Adventures

Learning from Mistakes: Antelope Canyon and The Wave

Contributor story from Vien Voraotsady. Photo credit to Vien Voraotsady. 

We originally planned on doing a photography tour in one of the Antelope Canyon slots, but when everything ended up being sold out, we winged it.

On the way through Kanab, Utah, we found the best coffee shop: Willow Canyon Outdoor. This shop not only fulfilled our coffee craving, but we were able to peruse books, outdoor gear and clothing. It was the perfect opportunity for my wife, Ange, to find a hat that was all her own (one that wasn’t mine).

After our stop in Kanab, we made it to our hotel in Page, Arizona, on Friday after driving six hours. Page is a great area to visit with plenty of places to eat. There was also the added bonus of the Horseshoe Bend trailhead being five minutes from our hotel. We enjoyed the rest of our day there, and we watched the sunset from the bend’s top.

The next morning, we drove one hour back to Kanab to put our names in The Wave lottery at the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Visitor Center. There are two ways to get into the competitive lottery — online or in person. We were taking the latter option, and as we strolled in at 8:30 a.m. to put our names in we were excited, because the parking lot was empty. “We might have a shot!” Then the park ranger reminded us Arizona and Utah are in different time zones in the summer. We missed the drawing by 30 minutes.

The Wave permit lottery happens every morning at 9 a.m. The park rangers start taking names at 8:30. If you’re lucky enough to be one of the 10 to have your name drawn — there are upwards of 50-90 people each day depending on the season — you receive your permit for the following day (i.e., Saturday’s drawing is for Sunday’s permits). Lesson learned: be aware of time changes.

Kicking ourselves for this, we headed back to Arizona for our tour of the Lower Antelope Canyon at noon. This tour cost us $25 per person, and we booked it online the day before. By the time we got to the parking lot, it was windy, and in this sandy area we were quickly covered in grit. I recommend bringing hats, bandanas, desert scarves, and sunglasses to keep sand out of your eyes. You will get sand all over your camera equipment, so make sure you have a filter for your lenses.

There were about 15 people in our group. Our guide, Darren, was knowledgeable, talkative, and funny. We learned a lot about the Navajo Nation’s history as we waited our turn to descend the ladders into the slots. The beginning of the tour started with a descent on a steep, steel ladder to get to the slot. As we walked, we gradually climbed ladders up, and we eventually came out of the slot to the topside. It was about a 1 mile hike that took an hour and a half. It was breathtaking. We had plenty of sunlight, and a great tour guide. Along with entertaining and informing us along the way, Darren would help people in our group find the best settings on their camera phones for the best pictures, and he gladly took any photos you wanted. Using my Nikon D750, 90 percent of my pictures turned out great.

Photo by Vien Voraotsady

After we went back to our room, we were off to our 5 p.m. Upper Antelope Canyon tour we also reserved online. We met at a parking lot/gift shop in Page where we were shuttled to the site. This tour cost us $52 a person, and there were about 20 people in our tour group. Our guide wasn’t as talkative as Darren, but he did point out all the great photo places with a laser pointer. This tour was shorter, and it was an out and back whereas the lower canyon was a full loop. The lighting during this tour wasn’t favorable, but that could have been because the sun wasn’t over the slots. Using my backup camera, the Nikon D7000, only 10 percent of my pictures were keepers. This tour didn’t allow flash or the use of a tripod which was too bad — it had an awesome sand fall in the middle.

Photo by Vien Voraotsady

My favorite was the Lower Antelope Canyon tour. I’d like to go back and do the photographer tour in the future.

After that, we went back to Horseshoe Bend to stargaze. Even with our headlamps, we were a little leery of the ledges, but we had fun.

Photo by Vien Voraotsady

When Sunday came, we were ready for a detox, so we went to the Buckskin Gulch trail. Supposedly, there is a beautiful slot canyon with some water, but we didn’t make it since we only had two hours. We parked at the Buckskin Gulch trailhead, hiked for an hour and never found the slot entrance. We later found out it is a 4.4 mile hike to get to the slot canyon. If you want to see it, start at the Wire Pass parking lot. Make sure to bring cash or checkbook to pay the $6 per person permit fee.

Want to see your work here? Send story and photo pitches to c.koldewyn@wasatchmag.com.

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Beyond The Mighty Five

Many Utah folk try to enjoy the outdoors. If you’re among them, you’re likely either a part of the classic motor-tourist family, or you’re a semi-adventurous backroad traveler. If you identify with the former, you cram your trunk and zoom off across I-15, I-70, or some other highway to join the crowds craning their necks up in Zion, strolling along the canyon at Bryce, or waiting in line for their picture under a sweeping ceiling of stone in Arches. If you fit in with the latter, you might hit the backroads of Capitol Reef to stop in Cathedral Valley or brave the heat of Canyonlands to see The Needles. Either way, more likely than not, your itinerary will begin and end with the Mighty Five.

