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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 Equipped solely with the knowledge of a BLM public lands route provided by an outdated hiking guide, and a strong desire to summit a couple of the Oquirrh’s more prominent mountain tops, I took to the westernmost ridge of Kessler Peak.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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Opinion- Can We Really Leave No Trace?

I once took four pretty little rocks home from Goblin Valley State Park. The girl I was with, who took about seven rocks, told me she believed in No Trace Principles, but that, “we might as well enjoy nature before it’s gone because it’s disappearing anyway.”

Another time, I didn’t stop my friend as he lit a fire in the sand in Coyote Gulch. He didn’t burn anything large. He didn’t move any stones. He buried the ashes. His only justification being that he “really, really wanted to have a fire.”

Not long ago, my friends and I went to Escalante to do a single rappel in Egypt 3 Canyon in Escalante. We dragged along a rope because the canyon beta report said that there would be no need for webbing or any other equipment. Apparently, the anchor for the rappel was a natural arch that could be rappelled off double-stranded using only a rope. The beta assured us that we wouldn’t have to pull our rope and risk scarring the sandstone arch, but that we could double back on our way out of the canyon to retrieve our rope on the hike to the car. Once in the canyon, we reached a drop we thought might be the rappel, but we were skeptical. Were we supposed to set up the rope and rappel, at risk of abandoning our rope before reaching the actual rappel and being trapped in the canyon? Or were we supposed to use our rope to rappel the drop and pull it through the natural arch just in case we’d need it further down canyon—even though this would mean scarring the sandstone and leaving a blatant trace on the terrain? Ultimately, we elected to backtrack through the canyon, climbing out early and skipping the rappel altogether.

So how strictly exactly should we adhere to Leave No Trace Principles? Is it okay to collect crystals in national parks just like it’s okay to collect sea shells on the beach? Is starting a fire in Coyote Gulch really worse than starting one in the Uintas? When do you pull your rope and scar rock in order to conveniently navigate a canyon? And when do you pull your rope and scar rock in order to survive a canyon?

According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, it’s impossible to leave absolutely no trace of your visit to the outdoors. And while LNT principles are intended to minimize human impacts on natural environments as much as possible, there is no way to leave zero trace. Just because my friend started a fire in Coyote Gulch doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about the outdoors—it doesn’t mean he should never be allowed to camp again or that he should start fires wherever he pleases. The whole reason for Leave No Trace is to preserve and protect both natural resources and the quality of recreational experiences. It is meant not only to keep the natural world as pristine as possible for its own sake, but also for its devoted recreators. It’s the golden rule of the outdoors—treat the wild spaces you grace as clean for others as you would want them to remain for yourself. So always carry your Wag Bags, never Bust the Crust, and if it comes down to it When In Doubt, Hike Back Out. But also, obsessive fear of leaving a trace is better than never leaving to explore at all.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo courtesy of Mia Gallardo

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9 Tips for the Perfect Adventure Crew

Whether it’s on the first ascent of an isolated mountain or on a chill car camping excursion for the weekend, the people around you can make or break a trip. You can’t change much about the core personalities of you or your friends, but there are a few things you can all agree to smooth out the wrinkles of any trip. 

Those with formal outdoor education (I’m looking at you, PRT Department and NOLS) have probably seen these tips before, but for us casual campers, here are the tricks to have a more relaxed outing with friends:

1. Help out

Contribute to the tasks that need to be accomplished. Pitch in ideas planning, help a driver navigate, build the fire, cook, clean up, set up the tent, etc. Everyone appreciates each other and things go smoothly when people help out.

2. Pick people with similar ability levels and goals

Scrambling up Class 4 mountains might be a typical day for some hikers while those behind them are texting their families their final wishes. Varying abilities can add some flavor to a trip, it’s true, but being on par in fitness/adventure level helps everyone get the most out of the trip.

3. Communicate openly about everyone’s comfort levels and what they want to accomplish

It’s alright if someone is new to what you’re doing. The adventure of trying something new is part of the fun. Make sure everyone is in the same boat and in the know regarding the goals of the trip and how the weak link(s) will be supported. If one person wants to ice climb and another wants to just sleep in a cabin but neither bring it up, there will likely be problems.

