Utah’s Mighty 5 Road Trip
Covid19 has put a hold on international travel but it hasn’t put a hold on all travel. The United States is such a large country with so many diverse regions it is an ideal land for road trips. From the coastline of California, the forests of the pacific northwest to the Grand Canyon and the desert landscape of Arizona, there are many types of road trips to be had. And these are just examples from the west coast. I decided to visit Utah’s national parks, better known as the mighty 5. In fact, I included two other locations along the way so the title should be Utah’s Mighty 5 + 2 but that’s a little to confusing.
The trip started on a Friday morning but not to early in order to avoid the morning traffic that southern California is famous for. I left at 9 a.m. and made my way to Mesquite, Nevada, where I had lunch and took a moment to rest. Half of my driving was done for the day and I was now rested and ready to hit the road again. I reached Bryce Canyon National Park shortly after 4 p.m. but I didn’t go straight to the hotel to check in. No, I went to the Mossy Cave Trailhead and my first hike of the road trip. It was a short two mile up and back hike that featured a small waterfall and the typical hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. I could have stayed here all day but the daylight was diminishing so I made my way to the hotel. The next morning I entered the park and made my way to the Fairyland Loop Trailhead. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to the whole lope. I was pacing myself as I had planned on doing a twelve mile hike the next day. So, I hiked to the Natural Bridge and after returning I hiked along the Rim Trail. Bryce Canyon is so unique, with its colorful hoodoos, it’ll take your breath away. But, as quickly as I arrived, it was time to leave.
GRAND STAIRCASE – ESCALANTE
I left in the afternoon and made my way up Utah’s scenic Highway 12 to the town of Escalante and the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. It’s not a national park but this beautiful part of Utah should be soon. This also means less visitors which is OK with me. The area is full of off the beaten path hikes and attractions which drew me to the location. The next day would be a hike to one of these far flung locations and my twelve mile hike, or so I thought. By the end of the hike to Hamblin Arch, in Coyote Gulch, I had hiked 17 miles. The strain on my body and the near bout of dehydration had altered my plans. The next day, I concentrated on recovering with one short trip to Devil’s Garden and its unique rock formations.
Unfortunately, my time here was over and I continued up Highway 12 to my next destination. But before I got to the next park, I was totally blown away by this scenic byway with its cliffside viewpoints. And, as I continued on to the top of the mountain, the landscape changed. I was now in a tree lined vista covered by a trees changing into it’s Autumn coat.
After making to many stops, I finally reached Highway 24 and Capitol Reef National Park was just a short drive away. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to do any hiking on this visit. I did have the opportunity to take the scenic drive road. It’s a great way to get a quick view of what the park has to offer. If your not physically fit enough to hike the trails, it’s a great way to see the park. Afternoon came to quickly and I was on the highway again.
Before sunset, I arrived at Moab and my hotel for the next three nights. The next morning was my most anticipated one as I was visiting Arches National Park. I woke up early and made my way to the iconic Delicate Arch along with hundreds of other visitors. It’s definitely worth the long drive it took to get here and the early wakeup call. Two other locations I would recommend is the Devi’s Garden at the very end of the park. You can visit more than half a dozen arches here, it just depends on how many miles you want to hike. The other trail I recommend is the short two mile hike of Park Avenue near the entrance. The panoramic scene at the viewpoint will take your breath away.
Conveniently, Canyonlands National Park is just a half hour away from Arches and it was my next destination. I didn’t know much about the park and by the end of the day I was blown away by my visit. I went for the canyon views and discovered a land of adventure. I definitely recommend the Grand View Point Trail. It’s a short two mile up and back that will blow you away. And, make sure you stop at Shafer Canyon Overlook for an amazing view of the canyon and Shaver road as it whines down to the bottom of the canyon.
KOLOB CANYONS, ZION NATIONAL PARK
The next day would bring more windshield time as I made my way down Highway 70. After the town of Green River, keep an eye out for the turnouts to some beautiful viewpoints along the highway. After a quick stop for lunch, I found my way to Kolob Canyons, Zion National Park, and my fifth national park of the trip. Zion is my favorite park, along with Yosemite, and I’ve been here several times. But, this was my first time to the Kolob Canyons area. I hiked Taylor Creek and Timber Creek Overlook and I was amazed at the beauty of the canyons. The forested canyons is a far cry from the desert landscape of the main portion of the park in Zion valley. By the time darkness came I arrived at my hotel in St. George.
CANDY CLIFFS, ST. GEORGE
The city has its own beautiful landscapes and the next day I visited one of them. I took the narrow dirt road to Yant Flat trail that took me to Candy Cliffs. It’s a short two mile up and back trail that leads to a rocky cliff. After the trail ended, I walked to the edge. I looked over the edge where I could see the cliffs below me and the white and orange swirl pattern resembling candy. There is a rocky outcropping in the middle of the formation and I wanted to walk down to it. I walked to the left of my location where the path to that set of rocks wasn’t so difficult. I followed a crack in the rock, carved out by water, down to the rocks. I noticed the rock I was now walking on had this strange formation. It resembled large scales as if I was walking on a large dragon. The only way to get a good view of this was from above. I sent my drone up and got some amazing views of this and the rest of the cliffs. Candy Cliffs is another reason to love southern Utah.
It was now Sunday and the day I dreaded out of all the days on this trip. It was the day I drove home and the end of the road trip. I had driven 1842 miles and hiked approximately 56 miles on this ten day excursion. It was ambitions and full of days on the trail and hours on the road. And, the dangers on the trail or on the road wasn’t the only perils on this trip. The hotel visits had its own level of danger. Covid19 had made me question my whole trip but preparation would get me past those fears. Hotels have now changed there procedures in cleaning the rooms and no longer do daily cleaning on multiple night stays. This would mean no one other than you enters the room during your stay. I also picked hotels that kept a 24 hour to 48 hour span between room tenants. Even with all the new procedures, I also brought my own disinfectant spray and used it to spray the room and even the bed. I even brought my own bed sheets and blanket. I put the blanket over the bed and slept over it. I even brought my own pillow case. Was this overkill, maybe but It was necessary to make me feel safe.
Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, Arches, Canyonlands and Zion National Parks all on one road trip is a dream for most. I had completed Utah’s Mighty 5 and… oh yah, I also added visits to the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument and St. George. It was ambitious and heightened during the Covid19 era but it was something I needed after the lengthy lock downs. The southwest, specifically southern Utah, is a beautiful and adventurous land that I won’t stop visiting any time soon.
For more details of each portion of the trip, please click the link: Utah’s Mighty 5 Road Trip