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

 

Final hike to Zion National Park

1st June Mt Carmel Junction to East Fork Virgin River 15.5 miles

We hitched out of Kanab and chose to rejoin the Hayduke by hiking down another route down the Virgin River from Mt Carmel junction. We started out down a jeep track following the river valley, half a mile south of the junction into an area called White Cliffs. The views out to these cliffs on either side of the wide valley were beautiful, the walking was easy for a while and the temperature today was refreshingly just warm. This was a lovely colourful hike with pink, red, yellow and white rock set against a clear blue sky.

White Cliffs

Heading west, we left the jeep track, sometimes to hike through the brush on either side of the river and sometimes finding it easier to hiking down the river itself.

Dropping the rucksacks at the junction with Mineral Gulch, we explored this canyon to the north which was a worthwhile trip up a narrow steep walled canyon of Navajo Sandstone with some deep caves.

Mineral Gulch
Mineral Gulch

Back in the main river as the heat kicked in again, we collected the backpacks and hiked westwards as the canyon narrowed nicely with some big alcoves and deep red walls. We passed Rock Canyon where the Hayduke joined our river from the south and hiked another 4.5 miles of grand deep canyon called the Barracks- but Parunuweap is the Payute Indian name. Much of the hiking was in the roaring waters of the river itself now with the steep walls restricting hiking on the side banks -but this was fantastic hiking.

At about 18.30 we found a sandy bench to camp next to the river flanked by steep walls. We hoped for no flash floods in the night but the weather looked dry and stable overhead.

The Barracks
The Barracks
The Barracks
Camp in the Barracks

2nd June East Fork Virgin River to Zion Weeping Wall 18.5 miles
We were away from camp at 6.15 am splashing down the river between brilliant red steep canyon walls. As we progressed, the river got deeper and deeper, fed from many side springs such that we were thigh deep in water on occasions. After a couple of miles we reached a boulder jam where the river plunged noisily over into a deep pool. We avoided this obstacle by a climb up leftwards and then a subterranean descent down a chock stone chimney to exit below the blockage.

Back in the river we continued more easily to the ‘Fat Man’s Misery’ junction and our exit of the canyon on the Hayduke route just beyond. The Barracks had been a wonderful experience and we were so glad we were wrapping up our Hayduke hike in such magnificent, world class scenery.

We still had 15 miles to go though, so we stopped to collect and treat some water, had some food and emptied our shoes of the gravel from so much river wading.

The exit climb was bushy and Martina spotted some poison ivy which we hoped that we avoided. But there were signs of use from other hikers as we scrabbled up through some scrub to exit onto more open slickrock slabs. With the odd cairn to help us we then continued onto easier faint trails on flatter ground as we heading north.

This was completely different to the deep canyon with red, gold and orange slick rock slabs on an undulating plateau and quite stunning in its own way. After skirting some mesas, we turned north to climb up a steep sided tree filled slot to a col. The views around here reminded us of Tuolumne Meadows in California and it had a great mountainous feel. Dropping down north through the slot like valley we passed by a couple of other parties of hikers before hitting the Zion National Park road.

It was 11.30 am now and we had been hiking for 5 hours and the heat had crept up into the 30’s C so we had a stop in the shade in view of Checkerboard Mesa – a wonderfully creased slabby mini-mountain

We headed on on good trail but the heat makes for hard going. Reaching Stave Spring we find that it is all but dry with just an intermittent drip every few seconds. We had only 5 miles to hike though and soon drop into the scenic steep walled valleys that Zion is famous for. A 2,500 foot descent and we make it to our trail end and the road.

Sadly the horrid heat somewhat detracted from the splendor of Zion valley and we headed out by bus quickly to escape the furnace! We vowed to return some day to give the park the attention it deserves.

Despite the heat of our last couple of weeks in the Grand Canyon and Zion, what a fantastic hike we have had on our own version of the Hayduke. The mix of beautiful red rock canyons, riparian green waterways, dry desert plateau and high forests has won us over.  The variety and challenge of the terrain from scrambling through canyons and their sidewalls, wading rivers, hacking our way through scrub and enjoying some relaxing contrast of trails and jeep tracks was brilliant. Rather than being tired of this part of the world we are desperate to return!

 

Slick rock hiking as we headed into Zion National Park
Checkerboard Mesa, Zion National Park
Zion
Looking down to the finish of the Hayduke Trail in Zion National Park