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Outside the Wasatch

Trodding Across the Trans Zion Trail

After a full summer of living 30 minutes from Zion in the often overlooked and mispronounced town of Hurricane, Utah, my girlfriend Libby and I found ourselves avoiding the park. We had explored all of the big hikes in the main canyon, squeezed our way through some slots off the side of the main roads, and camped on top of the main rims. Just as I felt our recreational opportunities in Utah’s flagship park were expiring, I looked at the map. There, right smack in the middle, was an empty field. The only mark cutting through it was a series of dashed lines forming a winding path: the Trans Zion Trail. This past fall break, we finally worked out a window large enough between her work schedule and my classes to give it a shot.

Zion National Park. Photo credit @surfnsnowboard.

The Trans Zion is a beautifully classic, almost 50-mile backpacking trip that links paths starting from Lee Pass Trailhead in Kolob Canyon to the east entrance of the park. It is one of the most easily accessible and spectacular multi-day trips in any park in Utah, and it offers solitude that cannot be found near any of the more popular parts of Zion. Because of time restraints, Libby and I decided to start at the traditional beginning (Lee Pass), but end at The Grotto, cutting out the East Rim, ending in the main canyon instead of the east entrance.

Our itinerary was moderate, averaging 10 miles a day. Some people run the whole trail in a day, others take nearly a week to complete it. Since permits are needed for every camp, you will have in the backcountry, day mileage as well as trip length is heavily determined by the availability of those permits. We lucked out and ended up with the following itinerary.

Day 1: Lee Pass TH to Hop Valley A (about 9 miles)

All Trans Zion trips start at Lee Pass, which means you’ll need two cars or a shuttle. Libby lives in Hurricane still, so her friend dropped us off, but Zion Adventure Company also provides this service for those without such connections. From here, we followed the La Verkin Creek Trail for 6.9 miles until it met up with the Hop Valley Trail. Near the very end of La Verkin Creek is Kolob Arch. It’s only a quick 1.2 mile detour, and it is absolutely worth the 30 minutes it takes to see it. Campsite 10 is just past this junction, and Beatty Spring is usually flowing there. It’d be a good idea to fill your bottles here, or in the creek itself, before heading up the steep switchbacks to the Hop Valley Trail. There was not water above the switchbacks for us. We camped in Hop Valley A, a picturesque camp hidden in a grove of Ponderosas beside a sandy wash, but any of the later spots along the La Verkin Creek Trail (ideally camps 7-10) would provide a similar mileage day. Hop Valley B is another good option.

Zion National Park. Photo credit @surfnsnowboard.

Day 2: Hop Valley A to Wildcat Canyon Dispersed (about 13 miles)

Rise early to get out of Hop Valley before the sun is too high. The trail is beautiful, yet sandy; I would not want to slog through there at noon with a heavy pack. After about 5.5 miles, we reached the Hop Valley Trailhead. Unfortunately for us, it was here that we discovered Libby had fractured her knee and had to quit the trail. Had we continued, however, we would have followed the Connector Trail 4 miles, passing the beautiful Pine Valley Peak on our right, and joined the Wildcat Canyon Trail. From there, we would’ve continued about 3.5 miles until reaching the beginning of the dispersed camping zone, where our permit would have allowed us to camp anywhere out of sight of the trail. The backcountry office told us that Wildcat Canyon Spring was flowing, so we would’ve had water nearby our camp.

Day 3: Wildcat Canyon Dispersed to West Rim 5 (about 8.5 miles)

We would’ve spent the day more or less on the West Rim Trail. Depending on where we camped in the Wildcat Dispersed zone, we may have had about a mile before joining the West Rim. Once there, we would encounter some steep sections, but the views, I’ve heard, are unmatched. Again, the backcountry office told us that West Cabin, Potato Hollow, and Sawmill Springs all had at least a small water flow. Any site towards the bottom of the West Rim would be ideal (meaning sites 1 through 5). The even numbered ones are put online for reservations, so they’re likely taken already, but the others are kept for walk-ins. We had to get to the visitor center early the day before our trip so we could be first in line to grab a spot when the doors opened at 8 a.m.