4. Let everyone know if you have something that might hold you back like an injury, fear, etc.

On a similar note, if you have something that could prevent the group from accomplishing the goal of the trip, let everyone know so it can be accommodated and prepared for as early as possible. If you have some irrational fear of tent stakes, for example, that might be good to share.

5. Don’t complain about the weather, or other obvious situations

This isn’t original, but I like it. When it’s raining or the drive is really long, it’s no secret to the rest. There’s no reason to be a downer and complain about it. Just embrace it, it’s part of the fun. Talk about something else. Complaining isn’t fun, man.

6. Don’t forget your gear, and if you do, keep it to yourself

There’s no reason to stress other people out about gear that you lost or forgot if you don’t have to tell them. It’s best to avoid making yourself look silly and unprepared if it’s something simple like forgotten toothpaste.

7. Be in shape

Being the slowest in the group isn’t fun for you or anyone else. Know your physical abilities and set expectations to meet them. Don’t be that person repeating, “Man, I’m out of shape” along the trail.

8. Enjoy yourself and try to maintain some sense of optimism and happiness

When things go south, it’s OK to be stressed and bring problems up to the group. If everyone keeps their heads up with a positive attitude, it goes a long way to keep the group motivated together working toward your end goal.

9. Play nice

In the outdoor community, most of us are pretty decent people connected by our common love of the outdoors. When you are on a week-long river trip, you can’t really escape anyone you get in a tiff with. Address issues as they come, but don’t ruin everyone’s trip by being a rude know-it-all. If you get frustrated, take a breath of the fresh air and realize where you are.

c.hammock@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Chris Hammock

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Dream jobs for the outdoor enthusiast

The dream job for most outdoor enthusiasts = spending a good amount of time outdoors and with like-minded people. Oh, and free gear.

Welcome to the lives of those working in the outdoor industry. Yes, it’s just as good as you’ve always imagined. How do you land a job like that? Workers at three outdoor retailers tell us:

Mark Cole, a business and sales executive at HippyTree Surf & Stone Apparel, graduated with a BA of social ecology from UC Irvine.

Jess Smith, vice president of Outside PR (which represents Cotopaxi), majored in communication at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia.

Robert Shirley-Smith (see image above), sales director at Tentsile, studied human geography and anthropology at Sussex University in England.

Do you feel that your education applies to your current work?

Cole: I want to say yes because I’m a big fan of higher education, but truthfully, probably not. This type of industry and these type of jobs require a lot of on-the-job-training.

Smith: Absolutely. 100 percent. It just sets you up in terms of who you are as a person, what you like to do, and how to utilize your skills and talents the best.

Shirley-Smith: No crossover whatsoever. When I graduated in 2010 during the economic slump, there were no jobs available so I retrained as a carpenter. The founder of Tentsile reached out to me originally because of my experience with treehouses; that was involved in his goal of creating a tent that would fit all trees.

Did you always know you wanted to work with an outdoor company?

 Cole: I kind of figured it out when I was about 17 or 18 when I saw people older than myself living a pretty sweet lifestyle and told myself, ‘If they can make money doing that, I don’t see why I can’t.’

Shirley-Smith: No—I didn’t even know this industry existed back in England! My real passion was for building. But I just rolled with the punches and ended up here.

What is your favorite aspect of your work?

 Cole: I like that this industry is fun and it can be pretty irreverent at times. There’s a whole lot of lines that get crossed on a pretty regular basis and I can’t say that it shares that with a lot of other industries. It’s unique in that way.

Shirley-Smith: I respect the business’s ethics; it supports reforestation and sustainability, which aligns with my own values.

What is your all-time favorite piece of equipment or gear?

 Smith: I’m really drawn to Cotopaxi’s Kusa line of products with llama fleece and poly-insulation products. It’s helping to assist a lot of Bolivian communities because they’re working with farmers and the agricultural production there. Nobody else is doing llama. And the items look great, too.

Shirley-Smith: The Connect Model Tensile. After I survived an 11-hour rainstorm in it, I bonded with it.

Do you have an outdoor tip to share with fellow enthusiasts?

 Cole: Don’t be afraid to push your limits, but always stay within your comfort zone and be prepared.

Smith: Layer up. Always have a Buff on hand. Buff is the most versatile piece of equipment you are going to have for any sport.

What is your favorite aspect of the outdoors?

