US South West

We have visited an area in the south west of the United States called the ‘Colorado Plateau‘ a number of times now. The plateau covers the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and southern Utah. It is characterised by high desert, deep canyons, steep rock cliffs, forests and vivid colours. For us the attraction is in the vast wild countryside that provides endless adventures for backpacking, exploring, hiking, scrambling as well as paddling and rock climbing. There are many signs of prehistoric cultures too: Ancestral Puebloan, including the ‘Anasazi,’ Sinagua, Fremont, and Cohonina. And thankfully much of the area is public lands such as National Parks, National Monuments and Wilderness Areas (although under some threat from the current Trump administration).

Listed below are our outdoor adventures- many with links to blog posts.

Autumn 2018

We returned to southern Utah and the Grand Canyon in Arizona in October 2018 for more backpacking in this wonderful area.

Buckskin Gulch slickrock

Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks

Escalante – Bighorn Canyon, Harris Wash and the ‘Cosmic Navel’

Capital Reef NP – Lower Muley Twist and Halls Creek

Zion – Canaan Mountain traverse

Escalante – Scorpion Gulch

Grand Canyon North Rim Loop (Indian Hollow-Colorado River-Kanab-Jumpup Canyons)

Video summary of our 2018 hikes ( 9 minutes

Autumn 2017

Back again to the canyons and high desert of the US south west in October 2017! We flew from Scotland to Las Vegas and rented a car with 3 and a half weeks to get out and backpack further into some new areas.

Canaan Mountain and White Domes loop north of Hildale

Escalante – Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow-Escalante-Brigham Tea Bench-Boulder

Capital Reef NP – Upper Muley Twist and the rim route

Grand Gulch area – East Slickhorn-San Juan-Slickhorn canyon loop

Dark and Youngs Canyons

Hackberry Canyon-Yellow Rock-Paria canyon

Video summary of our 2017 hikes (10 minutes)

Autumn 2016

Back to the desert and canyons of southern Utah and northern Arizona in September/ October 2016. Two years ago we hiked and kayaked our own version of the Hayduke Trail. Having enjoyed it so much we returned this year with a rental car to hike to some other canyons and interesting places. Whilst we wouldn’t get the full immersion of a multi month hike such as the Hayduke, we were aiming to target some of the most spectacular places in the region with some trips ranging from  1 to 5 days.

Paria river backpack I

Paria river backpack II

Escalante – Death Hollow, Bowington and Boulder Mail trails

Escalante – Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons I

Escalante – Silver Falls, Harris, Escalante, Neon and Choprock canyons II

Escalante – Peekaboo, Spooky and Brimstone slot canyons day trip

Canyonlands National Park- Horseshoe canyon

Canyonlands National Park- Salt Creek backpack

Escalante – Farewell- Wolverine and Little Death Hollow canyons

Video summary from our 2016 hikes (6 minutes)

Spring 2014

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The Hayduke Trail is a 800 mile hike and scramble through the canyons of the Colorado Plateau in southern Utah and northern Arizona USA. Read about our trip on this wonderful route here…Hayduke hike

2009

We had 6 months in the USA in 2009 to mainly hike the wonderful Continental Divide Trail. We also managed a few short trips to the desert south west before after the CDT though…

Grand Junction CO – Colorado National Monument

Montrose CO – Dominguez canyon

Mesa Verda National Park CO

Montrose CO – Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP

Montrose CO – Dolores Canyon

New Mexico – Chaco Canyon

Arizona – Monument Valley

Canyonlands NP – Needles hikes

Moab UT – Slickrock trails mountain bike

Canyonlands NP – Islands in the Sky

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Chaco Canyon

2004

Our first visit to southern Utah and it was a bit of a revelation to us contrasting with the green and wet Scottish scenery. We did a number of hikes, scrambles and rock climbs…

Grand junction CO – Colorado National Monument

Moab- Kane Valley rock climbs

Moab – Negro Bill canyon

Arches NP – Off Balance Rock rock climb

Arches NP – Owl Rock rock climb

San Rafeal Reef

Goblin SP – Wildhorse Canyon – Crack Canyon

Capital Reef NP – Fern’s Nipple

Capital Reef NP – Sulphur Creek, Cassiday Arch

Capital Reef NP -Burro canyon, Rim Overlook trail

Escalante – Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls

Escalante – Coyote Gulch and Stevens Canyon

Escalante – Spooky and Peekaboo Gulches

Grand Gulch loop hike

Canyonlands NP – South Six Shooter rock climb

Canyonlands NP -Needles

Moab – Slickrock mountain bike

Moab – Fisher Towers, Ancient Art rock climb

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Ancient Art Fisher Towers

Moab – Castleton Tower rock climb

Grand Junction – Independance Monument rock climb

Telluride – Lizard Head peak

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Bryce Canyon and Zion Parks

This post covers covers two day trips to famous National Parks in southern Utah; Bryce Canyon and Zion.

