Yep, that’s all the clues you’re getting. It’s getting so hard to find that splendid solitude out there, so I’ve decided not to be part of the “problem.” Even though I have zilch for a following —it’s the principle of it. I’ll keep posting the mainstream hikes, but you’re going to have a work a little harder to find these “secret”, less traveled spots. I’m also available for adventure consulting should you desire a personalized “best of” Utah itinerary for your adventures here.
I’m spoilt, I’ve been to many slot canyons in UT, including the world’s longest, the world’s most renown, and perhaps the shortest and wetest(?). Located in the San Rafeal Swell area (another clue), this one had a colorful allure of it’s own. Options there include a loop hike or out and back. The oak trees at the beginning of the hike are quite dramatic.
When you arrive at Goblin Valley State Park, you know you’re in Utah, but you may think you’re on another planet. Goblin Valley’s otherworldly scenery attracts visitors and filmmakers alike. The movie Galaxy Quest was filmed here.
While the small park offers a mere total of 6 miles of hiking, you may find yourself wandering for hours through the dramatic, twisted hoodoos, goblins, and rock mushrooms. The majority of the hoodoos can be encountered in the Valley of Goblins, an open free—range hiking area of 3 sq miles.
Be sure to check out the Goblin’s Lair (a massive cavern/ slot canyon), the Goblette’s Lair, 3 Sisters, and Molly’s Castle.
If you prefer to take in the unusual views by 2 wheels, you can enjoy the 7 miles of Wild Horse Mountain Biking Trail System.
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous depending on your fitness level, definitely a little longer than your standard day hike, mostly smooth, sandy terrain, great for trail running
The trail begins at the Lee Pass Trailhead off of Kolob Canyon Road / Scenic Drive. You’ll drop quickly into the canyon (770 ft in .75 mile) and traverse through the forest on a gentle, sandy path for the first 4 miles or so.
And then it gets even better. Zion vibes without the Zion crowds. After descending another 1k ft, you find yourself surrounded by dancing aspens and majestic red cliffs. This is where you’ll get your first glimpse of lovely La Verkin Creek. Oh, my—a perfect spot to pause and take in all the beauty. I’ll be back just for it. Fall is a splendid time for this hike, but I’m sure spring and early summer are delightful as well.
Continue following the trail along the creek another mile or so until you reach the junction for Kolob Arch. This trail is less distinct and a little more rugged. The distant view of the arch (possibly the largest free-standing arch in North America) is ok, but wow factor is a bit muted without a blue sky backdrop.)
You can continue up the canyon to Beartrap Canyon and Willis Canyon or head out to Holob Canyon and Kolob Terrace Road.
There are 13 camping sights along the trail. Reservations are required and can be made online, but 2 backpackers said they got their pass the same day.
Notes: Sadly, the toxic cyanobacteria have been detected in La Verkin Creek. No dogs are allowed in Zion Wilderness. Bring plenty of water as you can not filter water with cyanobacteria. Ps. Watch where you step!
Revisited the trail recently to see La Verkin Creek show off her Spring look. She did not disappoint.
Funny wildlife encounter story. Well not funny, if you’re the frogs or me. While I was “Wim Hoffing” it in the creek, I sat on 2 frogs in the midst of a tryst. Unfortunately, it would be their final, though eternal, encounter. (Gives new meaning to “happy ending”, doesn’t t?) In the meantime, as I was exiting the delightful natural pool, I almost grabbed onto a snake. There’s bound to be one in paradise, right? Notes to self, look before sitting and before placing a handhold. The harmless snake was lying in wait for the plentiful frogs. Little did he know that I’d arranged a 2 for 1 for him. Back on shore, a frog eyed and ID’d me as the culprit.
Other than that, the play/day was uneventful and beautiful. And, yes I still feel guilty about the frogs.
When you have limited time, it’s always difficult to decide which hike to do. This was my dilemma on a recent trip to Capitol Reef National Park. Bottom line, you can’t really go wrong—any choice is a good choice when your surrounded the striking red, white and golden sandstone landscape, canyons and rock formations of Southern Utah. My 10 mile sampler included Cassidy Arch, a taste of Frying Pan, and Grand Wash.
Length: ~3 mi RT (out & back)
Elevation gain:666 ft
Difficulty:Moderate depending on your level of fitness, and comfort with hiking rocky terrain
From Cassidy Arch, you can extend your hike by following the signs for Frying Pan Trail, and trek over the Fold—turning back and retracing your steps, or continuing down into Cohab Canyon.
Length: ~6 mi RT
Difficulty: Easy, flat
The Grand Wash trail follows the gorge as it carves its way through the upper portion of the Waterpocket Fold and connects through to Highway 24 just east of Spring Canyon. At the narrow, the rock walls close in, a half mile of slot canyon vibes – a thrill for those who’ve never experienced a slot canyon.
Post to come on where to feast and luxuriate after your day of hiking.
Difficulty: Easy, with some deep sand walking in a wash, minimal elevation gain (~390ft). Trail is unmarked, but obvious. Great for trail running.
Colorful pink and white striations on the rock walls give this canyon its name, but you’ll earn your stripes for immersing yourself in the watery slot canyon at the end. The hike is quite pleasant, but 100% exposed so it’s a “no go” on hot days. It’s also a no-go in monsoon season.
The murky water in the slot can be knee to neck high depending on how much rain there’s been lately. While the slot is only about 200 yards long, memories of your mini slot adventure will be enduring.
Getting there: From Escalante, take Utah 12 E for 4.9 miles and turn right on Hole in the Rock Road, 8 miles on dirt road to the first parking area on the right. Cross to the east side of the road and follow the path.
Note: if you’re claustrophobic, or have fuller body dimensions, you may want to opt out of the slot canyon immersion as it quickly narrows to about a foot of body wiggle room.