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Published: October 6th 2019
From the Kolob Arch Trail, our first, and toughest, hike on this trip.
In mid September, Anne and I traveled to Utah to hike in several areas in the south as well as one hike in the Uinta mountains in the northeastern part of the state. It involved a good bit of driving, but we got it all done in the allotted time.
We flew into Salt Lake City on a Saturday, arriving around 2:00 PM, and then had a long, 250 mile drive to Cedar City. On Sunday, we drove about 20 miles south to the Kolob Canyon area of Zion National Park, a section not visited by nearly as many people as the main canyon to the southeast. This area is at an elevation of around 5,000 to 6,000 feet, and we wanted to get somewhat acclimated before the higher level hikes we had planned for later. We had a couple of options for hikes – one 4 mile round trip along a canyon floor to a small side canyon with some small arches or a 14 mile round trip, much of it along a nice creek, to the main arch. Since we had all day, we chose the longer hike realizing it would be tough, especially since the
From along the Kolob Arch Trail.
trail had an initial descent of around 1,000 feet in the first mile and a half. Returning up that climb was the toughest thing we’ve done in a long time. We made it to the arch which was along a side trail that involved a lot of up and down climbing over loose sandy rocks. The return was made all the more difficult when we ran low on water with about 3 miles to go, including that climb out. My camelback holds around 2 liters of water, which I thought would be plenty, but when it went dry, all we had was one 8 ounce bottle that Anne had carried. We rationed that for the rest of the hike and finally made it back to the car at the visitor center around 5:00 PM. We searched for some water, but the VC was closed tight and no water available. Drove to the first service station where we got drinks to re-hydrate. Best gatorade I have ever tasted.
After recovering from our hike on Sunday, we drove to Cedar Breaks National Monument on Monday morning. The main trail there, called the Spectra Point & Ramparts Overlook Trail, is
From the Kolob Arch Trail.
a 4 mile round trip hike along the rim of the canyons that offers spectacular views. At 10,500 feet, this hike is considered moderately strenuous by the experts and, even though there is about a 900 foot elevation loss/regain with several ups and downs, we were able to do it without too much trouble. After the main hike along the rim of the canyon, we still had a little energy left so hiked the short two mile Alpine Pond Nature Trail.
After completing the Cedar Breaks hikes, we drove on to Panguitch, Utah, where we checked into our motel for the next two nights. Panguitch is sort of a gateway community for Bryce Canyon National Park which we have visited a couple of times. It also provides access to lots of hiking trails in the Dixie National Forest and an area called the Red Canyon in particular. The Dixie National Forest is so named because back in 1851 Brigham Young sent Mormon Settlers to the St George area. Many of these settlers were from the deep south (southeastern United States). Since the St. George area was warm like the deep south, they started calling it Utah's "Dixie."
Side trail to the Kolob Arch
This picture does not do justice to the steepness of some of this trail up a side canyon to the arch. It was a tough half mile.
When the national forest was established by congress in 1903, its headquarters was in St. George, right in the middle of “Dixie.”
On Tuesday, we drove a short distance to the Red Canyon visitor center and got some good advice about hikes in the area. We decided on about a 5 mile loop called the Golden Wall & Buckhorn Trail Loop. Parking for the trailhead was just across highway 12 from the visitor center. The trail starts at around 7,150 feet and ascends 700 feet up the red hills to a 7,860 ft saddle. About a half mile up the Golden Wall Trail, there is a junction with a scenic side trail called the Castle Bridge Trail. We took that for some nice views of the red hoodoos the area is famous for. After rejoining the main trail, it descends into a drainage before ascending again to the actual Golden Wall, a long formation of golden colored hoodoos at the top of a ridge. At one end of the wall, there was a balanced rock with thinnest support at the bottom that I have ever seen. The trail descends again before climbing to the junction with Buckhorn
The Kolob Arch
After 7+ hard miles this was the reward. It is one of the worlds largest natural spans known to exist.
