Saranac Lake 6er Hiking Challenge

In February of 2018, I made a plan to start the Saranac Lake 6er Hiking Challenge. I had planned for a weekend in Saranac Lake full of fluffy winter hiking. The Saranac Sixer challenge had made it onto my radar and wasn’t going anywhere until it was completed. 

I started the Saranac Lake 6er hiking challenge in February of 2018, only 4 days after suffering a massive stroke at 25 years old. Despite my determination to get back outside, I knew I needed to start out small and work my way back up to longer trails with steeper ascents and riskier summits.

Haystack Mountain with the High Peaks in the Background

There are a few different ways to complete the Saranac Lake 6er Challenge:

Saranac Lake  6er: Hike all 6 Summits! 
Winter 6er: Hike all six mountains between December and March 
Saranac Lake Ultra 6er: Hike all six summits in a 24-hour period
Winter Ultra 6er: Hike all  six summits in a 24-hour period between December and March

MEET THE MOUNTAINS

BAKER MOUNTAIN
HAYSTACK MOUNTAIN
AMPERSAND MOUNTAIN
ST. REGIS MOUNTAIN
SCARFACE MOUNTAIN
MCKENZIE MOUNTAIN

Baker Mountain. 

Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
  • Distance: 0.9 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,452 feet
  • Ascent: 884 feet

A perfect one to start with! Located right outside of the town of Saranac Lake at 2,452ft., and less than 2 miles out and back, this is a very popular mountain in the region. From the trailhead, at Moody Pond, you have a short, steady climb to the summit where you will enjoy views of the High Peaks, the village of Saranac Lake, and the McKenzie Mountain Wilderness. 

Baker Mountain Trailhead

St. Regis.

Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
  • Distance: 3.3 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,874 feet
  • Ascent:1,266 feet

The St. Regis trailhead can be found right outside the Paul Smiths College campus on Keese Mill Road. Although it is a long trail at 3.3 miles one way, the steady1,200-foot ascent makes it a perfect beginner mountain for improving stamina and becoming acquainted with this Adirondacks. The final push to the summit includes a stone staircase of sorts and some very light rock scrambling before you’re met with a stunning view. Improve your view by climbing the fire tower (and knock out two challenged with one hike!).  

The St. Regis Mountain Summit

I hiked St. Regis on a beautiful winter day. Be sure to pack ample snacks and layers seeing as this is a longer snowshoe. Snowshoes are necessary to avoid post-holing and microspikes may be needed as you near the summit. You will not be disappointed with the new perspective winter brings; frozen lakes among a sea of green with frosty mountain tops in the background will have you in awe.

Haystack Mountain. 

Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
  • Distance: 3.3 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,878 feet
  • Ascent: 1,240 feet

Not to be confused with the third-highest High Peak, Mount Haystack, which is 4,960 feet high and located near Mount Marcy. The parking area can be just off of Route 86 to the north between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. The 3.3-mile-long trail begins easy and gets quite steep after crossing the dam. The summit ledge provides outstanding views and a great space for a rest. 

I combined this hike with McKenzie Mountain and made it an overnight trip. To combine the two makes for a VERY long day hike so staying in the lean-to off the JackRabbit XC Ski trail was the best option. 

Scarface. 

Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
  • Distance: 3.7 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 3,088 feet 
  • Ascent: 1,480 feet

Off of Route 86 turn onto Ray Brook Road and look for the trailhead about .1 miles down on the left. This is a long hike at 3.7 miles on way with a wooded summit. The route starts out mellow, passing through dense young evergreens before emerging into a beautiful more open area dominated by tall red and white pines.  The bridge over Ray Brook is only a half-mile in and overlooks a beautiful marshy area before you meet a number of boardwalks. 

The trail eventually begins a gradual climb where the pitches will alternate between steep and easy. When you make it to the clearing, which provides some beautiful views of the Adirondacks, you still have another .6 miles to travel to the true summit! You will know you’ve arrived when you see the (currently) white trail marker that reads Scarface. Although the route is long and without great payoff, it’s a beautiful hike and summit I completed my Saranac 6 on! 


The view from a ledge .25 miles from the summit.

Ampersand. 

  • Distance: 2.7 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 3,353 feet
  • Elevation Gain: 1,775 feet

The trailhead lies between Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake on Route 3. A mellow start turns into a relentlessly steep climb to the bald summit. Even though this hike is only about 5.5 miles Round Trip, be sure to allow for ample time to complete this climb; it is seemingly, endlessly steep and the summit is exceptionally beautiful. You might want to stay up there for a while!


Photo Credit: AllTrails.com

Be sure to dress appropriately and pack layers! In early October, my friend and I started our hike in the sunshine wearing t-shirts and leggings before hiking through snow and finally finding ourselves rifling through our bags for our puffy jackets, hats, and gloves on the summit. The view included frosted tips of distant mountains surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage and was well worth the climb. 

Snowing on the summit during Autumn

McKenzie. 

Photo Credit: AllTrails.com
*This trail includes Haystack*
  • Distance: 5.3 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 3,822 feet
  • Ascent: 2,340 feet

Using the same parking lot as Haystack Mountain,  just off of Route 86 to the north between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, begin your hike the same as Haystack. At the dam, you will start a steady ascent up some water drainage. Until you meet the Jackrabbit Trail; from here we veered right on the Jackrabbit Trail until we found the shelter right off trail to set up camp for the evening. We decided to hike McKenzie and Haystack in an overnight trip because McKenzie alone is over a 10-mile day! 

