If you are a fairly experienced backpacker, trekking in the Utah canyons should present few problems. Be sure to carry plenty of water and water containers, as well as water purification tablets. Avoid camping in narrow canyon bottoms; flash floods, though seldom fatal, can sweep away your tent and sleeping bag almost before you know it.
Check locally on weather conditions and seasonal water sources before you head out into the canyons. The Bureau of Land Management office in Monticello, on U.S. Route 191, is a good source of information; so are the rangers at Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Natural Bridges National Monument.
Good maps also are imperative for exploring this country. Take along the U.S. Geological Survey maps covering your projected route; for information: U.S. Geological Survey, 1951 Constitution Ave. NW, 343-8073. Once you get to Utah, maps are also available at local Bureau of Land Management offices and at national forest headquarters.
The Utah Travel Council (Council Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114, 801-538-1030) is another good source of information. The council puts out an excellent set of free maps of the southeastern Utah canyon country; ask for Maps 1 and 2. They show the way to everything from Indian ruins and rock formations to ranches and trading posts. GETTING THERE:From Washington, the easiest way to get to southeastern Utah's canyon country is by air via Salt Lake City, then by car. Continental, American, Delta, Eastern and TWA airlines service Salt Lake City from Washington. The cheapest current round-trip fare is $268; tickets must be purchased at least seven days in advance, you must stay over a Saturday night, and travel must be Monday through Thursday.
It is approximately a six-hour drive from Salt Lake City to the canyon country; the scenery along the way is magnificent. From Salt Lake City, take I-15 south to Spanish Fork, then U.S. Route 6 southeast through Price to I-70. Follow the interstate east to U.S. Route 191, then head south into the canyon country. WHERE TO EAT: There aren't many restaurants in this back country. But the best cafe' is definitely the one at the Mexican Hat Trading Post -- Navajo fry bread, mutton stew, hamburgers, shakes, beer -- overlooking the San Juan River in the little town of Mexican Hat, just north of the Arizona border. WHERE TO STAY: The whole point of visiting the canyon country is to take in the outdoors, but even the hardiest back-country traveler may want to hole up in a motel somewhere along the way. I highly recommend the Recapture Lodge (801-672-2281) in the little Mormon ranching hamlet of Bluff. The Recapture's rates range from $24 to $36 double, and kitchenettes are available as well as rooms in the historic old Pioneer House annex. There is also a swimming pool, ecstasy after a long desert trek. Owners Gene and Mary Foushee offer guide services into the surrounding wilderness.