Amazingly enough, Utah’s wilderness extends past the borders of its five famous national parks. While they are a sight to see, and worth many full days of exploration in their own right, confining your itinerary to include only those parks means you’ll miss out on everything else our piece of the Wild West has to offer. Fortunately, there is another, less popular contingent of public lands endorsed by the Department of the Interior. They are our national monuments, and Utah is home to eight of them.

Cedar Breaks National Monument. Photo by Esther Aboussou.

National monuments are not quite national parks, though they are often confused. Parks are designed to inspire awe and wonder in their visitors by showcasing some of the country’s most spectacular natural features. Generally, monuments are smaller than parks, by at least about 2,500 acres. Monuments are far more specific; instead of highlighting a general region, like Zion Canyon or Yosemite Valley, they protect a specific resource for historical, scientific, or recreational use. They can be as small as a few blocks or as large as a couple million acres depending on how large the resource is. Monuments are typically less established than parks and see fewer visitors, meaning it is far easier to find a trail without tourists.

Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles the Utah-Colorado border, is home to one of the densest collections of dinosaur bones found anywhere. Since its founding, the 80-acre park has expanded to well over 200,000 acres and now encompasses vistas and canyons as stunning as anything found in Canyonlands. The best way to see the park is to imitate the late John Wesley Powell (the legendary, one-armed figure who first mapped the Grand Canyon) and raft from the Tolkein-esque Gates of Lodore to Echo Park along the Green River. These are undoubtedly the two most stunning areas of the park, and are both a long, circuitous drive on 4×4 roads, making a raft the best option.

Bears Ears is also on the list of historic marvels. The monument derives its name from a pair of buttes that distinctively mark a section in the area. The 1.35 million acres protects so many historically important aspects, listing them is nothing short of tedious. On the short list, there’s Alkali Ridge, Hole-in-the-Rock trail, Grand Gulch, Big Westwater Ruin, and many more–as that’s not even mentioning the deep traditional and cultural significance five different native tribes attribute to the land. Most of the protected area is undeveloped. The intent of the monument is preservation of these historic spots, not exploitation for recreation.

Up farther north, near Lehi, Timpanogos Cave sits under the shadow of its namesake mountain. This monument has no giant lizard bones or ancient villages, but the underground caverns are so fantastic, dragons would nest there if they ever existed. Follow a ranger on a guided tour through any of the three caves and be dazzled by the alien, underground world. To kill a day or two afterwards, you may as well hike Mt. Timpanogos, the second tallest peak in the Wasatch range.

While the weather is still nice, be sure to spend plenty of time exploring the largest of all the U.S. national monuments, Grand Staircase-Escalante. The monument’s 1.8 million acres encompass three main areas: The Grand Staircase, a haven of scientific knowledge uncovered by a unique erosion process; Kaiparowits Plateau, a massive geologic wonder extending all the way to Lake Powell; and the Canyons of Escalante, a canyoneer’s ultimate playground.

The next two of Utah’s monuments are also best explored in tepid weather, and oddly enough, by car. Monument Valley, more widely known as the place where Forrest Gump stopped his famous “run,” sits on the southern bord

A tree at Cedar Breaks National Monument. Photo by Esther Aboussou.

er, extending into Arizona. Go at night, find a spot that will allow you to comfortably face your tent east, and wake with the sun to one of the most classically western views in the world. Natural Bridges is famous for its very uncommon and non-classical views of rock bridges, as the name implies. Drive the loop around the monument and be sure to check out some of the largest natural bridges in the world. It’s like a mini Arches with a fraction of the visitors.

When the weather finally does turn, head just a few miles outside of Brian Head to check out Cedar Breaks. Reminiscent of Bryce Canyon, the monument has a ranger cabin open during the winter months to greet you with a warm fire and cup of cocoa. Grab your cross country skis or snowshoes and trek out for a true winter adventure to one of the state’s most gorgeous canyons.

