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Trip Report Wonderful hiking week in the Utah Parks

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Thanks so much to everyone on this board who have posted over the years on the Utah parks. I have read them all. Special thanks to spirobulldog, Myer, tomfuller, Michael and InSandy. We had a fantastic trip. Here is my trip report. My huaband and I went alone on this trip. We are late 40 somethings who love to hike, see scenery, do historical things but are not much for fine dining or nightlife.

Sunday, Sept. 16th

I picked Jim up at the airport in Denver at 7:30 in the morning as he was coming home from a business trip. We loaded up all of his stuff and headed west. The Aspen leaves in the mountains were beautiful. We stopped in Frisco for drinks and a break. Drove on to Grand Junction for a lunch break We pulled over at a scenic view in Utah to look over the landscape and stretch yet again.

Turned off of I 70 and headed to Goblin State Park. Lots of Porshes on the road and they zoomed by us in all of that straight open countryside. We pulled in at Goblin Valley around 3:00. It was sunny and hot ( mid 80 degrees). What a strange sight. We wandered around the goblins, taking pictures, aiming for the shade every chance we got and trying to guess what some of them looked the most like. We drove to the campground, used their clean bathroom and drove out. We took maybe one and a half hours in the park total. Fun stop if you are in the area.

We followed the signs to Little Horse Canyon which wasn’t far away. The parking lot had a number of cars in it. Fun trail and we enjoyed climbing over rocks and through the slot canyon. We didn’t go too far as we were worn out from the drive and both of us had been awake since 3 am. Saw several other people on the trail. Very dry and hot.

From Little Horse Canyon we drove the rather starkly ugly countryside through Hanksville. The scenery changed as we entered Capitol Reef and the drive through the park towards Torrey was lovely. We noted all kinds of stops we wanted to explore the next day in the park.

We stayed the night at Austin’s Chuckwagon. Torrey is a really small but cute town. The old school house is worth a look. We went to Red Cliffs for pizza and cold drinks. They were very friendly and turned on the football game for us while we waited for our food. Our hotel room was next to the office on the main floor. It had a refrigerator which was nice. Wi fi worked so Jim checked emails. We checked in with the kids. In the morning, we had some noise from the toddler who was with his mom working in the office next door. If we had been trying to sleep that would have been an issue. We did not use the pool but it looked nice. Fine place to stay for one night.

Monday , Sept17th-

We got up early and went to the Robbers Roost for coffee and tea. Nice local coffee shop with books and local flavor. We headed to Capitol Reef, stopped at an overlook before the Visitors Center and loved the view and the cooler morning air. At the Visitor Center, we got our map and bearings and headed straight for the Gifford House for pies. I got a peach pie and Jim took a strawberry rhubarb. We took them to the picnic area across the street and enjoyed the quiet and the scenery with some tasty breakfast pie!

Our first hike was Hickman Bridge. A little work at the beginning of the trail but the natural bridge was beautiful. There were a good number of other people on the trail but we still had the bridge to ourselves long enough to take pictures and enjoy the scenery alone. We went a little up and to the right of the bridge for a view back through it and then finished the loop back down. Would highly recommend this hike. It is not strenuous but gets the blood pumping.

We drove to the cabin that the large pioneer family had all lived in and marveled that anyone could live like that. We walked up the Grand Wash trail for 20 minutes or so just to get the feel of the tall towering rock walls. Next stop was the schoolhouse and then the petroglyphs. The big bus tours were parked tight and it was very difficult to see the petroglyphs but all you have to do is wait 10 minutes and the buses pull out and it is quiet again. The boardwalk in there is shady and pleasant to walk on while you look at the rock art.

We then drove the scenic drive all the way to Capitol Dome. Got one of the last parking spots at the end of the dirt road. We hiked the trail past some more petroglyphs, the pioneer register of names carved in the rocks and then to the tanks. That was a bit of an uphill,hot slog to some mildly interesting pools of water in the rocks above. By this time in the afternoon, we were ready to get off our feet and get really cold drinks with ice. We drove back to Torrey to get drinks and then headed south down Highway 12.

