Utah ATV Trails – Capitol Reef Region
A Good ATV Day with Red & Ray
A few days ago I was sitting in a local diner eating a delicious cheese omelet, hash-browns, and wheat toast for breakfast. My orange juice was getting low as I heard a couple of guys sit down in the booth behind me. They commenced to talk and from time to time I heard the words ATV and trails escape their lips. I finished my breakfast, paid my bill and wandered past the booth where these two men were finishing their own plates. “I heard you two talking about ATV’s and was curious if you are here riding trails,” I said to them. We struck up a conversation and soon I was sitting in their booth talking about all the great ATV trails there are to ride in this region just west of Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park.
I learned that Red is 83 years old and had been invited by his brother-in-law Ray to get away from his home in Auburn, Wyoming and spend a few days riding ATV’s in the Boulder and Thousand Lakes mountains. At the spry age of 75 Ray hailed from American Fork, Utah and has spent the better part of 20 years working and adventuring in southern Utah. It wasn’t long before we agreed to get out and ride together that morning. I had my ATV in the back of my truck and their ATV’s were just down the street.
Ray (left) and Red (right) pose along the trail.
In a few minutes we were at the trail-head for the Velvet Ridges and Hell’s Hole, just on the northeast end of the town of Bicknell, Utah. Following a twisting trail, we climbed quickly as a rich blue sky greeted us along with a dramatic section of ash grey and burgundy red hills of clay. Higher above rose a long section of sandstone cliffs that glowed in the morning sun. We wore light jackets and gloves with morning temperatures in the mid 60’s and not a hint of a breeze. One thing about an ATV is it is the great equalizer when it comes to exploring, and Ray, Red, and I easily kept pace with each other.
A view from the Velvet Ridge plateau to the Fremont River below.
Our first stop was at an overlook along the Velvet Ridges where we could see the famous Fremont River winding through a lush valley below, and the pine forested Boulder Mountain to the south rising to over 11,000 feet. To the east we could see toward Torrey, Utah and beyond to the Henry Mountains. Further along the trail we came to an open area along the Velvet Ridges ideal for an ATV playground. We climbed to the crest of one multi-colored clay hill and rode the ridges for a short way before swinging north toward a raveen.
Ray crossed a stream along the trail to Hell’s Hole.
Crossing through a dry wash we circled around the end of a section of sandstone cliffs and made our way back into a long box canyon. The sandstone cliffs quickly rose vertically on both sides as we pushed along a sandy trail and down through a shallow river crossing. The soft-sand trail ahead allowed us to pick up some speed until we encountered a series of steep inclines.
Hell’s Hole in the back of a box canyon above Torrey and Bicknell, Utah
As we crested the last of these ridges the Hell’s Hole section in the back of the box canyon opened to our view. Dramatic white and red sandstone formations laid out before us in a wide semi-circle. We paused here for a while as I took some photographs. Some leaves were already taking on their fall colors as a light breeze caused them to flutter by the thousands. The canyon seemed to be the ideal place for Native Americans to have lived in ancient times. Further north we could see the rim of Thousand Lakes Mountain but this was our turning point for this trail.
This is just one of a myriad of possible trails in the Capitol Reef region of Utah, but this truly was the beginning of another good day thanks to my ATV adventure with Red and Ray.
Note: This trail can also be accessed from Torrey, Utah. Click on the images in this blog post to see a larger view. View the following video on ATV riding in the region west of Capitol Reef National Park.