The Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

We spent five days camped out along the Burr Trail, a scenic drive that connects Route 12 at Boulder with the back way into Capitol Reef National Park. Though we intended to explore whatever came up, we had a few places in mind we wanted to hike along the way. Unfortunately, some persnickety behavior on the part of the vehicle deterred us from a few spots, mainly the supposedly-amazing section of road that drops off the plateau down to Capitol Reef. This section of the road accesses a few canyons and the Waterpocket Fold to which we’ve already agreed to return.

Close to Boulder the defining feature of the Burr Trail is the 7 mile canyon, aptly named Long Canyon. Almost entirely formed of red sandstone, the canyon features sheer walls, fantastic streaks of desert varnish, interesting erosion patterns, and a section of multi-colored hoodoos. There’s also a picturesque little slot canyon that’s easily accessible from the road. Also, right at the point where the canyon opens up and the road begins another steep descent, is an incredible overlook of the mineral-stained rainbow hills and valley below. Following the road to the border of the national park (and the end of the pavement) allows you to wind through plains of the pinyon and juniper, but turning off and running perpendicular to Long Canyon below the rim of the plateau provides opportunities to explore additional side canyons and inspect the outwash of colorful rock and petrified wood.

Overlooking Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Overlooking Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Looking up the walls in Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Looking up the walls in Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Converging walls on Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Converging walls on Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Entrance to short slot canyon off Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Entrance to short slot canyon off Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Short slot canyon on Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Short slot canyon on Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Me walking in the short canyon off the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Me walking in the short canyon off the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Overlook, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Overlook, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Overlook on the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Overlook on the Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Morning sun over the canyon walls, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Morning sun over the canyon walls, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Morning light eradicating the shadows in Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Morning light eradicating the shadows in Long Canyon, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Mineral-colored rocks, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Mineral-colored rocks, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Neat patterns on the rock, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Neat patterns on the rock, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

We had read in a couple places about hiking The Gulch and so we tackled that one first. Or rather, we hiked in the wrong direction into the Lower Gulch, then into a different wash for a few miles before the lack of trail markers or footprints convinced us this wasn’t it. Two days later when the sun reappeared we tried again from a different access point and hiked about 4 miles into the Upper Gulch. Similar to the lower section, the Upper Gulch was a wide canyon and very brushy, but once the walls narrowed the scenic quotient increased. Just before our turn-around point we came upon a very pretty waterfall etched into the colorful sandstone; this was undoubtedly the highlight of our hike.

Walking along the canyon in the Lower Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Walking along the canyon in the Lower Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Hiking down Lower Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Hiking down Lower Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Lower Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Erosion patterns on the canyon wall in The Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Erosion patterns on the canyon wall in The Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Walking in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Walking in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Hiking in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Hiking in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Unique conglomerate in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Unique conglomerate in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Hiking in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Hiking in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tree trunk fragment that's eerily reminiscent of a mermaid figurehead, The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Tree trunk fragment that’s eerily reminiscent of a mermaid figurehead, The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Small waterfall in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Small waterfall in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Small waterfall in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Small waterfall in the Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Closeup of waterfall, Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Closeup of waterfall, Upper Gulch, Burr Trail, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah