Thursday, March 6, 2014

San Juan Wonderland

By Brian Wrabley

A visit to San Juan County, Utah is a fantastic adventure to a land full of the most stunning collection of natural wonders I know of! Other regions to be sure have their own beauty, but I can’t think of one county, by itself, that has more to offer in outdoor recreation than San Juan! I've been aware of the area since I was a little kid, when I’d become enthralled by the landscape of Monument Valley. The western’s directed by John Ford, starring John Wayne had captured my imagination, and came to symbolize the West to me. For the next 30 years I had no idea that Monument Valley was just one small part of this vast and stunning county. I first made it to the area in 2007, and made my pilgrimage to Monument Valley, it was then that I learned about all the other treasures there were here!

In exploring what San Juan County had to offer, I came across a veritable wonderland of natural creations! Fantastically sculpted sandstone, deep canyons carved by a serpentine river, jaw dropping views comparable to any I've ever seen! On top of the natural wonders, there’s a deep, rich human history here as well, to be found in the most amazing locations! The ruins, and rock art of the ancient Puebloans adds texture to this land! The Navajo, Paiute, and Ute people who came later and still reside here, show how life can be sustained, and thrive in this beautiful, but harsh landscape! The Mormon settlers who overcame amazing hardships to settle and carve out a place to live, and practice their faith! All these elements are woven together to create this fabulous tapestry of natural and human history, it enriches anyone who comes into contact with it! It was the inspiration from places like this that lead me to start my own adventure tour company, Treks West Tours  I knew I wanted a tour to Monument Valley, but the 2007 visit made me understand how many other great places there were to offer on the tour!

The array of places to see and things to do can overwhelm you! It’s good that once you come here you’ll be hooked, so you’ll keep coming back again, and again to experience more of it! The tours I offer are active ones with plenty of hiking, horseback riding, and river rafting in them and San Juan County has all of that and much more! In addition to Monument Valley the list includes Canyonlands National  NP, Natural Bridges NM, Lake Powell/Glen Canyon NRA, Hovenweep NM, Grand Gulch Primitive Area, Valley of the Gods, Moki Dugway, Edge of Cedars State Park, Goosenecks State Park, Cedar Mesa, Manti La Sal National Forest, 3 of the west’s most iconic rivers, the San Juan, the Colorado, and the Green, scenic views like Muley Point, and the Needles Overlook! This isn't everything, I touched on a few, but there are innumerable BLM lands with ruins, and petroglyphs, some of the best in the world! The hiking is phenomenal, with all types of terrain! A horseback riding experience in Monument Valley has no equal on the planet in my opinion! The Colorado is the most renowned river in the west, and runs through many states, but the San Juan is the heart of this region! A rafting trip on the San Juan from one day to a week is a special adventure you’ll never forget! Deep canyons, peace and solitude, ruins, and wildlife along the shore it is a seminal event! In addition to all of this, there’s biking, climbing, ATV touring, fishing, 4x4/jeep tours, hot air ballooning, boating on Lake Powell, and much more!
It was on my visit to the area last Spring that I got to try a new experience that had been on my list for a while, canyoneering! I had a chance to try it up in Moab a few years before, but the trip got canceled do to weather, and I didn't get to make it up. In researching my recent trip I came across North Wash Outfitters, and Jared Hillhouse. My wife and I were going to give it a try, and after telling Jared our particulars, age, experience, fitness level, he decided Blarney Canyon would be the right place to have our first canyoneering experience. Blarney is located in Glen Canyon NRA and take a while to get to, but the drive on its own is stunning! After arriving, and getting our gear on we hike up a steep slick rock slope to the canyon rim, from the top you have amazing views of the Henry Mountains! The rappels on this outing are long in the 25-40 foot range, perfect for a beginner! Jared and crew ensure your safety every step of the way, and instill you with confidence as you try something so new. It’s an amazing experience between the rappelling, and the scrambling and scurrying down through the narrow slot canyons, some that don’t get any sunlight! It’s not easy but it’s invigorating as you prepare for the challenges that await you around every corner. Long story short, our canyoneering experience was awesome, one of the most thrilling of my life! Needless to say canyoneering is now a part of my Monument Valley tour, I can’t recommend it, and North Wash Outfitters enough! In my business I work with a lot of outfitters in a various fields, non are any better than North Wash!

The moral of this story is, if you’re looking for an awesome western experience and don’t want to have to drive hundreds of miles in between, look no further than San Juan County! There is so much to see and do you could spend a lifetime visiting and not do it all!   


  1. Thanks Jared for letting me contribute a blog about this fantastic area! You guys sure are fortunate to call this place home!

  2. Brian,

    I really enjoyed reading your wonderfully descriptive article on the spectacular San Juan region and the abundance of beautiful scenery and many adventures that can be found there. Thank you for introducing North Wash Outfitters for a new adventure. I look forward to trying out canyoneering for the first time this Spring.
    Thank you! Christine Jordan