k.creveling Author

Stop and Smell the Flowers

Wildflowers in Albion Basin. Photo taken by Kiffer Creveling.

Typically when you think of Alta, you are likely to think of skiing or hiking. What most people don’t think about are the natural wildflowers that grow all over the area. High-altitude wildflowers are some of the most rugged plants because of the environment they live in, residing in elevations near 8,500 feet or even higher. The blooming time of these flowers does not usually occur in the spring, but is instead delayed to the end of July, or even early August.

The Albion Basin wildflowers are something that everyone should have the opportunity to visit because of the uniqueness of those flowers. When you head up Little Cottonwood Canyon, you’ll begin to see the sea of flowers that flows around every canyon. Pay close attention to all of this, as the colors will change the higher up the canyon you get, as flowers of different elevations bloom at different times.

Wide shot of wildflowers in Albion Basin. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

When you reach the top, where the Alta parking lot is, you can take the free shuttle that will drop you off on the Cecret Lake trailhead. It takes approximately 15-20 minutes between shuttles. The other option you have is to walk up to the trailhead through the Albion Basin meadow. If you are an ambitious hiker, then this is the option for you. You can walk next to the stream to see the flowers that need more water, which look completely different than the flowers in the meadows. Look carefully for the ground squirrels that have made their residence in the hills. Sometimes they’ll even peek out of their holes to ensure dominance over any approaching competition. Their presence makes the flowers even more fun to see.

Bluebell wildflowers in Albion Basin. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

The bluebells and Indian paintbrush make up most of the blue and red flowers that you’ll see in the basin. The yellow flowers across the basin on the west side of the canyon make up the second largest meadow basin at Alta. The hike up to this meadow takes quite some time, but allows you to gain a new perspective of the Albion Basin flowers.

Two of my favorite flowers to look out for are fireweed and elephant’s head. Fireweed is the faint purple flower that grows on tall green stocks that taper to the leaves. At the beginning of the summer at these high elevations, the flowers are near the bottom of the plant; as summer progresses, the flower blossoms move towards the top. Once the blossoms have reached the top, you know that summer has finished and that fall is near. Elephant’s head, on the other hand, looks just like what you’d think: a small pink flower that resembles the head of an elephant. It grows on a shorter plant that is typically located near water or a marsh.

Fireweed wildflowers in Albion Basin. Photo by Kiffer Creveling.

Remember as you go that the flowers are there to stay and for others to enjoy. Too many times you may see other visitors picking the flowers to make a bouquet. If you see this happening, kindly remind them not to do so.

Forest rangers have put up informational cards on a few of the trees on the hike up to Cecret Lake, allowing young kids and the inquisitive hikers to learn about local nature in the area. On these cards you’ll read about the moose and the natural habitat, including the flowers surrounding you. If you are lucky enough on your walk to see the flowers, you may also be lucky enough to see a moose on the loose. Be sure to stay away and let them be — don’t disturb them. Make sure you take your camera with you to share the beauty of these wildflowers with others, without taking them away and harming the environment.

 

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Conquering the City of Rocks

Have you heard of the City of Rocks? Just think a city — but with rocks. The City of Rocks National Reserve in Southern Idaho lives up to its name. It is a city of rocks that rivals New York City, only with natural rock structures. With well over 449 established rock climbing routes (traditional, sport, aid, and bouldering), this is a destination location for any climber looking to work on granite projects.

The City of Rocks is located northwest of Salt Lake City, approximately 166 miles away, or a three-hour drive. Head north on I-15 and make your way towards Boise, but turn off before you hit the Idaho border at Exit 5, then head west towards Almo, Idaho. Watch the speed limit as some of the towns you’ll pass through might have the fuzz just waiting to make the rounds. There are a few campgrounds inside the City of Rocks National Reserve that will cost you $12.72 per night, but you can also camp on the BLM land south of Almo by 2 miles.  Once you pass the cattle guard, take an immediate right, and there will be a few camping spots.

After climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon for the past two years, I was really excited to try some new rock when I visited. I had heard that the City of Rocks had some special granite rock that was unlike the granite in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and the rumors were true. The granite in the City of Rocks is so grippy, it felt as if you could walk up anything.

