San Rafael Swell – The North side of I-70

Read on for more information about the North side of the swell from a local.

Popular meeting place

Ah the swell, the desert, my playground and where I love to go the most near my home.

My usual day visits are on what the locals call this side of I-70. This is where most of my mini adventures play out. We have “The Wedge” or Little Grand Canyon, Cedar Mountain, and several pull off spots for petroglyphs, pictographs, and even dinosaur footprints. Not to mention the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, scenic Buckhorn Wash, and the Swinging Bridge, amongst many other neat-o things to see. 

 Just a few things to do out here

The geocache stashes out here are unreal too. I plan on adding to the geocache population out on the San Rafael Swell myself this Spring! Check out my post on a DIY geocache stash swag

Camping is the best out here if you’re into primitive camping. You should see it around Easter! The landscape becomes full of campers, RV’s, tents, and plenty of ATV rides in all sizes. The locals call it “Easter’n”. Come sunshine, rain, and most times snow and freezing temperatures, most of the Emery County and Carbon County population go out to camp and recreate in the San Rafael Swell for Easter. 

During the Spring runoff period and if we have a good winter, floating the San Rafael River is an adventure must. Check out my post on my experience with floating the river. I plan on doing this again at any chance I get. 

There aren’t a lot of designated hiking trails on this side but plenty to explore on your own. However, ATV trails are in abundance.

Geology in the Swell 

You’ll find a lot of the same formations that are scattered throughout Utah. Some of it looks like the formations found in Zions National Park, Moab, Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef National Parks. In fact when I visited Capital Reef National Park, I said it looked like “our” desert but more red.

History in San Rafael Swell
Markers identifying The Old Spanish Trail

Native Americans, settlers, and miners helped develop this land and cultivated a story or two.

Of course we see the presence of Native Americans through the strange and wonderful paintings, carvings, and artifacts left behind. First used as a trade route and running from New Mexico to California, The Old Spanish Trail runs through the swell. There are people who still navigate the trail to this day! Old uranium mines remain, but dangerous to explore. They would be a fascinating part of history to see first hand but please don’t put yourself in harms way. 

Wildlife

You can expect to see antelope pretty much year round and abundantly in Buckhorn Flat. Deer, prairie dogs, and even wild horses and burros in some areas. I’ve spent plenty of time out on the swell and only in the last couple of years did I get the pleasure of seeing bighorn sheep up close and personal. They really are magnificent creatures, but if you spot some, please be smart about approaching them. They will run from you, and are extremely fast, but you never know.

Best time to visit

In order to get a good visit in especially if you’re traveling far, I would recommend anywhere between April to about mid June. In the summer, it can get pretty hot and most of all buggy.

Then try September to whenever it decides to snow on a regular basis. I made pretty frequent visits up to December and January this year and had gorgeous weather.

Let me tell you, when you’re hanging out in the desert in February and you actually see winter coming, you should probably start packing up your picnic stuff because it comes fast!

WINTER’S COMING!

Check out the video for a little time warp of Buckhorn Wash in the Winter for your viewing pleasure!

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Located in south central Utah and situated in the southern portion of the San Rafael Swell desert, or as the locals here would call it below or the south side of I-70.

View from the parking lot/observation point.

This State park features some pretty spectacular natural formations that the first settlers of this area named “goblins”. There’s no argument there, they’re spooky and I can only imagine what these formations look like at night with a clear sky and a full moon to light them up. The State Park day use fee is $15 and the park is open year round. Be sure to grab a brochure when you pay your fee at the entrance gate, and go inside for more info about the geology of this area as well as a little gift shop to look around in.

Where is the Park located

From Green River, Utah on I-70, take exit 149 to get on Hwy 24 and follow all the signs to the park from there as it is well signed. 


