Friday, November 25, 2016

Moab, Part 3 - More Great Stuff around Moab, Utah

Still in the Moab area, we find some beautiful places to explore outside of Arches National Park. We don't really even venture into Canyonlands National Park as we spent a full week hiking here a few years ago. And there's so much other new stuff to do and see around here...
Highway 128 along the Colorado River
Castle Valley - The Priest and Nuns
We take the La Sal Mountain Loop Road just south of Moab. The views above the city are beautiful, but the photos are not as they're into the sun. This view of the rock formation called the Priest and Nuns in Castle Valley at the end of the loop drive is the best from our day.
Morning Glory Natural Bridge
An easy, 4-mile hike up Negro Bill Canyon (aka Grandstaff Canyon) leads to Morning Glory Natural Bridge. Its huge expanse is hard to capture in a single photo.
The beautiful Colorado River
A beautiful resort with at least 50 cabins along the Colorado River near Castle Valley. Some cottonwood trees are still bright yellow, contrasting with the red rock.
Potash Road and the Shafer Trail
Brad overlooking the Colorado River
We spend a full day driving Potash Road from Moab. Here's Brad at Thelma and Louise Point, technically called Fossil Point for its marine fossils found in the rocks 1,000 feet above the Colorado River.
Thelma and Louise Point
The final scene of the movie, Thelma and Louise, was shot here. The car was ejected over the cliff just beyond the promontory in the middle of this photo.
Me overlooking a tributary along Potash Road
We started our drive on Potash Road in Moab just before lunch, and stopped to enjoy the views so often that it is getting dark by the time we get to the spot where it intersects with the Shafer Trail leading us back up to Canyonlands National Park and our campsite on Dubinky Well Road. This tributary, when there's water, falls about 400-500 feet over this smooth, rocky waterfall and joins the Colorado River just around the corner.
As we ascend the steep switchbacks of the Shafer Trail, it's fully dark and we are surprised by a group of bighorn sheep who run across the road in front of the truck and disappear over the cliff's edge.
The switchbacks of the Shafer Trail
On another day, we start down the Shafer Trail late in the morning to retrace our drive backwards towards Potash Road since it was dark when we finished that previous drive and we missed some great views. These are some of the switchbacks that descend the steep cliff and lead to Potash Road and the White Rim Trail, the latter a 100-mile dirt road that follows the rim above the Colorado and Green Rivers, and is a popular backcountry 3-4 night trip for cyclists.
Panorama at the Gooseneck on Potash Road
We have lunch at the Gooseneck below Dead Horse Point State Park and spend a couple of hours just enjoying the view and soaking up the sun. The road (Potash Road at this point) is fairly well travelled by all types of vehicles although parts of the road from here to the Shafer Trail are fairly rough.
Fisher Towers and Onion Creek
Climber at Fisher Towers
About 20 miles east of Moab on Highway 128 is the Fisher Towers trailhead and small campground. This trail is popular not only with hikers but also climbers. There are several climbing routes in this rocky ridge, but this one seems to be the most popular.
A bigger view of the rock ridge. Note the formation being climbed in the previous photo is the second "peak" from the left. The hike is fairly easy (if you're not afraid of heights), but longer than it looks as the trail follows the canyons created by erosion - in and out, in and out. From the viewpoint at the end of the trail, the parking lot is barely one mile away as the crow flies. We have hiked 2.2 miles. Oh well, the views make the trail worthwhile.
Brad overlooking Onion Creek
Below Brad is Onion Creek Road, which we drive on another day trip. It's a lovely drive through the canyon, then through and above Fisher Valley, eventually climbing North Beaver Mesa and looping back to the highway through Castle Valley.
This dinosaur trackway is not advertised on our map so is a nice surprise to find along Polar Mesa Road just before we descend into Castle Valley. There are numerous tracks found in this location with a short interpretive trail, and fabulous views of Bull Canyon and Fisher Valley if you follow the social trail along the rim.

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