermarket. There were just a few bumps on each berry. But they were unmistakeably raspberries — and the birds and possibly the bears had been enjoying them.

Wild raspberries near Fish Lake Utah-min

Wild raspberries!

Down at the edge of the lake we found lots of marshy plants growing. A few herons and other waterbirds poked around at the water’s edge.

Weeds at Johnson Valley Reservoir Utah-min

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The weather at Fish Lake is unpredictable, and on several afternoons storm clouds gathered overhead and we could see rain falling in the distance.

One afternoon the clouds turned black while the sun shone through beneath them, making for a fantastically dramatic image.

Dramatic scenery at Fish Lake Utah-min

A wildly stormy sky heralded the start of an intense summer storm!

No sooner had I taken that photo than the heavens opened up. Hail the size of peas fell in torrents!

Hail storm at Fish Lake Utah-min

Hail pounded the lake

Almost as soon as it had started, the tempest ended and the sun came out. But the evidence of the hail storm was plain to see on our patio mat.

Hail on an RV patio mat-min

The sun came out right after the storm, but the hail stuck around for a little while

After a few days of afternoon monsoon storms, the skies cleared and we had sunshine all day every day. Late one evening Mark headed out the door and then dashed back in: “You wouldn’t BELIEVE the Milky Way!” he said.

We both grabbed our cameras and ran outside.

The MIlky Way was as bright as could be and was coming right down on top of our rig!

Milky Way over an RV in a clear night sky-min

We caught the Milky Way AND a shooting star over our rig!
(The shooting star is the thin line to the right of the Milky Way)

Milky Way with an RV night sky astrophotopraphy-min

The Milky Way came right down to our rig!

Luck was with us, and for the next few nights there was no moon in the early evening and the sky was completely clear of clouds.

One night we headed down to the edge of the lake with our gear and caught the Milky Way as it fell towards the lake.

Milky Way Fish Lake Utah-min

We drove out to the edge of the lake to get some shots of the Milky Way diving towards the water

Remote parts of Utah are known to have wonderfully dark skies, and the above photo shows just how easy it is for artificial lights to affect the magic. The yellow glow in the lower right part of the image is from just a handful of buildings behind the hill.

Mark took out his 12 mm fisheye lens and got some neat effects.

Milky Way Fish Lake Utah-min

A fisheye lens view

Milky Way Johnson Valley Reservoir Utah-min

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When we got back to our rig we noticed that the Big Dipper was right above it.

Big dipper over RV-min

The Big Dipper was right over our trailer

The Big Dipper can be used to locate the North Star which sailors and outdoor adventurers have used to navigate for ages. The North Star is in line with the last two stars in the bowl part of the Big Dipper.

Big dipper over RV with outline-min

The Big Dipper can be used to find the North Star

As I lined up the stars to find the North Star, I suddenly realized that this might be a perfect time to do a “star trails” photo.

It’s a little tricky to conceptualize, but as we stand on the earth and it rotates around its north-south axis, the stars in the sky appear to rotate around the North Star.

This reminded me of when I was a little girl and I used to spin around in a small room in our house with my head thrown back as I stared up at a light fixture in the ceiling. I would spin and spin while staring at that light fixture, and then when I stopped the whole world would keep spinning. I’d try to take a step and would promptly fall on the ground, totally dizzy, and crack up laughing. I thought this was hilariously funny and would do it over and over again!

Well, such is the silliness of a six year old girl making herself hopelessly dizzy. But now, many decades later, the star trails effect over our trailer was sensational.

I set the camera up on the tripod and left it to take a photo of the stars on a 14 mm lens for an hour at f/2.8 and ISO 64. When I tiptoed back out in the black of night and felt my way back to the tripod (without bumping into it or knocking it over!), I was thrilled with the image I saw on the back of the camera:

trails

Star trails!