From the Jackrabbit trail, McKenzie can be a brutal, muddy mess of false summits and “am I there yets?”. All jokes aside, it’s a super fun trail! Gaining 1,000 feet of elevation in little over half a mile is tough but comes with stunning payoffs. You will traverse McKenzie’s “5 summits” where you can find a number of side paths that provide ledges with spectacular views of the Adirondacks. 


The Saranac Lake 6er Hiking Challenge is an awesome project that I would consider a great step up from the Fulton Chains Trifecta and the Tupper Lake Triad. The trails are a little longer and the summits a tad higher; with the proper lead-up, this provides an attainable hiking challenge as a lead up to the Adirondack 46! Once you’ve completed your hike, head on over to this website to earn your patch!

Tupper Lake Triad Hiking Challenge

The quaint town of Tupper Lake is home to its very own hiking challenge. The Tupper Lake Triad Hiking Challenge boasts three *very* family-friendly mountains. The trails are quick and provide some fine views of the surrounding wilderness. They can easily be completed in one day’s time, or separate them out over the course of your visit!

Meet the Mountains

Mt. Arab

Goodman Mountain

Coney Mountain

Mt. Arab:

  • Distance: 1 mile to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,545 feet
  • Ascent: 764 feet

Mt. Arab is probably my favorite hike of the Tupper Lake Triad Hiking Challenge. An easily accessible trailhead in Piercefield leads to a short, exciting incline to the fire tower. This trail gains a decent amount of elevation in 1 short mile; as a whole, the trail is only moderately steep, however, there is a section where stairs have been built to assist in the abrupt ascent. Spur trails have been created throughout to avoid sheer rock faces and light rock scrambling in other steep sections. This creation of spur trails isn’t ideal for many reasons, but if you are to leave the main trail please stay on a path that is already well worn.

Thankful for those willing to fight for my freedom to explore this beautiful country!

I arrived a packed parking lot and expected a busy trail. The trail was full of all kinds of people, families and solo hikers alike! After about 25 minutes of hiking, I reached the summit where I was greeted by a kind gentleman and about 1 million black flies. The gentleman in the observer’s cabin was a volunteer with  ‘Friends of Mt Arab’; this group has a cooperative partnership with the NYS Department of Conservation and is dedicated to the restoration of Mt Arab’s cabin, tower, trails, and to the learning experience of all those who are interested in the mountain. The observer’s cabin is full of great information regarding the history of the mountain and there are stunning views from both sides of the summit, as well as the fire tower.

Goodman Mountain

  • Distance: 1.7 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,178 feet
  • Ascent: 581 feet

This trailhead is just beyond the turnoff for Coney, closer to Tupper Lake.  The first three-quarters of a mile of is actually paved. This paved section was the old route between Long Lake and Tupper Lake. The climb from this point on is steady and gentle. To prevent erosion and create a trail that is more easily accessible, the trail actually swings around to the less steep slope for a majority of the climb. It is a fairly new trail, created in summer of 2014 by the DEC, so it isn’t overly wide or over trafficked.

Peace.

When you reach the partially open summit, you will be met with a rocky outcropping. There are stunning views of the Round Lake Wilderness Area to the southeast and the Horseshoe Wilderness Area to the west. This is a fairly quick hike, up and down, with a great summit to rest and snack upon while taking in great views! Again, being in the Adirondacks in late May, early June, the Black Flies were swarmin’ but the views were worth the swatting! Being the longest hike of the Tupper Lake Triad Hiking Challenge, I saved it for last. I was glad I did because I had the summit all to myself for late afternoon.

Coney Mountain

  • Distance: 1.1 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,280 feet
  • Ascent: 548 feet

The trailhead for this mountain is right off of route 30 about 12 miles from Tupper Lake. If the trailhead parking is full you might notice cars parked on the shoulder; this is where I parked! Coney is another highly enjoyable trail with a very steady incline! Easy by hiking standards and visually appealing the whole hike through. The summit is relatively bare with near 360 views -minus a few trees here and there – and many a good place to sit and enjoy lunch or a snack. Views open up with Goodman Mountain to the north along with the waters of Tupper Lake. With the rolling wooded hills of the Horseshoe Lake Wild Forest to the west, these views are going to be the best bang for the buck.

In late May I was met at the summit with enough black flies to prevent you from eating or drinking (for fear of swallowing them). A few different groups of people were all vying for a good spot on the mountain as well. Hanging out on any rock face is certainly acceptable, but please refrain from trampling the vegetation to have some solitude.


Please, as always, remember your and follow Leave No Trace Principles. Stay safe and head on over to this website when you’re finished to register and receive your patch!   

Fulton Chain Trifecta Hiking Challenge

The Fulton Chain Trifecta Hiking Challenge is a western Adirondack activity that is appropriate for the whole family. Located between Old Forge and Inlet, New ork, I frequent these three trails quite often. Having hiked all of them in nearly every season, I highly suggest trying the same. Each season brings a fresh perspective; like many other hiking trails, there is a winter patch (December 21- March 20) and a regular-season patch.

