Zion Canyon Overlook Trail – A Must Hike in Zion

Zion Canyon Overlook

From this view it is easy to see how the Zion Overlook hike got its name

The Zion Canyon Overlook trail in Zion National Park is an easy hike with a huge payoff at the end.  The hike is just a little more than a mile round trip and provides great panoramic views of the canyon.  Even if you aren’t an avid hiker or don’t have much time in the park, this is 40 minutes in the park well spent.

Getting Here

Zion Canyon Overlook Hike

Great views abound at the Zion Canyon overlook

If you are entering Zion National Park from Springdale you will drive past the visitor center and then take the right turn that goes to Carmel Junction. You’ll drive up the switchbacks and enter the Zion tunnel.  The trailhead for the Zion Canyon Overlook is on the left hand side after you exit the tunnel.

If you are coming from Highway 89 into the park follow the road and right before you enter the Zion Tunnel the trailhead will be on your right.   There is some parking with a restroom directly across from the trailhead.  Often times this small parking lot is full, as it is also where the trail head for Pine Creek begins.

No sweat if the parking lot is full however, there is additional parking a little ways further up on the left.  If that lot is full there are more turnouts for parking further up the road, it just means that your hike is going to be a little longer than planned

The Trail  

Pine Creek in Zion Canyon

Pine Creek flows down Zion Canyon into the Virgin river

The trail itself is well marked and can accommodate just about everyone.  The most difficult portion of the trail is at the very beginning where it can be a little steep for some.  However, once you are past this initial climb, most of the hike is fairly level with just a little up and down as you make your way to the overlook.

It is just a little more than 1/2 a mile to the overlook.  Most people can make the walk in about 20 minutes and usually spend 20 minutes or more at the overlook itself taking in the gorgeous views and exploring around the overlook itself.

The mesa not only offers views of the canyon and pine creek below, but you can also see some of the windows that have been carved into the rock as part of the Zion tunnel.  You can also catch a glimpse of Pine Creek canyon before in plunges to the valley floor.

Zion Tunnel Window

Windows are carved into the Zion Tunnel right next to the overlook trailhead

The trail is an out and back hike, making it just a little more than a mile round trip.  The red rock formations and mesas you see along the trail make the trail interesting in both directions.  From the overlook trail there is an old loop trail that explores more of the mesa. However this trail is rather difficult to find and is more difficult than the Canyon Overlook Trail, so if you decide to attempt this trail I recommend picking up a good map and having some good route finding skills.

Redrock along the Zion Overlook Trail

Looking east along the Zion Canyon overlook trail

The Zion Canyon Overlook Trail is a hike that you can take the kids and the grandparents on, and it offers a view that won’t disappoint.  If you have any questions about this hike or any others in the park drop me a line in the comments down below or you can email me at DustinACook@gmail.com  And don’t forget to get outside and have some fun!

Posted in Beautiful Places, Great Place for a Date, Hiking Utah, National Parks, Southern Utah, Uncategorized, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gooseberry Mesa – Something for Everyone

Looking towards orderville near Gooseberry Mesa

View from the western edge of Gooseberry Mesa

Southern Utah is full of great mountain bike rides.  Ask around and you might find that most agree Gooseberry Mesa is near the top.  Gooseberry Mesa provides a large variety of trails, from a beginner trail that most can handle to expert trails and obstacles that will test even the most seasoned rider.  If you are looking for a challenging ride or just a fun adventure, Gooseberry is for you.

Getting There

Various terrain on Gooseberry Mesa

Red rock, slick rock and all types of terrain make up the great rides of Gooseberry Mesa

Gooseberry Mesa is closest to the town of Apple Valley Utah.  Basically from St. George or I-15 follow the signs as if you were going to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Just after you pass Apple Valley you will see signs for a dirt road that will eventually lead to Gooseberry Mesa. If you pass Hildale/Colorado city you have gone to far and need to come back towards St. George

The Trail

Large color map shows the trails at Gooseberry Mesa

A large map at the beginning of the trail head shows all the trails along with level of difficulty

Gooseberry Mesa has a trail for everyone from the beginner mountain biker, down to the expert.  A beginner trail runs the length of the Mesa almost all the way to the western edge which gives you a great view of orderville canyon.  This beginner trail is wide and well groomed with very few obstacles.  Several intermediate and expert trails spur off this main beginner trail and traverse the Mesa offering some great sites and some challenging obstacles to overcome.

