Zion – Bryce – Capitol Reef – Motorcycle Trip

Red Rocks, Big Rocks, Just not, “On the Rocks” a Utah Trip

This is the second post recounting our trip to Utah. Zion-Bryce-Capitol Reef motorcycle trip, that’s what we’re calling this one.  I thought it would be the last, but it’s just not possible.  There are too many stories to tell and places to share that it’s overwhelming. Utah is overwhelming. The raw beauty that nature has revealed over millennia cannot be described, nor can it be photographed (at my skill level) adequately. You must see it; I’m serious, you really need to make this trip.

And no story about Utah would be complete without a discussion of religion ……..and liquor laws. Well, maybe not everyone is as interested in the availability of refreshments of the intoxicating kind as me…..but I was on vacation and maybe I did want a drink or two.

We’re from Oregon and when it comes to liquor our state controls everything, or so we thought. Before the trip, we wondered if liquor would even be sold in Utah. We did a little research and apparently the almighty dollar won over the almighty church.

We came rolling in that first night, having ridden over 500 miles and it was, “Miller Time.” Our little town of Bend, Oregon has something like 23 micro breweries (the number changes as new ones open constantly) and we have so much good beer that I haven’t sampled half of them.

Utah on the other hand has this 3.2% alcohol limit in beer. OK, that’s your mass market Coors, Bud…..stuff I won’t drink even if it’s free. Coffee, food, beer, these things are important and deserve to be done right; I am cheap in most aspects of life, but I eat and drink well!

You can buy, “Full Strength” beer in state liquor stores and wine as well. That is if you can find the elusive Utah State Liquor store. Anyway, be prepared but don’t transport any across state lines, that is highly illegal.

The Mormons are really nice, but I don’t think they like us. I equate it to Canadians, they want the tourist dollars, but they really wish we would stay away. And really who can blame them. So, on with the trip.

We started in the Southwest corner and worked our way through 6 National Parks, 4 National Monuments and a couple Navajo Nation Parks.

I have to say, the National Parks are 1st Class in every way, the facilities, the staff outstanding. Zion is the busiest and because of that you cannot drive yourself up Zion Canyon, unless you’re staying at the lodge.

The rest of us ride free shuttles and get on and off at a multitude of stops for hiking and exploring. The shuttles run every few minutes and they operate early morning until late evening, it worked really well for us.

This is the road you can ride on, Hwy 9 goes all the way through the park and as you can see…..it’s meant for motorcycles.

We stopped to get a photo of this pink mountain and it turned into one of the best unexpected finds of the trip. Right after we snapped this, I decided to grab the binoculars and for whatever reason scan that hillside.

I saw this guy peaking out; if you look at the photo above, this is just to the right of the two whitish knobs on the very top. I grabbed the tripod and zoomed the camera all the way and started shooting. I could not see what I was getting so I just took a bunch. I have to give a shout out to Nikon, this little point and shoot camera is simply amazing. I think my very first blog post was a review of the S9700.

Zion-Bryce-Capitol Reef motorcycle trip

Then he brought the whole family out. It’s hard to get a perspective from the pictures, but this was steep slickrock and they were right at home. We didn’t know what we had until that evening when we could look on the laptop.

We declared the word of this trip to be, “WOW.” Around every corner it is just jaw dropping beauty, we said WOW a thousand times. This place moved me in a very deep emotional, spiritual way. No I did not find religion or join, “The Church,” but you couldn’t help but feel the enormity of the forces of nature, perhaps the universe.

There are so many places to hike it would takes weeks to see them all. This was one of ours to Emerald Pools. The rocks in the background had to be at least 1000′ feet tall.

We met Scott, he is an attorney for the postal service, and I think from Arkansas. He was on a month long trip of something like 10,000 or 15,000 miles. We had one of those great roadside conversations about why you ride and life philosophy, which of course are so tightly intertwined. At some point in life you realize your priorities should perhaps be adjusted, and what you thought was important may no longer be. Welcome to your 50’s ?

Kolob Canyons is a separate section of Zion, we stopped there on our way North on the second day

It was hot down low in Kolob Canyons, hot enough we considered putting on cooling vests. Oh the fickleness of weather when you ride a motorcycle. It was in the high 90’s maybe touched 100 and then…….

At Cedar Breaks, 10,000′ the snow was still melting and the cooling vest idea …..we would have froze!

Utah has phenomenal roads, great riding and super well maintained. I wonder if it’s part of that 400 million dollars a year they’re selling in alcohol ???? Someone’s finding those liquor stores !

After Cedar Breaks we rode south on Hwy 89 down close to the Arizona border where I had chosen Kanab UT as our home for the next couple of days. Staying two nights in a motel is so much more relaxing than only one. Getting up and not packing and loading the bike, that was our discovery for this trip. Last year, other than at the family beach house, we never stayed more than one night.

Since I did a lot of the planning for this adventure, it has my biases and my mistakes, one of which was Kanab UT. I’m not disparaging Kanab, it was a nice very small town, but we were there primarily to go to Page AZ. In my mind I was picturing Page as this wide spot in the road with dirt streets and not much else. If we went again, Page is the place to stay, it had stores and motels of every stripe…..and hey it’s Arizona where they sell real beer in grocery stores.

Water is low everywhere. We had never seen Lake Powell, so we weren’t sure how full it should be, but it was fairly obvious even to us that it was low, really low

This is the entrance to Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon on the Navajo Nation…..what you see inside could not be imagined as you approach this crack in the rock. I took over 200 photos and Karla held the GoPro overhead throughout the entire walk. We’ve got hours and hours of video to edit and I’ll get it up on YouTube one of these days.

Antelope Canyon Tours

If you go there are four or five licensed tour operators and we lucked out and I think had the best one. Not everything I plan goes awry….. The best way I can describe it, since the names are all similar, is to look for the color of the trucks when you search web

And you need to find the right guide, ours was fantastic, Marisa. Others we heard yelling at people and herding like cattle, Marisa was great. Good guides deserve great tips, she made the experience a thousand times better than the group in front of us. Yikes, I wanted to punch their guide.

Zion-Bryce-Capitol Reef motorcycle trip

We did the morning tour of Antelope Canyon and then rode West to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was hot and we probably didn’t stop along the way for enough photos, but Vermillion Cliffs are impressive and I think will show in the videos.

Once again we went from blistering desert heat to cool, verging on cold. There wasn’t snow but I think the canyon rim is 6000′.

Somewhere along the road on the way to the Grand Canyon. This one was abandoned, but there were lots of them still open, just any wide spot along the road.

We spent one long day in Zion, you could spend a week and not see it all

Zion Lodge

Karla surveying Lake Powel

I’m going to post a sampling of the photos here, they speak for themselves.

To be continued ………


  1. John Kerr says:

    Amazing breath taking pics

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