Southwest Circle Tour Roads and Bridges
Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon North Rim National Parks
Cedar Breaks, Pipe Spring National Monuments
Kaibab, Dixie National Forests
American Indians blazed the first paths and trails through what is now the American Southwest, Bands of nomadic hunter-gatherers ranged throughout the Colorado Plateau as early as 10,000 years ago, but the first evidence of permanent occupation occurred with the Basketmaker and Pueblo Anasazi cultures of some 2,000 years ago. Along with later bands of Southern Paiutes, they hunted, farmed, and gathered wild plants along waterways and atop the mountains and plateaus of southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona. Centuries before the first Europeans set foot in the region, native peoples developed a complex network of local and regional foot trails later used by early explorers and settlers.
The first Europeans to venture through southwestern Utah sought a route from the pueblos of New Mexico to the missions of southern California. In 1776, Ute Indian guides led Spanish missionaries Dominguez and Escalante across Utah's Wasatch Mountains to the edge of the Great Basin, where they abandoned their quest and started back for Santa Fe. The missionaries returned by way of Ash Creek and the Virgin River, travelling north of the Grand Canyon through the future sites of LaVerkin, Hurricane, and Pipe Springa route that is now the western and southern segment of today's circle tour.
In 1826, trapper Jedediah Strong Smith and 18 men followed the Spanish fathers' footsteps along Ash Creek and the Virgin River, Smith continued south to the Mojave villages along the Colorado River, then struck west across the desert to complete an overland route to southern California. Trappers, Mexican traders, and gold seekers followed, wearing the path that became the Old Spanish Trailone of the region's most important early routes.
None of the early explorers and transients on the Old Spanish Trail ventured east to the canyons and plateaus that now constitute Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Cedar Breaks, but their discoveries soon led others to settle the region.
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