The kids and I returned to the Book Cliffs on Saturday to finish something we started more than seven years ago. In late 2006 we hiked a small portion of an old pack trail leading up through the Book Cliffs. The trail became too steep and rough for the kids, then ages 3 and 5, and on the way down we had an encounter with an unsavory character which soured the entire trip. Now, both myself and the kids are fitter and stronger and I wasn’t expecting to have any difficulties. After some highway driving and a few miles of bumping down a dirt road in the same old Ford pickup, we reached the bottom of the trail and began our hike. The first quarter of the trail is fairly well discernible, albeit somewhat steep and rocky. Along that section we stopped for some rephotography, duplicating photos that I’d taken during our first hike.
We got to our previous turn-around point where the trail drops through a small saddle of clay soil. The trail briefly ascended the smooth section of clay before becoming completely lost in rocks and boulders. We zig-zagged our way up through the rugged terrain while approaching an impossible-looking cliff band. Even from just below the cliffs they look impenetrable, but once directly at the base of the cliff band one can see a gap caused by a fault that slipped vertically.
Beyond the cliff gap there was one more steep and rocky climb with very little sign of a trail. We slowly climbed until we’d gained enough elevation to traverse sideways again, putting us at the top of the Book Cliffs in a valley that leads to Little Park Wash.
We rested at the top, had a snack, and explored a little bit. Michael and Bradley felt accomplished in having made it to the top, but neither was willing to continue hiking an extra half-mile to Little Park Wash. We started back down the trail, and what had taken us an hour and a half to ascend took only 35 minutes to descend.
During the drive back to the highway I parked the truck and took a short walk over to what appeared to be a collapsed cabin that I’d spotted in Google Earth. Sure enough, there were timbers on the ground and a lot of old trash. Wood, barbed wire, bottles, and even railroad spikes littered the ground. I’d guess it was an old cow or sheep camp that was in use during the 50s or 60s. I took one last glimpse at the Book Cliffs before turning north onto the pavement and heading home. The mountains weren’t as beautiful as the last time I’d seen them from this vantage point, but this time I left feeling much more satisfied.
GPS Tracklog and Photo Waypoints (Google Earth .KMZ Format)
GPS Tracklog and Photo Waypoints (Google Maps)
3 thoughts on “Book Cliffs Trail”
A most excellent adventure! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much Dennis! It is amazing to see how much the boys have grown since their first attempt. The trail has certainly deteriorated since my story was written but the view from the top is still just as humbling. How about if I post the story and the original picture of the trail as it existed with Budge, Don and Waldo Wilcox with their pack mules on the trail?
I would love to see you post your story and photos of the Wilcox pack train. On Saturday when I was standing in the same place as the mule train photo was taken, I was in awe. I heard that the 1988 earthquake is what really did a number on the trail–the section near the gap in the cliffs took a hard hit and is now covered by more boulders and rocks.