The practice loop is marked blue for intermediate and is a great warm up for many of the

Practice Loop for Gooseberry Mesa

Most of the trails have great signage indicating the level of difficulty for that particular trail

different trails on Gooseberry.  It also provides some great view looking north toward Zion National park and some of the great views of Southern Utah.

Maps of the trail system on Gooseberry Mesa can be found at about any bike shop in southern Utah, and in case you forget your map there is also a very detailed map of all the trails at the trail head.  So if you brought your smart phone you can snap a photo and use it as a reference once you are on the trail.   Most of the trails are well marked and are color coded to give you an idea of the degree of difficulty.

Epic view from Gooseberry Mesa

Beautiful views like this abound all along the trail of Gooseberry Mesa

I can’t say enough good things about this ride.  Everyone can find something they will like on Gooseberry Mesa.  If you have any question or comments leave them down below or feel free to email me at DustinACook@gmail.com.  And don’t forget to go outside and have some fun.

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Ride Zion National Park – A Unique Way to See a Classic Park

Zion National Park

Entrance to Zion National Park from Highway 89

Zion is one of the country’s iconic National Parks that attracts visitors from all around the world.  Many view its steep walls and beautiful Mesas from an automobile or from the parks shuttles.  To really take in all of Zions beauty, consider viewing the park by bike.  Riding through Zions is a fairly easy ride that most people can manage, but will not soon forget.  You will experience the beauty of the park in a way that is hard to beat.

2 Rides 2 Beautiful Landscapes

The one place you can’t ride a bike in Zions is through the tunnel that is one of the longest tunnels in the country.  For this reason I usually describe Zion as having two seperate rides, one that gives you a view of the upper portion of the park and will eventually take you out to Highway 89 and the other that goes along the lower canyon from the visitor center to the Temple of Sinawa, where the Zion narrows trail ends.

Upper Zions

Zion National Park, Utah

View just above the Tunnel in Zion National Park

Just beyond the tunnel there are a few parking lots and turnoffs where you can drop your car and hop on your bike.  This ride is slightly up hill, but isn’t difficult and makes for a leisurley descent back down to your car.  There are some great views of the desert landscapes that make up the “top” of Zion that you won’t experience on the lower ride.

Checkerboard Mesa is a sure stop as you ride a long and provides some great photo opportunities.  From the tunnel to the park boundary is only about 7 miles, but you can

Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park

Checkerboard Mesa in Zions National Park

keep riding out of the park toward highway 89 for as far as you feel like going.  The great views don’t stop at the park boundary.

Lower ride

What I call the lower ride in Zion can start from Springdale or the visitor center in the park and goes along the canyon road to the Temple of Sinawa.  From the visitor center to the junction where you turn to go to the tunnel or down the canyon to the temple of Sinawa, you can ride on that is called the river trail.

This is a paved trail and allows the casual cyclist to enjoy some great views and the cool breeze coming off the Virgin river without having to worry about cars.  However pedestrians also share this trail so you need to ride a little slower and be a little more cognizant of pedestrians.

Temple of Sinawa, Zion National Park, Utah

Parking lot of the Temple of Sinawa

From the junction to the Temple of Sinawa there are no cars allowed on the r0ad from about April until October.  The only traffic to contend with is the occasional shuttle that come about every 10-15 minutes depending on time of day.

The shuttles will never pass a cyclist on the road, so the courteous thing to do is pull to the side of the road and stop to allow the shuttle to pass you.  The shuttles don’t move very fast, so if you are a pretty quick road biker you probably won’t need to worry being passed by too many shuttles.

This ride is also slightly up hill, so it makes the trip from the Temple of Sinawa back to the visitor center an easy one.  Various pull outs exist along this section of road and its worth getting off your bike to take in the view.  Stopping at big bend to see the great throne is a must!