National monuments are an explorer’s chance to dig deep into the historic, geologic, and cultural wonders of our land. They preserve those places which heighten our legacy and preserve our heritage. They remind us of days past, when creatures five times our size roamed, or when settlers ten times our imagination travelled. They inspire us with their deep canyons and expansive views, and lift our souls to see the most beautiful aspects of the natural world. They set the foundation for a huge part of Utah’s economy by establishing four of our state’s beloved Mighty Five. They are as integral to our country as any national park, and should be protected, explored, and loved.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Peakbagger’s Double Traverse: Mount Raymond and Gobbler’s Knob

Resting along the jagged divide bordering the Millcreek and Big Cottonwood canyons, Mount Raymond and Gobbler’s Knob are two idiosyncratic peaks connected by a single mile-long ridge, both surmountable in a single day. While these peaks are closer to sea-level than some of the Wasatch’s more formidable, with Gobbler’s Knob at 10,246 ft. elevation, and Raymond a mere 5 ft. lower,  this hike is strenuous and not for the faint of heart… or lungs. Courageous mountaineers willing to brace the summer heat and an 8.3-mile trek, however, will be rewarded with access to sublime wildflower meadows and a unique perspective of the Cottonwood Divide, Salt Lake Valley, and beyond.

Gobblers Knob (Left) and Mount Raymond (Right) at a distance

Getting there

The ridgeline connecting these peaks is accessible from two routes: Alexander Basin from Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Bowman Fork from Millcreek Canyon. Which route is preferable/easier is a subjective question wrought with controversy; since I have only had the opportunity to undergo the latter, though, I’ll stick with that one.

To reach the Bowman Fork trailhead, follow Millcreek Canyon Road approximately 4.5 miles to the Terrace Picnic Area. It’s very easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled for signs. A narrow, paved road will lead you up several curves to a small parking lot near the trailhead.

Not far from the trailhead, you will be presented with signs directing you towards either Elbow Fork or Bowman Pass — keep towards Bowman pass the entire duration of the hike. Like other trails in Millcreek, dogs are permissible (off-leash on odd-numbered days). If you intend to summit Gobbler’s Knob, bring your pup; Raymond is a bit too technical for paws.

The trail progresses along a winding stream and later converts to steep switchbacks, flourishing alpine forests, and meadows. Midway, a fork presents itself between Alexander Basin and Baker Pass. Continue towards Baker Pass. Note: particularly during this time of year, the trail is near overgrown with varied foliage. It is quite beautiful, though be prepared for mild bushwhacking — long pants are recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail eventually lets off atop the smooth ridgeline between Gobbler’s Knob and Mount Raymond. At this point, you can progress either way. Continue left (North) for Gobbler’s Knob, and right (South) for Mount Raymond.

Mount Raymond 

Summiting Mt. Raymond requires an additional 1 to 2 hours and a good bit of scrambling. The trail carves along the ridgeline south, which grows progressively steeper until stabilizing before the final ridge. This section is not recommended for dogs.

 

Summit ridge at a distance. The beaten trail is barely discernable in the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

Wildflowers along Mount Raymond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The traverse becomes a bit dicey as the slope transitions into a jagged knife-ridge. While daunting in appearance, this ridge is not entirely too difficult or exposed and requires only class-three scrambling. Be conscious of your step, and you shouldn’t have too much difficulty.

Initial push up the knife-ridge. Climb along its jagged spine.

Approaching the peak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photographs fail to adequately capture the beautiful perspective atop the apex. The chain of jagged peaks ahead is the Cottonwood Divide (Broads Fork Twin Peaks far right).

Mount Raymond is the tail-end of the Wildcat Ridge separating Big Cottonwood Canyon and Millcreek. Expert mountaineers braver than me can traverse the entire ridgeline as far as Mount Olympus — this precarious traverse demands technical climbing skills over 11.5 miles of exposed ridgeline known for its significant rattlesnake population.

Climb down the way you came.

Gobbler’s Knob

Gobbler’s Knob is the most recognizable of the two due to its clear visibility from the Salt Lake Valley and distinctive saddleback shape. Powder-hounds are known to summit the mountain in winter months to carve through its untouched snowpack and steep incline; this activity is typically discouraged in consideration of the periodic avalanches occurring along its slope each year — and the skiers who have lost their lives to them. The Folklore circulated by the Wasatch’s earliest settlers warn of a supernatural presence in the knob’s forests after dark— more on that here. While steep and exhausting in and of itself, Gobbler’s Knob is the easiest of both peaks by far. Nothing technical, bring your pup.

 

The mountain’s saddleback apex — a great place for lunch before making your way down. To return to the car, you need only follow the trail back down in the same direction. Another trail from the connecting ridgeline carves into the Alexander Basin route — shuttle cars if you would like to do both (note: dogs are prohibited in Big Cottonwood Canyon, however, so any pup you bring to the other would need a stop-off point if you want to do both).

Transient sun rays captured from Gobbler’s Knob at dusk.