The drive from Torrey to Boulder on Highway 12 was surprising. Since we came into the area from Green River and Hanksville, to see mountains with trees right south of Torrey was a bit of a surprise. We stopped at lots of scenic overlooks and soaked in the beauty of the fall leaves. This drive in the fall is spectacular with the Aspen. We stopped and did some short walks into the colorful trees. We were surprised to see cows ambling back and forth across that road and hoped that all the tour buses would dodge them. We got to the Boulder Mountain Lodge for check in around 5:30.

The Boulder Mountain Lodge was lovely. The grounds are fun, with a pond and birds. The hottub was awesome and had a lovely backdrop of scenery. We were in room 16 on the ground floor at a building towards the back and away from the road. The room was large, had a refrigerator and bathrobes. There was a seating area out in the front and the back of the room. Everything was clean and the beds comfortable. Would stay there again for sure.

We walked next door to the Burr Trail Grill for dinner. We split an entrée as neither of us was that hungry but the burger and potatoes were good. We enjoyed the hot tub and chatting with another couple and watched some of the Monday night football game. Wi fi worked great and we checked in with the kids.

Tuesday, Sept. 18

We slept in and left the parking lot at 8:45 while the bike tour van was still loading the bikes for their group. Had not seen or heard them but they all stayed in another building. We stopped at the Anasazi Museum a few minutes up the road. It was small but the outside excavation and the replica were interesting. They had bathrooms and a nice gift shop inside. We were not there very long before we drove on south towards Calf Creek Falls in the Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument.

Calf Creek was one of the highlights of the trip. The parking lot was filling quickly and it was a very hot day- mid 80s. It was a 6 mile round trip hike that was easy but for the heat and the sandy trail which made some work getting your traction. The trail was hot with no shade until the last 20 minutes and then the cool , shady, section next to the creek was fabulous. The first sight of the falls was just spectacular. I was not expecting so much water this late in a very dry year. It was cool and misty around the falls. There were a handful of people there but everyone was cooperative with getting in and out for their pictures under the falls quickly. We did some wading in the frigid water but it was such a welcome relief after the hot walk. We took lots of pictures and talked to some ladies from Canada. The walk back was easier as my feet stayed cold for the first 2 miles or so! We got back to the truck around 1:00 and guzzled some cold drinks.

Next stop was a short walk down to the Escalante River at one of the other trailheads and then on into the town of Escalante for lunch at Subway. The Subway was packed with people. We popped into the nearby Visitor Center and then at the Petrified Wood State Park. The lady at the entrance booth said it was a one mile loop trail to see the petrified wood. Sounded great. We parked and noticed right away that the mile trail was going to be uphill from the start. It was hot with no shade and wasn’t until you got to the top that you saw any petrified wood. Once we saw some, it was unique and had a pretty color to it. We trudged back down the trail and met several people who were giving up and not going to continue the up hill hike. I am glad we saw the wood but the trail was a bit unpleasant in the heat.

Back to Highway 12 and more scenic overlooks and the view of the Granaries. I wondered who actually found those way up in the rocks and what they look like inside. Very interesting. We drove on to Tropic and checked into our hotel Americas Best Inn right next to Clarks restaurant. Everything had been booked for months so we were happy to have a room. Some others at the office were being told that the closest hotels with vacancies were in St. George! The hotel was just okay. We had a king room so the space was tight. The bed was comfortable though and the corridor was quieter than I had anticipated when I saw it. The wi fi didn’t work well though. We had dinner at Clarks- just got a chicken quesadilla and salad to share with iced tea. It was fine but not cheap. I loved all the old pictures of the area and the pioneers in the area that were displayed on the walls. Like everywhere else we had been, we were in the minority as English speakers. I think all of Europe was traveling in Utah this week. Made for some fun people watching.

We drove the 7 miles into Bryce Canyon NP that evening. We stopped at Inspiration Point and watched the sun set. I will never forget that first sight of the main part of Bryce Canyon- the sheer number of hoodoos and the color. I think I was speechless and then just kind of giggled. Magical and completely unlike ANYTHING you will see anywhere else in the world. We drove back to the hotel in Tropic- saw lots of pronghorn and deer.

