Utah has some of the most amazing desert scenery of any state in the USA and these are just a few places in Utah I visited over the years:

 

 

Bears Ears National Monument

October 2019: I flew out to Denver to join my brother Jesse on a road trip from Montana to my house in San Diego. Along the way we planned to stop and camp in Bears Ears National Monument. The monument protects almost 1.5 million acres of undeveloped wild semi-arid land with buttes, canyons and caves that contains thousands of archeological ruins and cultural sites sacred to the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and Pueblo Indigenous people. The monument has long been vulnerable to looting of its artifacts, which are surprisingly abundant and easily accessible. Ownership of the land like much of the west is disputed between indigenous groups and mining interests. President Trump in December reduced the monument’s size by 85% but under President Biden, the monument was restored to its former size. The monument will likely yo-yo in size between future administrations.  

I made it a point to travel through Bears Ears because I wanted to see one of the wilder parts of Utah before it is discovered by mass tourism like other Utah national parks or worse it is furtherly reduced in size. It also promised to be an adventure, only accessible via 4WD, which we had, and I wanted to camp in one of the caves of the monument that could only be reached by foot, and I chose Fish Mouth Cave, which I found scouring the monument on Google Earth.

 

 

Driving into Bears Ears National Monument on a desolate road where we rarely saw another vehicle

Fish Mouth Cave is remote and required a mile long hike from the vehicle parking spot. The hike to the cave was reported to be hard to follow and it was, disappearing at times. Along the way we observed pueblo ruins carved out of cliff enclosures that back to a thousand years old. We hiked up a steep scree path to the massive cave entrance with a few pueblo ruins along its side and some indigenous carvings and offerings of maize left in the cave’s entrance probably from local indigenous groups.

Fish Mouth Cave

One of the Pueblo ruins carved out of the cliffside 

One of the Pueblo ruins carved out of the cliffside 

Fish Mouth Cave

Jesse and I had the cave all to ourselves. The camp is easily one of my favorite places I have ever camped. It had a combination of extreme natural wild beaty, that coincided with an ancient and scared feel to it. We set up our tents inside the cave and started a campfire careful not to disturb any artifacts. The massive cave’s domed ceiling hung over us and its sand rock illuminated a magical red hue in the sunset. Soon after the sun set a full moon rose up from the desert floor in direct view from the cave’s entrance. My brother and I watched the moon rise from our bonfire while sipping wine. I have always said that camping can provide an experience far better than any luxury 5-star hotel and this was case in point.

My brother and his tent in the Fish Mouth Cave Entrance in the morning 

Cave paintings of hands of ancient cave dwellers. Paintings of hands are one of the most common forms of grafitti that ancient people have left behind

offerings of corn or maiz from indigenious people who still visit the cave for religious pilgrimages

Ancient Circular carvings left inside the cave from cave dwellers

My brother had some nice lights to attach to our tents and we had small foldout chairs to sit in next to our campfire while we enjoyed watching the moonrise 

Full moon rise 

As Jesse and I drove south towards Arizona through bears ears National Monument we stopped to explore some of its hiking trails, and we climbed up high up into buttes to observe to more pueblo ruins and cave paintings. Bears Ears National Monument has easily become one of my favorite places in the USA and in our visit, we just scratched its surface.

 

Ancient rock carving of an alien like figure

Zion National Park

July 2019: One weekend while my wife was on a work trip, I decided I wanted to hike Angels landing on a quick one-night trip from San Diego. Angel’s landing is a notorious hike in Zion National Park known with a reputation for being beautiful but also one of America’s most dangerous. I flew out to Las Vegas on Spirit Airlines for 80$ round trip with one small personal bag that included my one-man tent, inflatable mattress and hiking gear. I rented a car in Vegas and drove to Zion National Park and when I arrived it was 110 degrees not ideal hiking weather. I explored the park in my rental car and decided to do the hike first thing the next morning.

 

Driving into Zion

Angel’s landing is a popular hike and I wanted to do it without the crowds and without the heat. i camped just outside of Zion’s entrance gate with the intent to get a head start and be the first person up the Angels landing train in the morning. In summer the only way to reach this popular section of the park is via the shuttle bus and the first bus ran from the park entrance to the trail head for Angel’s landing at 530AM so i was up and first in line with a group of other tourists.

 

View from my campsite

Looking behind me at a few other hikers making their way up the steep hike

On myway down I snapped a photo of father and son hiking a narrow part of the trail to the top

Ancient rock carving of an alien like figure

One of the steep parts of the trail where the chain is positioned to comfort some hikers experiencing heights indiced vertigo

I liked Angels Landing, and it was a challenging and scenic hike but as I expected it fell far below its reputation and I didn’t feel like I was at risk at any point in the hike. I did manage to race up to the top before others and enjoy the steep rocky climb up to the top before it becomes a log jam of people. There were some chains set up to help people along the way but the chains I thought were unnecessary for most experienced hikers.

 

Me at the top of Angels landing

Zion in summer was a bit too crowded for my taste but I also didn’t have a lot of time to do the trip-one night and I knew that with more time I could have done some amazing deeper hikes into the park to escape the crowds.

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