Gallery: Family Road Trip Through Backroads of Southern Utah

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Burr Trail into Capitol Reef National Park
Burr Trail switchbacks lead into the backcountry of Capitol Reef National Park

Every time I take a road trip to southern Utah, it just gets better and better. The vast expanses of incomprehensible crimson sandstone landscape seemingly hide and surprise with endless opportunities for solitude and trails. This time, though, my family threesome finally made it to one landmark that's denied me twice before. Many moons ago, my wife and I attempted to backpack to Rainbow Bridge, the world's largest natural bridge that's only accessible by comfy boat ride or by a 13.8-mile one-way trek by foot. There's a slot canyon toward the end, and rainfall demanded we turn around get to safe ground. We were skunked by rain twice, 6 months apart, forced to bail because you don't want to mess around with slot canyons when there's rain nearby. But this time, from the cushy dreamland of a houseboat on Lake Powell, a friend ferried our hides in his Sea Ray, even gave us a couple of tows on his slalom ski.

For years another friend has urged me to go to Capitol Reef National Park, and the place lived up to everything he promised. June was hot, and we endured incredible heat and no-see-ums dancing in our ears, and our daughter categorically declared her disdain for hiking. That is until we went into the visitor center at Capitol Reef where she gravitated right to the kids area with its books and stuffed critters and stickers and toys. There, like a smile from the hiking gods, she saw children's hiking sticks; cute yet solid things just her height and — the best part — a bell hanging from a lanyard. She flipped out. "Can we buy it?" She begged. It was fifteen bucks and I would have happily paid triple if it meant she'd get on board with putting down a few mild hikes with us. We bought it, you bet we did. Her interest? Yep, it still deteriorated within about, oh, the first quarter mile of the first trail on the first day. We got through it, but I have to go back again. Stashed away in the canyons and rocks of the place are swimming holes, waterfalls, slot canyons, and solitude.

So, there you go. And here you go, nearly 50 photos of this Utah road trip that includes a link-up of Glen Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Capitol Reef, and a fistful of roadside hikes, geocaches, and small town café samplings along the way over the course of a week. It beats working. Enjoy, y'all —


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# Amanda 2012-07-16 08:23
Utah's my favorite. Funny how we Arizonan's flock there for adventure. We went there last summer. To the majority of the places you listed. We traveled by KTM and had a blast.
I hope you went to Escalante Outfitters. There food was pretty killer.
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Mark Stephens
+1 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2012-07-16 20:46
Hmmm, no missed Escalante Outfitters. Ho hum, I guess we must return. :-)
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+1 / 0
# Lindsey 2012-07-17 15:24
You just made me homesick.
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+1 / 0
# Christy 2012-07-17 21:50
Thanks for sharing. Makes me want to head southeast right now!
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+2 / 0
# Roger 2012-07-18 10:43
Excellent. Although I live 4 hours away, I can't ever seem to wrestle my thoughts away from the next southern Utah trip. That, and Marks epic photos keep me going back.
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Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2012-07-20 13:59
Rog, I have to point back to you. You're one of the few I know to go to for good Utah beta.
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# Craig 2013-12-14 11:30
[fv]Awesome stuff. Great ideas for me and the family[/fv]
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