 Cole: It’s kind of like church for me personally. You are able to connect with nature on a deeper level when you step outside your comfort zone and experience new things and kind of see the raw splendor of Mother Nature.

Shirley-Smith: I grew up in the city in London, where the outdoors are viewed more as an escape from an urban environment than in other areas. So that is initially how I learned to love the outdoors, as an escape. It also helped that my parents were hippies and roamed the country with me in a van.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Claire Simon

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Watch: Pass or Fail–Swimming in the Salt Lake

The Wasatch Magazine staff tests out swimming in the Great Salt Lake in an attempt to dispel the negative rumors locals seem to hold on the lake.

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Fighting the Winter Blues

Green summer leaves are now burnt orange, covering the ground. Temperatures are dropping and people are pulling boots and coats out from the back of the closet. For some, excitement is building as they wax their skis and await the day chairlifts creep to life.

For others however, the change to winter can trigger depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects 10 to 20 percent of the population each year. SAD is a type of depression that follows the change in seasons, and the most common form of SAD begins in the winter and ends in the spring. This disorder can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms are so broad. Some call it the “winter blues,” but it’s much more than that.

SAD saps your energy, disrupts your sleep cycle, and makes you crave food, causing overeating and weight gain. Activities you once loved become chores, and you feel grumpy more frequently. It’s easy to dismiss at the start as just having a bad week or month. As the months stretch on, though, it’s important to recognize SAD as the problem it is and get help. SAD can significantly decrease your quality of life during the winter, and it affects your ability to function at a normal level.

University students can be susceptible to seasonal affective disorder because they’re already under a lot of stress dealing with November midterms, finals in December, and the start of a new semester in January.

Jarom Norris, a senior in entertainment arts and engineering and member of U Student Media, first felt the affects of SAD as a freshman. He struggled to attend classes as the weather became colder and the days grew darker. Norris recognized a drop in energy and a lack of motivation. He felt less creative, more unorganized, and all around stressed. He dropped out of an early morning physics class as he struggled to handle his class load and the depression that winter brought on.

At the time, Norris didn’t recognize what he was feeling as SAD, but year after year he saw the pattern. “It starts whenever it begins to get cloudier and tends to peak in January-February,” he says. “If we have a sunny winter, then I won’t feel it as much, but if it’s cloudy for a whole month then that feels bad. Once the green plants and the sunlight starts to come back in the spring those things begin to energize me.”

Now that he recognizes his seasonal affective disorder, he’s found ways to fight it. “I’m pretty extroverted, so being around people who like me always helps. And looking at the positives when I can — sometimes the depression that the clouds bring can be overruled if I stop to appreciate how pretty the falling snow is.”

Experts say the best way to fight SAD is to take advantage of sunny days. Get out into the light and take a nice hike or walk with a friend. For days when you’re stuck inside, sitting under a UV light can help. Exercise and taking vitamin D supplements is also beneficial.

With Utah’s snowy peaks, the best remedy to SAD is a powder day and a pair of skis. You can also hike up Diamond Fork Canyon and relax in the beautiful Fifth Water hot springs. Rent snowshoes from the U’s Outdoor Adventures and head to Big Cottonwood to trek Spruces or Guardsman Pass. Tell your close friends and family what you’re experiencing and avoid self-deprecating thoughts. If this doesn’t work, seek professional help. The one upside to suffering from SAD is that you can say for sure “this too shall pass.” Once the spring flowers bloom and the birds fly back home you can give yourself a big hug and a pat on the back, because you’ve made it through.

e.aboussou@dailyutahchronicle.com

Photo by Esther Aboussou

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Dress for Your Adventure

As the crisp autumn breeze blows in along the Wasatch, nature lovers will be in search of their fall layering formula. Utah’s dramatic changes in temperature throughout the day, coupled with high elevation, make layering a necessity when out adventuring.

The base layer lies next to the skin and manages the moisture of the body. It can either lock in sweat or wick it away, so the fabric of choice depends on activity level. It’s usually preferrable to find something that keeps you dry, but in extremely cold temperatures (sub-zero), a layer that holds in moisture can trick your body into sweating less, as it adjusts for the excess of sweat. The base layer should be made of merino wool, synthetic fabrics or a silky material. This layer should be tight enough to fit two to three more layers on top.

