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Trail HAPPENINGS July 2015

Book Cliffs – Backcountry Adventure
by Steve Schultz

The remote high country of the Book Cliffs offers a cool and refreshing retreat for equestrians and hikers. When the going gets hot in Moab, the hot go higher!

For the million or more vehicles that travel the I-70 corridor each year between Green River, Utah and the Colorado border, the view to the north is memorable. Drivers notice the seemingly endless buff colored barren rock cliffs with distinctive horizontal rock layers. These are Utah’s Book Cliffs. Beyond this clever disguise lies one of Grand County’s little known treasures. A 50,000 acre roadless area of lush green valleys, creeks, and pine covered hills. There you will find Aspen, Ponderosa Pine, Elk, Deer, soggy bottoms, rocky tops, Eagles, Marmots, Cutthroat Trout and more importantly… solitude. Unfortunately you’ll have to leave your ATVs and Razors at home. Bring a saddle horse or lace up your hiking boots. This area is closed to all motorized vehicles.

You can access the area from I-70 Thompson Springs exit. Take the Sego Canyon Road about 4 miles north to the pictograph panel. Here the pavement ends and the road gets rough. Caution: cars, RV’s and travel trailers should not go any further, only 4 X 4 high clearance vehicles will make it. You will pass the old Sego Ghost town ruins and cemetery. The next 10 miles is a mix of rocky graded creek beds and steep mountain switch backs. In some places the road is only one vehicle wide. The road will dead end on top at the locked “Ute Gate”.

Lands north of this gate are owned by the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. Due to an agreement between the tribe and the state of Utah, a travel corridor is open to non-mechanized travel between May and November. The next few miles is a beautiful sand / dirt horse path called the Went Ridge Trail. Please respect the tribe’s rules and stay on the trail.

The parking area is at 8,500 feet. Shut off your motor and take in the cool, clean air. There are several camping areas available, first-come first-serve, no reservations needed. Here are green meadows, hitching rails for horses, beautiful views, and a live water trough. This is the domain of saddle horses, pack-mules, hunters, and hikers. The high remote back country in the Books Cliffs is a great place to enjoy the summer wildflowers or the rich autumn colors.

Once you pass through the Ute’s tribal land, you have entered the Book Cliffs Recreation Area. Expect to see: horses, mules and white outfitter “wall tents”. Take one of the trails to the right over the ridge and into the valley. Here you will find places named Little Creek, She Canyon, Diamond Ridge and Bogart.

Have you ever wanted to experience an overnight horse-back ride into Utah’s back country but don’t own a horse? These adventures are offered by several professional Utah outfitters.

The Utah Department of Natural Recourses (DNR) manages this area. Recently the Canyonlands Back Country Horseman, (based in Moab), and Uinta Basin Back Country Horsemen, (Based in Vernal), teamed up with Utah’s DNR for a Book Cliffs work project. The all-volunteer group spent four days horse-packing out old camp trash and removing downed trees from trails. The DNR maintains several back country cabins in the area. Our group was able to use the Bogart Cabin facilities while we were there. (Note: These Cabins are not open to the public). Our riders were able to collect and remove 5 pack-horse loads of old camp trash. Other groups volunteering time in the area include: the Rocky Mountain Mule Riders and the Flying J Outfitters. They cleaned up other camps farther north and east.

The Canyonlands Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Utah is based in Moab, Utah. It is a non –profit organization of men and women committed to perpetuating the common sense use and enjoyment of horses and mules in America’s back country and wilderness. You do not need to own a horse to join!

See 85 photos of this project on Facebook at: Back-Country-Horsemen-Canyonlands-Chapter. Drop us a line and please “Like” our page, or go this link. http://moab-horses.com/Ride-Photos-27.html

About the author: Stephen Schultz is a long term area resident and current president of the Canyonlands BCH, and a contributor to the Trail Mix Committee. He has over 30 years’ experience with pack and saddle stock in the back country.

 


 

 
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