Southern Utah Expedition, Part One: National Parks of Southern Utah
Utah is a magical place: mostly because you underestimate its treasures, expecting the illusion to yield something more believable. Utah is a wealth of diversity, and a pallet of colors. Every adventure imaginable, with views beyond the imagination...
From the water and cliffs of Lake Powell, to the crimson of the Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, Utah unfurled a red carpet of adventure!
Location: Zion and the Grafton Historical Site: SW Utah on Route 9
Bryce Canyon: Southern Utah east of Hwy 89 on Route 12
Mapping / GPS / Waypoint File: Grafton Town site: .gif Map Image (Main) (Area) / .MPS GPS File / .TXT File
Trail Rating (1-5 Scale): 1
Major Obstacle: None
Brush (minor, moderate, severe): None
Scenic Value (1-5 scale): 5- It does not get much prettier than this area!
Scott & Stephanie Brady- 2004 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD
Zion National Park
Southern Utah is rich with beautiful landscapes, great roads, majestic sunsets and fresh air. We found all of that on our recent trip to the area. Stephanie and I have been wanting to explore southern Utah for some time, and early July provides for great temperatures to explore the varied elevations.
Our trip started in Arizona, after a great breakfast at the Mason Jar Cafe on Route 66 in Flagstaff. We drove north on 89 from Flagstaff towards Page and the Glen Canyon. As you make the final climb along Echo Cliffs towards Page the Glen and Marble canyons of the Colorado River tear through the House Rock Valley, splitting the ancient Paria and Kaibito Plateau's, yielding the intense Vermillion Cliffs just across the border.
The speed limit across the bridge next to the Glen Canyon Dam is 25mph, but we drove it much slower. Actually, we stopped on the bridge and stared at the mass of concrete holding back 10 million acre feet of water and the full force of the Colorado River. As of our trip, the water level at the dam was 485 feet deep.
After crossing the Colorado, we had the chance to view lake Powell from several scenic points. From this vantage we could see just how low the lake is from normal (114 feet below full pool as of 7/7/04).
A view of Marble Canyon
Hwy 89 turns east after crossing the Colorado and begins gaining elevation. The additional elevation created a shift in flora, with pinion pine, juniper and sagebrush dotting the landscape.
We decided to take a break in Kanab at a very cool little local coffee / book / outdoor gear shop called Willow Canyon Outdoor. The shop is located at 263 South 100 East (435-644-8884). I enjoyed a great double espresso and talked with Charlie Neumann, a semi-retired geologist, who loves adventure and the local area. The little shop has a great selection of local and eclectic books, and most of the basic camping equipment you would need if something was forgotten. Charlie was very knowledgeable on the local hiking and climbing areas, and he even provides guide services on the Colorado River. Worth the stop!
The view towards Pilot Ridge
We continued on 89 north out of Kanab, and turned on to Route 9 that travels east towards Zion National Park. Route 9 proved to be a great road with buffalo ranches, huge grassy meadows, dense pine forests and massive red bluffs guiding our way.
A buffalo ranch on Route 9
The rich textures of Zion
We entered Zion Nation Park from the east, with massive sandstone cliffs standing as centurions to this broken, cragged place. We drove slowly, craning our necks to catch glimpses of the effects of wind and water, forming waves of rock, held suspended for a time.
The Grafton Townsite
If I were to build a town in the old west, it would look just like Grafton, with massive Red Bluffs, restless natives and gold in the hills. After stepping out of our vehicles and on to the dusty road that leads into Grafton, I found myself staring at the tall, adobe church with its white bell tower standing in stark contrast to the deep blue sky. A few steps further and the Rockville Bench splits the old church and a large house to the east. A line of dense trees in the distance marks the shores of the Virgin River, which ravaged and even destroyed the town at its previous location down stream. The town (in its current location) was settled in 1886, and abandoned on several occasions due to attacks by the local Blackhawk Indians.
Expeditions West met up with Larry Heck from Outback USA in Grafton to talk about some future adventures and to explore the area. Larry has assembled a great series of guidebooks called the Outlaw Trail and Pass Patrol. The Outlaw Trail project is still under development and is being prepared for release. During this trip, Larry was preparing an article on Grafton and its use in the 1969 filming of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross.
After we left the townsite we explored the Grafton Cemetery and the historic bridge over the Virgin River leading back to Rockville.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is one of those places that takes a while to settle in, as I stand eyes wide looking over the vast distance before me. The Paunsaugunt Plateau drops away in a series of curved amphitheaters, providing distant views of to the north of the Escalante Mountains and Dixie National Forest. The Claron formation of briliant limestone has been eroded into windows, grottos, slot canyons and the hoodoo spires. Route 63 moves south from Route 12 into the park. The Sunset and Bryce Points yield exceptional views to the north and east.
The view from Bryce Point
The Natural Bridge
View the entire album here.