Fish Lake is popular among fishermen and hunters, but it isn’t high on the list for other travelers. However, if you are looking for a quiet spot that is 20 miles away from the nearest real town (of 400 people), a place where there’s precious little internet access but lots of nature everywhere, consider putting Fish Lake, Utah, on your itinerary!

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Red Canyon – Arches Trail – Windows & Hoodoos in Utah!

August 2019 – Red Canyon in Utah is a little jewel that lots of folks miss in their excited rush to get to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park. But we’ve loved our visits there, and this time around we decided to hike the Arches Trail.

Arches Trail in Red Canyon Utah

Some of the windows seen on Arches Trail in Red Canyon Utah

Arches Trail is a half mile long loop trail, but there are so many offshoots and overlooks and fun nooks and crannies to explore that it can take well over an hour to savor it all.

When we got to the fork where the loop begins and ends, our pup Buddy and I headed one way while Mark headed the other. It wasn’t on purpose. We were all so busy looking around that we didn’t even notice we’d split up!

Buddy and I went to the right, and in no time we were doing a steep scramble. Buddy was already on all fours, but I nearly joined him on my hands and knees!

I looked up from my scramble for a moment and saw a fabulous arch in front of me.

Big arch Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

Way above me I saw an arch that was eerily familiar!

When I got closer to the arch I suddenly had a feeling of déjà vu. Mark and I had been in this exact spot many years ago (blog post here).

It had been late afternoon when we got up here back in August 2011, and the sky had suddenly gone black just as we got to this spot. A monsoon thunderstorm had chased us down off the trail and we had barely made it out before the deluge!

Big arch Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

The last time I saw this arch, it framed a big black threatening cloud!

Buddy and I decided to head down and see what Mark was up to, and I wanted to share this memory I’d suddenly had. How funny that neither of us had recognized the trail or the trail name at the start. I guess we’ve seen a lot in all these years of full-time travel!

Mark had gotten a beautiful starburst photo of the sun peeking around the edge of a red rock cliff.

Starburst in the red rocks-min

Morning light on the Arches hiking trail

As we continued on the trail all together, we started hunting for arches. We had heard that there are 15 arches on this trail.

We passed a mysterious stone structure that had a very rough roof made of loose logs. Buddy ran over to inspect it. “This is an arch, isn’t it?” He seemed to ask.

Stone building Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

What’s in here?? Hey, does this count as an arch?!

Not quite. The arches on this trail were supposed to be hewn by nature’s powerful forces of wind and water and not by human hands.

Mark discovered a ponderosa pine tree trunk that was marvelously twisted.

Twisted ponderosa pine tree Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

A fantastically twisted ponderosa pine tree trunk

The hike went up and up, so whether you did the loop clockwise, like we were doing, or counter-clockwise, there’s a bit of climbing involved.

Hiking up Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

Up, up, up!!

Mark and Buddy found a cave. It didn’t quite count as an arch, but it was cool.

Cave on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

This cave is almost an arch…

The trail got so steep that a set of stairs had been installed to make it a little easier to climb. How handy!

Stairs on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

A convenient stairway alleviated the scrambling.

Puppy on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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Finally we got up to the top where the views went on forever in every direction.

View from the top of Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

Ahhh… it was worth the climb. What a pretty view at the top!

Views on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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Red rocks and green meadows Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

We loved the contrast of the red rocks around us and the green open land beyond

We wandered off to see the views and soon found ourselves on opposite sides of the canyon.

Across the canyon on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

Hello..ello..ello..ello!!!

Across the canyon on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

I hear you-oo-oo-oo!

I wandered over to one edge where we had a good view of the Losee Canyon wash. Just at that moment a group of horseback riders appeared walking down the wash.

Forest red rocks and a wash on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

Way far down in the wash we noticed a horse trail ride underway.

Horses and riders Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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Horses in a wash near Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

What a fun ride!

Trail rides are popular in this area, and there are rides of various kinds to all kinds of pretty places.

