Bye Bye California, Hello Nevada & Utah
It had been a spectacular six weeks in the Eastern Sierras, but the weather was turning and it was time to move to lower elevations. We had planned to stay in California all fall and winter, working our way south along Hwy 395 toward Joshua Tree and Anza-Borrego State Park. But we’d been battling an intermittent gremlin in our Ford F350 for two months and it was time to get that fixed. After Fallon Ford found nothing wrong, we decided it was time to return to Mesquite, Nevada where we had purchased the truck. They always take good care of us and we were confident they could resolve our issue (they quickly diagnosed a malfunctioning door sensor, replaced the part under warranty, and had us back on the road within in week).
Bound for Mesquite, we spent two days driving across the wonderfully lonely highways of Southcentral Nevada. Our route included the 100 mile long Extraterrestrial Highway (SR 375) and a night spent lot-docking at Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, NV. They allow RVers to park overnight for free and we repaid the favor by getting a burger in their little café.
In the wide-open belly of Nevada, there lies a mystery. The Extraterrestrial Highway runs past the Nevada Test and Training Range, including that infamous portion known as Area 51—a top secret part of the base that the government didn’t even admit was real until 2013—where countless strange “UFO” sightings have been reported. So keep those eyes peeled, because you’re guaranteed to see some weird stuff. Up in the sky? Maybe. On the ground: 1000%. If a knick-knack packed “research center,” a UFO-motifed bar-café, and spectacular night skies full of stars (and other things?) get your radar beepin’, then treat yourself to an unforgettable voyage along state Route 375.—Travel Nevada Website
Arriving in Mesquite, we made ourselves comfortable at Solstice Motorcoach RV Resort for a week. Solstice is a relatively new park that is within walking distance of the Ford dealership. We enjoyed their quiet location on the edge of town and appreciated the friendly staff accommodating extra days while we waited for truck parts and repairs. Best of all, we were able to order Indy some birthday treats from Chewy!
We Visit Zion For Our Longest Day-Hike Ever
And so we found ourselves with an unplanned week in Mesquite where our close proximity to Zion National Park was too much to resist. On a beautiful Halloween morning, we left the RV before dawn and headed north to Kolob Canyons, a less-visited area of Zion. We had visited this area exactly three years earlier with our friends D&L. We enjoyed gorgeous scenery and light crowds that day making a return trip an appealing option.
Our destination for the day was Kolob Arch, second longest arch in the world. This massive arch is tucked away in a corner of the Zion Wilderness which was created in 2009 to protect over 124,000 acres of Zion National Park. The Wilderness designation ensures that 84% of the park will remain in its wild state. The Kolob Canyons are also within that area, protected for their pristine and primitive environments. This is a stunning area of Zion where several parallel box canyons (the “Kolob Fingers”) are cut into the western edge of the Colorado Plateau. There you’ll find 2,000 foot cliff walls, soaring peaks of Navajo sandstone, and lush canyon streams without the roads and crowds found in the Zion Valley.
The Kolob Canyons district of Zion National Park is located at exit 40 on Interstate 15, 25 miles north of St. George, Utah. A five-mile scenic drive along the Kolob Canyons Road allows visitors to view the rugged canyons and access various trails and scenic viewpoints. Our hike began at the Less Pass Trailhead (elevation 6,080′) located 3.8 miles up the road.
The small parking area at Lee Pass makes a great scenic overlook for those not wanting to hike. For us, the stunning views of the Kolob Canyons from Lee Pass were just the beginning of a day full of awe inspiring beauty. We grabbed all the gear we’d need for a long trail day and took our first steps onto the La Verkin Creek Trail. Soon, we were entering the Zion Wilderness as the trail quickly dropped 400 feet to the dry wash of Timber Creek. From there, the trail descended more slowly as it made its way past the Kolob Finger Canyons.
At 3 miles, the trail left Timber Creek and passed around Gregory Butte before turning east and descending to La Verkin Creek. Reaching La Verkin Creek, we were greeted by stunning canyon views and a lovely desert stream. We were now 1,000 feet lower than the Lee Pass Trailhead. We weren’t looking forward to the climb back out at the end of the day, but that did little to deter us from forging ahead.
For the next two miles, we followed the sandy trail as it paralleled La Verkin Creek. The canyon was lined with cottonwood trees beginning their colorful fall transformations with massive sandstone cliffs towering above them. By now, the hiking was flat and easy except for the occasional sandy spot that bogged us down a bit. We didn’t find these stretches particularly bothersome, but I can imagine they are exhausting on a hot summer’s day.
At approximately 6.5 miles in, we reached a signed junction with the Kolob Arch Trail. This short spur was just a little over half a mile one-way, but it was a more primitive trail and our progress slowed as we had to do a bit of scrambling in places. The trail followed narrow Icebox Canyon to a viewpoint at the end of the trail below Kolob Arch. I would have preferred to get closer to the arch, but a sign asked hikers to proceed no further. Knowing that this is a difficult arch to photograph (even from the best vantage point) and considering we were already over 7 miles in, we obliged the sign’s directions and stopped there.
Kolob Arch, the second longest arch in the world, has been surrounded by controversy. For years it was considered the largest in the world, and it was hard to refute the claim since every official uses different methods to measure. Recently however, it was decided that Kolob Arch was only 287 feet long, three feet shorter than the delicate Landscape Arch, which now holds the title as the world’s longest arch. Kolob Arch, shorter though it may be, is quite a bit more structurally sound—so when Landscape Arch finally collapses in the near future (though no one really knows how many months, years, decades, or centuries that could actually be), Kolob will still be standing strong. The arch itself is off-limit to hikers, but the trails lead to a nice viewpoint that allows a great view of the titanic stone arch.—Utah.com
We enjoyed perfect temperatures as we retraced our steps. The scenery distracted us from the long hike back until we reached that 1,000 foot climb back up to Lee Pass Trailhead. But even that was pleasant enough as we admired the sun dropping and casting long shadows into the side canyons. Back at Lee Pass, our track showed 15.1 miles for the day, about a mile farther than the park’s official mileage. Most of our additional mileage came from side trips down to lovely La Verkin Creek for photos. We had seen only about a dozen other people on the trail, something you don’t get to say about most trails in Zion National Park, especially on such a nice day. This was our longest day hike to date. We were exhausted, but we were felt so happy and satisfied to have spent a day at Zion. What a way to transition from the Eastern Sierras to the desert!
The Adventure Continues
Join us for our next post as we visit remote Gold Butte National Monument in search of fascinating rock art, stunning scenery, and one of the most iconic symbols of the Desert Southwest, the Joshua tree. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase (even things as simple as toothpaste!), you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!