Meet The Mountains

Rocky Mountain

Bald Mountain

Black Bear Mountain

Rocky Mountain:

  • Distance: .5 mile to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,225 feet
  • Ascent: 433 feet

The trailhead is located about 10 miles northeast of Old Forge, just off NY-28 between Inlet and Eagle Bay. The parking lot is shared with the Black Bear Mountain trailhead which can make these two mountains great to hike in one day! A Short and sweet trail with stunning views of lake on its open summit. The hike is very short but steep and not technical! I had this wonderful summit to all to myself for about a half-hour before it started to drizzle and I quickly made my way back down to the car. I would start my Fulton Chain Trifecta Hiking Challenge here!

Enjoying Life on the Edge

Bald Mountain:

  • Distance: .9 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,350 feet
  • Ascent: 500 feet

The trailhead is located approximately 6 miles outside of Old Forge, just off NY-28 on Rondaxe Road. This is an exciting and fairly easy trail that becomes very popular in the summer and fall months. The summit provides beautiful views of the Fulton Chain of Lakes and the renovated Rondaxe Fire Tower which is the ideal place for a sunrise. Due to the busy nature of this trail (and every trail), please remember to Leave No Trace and pack out whatever you bring with you on the trail! If you see garbage along the trail, pack it out for those who don’t know better.

The trail itself is a true beauty; more exciting with every step. You will hike along what reminds me of a dinosaur spine from your first ascent until you reach the fire tower. There are views from the summit itself and an even more spectacular look at the landscape from the fire tower. Arrive early, with appropriate gear, for a quieter experience.  

View From Rondaxe Fire Tower

Black Bear Mountain:

  • Distance: 1.9 miles to the summit
  • Elevation: 2,442 feet
  • Ascent: 761 feet

Use the same parking area as Rocky Mountain but take the trail further down route NY-28. The longest of the three trails, Blackbear actually provides a few different options for your hiking pleasure. The shorter, 3.8-mile roundtrip hike is steeper and involves some light rock scrambling near the summit. This trail is an absolute beauty in autumn and winter!

A Winter Hike Up Black Bear Mountain

For a more gentle incline, there’s a 4.7-mile loop trail that will bring you to the summit as well. Although this trail is longer, it is equally as beautiful and nowhere near as steep on the incline. You may choose to head back down the more gentle trail or descend via the shorter, steeper trail on the western side of the summit. The summit is vast and leaves a lot of room for exploration. In autumn, the views, along with the vegetation on the summit, will leave you in awe.


Please remember to Leave No Trace, follow all DEC suggestions, and always ALWAYS leave the trail better than you found it. Print this PDF and send it in to register and receive your patch!

Sunrise View from the Rondaxe Fire Tower on Bald Mountain

Cedar Point Travel Guide

The Roller Coaster Capital of the World

It’s almost that time of year again. Time to cram the whole family into the car for a long weekend or a staycation; a lot of families travel to amusement parks and for good reason! Aren’t they kind of magical after all? Hanging out with your favorite characters, laughing wildly on a ride with family and friends, or hollering in fear at the thrill of a good coaster. As fun as they are, they can be an expensive endeavor so this Cedar Point Travel Guide was designed to help you make the very most of your stay!

Admission to Cedar Point.

What does it Cost to Get into Cedar Point?

Known to many as the Roller Coaster Capital of the world, Cedar Point is a hot spot for thrill-seekers. This means it can also drain your wallet! But, with some of these tips, you can keep more money in your wallet while still sharing smiles with your family.

Buy Your Cedar Point Tickets Online.

There are a wide variety of ticket options available online. You can really score a great discount by buying online. They offer everything from Rock and Ride packages -Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Cedar Point package deal- to Fun Day packages which include admission, a meal, and parking for one low price. Be sure to check the website, the deals are constantly changing. For example, as I’m writing this the current promotion includes a pre-season single day ticket for $39.99 . No matter what you choose, ordering online allows you to include all of your favorite add-ons in one swift click while also receiving the best deals. Be sure to check out which deal will suit your family best before you purchase and use Easy Pay to help make your trip more affordable!

Buying Season Passes.

A platinum pass includes Unlimited Visits to Cedar Point Amusement Park and Cedar Point Shores Waterpark every public operating day in 2021. With that, you will receive free parking, special discounts, early ride times, exclusive ride nights, and more for $202. You can snag this pass for 4 easy payments of $39 after the initial $46 due.

A Cedar Point Gold Pass, for $129, is another great multi-day option.  It includes all of the same perks as the Platinum pass except for the 1 hour early access and the fast lane plus upgrade. Either version of the season pass includes awesome opportunities like bring-a-friend discounts, 10% off most in-park food, discounts on Midway Games, and many other deals.  

For a  limited time at the very beginning of the season, a free Pre-K pass is available for children between the ages of 3 and 5.

Where Can I Stay Near Cedar Point?

First major suggestion, if you’re looking for accommodation, is to stay on-premise. If you stay at a Cedar Point property, you’re granted a few extra benefits than if you didn’t. Check out the different vacation packages Cedar Point offers to find the one that works best for you.

