Exploring Southern Utah

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
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I am in the final stages of putting together a trip I plan on taking this April that will (most likely) run into the first week of May. After perusing through all the amazing trip reports on here I have more ideas than I know what to do with! So I was hoping to get some feedback from some of you Utah experts and see if I was missing anything that you feel would warrant seeing or spending a few days at. We (my girl and myself) are trying to focus our trip around camping and plan on doing two, maybe three, short backpacking trips along the way.

Starting from San Diego:

A. Cedar Mesa - 7 days
1. I have numerous day hikes planned (no point in listing them all) including a trip up to Natural Bridges NM
2. Still in the process of deciding what area of Grand Gulch we would like to do a three day backpacking trip. Trying to balance that mixture of water availability, solitude, and ruins.

B. Needles District of Canyonlands - 2-3 days
1. Day hikes and plan on camping outside the park at one of the BLM sites (hamburger rock, Indian creek or creek pasture)

C. Moab - 2 days
1. will probably explore arches NP and regroup/resupply

D. Horseshoe Canyon - 1 day
1. stop on the way to Capitol Reef National Park. Planning on hiking the canyon and then camping overnight as not to rush ourselves.

E. Capitol Reef - 2-3 days
1. will do some day hikes around Fruita and then explore some hikes around the strike valley overlook/Muley Twist area.
2. Does anyone have a camping recommendations that would put us near Fruita but not surrounded by hundreds of people? I was going to call the BLM office to inquire about dispersed camping to the east of the Park but if anyone has some input that would be great!

F. Escalante - 3-4 days
1. Numerous day hikes and possibly a backpacking trip thrown in there. In all honestly after looking over the map and all the hikes, we will probably end up spending more time in GSENM.

G. Bryce Canyon - 2-3 days
1. Still not sure where we will camp when we get here so again, any suggestions for cheap/free camping areas that don't have a ton of people would be greatly appreciated :)


Any feedback would be much appreciated. Whether it is time allocation, day hikes, areas to prioritize I am all ears (or eyes?). We are pretty flexible on time frames. We are planning on spending most of the spring and summer camping and exploring our local deserts, so. Utah and then into the Sierra Nevadas and over into Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Sawtooths in the summer. The only deadline holding us back is July 20th. At which time we are moving to Des Moines, IA so that I can start medical school. But until then we will nature-it-up!
 

Artemus

I walk
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Well Bryan, you have an amazing itinerary listed there. When I was a new Utahn (Utard?) I also had this need to maximize my exposure to as many new places as I possibly could in our pretty great state. After 35 years and hundreds of trips to our red rocked south I have learned to, and advise to, pick fewer places and enjoy each of these in more details. I still find new wonderful places here that I have never seen thanks, in no small part, to this community. So you can't see it all on two weeks anyway so focus on quality more than quantity. My two cents.

A couple of suggestions... Focus some good exploration effort in Cedar Mesa and also the immediate environs. This is the epicenter of the Bears Ears National Monument controversy and will be for the next decade. It is also the epicenter for the fight to conserve the environment and access rights to our public lands. Cedar Mesa is only one part of it. For me, Dark Canyon and the land south of CNP, are even more interesting and important and are included in the Monument.

Secondly, there are some informal camping spots on the other side of the highway just north of Bryce canyon that can make a visit to Bryce much more pleasant at least for my style of camping. There are probably TR's or info on these here or PM me if you decide to visit Bryce for sure and are interested.
 

Jackson

I like to go outside.
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Does anyone have a camping recommendations that would put us near Fruita but not surrounded by hundreds of people? I was going to call the BLM office to inquire about dispersed camping to the east of the Park but if anyone has some input that would be great!

East of the park is great. The Notom Road has places where you can pull off and camp. There's also a free, first come, first served campground down there called Cedar Mesa Campground. I believe the campground is in the park boundary though, so you'd have to stop and get a (free) permit at the Visitor Center near Fruita before going down. North of there on the road is mostly on BLM land though.
 

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
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When I was a new Utahn (Utard?)

@Artemus lol great descriptor.