What to do here
  • Hiking – The park offers several hikes at various difficulty levels or you can just do what most people like to do for the first visit or two and explore the Valley of the Goblins.
  • Canyoneering – With a permit and all the required gear needed for your canyoneering fun, you can attempt The Goblin’s Lair!
  • Camping – The park offers 22 total designated campsites. Two yurts – $100 per night, twelve standard sites for campers or motorhomes – $30 per night, seven tent only sites for $30 per night, and one big group site for $100 per night. All of which can be reserved at 

http://www.reserveamerica.com/

  • Disc golf – I didn’t know about this activity until after visiting the park for the second time. You can get more info on this from the park rangers at the entrance gate. It sounds like it could be a lot of fun!
  • Mountain biking – There are 5 loop trails to explore around the park. The brochure they give you at the gate doesn’t explain these so you might want to ask for more info if interested.
What’s close by
  • Green River, Utah is about an hour away – There’s decent lodging, restaurants, gas stations, truck stops and KOA campgrounds and RV parks sprinkled throughout this small town. Plus The Green River runs right alongside and offers river related activities with that feature as well.
  • Hanksville, Utah is about 45 minutes away – This is an even smaller town but there are a few choices in lodging and a few places to eat. There’s also a pretty cool convenience store built into the sandstone rock called Hollow Mountain.
  • Capital Reef National Park – This National Park is only about an hour away as well so you might even be able to loop down around and get a visit in on one of Utah’s many beautiful National Parks too.
Thoughts

I have been to Goblin Valley before several years back and this second visit was in mid February. We just had a decent snow storm where I live so I was hoping for snow on the hoodoos. As you can see from the pictures, there wasn’t any snow on this side of the swell at all. What a great adventure and opportunity to re-connect with the outdoors in the middle of February. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t know about the disc golf until after my visit. I would’ve loved that and definitely want to participate next time. Check out my video at the end of the page for more of my adventures here!



I wonder what it’s like to camp here and go explore the park in the dark. What do you think? Comment below please!

Back pack essentials for a hike

Are you planning on going on a hike that should last anywhere from 3 to 5 hours?
I gathered a list below for some essentials I choose to bring along in my back pack.


  • Water – Definitely a must have anywhere you go!
  • Sunblock – I usually pack the spray kind for re-applies. It just makes it easier!
  • Phone and GoPro camera – Gotta take pictures and video!
  • Snacks – My go to snacks are usually an apple or orange, trail mix or just nuts and a food bar.
  • Selfie stick/tripod for phone- I don’t always use it but ya never know!
  • Tissue – for runny noses (especially in the cold) and for bathroom breaks – I have a SheWee but I haven’t dared use it yet!
  • Empty baggie or sack for trash – Pack it in and pack it out!
  • Lip balm – lips get dry.
  • Extra Buff – If I’m not already wearing one.
  • GPS – especially if I plan on geocaching on the hike.
  • Extra jacket – especially if it’s cooler weather
Additional items to pack for winter hikes

If I’m going on a hike in the winter, I take my boot spikes or crampons and some gloves and maybe a warm scarf.

CORONA ARCH AND BOWTIE ARCH

Here’s a hike to a couple arches you can do in a short amount of time if needed.

Corona Arch
Bowtie Arch…and me!

Head to Moab, UT and get this hike done if you don’t wan’t to deal with Arches or Canyonlands National Parks. 

Getting there

Head northbound out of Moab on Hwy 191 and after the bridge a mile or so there is a road to the left marked Potash road. This is Scenic Byway 279 and worth a drive up even if you don’t want to hike. The trailhead is right off the road on the right and clearly signed.

The arches are at the end of this 1.5 ish mile hike and they are pretty much right by each other. You have to pass by Bowtie to get to Corona. 

Right away at the trailhead, you go up, up, up and then cross the train tracks, and through the fences on each side. It may not look like you have a way through the fences but you do. Follow the cairns and you’ll be fine.

What the hike features

This hike features a whole lot of slick rock hiking, which I personally love, a short ladder and some cable sections to get through. 