This lower ride takes you between the great tall walls that begin to narrow down until

The Great White Throne, Zion National Park, Utah

Great white throne seen from the big bend pull out

eventually they become the Zion narrows.  Big wall climbers can often be spotted as they scale the big walls of Zions making the scenery that much more exciting.

Both rides can be done between 1-2 hours each depending on your riding speed.  They are some of the most scenic road rides I think you will find in southern Utah.  If you have any questions about riding Zion National Park or any other questions about Utah for that matter, send me an email at DustinACook@gmail.com or comment down below.  Don’t forget to go outside and have some fun!

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Ride Emigration Canyon – The Road to Zion

Emigration Canyon Historical marker

You can take a rest at the top of Little Mountain and take in some gorgeous views of Emigration Canyon

At the top of Little Mountain is a monument and placard that marks Emigration Canyon as the “Road to Zion.”  While this canyon was traveled more than 160 years ago by oxen, handcarts and hardy pioneers, it is now a great ride for cyclists looking for just a little bit of climbing and a whole lot of beautiful scenenary!

Getting Here

Emigration canyon is located on the northeast side of the Salt Lake Valley, and is just east

Emigration canyon bike ride

Looking west from the road up Emigration canyon towards the mouth of the canyon

of the Hogle Zoo.  The easiest way to get there is to take Foothill Blvd and then turn east on Sunnyside Avenue.  If you are driving to the mouth of the canyon you can park at a public park just east of the Zoo, or for a little more challenging ride you can start from anywhere down in the valley.

If you ride from downtown Salt Lake to the top of Little Mountain and back, it turns out to be about a 30 mile ride round trip with about 2,500 feet of elevation gain, depending where you start from.  If you are going to ride from the valley I recommend using some of the back roads like Arapeen drive to avoid Foothill, as there is not a lot of shoulder room on foothill in some places.

The Ride

Emigration Canyon Road

Looking up Emigration Canyon on the way to Little Mountain

The ride itself from the mouth of the canyon to the summit of Little Mountain is about 7.5 miles long and climbs about 1300 feet.  The elevation gain is spread pretty evenly throughout the ride with just a little bit more gain at the end, making for an average grade of about 3.1%  For a longer more challenging ride you can ride past the summit of Little Mountain and continue on to Big Mountain – look for more details about Big Mountain ride on a later post.

For a majority of the ride there is plenty of shoulder to stay out of the way of cars, and traffic compared to the other canyons in the area is light, giving this ride a little bit more of a country feel.  Homes are sparesly located along the road up the canyon and mature trees provide some welcome shade during hot summer months.

This is a great starter ride for those who are looking to become a king of the mountain

cyclist.  It is a little more challenging than city creek but not as challenging as the canyons

Historical plaque at the top of Little Mountain

A plaque tells the story of the Mormon pioneers journey to Zion

to the south like Millcreek and Big and Little Cottonwood canyon.  The road is in pretty good shape, it seems like the majority of it has been resurfaced in the last 5-10 years.  There are no major pot holes or obstacles to be concerned about that I saw on the way up or down the canyon.

It is not unusual to see wildlife in the canyon, especially in the morning or evening hours.  Possible sightings include big game like moose, elk and deer, as well as smaller animals like rabbits and squirrels.  Just something to keep in the back of your mind before you choose to bomb down the canyon.

Emigration Canyon, Utah, Salt Lake City

Descending Emigration Canyon from Little Mountain

Emigration is a great ride to catch some beautiful scenery, escape the busy city traffic or get a mild workout on climbing some gentle hills.  You’ll definitely want to pack a water bottle or two and a little bit of food on this ride as you head for the top.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below or you can email me at DustinACook@gmail.com.  And don’t forget to get outside and live a life of Adventure!

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Horse Tail Falls – Steep Climb, Beautiful Trail, Awesome Waterfall

Dry Creek Trail in Apine Utah

Horse Tail Falls, Dry Creek Trail Alpine Utah

Horse Tail Falls is a beautiful hike just above the city of Alpine Utah.  The distance to the falls is a short 2.1 miles, but is fairly steep with an elevation gain of almost 1600 feet.  The trail is wide and well marked and is a great destination for a group hike, horseback ride or a challenging trail run.