And thanks for the suggestions, I will definitely focus more time on fewer places. Sometimes (most of the time) I get ahead of myself and bite off more than I can chew, so to speak. I was reading about the Dark Canyon area in Kelsey's Guide but didn't give it much thought. Will definitely look into it more.


The Notom Road has places where you can pull off and camp. There's also a free, first come, first served campground down there called Cedar Mesa Campground.

thanks @Jackson I saw that campground on the map but wasn't sure how popular it was. Would hate to drive down to that campground and have it be full but will keep an eye out on the Notom Road for pullouts.
 

SteveR

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Sep 22, 2016
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That has the makings of a memorable trip! We have camped at the "Cedar Mesa" campground two times with no problem getting a site, arriving at 4-5 pm. Last October we camped by Pleasant Creek, just off the Notom Road. Good spots can be found on either side of the road, and despite the proximity to pavement- traffic was non-existent after dusk. We also camped between Bryce and Red Canyon, to the north of the hwy in very pleasant pine forest. Only thing here is to get well away from the hwy, ( we didn't-a half mile or so wasn't enough) as it is surprisingly busy quite late into the night, and early in the morning as well.
 

gnwatts

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Welcome to BCP.
Solitude in Grand Gulch is tough to find. A Good loop would be from the Government trailhead, immediately head east and drop into Polly's, a beautiful little canyon with some nice ruins. You could camp in Polly's and explore Grand Gulch, see Big Man panel, Polly's rincon, and some nice ruins down canyon from there. Head back out the Government trail to complete a loop.

Have a great time.
 

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
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Welcome to BCP.
Solitude in Grand Gulch is tough to find. A Good loop would be from the Government trailhead, immediately head east and drop into Polly's, a beautiful little canyon with some nice ruins. You could camp in Polly's and explore Grand Gulch, see Big Man panel, Polly's rincon, and some nice ruins down canyon from there. Head back out the Government trail to complete a loop.

Have a great time.

It's funny you should mention that because I was eyeing that exact route! Thinking of camping at the confluence of Pollys and Grand Gulch (wherever the nearest reliable water source is) then exploring up canyon for a day then moving camp to Deer canyon then exploring the surrounding canyons for a day or two. But since we are not applying for an advanced permit because we do not have a set date in mind, we are trying to be flexible with out route as well as arrive during the week as to increase our chances of securing a permit.
 

gnwatts

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There is always water at the mouth of Polly's. I should not say always, but every time I have been there, drought years included. Good campspot there too. I think it is about 2 miles? to big man, and make sure you check out the walls on your left, lot's of rock art. The hike down Polly's is beautiful, a little bit of thrashing but not much. It takes a little recon to find a place to drop in. If you can't get a permit into Grand Gulch, you can try Pt. Lookout, a little gem.
 

Kmatjhwy

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Sep 23, 2016
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Bryan, as for the Escalante, I have personally been here many a time in April with into Spring. I personally think it is some of the best part of the canyon country for extensive hiking and camping. This is with the nearby Kaiparowits Plateau. One really needs some time to really see the Greater Escalante for so many side canyons and so much country. And even arriving in the Escalante in late March and hiking into May, one will not see it all. If I could give you a hint, some of most favorite areas of the Escalante is between Harris and Silver Falls Canyon to the north down to the Moody's in the south. I love Choprock and the Neon Canyon Area and have been in the past camping here for days.

But it looks good and Enjoy for that is what it is all about. Wishing You the Best!
 

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
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@gnwatts thanks for the info. And we are probably going to do more than one backpacking trip into the Cedar Mesa canyons so I will keep that in mind. The first night we drive up there I am hoping to camp at Muley point before finding a more centralized campsite to the north.

@Kmatjhwy ugh I am getting so pumped for this trip! Cant come soon enough... I am taking what Art said above to heart. Going to try to spend 2 weeks in the Bear's Ears area (cedar mesa, Dark canyon) some times in Needles and then 2 weeks in GSENM. It just seems like such a unique landscape that we want to explore it at least a little. Plus I am deep into the reading of Finding Everett Ruess by Dave Roberts so I gotta follow up right? Thanks for the suggestions, I will be sure to add some more hikes and maybe an overnight trip into that area. So, would you say, running our trip a week or two into the month of May shouldn't be too terrible with respect to the heat? I just know hiking in my local deserts in May is brutal, and I have come to really try and avoid it.
 

