Feature

Trump Train Puts National Monuments on Trial

Another step in his fervent scramble to dissolve all measures undertaken to preserve the environment within the past three decades, President Donald Trump’s April 26 executive order prompted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review — and potentially revoke — national monuments created since 1996. The results of Zinke’s review are recognized as a preliminary indicator as to how public lands are to be treated under the Trump administration. This heavy-handed exertion of government power, the president claimed in a speech made when he signed the Antiquities Act Executive Order, will “end another egregious abuse of federal power.”

Photo by Dalton Rees.

The national monuments now under scrutiny were designated by Theodore Roosevelt’s 1906 Antiquities Act, permitting the acting president to take unilateral action in the protection of natural resources and historical points of intrigue on federal land under threat. While federal land protected by this law remains entirely accessible for public, recreational use, commercial exploitation (i.e., mining, lumber work, and oil-drilling) becomes strictly prohibited.

A firm advocate of the commodification of nature, Trump asserted in the same speech,“The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time that we ended this abusive practice.”

During the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, a collective 26 monuments were ratified, and they will soon be under review. Choosing to retain a degree of ambiguity while approaching this sweeping review, Zinke suggested in an April 25 press briefing on that executive order that he will base his decision upon whether a respective designation had resulted in “loss of jobs, reduced wages, and reduced public access.” Zinke went on to assert that he is “not going to predispose what the outcome is going to be.”

This recent executive order has put Utah in the spotlight as Obama’s end-term designation of Bears Ears was evidently the initial inspiration for this move. The monument’s particularly extensive size has drawn immense criticism from Utah conservatives, for at over 2000 square miles, Bears Ears is currently over four-times the size of Canyonlands National Park, the largest in the state. Following the continual pandering of Utah’s Sen. Orrin Hatch and Gov. Gary Herbert, Trump directly asserted he was eager to reduce the boundaries of the 1.35-million-acre designation when signing his executive order. Recent events have indicated this wish is  likely to be brought to fruition.

After his definitive trip to the Bears Ears Monument, Zinke delivered a statement to Congress asserting the designation is “not the best use of the land.” He went on to recommend that Trump reduce the monument as to solely encompass the areas of historical and prehistorical intrigue, like residual cave dwellings, and archaeological sites. This recommendation remains purely sentiment until the president reaches his final decision in August following Zinke’s remaining 25 reviews, including that of Grand Staircase-Escalante.

For many environmentalists and tribal advocates of the designation, Zinke’s recommendation is perceived as a vulgar affront to the initial intentions of the monument, namely, respect for the five sovereign tribes holding sacred ties to the area, and conservation.

Adam Sarvana, a representative for Democrats on the House National Resources Committee, was reported in The New York Times as responding to Zinke’s recommendation for Bears Ears stating, “If you look at a map, that area is only about five percent of the monument area. … It seems like what they’re describing is a few stops on a boardwalk arcade, a few isolated areas, rather than a professionally conserved landscape the way national monuments are typically designated.”

Photo by Dalton Rees.

While Zinke’s recommendation did concede to permit additional protections in certain locations within the existing monument in the form of national recreation and/or conservation areas, it is clear that what the secretary is proposing entails a mass reduction of Bears Ears as we currently know it.

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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The Most Underrated of the ‘Mighty Five’

Every summer there’s the magical little period of post-school, pre-work freedom. Ideally, this is a week or longer, allowing for some kind of big, planned trip to take place. This year I had a weekend. With much whim and little planning, we stuffed the trunk and backseat of my friend’s Subaru and headed off to Capitol Reef for a night. Little did I know I’d be stumbling into Utah’s most underrated national park.

Our expectations were low; nobody in our group really went to Capitol Reef. I had seen stunning pictures of the park on random Instagram posts before, but I was suspicious. Plenty of places in Utah caters to what I call the “tourist adventurer.” These are people who make it seem like they are incredibly remote when in reality they’re standing off the side of a highway. I did not want to be swarmed by the masses as we all crammed into a little parking lot and hiked a quarter mile to some awesome geologic formation. I wanted to actually be remote.

We decided to head to the visitor center where we knew we could get a map and ask the ranger’s advice on where to go. After a few PB&J’s and some deliberation, our decision had been made. We packed up lunch, hit a few of the touristy day hikes, and then headed off to our real adventure.

