Destinations: Exploring Eastern Utah

Southern Utah is magic, without question one of my most favorite overland destinations on planet, even outranking the likes of Mongolia and Namibia for sheer beauty. The Colorado plateau is a massive group of geological intermontane, draining 130,000 miinto the Colorado River.  The region is also the highest concentration of US National Parks in the country. For our most recent exploration of this region, we loaded up our recently completed Land Cruiser 70-series project vehicle and invited a few friends from South Africa to explore the Grand Canyon to Moab. 


Our adventure began with a stunning and remote campsite at the edge of the Grand Canyon. It takes over 1.5 hours of backcountry driving to arrive here,
but results in one of the most beautify views in the world.


Tina and Dave Payne and Renee and Rob Cary joined along for the adventure, driving two specially-prepared Front Runner overland vehicles, a
Land Rover LR3 and a four-door Jeep Wrangler. 

 
The Colorado Plateau is part of an ancient seabed, impressions of shells still visible.  The campsite is also part of the Grand Canyon National Park, so paying
the entrance fee is compulsory.  I was sworn to secrecy of the actual campsite, so part of the fun will be discovering it on your own. 

 
We enjoyed the view well into the evening, even attempting to fly a Phantom camera copter over the edge.  The flying part was questionable. . . however,
the full moon was worth the wait. 


Camp set up quickly (nothing wrong with a ground tent – fast and easy), leaving Stephanie and Tina to enjoy the view and a few Gin and Tonics 


About 45 minutes after sunset, I set my tripod and captured the Grand Canyon under moonlight.  Canon 5DMKIII, 24-70mm F2.8. 30 Second Exposure at
F5.6. Stitch of seven images. See larger file here: Grand Canyon Panorama


On the way back out the next morning, Dave took the opportunity to ride the trail on his new Specialized. What was even more impressive is that the Front Runner
bike mount survived the trail in


The Expedition Portal Land Cruiser project continues to impress, even with a mild lift and 235/85 R16 All Terrain tires. 


Tina and Dave – not having any fun. . . 


Tina, showing the group how to navigate a cross-axle ditch in the LR3


Rob, making easy work of it in the Jeep


With our side trip to the Grand Canyon complete, we continued through the Navajo Reservation to the Valley of the Gods.  It is a wide, graded track, which
is a good thing, because the scenery is a huge distraction.


The breadth of capabilities with the LR3 is impressive.  Quiet and competent at any speed and nearly any terrain.


Renee took her hand at the wheel of the JK, showing the decades of experience on dirt tracks in Africa.


Stephanie, piloting the Land Cruiser through the spires. 


The sun setting again, and in true South African fashion, it was time for sundowners

 
A strong Belgium seemed appropriate 

 
The setting sun moved through every shade, starting with a deep red and ending with a majestic purple. 


Again – no fun on this trip allowed. 


The next morning, we made an attempt at Comb Wash Road, normally an easy and scenic route.  However, the recent storms had other plans and with swollen rivers, progress was slow. 


Ultimately, we arrived in Moab and explored Highway 28 and the trails surrounding Castle Valley and Fisher Towers. 

 
It was a fantastic week on the trail with interesting vehicles and long-time friends. We are already planning the next trip – a walking safari in the Kruger. . . 

Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and include three circumnavigations of the globe. He lives in Prescott, Arizona