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ON THE Outlaw Trail

Ever since my friend Barbara and I lusted over the two outlaws in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the 1969 Paul Newman and Robert Redford film, I've wanted to see the southern Utah area for myself. And now, I'm actually riding a horse across a stream in Zion National Park, on "The Outlaw Trail." That's the name of a tour through scenic parks and small towns from St. George to Richfield and beyond.

The area could be right out of the film, but instead of Butch I'm with guides Kitty and Swanny. And my horse, Dugan, is a butt-biter.

Still, I've cruised by Grafton, the picturesque ghost town where raindrops kept falling on their heads in the film's memorable bicycle scene, walked across a field to pay my respects at the one-room cabin where the real outlaw lived as a child, and heard enough Butch Cassidy tales to make childhood friend Barb really jealous.

Between outlaw thrills, there are desert hikes, historic homes, one red-rock wonder after another, a picnic among deer.

Of potatoes and St. George

Start the tour in St. George, the Mormons' cotton connection in those early years of self-sufficiency. Its wintertime warmth has made it the Palm Beach of these parts.

Site to see: Brigham Young Winter Home (the address is 67 W 200 North) and its groomed green yard and garden. Sister Barlow conducts a tour of the Mormon leader's house, including the parlor, kitchen, really steep stairs and three bedrooms. Check out the rocking chair made especially for Brigham Young (he weighed more than 250 pounds).

Tale to tell: George Smith was a Mormon pioneer who journeyed to southern Utah with his wife and daughter. During the trip, the three survived on potatoes. He ate only the peels, saving the more plentiful insides for his family.

Smith didn't know it then, but a potato's peel is the vitamin-packed part. The women died of scurvy.

Vowing it would never happen again, he planted potatoes for people to eat on their pilgrimages south. Settlers called him "The Potato Saint" and named St. George for him.

Place to stay: The 7 Wives Inn, across from Brigham Young's home, is owned by a man who had seven wives. Rooms are named for each of them.

For information on the area, call (800) 869-6635.

Butch bonus: in-laws and outlaws

He was born in a town called Beaver, Utah, in 1864 to Maximillian and Ann Parker, who named him Robert Leroy Parker. The family moved across the mountains and grew up in Circleville.

The oldest child, Robert was expected to help with the farm work. At harvest time the family needed extra help and Robert's father hired an itinerant part-time ranch hand, Mike Cassidy. He and Robert made a good team and the two became friends.

One day Mike Cassidy asked Robert to go south to Panguitch. Turns out Cassidy was also a part-time outlaw who intended to rob the bank.

The marshal recognized Cassidy as a wanted man and put up a fight. But young Robert also fought the marshal. He and Cassidy escaped, riding out through Red Canyon and Capitol Reef to the caves known as Robber's Roost.

Now a wanted man, Robert joined up with the outlaws, changing his name to George Cassidy so as not to embarrass his family.

George Cassidy earned a reputation for his ability to plan robberies, and he eventually became the outlaws' leader.

In one Wyoming town, he worked as a butcher for three months. That's when friends started calling him "Butch." He also developed a reputation for being a Robin Hood among outlaws.

"The secret to his success was his generosity," says Outlaw Trail guide John Warner. "He was generous with his money and people didn't turn him in."

The red sand dunes at Snow Canyon State Park (9 miles northwest of St. George) should look familiar. As Butch and Sundance, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, rode their horses through this very sand early on in the "Who are those guys?" chase scene.

For information on this and other state parks in Utah, call (800) 322-3770.

Viewing Zion National Park

Park to visit: Known for its magnificent valley views, this canyon is defined by 2,000-foot to 3,000-foot sandstone walls. Zion is Utah's oldest national park and one of its most crowded, especially in summer.

Trails to hike: Weeping Rock, a half-hour walk to a rock alcove with dripping springs, and Lower Emerald Pools, an easy stroll on a paved trail to a waterfall. Horseback riding is available.

Scenic roads to drive or bike: Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, a 7-mile route along the canyon floor, and the road from the east entrance, a 13-mile steep drive up switchbacks and through tunnels.

