Sunday, October 8, 2023

10/6 -10/8 - Camping and Off-Roading at Toroweap Overlook and Barracks Trail

As the weather got a little cooler in the day, it unlocked some of the lower altitudes trails that we don't normally enjoy doing during the summer. So, we put together a trip to do Toroweap Overlook into Barracks Trail. This itinerary is not new to me as I've done it multiple times; however, I've never completed Barracks Trail due to a large hill with deep sand that is very difficult to climb. So, this time, I decided that we would start on the South side of the trail so that we went down the big hill rather than attempt to climb up. Lou had been to Barracks before but hadn't been to Toroweap so I was excited to show him that awesome view. 

Day 1 - Friday
You need a permit to visit and camp at Toroweap and rule is that you have to pass the Ranger Station located a few miles before the rim before sunset. If you arrive after sunset then the gate will be closed and you'll have to drive the 60 miles back. So, I based all our planning on arriving at the gate 30 minutes before sunset to ensure that we would be allowed to pass with our permits. 

That meant that I departed Vegas around 12:15 on Friday leaving me plenty of time to pack up in the morning. I met up with our friends Alex and Lau who would be joining us on our adventure at the Valley of Fire gas station since the gas is cheaper. After initial hellos, we pushed out for the remaining 2+30 hours to meet up with Lou at the trailhead. For the 3rd trip in a row, Lou and the rest of the group arrived within 30 seconds of each other at the trailhead in accordance with the timeline, perfect! 

We were racing sunset so we aired down and got to it. Toroweap is about 60 miles with many turn offs but the trail is easy to follow. After a dusty 55 miles, we arrived at the gate that transitions between Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park land with about 20 minutes to spare before sundown. 

We met a nice couple in an older ranch truck coming out from Toroweap who were asking for directions. I pulled over to chat with them and after just a few sentences, the driver asked me if we needed any help. I didn't understand what he meant so I turned around and Alex had his hood up and was underneath his Xterra despite us stopping just 30 seconds prior! It turns out he blew his radiator hose thing that kept his A/C running. So he spent the rest of the trip with the window down....bummer....

Once we passed thru the gate, it was a short drive to the ranger station where he checked our permits and recommended we go to the group site that accommodates four vehicles. The nine other sites only accommodate two vehicles. Once we found our spot, we unpacked, admired the stars, and decided to call it an early night so we could hike to the overlook before sunrise the next day. 

Day 2 - Saturday
The next day we woke up early to do the short hike over to be in place before the sunrise. It was just our group and one other individual who also hiked over from the campground. It was awesome to essentially have the place to ourselves. Alex set up a time lapse video that I walked in front of many times. Sorry Alex! (Find more of his stuff here: Alex's IG )

After the sun came up, we hoofed it back to camp and had breakfast. Lou made some pancakes and after I remarked that I wanted a Mickey Mouse shaped pancake, he gave me a pancake that expressed what he thought of that idea. I ate it anyway and it was pretty good! Once we circled up to leave, we all decided to let Alex take the lead on the way out since he had to roll with his windows down and didn't want to get too much dust in the car. We had no further issues thankfully. 

Once back on pavement, we hit up Colorado City for a gas station and snacks at the Bee's Marketplace. The gas station was surprisingly nice and had a ton of pumps. It was clear that this was the only grocery store in the area and it was crowded. Would recommend! 

From there, we did the short drive still aired down to Barracks Trail. We decided to drive it South to North to ensure we went down the big sandhill rather than going up it. It was cool to be on the high side of the trail for the first time and see all the Elephant Buttes. They were pretty massive! I didn't know where the big sand hill was on the trail so I felt like we were on Splash Mountain just spiraling up approaching the big drop. After 2 hours, we arrived at the top while a group of ATVs were climbing it. That gave us a chance to get out and take a look. After they passed, down we went! I remembered a spot at the bottom that had a nice turn off into a dead end that I thought would be a great spot to camp so I directed our group to make a left at the bottom and find a spot by the flowing river. It was definitely one of the best camp spots we've stayed at.

Day 3 - Sunday
After sleeping like a baby along the babbling brook, we all got up to hang out for a bit. We had a lot of extra time this morning so no one was in a rush. We found a big log so Lou and I took turns getting our strongman on and doing log presses! It was fun and we got the blood flowing a bit.

Now that we got a good pump in, it was time to finish out Barracks Trail. This half of the trail was all the crossings of the Virgin River and although the river wasn't very high, the banks on either side were muddy. Lou had to break out the winch and help Lau through one section that was a bit deep. Other than that, we breezed through the trail. 

At the end of the trail is a big dirt parking lot right off the highway that is the spot to check out the Belly of the Dragon. We stopped here for lunch, to air up, and to walk through the cave. It was much cooler instead and was interesting to see! 

Once back in the cars, it was time for the journey home. Alex, Lau and I said bye to Lou since he was going the opposite direction. As we headed home, Alex radioed that he had to stop a few times to dose himself in water. Apparently it was getting a bit warm in the car. Other than that, a great time was had by all! 


1 comment:

  1. Woohoo for knocking another trail off the list! Completing Barracks trail in the opposite direction was a great idea! I really enjoyed seeing the Timelapse of the sunrise even if had a few photo bombers! Never knew lou was such had such a talent for breakfast art! Is any off-roading trip really complete without whipping out the winch? Sounds like fun times were had by all!