Fall Carbon County ATV Tour
Let me start off this post by saying that not only did this tour far exceed my expectations, but the entire area did. If you hear Carbon County, most people immediately ask “what is there to even do there,” “where is that?” Then you mention “Price” which is on all the road signs when you head from SLC to Moab and you get a few nods.
WELL, time to change that.
I cannot believe I have lived so close (less than 1.5 hours!!) from such a beautiful place! Our tour was organized as part of the
FIRST ANNUAL CARBON COUNTY FALL JAMBOREE
ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE:
The tour includes both breakfast before the ride, and lunch halfway through, organized leaders who will make sure you stay on the right path/ don’t get too separated from the group, and are ok in case of emergency. Not too mention you are guided with some of the best HISTORY experts on the area. We learned so much about the history of coal mining in the area! And did I mention the cost of this was $25 for first person on a vehicle, and only $10 for passengers?!
**You do need your own or rent and haul in an ATV/ 4-wheeler/ QUAD/ whatever you want to call it
The tour was a full 8 hours and went up above 10,000 feet at Bruins Point passing old coal mine construction (more on that below) and incredible fall colors. Then it descended down Dry Canyon to 9-mile canyon (basically the red rock desert we all know and love) before climbing up Cottonwood Canyon to alpine plateaus with WILD HORSES and back down to the starting point. Basically THIS. PLACE. HAS. IT. ALL.
Map of the route we took.
We met at 8 for what has to be the best breakfast I’ve ever heard of : Breakfast Pizza! with coffee and orange juice. We picked up our swag bags which included genius buffs (but bring your own just in case!) as well as a map of the roads we’d be taking, an awesome Carbon County Patch, water bottle, and more info on the area. We had a brief safety debriefing/ information meeting with the leaders of the group and then loaded up.
THERE WERE 37 MACHINES/ &70 PEOPLE
It was awesome! I’ve never experience what it is like to ride in a biker gang, but I’m pretty sure it was similar to this. Everyone lined up, flags flying, ready to ride on a beautiful fall morning.
Oar Buckets on the 3.5 mile long cable way
We rode a ways up admiring the fall colors that were changing, some old ruins of homes (from the early 1900s) as well as gawking at still standing, original and unaltered, oar buckets on a cable line. The towers supporting the cables were all still standing, and by all appearances untouched by time.
Half way up the mountain, we stopped to keep the group together, admire a tower up close, and get a little history lesson. The cable line that ran between the towers was constructed in the 1920s and ran 3.5 miles each way, making the line a total of 7 miles altogether. At the time, this was the longest continuous cable in the US.
MORE ABOUT THE SUNNYSIDE COAL MINE
1. Coal mining in the area got its start in the area in 1883 with the introduction of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad company that needed coal for the trains.
2. Sunnyside started out as Whitmore Coal (in Whitmore canyon) in 1896.
3. The coal mined in the area was of good “coking” quality which means it was excellent for making steel. (by baking the coal in giant ovens, it forced out impurities leaving mostly Carbon behind) Giant coke ovens (650 of them) were created in the area to easily coke the coal before shipping it to areas in the Western US.
4. By 1909, the sunnyside mine was mining 3000 tons of coal/day and by 1914, furnishing nearly 300,000 tons of coke coal per day.
5. Unfortunately the the railroad and copper smelters that were the primary customers of the coke were switching to use of coal directly which made the Sunnyside mine less useful in the 1920s-30s. Luckily though, in 1942, Geneva Steel in Utah valley, and a steel manufacturer in California found plenty of use.
6. With the exception of the war years however, demand for coke was dropping off so the mine struggled. The ovens themselves operated until 1958 when they closed as well.
Pretty fall colors as far as the eye could see
We stopped once more to see the tower where the cable originates before really stopping at the summit, Bruins Point. Here we took a slightly longer break for bathrooms (in the woods, no toilet here) and views of the fall colors surrounding.
Katie and I on the summit!
Then back on our respective rides to drive a longer ways down into the desert?! All the sudden it went from fall woods, to red rock canyons.
TIPS TO HAVE THE BEST ATV ADVENTURE:
1. Wear layers! In the morning shade it was very chilly and at the top of the mountain all day it was windy and cold! Make sure you have a warm jacket/coat, and maybe a blanket to cover your legs!