Current Cedar Point resort perks include (updated 2020):
  • Resort guests receive complimentary parking for the length of their stay.
  • Resort guests can buy discounted Cedar Point tickets online or when they check into their hotel. Online prices are currently $44.30 for a one-day ticket and $70.30 for a two-day ticket, without tax.
  • Receive early access to the park to hop on the newest coasters an hour early before the lines quadruple in length.
  • Resort guests staying between May 11, 2019, and May 25, 2019, receive free soda in the parks. When you buy discounted park tickets, your tickets automatically upgrade to Ride and Refresh tickets.
  • If you reserve an overnight ticket package for stays between 05/25/201 and 09/02/2019, you receive FREE admission to Cedar Point Shores Water Park!
  • Resort guests can enter Cedar Point Shores 30 minutes prior to other guests, providing the perfect opportunity to snatch up a good poolside spot for the day!
  • Guests will receive a free Friday night ticket during the fall season if they book a Halloweekend Package.
  • Resort guests can buy a Fast Lane Plus Bundle for $158.57 for a one-day ticket. This is similar to the All-Inclusive Ticket, which starts at $176. In reality, the All-Inclusive Ticket usually costs $190. However, the Fast Lane Plus Bundle is NOT a good deal, since you can only buy this bundle with admission tickets. That means you’re actually paying approximately $200 to get the same benefits of the All-Inclusive Ticket, minus the souvenir water bottle, but plus admission to Dinosaurs Alive. You’re better off just booking the resort on its own and then buying an All-Inclusive Ticket when you check into your hotel.

Hotel Accommodations Near Cedar Point.

Hotel Breakers is a newly renovated, full-service hotel featuring a beautiful beachfront including two outdoor pools,  an outdoor water playground and an indoor pool providing water fun for everyone. Anybody can enjoy the outdoor fire pits, beach games, and activities Hotel Breakers has to offer. The hotel features a TGI Friday’s, Perkins (yesssss pancakes!), TOMO Hibachi grill as well as the Surf Lounge, and Starbucks.

Camping and RV Hookups near Cedar Point

Lighthouse Point is a relaxing space featuring full hook-up luxury RV sites plus 25 all-new ultimate patio sites along with waterfront cottages, inland cabins and ten-person deluxe cabins. Each tiny home features upgraded bedding, televisions, full linen services, a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and private bathrooms. All accommodations include outdoor seating and a charcoal grill. I remember staying here with my family as a kid and having the absolute time of my life! You’re close to the parks, the beach, the pool, and you’re still able to enjoy your own rustic space. Great for big groups is you can secure cabins near one another!

Other Cedar Point Amusement Park accommodations include Castaway Bay, The Express Hotel, and the Marina.

Meals and Dining Inside of and Near the Park

Are you someone who likes to sample all of the different dining opportunities at a given place? If your answer is yes, you better invest in an All Day Dining Pass. Enjoy one entree and one side at participating restaurants inside the park for only $31.99. Only a 90-minute interval stands between you and enjoying all of the food Cedar Point has to offer! If it’s only one solid meal you’re looking for, try the Single Meal Deal, which includes an entree, side and a regular size fountain drink at participating restaurants throughout the park for $14.99.

Similarly, it can get VERY hot in the summer months and you are going to need to stay hydrated. When I went on July Fourth, it was above 95 Degrees all day long. If you purchase a souvenir bottle for $12.99, each Coca Cola Product refill will only cost you $1.00 for the remainder of the season. You may opt for a drink wristband in place of a souvenir bottle and receive a disposable cup instead.  

If you are a season pass holder, choose to go bottle free with the addition of an all-season drink pass. For 31.99 enjoy unlimited refreshments all season long. Or like us, you could ask for water sporadically throughout the day in a small plastic cup for free.

EXTRA PARK INFO.

If you are looking for the accessibility of the park, ride policies and procedures, questions on dietary needs or any other frequently asked questions you can find them here. This Cedar Point Travel Guide provides and in depth look at what you need to access the park: a ticket, a place to stay, and food to fuel your trip.

Downloading the park app and connecting to the Cedar Point Wifi is one of 9 tips I’ve included in my first timer guide! Save money and time on your next trip to Cedar Point.


Two Week Utah Itinerary

If you have 10 to 14 days to explore Utah, you’re in the right place! In this two week Utah itinerary you’ll find a route that allows you to see as much of Utah as possible during your stay. This itinerary includes travel time, suggested accommodations, and where to dine. Sightseeing and hiking suggestions are also offered for each stop. If you’re looking for more options or in-depth descriptions, check out each National Parks Post linked throughout the article. Let’s get planning!

View on Instagram

DAY 1

Fly into Salt Lake City, Utah and drive to Lake Blanche Trail Head

Upon landing in Salt Lake City, your two-week Utah itinerary fun will begin after picking up the rent-a-car. Once you’re situated, take a stop wherever you may need to for gear, food, and snacks before making the decision…
If you have less than 14 days to explore Utah, drive straight to Moab.
If you have the full two-weeks, take the 20-minute drive to the Lake Blanche trail head.

From here you have two choices:


1. pack your bags for an overnight and hike the 3 and a half steep, completely uphill miles to Lake Blanche where you will camp for the night. Find a great campsite, enjoy the sunset, and hang out on the rocks but keep your distance from grazing moose in the Twin Peak Wilderness! You’ll likely find them in the meadow to feed at dusk, we were lucky enough to spot two large bull moose from a safe distance. Please Leave No Trace by camping on durable surfaces and carrying out everything you carry in!

2. Complete Lake Blanche as a day hike to experience the Utah Alpine landscape before traveling into the desert for the next 10-14 days. Return to your car after taking in the beautiful views and head off to a nearby campsite or hotel to retire for the evening.

DAY 2

Salt Lake City to Moab


Did you camp? Wake up, enjoy breakfast in an alpine paradise, and hike back down to the car. Enjoy the trail on the descent, it’s truly beautiful, but a tad difficult to appreciate when you’re struggling up it. Although there is no swimming in Lake Blanche, Big Cottonwood Creek at the parking lot makes for a great place to wash off before climbing in the car for the 4 hour (287 Miles) drive to Moab.

