If you look at my recent photo of Goosenecks State Park, you can see that there’s absolutely no way to hike down to the San Juan River in that area — continuous cliff bands block any possible route down. However, back in the 1890s a precipitous trail was constructed nearby by Henry Honaker as a supply route for gold prospectors. Honaker’s unbelievable trail zig zags down a puzzle-like route from the rim to the river, oftentimes descending sheer cliffs via large ramps built from meticulously stacked rocks.
After all these years of exploring the deserts and canyons of Utah, I never bothered to go to Natural Bridges National Monument. It’s pretty much out of the way from anywhere and after all, it’s just another couple arches, right? Well, on our recent road trip after backpacking in nearby Dark Canyon, Natural Bridges was finally on our way, so I figured we might as well stop and check it out.
And we were blown away. First off, the natural bridges — particularly Sipapu — are absolutely mind-boggling. These aren’t some dainty little arches; these are ginormous masses of earth soaring through the sky over the canyon. And what a canyon too! Even if the bridges weren’t there, White Canyon would still be an awesome place for a hike. And if that’s not enough, there’s an abundance of Ancestral Puebloan ruins throughout the canyon — including some of the most fascinating sites I’ve yet seen.
The thing about Natural Bridges Monument, though, is that there’s not a whole lot to see from the road. A roadside tourist might not see what’s so great about this place. You’ve got to at least hike down to Sipapu to see the glory. On our first day there we hiked the entire “three bridge” loop hike starting and ending at the Sipapu trailhead. We enjoyed the canyon so much we decided to spend a second day there hiking up-canyon to see more of it!
Horse collar ruins are located between Sipapu and Kachina bridges, up on a hard-to-get-to ledge as usual. It’s so fascinating to image people living here almost a thousand years ago, and the fact that these ruins have been sitting here for that long gives them an aura of sacredness.
At the end of October after our time around the Green River and Capitol Reef, we headed down past the north end of Lake Powell and over to Dark Canyon, where we spent two nights backpacking and hiking up and down the canyon. It’s been over 16 years since I’ve visited this canyon and it’s as spectacular as I remember, kind of like a mini Grand Canyon. Here’s a few of my favorite photos from the trip.
In late October we hit the road for two weeks of camping and hiking in the deserts of southern Utah. Our first destination was the remote and relatively seldom-visited region along the Green River between the towns of Green River and Hanksville.
After our Grand Canyon trek, we had plans to backpack through the famous Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon, but for the second year in a row we decided to cancel those plans due to a less-than-promising weather forecast. The world’s longest slot canyon is probably not the best place to be with any chance of rain! So instead we spent a few days car camping and hiking in The Cockscomb area between the towns of Kanab and Page and Cannonville. This is an area I’ve never visited before and it was quite an interesting place! More photos below. Continue reading “Cavorting in the Cockscomb”→
With no new snow in the mountains we headed out for a quick trip to Canyonlands earlier this week to enjoy the freakishly spring-like February weather. We spent a few days camping up on the Island in the Sky and doing hikes around there.
The shot above is a stitched long-exposure panorama of False Kiva, illuminated by a single headlamp placed in the kiva. This kiva is of unknown origin; it’s not clear whether it’s an authentic native site or of later construction.
The last stop on our two-week road trip through southern Utah was the famous Bryce Canyon National Park, which Claudia just had to see since we were so close already in Escalante. The shot above was taken right before we randomly ran into my photographer friend Rich Voninski. Nice to see you, Rich!
Despite the threatening storm clouds, we day-hiked the Peekaboo and Queens Garden loop trails and were fortunate to not get rained on! The dark clouds actually provided a wonderful atmosphere against the bright orange hoodoos all along the trail.
After hiking the fantastic trails in Bryce, we needed to escape the crowds there since we were more adjusted to solitude after two weeks of camping on our own in the wilds. So we headed over to nearby Red Canyon and found a nice secluded camp spot for the evening. A quick scramble above our camp provided a broad vista from which to enjoy a windy sunset.
That night it poured rain for the first time on our trip, and with the continuing stormy weather in the morning we decided it was time to end our desert journeys and head home to the mountains.