Out of Red Rock Country and onward – Richfield, Utah

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Blanket Design

Here’s a high five to the mighty five of Utah: Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks!

And wow, did we ever have a grand ten weeks experiencing all of them, each with their own unique and majestic beauty.  Although we were “seeing red” in the rocks all that time, we were left wonderstruck and longing for more.  We strongly recommend that anyone coming into the area visit as many of these parks as possible.  Click here to review my posts about them and our other stops in this beautiful state.


Richfield, Utah – no red rocks here!

Leaving Bryce Canyon, we exited the land of red rocks and headed toward greener pastures and several snow-capped mountains.  Our next stop at Richfield, Utah allowed us to meet up with John and Pam, who were already set up at the KOA (Steve’s review here). Unbelievably, the Nimble Hiker had already planned a hike for the four of us at Fremont Indian State Park, about 20 miles from the campground.

Stopping at the museum, we learned about the Fremont people and how the largest known Fremont Indian Village at Five Finger Ridge was discovered during construction of Interstate 70.  Destroying many sites, bulldozers ran right through the heart of the village and uncovered over 100 dwellings and granaries.  It’s the greatest known concentration of Fremont dwellings in the world, and Fremont Indian State Park was established in an effort to preserve what remains.

Sego Lily

At the museum, a basket made of twisted cordage with two bulbs of Sego Lily, considered a delicacy

Interstate 70

What is left of Five Finger Ridge

The natives who lived in this area left an amazing concentration of their distinct rock art on the cliff walls.  We followed several trails that led us to them, but we all thought the Rim Trail hike looked interesting and challenging, and we wanted to check it out.

Permission from the park rangers was required for that hike. and although they granted us permission we arrived to discover it was a very hazardous climb and we decided to view the hundreds of petroglyphs from a distance through binoculars and zoom lenses.  No sense in risking injury just to get close to another bunch of petroglyphs!


Newspaper Rock

Newspaper Rock on the Rim Trail, with 1000+ images


A Fremont-style anthropomorph has all of the typical features, but is wearing what looks to be a skirt. This is a large figure, perhaps the largest in the park


Historical panel created by a local Native American after a journey to the east

We continued our journey by criss-crossing several trails that lead us to many rock art panels, some visible from the frontage road and others requiring some hiking.  The park rangers lent us guides that explained the various petroglyphs we were viewing along the way.

Looks like Pam is holding my hand – maybe she should be!

A serious discussion about a flower

A serious discussion about a flower

The colorful wildflowers made the girls slow down for pictures:


The Fremont Indians left stories carved or painted on the canyon walls – tales of the hunt, shaman’s visions and initiation rites.  These petroglyphs and pictographs represent a graphic history that we don’t understand to this day.

Arch of Arts

Arch of Arts – we could’ve spent hours viewing the 61 rock art panels on these walls

Arch Art

We climbed here for close-ups of the art.  That’s I-70 in the background

Arch Art

This guy was smarter, monitoring the activity from a distance

Blanket Design

A nice blanket-patterned pictograph


Migration panel

Geometric Designs

Geometric designs

The  written guides provided an interpretation of the panels by modern-day tribal members, but even they can provide only a guess of what the Fremont people were trying to convey way back then.

John and Pam

Till we meet again!

John and Pam moved on the following morning, and we stayed behind to just relax and kick back for a few days.

Next up:  Getting caught up at Utah Lake State Park


Hitting the Trails at Capitol Reef NP – Part 2

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This is the second part of our hiking adventures at Capitol Reef National Park, if you missed it click here  for the first installment.

Another Dirt Road Tour with John and Pam

John and Pam invited us to take another ride in their Jeep to check out some sights along the wild Cathedral Valley district in the northern section of the park.  They keep telling us we should buy a Jeep so we can handle more of these roads, but why should we when we have them to haul us around? 😉

Cathedral Valley District

A jeep in the wild with storm clouds approaching – it’s gonna be an exciting day!

They wrote a great account of our fun day at Cathedral Valley, click here to check it out. Although there wasn’t much hiking involved on this day (because of the weather), it was a fun trip with several stops that we found interesting.  Below are my captures from that day:

Glass Mountain

Steve on top of Glass Mountain (really only a mound, but maybe there’s a mountain beneath it?).  Behind him to the left is the Temple of the Sun – the big one – and Temple of the Moon – the little one next to it

This stop reminded us of the Glass Mountain we visited in California in 2012.  It was a huge mountain, click here for that story.

