My Solo Wanderings of the West


Great thread and report. The narrative and photos are interesting and well done. Thanks for the effort. I almost feel like I'm riding along as a silent partner. I have spent many miles on an XT225 in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana ... as well as Moab, UT. (BTW, be sure to include Moab as part of your routing ... it is a trailbiker's paradise)


Finally I found wifi so I can post some updates! I'm posting this from Beaver, Utah, and as soon as I'm done I'll be heading across the desert to Nevada and Great Basin National Park.

The next few weeks I would be going into tourist mode; I would be visiting a lot of National Parks. I've never been to Black Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, or Natural Bridge. In 2013 I saw Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef on a whirlwind through Utah so I wanted to revisit those parks and see more of them. I've even got a brand new pair of water walkers for the hike up the Narrows!
Leaving Coal Creek Canyon. I was going south that day to Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

I stopped just south of Redstone to look at Hays Creek Falls.

Starting up the long switchback over McClure Pass on highway 133.

Hours later, driving the unpaved road to the north rim of Black Canyon.

I was seeing the canyon under the harsh mid-day light, not ideal for photography but the views were spectacular.

There is a road that follows the rim to the different overlooks.

The road follows the rim of the canyon very closely, in many cases it's just feet from a 1,000 foot sheer drop.

At the end of the day I camped on BLM land just north of the National Park. Later I wished I had stayed in the NP campground, it was cheap and quiet, and I could have checked out sunset/sunrise on the canyon.



The next day I was heading back north to Grand Mesa National Forest. Far below in the distance I kept noticing this spire of rock.

After checking the compass from a few different points on the road, I was able to identify it on the map as Needle Rock. It was some miles out of the way but I could drive right to it from Crawford, Colorado.

It's a pretty impressive sight up close, and while not as pretty as Devil's Tower in Wyoming, it's pretty close in actual height according to the topo map posted at the site.

Driving back through Crawford, I decided to treat the van and bike to a much needed wash.

Finally making the long, steep drive up onto Grand Mesa, I could stop and look all the way back to where I'd been the day before.



Grand Mesa is big, and very popular. I was there on a weekend and it was busy. There are hundreds of lakes so there is fishing, and paddling, and all the roads are open to ohvs, and there are hikers and bikers, and just campers. I have to give kudos to Coloradans (?) for getting out and enjoying all their great recreation opportunities.

I took a couple really good bike rides. One day I mapped out a long loop route over forest roads. It is a National Forest, and going through spring thaw, some of the forest roads can get interesting making for entertaining riding. It was at Grand Mesa I started to feel like I was mastering riding curvy gravel roads on a motorcycle; good fun!

It seems Grand Mesa grew out of a project to supply irrigation water to the arid lower valley. There are hundreds of small reservoir/lakes that harness the melting snow pack at the high altitude and provide it all summer for agriculture, and recreation. The lakes may be all manmade but the scenery is lovely.

The other thing Grand Mesa was, was cool, or cold. Most of it is well over 10,000 feet in elevation, and daytimes ran 60s to 70, but nighttimes went right down to low 30s, even in mid June. I made sure to have the propane heater ready to fire up in the morning.



While I was out riding I spotted a few nice sites so Saturday evening I made a quick move just off the top of the mesa, down into the aspens. It would be slightly less cold overnight and a little less ohv traffic.

In planning my way out of Grand Mesa I noticed on the map a forest route that ended in a serpentine route down off the mesa. So instead of continuing out on highway 65, I headed cross country on FR 100.

Along that route I could look back to see how vast and grand the mesa really is.

Looking ahead at the end of the mesa, and the valley below.

The big gravel road turned and the only way to continue was down the narrow switchback road that dropped down to the valley below.

According to my GPS, I drove 11 miles of switchbacks to descend about 6,000 feet. It was one of the coolest drives on the trip, with views that never stopped.

I didn't really know where I was going to end up for the night, but FR100 ended at Highway 50, and in just a few miles I turned south on 141 and found myself heading down the stunning Unaweep Canyon. I quickly found a turnoff into a BLM area and picked a great spot to park and enjoy the evening.



In heading towards Utah, my thinking was to go through Grand Junction, where I could re-supply, then take I-70 the short distance to Utah route 128. Since it was basically on the way, I spent the afternoon driving the Rimrock Road through Colorado National Monument.

Very beautiful, but from most views you're very aware of the busy valley below.

The park/monument was nice and I enjoyed the day I spent driving through, but if I didn't already have a pass for the entrance fee I probably wouldn't have visited.

By the time I left the park/monument it was already time to think about a place for the night. I ended up driving into McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, a huge BLM managed area right on the Colorado/Utah border. At first, it seemed mostly restricted from open camping, but further up the road I started driving deeper into the canyon and found a pretty nice spot for the night.

Interestingly, I later realized my camp was only a stone's throw from the Utah border and could have continued on this BLM road eventually meeting up with Utah 128. But the BLM roads can turn impassable real suddenly so better that I went out the way I came in and not risk a misadventure running cross country on iffy roads.


The next morning I made the short, 17 mile run on I-70 into Utah and got off at the Old Highway that would run down past Cisco and turn into highway 128. That was a drive not to be missed with Utah canyon country unfolding and driving along the Colorado River. I stopped a lot to take pictures, and drove back in to Fisher Towers where I hiked around for a while.

View across the Colorado River toward Fisher Towers with the LaSal mountains in the distance.

The side road that leads to Fisher Towers.

Just amazing scenery!

Driving alongside the Colorado River.

With all the stops it seemed like forever to reach the junction of 191; Moab to the south, Arches NP to the north. I turned right and in a few miles turned into Arches National Park.

These are just a few of the shots I really liked from Arches:

Leaving Arches early in the evening, I headed north on 191 to try to find a place to camp on BLM land. All along the area highways were posted no camping except in designated campgrounds. Since I would be visiting Canyonlands the next day I started down route 313 then turned on a side road for a few miles. Once off the highway there are plenty of places for dispersed camping. This was in the Big Mesa area.



The next day, at Canyonlands National Park. At the Shafer Canyon overlook, far below is Shafer Road that connects with the White Rim Trail.

A convoy of Jeeps heading down the switchbacks into Shafer Canyon.

This view was from up above Mesa Arch.

View from the Green River overlook.

Looking east toward the LaSal mountains. In the next days I would be camped very high up in those mountains.

That evening I went back to the same area to camp, just a different site further up the road. I ended up staying at this site for two nights.

The sky was perfect for some late day and setting sunlight pictures on the mesa.

That's all the updates for today. Coming up, a lot more of southeast Utah. Thanks for reading!


Some great photography right thar! What a great trip! (And a great thread!)

How often do you get to use the bike?

When you get to BLM land do you simply pull off the road and camp or are there designated "free" camping spots?