We continued our hike, wandering down little mini trails off the main path. It was fun to scramble up to higher heights and get pics of the vast landscape. What a place!

Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah Hike-min

Such an incredible landscape!

Suddenly, we rounded a bend and came across a row of giant chess pieces.

Pinnacles on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

A row of hoodoos appeared in front of us!

Pinnacle on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

Each hoodoo pinnacle had its own personality.

These hoodoos were standing very close together and touching each other here and there, forming interesting arches and windows in between them.

Windows on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

We checked out the hoodoo windows while Buddy checked out the chipmunk in a tree.

Pinnacle in an arch on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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Tree in an arch on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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Window on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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At this point we we’d lost count of the arches we’d seen, but we just loved these funny people-like hoodoos.

Chess piece pinnacle on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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Red rock hoodoos Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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The trail wandered around, clinging to the red gravel hillside and luring us on into the ever-changing scenery.

Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah in the morning-min

We were loving Arches Trail

Hiking trail Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

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Buddy sprinted ahead while we took baby steps behind him, entranced by our surroundings. He zipped up and down and in and out while we progressed at a snail’s pace. Every so often he’d stop for a while and wait for us to catch up.

Running puppy on Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah-min

Buddy sprints down the trail…

Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah puppy pause-min

…and then waits for us to catch up

Finally we scrambled down from the highest heights and back to the trailhead. What a wonderful morning this had been!

Arches Trail Red Canyon Utah hiking-min

We’d seen arches of all kinds, even an arbor arch at the end!

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Casto Canyon Trail – A Delightful ATV / UTV Ride!

August 2019 – When we were casting about on the internet to find beautiful places to ride our Polaris RZR side-by-side, we came across a claim that Casto Canyon in Utah is one of the top 10 ATV trails in the country. Wow!! We had to go!

Casto Canyon ATV and UTV trail ride in a Polaris RZR-min

Casto Canyon is a gorgeous ATV / UTV / hiking / biking and horseback riding trail

Casto Canyon (there is no “r” in the word “Casto” ) is located on the back side of spectacular Red Canyon, a unique collection of red and pink hoodoo pinnacles that acts as a warmup show for visitors heading to Bryce Canyon National Park.

We eagerly hopped into our RZR and hit the two track trail.

Two track trail across a wash in Casto Canyon Utah-min

Casto Canyon Trail is a two-track trail that follows the route of a huge wash.

The Casto Canyon ATV trail follows a wash that winds through the canyon and criss-crosses it repeatedly. In no time we had a view that totally warranted that “Top 10” designation we’d read about.

Casto Canyon ATV trail goes alongside a wash in Utah-min

After just a few minutes we were in the middle of a gorgeous red rock canyon.

Our little Buddy ran along ahead of us in his usual role as Trail Scout and sprinted down the two track trail as it ducked back into the woods.

Casto Canyon trail goes through the woods for a while-min

The trail wandered between the wash and the woods, perfect for a puppy prance.

Two track ATV trail in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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The Casto Canyon trail parallels the wash and hops back and forth across it repeatedly. We had the whole canyon to ourselves, and the rising sun felt warm on our skin each time we emerged into the wash from the deep shade in the woods..

Red rock pinnacle and puppy in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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Red rock pinnacle on Polaris RZR ride in Casto Canyon Utah an ATV : UTV trail copy

The red rock hoodoo pinnacles rose up around us.

Red rock pinnacles in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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The Casto Canyon ATV trail crosses a wash many times-min

The Casto Canyon wash is very wide and quite deep. What a rush it must be when it floods!

UTV Polaris RZR ride in Casto Canyon Utah-min

The trail crossed the wash many times.

Casto Canyon Trail is only 5.5 miles long, but we took our time, riding a few hundred yards and then stopping to take pics and explore on foot. At first, the shadows were long and deep, but gradually the sun rose higher and the shadows crept back towards the base of each tree and red rock hoodoo.

