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Help with Colorado & Utah itinerary please!

Old Jul 19th, 2020, 01:12 PM
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Help with Colorado & Utah itinerary please!

We are planning a cross country drive this fall with stops in Colorado, Utah, and maybe Nevada for some sight seeing and short hikes. I would love some help with our plan.

We are a senior couple. We enjoy visiting parks with good scenery and good easy hikes. Also love museum browsing, but with Covid, museums will not be on our itinerary this trip. I have tried to find places that are less visited, or less visited trails in popular parks. Fortunately we have been to this area before so have already visited the "big ones." We may return some day, but this trip we need to avoid the crowds.

We are slow hikers. Even slower this year, thanks to DH tearing a hip muscle earlier this year. He's game for some short hikes with his wheeled walker. A few steps won't be a problem - he uses stairs at home. But a rocky or overly worn trail with lots of roots would be impossible. Right now he is walking 1 - 1.5 miles each day on a combination of rough paved road and gravel road which includes moderate ups and downs that are too steep to be considered wheelchair accessible. Hopefully he will be walking a bit longer distances by fall.

We need to get from Maine island to San Diego. The trip will start with a few days of long driving to get to Colorado.

The "tour" part of the trip starts Rocky Mountain NP. I have planned two days on the east side of the park this trip, staying in Estes Park. On an earlier visit, we hiked trails in the Bear Lake area. This time I plan hikes in the Lily Lake area and Wild Basin/Copeland Falls area one day. On the second day, the Alluvial Fan trail near Lawn Lake Trailhead looks OK. Are there other short easy hikes in that area? I originally planned one day on the east side. But after four long days of driving, a couple of lazy days sounds good.

Day 3 - Drive the Trail Ridge Road through RMNP to Grand Lake. Possible "hikes" - Lake Irene hike at Milner Pass Trailhead, and the Tundra Comunities Trail at the Rock Cut Trailhead.

Day 4 &5 - West side of RMNP. Coyote Valley trail,Adams Falls, and Holzwarth Historic Site. The Valley trail is described as an easy (good) 5.5 mile loop (too long). If we only hike a short section of one side of the loop will there be interesting areas?

Next stop Dinosaur NM in Utah. I'm planning 3 nights in Vernal so that we have two days to explore Dinosaur NM. One day for the Dinosaur Quarry exhibit hall and Tour of Tilted Rocks drive. Second day to explore the Harpers Corner Scenic Drive on the Colorado side. Accessible trail at Plug Hat Butte. There is a one mile trail at the end of the road to view points. Does anyone know what that trail is like?

Then, Capitol Reef NP for two days. Explore Fruita and Scenic Drive one day. Possible hikes - Goosenecks, Sunset Point, and maybe Capitol Gorge. Cathedral Road the second day. Upper Cathedral Valley overlook trail (0.2mi RT easy) and Morrell Cabin Trail (0.4mi RT easy). The Cathedrals Trail is 2.4mi RT, easy. We probably can't do the whole 2.4 miles. Are there interesting views if we only do a portion, or skip unless we have time to walk the mile + out and back?

After Capitol Reef, I'm planning a day for Cedar Breaks NM. I considered a return trip to Bryce, but there is only one accessible trail along the rim. Cedar Breaks sounds like a good alternative. Hopefully not as busy as Bryce or Zion. And it sounds like several short walks are possible as well as a nice drive. I plan to drive from Torrey (Capitol Reef NP) through Cedar Breaks NM to Cedar City. Our plans at this point are a bit flexible. Possibly return to Cedar Breaks NM to do some walks the next day, or go on.

From Cedar City, the plan is to drive to Valley of Fire SP, spend several hours there, and overnight outside Las Vegas. Is anyone familiar with the trails in Valley of Fire SP? What is Petroglyph Canyon via Mouse's Tank Trail like? The distance and elevation gain look ok. I'm wondering if it is a slog through soft deep sand? That could be a problem.

There are several other shorter trails: Arrowhead Arch Trail, Elephant Rock trail, Atlatl Rock, and Five Canyon overlook. Any feedback about these trails?

I noticed Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas also. I'm guessing that Valley of Fire is less crowded and more interesting. Yes?

After Valley of Fire, it is off to San Diego for time with family.

