Winter Desert Weekend: Part 3: Honaker Trail

We woke up in our gorgeous campsite, made some coffee and breakfast in the morning chill while enjoying the view. The pups happily jumped in the car and we headed off to find the Honaker Trailhead. I’d hastily discovered the existence of this trail while en route from Paige so I hadn’t had too much time to thoroughly research it but hearing that we could hike from the canyon rim near Goosenecks State Park down to the San Juan River itself was enough for me.

Our directions to the trailhead were pretty vague and we drove past it the first time but eventually we found the 2WD parking area and walked down to the large pile of rocks marking where to descend into the canyon.

The Honaker Trail was originally built in 1893 as a supply route for gold miners exploring in the area. Along the way, numbers can be seen painted on the rock walls. These were added in the early 1950s for a geology symposium.

The trail is remarkably easy to hike. Although it descends about 1,200′, it takes about 2 ½ miles to reach the shores of the San Juan which makes for a pretty mellow (if exposed) hike. The whole way down I couldn’t quite believe that we were going to be able to make it all the way down to the river!

Yes, that is the trail switchbacking below my vantage point:

Finally, we found ourselves at the river. The pups immediately indulged their retriever tendencies and went for a swim in the silt-laden water.

Thanks to the long rest grades, we made great time on the way out of the canyon enjoying the views the whole way.

Geology nerd that I am, I wish I would have had this illustration of the stratigraphy of the canyon on the hike!

Photo: Daily Kos

After our hike, we quickly packed up camp and hit the road. While distracted from my navigational duties by my DJ duties, I accidentally instructed Kelly to turn left onto Highway 261 (I was thinking we were at the UT 261 and US 191 junction!). I was alerted to my mistake when I heard “We’re driving up that?

Turns out that I’d directed us at the Moki Dugway instead of on our intended route. We just rolled with it and enjoyed our tour of Cedar Mesa on our way to Blanding and then home.

I had such a great weekend in the desert. Thanks to all my friends who helped make it awesome.

Winter Desert Weekend, Part 2

The next morning by the time Kelly and I got out of bed, the boys had headed out to take some sunrise photos. To stay warm in the morning chill we walked around the desert near the campground.

Eventually we headed back to camp just as the boys were returning. They’d hiked up a trail to the “Toadstools” and insisted that we check them out as we headed out of town. We said our goodbyes since they were headed back to SLC via Zion and we were continuing the desert adventure.

I’m so glad we took their advice. It was less than a mile up to the toadstools and it’s always fun to see unique desert formations:

As we approached Kayenta, we stopped at a flea market where I could not resist an Indian taco. I’d been craving one for weeks and I intended to make the most of the trip through the reservation:

From Kayenta, we cut north on US-163 through Monument Valley. We stopped to take a picture of this goat and then the following rez dog did NOT want to let us get going again.

Seriously, we played the “He’s in front of the car. … He’s next to the window! Go! Go! … Oh wait, he’s in front again” game for a long time. SO MUCH LAUGHTER.

We continued north through Mexican Hat and headed on to Goosenecks State Park. We enjoyed a nice walk along the canyon rim before heading out for free camping on BLM land adjacent to the State Park. I’ve camped at the park before and it can be spectacular but I didn’t feel like paying the $10 and as it turned out we found a spot that was also super amazing as you will see.

Here is our campsite for the night. It wasn’t the edge of the canyon but the sunset on the mesa behind camp combined with the silhouettes of Monument Valley in the distance were really tough to beat—especially for free.

We tried to sit on the tailgate of the car with our beers but it was too cold so Kelly and I retreated to the front seats of her car to escape the cold, shared a few beers and talked for a long time about anything and everything. Finally, Sprocket and I headed to bed. I was too cozy in my TurboDown to share so I gave him my Millenium Blur. He was happier about it than he looks. I promise.