Kolorful Kolob Arch Trail, Zion Wilderness

Distance: 15 miles RT

Elevation gain: ~2K

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!

Happy Trails!

Capitol Reef Sampler: Cassidy Arch & Grand Wash

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.

Cassidy Arch

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.

Grand Wash

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.

Happy Trails!

Zebra Canyon Hike & Mini Slot Adventure, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Escalante, UT

Distance: 5.3 miles 

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.

Happy Trails!

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!

Summiting Magnificent Mount Timpanogos: Waterfalls, Wildflowers, Wildlife, & Wild Views—Oh my!

Elevation gain:5,384ft

Mileage: ~15 Miles RT

Summit: 11,752ft, the 2nd highest mountain in Utah

Difficulty: Hard, strenuous – due to altitude, elevation gain, and ~1.5 miles ea way of an unstable, tortuous, talus field

Happened to be in the area and made the spontaneous decision to hike Mount Timpanogos. So glad I did. By far, Mount Timp (as the locals call it) is my new, all-time favorite hike / peak. And I’ve done a ton of hiking across the country and around the world. I couldn’t stop smiling all the way to the 11,752-foot summit and back. Ok, maybe my smile was a bit of a grimace through the 1.5 miles back and forth across the treacherous talus strewn avalanche field.  Rest assured, the grimace quickly reverted to ear to ear, exuberant glee once I reached the summit and then again as I descended back down to the lake.

What’s make Mount Timpanogos so wonderful, you ask? Well, the title gave it way, but in case you missed it:

  • Abundant colorful, wildflowers of more varieties than I’ve ever seen
  • Dazzling waterfalls around nearly very switchback
  • Pristine alpine lake and snow field a couple miles from the summit
  • Muscular mountain goats guarding the upper slopes and frolicking by the lake
  • 5,384 ft elevation gain in altitude delivers a fitness challenge and solid workout
  • Sweeping views of Utah Valley from the saddle and spectacular panoramic views from the summit

This hike had it all—absolutely enchanting.

Started the trail in a steady rain, and walked up a verdant paved path for about a mile and a half or so before the pavement gave way to the elements.  Plentiful wildflowers and sparkling waterfalls distracted from the effort of the climb and the sun’s radiance soon highlighted all of the beauty, mist rising. The trail is easy to follow with plenty of switchbacks to help mitigate the elevation gain. It felt almost tropical at times.

The lovely Hidden Lake Basin and Emerald Lake are destinations for many, including the mountain goats.

Those who push on beyond the mile and ½ talus torture field and onward and upward still, are well rewarded at the summit.

Pay your respects to the kings of the mountain along the way. If you have good eyesight, you might spy the summit hut from thousands of feet below. It’s a bit daunting and exciting because it seems so far away, almost out of reach.

From the summit, you’ll take in dizzying 360 degree views of Utah Valley and Utah Lake to the west, Lone Peak and American Fork Twin Peaks to the north and expansive views everywhere in between.

Disclaimer: I experienced Mt. Timp in her July glory. I was told by locals that I wouldn’t recognize her in the Fall when the waterfalls are dry, the wildflowers have disappeared, and the green meadows have turned to yellow hay. Others report that Fall colors are nice here. Someday, perhaps I’ll be back to see for myself. In the meantime, if you’ve been in another season, let me know what it was like.

Notes: I’d say hiking shoes are a must to navigate the talus field. There were some hard core, ultra runners in trail runners. (I know – WOW!) Hiking poles are also a nice to have, given the elevation gain and loss. Layers are always smart at altitude. Be aware of weather changes and avalanche danger.

Getting there: I-15N to Pleasant Grove, exit 275. Follow N County Blvd and UT-92 E to the Aspen Grove trailhead.

Stay tuned: I’ll be posting the videos soon!

Happy trails!