A popular scenic destination along Utah Scenic Byway 12 that is often overlooked by mainstream tourists is the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. This destination is kind of a hidden gem, because it looks so tiny on a map that many people simply choose to let it pass by. Another reason why this State Park remains hidden in the background is because when petrified wood is mentioned, most folks automatically associate this topic with the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, which is world famous. The fact of the matter is the entire west was covered with inland oceans, vast lakes and wetlands in the prehistoric past, so there are many other places where petrified wood is part of the landscape and Escalante is a prime example!
What is in a name, does not always reflect upon all that a destination has to offer. When I first looked into the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park topic, the only mentions had to do with the petrified wood and the hiking trails in this place. It was not till I arrived that I found that this State Park also had a big lake. When considering that it was a day of record high temperatures when I visited Escalante, the cool refreshing lake water easily was the star of the show!
All of the access roads are paved, so even low ground clearance passenger cars are able to access the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. There is plenty of parking available in the main lot is next to the Petrified Forest Trailhead. The campground is located in a grove of cottonwood trees, so there is plenty of shade for lazing the day away. Boaters are in luck too, because the launch ramps are well maintained. The Wide Hollow Reservoir is a large body of water that is navigable with few hazards. For those who dream of splashing in cool water on a hot summer day, there are boat, raft, paddle board, kayak and canoe rentals available in the town of Escalante, which is only about a mile away.
The Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is located in the harsh Utah high desert environment, so it is best to take a few precautions, especially during the summer season. The average elevation in this region is well over a mile high, so it does take a little bit of adjustment to get used to the lack of oxygen. Staying extra hydrated, snacking and sitting down to catch the breath are the best ways to overcome high elevation dizziness, especially when tackling the steep hiking trails in this park.
The Wide Hollow Reservoir Lakes is surrounded by colorful eroded sandstone mountains, so the setting is as picturesque as can be! The beauty of the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park certainly is reason enough to place this destination high on the lifetime travel wish list. A cool refreshing lake and extensive hiking trails that run through ancient petrified forests provide plenty to do, so this State Park can easily become a basecamp for an extended stay. The Escalante Petrified Forest State Park definitely is a top Utah Scenic Byway 12 summertime destination for plenty of fun in the sun!
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