Trail. At the junction, we took a ¼ mile spur trail to Buckhorn Point that goes to the left up a knife edge ridge to a view point. Returning to the junction, we descended along the Buckhorn Trail to the Red Canyon campground and returned to the car along a bike trail paralleling the highway. All in all a wonderful way to see the same sort of hoodoos and other red canyon ridges that you see in Bryce Canyon but without the crowds or any sort of fee.
After our hike on Tuesday, we had a long drive from southern Utah to the Uintas mountains of northeastern Utah. Just north of Panguitch, we stumbled across a small park that contained the small cabin that was Butch Cassidy’s boyhood home, near Circleville, UT. Interesting to see where a legendary outlaw grew up. After visiting a bit, we drove on to Fish Lake, the namesake for the Fish Lake National Forest. There is a huge aspen grove there called the Pando Grove. Pando (Latin for "I spread out"), also known as the trembling giant, is a clonal colony of one individual male quaking aspen determined to be a single
The Kolob Arch
Another of the arch.
living organism by identical genetic markers and assumed to have one massive underground root system. Pando occupies 106 acres and is estimated to weigh collectively 6,600 tons making it the heaviest known living organism in the world and, at an estimated 80,000 years old, is among the oldest known living organisms. The grove is really a huge forest of aspen trees that all are connected to one another by the enormous root system. After doing a bit of hiking around the grove, we drove on to Woodland, Utah and our B&B for the next two nights.
The Woodland Farmhouse Inn is a really neat B&B located in the tiny village of Woodland, near Kamas, Utah. The inn is located on a working farm with lots of animals including chickens, goats, pigs, turkeys, as well as a couple of dogs and cats. Needless to say, Anne really enjoyed it.
On Thursday, we drove up into the Uintas mountains along the mirror lake highway to the trailhead for the Lofty Lake Loop hike. The trail is a 4.5 mile loop that starts at an elevation of around 10,000 feet and ascends over 1,000 feet, passing several
Had to have a selfie with the arch in the background.
scenic alpine lakes to a high point at Lofty Lake before descending back to the trailhead. This was our final hike of the trip, and it made a nice finish to a pretty tiring week.
On Friday, the weather, which had been great for the entire time, finally turned wet and rainy. We drove back to Salt Lake City in on and off rain. On the way, we stopped at a historical park called “This is the Place Heritage Park.” The park is a tribute to the early Mormon settlers who first came to the Great Salt Lake area and is so named because Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, said “This is the Right Place” when he first saw the valley from a spot within the park. While the park charges admission to most of the historical sections and displays, there are several interesting statues and markers outside the fee area. The visitor center has several displays as well as a nice gift shop where we picked up a few souvenirs. One really interesting display honoring the pony express has sadly been allowed to deteriorate without any recent maintenance. The display is set off the main road
La Verkin Creek
The trail runs along this creek for about three of the total seven miles.
behind a high hedge. The approach to the main statue and surrounding area has overgrown weeds and bushes that have blocked a portion of the walkway. But the statue is impressive and the information markers are quite interesting. I’m glad we stumbled upon it but wish the park could better maintain the area around the display.
After visiting the park, we grabbed lunch, filled the car with gas, and drove to our hotel where we were able to check in a bit early at around 2:00 PM. After settling in our room, we had to “get our miles in” so off to walk around the area near the motel. The streets in this area are named for famous aviators and explorers such as Jimmy Doolittle, Amelia Earhart, Admiral Byrd, Wylie Post, Chuck Yeager, Charles Lindbergh, etc. There are over a dozen hotel/motels within a couple of blocks of one another and close by to an industrial park with large warehouses, manufacturing plants, and office buildings. The area around the office buildings had a large, attractive pond with a walkway all around it that was full of ducks and geese. So, we had no problem finding a good
Kolob Arch trail
Along La Verkin Creek.
route for our walk.
After our walk, we returned to our room, packed up one final time before walking to a nearby restaurant for dinner, then turned in. Up early the next morning to turn in the car and catch our 7:00 AM flight. All flights were on time, and we arrived back at GSP around 4:00 PM. We drove home where, as usual, the cats were happy to see Anne, and Anne was happy to see them.
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