Note - If Las Vegas is a Covid hot spot in the fall, we could travel to San Diego via Zion. But Zion could be busy...

Any feedback welcome. I would love to get feedback on good short easy hikes to do - or to skip. And insight on what walking the trails is like! Thanks






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Old Jul 19th, 2020, 02:39 PM
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We really enjoyed Red Rock Canyon. We did some hiking there years ago, in April when the weather was perfect. We pretty much had the park to ourselves. Unfortunately, I don't remember much about trail difficulty.

Mount Charleston is another option and will be much cooler for hiking.




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Old Jul 19th, 2020, 04:08 PM
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Thanks for the suggestion! I'll take a look at that.
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Old Jul 19th, 2020, 04:28 PM
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Any reason to by=pass Moab, Arches NP and Canyonlands NP?


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Old Jul 19th, 2020, 07:24 PM
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Cedar breaks is a great alternative. And I love Capitol Reef NP. Try staying at Austins Chuckwagon on the ground floor or in one of the cabins. The general store is well stocked and has good breakfasts. Plenty of restaurants for take out. We were just there in June. Be sure to see the petroglyphs. You will need to be up and going early-it was hot in June and could still be in September. By early, I mean 9 or so, not 6 am (not sure what month you are traveling)
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Old Jul 19th, 2020, 08:52 PM
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Day 3 - Lake Irene is fine, but if you are enjoying being at high elevation (not impossible!) then look at the Ute Trail, across the road from the Alpine Visitor Center. It goes downhill about 4 miles to Milner Pass, but the first mile only drops 125 feet, not bad. Of course it means going uphill to get back, unusual for most Colorado hikes. Tundra Community is still first choice due to the nice informational signage and great views in all directions.

Days 4,5 - If you are feeling up to it walk about 1/2 mile past Adams Falls to East Meadow, very nice. The Coyote Valley Trail is only about a mile round trip, not sure where you got 5.5. It's basically flat, a nice walk. Keep your eye out for moose, not uncommon there.

Have a great trip.
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Old Jul 20th, 2020, 05:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Any reason to by=pass Moab, Arches NP and Canyonlands NP?

https://flic.kr/p/v5wKNe https://flic.kr/p/vnozha
We have been to those parks in the past. And I gather Arches is very popular. We're looking for the less crowded spots this trip.
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Old Jul 20th, 2020, 05:16 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions! The "valley" trail on the west side I was referring to is the one at the Kawuneeche Trailhead, not the Coyote Valley trail. NP description Easy 5.5 miles elev gain 192 feet. We won't be able to do the 5.5 mile loop. So question is whether the "good stuff" is further out, or would a shorter walk - maybe 1 mile - in and out on one end of the trail be good.
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Old Jul 20th, 2020, 08:34 AM
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Ah, got it (I think). There are a couple of loops down there, but my $.02 would be to start at the Green Mountain Trailhead and go up as far as you feel like. Gradual climb thru an attractive forest paralleling a small stream. Possibly you'd make it to Big Meadows junction, but that's 1.7 miles one way. There are no big views unless you reach the meadow, but still it's a pleasant walk.

By the way, maybe you know but the Colorado River, which runs thru Kawuneeche Valley, used to be called the Grand River. That's where the names Grand Lake, Grand Junction, and Grand Canyon, among others, come from.

EDIT: I reread your DH's issue, forget about the Big Meadow walk. But still start at Green Mountain and go out in the other direction into the valley. I think that side of the loop is a bit nicer than the south end. Good luck!

Last edited by Nelson; Jul 20th, 2020 at 08:41 AM.
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Old Jul 20th, 2020, 12:05 PM
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Yes, there's quite a bit of red sand to slog through on the Petroglyph Canyon trail to Mouse's Tank, if I remember correctly. We really like the White Dome trail. (Valley of Fire)
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Old Jul 20th, 2020, 12:36 PM
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Make sure to check on which parks need reservations for time slots to enter; RMNP is requiring them, I think others are too.
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Old Jul 20th, 2020, 01:25 PM
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The Petroglyph trail sounds great. I'm hoping we can take it. How would you describe the walking surface? Firm sand? Very loose sand? Rocky?