Sunrise in the red rocks of Casto Canyon Utah-min

Early morning was a great time to explore this canyon.

Red rocks through the trees in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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Casto Canyon Trail is a multi-use trail that is open to horses, hikers, bikers and motorized vehicles. It would be possible to ride it on a bike, but we knew we’d be jumping on and off our bikes a lot to walk through the more difficult patches.

Casto Canyon ATV trail in Utah winds in and out of a wash-min

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As we explored the fringes of the trail, our gaze was drawn both down to our feet where delicate flowers were in bloom and up high above us where the red rock spires reached towards the sky.

Flowers in Utah-min

Pretty flowers were blossoming here and there.

Red rock crack in Casto Canyon Utah-min

Such fantastic shapes!

At last we came to an intersection with Barney Cove Trail. This spot marks the end of the dramatic red rocks lining the sides of the wash and the trail. Buddy decided it was time for a rest!

End of Casto Canyon at Barney Cove and Fremont Trail junction-min

We stopped for a break when the Casto Canyon trail intersected the Barney Cove Trail

Suddenly we heard the sounds of a motor in the distance, and then an ATV appeared on the trail ahead of us. The driver stopped and took a break while he waited for his companions behind him.

It turned out that he and his friends were on a 12 day long 300 mile ATV adventure. They had already covered 100 miles in the first four days and they had another 200 miles to go.

They were carrying all their gear on their four wheelers, from tents, clothes and food to drinking water and gas for the ATVs. They were staying on or near the trail in the wilds the whole time, and they were having a blast.

As we watched him and his buddies ride off down the trail behind us, we agreed that they were probably about to see the most beautiful scenery of their whole trip.

ATV on 300 mile journey on Paiute Trail and Casto Canyon Trail-min

A group of ATVs passed us. They were 100 miles into a 300 mile multi-day trip!

Nearby, we found a trickle of a stream flowing. The wash is enormously wide with steep eroded dirt walls that have been carved by blasts of rushing water in some places. But at the moment, in mid-August, there was just a dribble of water here and there, likely from the recent afternoon monsoon storms.

Creek in Casto Canyon red rocks in Utah-min

Recent monsoons had left a dribble of water in a few spots.

We continued a little further on Casto Canyon Trail. Casto Canyon is a narrow trail and we were glad we had a skinny trail model RZR when we squeezed through one tight spot.

Narrow passage on Casto Canyon ATV trail Utah-min

There were some tight spots on this narrow trail.

The trail got rougher as we went along, and the most stunning red rock scenery fell behind us. So, we turned around and headed back. The sun was much higher now, and with the different lighting and in direction the views were all new.

Casto Canyon Utah AtV UTV trail through a wash-min

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View in Casto Canyon on the ATV - UTV trail-min

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The size of the red rock canyon walls is hard to comprehend, but the size of the trees gives a hint.

Green tree in the red rocks of Casto Canyon Utah-min

A big tree snuggles up to the base of a red rock canyon wall.

RZR ride on Casto Canyon ATV - UTV trail in Utah-min

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Even as tall and rugged as the red rock hoodoos were, we kept finding dainty little things down at our feet. We were immersed in Nature’s wondrous beauty.

Morning shadows in red rock country-min

Not only were the towering hoodoos eye catching, we found beautiful things at our feet!

The trail twisted and turned around berms on the edge of the canyon on our way back.

Woods and red rocks in Casto Canyon Utah-min

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Two track trail in Casto Canyon for ATV UTV Horses and hiking-min

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The red rock hoodoos stood cheek-by-jowel on the edges of the wash, each one covered with horizontal stripes. When we turned one corner, we noticed a red rock hoodoo that had slipped on its foundation and was lying at an angle. Cool!

Casto Canyon trail in Utah follows a wash through the red rocks-min

The hoodoos sported horizontal stripes.

Tumble down red rock pinnacle Casto Canyon Utah-min

One of the hoodoos had slipped and fallen!

