Utah 276 and 95: Lake Powell, Glen Canyon, Hite


As I neared the southern end of Notom-Bullfrog Road (this part is also known as Burr Trail), Lake Powell came into view in the distance.  Bullfrog Marina is located at one of the wider spots on Lake Powell, where the water is deep enough that a ferry can run south to Hall’s Crossing, even during drought conditions.

The final few miles of Notom-Bullfrog Road were paved, but lacked a center stripe.

I didn’t see any other vehicles as I drove down the ribbon of pavement, past some impressive cliffs and buttes.

When I reached the entrance to the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, I pulled up to the self-pay toll station and read all the instructions.  In order to visit the marina, you’re supposed to pay a $15 entrance fee.  The directions on the machine were confusing, but as best I could tell, people with a National Parks Annual Pass were supposed to pay the entrance fee, then request a written refund from the NPS.  That seemed like a tremendous hassle, especially since all I wanted to do was look at the lake for a minute.  I didn’t even know if the marina was open, since it was still early in the season.  So, I made a u-turn, and headed north on Route 276.

If you’re looking for the shortest way to Blanding, you’ll want to take the ferry.  Utah Route 276 resumes at the southern end of the crossing, and rejoins Utah Route 95 near Natural Bridges National Monument.  Backtracking up Route 276, then down Route 95, adds a lot of extra miles.  But, the ferry is expensive.  In addition to your entrance fee to Glen Canyon NRA, you’ll have to pay $5 per person and $20 for your vehicle to cross.  You can contact the Bullfrog Marina to confirm the fares and make sure the ferry is running: 435-684-7400.

Heading north on 276 may seem like a waste of time, until you realize that wasting time is exactly what you want to be doing out here.  Routes 276 and 95 travel past some remarkable scenery.  There’s always some rolling hills or a dramatic mountain in the distance.

The road dips and peaks as it tries to find a level, straight path through the Utah desert — but level and straight are two adjectives that don’t apply to anything around here.

As you near the end of Route 276 and the intersection with Route 95, you’ll spend some time gazing at the Henry Mountains.  The road divides the range into two sections; the mountains to the north are larger, with Mount Hillers (elevation 10,723 feet) being closest to the highway.  You might recall from theprevious page, the Henry Mountains could be seen in the distance, beyond the Waterpocket Fold and the Burr Switchbacks.

As soon as you make the turn onto Utah Route 95, the highway plunges into a canyon, and the road follows along North Wash.  Every turn reveals a new scene.

At Hog Springs, I found the first rest area since the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, and it was greatly needed.  Hey, I was still getting over the food poisoning from Las Vegas, 3 days earlier.  A drive through this lonely section of Utah was a pretty daring move!

Take the suspension bridge over North Wash to relax at one of several picnic tables…

… and enjoy the view up this side canyon.

Not far after Hog Springs…

the road passes a viewpoint of the northern end of Lake Powell, which looks more like the Colorado River and less like a lake.  Several years of drought have taken a lot of fun out of the Hite Marina area (if you look closely at the right side of the picture above, you can see the long boat launching ramp that ends hundreds of feet short of the water).  When I visited here in 2004, the drought had just begun.  In 2009, the water levels appeared almost identical.

Here’s a zoomed-in look at the boat ramp — high and dry.

Route 95 makes two river crossings here.  First, it passes over the Dirty Devil River, then, the Colorado (above).  The Colorado River bridge is the bigger and more impressive of the two.

On the way down to the crossings, you’ll have the chance to capture a picture that appears in plenty of Utah guide books and travel brochures.  Route 95 gracefully curves before it slices through a narrow passage.  Lake Powell is below, and in the distance, perfectly aligned with the slot in the rock, is the Colorado River Bridge.  I didn’t notice this picture-perfect scene when I passed through here in 2004, probably because I was traveling the opposite direction.

After passing over the Dirty Devil River…

…then the Colorado, I turned off at the road to Hite.

I drove to the end of the boat ramp, and looked back at the desolate outpost.  During my 2004 visit, the small store and gas station was open for business.  This time, it was closed.  I hadn’t passed a single open business since leaving my motel that morning, and my desire for a cold drink would have to wait several hours more.

Looking beyond the end of the concrete boat ramp, an unofficial dirt path continued down to the water’s edge.  Some boats still launch here, but its use is not endorsed by the park service.

Overcast skies took some of the stunning beauty out of Utah Route 95, as I continued southeast towards Blanding.  I did stop for pictures of Jacob’s Chair…

,,, and cheese box butte.

Because it was late in the day, I passed up an opportunity to visit Natural Bridges National Monument.  This park features three great land bridges, and is worth a stop if you have the time.  I visited Natural Bridges in 2004, so be sure to check it out!

Utah Route 95 goes all the way to Blanding, Utah, which is where I ended my day.  However, instead of taking Route 95 all the way, I detoured south on Route 261 to the Moki Dugway and Muley Point (on the next page).

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