Simply Spectacular – Flaming Gorge, UT
All I can say is simply SPEC-TAC-U-LAR. Spectacular views, spectacular trails, spectacular peace. Today we’re the ONLY RV in a what I would consider a primo campground with views that I’ve rarely seen rivalled anywhere on our travels. Why isn’t this place mobbed? How can this be?
Before my amazement gets the better of me, I guess I should step back a few days and tell you how we got here. Last year I was following some RV friends (Marilyn, Jim and lovely pooch Chester) on their travels through a spot that looked simply too good to miss. The place went immediately on my list of “must sees” and we planned our summer trip this year specifically to hit both the very-same spot and campground they had stayed at.
The secret area is called the Flaming Gorge. Renowned for its geological beauty and fiery red rocks, it’s a 3,788,900 acre (4,674 cubic meter) reservoir tucked at an elevation of ~6,000 feet in the northern boundary of Utah and Wyoming. The big draw here is the water and the fishing. In fact the chilly clear deep blue produce world-record-breaking fish (50lb (23kg) lake trout, anyone?), and if you make the trip down to dip in the waters (oh yes we did) you’ll find that’s where most folks are hanging out. Down by the river you can even score a white-water rafting trip and a free tour of the dam (pretty cool!).
But take a trip 8 miles up the hill and you’ll get a totally different view, and a totally different feel. At Canyon Rim you can gawk at 1,400 foot sheer drops that frame the snaking deep-blue reservoir to the horizon. Mountain weather adds to the allure with a constantly changing panorama of color and texture giving the view of a living Van Gough painting. Only a few day-trippers seem to take the trip, mainly to take a snapshot, and almost no-one stays here (!).
Want even more remoteness? Take the trip out of the Flaming Gorge and into the Ashely National Forest, a 1,287,909 acre natural playground which is one of the least-visited and undiscovered forests in the area (the Dows have a great description on their forest camping website).
So, why isn’t this place mobbed? Well, if you’re coming directly from CO it’s one tough drive to get here. The 139 from Fruita, CO to Rangely, UT is not for the faint of heart. With my usual bravado yours truly decided to take the wheel that day, blissfully unaware of the sharp drop-offs and narrow curves to come. I’m fine with steep grades, but there was (get this) a spot where the road had broken off into the ravine and one turn where not much but the RV could fit. In my mind this was worse than the Million Dollar Highway, and our trusty Mountain Directory book did *not* make that clear.
Nonetheless it was a beautiful drive, despite the hair-raising bits and I’d have pictures except that hubby was too busy clenching the sides of his chair to do the job. There are other ways to get here, (probably the routes I’d recommend for the less adventurous) but they’re longer drives and not major freeways.
The drive, and the fact that most people come for the water explains why we’re all alone by the rim. We’ll be spending several days romping around in the mountain glory up here, going for a few long hikes, basking in near-perfect temperatures, hopefully spotting some Big Horn and getting happily drunk on the simply SPEC-TAC-U-LAR views.