Redrocks and Aspen Trees - UTAH - Day 4

Good morning, today we head to Devil’s Lane, Devil’s Canyon and Butts point... This doesn’t sound like much fun...

As you come down from the mountains into the “back” entrance to Needles district of Canyonlands you see several of these signs. Unlike many places where it’s more of a suggestion and a car or stock 4x4 could make it fine I found this road to be tough enough that even a stock height 4x4 would come out with some damage to bumpers and rocker panels.

The fact that the following pictures and trails are of a road in a national park make me happy. There are still some beautiful areas that are being left fairly rural. Yeah for 4x4's!

We were thoroughly enjoying this drive. All of the roads had seen a lot of rain in the last few days so there were no tracks. It’s a great feeling, a bit eerie though, to feel this alone. The muddy sections were sticky enough that even on this dry morning we had to work through them to avoid getting stuck. The previous night added some rain/mud to the area.

We did run across this little fella sunning in the road. Gotta love Gopher snakes. (Yes, all snakes give me a shudder down my spine, but I still love seeing them)

(The mud was different shades of red and tan. It did a fairly nice splatter paint job!)

(It’s odd to come across a two story ruin and not see any information on it. We weren’t technically in the National Park yet, but I was still expecting to see something about it nearby.)

After the ruins we were finally headed into our first “obstacle.” Bobby’s Hole. I’ve seen pictures of this section where it was completely impassible. As the gas gauge crept down from all of the dirt miles we’d driven I was acutely aware of where our turn around point would need to be. I was anxious to get past Bobby’s Hole so I could be fairly confident that this trail would be passable!

The hill could look like this:

(Pictures taken from

(Picture from

Or it could look like this:

Split the difference and you get what we saw. I was very happy to see that, although there were some big drop offs, it was certainly drive-able. I really didn’t want to miss out on Needles!

The terrain got a little harder as we went, bit by bit. This next section is where the big washout pictured above was so I wanted to see this part to be sure we’d make it.

(Although the pics don’t show it there were some tougher spots, but still a clearly visible clean line up or down the hill. The black plastic is used for erosion control.)

Great success! It felt good to have it behind us. It wasn’t too bad at all. There was still a lingering feeling that something ahead could be washed out and stop us, but at this point I was fairly committed to getting through it, no matter what it took.

At this point there were still no tire tracks so we were making fresh ones as we went. Great, but ominous. Had the rain been so hard in the last few days or had something ahead prevented folks who entered the park at the traditional entrance from getting out this way?

This was just amazing terrain to cover. Putting along in low range. No rush, no place to be other than in the moment.

We could see the needles getting closer in the distance.

We took a side trail to check out a nearby campground. We were officially in the park! It included a composting toilet which, although odd to see in a natural place, is necessary to ensure the park doesn’t look like a field of white flowers after the busy season. What are white flowers? Just say NO to white flowers

We were in it now. The distant views we enjoyed all morning were now around us. Giving us a completely different perspective and scale of the red towering monoliths.

We opened the sun roof to be able to look up. By the end of the day in here your neck hurts from looking all over the place!

This next little section is after a lot of smooth driving so it somewhat caught me by surprise. The second we were on it I recognized the view from many others photos.

(This is roughly the shot that I often see from Needles trips.)

(This is what you’re heading into. Do I go straight... or right. Oh, right, now I see the trail!)

(It was a nice 4 point turn to get around this corner.)

We kept on cruising. The temps kept climbing. Despite being the 4th of July, the reason the area was so quiet was that it gets pretty hot this time of year. It was still morning and the temps were already into the 90's. Still, it was worth getting this place all to ourselves... not to mention it would be tough to pass another vehicle here:

(The Silver Stairs were beautiful and not too bad as far as difficulty. I can tell a lot of folks drag something along these large rocks though. Long Wheelbase trucks take note.)

(K is great at the artistic shots.)

There are constant step ups and step downs. Nothing too crazy, but drivers beware. I found myself getting tired of left foot braking and I just drove up or down a few without doing it which led to a couple of bumps on the front and rear bumpers.