Day 4: West Rim 5 to The Grotto (about 6.5 miles)

Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park. Photo credit @surfnsnowboard.

This final day should’ve be the easiest. It’s pretty much all downhill (so anyone with bad knees will rue this day) as we would’ve hiked from our site to Scout Lookout, where we should’ve been able to add a quick 0.8 mile detour hike to the top of Angel’s Landing, and eventually end at The Grotto. From there, we planned to take the park shuttle back to the visitor center where our car would be waiting.

Needless to say, Libby and I were disappointed we couldn’t finish the trail. The one night we did get to spend in Kolob enchanted us with a sky heavy with stars and orange cliffs that glowed during sunset. Ain’t no valley high enough and ain’t no canyon low enough to keep us from getting to Lee Pass again soon.

n.halberg@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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Antelope Island Weekend Getaway

What to Know

Antelope Island is the largest and arguably the most scenic of the 15 Great Salt Lake Islands located in northern Utah. The 42 square miles that make up this state park are filled with beautiful scenery, and a wide array of wildlife. The flat expanse of land is ideal for viewing mule deer, pronghorns, jackrabbits, coyotes, and American bison as they roam freely throughout the island.

Antelope Island has quite a few amenities, so it’s a comfortable getaway for even the most casual camper. Showers, bathrooms, the Island Buffalo Grill, horse rentals, boat tours, and a gift shop are just a few of the amenities that make a trip to Antelope Island a pleasant experience.

What to Do

If you’re planning on visiting Antelope Island this fall, the weekend of Oct. 27 is a fantastic time to check it out. The park’s annual bison roundup will be in full swing, making that weekend a perfect opportunity to see these animals close-up.

Here’s a potential step-by-step itinerary for your stay:

Friday: Arrive at the park. Camping at Bridger Bay and Ladyfinger is $15 a night. If you miss out on these affordable sites, there is always White Rock Bay Campground, where campsites run at $30 a night.

Take it easy at first and check out Buffalo Point trail (.8 miles). A moderate hike with benches along the trail, it’s the perfect way to get plenty of amazing views of the island as you travel to the point. It’s also a great spot to view the sunset at the end of the night, as the fading light shimmers and glitters on the waters of the Great Salt Lake.

Saturday: The top of Fray Peak is also a great hike, and at 6,595 feet, this peak marks the highest point on the island. Frary Peak is strenuous, with an elevation gain of 2100 feet. The climb is absolutely worth the strain, though. Just like Buffalo Point trail, there are gorgeous views to be had on this hike; what’s different though, is that you get to enjoy them in solitude. No horses, bikes, or dogs are allowed here, and it’s not as popular as many of the shorter trails because of its 6.6-mile roundtrip distance.

Sunday: Relax and breathe. Antelope Island is not too far from the mainland — but it feels like it is. Enjoy the serenity and take a walk along the beach. If you’re adventurous, you can also float in the salty (and admittedly smelly) water of the Great Salt Lake. For the more stylish, you can book a Sunday lunch cruise from Gonzo Boat Rentals and Tours at $55 per person. End the evening by joining a star party, where you can gaze at incredible constellations that can be seen clearly at this certified Dark Sky Park.

What to Pack

Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray — and sunscreen. Brine flies, midges, gnats, mosquitos, and biting gnats are constant inhabitants of Antelope Island. The biting gnats, referred to as “no see-ums,” are very active in the warm months of spring (April-June). There is little sun shade or shelter from the elements, so a head net and hat can also come in handy.

Binoculars, or a telephoto lens for your camera if you’re a photographer. You won’t want to miss out on getting a shot of the bison as they roam across the plains. They are easily found, and not too shy. Wildlife viewing is one of the biggest attractions that Antelope Island has to offer for good reason.

A road or mountain bike. The Davis County causeway that connects Syracuse, Utah, to the island has a designated bike lane, and many of the park trails allow for non-motorized vehicles. Biking is a great way to explore the island, so definitely bring one if you can.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Opening Minds to the Oquirrh Mountains

Veiled in mystery by the legalities and the eminence of the adjacent Wasatch mountains, the Oquirrh Range serves as the 10,000 feet dividing line between the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys. Equipped solely with the knowledge of a BLM public lands route provided by an outdated hiking guide, and a strong desire to summit a couple of the Oquirrh’s more prominent mountain tops, I took to the westernmost ridge of Kessler Peak.

