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Category: Utah

I (Max) was born and raised in Utah and introduced to its unimaginable landscapes through my dad. I feel so lucky to have cut my teeth as a hiker in the Beehive State.

Millions of people visit Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks every year and I can understand why. Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion are all sensational.

We wrote these guides to help you discover some of Utah’s lesser-known gems. I think you will find that the state’s public lands will blow your mind, especially off the beaten path.

Trip Report: Uinta Highline Trail

Trip Data

  • Dates: Wed, Jul 21, 2021 to Sun, Jul 25, 2021
  • Route: West to East. Uinta Highline Trailhead > Hacking Lake Trailhead
  • Weather: Partly cloudy mornings, afternoon t-storms. Torrential downpour on Night 2. Hail and lightning on Day 5.
  • Distance Hiked: 81 miles
  • Time: 5 days
  • Passes: Rocky Sea, Dead Horse, Red Knob, Porcupine, Tungsten, Anderson, North Pole, Gabbro

Map

Background

Earlier this year, our group applied and did not receive permits for the John Muir Trail.

In lieu of hiking the JMT this summer, I got permits for a thru-hike across the Grand Tetons and Justin planned a thru-hike of the Uintas.

In 2014, we took seven days to hike an 81-mile leg of the Uinta Highline Trail from east to west. This time, Justin wanted to do it in reverse, from west to east but in only four days.

He knew it was possible, because he had done it with Jason in the summer of 2019. The weather was mostly bad for their trip, which is typical of the High Uintas. Jason’s boots were so waterlogged, they joked that if he took them off his trench foot would have left nothing but “skeleton feet”.

To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of pushing so hard to hike the Highline in four days. I love challenging hikes, but this sounded like an outright masochistic endeavor.

Even so, I didn’t want to miss it because Jason, Justin, and Clay are the A Team. Over the years, we have made so many priceless memories hiking together.

On top of that, Jason is about to move to Chicago for two years! I won’t be seeing him as much with such a great distance between us.

As a full-time RV’er, I told Justin I didn’t know where I’d be come late July. Still, I’d probably come out for the Highline… and I did.

From left to right: Justin, Jason, Max (the author), Clay at the Uinta Highline Trailhead
From left to right: Justin, Jason, Max (the author), Clay

Summary

The day before our hike, we were all able to leave work and responsibilities early. Because we had extra time, we decided to hit the trail on a Wednesday afternoon instead of a Thursday morning. This would give us four and a half days instead of four.

Justin’s wife Kate was generous enough to drive us up to the Highline Trailhead at Hayden Pass, which is a few miles north of the ultra-popular Mirror Lake.

Day 1

Distance: 10.8 mi
Ascent: 1,591 ft
Descent: 1,776 ft

We started hiking at 3:00 p.m. and reached the top of Rocky Sea Pass (11,263 feet) at 6:15 p.m. There was some light rain.

After covering nearly 11 miles, we made camp halfway between the junctions with Head of Rock Creek Trail and Rock Creek Trail. We settled in to camp at 7:40 p.m.

Looking down on the basin below Rocky Sea Pass
Looking down on the basin below Rocky Sea Pass

Day 2

Distance: 18 mi
Ascent: 4,092 ft
Descent: 3,270 ft

We woke up at 6:30 a.m. and broke down camp. Started hiking at 7:20 a.m.

The trail took us through a huge area of recently burnt forest. It was somewhat eerie and [email protected]$$ at the same time. At one point, we noticed a trail sign that had burned off its post.

We reached the top of Dead Horse Pass (11,500 feet) at 11:40 a.m. The turquoise-colored Dead Horse Lake and weathered buttes and peaks that surround it were stunning from above. When we got down into the basin, we were flabbergasted by the wildflower display.

Dead Horse Pass
Dead Horse Pass
Indian paintbrush among other wildflowers with Dead Horse Lake in the background
Indian paintbrush among other wildflowers with Dead Horse Lake in the background
More Indian paintbrush with rugged buttes in the background
More Indian paintbrush with rugged buttes in the background
A picturesque meadow
A picturesque meadow

We knocked out Red Knob Pass (12,000 ft) at 2:00 p.m. and descended to Lambert Meadow, then back up over a shoulder with a beautiful small lake on it. Clay pointed out that we had swam in that same lake back in 2014.

