Powell Point is more than just another yawning vista from the edge of the Utah's High Plateaus, it is a Titanic viewpoint, a salient from where the Great Architect oversees his handiwork in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Point forms a blunt terminus to the peninsular Table Cliff Plateau northeast of Bryce Canyon National Park, and when viewed from afar it resembles the bow of an ocean liner crashing through a sea of white-, pink-, and salmon-hued breakers.
The 4-mile ride to Powell Point is every bit as enjoyable as the staggering view gained from the turnaround. The initial doubletrack rolls through damp, muffled forests across the Table Cliff's broad, 10,000-foot summit. Twice, the Table Cliff necks to a narrow divide where opposing slopes attempt to merge through the efforts of headward erosion. Here, the monument's central Kaiparowits Province can be seen through pine boughs lining the plateau's east rim. In the distance, the down-cutting temperament of the Escalante River and its attendant tributaries is revealed in the chaotic and deeply furrowed canyons of Box-Death Hollow Wilderness.
Three miles out, the jeep road ends and singletrack begins, which leads to the Point. A preview of colossal views yet to come flashes through open stands of fir and bristlecone pines. Once again, the plateau necks, this time to one-lane width with views of crumbling cliffs. Finally, a ramble through the trees leads to Powell Point. You'll know when to stop!
The earth drops violently 1,000 feet from beneath your front tire, and the wind rushes upward across your face. Imagine the exultation of John Wesley Powell and his crew when they, too, gazed from this divine perch for the first time in 1872. Geologist Clarence Dutton, Powell's protégé, described the Point as ". . . the aspect of a vast Acropolis crowned with a Parthenon."
Your eyes fall upon the monument's namesake Grand Staircase section. Powell Point combined with Bryce Canyon, to the west, define the Staircase's colorful top rung. The Paria River, to the south, has sliced seemingly bottomless groves into the Staircase's subsequently descending steps--the Gray and White Cliffs. The stratigraphic sequences drops across the Utah-Arizona border until culminating in the depths of the Grand Canyon.
Powell Point is located 23 miles northeast of Bryce Canyon National Park via UT 22. If you start at Pine Lake, the out-and- back ride is 23 miles and gains 2,300 feet in elevation. That's a solid ride. Alternatively, drive 6 miles up Pine Canyon (high clearance vehicle recommended) to the trailhead atop the Table Cliff Plateau. The remaining ride is 9 miles (out-and-back) with minimal elevation gain.
By Gregg Bromka, author of Mountain Biking Utah's Brian Head-Bryce Country.
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