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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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.

Coyote Gulch - Jacob Hamblin Arch

The massive and very impressive Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch.

The massive and very impressive Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch.

WHAT YOU'LL SEE

Within the Grand Escalante National Monument, America's biggest monument, is the winding river of Coyote Gulch. Along the river are several notable rock formations, with the most stunning of these being the Jacob Hamblin Arch, named after the western pioneer and peacemaker. The arch boasts its impressive size and shape over the tight canyon walls of Coyote Gulch, and in the spring the river is lined with bright green foliage.

A view looking East into Coyote Gulch from the top of Jacob Hamblin Arch

A view looking East into Coyote Gulch from the top of Jacob Hamblin Arch

HOW TO GET THERE

Access to the Jacob Hamblin Arch begins in Escalante, Utah just off the scenic byway 12, which will also take you to Bryce Canyon. Five miles east of Escalante on byway 12 is Hole in the Rock Road, a sixty two mile unpaved road that ends at Lake Powell. Although I did see small two wheel drive cars on the road, four wheel drive and high clearance is highly recommended. To access the Jacob Hamblin Arch trailhead take Hole in the Rock Road thirty six miles until you reach Fortymile Ridge Road. From there head east (left) another four miles until you reach a turnoff to the left. You will reach a water tank at the top of a small hill where you can park and sign in at the trailhead.

From the trailhead, plan on hiking two miles on a fairly well marked path with cairns in sand and slick rock. The trail will lead you down a steep but navigable entrance into Coyote Gulch. This approach can be tricky with a large pack so make sure to take your time or use the small rope attached to the rock at the top of the descent to help lead you down. 

A view from the top of Jacob Hamblin Arch before you start your descent into Coyote Gulch

A view from the top of Jacob Hamblin Arch before you start your descent into Coyote Gulch

Another view from the top

Another view from the top

Cairns leading the way to the Arch

Cairns leading the way to the Arch

These white "angel wings" will denote the area of descent into Coyote Gulch

These white "angel wings" will denote the area of descent into Coyote Gulch

Views from the JH trailhead

Views from the JH trailhead

 

WHAT TO EAT

As for as good eats around Escalante I would highly recommend Escalante Outfitters for a half meat lovers, half vegetarian pizza with a Polygamy Porter as a beverage. Escalante Outfitters also stocks great maps and information booklets about hikes in Southern Utah.

 

 

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).