Hats off to Hank, but keep ‘em on for the Honaker Trail, Goosenecks State Park, Mexican Hat, UT

Distance: ~5 Miles RT, Out & Back (Down and Up)

Elevation gain: ~1,800

Difficulty: Somewhat strenuous due to consistent descent and ascent, some slippery footing and scrambling—minimal “exposure” as far as danger level, but 100% sun exposure. Not for the weak of knees or heart. Poles recommended.

Named after its creator, Henry Honaker, this rugged route dates back to the 1890s and the heyday of Utah’s Wild West gold rush. Thank him for this scenic, cliff-hugging trail that originated as a supply route from the San Juan River to the rim ledges. While the gold rush here was short-lived, the trail has been a long-lived attraction for scientists, geologists, recreational hikers, and rafters. The dramatic geological formations date back 300 million years and are a source of fascination for all.

As you descend the trail, you may note how the rock colors and their composition change. As you pause to take in the panoramic views, catch your breath, and gulp some water, keep your eyes open for fossils (including crinoids, brachiopods, and various trace fossils). In the dry and sometimes unforgiving desert, it’s hard to imagine there was a time when all of this was underwater.

The yellow numbers that you’ll see painted on the cliffs are remnants from a 1952 field symposium on the rocks of the Honaker and Paradox Formations, not a tabulation of the numerous switchbacks though they may seem so.

While it’s always a reward to jump in a lake or a river on a hike, the silty San Juan River may refresh you but likely won’t dazzle you with her mud-colored water.

The Honaker Trail is a great, off-the-beaten-track adventure hike and a must-do for geology buffs. We only encountered a couple of rafters exploring the bottom reaches of the trail.

Notes: Of course, you must drive into Goosenecks State Park itself to enjoy the main panoramic viewpoint while you’re there. The feature photo is from that viewpoint as are these next two.

On a clear day, you can see Monument Valley in the distance. Bring an excess of water & Gatorade—what you think is too much will be just right. This trail is completely exposed, so get an early start if you’re going in the summer and be equipped with sunscreen, a hat, and EXTRA water. (Yes, I know I mentioned that already.)

Getting there: There are no signs for this trailhead. It’s marked only by a huge cairn pyramid at the start of the trail and at the bottom. At Goosenecks State Park, take the dirt road at mile marker 3 (before the entry gate) and stay left when it forks. A 2WD car can make it to the first unmarked “parking area,” and it’s just  .25+ to the trailhead from there. Otherwise, a 4 WD, high-clearance vehicle can take you to a “parking area” closer to the trailhead.

It’s a scenic drive as well.

Oh, and here’s a pic of Mexican Hat along the way. Beauty everywhere you look.

Happy Trails!

Exploring Enchanting Water Canyon—a Multifaceted Gem, Hildale, UT

Length: ~3 Miles roundtrip to the mini waterfall or as long as you’d like to take it, up and over and across the rim.

Difficulty: Moderate+ (To the waterfall is easy, after that, the hike becomes more difficult with elevation gain and a mix of route finding, scrambling, and bouldering. Route finding can be perplexing, if not impossible at the top where it becomes a choose your own adventure experience.)

Elevation gain: 2,208 ft (This only comes into play if you hike beyond the waterfall.)

In the spring, the reward of a short hike (~1.5 miles ea way) is a beguiling, mini waterfall tucked into a slot canyon grotto. Beyond the waterfall, you’ll encounter an interesting, often difficult-to-follow trail that involves some scrambling, bouldering, some exposure, and heights. Not surprisingly, this picturesque canyon is a popular spot for canyoneering. Supposedly you can get to “White Domes” from here, but it’s difficult to ascertain how. I’ll update this post if / when I find a good route to them in the future – cross-country, over the top, or traversing up the rocks from the bottom.

Notes: If you’re in it for the waterfall, early spring is your best bet. The waterfall disappears as the months get hotter and drier. Watch the weather for flash floods. Avoid weekend crowds by going early on a weekday. If you’re going to wander on the rim, I suggest you use GPS or Alltrails, as finding the route back down the canyon can be tricky (understatement). Parking is free.

Getting there: I-15 N to UT-9 E/W State St and UT-59 S to Utah Ave in Hildale. Take Utah Ave to Water Canyon Rd. Follow the dirt road to the parking lot.  

Happy trails!

Yowza! Yant Flat! Leeds, UT

Also known as Candy Cliffs, this rocky wonderland is more than sweet- it requires a default to the overused superlative “EPIC” with an added “for sure”!

Only the first mile is a sandy trail, the rest is create your own adventure (at your own risk) across all types of fascinating colored and textured rock topography. Some steep, slippery sections… If you’re lucky, you might find the one crevasse that will take you down to the wash that you barely see in the distance way down below. Or like me, you may choose the wrong route and end up at a dead end, which could turn into a dead end in more ways than 1.

Length: 2-infinity miles

Getting there (4-wheel drive with clearance recommended): Cottonwood Springs Road in St. George to FR903

Notes: Would not attempt the drive or hike in the rain

For similar views at a slightly smaller scale and without the need for a 4-wheel drive, check out the Snow Canyon Overlook Trail

Ravishing (but overrun) Red Reef, Hurricane, UT

Short and splendid, this incredibly scenic area features a waterfall, a creek, a slot canyon, a cave, a mini-rock / rope climb, cliffs to scale—oh, my! So much is the span of a short out and back trail (2 miles total). It’s like a mini-Zion. The bad news is that it has the crowds to match. (Sigh.) (Reality pic is the last one in the slide show.) Thankfully everyone is respecting the natural beauty and leaving no trace. The good news is that solitude it just an upcliff scramble or mini-rope rock climb away…

Getting there: Exit 22 towards UT-228 N, right on old highway 91 to the Red Cliffs National Conservation area

Fee: $5

Happy Trails!