Colorado-Utah 2010 Trip - Day 14

Thursday, June 3rd – Kanab, UT to Monticello, UT

We started this day's knowing it would be long (440 miles) and long, especially with the three major stops we had planned at Bryce Canyon National Park, Capital Reef National Park, and Natural Bridges National Monument.  We left Kanab shortly after 6 a.m., taking Utah 189 north through Glendale, Utah, until we reached Utah 12.  Turning onto Utah 12, we soon encountered a gorgeous area called Red Canyon State Park.

After a few quick pictures, we moved on to our breakfast stop at the Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant, located a few miles south of the entrance into Bryce Canyon National Park.  Bryce Canyon has hundreds of hoodoos ‑ pillars of rock, and fins ‑ thin ridges of rocks, formed from the eroding canyon walls.  Bryce Canyon forms the top of what is referred to as the Grand Staircase of plateaus that start of the Grand Canyon, and extend through several ranges of cliffs, Zion Canyon, and several more ranges of cliffs until Bryce Canyon.  The formations are breathtaking.  We first stopped at Sunrise and Sunset Points.

We rode further into Bryce Canyon park, eventually reaching the end at Rainbow Point.

As wonderful as the scenery was, we knew we still had a lot of miles to cover that day, so we headed out of the park and continued eastward on Utah 12.  Our ride along Utah 12 took us along the edge of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  We stopped at an overlook on Utah 12 which look out over a "badlands-like area that was amazing.

After this stop, the road took us through a series of twisting switchbacks down into and through this area of badlands.  The views were incredible.

At one spot along Highway 12, we rode a short section of road where the road twisted back-and-forth with no guard rails and drop-offs of several hundred feet on either side ‑‑ all you could see was a ribbon of road in front of you!  A bit later, we climbed back into mountains, the temperatures cooled, and we returned to seeing Spruce and Douglas Firs.  We briefly stopped to look back at the area we had just pass through.

We moved on to where Highway 12 meets Highway 24, at Torrey, where we stopped for a late lunch and fill-up.  There we met a gentlemen, probably in his mid-60s, that we passed earlier on Highway 12.  He was riding a Triumph Bonneville.  We chatted with him at lunch, learning that that he was from Mississippi and was returning from a trip to Sacramento to visit his sister.  We parted ways with him as we headed out to Capital Reef National Park.  

Highway 24 passes through Capital Reef National Park.  The park runs mostly north-south along a fold of sedimentary rock that uplifted 65 million years ago.

An interesting formation, known as The Castle, can been seen from outside the Visitor's Center on Utah 24.

Utah 24 continued along the Freemont River along the canyon it has cut.  At Hanksville, we pulled in for a quick break.  At the gas station, we again met the fellow from Mississippi (he had passed us while we were stopped at the Capitol Reef Visitor's Center).  The three of us headed out together, turning south on Utah 95.  This section of riding took us by some amazing views of the mesas.  We eventually reached the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, a large man-made lake (Lake Powell) formed on the Colorado River.  We pulled off for pictures (of course).

Only a mile or so further down the road, we spotted a better overlook and stopped again for pictures.  In the distance, we could see the bridge across the Colorado River.

We pushed on, crossing the Colorado River and riding through another section of badlands and mesas that were amazing and beautiful.  About 40 miles after crossing the Colorado, we came upon the entrance to Natural Bridges National Monument.  We parted ways with our riding companion from Mississippi, and headed into the monument.  We managed to stop at the visitor's center only three minutes before closing to buy our park pins, and headed out for the 9‑mile one-way drive loop.  Because it was now late in the day (well after 6 p.m., the lighting was not favorable for photographing the three natural bridges (we found ourselves facing into the sun at two of the three stops).

It was after 7 p.m. before we finished touring Natural Bridges, and 40 mile ride to Blanding, Utah and then another 20 miles after that to Monticello.  We stopped for dinner at a restaurant in Blanding, but it was dark by the time we finished eating.  We arrived at our hotel in Monticello around 9 p.m., after a near miss encounter with a herd of deer shortly after passing the "Deer Migration Area" sign!

The scenery on the day's ride was incredible, and despite the day being long and very hot (a high of 97 degrees while in the Glen Canyon area), this was probably the best one-day's ride I have ever had!