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Trip Report Mlgb Southern Utah October Trip Report

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I was able to make a VERY last minute trip to southern Utah between the two early storms. (Although the second storm caught up with three days of serious wind and then cold!). I relied on some of the information posted on others trip reports...especially from Myer, as I remember.

This probably isn't the typical Grand Circle trip because I've recently visited Zion, Monument Valley and Grand Canyon, and have NO interest in Las Vegas, other than as a place to gas up. But maybe it will be helpful for those looking for some less-visited side trips. I also spent a few days in Arches. I drove (by myself) and booked most hotels no more than a day ahead.

Day 1, approx 450 miles, 7 hours from Long Beach, California to Cedar City, Utah (Holiday Inn Express, south of town, easy to find, super clean). Sunday is always a good day to leave LA because you are going against the Las Vegas traffic. Advice: Fill up before you leave Nevada, gas in Utah is expensive!

Day 2, approx 300 miles : Side trip to "The Zipper" petroglyph in Parowan Gap. A bit out of the way, fascinating map and solar calendar. Parowan had an appealing small town aspect, but I did not stop.

Following scenic Rte 143 though Brian Head (snow and aspen trees!) and Cedar Breaks (snow on red cliffs..beautiful). Passing thru Dixie National Forest and the northern part of Bryce where I took the short Mossy Cave trail to the waterfall...a nice way to stretch the legs and a taste of hoodoos.

I continued on Scenic Byway 12, most impressive the "do not miss" leg between Escalante and Boulder. From Boulder I took the Burr Trail, including the hairy switchbacks, and the long (relatively dull after the first bit!) dirt road back up through Capitol Reef NP to Hwy 12. The section through narrow red-rock Long Canyon is a worthwhile detour if you don't do the whole thing. I have an AWD low-clearance car, but there were others in 2WD cars coming in the opposite direction. Don't do the switchbacks if you're not comfortable with mountain driving.


I spent the night in Torrey at the Rim Rock Inn, basic but decent. They have a popular and expensive restaurant. I drove a bit in to town and spied the Capitol Reef Inn & Cafe. Under $15 for perfectly cooked and seasoned tri-tip (can't remember if it came as a sandwich, but it had some sides, at least a potato and maybe veggies too).

This day was a bit too long and I should have added another night along the way somewhere near Boulder.

Day 3, Capitol Reef to Moab, 173 miles. I spent most of Day 3 in the north park of Capitol Reef, in the Fruta district and hiking to Hickman Bridge in the afternoon. I enjoyed picking the heirloom apples in two of the historic orchards. The best part was the free sampling to figure out which tree was the tastiest. Then I realized the red flags on the trees corresponded to the best trees. It was also interesting that some of the less interesting eating apples were great when microwaved and added to my morning oatmeal. Hickman Bridge was easily as good as any of the Arches bridges, especially as you are not restricted from walking underneath it, and because it wasn't swarmed with other tourists.

I had two nights at the Red Cliffs Lodge, on Rt 128 east of Moab, toward the Fisher towers. Their restaurant was very good and not badly priced for the quality (and quantity). (I recommend the trout). This is a great place to stay, although it's a shame when you feel you have to chose between seeing Arches and enjoying the Lodge's activities. The only caution is that the Lodge's own water supply has a musty, mildewy smell which transfers to the linens.

Day 4-5-6 Arches/Canyonlands
I won't go over all of the Arches and Canyonlands stuff, since it has been well covered, except to say I misread the rating on Double O Arch trail..it's strenuous, not moderate! There is exposure as you hike along the tops of several rock ledges, and climb up and down them, and one rather scary crack that you have to step across...I had to ask for a stranger to give me a hand on the way over it. The wind came up for the next three days, so I was not up to hiking to Delicate Arch in 40 mpg. So can anyone answer this question...Delicate Arch..is the ledge more scary than Double O's rock ledges?

Also, if you like rock art, pick up or print out the Moab rock art information. The Courthouse Rock pictograph is virtually across the highway from the Canyonlands by Night parking lot. Also the Kane Creek trip to the Birthing Rock is scenic and you'll see much of the same scenery as you will from the Canyonlands jet boat.

I enjoyed Walker Drug, a real old-school five-and-dime store. You can burn your photos to a CD for all of $4, and they actually had a memory card for my old Olympus which I haven't been able to find in years. City Market (south of town center) is a Kroger brand, they have a good salad bar and a Starbucks. One morning over the holiday weekend there was a line of about 15 or 20 hardcore mountain bike types trying to get their fix...the funniest thing was the store manager sneaking a photo of them.

I also had two nights in Moab at the Sleep Inn, which was serviceable and clean, not too expensive, but at the south end of town. Be sure to get a top floor room or you may be so unlucky as to get noisy German tourists that come in at 1 am and stomp around and slam doors above you, requiring a call to the front desk.

Day 7, 200 miles, Moab to Kayenta via Blanding and Hovenweep NM

South of Moab you can see Wilson Arch without even leaving the car. On the way to Hovenweep, Blanding has a sweet little Pioneer museum and a helpful visitor center (which gives you a free snack pack). They can give directions to some of the cliff dwellings in Southern Utah such as "House on Fire". I went to Hovenweep, which has unrestored Anasazi ruins on the mesa top (not tucked under cliffs). The loop trail that goes down into the canyon is well worth the time it takes to get to Hovenweep from the main road. Spring and Fall are the best times to visit. That night I spent at the overpriced Holiday Inn Kayenta (options are limited on short notice). The cheapest gas of the trip was in Kayenta, $3.15 per gallon.

Day 8, Kayenta to Scottsdale. 300 miles, 6-7 hrs. I made a brief stop at Wupatki NM, but it was less impressive than Hovenweep. Earlier this year, a friend suggested that I should see Sedona. Big mistake. Swarming with people and traffic, Sunday of a holiday weekend and road construction all over the place. I stopped at the Oak Creek Canyon overlook, crept through Sedona without stopping, and ended up at the Scottsdale Hotel Indigo. More road construction in Scottsdale. What is it with road construction in Arizona! I liked the hotel, which is downtown rather than a resort. However there was slight noise intrusion from a nearby nightclub. The hotel's food was pretty bad, but at least it was gratis thanks to Travelzoo.

Day 9, Scottsdale to Palm Springs (Indian Wells), 290 miles, 4 to 5 hours. In the morning I just made it to the 9AMm 90-minute Insights Tour at Taliesin West. This is a don't miss/worth a special trip experience if you have any interest in Frank Lloyd Wright or architecture in general. It was the redeeming feature of my Arizona leg, (along with temp's in the 70's and cheap gas).

After the tour, I happily left Arizona behind and headed for my favorite Priceline/Hotwire hotel, the Hyatt Grand Champions in Indian Wells (Palm Springs area).

Day 10, Indian Wells to Long Beach (125 miles, 2 hrs). Temps in the desert were perfect, 70's to 80's, there were NO children!!! screaming at the pools. The spa/fitness center is always a treat. I won't go into detail since it's a California location, but if you're doing a circle from LA, it's a nice spot to end the trip.

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