Aspen forest near the ridgeline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be conscious of your body and exercise caution; food, water, and sun-protection are essential — best of luck.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

 

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Misadventures Down the Weber River

Utah’s summer can go from frying an egg on the sidewalk to ground-shaking thunderstorms with a 110% chance of downpour in what seems like very little time at all. Throughout those summer months, whether you’re trying to escape the heat or racing home to find shelter from the rain, the Weber River always prevails. Named after the American trapper Henry Weber, this 125-mile stretch of flowing water begins in the northwest ridges of our beloved Uintah mountain range and finds its way to the Great Salt Lake. For the outdoor adventurer, floating that stretch makes for a perfect day activity.

If you’ve ever floated a river, you know you must carefully pick your choice of floatation device. A $10 floatie that was on sale at your local grocery store isn’t going to cut it. Trust me, I know.

The first time I had ever floated the Weber was an utter disaster. It started when my friends and I realized we were not about to waste a beautiful summer’s day sitting inside watching TV. Instead, we found ourselves out in the heat, sitting around what looked like a campfire–but was, in fact, a small plastic kiddie pool. I had the brilliant idea of filling it with ice and water to keep cool (because, you know, we’re poor college students who don’t have access to a nice pool). With a beer in one hand and sunscreen in the other, this got real boring real fast. My roommate mumbled about how uncomfortable and sweaty she was and she wished she could lie out on the giant ice cream-shaped floatie she had just bought at the mall. She continued to talk about how she got it on sale and suddenly she stood up, an idea on her lips. “Let’s float the Weber river, guys!” she screamed. At this point, all I could think of was submerging myself in ice-cold running water, so we threw our swimsuits on and departed.

For preparation all we did was Google “Weber River” and Google maps took us towards what we hoped was the correct location. I had no idea what I was doing other than floating a so-called river out in the middle of nowhere. We continued driving alongside the river until someone saw an area of the river where people were occupied. We took the nearest exit shortly after the sighting and headed towards the people. From there we hopped in the river and started our adventure, following a family down the stream. It was all fun and games until the massive boulders in the river began creating rapids, at which point it became clear that my ice cream-shaped floatie and I were not equipped for this moment. I began to kick my legs, maneuvering around the rocks with some little success, occasionally experiencing sudden pain whenever my body collided with the partially submerged rocks all around.

Soon enough, the pickup area was in sight. We watched the family ahead begin packing their things in a car they had left previous to getting in the river, and slowly, we all realized exactly how big of a mistake we had made. Everyone had been so excited about escaping the heat, no one had thought about how we would be getting back to the car.  All I could do was the classic face palm. “How did we not think about this?!” I thought. Luckily, my friend Andy hurried over to the family and asked for a ride back up to our car. They agreed and we patiently waited for Andy to arrive.

While this makes for a great story, I think any one of us would rather be prepared than taking the chance of being stranded in a canyon. So I suggest one of two different ways you can float this magnificent river and avoid the mistake we made.

Option One: Self-Service

Take two cars, parking one at the end before starting, and then using the other to drive to your start point, and bring your own tubes and life jackets.

What you’ll need:

  • Two cars— One to park at the drop-off site and one to leave at the pickup site.
  • Tubes— This isn’t the lazy river at a water park. You’ll occasionally run into sharp rocks, which can pop your tube. So bring an extra and strap it to your current tube. You can also rent tubes/life jackets at the University of Utah’s Outdoor Adventures located in the Student Life Center if you have room to pack it in your car.
  • Life Jackets— Safety first; it’s the law. Weber County DNR officers frequently drive up and down this river to make sure everyone has a life jacket. It’s a hefty fine if they catch you without one so make sure it’s on even if you decide to take a pit stop on the shore.
  • Sturdy Shoes—Don’t wear flip-flops. No one wants to chase after a rogue sandal or stub a toe.
  • Relevant Clothes— Rapids means a chance of flipping over. Plants mean a chance of getting caught in branches and/or weeds. Being outside means a chance you’ll smell. I wore a swimsuit and swim shorts.
  • Waterproof Bag— Some keys aren’t meant for water. Even with the bags, best to leave cell phones in the car.
  • Snacks— Don’t forget this float is approximately two hours. You’ll probably get hungry. DRINK ANYTHING OTHER THAN WATER AT YOUR OWN RISK. If you decide to do so, make sure you are still able to guide yourself around rapids, and through the right tunnels. And be warned, there’s always a chance of getting arrested for public intoxication. No matter what, don’t forget to pack out what you pack in. This means DON’T LITTER.

