This State is amazing – we love it. It is a Pinder Paradise with so much natural beauty & very few cities. Chock full of rocks in a kaleidoscope of colour. We are trying to squeeze in as many of the National Parks as we can, but there are so many. We exit Colorado, and enter Utah - routes planned. Fingers crossed for continuing sunshine.
We turn off the Highway to take the scenic route - & boy is it that. First the ghost town of Cisco, then follow the Colorado River along yet another stunning gorge, all the way to Moab. We see lots of rafts on the river & decide we will have a go. We book our trip & try to find a camp spot in one of the numerous camping areas beside the river. But it is Saturday & they are all full. So we head along a side road & find a free spot where rock climbers head out to climb the Castle. The next morning we have time for another scenic drive through the La Sal Mountain National Forest before arriving in Moab for our raft trip.
We have a blast. The river is pretty full & brown, so not really white water rafting, but we get a few fun rapids, a fabulous lunch & John swims (as John does!) in the river. Back in town at 4pm we decide we have time to explore Dead Horse State Park – really just a series of outlooks with only a few short walks – but it does look good in the evening light (see photos), before we find a spot on some BLM land (our favorite kind of camp spot – free)
Today is huge. Not one, but two large National Parks. Exhausting!! We head in to Canyonlands National Park by 7am (we did camp just down the road) and spend the next few hours or so driving the scenic roads & doing lots of the hikes. It is as usual spectacular (see photos). After a late lunch we decide to head in to the incredibly popular Arches National Park. Even more scenic driving and lots more walks – and it is getting pretty hot. After lots of arches I am pretty pooped (John is never pooped!!) We leave by 8pm. Dinner in Moab. We can’t be bothered leaving so stay in the restaurant carpark for the night.
Time to head off - There is still more to see & do here, but we are out of time on this trip. Moab is just that kind of place, rather like Queenstown in NZ. We head north to the motorway, west & then turn & head southwest to Hanksville. Next destination – Capitol Reef National Park. Yet another WOW! More magic driving & more walking (Phew) There is a scenic drive inside the park that deteriorates in to dirt – we had planned to go that way, but were warned at the ranger station that the road was pretty slushy & there were flash flood warnings out for tonight, so we turn around when the tarseal ends & head back out. The camp ground is full – so it is BLM land just outside the national park tonight. Quite a few tents there too!
Another day, another park. Today’s one is Escalante. But first a drive through wet misty mountains. Stop at all the lookouts and then at Boulder. The local café has their Wifi code pinned to the wall, so we make use of it to catch up. While we are there one of the many who stop to chat highly recommends the Burr Track in to Escalante – so we head in. The first part is sealed & we wind through another great red gorge. Then on past more multihued hills. When the seal ends we decide to carry on! First down a set of very tight hairpins & then on into a river valley. Here we find the mud. John checks it out – it looks OK. Into 4x4, and off we go. There are signs of flooding everywhere. Even our walk comes to an abrupt end with a river in full flow. We make it out & head down to Lake Powell – there is a ferry, but too late today, so after exploring Bullfrog (which really is a huge marina) we head to the free camping beach. Great views & a great fire. Just going to sleep when a storm rolls in - and what a beauty!! Flashes of lightening that turn night into day, wind gusts that shake us about (those poor tents get a battering) & then heavy rain. The next morning the red dirt is extremely sticky. Just walking around I grow a few inches with layers of mud. We put GR2 into 4x4 again – it was dirt road access into the camping area – and we have a ferry to catch.
Ferry! What ferry. It has broken down – it will be the long drive for us. Fortunately we don’t have to go back through Escalante – that road would be impassable after the storm. More red rock canyons before following the White River to where it reaches Natural Bridges National Park – yes we are overlapping our route when there are so many roads to choose from!! Back down the Moki Dugway, on through Mexican Hat, pass Monument Valley & on to the other end of Lake Powell. A huge driving day – we finish right on the waterfront at Lone Rock Beach, with lots of other campers. A great spot.
Stay longer than usual – just chilling out on the beach. John goes swimming of course. Lots of ski boats are out. Anyway time to make a move. First stop the dam to go on an excellent tour. Our plan is to head back in to Escalante to explore a bit more (but all the roads are dirt). All enquiries we make are negative. The roads will be pretty wet & chewed up. We decide instead to head to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as it is pretty close. Yes I know that is Arizona – but we will be returning to Utah. When we visited the States with the kids many years ago we did the South Rim – so this will be different. We head off! It’s a long drive so we stop for the night in the forestry area just outside the park, as recommended by the ranger (so we are legal). We are disappointed that we are not on the canyon rim until we go for a walk & discover it not very far away at all. Amazing – camping on the edge of the Grand Canyon.
The next morning we head in with lots of others. And we thought this side would be quieter! We do the usual driving & walks (but not the long 11miles into the canyon – that needs a few days!) Out again as the carpark is full! And camp back in the forest at a different spot.
On last National Park in Utah as we are nearing the end of our trip. This time Zion. We think it will be busy as it is Sunday. And it sure is!! We remember the magic drive and the tunnel (but not the streams of traffic. We can no longer drive our vehicles along the scenic road into the canyon – but there is an incredibly efficient bus system in use most of the year. In we head with lots of others. It is hot today so we settle for a few of the shorter hikes. If anything the day just gets hotter & hotter. When we get back to GR2 we decide to drive – way too hot to do much else. Our air-conditioning has been on the blink for nearly all this trip & we really could use it now! Oh well. Can’t keep driving so pull over at a Walmart in Mesquite. There are signs up forbidding camping – we move on to the Casino instead. Then head to an air conditioned restaurant for the next few hours. Followed by a hot hot night. Time to head to the coast.