Where Should I Eat in Moab?

Breakfast: Sweet Cravings Bakery and Bistro and Wake Bake Cafe

Dinner: Milt’s Stop & Eat, Sunset Grill

Where Should I Stay in Moab?

The Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab is an amazing budget option that includes running water, air conditioning, and good company! With the ability to utilize the kitchen, the amount of money you will spend on meals will decrease as well. We paid $46 a night for a private cabin. Splitting the cost among the three of us made it dirt cheap and well worth it. If air conditioning and four walls aren’t a necessity for you, Canyonlands and Arches each host Campgrounds that can be reserved in advance at Recreation.gov.

As always, BLM land in the Moab area is available for primitive camping options. It is free and provides perfect solitude from the summer crowds of Moab. There are a variety of hotels in Moab as well for those who prefer all the amenities. This two-week Utah Itinerary will include hotel suggestions based mostly off of research; to keep on our budget we camped for about 12 days of our 17-day stay.

DAY 3

Canyonlands National Park: The Needles District

One hour and twenty-five minutes from Moab you will find the visitors center for Canyonlands National Park, The Needles District. Along the way you will drive right by the Wilson Arch to the East of Highway 191; take a stop on your way back and climb on up. Although it is simply a drive-by attraction 24 miles south of Moab, this impressive arch would easily be a state park if it were somewhere else.

The Needles District is more primitive in nature and a great place for an overnight backpacking trip or a long day hike. I suggest Cave Springs and Pothole Point for a short and sweet day hike due to their simplicity and unique landscapes; if you’re looking for a more difficult hike, Druid Arch or Peekaboo Springs are at the top of my list!

DAY 4

Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky

A mere half-hour from Moab and full of amazing hiking opportunities, Island in the Sky is certainly the busiest of Canyonland’s three districts. Arrive early in the morning, preferably before sunrise, to have the famous Mesa Arch to yourself. After welcoming the sun embark on further adventures within the park to complete your day.

Canyonlands National Park


Upheaval Dome, White Rim Overlook, and Aztec Butte are all great moderate level hikes for you to move onto after Mesa Arch. If you’re feeling full of energy and ready for a challenge, complete all three before hiking out to Murphy’s Point for a gorgeous sunset. Don’t forget your headlamp, a sunset worthy snack, and be sure to look out for low flying bats. We were able to complete all of these hikes without arriving at Mesa Arch until about 9:30 AM!

DAY 5

Arches National Park

The best part of Arches National Park is that it is right outside of Moab and only one, 18-mile road long. Another early start can bring you a full day of amazing hikes. Definitely stop at the visitor center in Arches; it has so much information on the geology of the park!

LANDSCAPE ARCH

We started with Devil’s Garden, taking the primitive trail around and through to hit all of the beautiful arches along the way. From here, we mosied around and checked out Double Arch, North and South Window, and balanced rock. Heading to Delicate Arch for sunset is a great way to end your day in Arches National Park.

If you have already been to Arches National Park and want a completely unique and thrilling experience, reserve a Fiery Furnace Tour. These typically run from Spring through Fall and sell out quickly!

What Is There To Do in Arches National Park?

DAY 6

Moab to Capitol Reef National Park


Wake up, grab breakfast, and take the drive to Capitol Reef. After driving through what seems like the driest terrain in all the land, you’ll drive into the Waterpocket Fold alongside the Fremont River where you will find the juiciest U-pick Orchards. As you drive through, stop and hike Hickman Bridge. At just under 2 miles this popular trail brings you to a 133-foot natural bridge with stunning canyon views. After your hike, settle into your new digs and grab dinner just outside the West Entrance in Torrey.

Where Should I Eat Near Capitol Reef National Park?

Breakfast: Castlerock Coffee, Austin’s Chuckwagon Deli

Dinner: Cafe Diablo, Torrey Grill and BBQ, The Rim Rock Restaurant

Where to Stay In Capitol Reef?

The town of Torrey is just west of the Capitol Reef Park Entrance. The Capitol Reef Resort, The Torrey Schoolhouse B&B is seasonal and open April through October, and the Broken Spur Inn are all 4+ star hotel options. There are a number of RV Parks right in and around town as well as the quiet and peaceful Sunglow Campground. About 10 minutes further West from Torrey you will find the Sunglow Campground which encompasses a red rock box canyon with running water, bathrooms, picnic tables, and a fire ring.


If you’re looking to stay inside the park, Fruita Campground is a very family-friendly option which you can book through Recreation.gov. If free, dispersed camping is more your style, check out the BLM land that runs along the East entrance to the park down Notom-Bullfrog Road. Free, dispersed camping is definitely the most budget-friendly option for executing your two-week Utah itinerary.

DAY 7

What is There To Do in Capitol Reef National Park?

There is so much to do in Capitol Reef! If there are no chances of rain or flash flooding take the one-way 5.8-mile hike down Sulpher Creek. The Visitor Centers in all of these parks have weather information up for about two days in advance. Meander through waist-deep water and down waterfalls before hitting your destination of the Visitor Center and hitchhiking, walking, or driving -this requires a two car plan-, back to your vehicle. If this isn’t the hike for you get an early start up to Navajo Knobs, or the easier Canyon  Overlook.

