The Burr Trail Road with Tour Guides – Part One

Torrey, UT

On Monday we were up and ready to go earlier than usual as our local tour guides, Larry and Annette, would be arriving at 9:00 to take us on another new adventure.   We boarded the tour bus (their Jeep) and headed through Capitol Reefs NP, turning south on the same road we took the previous day to our hike up Sheets Gulch.  Today we continued past Sheets Gulch into Strike Valley, stopping for a short hike up on top of a rock upheaval called Oyster Reef.

Our tour guides, Larry and Annette, survey Oyster Reef

Standing in the middle of an arid valley, it’s difficult to imagine that the area was once at the bottom of an ocean, but the shells covering the reef provide the evidence of ancient sea life.

Continuing to the south, we stopped for a look at some barren, color-banded, rounded hills. Vegetation is scarce in the area and the surface of the hills has a “popcorn” texture from the bentonite clay.

A few miles further south we took a right turn and headed west on the Burr Trail Road.  The road quickly ascended through a series of switchbacks to the top of the ridge.

Had we been by ourselves we would have missed the narrow road to the left at the top of the hill.  But our trusty guides used their vast local knowledge and turned onto the narrow side road.  A very short distance on this road is an overlook where the Park Service was kind enough to place a picnic table for our use.  We stopped there to enjoy another “lunch with a view.”

After lunch we continued west on Burr Trail Road to a turn-off leading to the Strike Valley Overlook.  This area has many stone arches, and here’s one we spotted from Burr Trail Road.

After a short distance we turned to the north on a road leading to the Strike Canyon Overlook.  While the Burr Trail Road is two lane and fine for all vehicles, this side road is recommended for four-wheel drive vehicles only.  A more appropriate restriction would be for high clearance vehicles only, as we didn’t need four-wheel drive.  But high clearance was definitely required in a few spots.

The four wheel drive road leading to Strike Canyon Overlook

As we continued our guides pointed out several more arches.  The first was a large double arch.

The next looked like a single arch.

But a close up look revealed that it was also a double arch.

At the trailhead we headed up the slickrock to check out the overlook.

The overlook is a perfect place to see the long ridge that gives Capitol Reef National Park the second part of its name.  The Waterpocket Fold is a warp in the earth’s crust that forms a north-to-south barrier over a hundred miles long.   Early settlers called the impassible barrier a reef and even today it has barely been breached by roads.  The first part of the park’s name comes from a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each of which looks somewhat like the United States Capitol building, that runs from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold.

Looking to the north on Waterpocket Fold

Looking to the south on Waterpocket Fold

After a snack on the overlook, we headed back down the slickrock to the trailhead.

On the trip back to the main road our guides pointed out more neat arches and rock formations.

We then continued west on Burr Trail Road through Long Canyon while enjoying more great views.

More colorful bentonite hills

Looking back into Long Canyon

At the end of Burr Trail Road, we turned south on Rte. 12 in the tiny community of Boulder (more on Boulder later).  About ten miles to the south our tour guides pulled over to show us an ancient granary.  Early nomadic inhabitants of the area would often utilize openings in the rock cliffs to store grain as they moved locations during different seasons.

Larry felt the cover of the opening had deteriorated since his last visit to the area a few years ago, so it’s days may be numbered.

We then drove north for a return visit to the community of Boulder.  But this blog is getting a bit “lengthy,” so we’ll give you a break and continue this exciting story in our next blog.

Look for part two tomorrow . . .

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21 Responses to The Burr Trail Road with Tour Guides – Part One

  1. Ahhhh…just love that part of Utah. For some reason that area seemed to have just the right mix of natural beauty and remoteness for me. You’ve captured it well…and you’re very lucky to have such great guides!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Nina! It is so nice to see very few people in a National Park. However, I also feel badly that they are missing this beautiful place. But they can visit after we leave! Having locals show us around is a special treat.

  2. Annette Lamb says:

    We always enjoy sharing our favorite southern Utah spots with friends!

    Annette and Larry, official (or is that unofficial?) tour guides

  3. Erin says:

    Such sweeping vistas. Love the double arch … and that photo of you and Annette in the jaws of a rock monster is fun!

  4. Gay and Joe Taylor says:

    What an awesome day! Great guides….friends…, great trails, and great hikes! That’s so cool to see the shells, double arches, and so sad about the ancient granary!

    Looking forward to part two!

  5. Lisa says:

    What fantastic sights you saw! Can’t wait for part two!

  6. Pam says:

    Another great picnic spot–lucky you. You are so knowledgeable about this area. I wouldn’t know the red color is bentonite, etc. Having the tour guides helps, especially in pointing out something as fascinating as the grain storage areas. The photo of the two of you in the “jaws” looks like it could be Betty and Wilma in Bedrock–a hoot.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Pam! It has been great touring with someone with knowledge of the area. I have been trying to learn the names of the various rock layers. Our friends have done extensive studying of the area so we are gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge. Funny you mentioned The Flintstones. That’s the reason we stopped at that rock!! It reminds Annette of the Flintstones and the ribs that hung by their car at the movies. Too funny!

  7. Header…WOW

    What a cool place. I am looking around the area trying to image the wildlife that lived there. I am scared!

    Wonderful photo of the four of you. Breath-taking views all during this tour.

    The photo of you and Annette is so cute.

    Another (maybe not as risk-taking hike) beautiful hike. The colors are just amazing.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Marsha! The only wildlife we saw were some lizards and birds. Annette thought that picture would be cool and it turned out great. Every turn provided new carvings in the rock and varied coloring. It was just amazing.

  8. LuAnn says:

    Fascinating place! How fortunate for you both to have such great tour guides. You have more great lunches with a view than anyone I know! 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, LuAnn! We are quite spoiled. Leaving the west for a year is going to be very difficult.

      • LuAnn says:

        Where are you headed next?

      • placestheygo says:

        We leave Capital Reef Sunday and move to Bryce Canyon for a week. Next, we move to the Lake Powell for a week, then somewhere around Mexican Hat for a few days. We move to the Durango area for a few days. We have to be in Estes Park, CO by June 3. Our daughter arrives the 7th for a week. After she leaves, we begin a slow trek east. I don’t know how we are going east except that we will cross Ohio to see friends.

      • LuAnn says:

        Safe travels. I will be following along. 🙂

  9. Charlotte says:

    Another great hike and awesome pics. How lucky to have such knowledgeable guides! I look forward to part 2. My “Need to See/Do” list of places to see and hike keeps getting longer. Can’t wait to start moving some to my “Already Seen/Done” list. Soon!

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