If you get lost, which I think would be easy to do on this hike, look around for green paint on the rock.

I don’t know if it was just particularly windy that day. When we got right up by Bowtie Arch, you could hear and feel the wind a whole lot more!



Bowtie kind of looks like an eye from this point of view.

Definitely a popular hike in Moab. We got to the arches just in time to have a little alone time with them.

I hope you enjoyed my pics and videos on this hike.

Happy Hiking!

Fisher Towers Hike

A wonderful hike that isn’t in Arches or Canyonlands National Parks.
So far my fave in Moab, Ut. Come join in on the fun that is a true Moab hike!

Fisher Towers, Moab Ut in February

This hike wow! All the things a hike should be really! Eye candy as far as your eyeballs can see! Twists and turns, equal sunny and shady parts throughout the hike, towering cliffs that make you feel as big as a itty bitty pida (spider). I must admit, this hike challenged me as far as my fear of heights go. But I did the damn thing, and I’m proud of myself. Say I did attempt this hike 5 to 10 years ago, I would have turned back at the ladder part and said, “nope, not doing this!”

Just a hair out of my comfort zone for sure but very rewarding.

There are sections that don’t see as much sun and therefore were snowy/icy/muddy in February. But yet again didn’t have to get my crampons out. 

People like to climb the towers/spires here and I can see why. They would be fun to climb.

But like I said before I’m not a heights person so we won’t be doing that anytime soon I’m sure.

The Titan

This cliff or spire supposedly marks the halfway point where you go around it. It seemed a lot longer after that but that may be because there’s more scrambling and slow going icy parts after it. 

The side of the Titan

the ladder section….scare me!

The end of the trail – the overlook

It seemed like my husband and I was looking for the end of this trail for quite a while before getting to the overlook. Once you get there, you can see for miles and even the parking lot at the trailhead. 

What a great experience! I noticed a campground somewhere near the trailhead. I wonder what it’s like camping here.

Winter mini adventure: Grandstaff Hike, Moab Ut

Here’s a great way to get out of the house in the middle of winter, get out to Moab and hike up Grandstaff canyon for gorgeous streams and icicles and to see the natural bridge at the end.

Grandstaff Natural bridge

Head up Scenic Byway 128 just before getting into the town of Moab, right after the bridge on HWY 191, turn left up the canyon. The trailhead sign is visible from the road “Grandstaff Canyon Trailhead” on the right a little over 3 miles up 128. There’s a few parking spots with a kiosk and a pit toilet.

Scenic HWY 128 & the Colorado River
a different view on Hwy 128

My husband and I did this hike in February with no snow fall for weeks previously so it wasn’t too cold. This hike is there and back and a little over 2 miles in, 2 miles out. Grandstaff has lots of shady spots that are kind of cold in winter, but I’ll bet this hike is fantastic in the spring, a cool one to do in summer. and provide a gorgeous fall background in October. 

A beautiful canyon

Grandstaff Canyon showcases red cliffs, plenty of vegetation and greenery, (in the Spring I can imagine), and the bubbling, trickling sounds, and wonderful reflections of the surrounding beauty in a little stream that runs through it. 


What terrain to expect

Nothing too crazy here, just crossing the stream several times and a few icy/snowy parts where the sun hardly hits the ground. I wore insulated/waterproof hiking boots and at first thought I was wrong in choosing to wear them because my feet were getting pretty hot. I was thankful as they made it easier to cross all the streams and provided warmth after doing so several times there and back. I also packed crampons but didn’t end up needing them enough to want to put them on.

We only saw a few people on our entire hike so it’s obviously not as popular during the winter.

There isn’t a lot of elevation gain or anything technical to get around or through so I believe it is 

a good hike for just about anyone, kids and dogs included, depending on your kids and dogs that is. You may end up carrying them across some of the water crossings. 