Summary

  • Distance: 2.1 miles  (one way)

    Alpine, Utah Horse Tail Falls, Dry Creek Trail

    Horse Tail Falls in morning light

  • Trailhead Elevation: 5600 ft (Approx.)
  • Falls Elevation: 72oo ft (Approx)
  • Trail Head Name: Dry Creek
  • Location: Alpine, Utah
  • Rating: (moderate – due to steepness)

Getting There:

Horse Tail Falls is accessed using the Dry Creek Trail head that is just outside of the quiet town of Alpine Utah.  From I-15 take the Highland/Alpine exit onto the Timpanogos Highway (SR-92).  The quickest way from here is to turn onto 5300 West and continue it on to Main street.  Go straight through the traffic circle and then turn right onto 200 North.  Take the 2nd left onto Grove Drive and you’ll pretty much follow Grove Drive all the way to the Dry Creek Trail Head.  You’ll pass the Rodeo grounds on your right just a bit before you get to the trail head, but don’t stop at the small trail at the Rodeo grounds, keep going till you see the big sign that says Dry Creek.  There is a medium sized dirt parking lot to leave your vehicle.  The beginning of the trail is well marked and should be easy to find.

Dry Creek Trail head is in Alpine Utah

View of Horse Tail Falls from the Dry Creek Trail

The Trail:

The trail is on the East side of the parking lot and has good signage.  This is a wilderness area, so no type of wheeled vehicle is allowed, which is a bit dissapointing because it would make for a great mountain bike ride.  The trail starts out with a good climb, and maintains this grade for quite a bit of the trail, however there are just a few spots where the trail levels out for a moment giving your calves a bit of a rest.

After about 1/10 of a mile you will see a trail split off to the left. This trail crosses the river below and makes its way to the base of Horse Tail Falls.  This trail is more narrow and there is a lot more up and down.  I haven’t taken this trail all the way to Horse Tail Falls yet, but will update with new information once I get to it.

The main trail is about a roads width for much of the way and has a few spots where it splits and then rejoins.  Much of the trail has good tree cover which is especially nice if you hike it during the middle of the day.  About a quarter mile into the hike you will see a post with no sign and a trail that heads off to the right and up the hillside.  This trail goes up the mountain to the top and is very steep.

The main trail continues up, up and up with a few stream crossings, all of which have

small foot bridges, incase you don’t want to get your feet wet.  At about the two mile mark

This junction is almost 2 miles up the trail

The Dry Creek Trail connects with various trails up the canyon

will come to a fork on the trail.  Head left to continue to the top of the falls, or you can head right to access the North Mountain or Deer Creek – Dry Creek Trail.  On the left side of the trail you will notice a small game trail that heads down and through the bushes and trees.  This small game trail will take you to the bottom of Horse Tail falls, but requires a little bit of bush whacking.

Continue on the main trail and you will climb just a bit more until you are up above the falls.  From here you can get a decent look at the falls, but for the best view you may want to take one of many game trails down to the base of the falls.  You can also head back down the trail to take the game trail to the base of the falls that is just across from the signed junction.

The Falls:

Up River from HorseTail Falls

The river cuts through the rocky terrace just above Horse Tail Falls

Horse Tail Falls is about 35 feet high and is well worth the hike up to see it.  It is a little more spectacular looking during the run-off season as there is more water, but even in dry years it is a sight not to be missed.  Just above the falls the river moves swiftly as it cuts through the canyon rock.  If you do decide to explore around the falls, carefully plan your route down and up, as the rock can be a little slick due to the moisture and humidity of the falls.

Miscellaneous:

Don’t forget to pack your ten essentials on this hike.  Plan to take some food and water

Horse Tail Falls, Alpine Utah

Horse Tail Falls, view from below the falls

with you as it takes a little longer than a typical 2 mile hike because of its elevation gain – plus there are a lot of great spots to stop and eat a sandwich or your favorite snack by the water fall.  If you have any questions about the hike or would like to comment on your trip to the falls please post below.  You can also email me with questions at DustinACook@gmail.com.  And don’t forget to go outside and live a life of Adventure!

