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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Drive, Ride, Run or Hike the Alpine Loop

View of American Fork Canyons as you pass the Summit Trail on the Alpine Loop Road

Fall colors along the scenic Alpine Loop Road

If you haven’t had a chance yet to enjoy the fall colors, take a drive, ride your bike or go for a hike on the Alpine Loop.  This beautiful stretch of road climbs up American Fork Canyon providing a beautiful view of Timpanogos before dropping into Aspen Grove and Sundance Ski resort.  This scenic byway is a local favorite and offers plenty of opportunities for sight seeing and recreation along the way.

Fall colors in American Fork Canyon

Fall colors in American Fork Canyon as you ascend the Alpine Loop Road

The Alpine loop road from the mount of American Fork Canyon to Aspen Grove is 14.6 miles.  About 4.5 miles up American Fork canyon you will come to a fork in the road, take the right fork to continue up the Alpine Loop road.  At this point the road begins to switchback up the canyon providing an elevated view of the canyon below.  A mixture of pine trees and quakies provide a beautiful array of colors as you traverse this section of the loop.

Before reaching the top of the loop is the turn off for the Timpanookee trail head to climb

Mount Timpanogos and another trail that connects with various other trails in the canyon

View of the Summit Trail from American Fork Canyon

View from the Summit Trail in American Fork Canyon

called Salamandor flats.  As you reach the top of the road there is a parking lot and trail head called the summit trail.  Great views of Timpanogos and other views of the canyon can be seen here.  Also a network of trails for either hiking or mountain biking can be accessed from this point.

Soon after passing the summit trail you will come to a turnoff that leads to the cascade springs area.  The cascade springs road goes about 7 miles to the north.  Various hiking, biking and off road trails can be accessed from the Cascade springs road.

Alpine Loop Quakies in the Fall

Quakies changing color just beyond the turnoff to Cascade Springs

Most people usually continue on the Alpine loop road as they descend down to the Aspen Grove area.  Multiple turnouts dot the road allowing drivers to pull off the road and take in different views of the surroundings.  This portion of the drive is mostly quaking aspen trees that turn vibrant shades of gold, orange and yellow in the fall.

First the road descends to the Aspen grove area, where another trail up Timpanogos begins and the National Forest area ends.  Continuing down this road you will pass Sundance Ski resort and eventually connect with the Provo Canyon Highway.

Some important things to note about the Alpine Highway is that there is a fee associated with this area and there are parts of the road that are quite narrow so drivers should slow down and keep an eye out for cars and cyclists coming the opposite

way.  If you have any questions about the Alpine Loop please comment below or send me

Fall colors cover the slopes around the Aspen Grove Area

Fall colors cover the slopes near Aspen Grove

an email at DustinACook@gmail.com.

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Northwest of Eden is the Devil’s Garden – Arches National Park

Double O Arch in the Devils Garden, Arches National Park

While climbing on named Arches is prohibited in Arches National Park, many are tempted to bend this rule in the Devils Garden

Northwest of Eden is the Devil’s Garden -at least in Arches National Park.  The Devil’s Garden is one of the premiere hiking spots in Arches National Park.   It’s about 12 miles up the road from the Garden of Eden section of the park, and if you ask me I would take the Devils Garden over the Garden of Eden any day of the week.   It is made up of hidden arches, sandstone fins and incredible rock formations.

Many people hike the Devils Garden to see Lanscape Arch, the longest spanning arch in the world at just over 306 feet.  In 1991 rock broke free from the arch, prompting the park service to close off the area underneath the arch.  The distance from the trail head to landscape arch is only about .8 miles over easy terrain.  But if you turn around at this point you are missing most of what the Devils Garden has to offer.