Our group headed to the Drilling Fields to work on the Lost World to practice sport climbing. We first got on Tourist Season — a 5.7— and the 5.8 just to the left. The site proved an excellent beginning to a climbing trip to the City of Rocks to work on foot placement, filled with excellent holds and bolts not too far apart from one another. Next, we worked our way over to the other end of the Lost World to climb. There’s Friction Afoot (10.b) and Contra Friction (5.9). Both were excellent climbs to work on slab climbing and foot placement.

Our favorite route in the City of Rocks we climbed was The Drilling Fields (11.a). Brian Smoot, a veteran climber who has established a ton of climbing routes in the Salt Lake area, led the climb to get our group on top rope so we could each take a stab at the 100-foot route. From jugs to crimps to heel-hooks, this climb contained them all. Don’t let the length of the route scare you, because once you are on the wall, it will seem as if you are in your own world and that each bolt is your goal. Only when you reach the top you’ll realize how high off the ground you are. You’ll finally catch your breath as your belayer lowers you to the bottom, looking up to see what you just accomplished.

If you have climbed all the routes in the City of Rocks that your hands can handle and still have not finished climbing, just 5 miles north of the City of Rocks is Castle Rock State Park with another 239 established climbing routes: trad, sport, aid, and bouldering. To reach Castle Rock State Park, head back towards Almo and continue north. Once you get to the park, you will need to pay the $8 park entrance fee before proceeding. Here, we climbed in Hostess Gully — West Corridor on the back side of Castle Rock.  This was a great place that had morning shade for Zinger — a three pitch 5.8 route — to work on rope management.

The approaches are very easy with 15 minute hikes that are moderate in difficulty. Climbing is on all sides of the rock which allows climbers to avoid the direct sun in morning/afternoon. Keep in mind that the most important thing in rock climbing is to be safe. Wear a helmet, and always check to ensure that your safety equipment will hold. With that in mind, I encourage anyone who wants to increase their skills in rock climbing to head to The City of Rocks, because it is an excellent location to boost your confidence.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

 

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Benefits of a Flowfold Trailmate Dog leash

Are you a canine owner?  Are you also an outdoor enthusiast?  If you answered yes to those two questions, then this dog leash is perfect for you.  It is called the flowfold Trailmate Dog leash.  Here are a few things that make it great:

Usability

I’ve had the opportunity to use the leash for the past couple of weeks on dogs of various sizes, ranging from 15 pounds to 55 pounds. The dog leash has consistently performed well on each. For true testing, I have also had various-sized dog walkers test out the leash to see how it holds.  From small kids to full grown adults, this dog leash has proven to work well across the board.

Taking portraits of family at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Bountiful, UT on Saturday, July 22, 2017
(Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

Fabric

The flowfold Trailmate dog leash is made from rock climbing rope, which means the leash is extremely sturdy and durable.  Another added benefit familiar to all rock climbers is that rock climbing rope stretches.  That means that when a load is applied dynamically–like in the case of a fall– to a climbing rope, there is no sudden jerk but instead a prolonged stretch takes place, to allow energy to spread down the rope before reaching the climber.  This same concept applies to the dog leash.  When you quickly need to restrain your dog from an approaching runner or child, you can pull back abruptly without injuring your dog’s neck with a sudden jerk as the rope slightly stretches to accommodate that new force.

Another added benefit of having a dog leash made from rock climbing rope is that when the rope gets dirty from taking your dog on adventures like desert hiking, cross country skiing, or coastal beaches, cleaning the leash is simple.  After mixing mild soap and water and applying a scrub brush, any residue embedded in the rope will quickly fall off.  After it dries off, the rope will be as good as new.

Style

I’ve seen the other canines around recently, and I’ve paid attention to them.  Their leashes are for the most part boring, simple, and plain.  Sure, they get the job done, but not in style.  When you have this leash on your wrist you feel as if you are wearing a fashion accessory that not only complements your own style but your dog’s too.