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Cross-Country Ski Like an Olympian at Soldier Hollow

Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics at Solder Hollow

Soldier Hollow was the cross country skiing venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics

If you are looking for a world class course to cross country ski, soldier hollow near Midway, Utah is it.  You can hone your skills on beginner to experts trails that are groomed to Olympic standards everyday.  Whether you are a beginner in need of a lesson, or an expert skater looking for a challenging and rewarding run, you can find it here.

Soldier Hollow was the venue for the cross country skiing events for the Salt Lake 2002

Back country cross country skiing at Soldier Hollow

Beyond the groomed trails are backcounty trails for the more experienced skier

Winter Olympic Games.  As you ski on the different trails you’ll see the starting blocks and finish areas that were part of the games.  Even though it has been more than 10 years, the Olympic spirit still lives here.

The trails are some of the best maintained in the state and are groomed each day.  There is a good mix of green, blue and black trails and even a few backcountry(ungroomed) trails for those that like to get off the beaten path.  The course is groomed for both classic and skate skiers and has a good mix of hills, gentle slopes and long runs.

Pony Express run at Soldier Hollow

Blue bird day for cross country skiing

You can’t beat the views of the valley and surrounding mountains from the trails, especially on a bluebird day.  If scenenary is important during your cross country skiing than this is the course for you.

Details

Soldier Hollow is open for the winter season seven days a week from 9am to 4:30pm.  You can rent classic or skate gear at the lodge where you will also pick up your pass to get on the course.  Unfortunately Soldier Hollow doesn’t have any package deals for equipment rental and course pass, so skiing here can be a little pricey if you have to rent equipment.

After 1pm prices drop a little, so if you are only going to ski for a few hours you can save a little cash  by going after 1pm.  For more details on rates and track conditions go to: http://www.soldierhollow.com/x_country.php

If you are looking to learn or just improve your technique they offer lessons from some

Soldier Hollow Lodge in Midway Utah

Lodge at Soldier Hollow

great instructors.  Whether you want to learn classic or skate, need a beginner lesson or one just to help fine tune your technique they got someone who can help you out.  You can find costs and times by going on the Soldier Hollow link above.

Getting Here

Soldier Hollow is located just south of Midway Utah, and north of Deer Creek resorvior if you are coming from Provo canyon.  Whether you are coming from the north or south get on Highway 113, (coming from the North it intersects with Main Street in Midway, coming from the south it intersects Highway 189 just after Deer Creek) and then turn West on to Tate Lane.  Tate Lane ends at T intersection with Stringtown Road.  Turn Left(South) onto Stringtown and it soon turns into Olympic Drive and Soldier Hollow.  Follow the signs to the lodge where you can buy your pass and rent your skis.  The course is just outside the back door of the lodge.

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Bryce in Winter – Even more Beautiful, Even more Cold

Winter Bryce Canyon National Park

Sunrise over the Hoodoos in the Amphitheater

There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world – Bryce Canyon is truly a place of unique beauty.  Hundreds of thousands come to this National Park every year to admire the scenic vistas and hike its many trails.  Most people visit Bryce in the spring and summer, few venture to Bryce in the winter. But if you ask me this is the most beautiful times of the year to visit Bryce – It is also the coldest.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Great opportunities for photography abound in winter in Bryce

The cold weather keeps most visitors away, so it feels almost like you have the whole park to yourself.  You can walk the trails and visit the scenic over views almost in complete solitude.  The winter sun is great for photography and you can take your time to get that perfect shot without having to fight crowds of tourists or wait for people to move out of frame.

One of my favorite things to do in winter at Bryce is to cross country ski along the rim.  Cross country skis can be rented near by at Ruby’s inn, and there are a few groomed trails near Ruby’s Inn that go around and to the park entrance.  Once you enter the park however, the groomed trails stop and this is where the fun of cross country skiing really

Photography by Dustin Cook

Cross country skiing along the Bryce Canyon rim

begins.   You can ski along the rim for several miles, getting great views of the park that you wouldn’t see during the summer unless you did a lot of bush wacking.  This is truly one of the best ways to enjoy all the scenery that Bryce Canyon has to offer.  You can also snowshoe along the rim, but cross country skiing let’s you cover a little more ground as you glide across the snow.