The visitors center at the south entrance is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (longer hours in summer). A seven-day entrance pass is $5 per passenger vehicle. Write for more information before you go: Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah 84767-1099; call (801) 772-3256.

Film to see: Zion Canyon Theatre's Treasure of the Gods, an IMAX movie (that means a screen at least six stories high). This 37-minute film has spectacular hawk's-eye views of Zion and other areas.

The theater is at the entrance to the park in Springdale; shows are daily, every hour. Call (801) 772-2400.

Butch bonus: movie moment

Butch (played by Newman) gives Sundance's girl, Etta Place (Katharine Ross), a morning bike ride on his handlebars. They flirt, they frolic.

You can re-create these magical moments in Grafton, where this scene was filmed. (Don't forget your B.J. Thomas cassette.) One of the best-preserved ghost towns in Utah, Grafton was founded by Mormon families in 1859. A schoolhouse, store and houses still stand.

From Springdale, follow Utah 9 southwest to Rockville; turn south on Bridge Road.

Hoodoos and a fort

Park to visit: Similar geologically to Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks National Monument doesn't have as many stone towers (called hoodoos) as Bryce, but some say the formations are more varied in color.

A 5-mile drive along the rim of this 9.5-square-mile park 23 miles east of Cedar City offers views of the amphitheater below. Summer, when wildflowers cover the meadows and forest floor, is said to be the best time to visit.

Trails to hike: The 1-mile Spectra Point Trail follows the rim and continues to a stand of ancient bristlecone pines.

The visitors center is open from late May to November. $4 per car entrance fee. Call (801) 586-9451.

Fort to explore: Built in 1867 to protect travelers on the journey between Fillmore and Beaver, historic Cove Fort (near the junction of I-15 and I-70) has been restored to the 1867-1877 period.

Free guided tours; open daily from 8 a.m. to dusk.

Butch bonus: outsmarted

One day Butch returned to his hometown to visit an outlaw friend. The Circleville marshal recognized and arrested them. The sheriff assigned a deputy to take the outlaws to the nearest jail, over the hills to Minersville. This deputy had a mean streak and ordered Butch and his friend off their horses and made them walk.

The walking slowed their travel and they didn't make it to Minersville by nightfall. When it grew dark, the deputy tied the outlaws to a tree and went to sleep.

In the morning, the deputy awoke to find the outlaws nearby _ and his gun pointed at him.

He figured he was done for. But Butch put him on his horse and sent him back to Circleville.

Fremont Indian State Park

Rock art to read: Clear Creek Canyon has more than 1,000 rock art panels created by the prehistoric Fremont Indians. An easy way to see some of them is to stop by Fremont Indian State Park. The "Show Me" trail (a paved sidewalk) is just one of the paths taking you past some of the petroglyphs.

The largest known Fremont village was uncovered during construction of I-70 in 1983. Material excavated is on display in the visitors center, detailing the Indians' way of life, including artifacts different from those found in Anasazi sites to the south.

Fremont Indian State Park (near I-70, Exit 17; 5 miles west of U.S. 89) is open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (until 6 p.m. in summer). Admission: $1.50 adults; $1 children 6 to 16; $6 for the whole family. Call (801) 527-4631.

The boyhood home

Shack to see: To the west of Highway 89 just south of Circleville is all that's left of Butch's boyhood home, the little log cabin where he and the other Parkers grew up.

The sign says "Butch Cassidy Home." That's it. No tourist booth, no souvenirs, no tickets sold. But sightseers pull to the side of the highway nonetheless and walk across the field, dodging cow patties, to see if the old house provides any whisper of Butch.

Bryce Canyon's splendors

Canyon to explore: Unlike Zion, where the views leave you forever leaning your head back, the splendors at Bryce have you looking down.

In fact, Bryce Canyon National Park is not really a canyon at all, but a bunch of amphitheaters cut into pink and white limestone cliffs.

Water and weather have sculpted towers and spires said to resemble everything from Queen Victoria to lovers kissing. The colors are the attraction here, changing throughout the day as cloud shadows and the sun's rays move across the scenery.