Devils Garden – The Skinny

Trail head to Landscape Arch – 1.6 miles round trip over easy terrain

Trail head to Dark Angel – 5 miles round trip over moderate terrain

Trail head to Dark Angel and return via primitive loop trail – 5.9 miles over difficult terrain

Tunnel Arch in the Devil's Garden, Arches National Park

Tunnel Arch sits high on a sandstone fin in the Devils Garden

A 1/4 mile down the trail you’ll come to a fork in the road.  You can continue on left to Landscape Arch and the rest of the Devils Garden of you can take a slight detour to see Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch.  This detour only adds about a 1/2 mile to the hike and provides beautiful views of two unique arches.  Tunnel Arch sits high up on a sandstone fin, while Pine Tree Arch allows you to walk right through it.  This is an outback and back side trail so you will rejoin the main trail where you left it.

Another 1/2 walk down the trail is Landscape Arch.  This is the most popular destination in

the Devils Garden and for good reason.  The span of this arch is truly amazing.  The

Landscape Arch is located in the Devil's Garden section of Arches National Park

Just .8 of a mile past the Devil’s Garden trailhead is Landscape Arch. It is the longest Arch in the world and spans a distance of 306 feet.

thinnest section of the arch is just over 6 feet thick causing Park Rangers to prompt guests to make sure they see landscape Arch before its gone.

Just pass landscape Arch the terrain becomes a little steeper and a bit more challenging.  As you climb up a sandstone fin just beyond landscape arch you are confronted with the rubble that once was Wall Arch.  Wall Arch was a large arch that looked quite robust and gave little warning that it was on the verge of collapse when in crumbled on August 5, 2008.

Not to far from Wall Arch is another side trail that offers side trips to Partition Arch and Navajo Arch.  Partition is aptly named for the smaller Arch right next to it, making it appear as if the arch was partitioned.  Through Partition you get a beautiful view of the sandstone fin maze that makes up the Devils Garden.  Navajo Arch is larger than partition Arch and is sandwich between sandstone fins, providing a some cool shade for hikers on a warm day.  Taking these side trails add an additional .8 miles to your hike.

Devils Garden with the La Salle Mountains in the background

The tops of the Sandstone fins in the Devils Garden provide a beautiful view of the La Salle Mountains

Upon rejoining the main trail the terrain turns to sandstone as you climb up onto more sandstone fins.  At some points it might be a little intimidating for those who are not a fan of heights, but if you can put up with it you get beautiful views of the Devils Garden, Salt Valley and the La Salle Mountains.

After hiking along the Sandstone ridge line of the Devils Garden for a bit you will come to a viewing area where you can see Dark Arch.  It also provides a good view of the many sandstone fins that give the Devils Garden its maze like quality.  This is a great place to take a break and admire the view before continuing on the trail

From here the trail takes a sharp left and will take you to Double O Arch.  This is one of the

Black Arch in the Devils Garden section of Arches National Park

Black Arch is visible from a view point near the Double O Arch formation

most unique arches in the park, and while it is prohibited to walk on any named arch, it is not uncommon to see a few people testing the arches strength by scrambling across the top.  After Landscape Arch this is the most popular Arch in the Devils Garden and is the final destination of many hikers before turning back.

From Double O Arch you can hike to a rock formation known as Dark Angel which is visible from Double O Arch, follow the trail back that you came on or make a large loop back to the trailhead by taking the primitive loop trail.

Double O Arch in the Devil's Garden Section of Arches National Park

Double O Arch marks the end of the line for many hikers who turn for home after taking in this scenic view.

The primitive loop trail of the Devils Garden is difficult terrain and should be attempted only by those who are ready for adventure.  It can be somewhat difficult to navigate your way through this part of the Devil’s Garden as the trail is not well maintained.  The trail weaves between, through and over sandstone fins and is marked with rock cairns.  The primitive loop has much more of a maze like feel and often offers quiet solitude as few hikers choose to take this route.

Either route you take and no matter where you choose to explore in the Devils Garden, you are sure to be amazed by both the scenery and the journey itself.  If you have an comments or questions feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email at DustinACook@gmail.com   And don’t forget to go outside and have some fun!

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Schoolmarms Bloomers – Cowboy Chaps – Delicate Arch – Arches National Park

View through Delicate Arch, Arches National Park near Moab Utah

View from Delicate Arch looking towards the Windows section of the Park

It has been given many names.  Early settlers called it Schoolmarms Bloomers and Cowboy Chaps.  Its official name is Delicate Arch, but no matter what you call it their is no name to adequately describe the grandeur and majesty of this natural arch.

