There are no maps, no signs and often no roads showing the round-about route from Vernal to Bryce Canyon over snowy ridgetops. Someday maybe. There's interest.
Travel adventures are luring snowmobilers away from play areas and familiar trails.Last week a dozen snowmobile riders took such a trip. They rode, in five days, from the outskirts of Vernal to the boundaries of Bryce.
All, said organizer Craig Cazier, president of the Utah Snowmobile Association, "To prove it could be done."
The route was as direct as the snow and terrain allowed, which sometimes wasn't direct at all. Part of the trip was over groomed trails, part was over unmarked and uncharted country, which added to the intrigue of the adventure.
On Monday, the group left the mouth of Dry Fork Canyon east of Vernal and rode on part of the Red Cloud Loop to Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Snow conditions required machines to be trailered part of the way to the Bear River Service on the Mirror Lake Highway.
On Tuesday, the party left Bear River Service and traveled along the Mirror Lake Highway to Soapstone Junction. From the junction they traveled south through Strawberry Valley to Strawberry Reservoir. Around the reservoir and in a southeastern line they arrive at Soldier Summit atop Spanish Fork Canyon.
On Wednesday, riders left Scofield Reservoir, south of the summit, and picked up Skyline Drive to the top of Fairview Canyon. Again, low snow conditions required that machines be trailered around Joe's Valley, normally a popular riding area, to Emphraim Canyon. From there riders headed south another 40 miles to 12-mile Canyon and Mayfield.
On Thursday, from Mayfield Canyon, the team headed south to Salina Canyon. A short trailer ride west put them at the mouth of Gooseberry. From there they headed south to Johnson Reservoir and then to Fish Lake.
On Friday, after trailering to Panguitch Lake, the ride was complete with a loop that connected Brian Head Ski Area, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Duck Creek and eventually Ruby's Inn on the outskirts of Bryce Canyon.
Five days . . . 542 miles on snow. Riding that was sometimes relaxed, sometimes tense . . . Over tails that were sometimes as smooth as a freeway, but other times nonexistant . . . On snow that was at times icy thin and at other times threateningly deep.
"Vernal to Bryce Canyon . . . it's a reality and it's a great ride," said Cazier at the conclusion.
"It's a new dimension to snowmobiling. Riding, then going into towns along the way for food, gas and lodging, and then back on the trail. You can do this in some places now. Someday we'd like to connect trails over the entire state. It would be something like we did here," he said.
"It would be a big boost to winter tourism. It would interest a lot of Utah riders, I know. Also, I get a lot of out-of-state people asking about destination snowmobiling. I know if we had the trail system they'd come. Utah has some of the best snowmobiling in the country."
Scott Behunin, off-highway program coordinator for the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, agreed that a state-wide connecting trail system is possible and that properly promoted could bring $35 million into Utah's economy annually . . . "And into areas that have little winter tourism now."
Destination snowmobiling is not new. In some areas of the country, including nearby Idaho and Montana, it's very popular.
In Utah there are stretches now that are convenient and accessible. For example, the stretch from Bear River Station to Strawberry or Soldier Summit. Groomed trails and signs guide rides most of the way. The only highway along the 121-mile stretch is U-40 through Daniels Canyon.
The section between Scofield and Fairview is also good riding and accessible, as are trail systems near Panguitch, Brian Head and Duck Creek.
Out-and-back rides can easily be made from any point along the route - Vernal, Price, Manti, Panguitch or Ruby's Inn.
Longer rides are possible with some planning.
Properly organized, pointed out Cazier, "there could be shuttles and pick-up services provided by the various communities. There's food, lodging, gas, and other activities in some of these towns."
Support groups made ride happen
The plan to link northern and southern Utah with a snowmobile ride was put into motion a year ago. Last week it was realized.
As important as the ride itself was in promoting Utah's winter riding, the the cooperation between various groups and agencies was as important, pointed out Craig Cazier, president of the Utah Snowmobile Association.
"Without the cooperation we couldn't have made the ride . . . without this cooperation snowmobiling wouldn't be at the level it is now," he said.
Those agencies include the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Parks and Recreation, travel regions along the trail, and user groups.
Twelve riders started the trip from Vernal to Bryce Canyon - Cazier; Clair Ward, USA vice president; Kevin Mauchley, USA secretary; Richard Clark, USA trail coordinator; Jim Henneck, USA program coordinator; John Cotton, manager Plaza Cycle; Dave Knapton, USA service coordinator; Scott Behunin, off-highway coordinator for the DPR; Doug Miller and Jack Bozarth, of KSL-TV; and Deseret News staffers Ray Grass and Ravell Call.
The trip took five days and covered 542 miles.
It also took help of the various USA snowmobile member clubs around the state and businesses, such as the restored Manti House in Manti, Beaver Dam Lodge in Panguitch Lake and Ruby's Inn at Bryce Canyon.
Because of the groundwork, pointed out Cazier, future rides of this kind will be made easier.