Some of the best adventures we’ve had are the ones that aren’t planned and just happen on a whim. We woke up last week and decided we needed to get away, so we packed our bags that morning and headed down to the Abajo Mountains also known as the “Blue Mountain Range” near Monticello, Utah. These mountains peak at over 11,000′ and this forest is thick and rugged. We found the bright blue skies and bold yellow and red fall colored leaves and it was just what we needed in a weekend adventure. Being in the mountains in September is truly the best time of year!
What I loved the most is that it felt like we had the whole mountain to ourselves! Some places can be so overrun with people that it takes some of the enjoyment out of it when you are fighting crowds on the trail and for camp spots, but this place truly gives you the feeling of being alone in the wilderness. We went the whole weekend only passing by a few others while we were out exploring! We could hear the large quaking aspen rustling in the wind and the wildlife all around us. We even heard the Elk bugling all over the mountain in the mornings! (And I am still thankful we didn’t run into any bears or mountain lions because we saw some fresh tracks on our hike!) From the top of the Abajo Loop you’ll get views of Comb Ridge, Bears Ears, Canyonlands and the La Sal Mountains. How cool is that??
One of the best things about Utah is that you can cover all different types of terrain in a matter of a few hours. It was so fun to start our day immersed in the tall quakies and pine trees while we were on the Blues and then drop down onto the north side of the mountains to drive right into the desert on our way home.
The Needles District forms the southeast corner of Canyonlands and was named for the spires of Cedar Mesa Sandstone that dominate the area. It feels a little more wild and less touristy in this part of the park and there is so much territory to explore. We loved being able to hike and roam without crowds of people around us like you sometimes get at the more popular side of the park, Island in the Sky.
Some of the popular hiking trails and four wheel drive roads in the Needles District lead to sites like Tower Ruin, Confluence Overlook, Elephant Hill, the Joint Trail, and Chesler Park. This is also a popular area for rock climbing and it’s always fun to see groups of people scattered over the huge cliffs and boulders. This is also where you will find the iconic petroglyph panel Newspaper Rock. The detail here is amazing and one of my favorites we’ve ever seen!
We pretty much just winged this whole trip, waking up every day without a plan and seeing where the day would take us. It felt nice to just go with the flow and not have a huge itinerary of things to do that we needed to check off our list.
It’s been a sad thing over the years to see some of our favorite places overrun with people and trashed because people disrespect the land. So as always when you explore the outdoors make sure to practice the leave no trace principles and leave the area better than you found it so we can all keep enjoying these amazing places for years to come!!