Down another road less traveled — Burr Trail Scenic Backway out of Boulder City, Utah


Originally we had penciled in the forest services’ Calf Creek Campground on Utah’s Hwy 12, north of Escalante, as our next camping destination.

When we pulled into the parking lot in mid-morning, it was already teaming with cars, many packed with large family groups heading for the extremely popular day hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls.

Soon we were talking with Chris O’Dell, (above on right) a hydrologist with the Bureau of Land Management and the short-term stand-in campground host. (He and his wife, Susan, are also proud owners of a new Northern Lite truck camper.)

Among the many fascinating details about the history and geology of the area, Chris told us of the Burr Trail Scenic Backway, a 68-mile backcountry route extending from the town of Boulder, Utah, through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument into Capitol Reef National Park and then to the community of Bullfrog in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

For a variety of reasons, we decided to only explore the upper, paved section of Burr Trail for about 17 miles. In caravan, along with our temporary traveling co-hort, Marcel Robicheaux (a field leader with a wilderness therapy organization), we traveled along what was once a cattle trail through rough, nearly impassable country in the late 1800s.

The first six miles stretched through sandstone sand dunes “created millions of years ago by wind-blown sand, that were covered over by other layers of sand and pressed into stone.” (NPS)

After about ten miles, we dropped into the dramatic Long Canyon. “This narrow canyon is enclosed by sheer walls of Wingate sandstone which tower hundreds of feet above the road. The sandstone has fractured and eroded, forming alcoves. Some of the dark red sandstone has been leached by water to a whitish shade, and black desert varnish stains the vertical walls.” (NPS)

Our turn-around point was an amazing viewpoint (about 17 miles in) looking east toward the Waterpocket Fold of Capitol Reef National Park and south to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. (See photo below.)

We backtracked about seven miles to The Gulch for our dispersed dry camping spot under a huge cottonwood.

Camping costs: $0.

Photos: (Top) BLM Hydrologist Chris O’Dell (right) talks truck campers, camping spots and fishing with Jimmy Smith. (Second) Sign at the beginning of Burr Trail in Boulder City, Utah. (Third) Wingate sandstone towers over a seven-mile portion of the Burr Trail Scenic Backway. (Fourth) Dispersed camping spot at The Gulch. (Bottom) Marcel Robicheaux taking in the view of Capitol Reef National Park to the east and south to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. (Photos by Julianne G. Crane)

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  • Hi Guys..sorry we missed you in Boulder Utah..Did see the note you left at the state park, also I saw you and the N.L. heading on hwy 12 north from boulder..
    Happy trails,
    Chris and Susan Odell

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