Along the Burr Trail: Long Canyon Slot
Any road trip along the Burr Trail (a southern UT backcountry driving route) should begin at a nearby ranger station, where info can be obtained on the road condition. While much of the route is paved and suitable for all but the most cumbersome and lumbering vehicles (e.g. Winnebagos), even these sections are prone to washouts and rockslides after storms.
We stopped in at the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center for an early morning assessment, expressing concern since there had been heavy rains overnight and lingering precip on the morning of our planned drive. (Truth be told, I had originally planned to use the day for explorations off the unpaved Hole In the Rock Road, but gave up that undertaking entirely due to the almost certain impassable conditions we would encounter there: washouts, mud slicks, perhaps even active flash floods.) The friendly ranger told us that proceeding carefully up the paved section of the Burr Trail should present no problems, so we forged ahead.
The western portion of the Burr Trail out of Boulder, UT, is wonderfully scenic — initial stretches border sandstone slickrock domes before the road enters steep-sided Long Canyon, within whose confines the byway meanders for several miles before opening out onto a flat where the road drops away prior to entering Capitol Reef Natl. Park. From the top of the escarpment great views to the east of the Henry Mtn.s and Circle Cliffs appear.
But before this happens — at about the 11 mile mark out of Boulder, if memory serves — there’s an unmarked pullout to the left (north) at the mouth of an idyllic little slot canyon that leads about 1/10 mile back to the north between the colorful canyon walls. Since we arrived there just after the rain, the sandstone walls were still streaked with moisture and in a few places water still dripped down from above. Ancient cottonwoods towered over the wash, whose surface — though appearing to be muddy — was in fact a well-compacted wet sand, easy to walk on.
Here we met up with a charming couple from England who happened to be fellow guests at the Escalante Grand Staircase B&B where we were staying. Since we had not had an opportunity to talk with them during breakfast that morning, it was a pleasure to spend some time learning about their home town as we ambled along the dry watercourse, avidly snapping photos.
By the time we’d driven to the overlook a few miles east of the slot, the skies had cleared and any threat of rain seemed remote, raising the possibility that the more-traveled portion of the Hole In the Rock Road might prove passable for our medium-clearance rental vehicle later in the afternoon. With this in mind, we turned around and made our way back toward Escalante.