Another thing not to miss out on is watching the sunrise and sunset over the canyon during the winter.  With the contrast of the snow, the reds of the canyon are brighter than any other time of year and they seem to put off a subtle glow during twilight hours.  The Bryce Amphitheater is a great place to go at dusk and dawn.  Sunrise and Sunset Point, aptly named, are some of my favorite place to go to watch the sun rise and set over the park.

Ampitheatre Bryce Canyon Utah

Hoodoos glow in shades of red during sunrise at the Bryce Amphitheater

Be prepared for the cold however, as it is bitterly cold during sunrise and sunset, especially if there is a wind blowing.  Make sure to dress in layers and bring something warm to drink.

Most of the trails are still accessible during the winter months with either snow shoes or Yak Trax. Often times the snow isn’t deep and Yak Trak or some other device that will add some traction to your shoe will work just great.  It is a little bit more slowing moving with the ice and snow, so plan accordingly.  Especially sense the sun sets must faster and much earlier in winter.  For even more ideas of winter activities in Byrce check out the parks website for winter activities.

Winter Bryce Canyon

Sunset in Winter over Bryce Canyon National Park

Getting to Bryce

Bryce is in the south western part of Utah.  If coming from Northern Utah you can take I-15 until you get to the exit for the town of Panguitch, at which point you’ll get off the interstate and follow the signs to park.  Bryce Canyon is about 20 miles southeast of Panguitch Utah.  If you are coming from the South you can take I-15 to the Panguitch exit or you can take the more scenic way via Highway 89.  One of my favorite drives is going out the East entrance of Zion National Park and taking Highway 89 to Bryce.  This takes a little longer, but

Pine tree growing on Hoodoos in the Bryce Canyon Ampitheatre

Sunrise over the Bryce Canyon Ampitheater

gives you the chance to see two very beautiful and very different National Parks.  On one of my trips I heard that the bottom layer of Bryce Canyon is the top layer of rock at Zion National Park and that the bottom layer of Zions is the top layer of rock of the Gran Canyon.  I never did fact check it, but pretty interesting if it is true.

As always if you have any questions, corrections, complaints or comments feel free to leave them below.  And don’t forget to

live life as if it were your greatest adventure!

Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park

Snow covered Hoodoos on the Fairly land loop trail

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Ride The Big Chief Loop – Dead Horse Point

Dead Horse Point State Park

View of the valley down below from the Big Chief Loop Trail

Just 19 miles northwest of Moab a large plateau rises high above the valley floor known as Dead Horse Point.  There are excellent views from trails all over the park, but one of the funnest is the Big Chief Loop trail.  The loop provides great views along its 8 mile course and is great for riders of all abilities.  While many rides in Moab are for intermediate or expert riders, this ride is one you can do with the whole family.  You can tackle it with a single gear bike (They’ll be just a couple of inclines you’ll have to walk up), but it is definitely a lot more fun with a 10-18 speed.   There are also shorter loops that are a little bit easier if your looking for something a little more manageable for a young family.

The Trail:

  • Length: 8 miles (roundtrip)

    Dead Horse Point State Park

    Sage brush along the Big Chief Loop trail

  • Elevation Change: Minimal
  • Difficulty: Easy

The trail starts from the North end of the visitor center parking and is well marked.  Thetrail goes over red rock, packed dirt and the occasional stretch of loose sand.  There are a few designated areas where you can pull your bike off the trail and take in the view.  One that you don’t want to pass up is the Pyramid lookout.  This gives you the best view of the valley looking south and gives you a glimpse of the Colorado river down below.  Of

Dead Horse Point

View of the valley from Dead Horse Point

course for the best view of the river, you should take the mile ride south from the visitor center to the very edge of the plateau.

