Hells Backbone Road and Escalante Rim

Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Hell’s Backbone Road was the first road to connect Boulder with the outside world, so it was the last community in the lower 48 to receive its mail by mule.  The road skirts around the rugged Navajo Sandstone by remain on the overlying Carmel Formation what is much softer and better for a better roadbed.  However, a large upfold in the rocks (the Escalante anticline) forces the road to ascend to over 9000′ elevation, so the road remains closed until the snowpack melts (can be as late as July!) – they didn’t sell the mules until Boulder Road (now scenic Highway 12) was completed by the CCC  several years later.  Hell’s Backbone is a very knife-edge ridge between Sand Creek and Death Hollow (well named if you swerve off the road here) requiring a bridge over the narrowest parts.  If you think it is scary now – imagine it without a guardrail…  I digress.  On a hot summer day this road takes you up into the cool high country with views across the entire Escalante canyon watershed. We will take time for short walks to scenic viewpoints and breathe in the wonderment.  Descending toward Escalante town, the road along Pine Creek follows the wall of steeply tilted Navajo Sandstone, an impressive escarpment.  Returning to Boulder along Highway 12, we will take side roads leading to the rim of the Escalante River canyon, a most impressive canyon that is nearly a 1000′ deep and very gorgeous (bad pun). Depending upon time and energy, we can stop at the Escalante River and hike to some petroglyph panels and ruins.  We also can share some secret spots off the Hogback closer to Boulder.