While you have probably seen photos of the Arch this is truly a natural wonder that must

Delicate Arch on a Spring Afternoon

As you round the last corner on the hike, Delicate Arch comes into view across a sandstone ampitheatre

be experienced in person.  I’ve hiked to a lot of places and seen a lot of beautiful landscapes, but there are few that elicit such an emotional response upon viewing as this.

As you round the last corner of the hike and see the arch standing defiantly in front of you, if you don’t feel your heart skip a beat and an overwhelming sense of wonder, there is truly something wrong with you.  The arch teeters on the edge of a cliff and is surrounded on the other side by a sandstone ampitheatre where hikers can contemplate the Arches beauty and creation.

Hiking to Delicate Arch

Cabin at Wolfe Ranch - Arches National Park near Moab Utah

One of two cabins preserved at Wolfe Ranch. The trail head to Delicate Arch is located just beyond the cabin.

The trail to Delicate Arch begins at Wolfe Ranch.  The trail stretches 1.8 miles and climbs almost 480 feet to Delicate Arch.  The trail terrain includes rock, sandstone and loose dirt.  Near the top there is some exposure to cliffs, but for the most part, it is an easy to moderate trail that can be traveled by most.  During the summer it can get very hot on the trail, so be sure to bring plenty of water.  Hiking in the early morning or late afternoon can make the walk a little cooler and provide better light for picture taking.

Delicate Arch stands perched on a cliff, while surrounded on the other side by a natural

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab Utah

View of Delicate Arch looking back towards the windows section of Arches National Park

sandstone ampitheatre.  On most summer days this natural ampitheatre is packed with people taking pictures and waiting for their turn to stand underneath the arch.  Despite the large numbers of people, the arch seems to inspire almost a quiet reverance.  To get the best view of the arch go in the evening when the sun is low on the horizon.

Delicate Arch View Point

If you don’t have the time or ability to make the hike to the top of the arch, there is a viewpoint of Delicate Arch 1 mile past Wolfe Ranch.  The viewpoint has a boardwalk that takes you about 100 yard to a point where Delicate Arch is visible.  The arch is seen from the rear and is pretty far away, but for those who can’t make the trek to the arch it provides a glimpse of mother natures magnificence.

Rock Art at Wolfe Ranch

Wolfe Ranch Panel - Hunting Party, Ute Indian Rock Art

The Wolfe Ranch Panel depicts a hunting party, carved into the rock more than 200 years ago by Ute Indians

Just off the trail to Delicate Arch is a side trail that leads to some Native American rock art. It is known as the Wolf Ranch panel and is a fine display of Ute Rock art.  The panel shows figures on horseback and sheep most likely portraying a hunting party.  While there are many rock art panels in arches, this seems to be the most accessible and best preserved of all the art.

Wolfe Ranch was settled by a civil war veteran John Wesley Wolfe in 1898.  Two cabins have been preserved and mark the spot where Wolfe and his family lived for more than 10 years.  From these cabins is the trail to both delicate arch and the Native American rock panel.

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Get Lost in the Fiery Furnace – Arches National Park

Fiery Furnace Trailhead

Trailhead for the Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park

It is easy to lose yourself both metaphorically and literally in the Fiery Furnace.  This hike through canyon coves, rock spires and natural arches is a challenge to navigate, but offers an experience like few places in the world.  The natural beauty and unique formations within the Fiery Furnace make it a must do hike for anyone visiting Arches National Park.  You’ll be amazed and inspired as you crawl through natural arches, climb between great rock spires and squeeze your way through mini slot canyons.

