Remote and Rugged Red Rocks – Kanab, Utah

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Adjusting future stops and extending our stay here in Kanab was a good decision, as it was a place where we wanted to (and still want to) spend more time.  The weather was perfect, and fortunately J&J RV Park was able to accommodate our request to extend. Continue reading

Back to the fiery red rocks of southwestern Utah – Kanab

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On our drive down from Jacob Lake to Kanab we were presented with a view of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  We could actually discern the series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon (the top “stair” at over 9,000′ elevation).  It’s followed by the other vertical drops at the Pink Cliffs, Grey Cliffs, White Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs and Chocolate Cliffs.  And that staircase-like landscape is how the national monument got its name and this is the best spot to really see and understand why.

The technicolor cliffs of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

We had passed through Kanab in 2016, coming from Zion National Park to Lake Powell, Arizona.  The richly-colored vermillion cliffs bordering Highway 89 between Kanab and Page were stunning, and we made a mental note to come back one day.  Here we were three years later, finally making Kanab our home base for some red-colored fun!

Kanab is surrounded by the distinctively sculpted sandstone cliffs that define southwestern Utah.  It’s on the second “step” up (the Vermillion Cliffs layer) in the five-step Grand Staircase.  So here’s a warning that you’ll definitely be seeing red by the end of this post!

Red cliffs overlooking our site at J&J RV Park in Kanab

Johnson Canyon

Steve has managed to get me hooked on the old “Gunsmoke” TV series, as he has been for years.  One of the first things we did in Kanab was check out what’s left of the old movie sets from the show.  Much of it was filmed in Kanab, and the remaining decrepit structures are on private land along Johnson Canyon Road.  Now we both yell “Been there!” when we see one of the structures on the show’s reruns.  Yes, this is what our life has come to…

It’s sad that the property owners have let the fictional Dodge City go to ruin, Steve wants to get out there and fix them up!

We actually included a stop at the real Dodge City during our journey through Kansas.  All of the original main cast members are deceased now except for “Newly O’Brien” (Buck Taylor, now over 80 years old), who was occasionally returning to Dodge City to meet fans at that time.

Sad to see them like this, but we still recognize the structures and the hills behind them when we watch the show

With this beautiful backdrop, Marshall Matt Dillon must have loved looking for bad guys here!

There were other interesting things along Johnson Canyon that we enjoyed during our drive:

White cliffs lined Johnson Canyon Road

Hitting the trails –

Hiking is only one of the many adventures to be experienced in Kanab, but it was our main focus.  You see, trekking the red rocks of southern Utah is pretty much the pinnacle of hiking, in our humble opinion.  Steve was excited to try some of them with his new Oboz boots, which he really likes.  But we’ll have to come back to explore even more of this beautiful area!

The rocks are almost as red as his shirt! …but really look at his hiking boots 🙂

If you have time for only one hike while in Kanab, the Squaw Trail might be a good choice.   It was rated easy, but since we climbed 800′ in 1.5 miles with some steep areas we would rate it as moderate.  Ascending up the switchbacks, we were rewarded with expansive views of Kanab and up-close encounters with the red rocks:

The climb begins, where else can you see colors like this?

In a few thousand years this might become an arch

Taking a break to view Kanab from above

The 2.5-mile trail ended with a view of the White Cliffs in the distance

On our way back we saw a Jeep that looked familiar,  were our friends spying on us? 🙂

It turned out not to be John and Pam’s Jeep, but they’d been here a couple of weeks before and suggested we hike the Cottonwood Trail.  It’s a 9-mile out and back trek that they couldn’t complete because of bad weather and high water, but we were able to complete it and can report to our hiking buddies that it was a winner!

The trail greeter seemed glum to share his space with us

Now that’s a cool picnic table ensemble!

There were lots of ups and downs as we crossed several ravines and washes

There were many splashes of color along the way:

But it was the meadow of desert sunflowers at the end of the 4.5-mile trail that made us gasp:

We were so happy that we could go all the way, or we would have missed this

The Mansard Trail was a 5-mile round trip that ended at an alcove near high cliffs:

That’s our destination

We followed the same trail that John and Pam had earlier, here is their excellent description of the hike and I’ll just include a few of my photos:

We saw a creepy black spider and many rainbow-colored stink bugs, ewww!

Staring at the cliff and coatings that looked like dripping paint and yellow stripes made us walk right by the alcove:

Desert varnish is a thin coating (patina) of manganese, iron and clays on the surface of sun-baked cliffs

Yellow stripes could also be patina

Nature’s bridal bouquet!

We backtracked and looked up – we had finally found it!

This alcove is thought to date to the Anasazi period, 0 AD to about 1250 AD

There were writings and petroglyphs on the floor, which is uncommon.  We had only seen similar ones at Hueco Tanks State Park in Texas:

Rock art hidden in the blow sand around the base of the floor

Looks like fish bones to me

Looking out from the alcove, we saw views that the Anasazi people must have enjoyed so long ago

Back down we go!

Our car was still all alone in the parking lot – perfect!

It turned out our planned one week stay wasn’t long enough and we extended a couple extra days to explore the area as fully as we could. But still there are more trails to be had, another list for our future revisits.

And if you think you’ve seen “red” on this post, wait till you see what’s up next!

 

Next up:  Rugged and remote red rocks!