Devil’s Castle

At a glance:

Jet black limestone in an imposing jagged configuration, Devil’s Castle is an outdoor execution unsuitable for the faint of heart. This ascent is located within Little Cottonwood Canyon’s Albion Basin near Alta Ski resort. At 10,920 ft., this peak rests at a comparatively lower elevation than many of the larger fixture’s in the Wasatch Range. But don’t let that fool you, this hike is not to be underestimated.

Photo Credit: Cedar Fisher

Photo Credit: Cedar Fisher

What to expect:

Devil’s Castle is constituted by three overlying peaks — the middle of which houses a summit register mailbox —  and can be traversed by a number of distinct routes, each varied in difficulty and with relative degrees of exposure. Even the easiest approach contains compulsory stretches of lower class five free climbing and scrambling along exposed knife-edge ridges from which a single misstep could be fatal. Despite its apparent difficulty and notoriety, Devil’s Castle is considered by many locals to be one of the best scrambles on the Wasatch and, for truly audacious outdoorsmen, an experience nothing short of sublime. From the saddle, the 11,051 ft. Sugarloaf Peak is accessible by an approximately half-hour detour west and is difficult to resist for the imperious peakbaggers among us.

Getting there:

The trailhead is located within Albion Basin Campground, at the very end of Little Cottonwood Canyon — the unpaved inlet road is typically closed during the winter.

Photo Credit: Kiffer Creveling

Photo Credit: Kiffer Creveling

Lone Peak

At a glance:

A renowned peak and prominent feature easily distinguishable from both the Salt Lake and Utah valleys, Lone Peak is a formidable alpine ascent to scratch off your list before the snow falls. At 11,253 ft., Lone Peak is among the highest mountains along the Wasatch Front and is widely regarded as the most strenuous due to its considerable elevation gain and daunting class four scrambling along the summit ridge. This climb is worth every drop of sweat as one stands upon the apex of the peak’s glacial cirque and overlooks the high desert landscape.

What to expect:

The average hiking time from trailhead to summit is approximately five to seven hours, depending on the route. There are numerous ascents, but the two most popular and heavily recommended are Jacob’s Ladder Trail and the relatively new Cherry Canyon Logging Trail. Jacob’s Ladder is the fastest ascent to the summit but is poorly maintained and steep through minor stretches (though it does enable access to the rustic Outlaw Cabin). The second is slightly longer, but passes a reliable perennial spring and is considered to be more scenic. Upon entering the glacial cirque and scrambling onto the mountain’s jagged spine, you’ll traverse the heavily-exposed, precarious ridge to summit.

Getting there:

Dependent on your route, yourhikingguide.com is a great resource and offers valuable information. “From Salt Lake City or from the south take Interstate 15 to exit for 12300 South, and head east to 2000 East. You’ll go straight through a roundabout at 1300 East and continue to 2000 East. Turn right on 2000 East for about 0.2 miles and turn in the Orson Smith parking area. The Bear Canyon Trailhead/Cherry Canyon Logging Trail starts here. To continue to the Jacob’s Ladder trailhead, follow the dirt road for about 2.6 miles and park at the parking area on the right” (yourhikeguide.com).


Read Article

Cedar Breaks National Monument

On the banks of the sea of national parks in Southern Utah sits a breathtaking national monument just 3 ½ hours from Salt Lake. 60 degree Fahrenheit temps in the summer months and the highest base elevation for skiing at Brian Head Ski Resort during the winter make Cedar Breaks the perfect get-away for any season.

The hikes in Cedar Breaks are easily accessible and moderate. The 2-mile Alpine Pond Nature Trail takes you through a lush meadow filled with lavender columbines and mountain bluebells. Take a lunch break at the spring-fed Alpine Pond.

If you want to see the famous red rocks of Cedar Breaks, take the Rampart overlook and Spectra Points trails. The first part of the hike is only a mile long and brings you to the Spectra overlook. You’ll stand on a ledge over 10,000 feet in elevation, gazing at the hundreds of hoodoos and trees below you. Above, you feel as if you’ve entered a giant sand castle with red pillars striped with white. One mile past the Spectra overlook is the Rampart overlook- a smattering of red, yellow, and orange sandstone twisting into unearthly hoodoo spires.

The entrance fee for the park is only $4 per person and camping is $18 a site. If you’d like to avoid the camping fee, there are many primitive campsites close to Cedar Break. Coal Creek Campground is just 20 miles from the monument. It’s a small, beautiful campsite with a creek running adjacent that drowns out noise of the nearby highway. Because Cedar Breaks is a very busy national monument, being able to spend the night in a secluded campground is a relaxing choice.

