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Utah Trail Ride Adventures - Hotel Rock Road

Grand Cherokee Downhill
Larry E. Heck | Writer
Posted October 1, 2008

Starting With A Trail, Ending With A Proposal

(Note: The names used in this story are CB handles.)

Lone Writer stepped out of the Ole Timer Steak House in Blanding, Utah, and paused to admire the clear blue sky towering above the snowcapped mountains to the West. His brother, Santa Anna, stepped up beside him and asked, "What are we doing this afternoon?"

Lone Writer smiled and rolled a toothpick from one side of his mouth to the other. "I was gonna ask you the same thing. I'm just a guest on this trip. Where's the trail boss?"

"Standing right behind you," Jelly Bean giggled, "and I'm appointing you as the official trail scout of the day."

A few minutes later, four vehicles turned onto Westwater Road and headed toward those snowcapped mountains in the Manti-La Sal National Forest. Westwater Road is a graded county road that steadily climbs in elevation on a westerly course out of Blanding. There are numerous scenic views that invite the driver to simply stop and stare for a few moments. Sometimes they even hop out and snap the camera a few times in hopes of taking some of the scenery home.

Lone Writer was a passenger in the lead vehicle driven by his son, Gadget. The next vehicle in line was a four-door Wrangler driven by Jelly Bean with D-Man in the passenger seat. Sundance and Sunshine were in the ZR2 with Happy Jack following behind in the green Ford.

A short distance after entering the National Forest, the group turned onto a side road toward Milk Ranch Point. A huge tree had fallen across the road and completely blocked it. Other travelers had driven off the road to get around the tree, but Lone Writer frowns on such behavior. Towstraps were dug out of the toolbox, wrapped around the tree, and tied to the back of the Wrangler. A few minutes later, the road was cleared.

It's a winding narrow road that quickly crosses out of the National Forest and onto BLM lands. It skims the sides of a mountain, dropping 1,600 feet in elevation on a direct course for Hotel Rock. The scenic views along that road are breathtaking. The road itself is plenty wide but would likely be very dangerous if wet.

Hotel Rock is about 10 miles from the main National Forest road. The road getting there is easy to follow except for the last 1/2 mile. At that point, numerous trails branch off from it, and many of them are well used due to others who went the wrong way. Hotel Rock is visible from some vantage points but hidden in the forest from others. The best way to find it is to key in the GPS coordinates and select roads that go in that direction.

For historians, the attraction to Hotel Rock is the many cliff dwellings nestled into the cracks of the massive formation. For avid four-wheelers, the attraction is the road between Hotel Rock and Comb Wash. That road drops another 1,200 feet in elevation, and it does so in such a manner as to offer the kind of challenges that are often referred to as extreme four-wheeling. Most travelers who visit Hotel Rock come in and go out by way of Comb Wash.

Happy Jack and Sundance were the two most familiar with the route to Comb Wash, so they took the lead. The trail is not difficult to follow, but those who have traveled it more often can travel faster because they already know which lines to take for their own vehicles.

After leaving Hotel Rock, the road became rocky and very difficult for the stock vehicles. The ZR2 and the Wrangler were stock; however, they both came factory equipped with traction-enhancing differentials. The Wrangler was the best equipped with the Rubicon package. The Grand Cherokee was stock except for a lift kit and oversize tires, but it also had factory-equipped lockers that gave it capabilities most stock vehicles do not have. Gadget and Jelly Bean had never had their vehicles on a trail with the challenges they faced on that day. Both received on-the-trail training from Lone Writer and Happy Jack.

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