If steep edges make you nervous, you have no worries about this trail.  While it does follow along the plateau, there are no exposed areas where you have to worry about falling.  The trail is 60 feet or more from the edge of the plateau so at no point along the trail do you have to worry about going over.

Getting Here:

Dead Horse point is a state park near Moab, Utah.  If you are coming from the north you will exit I-70 at exit 182 onto Highway 191.  Follow 191 for about 2o miles until you reach Highway 313.  This is an intersection before you get to Arches National park and has a sign directing you to take a right onto 313 to reach Dead Horse point.  Follow 313 for about 20 miles and you will find yourself at entrance gate for Dead Horse point.  There is a fee to enter the park.  More details about the park can be found at the state park’s website.  If you are coming from the South look for this intersection about 3 miles after you pass the entrance to Arches National Park it will be on your left.

As always if you have any questions or comments about the ride, please feel free to comment in the space below.  Have fun riding the Big Chief Loop trail!

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Secret Lake – A Hike for Everyone

Secret Lake Reflection

Reflection at sunset across Secret Lake

Secret Lake is a great hike for everyone – even for people who don’t like to hike.  It provides gorgeous views of the surrounding mountain peaks in an easy one mile hike that the youngest child or oldest grandparent can handle.  The great thing about this hike is that it is an alpine environment with a lot of wildflowers, streams and vegetation only 20 minutes from the Salt Lake Valley.

While it is called Secret Lake, it is a popular hike with the locals, so you will probably

find a crowded parking if you attempt to hike this on a weekend in the summer, especially

Secret Lake, Alta Utah

Sun setting over the pine trees at Secret Lake

in the evenings.  I recommend this hike during the weekday to avoid the crowds, it is a hike that can easily be done after work.

In just a mile this hike has it all, meadows, pine trees, mountain streams, the occasional moose and a beautiful mountain lake at the end.  It makes for a great picnic, a hike with the kids or a romantic stroll.  There are other hikes nearby, including one to Sugar Loaf and Devil’s castle, if you have some time and would like to go on a couple of hikes.

Bull Moose, Secret Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon

Bull Moose on the trail to Secret Lake

It is not uncommon to see a moose on the trail to Secret Lake, especially if you go in the evening or the morning hours.  At these times you probably have a 50/50 shot of seeing one.  I’ve even seen them mid-day in July, they really like this area.  While seeing a wild animal is one of the greatest things to see, remember that they are still wild so keep your distance.  Moose are powerful animals, one that you don’t want to make mad.  em.

Getting There:  Secret Lake is at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Take the road up the canyon to the booth as the end of the pave road, Alta Ski resort will be on your right.  You will continue up the dirt road, which can be done in a sedan with decent clearance if you are careful, it is well maintained and has just a few speed bumps you’ll need to negotiate.  Follow this road until you see a parking lot next to a campground.  You can park here and you will see signs to the trail, it is well marked.  There is also a restroom here if you need one.

Devil's Castle near Secret Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

View of Devil’s Castle from the Secret Lake Trail

The Hike:  The hike is about 1 mile long and goes through some nice green meadows, a small pine forest and then up a few switch backs to the lake.  The trail is well marked and well maintained.  There are a few streams, but there are plenty of rocks to hop-scoth your way across.  Even if you miss one, it is not a big deal as the stream, if you can call it that, is only a few inches deep.  There is just a little bit of elevation gain, but it is very manageable and for this reason I give it an easy rating.

Wildflowers can be seen along the way, and if you time it just right, usually the beginning of June, you can hike it when they are in full bloom.  But no matter when you go, there is always something pretty to see.  The Lake itself is maybe 100 yards across at its widest point, but provides a beautiful spot for picnicking, napping or just taking in natures beauty.

  • Distance (roundtrip): 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: A few hundred feet, if that
  • Rating: Easy
Peaks near Secret Lake, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta Utah

There are great views of surrounding peaks from the Secret Lake trail.

What to take:  A little bit of water and food, is probably all you need for this hike.  Of course wear good shoes, but leave the swimming suit at home, as no swimming is allowed in Secret Lake.  I also recommend bringing a camera as it is hard to take a bad photo in this beautiful area.

