helloooo utah!!

We finally made it to Utah! Flaming Gorge Reservoir had been on my bucket list since I moved out here, so Johnny and I drove the 3 hours to visit a few weekends ago. By the time we got to the reservoir, it was getting dark so we only got to stop at one overlook at first. After watching an incredible sunset, we made our way down the East side looking for a campsite. But, like we kept finding in the Grand Tetons, most of the campgrounds were closed. We drove to a few before finding Dripping Springs Campground. It had just gotten completely dark by the time we arrived — we were so thankful that we found this place! We had no idea what the landscape really looked like until we woke up. Quiet, cold, but beautiful scenery surrounded us, and only got better as we made our way out of the campground that morning. We were ready to explore.

The beautiful sunset we watched at Little Firehole Overlook, just inside Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
The landscape we woke up to Sunday morning at Dripping Springs Campground.

We drove down to see the Flaming Gorge Dam next, and were super impressed by its size. It stands 502 feet high and is a major source of water and hydroelectricity — water flows out of it at speeds up to 28,800 cubic feet per second. Thats over 215,400 gallons…

A view from the top of the dam. I loved how the bright yellow rabbitbrush contrasted with the dark colors behind it.
502 feet up, the gorge looked massive.
A view of the entire wall of Flaming Gorge Reservoir’s dam. Look at all those fall colors on the mountain!

Our next stop was at the Red Canyon Visitor Center. I had looked up this beautiful overlook online, and thought that Johnny and I were going to have to hike over 9 miles to get to it. Turned out, there was a huge parking lot and a short paved path that went directly to it. 🙂

The view I had been waiting for, Red Canyon! This was definitely my favorite spot we stopped at that weekend.
On the other side of the canyon, a cloud of smoke hung over the trees all day. It was all from fire crews that were doing prescribed burns around the South side of the gorge that day.

Once we got our photos of Red Canyon, we made our way to Ute Mountain Fire Lookout Tower on a whim. After what seemed like forever, we made it to the top of Ute Mountain only to find a closed lookout tower. (: We still don’t know why it was locked up, and were a bit disappointed. Apparently at the top of the tower, you get a 360 view of Ashley National Forest. Maybe next time.

On our way up to Ute Mountain Fire Lookout Tower, I looked out into the aspen trees, only to find that they were looking back. 😉
Ute Mountain Fire Lookout Tower — “Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937, this historic tower remains in use as a fire lookout interpretive site. Elevation 8,834 ft. Ashley National Forest”

We then drove towards Sheep Creek Geological Loop in the Southwest corner of Flaming Gorge. This small loop travels through the Uinta Mountains, and was our last adventure in Utah. On the route, you can see the Uinta Fault and some really impressive rock structures that have resulted from the split.

A very interesting mountain we saw on our way to the Sheep Creek Geological Loop.
Tower Rock. This was my favorite rock structure we saw through the loop. I loved how the aspens were still in full fall color just beneath it!
The unexpected musk ox? we saw on our way out of the Sheep Creek loop. I think this was my first time ever seeing this animal. This large, shaggy, mammal can be a used as a type of livestock for some families; it produces wool, meat, horns, and pelts.
Another incredible view we saw of Eastern Utah, just before leaving the state.

On our way back North to Wyoming, I still had a few stops in mind that I hadn’t made it to yet. Between Rock Springs and Lander, we took some sketchy dirt roads and two tracks to find the Killpecker Sand Dunes, and Boar’s Tusk.

The giant sand dunes in Sweetwater County, WY. Nearby, there was a huge spot designated for overnight camping and parking. The dunes are a popular spot for ATVs and dirt bikes to traverse through, it sounded like so much fun!
Boar’s Tusk. This is the 400 foot core of a dormant volcano. It is made of an uncommon volcanic rock called lamproite, and dates back 2.5 million years ago.

I loved Utah, and luckily, this was just the start of our adventures in the state. A couple of weeks later, we went back to see the Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats. That will be in an upcoming blog post. 🙂 I have about three weeks left here, and am feeling the time crunch more and more. There are just not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on my list, and picking and choosing between sites is the hardest thing! I have become so thankful that Lander is so central though. It has really been a great, convenient location for all of our weekend adventures. Until next time. 🙂