Utah's Ultimate

Sunday, May 14, 2017 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Any time one eagerly awaits an experience as long as we've looked forward to the opportunity to explore Utah more fully, the risk of disappointment is great.  Our limited visit in 2012 inflated our expectations for a wealth of scenic beauty, and we're happy to report that Utah did not disappoint.  Its vast collections of colorful mesas and majestic buttes, the massive canyons, and the fanciful rock formations often left us speechless, beyond repeatedly murmuring, "Wow!"
Welcome sign at Monument Valley, which spans the state border
When planning the trip, we included a few more days than we thought were needed because we wanted to fly in and out of Atlanta on the weekends to avoid the monumental traffic problems through the city caused by an interstate bridge collapse at the end of March.  The last few days we spent around Salt Lake City were just OK.  We drove to the Bonneville Salt Flats one day, another day to Park City and some of the other ski areas around SLC, and to the Great Salt Lake.  Though the Salt Lake area is scenic compared to most places, none of those were in the same league with the remainder of the trip, and we're more convinced than ever that 18 to 20 days would have been just about right.
Our faithful Nissan Rogue at Capitol Reef National Park
Now it's time for a recap of the good, the bad and the ugly of this unparalleled stunning state.  Our trip began in Arizona since we flew into Phoenix, so we took the opportunity to revisit the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.  Later we visited Page, AZ, and drove across a portion of northern Arizona on the superbly scenic US-89A.  Other than that, and a brief foray across the Nevada state line when we visited the salt flats, we spent the remainder of the trip in Utah.
Our Ultimate Utah adventure
Trip Stats
    •  Days:  23
    •  Miles driven:  3,292
    •  Air miles:  3,175
    •  Weather:  26° to 97°, mostly clear, lots of wind, a few spurts of sleet, rain, and snow
    •  Letterboxes:   Found 67, Planted 7
    •  Miles walked:  77.94
    •  States:   Utah, Arizona, Nevada

National Parks & National Monuments Visited
Grand Canyon National Park
Navajo National Monument
Canyonlands National Park
Natural Bridges National Monument
Bears Ears National Monument
Capitol Reef National Park 
Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Vermillion Cliffs National Monument
More Trip Stats
    •  Buttes:  4,175
    •  Mesas:  598
    •  Canyons:   132
    •  Hoodoos:  8,352
    •  Rocks:  389,224,177,096,281
    •  Cattle:  13,292  (87% open range)
    •  Elk:  78
    •  Deer:   34
    •  Ravens:  261
    •  Squirrels:  47
    •  Cats:   4
    •  Tourist buses:  523
    •  Runaway truck ramps:  14

 Most Scenic Drives
UT-24 through Capitol Reef National Park
UT-24 through Capitol Reef National Park
Zion-Mt. Carmel Road from Mount Carmel into Zion National Park 
UT-89A through northern Arizona along Vermillion Cliffs
UT-14 between Cedar City and Junction
And the Rest
Best Trail (tie):  Rim Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
Best Trail (tie):  Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Reef National Park
Best trail (tie):  Riverside Walk, Zion National Park 
Shiniest Nose (tie):  Abraham Lincoln at State Capitol & Carl Hayden at Lake Powell Dam Visitor Center
Most frequently encountered river:  Colorado River
Most popular rental car:  Nissan Rogue (often in white)
Cleverest tourism idea:  $5 for photo op on horse at Monument Valley
Switchbackiest road (tie):  Moki Dugway
Switchbackiest road (tie):  Zion National Park
Switchbackiest River:  San Juan River, Goosenecks State Park
Best Hotel Room View:  The View Hotel, Monument Valley
Cleverest (Old) Invention:  Reflectoscope mirror used to define area for artists to paint
And More Superlatives
    •  Best bargain:  $10 lifetime Senior Pass for all national park service admissions
    •  Next best bargain:  Nissan Rogue for >3,000 miles at less than $18/day (♥ Enterprise)
    •  Best national park:  (tie) Capitol Reef and Zion
    •  Best shuttle buses:  Zion National Park, frequent and spacious
    •  Worst shuttle buses:  Grand Canyon National Park, infrequent and overcrowded
    •  Oldest plant:  Bristlecone pine (1,800 years old), Bryce Canyon National Park
    •  Largest plant:  Pando Forest (40,000 trunks) near Richfield, UT
    •  Steepest road grade:   14% near Escalante
    •  Worst road:  Monument Valley scenic drive
    •  Most under-rated/under-promoted site:  Utah State Capitol
    •  Windiest spot:   Goblin Valley State Park

Most questionable authenticity:  Newspaper Rock State Historic Site
Most embarrassing moment:  When 3-year-old Arlo climbed to the upper trail and I couldn't handle it 
Best restroom graffiti:  Pit toilet at Capitol Gorge trail in Capitol Reef National Park
Most helpful road sign:  On UT-143 leaving Panguitch going south
Most confusing name:  Dixie National Forest—in Utah
Most convincing sign:  Zion National Park shuttle buses 
Narrowest bridge:  Hurricane, UT over Virgin River
Cleverest town marketing campaign:  Kanab, Utah
One of America's best investments:  
Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s New Deal—so many projects still in use
Most misguided tourist fad:  Love locks on bridges (add excess weight)
Strongest man:  Tourist at Lee's Ferry holding up massive rock
Coolest picnic table:  Quail Creek State Park
Most beautiful building:  Utah State Capitol 
Biggest surprise:  We had no idea that salt flats had a "wet season."
SUNDAY, 14 MAY 2017