The Warner Valley Traverse
Distance: 43.6 mile loop
Trail Rating: Moderate - Requiring high-clearance four-wheel drive
Climb: Approximately 700 feet
Highlights: Dinosaur tracks, petroglyphs, mind-bending geology, incredible vistas
Warner Valley sits on the southwestern border of Washington County and the Arizona Strip, a kind of no-man's land under the stewardship of the BLM. It's a destination for all off-road enthusiasts alike, not to mention those who like to discharge firearms, and as a result of all this activity, its environs are littered with everything from brass to toilet paper, beer cans being the most popular refuse. Sad, because this area holds vistas and geology unlike anything on or near the Colorado Plateau, our biggest secret in southern Utah, even though it might appear no one gives a crap about it.
I drive through Warner Valley a couple of times a week, shaking up my commute between St. George and Hurricane, and have come to love the trek along with the mesas, bluffs, canyons and terrain, so it's a natural to be the first Southern Utah traverse documented on CorneringConsciousness.
There are two approaches to this loop, one from St. George just east of the new Highway 7, or the one I'm writing about, just a few miles due south of Highway 9 in Hurricane. Turn south on Airport Road (700 West) and drive through Hurricane past Sky Ranch where the road turns to dirt. This is a good spot to air down. This traverse is pocked with rough, washboard terrain, and large rocks along with stretches of deep sand, and 20psi will smooth things out a bit and provide more traction.
When coming upon a washout it's best to slow down before crossing it, making sure you're then off the brakes when the front axel(s) hit, giving your front suspension all the travel it has to absorb the impact. Many drivers come upon a washout too late to compensate for the suspension dive induced by hard braking, compounding the hit and bending rims and breaking control arms and other expensive bits.
Bearing right on the first fork crosses this washout.
Looking south over the edge to the Arizona border where this traverse continues on the road in the distance.
Due west of this location on the ridge are these formations:
Round this corner and you'll find this:
A few yards north of the petroglyphs and the bear formation is this:
Quite a contrast to this.
When this road turns to dirt one last time, a careful look to the ridge line to the east will show the other side of the bear formation and give you an idea of its elevation.
Some, like my wife, would argue that this circuit is more scenic in its inverse, instead of taking the road on the right at the beginning, take the one on the left. When I stopped for this pic, I was thinking she's right.
BLM 1035 doubles as a service road for the transmission lines and towers and winds through their span until you hit the Colorado Plateau. On most of its ascents, the road is littered with large rocks and loose shale. It's important to pick a good line, being mindful of sidewall exposure as well. These minerals can cut right through the letters.
The H3 is stocked with a number of days' rations and water, along with survival gear including first aid kits for a range of injury and trauma, fire-making tools, shelter and sleeping bags rated for the weather, a variety of lamps, and blades for everything from chopping trees to filleting fish.
Recovery includes a 9500 lb. winch and recovery points (standard H3 fare), traction devices (TREDs), shovel, Hi-Lift Jack, an air compressor, and a variety of recovery straps and supporting gear. No adventure should be ventured without appropriate tires and a spare tire, if not two. Tools suited for a complete suspension repair, along with top-end engine maintenance and repair are on board along with an iPad that has a complete shop manual downloaded.
Communication includes an on-board CB radio, a HAM radio, and a pair of two-way radios, not to mention the most important comm, my iPhone. There's a solar panel array on board as well to keep everything charged.
Towing costs for recovering a vehicle in this area exceed a grand, not to mention costs incurred in an injury or even being stranded.
A few more miles due north and you're back at this traverse's starting point, completing a circuit of 46.3 miles.