By Gail Newbold
Utah’s Burr Trail is a 67-mile scenic drive between Boulder and Bullfrog into some of the state’s most beautiful and extraordinary country. You’ll see views of the Henry Mountains, the colorfully contorted Waterpocket Fold, red Circle Cliffs, and Long Canyon. Along the way are numerous hikes and side trips. Visit NPS for an excellent mile-by-mile guide.
One evening after dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, my friends and I spontaneously ventured onto the spectacular Burr Trail where we found ourselves sandwiched in by sheer walls of sandstone towering hundreds of feet above the road. Awestruck and exhilarated by the remote and mysterious beauty, we reluctantly turned the car around since night was falling. But I vowed to return someday and begin in the morning.
I made good on that promise in the spring of this year, and in spite of an entire day on the trail, was still left longing for more. Take my advice: Start early and stay late. The Burr Trail can be driven in as few as two hours without stopping, but I recommend channeling a New York subway — stop often even if for just a moment. And allow time for hiking and picnicking.
This blog details my favorite stops and stretches of road. It doesn’t mention the countless times we pulled over to exclaim over a view or rock formation or photograph a patch of flowers. And on this day in mid-May, we almost had the Burr Trail to ourselves. We’d stop in the middle of the road to snap a photo and never cause another driver to wait.
Stop 1. Deer Creek Campground.
After cruising slowly past gorgeous checkerboard sandstone sand dunes and a meandering roadside creek lined with lime-green cottonwood trees, we made our first stop at the Deer Creek Campground. We followed a babbling creek for a while until my friend freaked at the sight of a snake and insisted we turn back. We weren’t hungry, but this would be a great spot for a picnic.
Stop 2. Singing Canyon.
Don’t be surprised to see a flutist or ad hoc choir in this easily accessible slot canyon with incredible acoustics. But you don’t need to be a musician to appreciate its beauty. Green foliage contrasts with colorful walls that soar to 80 feet. It’s shady and cool even in the summer and makes for an enticing picnic spot. Look for a small, unmarked paved pullout on the north (left) side of the road then simply walk into the canyon for about five minutes on a wide, flat trail.
The Bookends: Before and After the Burr Trail in Southern Utah
Assuming you take my advice and spend from dawn to dusk enjoying this fascinating part of Utah, you’re going to need someplace to sleep and eat on either end. We spent our first night at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch located about three miles off Highway 12 on a winding road through Pinon pines and a few miles from the start of the Burr Trail.
Co-owner Brandi Hardman took us on a tour of the 150-acre property, showing us where groups rent space for yoga retreats, weddings, and concerts. We saw the organic garden, grass-fed cows, and nature trail past beaver dams to a small waterfall. During the summer months, there are firepits, s’mores, yard games, bonfires, fishing, and much more.
We stayed in a beautiful spacious cabin with massive windows, a full kitchen, and decks for relaxing outdoors. Guests can rent cabins, rooms in the lodge, or upscale tents and teepees. We dined at Sweetwater Kitchen, the on-site farm-to-table restaurant presided over by Chef Eric Arballo and his team.
I’ve enjoyed a few meals in my life as delicious as dinner that night. We ate a green salad with shaved parmesan and golden raisins tossed with a pine-nut vinaigrette; focaccia bread with herb butter; Utah red trout with agave tomato sauce, pickled sweet peppers and shaved watermelon radishes; braised short ribs with a hint of thyme and saffron with polenta, stewed red bell peppers with Indian spices and sage chips. Dessert was a flavor-exploding bruleed goat-cheese cheesecake with coriander blueberry compote with fresh mint and blueberries.
On our second night, we slept at the Ticaboo Lodge, located 10 miles north of Lake Powell at the base of the Henry Mountains. It felt blessedly remote and blended beautifully into the surrounding desert scenery. There’s a pool, gift shop, and S’Moki’s Grill. My room was surprisingly spacious with wood flooring, white bedspread, art, a pretty round table and chairs in the corner, and even an artificial tree.
The reality is that most people use the lodge as a convenient and restful base camp for the huge variety of rentals and off-site guided adventures on land and water offered by North Lake Powell Adventures. The staff can tell you the best places to go or escort you to the beautiful Hite area of Lake Powell, the high desert, or hard-to-find slot canyons. Guides are certified with Wilderness First Responder, Utah Master Naturalist, and Certified Canyoneering and Self-Rescue Training.