It had been nine months since I tried out anything in the Virgin River Gorge. The previous spring I climbed up a razor sharp ridge on the south side of the river that you can read about here. During the winter of 2017 I made a few exploratory hikes from some of the few places I could find to pull off the interstate without getting killed. One of the hikes paid off nicely, so the next week I came back with Maree and a lot more time. This post combines both of those trips.
As a refresher for those who have never heard of the gorge, it is a major canyon on the Arizona Strip where Interstate 15 runs between St. George and Mesquite. The highway is very twisty and inclined so driving through it is spectacular but offers little chance for looking around.
Not long after the Virgin River enters the gorge from the north there are outcroppings of sandstone beneath the high limestone cliffs. I think it is the Aztec Sandstone that is present in Valley of Fire. The limestone is likely the same as the Muddy Mountains, which are thrust on top of Valley of Fire. The sandstone layers in the gorge seem to be wedged in between great thicknesses of the limestone, and they are tilted at an angle.
Yellow stripes and pink stripes.
Our hike involved heading towards the northern cliffs of the Virgin River Gorge and exploring the Aztec Sandstone along the way. Much of the canyon wall is unapproachable but I noticed in the back of a side canyon an unlikely breakdown in the terraces that might possibly be climbable, and offer access to some high cliff views.
Additionally, we had visited the rim of the canyon previously. On that trip I was looking straight down from the top of the cliffs and I had spied a really neat tower formation with a hidden grotto in the center of it. The shape made the tower look like a throne. I double checked this formation later on Google Earth from different angles and it looked like another worthwhile feature to use as a goal.