Ascending Sandstone Spires to the upper section of the Fiery Furnace

Ascending sandstone spires to the upper section of the Fiery Furnac

The Skinny

The Fiery Furnace located in Arches National Park, near Moab Utah

Trail Head:  11.7 miles from the park entrance (N 38 44.596′ W 109 33.949′)

Distance: 3-4 miles depending on route

Elevation: gain/loss of 200ft

Difficulty:  moderate

Finding Your Way

Finding your way in the Fiery Furnace is not an easy task.  To help visitors safely experience this unique area, the park service offers ranger lead tours for a small fee of $10 per person.  There are typically two tours per day, usually at 10am and 2pm.  The Fiery Furnace hike is quite popular so it is recommended that you

Sandstone Spires in the Fiery Furnace

Finding your way among the sandstone spires can be a challenge

make reservations in advance by going on line at http://www.recreation.gov/tourParkDetail.do?parkId=93768&contractCode=NRSO Reservations can be made online March through October.

Hikers can explore the canyon for themselves after obtaining a permit from the visitor center.  However, if you have never been in the Fiery Furnace before I don’t recommend going in alone, as it can be very disorienting if you are not familiar with the area.  A good map and a GPS is recommended if you explore the Fiery Furnace alone.  In this post I have included a number of GPS coordinates to help in navigating the area.  See a full list of these waypoints as the bottom of this article.

What is there to see in the Fiery Furnace?

There are plenty of arches, rock formations, spires and scenic views in the fiery furnace.  Here are just a handful of the inspiring sights in the Fiery Furnace

Walk Through Arch in the Fiery Furnace

Take a Walk through Walk Through Arch to get a view of Crawl Through Arch

Walk Through Arch

GPS Coordinates: N 38 44.604′ W 109 33.669′

Just a 1/4 mile walk into the fiery furnace and you will find Walk Trough Arch.  Walk Through Arch is aptly named because you can walk right through it.  In this same area is Crawl Through Arch, an arch that you can crawl through.  This part of the Fiery Furnace is cooler as it is shaded by sandstone cliffs on three sides.  After exploring this area you turn around and follow the same trail you followed in, as there is no outlet from this area.

Center Ampitheatre

GPS Coordinates:  N 38 44.559′ , W 109 33.631′

There are several ampitheatres that open up amidst the rock spires of the fiery furnace, but

Rock spires looking in the Center Ampitheatre in the Fiery Furnace - Arches National Park

Rock Spires surround the Center Ampitheatre of the Fiery Furnace

the one I find to be the most beautiful and inspiring is what I call Center Ampitheatre.  Even though it doesn’t have an official name, center Ampitheatre lies at a cross roads of the fiery furnace.  From hear you can visit many different parts of the Furnace and it is hear that you begin to ascend to the upper rockier portion of the Fiery Furnace leaving the sandy washes of the Furnace behind.  This ampitheatre is bounded by rock spires on one side and sandstone cliffs on the other which provide enough shade to allow some desert plants to flourish amidst the dry desert climate.

Skull Arch

GPS Coordinates:  N 38 44.693, W 109 33.620

Skull Arch located in the Fiery Furnace

Aptly named skull Arch looks down on its visitors below

Not far from the Center Ampitheatre is Skull Arch.  As you walk into this sandstone cove the first thing you notice is a deep pot hole filled with water on your right.  Only after stepping a little farther into the cove and looking to your left do you notice a double arch formation named Skull Arch.  These arches were formed by potholes, much like the one at the entrance to the cove, that over thousands of years wore away the rock to sculpt this memorable arch.

Kissing Turtles Arch

GPS Coordinates N 38 44.696′ W 109 33.678′

Altough technically not an arch, this formation has come to be known as the Kissing

Kissing Turtles Arch in the Fiery Furnace - Arches National Park

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see why its called Kissing Turtles Arch

Turtles Arch.  It takes only a little bit of an imagination to see why.  It is technically not an arch because the formation is divided at the very top.  This formation is located in the upper section of the Fiery Furnace as you scramble over sandstone pathways.

Surprise Arch

GPS Coordinates N 38 44.861′ W 109 33.880′

Surprise Arch in the Fiery Furnace Arches National Park

Hovering above a secluded grotto spans Surprise Arch

Near the exit of the Fiery Furnace is one of the more stunning formations Surprise Arch.  This arch hangs above an isolated sandstone grotto high up in the Fiery Furnace.  Rumor has it that the arch got its name by an expedition that camped in the grotto at night and in the morning were surprised to find they had slept underneath one of the largest arches in the Furnace.  This isolated and rugged arch is a must see for any venture into the Fiery Furnace.