Grandstaff Natural Bridge

The natural bridge at the end of the hike doesn’t look like much until you can get right up to it and under it. The trail takes you under it and into a kind of cave like area where a crack in the cliff wall seeps out a tiny bit of water, but sounds like the stream you’ve been hiking next to during the entire hike. This area was previously named Negro Bill Canyon wilderness study area but then changed to Grandstaff, which is the last name of William Grandstaff, whom the canyon is named after. 

From what I could tell, there could be a lot of exploring done in this canyon, especially in the warmer months. Have you been on this hike in the winter? How was your experience?

Reasons to visit Escalante

There’s no shortage of cool things to do and see in and near Escalante, UT.

Lizard statue at the visitor’s center in Escalante, UT

I have just recently fallen in love with Escalante, UT. I was there in 2017, and it was a wonderful visit, but I didn’t really get to see all there is to offer in this southern part of Utah. 

On some researching I’ve recently been doing on what, where, and how, I’ve discovered some pretty damn cool things to do and see down in this Southern Utah gem. 

It’s a nice little town

Escalante doesn’t look like much when you’re driving through on Scenic Highway 12. The population is only around 800 residents, but they seem to have it going on with all the tourists that come here. Whether it’s for the national parks or just the many beautiful features that Utah nature has to offer, it’s a great place that caters to the tourists that come to wonder. I can’t help but feel slightly jealous as I do come from a small town myself. What is it that makes this small town such a great staple in your trip to visit?

They got the Grand Staircase!

Yeah, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument yo! Huge and spread out with all kinds of stuff to see in any way you wish. Driving, hiking, biking, horseback riding, canyoneering, spelunking, all of the ways we as humans love to appreciate and explore nature. 

The Petrified Forest State Park and Wide Hollow Reservoir 

This is the biggest wood of them all. Almost a full tree!

This is a great place to go hike around all the petrified wood and to learn more about the area.

You can also rent camp spots, kayaks, paddle boards, fish and engage in water sports and such at the reservoir of course.

Calf Creek Falls

Calf Creek falls are nearby

This is a popular hike to some fantastic and refreshing waterfalls about fourteenish miles from Escalante. It’s about 3 miles in, 3 miles out and mostly flat, but it is in the sun most of the time so be prepared for that. The falls put off a nice misty spray and acts as a natural air conditioner for ya after all the heat. Just don’t go in the middle of the summer and I think you’ll be fine. Read more about this hike in my post here.

Hole-In-The-Rock Road

This road is pretty cool in itself. It’s like sixty-something miles and dead ends at Lake Powell on the West side. What?! I know, crazy, but thats what those pioneers did back then, crazy shit.

Anyway, I was only able to check out Devils Garden when I went because we took our car and not the truck. If only I had the truck, I could have went to Dance Hall Rock, Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons, Hole-In-The-Rock Arch and of course the end of the road, Hole-In-The-Rock.

Devil’s Garden offers parking, pit toilets, and picnic sites for your stay here. There’s no fee to pay and they do not allow camping here.

Devils Garden is very picturesque

There’s some really cool places to stay

This is where I start to get really excited because I feel your lodging has a lot to do with your experience when vacationing or adventuring. 

  • Slot Canyon Inn B&B – This place looks nice with some canyons and streams you can explore while you’re there. www.slotcanyonsinn.com
  • Canyon Country Lodge – A really nice hotel right in town. www.canyoncountrylodge.com
  • Canyons Bed & Breakfast – Right there in town equipped with way cute rooms with a farmhouse/cottage feel to them. www.canyonsbnb.com
  • Entrada Inn – This is where I stayed. The desert vibe to everything is cool and they’ve applied a waste reduction strategy with built-in bulk pumps for toiletries and a power saving feature that comes into play in case you leave your lights and TV on after leaving the room for a while. www.entradaescalante.com 
  • Escalante Outfitters cabins and campgrounds – These guys have it all. Lodging consists of little cabins and tent sites. They have a restaurant called Esca-Latte (clever), a gear store, and guided fly-fishing and natural history tours. www.escalanteoutfitters.com
  • Escalante Yurts – Oh yes please! This is what I’m thinking about for my next trip to Escalante. These yurts are gorgeously decorated! They have five – three that will sleep 4 and 2 that will sleep up to 8 people. And you get a bathroom! No walking to a communal bath house or pit toilets. www.escalanteyurts.com
  • Unique Air B&B’s – There’s unique and fun homes out in the desert landscape that welcome you back to relax after a long day of hiking and exploring. www.airbnb.com
  • Shooting Star RV Resort – You can camp or stay in one of their Airstream RV’s and also watch a movie at the Drive-In style theater in a 1960’s classic car. www.shootingstar-rvresort.com
Entrada outside our room. Still pretty new in 2017. I loved the rusty corrugated metal roof!

