Western Traveler

Fisher Towers, Utah

Our morning started with the traditional cup of coffee in a not-so-typical setting, the Red Rock country of southern Utah. My friend Jeff and I had been waiting for this hike for quite a while and were totally “amped”. As we walked through the tamarisk into a nearby wash at Professor Valley we speculated on what adventures the day would hold in store.

Our destination, the massive, red sculptures known as Fisher Towers, located about 20 miles northeast of Moab in Grand County. These amazing formations are some of the most scenic landmarks that can be seen along the Colorado River.

Our hike begins at an innocuous trailhead off a gravel lane. The moment we began our trek we knew that this place was going to give us some awesome memories. Though I have seen numerous red rock formations, these had an intensity that was hard to beat. The obvious thing to do is to focus only on the bright red color, but if you take time to study the rock faces you’ll see countless other hues: purples, pinks, browns and shades of maroon.

Geologically, the Fisher Towers consists of some very distinct layers. The Cutler Formation that lies at the base of the towers comprises about 90% of the formation, and is made of Permian aged sandstone, mudstone and conglomerates dating back 290 million years. It’s covered with Triassic period mudstone which dates back about 245 million years. The brilliant reddish color can best be seen near sunset when the lighting enhances the appearance of the hematite (an iron oxide) surface. The weather-resistant cap rock is Moenkopi.

Our moderate hike (2.2 miles each way) started at 4,470 feet above sea level and topped out at only 5,390 feet, making it an easy trip indeed. Along the way we walked in and out of massive vertical towers, pedestals & spires, studied the diverse plant life, watched a rock climber work his way up a sheer vertical face and enjoyed the early morning desert sun. We were entertained on the return leg of the trip by a bongo player (no kidding, it was groovy) sitting in the middle of a natural amphitheater. All joking aside, the acoustics of the rock walls made the music fill the air with quite an impressive result.

This was one of the most enjoyable and easy hikes I’ve done in Utah. We saw several other people of all ages along the trail. This is an excellent family hike. If you like to give it a try, you’ll want to get the USGS Fisher Towers quad.

I am sad to report that one of the icons along this trail has collapsed.  I’m speaking of the formation known as “The Cobra”.  It’s show below (still intact) in the top-left photo.  This image was taken back in 2005.  According to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) they believe  the formation was damaged during a thunderstorm, possibly due to high winds.  The only good thing to report in this incident is that no one was hurt, which could have easily happened as it was a favorite among rock climbers.  The top fell off The Cobra in August of 2014.  I’m so glad I got to see it in it’s glory days.

Last modified on: August 6th 2014.
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