Even if you don’t own an ATV or small UTV, Casto Canyon is a true delight to explore. The views begin within the first few hundred yards, so even a short out-and-back hike is rewarding. If you are comfortable riding (or walking) a bike across multiple washes filled with loose sand and gravel, Casto Canyon would also be lovely to experience from the seat of a bike.

Casto Canyon ATV trail follows a was through a red rock canyon-min

What a fun morning this was!

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Cedar Breaks Wildflowers + Stunning Brian Head Overlook

August 2019 – One of the things that Cedar Breaks National Monument in southern Utah is most known for is the brilliant display of wildflowers that happens in mid-July and early August.

Wildflowers at Cedar Breaks plus Brian Head Utah-min

Summer wildflowers at Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah

The overlooks at Cedar Breaks are stunning, of course, and well worth the trip to go see.

Amphitheater at Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

Cedar Breaks National Monument – WOW!

Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

Stunning red rock views at Cedar Breaks

Storm clouds over Cedar Breaks National Monument-min

Monsoon clouds over Cedar Breaks

The wildflowers, however, are out of this world. They aren’t everywhere, but we found them in thick pockets here and there. They were especially dramatic on a hillside along the highway on the back side of the Monument. What a gorgeous and colorful meadow!

Wildflowers on a hillside Dixie National Forest Utah-min

Hillside full of wildflowers at Cedar Breaks.

Texture and color in field of wildflowers in Utah-min

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Field of summer wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min

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Soft, undulating shades of lavender filled the hillside, and we wandered among the flowers for a long time admiring the blanket of pastel hues.

Purple wildflowers near Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

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Cedar Breaks National Monument Wildflowers in Utah-min

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Hillside of summer wildflowers Dixie National Forest Cedar Breaks Utah-min

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Little sprigs of red Indian Paintbrush were visible here and there. What a lovely contrast to the purple flowers and green grass all around.

Hillside of summer wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min

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Indian paintbrush and purple wildflowers-min

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Field of wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min

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Indian paintbrush and wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min

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Red and purple wildflowers in Utah-min

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Summer wildflowers Dixie National Forest Utah-min

A red paintbrush in a canvas of purple flowers

Over the years, when we’ve chatted with other travelers about this area, they’ve often asked us, “Did you go to Brian Head?”

Well, “Brian Head” is the name of a ski resort near here, and after hearing so much about Brian Head we made a special trip to the ski resort years ago. It was an interesting place, but didn’t impress us as being some kind of magical “must see” spot.

This year, while we were out and about, we noticed a sign at the start of a dirt road that said: “Scenic Vista.” This sounded promising!

The road wound around and climbed up a steep ascent. At the top, we realized we were at Brian Head — the Brian Head everyone had been talking about!

Brian Head is a knoll at an elevation of over 11,300 feet, and it offers a commanding view of the surrounding area. Back in the 1930s the CCC built a stone monument for visitors at the top.

Stone building at the Brian Head overlook in Utah-min

At the Brian Head overlook there is a stone building built by the CCC in the 1930s

Stone building at Brian Head Utah-min

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There are a few trails that take you to various views, and they were all terrific. But the most dramatic was the one overlooking the amphitheater of Cedar Breaks National Monument in the distance.

Puppy looks at Cedar Breaks National Monument from Brian Head-min

The red rocks of Cedar Breaks glow in the distance.

We had arrived on a blustery late afternoon during the “golden hour” just before sunset, and the red rocks of Cedar Breaks were lit with a magical glow.

Cedar Breaks National Monument as seen from Brian Head-min

What a cool view of Cedar Breaks!

From this perspective we could see how the Cedar Breaks amphitheater was cut right out of the side of the mountain. How totally cool!

