Boulder City, NV
When we finished a motorhome visit to Tucson and Borrego Springs in the middle of February, our plan was to hit the road again in May for a trip to Oregon and Washington. Of course, things changed a bit after that. So we settled in to an extended stay here in southern Nevada as winter turned to spring and turned to summer. But the heat and the isolation began to take its toll on us. Motorhomes don’t like to sit in one place for long periods of time and neither do we, so we began to look for a safe spot for a short escape. Pam came up with the perfect spot for a brief adventure, Bryce Canyon City, UT just three miles from Bryce Canyon National Park.
The drive to Bryce Canyon City is a bit under 300 miles, so the motorhome would get a good workout. We’ve been to the national park and hiked the main trails on previous visits so we didn’t need to repeat those adventures. But we knew there were many roads and trails to explore outside the park and away from crowds of people. We also knew that the main private RV park, Ruby’s Inn and RV Park, has huge sites in the newer section in the back, giving us good spacing from our neighbors. And with an elevation of over 7,600 ‘ we knew we would enjoy cooler temperature. We called and found we were able to reserve ten days in late July, so on a sunny Sunday in late July we fired up the motorhome and headed north on I-15.
After the fairly plain scenery between Las Vegas and the Arizona line we entered the beautiful Virgin River Gorge, which connects the northeastern part of the Mojave Desert and the southwestern rim of the Colorado Plateau, gaining 800’ of elevation in the 18 mile stretch of highway.
As you approached Bryce on UT 12 from the west you know you are in colorful southern Utah, as the road goes through two short tunnels in Red Canyon.
After an uneventful drive of 288 miles we arrived at our site and quickly set up the motorhome for a ten day stay.
After setting up and seeing the RV park was rather empty since it was Sunday, we decided to take one drove into the National Park. The main park road is 18 miles to where it ends in a large parking area. The road terminates at Rainbow Point (elevation 9115′), where there is a nice viewing area and a short trail through the pines.
On the return drive from Rainbow Point we stopped at a couple of the many viewpoints along the way.
While the number of visitors in the park was nowhere near what we had experienced in previous visits, there were still too many people for us to be comfortable taking one of the many trails down into the canyon. Since we had done those hikes before, we opted to explore some forest roads and trails more remote with few visitors.
Our first trip was to Pine Lake. To get there we drove north from the park, crossed UT 12, and drove about 14 miles on Johns Valley Road. At a well-marked cross road we turned east on a maintained dirt road and drove another 8 miles where a sign marked the turn leading to the lake.
The road went around the west side of the lake, then narrowed and continued up into the woods beyond it. After about 5 miles we came to a parking area at the end of the line.
After a short climb from the parking area we were rewarded for our efforts with a great view of the surrounding cliffs.
Hell’s Backbone Grill
One of our favorite restaurants is in the tiny town of Boulder, UT (pop. 250), located about 80 miles east of Bryce Canyon. The drive across UT 12 is through mostly empty but very scenic landscape.
At one point the road goes across a narrow strip of land with steep drop-offs on either side.
We parked outside the restaurant, Hell’s Backbone Grill, and headed to the newly constructed outdoor patio.
The inside dining area is closed, but the new patio is designed to accommodate social distancing. Guests are instructed to wash hands at an outdoor sink before being escorted to a table. Each table had a small placard that you use to indicate if you need attention from the server, helping to cut down on unnecessary interaction. And everyone must where a face mask unless they are eating.
We haven’t eaten at a restaurant for months, but the design of the deck and the procedures followed made us feel very comfortable. It is so cool to find a gourmet, farm to table restaurant in such a small, isolated community. This is the fourth time we have eaten here, and we have never been disappointed!
The next day we made another trip up the road to Pine Lake. But instead of turning on the road leading to the lake, we continued up Pine Lake Road, also called Forest Road 132, for another six miles.
We turned right (south) on to an unnamed but well marked narrow forest service road and drove another 3.7 miles. There the road ended in a parking area and the trailhead for what’s known as Powell Point. With the road condition the drive takes well over an hour.
Members of John Wesley Powell’s second exploration of the Grand Canyon made a treck up to this spot in 1871, led by Powell’s second in command, A.H. Thompson. At an elevation of 10,115′, the view from the point is breathtaking.
Another morning we drove a few miles west on UT 12 almost to the red rock tunnels we drove through arriving at Bryce. We parked in a paved parking lot on the north side of the road headed up a path called the Cassidy Trail in Red Canyon. According to western lore, the famous outlaw Butch Cassidy used sections of this trail to escape the law after getting in a fight in nearby Panguitch, Utah.
We followed the Cassidy Trail for about 2 miles, where it joins the upper end of the Rich Trail and loops around colorful hills to return to the Cassidy Trail for a five mile hike. We stopped for a snack at a high overlook called Brayton Point at just under 8,000′.
Brian Head is a ski resort located between Cedar City and Panguitch, about 60 miles from Bryce Canyon. We had driven by Brian Head before but never stopped to look around, so we decided to drive over for a look. The ski area is named for a high, rocky peak that looms over the slopes. A maintained dirt road leads up to the top of the peak where there is an observation point constructed by the CCC during the Great Depression.
For our last adventure we drove back to the west on UT 12 to a small parking area just east of the one for the Cassidy Trailhead, for a hike up Butch Cassidy Draw. Next to the parking area is a placard about Cassidy and his gang that probably should have been located at the nearby trailhead, since that trail is one he used, as opposed to the wash.
You can hike up the wash for over five miles, but we turned around after going a bit over two miles. The numerous red rock formations made for an interesting journey.
After a great 10 day respite from the heat of the desert, we returned to our home in Boulder City where we will continue our self imposed quarantine. We intended to take a month long trip in September but with the virus still around, despite the rosy picture presented by a certain delusional national office holder, we will probably remain at home for the near future.
That’s all for now. Be smart about keeping your distance, wash your hands, and wear a mask!