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Good spots to check out in the summer heat on a long Drive from Denver to San Francisco?

Original Post
Bill M · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 10

Hey people.

I'm driving from Denver to San Francisco Bay Area 25-27th and was hoping to check out some climbing in the southern Utah area off I-70 as I head out east to break up my drive. Any good spots not too far out of the way with good shade? I realize that it's probably way too hot, but if I'm there I might as well check out the scene. Also - looking for partners :)

ddriver · · SLC · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,283

Do you have high clearance and/or 4WD? Makes a difference in your options.  What have you already seen in this area? When I-70 ends, where do you go next? US 50 or up to I-80?

Bill M · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 10

I have an AWD but not a ton of clearance and I'm taking 50. Never been to any of the national parks or climbing areas in southern Utah.

ddriver · · SLC · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,283

Well, as you've guessed it's going to be hot, highs in the upper 90's to around 100 in lower elevations.

A drive down the river road into Moab is a worthwhile and short side trip.  Take the Cisco exit to 128 and follow the river.  You'll see the Fishers and Castle Valley, you can stop into Moab for a bite and a brew.  Being a weekday you might get into Arches for a short tour, but it has been way crowded.  If you ran into someone who wanted to get on Owl Rock that would be a worthy and quick diversion. You might get real lucky and get nice enough conditions on Potash Road at the end of the day and find a rope you could get on, but that whole cliff is south facing.  At least drive over and look.  Also very worthwhile is the drive up to the Island in the Sky overlook into Monument Basin.  Get a view of Standing Rock and the Shark's Fin among others.  This is a bit more time consuming than you might think looking at the map so plan accordingly.  It's a great place to be at the end of the day, and there is camping up there but being in the NP it may be occupied.  Maybe you get a room in Moab and head down at the end of the day, but again Moab is crowded in the summer.

You could do a side trip into the Swell.  It's about 30 minutes or so to get up to the San Rafael River from I-70 where there is both developed and primitive camping.  You could possibly beat the heat by staying near the river or getting up into Buckhorn Wash in a protected area.  There is definitely shade to be found and possibly climbers.  The Pine Canyon area might be viable.

An alternate side trip for scenery and heat relief is to detour through Hanksville, Capitol Reef and Torrey.  You'll wind up just south of Salina and I-70.  Torrey is at about 7,000 feet so a nice stopping place.

Maple Canyon offers the best chance of finding climbers to hook up with, and better temps.  It's a bit of a detour but not too bad.  Folks camp there all summer and there will be lots of climbers.  Head north on 89 at Salina to Fountain Green to get there.  You could get back on track by going out to Nephi and then cutting across to Lynndyl, not a big detour at all and you're back onto 6/50 heading west.  

You might also want to stop at Ibex since you'll be driving right by.  It's a 10 minute drive off of pavement.  It's a good place to spend the night, but you have to be fully equipped, i.e. water.  There are zero facilities.  Bouldering right by the car.  You might see someone else out there but probably not. It is starkly beautiful and to me well worth just driving over and touching the rock. You can get a room and food in Delta or you can stop at the Border Inn on the Nevada line. It's a bit of a hole.

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,535

I was under the impression the 80 was a good bit faster to SLC from Denver- all my friends went that way when driving to and from OR.

Also, I'd probably stop in Reno/Tahoe at Donner and such too if you're going that way.

Going via the 70, I'd definitely come up the back way to Maple and stop there for a day. Lots of folks around for partners, too.

bognish · · Sandy, UT · Joined Oct 2008 · Points: 0

Time and distance is about the same going through WY, I-70 to SLC or I70 to HWY 50. Denver to SF on I80 through WY is more straight forward. Fewer mtn passes and no 2 lane roads. A month ago there was road construction on Rt6 north from green river closing it down to 1 lane. We sat for an hour. I haven't been back, but its probably still going on. Rt 6 & Hwy 50 have lots of speed traps in all the little towns. Be careful for wild horses on 50 especially to the west side. The first half of Hwy 50 was fun to do once, but there is just so much of NV that now I just want to get it over with as quick a possible. I would take I80 and spend 2 more days in the Bay Area or Tahoe.

Victor K · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2003 · Points: 170

I've driven from Denver to SF many many times. Due to horrible weather conditions one winter, I took the southern route (I-70, I-15 to Barstow, 58 to Bakersfield and then I-5 north to 152 over the Pacheco Pass to the Bay Area proper. If you're going to the north bay, this is probably 100 extra miles, but the south bay is about even. If you follow this route, you can stop at Kolob Canyon (Cedar City), the climbing areas around St. George, and Red Rock near Vegas. That's a pretty good hit list.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Southern Utah Deserts
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