A beautiful lake along the Highline
A beautiful lake along the Highline

We made camp at 7:00 p.m. in a long valley I like to call Sheep Sh!+ Basin, on account of the sheep poop scattered everywhere you walk.

That night, we got hit with a torrential downpour accompanied by close lightning strikes and loud thunder. I was so tired, I put earplugs in and fell asleep during the height of the storm.

Day 3

Distance: 20 mi
Ascent: 3,225 ft
Descent: 3,441 ft

Our alarms went off at 6:30 a.m., but It took us a bit longer to roll out of bed and break down camp. Our tents and tarps were soaked and our down quilts were damp from condensation but we packed up anyway! It was about to be a long, hard day of hiking.

We hit the trail at 7:45 a.m. and topped out on Porcupine Pass (12,200 feet) at 10:00 a.m.

A sheep skull below Porcupine Pass
A sheep skull below Porcupine Pass
Looking southwest from Porcupine Pass
Looking southwest from Porcupine Pass

After a pleasant lunch next to North Star Lake, we continued over Tungsten (11,450 feet), the easiest pass on the Highline.

The next pass, Anderson, is arguably the hardest pass on the Highline. At 12,700 feet, it is by far the highest.

We reached the top of Anderson Pass at 2:15 p.m. Light rain began to fall on the descent.

Looking west from Anderson Pass
Looking west from Anderson Pass
Looking east from Anderson Pass
Looking east from Anderson Pass

On our way down, Jason told us a curious story about “Edwin” Anderson, the guy the pass was supposedly named after. Jason went on to explain that Edwin was a gold prospector and that he had written a book.

“Somehow, I found time to read it in between work and the move.”

Jason went on.

“I think I know where we can find some gold!”

Justin and I looked at each other incredulously, but we followed Jason off-trail anyway. Even though he sounded crazy, Jason has never given me a reason to doubt him. Most of the time, his off-trail shenanigans pay off, particularly in Southern Utah where we have found ancient petroglyphs, dwellings, and clay pottery shards.

Suddenly, Jason dove into a thicket. I squinted to try and focus my eyes on what was happening. A single outstretched arm extended out from the bushes, holding a gold can. Then another. Within seconds, Jason seemingly emerged from the underworld with four Fisher beers! I can’t even begin to describe how thrilled we were.

We were dying to know the real backstory.

Apparently, Jason and Clay had hiked in the previous weekend to summit Kings Peak and plant beers for our Highline journey.

This will go down as the most thoughtful prank anyone has ever played on me. Boy, was it a treat to guzzle those brews down at camp that evening, especially after a 20-mile day.

We pushed through Painter Basin and passed Milk Lake, settling in at 5:40 p.m.

Looking back at Kings Peak
Looking back at Kings Peak

Day 4

Distance: 19 mi
Ascent: 2,355 ft
Descent: 2,720 ft

Views of Gilbert Peak from a creek next to where we camped
Views of Gilbert Peak from a creek next to where we camped

We got on the trail at 8:00 a.m. and made it to the top of North Pole Pass (12,250 feet) at 3:00 p.m.

This was the third time I had hiked North Pole in my life, but I had never done it from west to east. It kicked my a$$, to say the least. I feel like I always underestimate this pass. Its dome-like shape makes it look less intimidating, but North Pole is a doozy.

We got off trail a few times, but ultimately found a great spot to camp near Chepeta Lake at 6:50 p.m.

We were treated to a great sunset that night
We were treated to a great sunset that night

Day 5

Distance: 12.8 mi
Ascent: 2,192 ft
Descent: 1,647 ft

On our final day, we slept in a little longer since we had fewer miles to cover. After leaving camp at 8:30 a.m., we promptly took our shoes off to cross a freezing cold stream.