So many attractions nearby seriously!

Not only do you have all the attractions I already mentioned but there’s also Kodachrome Basin State Park, and Anasazi Indian Village nearby. Plus Escalante is a great place to stop in between visiting Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef National Parks.

It’s warmer there

If you’re a Northern or even central resident of Utah and want to go someplace awesome for outdoor fun but warmer than your current living temperatures, it’s pretty perfect down here during the day most times of the year. It still gets pretty cold at night though – that’s the desert for ya!

What have you discovered in or near Escalante? Please comment below and share!

Capital Reef Resort

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to sleep in a teepee, compete with a view of red desert cliffs, have I got the read for you!

YAASSS! Teepees!

Capital Reef Resort is right there on your way to Capital Reef National Park in Torrey, Utah.

The accommodations this place has to offer can keep you busy exploring the national park in so many ways. Or you can stay here and go explore the majesticness of the park yourself.

Capital Reef National Park

Choose your relaxing night stay in:

  • Teepees – 250 square foot teepees with a big fluffy king bed. Way big actually, I had a hard time climbing into it! Each one also has desks and chairs and a big screen TV (I never turned ours on) and a space heater/air conditioner to keep the temperature nice while you’re inside. 
  • Cabins – There are a few of these nice little cabins in a single room, loft style, or a 2 bedroom cabin, all dressed in elegant yet rustic style. 
  • Wagons – These babies can sleep up to 6 people! All in a wagon circle with a fire pit right in the middle! 
  • Hotel rooms – The rooms look comfy and cozy as well. Some come with a patio, or a private balcony to sit out on and take in the grand red cliffs beyond.

Note: The teepees and wagons do not have their own bathroom. But you get your own private full bathroom complete with tub, shower, toilet, lots of sink space and a Keurig coffee maker! 

You just have to walk a few hundred feet or so to it. It’s not too bad, I promise! Availability on these are subject to the weather as well. The website lists them available only June through September, but I went in May with my husband for our anniversary in 2017, and stayed in one of the teepees.

Adventure bookings with the resort

  • Horseback riding 
  • Guided hikes with pack llamas 
  • Jeep tours

You can choose from several different tour types with any of these and customize your experience to whatever turns you on. By the hour, day, half day, or overnight tours.

That sounds way fun! I just want to go hiking with the funny llamas.

Llamas!

Amenities

  • Outdoor pool and hot tub – The pool is seasonal and the hot tub is open year round.
  • Restaurant – Called The Pioneer Kitchen serving breakfast and dinner only.
  • Fire pits – There are several man made fire pits scattered throughout the property for guests to enjoy. (No wood required) Our group of teepees had two, complete with big stationary chairs encircling each pit. They didn’t emit a fuel smell of any kind if you’re wondering. You can join any fire pit circle and meet some interesting people from all over.

Looking back on it…

The property is a fairly good size with lots to offer and it’s obviously popular, but they only have one pool and one hot tub for the entire resort. It kind gets cramped in there.

But really, if you want adventure in this part of Utah, this is the place and a great way to do it.

Just be prepared to fork out a little extra dough!

