Top ten spring stops

by Scott Boyle

Gotta have more traveling TO spring stuff, don’t you think, since the wind and snow still abound? 

So here is my list, in no particular order, of the top ten places to travel TO spring in San Juan County, no foolin’. 

Of course, I would much like to hear from you about your favorite places to go this time of year. 

Send your recommendations to or

10.  A great place to start is a trip to view the cliff flowers along the north cliff faces in Bluff.  Our pioneer family lore says that these flowers, which bloom in March, only grow in Bluff and Australia.  Don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know they are incredible to see. 

They are small purplish flowers in bunches that make enchanting pictures with the grandkids.  My oldest daughter had her wedding pictures taken there. 

After a quick peruse of the internet, I found some cliff flowers in Cornwall, England that looked similar to the Bluff cliff flowers and a person by the name of Cliff Flowers, who hails from the class of 1984 in Faucett, Missouri.

9.  Sand Island - If it’s water you’re looking for, Sand Island is a great place to get sandy and wet.  Usually the river isn’t that high this time of year yet, so you can wade in the water along the shores and play in the sand.  We’ve had some grand sumo wrestling tournaments there over the years.

Tables in the campground allow for comfortable relatively sandless spots for lunch.  If you get tired of the water, there are interesting hikes along the cliffsides with much rock art to view and ponder.

7. Cathedral Butte - Starting a mile or two north of Indian Creek Ranch, take the North Cottonwood road up Cottonwood.  The drive is beautiful and eventful, but as you travel around the mesa I’ve always called Bridger Jack Mesa, a drive of 10 miles or so, Cathedral Butte comes in to view. 

It is the sight down into Salt Creek Canyon from Cathedral Butte that is the destination.  I still remember my first overwhelming aesthetic experience I had as a 14 year old backpacker viewing this incredible vista into Canyonlands National Park for the first time in 1968. 

It literally took my breathe away.  If it is slick rock viewing you’re looking for, this sight outdoes them all.

6.  Upper Butler Wash - Of course, there are the Butler Canyon Ruins one can visit, but I enjoy the 30-minute hike directly up Butler Wash.  Take the first fork to the left and follow the canyon as it narrows along an easy walking path peacefully meandering through the flora and fauna.

Down in the little drainage, one feels miles from anyone.  The silence is broken only by the sound of birds and the soft breeze blowing through the cottonwoods. There are some fantastic ruins that can be viewed along the way, too.

5. Comb Ridge - You can stop anywhere along the road on the back side of Comb Ridge, and just start climbing.  Interesting little nooks and crannies are always discovered, no matter which way one goes.  We found a neat little out-of-the-way surprise granary one time, tucked in a discreet little crack in the Ridge. We’ve never been able to rediscover it on many subsequent excursions, either.  

If you’re looking for a marked trail, Posey’s Trail is a fun, do-able trail to follow.  Going down the other side of Comb can be a bit treacherous, though.

4.  Arch Canyon, Comb Wash - Another opportunity for water... sometimes.  Arch Canyon always seems to have water, but Comb Wash can be intermittent.  Besides the granddaddy, Arch Canyon, there are numerous other canyons to explore along the whole stretch of Comb Wash, including Mule Canyon.  All have rock art and ruins to study.

3. The Dinosaur Tracks in Indian Creek -  About one mile past Newspaper Rock in Indian Creek, an innocuous little canyon empties into Indian Creek.  Along the creek bed, not 100 yards off the road, are some raptor dinosaur tracks. 

I’m not enough of a paleontologist to know what kind of tracks they are but they have three toes, so I assume, from my Jurassic Park viewings, that they are raptors.  Could be wrong, though. 

If you’re there at the right time, the heavenly fragrant mock orange blossoms are out. Also, along the cliff faces on the north side of the drainage are myriad panels of rock art, most famous of which is the Buffalo or Wooly Mammoth rock. 

This piece of art is best known as having found a place in the garden of a certain park official in Moab.  Once it was discovered he had the rock, he was “encouraged” to return it, which he did. 

The 1,000 poundish rock doesn’t seem to be back in its natural spot, but it makes for interesting conversation, since you wonder how in the heck he got that humungous thing back up there. 

The rock art looks like a bear to me, by the way, not a wooly mammoth.

2.  South Cottonwood-This is almost always our Easter destination.  There are numerous places to stop along the creek, typically running with water this time of year, with plenty of places for the Easter Bunny to hide those eggs.  There is nothing quite like a stroll up or down the creek, shoes off, pants rolled up, (or off if you’re under 5 years of age) and feeling the soft sand ooze up between your toes.

1.  My backyard or anyone’s backyard lately.  A bit of each of these places rests in my backyard after all the wind we’ve had.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Comment Here