coral pink sand dunes

A short nature walk across a  5 square mile sea of shifting sand.

 

If you’re close to Kanab and have an hour to spare this makes an interesting break from driving. Pay the fee, park your car and head out on the short marked trail (though you can freestyle anywhere) over the dunes. You may not see too much wildlife but their fascinating tracks are everywhere. If possible, try to visit around sunset when the light gives the dunes more form. Weekends, in particular, are much busier with the ATV crowd, who have access to 90% of the area,  spoiling the peaceful atmosphere.

 

Trip ratings

Difficulty ••

Access •

Crowds ••

Overall •••

 

 

 
 
mammoth cave

Escape the heat and walk, scramble and crawl trough hundreds of yards of volcanic tunnels.

 

If you’re in the Cedar City area, then take Highway 14 36 miles to the Mammoth Creek Road. The last 3 miles or so is on a good dirt road and is now well signposted. The area is full of lava beds but here’s a chance to go underground. The cave is home to 7 species of bat so please do not disturb them. During winter months parts of the cave are closed to protect their hibernation. Mammoth Cave is actually 4 lava tubes that radiate from a large hole in the ground. They were formed when rivers of molten lava bored tunnels through the ground before exiting at ground level. The tunnels are left intact.

 

The main lava tube entrance is obvious. Grab some flashlights (and spare batteries) and clamber down to where it splits into the 4 tubes. It’s cold down here (you may see some ice) so you may need an extra layer. Some of the tubes are quite short but nearly all of them pop out within a couple of hundred yards from where you started. This is a great adventure for kids as they really can’t get lost and you may find yourself staying here for longer than you expected. I’m sure this can be busy at weekends but I’ve never seen more than a few cars here.

 

Trip ratings

Difficulty •••

Access ••

Crowds ••

Overall •••

 

 

strawberry point

Escape the crowds at this mini-Cedar breaks viewpoint.

 

Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks are stunning places to visit and should be on your itinerary but both are very busy, Bryce in particular. If you want an awesome viewpoint to yourself then head over to Strawberry Point where the pink cliffs and rock formations are a stark contrast to the deep green of the forests behind them. It’s located at the top of Cedar Mountain, near Duck Creek and Cedar City and on a good dirt road off Highway 14.

 

At the top there’s a 100 yard trail onto a narrow finger of rock overlooking thousands of square miles of virgin territory. A great place for a picnic at sunset.

 

Trip ratings

Difficulty ••

Access ••

Crowds •

Overall •••

 

 

wire pass to buckskin gulch

A short, easy hike to one of the most popular slot canyons in the southwest.

 

Wire Pass is the main access to Buckskin Gulch, a main tributary of the Paria River and, with a total length of 13 miles, it’s the longest slot canyon in the southwest, perhaps even the world. If you hike the loop it’s 20 miles total and one very long day. However, I’ve only hiked into it from Wire Pass, a much more intimate slot, and then explored the wider Buckskin for an hour or so.

 

From US89, between mile markers 25 and 26, turn south on House Rock Valley Road for just over 8 miles to the large parking area at the Wire Pass trailhead. The road is wide and graded (predominantly gravel) and suitable for just about any vehicle. At the trailhead you’ll need to buy and display a permit.

 

Before you hike out check the skies because these slots are no place to be if there’s a storm. Follow the signs into a wide wash. After about 1.2 mile you’ll come to a trail junction and a sign for Coyote Buttes (special permit required and very limited availability). You continue towards Buckskin Gulch. Check out the beautiful cross-bedded sandstone along the way, some of which is similar to the famous ‘Wave’ and ‘Teepees’ in the Coyote Buttes area. You’ll notice that the landscape gets more intimate and soon you’ll enter a short slot section where’s there’s a 5 foot climb down (easy) to negotiate. The trail opens up again soon after into another wash section before entering the longer, second slot. It’s darker and cooler in here and the water sculpting over the ages has created some amazing forms. At times the slot is only 18 inches wide and you may see some logs jammed between the walls above, reminding you of the power (and depth) of a flash flood here. After a total of 1.7 miles from the trailhead you’ll come back into daylight at the junction with Buckskin Gulch. On the right hand side is a large alcove (easy access to it) with some rock art. If you have time, explore Buckskin in either direction, though the better section is to the right. It’s much wider than Wire Pass here but does slot up more several miles downstream.

 

Except for a couple of modest climbdowns this is a very easy hike through one of the best slots in Utah, and refreshing on a hot day.

 

Trip ratings

Difficulty •••

Access ••

Crowds •••

Overall ••••

 

 

 
 
bryce canyon national park – main tourist viewpoints
Some call it a forest of stone. Cool in summer due to its high elevation, there are a wealth of opportunities here, from roadside viewpoints to trails that delve deep into this geological miracle.

Trip ratings

Difficulty •
Access •
Crowds •••••
Overall •••••

cedar breaks national monument

A smaller and more intimate version of Bryce Canyon, with trails that allow you to explore with none of the crowds you'll experience at Bryce.
 

 

 

Trip ratings

Difficulty •
Access •
Crowds •••
Overall ••••

 

 

 
 

Back to top...

 

© 2016 Bob Palmer