3,050 miles and 8 National Parks in 6 days!
A friend of mine and I left the Kansas City area Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. on a quest to see the five National Parks in Utah over a six day period. Our adventure turned out to offer eight National Parks in three states over those six days. Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Bryce and Zion in UT; Grand Canyon's North Rim in AZ; Mesa Verde and Great Sand Dunes in CO. Part of our goal was to acquire HOG points on this trip, so pictures required ourselves, the current issue of HOG magazine and our Harley to be included. I currently ride a 2012 Road Glide Ultra and my friend rides a 2012 Electra Glide Classic. Ironically, both models have been discontinued from the 2014 lineup.
We decided to take the northern route across I-70 through Kansas and Colorado in the hopes of coming home a more southern route so as to avoid I-70 on the way home. We traveled 796 miles to Glenwood Springs, CO the first day and spent the evening in a decent motel, given how crowded the area is this time of year. I never make reservations when I travel by motorcycle, whether on my own or with a group, but have never had an issue finding lodging at the end of a day's ride. Following a hot shower, a nice meal in town and a good night's rest, the two of us were up very early for a day of National Parks riding.
We continued on I-70 to Hwy 128 then headed south to Hwy 191 and back up to the entrance to Arches. Hwy 128 offered a fun ride with some introductory scenery for what was to come. We entered Arches and rode all of the roads within to capture the beauty of the park in the late morning sunlight. After completing our ride and taking lots of pics, we headed back to 191, over to Hwy 313 and down into the Island of the Sky area of Canyonlands which is similar in ways, but on a smaller scale, to the Grand Canyon. We took a little time to visit with one of the park rangers, then scooted back up 313 to 191 and back onto I-70 over to Hwy 24 for a very pretty ride down to Hanksville and west through Capital Reef and stopping for the night in Torrey, UT where Hwy 24 meets Hwy 12. Another good dinner, a better night's sleep and we're off on Hwy 12 in the morning.
Another friend of mine had raved about Hwy 12 as one of the best he had ridden and while it was enjoyable, he had built it up more than I appreciated, apparently. While it was a fun ride with some nice scenery, it was by no means our favorite of the trip. Riding south into Escalante and west over to Tropic, we hit the entrance to Bryce Canyon. This is where the scenery got spectacular and the weather got challenging for us. All riding conditions were good at first, but then the storms came and the hail and lightening hit. We motivate out of Bryce and over to Hwy 89, south to Hwy 9 and into the east entrance to Zion...WOW! This park really brings the scenery close as you ride through the tall Checkerboard walls and down a steep decline through a lengthy tunnel over to the visitor center to pick up a shuttle for the ride up into the core of the park. An afternoon well spent. We exited Zion via Springdale, cut over to Hurricane and took Hwy 59 to Colorado City, AZ. Continued on Hwy 389 over to Fredonia then up to Kanab, UT for that evening. Following a great dinner, we got rested up for a very long day to follow.
Up and out the motel door later than planned, we decided to take in the north rim of the Grand Canyon as we were less than 90 miles away and my friend had never seen it. I have been to the south rim numerous times, but had never been to the north myself, so this was a fun "side trip." South on Alt 89 to Jacob Lake, then Hwy 67 into the park we rode. This was a fun experience with far fewer crowds and a wonderful ride to Imperial Point for some great views of the canyon from a different perspective than the south rim. A couple of hours later we were heading out in some heavy rain and making our way across Alt 89 to Page, AZ. Alas, a detour spoiled those plans, so south on 89 to Hwy 160, Tuba City and Kayenta for another decision by my friend. Take Hwy 163 through Monument Valley or continue on 160 then over to Farmington, New Mexico to set up the southern route home. We chose to see Monument Valley, so 163 to 162 it was. When we came into CO and realized we picked up 160 again, the sign read that we were only 5 miles from Four Corners. Again, I had been there so the choice was his...Four Corners or on to Cortez for the evening. We were pretty much spent by that time and storms were moving back into the area, so we headed to Cortez before nightfall and secured a room. Four Corners would have to wait for another trip.
The plan was to make it well into Kansas the next day as I had a meeting scheduled for the following evening, however, Mesa Verde called and we took the time to visit. This was not only a fun place to visit, again for me, it was a great ride into the park to the areas where the museum and cliff dwellings are...well worth the visit if you are in the area. Several hours later we were back on 160 riding towards Durango, where we visited the Harley dealership and picked up the requisite T-shirts. Beautiful riding in great weather over Wolf Creek Pass and over to Hwy 150 and to the entrance of Great Sand Dunes National Park, a bonus. Until I saw the sign on the highway, I never realized this was a National Park. I just thought it was a preserve, so we had to stop. It is hard to imagine these great sand dunes backed up against the base of the Rocky Mountains south of Pikes Peak, but there they are! From there over to Walsenburg for our final route decision. We had originally planned to cut across southern CO and into KS from Walsenburg, heading to Dodge City, Hutchinson, Emporia and home. However, with the added stops made and time running short on my making a deadline, we chose to hit the slab and take I-25 to Colorado Springs, then cut over to Limon for the evening. We had to get motivated really early the following morning for me to get the 537 miles home from Limon.
Some days are less fun than others and this was that day. Windy, very windy the first fours hours across eastern CO and western KS. As the wind diminished, the heat index rose during our trek across our home state. The eight hour day was neither scenic, nor fun. I have done it many, many times and it never disappoints in its monotony. As a guy I met near Golden, CO put it, riding across Kansas SUCKS! He had ridden from North Carolina and he is right!
A fantastic trip through eight of our unique and beautiful National Parks, fun miles of riding (some more than others) and many pics taken to reflect on memories of another fun adventure with a good friend.
I'll post some pics once I get them downloaded and reduced.
Last edited by throttles&triggers; 07-28-2013 at 07:36 PM.