We crossed this stream first thing in the morning
We crossed this stream first thing in the morning

After passing Whiterocks Lake, we went over an unnamed pass and on the way down we got hailed on. The hail turned to rain and soon it was accompanied by lightning and roaring thunder.

We sat out the storm under some pine trees next to Deadman Lake (perfect name, eh?) and deliberated about whether to stay or go over Gabbro, our last pass.

“Let’s go if 10 minutes go by without any thunder,” I suggested.

I had barely finished my sentence when BOOM a mighty thunderclap made us all burst out laughing.

Our next move was to set up Jason’s MLD TrailStar and huddle underneath for awhile. Luckily, we were only stuck for 30 minutes or so.

We bagged Gabbro Pass (11,700 feet) without any issues and made our way around the southeast side of Leidy Peak, occasionally losing the trail. At one point, we saw a buck with a great looking rack.

At 3:50 p.m., we reached Hacking Lake Trailhead and moseyed down the road to Hacking Lake, where Kate met up with us at 5:00 p.m., bless her heart!

That evening, Justin and Kate spoiled us with delicious burgers, topped with the best bacon I’ve ever had. Kate also brought an apple pie that she baked and it was delectable.

The next morning, we drove four hours back to Justin’s cabin on the other side of the Uintas. It felt good to finish another legendary hike with my fellas!

Food

This year, RightOnTrek brought me on board as an ambassador and offered to support my hikes and outdoor activities with custom meal plans.

On their website, you can order backpacking meals with fresh ingredients, shipped directly to you.

For the Uinta Highline Trail, I customized a plan that provided me with 3000 calories per day.

One evening, I offered Jason some of my cheesy mashed potatoes with chicken and he couldn’t stop talking about how good it was 😂.

RightOnTrek’s meals are seriously way tastier than the competition.

Use code BackOBeyond50 for 50% off your first order

View at RightOnTrek

More Great Hikes in Northern Utah

Hiking Guide: Little Wild Horse Canyon Loop

Overview

If you’re looking for a quintessential Utah slot canyon experience but you don’t want to involve ropes, harnesses, and sketchy rappels, then Little Wild Horse Canyon is the hike for you.

It still offers plenty of adventure in the form of fun rock scrambles and imposing narrows, with knee to waist-deep pools to wade through.

This is a great hike for the whole family, including kids and Fido, as long as there isn’t rain in the forecast. The canyon is prone to flash floods and you DO NOT want to be anywhere near these drainages when that happens.

Kim and Arrow in Little Wild Horse Canyon
Kim and Arrow in Little Wild Horse Canyon

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 8-mile loop
  • Hike Time: 4-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 700 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking the Bell Canyon to Little Wildhorse Canyon Loop

In September 2014, Kim, Mike, Teala, and our dogs Arrow and Sadie hiked the 8-mile loop up Bell Canyon, around the Behind the Reef dirt road, and down Little Wild Horse Canyon.

Mike and Teala wade through a muddy pool in Little Wild Horse Canyon
Mike and Teala wade through a muddy pool in Little Wild Horse Canyon

From the trailhead, the approach is 0.6 miles to the entrances of both Bell Canyon and Little Wild Horse Canyon.

If don’t have enough time, bear right to complete a 3-mile out-and-back up then down Little Wild Horse. For the full loop, bear left to continue 1.8 miles up Bell Canyon.

Max (the author) carries a tired 4-month-old Arrow
Max (the author) carries a tired 4-month-old Arrow

Once you exit the top of the canyon, bear right onto Behind the Reef Trail, a jeep trail managed by the BLM. Continue for 1.5 miles, then bear right to enter the top of Little Wild Horse Canyon. From here, you are 3.6 miles from the trailhead where you started.

An old, lonely cabin once owned by a mining prospector, next to Behind the Reef Trail
An old, lonely cabin once owned by a mining prospector, next to Behind the Reef Trail

Map

Location

From Utah State Route 24, take Temple Mountain Road and follow signs for Goblin Valley State Park. Turn left onto Goblin Valley Road then instead of continuing to Goblin Valley, turn right onto Wild Horse Road. Follow it for 5.4 miles then park in the lot on the right.