We expect to be in Capitol Reef the first week of October. Hopefully it won't be super hot.
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Old Jul 21st, 2020, 03:40 AM
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Nelson,
Why do you suggest not walking a stretch of the Big Meadows walk? You description of gradual climb through forest sounds ok. Sounds like our road. I'm not questioning your advise. Just wondering what the trail is like. Rocky? Rooty? Narrow? DH will need a 2 foot wide trail for the walker. It is just under 2' wide.
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Old Jul 21st, 2020, 03:47 AM
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Yes, tickets for RMNP open up August 1 for September entry time slots. It's on my calendar. I'll double check the other parks to see if any others are using the ticket system.
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Old Jul 21st, 2020, 05:08 AM
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At Valley of Fire there are several places to see petrographs. The trail to Mouse,s Tank has lots along the left side as you walk out, the trail is sandy but not deep sand and is an in/out so just go as far as you want and turn around. All-atl rock has some that you can climb up a ladder to get close to. In that area there are others that are not marked, look up on the rock face beyond the picnic tables.

There are some in Red Rock Canyon too. They were an easy walk with no real elevation gain.

When you are in Dinosaur NP, go past the VC and look for the signs on the left, there are fantastic pictographs of lizards. The area north of there called McKee Spring has some great ones. They do require a short climb up a hill to view closely. Also, just a short way north of Vernal is McKonky ranch, on private land where they ask for a small donation in a can. No one was there to collect it,but they counted on the honesty of folks. There was a short hike up a not too steep trail to see them. I probably have more specific information on them in TR under my former user name emalloy in the 2015 report.

Have a great trip
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Old Jul 21st, 2020, 10:20 AM
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Grand Wash Capitol Reef


Nearly all of the trails in Valley of Fire are soft or unstable surfaces with one exception (Balancing Rock). It CAN still be very hot in the fall. The stairs to Atlatl Rock are probably too much. You can drive through and around to see the landscape though. I am not sure if it's worth your time, actually.

The petroglyphs right off the road in Capitol Reef are much more impressive.

Instead, it be worth detouring to view the interesting petroglyph in Parowan Gap, called "The Zipper. Apparently BLM has improved the displays since I visited. They are about 10 miles off of I-15 from Parowan so not much of a detour from Cedar Breaks. Also you would pass by Little Salt Lake using Gap Road. Plenty of hotels in Cedar City, also.

https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/ar.../#.Xxcwmht7mpp

In Capitol Reef, the Grand Wash trail is easy and you can go from either end about a mile to the Narrows section, and a mile back. There is a pretty view from the end of the unpaved road at the south parking lot, too. (see photo above)

Last edited by mlgb; Jul 21st, 2020 at 11:00 AM.
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Old Jul 21st, 2020, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by wendy236 View Post
Why do you suggest not walking a stretch of the Big Meadows walk?
Probably because I read "too steep to be considered wheelchair accessible" in your original post. It's definitely not ADA approved.

I've walked that trail numerous times, but not since around 2017. My unreliable memory says it will have some rocks and roots, but not many (or else I'd remember!). It's a steady climb, not too steep, definitely wider than two feet. Here's an elevation profile.



I'd love to be wrong and that you get up to the meadow, if that's what you are wanting.

But I do think Adams Falls / East Meadow, Coyote Valley, and Tundra Community walks offer more bang for the buck once you leave the east side of the park. Also, stop at Poudre Lake by Milner Pass, it's right by the road but you can walk around there.

If they are serving try to get in a meal on the outdoor deck of the Grand Lake Hotel. Hopefully it's happening.




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Old Jul 22nd, 2020, 03:31 AM
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Nelson,
Thanks for more info. Fortunately, we do not need a totally accessible hike. DH walks our road daily. It includes some hills that are pretty steep. We get to watch cars and trucks struggle to get up the hill every winter. Sometimes they make it to the top.

DH also uses stairs daily. If it's the equivalent of one or two flights of stairs in a house he should be fine. A fourth floor walkup? Maybe. But that might not be fun.

The walks the park describes as "accessible" presumably meet ADA requirements. As long as it isn't 5 miles, those should be fine. I'm delighted to get guidance on what the "easy" walks that are not necessarily ADA accessible are like, so we can figure out which are a good options.

Thanks to all for your suggestions!
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