In Bryce we simply followed a few of the popular trails on a great crisp clear day with big rolling clouds.

In Zion we were looking for something to do on our last day of the holiday that avoiding the crowds. We succeeded as we didn’t see anyone else all day! Also we had a splendid day of slickrock, bushwacking, scrambling and a trail to the Deer Trap Mountain with great views down to Zion Valley.

See our photos from both trips here

 

Into Bryce Canyon National Park

8th May Skutumpah Road to Cannonville 11.5 miles

 The temperature plummeted overnight and in the morning there was ice all over the tent. Temperature differences in the desert are mind boggling! We had a slow start before shuffling off in the cold sun on a dirt road through pinyon-juniper to Willis Creek trailhead. Although only a dirt road the panoramic views in the clear air to horizons lined with crisp new snow were superb.
At Willis Creek we headed down the mellow canyon eastward back to the main Hayduke route in Sheep Creek. The sun started warming us and we stopped to dry out the tent and sleeping gear soaking up the warm rays.
Hiking up Sheep Creek the canyon opened up but the clear post rainstorm air made everything look lovely this morning.
Willis Creek
Crisp air in Upper Sheep Creek

We soon hit jeep trails and roads and headed north to the town of Cannonville. We had left a food package for ourselves here a few days ago and were happy to collect that and book into the motel here for a night. There was a grocery at the motel and the nearby KOA campground had a great selection of Uinta brewery beers – enough for us to have a veggie Mexican meal outside the motel!

9th May Cannonville-Tropic-Bryce Canyon National Park campsite 18 miles
The official Hayduke route bypasses Bryce Canyon National Park (or at least the most famous part of it) so we decided to continue north and west into the park on a longer alternate.

A jeep track led from the town of Tropic to the National Park and then we were on trails from there. Bryce looked like NOTHING else on this planet! We followed the Queens Garden trail up through the magical ‘hoodoos’ (pinnacles of rock) onto the rim of the escarpment to where there is road access and lots and lots of people. After meandering around a national park campsite that is designed for cars and not hikers we eventually were able to book into the campsite and have some food outside the little grocery store cafe nearby.

Later on in the day we followed some more scenic park trails – the Navajo and Peek-a-boo. The crowds died down into the evening but the light was lower and the hoodoos looked even more vivid. Back to the tent and the luxury of a picnic table for a late dinner plus beers, biscuits, peanuts and crisps- great!

 

Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Ground squirrel in Bryce

 

Bryce Canyon

10th May Bryce Under the Rim Trail 21 miles
A mild complication of being in the national park was that there is a rule that we need to have bear canisters to protect our food when backcountry camping. Unfortunately we don’t have a means of getting a canister or if we did, returning it back, as we will be hiking south from here. We could have arranged to camp outside the park boundary – where the rules don’t apply – but we were not sure if the bears will conform to the rules though! But instead we decide to hike south from the park center where we are camped with daypacks and hitch back at the end of the day to the same campsite. Then hitch out the next day to carry on hiking where we will be able to camp the next night outside the park.

First though we had a luxury breakfast at our picnic table with real milk, yogurt and grapefruits. A nice couple from Michigan parked next to us gave us the grapefruits. They are ‘snow birds’ who have spent 6 winter months in Arizona’s ‘Sun City’ before travelling back to spend the summer in Michigan.

We set off with light backpacks along the Bryce canyon rim to Bryce point which has a wonderful panoramic view of the hoodoos. We then descended a wonderful trail through colorful clay and gravel beds onto the ‘Under the rim’ trail, soon reaching an area called the ‘Hat Shop’ -lots of pinnacles at the cliff edge with limestone boulders perched on top.

The trail was excellent, reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California. Lots of ups and downs, zig-zagging over ridges extending out from the pink cliffs of the rim edge. And then looking up to the escarpment it was like a better version of the Continental Divide Trail’s ‘Bob Marshall Wilderness’ section. Anyway – it was great!

Eventually we pull off the trail to climb up the escarpment to the park road. We hoped to catch a shuttle bus here back to the campsite but none appeared so hitching was required! We lucked out and got a great ride back from another Michigan couple in the back of their pickup truck.

Around 10pm a storm came through. We were at 9,000 feet here and we got dumped on by a huge amount of snow through the night along with gale force winds!  Our tent was sheltered to an extent in the tall ponderosa pines- but Martina spent most of the night shaking the tent to free it of snow- Brian slept through!

11th May Bryce 0 miles

We beat a retreat in the morning back to the park visitor centre then caught a bus 3 or 4 miles down to the town of Ruby’s Inn where we dried out in a motel.
Hit by a snowstorm in Bryce