Interstate 70: The Desert, Utah, the San Rafael Swell and the San Rafael Reef



I am partial to the desert.   That wide expanse of nothing, really an illusion.  Because everything you want is in the desert if you know where to find it.  If you can sit still long enough, the desert will reveal its secrets and the rhythm of its life: slow, quiet, spare.  But there is life.

Both my husband and I are happy in the desert, whether it be the beauty of the high desert full of Joshua Trees, the scrubby Mojave, or a desert of dunes.  But there is no place quite like the high desert that runs through Utah and the Western Slope of Colorado.

vista with trees

Interstate 70 through Utah is almost indescribable.  A stretch called the San Rafael Swell and the San Rafael Reef is our favorite road, at least of the roads we’ve discovered so far.  There are many pull-outs and we stop at each one and marvel.  How can there be spaces so vast with such spare beauty?

san rafael reef sign

The San Rafael Reef


What a magic place to drive.  And it’s never crowded.

My daughter lives in Paonia, CO, and when we drive, we always take this route.  The skies are always spectaular, whether blue or cloudy.

something and clouds

road between mtns

san rafael swell sign

I hope you’ll be able to read these signs to get some of the geologic background.  A good site to read more is here.

vista after nobody wanted

place nobody wanted

No one wanted this territory, and at one time no one wanted the Mormons.  After being chased out of several states, they settled in Utah.  In my opinion, they got the best deal because this inhospitable, desolate country is some of the most beautiful in existence.

Three National Parks can be accessed from I70 – Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef.  Never heard of Capitol Reef?  Neither had we, but we saw a sign, turned, and were wowed.

vista after tree

It seems like I’d posted on I70 previously but I couldn’t locate it.  It may have been deleted during my “technical difficulties” episode.  So I’ll just enter some more photos for you to enjoy quietly, which is how the desert should be enjoyed.

like canyonlands

deep canyon

vista after outlaw

like monitor

poop mtn

Certainly the best time to visit these areas is Spring or Fall.  But we went in July!  It was hot, but that’s the time we had, and with lots of water and an air-conditioned car anything is doable.

outlaw country

If you need to disappear, there is no place better than these inaccessible canyons.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did some of their hiding out here.


more canyon

Right now, I’m at Pismo Beach in the Kon Tiki Inn.  This is one of my favorite places to come to relax and just think.  The desert is another good thinking place.  In fact, it’s a quieter thinking place.  Sometimes at the beach, I want to turn the ocean off.  I have to close the door instead because it never stops!  As much as I like the ocean, the desert is a more spiritual experience.

In my art gallery, you’ll spot many snippits of desert worked into collages.  And in the photo galleries, you’ll see many other desert photographs as well as Pismo.  Don’t forget that these photos can be purchased in various sizes.  The original art can be purchased also.

road clouds

Next time you take a road trip, give some thought to Interstate 70 through Utah and stop at the National Parks.  The author Byrd Baylor has some wonderful children’s poetry books about the desert.  I find them profound enough for adults, but we all find in a book what we seek based upon our own experiences.

3 Responses to “Interstate 70: The Desert, Utah, the San Rafael Swell and the San Rafael Reef”

  1. TerryTelford says:

    Road trip? YES!! Thanks for the beautiful images–I’ve never had the pleasure of taking I-70 but I am putting it on my list!

    I love reading your blog Susan–I always find something interesting & learn something new! Keep it up! 🙂

  2. […] problem I have is the inability to pick just one of anything.  So one terrific car ride was I70 through Utah with dear friend Michael Purcell.  Another was a drive to Fossil Falls, although that was a […]

  3. […] background photo for this collage is a stop along Interstate I70 – and the giraffe I actually took eons ago at the Santa Barbara Zoo.  I found this photo during the […]

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