Others will ask you where you got your rope and what the diameter is!  At least that is what fellow climbers say when you bring a new rope to the crag.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

 

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Getting Out the Hiking Boots

Have you retrieved your hiking boots out from underneath your ski boots yet?  It’s that time of year when you should, as the snow begins to thaw from the trails in the Wasatch Front. Each day the hiking trails begin to emerge as the sun warms their meandering paths, and the leaves on the trees transition from brown to green.

Hiking opportunities in this weather are endless.  There are so many local hiking trails that you could go on a new hike every day, continuously exploring new territory.  The canyons that are adjacent to the Salt Lake Valley are the perfect place to begin.  Each canyon has streams and rivers, resulting in a luscious fern bed full of life and moisture.

One trail that you can visit just 30 minutes from the University of Utah is up Millcreek Canyon.  The gate four miles up the canyon will open in July, and won’t close until November.  Seven and a half miles past that gate you will come across 1000 Springs, one of the natural springs in Millcreek Canyon.  Beneath the Springs, there is a pond that is home to a family of beavers.  If you are lucky when you are hiking along the road you’ll see one working on a dam.

Another beautiful hike  in Millcreek Canyon is the Pipeline Trail. Beginning approximately half-way up the canyon, you are actually walking along an old pipeline trail. The overlook at the end puts you in the perfect location to view Salt Lake in the distance.

To the South is Neff’s Canyon.  Neff’s Canyon is very steep but has a multitude of hikes for every level. You are hiking just north of the magnificent Mt. Olympus and it has impeccable views of Salt Lake City. There is even an old cave that you can hike past called Neff’s Cave — one of the deepest caves in North America. Don’t worry about falling in, though, as the entrance has been blocked off. Instead, you can use a flashlight to stare into the abyss to satisfy your curiosity. Continuing up the canyon you’ll have a view over the top of Grandeur Peak as well as passing the Mount Olympus Spring. Dogs are allowed up the canyon, so don’t forget to bring a water filter if you want to enjoy some of the fresh spring water.

Continuing south, the next two large recreation canyons you’ll reach are Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon. Each canyon has their own unique hikes and adventures. Since the two were formed by different forces — river and glacier erosion respectively, the canyon walls vary drastically in steepness. Big Cottonwood Canyon offers many hikes that are about the same steepness in ascent from the beginning to end, whereas Little Cottonwood typically has very steep beginnings that taper off once you reach the high mountainous valleys.  The views at the tops of both will keep bringing you back for more.

These options are good anytime, but particularly for spring weather. If you find yourself available for a hike on a more summer-like day, some hikes that you should definitely put on your list are Lake Blanche, Lake Mary, Twin Lakes, Cecret Lake, and Red and White Pine Canyons.

These hikes give you the opportunity to reach far-off peaks if you so desire, but will also allow the inexperienced hiker to practice their skills.

No matter where you go now that snow is a little less common in the weather forecast, remember to use the buddy system and never hike alone. At the very least be sure that someone always knows where you are.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Conquering Peaks: Becoming a Mountaineer

Ever heard of Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Reinhold Messner, or Jon Krakauer? These are the men who helped define mountaineering, the sport of climbing tall mountains. Each stepped foot on the tallest mountain in the world — Everest. They were united by the desire to summit mountain peaks, a feeling that drives all mountaineers.

To launch my own mountaineering career, I decided to start locally.  With a climbing colleague, we set out to tackle Broad’s Fork Twin Peaks last June. Although the elevation of 11,329 feet is nowhere near that of the breathtaking elevation of Everest (29,035 feet), we were faced with challenges.

After reading previous mountaineers’ advice on which route to take on Mountain Project, we decided to start at the S-curve in Big Cottonwood Canyon. We discussed the equipment needed to go on this expedition — sunglasses, sunscreen, hiking poles, crampons, a mountaineering axe, a probe, a beacon, and a shovel. We were forced to bail on our first attempt due to a snow storm, so the next time we began before the sun came up on a cloudless day.  The hike was straightforward on a dirt trail for about 3.5 miles until we hit the snowfield. We were both instantly blinded by the ivory blanket reflecting the sun.

