Clinton and I love visiting Utah (hopefully this is obvious by now), and when traveling out of our home city of Page, Arizona we often find ourselves back in the state. Utah hosts an abundance of amazing National Parks and public lands for anyone to enjoy. Getting there is usually half the battle, depending on what fancy magazine cover you convinced yourself you could easily duplicate. Usually “view point” are just that – gaining elevation to see a birds eye view of a large piece of land. One of the best places to view large pieces of land is in Utah. While we’d love to see more remote areas (and we will here this next summer with our new truck!) we knew we could do better than the areas we actually were able to see. For instance, the Burr Trail. The Burr Trail is easily accessible because it is partially paved, but we are not able to go too far down some dirt roads with a Honda Accord. We’ve pushed it in a few places but as you do your own travels always remember to be safe and think about your actions before you can’t retract them!
One of the most beautiful places to visit for a birds-eye view of an amazing Utah landscape is Canyonlands. Canyonlands National Park is a kaleidoscope of colorful landscapes including canyons, mesas, and buttes created by the Colorado River, Green River, and their tributaries. On September 12, 1964 legislation was created and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson to make Canyonlands a National Park. Preserving over 300,000 acres of land, Canyonlands preserves both human history and natural beauty in three districts: The Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Maze, with the Colorado and Green Rivers combining in the park. Each district showcases a different level of beauty. The Island in the Sky district is a broad and level mesa north in the park including the White Rim overlook. The Needles district is south and to the east of the Colorado River and is named for the red and white banded rock pinnacles that are featured in the area. Other rock formations exist in the area, including Arches, but fun fact – most of the arches are actually further out in the backcountry. Maybe we will be able to reach them this year with four-wheel drive! The Maze district is even more remote – there are no paved roads in this district!
Another location close by that we often find ourselves exploring in Utah is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Originally designated at almost 1,900,000 acres it is among the most remote pieces of land in the country and the largest national monument managed by the Bureau of Land Management. There are three regions: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowitz Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante. Designated as a National Monument in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, the area was the last place on continental earth to be mapped. (Pretty cool!) The Anasazi and Fremont left behind rock art panels, campsites, and granaries from the period AD 950-1100, the time period when these cultures first made contact. But this area doesn’t stop in time there! Considered a dream for geologists, paleontologists, archaeologists and historians alike for scientific research and education. Don’t forget exploration! That is the best reason for our adventures! There are a few visitors centers scattered across the Monument that host educational opportunities, chances to ask a few questions before heading into the backcountry, and obtain a camping permit. One of the nicest things about camping in the Monument is the ease of camping in the monument. Even if you miss the opening hours of a visitor center, you only need to stop along a trail head and fill out the backcountry camping permit and they are FREE! (DO NOT forget to leave the copy for the Ranger! This is the whole point!) Clinton and I enjoyed camping in the area between Grand Staircase and Glen Canyon many times last summer.
If you aren’t planning to visit Utah for camping or hiking, remember that there are many parks to visit just for that picture perfect moment. But if you really want to see the true beauty, I suggest you try and take a little bit of time for a trail hike or a dirt road (safely!) that you can use to get out into the backcountry a bit more. Trust us, you’ll love it! We will always encourage visiting Utah, and hope that your travels will bring you to either of these wonderful lands!