Wyatt Carson

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E. Capitol Reef - 2-3 days
1. will do some day hikes around Fruita and then explore some hikes around the strike valley overlook/Muley Twist area.
2. Does anyone have a camping recommendations that would put us near Fruita but not surrounded by hundreds of people? I was going to call the BLM office to inquire about dispersed camping to the east of the Park but if anyone has some input that would be great!
One very good option is to park at the lot for Hickman Bridge overnight and backpack in on the Frying Pan Trail just across the road. Follow that trail as if you are heading to Cassidy Arch but after you climb over the first rise and descend down into the first drainage, about a mile give or take, you can follow that drainage up canyon towards the edge of the rim. You don't go very far up canyon though. We found a great little rise that was clear enough for a tent. There is a lot of geology on the way. The next day we backtracked a little, back up the way we came to the top of the first rise I think and then bushwhacked to the top of the Reef. It was epic, lots of canyon country route finding and some very unique sculptures near the top of a deeper red sandstone.

I got in some reading near our camp;



It was a very nice area with no other people that we saw. Lots of incredible hiking possibilities and some of the most fanatic geology on the planet.

another shot near camp later in the day. She would not come up. LOL

 

Brendan S

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Mar 19, 2016
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Going to try to spend 2 weeks in the Bear's Ears area (cedar mesa, Dark canyon) some times in Needles and then 2 weeks in GSENM. It just seems like such a unique landscape that we want to explore it at least a little. Plus I am deep into the reading of Finding Everett Ruess by Dave Roberts so I gotta follow up right? Thanks for the suggestions, I will be sure to add some more hikes and maybe an overnight trip into that area. So, would you say, running our trip a week or two into the month of May shouldn't be too terrible with respect to the heat? I just know hiking in my local deserts in May is brutal, and I have come to really try and avoid it.
this is a good plan. tons to do down there and then your're spending less time driving. davis/50mile/and willow/40mile are all great warm weather hikes because you spend a lot of time in the water (including some chest-ish deep wades). In fact August is my fav time to be down there. While you're down there you could climb up onto 50 mile mtn as well.
 

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
Messages
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@Wyatt Carson those are some awesome pictures. I will definitely keep that route in mind. I really like the idea of setting up a backcountry base camp and doing some exploring.

@Brendan S thanks for the suggestions and thats great to hear about the weather. Allows me to more confidently coordinate our plans for the Escalante area.
 

gnwatts

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@gnwatts thanks for the info. And we are probably going to do more than one backpacking trip into the Cedar Mesa canyons so I will keep that in mind. The first night we drive up there I am hoping to camp at Muley point before finding a more centralized campsite to the north.

Car camping there is a memorable experience. Get there early.
 

BryanG

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Jul 22, 2016
Messages
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Update: Southern Utah trip is surpassing our expectations! We have had spectacular weather this entire trip and everywhere we go the views are amazing. We are in Moab now and plan on leaving tomorrow for Capitol Reef where we plan to just spend a night. After that we plan on heading to Eacalante for some time. If anyone is headed out that way and would want to meet up for a day hike or something let me know! Also, there seems to be some rain/snow showers in the forecast; I know the 12 fwy gets pretty high in elevation and was wondering if anyone knows if it will be passable or who I would call to find out that information?
 

DrNed

The mountains are calling and I must go
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I have learned to, and advise to, pick fewer places and enjoy each of these in more details. I still find new wonderful places here that I have never seen thanks, in no small part, to this community. So you can't see it all on two weeks anyway so focus on quality more than quantity. My two cents.

@Artemus You are a man of great wisdom.

I don't know this first hand, but I've been told that the Hawaiian word haole, which is a slang word for white person,
is literally translated, "breathless."

When first encountered the natives noticed that they were always rushing about and did not "breathe deeply."

Your advice to "enjoy each in more detail" reminded me this and the importance of "breathing deep" and
enjoy every moment for all that it is worth.

Thanks
 
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