How to get there:

  • If you’re coming from the good ol’ SLC, take I-15 north towards Ogden.
  • Continue onto Highway 89.
  • Head east towards Evanston, WY on I-84.
  • Continue east through the beautiful canyon, and then take Exit 108 to drop off the second car where you’ll end. A left turn off the ramp and under the overpass will take you to a parking lot.
  • For the first car, continue on I-84 until Exit 111 for Croydon (this is where the fun starts).
  • Follow the road under the bridge and you’ll find parking on your right.

Barefoot Tubing Co. Photo by Annie Duong.

 

 

Option Two: Business Service–Barefoot Tubing Co.

Tube through an actual business. This is one I highly recommend, especially if you don’t have the gear on hand. Barefoot Tubing Co. was the service I have had experience using. The people there are great, the equipment is provided, and they’ll give you a good idea of what you’ll be going up against before you hit the river. The best part about this service is the shuttle rides. For $25 dollars, they provide you a heavy-duty tube, a life jacket, and shuttle rides up and down the river.

 

What you’ll need:

  • Reservations— With a max of 25 people per shuttle ride, you’ll need to call ahead and let them know how many are in your party.
  • Money— You can’t put a price on fun but you sure can on rentals. The $25 per person fee includes: a heavy duty tube, life jacket, and shuttle rides up and back down to the parking lot.
  • Sturdy Shoes— See above
  • Relevant Clothes— See above
  • Waterproof Bag— See above
  • Snacks—See above
  • Forgot something? Unprepared?— Barefoot sells sunscreen, water shoes, sunglasses, and waterproof pouches!

How to get there:

  • The address is 1400 E Round Valley Way, Morgan, UT 84050. It’s as easy as searching “Barefoot Tubing Co.” in your Google maps.
  • Once you’ve arrived, all you have to worry about is leaving your keys safely with Barefoot and you’re off for some floating fun.

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Gear to Get You Started

Breaking into a new sport can be intimidating and expensive. As any outdoor lover is painfully aware, your gear will burn a hole in your pocket faster than wildfire. Buying into a new activity can put you back a fair bit, especially if you decide you don’t like the sport as much as you first thought. You can start off by renting the essentials, but soon this becomes more costly than just owning the gear yourself. Eventually, you reach a point where an investment is necessary. Here are a few pieces of gear that will maximize what you’re able to do while minimizing the amount of money you need to put in to get started.

Backpack (60 L)

This is the single most important piece of gear any so-called outdoor lover should own. Being able to pack yourself into remote locations and camp is a skill applicable to just about every outdoor sport. Attach your tent — or hammock — and bag peaks in the summer, strap your skis on in the winter and boot pack a chute, carry your rope and climbing shoes with you in the fall and ascend that new route, and/or snuggle your fly rod on in the spring to land that big Brown. Getting a pack 60 liters or larger will allow you ample room to cram in your essentials and get started on some easier overnight trips. Best of all, backpacks can be found at almost every used gear sale. It shouldn’t be too difficult to snag a deal on one.

Climbing Shoes

It seems there are two pseudo-requirements to live and recreate in the Salt Lake area: know how to ski and know how to climb. Both can get pricey fast, but climbing has the cheapest buy in. All you really need is a pair of shoes (and some chalk if you really want to be bougie). From there you can boulder, indoors or out, and see if constantly cramming your fingers in small cracks and holds suits your fancy. If you boulder outdoors be sure to either rent a crash pad ($6 a day from Outdoor Adventures) or pick boulders with soft landings, free of rocks. Like backpacks, climbing shoes are fine to buy used. Just be sure to check the condition of the sole, particularly on the edges, because it tends to get worn away the quickest.

Fly Rod

The Cottonwoods are not just the home of great climbs and powdery runs, but streams and lakes too. Meandering their way through all these are trout: rainbows, brooks, lakes, and browns. You will need a fishing license as well as a rod, but you’ll be able to keep up to four fish a day (unless specific area regulations permit otherwise). For most spots in the Cottonwoods a small, dark fly will work well. Even if you do more fishing than catching, a day spent next to pristine alpine streams and lakes is a day well spent.

Headlamp

Aside from being an extreme luxury/ borderline necessity, a headlamp is vital for caving. All over Utah lie underground tunnels and caverns waiting to be spelunked. While many caves require technical skills and are very easy to get lost in, there are some that are shallow and give just a taste of the bigger systems, like the Snow Canyon Lava Tubes. Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting absolutely filthy and leave your claustrophobia at the entrance.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Technical Slot Canyons for the Beginning Canyoneer

Just like with most adventure sports, canyoneering only gets better the more difficult it is to get through the canyon. While hikes through slot canyons are beautiful, they can’t compare to rappelling down one or having your partner help you climb over a stuck rock. A technical canyon is the best version of an adult obstacle course nature has to offer us, and one of the most adventures fun found anywhere. For those just getting started, however, it can be intimidating or even dangerous to drop down a canyon far above your skill level. Here are five canyons that are perfect for an amateur’s first few descents.