It seems that the majority of Salt Lake residents simply lack the desire to trek into the Oquirrhs, given the close proximity of the sublime, and comparably larger Wasatch Range. Those who have opened their minds and weekends to the western green peaks have often suffered for it. They are met with the intimidating barrier of red tape and prohibitions deterring even the most intrepid outdoorsmen from entering for fear of hefty fines — or worse. Painfully evident by the violently dissolved mountain that is now the main Kennecott mining facility, the Oquirrh Range remains in a perpetual state of contractual inaccessibility since Rio Tinto’s colossal 1872 land grab that still holds control to this day.

With this corporate acquisition and grand expanses of private purchases, virtually the entire eastern face of the Oquirrhs is restricted to public use (with some exceptions to the far south). While some exploit the negligence of private landowners and trail-blaze in this region outside of the law, those who prefer risk-free, legal natural emersion are ultimately out of luck. Thankfully, the back westernmost face of the range offers a patchy network of BLM land allowing access to those extra-determined to explore Oquirrh terrain without paying heavily for it.

Following the guidance and antiquated advice of a 7-year-old online hiking guide, I made my way to that western back side with hopes of surmounting the ridgeline connecting Kessler and Farnsworth Peaks without deliberately breaking any laws. The guide I relied on did accurately get me to the approximate location of an access point, though it failed to compensate for the nascent housing developments along the base of these mountains.

The overlying drawback of hiking in a largely neglected public land is the total absence of trails, and the consequential abundance of wildlife and wilderness left to flourish independently of human obstruction. When I arrived, I was without the helpful understanding that the access point was at the perpendicular bend, and I began much farther back than I ought to have. I was thus left to bushwhack through dense, arid fields of overgrown dead grass, and the ubiquitous webs of hobo spider webs strung among them (yes, hobo spiders). Long pants and socks are highly recommended in this area in anticipation of the venomous arachnids that call it home — exercise caution.

Aside from the apparent danger of overgrown desert wilderness, the back face of the Oquirrh Range is beautiful. It serves as a tangible reminder of the desolate nature the remaining untamed American West provides.

While my lack of preparation and foresight forced my dejected party to turn back before completing the trek, an impetuous push up the ridge will eventually place you atop Kessler Peak. It is connected by an extended ridgeline to Farnsworth Peak, the more dominant of the two. Note: A section of this ridgeline is private land. Trespassing is not encouraged and would be done at your own risk.

Even if not for the explicit purpose of surmounting some of the more obscure peaks surrounding the Salt Lake Valley, exploration west of the Oquirrhs is sure to provide you with a palpable sense of connectivity with our forgotten 19th-century wild-western past. At the very least, you will come across the disheveled rusted railway spikes, and the scattered animal bones that are evocative of it. The radiant and largely untouched natural beauty is something worth seeing.

Immersion into this incredible yet inhospitable expanse requires only preparation and consciousness; all else is scenery.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

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A Gem in the Pacific Northwest

In southwestern Oregon, amid rolling hills of vineyards and proud forests of ponderosa pine trees, is Crater Lake National Park, the remnants of the former Mount Mazama Volcano that erupted over 7,700 years ago.

Crater Lake NP is Oregon’s singular National Park and with every passing year its popularity increases. Just last year, a recordbreaking 756,344 people visitors to the park had a chance to take in its gorgeous vistas.

Crater Lake owns the accolade of being the deepest lake in the U.S., and that’s not the only thing that makes it unique. If not for precipitation, the lake would be a giant hole in the earth, devoid of any moisture, as there are no inlets or outlets to the lake. This is also the reason for the lake’s existence, as that lack and its location in the rainy Pacific Northwest ensures that the water remains. For an average of eight months out of the year the park is covered in snow; during the other four months rainy days are frequent. When I visited at the end of July, there was still snow covering mountain tops as well as trails that led to higher elevations.

