TRAVEL

RAINBOW BRIDGE

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WHAT IS IT?

Rainbow Bridge is the world’s highest natural bridge spanning 234 ft. and with a height of 290ft. The bridge is made of sandstone and is a primary example of stream erosion in the Colorado Plateau area. Rainbow Bridge and the surrounding area is considered sacred to the local Native American tribes and is protected by the National Park Service.

WHERE IS IT?

Rainbow Bridge is located in the remote parts of the greater Lake Powell area, just northwest of Navajo Mountain in Southern Utah.

HOW CAN I GET THERE?

  • By Boat:

    Boaters can access this remote location via Lake Powell. A floating dock, the falls and rises with the water levels, is available for boats. From the dock, Rainbow Bridge is a short and easy quarter-mile hike away. Bathrooms are available at the dock. No camping is allowed.

  • By Hike:

    A very long and strenuous 32 mile round-trip hike starts from the northeast side of Navajo Mountain. Camping is available in select areas but not in the designated Rainbow Bridge area. The hike itself is extremely hilly but provides spectacular views of the Lake Powell backcountry. Give yourself at least 2-4 days to hike in and out.

    • How to Get There:

      The trailhead is accessed from Highway 160. Take the 98 North to Indian Route 16. From there go north to Road 434, and then north on Road 487. Road 487 is a 4 mile dirt road. High clearance is strongly recommended. When using Google Maps, “Navajo Mountain High School” will be the nearest location to the trailhead.

    • Safety:

      Please take note that for those attempting the hike to Rainbow Bridge that this is a hike suited for experienced hikers. There are a few spots along the trail for water, but it is scarce. Bring 1-2 gallons of water to start your hike and bring a water filtration device (you will need it). The trail itself is marked by cairns and at times they can be difficult to find…one small deviation from the trail can be deadly. If you do get lost make sure to follow your steps back to the last cairn and begin again. It is strongly recommended to do this hike in a group with experienced hikers. If you do decide to go solo, bring a map or GPS system, and notify someone that you are hiking.

Hiking through the backcountry en route to Rainbow Bridge

Hiking through the backcountry en route to Rainbow Bridge

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Monument Valley & More

The famous Mittens at dusk

The famous Mittens at dusk

MONUMENT VALLEY:

Monument Valley, that ever iconic symbol of the Wild West, has always represented for me the rugged and unexplored frontier, what’s possible for the curious, and the reward for the seeking, the real diamond in the rough. The real secret though? There’s so much more to do in this area. But let's start at the beginning.

Okay, so you want to go to, but you need to know where to stay and what to do. No problem. 

 

WHERE TO STAY: THE VIEW

http://monumentvalleyview.com/

Grab a room at The View! There is no place closer than this for your access to Monument Valley. Rooms here are reasonably priced, especially for the views, (you can see Monument Valley from your room!) and it includes a complimentary breakfast. The restaurant provides local cuisine and I recommend getting a Navajo Taco. A gift shop is attached to the restaurant if you're in the mood for grabbing a souvenir, a beautiful piece of Navajo jewelry or pottery. How much for a night? Plan on spending between $100-$200 a night. Rooms fill up fast so book your room a few weeks in advance. 

The View

The View

WHAT TO DO: GO FOR A DRIVE

So you've paid a small entrance fee and made it to Monument Valley. What next? GO FOR A DRIVE and see the sights. Right next to The View Hotel is a 17 mile looped road for your viewing pleasure. A compact car will do, but be prepared to drive slowly on a dirt road with some potholes. Along this route you will see much more than the Mittens, a myriad of rock formations and valleys that give you a much better appreciation for the depth of the valley. How long does the loop take? Pack a lunch and plan on spending a few hours by stopping at the many sights along the way. Maps are available at the entrance fee station.

 

BUT WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO SEE?

I'm glad you asked. SO MUCH MORE! Here's a small list below to get you started.

 

VALLEY OF THE GODS:

Looking for a more rugged experience? How about pitching a tent along Valley of the Gods road? Here, you'll beat the crowds and be even closer to the large monoliths rising up above you. Give it a go. You won't be dissapointed.

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GOOSENECKS STATE PARK:

Wanna see something wild? Take a quick trip over to Goosenecks State Park to see the meander of the San Juan River. It's a truly spectacular sight.

 

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MOKI DUGWAY:

To see a breathtaking sight of the Utah/Arizona land in which you'll be roaming about, take the steep, unpaved but graded switchbacks of Moki Dugway. When you get to the top, take a moment and pull over, and enjoy the sights below you.

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WELL...

What are you waiting for? GO ADVENTURE!

