Sunday, June 10, 2012

Some Great Utah Hikes

For the past forty years I have been discovering the beauty of Utah. I started with Zion, followed by Lake Powell, the Wasatch, Uintas, Moab, Bryce, San Rafael Swell, Escalante, and the West Desert. After all of this I have still only tasted what Utah has to offer. Every year I discover a new corner, such as Maple Canyon or Lake Blanche. It makes me wonder what is yet to be discovered. Here are some of my favorites.

The Devil's Garden

The fins (Courtesy of Google Images)
Nestled at the far end of the road in Arches National Park is an area called the Devil's Garden. The northern part of the garden hosts the fantastic and fragile Landscape Arch as well as a dozen other lesser known formations. However, the really fun thing to do is explore the formations south of the Devil's Garden campground. There is a moderate trail that weaves through terrific slots of sandstone fins that tower up into the sky.

Fisher Towers

Ancient Art, notice the climber on the very top
East of Moab, within view of the Colorado River, is a place where Mother Nature made thousand foot towers by letting mud drip through her hands. An easy trail winds among the shade of the giants. This is one of those places that you thought only existed in the imagination of the mind. The Fisher Towers are very popular with climbers. A great activity is to bring a lunch, find a shady spot, and watch them climb the spires.
The Cobra

Goblin Valley

View from above
The southern end of the San Rafael Swell contains a place that feels like another planet. In fact the movie Galaxy Quest used this as the home for the rock monster Gorignak. Goblin Valley is full of hoodoos to scramble over, caves to explore, and plateaus to ascend. If you stay in the state maintained campground then you can wander the hoodoos late into the night. This is especially attractive since this part of the swell is located in one best night sky viewing areas of the United States.
Climbing on the hoodoos is encouraged

Little Wildhorse Canyon

Having fun avoiding getting wet
In the slots
Just down the road from Goblin Valley is an incredible walk that takes you through the heart of the San Rafael Reef. A half day hike will allow you to walk through body width slots and lose yourself in the shade of towering cliffs. For a longer adventure you can walk though the entire length of the canyon and then make a loop by coming down Bell Canyon.

Buckhorn Wash

Little Grand Canyon
At the northern end of the San Rafael Swell is a good twenty mile dirt road that takes you through towering sandstone walls and past ancient Indian artwork. A worthy half hour detour will put you at the top of the Little Grand Canyon as you peer down thousands of feet to the San Rafael river flowing below.
Rock art

Orderville Canyon

Beautiful light
The Zion Narrows justifiably draw visitors from all around the world. This incredible canyon formed by the constant flow of the Virgin river creates a feeling of reverence and awe. One can enjoy the narrows by simply walking up the river from the final stop of the Zion shuttle bus. However, in order to get the full experience you need to hike down from the plateau above. This can be done as a long overnight hike down the main canyon, as a highly technical canyoneering adventure via Imlay canyon, or as an enjoyable adventure by way of Orderville Canyon. While Orderville does still require some abilities with a rope in order to assist your group over a couple of fifteen foot drops it is not technical enough to require a full understanding of climbing technique. You will find that the soaring walls of Orderville create an intimate experience as you reach from one wall to the other while hundreds of feet above you a streak of blue reveals the world beyond.
One of the obstacles

Lone Peak

View of the cirque
Located among the peaks that surround Salt Lake City are several mountains that are reminiscent of the granite mountains of the Sierra Nevada. One of my favorite is Lone Peak. The cost of entry to the towering cirque of vertical walls is a strenuous three hour hike. However, once there you will easily forget that two million people live just down the trail.

Looking down at climbers

Island Lake

Exhilarating fun
On the western side of the Uinta range is a beautiful lake accessible by an easy three mile hike. Island Lake puts you into the back country where you can take a nap in the beauty of an alpine setting, hike the surrounding eleven thousand foot peaks, or jump off the forty foot cliffs into the cool snow fed waters of the lake. It is easily doable as a long day trip, or even better, as a overnight stay. No permits required.

Peaceful beauty

Lake Blanche

A short drive out of Salt Lake City and up Big Cottonwood Canyon will take you to the trail head for a moderate three mile hike that will deposit you deep in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains. Here you can view the visible effects of the glacial history of the Wasatch, sleep under the shade of a giant pine tree, fish in a pristine lake, or scale up to the ridge of Sundial peak.

Sundial Peak (Courtesy of Google Images)

Maple Canyon

Amazing rock
Just one hour south of Salt Lake City this canyon is a hidden gem of Sanpete Valley. Conglomerate stone, that looks like vertical paving stones, form canyon walls and spires that weave around tree shaded paths. Don't miss Box Canyon (a narrow side canyon off the main road), as it provides a easy romp up a narrow slot that ends in a waterfall filled amphitheater. If you are a climber, this is sport climbing paradise.

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