VIEW FROM NAVAJO KNOB

Make a day out exploring Capitol Reef from the car, or tack these sights onto your morning of hiking. You don’t want to miss the seasonal fruit from the U-PICK orchards within the park; there is nothing more refreshing after a long,  hot hike. Enjoy ranger-led programs regarding the history of the Capitol Reef Area and pastries from the 1908 Gifford Homestead. Let out your inner child at the Ripple Rock Nature Center, and be sure to embark on the 8-mile scenic drive. For a small fee enjoy stunning views and dirt spur roads that lead to Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge.

DAY 8

Capitol Reef to Grand Staircase Escalante

Remove this stop if you have less than 14 days to complete this itinerary!
You will drive straight through from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon to save time.

Pack up camp and head South to Lower Calf Creek Falls Campground in Grand Staircase Escalante. Stop at Larb Hollow Overlook for a quick break from the desert sand and a beautiful, mountain view! This quick pull off would be a great spot for sunrise. This is a super scenic drive with quite a few pull-off opportunities and I suggest taking them all!


Reach Grand Staircase by noon and snag a campsite at Lower Calf  Creek Falls Campground; after setting up camp, take a 5.5-mile round trip hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The trail leaves from the campground and is an absolutely beautiful route with a stunning ending. Take a pamphlet and enjoy an education along the way before meeting the 126-foot cascading waterfall, which is only the lower portion of a larger 214-footfalls. It is the perfect spot for lunch after cooling off with a swim. Be sure to bring your camera because you won’t want to forget this view!

DAY 9

Grand Staircase Escalante to Bryce Canyon National Park

Grand Staircase has so many wonderful hiking opportunities that it wouldn’t be a poor choice to stay and play a day longer! However, if you’re looking to spend a couple of days in Bryce and Zion, you should head that way today. Or, if you would rather spend an extra day in Bryce or Zion, drive right through Escalante on Day 8. This will tack on an extra day in either park.

Upon your arrival to Bryce, check in to your new digs and head out to do some sightseeing!  Learn about the eroding plateau that makes up Bryce Canyon National Park at the visitor center before venturing out to see the magic. Enjoy your scenic drive and stop at all the overlooks along the way; notice trailhead parking to be prepared for the next day’s hikes!

Where Should I Eat In Bryce Canyon?

Breakfast: Bryce Canyon Coffee Company

Dinner: Valhalla Pizza (inside the park), IDK Barbeque


Where Should I Stay Near Bryce Canyon?

Bryce Canyon Inn, Stone Canyon Inn, Bryce Canyon Country Cabins, North Campground in Bryce Canyon National Park  

NORTH CAMPGROUND, BRYCE CANYON

Day 10

Bryce Canyon National Park

Wake up early and catch the sunrise at Rainbow Point! From here take the long Riggs Springs Loop down into the canyon below OR drive back over for the more popular, and easier Queens/Navajo Loop. The Riggs Spring Loop will carry you deep, down into the canyon among the bristlecone pines, spruce, and fir among red cliff breaks. The Queens and Navajo Loop both allow you to ‘Hike the Hoodoo’s’ by bringing you down among the orange spires of the plateau. Participate in the Hike The HooDoos Challenge by taking your photo with three different benchmarks found throughout the park. Claim your prize at the visitor center but don’t forget to bring your proof, the Rangers will ask for it!

Enjoy the view from your campsite and stargaze through the night.
The night sky is one of the most beautiful parts of Bryce Canyon National Park!

DAY 11

Bryce Canyon National Park to Zion National Park


Take the trek to Zion National Park early if you’re hoping to secure a first come first serve campsite! We arrived around 10:30 AM on a summer week day and we were able to snag the last of two left. Create as much shade as possible before heading out for a late afternoon hike; we decided to explore the Canyon Overlook Trail on our first day in Zion to see what Zion was all about!

CANYON OVERLOOK TRAIL

Head over to the visitor center to check the upcoming days’ forecast if you’re interested in hiking the Narrows; there will also be a list of trail closures and the best resources out there – park rangers!

Where do I Eat Near Zion?

Breakfast: Cafe Soleil, Deep Creek Coffee Company

Dinner: Oscars, Bit & Spur, Spotted Dog Cafe

Dessert: Stop by the Bumbleberry Gift Shop for their Bumbleberry Pie & ice cream selection.


Where Should I Stay to See Zion National Park?

Under Canvas Zion (NOT IN THE CANYON), Majestic View Lodge, South Campground or Watchman Campground

DAY 12

Zion National Park

Wake up early and catch the first shuttle to Weeping Rock (stop 7) and start the long trek up to Observation Point. Sitting at a higher elevation than angels landing, this viewpoint provides an amazing perspective of Zion Canyon. On your hike you will pass the turnoffs for Weeping Rock and Hidden Canyon; be sure to hit these on your way back to the shuttle to check off everything at top 7! Hidden Canyon is an exciting little side trip that feels like a true adventure!

OBSERVATION POINT LOOKING DOWN ON ANGELS LANDING

Upon returning to your hotel or campsite, go for a swim (Virgin River or Pool) to cool off and relax, before returning to the park for a sunset hike. Hike the Watchman trail for a fun, 3-mile round trip, trail for a rewarding sunset of pastel hues cast upon red rock. Don’t forget to pack snacks/dinner and a headlamp! If night hiking is your ‘thing’, hang out up on the edge of Watchman’s Bench for some Zion stargazing.