Don’t let this deter you, the rain and snowfall only serve to enhance the park’s beauty. When the sun shines across the lake, the translucent blue water practically sparkles as it contrasts with the lush green and brown forests that surround it. In the middle of the lake sits Wizard Island, the volcanic cinder cone standing as a reminder of how this piece of earth looked so many thousands of years ago.

What to do

There are many wonderful ways to take in the views around this lake, including a boat tour out to Wizard Island and summiting its mountain peak, a spectacular way to see the lake and watch the water as it surrounds you. These tours are $41 for adults, and $27 for children.

If a relaxing scenic drive is more your thing, though, you’re in luck: The park offers a trolley that provides a 2-hour tour and travels the entirety of the rim trail. The ride comes complete with a park ranger to answer all your questions and educate you on the history of Crater Lake. The trolley is also much more affordable than the boat tour, starting at $17 for children and ending at $27 for adults.

Last but not least, for those that like to go it alone there are a plethora or hiking and biking trails to choose from. Occasionally parts of the rim trail are closed to motor vehicles to allow bikers more space for themselves. This year those days will be Saturday, September 9th, and Saturday, September 16th. There are 16 different hiking trails with an almost equal selection of easy, moderate and difficult trails.

Fishing and swimming is allowed on certain parts of the lake, and from Monday-Saturday there are ranger talks, hikes and other activities to participate in.

How to prepare

If you plan on visiting Crater Lake soon, it’s best to make reservations ahead of time. As the popularity of the park increases it’s becoming ever more difficult to find lodging. There are 111 rooms total to be found at the two hotels inside the park, Crater Lake Lodge and The Cabins at Mazama Village, and campers have 230 sites to choose from at either Mazama or Lost Creek campgrounds. Backcountry camping permits can also be obtained in person, on the intended day of camping and free of charge, for backpackers that want to get away from the crowds.

As the number of visitors to Crater Lake National Park steadily climbs each year, this caldera lake becomes increasingly recognizable as a gem in the Pacific Northwest, and an icon of the always amazing creations of Mother Earth.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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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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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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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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Non-Technical Slot Canyons for the Adventurous Day Hiker

Utah is home to some of the most unique and amazing geological features in the American West. Nearly every other license plate in the state has a picture of Delicate Arch on it, and the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon and Goblin Valley are famous enough to warrant millions of Instagram posts. Perhaps most unique of all, and most seldom explored, are the thousands of slot canyons specific to Utah. While many require rappels and pothole escape techniques, there are still some that will take your breath away without requiring any technical skills. Here are a few of my favorites.

Little Wild Horse

Located six miles west of Goblin Valley State Park, this canyon separates you from the crowds of people swarming around the hoodoos next door. The hike is an 8-mile (four hour) loop. It occasionally has water running through it, but the water rarely rises above knee deep, so a good pair a wading shoes are all that is needed. Any major obstacles are avoidable and down climbs are easy. Overall, this is a sandy bottomed, mostly dry, kid-friendly slot canyon perfect for beginners or day hikers.

Beta: http://climb-utah.com/SRS/lwh.htm

Peek a Boo and Spooky

Due to their popularity, hiking these canyons feels more like an adult Disneyland than traversing around southern Utah’s desert. Nevertheless, the slots are absolutely stunning and the hikes are not long. While Peek a Boo and Spooky can be done separately, the best way is to loop them. Hike up Peek a Boo and, upon exiting, follow the cairned route east to the top of Spooky. Scramble down Spooky and return to the main concourse area where both the trailheads meet. The canyons are located about 26 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock road near Escalante, UT. Take the 4WD, high clearance Dry Fork Turnoff and follow it left to Dry Fork Overlook where the trails begin.

Beta: https://utah.com/hiking/peek-a-boo-slot-canyon

Moonshine Wash

Back in the days of prohibition, this canyon was used to hide an illegal distillery, remains of which are easily located in the canyon. Thus, the name Moonshine Wash. The canyon itself is a classic, tall slot. It’s located in the San Rafael Swell near Green River, so expect some solitude. At times, it requires deep wading, but all the down climbs are secure and simple. A competent hiker should have few problems completing this canyon. An old sheep bridges spans the top of one section of the canyon, making for an iconic photo op, and plenty of primitive camping is close by.