The insulating layer does just that— insulate.  This is the second layer and is the main protector from the cold. The insulator should be made up of natural fibers such as wool and goose, and the thickness is determined by the amount of activity. For an expedition with low activity levels and lower temperatures, a heavy-weight product is suggested.

Moderate activities and climates require a mid-weight material, while in mild climates with aerobic activity, a lightweight insulator is recommended. The classic fleece with a breathable but warm fabric is the most common insulator.

The shell is the outer layer with the vital function to protect from the wind and rain. This is the most important layer in rough weather conditions. It should be roomy and not constrict movement or the other layers. Fleeces do well in dry conditions, but it’s best to have a waterproof and windproof fabric to shield you from the elements. A breathable, water-resistant material is suggested for highly athletic activities and a waterproof material for damp and wet conditions.

As layers come in all shapes, sizes and materials, they can also provide a solid sense of fashion. The layer slayers additionally add vests, hoods, scarves and hats. Adding length to layers can class up an outfit, with the shortest layer on top. Layers conveniently provide quick adjustments and comfort for moisture, warmth and protection.

m.mensinger@dailyutahchronicle.com

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Solitude in Fields of Stone

Veiled in obscurity and far off the beaten path, the City of Rocks National Reserve — named by emigrants of centuries past “the Silent City” — is a peerless backcountry landscape of towering granite spires, alien geological forms, and burgeoning plant and animal life. This anomalous location encompasses an isolated stretch of protected southern Idaho desert, and at a mere three-hour drive from Salt Lake City, is a sublime place of solitude for your Fall Break escape.

The reserve’s ubiquitous granite monoliths have amassed considerable recognition within the climbing community, and for good reason. This relatively compact expanse contains over 600 established routes, varying dramatically in height and technicality with routes ranging from 30 to 600 ft., the City of Rocks accommodates any level of climbing experience, offering climbs rated at a casual 5.6 to extreme 5.14s for the intrepid madman. A few of the most popular routes are the Theater of Shadows on Steinfell’s Dome, Columbian Crack on Elephant Rock, and Bloody Fingers on Breadloaves. For curious adventurers seeking to engage in the sport for the first time, the reserve’s visitor center offers introductory climbing lessons, equipment included.

Nearly 22 miles of winding hiking trails traverse this otherworldly expanse, enabling access to omniscient overlooks, geological anomalies, and secluded backcountry. Trails vary from the brief and casual Window Arch Trail, Bath Rock Trail, and Creekside Towers Trail, to the longer, strenuous Geological Interpretive Trail, Flaming Rock Trail, and North Fork Circle Creek for more challenging excursions. You may even wander off the beaten path to parts unknown, though ensure that you’re conscious and considerate of your surroundings and the delicate ecosystem in your exploration.

The City of Rocks, as well as the neighboring Castle Rocks State Park, has designated multiple encompassing paths exclusively for mountain biking, including the road from Circle Creek Overlook to the base of the monumental Stripe Rock, and many other landmark access routes that are restricted to motorized vehicles. Rangers at the adjacent state park urge cyclists to explore the five-mile Castle Rocks Trail, which encircles the entire area, providing unmitigated access to many beautiful and abstract forms.

The City of Rocks cannot be fully experienced in a single day — camping is a must. Fortunately for penury-stricken college students, transient residence under the juniper trees, granite spires, and starlit sky can be obtained cheaply. For designated camping plots, which in many areas are nestled among overarching boulders and flourishing arboreal growths, the nightly fee is $12.72. A free, designated backcountry camping area is located within Indian Grove. A signed permit is required and can be obtained at the ranger station or online. Camping at the neighboring Castle Rocks State Park is priced at $23.32 per night but includes additional accomodations like fresh water pumps, 30-amp electrical hook-ups, and paved parking spots.

For a spell of momentary respite in seclusion and access to world-class scrambles along ancient granite monoliths, consider an excursion to the City of Rocks for your Fall Break meditation.

Photo by Dalton Rees

Photo by Dalton Rees

DIY TRIP:

DAY 1: Leave early to catch a camping spot and stop by the visitor center to pick up a trail guide. Familiarize yourself with the Silent City, stopping by the remarkable Window Arch, Bath Rock, and Creekside Towers. Bring your camera, this photogenic oddity demands it.

