President’s Day Weekend | Friday – Monday, February 15-18, 2019
The plans for this extended weekend trip began way back in August of last year when I purchased tickets to see Bring Me The Horizon at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Bring Me The Horizon is one of our favorite bands and we were looking forward to seeing them again since the last time we saw them was in 2017, also in Las Vegas. The concert was on Saturday evening and Monday was President’s Day, so we took Friday off from work to have a four-day weekend that we could spend exploring new parts of the Mojave Desert between St. George and Las Vegas. The plan was to spend some time around southwestern Utah and Gold Butte National Monument on our way to Las Vegas and then spend the day after the concert hiking in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
At first I was thinking about leaving after work on Thursday, but a big storm that dropped a lot of rain was moving through the area that evening so we decided to leave early on Friday morning instead. We left bright and early on Friday and ended up driving through long patches of thick fog on I-70 until the highway climbed up through the San Rafael Reef and finally got up above the low clouds. Of course, I had to stop and take a couple photos of the fog behind us from the side of the highway shortly before the sun came up. When I got out of the Jeep to take the photos I found out just how icy the pavement was, too! The dense fog really slowed down the beginning of our drive and then the ice and snow on the road across the top of the San Rafael Swell didn’t help speed it up, either.
The San Rafael Reef engulfed in low clouds shortly before sunrise.
Looking back over I-70 to the Gunnison Valley filled with fog. If we didn’t have a long drive ahead of us it would have been nice to have hiked up to the top of the San Rafael Reef for a better view!
We stopped at this snow-covered overlook of Eagle Canyon near the Moore exit after sunrise.
After a longer drive than I had anticipated we finally reached St. George in the early afternoon. We had a quick lunch in town and then we needed to stretch our legs after being in the Jeep for a couple of hours, so we set off to find a few petroglyphs.
This large boulder covered in petroglyphs was certainly the highlight of the day!
A closer look at some of the petroglyphs on the boulder.
This bird was found on a different boulder nearby.
There were a number of other smaller boulders that had petroglyphs pecked into them in this area.
Next, I had hoped to visit another small alcove with petroglyphs that wasn’t too far away, but heavy rain from the recent storms had washed out some roads in the area and we were unable to drive close enough to the site to hike to it today, so we will have to save that one for another trip. Instead, we headed over to check out the petroglyphs at Anasazi Ridge since Diane had never been there before and I wanted to revisit them.
It was during this time that we learned that the Bring Me The Horizon concert was cancelled because the vocalist had injured one of his vocal cords. This really sucked since we had been looking forward to this concert for over six months and had made these plans around the show (including a hotel reservation in Vegas that we couldn’t cancel), but there was nothing we could do, so we had to look at the bright side and planned to spend more time hiking and exploring Gold Butte National Monument instead!
The Alien and the Red Mountains from Anasazi Ridge.
A different view of one of my favorite panels in the area.
Big Sheep and nice clouds.
Hiking back to the trailhead along the Anasazi Ridge Trail with the Red Mountains in the distance.
It was starting to get late by the time we reached the Jeep after visiting the petroglyphs, but I thought we might have just enough time to get over to Yant Flat for sunset, so we headed straight there. I had visited Yant Flat once back in 2013 during the day but was unable to stick around for a sunset or sunrise, so I have wanted to do that ever since. Thankfully, we made it out to the Candy Cliffs just in time to watch and photograph a beautiful sunset from the colorful sandstone found there!
There was plenty of water from the recent rain and the potholes were all filled to the brim!
Touch of Light
Sandstone & Clouds
Yant Flat Sunstar
End of the Day
After the light was gone we hiked back to my Jeep in the dark and drove back to St. George for dinner before continuing on through the Virgin River Gorge to Mesquite where I had a room booked for the night at the Virgin River Hotel & Casino. We checked in, found our room and then went right to bed early since it had been a long day on the road.
On Saturday morning we slept in a little later than normal, grabbed some breakfast and then headed south into Gold Butte National Monument. Originally, we had planned to do a quick hike this morning before continuing on to Las Vegas for the concert, but since the concert had been cancelled we had more time to spend the rest of the day exploring the area.
A sunstar through a Joshua Tree along the trail.
Our first stop was at the impressive Kohta Circus petroglyph panel. I had visited this panel on my way to Death Valley in 2013, but I forgot how nice it really was in person!
There was also plenty of colorful sandstone in the area to photograph.
Deer & Sheep
We climbed up for a closer look at some of the higher panels in the area.
I liked the colorful sandstone behind this simple petroglyph of a sheep.
The sun peeking over the cliffs above us.
While exploring the area more thoroughly than I had on my last visit we came across these tanks of water and the reflected light was looking nice.
The bright yellow sandstone was looking good, too.
Next up we headed over to Kirk’s Grotto to see the petroglyphs there and explore the short slots.
Entering the grotto…
A dark passage at the end of the little slot canyon.
Petroglyphs in the dark.
A couple old petroglyphs found on the ground.
We spent a little time walking around Little Finland (Devil’s Fire) before calling it a day and heading to Las Vegas for the night.
After leaving Little Finland we headed back to the interstate and drove into Las Vegas to spend the night since we had a room booked that we couldn’t cancel. We didn’t feel like going out on the town so we ordered a pizza and stayed in for the night. It was a nice relaxing evening.
On Sunday morning we got up early, checked out of our hotel and made our way over to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area so we could avoid any traffic in town and get a parking spot at the trailhead which would certainly be busy on a Sunday. This morning we would be going on a longer hike to find some rock art in the La Madre Mountain Wilderness that I had hoped to visit when I was here for my wedding almost two years ago, but unfortunately I was unable to find the time to do it back then. When we arrived at the trailhead we found a thin layer of snow on the ground and it looked like there was plenty of snow in the mountains that we would be crossing over, so we packed our microspikes just in case, although we ended up not needing to use them.
We spent most of the morning hiking through snow that was around 2-3 inches deep, although it did melt off at lower elevations later in the morning.
Looking back to the Sandstone Bluffs of the Spring Mountains.
The higher elevations in the park were a winter wonderland!
Hiking through the snow-covered narrows.
Crossing over an unnamed pass into the drainage on the other side.
The summit of La Madre Mountain (8,154) above us.
Snow On Stone
Eventually we found the alcove containing the colorful pictographs that we were looking for! They were pretty nice!
Then we spent some time searching for other petroglyph panels in the canyon.
On our way back we were treated to amazing views as low clouds moved into the surrounding mountains. As we crossed back over the pass it even began to snow on us for a while.
Diane hikes ahead of me as we near the trailhead with rain and snow moving into the area.
I was right about the trailhead being busy on a Sunday, because there were a lot of people around when we returned! We finished driving around the Scenic Drive loop to exit the park and then headed back to St. George for the night. On our way back through Las Vegas we would drive through a few small snow showers which is kind of rare for the area.
We made a quick visit to the Little Black Mountain Petroglyph Site on the Arizona Strip and watched as another storm moved into the area. We had originally planned to camp out here for the night, but after checking the weather forecast and seeing that another large storm system was moving into the area bringing more snow, we decided to book a room at a hotel in St. George instead.
Curly-horned sheep petroglyphs near Little Black Mountain.
When we woke up on Monday morning we found that it had been snowing for much of the night and there were a couple of inches on the ground. We were glad to have skipped camping that night! I had hoped to go for one more hike in Snow Canyon State Park before heading home but the snow was still coming down and I figured it would be better to just start driving home since it might take us longer. Things may not have gone exactly as planned this weekend, but we still had a great time in the Mojave!