Wednesday, Sept. 19th
We got up at 6:30 and had free pancakes at the restaurant that the hotel gave us vouchers for. We drove to Bryce Canyon. We hiked the Navajo Loop- Queens Garden trail. Very few people on the trail and the scenery was spectacular. We took pictures by the dozens. The colors and shapes of the hoodoos were amazing. We had a nice talk with a Canadian couple at the Queen Victoria hoodoo and shared tips. As we hiked towards the twin bridges and then up all those switchbacks to the top, the tour buses had arrived. It was VERY crowded and loud all the way up. We were so thankful we had started early and had the trail to ourselves for the majority of the hike.

We walked a lot of the Rim Trail and then tackled the Tower Bridge Trail. That trail is 4 miles roundtrip and going down is no problem. It was also relatively empty of other hikers. Tower bridge is a pretty but not overly impressive formation. We sat in the shade and worked up the energy to head back up- basically 2 miles up to the trailhead. Made it and headed to Bryce Canyon Lodge for some iced tea.

We needed to get off and stay off of our feet for awhile so drove out to Rainbow Point and stopped at all the overlooks along the way. Really impressed with the Natural Bridge- lovely photo spot. You had to really watch the cars turning in and out of the overlooks as people just stopped where they wanted or darted out. We drove back to the Visitor Center and watched the movie which was very good. Big crowds in the gift shop so we avoided that and left to check into our room at The Bryce Canyon Lodge. We had finally gotten a reservation there after months of watching for a cancellation on the website. Our room was in the Sunset building on the ground floor. Very cute western décor and we had a porch with chairs. Wi fi is only available in the main lodge though so Jim had to work there. I sat on the porch in the sun and read up on our next day’s agenda. We had dinner at the Valhalla Pizzeria on the lodge property. We had pasta and salads and it hit the spot.

Thursday, Sept. 20th
Up really early so we could get to Bryce Point for sunrise. We got there and the point was already crowded but we found a spot by the rail. Right after we arrived, the bus with tourists showed up and they all tried hard to elbow their way in. It was windy and cool but the sun came up, cameras clicked like mad and the colors were lovely. We headed out of the park and stopped to get tea/coffee and drove on towards Zion.

We got to Zion by mid morning and grabbed the last parking place at the Canyon Overlook Trail. We saw Desert Bighorn sheep there. The trail was great- amazing views, slightly creepy boardwalk over a deep drop off, sunshine. When we got back to the parking lot, the tunnel traffic was backed up and we had to wait a few minutes to be able to get out of the parking lot but the tunnel drive went quickly and the drive into the park was spectacular. We parked at the Visitor Center and got on the shuttle to the Zion Lodge stop. We stood in line for a hotdog and chips and then trudged with what seemed like hundreds of others up to the Emerald Pools. Have to say I was underwhelmed. Maybe it was the crowds but I thought it was just so so. We hurried back to the shuttle and got off for Angels Landing.
Okay, this is one heck of a trail. We were starting in the heat of the day which was a major mistake. I just prayed to get to each new shade spot to cool off and catch my breath before I headed up further. Got to Scouts Lookout. Wow. There was a volunteer park ranger there who was giving a talk on the condors and we got to see one! Number 98 or 99, can’t remember. Very awesome. We took pictures, peered very carefully over the edge and marveled at the intrepid hikers who were heading to Angels Landing. I knew there was no way I could do that section. Jim had no interest in it either so we hung out at the Lookout awhile and then started the big downhill. Much easier on the lungs but harder on the legs and toes going down. Had a major sense of accomplishment when we got back to the trailhead. We were pretty tired too, the heat just sucked the energy out of you.

We got on the shuttle and headed to the Riverside Walk. When we got to the Narrows, we took off our shoes and hiked up the water for awhile. What fun that is! Very crowded but I am sure if we had kept going much further we would have left the crowds behind. We were out of energy, time, and enthusiasm though so headed back to the shuttle and to our truck. We stayed the night in Springdale at a Quality Inn attached to a campground. The room was clean, Wi fi was fast, and the area was quiet. They have a pool which we did not use. We walked down the street to a place where we had a salad and split a burger and fries. Can’t remember the name of it. Got some ice cream on the way back towards the hotel and collapsed.

Friday, Sept. 21
We woke up and headed to the breakfast room when they opened at 7. Breakfast was fine. The views of the surrounding rocks in the early morning light were lovely. We headed for home. Took 11 hours to get home . We stopped for lunch in Grand Junction, ice cream in Dillon and that was about it. Great trip.

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