Cedar Breaks National Monument from Brian Head-min

Cedar Breaks seen from Brian Head

There are several hiking trails around Cedar Breaks National Monument, and the Alpine Pond Loop Trail is where lots of wildflowers hang out. However, it is not pet-friendly. So we walked the dog friendly trail between the main overlook, Point Supreme, and Sunset View quite a few times, and we found lots of wonderful flowers in bloom.

Some of them seemed to have been carefully arranged by a divine hand.

Nature's flower arrangement-min

I looked down and saw this awesome little flower arrangement right at my feet

Natural landscaping with wildflowers-min

Nature’s handiwork

Columbine wildflowers-min

A pair of columbines

Yellow wildflower in Utah-min

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Bee on a flower-min

A busy bee

Indian Paintbrush with a log-min

Mother Nature’s arrangement of Indian Paintbrush with a log in the background

Puppy checks the wildflowers-min

Buddy checks out some flowers

On our RZR rides in the area, I had noticed a clump of purple flowers nestled against a triangular rock. I had a hunch they would be especially pretty at sunset, so I headed out one evening to take a pic. I wasn’t disappointed — what a beautiful flower arrangement Mother Nature had made!

Wildflowers in Dixie National Forest Utah-min

This cluster of flowers looked so cool during the day I returned at sunset to capture them with a pretty sky

As the days went by, some types of flowers began to fade while others began to bloom. Patches of bright yellow flowers appeared here and there.

Yellow and purple wildflowers near Cedar Breaks National Monument Utah-min

When one group of flowers faded another bloomed. Yellow flowers appeared after a few days.

Hill coveed with wildflowers in Dixie National Forest Utah-min

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We met lots of different folks who came to the area to see the exotic red rocks at Cedar Breaks, but we also came across a few travelers who were visiting at this time specifically to see the wildflowers too.

Indian Paintbrush-min

Indian Paintbrush

If you decide to put Cedar Breaks National Monument on your travel itinerary, be sure to get to Brian Head, the “real” Brian Head!

And if you go in mid-summer, keep an eye out for Nature’s handiwork in the colorful wildflower displays all around.

Columbine wildflowers-min

Columbine

Purple wildflowers in Dixie National Forest Utah-min

A soft blanket of flowers

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The Day the Sheep Moved In!

August 2019 – Our favorite thing about our unusual lifestyle is that we never know what will happen next. One day this week when we were driving home after a day of exploring, we were surprised to see a huge truck with a ramp parked in the middle of the road, blocking the way ahead of us.

Unloading sheep in Utah-min

We turned down a normally quiet dirt road to find a huge truck blocking our way.

It turned out that a bunch of folks were unloading a whole ton of sheep to graze in the meadow!

There were several big livestock trailers parked all around, and the guys began fitting the ramp to the second story of the truck in front of us.

The sheep were stacked in two layers in the trailer!

Unloading sheep in utah-min

The guys connected the ramp to the upper level of the livestock trailer.

We heard a commotion in the upper deck of the trailer, and then a sheep headed down the ramp. The rest followed right behind!

Sheep comes down loading ramp in Utah-min

After some confusion in the trailer, stomping of hooves and banging around, a sheep appeared and headed down the ramp.

Sheep come down loading ramp in Utah-min

Soon dozens of sheep were running down the ramp.

We watched in amazement as the sheep came down the ramp. They just kept on coming and coming — dozens and dozens of sheep. Some even jumped when they got to the bottom!

Sheep jumps off loading ramp in Utah-min

Some of them leaped to freedom at the end of the ramp!

I don’t know what made them jump, but quite a few took a flying leap off the bottom of the ramp.

Sheep jumps off loading ramp in Utah-min

Weeee!

Sheep jumps off loading ramp in Utah-min

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Then they all trotted around to the quickly filling field to start grazing with all their friends.

Unloading sheep to pasture in Utah-min

The sheep continued running once they hit the grass and quickly joined the rest of the herd grazing.

Grazing sheep in Utah-min

Ahhh… There’s nothing like tall lush grass!

