Exp.Ut. Southern Utah Traverse, Sept 09'


I've been meaning to post this here for quite some time, I'll have to do some extra credit for turning it in late.

Southern Utah Traverse 2009

Border to border traverse of Southern Utah completed successfully by three members of Expedition Utah (all logged here on the Portal too) and their
three trusty vehicles between September fourth and September twelfth, two thousand and nine.

Jared, xjblue, with a Jeep XJ Cherokee Sport
Jan, CanuckMariner, with a Toyota HZJ73 LandCruiser
Adam, GoKracer1, with a Jeep JK Wrangler Rubicon

There are countless route options and even methods of travel with which a trip across southern Utah can be put together. One day on paved roads
or two months exploring every spur, the sky isn't even the limit if you consider remote landing strips. Thinking about spending two months reminds
me when while at an REI store years ago I listened to a presentation by folks who nearly crossed all of southern Utah by foot while avoiding roads
of any kind as much as possible.

The ideal traverse will vary greatly depending on who you talk to. For those here on Expedition [Portal] it's safe to say the ideal vehicle dependent
route avoids pavement by rule and escapes crowds often while taking the traveler across Utah's most wild and beautiful desert and mountain
landscape. Some of the most ideal segments unfortunately have been closed to vehicular travel.

Although this trip may pale in comparison to proper expeditions conducted regularly around the globe it was truly an epic trip for us.

Where to begin?

For us it all began one rainy night in Nevada's scenic Beaver Dam State Park.
Remote and probably never full the state park campground makes for the perfect rendezvous with really decent under used campground facilities.

I arrived to find Jan and Adam waiting for me, a simple call on the CB at just the right moment brought us quickly together. We chose two adjacent
sites with hardly any neighbors in site and set up for the night. Jan simply had to hop in the back of his ever ready Cruiser, a model of overland
efficiency. Adam set up a tent while I picked out a good spot under the stars with hope the dissipating rain clouds were finished and joking about
how quickly I'll hop in the jeep if it starts to storm.

Hours later and after finally dozing off I awoke to a bright flash of lightning and the smell of rain. I quickly started to unravel the waterproof bivy
sack by my side while the thunder rolled. Then a whole series of lighting flashes in every direction caused me to stop and look around, lightning
storms lit up every horizon. Galvanized by another close flash of lightning and drops of rain I was up and running to the Jeep with sleeping gear
in hand. Looking around from the drivers seat as more lightning crashed around I realized I had time to put the ground tarp and camp chair away,
just enough time. I noticed even Adam abandoned his tent in favor of weathering out the storm in his Wrangler. After a brilliant display which
lasted quite a while I finally found a comfortable position and drifted to sleep wedged cross ways in the back seat legs dangling over the center

Day One

Morning came too soon but not soon enough to start the Southern Utah Traverse. Jan was chipper and ready to go, unfazed by the lightning and
rain storm and with nothing to pack or re-arrange before breaking camp.

leaving the park we took a left turn heading south along Beaver Dam Flat and over Pine Ridge then the Doc Pass Road to Bunker Peak Road. A left
on Bunker Peak road took us towards the border and offered a fun twisty route out of the mountains with great views in to Utah. A signed
intersection directed us to the border and first goal of the traverse, an old border sign!

Putting the Nevada map away we continued towards Motoqua then made a right turn to run the Scarecrow Peak Trail taking us back to run along
the Utah side of the border through a thin Joshua tree forest and back down across Beaver Dam Wash which boasts being the lowest point in Utah
somewhere along it's stretch.

Joshua Trees along the Utah Nevada Border.

towers on West Mountain Peak

Climbing out of the wash after a brief stop at Jackson Well we took a right on the Indian Springs Trail heading south again towards Hell Hole Pass.
We drove up Hell Hole Pass taking a left at the top for the steep road up to the TV towers on West Mountain Peak, part of the Beaver Dam Mountains.
There we enjoyed 360* views of the whole southwest corner of Utah and could retrace our whole route that morning from Bunker Pass.


