Aware of AZ’s Vermilion Cliffs National Monument?

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geologic structure between two monoclines rising 1,500 feet with many colored layers of shale and sandstone in northern Arizona. John Wesley Powell first named these cliffs in 1869 while he was on the Colorado River exploring the Grand Canyon. It was not till November 9, 2000 though when the monument was established with the National Landscape Conservation System mission: “to conserve, protect, and restore our nation’s natural treasures for present and future generations”.

Vermilion Cliffs

We drove a dirt road, House Rock, to the condor viewing site. The condor breeding facility is in California with the condors being released here each year. There was no condor activity during our visit at this site. Condors were sighted at Navajo Bridge. We fortunately discovered there are more places to explore down this road the next time we visit here. See the map below with the West Bench Pueblo stop, Maze Rock Art site, and various trailheads … one of them being where the 800 mile Arizona Trail (from Mexico to Utah through Arizona) ends.

Places to visit in the area.

I loved this sign showing the size of the condor wingspan: 9.5 feet compared with other birds of prey. The following photo shows how the range of condors has diminished.

Condor wingspan, wow!
Condor range had diminished.

As you drive the road between Navajo Bridge and Jacob’s Lake in northern Arizona, it is the only paved road across 2.8 million acres of public land. There are 4,000 miles of unpaved roads that necessitate use of a high-clearance vehicle. Take time to plan your adventure as this is remote backcountry terrain with no services or cell phone signals. Be prepared!

A personal experience:

Years ago, I experienced this wilderness area while on a 3 night backpacking trip through the Paria Canyon. We started our hike a day later than our original departure plan due to heavy rains in Cedar City, Utah. Those rain waters would have flooded the deep slot canyon the next day and we would have had no escape. A couple of important points: have a permit to enter this area and know what weather is predicted for a couple of days before and also during your hike in the canyon. Do not get caught in a deep slot canyon with water roaring through and at you! Please do your homework and understand what you are planning to accomplish … be prepared … this is a wilderness area! 

Rocky Mountain Beeplant in Vermilion Cliff area

Heading Home & Reflections on the Trip

My trip home the final 2 days of travel included many, many miles of Interstate 25 with very little vehicular traffic, then more miles on Interstate 40 with all kinds of trucks, trailers and cars. I stopped at El Malpais National Monument in Grants, New Mexico. There are many trails to hike in this area where 5 different lava flows came through thousands of years ago. The scenery was spectacular! So was the Western diamondback rattlesnake casually crossing the road! Fortunately I never saw one on a trail!

La Ventana Natural Arch
Sandstone Bluffs Overlook
Western Diamondback rattlesnake

As I think about this trip….

Happiness is within me when I can enjoy adventures in nature. It is as though my brain lights up, my heart lifts up, and my eyes see anew. As a past backpacker with years having escaped to the Adirondack Mountains and now as a hiker with my van travel, I enjoy being outdoors 24/7. I see more sunrises, more sunsets, many dark skies, live very simply within natural elements and love to discover and/or learn while having no distractions with the mundane everyday living I get caught up in when home. My ultimate goal: to enjoy this season of retirement for as long as I am able to move and appreciate the wonder around me.

My adventure included: two new national parks for me: Olympic and Great Sand Dunes. I stopped at numerous state parks, and two national monuments: Colorado National Monument and El Malpais. Although not a birding trip, I did see 10 new birds! I had fun bicycling on 5 different occasions and even floated in a pontoon boat on Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho! I met friends along the way, saw spectacular scenery, talked with a variety of fellow travelers and listened to 5 audiobooks, NPR, BBC and music. There was very little rain to contend with. However, wildfire smoke was through eastern WA, MT, ID, and UT at different times during my travel, but never anything to cause me to detour from my original travel plan.

Although I know I will return to daily living at home, I also know there will breaks away from it. Travel allows me to do that. Having an understanding partner in life helps tremendously too. While the pandemic has been a hamper, it has not stopped me from enjoying the outdoors in the United States, a wonderful place to explore! I hope to include international travel again! For now, I head home and cannot wait to enjoy those homey comforts of life too with my partner! Please pour me a glass of wine!

Final sunset for this trip … Love it!