Our stay for this ATV adventure was in Escalante, right in the middle of Highway 12 — a top-rated byway in the country. Our ride through Horse Canyon began in Escalante as we trailered to our drop point.
After leaving town, the road passes over the Escalante River and then over what is known as the Hogback — a narrow ridge with steep drop-offs on both sides and no guard rails. My wife has to close her eyes over this section — I couldn’t do that because I was driving.
The views along this route to Boulder are amazing. The raw beauty of this area is expressed in massive rock formations of Navajo Sandstone. Fortunately, there are many pull-outs that allow stops to take more of it in.
We made our way through this incredible landscape to Boulder where we turned east on County Road 1668 — the Burr Trail. This road, now paved, took us on a hairpin turn dropping us into Long Canyon — a beautiful gorge with towering rock walls. On the north end as we came out, we stopped at an open area on the right to unload.
Our guide on this ride was Sam Steed who lives in Marysvale. Growing up in Escalante, he knows this rugged country. I learned that this area was the last to be mapped in the United States — it was easy to see why.
Beginning the ATV part of our ride, we went back out on pavement, north for about a mile before we turned east onto the Wolverine Loop Road. The first miles of the trail were unremarkable and then the high walls began to close in as we wound through the twists and turns of Horse Canyon.
At points, the walls were distant as we rode through washes displaying evidence of past flash floods. In other sections, the enormous ramparts closed in around us as we squeezed between lofty walls.
While the formations we trailered through earlier were predominately white, the walls in Horse Canyon are generally red. Many of the bulwarks were streaked with a black patina while others showed the beginnings of the formation of new arches. Still others took on an ominous and eerie appearance pocked with many holes, large and small, as though eyes were watching us as we passed.
As we rode, we encountered a strong headwind. We knew that a big storm was blowing in and we hoped to time our ride to avoid it.
Some of the sections we encountered were lined with trees and foliage displaying fall colors that stood out yellow against the beauty of the red cliffs. The sky was a cobalt blue touched with white puffy clouds that added to the colorful panorama.
While the canyon continued, we came to the end of the trail. Sam told us that the cowboys wintered their cattle here so the canyon would be the scene of large cattle drives in the spring and fall. We stopped before entering Death Hollow for obvious reasons.
He also told us to expect a cabin at the end of the trail that the cowboys used. We found the cabin, but I was surprised to find that it was not a traditional log cabin. It was a large metal box the size of a cabin with a man door. I would love to sit around a campfire and hear the stories those cowboys could tell.
This was our lunch stop and some of us took our camp chairs down into a dry creek bed against a huge rock wall. I enjoy this social part of the ride. I thought as we talked that during this pandemic, riding ATVs is one of the safest activities available.
On the return trip, Sam took us on a little side track through a tight canyon where the walls were full of holes. It was a particularly enjoyable diversion. On our return trip, we had a strong tail wind, which had us trying to ride fast enough to stay ahead of our own dust.
Sam did tell me of some cowboy folklore that I found interesting. He said the cowboys say that in this country, if you need water, dig near the sandstone cliffs.
We got back to the trucks, finishing a ride of about 39 miles. Fortunately, the storm broke after we were well on our way. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and if you haven’t been to Boulder, you don’t know rocks.