Get Directions

Resources

Links

Photos

Hiking Guide: Golden Cathedral

Overview

Grand-Staircase Escalante has no shortage of exceptional hikes, but the Golden Cathedral has to be in my top five.

At the lower end of Neon Canyon, near its confluence with the Escalante River, your journey’s end brings you to three arches formed by potholes that had their bottoms erode away. This has resulted in a magnificent natural attraction, where beams of afternoon light shine down through the arches onto a shallow pool of water.

The 9-mile out-and-back hike is challenging. You will need good navigation skills and be prepared to wade across the Escalante River.

The Escalante River
The Escalante River, upstream from Neon Canyon

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Hike Time: 5-7 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,100 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Hard

Hiking to Golden Cathedral

In May 2014, Kim and I day hiked Golden Cathedral. Our friends Jason, Sable, and David arrived later than us and hiked in with backpacking gear to spend the night.

Below Golden Cathedral Trailhead
Below Golden Cathedral Trailhead

At the time, I didn’t use Gaia GPS on hikes. Instead, I relied on a map and compass. In those days, I got lost more often and had a harder time finding my way around the backcountry. This was one of those hikes.

A little over a mile in, we followed footsteps in the sand and veered off to the right of Fence Canyon. Once we realized we were headed in the wrong direction, we turned around and found a trail that took us down to the canyon bottom.

After braving chest deep water crossings in the Escalante River’s cold springtime waters, we made it to Neon Canyon and scooted our way to the Golden Cathedral without any problems.

Max (the author) crosses the Escalante River
Max (the author) crosses the Escalante River

Map

Location

From Highway 12, follow the unpaved Hole in the Rock Road for 16.5 miles, then turn left onto BLM 240 aka “Egypt Road”. Follow it for about 9 miles then turn right and drive down to the Golden Cathedral Trailhead parking lot.

Get Directions

Resources

Links

Grand Canyon Trust – Golden Cathedral Trail

Photos

Max (the author) poses in front of Golden Cathedral
A hodgepodge of Native American and cowboy petroglyphs near Golden Cathedral
A hodgepodge of Native American and cowboy petroglyphs near Golden Cathedral
Kim crosses the Escalante River
Kim crosses the Escalante River
Desert wildflowers in early May
Desert wildflowers in early May
A desert spiny lizard
A desert spiny lizard

 

Watch for rattlesnakes!
Watch for rattlesnakes!
A prickly pear blossom
A prickly pear blossom
Phacelia
Phacelia

More Great Hikes On Hole in the Rock Road

Hiking Guide: Peek-A-Boo Slot and Spooky Gulch

Overview

Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon and Spooky Gulch are among Utah’s finest non-technical slot canyons. The canyons are adjacent from each other and are usually done together, often as a loop hike.

Dry Fork Trail provides access to both Peek-A-Boo and Spooky, which are found off of Hole in the Rock Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Kim squeezes her way through Spooky Gluch
Kim squeezes her way through Spooky Gluch

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 4-6 miles
  • Hike Time: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 600 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Dogs are allowed but slots aren’t suitable
  • Difficulty: Easy approach, slots are moderate

Hiking to Peek-A-Boo and Spooky

In May 2012, Kim and I hiked Peek-A-Boo Slot and Spooky Gulch.

Max (the author) in Peek-A-Boo
Max (the author) in Peek-A-Boo

In my opinion, the best way to do it is to enter Peek-A-Boo from the south, then bear right at the junction found at the end of the slot. From there, bear right and continue south down Spooky, then exit and bear left to continue down the sandy wash back to Peek-A-Boo’s entrance.

From there, continue back to Lower Dry Fork Trailhead where you started.

On the approach to the lower trailhead, before you turn left off of Hole In The Rock Road, make sure to air down your tires. Most vehicles will have no problem descending the sandy road but its notorious for getting people stuck on the way out.

You can avoid it altogether by parking in the dirt lot on the right side of BLM Road 252. This only adds about 1 mile to the hike total.