Blarney Canyon

This is a two for one canyon; there’s an East and West Blarney Canyon and both are great for those wanting to practice their natural anchor building skills. There are no bolts, but the canyon is well trafficked and natural anchors are bomber and easy to find. Both have medium sized rappels and moderate down climbs. Using a hip belay allows for less skilled down climbers to get some good practice safely. The canyons are located near Hanksville and are not difficult to find. Route finding is similarly easy, but it is exposed and, like all of Southern Utah, can be brutally hot in the summer. Either hike in early in the morning while it’s still cool or do the canyon at night (Note: not recommended if it’s your first time descending it). Either branch of the Blarney offers all the fun of a big, fully technical canyon without throwing anything too difficult in your face. No permits required.

Diana’s Throne

THE canyon for first timers. Located just outside Zion, this route is short, sweet, and extremely beginner friendly. The technical section only lasts a short while but offers a sampling of common canyon obstacles. Everything is bolted, making it very easy to safely maneuver every downclimb and rappel. Three big rappels mark the start of the slotty section, but a more vertical descent hides a bit farther down the canyon. The approach and exit are fairly well marked out and the canyon is not terribly hard to find. Footprints paint the way there. Around the exit to the canyon are a few, bigger offshoots that can hold fun rappels themselves if proper anchor building tactics are employed. No permits are necessary as the land is all BLM.

Yankee Doodle Hollow

Intimidating, then simple and sweet. Yankee Doodle starts with a big 130-foot rappel off the side of the canyon to the floor. It is partially overhanging, meaning you’ll be free floating at least part of the way down, but it’s anchored with bolts so there’s little chance of your anchor not holding up. After that initial rappel, some down climbs and slotty section will follow, but you won’t be rappelling again. It’s a one and done deal, making it great for those who want to try out a bigger descent. The canyon is located off the Leeds Exit (22) of I-15. There are no permits needed.

Keyhole

Perhaps the most heavily trafficked, and most common beginner canyon Zion has to offer. The canyon has just one, small rappel (30 feet), but offers multiple sections of good downclimbing and a classic cold water Zion swim. Break out the wetsuits for this canyon even if you’re doing it in July; water down in the depths rarely sees the sun and seldom heats up. Like others on this list, the canyon is short and should only take a few hours to get through. This canyon is so iconic of good Zion canyoneering that it has its picture hanging behind the permit station in the Visitor’s Center, which you’ll be able to admire while picking up your mandatory permit.

 

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Keeping Little Cottonwood Clean for Future Generations

Rock climbing is one of those sports where you often get a lot of ridicule and backlash from surrounding communities and local politicians. Rock climbers are often seen as those who have no concern for the surrounding environment as we scale walls. The truth is quite opposite, however. With my many years of rock climbing experience under my belt, I have seen nothing but people who are the most conscious about the preservation of the environment, and more specifically, rock climbing itself. In Salt Lake City, you are bound to find these types of people everywhere you go. It is a blessing when the city of Salt Lake and its inhabitants find a way to give back to the rock climbing community. Recently, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has formalized a relationship with the climbing community to secure almost 600 climbing routes and almost 150 boulder problems in Little Cottonwood Canyon, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Previously, the area now secured for rock climbers was privately owned by the Church with no access to climbing for almost 60 years when routes were first ascended. The area that has been recently opened is in the Gate Buttress, one of the most popular climbing areas in the canyon, and one of the most popular climbing areas in the state.

Personally, Gate Buttress is one of my favorite crags to climb due to its plethora of crack climbing routes with a wide range of route difficulty. Climbing routes range from anywhere between a rating of 5.7 all the way up to the 5.12 range. There are enough routes to cater to all climbing abilities, from the climber having their first outside experience to the seasoned veteran who knows all the climbs better than the back of their hand.

The best part about this relationship is the security of the area is open to the public for years to come. Future generations will be able to climb these walls just as those did before them for over a half century earlier.

In my years of going to Little Cottonwood, I have seen nothing but respect for the canyon by my fellow climbers. For example, I have seen several groups who have finished a long day of climbing hiking back down with backpacks full of trash to help clean up the area. I know of groups forming together online to meet up on weekends to perform trail maintenance. Keep in mind that this is all purely volunteer work and out of the kindness of their hearts to help see the preservation of the area and the sport. This being said, now that we as a climbing community have been granted the security of this world class climbing from those higher up, it is now our duty to help grant that security for the future.