Selenite Mound

A chunk of shiny selenite protruding from the sedimentary rock at Glass Mountain


Cathedrals – a line of beautifully striated buttes and pillars

Gypsum Sinkhol

An unusual geologic feature called the Gypsum Sinkhole – a deep chasm formed when the bottom gave out below a mass of selenite

Gypsum sinkHole

With John and Pam after our walk into the Gypsum Sinkhole, just before the wind kicked up

Cathedral Valley

Here’s what we saw as we were leaving the valley

There was a hike planned for this trip, but the wind and imminent rain made us re-think and eventually backtrack to the main road.  Just as we were approaching it the rain began, and we were certain we’d made the right decision.  But we had a great day in the desert and thank our friends for inviting us once again.


Dust blowing down the road, followed by serious rain soon after

Capitol Gorge/Tanks/Fremont River Trail

Rainy weather plagued us during our stay, and with several days ending up unhikable (is that a word?) in the afternoons, we started off early one morning.  First we hiked the Capitol Gorge Trail, which began at the end of the Capitol Gorge spur road.  It was an easy walk down the wash between towering cliffs of buff-colored sandstone, weaving its way into the very heart of Waterpocket Fold.  The walk had an option to hike up to several “waterpockets” or “tanks,” which we did.


Erosion created these tanks, or water pockets, in the rocks that hold critical rainwater for animals living in the fold

Mother Nature’s fascinating works of art made us stop and stare:

We spotted historic inscriptions about the pioneers who had passed over the original road through here.  This antique graffiti is called the “Pioneer Register”, and we saw names and dates from the late 1800’s all the way up to 1942:

Pioneer Registry

Zooming in on the Pioneer Register, a jumble of names and dates appear on the rock wall

Pioneer Registry

Names of six surveyors in 1911 near the top of the vertical face

Pioneer Registry

The surveyors must have used ladders or ropes to etch their names way up there

Since the weather remained decent for a while that day we added the 2.6-mile roundtrip Fremont River Trail to our trek.  We accessed it from behind the Gifford House, where I bought my 3rd pie on this stop- they were soooooo good!  Our paper map showed it as a moderate hike, but in reality it was an easy stroll the first half and then became quite strenuous the second half.

Fremont River

Chestnut Orchard

We passed thru Mulfor Orchard, which held lush peach trees and irrigation ditches

We were rewarded with great views here – the Fremont River Gorge as it cut through pine- and juniper-studded Miners Mountain, the Fruita Historic District and the western escarpment of the Waterpocket Fold.

Steve pointing at the Fremont Gorge Overlook that we hiked the day before

Steve points at the Fremont Gorge Overlook that we had hiked the day before

Ferns Nipple

View from end of the trail – Fruita Historic District below and Ferns Nipple sits atop a wall of Wingate formations

Western Escarpment of Waterfold

On the way back, the western escarpment of the Waterfold came into view

The weather had cooperated after all, and we were happy to get in five miles of hiking on a day when we didn’t think we’d make it out at all!

The topper – Steve spotted this gorgeous red/orange/yellow bird as we completed our hike:

The red orange plumage of Bullocks Oriole caught Steve's attention.

The plumage of a Bullocks Oriole caught our attention

Chimney Rock Trail

Steve took a day off and I went for a solo hike on the moderate 3.5-mile Chimney Rock Trail Loop, and added a 2-mile side trip to Chimney Rock Canyon.  The previous day’s rain had not muddied the path as Steve had guessed it would, and this hike provided some excellent “alone time” for both of us on a sunny day.

Spring Canyon

Easy obstacles to conquer along the way

There was lots to see in Chimney Rock Canyon.  I climbed over huge boulders that obstructed the washes, craned my neck to view towering examples of honeycomb weathering and gushed over sweeping Wingate Cliffs.

 honeycomb weathering

Examples of honeycomb weathering also known as swiss cheese rocks

Then I retraced my steps and picked up the Chimney Rock Loop Trail, where views at the highest point of the Mummy Cliffs were no less spectacular:

Capitol Reef

Nature’s tiedown for a dead tree

Windgate Cliffs

A selfie without the stick

Waterpocket Fold

Waterpocket Fold bends southward, revealing four sedimentary rock layers: top to bottom; Navajo, Wingate, Chinle and Moenkopi

Chimney Rock

Looking down at Chimney Rock and Highway 24

Scenic Byway 12

We tried to drive Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 during our stay in Torrey, but were unable to complete it due to snow at the higher elevations.  At least I was able to get out of the car and take advantage of a “photo op” before we turned around:

Snow showers in May

Snow showers in May!

This day also ended well, for when we arrived back at the campground we had two guests waiting for us:

What a week it was!  Sensory overload with all the vibrant colors of the exposed rock layers, and the remoteness of so many hikes bringing us welcome solitude.  This national park should not be missed!

Yellow bellied Marmot

Mr. Marmot says, “thanks for coming, visit us again!”


Next up:  Memorable landscapes along Utah’s Scenic Byway 12