OUT: Haggerty’s Hikes February 07, 2009


BILL HAGGERTY/The Daily Sentinel
FISHER TOWERS, which are 21 miles east of Moab, Utah, are the remnants of a 255-million-year-old flood plain deposit left when the Colorado Plateau was uplifted.

OK. This is NOT a joke. There’s now a directional sign at the parking area for the Fisher Towers Trail that points to the “Photo Area” ahead and the “Trail” to the right.

The Bureau of Land Management had to actually place a sign beneath one of the best known and most photographed geological structures in Utah — so people wouldn’t mistake the photo area from the trail.

Located off Utah Scenic Byway 128, 21 miles east of Moab, these spectacular spires are magnets for climbers, hikers, photographers, cinematographers, campers and anyone who loves the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau.

If you go here, pretend you don’t see the sign. Then, if you’re so directionally challenged that you cannot find the trail — or a photo area — take a photo from wherever you stand, get back in the car, turn on the GPS and navigate your way home.


These desert canyons are gorgeous, but they’re dangerous if you get lost.

Fisher Towers are isolated remnants of a 255-million-year-old flood plain deposit left when the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. Salt deposits underlying the region buckled and subsequent erosion caused the exposure of the towers. That erosion has shaped the tops of the towers into many wild and interesting gargoyle shapes.

At the top of the mesa, visitors have outstanding views of Fisher Towers, the red sandstone cliffs and spires of the Richardson Amphitheater, the badlands of Onion Creek Canyon, the Colorado River and the La Sal Mountains.

Fisher Towers is a popular destination for technical rock climbers seeking a challenge and, even though there are no directional signs, it’s a great place for photographers seeking that perfect scenic shot.

To reach this area, travel west on Interstate 70 to the first Cisco Exit in Utah, Exit 212. (If you miss that exit, go to Exit 202 and backtrack a little way.) Go through Utah’s latest boomtown, Cisco, and turn left (southeast) at the intersection to Highway 128. Stay on that bouncy highway and pay your respects to good ol’ Dewey Bridge as you cross the Colorado River.

Slow down a little here. It’s a very narrow and winding road next to the river, and it was still a bit icy in the shade the other day.

You’ll find a couple spots to pull over — one spot is even paved and slightly elevated for that perfect Fisher Towers Photo. You know the one — it’s the photo with the Colorado River in the foreground, Fisher Towers behind and the snowcapped La Sal Mountains looming in the background.

I missed it. Again.

Stay on the highway past Hittle Bottom until you approach mile marker 21. Turn left at the Fisher Towers sign and go 2.2 miles on an improved dirt road to the parking lot. Here, you’ll find a vault toilet, the trailhead and a sign making sure you don’t miss the photo area. (The “photo area” sign shows you the way to the trail so you don’t go wandering off. This canyon country is highly erosional, and some people need to be reminded and directed to stay on the trail.)

The road and lot sit within the BLM Fisher Towers Recreation Site. It features a small five-site campground suitable for tent camping ($10 per site per night).The trail begins at about 5,300 feet in elevation and gains 670 feet in a 2.2 mile ascent.

Its western exposure can be exceptionally hot on summer afternoons, but the sun and 50-degree heat felt great the other day.

Carry plenty of water, even at this time of year. Mountain bikes and motorized vehicles are not allowed.

The 4.4-mile round trip hike takes most people three to four hours. It follows a short set of steps on the opposite side of the parking lot from the camping area. It then runs to the left out onto a small slickrock ridge. Follow the ridge away from the main cliffs until just after it narrows, then go left down into the ravine through a small cut on the left side of the ridge.

From the bottom of the ravine, the trail heads up steeply and then begins to wind directly beneath the Towers. After swinging around the largest tower, a 910-foot behemoth called

“The Titan,” the trail ascends and ends on a ridge with a panoramic view.

This is an easy drive from Grand Junction, and you’ll certainly get an aerobic workout if you hike the trail. But make sure you take your camera and take photos anywhere you want.

The great thing about digital is that you can delete most of them.

As the sun shifts throughout the day, you’ll soon discover this whole place is just one big “Photo Area.”


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