In my honest opinion, I am not concerned. The climbing community has shown their support for the area, not only in Little Cottonwood Canyon, but also in all areas throughout the state for many decades. I am confident that this support will continue on the road ahead.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Utah’s Backpacking Gems

Summer brings about the liberation of one of life’s most valuable resources — time. For the adventure-minded, more time means longer trips, and longer trips usually mean backpacking. In a state where outdoor recreation is world class, there are surprisingly few trails long enough to warrant a hearty backpacking trip. When excavated deep enough, however, a few diamonds emerge from the rough. Here are some of the shiniest.

Coyote Gulch

This is one of those places so famous in Utah that it’s hard to live in the state one month without having heard of it. Located about 33 miles down Hole in the Rock Road in Escalante, Hurricane Wash provides the ideal trailhead for a longer trip into this area. Typically, the 26 mile trail is hiked as an out and back at 13 miles each way, but a shuttle car can be used at one of the many other trailheads leading into the gulch to cut out some distance. Coyote offers beautiful scenery all around the trail, two different arches, a hidden lagoon, and numerous other unique points of interest. Since it is backcountry, waste should be packed out and fires are prohibited. A free permit is required, and it can be picked up at nearly every trailhead.

Uinta Highline Trail

For a traditional, high alpine, long trek, look no farther than the Uintas. The mightiest range in Utah is home to one of the most stunning backpacking trails the state has to offer. Over 100 miles of elevated path guides the way across some of the most stunning points in Utah, including King’s Peak. Never dipping below 8,000 feet, the trail is snowed in, and it is typically not passable until July. When hikeable, the trail boasts a ridiculous amount of wildlife. Everything from moose to coyotes are common. As part of this, it is maintained, but rough and remote. At times, only spaced out cairns will mark the way, so a good map and navigation skills are critical for anyone interested. No permit is required.

West Rim Trail

Arguably Zion’s most famous backpacking trip, the West Rim Trail offers a perspective of the massively popular park that most of the tourists will never see. Starting at Lava Point and descending 19 miles into the bottom of Zion Canyon, this trail renders views of both back- and front-country. It can be done as a strenuous day hike, but taking two days allows time to tack Angel’s Landing on to the end of the second day as a bonus. If done as a multi-day trek, a backcountry permit is necessary, and camping is restricted to one of the nine backcountry sites.

Narrows Top Down

The Narrows is arguably Zion’s second most famous hike, conceding only to Angel’s Landing. In order to see all of it, however, you’ll need to hit it from the top down. This is a 16 mile hike, starting at Chamberlain’s Ranch descending a steady 1,500 feet to the typical Narrows trailhead. A shuttle will be needed to get you from the park to Chamberlain’s. This hike is usually not possible in spring due to the high water flow. If the river is running over 120 cfs, Zion will close the Narrows. This means June is usually the earliest the hike is open. Like the West Rim Trail, the hike can be done in a day, but who would pass up a chance to camp in the Narrows? A permit is required for both the overnight and day trip options.

The Maze

The Maze district in Canyonlands is a classic Southern Utah trip. Hard to access trailheads surround one of the most remote places in the lower 48 states. Little water is offered throughout the treks, so careful planning and preparation are required. Due to its inaccessibility, trips are rarely shorter than three days. Many routes contain low grade climbing maneuvers and a 25 foot rope is recommended to shuttle packs up. Many of the hikes are exposed, and hot in the summer. It is best to go in fall or spring. When there, be cautious. This place is truly extreme and remote. Self sufficiency and proper preparation are essential for enjoying your time in The Maze. However, a successful trip can be rewarding as the area is stunningly beautiful, and solitude is easily found. Permits are required for all trips to The Maze.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Home is Where You Park It

Camping should be done outdoors. My mother taught me that lesson when I was six years old, loading her three kids with backpacks, having us hike in Point Reyes National Park, trudging through redwood forests, and breathing in salty shores. That’s why whenever someone suggested a car camping trip, I’d stick my nose high and say, “That is not camping.”

Camping is when you’ve made peanut butter and banana sandwiches for the fifth time, and the sound of birds wake you up in the morning — not the hum of RVs. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. This summer, my friends are swapping tents for camper shells and plywood. With a little ingenuity, cheap travel to remote locations is possible by car, and it’s almost as good as the old tent and backpack style.

It’s inspiring what people are doing to their cars with such little material and space. These simple upgrades allow you to stay outdoors longer, and it allows you to travel farther in ways backpackers cannot. With a properly equipped car or truck, you can spend weeks exploring the hundreds of climbing routes in Moab, like the infamous roadside climb Wall Street, rather than only days with a backpack. Even better, you can save your campsite money by parking on BLM land. It’s there for public use, and you can even use the Green River as a place to rinse off. Behind the Rocks is a popular spot my friends and I use. You can try it yourself if you don’t mind traveling down a dirt road for thirty minutes (latitude 38.4360 longitude -109.5034).

