COOPER DISCOVERER--Overlanding the Best in Utah by Vehicle, Bike, and Feet


Expedition Leader
There is a moment on every trip for me where I say, "this is stunning!" I usually say it with a big smile on my face while taking a picture. My most recent trip to Canyonlands was no different!

Louise dropping into the depths and beauty of a place known as Canyonlands.


I have had a few people question me on, "What is the best place in Utah?" Obviously a tough and personal preference type of answer...However, my spring break was here; and I decided to give Canyonlands National Park a visit. The plan was to bike the White Rim Trail for 4 days with some family friends and then head south and visit the Needles District for some wonderful hiking. Yes, I have been fortunate enough to visit Canyonlands many times before. However, biking the White Rim was going to be new and taking my family over Elephant Hill into the Needles was going to be new for them. The Best in Utah? You be the judge, but Canyonlands is a strong contender:) Onto it...

Our friends, the Larsons, joined us. We started off on the Mineral Bottom road. This high desert road provided a nice 12-mile warmup for everyone. Lilly, my daughter, was enjoying the new bike we had just purchased her. Front shock, check...Gears, check...Hand brakes, check...She was enjoying the moment at hand.


The Larsons didn't really know what to expect, but I told them that the road drops off down to the river. The views were just glorious! The weather perfect. The biking surreal. It was turning out to be a good day! A great day...

This same road was washed out a few years ago. Closed for months...On this day, it was biking bliss. Louise leading the charge downhill. See them? Little Ants enjoying the down.


As we approached the turnoff for the White Rim, we asked Lilly if she was tired. "No, not yet." 14 miles thus far and she was still ready to go. We switched drivers and the two dads took off leading the kids into Canyonlands Proper.


Simply an unbelievable evening of riding. No wind, cool temps, and the views all around. We pulled into our campsite at Hardscrabble Hill. On the banks of the Green...


The following morning the kids were already bugging us to go climb the rocks. So, off we went...Canyon country is made for wandering. This kids found hoodos, arches, and rocks...Lots of them. I snapped a pic before heading back to camp for a coffee refill.


Louise getting the bags stowed. Shameless plug for Patagonia:)


Hardscrabble hill didn't slow the riders down too much. James and I drove the vehicles up...The views were all around. James is driving a 2006 GX470. I am driving a 99 TLC.


The White Rim Trail was created by Uranium Miners looking for the next big dig back in the 50s. However, people have been in the area for 100s of years. The Anasazi built dwellings and a fort in the area. Ranchers and farmers tried to make ago of it on the large, flat river bottoms. I had heard about an old homestead and wanted to see if I could find it. We scanned the map and followed the contours. We were looking for a hidden alcove. Today, the lovely, not, Tamarisk trees are all over the river bottoms; making it difficult to search and explore. However, we found it...

The trunk was used to carry supplies back from the sleepy town of Moab. It has been the slammed by flood waters and scorching sun; but it's still here.


Our bikes took us along the Green River. Simply...Stunning country...We setup camp around 5. I waited for the sun to go down a little before I said, "who wants to hike to that high point?" The adults looked at me in a strange fashion. "Are you serious?" Miles and miles of biking and no one was up for a hike. I don't blame them...
What to do? I asked the kids and all of them said, "Yes!"

It was a glorious sunset stroll.


More to come...
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Expedition Leader
The kids wanted to join me out on the slickrock for the night's sleep. Sleeping out, watching the stars overhead is a must-do for a desert traveler in my opinion. The kids slept well that night. First light? I rolled over to take a picture. It looked to be another stellar day!


The Green River gained notoriety after John Wesely Powell floated down it in the 1800s. However, the Anasazi lived here some 800 years ago. Their dwellings and rock art are all over. With a cup of coffee, I just simply enjoyed the view!


I packed up camp while the girls started out on the trail. Their was a view no matter which way I looked.


If you haven't floated the Green River, do it! It's such a great trip. Louise and I did it about 10 years ago. So much to explore. When you are on the river, look for a large rock feature, Turk's Head. Hike up to it and explore...There are ruins all around. Thousands of flint chips...just thousands. On this day, the view of Turk's Head was from above on the canyon rim.


Louise and the gang riding the dirt...



James followed in his GX 470. I was impressed how his vehicle handled the entire trail. Seems like a very comfortable and capable ride.


