Fathers Francisco Dominguez and Silvestre Escalante, Spanish priests, may have been the first Europeans to see the Arizona Strip on their expedition in 1776. On foot, they traveled from Santa Fe, New Mexico through western Colorado, to Spanish Fork, Utah and then down through northern Arizona back to Santa Fe. Others crossed the Strip along the Old Spanish Trail during the 1830's and 1840's.
Opened as a trade route between Santa Fe and Los Angeles, the Spanish Trail became a major link connecting New Mexico and southern California from 1829 to 1848. It consisted of a 1,120-mile northward-looping course traversing six states--New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. Hostile Indian tribes--Apache, Navajo, and Mojave--prevented the opening of a direct route between Santa Fe and Los Angeles.
Mining activities, timber cutting and settlement by farmers and ranchers began by the 1870's. Settlements founded by these pioneers lasted long enough for a post office and general store to be built at Wolfhole, and one-room schoolhouses at Little Tanks and Mount Trumbull. In the days of horse-drawn wagons, trips to town (St. George, Utah) from these communities took more than one day each way. Travelers would store feed for their stock on flat-topped boulders along the route. Later, the Civilian Conservation Corps created or improved many of the access roads and other structures. As the availability and use of motorized vehicles increased, populations of the little settlements dwindled. The communities of Mt. Trumbull, Wolf Hole and Little Tanks are now ghost towns.
Traveling across the Strip today, it is not so difficult to imagine the earlier times and modes of transportation: horse, wagon and Model T. Place names like Poverty Mountain, Hungry Valley, Last Chance Spring, Death Valley and Tombstone Canyon still attest to the rough life of the pioneers.
A Visitor Map may be purchased at the Information Center located at 345 E. Riverside Dr. St George, UT 84790.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
Monument Manager: Kevin Wright
345 E. Riverside Drive
St. George, UT 84790-6714
Hours: 7:45 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday
10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. Saturday