Kim scrambles in Peek-A-Boo
Kim scrambles in Peek-A-Boo

Map

Location

From Highway 12, follow the unpaved Hole in the Rock Road for 25.9 miles and turn left onto BLM Road 252. 0.8 miles in, there is a dirt parking lot on the right side. Unless you have 4WD and are prepared to air down your tires, park here. If you’re confident you can back up the sandy road, turn left and continue to the lower trailhead (Dry Fork Trailhead).

Get Directions

Resources

Links

Photos

Spooky Gulch
Spooky Gulch
Kim gives an incredulous smile in Spooky Gulch
Kim gives an incredulous smile in Spooky Gulch

More Great Hikes On Hole in the Rock Road

Hiking Guide: Zebra Slot Canyon

Overview

Zebra is one of Utah’s most picturesque non-technical slot canyons. It is a short and easy hike to the canyon’s entrance but those who venture into the slot may encounter knee to chest deep water, depending on how much rain the area has seen.

It gets its name from the iconic stripes on its sandstone walls.

Matt S in Zebra Slot Canyon
Matt S in Zebra Slot Canyon

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Hike Time: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 300 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes, but most dogs can’t do the slot
  • Difficulty: Easy approach, slot is moderate

Hiking the Zebra Slot Trail

In April 2016, Kim, Troy, Matt S, and I hiked to the Zebra Slot. We set out without knowing exactly where the slot was and took a wrong turn at Halfway Hollow, a sandy junction between dry washes.

Kim wanders through Zebra
Kim wanders through Zebra

After heading east through Harris Wash and checking out Tunnel Slot Canyon, we returned to Halfway Hollow and continued north to Zebra.

Looking at a map now, I can see that we could have continued counter-clockwise and made our erroneous turn into a nice loop hike. I’ll probably do it that way next time.

Hanging out in Zebra
Hanging out in Zebra

Map

Location

From Highway 12, follow the unpaved Hole in the Rock Road for 8 miles and park in the dirt parking lot on the right side of the road. AWD and 4WD vehicles are preferred because of washboarding.

Get Directions

Resources

Links

Photos

Troy Boman in Zebra Slot Canyon

More Great Hikes On Hole in the Rock Road

Hiking Guide: The Subway From the Bottom

Overview

There is no doubt that The Subway is one of Utah’s finest slot canyons and indeed word has gotten around. To help protect the canyon’s fragile riparian environment, Zion National Park only allows 60 people in per day.

Jump to: How to Get a Subway Permit

In my opinion, the best way to experience The Subway is from the top down. This route begins at Wildcat Trailhead, ends at Left Fork Trailhead and includes two rappels.

Max (the author) rappels into The Subway back in 2002
Max (the author) rappels into The Subway back in 2002

However, if you don’t have the gear and/or technical expertise to go top down, then bottom up suffices. You will miss the Upper Subway but the Lower Subway is arguably more photogenic.

In this guide, I will share best practices for securing a permit and show you how to hike to The Subway from Left Fork Trailhead, out and back.

The Subway in Zion National Park

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 8.8 miles
  • Hike Time: 4-8 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1500 feet
  • Fee: $35 for a 7-day pass to Zion National Park
  • Dogs: No
  • Difficulty: Hard

How to Get a Subway Permit

During High Season: April – October

Zion National Park runs an “advance lottery” for The Subway for most of the year. Applications are submitted online, three months in advance of the day of your trip. There is a non-refundable $3 fee to apply.

During the Offseason: November – March

From November through March, you can snag a reservation online without having to participate in a lottery. Available slots are shown on a calendar and you can create a Zion Wilderness Reservations Account to grab a permit.

Demand during the offseason is much lower, which is why the park service pauses the lottery approach. The air and water temperatures are much colder during this time of year, so plan accordingly and proceed at your own risk.

Apply for a Subway Permit

Hiking to The Subway From Left Fork Trailhead

In November 2020, Jason, Justin, and myself hiked to The Subway from the bottom up.