DAY 2: Take on the Geological Interpretive Trail or the 6.3 mile North Fork Circle Creek Trail. Neighboring Castle Rocks State Park yields access to sublime natural features along the Backyard Boulders Trail and Castle Rocks Trail. If you’ve developed an incurable itch for technical climbing, take on some of the classic trad routes.

DAY 3:  Grab a mountain bike and explore some of the encompassing sightseeing routes like Elephant Rock to the Nematode, and beyond to the Bread Loaves along the Tea Kettle Trail. Otherwise, finish your day on a climb or a hike and return home.

d.rees@dailyutahchronicle.com

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140 Ways to Climb Maple Canyon

Maple Canyon is one of the most unique climbing destinations in Utah. The texture of the cobblestone rock is like no other place in the state. Just two hours south of Salt Lake, it’s the perfect destination for a weekend stay. With a variety of climbs and numerous locations to explore throughout the canyon, it is a great place to test your ability as a climber.

Climbers can camp near the crags in the huge canyon, but campsites need to be reserved in advance before the end of the season in October. This is the perfect spot for large groups, and amenities like single-family sites, walk-in tent sites, and picnic tables with fire pits make it easy to plan last minute. Ephraim is about 15 minutes south of the canyon, and is great place to stock up on food and supplies before spending time at the crag.

The main attraction of Maple Canyon is the 140 climbing routes ranging from 5.4 up to 5.14. The best places to start would be on Pipeline or Orangutan Wall. Pipeline has a great selection of short but steep routes while Orangutan has a variety of longer climbs. The best time of the year to go is during the summer months and the beginning of the fall. In October and November, it can get cold at night, but this is one of the best times of the year to be outside in Utah as the leaves begin to change and the days aren’t unbearably hot. The majority of the climbs offered in the canyon are single pitch sport routes, but there are a couple of multi-pitch routes. If you don’t get there before the snow comes, don’t sweat it. Maple Canyon also has a variety of ice climbing routes. The best times of the year for ice climbing range from December to the beginning of March. Keep in mind that you will have to skin up or hike to the climbing route as the campsites are closed down during the winter months. The majority of the ice climbs are single pitch, but there are a couple of multi-pitch climbs as well.

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Daniels

Photo courtesy of Lindsay Daniels

If you’re not big into climbing, Maple Canyon itself is stunning enough to go camping for a couple nights to experience its cobblestone cliffs. There are campfire rings, wildlife viewing areas, biking, horseback riding, as well as a couple hikes to explore throughout the canyon. There are three hikes to choose from that range from three to five mile loops branching out from the center of the canyon that feature small caves and waterfalls through the Box Canyon hiking trail. The Maple Canyon Loop trail will be great during the fall season to see the leaves changing because the trail takes you through and out above the canyon and overlooks the valley below.

Whether you are a seasoned climber who has traveled all over the world for climbing or someone who is just looking for a vacation from the Salt Lake Valley, Maple Canyon is definitely a location for your list. Its close proximity to Salt Lake will keep you coming back multiple times a year to experience all that the canyon has to offer.

DIY Trip

DAY 1: The first day is spent packing and getting to Ephraim, Utah, which is the nearest town to Maple Canyon. Pick up all the supplies you need for your stay and anything you might have left at home. You can leave later in the day since the drive only takes a couple hours. Next, make your way back towards the canyon and your campsite.

DAY 2: Today is spent climbing many of the crags the canyon has to offer. I recommend starting out at Orangutan Wall or going to Pipeline.

DAY 3: Today will be a break from climbing and a day spent exploring the rest of the canyon. I recommend hiking on the Maple Canyon Loop. This hike is 5 miles long, so be sure to take your time. There is no need to rush!

DAY 4: Today is spent rock climbing in Box Canyon. These climbs are longer but they offer a couple more challenging aspects such as large overhangs. Plus, the approach through Box Canyon is something you can’t pass up. Today can either be your last day in the canyon, or the next day. It depends on your stamina and how long you are able to keep climbing.

p.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

Photos courtesy of Lindsay Daniels

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Seeking Adventure in San Rafael Swell

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

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

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

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

San Rafael Swell Camping Trip, Photo by Kiffer Creveling

San Rafael Swell Camping Trip, Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camping in the San Rafael Swell, Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Camping in the San Rafael Swell, Photo by Kiffer Creveling

k.creveling@dailyutahchronicle.com

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