The family that owned the herd was very friendly and explained that the sheep had originally belonged to the granddad who had driven one the of the trucks in. His son had purchased the herd from him years ago and continued the family tradition of raising sheep for meat and wool.

We talked a little about the meat and wool markets and were impressed when we learned that they have found a happy wool buyer in the US government. Some of the new military uniforms are going to be made from wool, in a nod to the uniforms and military of yesteryear, and the sheep we were looking at would be providing it!

The herd had almost 2,000 mamas along with all their babies from this spring, and the sheep had been moved from a mountain grazing area down the highway to this area. The family had obtained a sheep grazing permit from the US Forest Service and planned to keep them in these meadows until late October or early November.

We were fascinated listening to all this, but Buddy was much more interested in their dogs. They all made a quick round of introductions.

The dog sniff-min

As we talked to the sheep herding family, the dogs made their own introductions

These were working dogs, and they had different jobs according to their breeds.

The three or four border collies and a red heeler mix were the ones who helped round up the herd and head it in a particular direction. The four Great Pyrenees were the sheep dogs who lived with the herd, 24/7, and protected them from coyotes, mountain lions, and other predators.

Dog friends-min

The border collies and a red heeler mix were there for sheep crowd control

Dog friends-min

The four Great Pyrenees dogs were there to protect the sheep from predators.

When we were in Buffalo, Wyoming, two years ago, we took part in a huge celebration of the Basque sheep herders who had settled that area over a century ago.

Descendants of the original Basque families paraded down the main street of town and a bunch of sheep wagons that the shepherds of the late 19th and early 20th century lived in all summer long were on display (blog post here).

Sheep herder trailer-min

The shepherds’ little trailers reminded us of the historic Basque sheep wagons we’d seen in Buffalo, Wyoming two years ago.

Unlike cattle that are more or less left to their own devices to wander around their grazing areas in the National Forests and on BLM land, sheep are watched over quite closely.

There is a long tradition of the Basques and others living in small wagons or trailers out in the fields with the sheep. Over in Ketchum, Idaho, we had learned that Peruvian sheep herders had had such a big operation there in the 1920s that Ketchum was the second biggest wool producer in the world at the time, behind Sydney, Australia!

Nowadays the shepherding job is hired out. Peruvian shepherds are brought in each summer on special visas to live with the sheep as they graze. Being accustomed to high altitude living, the Peruvians are probably more comfortable living at 10,000 feet for months at a time than many other folks would be, although a new friend of ours in town said there are help wanted ads for shepherds in the local paper. For anyone looking, this could be a cool summer job!

The trailers they live in are very simple and are reminiscent of the historic Basque sheep wagons we had seen in Wyoming. Staying out in the meadows until late October, they must experience overnight temperatures in the 20s for the last few weeks, so the little smoke stacks on the trailers made lots of sense and were reminiscent of the smoke stacks for the woodstoves we’d seen on the Basque sheep wagons!

Shepherd trailers and sheep-min

The shepherds take their trailers to a campsite where they can watch over the flock.

That night it poured cats and dogs and was very cold. As we snuggled under layers of blankets and piled blankets on top of Buddy too, we thought about the thousands of sheep and the sheepdogs sleeping out in the fields. Brrrr!

The next morning we woke up to the ba-a-a-ah sounds of sheep grazing all around us. What a sight!

We also kept hearing bells! We looked around to see if the shepherds were ringing bells and then realized that a few sheep had bells on their necks, undoubtedly to make it easier to locate the herd when they wandered off.

Grazing sheep in the morning sun-min

What a surprise it was too look out our window at dawn and see hundreds of sheep!

Bell on a sheep-min

A few of the sheep wore bells, and we could hear them coming!

Buddy was as fascinated by our new neighbors as we were. What a crazy scene this was!

Suddenly, he went nuts and ran across the field in an all out sprint. He had seen one of the Great Pyrenees dogs and was overjoyed!