While Jason and Justin finished their breakfast in Springdale, I drove into the park to convert our reservation to an actual permit at the Visitor Center.

It was a beautiful sunny day with highs in the 60s and the parking lot was full.

The ranger at the permit office mentioned that search and rescue operations don’t take place at night and asked if our group was prepared to stay the night in the canyon.

It took about 30 minutes to drive from the Zion Canyon entrance to Left Fork Trailhead, off Kolob Terrace Road.

As we assembled our gear at the trailhead, a truck full of rangers showed up and asked to see our permits.

“You guys probably know this but you’re getting a late start,” one of them said. “We had to rescue a group like yours yesterday. Make sure you remember where the turnoff is to exit the canyon.”

We joked about throwing in the towel and going home.

Instead, we took the warnings in stride and started our hike at 12:15 p.m. Of course, we made sure to boogie so we would make it back to the trailhead before dark.

Much of the “trail” through the canyon is interrupted by stream crossings, boulders, low tree branches, and difficult to navigate twists and turns.

The first mile is a steep descent of about 400 feet to the canyon floor. Remember, you have to climb back up this portion at the end! It’s a gut buster.

For the rest of the hike, you meander up Left Fork North Creek’s rugged banks and gain 800 feet.

I can only recommend this outing for experienced, able-bodied hikers in good physical condition.

We reached the somewhat iconic travertine waterfall at 1:45 p.m.

Travertine waterfall below The Subway entrance

Then, we entered The Subway at 2:15 p.m. Gadzooks, we moved fast!

Jason enters The Subway
Jason enters The Subway

We were not alone in The Subway but the other hikers were very courteous and gave our group some time alone to take photographs.

On the way out, the mid-November sun was shining directly in our faces and it felt great.

We packed neoprene socks rented from Adventure Plus in St. George but we didn’t end up wearing them.

Had it been a few degrees colder, we would have needed them.

It only took us 4 hours, 15 minutes to hike The Subway out and back from Left Fork Trailhead. As I mentioned, we zoomed! I would plan for 6-8 hours unless you are part gazelle like my friends.

Map

Location

From St. George, get on I-15 northbound and take exit 16 for State Route 9.

Continue for 12.5 miles then turn right in Hurricane to stay on State Route 9.

Continue for 6.3 miles then turn left onto Pocketville Road in Virgin.

Continue for 0.8 miles then turn left onto Kolob Terrace Road.

Continue for 7.4 miles then turn right and park in the dirt lot at Left Fork Trailhead.

Get Directions

Resources

Guidebooks

Topo Maps

Links

Photos

Max (the author) in The Subway. September 2002
Max (the author) in The Subway. September 2002
The Subway in 2002. Forces of erosion have since removed the sedimentary buildup
The Subway in 2002. Forces of erosion have since removed the sedimentary buildup

More Great Hikes Near St. George


Want to hike Utah’s best trails? Check out our other Utah Hiking Guides.

Hiking Guide: Bloods Lake

Overview

Bloods Lake is a lovely little lake in the Wasatch Mountains and one of the few dog-friendly hikes that can be accessed from the Cottonwood Canyons.

The trailhead is found about a mile east of the Guardsman Pass Overlook on the north side of Guardsman Pass Road.

It’s known for its quintessentially Wasatch pine and aspen forested scenery and summer wildflowers.

Because Salt Lake City gets its water from Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, swimming in lakes is not allowed and almost every trail doesn’t allow dogs.

Note: Dogs are not allowed at Bloods Lake itself, so if you hike to it with your furry friend, be sure to turnaround once the lake is in sight.

Bloods Lake. July 2020
Bloods Lake. July 2020

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Hike Time: 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 345 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Hiking to Bloods Lake

From the parking lot, walk southwest and cross Guardsman Pass Road to reach the trail. The first half mile is a gentle descent.

About a mile into the hike, the incline steepens as you follow switchbacks up to the lake. Just remember, these don’t last long! Before you know it, you’ll be there.

