Saturday, May 5, 2012

4WD - High Clearance….Driving the Burr Trail

Wednesday, April 25th – The morning started out quietly…..We picked up Joann at her campground, and drove out scenic Hwy 12. Our plan….to enjoy the scenery….have a nice breakfast at the Kiva Koffeehouse…..then drive out the Burr Trail Scenic Backway, a paved, then gravel road which connects Hwy 12 to Capital Reef National Park.


The Kiva Koffeehouse is an amazing structure built in 1998.  (I just love this kind of architecture). We had a very nice breakfast at a quiet, unhurried pace….


It was good to just visit, while sitting and soaking up the view.

Hwy 12 is an awesome road, in itself. It winds through some amazing and, I have to say, unusual rock formations…before crossing what is known as “The Hogback”. The description of this section of road….” As the asphalt clings to this razorback ridge of slickrock, the terrain spills steeply off to each side…..Driving is slow and cautious, but the vistas are incredible.” (They should have added….scary, but incredible.) No pictures here,….no place to pull off!


The Burr Trail started out as 30 miles of paved road, winding right through the middle of some very pretty rock formations. It felt like we were right in the middle of the canyon…..VERY up close and personal…..


The rocks were ‘painted’ in such beautiful color…..As we entered Capital Reef NP, the road changed to gravel…..again, the occasional sections of smooth road….then washboard…..driving 10-30 mph gives one time to feel immersed in the landscape. Then…we came to the switchbacks…….


The description….The backway goes “….down the Burr Trail Switchbacks that drop nearly 800 feet in about a mile while zigging and zagging down the Waterpocket Fold. Various vista points along this backway offer thrilling views…..”This picture was taken AFTER we had made it down……If you look closely, you can see a zig-zag along this ridge face, and very tiny cars (actually jeeps) on the road. For comparison of steepness…. I kept thinking that the trail that we had hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon went down 1,000 feet over 1.5 miles…..less steep than this!

No pictures on the way down…..No place to pull off! Fred had a tight grip on the steering wheel as we inched down in first gear. Joann and I were mostly terrified……wondering which was worse…going  down, or trying to turn around and head back up! Fred, ever confidant and calm, kept assuring us that it was OK and that we could do this… we made each hair pin turn. I guess he was right….We made it down. THRILLING was an understatement!


Then miles of driving the gravel Notom Road that runs northward through Capital Reef along the Waterpocket Fold  - a giant buckle in the earth’s crust that was created 65 million years ago. The striated layers of rock tell the story of the eons of earth’s history…


Of sedimentation and ancient seas, of a desert more vast than the Sahara, and volcanic ash…..


Look closely, and you see man’s much more recent presence….


Petroglyphs from native cultures 1,000 years ago.


Our drive continued west on Hwy 24 through Capital Reef NP (paved, thank goodness).  We stopped at the Visitor’s Center to learn more about the park…..and about the small community of Fruita – named for their fruit orchards – which was settled by Mormons in the early 1900’s. This small schoolhouse was used until 1941. The last family moved out of Fruita in 1967.


We made our last leg of our drive southward on Hwy 12…..across the top of Boulder Mt with an overlook at 9,700 feet. The landscape had changed dramatically with the elevation….first Ponderosa Pine…then the hillsides were covered in Quaking Aspen…..white branches still bare in early Spring.

We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at the Boulder Grill before we dropped Joann back off and came home to ‘crash’. It had been quite the exciting day! I think that we had just about all the gravel roads that we could take…… for a while. (Note - 200 miles of sightseeing…..9 hours).


  1. Hi there ! Boulder, Utah, right? One of my favorite towns! Will you do the Devil's Backbone too? once in that area, James and I drove 60 miles without seeing another car. Which was, honestly, a little scary. :)

    1. Yeah - Boulder, Utah - And we did not do the Devil's Backbone. Once we got off the Burr Trail, we vowed not to drive another gravel least for a while! We had had enough bumping and