Proof Frontier Project: Brandon Swanson

Escape to Utah + Montana

Brandon and his wife Cara takes Proof along on multiple road trips through the breathtaking state of Utah. On his adventure, he introduces us to Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Flathead Lake, Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point State Park and brings us back to his home state of Montana to the Storm Castle Hike. Enjoy, as Brandon tells the story of his travels...


When you live in Montana and it’s April, and the snow just won’t stop, you head to Utah! With temperatures in the 70’s, the 10-hour drive was a no-brainer, and it was just what we needed.

When I was younger, I used to think that the Southwestern Desert, including Utah, was completely flat. I’m amazed at how much elevation this plateau region actually has. Bryce Canyon, for example, has several viewpoints above 8,000 feet, including Rainbow Point at 9,115! That is WAY more than just about any town in Montana. And the canyons and other formations that have been carved here, incredible!

At Bryce, we hiked the Navajo Trail-Queen’s Garden Loop. Honestly, the Navajo Trail was one of the coolest short hikes I’ve ever done. The rock formations towering above you, the quietness down in the amphitheater, I loved it!!

Our other destination that weekend was Grand Staircase-Escalante. It’s a massive area with quite a variety of landscapes, but we narrowed it down to two different hikes. Calf Creek Falls was far better than I expected – you hike through a canyon similar to Zion, and end at a beautiful waterfall surrounded by a giant bowl. I was impressed!

It’s the littlest, most unexpected moments that really seem to stick out in my memory. They may only last a few minutes, but that’s all it ever takes. An hour from our destination Friday night, we quickly pulled off the road to catch this glowing sunset, and discovered a really neat, secluded beach on Flathead Lake. The temperature was perfect, and we enjoyed the golden reflection on the water before it suddenly disappeared. On the way out, we watched a large owl fly off its perch, and then had a red fox run in front of our car. Worth the detour!

Two years ago, when we were without jobs and on the road for about 60 days, our very first night of camping ended up (accidentally) being right at the entrance of Canyonlands. I remember how intrigued I was by the initial scenery, but after visiting Zion just 2 days later, I quickly forgot all about it. Last weekend, we officially checked Canyonlands off the list, and it was even better than I imagined.

You’ve got views for days and the earth just opens up to let the Green River and Colorado River carve right through it. First, we stopped at the famous Mesa Arch, which was a fun spot to explore and take a variety of pictures. We also visited a few other lookouts before ending at our next destination.

I hadn’t heard of Dead Horse Point State Park until more recently, but the view from the point was even better than Canyonlands, in my opinion. It really resembled the Grand Canyon, with layers and layers of red rock and the Colorado River running through it.

This one river is responsible for some of the best views in the country, as it winds through Arches, Canyonlands, Glen Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, and so much more. The Southwestern Desert is just incredible.


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