We had tried to explain to Buddy that these are all working dogs, not playmates, and that they were on the clock. But he figured any dog out in his yard was fair game to be a fun playmate.

Dog friends border collie mix and Great Pyrenees-min

Buddy was excited to see the Great Pyrenees he’d met the day before.

Despite their huge size difference, this particular sheepdog took a liking to Buddy and they hung out together for a while.

When we’d first come across the trailer loads of sheep the day before, I had asked the family how the herding dogs and sheep dogs learned their jobs and what kind of training they did to teach them to herd or to protect the flock. The gal I was chatting with shrugged and said, “It’s instinct. We don’t train them. The puppies learn their jobs from the older dogs.”

Dogs watching sheep-min

Keeping an eye on the sheep.

Well, we soon discovered that the instinct does run deep, even in a mixed breed pup.

The presence of all these sheep began to inspire Buddy’s inner herding instinct. We don’t know his exact breed — undoubtedly he’s a mix of at least four or five different kinds of dogs — but our little pup has a huge talent for running.

Dog watches sheep-min

Buddy felt his inner herding instincts calling.

Before we could stop him, Buddy decided to try his hand at moving the sheep.

Dog chases sheep-min

And he was off!

Dog chases sheep-min

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Rounding up sheep with a dog-min

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Sheep roundup with a dog-min

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Our jaws dropped as he expertly got them all to head in one direction up the hill. He was really good for a roockie!

Once he had cleared the field of all but a few stragglers, we noticed a Great Pyrenees dog head lying low in the flowers and grass. The dog had watched the whole thing from a front row seat! He seemed as impressed as we were.

Sheep dog in the grass with sheep-min

“Good job, young fella!”

Later in the day the flock returned. They were like a giant lawn mower moving across the grass. The field was full of very stinky white flowers, and we hoped the sheep would find them particularly tasty!

Sheep grazing in Utah-min

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Grazing sheep in Utah-min

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Sheep in Utah-min

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Sheep looks back-min

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One of the Peruvian shepherds emerged from the woods to have a look at the flock. We waved and then he disappeared back into the trees.

Shepherd on horseback-min

The shepherd kept an eye on the flock from a distance on horseback.

I had learned the day before that the Great Pyrenees dogs literally live with the sheep their whole lives.

When they are mere puppies they are put into the middle of the flock with the sheep and the older sheepdogs, and they live all together from then on.

Great pyrenees sheepdog with a flock of sheep-min

The Great Pyrenees dogs kept an eye out for any threats to their sheep companions.

Sure enough, out in the flock we saw three of the Great Pyrenees milling around with the sheep. They barked to each other and all gathered together for a few minutes when they saw us, and they approached us as a group. Once they recognized us and realized we weren’t a threat they disbanded and went their separate ways.

Great Pyrenees sheepdog oversees his flock of sheep-min

On patrol.

It was fascinating watching these dogs moving among the sheep.

Great Pyrenees sheepdog with a sheep-min

The Great Pyrenees take their protective role seriously. They know the sheep and their ways very well!

The Great Pyrenees dog that had befriended Buddy earlier broke away from the dog pack and came over to visit.

Dog buddies-min

Buddy was delighted to make friends with his favorite of the Great Pyrenees.

They sniffed each other and hung out for a while. And then Buddy ran back to our trailer, grabbed his favorite sandal and began running around with it. He really wanted to play with his new friend.

Playful puppy with Great Pyrenees sheepdog-min

Buddy wanted to play with his favorite sandal that he found while we were out hiking a few months ago.
The sheepdog was intrigued but didn’t really get into the game.

Even though the bigger dog wasn’t really into playing, the two new friends bonded anyway.

What a special encounter this was for all of us!

Dog friends Great Pyrenees and border collie mix-min

We never know what we’ll find on the less traveled roads of this beautiful country, but we always make interesting new friends!

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