Monday, December 23, 2013

Mill Canyon Road has Choices, Choices and a Dinosaur Trail Too.

Fifteen miles north of Moab, on Route 191, is the turn off for Mill Canyon Road; but this turn off offers a variety of hiking, bike and 4 wheel drive trails.  Then there are the sites to visit; the Dino Trail, Determination Towers, Tusher Tunnel, Merrimac and Monitor Buttes, Courthouse Rock.  Have I whetted your curiosity yet; are you ready to get into your 4 wheel drive and begin an adventure?  Yes, you will need a 4 wheel drive vehicle for this entire area, the roads are dirt, rock and sand; there are trails, however, for mountain bikers and they are marked. 

We discovered the area when we purchased our first SUV (used of course) and wanted to test out what it was capable of doing.  Mill Canyon Road and its surroundings are so diverse, we keep going back to see what we can discover next; or what did we miss doing before.  This is going to be a rather long posting, mainly photographic wise, so I can give you a decent taste of all that can be seen just by making a simple turn onto one road.  I think I'll start out with Tusher Tunnel.

The phrase, "into the great wide open" comes to mind when traveling out to Tusher Tunnel; that is what you'll find yourself surrounded by.   The road to Tusher Tunnel leads to a very sandy hill that we were just not willing to try out the day we were there.  Remember, we were still trying to get familiar with the SUV, and getting stuck was not on our agenda.   After reading up on the area though, I believe it won't be as bad as we imagined it would be; so we're going back once the weather gets warmer again.  This road also leads to the Merrimac and Monitor Buttes, but they can be easily viewed by Route 313, a paved road leading to Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands "Islands in the Sky".

Tusher Tunnel

Going back the way we came, we made the turn towards Mill Canyon itself; a split in the road left leads to Cotter Mine Road, a good view of Courthouse Rock, and Halfway Stage Station.  The ruins of the Halfway Stage Station are all that remain of the "rest stop" between Moab and Thompson Springs.

Courthouse Rock

Halfway Stage Station


If you take the Cotter Mine Road, you'll pass by the Sevenmile Rim and access to Determination Towers; whether you use a 4 wheel drive vehicle or an ATV, the trail to the Towers is rated "Difficult".

To the right of the split, Mill Canyon Road leads to a parking area and the Dino Trail.  Once again a sandy hill has to be traveled upwards, not as large as the one by Tusher Tunnel, but you're going to have to gun the engine and put the pedal to the metal to get up it; especially if you're driving a car (2 wheel drive vehicle).  After parking your vehicle, you'll have to walk the dirt and rock strewn trail which eventually leads you into a river bed and back up to the parking area.  It took us about an hour to examine each "dinosaur" finding, take photos and just enjoy the absolute beauty of the entire area.

The Dino Trail at Mill Canyon

Dinosaur Time!

Just a few photos to give you an idea of what you'll see along the trail...

Fossilized Wood

Once you get to the end of the Dino Trail, you'll have an excellent view of Determination Towers and Big Mesa.  Climbing around the boulders at the end of this section of the trail, we found a large one that resembles the skull of a dinosaur; it's easy to imagine these creatures walking past you as you look into the distance.

Determination Towers

Climbing downward into the dried out, sandy river bed; ruins from the Old Copper Mill will be across the bed. Turn to the left and follow the river bed back to the parking area and your vehicle. By the way, don't forget to bring water with you on this trek; it might not seem like a long walk, but the hot sun and dry air will dehydrate you before you know it.

Old Copper Mill

...and so ends one of our many travels onto Mill Canyon Road; still need to get to Tusher Tunnel itself and walk through it; maybe even travel all the way to the Buttes. Even though Roy and I make plans, we never know where we'll end up as we're always finding a distraction to investigate along the way.

Mary Cokenour

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