Trails to hike: Some provide views from the rim; others take you among the spires and hoodoos below. One of the easiest hikes is the 1{-mile Queen's Garden Trail, which begins at Sunrise Point and takes you below the rim.

September and October are said to be the best hiking months. The weather is comfortable and the crowds are smaller.

The park entrance fee is $5 per vehicle. A brochure at the entrance stations and visitors center includes a map and information on drives and trails.

Call Bryce Canyon National Park, (801) 834-5322, or Garfield County, (800) 444-6689.

Highway 12 _ too scenic?

Road to cruise: The scenery on Highway 12 is so incredible even our tour-bus driver couldn't keep his eyes on the road.

Chosen as one of the top 10 scenic roads in America by Car and Driver, this 122-mile highway takes you past red-rock splendor and alpine forests _ through Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest to Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Park.

Pick up Highway 12 off U.S. 89, south of Panguitch. For a self-guided tour brochure and information on possible day trips along the highway, call the Garfield County Travel Council, (800) 444-6689.

Butch bonus: Robber's Roost

Another secret to Butch's success was the Outlaw Trail, which stretched from Canada to Mexico through primitive country.

Butch had hideouts that are still hard to find, including the infamous Robber's Roost between Hanksville and Moab. Two of the three caves at the Roost were used for sleeping; the other had a spring and provided water.

Good luck trying to find these caves yourself. Guide Warner says only a few people know now how to get there: "It was Butch's safest hideout."

The Bureau of Land Management in Hanksville may be able to help. Call (801) 542-3461 for directions.

Beauty of Capitol Reef

Place to picnic: The view above is red-rock relief, but all around you are fields of grass, deer grazing around a tree-shrouded stream and blossoming fruit trees.

Capitol Reef National Park's picnic area (.8 mile from the visitors center on Utah 24) is a good place to see what sets this park apart from others in the area.

Mormon settlers left their mark in the now-deserted town of Fruita: A one-room schoolhouse, barn, rock fences and acres of fruit orchards still stand. Petroglyphs and storage bins along the walls of the canyons reflect the presence of Fremont Indians in A.D. 800. And legends tell of Butch and other members of the Wild Bunch hiding out in these remote canyons in the 1890s.

Visitors center hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (longer in summer). A $4 fee per vehicle fee is collected on Scenic Drive. Call (801) 425-3791.

Butch bonus: still wanted

Butch and Sundance moved to Bolivia in the early 1900s and continued their robbing ways. The film's version of events shows them in moments before the Bolivian Army blows them away.

But was that really the end of the outlaws? Most people in these parts have their own theories.

John Warner says he knows for a fact Butch did not die in South America in 1909.

"I knew that as a young boy," he says. "Richfield is my hometown. My father was the mortician. When someone died in the early days of my father's business, he would often go to the town, embalm the body and return home.

"In those days in the Capitol Reef area, there were no hotels. But there was a lady in Bicknell with a boardinghouse ... One time she opened the door a crack and wouldn't let him in. This was unusual because she had always given him a bed in the past.

"From then on after that, she always had a room for him, just as before. Years later he asked the woman about that night.

" "I had someone here who needed some privacy,' she explained.

"My father asked her right out if the person was Butch and she said it was. Now this was after the time Butch was said to have died in Bolivia."

Adds Warner, the woman supposedly was the same person who years earlier was threatened with the foreclosure of her farm's mortgage _ before Butch robbed a nearby bank and gave her the $500 for the payment.

If you go

TOUR INFORMATION: "The Outlaw Trail" tour is offered by Wonderland Tours (77 W 200 South, Suite 500, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101). Leave a message for Warner at (801) 578-9000.

INFORMATION: The Grand Circle Association, (602) 331-5222.

Utah's Panoramaland, (800) 748-4361, for information about south-central Utah.

Utah Travel Council, (801) 538-1030.

Garfield County Travel Council, (800) 444-6689.

Iron County Tourism and Convention Bureau, (800) 354-4849.

Washington County Travel and Convention Bureau, (800) 869-6635.

Wayne County Travel Council, (800) 858-7951.

LODGING: The county travel councils can provide complete listings.

_ Dallas Morning News