Utah; Montezuma Canyon, Alstrom Point, Left Hand Collett canyon - Oct 2016

I had the pleasure of spending 4 days and 3 nights exploring Southern Utah with Marty (roktaxi) and my wife Catherine last weekend. We left Grand Jct on Thursday morning, heading thru Moab and continuing South towards Monticello. Marty knows Montezuma Canyon very well, so we followed his lead showing us some excellent rock art and cliff dwellings. The drive was beautiful, there were also a handful of homes built into the slickrock walls, some of them very high-end!

We exited Montezuma Canyon and headed past Monument Valley and into AZ, making the turn back North to Page. A quick drive over the Glen Canyon dam and back into Utah and the sleepy town of Big Water for the evening.
Day 2 - The next morning we found the local BLM office looking for some current road intel and found so much more! They have a Dinosaur museum and while it's not large in size, the quality of information is great! We met Merle Graffam, working for the BLM.... he had some general info about the main roads, but no recent info for the lesser-used roads that we were interested in.

While talking to Merle we wandered into the dinosaur part of the building and he broke down the time period and changes the area had been subjected to, showing us how the Rocky Mountain region once was under a massive ocean. It was truly interesting... they had several different types of Stegosaurus skulls hanging on the well, my favorite was the Diabloceratops, that thing looked very Metal!! Then Merle told us that he discovered a new species himself, not far from the building!! He discovered the Nothronychus graffami, named after himself!

The Nothronychus graffami;

We topped off our tanks, then hit the dirt right out of Big Water and aired down... within a couple miles the road got interesting, we were driving thru massive drainage's leading to Lake Powell and it was obvious that large amounts of water had recently ran down these washes and canyons. We made our way thru the desert and eventually to Nipple Canyon and then Tibbet Canyon... and both were an absolute blast to drive thru!

Marty suggested that we work our way down Crosby Canyon to the shores of Lake Powell and I had a great time leading and blasting down the sandy wash! We took lunch overlooking the lake, it was neat to be so close to the water. We could have driven right to the water, but were happy with our view point.

After lunch we continued the drive towards our destination for the night, Alstrom Point. This place has been on my radar for a few years, I was really looking forward to seeing the views from Alstrom for myself for a long time. Upon arrival, it did not disappoint! I loved the depth that the buttes, canyons and water created.... it was simply beautiful and got better as the sun went down and the colors came out. We setup camp, made dinner and passed some time in the dark around the campfire.

Day 3 - The next morning was nice, great sunrise but clouds blocked out the rays. We took our time getting going, having a break for a hot shower while overlooking Lake Powell. Eventually we hit the main road, then turned North on the Smokey Mountain Road. We drove a short distance and noticed we were headed straight towards some very formidable cliffs! The road made a couple switchbacks, while climbing very quickly! The road was cut right into the side of the cliff, I joked with my wife that this was probably what El Camino de la Muerte, the Bolivian Death Road, was like.... just to put her at ease... :Wow1:

We topped out after a few more miles of winding dugway roads, then found ourselves on top of a massive mesa with straight roads that allowed for some good speed. There were a few rough, rocky parts here and there, then more hills and big washes that we'd drop down into and climb back out of. Another wash showed debris from the last flash flood and the high-mark was scary-high! We came across some sections of road that were washed out pretty good, lots of water out here recently! At one point we rounded a corner and came across a MASSIVE Golden Eagle feasting on a freshly killed rabbit... he hesitated to take off, but when he did his wingspan had to be in the 6-8' range! :eek2: Amazing to see, beautiful animal to see so close.

After many miles, a couple intersections and some map referencing we found ourselves dropping into Left Hand Collett Canyon. LHC is another place that has been on my 'to do' list for awhile and I was excited to be driving down into it. Just a week or 2 earlier it was washed out by some heavy rains and we were a bit leery of what we'd find... turning back at this point wasn't an option, I had quite a few miles on my tank of gas and we were planning to refuel in Escalate, UT.... not turning back to Big Water. Soon the canyon walls rose several hundred feet above and water was trickling down the canyon. The views were great, there are some amazing rock formations that have been carved out after thousands of years of water and debris flowing thru the canyon. We found a couple washouts on the main road and were forced to drop down into the wash to continue.

As we excited Left Hand Collett canyon, we saw a marker for a dinosaur track so we set out to find it... the quality of the track was great, you could clearly see 3 toes and several right-left-right prints!

We talked about our options, it was getting late enough in the day that we didn't want to travel too far. We decided to drive down the HITR Road and find a campsite. I was disappointing by all the traffic, all day long we had seen a few vehicles and soon as we got on the HITR road there were cars everywhere. We drove down to about mile marker 36 and saw a 2-track that left the road and decided to explore it's potential as a campsite. After about a mile drive, we found a great dead-ended canyon that once was a cow camp. We called it good, relaxed for a bit then set out on foot to explore... and there was a lot to see! Rock formations, wet canyons, animal tracks, etc, etc After poking around, we went about setting up camp again and making dinner. As the sun went down, we all sat around the campfire enjoying the warmth on a cool October night. At one point a Coyote crested a nearby hill and went about howling at us for about 20 min... I think we were disturbing his prime hunting grounds and he wasn't happy about it!

On day 4 we packed camp, hit the rough HITR road for near 40 miles and drive into Escalate to air up and fuel up. We hit the road to home, arriving after 2 PM. All said, it was an excellent trip! Marty was easy going and made for a great trail companion, we covered a lot of incredible ground and saw some sights that most people will never see in person. I truly enjoyed our time in Southern Utah, can't want to get back!
Great write up and pics. Some day soon I will get out that way. That pic of you guys stopped where the road was washed out, did you continue on or turn around? Thanks for the trip report!
I was getting the puppy quivers about a week before we left, hoping that the weather would cooperate. And it did!! Met all my expectations and then some.

Here's a few more px:

Alstm (18).jpg Alstm (19).jpg Alstm (27).jpg Alstm (33).jpg Alstm (42).jpg Alstm (43).jpg Alstm (44).jpg Alstm (50).jpg 20161007_201448.jpg


Expedition Leader
Great report...that Left Hand Collet is quite the adventure. I was there in June. Smooth...Looks like things have changed.

Thanks for the pictures and text!
Great write up and pics. Some day soon I will get out that way. That pic of you guys stopped where the road was washed out, did you continue on or turn around? Thanks for the trip report!
Appreciate it! This area is amazing, very remote and beautiful!

We backed up at the washout, the trail has just left the wash about 100' earlier. We dropped back into the wash and continued on, no real delay or trouble!


Very nice. Hope to be down there next week. Crossing our fingers on the weather too.
I'll be looking for the report! The weather seems to be holding, hopefully its as nice for you as it was for us!

Great report...that Left Hand Collet is quite the adventure. I was there in June. Smooth...Looks like things have changed.

Thanks for the pictures and text!
I really had fun on the trip thru LHC, I would like to see it in a bit rougher condition... just for the challenge! :coffeedrink:

Glad you enjoyed it!