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New BLM Monuments and Conservation Areas – July 2019


  • July 4-7th, 2019
  • 1723 miles driven

Primary stops

  • Pizza and beers at the hotel pool with Scott & Carey in Moab
  • Jurassic National Monument (Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry)
  • John Wesley Powell NCA
  • Dinosaur National Monument
    • McKee Spring petroglyphs
    • Island Park
  • Cañon Pintado National Historic District
    • Waving Hands
    • Kokopelli
    • White Birds
    • Cow Canyon
  • McInnis Canyons NCA
  • 4 craft breweries:
    • Suds Bros (Grand Junction)
    • Copper Club (Grand Junction)
    • Smuggler (Telluride)
    • WildEdge Brewing Collective (Cortez)
  • Atomic Legacy Cabin in Grand Junction
  • Grand Mesa National Forest
  • Gunnison Gorge NCA
  • camping at Mesa Verde NP
  • quick stops at Navajo NM (fail) & Montezuma Castle NM (success!) to purchase a new America the Beautiful pass

A bit about the trip

The truth is that neither of us really wanted to do this trip.

Since it was a four day weekend that we had targeted months ago as an opportunity to mark off two recently designated National Conservation Lands units, we had put it on the calendar and started to sketch out a trip. With an important surgery for my dad looking likely for July 5th, we promptly canceled and stopped planning anything out. As things turned out, the procedure was postponed right before we left for our Alaska trip, making the time available again. Returning victorious from that amazing trip, we had a scant three days to unpack and unwind—and plan and prepare—for this latest trip.

There were plenty of reasons why we just didn’t really want to go:

  • We were already exhausted from the Alaska trip
  • We weren’t excited about any of the primary destinations
  • We’d need to drive at least 7+ hrs every single day
  • We had no reservations on a busy holiday weekend
  • It’d be hot every day, and it wouldn’t cool off until well after we’d need to be asleep in the tent
  • Jen was fighting off a cold

But I’m glad we did.

As I plotted out the trip the night before we left, I used a couple free hotel night stays we had collected for the first couple nights. That’d take care of some of the concerns mentioned above. In addition, it’d allow us to hang out with some friends in Moab the first night, giving us a chance to ease into the trip. We would need to camp the last night, but could rely on finding a campsite at Mesa Verde that’d be cool enough to actually get some sleep. And since we didn’t need to reserve it, we could be flexible that day if we needed to be.

In the end, the trip worked out great—save for Jen’s cold, at least. Not only did we make some important progress on some quests we have, but some of the destinations we visited (such as the Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry) were quite pleasant surprises. And the driving wasn’t nearly as bad as it had seemed on paper; the worst day of driving turned out to be almost 3 hours shorter than Google Maps had led us to believe, turning 10.5 hours into a far more manageable 7. It also didn’t hurt that many of the drives were quite scenic, so we pulled over numerous times to snap a photo or otherwise enjoy the view.

Importantly, we also managed to add in some additional areas we had long wanted to investigate. The Grand Mesa area, for instance, was gorgeous and lived up to the billing of friends. And a few stops at sites in the Cañon Pintado National Historic District helped to break up what would have been a quite long drive. We also managed to add in a few breweries, too.

All in all, this trip reminded us why it’s important to just go and do the trip.

A small photo album from the trip

I haven’t had time to post all the photos from the trip, but here’s a small album in Google Photos.