After lunch on top we descended and finished the Hell Hole Pass trail followed by a right turn for our first short bit of blacktop down old Hwy 91 to
take the Joshua Tree Road/Mojave Desert Scenic Backway. This we took northwest climbing up Bulldog pass and again across the Beaver Dam
Mountains, after I missed a turn we quickly re-traced and descended toward Bloomington on Hollow Wash Road.

Bulldog Canyon

Stopped briefly to view the petroglyphs in a little neighborhood park and again to refuel before I fulfilled my own prophecy and got turned around in
St. George's urban sprawl while trying to sneak past Civilization.

Bloomington's petroglyph park

Finally back on track we traveled along the historic Honeymoon Trail and made quick work visiting Warner Valley's historic Ft Pearce and pre-historic
dinosaur trackway.

Continuing west we joined the Hurricane Cliffs Trail and with a brief but necessary dip in to Arizona drove up the amazing switchbacks paralleling
the old Honeymoon Trail wagon road. On top the cliffs we found a campsite off of The Divide Trail next to Little Creek Mountain in time to set up
and enjoy a spectacular rainbow laced sunset with dinner.


Little Creek mountain


All said and done, though a bit long and other than a couple missed turns day one worked out very well.
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Day Two

Our second day started early, we took the Divide Trail north then turned west paralleling Gould Wash between Little Creek Mountain still on our right
and Gooseberry Mesa behind Hwy 59 on our left. We soon found ourselves in a brand new golf coarse community just getting started, then had to
bypass off of our dirt road early for a pipeline going in under it.

windmill in Rosy Canyon

Hitting pavement south on Hwy 95 dipping back in to Arizona, again out of necessity, we turned off at the Cane Beds Road which turned to dirt lined
with blossoming yellow and purple beeplant and took us north back in to Utah winding through lovely Rosy Canyon before becoming the paved Ponderosa
Coral Pink Sand Dunes Scenic Backway. In a perfect world we could have taken Utah Avenue in Hildale to avoid entering Arizona again, utilizing
Canaan Mountain and connecting to our next goal via Broad Hallow but I digress. We made a brief stop at Coral Pink Sand Dunes, then failed to find
the dinosaur tracks nearby before embarking on that next goal, The Barracks Trail.

Purple Beeplant (Cleome serrulata), at Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Scenery and remoteness build as you get deeper in towards the barracks. Penetrating beyond Elephant Butte and circumnavigating around Harris Point,
finding ourselves on a sandy two track navigating through many spur intersections. Finally reaching the East Fork Virgin River after what seemed
like a long time I let the Jeep run down a steep sand hill toward bottom. I heard Adam respond to Jan on the CB and found my squelch was turned
down so low I missed his call for help when he fell victim to the infamous soft sand of the barracks trail somewhere just behind us. I couldn't get
turned around until letting enough air out of my tires, by that time I figured Adam would have him recovered so I shot some photos then noticed
a Ranger truck in the canyon below. Our group rejoined and we descended the sand hill on steep switchbacks, avoiding the tempting shortcuts
straight down was a good thing with the ranger waiting for us at the bottom.

The Barracks

I have to admit I expected to hear the worst despite no evidence there was any reason to worry, "what are you guys doing, this trail is closed, I'm
going to have to ticket you". Instead the friendly ranger chatted about our rigs for a minute and was happy we were behaving ourselves and
wished us a good trip!. Entering the first wash crossing we were greeted by the coolest sign. "Designated Route"! How cool is that?

rare endangered designated route sign

Beautiful upper Parunaweap Canyon.

Driving up canyon past the Foot Ranch we respected the humorous 7 1/2 mph posted speed limit, if anything keeping the landowner happy helps
keep access open. Before reaching Hwy 89 we stopped in the shade of some Cottonwoods for lunch.

After a pit stop at Mt Carmel Junction we found the Johnson Canyon/Alton Scenic Backway and made for the Skutumpah Road. Driving it north for
Butler Valley. We made good time and only stopped briefly at the Bull Valley Gorge bridge.

Adam crosses the Bull Valley Gorge bridge.