We pulled out our glacier glasses and continued the ascent. Shortly after we stepped onto the snow field, the steepness made it difficult to keep our balance. We switched from hiking poles to the mountaineering axe and strapped on crampons. When mountaineering, there is often no trail to follow. Instead, you must assess the terrain and find the safest way up.  We saw previous slide paths from avalanches and made our best path zig-zagging through them.  The soft snow made it so we were postholing, meaning each step brought us waist-deep in the snow.

We made it to the ridge, cautious with each step between the 2,500-foot drop-offs on either side. Then, we began the final ascent, approximately 500 feet to the summit.  The closer we got to the peak, our hearts were pounding knowing we were almost there. At last, we summited East Twin Peak and gaped at the impeccable view. While catching our breath, we took our crampons off to walk around on the peak. Once we saw the other peak tantalizing us 528 feet away, we decided to finish the job.

We walked slowly on the thin knife blade of a ridge and enjoyed a break on the other peak. While taking photos, we heard a roaring sound echo around us, which sounded like a locomotive steaming by. It was an avalanche that broke loose on O’Sullivan peak a half-mile behind us and crashed down in the valley below.  That was our cue to exit and make our way back down the long and tedious descent.

Once we reached the open snow field, we could glissade down using our axe to self-arrest as we sped down. We removed our snow gear and stepped back onto the dirt trail, a few miles from our cars. At the journey’s end, we got in the car and looked back up toward the peak, neither of us believing the amazing climb we just endured. After mountaineering to the top of my first peak, I understand the desires each of those wild peak baggers have. Mountaineering is an addictive sport.

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com 

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Corrected from “These are the men who helped define alpinism, the sport of climbing tall mountains.” on 4/12/17.

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Constellations on Camera

Have you ever wondered how to capture the night sky while camping? Photography harnesses light and stores the information on either film or a digital sensor, but when capturing images at night, you are missing the primary component — light. So listen up, if you want to capture that perfect Milky Way photo, you’ll need to know a few of the basics of photography — ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

ISO: The electrical sensitivity of the digital sensor.

Shutter speed: The amount of time the camera has the shutter up to allow light to expose the image sensor.

Aperture: The size of the opening in the lens to allow light to expose the image sensor. The aperture is usually referred to as f/number, or the ratio of the focal length to the diameter of the pupil which allows light through the lens.

Capture those unforgettable moments during your night adventures with these steps:

Step One: Increase the ISO (film equivalent to speed) so less light exposes the image.

Step Two: Decrease the shutter speed to allow as much light as you need to properly expose the image.

Step Three: Lower the f/number (f/1.4, f/2.8, f/5.6) to allow the amount of light entering the lens to increase. Warning: when you decrease the shutter speed, you’ll need to ensure that the camera “shake” does not drown out the subject matter of your photograph. Use a tripod and an intervalometer to stabilize the camera while decreasing the shutter speed more than the typical 30-second timer. The use of a tripod will mitigate vibrations for extended periods of time, like when you are imaging stars at night.

When you have your camera on a tripod or on stable ground, first increase the ISO to a high number that doesn’t introduce electrical noise — this will typically be the highest ISO before you reach Hi 1 and Hi 2. The higher the number, the more false noise (rainbow colored specks) in your image. Next, change the focus to manual on your lens. Because it is near impossible to focus on an object in the dark, have someone point a flashlight on the object that you want to be in focus and manually adjust the lens until you’ve focused your object. Lower the f/number on your lens to the lowest number to allow as much light as possible expose the image sensor. Last, decrease the shutter speed to allow the desired amount of light expose the image. Pay attention to the exposure meter to see if your image is over or under exposed and adjust the settings accordingly until you get the perfect shot.

Here are your basic camera settings for capturing the heavens above: ISO 3200, f/2.8, 30-second exposure*, 14 mm focal length, manual focus, tripod to stabilize the camera. Have fun! Write down the settings you use and see what works and what you need to change.

AVOID STAR BLUR:

If using a full-frame camera (35 mm digital sensor), divide 500 by the focal length to find the best exposure time.

