Flickr album link: Nine Mile Canyon To Cold Spring WMA
A good way to maximize the viewing experience when touring backcountry destinations is to seek an alternate way back to civilization, so the same road is not traveled twice. Often this method leads to touring a completely different environment that offers fascinating landscapes to gaze upon. The choice of vehicle can determine the options for taking on an alternate route way out in the boonies, since the less traveled dirt roads can be in rough condition. As can be imagined, a high ground clearance vehicle or a 4x4 will present more opportunities to take a different way back home and still arrive in one piece. A rugged vehicle is the best choice for tackling the dirt roads out of Nine Mile Canyon through the high elevations of the Book Cliffs region all the way to the town of East Carbon near US Highway 191.
Now that mapping systems have greatly improved in recent years, it is relatively easy to plot a point to point trip from Nine Mile Canyon through the Book Cliffs to Cold Springs and East Carbon. However, this all must be done ahead of time, because there are no cellular data signals in this region. There is minimal roadside directional signage along the dirt roads heading southwest from Nine Mile Canyon and there are a few forks, so plotting the overland course ahead of time will prevent taking a wrong turn that can result in running low on fuel. Fuel management is critical for trips to and from Nine Mile Canyon, since the gas stations are few and far between in this part of Utah.
From Nine Mile Canyon, Cottonwood Canyon Road heads southwest through the mountains to Cold Spring Draw Road, which eventually connects with Bruin Point Road to East Carbon. This 35+ mile dirt road trip is fairly easy going with a high ground clearance vehicle and there are only a few challenging switchback sections. After rising above the mesa tops into the lush tree line, the panoramic views of the mountain tops extending to the horizon are breathtaking to see. There are several side roads and alternate routes back to the highway, so there is plenty to explore if there is enough fuel in the tank. Care must be taken in the dugway section near Bruin Point, because the dirt road surface is loose along this steep downhill run and going to fast will result in sliding out of control over the edge of the slope. Eventually the dirt trail passes through aspen forests upon entering the Cold Spring Wildlife Management Area, where many roadside dispersed camping opportunities abound. From Cold Springs, it is a fairly easy downhill run to the old historic mining district and tramway that is well worth checking out before arriving in East Carbon.
The trek from Nine Mile Canyon to Cold Springs and East Carbon definitely is a memorable experience. A fueling station awaits at the end of the line, which is like a sigh of relief after coasting on vapors. This trip is slow going, so a couple hours should be set aside for this bumpy ride. As can be seen in the Flickr album, darkness set in well before finishing my trip, but the views of the sun setting over the mountain tops and the moonlit mining district made it all worthwhile. This lengthy dirt road travel route through the Book Cliffs region is best done while the weather is cool during spring or fall, so be sure to leave some empty space on the calendar and enjoy the scenic drive!
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