Day Five - Beaver UT to Torrey UT - 401 miles

It was hard to believe day five was going to be better than any of the other days, but it just kept getting better. The hotel had breakfast in the morning that was not much to speak of, but it got us going early in the morning and we blasted down I-15 before exiting at Parowan. The town is located just off the interstate about 30 miles south of Beaver, and before long we were headed up Parowon Canyon towards Brian Head. The road through the canyon is really nice, climbing more than 4,000 feet in about 11 miles. Brian Head is a small resort town and looks to be tied heavily to the skiing industry. Early Monday morning there wasn’t too much activity on the mountain. Arriving in the Cedar Breaks National Park we knew there were may scenic overlooks and we also knew we would be doubling back, so there was ample opportunity and we didn’t need to look for the perfect spot. The Cedar Breaks area can best be described as a huge amphitheater looking out to the West. The top sits at over 10,000 feet so one can imagine the view is practically all the way to Nevada. It was only 9:00 in the morning so there were still long shadows being cast, but we could see for at least a hundred miles in the clear, crisp, perfect morning. We made more stop up on top and was equally impressed. UT143 had turned briefly into UT148, and would dead end into UT14 where we turned right headed down through the canyon into Cedar City. UT 14 down through Cedar Canyon was very good. We don’t like going downhill as much as going up but the road was pretty tasty. The descent was more than 5,000 in the roughly 18 miles from the top down to Cedar City. We ran down I-15 again to UT17, exited making our way towards Zion National Park. We stopped in La Verkin for gas and quickly were on our way but without as much gear as we had on earlier. The altitude had dropped to just over 3,000 feet and the temperature had climbed to the point where I would say it was hot. We picked up UT9 and headed east toward Springdale and Zion. We passed by Hurricane Mesa to the North; a 1,500 foot mesa that has some roads leading up that we wanted to take but we just didn’t have the time. UT9 is a decent road but traffic was picking up as we were approaching the park. We passed by Grafton UT which looks to be a neat ghost town but we didn’t stop. Once we got to the park and paid our fee we were in business. Like almost all National Parks one doesn’t go blasting through the curves, we were simply enjoying the scenery. Zion is Utah’s oldest park having been founded in 1919. Probably the most famous portion of the park is Zion Canyon that needs to be reached by shuttle bus, and needless to say we didn’t take that route. We stayed on UT9 made a couple of stops along the way to view the impressive red sandstone formations, through the tunnel, and ending at Checkerboard Mesa where we stopped for a photo. Checkerboard Mesa is an odd formation of petrified sandstone which was formed by wind and weather. After leaving Zion UT9 become an open road, with long views of the surrounding areas. At Mt. Carmel Junction we head north on US89, which is one of my favorite roads in the country. Unfortunately we would only be on the road for about 22 miles through Oderville and Glendale as we wove our way through the canyon up to UT14. There we turned left and headed back west towards Cedar Breaks. UT14 is a nice twisty road that starts its 2,000 foot climb slowly but t dramatically increases as we approach Navajo Lake. The Lake is a shallow one not exceeding much more than 25’ and drains uniquely through the bottom of the lake bed some going to the Great Basin and the other portion to the Colorado River. After our brief stop for pics we continued on up to some Cedar Breaks Park overlooks; the ones we didn’t stop for in the morning. On UT14 we turned right on UT148 heading north and do our little bit of back tracking for the day and it was very minimal. In the five hours we have been riding since our morning stop in the same area the temperature has risen to become quite comfortable. The view was just as spectacular in the afternoon, and perhaps even more clear if that is possible. We enjoyed one stop and decided to continue on as we had much more riding to do before we got to our destination of Torrey. We continued just a little further on UT148 before turning right on UT143 to begin our descent back down the mountain through the Dixie National Forest. The road is mostly nice wide open sweepers that make for some pretty fast times down the hill. Once past Panguitch Lake we quickly reach the town of Panguitch and turn right heading south on US89. We contemplated not doing the loop back up though Cedar Breaks but we were really glad we did. UT14 up the mountain, and UT143 back down is really worthwhile, and I take any chance I can get to see Cedar Breaks as many times as possible. We were only US89 for about 8 miles before turning left and heading east on UT12. When we started down UT12 towards Bryce Canyon is was a straight uninviting looking road that did n’t seem to lead much of anywhere, not to mention the touristy places like Western Town and Harold’s Place. However, within about three miles we were in Red Canyon and soaking up the scenery. This ended being one of the places where we didn’t go all out; first of all there was a lot of slow traffic looking at the sights, and second the sights were indeed worth looking at. We stopped and got some pics of the small tunnels on UT12 but continued with no further stops as we began thinking about Bryce Canyon. As we came upon UT63 we turned right and entered the park. In only about five miles we came to our first opportunity which was Inspiration Point. We circled in the parking lot but since it was so crowded we continued and ran down to Paria View where we dismounted to take some pictures. One really can’t go wrong going to any of the overlooks as there as there are so many. After Paria View we intended to do a couple of more and go all the way to the end of the road, but after Natural Bridge overlook we decided to get back to the main road and make our way down to Escalante. We were about 15 miles in and maybe slightly more than halfway. Back out on UT12 it was 7.4 miles and 1200 feet down to Tropic UT, and then another 38 miles to Escalante. These were all good miles once again carving through some canyons, and enjoying the ride every bit as much the scenery. Once in Escalante we continued for another 10 miles until we found a perch on the side of cliff overlooking the Grand Staircase. Once we got going again we only made it another 30 minutes or so before we pulled over again to soak in the scenery. Wes topped to overlook some of Calf’s Creek Canyon, but didn’t stay long, just long enough for some pictures. Another 30 minutes and another spot we couldn’t pass up; this time it was above the Calf Creek Falls. The views exceptionally long it seemed like you could see forever. The road was also a certain “can’t miss” road, and we were hitting it hard. We made one last stop on top of Boulder Mountain overlooking the Grand Escalante area down towards Lake Powell. We reached our motel; the Boulder View Inn which was really nice, got a Subway sandwich and talked with the owner until it was time to call it a night.