In another perfect world scenario we would have dropped down through the narrows of Sheep Creek and driven the historic Pariah River route, but again
I digress. We made a consensus at this point to reach Alstrom Point for the nights camp and to do so before sunset. So we made little delay in heading
down the Cottonwood Canyon Road. Upon reaching the turnoff to Grosvenor Arch I couldn't resist making a mad dash to photograph it with afternoon
light, Jan opted to continue and we would see if we could catch him back up before he reached Highway 89. Adam followed me to the Arch. Catching
Jan back up was an absolute riot. I'm going to have to drive that road again because I didn't get a very good look at all that scenery.

Jan tailgunning the Cottonwood Cyn Road

Grosvenor Arch 2 by xjblue, on Flickr
Grosvenor Arch

Cottonwood Cyn Road

Dusting it out to Alstrom Point after a pit stop in Big Water

0909SUT-D2_46 by xjblue, on Flickr

Dinner and a Show

0909SUT-D2_51 by xjblue, on Flickr

Day two was amazing. In hind sight it would have been better if we found camp somewhere around Cannonville or Grosvenor Arch, we could have
taken plently more time to enjoy an extra day crossing that area. But we did have a wonderful camp that night high above Lake Powell.

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Ryan Graham

New member
Awesome. And thanks for the trail/road descriptions. I hope you're planning on posting a map of some type with the route you took on it... On a side note..anyone know when this website will be live?
I've been watching it for months hoping for more information. Great pictures and I can't wait for the rest


Awesome. And thanks for the trail/road descriptions. I hope you're planning on posting a map of some type with the route you took on it... On a side note..anyone know when this website will be live?
I've been watching it for months hoping for more information. Great pictures and I can't wait for the rest

Your welcome, I am hoping to get some maps up shortly to go along with this. Thank you.


Day Three

0909SUT-D2_59 by xjblue, on Flickr
Moonlit Lake Powell

Camp at sunrise

Our third day on the traverse was pretty simple. Leave Alstrom Point and take the Smokey Mountian Road to the Grand Bench, see Twitchell Canyon
while out there, explore up towards the Grand Bench Neck if there is time. Then north via the Croton Road and see how it goes from there, perhaps
try Left Hand Collet and decide where to camp.

The Climb up out of Little Valley Canyon was in poor shape, ironically because of an attempt to fix it up. Loose fill dirt was bulldozed over the loose
rock making up the steep shelf road. The result was you couldn't see the lines to pick through the rocks. Jan opted to ride along with Adam for this
out and back leg.

Adam powers up the steep climb out of Little Valley Canyon.

Twitchell Canyon overlook

Panoramic views from the Grand Bench



0909SUT-D3_20 by xjblue, on Flickr

We shared lunch at the start of the Grand Bench Neck but afterword quickly discovered it could be rough going and so opted to save that for another day.

Panoramic view from Grand Bench Neck.

We made good time up the Croton Road

Found the top entrance to Left Hand Collet to be driveable

Left Hand Collet was a gorgeous drive, no photos I'd seen of it prior did any justice. This canyon was the icing on our day 3 cake, what a great afternoon!

0909SUT-D3_41 by xjblue, on Flickr

0909SUT-D3_43 by xjblue, on Flickr

She was washed out on the Hole In The Rock Road end but we figured a way to cross,
sending Adam first to test the mud and knock down the cut bank.

0909SUT-D3_53 by xjblue, on Flickr

Day three wrapped up with a brisk bumpy drive up the HITR Road followed by smooth scenic pavement of Hwy 12. We stopped at the restaurant just
a block east of Hwy 12 on the Burr Trail for a good home cooked comfort food style dinner, thanks again Jan! In the dark we found room for a "camp"
near the Burr Trail each curling up inside our own vehicles. I cleared off the back seat this time. Adam made some re-arrangement the night before
allowing him to sleep inside his Wrangler too.

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Day Four

Sunrise light on Durffey Mesa greeted us

We enjoyed an early morning drive along the Burr Trail taking an easy pace then turned off on the Wolverine Loop below the Circle Cliffs.

0909SUT-D4_05 by xjblue, on Flickr

Then we discovered the Joy of driving down Horse Canyon. Forget icing on cake, this was perhaps the best dessert of the whole traverse!