Me (the author), Maia, and Arrow on the way to Bloods Lake
Me (the author), Maia, and Arrow on the way to Bloods Lake

Map

Location

From Salt Lake City, hop on the I-215 beltway and take exit 6 for 6200 South.

Continue east on 6200 South for 1.7 miles, then turn left onto Utah 190.

Continue for 17.9 miles (Utah 190 becomes Big Cottonwood Canyon Road then Guardsman Pass Road).

The parking lot is on the left.

Get Directions

Resources

Links

Photos

Bloods Lake just before sunset
Bloods Lake just before sunset
Aspens along the Bloods Lake Trail
Aspens along the Bloods Lake Trail

Want to hike Utah’s best trails? Check out our other Utah Hiking Guides.

Hiking Guide: Ibantik Lake

Overview

Nestled in a cirque at the base of Notch Mountain, Ibantik Lake is one of the Uinta Mountain’s finest destinations. Unlike a lot of Uinta hikes, it’s fairly short and unchallenging, which makes it perfect for a day hike or quick overnighter.

Ibantik is also easy to access and close to the Salt Lake metro area (a little over an hour). The most popular approach Is from Crystal Lake Trailhead, right off of the scenic Mirror Lake Highway.

When we visited in June 2020, we were greeted by a herd of mountain goats!

Ibantik Lake in the morning
Ibantik Lake in the morning. June 2020

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 7.8 miles round trip
  • Hike Time: 4 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 1,289 feet
  • Fee: $6 for a 3-day pass, $12 for a 7-day pass · Buy Online
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking to Ibantik Lake

From Crystal Lake Trailhead, follow the Notch Mountain Trail. Within a few minutes, the trail goes between two lakes. The left one is Ponds Lake and the right one is Lily Lake.

Soon, the trail begins a gradual climb and reaches Wall Lake at the 1-mile mark. This is a popular cliff jumping spot.

Wall Lake. June 2015

About a half mile after reaching Wall Lake, the trail begins a steep ascent toward The Notch, a high-elevation pass at 10,600 feet. This is the highest point of the hike.

From this point, continue down the switchbacks past Lovenia Lake (to the right) and between a few ponds to Ibantik Lake, the final destination.

Notch Mountain and Ibantik Lake. June 2015
Notch Mountain and Ibantik Lake. June 2015

Map

Ibantik Lake route map

Location

From Salt Lake City, take I-80 eastbound.

2.2 miles after reaching Kimball Junction, take exit 146 for U.S. Route 40 east toward Heber City.

Continue for 3.2 miles, then take exit 4 onto U.S. Route 89 toward Kamas.

Continue for 11.4 miles, then turn left after 7-Eleven in Kamas onto Utah 32.

Continue for 0.2 miles, then turn right onto Utah 150.

Continue for 25.4 miles, then turn left onto Forest Road 041.

Continue for 1.3 miles to Crystal Lake Trailhead.

Get Directions

Resources

Guidebooks

Photos

A beautiful sunset at Lake Ibantik
A beautiful sunset at Lake Ibantik
Notch Mountain reflections on Ibantik lake at twilight
Notch Mountain reflections on Ibantik lake at twilight
Jason fishes the lake at sunset
Jason fishes the lake at sunset
A nearby pond
A nearby pond
A pond next to Notch Mountain Trail. June 2015
A pond next to Notch Mountain Trail. June 2015
A typical Uinta Mountain scene near Wall Lake. June 2015
A typical Uinta Mountain scene near Wall Lake. June 2015

Want to hike Utah’s best trails? Check out our other Utah Hiking Guides.

Hiking Guide: Grosvenor Arch

Overview

Grosvenor Arch is a one-of-a-kind double arch in Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. The arch’s trailhead is accessed from a side road of Cottonwood Canyon Road called Four Mile Bench Road.

The trail to Grosvenor Arch hardly qualifies as a hike. It’s less than 1/4 mile and the whole thing is paved. This is one of Utah’s best handicapped accessible natural arches.

The dirt parking lot has a pit toilet, a picnic table and room for a few large off-road vehicles.

This unusual arch is close to Kodachrome Basin State Park and is one of several wondrous features found along the scenic Cottonwood Canyon Road.