What to Take Into the Fiery Furnace

Make sure to bring good shoes, plenty of water, especially in the summer time, and some snacks.  If you are going in without a guide make sure to bring a map and/or GPS.  In the Spring or Fall, it is also a good idea to take a jacket as it can get quite cool in the lower parts of the Furnace that don’t get a lot of sun.

GPS Route

Here is a list of GPS way points for the Furnace that follow the tour given by the National Park Service.  While this is not a comprehensive route for the Furnace, nor a guarantee you won’t get lost, it might provide some assistance in navigating your way through the Furnace.  All coordinates are in WGS 84 ddd mm.mmm’

  1. Fiery Furnace Parking Lot – N 38 44.596′  W 109 33.949′

    Narrow Slots in the Fiery Furnace - Arches National Park Moab Utah

    Narrow crevices in the Fiery Furnace lead to majestic arches and dead end grottos

  2. Lower Wash – N 38 44.537′ W 109 33.828′  Distance .13 mi
  3. Let Turn Toward Walk Through Arch – N 38 44.581′ W 109 33.762′  Distance 412 ft
  4. Walk Through Arch – N 38 44.604′ W 109 33.669′  Distance 463 ft
  5. Centre Ampitheatre – N 38 44.559 W 109 33.631′  Distance 334 ft
  6. Skull Arch – N 38 44.693′ W 109 33.620′ Distance .16 mi
  7. Spot requiring a small jump N 38 44.598′ W 109 33.630′ Distance .11 mi
  8. Spot where you slide through a crevice N 38 44.681′ W 109 33.670′ Distance .10 mi
  9. Kissing Turtle Arch N 38 44.696′ W 109 33.678′  Distance 97 ft
  10. Squeeze through another crevice N 38 44.706′ W 109 33.752′ Distance 354 ft
  11. Surprise Arch N 38 44.861′ W 109 33.880′  Distance .21 mi
  12. Descending Stairs (the way out) N 38 44.768′ W 109 33.837′  Distance .11 mi
  13. Exit, End of the trail N 38 44.651′ W 109 33.922′  Distance .16 mi

That’s all for now.  If you go to Arches National Park, exploring the Fiery Furnace is a must.  You’ll be glad you did.  Feel free to leave any of your own comments about this hike or to ask any questions… And don’t forget to get outside and have some fun!

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Tubing at Soldier Hollow – What A Scream!

Tubes at the botton of the hill at Soldier Hollow

Tubes at the bottom of the hill at soldier hollow ready to treat anyone brave enough to an exhilarating ride

If your looking for an exhilarating winter activity and skiing or snowboarding just isn’t your thing, check out tubing at Soldier Hollow.

What is tubing? Essentially its riding a giant inner tube down a snow covered hill.  Its faster and more comfortable than a rickety old radio flyer sled.  While you can go tubing just about anywhere with an elevation drop, Soldier Hollow does offer some benefits to make your tubing experience more fun.

Is Tubing a Lazy Man’s Sport?

Not having to pull your tube up the hill is a definitely a nice benefit.  At Soldier Hollow you

Tubers ascend the hill at Soldier Hollow in Midway Utah

Tubers enjoy the snow and gentle ride up the slope to the top of the hill at Soldier Hollow

are actually pulled up the hill by a contraption that resembles a retrofitted ski lift.  At first I had mixed feelings about being pulled up the hill.  I thought to myself that it seemed wrong recreating in the outdoors without atleast a little bit of physical exertion.  After all don’t we need to combat heart disease, childhood obesity and other ailments resulting from a sedentary lifestyle?

After my first trip down and the quick trip back up, however, I changed my mind as I realized just how many more rides down I could get by taking the lazy man’s way up.  If you really want a little exercise you can run from the bottom of the hill to the lift-it is also a good way to keep warm.