0909SUT-D4_09 by xjblue, on Flickr

Jan checks out the rancher line cabin at the end of the road.

After another chat with another friendly Ranger, this time with the bad news of Horse Canyon's status (GSENM travel plan closure unless County
claims are successful), we continued to explore the Wolverine Loop. Stopped for lunch down the Silver Falls Creek spur, formerly a primary wagon
route between the San Juan mission and Escalante. Then checked out Moody Canyon, running in to the Ranger out completing his rounds several
more times while doing so. I think we encountered only two or three other parties on the Loop. I remember one older gentleman in a Jeep and a
couple in an SUV.

Finishing the day with Upper Muley Twist Canyon was a delight and perhaps any other place in Utah might have been so very anticlimactic after
finding Horse Canyon but Upper Muley is just too cool. Adams Jeep was running rough at this point, bad gas from Boulder perhaps? After considering
options he chose to go alone to Ticaboo for an emergency premium gas stop while Jan and I hiked to the Strike Valley Overlook. We planned to
meet up again on the Notom-Bullfrog Road near Sandy Ranch before looking for a campsite that side of the Henry Mountains.

Strike Valley Overlook, click below for larger size.

0909SUT-D4_57 by xjblue, on Flickr

0909SUT-D4_59 by xjblue, on Flickr

Jan and I posed for photos on the way out and down the Burr Trail Switchbacks, then got nervous we had missed Adam so we cruised up
the Notam Road To Sandy Ranch. We only waited a half hour or so for Adam to come along.

0909SUT-D4_67 by xjblue, on Flickr

Camp that night was nice and cool, the first good flat ground after crossing Sandy Creek.

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Day Five

I tried a self heating breakfast which was palatable but took longer to fix than expected. When combined with plenty of shade to the East that
meant for a little bit later start. Still we made good time driving the well graded roads up the Henry Mountains.

There was a lot of freshly familiar country visible behind us.

Once on top of Bull Creek Pass Adam and I donned hiking apparel and made for the 11,522 ft Summit of Mt Ellen some 2.5 miles to the North. This hike
gave us our first real opportunity for wildlife viewing during the traverse. Jan stayed with the rigs chatting with passers by and keeping in touch with us
via GMRS radio. After reaching the summit and signing in on a summit log stored in a mail box, as is commonly found on many of Utah's summits, the
return hike was uneventful.

This Mountain Short Horned Lizard (I'm guessing), more particularly it's tiny young we spotted first was very interesting, both sitting right on the trail.

Yes! Only one Bison but very cool to have spotted one from the last free roaming herd in the country.

Panoramic view from the top.

0909SUT-D5_11 by xjblue, on Flickr

Following our hike we descended via Wickiup Pass past Lonesome Beaver campground on one of the roughest rockiest roads around, and out to
the Hanksville BLM station to check on our next goal, crossing the Dirty Devil River. The flow report was zero so after a pit stop in town we grabbed a
little of Hwy 95 southbound for Poison Springs Canyon. Poison Springs started as rough as the road out of the Henry's then just got plain dusty,
but was more beautiful than I remembered.

Unusual traffic in Poison Spring Canyon, something rare for us to experience.

We stopped for our group photo at the overlook of the Dirty Devil Crossing then descended and found the crossing at zero flow to be very dusty.

Stopped again to look at the languid pools of the Dirty Devil River

large size

The rest of the drive up North Hatch Canyon was mind numbing last time I drove it and this time was no exception, much like Lockheart Basin the
constant winding in and out of ceaseless side canyons, though beautiful, sort of puts a spell on you and wears you down. I had a campsite in mind and
remembered correctly just where it was. Again we arrived just in time to set up, grab dinner, enjoy the scenery, share stories, and this time enjoyed a
campfire while the stars came out. In spite of our attempt to take it easy it was still a long day. looking back, the one thing I would do differently is not
pass up looking for the rock art sites along the way. A better approach once agian would be to take twice as long or more giving you two days or more to
do what we covered in one.

Day five camp with a view.

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