THE WATCHMAN TRAIL

DAY 13

Zion National Park

If weather permits, hop on the first shuttle to Riverside Walk (Stop 9) to hike The Narrows today. Be sure you have the appropriate equipment; renting boots and a walking stick from Zion Outfitters was a great choice personally but others might not need any equipment or may need more. Hike out to Big Springs and enjoy the lush greenery and water that falls from the canyon walls. On your return be sure to adventure as far down Orderville Canyon as you’re capable and enjoy an adventure free of many other hikers.

BIG SPRINGS, THE NARROWS TRAIL, ZION


If you have been to Zion before and have already enjoyed The Narrows, I would suggest looking into a permit for The Subway! The much more remote and technical version of the Zion Narrows. There are tons of hikes inside and outside of the canyon to look into if you plan on spending more time here at Zion. Talking to the rangers for suggestions is a great start!

DAY 14

Zion National Park to Salt Lake City

While on our adventure, we purchased quite a few souvenirs for family and friends as well as our own mementos to remember a place by. On our way out of Springdale we stopped at the post office and filled up two flat rate boxes with all of the books, patches, t-shirts, artifacts, etc. we had since we travel light! Aside from our duffel full of camping gear for two we each brought our Gregory Daypacks and a small suitcase with our clothes for two weeks. Stopping to ship home the good stuff helped lighten our load and prevented us from going over the weight limit for checked luggage.

Break the drive from Zion to Salt Lake City up with a stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument if you have time; it’s about 40 extra minutes of driving but worth the adventure. Sitting at 10,000 feet, Cedar Breaks supplies tons of family fun in the form of campgrounds, viewpoints, hiking trails, seasonal mountain biking and/or skiing/snowboarding.

After returning your rent-a-car, grab an Uber to the airport, enjoy a nice meal, and reminisce on how productive and exciting your last 14 days were! You just saw so many beautiful acts of nature with the perfect two-week Utah itinerary. Enjoy a much-deserved nap on the flight and get home safe!


RENT-A-CAR, GRAB A MAP, TAKE AN ADVENTURE!

Plan a Trip to Utah’s National Parks

Trip planning needs to be done in stages. Sometimes, this is a seriously daunting task. I like to start with the broad questions and then narrow it down to the specifics as the trip begins to take a true shape. This helps you to create an itinerary all your own. If you’re looking for a starting point in planning your trip to Utah’s National Parks, you’ve come to the best place!

Where Are Utah’s National Parks?

The parks are in the southern half of the state; Arches, and Canyonlands to the East and Capitol Reef, Zion and Bryce Canyon to the West. The best airports to fly into include Las Vegas, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah. You may choose to do a loop or fly into one airport and out of another! It all depends on how you would like to structure your trip.

Photo Credit: myutahparks.com

What time is best to visit Utah’s National Parks?

Spring/Fall

The milder seasons tend to draw large crowds to Utah’s National Parks. The daytime temperatures range from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit with lows in the 40-60’s. It might be the most comfortable weather to explore in, but be prepared to deal with large crowds.

What should I wear?

Fall and Spring weather can vary. I would dress in and/or pack layers each day! A combination of short sleeve tops, a fleece, a windbreaker, and a down vest should be adequate wear for the shoulder season weather. Bottoms could vary with each day. On a warm, late spring day you may find yourself in shorts during the day and pants at night when the temperature drops; convertible hiking pants could solve all of your wardrobe concerns since they can be shorts or pants at any given time. Always have a hat and gloves packed in your day pack in case the temperature drops unexpectedly. Plan ahead!

APPROPRIATE LAYERS FOR SHOULDER SEASON HIKING

Summer

If you choose to visit any of these Utah National Parks in the summer months, expect daytime temperatures to reach over 100 degrees. Complete summer hiking in the morning so you’re not competing with the mid-day sun or the visitors. H in the early morning or late evening helps you to avoid temperatures as well as visitors considering it is still quite busy.

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?

The sun is strong and hot. Because of this, I suggest a light long sleeve shirt such as Columbia’s Performance Fishing Gear. I wore my PFG almost every day and it kept me both cool and protected from the sun. The option is entirely up to you; my best friend wore a tank top every day. Head protection such as a ball cap or a bucket hat will help you keep cool while also keeping harmful rays off your scalp, face, and (depending on the hat) your neck. I wore shorts every day and Chaco sandals for most of my hiking!

TWO GIRLS IN VERY DIFFERENT SUMMER HIKING ATTIRE

Winter

With temperatures in the 30-50’s during the day, you will have a lot of the park to yourself. Low temperatures also mean certain trails and seasonal roads may also be closed due to snow or other natural hazards; always check trail conditions before you head out. The potential of enjoying these beautiful desert landscapes with a dusting of snow is enough to convince me to head out there in January! Be prepared for below-freezing temps at night. As a result, hotels and hostels might be a better option than camping

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?

You should definitely be layering depending on the temperature and current weather conditions. A wool base layer is the key to your comfort due to its ability to wick the sweat from your body and keep you warm. I prefer a Kari Traa wool long sleeve top and matching bottoms. A packable down jacket is the perfect travel mid-layer for all seasons; summer night temperatures can drop, autumn mornings and evenings are chilly, and winter months might require a down coat at all times. Your outer most layer should be water-resistant/proof depending on the current weather conditions. Warm socks, hiking boots, and winter hats and gloves will also help to keep you comfortable in winter months! Don’t forget you can always take layers off.

