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Treasure chest: Utah is a cornucopia of exciting outdoor sites

Published: Wednesday, March 23 2011 6:30 p.m. MDT

This is also a popular area with rockhounders. A rough count shows there are approximately 30 semiprecious stones that can be found in the area that rockhounders are able to cut and polish. There is also a number of sites where early craftsmen chipped arrow and lance heads. There is also a number of caves that were used by the early Americans and can be explored.

In Beaver County, west of the town of Milford, along U-21 in the San Francisco Mountains, and what remains today of the town of Frisco. It once held a population of more than 4,000 people. Still standing are some of the kilns used in the processing of gold and silver.

The San Francisco Mountains also hold herds of wild horses that freely roam the area.

A few miles outside of the town of Beaver, along U.S. 153, next to the road, is a number of ice caves, some big enough to allow upward of three people to stand and be cooled. Early residents used to store their fresh game in the caves to cool before heading home.

In Carbon County: Range Creek Canyon is located behind the Book Cliffs near the Carbon-Emery county border approximately 130 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Concealed in this remote Utah canyon is a string of ancient Indian settlements that are remarkably well-preserved.

Archaeologists estimate as many as 250 households occupied this canyon. They left half-buried stone-and-mortar houses, arrow shafts, cob houses, granary caches and colorful figures painted on canyon walls.

In Wayne County: One of the rarely seen sights is Horseshoe Canyon, which is detached from Canyonlands National Park. The canyon is along the road leading into the Maze District. It holds one of the greatest galleries of early Indian rock art in the world. The canyon is about 30 miles inland over the Maze road, which is dirt. There is a parking area near the trailhead to the canyon, and primitive camping is permitted. The hike into the canyon is about six miles round-trip.

The Maze road also leads to some of the lesser-seen splendors within the park, such as the Doll House area, which overlooks the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers.

In Garfield County: Find the Waterpocket Fold, which is a landform that truly defines Capitol Reef National Park. The fold itself extends for roughly 100 miles and can be accessed by three routes within the park. One of the more noted landmarks is called Golden Throne. During the daytime, the sandstone give off a golden glow.

Visitors can also find a number of slot canyons in the county. Two of the most popular are Peak-A-Boo and Spooky Gulch. They are about a mile apart. Hike up one, cross over and hike down the second.

The canyons are very narrow in places with walls reaching up hundreds of feet that, at times, block out the sun. This is an area rich in very early history, too. Paleontologists searching near Cannonville found remains of a hadrosaur (duckbill dinosaur) whose skull is on display at the Utah Museum of Natural History.

In Box Elder County: Visitors will find the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Few people, however, realize the history of the section of old railroad grade from the monument to the town of Lucin near the Utah/Nevada border.

The railroad grade was built primarily by Chinese laborers who helped complete the transcontinental railroad. Along the way is a number of bridges, each with its own signature design. There is a couple of old-town sites that were strategically placed to provide comforts for the passengers and fuel and water for the trains. There is a dirt road alongside the grade that four-wheel vehicles can follow, first to Locomotive Springs and then to what was the town of Kelton and on to Lucin. From there, the road turns south to Wendover.

In Sevier County: There is the Paiute ATV Trail, which covers 260 miles and runs over three mountain ranges — Monroe Mountains, Pahvant Range and Tushar Mountains — and rises from a depth of 5,100 feet to a height of 12,000 feet.

What makes the loop so unique is its accessibility. There is a number of towns in the area that have access to the trail, which means people can actually leave the trail to spend a night, then return and resume the ride for a drive over new terrain.

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