Beta: https://www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/robbers-roost/moonshine

Egypt 3

This canyon pushes the “non-technical” description. It has potholes that require partner escapes, exposed down climbs, and advanced route finding. A GPS is highly recommended for this canyon. Yet, the rewards of completing Egypt 3 make it worth it. As soon as the hike begins, you are greeted by a stunning cliff drop-off of a few hundred feet. Traversing left, you see the massive Egypt Canyon begin to form. Eventually, you’ll drop into it via a bonus side canyon and begin to experience huge slotted walls and long, tight squeezes. This is an extremely narrow canyon, often needing 100-150 yard squeezes with packs held in front. There is a single rappel at the very end of the canyon, but it is optional and can be avoided. Unless you have experience canyoneering, do not do the rappel. The exit hike is very exposed and extremely hot. It would be easy to get lost walking back. Bring beta, a map, compass, and GPS with way-points to safely and enjoyably complete the canyon.

Beta: http://www.canyoneeringusa.com/images/stories/PDFs/Escalante/HoleInRock/Egypt.pdf

*Canyoneering is a dangerous sport, even for non-technical routes. Many canyons are remote and not often traveled. An accident could mean serious trouble. Nearly all require exposed hikes in/out in hot desert sun. Bring lots of water, usually at least three liters each. Have plenty of options for route finding. A GPS is preferred, but a map, compass, and good beta should be brought every time. Be careful, well prepared, and practice good LNT.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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Modern Day Expeditions

Today it’s near impossible to step foot where no human has before. It seems that the golden age of exploration has been trickling out since the last fur trappers and government surveyors found desk jobs. While expeditions on the scale of Lewis and Clark are few and far between, that does not mean there aren’t still people out there exploring wild places. Here are three modern day expeditions that you can follow from your computer screen this year.

Everest No Filter

Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards are no strangers to Everest or mountaineering. Two years ago they launched #EverestNoFilter to document their first attempt to reach the top of the world with no supplemental oxygen. Cory succeeded while hypothermia forced Adrian to turn around. A year later, however, Adrian shattered the record for the fastest ascent of an 8,000 m. peak. It took him exactly two weeks from the time he stepped foot out of his home in Tahoe to the time he stepped back in. This year, he switched his training and diet and is ready to reach the top without supplemental oxygen.

Both Cory and Adrian will be posting snaps to the main @EverestNoFilter account. With constant posts thanks to satellite technology, you’ll get a near live view of what it’s like to live in base camp, climb the mountain, and (hopefully) reach the summit.

Pole2Pole

Mike Horn is one of the rare modern day explorers. He sets out on his expeditions with the goal of completing something nobody else has done. He’s racked up a list of the most ridiculously impressive feats, like swimming the entire Amazon River, following the Arctic Circle across the Earth during winter, and circumnavigating the world using only human power. Now, he intends to once again circumnavigate the globe solo, this time vertically. He will cross both the north and south pole on his expedition, using a combination of off-roading, sailing, and skiing to reach his destinations. He set off about 150 days ago, and has already crossed the south pole, but is headed through New Zealand on his way up north.

Instagram is the best traditional social media to follow Horn on. He posts daily when possible. His website, mikehorn.com, has an interactive map that shows where Mike currently is, where his support boat is, and every location he uploaded.

Riding Wild

Aniela Gottwald grew up with a love of the wilderness. Her father routinely took her on seven hour hikes through the forests and mountains and her mother taught her everything there is to know about horses. Starting this Spring, she plans to traverse over 4,000 miles accompanied only by her two recently broken mustangs and one wolfdog. Her route follows the Pacific Crest Trail through the U.S. and continues two to three months past the trail’s end to the Sacred Headwaters in Canada.

Her goal is to raise awareness for wild mustangs in the U.S., whose populations and habitats have been steadily declining since Americans first settled the West, and the Sacred Headwaters, which lack any governmental protection and are being developed for mining. Ultimately, Aniela hopes to make a documentary of her travels in order to raise the most awareness for her cause. Follow her on social media or check out her website at ridingwild.com.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.co

 

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