2. On that same note, bring a good thermos to keep your hot drinks warm in the morning
3. IT WILL BE DUSTY. Don’t wear your Sunday best, make sure to wear sun glasses/ goggles, and have a buff or scarf to cover your nose and mouth when it gets real dusty.
4. Also on that note, bring some nice wet wipes or baby wipes to periodically clean the dust from your face and hands. It makes a huge difference.
5. Bring a map of the area! We were in a tour led group, but there were diverting roads and paths that without a leader or a map could get tricky!
6. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH GAS FOR YOUR JOURNEY
7. Bring a speaker for music, cool drinks for when it gets hots, and have a blast!
Stopping for another short re-group break. Amazing turn out for a first annual event!
Driving through what felt like the Grand Canyon!
Before I knew it, we were admiring our first look at the Indian rock art in the area (which hardly anyone gets to see as we had not yet made it to 9 mile canyon)
See the rock art?
A short time later we were at our lunch stop in the Daddy Canyon Complex where a pit toilet was available, short hiking trails, and picnic tables were located.
We had our packed lunches (good sandwich, apple, bag of chips, and small dessert) along with our chilled beverages from the cooler, and then went exploring during our 1 hour break. We walked back in along the canyon admiring so many more petroglyphs!
Taking my best guess at what some of the art means!
Taking a lunch break to go for a walk in the desert
ABOUT 9-MILE CANYON & THE ROCK ART
1. Wondering how 9-mile got it’s name? There’s a few stories out there, but the most likely comes down to when John Wesley Powell (ring a bell?) was exploring the Green River in 1869 ad used a nine mile transect for mapping the canyon.
2. 9-Mile Canyon was inhabited by native peoples for over 8,000 years with the most prolific artists of the area hailing from the Fremont people who lived in the area from 1100-1200 AD.
3. The canyon is often referred to as “The Longest Art Gallery in the World
as the entire canyon has amazing wall art in abundance.
3. Main points of interest include: An original homestead cabin at the cottonwood Glen Picnic Area, a Granary (ancient building walls) as well as a pit house, and tons of rock art. The most popular sites there are located around Balanced Rock and the Great Hunt Panel.
We had one more stop along 9-mile canyon to see the giant art of “The Great Hunt Panel.” A stop definitely worth checking out! In fact look around the corner to see a buffalo!
At this stop we were about half way through our tour and one of my new friends from the group, Boyd, offered me the chance to drive his side by side Polaris! Um YES! I was thrilled, so this backseat bystander transformed into a Motocross racer on a Side by Side.
We turned up Cottonwood Canyon which while still being mostly red rock, seemed a different sort of dessert and transformed into more open high alpine plateaus. It was up here that we were treated with the icing on the cake so to speak:
I’d always heard Utah was home to some wild horses, but had yet to see them with my own eyes. We started off spotting only 2 or 3 here and there before coming across the rest of the herd of around 20 horses, that all started running by.
At this point, my day couldn’t get much better but I guess I’d been impressing my ATV companion (with either my driving skills or chatting abilities.. I’m still not sure) and I was allowed to continue on driving. Needless to say, I’ve got a great new friend(s) from this experience!
Cottonwood Canyon eventually connected us back up to Bruins Point and we headed back down Spring Canyon past the old Oar buckets and finished where we’d started at Sunnyside park.
A whole lot dustier than we started, but grins on our faces that couldn’t be wiped off.
This was just the start of my discovery in Carbon County. More posts to come on hikes, historic towns, more ATV trails, and NBD: Stock Car Races. Stay tuned.
**Sorry for the China post interruption, wanted to get this info out while there was still time left in the Fall season to enjoy!
I lucked out with amazing friends with ATV’s but if you have neither the ATV or connections, here’s a few spots you can rent one from. (Keep in mind you need to be able to transport the ATV from Spanish Fork to East Carbon, about 50 miles as there is currently no rental spot in Carbon County.)
1. TRAX® PowerSports of Provo: 801-613-8729
- ATV (can fit 2 people) will run you $156-$195 per day depending on length of rental
- Side by side (2 people) is $196-$245 per day
- Side by side (4 people) is $220-$295 per day depending on model and length of rental
3. Toyitup Rentals in Spanish Fork: (801) 489-8697