Pets are allowed on most of the trails as long as they’re leashed, and near the visitor’s center is a short wheelchair accessible hike with a great view of the amphitheater. If hiking is not your thing, the monument also offers many ranger-led programs during the day as well as stargazing at night. As an international dark sky park, be ready to see some incredible stars.


Read Article

Kings Peak


At a glance:

High in the sky, at 13,528 feet stands Utah’s highest mountain – Kings Peak.  A very popular backpacking destination in the High Uinta mountain range that goes right through the Highline Trail.

What to expect:

One of the more popular routes to the top of Kings Peak starts at Henry’s Fork, beginning with a moderate elevation gain over the first ten miles.  You will ascend a river drainage known as Henry’s Fork and follow the river most of the way up, fortunate for those who frequently need to fill up water.

After passing Alligator Lake, detour from the trail to soak in the scenery, eat a sandwich, and catch your breath before the next long haul.  Some hikers even set up their first or last camp here depending on the length of their expedition.  One of the next most popular places to set up camp before the summit is either Henry’s Fork Lake or next to Dollar Lake, closer to the pass you’ll summit tomorrow.

The stars on a clear night are a kaleidoscope of colors; you’ll finally understand why they call the galaxy the Milky Way.


Photo Credit: Kiffer Creveling

The next morning is your summit bid.  Trek through Gunsight Pass and seemingly endless switchbacks. At the top, you can look into the next basin over (Painter Basin) and know the peak it near (about three miles away). Walk through waist-high shrub until you round the right-hand side of the basin. Now comes the final ascent toward Anderson Pass, and the views keep getting better. Look at the boulder field and step slowly to the top, avoiding unstable rocks, which will most likely have snow and ice between. After about an hour and a half of extremely slow-cautious hiking through the boulder field, you’ll reach the summit.  There is a small plateau for you to throw your pack off and enjoy the view.  Kick your feet up and take in the moment and the view that you’ve earned.

Photo Credit: Kiffer Creveling

Photo Credit: Kiffer Creveling

After reaching the summit, you have only finished half of your journey.  The next half is the descent back to the bottom.  Have fun and enjoy the trek back home.

Getting there:

Take I-80 for an hour and a half through Wyoming, turning off around Fort Bridger to follow small roads south back into Utah. The trailhead is at the end of FR-077, a total of about 2 1/2 hours from Salt Lake City.


Read Article

Stop to see the sunset

Sunsets over the Salt Lake Valley are one of my favorite parts of living here. The warm oranges and deep pinks blending in the sky are enriching, and basically any place you are in the Wasatch Range will be absolutely breathtaking as the sun goes down at night. Some of my favorite places all have stunning vantage points.

There are two ways to fully grasp the beauty of a sunset: one is to face the sun as it goes down, revealing unforgettable silhouettes, and the other is to have your back to the sun and see the colors that come alive in the scenery behind you. In the Wasatch, both live up to the full potential.

Shoreline Trail

My top spot to see the sunset is on the Shoreline Trail, where you can catch the silhouette of the Utah Capitol Building and a small shimmer of the Great Salt Lake. It always puts a smile in my face as I see the sky light up with such vibrant colors.

Snowbird Resort

My second favorite place to catch the last rays of sun is at Snowbird Resort. The best spot is either at the top of the tram or at the base. As the light begins to fade, it bounces around Little Cottonwood Canyon, bringing out all the beautiful colors of the rock. If you have a chance to experience this, I would highly recommend it.

Mount Olympus

The next-best location to see the sunset is at the base of Mount Olympus. From this point of view, you can see why the peak gets its name from Greek mythology. The huge rock face of the mountain and the surrounding cove truly lets you see the best shades of reds and oranges.



Read Article

Take a trip to Lake Tahoe

If you are looking for a great get-away trip during Fall Break, I highly recommend making the expedition to Lake Tahoe (splitting the border of California and Nevada). The eight-hour drive is definitely worth the time.

If you have never been to the area, then you are in for an experience like no other. The drive is a little long with the beginning being the most difficult part to get through, but once you inch closer to California, you begin to see the landscape transform.

There are plenty of stops along the road for those who want to break up their drive through Nevada. You may even want to stop in Reno to make a quick buck on the slot machines or the blackjack table. Once in the Sierra Nevada, you’re surrounded by beautiful pine trees with pinecones the size of bowling balls.

When you reach Lake Tahoe, it’s easy to be instantly blown away by its beauty. It’s quite a large fresh water body with plenty of activity in the surrounding area to keep you busy for the entire week. The water is the clearest that I have ever seen. There are times when you’ll have visibility of 50 to 75 feet below the surface.