The Art of Tubing

Some might say that tubing is just sitting down in a tube and sliding down a hill.  Every true tuber however, knows that technique and style is what makes any good tubing outing a real scream.  You can tube classic style by sitting in the tube, or freestyle it by going down on your belly.

Tubing at Soldier Hollow near Midway Utah

Taking off from the top of the hill at Soldier Hollow

Taking off is key to a good ride.  If you are a little intimidated by the size of the hill you might try sitting down on the tube at the crest of the hill and then gently nudging yourself down the hill with your hands.  This is acceptable to about age 5, at which point you need to learn to embrace life a little more.

My favorite take off is what I call the running belly flop.  This involves running down the hill to get some speed throwing the tube down in front of you and then diving, or belly flopping, on too the tube to achieve maximum speed.  Many take off styles exist and I  invite you to try all of them or make up your own to further contribute to the art of tubing.

Like life, tubing is not met to be a solo sport.  Simple physics tells us that heavier things tend to fall faster.  So to get more speed you can either try to gorge yourself before tubing, or you can hook up with some friends and go down the hill as a group.

The more people the better, but I’ve found that after about 10 people you stop gaining as much speed per person.  Also it is best to be in the front of the group as you tend to get the best ride while everyone behind you gets blasted with flying bits of snow and ice in your wake.

A Need for Speed

As mentioned above weight can affect your speed when tubing along with a lot of other things.  If you are a bit of an adrenaline junky like myself and your looking for ways to maximize your speed, here are a few keys that I’ve discovered in my short career in amateur tubing:

Weight – as mentioned above putting on an extra 500 lbs or connecting 5-6 tubes together will really increase your speed.

Snow conditions – for the best tubing snow just think of the worst skiing snow.  When the snow is compact and icy you will scream down the hills.  On a snow or powder day you’ll go much slower as the fresh powder will slow you down.

Air Pressure – to a certain degree it is all about the tube.  A well inflated tube flies down the hill much faster than one in the need of a little air.

Take Off – as mentioned above the more speed you can get going at the beginning of your run, the more you’ll have at the bottom.

Weight Distribution – the more you can evenly distribute your weight on the tube the better your tube will ride on the snow.

As you see there are many ways to increase your speed, and you thought tubing had no technique.

What to Wear

One thing that can ruin any tubing activity is not being properly outfitted.  Being cold and/ or wet makes tubing no fun, so make sure to dress in layers, wear boots along with waterproof snow pants and a waterproof shell.  A beanie is good to keep your melon warm and eye wear is always nice as you pick up speed going down the hill.  A good pair of heavy gloves is also recommended to keep your hands nice and warm.

Where is Soldier Hollow

Soldier Hollow is just outside of Midway Utah next to Wasatch Mountain State Park.  Unfortunately there is a charge to go tubing at Soldier Hollow, sometimes the best things in life aren’t free.  Typically it runs $20 a person for 2 hours, which seems a little steep, but it does make for a great time.  There is also a lodge just below the base of the hill you can go to warm up, chill out or meet up with your friends after an epic ride.  For more information about Soldier Hollow go to: http://www.soldierhollow.com/tubing.php

That’s all for today.  As always share your comments with me below or send me an email at DustinACook@gmail.com and don’t forget to go outside and have some fun!

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Slide, Snowshoe, Ride Tibblefork Reservior

Tibble Fork Reservoir American Fork Canyon Utah

Tibble Fork Recreation Area

Just a short ride up American Fork Canyon is a recreation destination for any winter outdoor enthusiast.  On a beautiful winters day you’ll come across snowmobilers, cross country skiers, snowshoers and even ice fisherman.

It is also a popular destination for sledding as the slopping hills just around the reservoir provide a fun ride for even the smallest of children.  Families can park their car and be on hills worthy of sledding in just a few minutes.

For those who wish to venture out farther from the parking lot there are trails that go to Silver Lake Flats and Silver Lake, Shaffer Fork, Dry Fork, Wasatch Mountain State Park & Cascade Springs.