The Land Cruiser seemed to be at home on this trail.


The day was coming to an end. The biking was fantastic and the views unbelievable. Magic Hour was upon us as we rolled into camp. You see the white vehicle?


Canyon country never seizes to amaze me. It never gets old. The views were all around as we settled down for the night. What would tomorrow bring?


More to come...


Expedition Leader
Our final day on the White Rim dawned. The blue skies and red rock called. I love to stroll around camp to see what I can find. Rocks...Rocks...and, more rocks!

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The kids and wives jumped on their bikes and took off. James and I finished packing. There was a storm blowing in and we want to bike the last part before the lovely desert winds got us. I hate wind!

Not a bad morning commute.


The landscape makes one feel small and insignificant. I just enjoyed the views as I followed the bikers.


Even the spring flowers were starting to pop. We were fortunate to have awesome weather on our journey!


Louise feel in love with a single speed bike. The simplicity of it...Oh, and the 29 inch wheels kept her rolling along. At this time though, the winds had started to pick up. It was time to motor. Louise in the zone.


The kids loved the trip. I would say one of the best family vacations I have taken. A few families join and you will have fun for days...


We did too...


The Land Cruiser in its element. We saw a few foreign plated vehicles on the White Rim during our travels. Amazing to think of the effort to come all the way to Utah. The White Rim...It's in our own backyard:)


The desert winds were in full force now. No worries, it was time for lunch. We stopped and enjoyed a bite to eat. Louise was done. The wind had gotten to her. I wimped out and said, "Nahhh...I am not biking in that wind." So, we loaded up the gear and headed into Moab. A swimming pool, dinner at Pasta Jay's, and avoiding the wind storm proved to be just what the doctor ordered. The White Rim is just simple fun and gorgeous beauty! Do it...

Our final view before heading into town.


Up next, the Needles and the "Road" less traveled...More to come...


Expedition Leader
The Needles District is a must-do visit in my opinion if you are in the area. We were...So, off we went. The Needles District is just an awesome hiking destination. Loops all over the place make short and long hikes all possible. Now, there is a nice developed campground with paved roads, bathrooms, and running water.

We were NOT headed there...To access the backcountry, we decided to go up and over Elephant Hill. The hill is infamous in Utah for a tough, 4-wheel drive route into the wilds, backcountry of the Needles. On this day, it didn't seem too wild. Just slow and steady...

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Now, once we reached the top, Louise looked down the backside...Lets just say that she was nervous and thought I was nuts! I was just scouting the down, while Louise took pictures of the luge track:)


Time to make it happen!


Concrete has been put in by the Park Service to help keep the "road" in "good" shape.


Louise and Lilly scouting out the route. The scenery just kept getting prettier...The evening light was bliss:)


The final obstacle before out campsite is entitled The Squeeze. I just inched my way forward. No harm, no foul...


Destination reached--Devil's Kitchen. The rocks and landscape is stunning. The evening light just lit the place up. But, first we need to unpack:(


Louise and Lilly enjoying dinner and talking about life.


What would tomorrow bring? The Needles called...It was time to get a closer look.


More to come...


Expedition Leader
The Devil's Kitchen area is located in one of the Grabens that makes the Needles backcountry so famous. The Grabens are hidden valleys of grasses boarded by the sandstone cliffs and Needles. The morning light in the Grabens was peaceful!


We were off to hike and explore the Needles area. Spring has sprung...Just an enjoyable day in the backcountry!



Lilly just having a blast!


Now, keep your eyes open and you might find signs of the past. 800+ year old art.


The path continued to lead us to the goods. Just follow it...


Devi's Kitchen from above. Get here...You won't be disappointed.



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More to come...
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Expedition Leader
We spent the next few days just exploring. Hiking, photographing, and relaxing. Devil's Kitchen and the surrounding area is just a fun place to spend some time. We saw many backpackers travel through area and the NPS personnel cleaning the toilets.


Our travels led us to places named SOB Hill and the Joint Trail. The hiking was glorious!



Signs of the past...Foot and hand prints...Crazy awesome.


The Joint Trail is a must do! It's crazy to see and walk through the passageways between rocks.



There's a place in Joint Trail that is called Cairn Garden. Lilly enjoyed building her cairns.


The BEST in Utah? be the judge. Regardless; make an effort and spend some time in the land known as Canyonlands. You won't be disappointed.


Until next time...