I am going to finish up our ride through National Scenic Byway Hwy. 12. If you missed Day 1, Click Here to catch up and
take a look at the photos. As you might remember from the first report we rode through Zion National Park, Bryce
Canyon National Park and Hwy. 12 up to Hwy. 24.
As we turned East on Hwy. 24 we were only 4 miles from Capitol Reef National Park. There is no charge to ride Hwy. 24 through the park, but if you are to take one of the loops through the park there is a $5 fee. Capitol Reef is characterized by multi-colored red and white sandstone formations. It was designated a National Monument in 1937 and a National Park in 1971. You will find twisting canyons, massive domes, monoliths and spires of sandstone. As we dropped down the hill into the park we were greeted by giant red sandstone mountains with sheer sides. It is really quite an awesome and beautiful sight to see and hard to keep your eyes on the road. After a few miles viewing the red sheer cliffs you descend into a flat road that meanders alongside a stream with trees and vegetation next to the road and in between red and white shear sandstone walls making it a very impressive ride. In this area you will see the Old Fruita Schoolhouse, Petroglyphs, (carvings in the rock from the ancient Fremont people dating from 700 to 1300 AD.) and rocks with names like Capitol Dome and Hickman Bridge. Going through here in a car just would not be the same.
After you meander your way through 15 miles of Capitol Reef you will most likely be on such a sensory high that you won't even notice the 25 miles of desolate road through Caineville on your way to Hanksville for your next important gas stop. Make sure you fill up with gas and liquids in Hanksville because there are NO SERVICES for the next 126 miles to either Blanding or Mexican Hat, Utah. If you are on a Sportster or Vrod, it might be a stretch (more about that later).
When you leave Hanksville heading South on Hwy. 95 it is pretty much a good place to make up some time you have spent gawking on Hwy. 12 as it is just 35 miles of long straight road till you hit the Glen Canyon Recreation area. Never having been through Glen Canyon this was a nice surprise as you ride through some mild twisties in between the red canyon walls for 12 miles before crossing the bridge over Lake Powell. If you have ever done any boating in Lake Powell, this road is what it would be like to ride through Lake Powell if they drained all of the water out it. Even some of the caverns in the rock walls are exactly what you would see in the Escalante area of the lake. It was really pretty cool and a nice surprise.
About 92 miles South of Hanksville you will come upon the entrance to Natural Bridges National Monument. If you are inclined and have the time, you can take the 19 mile drive around the park. Another 2 miles on 95 you will reach Hwy. 261 which will take you to what is called the Moki Dugway. (pronounced Mokee) The Moki Dugway is located 23 miles South of Hwy. 95 and just 9 miles north of Mexican Hat, UT. on 261. It was constructed in 1958 by Texas Zinc, a mining company, to transport uranium ore from the "Happy Jack" mine in Fry Canyon, UT. to the processing mill in Mexican Hat. The two miles of unpaved, but well graded, switchbacks descend 1200 feet from the top of Cedar Mesa. The State of Utah recommends that only vehicles less than 28 feet in length and 10,000 pounds in weight attempt to negotiate this steep (10% grade), narrow and winding road.
When you see this road you will wonder what the heck the guy in the covered wagon must have thought when he had been cruising along on relatively flat ground for several miles, having a good day in pioneerland, and then comes up to Cedar Mesa and looks over the edge to a 1200 foot drop-off. This would definitely ruin a good day in a covered wagon. Well, it is not that much different today when you come riding up there doing 65 miles per hour and see the road turn to gravel, you see this sign and then huge drop-off and a view for about 50 miles of Monument Valley and the Valley of the Gods. It is pretty impressive. But after you take that in you will realize that you have a 1200 foot drop and a several switch backs in the next 2 miles of gravel road to negotiate this drop. The good news is the road is well maintained and there is asphalt on the corners. It was easily negotiated by all 4 of us including Mrs. C. and Kathy. In fact, I got such a kick out of it, I turned around and went up and back down again. Imagine that! It will be a part of the ride that you will be sharing with your riding pals when you get home. Keep watch for a couple of rocks I named called "Lizard Rock" and "Gorilla Rock".
After the thrill of the Moki, we still had 29 miles to go to our destination of Bluff, Utah for the night. I think I mentioned to you about that 126 miles of no services and the potential gas issue for Vrods. Well, it is true. We decided to stretch it even further by going to Bluff, and at about mile 129, Mrs. C's Vrod had officially burnt its' last fume. But not to worry, the good news was that Dan was carrying a 22 ounce emergency supply of gas on his bike. The bad news was that would only get her about another 10 miles and we had 20 to go to Bluff. So we had to use a tip from one of my faithful readers about carrying a turkey baster in the saddle bags for emergency gas needs. I pulled the turkey baster out of the bag and Dan proceeded to take gas out of Kathy's tank and into the 22 bottle before pouring into the Vrod. This was enough to coast her into the only gas station in Bluff, Utah. So let this be a tip to all of you. Carry a little $4 turkey baster in your bags, you never know when you might need it.
Saturday evening we enjoyed dinner at the Cottonwood Steakhouse and a great night in Bluff at the Desert Rose Inn & Cabins. After breakfast Sunday morning at the Twin Rocks Cafe we were on our way back to Gooseneck State Park for a brief look into the 1000 foot deep chasm carved through rocks by the San Juan River. The river meanders back and forth, flowing more than 5 miles while progressing only one linear mile toward the Colorado River and Lake Powell. Then it was on to see the Mexican Hat Rock on Hwy. 163 and through Monument Valley on our way to Hwy. 160 to 89 to I-17 and back to Phoenix. I had seen many pictures of Monument Valley over the years. Probably the same ones you have seen like this one. From a purely picturesque point of view, if I had ridden all the way up there just to see Monument Valley, I would have been pretty disappointed. It really isn't that big of deal to view. If not for all of the movies that have been shot there, it would be just another random collection of pointed rocks in the desert. Of the entire trip that I have outlined, it will continue to be the most famous and least remembered part of the trip. The Moki Dugway was way more exciting for me. But at least now I can say that I have seen Monument Valley and it is now in my rear view mirror.
I give this portion of the ride a Cyclerides.com rating of 4 out of 5 Spokes. The only reason I lowered it a point is that there is more idle time in between high points and the ride back from Monument Valley is somewhat tedious. I would encourage anyone to make this trip. It takes 3 long days for the entire approximate 1200 mile round trip to Phoenix, but if you start early in the mornings, it is easily done and very rewarding. You won't be disappointed at all. Check the weather in the different areas of this route as much of it is in the high elevations and it does get snow. I would think you could easily go till mid October. It might be cool in the mornings but would warm up. Overall I give this entire ride a Cyclerides.com rating of 4.5 out of 5 Spokes. You will be more than happy with your experience. My one suggestion would be that if you are going to do this in 3 days to be mindful of your timing because you will want to linger in some areas.
Tips for the ride:
Be sure to gas up in Hanksville. There is 126 miles between gas stops.
If you are going to stretch this to an extra day, the only real lodging in the middle is in Torrey, UT. The Desert Rose Inn in Bluff is a great place to stay if you are going to keep it to 3 days.
If you have time, include the first 12 miles or so of the Burr Trail off of Hwy 12 into your ride.
The Burr Trail Grill in Boulder is a good place to stop for lunch.
Bryce Canyon Country Cabins a good place to stay near Bryce Canyon.
Click Here for 126 Photos.
Click Here for Map.
Click Here for video riding the Moki Dugway.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef Park Things to See and Do.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Gooseneck State Park
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