The shore of the lake is home to a couple of beaches. Some are large enough to play badminton or a game of volleyball. At the northern part of the lake, you can rent bikes with big enough tires to take rides on the sandy shores. If you have the opportunity to do this, I would not let it pass.

The lake is also open to any water sport that your heart desires, such as wake-boarding, water-skiing, boating, fishing, paddle-boarding, or even scuba diving. The options are limitless. The water is a little colder in October, so I’d recommend a wetsuit.

You can also visit the nearby ski resorts, such as Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, and North Star (though there won’t be any snow yet). You can ride up to the top on a tram and visit one of the numerous restaurants and gift shops.

Another landmark to visit at Lake Tahoe is Bonsai Rock. It is located on the Nevada side of the lake towards the north. This is a very popular tourist destination and a highly photographed feature of the lake. It is truly awe-inspiring.

Lake Tahoe is also home to various hikes, especially along the southern portion, including part of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail. The best option would be to go on a backpacking trip to really get the full experience (just be cautious of bears living in the area).

All in all, Lake Tahoe is an excellent destination for a Fall Break trip. If you have never been to the area, you are surely in for a treat.



Read Article

Make some memories in Missoula

I write the dates of Fall Break into my calendar on the first day of school, just so I have the motivation to power through the first half of the semester. Now, as fall weather has begun to settle over the Wasatch Front, it’s finally on the horizon. This is my chance to unwind and get out into nature.

For me, hopping in the car for a road trip is the perfect way to spend this time. During the past two breaks from school, I have road tripped up north to Missoula, Mont.

This is a dynamic destination for a fall trip. Missoula is about an eight-hour drive north from Salt Lake City. Though this may seem long to some, it’s an easy and relaxing drive. You can stay on Interstate 15 north for almost the entire duration of the trip, until about the last hour. The route also consists of ample 80-mile per hour speed zones, which means you can hit cruise control and enjoy the journey.

The scenery along the way is beautiful: picture wide-open fields. It is a much-needed change of pace from driving around the city in the hectic commute to and from school.

The rich colors of fall greet your arrival into Montana’s autumn splendor — it feels as if you’ve entered a postcard. Missoula is similar to Salt Lake in that the city rests inside a valley and is just a few minutes away from nature.

There are lots of great spots for adventure in Missoula, and the fall weather is a great time to take advantage of these locations in the cool mid-October air. The mornings can actually get a little frosty, though, so bring a warm jacket.

The daytime temperatures are ideal for hiking, and there are plenty of awesome trails. One of the easiest to access, if you are staying in town, is the “M” trail. This is a steep switchback trail that takes you up to the letter “M” representing the University of Montana. The top of the trail gives you great views of the city, the Clark Fork River, and the college’s campus. This trail can get pretty popular, so it’s better to go during the week (and avoid it altogether on football game days).

Another popular outdoor spot close to Missoula is Lolo National Forest, home to many hiking and climbing spots. I tend to stick to the trails and enjoy some nice autumn strolls. Pattee Canyon is a great place to start. You’ll find plenty of locals and dogs on the well-maintained trail.

Even if you don’t feel like heading out into the wilderness for a hike, the town itself is extremely pleasant. There are plenty of unique shops and delicious restaurants sprinkled around downtown. Don’t miss Rockin Rudy’s, a one-of-a-kind store that sells everything from huckleberry candy canes to goofy rubber masks and drinking games. I also recommend going down the street for some ice cream from Big Dipper — it’s some of the best I’ve ever tasted, and it’s a great way to relax after a day on the trails.

If you want to get some good distance from Salt Lake and experience awesome fall scenery, consider spending a few days of your Fall Break in Missoula this year. With a perfect mixture of outdoor adventure and a vibrant downtown scene, it is well worth the eight-hour drive. You may just find yourself making it an annual fall destination.




Read Article

Willow Lake is worth the hike

The drive up the Big Cottonwood Canyon itself is enough to take your breath away. The full spectrum of nature’s palette can be seen in the trees lining both sides of the road.


Turn up the volume on some Fleet Foxes or Flatbush Zombies and soak in the beauty — the scenery is perfect for any music genre. Once you reach the Willow Heights Trailhead, hop out of your car quickly because the canyon breeze is immediately refreshing. Parking is a first-come, first-served free-for-all. Praise the powers that be, we somehow found a spot at noon on a Sunday when the canyon is usually swarming with people looking for an escape from everyday life.

