Trail guide Larry Bailey of...
Trail guide Larry Bailey of Olathe, Kansas, gives hand signals along the 6-mile-long Arch Canyon road trail.
On the second day, Adam and I parked our Liberty and jumped in with Jeep Jamboree guide Rick Sparks for the Hotel Rock trail. This 9-rated trail ascends into the high country and winds upward over rockfaces on the way to Hotel Rock, the summer hunting grounds of the prehistoric Native Americans known for the construction style of their dwellings and their distinctive pottery. Here, there are bountiful pinyon pines that produce the nut harvested each summer by the Pueblo hunter-gathers.
Although shorter than the Arch Canyon trail, this 4WD track requires low range and is best completed with experienced guides and a vehicle with lockers and towhooks in the event that you high-center or need a tug up and over some of the steep rock ledges. Shortly after the start of the trail, the driving becomes fun and technical and offers panoramic vistas of the canyon and the surrounding countryside. There are a number of lookout spots, but the best is at Hotel Rock, where cliff dwellings were built into the lower layers of the rockface, and you can see interior rooms with mud-plastered walls. You can even see the hand imprints of the Anasazi natives who crafted these structures more than 1,000 years ago. From here, you can see for hundreds of miles, with a backdrop of the snow-covered ranges of the Abajos and La Sals.
Arch Canyon Jeep Jamboree...
Arch Canyon Jeep Jamboree participants get up close and personal with the ancient ruins of the Pueblo Native Americans, also known as the Anasazi.
The highlight of Hotel Rock is the angular, steep rockface that has received a number of monikers over the years, including "The Hill," "S.O.B. Hill," and "Bo Derek Hill" (because it is "a perfect 10"). This rough rockface is the most challenging obstacle on the trail, and not surprisingly, gives you one experience when ascending and a completely different experience when descending, which typically makes it difficult to keep all four rubber contact patches on the rock!
At the end of the day, as we sat around the Cottonwood campground fire ring, it was easy to understand why the Ancient Ones made this beautiful location their home. It was also easy to understand why many consider the pair of Arch Canyon trails some of the best with the most scenic and historic four-wheeling in the country. It was fun to wax poetic about what it might have been like to have lived here during the period it was inhabited by the prehistoric Native Americans. But it was even more enjoyable to say a quick thanks to trail organizer Chris Timmes, of Littleton, Colorado, and his crew; to sup on charbroiled steaks and halibut flown in from Alaska that was prepared by Scott Laws and his staff of the local Lamplight Restaurant; and head to our motel-room beds in Blanding, the "Base Camp to Adventure."