Photo credit Samira Guirguis.

Your 20s are a time when you have little responsibility, and perhaps even a time when you have more freedom. Why not plan a long road trip, and drive through Utah’s National Parks? Travel to see the “Mighty Five,” enjoy the distinctive, yet seemingly delicate formations of Arches National Park, bask in the sandcastle-like spires of Bryce Canyon, and experience the undulating landscape of Canyon Lands. All you need is a car and some supplies.

Don’t get tied down in a job you don’t love or wait for a partner to do these trips, just go. One buddy of mine went as far as buying a van from a retirement home, which he now lives out of, for the freedom of travel it provides without restrictions of jobs or partners. He even kept the “Senior Friendship Center” writing on the van.

You, too, can create a living space in the back of your car so you can climb wherever and whenever, or you can load your car up with music equipment so you can jam out with your friends with epic views like the San Rafael Swell. Take that chance, live off the grid, find yourself, discover the world, and find your own “van destiny.”

 

Here’s one way to get your car sufficiently ready for such a trip with a camper shell bed:

-Depending on the dimensions of your bed, two sheets of 4×8 3/4” thick cabinet grade plywood (about $50)

-A box of 1.25” wood screws

-A box of 2” wood screws

-Four hinges (about $8, later unused)

-6’5×6’5 roll of carpet (about $16)

-Wood glue

-Staples

–Total: About $80 after tax

Ultimately, all you need is just a few supporter beams and a thick piece of plywood to make it work in any truck, so get creative.

Although Toyota Tacomas in particular work great for this kind of thing, along with most trucks, this doesn’t mean you still can’t turn your car into a sleeper car. Subarus work just fine, too. All you need to do is take out your back seats, and voilà. Also, don’t forget to utilize all the storage space you will have underneath your bed platform. For my 2003 Subaru Outback, I used three plywood supporter beams that were 36” wide and 65” long to make my platform. Always check your car’s dimensions first though, because every car year/make/model is a little different.

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

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Zion: An Outdoor Paradise

Zion National Park. Photo taken by Esther Aboussou.

If you’re short on time this summer, yet still anxious to explore the best that the Beehive State has to offer, look no further than the beautiful backyard of Southern Utah. Just outside of Cedar City lies 229 square miles of red rock country, towering canyon walls, dense forests, and beautiful sandstone buttes. This landscape is encapsulated inside the boundaries of the famous Zion National Park.

Zion is a paradise for outdoorsy people of every kind. There are activities and hikes anyone can enjoy, and the scenic drive alone is enough reason to go. Because of the wild popularity of the park, it’s best to plan a trip just before the summer tourist season kicks in to full gear.

If you’d like to spend a few nights in Zion National Park, there are three campgrounds, and there are 176 campsites to choose from. These range from $20 to $30 for the week, depending on which site you choose. The more expensive ones include electricity. Reservations in advance are a must. These sites fill up quickly, and they tend to be full throughout the entire season. In areas surrounding the park, there are primitive campsites such as Lava Point Campground up in Kolob Canyon that are based on a first-come first-served basis.

The best part of Zion is the diverse landscape it offers. There is so much to do, and there is even more to explore. You can bike, hike, ride, or climb your way through Zion National Park and still find yourself yearning for more. Out of the 18 hikes to choose from, a few of the top attractions are Angels Landing, The Narrows, and The Subway hikes.

Zion National Park. Photo taken by Esther Aboussou.

There are amazing views to be had as you summit the 1400 feet of Angel’s Landing. Navigating the tight passageways and trudging through the knee-deep water of The Narrows is an unforgettable experience. The Subway is a workout, and it is certainly not for the faint of heart. A permit is required for this 9-mile banger, and you’ll need to be skilled in route-finding, swimming, and rappelling to make it through the intense slot canyon.

Don’t let this scare you away, however. Zion has quite a few easy to moderate trails that provide gorgeous views. The Upper Emerald Pool trail is a 1 mile hike that leads to a beautiful waterfall of refreshing water at the base of a cliff. The 3.5 mile Taylor Creek trail is a quiet trek that gives hikers amazing views of the majestic double arch alcove.

A visit to Zion National Park can provide awe-inspiring views and adventure, or solitude and relaxation. It all depends on which parts you choose to explore. What is certain is that this utopia of Utah wildlife and lush scenery is a treasure of the western United States, and it is an absolute joy to behold.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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