I’ve never snow shoed this area before as it lies in the middle of Alta Ski Resort, which makes it a little difficult to find in the snow.  If you want to snow shoe near this area, I recommend Grizzly Gulch.  Stay tuned for a post about Grizzly Gulch coming soon.  One other note, because of its higher elevation, this hike is not accessible until late May early June depending on how late it snows.

As always if you have any questions or comments about this hike, please use the comments

Secret Lake up Little Cottonwood Canyon

Reflection of the surrounding mountains across Secret Lake

section below, or feel free to email me at DustinACook@gmail.com.  And don’t forget to go outside and do something fun!

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Grandeur Peak – A Hiking or Snow Shoeing Adventure

Grandeur Peak Summit Millcreek Canyon

View of Mount Olympus and the surrounding Wasatch Range from the top of Grandeur Peak in Millcreek Canyon

Grandeur Peak is one of Salt Lake City’s classic hikes and can be reached by most folks with a free morning or afternoon.  The peak is just below 8,300 feet and provides some beautiful views of the surrounding mountain ranges and the Salt Lake Valley.  It is a relatively easy trail and is great for a family outing, a fun date, a trail run or just a nice walk in the wilderness to clear your mind.

Getting to the Top

Grandeur peak is usually climbed from one of two different routes.  The most popular route is the from the Church Fork Picnic area in Millcreek canyon, while the other more sparsely travelled route is the West Ridge.

Church Fork Route – Head up Millcreek Canyon(If you are not sure where Millcreek

Wild Flowers in mid may along the Church Fork Trail in Millcreek Canyon

Wild flowers along the Church Fork trail

Canyon is just find 3800 South on the East Side of Salt Lake and head East) 3.5 miles and you’ll see Church Fork picnic area.  This is a rather large picnic area with a road that switch backs up the hillside.  There is a parking lot at the very top, right where the trail head is, but on weekends it usually fills up fast.  If it is full you can park down on the side of the road and walk up from the main road.  The trail is well marked and easy to find.  Trail details:

  • Distance: 2.75 miles (one way)
  • Elevation Gain: 2,398 Feet
  • Rating: Easy
  • Season: Year round
View of Mount Olympus from just below the Summit of Grandeur peak

View of Mount Olympus from just below the Summit

West Ridge Route – the trail head for the West Ridge trail up Grandeur peak is located at the end of Wasatch Blvd past 3300 South, where there is  usually plenty of parking.  From the parking lot walk up the dirt road and take the first right fork.  This trail is more challenging than the Church Fork trail, as it starts lower and is shorter, making the hike a steeper one.  It is also not as well marked as the Church Fork Trail.  Trail Details:

  • Distance: 2.25 Miles (One Way)
  • Elevation Gain: 3,267
  • Rating: Easy – Moderate
  • Season: Year round

What to Bring

Since the trail is a relatively easy one, just an afternoon hiking pack should be all you need to do this hike in the summer, a couple of liters of water, and a snack.  For spring and fall you may want to throw in a jacket, especially if you will be heading up in the morning or evening.  For winter you will want to prepare for mountain snow and consider using snow shoes or at least gators and trekking poles.

There is plenty of space at the summit to rest, take in the views and maybe enjoy a lunch or

Wildflowers along the Church Fork trail in Millcreek Canyon

Wildflowers along the Church Fork Trail

snack.  The summit of Grandeur isn’t as windy as some of the higher peaks in Utah, making it an ideal place to take a break and enjoy your surroundings.  Make sure to bring your camera as you can get some great shots of Mount Olympus, the Salt Lake Valley and Parleys Canyon.

This is a great hike for mid May as most of the snow is usually gone and there are a lot of wild flowers out.  It is also a great hike in the fall if you want to see the colors changing.  There is not a lot of tree cover on the West Ridge route, and the latter half of the Church Fork route is also without tree coverage, so I don’t recommend doing this hike in the heat of summer, but I don’t really like hiking in the heat anywhere.

This is a classic hike that I do at least once a year and recommend it to people of all abilities.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to drop me a line in the comments section below.  And remember, life begins where your comfort zone ends, so go out looking for an adventure!

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