The hike to Willow Lake is not long, certainly not an all-day trip. But what it lacks in length, it makes up for in 600 feet of vertical elevation gain. The trail is three-quarters of a mile and clearly marked, making it easy to follow; however, it is quite narrow, so remember the trail etiquette your mom taught you. So much elevation gain in so little time means it is considerably steep for the first half-mile.

It’s not for the faint of heart or for those with two left feet, as the trail goes quite high up into the Wasatch Plateau. Willow Lake itself sits nestled in a basin at an elevation of 9,400 feet.

The trail ranges all the way from a nature walk to nearly unmanageable in its short duration — just enough fluctuation to keep you on your toes. The fall colors are spectacular. The entire trail carves its way through a grove of aspens, all in their autumn bloom, with intermittent spruce and fir trees.

After a half-mile of nearly vertical trekking, the trail begins to even out, signaling that the end is near. Upon exiting the thick growth of yellowing aspens, you suddenly find yourself out in the open. The trail now seems flat, and you can feel the relief washing over you. Looking ahead, though, you see yet another rise of the path in the distance. Ultimately, the trail falls into a small basin just beyond that view.

Willow Lake isn’t quite what I imagined and, in all truth, leaves a little to be desired. After that mountainous climb, it could well be described as anticlimactic. But that’s hardly the lake’s fault. Without a previous good snow year, alpine lakes can appear a lot less impressive in a dry fall than in a wet spring, and we all know what little snow the whole valley saw last winter.

Willow Lake is small, shallow, and a tad sloppy. But it is beautiful. In the early hours of the morning and last hours of daylight, you can see moose looming in the thick willows surrounding the area. The changing aspens reflected in the surface shimmer, as if the lake were made of gold. In Utah, you’d be hard-pressed to find a mountain lake that isn’t beautiful, no matter how big or small (or how painful the climb).

Standing on the shoreline of Willow Lake provides gorgeous views all the way around. You can even catch a glimpse of Solitude to the south. For those looking to extend their hike, feel free to walk the perimeter for some extra leg work. The surrounding flat meadow is a welcome change of pace and makes for a perfect stroll if you aren’t ready to leave.

If you’re like me and find yourself itching for outdoor adventure, then you should head to Willow Lake sooner rather than later. Don’t let the initial hill deter you from this alpine lake. Buckle down and make the climb.




Read Article

Go for a climb this “Rock-tober”

Are you feeling it, too? It’s really quite beautiful, once you think about it. Things are happening around Utah. The backgrounds of our Instagram selfies are changing to beautiful hues of gold, red, and orange. The soft smell of decaying leaves (and is that pumpkin spice?) is gently blowing in the breeze. It’s that time: Fall is upon us.

Send-tember is over, and Rock-tober is in full swing. What does this mean? Well, if you like to climb, you may realize that the temperatures around the state are beginning to calm down. The canyons in the Wasatch and the desert towers in central Utah are not quite as swelteringly hot. Plus, at least normally, for one glorious month out of the year, conditions around the state become just right to open up a veritable buffet of climbing opportunities.

Let’s do some math. Fall Break is nine days long. That’s nine uninterrupted days of pure freedom. Better still, that’s nine whole days of prime climbing time. I’m no math major, but that’s seven more days than our average weekend. Sounds to me like an opportunity.

While many people may be finding themselves running home to their families or going on sight-seeing trips around the state and beyond, you could be taking advantage of this prime weather to head down and climb in southern Utah without having to worry about getting back late Sunday night in time for classes the next morning. Or you could stay in the valley and climb along the Wasatch Front. Each day is a new opportunity for morning pump, mid-day crushfests, and evening epics.

If you’re still not getting my message, let’s look at average temperatures in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons during this time of year: low- to mid-60s. What does that mean? Your climbing ability rises about two to three whole letter grades in this temperature. I don’t make the rules — these are just the facts, people.

Need some ideas? Grab a few crash pads and go bouldering in the Secret Garden, located near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon (only about 20 minutes from campus). Or, for more of an adventure, head down to Moab, camp for a few days, and go climbing at the infamous Wall Street. Not too far away is Indian Creek, which is well-known for its top-tier sandstone crack climbing. Now is not a bad time to make the drive and experience what all the hype is about.

If you don’t quite have all the gear, check out Outdoor Adventure’s equipment rental program. They have quite the inventory, and U students receive a small discount on rental fees. A bouldering pad is $6 for the day. You can even rent climbing helmets, harnesses, and shoes. Or grab a tent, sleeping bag, and every other camping essential you need to sleep at the base of your next objective. Now there’s really no excuse.