Monument Valley at sunrise

Monument Valley at sunrise

Reflection Canyon

"I envied a raven as he flew into the late afternoon light over reflection canyon. I called out to him in a loud voice that echoed through the canyon, "hey buddy!" It felt good to say that. "How does it feel to be free?" But he never responded. And it was better that way."

Reflection Canyon glowing in the afternoon light

Reflection Canyon glowing in the afternoon light

WHAT TO EXPECT

Gorgeous colors and winding channels of water cut into the high cliffs of Lake Powell. Be prepared to drive a fifty-one mile dirt road followed by a rigorous, one-way 6-10 mile hike that will demand your best route-finding skills and use of a good map or GPS. Water levels and temperatures are lowest in the Spring, which is an ideal time to make this adventure.

HOW TO GET THERE

Map and compass is a great way to navigate. I picked up this map of the Escalante National Monument for $13 at REI. Well worth it!

Map and compass is a great way to navigate. I picked up this map of the Escalante National Monument for $13 at REI. Well worth it!

From Escalante go five miles east to Hole in the Rock Road. Travel exactly fifty-one miles south on a washboard dirt road. A four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle is needed. After you've parked start hiking south, hugging the large cliffs to the west. This will help you avoid a multitude of ravines and slots canyons that wind throughout the landscape. After a few miles you will begin heading southeast over rocky hills and ankle high prickly pear cactus to reach Reflection Canyon. There is no right way although some ways are more direct. A more direct route may mean traversing up and down large hills. Do your best to avoid too much up and down travel using the landscape to your advantage.

BE PREPARED! Remember that this is a rigorous hike into the wilderness. There are rarely any trail markers (cairns) and footprints are not always a reliable source of direction. Do your research before. Bring a map and compass. Bring a GPS, or if you dont feel like spending the several hundred dollars for a decent one, map out your course on Google Maps on your phone. When Navajo Mountain is in sight (to the south) you should get cell phone coverage (I received LTE for Verizon). and be able see your progress via Google Maps. It may seem obvious but by using your natural landmarks you will be able to navigate your course. See images below.

I was able to use Google Maps to create a saved location. The heart is Reflection Canyon and the blue dot with arrow at the top left corner is where I parked my car. When I had service I could check my progress to make sure I was headed the right way. Make sure to use Google Earth for a more detailed map of the area.

I was able to use Google Maps to create a saved location. The heart is Reflection Canyon and the blue dot with arrow at the top left corner is where I parked my car. When I had service I could check my progress to make sure I was headed the right way. Make sure to use Google Earth for a more detailed map of the area.

Parked car at the "trailhead." Follow these cliffs to the south as you make your way to Reflection Canyon.

Parked car at the "trailhead." Follow these cliffs to the south as you make your way to Reflection Canyon.

WHAT TO PACK

Reflection Canyon can be done in one day. One long day. But for however many days you do plan to come make sure to bring one gallon of water per day. I would also recommend something like Gatorade to help replenish electrolytes. Plan meals accordingly. I am a big fan of Backpacker Pantry prepackaged meals that just need hot water. Snacks are a must as well - trail mix, protein bars, etc. Whatever you pack, make sure to use Leave No Trace principles. There are no bathrooms along the route.

WHEN YOU GET THERE

Camping is possible along Reflection Canyon although there are few spots to pitch a tent. Take great care along the cliff ledges as you will be only a few feet away from several hundred feet drop-offs. And as always, make sure to practice Leave No Trace principles. Happy Camping!

Camping is possible along Reflection Canyon although there are few spots to pitch a tent. Take great care along the cliff ledges as you will be only a few feet away from several hundred feet drop-offs. And as always, make sure to practice Leave No Trace principles. Happy Camping!

After a challenging hike, reward yourself by making camp and wandering the tall cliff edges to gain the different and spectacular views of Reflection Canyon. Following the canyon edge north will take you several other stunning views.

As far as photography, I found the best success during the afternoon light before the shadows set in. The best shots were at dusk when the canyon turned to from gold to blue and back to gold. Make sure to also take advantage of the early morning light just before the sun rises over the distant cliffs. If you are lucky enough to catch a full moon you will be delightfully surprised by the glow of the canyon walls in the moonlight, especially on the white-stained places of the rock where the high water level once was.

White Pocket

A hiker in White Pocket

A hiker in White Pocket

One of the most surreal landscapes in Arizona remains largely unknown to many native explorers. Perhaps it's because of the six hour round trip over a difficult 4 wheel drive, high clearance road filled with deep sand and jutting rock that makes this surreal location very difficult to get to. While The Wave gets most of the notoriety for the area, White Pocket stands as a diamond on its own. Filled with brilliant swirls of colors and textures, White Pocket is easily navigated within a half day. Camping is also offered at the trailhead - a short quarter mile hike to White Pocket. 

