Exploring Utah; Part Three: Southern Utah and Zion NP

The landscape of southern Utah is almost Martian and Lunar, but yet full of life. Canyons colored in burnt shades of red and orange, vividly contrasted by greenery…

As we headed south down the highway the landscape continued to change from vast flats of sage framed by mountains, to rolling hills of stunted cedar trees, to red rock canyons, buttes and mesas.

As we reached Rockville before the entrance to Zion NP, we said farewell to our friend Kevin, and headed to the BLM land just outside of Rockville for the night. As we scouted out a good spot for our camp, we were rewarded with an amazing sunset. Southern utah 6Southern Utah 5

We picked a flat spot on top of a little mesa for our tent and both agreed it was the most beautiful spot either of us have ever camped. It was not easy setting the tent up with such a sunset going down, but we managed to get the tent up before dark, then headed back down to the car to make some dinner where we met our new friend, Tyler. The three of us enjoyed a wonderful camp dinner and some coffee. After dinner we hiked back to our mesa camp for the night.

As we chatted with our new buddy Tyler, the moon began to rise over the cliffs and  paint the canyons, and the landscape revealed yet another layer of its beauty. After we all got our fill of gazing into the lunar landscape, Taylor and I hit the tent. Tyler opted for his gunny sack under the moonlight. The next morning, we brewed some coffee and chatted a for a bit, then we said our goodbyes to Tyler and headed to Zion for the day.

Tyler enjoying the sunrise and coffee brewing.

As we headed to Zion, all that was on my mind for the day was fishing. So we headed to the park office to ask about fishing the Virgin River, which flows through the park. They informed us that fishing was allowed, but most of the fish that inhabit the river are small chubs and maybe a stray trout or two in the bigger pools. That was more than enough to get me excited. So with a fly rod and a light spinning rod we hit the river.

The river did not provide any fish for us but it did provide shade for us on a scorching hot day. Even though it was a fish-less day, it was a once in a lifetime feeling fishing in such an amazing place. The contrast of the almost turquoise water against the bright greens surrounded by walls of sky scraping red rock was overwhelming. The rest of the day was spent driving around the park and hiding in the shade.

On the way out of the park we stopped at Zion Prospector, a local rock and gem shop. After hours of exploring the shop we made another new friend, Chuck.

Our new friend Chuck and Utah Tiffany Stone

Chuck was full of knowledge, not only of the earth’s creations that fill the store but also of the area. After asking him all kinds of questions we discovered that petrified wood could be found in the area we were camping. Taylor and I instantly turned into prospectors.

( If your wondering what kind of fish that is… its a ancient bass. Pretty cool, eh? )

After leaving the shop with some knowledge and a few gifts, we headed back to camp. On the way back we stopped to check out the ghost-town of Grafton, which we learned from Chuck, was where part of the movie Butch Cassidy and The Sun Dance Kid was filmed.

The next morning we popped up with our noses to the ground and began rockhounding. The morning was a success with Taylor and I both finding some nice pieces of petrified wood and a pile of many other rocks. Taylor had the biggest part of the pile by far and I had to convince her to leave more behind and remind her we had to get this pile of rocks back home somehow, but luckily by noon the sun drove us back into the shade.

A morning of Rockhounding 

After a morning of sniffing around the mesa it was time to start heading back north to Salt Lake to catch our flight early in the AM. On the way back we stopped at Yuba Lake to whip up some dinner roadside and pick up a few more rocks. As we ate our dinner we watched a most surreal full moon rise over the lake. It was the perfect ending to our Utah adventure.

Yuba Lake 1

Utah is a diverse state and after only a weeks time spent there it revealed so many layers of its beauty. But the landscape was only part of our Utah adventure, what stands out the most from the trip is the great people we met along the way in this surreal state.

Exploring Utah; Part Two: Race Day, Bonneville Vintage GP

Exploring Utah; Part One: Big Cottonwood Canyon

Photography by Saxton and Taylor 

All photography in this article is property of saxtonoutdoors.com

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