Exposure time [sec]≈500/(focal length [mm])

If using an APS-C camera (24 mm digital sensor), divide 500 by your camera’s crop factor and focal length to find the exposure time.

Exposure time [sec]≈500/(Crop factor)*(focal length [mm])

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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How to: Tie a bowline

One of the most useful knots you can learn to tie is the bowline, a knot in which the loop does not slip.  As my dad taught me, there are three important rules to tying a knot:  1)  it is easy to tie, 2) it does the job, and 3) it is easy to untie.  The way to correctly tie the bowline knot is to first grab the rope and make a loop.  Then, using the free end of the rope, thread the end through the loop and go around the opposing rope and back through the loop.  This is the saying to remember the bowline:  Make a hole, the rabbit goes out the hole, around the tree, and back in the hole. Detailed photos and video tutorial here: http://www.animatedknots.com/bowline/#ScrollPoint

Bowlines can be used to tie a loop at the end of a rope to be used for hanging a bear bag or a hammock.  The knot can also be used as a safety harness to put around someone as the knot will not tighten and restrict circulation during the event of a rescue.

Detailed photos and video tutorial here: http://www.animatedknots.com/bowline/#ScrollPoint

k.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of animatedknots.com

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CampingFallSpringSummerWinter

How to: Build a Campfire With Purpose

Camping — one of the most fun, and easiest, activities in the great outdoors. While escaping civilization, sitting around the campfire is inevitably how you’ll end the day. What you want from your fire is completely dependent on how you build it. Fires need two key ingredients: oxygen and fuel. When you first construct your campfire, you will need tinder — small twigs, sticks, pine needles, sagebrush, and paper. This will go on the bottom of the fire to initially get the kindling ignited. The next layer of your campfire is kindling, or small branches and twigs as well as parts of a log that you have chopped down with a hatchet. The last layer of a fire is the fuel (or logs) which take the longest to ignite. There are three main types of campfires: tipis, lean-tos, and log-cabins. Each campfire type has its own purpose.

When it is cold out and you need immediate heat, the best fire type is the tipi. The kindling is stuck into the ground and forms a single point in a radial direction resembling a Native American tipi. Inside the tipi is the tinder which you will ignite. The kindling will catch fire after the tinder has ignited and then you add logs to the fire to keep the flames roaring.

When it is windy out, the best design is a lean-to. This differs from a tipi in the sense that a large log is placed upwind to act as a wind break. The kindling is then placed by leaning on the support log and the ground. The tinder is placed inside the wind-protected area. Again, light the tinder and the kindling will ignite shortly. Keep placing fuel on the fire by leaning the logs on the wind break.

When you need to cook dinner at your campsite, go for a log cabin. The log cabin uses a rectangular shape with logs stacked parallel to one another by laying logs across from one another. The final result will be a small log cabin. Inside the log cabin you will construct a small tipi where the tinder will ignite the kindling and then will progress outwards to light the fuel. The log cabin needs to be large enough to support cookware.

k.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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Island Biking

Have you ever seen that mountain that seems to sit inside the Great Salt Lake? Ever wondered what it is? Antelope Island, a sagebrush and bison-covered chunk of 42 square miles plopped in the middle of Utah’s biggest lake. Conveniently, it’s only two hours north of the U and a great place to explore different terrain on your mountain bike.

Each of the trails have varying levels of difficulty.  Split Rock Loop (five miles) and White Rock Loop (6.4 miles) are both on the western end of the island near the bison corral.  The popular Split Rock Loop descends very quickly towards Split Rock near the west shore. Once there, continue on the trail up the mountain to the historical horse corral. White Rook Loop is a nice warm-up that will get the blood flowing in your legs. You will definitely want to do this ride first on the island. If you continue south on the island, do the Elephant Head Spur or Split Rock Loop. On the east side of the island is the Mountain View Trail — an 11.8 mile one-way trail which goes along the edge of the shore from north to south, all the while featuring a backdrop of the Wasatch Front.

The trail to the highest point on Antelope Island, Frary Peak, does not allow cyclists due to the difficulty of the trail, but you can hike to the top if you desire.  The east side of the island is still in the development process of mountain biking trails.