It’s named after Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, former president of the National Geographic Society.

The sun casts its last light rays on Grosvenor Arch. May 2020
The sun casts its last light rays on Grosvenor Arch. May 2020

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 0.5 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Elevation Gain: 0 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Map

Get Directions

Location

From Kanab

There are no gas stations between Kanab and Grosvenor Arch, so make sure to fill up in town.

Take U.S. Route 89 southeast and follow it for 46.2 miles, then turn left onto Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Follow it for 29.2 miles, then turn right onto Four Mile Bench Road.

Follow it for 1 mile and park in the dirt lot.

From Tropic

Take Utah 12 south and follow it for 4.7 miles, then turn right onto Kodachrome Road.

Continue on Kodachrome Road for 2.6 miles, then instead of turning left toward the State Park, continue straight onto Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Follow it for 14.2 miles, then turn left onto Four Mile Bench Road.

Follow it for 1 mile and park in the dirt lot.

Resources

Topographic Maps

Links

Photos

Grosvenor Arch

Jason sports his trusty Fisher Beer cap in front of Grosvenor Arch
Jason sports his trusty Fisher Beer cap in front of Grosvenor Arch
Justin and the arch
Justin and the arch
Justin (left) and Rachel (right). The "friend lighting" was terrific during golden hour
Justin (left) and Rachel (right). The “friend lighting” was terrific during golden hour
Maggie and the arch
Maggie and the arch

More Great Hikes Near Kanab


Want to hike Utah’s best trails? Check out our other Utah Hiking Guides.

Hiking Guide: Red Hollow Trail

Overview

Directly east of Cedar City, there is a prominent red hill that forms a stark contrast against the forested mountains that surround it.

Behind it runs Red Hollow Trail, which is actually a series of mountain bike trails.

The hike can be accessed from Center Street (once it heads up the canyon) or Thunderbird Gardens on 900 North.

While Red Hollow’s scenery is not as stunning as more well-known parks nearby (e.g. Cedar Breaks, Zion, and Bryce), its views provide a glimpse of what Southern Utah has to offer.

Plus, it’s a kid-friendly, dog-friendly hike that’s less than 10 minutes from “Festival City USA”.

Tip: After the hike, continue 3.5 miles up Highway 14 and dine at Milt’s Stage Shop.

Looking down on Thunderbird Gardens from a perch along Red Hollow Trail
Looking down on Thunderbird Gardens from a perch along Red Hollow Trail

Quick Facts

  • Distance:  3 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 2 hours
  • Elevation Gain: 660 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking the Red Hollow Trail

From Red Hollow Trailhead, follow the trail northward as it ascends the canyon.

Red Hollow Trailhead
Red Hollow Trailhead

When we did this hike in May 2020, there were copious wildflowers on display, including firecracker penstemon, Indian paintbrush, and claret cup cactus.

Indian paintbrush
Indian paintbrush

For the first 3/4 miles, the trail has a 10% grade. Once you reach the saddle, there is a junction.

The trail furthest to the right takes you up to Thor’s Hideout. Any of the other trails ultimately lead to the same place, Thunderbird Garden Trailhead.

From the saddle, the trails gradually descend for about a mile before reaching Thunderbird Garden.

Strange sandstone formations
Strange sandstone formations

Map

Location

Red Hollow Trail is located on the north side of Utah State Route 14 at the mouth of Cedar Canyon.

From I-15 exit 59 in Cedar City, follow 200 N for 0.9 miles, then turn right onto Main Street.

Continue on Main Street for 0.2 miles, then turn left onto Center Street.

Continue on Center Street for 1.5 miles and park on the left in the dirt lot.

Get Directions

Resources

Links

Photos

From left to right: Maia, Max (the author), Kim
From left to right: Maia, Max (the author), Kim
Looking south from just above Thunderbird Gardens
Looking south from just above Thunderbird Gardens
Hiking as a family is the best!
Hiking as a family is the best!

Want to hike Utah’s best trails? Check out our other Utah Hiking Guides.