Finally, we crossed our first set of tracks!! We’d hit the one-way section of the park and the tracks meant someone was headed into the park from the main entrance. It was interesting to know that there was exactly one other vehicle (running Mickey Thompson tires) in the park.

On to the well known obstacle called Elephant Hill. I was surprised by two things.

  1. How much cement and asphalt had been added to sections of this trail.

  2. How steep it was!! Even in low range Goose had to work to haul it’s fatness up this hill.

You start by seeing a strange sign.”Pull in back up” for the up hill side and:

For folks headed into the park in the traditional direction. I took a look at the corner and although I’ve made tighter turns there was something about a sign like this that made me think, I’d rather back up the hill then become a statistic of someone who didn’t and rolled off the edge.

So, here we go around a fairly skinny corner and all I can see is sky. Most of this hill was like that. Sky and occasional side views of the trail on my side. The passenger side was just blue sky so I just trusted that if I stayed fairly near the edge of the trail on the driver side I’d be okay. That’s a lot of trust. Admittedly, I should have asked K to walk ahead and check that the trail hadn’t just washed out an hour before. What are the chances!!! .... :-o

(This shot gives you a bit of a sense of the pitch you’re driving up as well as the many patches over the decades. Pictures never do it justice...)

You just keep climbing! This entire section is less than a mile, but it drives like 5 miles. Up and down and up and down and up up up up up and down.

Phew! That’s exhausting. After hours and hours of not seeing another person it’s oddly shocking to look down on a parking lot with Honda Elements and Toyota Prii parked about 100 feet below. We’re sitting on our perch, the truck is hot and has been working very hard and there they are. Parking in a perfectly civil parking lot. A bit of scenery shock.

Well, I guess it was time to rejoin society. Damn. Just a few more switch backs and were on flat ground.

(Re-entering normal people orbit...)

Honestly, it was good to be back. The heat was fairly intense now and I was missing the pines and aspen of the high ground. We’d had a long couple of days and I wanted to get back to lazily cruising down forest roads in low range. I wanted to get back to quieting my brain. Whatever that means.

We headed for Newspaper rock on our way from Needles back to the mountains. You gotta drop by newspaper rock!

With my mind sufficiently blown by these petroglyphs, but still fading and getting more tired by the moment we headed on.

Wait, is that a mine? You have to stop to check out mines...

(Objects in mirror are sooooooo pretty)

I’m not sure what it was. Maybe it was the contrast of wide open spaces after the slow moving confined spaces of the Needles district. Maybe it was knowing that while in Needles we were in a very well known national park and not really “exploring” as it were... Maybe I’m just a weirdo. Whatever the case, this view brought me back to reality. Any sense of being exhausted left me and I reveled in more unexpected beautiful landscapes as we turned each corner. Climbing higher and higher to cooler weather!

Say it with me. “Ahhh” The cool air and green views meant we were back in the mountains. We took a look on the map and searched for the highest elevation road near us. It was, as noted earlier in the trip report, BUTTS POINT. I don’t know what happened up here to give this place it’s name, but it was a beautiful bit of backside.

We headed out to a point made by 2 rocks jutting out. In between them made for a great fire pit and cooking area. We cooked up a steak and some green beans with green chile. As the sun set we were watching for fireworks in Blanding, UT which was just below the horizon in the left of the photo below. What we didn’t expect is four fireworks shows in varying distances. The furthest appeared to be Cortez, CO or somewhere similar. It was clearly the bigger show of the three. The other two were closer and may have been Monticello and some more to the south near Mexican Hat, UT. We thought one of them must have been Blanding until we hopped into bed and then saw some much closer to us than before. Finally, we were seeing Blanding’s show as well. What a night. What a view.

It wasn’t lost on me that it had been exactly a year. Exactly a year to the night since my life changed quite a bit. We’d had many adventures, many work days, many special moments and made many plans for the coming years. I was sitting next to my partner, my wife tonight. A year ago, on this night, I was proposing.

You can read about it here: Read More

Good night.

Previous: Redrocks and Aspen Trees - UTAH - Day 3 | Next: Redrocks and Aspen Trees - UTAH - Day 5



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