I didn’t do any hikes in Capital Reef National Park during my stay at the resort. We had been hiking a lot previously and we were really over it.

If you’ve stayed here and took advantage of the tours they have to offer, I’d love to hear about your experience, as I’d love to go back someday.

Winter Mini Adventure idea: Short hike to waterfall at Joes Valley Reservoir

Head up to Joe’s Valley Reservoir near Orangeville Utah for a frozen winter waterfall scene.

Here’s a little mini adventure idea for ya when you’re stuck in the house on a winter day. Take a quick mile roundtrip hike up to one of the frozen water falls near Joe’s Valley and eat a light lunch, snack it up, or BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffee.)

Getting to the falls

From Orangeville, head up Straight Canyon and stay on that road leading around Joe’s Valley. You’ll come up on Trail Mountain Resort on the right side of the road, and once you see that, start looking for mile marker 3. The turn off is only a couple hundred yards from that mile marker with a barbed wire fence heading up to the right.

From the road, this is where you turn in. See the fence?

You can get out here and make it more of a hike, (recommended) or you can brave the snow up the small two track road almost all the way up to the falls. In the summer you can drive up, but I would recommend a high clearance vehicle as this road varies in conditions. 

Follow the two track road up with the barbed wire fence to your left. The road winds around some pretty spectacular pine trees as you get closer to the face of the mountain.

This is a great area for picnic spots in warmer months. 

Keep following this road up and you will see some rocky cliffs and the frozen waterfall start coming into view. 

Almost there!

There are a few places to get closer up high, and down low, close to the stream that are safe. Watch your footing, especially in the snow! Take in the beauty and take notice of the sounds of the ice popping on the lake. It’s really amplified here with the sound echoing off the mountain side.

I love me some Joe’s!

View of Joe’s Valley from the falls

If you didn’t get to have (or wanted to make) coffee at the water fall, you can always stop in at Cup Of Joe’s coffee shop in Orangeville. 

I know there are a few other waterfalls in this area, and they will need a visit soon from me.I’ve been up there in past years and the falls have been dyed with food coloring. Kinda seems like vandalism to me.

Have you been to these Joe’s Valley falls? To the others perhaps?

Calf Creek Falls Hike

Yet another outstanding hike in Utah, in the desert, to a spectacular waterfall.

There’s an upper and lower falls associated with this adventure. The lower falls are more popular as it is easier to hike to and navigate, but a longer one. Someday I would love to go back and check out the upper falls because I feel it might be a little more adventurey and definitely less populated.

Head out of Escalante Eastbound on Highway 12 for about 15 to 16 miles, take a left turn for the parking lot. Pay your fee, and hopefully you went early enough and there’s enough parking left. Or you could camp in their campground to make it super easy.

This hike will take half the day if you really want to enjoy it.

Just a pretty view along the hike.
What a gorgeous desert landscape, and look at that blue sky!

Things to know for this hike

  • The hike is 3 miles in and 3 miles back out the same way.
  • There’s hardly any shade – so slather on the sunblock and bring extra as well as a hat.
  • The terrain is mostly flat with a lot of sandy parts.
  • There are a couple geocaches hidden nearby the falls. So bring your GPS device if you’re into that.
  • There are some points of interest a long the way which you will see, and get to learn more if you grab a pamphlet at the trail head.
  • The waterfall acts as an air conditioner once you get there, so you can cool off just by standing near the pool or jump in for a pretty freezing cold dip!
  • There’s nowhere to sit at the falls except for a log and a rock or two, so bring a small blanket if you don’t want to sit in the muddy dirt.
  • Bring some easy lunch to have while you’re sitting enjoying the beauty of the waterfall.
  • Take lots of pics!
It’s exciting when you can hear it the closer you get. Then you see it peeking out of the trees!

This is such a nice place to sit and admire the small wonders nature provides. Has anyone had the pleasure of visiting the upper falls? I’d love to hear about it!