Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fremont Indian State Park, Utah - Camping, Hiking, and Biking

Roger and I discovered a hidden gem in the Utah State Park system over the 4th of July weekend.  We were looking for a camping and hiking trip that wasn't too far from Salt Lake City and wouldn't be too overcrowded on a holiday weekend.  We also wanted a location where we could watch some fireworks on Monday evening.  After a lot of searching, Fremont Indian State Park seemed to fit the bill.  We left Salt Lake City on Saturday morning, passed through Richfield a few hours later, and made our way over to Fremont Indian State Park.

Clear Creek running through Fremont Indian State Park

We stayed in the Castle Rock campground, a two mile drive from the park's visitor center, at the end of a gravel road.  The campground was beautiful and well maintained, and many of the sites were surround by trees and spectacular views of the surrounding rock formations.  It seemed like an oasis on the desert with Joe Lott Creek running through the center of the campground.  Our site was large, but a bit exposed, and it felt more like a parking lot.  We found a more secluded area for our tent and set it up just before a strong thunderstorm moved through.  The rain and hail came down hard for several minutes, and the air was filled with the smell of pine as needles were ripped from the surrounding trees.  After hunkering down in our tent for almost an hour, I emerged to find the ground covered in ice and fog shrouding our campground.

Our tent surrounded by hail at Fremont Indian State Park

Thankfully, the sun came out and quickly warmed the air, giving us a chance to hike around the campground and explore the castle-like rocks.  Later that evening, we joined a "scorpion walk" hosted by the state park.  After listening to a talk about scorpions in the Utah desert, we were given blacklights to look for the arachnids on a nearby hill.  Scorpions fluoresce under blacklights due to chemicals in their cuticle.  We saw several small scorpions before heading back to camp and calling it a day.

Castle Rock campground at Fremont Indian State Park
Exploring the Castle Rock campground
Dinner at Castle Rock campground
Sunset at Castle Rock campground
Scorpion fluorescing under blacklight at Fremont Indian State Park
On Sunday, we drove to the town of Sevier with our road bikes and found the trail head for the Candy Mountain Express bike trail.  The paved trail travels up the canyon, following the Sevier River, and offers great views the entire way.  The trail ends at Big Rock Candy Mountain, an interesting roadside attraction, and the entire round trip back to the trail head was only about 14 miles.  We intended to continue our ride after returning the to trail head, but more thunderstorms were brewing. We decided to return to Fremont Indian State Park and hike some of the short trails in the area for the afternoon.

Big Rock Candy Mountain Express bike trail
Big Rock Candy Mountain

We checked out the interesting visitor center museum while the thunderstorms passed.  As the weather cleared, we hiked a few of the looping trails that surround the visitor center.  While construction was occurring to build Interstate 70, the largest known Fremont Indian village was uncovered in the area.  Many of the surrounding rocks and cliffs contain pictographs and petroglyphs left by the Fremont Indians several hundred years ago.  The noise of cars and trucks from the interstate is hard to escape in the park, but it adds another level of human history to the canyon as a corridor for travel.

Petroglyph at Fremont Indian State Park
Petroglyphs at Fremont Indian State Park
Example of a wikiup at Fremont Indian State Park
Example of a pit-house at Fremont Indian State Park
Petroglyph at Fremont Indian State Park
On Monday, the 4th of July, we headed into Richfield to watch the town's parade before riding our bikes from Elsinore to Big Rock Candy Mountain and back.  We enjoyed some relaxation time back at camp before checking out the fireworks in Richfield later that evening.  For a small town, the fireworks display was spectacular, and many people were launching their own fireworks in the streets prior to the main show.  It was quite event in Richfield and a great way to spend the last evening of our trip.

Castle rocks
Birthday boy relaxing at camp
Castle rocks at Fremont Indian State Park

As we traveled back to Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning, we made a stop at historic Cove Fort.  It was  built by Mormon pioneers and founded in 1867 and served as a way station and stagecoach stop for people traveling between the towns of Fillmore and Beaver.  It's a great place to learn some interesting Mormon history and tour beautifully restored structure.

Cove Fort
Cove Fort
Peaceful surroundings of Cove Fort