Southern Utah - Spectacular! - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 09:09 PM Thread Starter
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Southern Utah - Spectacular!

Wow, it doesn't get any better than this! Lots of G1 segments if you're familiar with Butler maps. I stayed off of the interstate as much as possible, just one short segment on the last day to get home. The rest was 2 lane rural highway. 650 miles, three days, three great hikes, two National Parks, one Utah State Park. Fantastic scenery, great roads to ride.

This is a sight seeing route, not a blistering high speed dash route. If you don't like cliff edge roads, there's one section that will scare the bejeebus out of you.

Starting in the Salt Lake City area, I first went east on Rt 6 out of Spanish Fork Canyon to join Rt 89 at Thistle, then run south for a couple of hours through broad agricultural valleys with tall mountains running down each side. There are a few small towns here and there.

At Salina join Rt 24. Before long you climb off the valley floor and up across the mountains. This is the view down as the climb begins.



One of the risks on twisty back routes is getting stuck behind a slow truck uphill. At one point I was passed by a bumble bee.

90 minutes later coming around the bend the scenery suddenly changes from alpine to amazing colorful sandstone bluffs just before reaching Capitol Reef National Park.



Fruita campground is in the trees in the far valley. Every campsite is really nice as long as you don't mind red dirt. There's plenty of shade and nice bathrooms. No showers. Fruita was a small Mormon enclave until the end of WWII roughly. There are orchards and some old buildings in the valley. The history in Utah is either Anasazi Indian or Mormon, with both in evidence in Capitol Reef. Lots of wildlife, too, though much of it is pretty tame!





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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 09:43 PM Thread Starter
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There's no cell phone service in Capitol Reef. In the nearest town of Torrey there was some slow 1x speed service, enough to let my kids know I was still alive. I always file a trip plan with them if I'll be off the beaten path so that somebody will know if I'm missing.

There were a lot of motorcycles throughout the area, including a surprising number of trikes. And a lot of big pickups hauling huge camping trailers. Expect many drivers to be looking at the scenery or driving too fast for the curves, so be aware that there could be oncoming traffic in your lane around curves or over blind rises. Tourists, ya know!



Theft from motor vehicles at trailheads is a huge problem in the National Parks. I locked my jacket and helmet to the bike along with the red dry bag (though thieves could have stolen the tent and sleeping bag from the red bag if they'd wanted to).



Hickman Natural Bridge arch which has about a 125 foot height and about 133 foot span. Very impressive! There are numerous arches throughout the park.



Leaving the park on the west side at Torrey, join the amazing Rt 12. This is perhaps the most scenic and incredible ride in the USA.



The first segment from Torrey to Boulder is about an hour of winding alpine high elevation mountain riding. Plenty of 3rd gear twisting turns. Not much 6th gear. The summit is at 9600 feet, so expect much cooler temps on this segment.

Here's the view from the summit towards Escalante and the Grand Staircase to the south, where we're headed.



Reaching Boulder things change again dramatically. Boulder is a small tourist town with plenty to do there, but I rode on through. If you're like me and don't like cliff hugging roads, this next section will get your pulse rate up! The terrain transitions to deeply carved cliffs and canyons. You're now at the upper level and about to descend to the canyon floor. There are few guardrails along this section, and serious exposure if you depart your lane! Pay attention, and abide the speed limit which is 25 through the hairy sections.

Going in this direction you suddenly find yourself on the most spectacular 1/4 mile section without warning. There are cliffs on both sides of the road starting at the white line. And the road isn't straight, it makes several S turns. From the road you cannot see anything other than the valley floors 1000 feet below on both sides.

After this section the road descends with cliffs and steep drop offs to the right. There are a couple of sections of guard rail, but mostly none. For about 5 miles you descend to the canyon floor.

This is just past the hog's back section. I wasn't going to go back up to find a place to park to take photos, because I didn't want to do that section again!



Now the ride gets a lot warmer across the sandstone layers.

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 09:55 PM Thread Starter
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Just before Bryce Canyon is a wonderful mostly unknown Utah state park called Kodachrome Basin. The campground is really nice, and the showers are quite nice. It is a good alternative to camping in Bryce Canyon National Park. The Bryce campgrounds are beautiful (at least they were 10 years ago when I was last there), but Bryce is over run with tourists during the summer. Kodachrome is lower and warmer, so there's the tradeoff depending on season.

My campsite in Kodachrome.






Kodachrome has unique sedimentary spires which are where hard sediments settled into round holes in the soft sandstone. When the sandstone eroded away the spires were left standing.

Here's a tree which apparently took inspiration from the nearby geology.



This is the spire above the campground.



Handprints worn into the wall next to a cave. Believed to be from cowboys a long time ago.



The sandstone is so soft it erodes very fast. It looks almost like hardened mud rather than rock.



The pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon are visible to the west.



The road through Bryce Canyon. If you haven't visited Bryce, it is one of the must-see parks. There's something about the light there which is different and cannot be captured in photos.

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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 10:07 PM Thread Starter
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This was the surprise discovery of the trip. A road not identified by Butler as anything special, but perhaps it was the most fun section of the entire ride. It is very lightly travelled, I only saw 2 vehicles coming the opposite direction. They don't even bother to paint lines on most of this road. It is open cattle range for the first half hour so be alert. The road is pretty straight with good visibility so you can cover some miles here and also avoid the tourist bustle through all the towns down in the valley like Panguitch.

It is known as Rt 22 or Johns Valley Road, which starts where the Bryce Canyon entrance is on Rt 12. Just before reaching Osiris (which is one abandoned old building) the speed limit drops to 35 iirc. This indicates you are about to enter a nice winding section. If you like quiet solitude then this road is for you.



At Otter Creek State Park join Rt 62 for a scenic section rated G3 by Butler. About 15 miles later I joined Rt 89 and followed that back north, eventually hitting one 30 mile stretch of I-70 and then back onto 89 north to head home.

A 3 day trip that felt like a 2 week vacation. I highly recommend this route.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-22-2018, 10:38 PM
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Great write up and pics. Felt like I was there.

Thanks for sharing.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2018, 08:51 AM
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Such incredible views. I drove through Utah quite a few years ago and it is a visually stunning state. Thanks for sharing.


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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2018, 12:25 PM
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Beautiful! Funny you mention the light. To me, the pics look like they were taken during an eclipse with the color and lay of the shadows.

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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 06-23-2018, 01:44 PM
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GREAT write-up and pics!

I've ridden MOST of that route quite a few times during winter, and I've always maintained that the WHOLE state of Utah should be a National Park (or Monument)!

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