September 29, 2009

The Burr Trail and the Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef, UT

About 30 miles from Escalante, along the spectacularly scenic highway 12 that climbs over and around amazing Navajo sandstone, is the tiny town of Boulder. From Boulder, the Burr Trail heads off to the west towards Capitol Reef National Park. The Burr Trail is a paved route that for 30 spectacular miles heads into narrow red rock slot canyons, down a staircase of rock formations, and eventually down the Burr Trail Switchbacks that somehow descends nearly 2000 feet down to the valley below the waterpocket fold.

But, just before you head down those switchbacks, there is a rough dirt road heading north into the Upper Muley Twist Canyon. For the next 3 miles, the road literally is the stream bed as it enters a slot canyon. It is a rough road only suitable to high clearance 4x4 vehicles.

Despite the thoughts to stop several times, we continued to the end, where the Strike Valley Overlook Trail is. This trail is an easy 1/2 mile climb to the top of the Waterpocket Fold and to one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen in my life.

The Waterpocket Fold is a 100-mile fault-block launched 2000 feet into the air. Across the valley, the layers remain horizontal. But, on the fold themselves, they are strongly tilted upwards. While the resistant Navajo sandstone and other layers remain high up above, the weaker siltstones and clays below that were exposed eroded away, leaving a deep valley.

It is somewhat ironic that what you are looking at far below should actually be ON TOP of what you are standing on. But, those layers eroded away as they were exposed to the elements.

Across the valley are the 11,500 foot Henry Mountains, which are laccolith volcanic remnants. These mountains were literally the last place in the continental United States to ever be mapped!

What a site to behold! After that hike, we then did a little excursion up the canyon to have lunch and check out the sites.

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