I love Southern Utah. I was married deep in Escalante Canyon with the Cottonwoods changing colors, I have lived in Moab and Boulder at different times of my life. My wife and I are constantly looking for property in Boulder to buy and setup our home for the Golden years, so it's natural that I am constantly going back, finding new routes from point A to Point B.
While I think Moab is the armpit of all of Southern Utah, it serves it's purpose as the industrial recreation capitol of the West. Just keep them there. For some reason or another I am always drawn to the old uranium boom town, even if just for a couple days, to remind how good it is elsewhere.
So for the sake of this "trip report" I am combining 5 years worth of trips across Southern Utah in what I think is the definitive Overland Trail from St George to Moab. While I have never done it from start to finish I will some day and I am dubbing it the Utah Traverse. I have broken it up into sections, which could be compressed into days if wanted, but I suggest spending more time per section than a scant 24 hours.
I don't have GPS coords or a map so please don't ask, it's all there in the pictures, fill up your tank and let your mind wander while your curiosities guide you, it worked for me and it will work for you.
My jumping off point for all of my Utah trips has been St. George ever since I moved to Los Angeles in 2003. I like to camp just outside Zion National Park high on a mesa. This is a good start as it's 45 minutes from the interstate, but a world away from Southern California.
From there it's East to a well traveled canyon route criss crossing the river for what felt like a million times... I wouldn't suggest camping within the confines of the canyon, while there are places to do it, the canyon serves as a massive drainage and can carry a lot of water during a flash flood. Once the canyon widens toward the southern end there are plenty of playas to spread out on... Lot's of quicksand in this one...