Day 43 – Monticello
Sunday started off a week of some serious hiking in Utah. Our first day brought us to Canyonlands National Park, which is huge… so huge that it is divided into three districts. We visited the Needles district first, but first stopped at Newspaper Rock, one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs. After a quick stop, we were surprised when RC didn’t start…same symptoms as in Death Valley. This time, Michael was determined to find the loose wire himself so we wouldn’t have another long tow for such a simple issue. Wishing he had researched the issue more when there was internet service (because there wasn’t any at Newspaper Rock), he climbed under the van and came out with a hopeful look in his eye. The van came back to life and we continued on our journey with just a minor delay instead of a major ordeal.
We chose to start with the Squaw Canyon to Big Spring Canyon loop trail, a 7.5 mile hike through a couple of the smaller canyons in the park. This turned out to be a good choice, because we got to hike on a lot of different terrain, see some of the canyon features up close and personal, and still got some amazing views along the way.
After the long hike, we headed down a scenic road to the Big Spring Canyon Overlook, where we ate and planned our next move. We decided we were both pretty exhausted, so after a few quick stops at overlooks along our route to the exit, we headed back to Monticello to camp again for the night at Mountain View RV park. The park was an odd little park on the edge of town, next to a horse ranch (the horses actually came right up to the back of the Westy at one point). Overall a nice, quiet stay, but with the weirdest bathroom setup we had ever seen, with shower curtains dividing actually dividing the toilet and shower stalls.
Day 44 – Canyonlands National Park
The next day was Memorial Day, so Michael took the day off for some extra time to explore. We drove north through Moab to the most popular area in Canyonlands, the Island in the Sky district. The district is a large mesa that sits over 2000 feet above the rivers below, allowing for sweeping views of the carved canyons from all directions. We drove straight to the Grand View overlook and hiked along the southern rim for a couple of miles, where we had unobstructed views for at least 50 miles. Then we backtracked to the Murphy Point trailhead and hiked about 1.75 miles out to the western edge of the mesa, for more stunning views, this time to the west. Next up, the famous Mesa Arch, which was pretty crowded, but we managed to get off a few snapshots that didn’t include a group of people standing in the way. Our last stop was at the Shafer Canyon overlook, which gave us our best view to the east and of our next destination, Dead Horse State Park.
This park is located on the mesa just east of the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands. It is probably most famous for being the spot where they filmed the end of Thelma and Louise. The southern end of the mesa gives you an incredible view of the goosenecks formed by the Colorado River as it winds below Dead Horse Point and into Canyonlands. This was probably our favorite view in the entire area, even better than those in the national park. We camped in the park that night, and met another couple with a Westy! As is usually the case with Westy owners, they were super-friendly and we enjoyed talking with them for over an hour. After our chat, we walked out to the western rim to enjoy the sunset (although it turned out we could see it just fine right from the van).
Day 45 – Deadhorse State Park
Tuesday meant getting back to work, but we were able to start the day with a short 2-mile hike out-and-back along the West Rim Trail to the Bighorn Overlook, south of the campground. It was a great way to start the day, and a perfect example of why it is so much better to stay in the parks whenever possible. After so much hiking over the last few days, we decided to splurge for lunch at the Moab Brewery before heading to settle in for an afternoon of work and an evening of relaxing at the Moab Valley RV park.
Days 46 – 47 – Moab
Wednesday was a rest/work day, so we stayed at the RV park all day. Tracey lucked out with the laundry being located next to the pool, so she got some swimming and poolside relaxing time in-between loads.
We got up early Thursday to beat the crowds to Arches National Park, and were somewhat successful. We headed straight the Delicate Arch trail to see Utah’s most famous landmark, and managed to only share it with about two dozen other people. That sounds crowded, but we passed over a hundred people coming up the trail on our way back down, so I think we got lucky. Next we drove north as far as we could to the Sandstone Arch parking lot (since all Devil’s Garden access was closed). We took a side trail to see Broken Arch and Tapestry Arch, then returned to the beginning and did a short trail through a very cool, narrow canyon to see Sandstone Arch. As we worked our way back south out of the park, we stopped at a number of overlooks to check out some of the highlights of the park, like the Courthouse Towers and Park Avenue. By that time, the crowds were getting heavier and we still had a day of work ahead, so we headed back to the RV park for the day.
Day 48 – Moab to Capitol Reef
After a morning of work in Moab (and the purchase of a new cooler with better insulation and a drain), we began our journey to Capitol Reef National Park, about 2.5 hours away. Along the route, we saw that we’d be passing pretty close to Goblin Valley State Park. It turned out to be a great side trip, a small valley filled with some of the most unique rock features we’d ever seen. We also got our first glimpse of Capitol Reef, as we drove east through the park to our campground just outside of Torrey.
Day 49 – Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is definitely a park for hikers, so on Saturday we took on two fairly strenuous hikes. First, we tackled the Fremont Gorge trail, a 2.3 mile climb to a dramatic overlook. After the hike, we enjoyed the Scenic Drive south along the Waterpocket Fold, then had lunch at a shady spot in the Fruita Historic District. Feeling like we had another good hike in us, we took on the Chimney Rock loop trail, 3.6 miles round-trip and another solid climb with panoramic views of the Waterpocket Fold and a unique view of Chimney Rock itself. We were ready to wrap it up after the afternoon hike, but we did have enough energy to check out the Goosenecks Overlook before heading back to the campground to rest up for an even bigger day of hiking.