Because of the excess of insects, pack bug repellent and go in early spring or late fall when the insect level is decreasing.

Once you make your way to the island, bison will welcome you. William Glassman and John Dooly introduced bison to the island in the late 1800s. Today, there are nearly 700 bison that call Antelope Island home. Depending on the time you head out to ride your bike, you’ll come across these muscular, car-sized beasts grazing in the fields.

To get there, head north on I-15 and take the Antelope Island Dr. exit in Syracuse. Before crossing Farmington Bay, stop at the ranger station and pay the $10 entrance fee.  Head west along the Davis County causeway, the only road accessible to the island.

k.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Seeking Adventure in San Rafael Swell

A kaleidoscope of red rock, the San Rafael Swell in Southern Utah is a destination you have to see. Approximately three hours south of Salt Lake City near Cleveland, Utah sits a vast playground of hiking and mountain biking.

When approaching from Cleveland, you will drive through plains as far as the eye can see. Looking east, the plateau in the distance towers above the flat plains and ranch corrals. The dirt road to get to the Swell meanders through the country like a snake.

There is a turnoff to stop and see the Wedge Overlook, which I highly recommend seeing. Imagine a miniature Grand Canyon and there you have it, the aptly nick-named “Little Grand Canyon.” Standing at the top of a majestic overlook, see canyons weaving in and out. On your way to the campsite located 100 yards from the historic bridge crossing the San Rafael River, you’ll drive down Buckhorn Wash. As you descend deeper into the Swell, the canyon walls narrow in on you and grow in magnitude.  Stay on the Buckhorn Wash dirt road for approximately 27 miles until Swinging Bridge Campground. Watch for debris from flash floods on the road.

One of the best sites to stop and visit while driving to the campsite is the Indian Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel, approximately 4.1 miles from the campground.  The pictographs are over 2,000 years old and you can make out a few animal shapes resembling a sheep or a horse (or whatever your imagination conjures up).

San Rafael Swell Camping Trip, Photo by Kiffer Creveling

San Rafael Swell Camping Trip, Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Continuing on your journey to the campsite just past the San Rafael River, you will cross one of the only suspension bridges in Utah, now a registered historic place.

There are endless places to hike and bike in the San Rafael Swell. The Mountain bike trail to Mexican Mountain parallels the San Rafael River and is very popular. On the southernmost part of the Swell, you have two of the most popular destinations: Little Wild Horse Canyon and Goblin Valley eighty miles south on Buckhorn Draw Road and I-70. Little Wild Horse Canyon, an eight-mile loop with approximately 800 feet of elevation change, will entice you. There are some passages that are so narrow you will have to hold your pack above your head to pass through. The wind is chilly when you are walking through the deep crevasse, but when you are in the open spots, it is essential to have plenty of water and sun protection.

Near the campsite,  there are a few fun canyons to explore. Each has its own special beauty with natural bridges, forming arches, and desert life. The most popular canyons are Calf, Pine, and Cow canyon. After an hour of hiking up Calf Canyon, you will reach the ‘Double Caves.’  There are cacti, jack rabbits, lizards, desert toads, scorpions, and more.  At night see the entire galaxy light up the sky and shooting stars visible after the moon sets. The Milky Way will be prominently located across the horizon.  You will never want to leave because of how beautiful it is.

DAY 1: Drive South to the Wedge Overlook and proceed to Swinging Bridge Campground. Stop to see the Indian Pictographs.

DAY 2: Drive back up Buckhorn Draw Road to Calf Canyon and hike to see “Double Caves.” Head back to the campground to enjoy burgers and relax.

DAY 3: Drive south to get to Goblin Valley and Little Wild Horse Canyon. The hike will take approximately five hours depending on how hot it is outside. Camp at Goblin Valley for your last night to enjoy the Goblins at night.

DAY 4: Drive back home to Salt Lake City from I-70 to I-15.

Camping in the San Rafael Swell, Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Camping in the San Rafael Swell, Photo by Kiffer Creveling

k.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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