After an hour of getting lost, two hours of high clearance, dirt road navigation and good music we reached the imposing sandstone formations known as Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon — aka our campsite. Soon, our tents were pitched just outside the park on BLM land, but still within view of the Temples. We enjoyed dehydrated beef stew, red beans with rice, and beef stroganoff as the last of the sun’s light fell across the towers. A few more hours and their dark silhouettes provided the perfect juxtaposition to the star encumbered sky.

Our expectations were well exceeded. Capitol Reef can lead you into a trap of “tourist adventurers” if you stay on the surface. Venture deeper into the park, though, and you can visit sites like Cathedral Valley, where you’ll find something far different.

In this hidden gem, we were met with total solitude and expanse, even though it was Mother’s Day. The main road, which houses most of the park’s visitors during their time, was relatively uncrowded. The parking lots at the hikes would fill, but barely. Just hours farther south, Zion would be entertaining bus after bus of tourists, while in Capitol Reef we saw equal views and far fewer tourists.

After just 24 hours in the park, my perception of it shifted completely. Capitol Reef holds the stigma of being unimpressive or not worth visiting, but as I found out, this is utterly untrue.

The park is nearly twice the size of Zion meaning there are far more backcountry and off-the-path places to explore. As the least visited national park in Utah, it is not hard to find a landscape totally devoid of people. Even the nearby towns are small and relatively unobtrusive. BLM land surrounds almost every border of the park, offering free camping wherever you go. Everything about this place is wild, expansive; and entirely underrated.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Climbing Close to Home

As Utah finally decides to change its mind, and the weather begins to warm up, there begins a whole new season of rock climbing. This is the climbing Utah is known for: multiple pitch routes with unforgettable vantage points, boulder problems that will haunt you and also reward you, or class sport routes with a crux that include just about everything you can think of. Want to know the best part? The majority of these locations are within a half-hour driving distance. You can commonly find a group of climbers leaving after work at 5 p.m. who are still getting some laps in before sundown.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

One commonly sought out place to climb is up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The majority of these climbs are trad, or traditional, routes. If you are up for some world class crack climbing, this is the place for you. The difficulty of the routes will cater to the first timer, and it can also cater to the most advanced veteran dirt bagger. There are hundreds of routes to choose from up and down the canyon that will help fulfill your heart’s desire. The rock type is almost all white granite with a couple of areas that are limestone. My personal favorite area to climb is up Gate Buttress, which is about one mile and a half up the canyon. These climbs go from 5.6c at Schoolroom to 5.12c of Bloodline for the more classic routes in the area.

Getting there: Get off I-215 at 6200 South. Then, follow signs for the ski resorts. After that, follow Wasatch Boulevard for a few miles, and the road will directly lead up the canyon.

Climb difficulty: 5.6c to 5.12c

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood Canyon contains another popular upward climb. Similar to its neighbor, Big Cottonwood also has hundreds of routes up and down the canyon catering to every skill level. This is the first place I ever went rock climbing outdoors. Ever since that first time, I’ve known there was no leaving this sport. The rock type is quartzite, which makes the rock more slippery and more difficult to climb, therefore it is mostly used for sport climbing. There are also a wide variety of trad routes as well. But don’t be fooled, this rock has many holes and holds in a wide variety of shapes and sizes which make this canyon an epic location to climb. My favorite locations are up near the slips or along Challenge Buttress. These areas are home to several multi-pitch trad routes or various sport climbs.

Getting there: Take I-215 to the 6200 South exit, then follow the ski resort signs for Big Cottonwood Canyon. You will reach the base of the canyon within a few minutes from exiting the freeway.

Climb difficulty: Varying

American Fork Canyon

The other main canyon to climb in northern Utah is through American Fork Canyon. American Fork is better known for its intermediate to advanced sport climbing. It is also home to some of the most difficult routes in the state with ratings of 5.14c. There are many 5.9c routes for those who are looking to explore the canyon for the first time. This canyon is also a great location during the hot summer months as most of the crags are shaded with plenty of trees, or they are hidden deep within the canyon. This will keep your belayer nice and cool while you conquer the crux of the project you have been working on for weeks. Keep this one on your list of classic climbs to scale this upcoming summer.

Getting there: I-15 to the Pleasant Grove exit. Then, follow along Highway 92 straight into the canyon.

Climb difficulty: 5.9c-5.14c

These are a few of the most popular areas to climb during the summer months in northern Utah. There are many other places to consider, too; but these three canyons should definitely be on your list. After all, there are enough routes within them all to keep you busy for a lifetime.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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