Colorful swirls and textures grace the landscape at White Pocket

Colorful swirls and textures grace the landscape at White Pocket

Give yourself at least a half day to explore 

Give yourself at least a half day to explore 

To get here take the 89A to House Rock Valley Road. Road maps are provided by the BLM Ranger Station in Kanab, Utah. Stop in at Jacob Lake on your way out for a bite to eat.

Gems from Kanab

Kanab is the new gem of the Southwest. If you're looking for outdoor adventures, national parks, and wild landscapes then Kanab is your hub. Whether it's Zion, Bryce Canyon, or Lake Powell, this is the place from where you can make any adventure. Kanab sits right in the middle of several wilderness areas that are hard to get to, including the famous "WAVE."

A hiker in The Wave

A hiker in The Wave

It's at the Kanab Ranger Station where many try their luck for "The Wave." What was rather unknown in the early 90's became a huge international attraction when the Olympic Games came to Salt Lake City in 2002. The Games used The Wave in a promotional video even though it lies just south of Utah in Arizona. This brought people all over the world to Kanab to put in for a chance to see this wild beauty in the desert.

Here's how the process works: Each day twenty permits are given away. Ten are given in an online lottery entered four months in advance. The other ten are drawn in person each day at the Kanab Ranger Station. Here's what makes it hard: In the peak months it's not uncommon for at least 100 people to apply for these ten spots. Not only that, but the live lottery that's done each day is for use on the next day, which requires explorers to be flexible with their travels. As for myself, it took six attempts to finally score a permit. Persistence is key if you're want to win the golden ticket.

(Note: Winning the lottery to The Wave is just the first part of your journey. Getting to there can be tricky. Most of the year you will need at least a high clearance vehicle and most likely four wheel drive. The good news is that there is camping only 1.5 miles away from the Wire Pass trailhead where you begin your trek. This campground has bathrooms, ramadas, and fire pits for use.)

Check out the BLM's website for more information: https://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/arolrsmain/paria/coyote_buttes/permits.html  

The Wave during the winter months can often be experienced with reflecting pools of water from winter rains.

The Wave during the winter months can often be experienced with reflecting pools of water from winter rains.

But let's say you're like most people who don't win the lottery for The Wave. Don't worry. You're only in the midst of several National Parks and monuments. Places like Zion and Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks and Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend, all stand within about an hour or two away.

Zion from Angels Landing. One of the most scenic hikes in the Southwest.

Zion from Angels Landing. One of the most scenic hikes in the Southwest.

Horseshoe Bend at sunset. Only an hours drive from Kanab. 

Horseshoe Bend at sunset. Only an hours drive from Kanab. 

Bryce Canyon from Inspiration Point. 

Bryce Canyon from Inspiration Point. 

Looking to get out of Kanab for the day? Well, if you're up for a few hours drive you can make a day trip of Valley of Fire and Capitol Reef. If you're looking for an extraterrestrial landscape, then these two spots have you covered. I recommend starting your day early and giving yourself plenty of time to enjoy the landscapes.

Valley of Fire at dusk. A must do day trip from Kanab.

Valley of Fire at dusk. A must do day trip from Kanab.

Capitol Reef National Park boasts lots of interesting rock formations and hiking trails.

Capitol Reef National Park boasts lots of interesting rock formations and hiking trails.

Want more? There's more! And that's where you'll have to see for yourself, the gems in and around Kanab - your hub to all things adventure. This is just meant to give you a little taste.

Contact me if you have any questions on places to visit, places to eat, or places to stay in Kanab. I would recommend visiting Jeff and JoAnn at the Cowboy Bunkhouse in Kanab for a hot shower and breakfast at only $30 a night (http://www.thecowboybunkhouse.com/). For food, grab yourself a homemade apple pie at the Thunderbird Cafe at Mt. Caramel Junction just before, or after, going to Zion National Park (http://www.zionnational-park.com/bw3.htm).

 

Northeast Arizona

Up north, above the sonoran desert sprawl and just to the east of the highly elevated snowcapped mountains of Flagstaff, lies an interesting relationship of open prairies and dazzling rock formations that jut out from the earth. There, long stretches of road and clear blue skies make you forget whatever troubles you left behind. No wonder this area boasts some of Arizona's best kept secrets - several national parks and monuments. It will take some work to get out to these places but I can tell you that it is well worth it. A petrified forest, painted hillsides, and ancient cliff dwellings sit like hidden gems waiting to be explored. There is much more to see. We have only scratched the surface of the beauty that lies therein.

Looking to make a trip out of it? May I suggest staying a night in Holbrook or Winslow along Route 66. Have a bite to eat in the old diners and then set off on a day trip to any of the national monuments along the way. Just a heads up: cell phone service is rather unpredictable in Navajo country where most of the landmarks are so make sure to plan ahead.