The Skinny

Tibble Fork Reservoir – 7 miles up American Fork Canyon, turn left at the fork in the road

Winter Activities – Sledding, Showshoeing, Skiing, Snowmobiling, Ice Fishing, building Snowmen, having snowmobile fights and other tomfoolery

Trails go to:  Silver Lake, Silver Lake Flat, Shaffer Fork, Dry Fork, Wasatch Mountain State Park, Cascade Springs, Pine hollow and even Park City

Snowmobiling at Tibble Fork

Riding snowmobiles is a popular and fun activity at Tibble Fork.  It is part of the Wasatch Mountain Snowmobile Area that boasts more than 70 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.  Snowmobile trails from Tibble Fork go as far to Park City and Hobble Creek Canyon.

A popular ride from Tibble Fork to Wasatch Mountain State Park is 14 miles.  From here

View of American Fork Canyon on the Way to Wasatch State Park

View from the trail to Wasatch State Park

snowmobilers can ride on to Park City, Pine Hollow, or come back down the way they came.  Vistas of Timpanogos and other Summits along the Wasatch range are beautiful and frequent along the trail.  The trail gently climbs through Mountain passes as you make your way to Wasatch Mountain State Park.  It is not uncommon to see deer and other wildlife on the trail.

Snowshoeing At Tibble Fork

A Stream makes its way to Tibble Fork Reservoir, American Fork Canyon

A winter stream feeds into the Tibble Fork Reservoir

Trails abound for snow shoeing around the Tibble Fork Area.  Many enjoy exploring around the reservior while others will follow some of the snowmobile trails up the canyon.  My favorite snowshoe trail from Tibble Fork reservoir is Silver Lake Flat.   It is a three mile hike from the parking area and is moderately strenuous as you gain elevation along the way.

The walk is definately worth the view from the Flat as you get a gorgeous view of Mount Timpanogos and its surrounding peaks.  Hike Silver Lake Flat in the later afternoon so you catch the evening light on the peaks for a sunset you won’t soon forget.  Just be sure to carry a head lamp with you so you can see on the way down.  If you are looking for a date idea this is a great one.

Skiing

Tibble Fork is a great starting point for both cross country and back country skiing.  The groomed snowmobile trails work great for classic cross country skiers.  Back country Skiers will often head up the road to Wasatch State Park and then peel off to take advantages of some of the great terrain perfect for a little back country adventure.  Like most back country areas, the Tibble Fork Region is prone to avalanche so make sure to take the proper precautions when traveling in avalanche terrain.

Sledding

Children and Families enjoy sledding down the slopes around Tibble Fork Reservoir.  Many

Open water at Tibble Fork Reservoir

Tibble Fork Reservoir with the North Summit of Timpanogos in the background

of the hills right around the parking area provide great sledding for young and old alike.  A popular sledding hill is located across reservoir where the hill is a little steeper.  It is a bit of an adventure getting to this hill as you have to do a bit of hiking.  Be careful if you decide to cross the ice, making sure it is thick enough.  With warmer weather ice on the resorvior can become very thin and break.

Fishing

While I have never actually gone fishing at Tibble Fork Reservoir, I always see people fishing here.  When the reservoir is frozen over, ice fisherman take command of the reservoir with their augers.  As the winter afternoons begin to warm much of the ice begins to break up and anglers dot the shore line casting into the just opened water.  If you have fished at Tibble Fork drop me a line and let me know how the fishing is.

Getting Here

View looking west from Tibble Fork Parking Area

View west from Tibble Fork Reservoir

Tibble Fork is located about 7 miles up American Fork Canyon.  If you are coming from up north or down south get off I-15 at the Highland Alpine exit and follow the road east and it will eventually lead up to American Fork Canyon.  About 4.5 miles up the canyon take the left fork in the road and in another 2.5 miles you will arrive at Tibble Fork reservoir.  The way is well marked with signs making it very easy to find.

That’s all for this post.  As always feel free to comment below or drop me a line at DustinACook@gmail.com  And don’t forget to go outside and have some fun.

Posted in Great Place for a Date, Greater Provo Area, Hiking Utah, Winter Activities | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments