Banded Hills, Toadstools and Canyons – Kane County, UT

While perusing my recent photos I realized I’d overlooked some activities we enjoyed along scenic US 89 near the Utah state line while camping in Page, AZ.  There are two accessible areas of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument between Kanab and Page.  Folks who enjoyed my Lower Antelope Canyon photos (click here to see them) might also like the ones I took in this area.

Pahreah (now called Paria) Townsite Road

Pahreah Townsite Marker

Pahreah townsite marker

We learned about this road from John and Pam, and Dave and Sue, who explored it a week ahead of us. It leads to the remains of Pahreah townsite and descends from the junction with US 89 (milepost 31) into a valley.  The road becomes steep and twisting near the end, as it crosses the undulating banded hills that cover the area.

Our Honda CRV survived the 12-mile roundtrip drive, but it was a long haul and we realized that 4-wheel drive would be required if the road were muddy.

 

Pahrea Townsite

These colored canyons were the backdrop for several movies and TV shows

Banded Hills

The original Pahreah townsite is located just across the river, but none of the structures remain.  The settlement was established in 1869 and subsequently abandoned 40 years later due to frequent river flooding.  The river flows along a wide valley and is often dry during the summer, and covered in places by an extensive plain of white salt crystals.  The crystals result when the floodwaters recede and then evaporate.

San Juan River

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There also used to be a movie set here, located at the bottom of a multi-colored sandstone canyon. Western movies and TV shows were filmed between 1963-1991, but floods and vandalism took their toll and the set was abandoned.

Pahreah Movie Set

The scenery is left untouched since the Pahreah movie set disappeared

Paria Canyon

Here’s what slow erosion looks like

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The area is surrounded by amazingly colorful rocks.  The cliffs at either side are equally layered and multi-colored, with alternating red, white, purple and grayish-blue strata.  A Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation, this fascinating place reminded me of the Painted Desert National Park in Arizona.

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Paria Rim Rocks – Toadstool Trail

2016-03-26-UT-1470020.jpgAlso along US 89 and within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was the Toadstool Trail.  We followed the short .8 mile trail that led into an area of unusual rock formations known as toadstools, hoodoos, goblins or mushrooms.

Toadstool Trail

White Cliffs over the Carmel Formation

Goblins

Don’t they look like goblins?

The many balanced boulders are created by blocks of hard sandstone perched atop narrow columns of softer rock that has eroded around and under them, resulting in a “toadstool” look:

There were some unusual rounded mounds of rock as well:

I don’t know about you, but we think these are some pretty cool formations and agree with our friends that they are definitely worth a visit.

Wiregrass Canyon Trail

Our reliable hiking tipster, Pam, suggested we would enjoy the 6-mile Wiregrass Canyon Trail, which is located 12 miles north of Page off US 89.  So on our last day in town we tackled the trail that took us into Wiregrass Canyon, a steep-sided wash that leads down to Lake Powell (although we didn’t go that far).  We did some scrambling up and down pour off’s and hiked through the wash between multi-colored sandstone.

Wire grass Canyon

The trail leads down into the canyon

Wire grass canyon trail

Natural Bridge

Taking a break at a natural bridge

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This might be the second bridge (or arch) Pam was looking for?

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Studying the green-colored layer

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There are some very unique formations here

We saw several colorful patches like this along the trail

We saw several colorful patches like this along the trail

Mini Hoodoos

Mini-hoodoos standing at attention

This was a great hike, with fascinating exposed geologic formations.  We find that canyon hikes always display different geology, colors and formations that make each one unique and interesting, and we never get tired of them.  Especially in Utah!

Let me leave you with a few more scenic vistas, colored mountains and formations we saw along scenic US 89 between Kanab and Page:

Carmel Formation

Tropic Shale Formation

Tropic shale formation

Lone Rock

Lone Rock at Lake Powell

Hoodoos

Giant hoodoos along US 89

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The Navajo Generating Station south of  Manson Mesa can be seen from many miles away

This area between southwest Utah and northern Arizona is incredibly geologically diverse. There’s so much to explore here that we’re hoping to make it back next year.

After each day of running around between Arizona and Utah, we settled into our spacious site next to a campfire:

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Y’all come back now, ya hear?

 

Next up:   A Glimpse of Past Inhabitants