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!

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!

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!

Navajo Lake Loop: MTB Nirvana, Cedar City, UT

I don’t tend to throw the word epic around much though I have been on some epic mountain bike rides – Tahoe’s Flume Trail, Lake Crescent’s Spruce Railroad Trail, and while not epic per se, that little gem, Diamond Valley Lake was quite lovely too. Fond memories of those rides were stirred up by my ride today on the Navajo Lake Trail. It was by accident that I arrived here as I had set out to do the Navajo Loop Trail in Brian Head, but never found that trail head. Instead, I thought I’d try my luck at the Navajo Lake Loop and I was not not disappointed.

It’s a sweet, highly scenic, nontechnical single track cruise by way of Navajo Lake Loop Trail and the Virgin River Rim Trail, aka the other half of the Navajo Lake Loop Trail. Apologies, I didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do – guess I was having too much fun. Guess, you’ll have to go see how beautiful it is for yourself.

Interesting fact: The lake was created when a lava flow dammed the eastern end of the valley.

Distance: 11 Miles

Staring elevation: 9,035′

Elevation gain: 827 ft

NLT vista 1

Just right for my Sunday afternoon. In case you’re wondering what this place looks like in the winter, here’s a pic from an afternoon snow shoeing in Deer Valley.

Frozen Navajo Lake

Getting there: From Cedar City  go east on Scenic Byway SR 14, 25 miles to the Navajo Lake road turnoff and keep your eyes open for the Navajo Lake Loop Trailhead parking sign on the right side of the road. It’s free to park.

 

Ps. There are campgrounds, and fishing, boating, and swimming are allowed.

Chasing Waterfalls and Wildflowers: Three Sisters Falls Hike, SD County

San Diego County’s 3-tiered seasonal waterfall  in Cleveland National Forest is definitely worth a visit when the water is running.

3 sisters fall trailhead sign

 

 

 

 

 

At the beginning of the hike, these 3 lovely trees will greet you.

3 lovely trees 3 sisters hike

The falls are much more impressive than you might expect. As you hike down the trail, you can see the frothy, white veils in the distance.

 

For me, it was vaguely reminiscent of Yosemite. Of course, I was fortunate to experience the area after a rainy season, during the spring super bloom. The hillsides were green and sprinkled generously with wildflowers. If you’ve been following my superbloom posts (Walker Canyon, Diamond Valley Lake, Denk Mountain) this spring, you know I can’t get enough of these wildflowers. (I wasn’t expecting any on this hike and what a wonderful surprise to see the colorful abundance along the trail – perfect wildflower filters for my distant water shots.)

poppy filter 3 sistersbest wildflower filter 3 sistersCactus bloom 3 sisters

It’s a pleasant single-track, out & back trail that takes you down to the falls and then bring you back up to the parking area.

L with flowers on the trail 3 sisters

 

Lydia taking pics

 

 

 

 

rock falls 3 sistersfalls flower filter

The falls are a wonderful spot to have a picnic, cool off, and while away the afternoon – that is if you don’t mind being joined by too many humans who have the same idea. (Heavy sigh.) Be forewarned, this is one of San Diego’s most popular hikes so go early or be prepared for the crowds and a full parking lot.

If you want to add on another hike, the Cedar Creek Falls hike is in the vicinity too. Since I’ve done that one already, I decided to take the scenic drive out the other side on Descanso Road.

Descanso dirt road

The Scoop on 3 Sisters Waterfall Hike

Distance: 4 miles RT (out & back)

Elevation gain/loss :1000 ft (downhill on the way out, uphill on the way back)

Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on your fitness level. Trail run friendly on a non-crowded morning.

Getting there: From the town of Julian, turn left on Pine Hills Road, right on Eagle Creek, and left on Boulder Creek Road, which will become dirt road for the last 5 miles.

Note: Both Boulder Creek and Descanso are dirt roads with potholes, but no suv or 4-wheel drive needed. A regular passenger car with adequate ground clearance will do the trick as you have patience with potholes and bumps. However, it might not be prudent to attempt it without a SUV or 4-wheel drive after a heavy rain.

Fee: Display a National Forest Adventure Pass – $5 day pass [purchase info]  https://www.fs.fed.us/portaldata/r5/ap/r5-ap-vendors.php

On the way home, I added on short, vertical hike / scramble at Flinn Springs County Park on old highway 80 off highway 8. Post to come.