Seven Photos to Whet Your Appetite for Southern Utah

Pausing for a moment in Bryce Canyon

“How do you know when it’s spring in Utah?” asked the burly dude astride his ATV. Out of breath from a punchy climb on my bike, I gasped mutely, a fish from sea level caught at 8,000 feet elevation. “Well, I’ll tell ya,” he said, “all the license plates turn green!” Rollicking laughter and slapping of thighs from my new friend (plus a chortle from me) sealed the comedy hour.

It could not be more true. Starting in March, vehicles sporting trees or mountains on their license plates roll into Utah. They converge from Montana, Oregon, Canadian provinces, catapulting their residents south from anywhere with lots of pines and long winters. Snowbirds looking for adventure in the desert, they roll into Utah with mountain bikes stacked on their cars, vanagons towing rafts, and pickups hauling off-road toys.

A sunset trail run in Capitol Reef NP.

A sunset trail run in Capitol Reef NP. The green trees below are part of a 200-year-old orchard in the middle of nowhere! This lesser known park is a hidden gem.

As a member of the forested northern climes, my appreciation for the springtime blue skies, red rock, and vast open spaces of the southern Utah desert grows every time I return. While I feel at home in the mountains, the unexplored, edgy vastness of canyon country is a different terrain. The mountain biking, trail running, hiking, rafting and climbing is enough to keep someone busy for months, and a spring road trip to shake off the winter doldrums is tons of fun too.

Hiking in Bryce Canyon.

Hiking in Bryce Canyon.

Words simply don’t do Utah justice, so this green-plated wanderer will quickly conclude this post with a serenade in photos to this marvelous desert country. However, nothing (other than visiting) captures the true essence of Utah and its eyeball-rattling scenery, rock formations Dr. Seuss on LSD couldn’t even dream up, and an escape from winter’s dreary whip-tail. Point the rig south and head to Utah. If your license plate is green, it will merely add contrast to all the red rock.


PS: Trip update! After over a month of bachelor life in Utah’s gorgeous country (here’s the map), I’m picking Chelsea up at the Las Vegas airport today and we’re heading north through Death Valley into the Eastern Sierra’s. Back to the pines, granite and cooler temps as May heat rolls into Utah and flushes thin-skinned northerners toward the Arctic Circle like scared caribou. I’m stoked to get my road trip partner back, as five weeks apart = a long time. Onward we go!

End of a mountain bike ride near Arches NP.

End of a mountain bike ride near Canyonlands.

Can't always avoid bad weather! A snowstorm hits on the way over the 9,600' pass near Escalante, Utah.

Can’t always avoid bad weather! A snowstorm hits on the way over the 9,600′ pass near Escalante, Utah.

Bryce Canyon is just otherworldly.

Bryce Canyon is just otherworldly.

23 degrees overnight calls for a campfire!

Hanging with the Keys to Freeze bike touring crew in Bryce. 23 degrees overnight calls for a campfire!


Utah Snapshot – Porcupine Rim

Porcupine Rim

Utah is a land of big views and subtle sounds. Huge red rock bluffs, valleys spackled in green, blue skies soaring above. Wind whispering through pines or roaring over ridges. Mountain bike tires crunching over sand or scratching up slickrock. Rabbits hopping across the trail, lizards skittering up rocks, and birds whipping past. Flip flops snapping during a hike. Waterfalls pouring off canyon walls and birds warbling away in a desert oasis. Utter silence as night falls high on a mesa and the stars twinkle in some of the darkest skies in the world.

To me, the above picture (iPhone shot!) sums up Utah. I took it high on Porcupine Rim near the city of Moab. Porcupine is a mountain bike ride starting at 8,000′ and descending 4,000′ along the edge of a rim all the way down to the mighty Colorado River, which we camped along. It was the perfect day: Up early to ride world-famous terrain, then a nice afternoon relaxing and hanging with other travelers, followed by evening hiking in Arches National Park with a sunset capstone of a deep red glow on Delicate Arch.

The journey continues! More pictures soon.