So get out this Fall Break and go climbing. The weather is great, school is a non-issue, and your friends finally have no excuse to not act as your belayer for the day.




Read Article

(Don’t) Keep your eyes on the road

Sometimes you just need to roll the windows all the way down, blast some music, and drive. Luckily, the Wasatch is the perfect place for that. You can hop in your car and catch some beautiful scenery out of your window in a short distance. Here’s my roundup of the best places to put the pedal to the metal.

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Distance: 15 miles to the top of the canyon

If you have ever spent anytime in the Wasatch, you have likely journeyed up Big Cottonwood Canyon. It is only a 25-minute drive from Salt Lake City to the mouth of the canyon. From Salt Lake, exit I-215 at 6200 South and follow signs for Brighton and Solitude ski areas. Though you may say that you have seen it a million times, every season — or every day for that matter — the canyon will morph into something entirely different. Even if you don’t feel like embarking on any hikes, there are plenty of places to stop off on the side of the road to admire the sweeping cliffs. You may even catch a glimpse of some brave climbers scaling the walls.

If you feel like going for a short nature walk, consider checking out Donut Falls. It’s a short hike on flat ground, making it a great way to take in the scenery and stretch your legs. The canyon is steep and winds all the way up with some pretty harrowing hairpin turns. But don’t let the twisting road stop you from making it all the way. Brighton perches at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon and provides an awesome end point to your scenic drive. Pack a lunch and take it all in.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Distance: 7-mile scenic byway

Little Cottonwood Canyon is a drive you shouldn’t miss. From Salt Lake City, exit I-215 at 6200 South and follow the signs for Snowbird and Alta. The canyon truly does present you with the best the Wasatch has to offer, even without leaving your car. Unlike Big Cottonwood Canyon, Little Cottonwood Canyon is less narrow and winding and more expansive, though still plenty steep. There is lots to do and see on your drive up the canyon with wilderness areas flanking either side of the road.

You can also stop off at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort to walk around or take advantage of the swanky amenities at The Cliff Lodge. When you reach the top of the canyon, you will end up in Alta, which boasts amazing wildflowers in late summer, vibrant fall colors and a skier’s paradise in winter. Once at the top, you can gaze at the riveting view down the canyon.

Salt Lake To Park City Via I-80

Distance: 30 miles, one-way

The drive on I-80 from Salt Lake City to Park City is scenic and straightforward. If you like to cruise at high speeds on the open road, then this is the Wasatch scenic drive for you. Try using the right lane to slow down a little and enjoy the scenery. The towering mountainsides, covered in forest, give you breathtaking views from every angle.

The drive is fairly steep until you roll over the top of Parley’s Summit. Once you are over the summit you begin to coast down toward Park City, which is a great place to explore at the end of your drive. The city is not only home to great restaurants and stores but is also surrounded by some incredibly scenic Wasatch terrain.

Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway from Park City to Wasatch Mountain State Park

Distance: 15 miles, one-way

If you are in the mood to escape the masses on the main roads and get onto something a bit more rugged and secluded, look no further than the Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway. Once you are in Park City it is only 2.7 miles to the Guardsman Pass road. There are multiple directions in which you can head, but one of the best is the branch that takes you over to Wasatch Mountain State Park near Midway, Utah.

The road is a bit rough in places and ranges from paved to gravelly to washboard, but it is definitely doable without four-wheel drive. Just be aware that heavy rain and other weather conditions can make the road a bit treacherous. The route passes by meadows, aspen groves, and towering evergreens. This drive is especially spectacular in the fall when the colors are at their peak.




Read Article

Editor’s Note, Sept. 2015

I don’t like pumpkin spice. That’s right, all you latte-loving lunatics, I won’t be mobbing a Starbucks or Trader Joe’s any time soon.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love fall.

There’s magic in the leaves changing colors (plus, I hear orange is apparently the new black). Now is the chance to raid your nearest Target for knitted hats and watch “Hocus Pocus” until you croak. But most of all, it’s the perfect time to enjoy the Utah outdoors … before the skiers descend (yes, that does sound like the name of a low-budget horror flick at Sundance).

To help you get outside all you can before the snowfall, we’ve filled this issue of Wasatch Magazine full of trip ideas for an adventurous October. It’s our annual “Fall Break Guide,” and inside you’ll find stories leading you to Bryce Canyon, sending you good vibes from Montana, and calling you to join us in Tahoe. You can also check out our guide to hiking around a scenic Utah lake or climbing at Indian Creek.

For memorable travels this Fall Break, we’re here to help you get all your ducks in a row (because I hear those critters also hate pumpkin spice). Quack!




Read Article