Where will I sleep in Utah’s National Parks?

Lodging in and Around Utah’s National Parks is fairly abundant. Each of the five parks is home to a campground, at minimum. Some parks have multiple campgrounds, and Bryce and Zion are both home to beautiful lodges within the park boundaries. Moab (Arches and Canyonlands), (Bryce), and Springdale (Zion) have plenty of hotel options. Although there are a few lodging options just outside Capitol Reef National Park in the town of Torrey, the opportunities are certainly more limited. All of the parks have ample opportunities for backcountry camping as well; you may simply need to reserve a permit.

VIEW OUT BALCONY DOOR FROM MAJESTIC VIEW LODGE


Bringing your camping gear or renting a camper van in SLC or Las Vegas is often seen as an economical option for staying in and around the parks. Keep in mind that certain campgrounds take reservations up to 6 months in advance and fill up quickly! There is no need to worry if someone else beats you to a campsite because there is a ton of free dispersed camping right outside the National Parks on BLM land. Dispersed camping means outside of a designated campground which generally means no services, such as trash removal, and little or no facilities such as tables and fire pits, are provided. However, there are plenty of Campgrounds within the surrounding National Forest areas with amenities such as bathrooms, running water, picnic tables and fire pits that will charge you only a small fee.

A LITTLE ROCK SCRAMBLING FOR SUNSET TO LOOK DOWN ON OUR CAMPSITE

What will I eat in Utah’s National Park?

This is entirely up to you, and largely, what you choose to pack for your adventure! If you will be camping, many campsites within the parks include campfire rings with cooking racks. With the proper cooking utensils, almost any meal is possible; using a cooler and keeping up with the ice is a great way to keep your food items refrigerated in the warmer months. Try to find a spot in the shade for your cooler and cover it with a towel or blanket. Camp stoves are a great alternative to campfire ring cooking as well and their portability allows you to use them just about anywhere.

COOKING BREAKFAST AT THE TRAILHEAD FOR AN EARLY MORNING START!


In the towns surrounding Utah’s National there are plenty of dining opportunities. We used a combination of TripAdvisor and local suggestions to help us take our pick! The Bryce Lodge and Zion Lodge provide dining options within their respective park’s borders. From the casual Valhalla Pizza in Bryce to Zion’s Red Rock Grill, you can chomp on some delicious eats without even leaving the beauty of Canyons you’re exploring. The surrounding towns have phenomenal dining opportunities for every pallet.

SWEETS AND TASTY TREATS AT SWEET CRAVINGS BAKERY AND BISTRO

What can I do in Utah’s National Parks?

Many of the national parks have AMAZING visitor centers with awesome gift shops and tons of pertinent information. Learn about the natural history of the beloved landscape of Arches National Park through interactive exhibits or watch the award-winning film, “Shadow’s in Time”, to learn about the unique geology of Bryce Canyon. Be sure to talk to the park rangers and staff members for suggestions inside and outside the park.

ZION NATIONAL PARK VISITOR CENTER

After grabbing, at minimum, a map from the visitor center or ordering all 5 National Geographic Parks in advance from Amazon, head out to see the sights! There are hikes for all levels and amazing drive up photo opportunities. Look no further than Expedition Education’s U.S. National Parks Page if you’re looking to hike in Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, or Zion National Park. Some parks, such as Arches, have ranger-guided tours/hikes and ranger programs that you can look into as well.

HIKING THE SLICK ROCK OF CANYONLANDS NATIONAL PARK

If you have two weeks on your hands, use this two week Utah itinerary to see it all. The whole state and all 5 of their National Parks are at your fingertips.

Zion National Park

A Travel Guide to Zion National Park

Zion is a southwestern, Utah beauty and one of the most popular National Parks in the United States. It’s home to some of the most beautiful landscape, thrilling hikes, and the largest crowds you may ever experience at a US National Park. Use this guide to help you carefully plan your visit; make sure you can hit all of your planned hikes and sights in your allotted time in Zion National Park with my help!

OBSERVATION POINT, Zion National Park

Where Should I Stay Near Zion National Park?

Camping in Zion Canyon

South Campground and Watchman Campground are in Zion Canyon at the south entrance near Springdale and often fill up by midday. All campsites are drive-up and allow a maximum of two vehicles and only one RV or trailer is allowed, but each campground has overflow parking for excess vehicles. Each campsite allows a maximum of six people and three tents so be sure to plan accordingly; hammocks are allowed as long as t are hung the footprint of the campsite. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit with the attached grill but very little shade to protect you from the desert sun! I would suggest an Ez-Up if that’s doable for your adventures; for ours, it was not so we planned to be hiking during the middle of the day, laying down by the Virgin River, or in town grabbing a snack. Comfort stations provide flush toilets, cold running drinkable water, and trash containers, but no showers or electrical outlets. I’ll be honest what I say South Campground was probably my least favorite during my stay in Utah but it was by no means unlivable. You can make reservations here.

Campgrounds Outside of Zion Canyon

The Lava Point Campground is about an hour from Zion Canyon’s South entrance on Kolob Terrace Road. Lava Point Campground is within the National Park jurisdiction. There are 6 primitive campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. These sites have pit toilets and trash cans, but no water. Vehicles longer than 19 feet are not permitted on the road to the campground. There is no charge for camping.

If you’re looking for a camping experience near Zion National Park, Zion Canyon Campground and RV Resort is a popular spot! You may also find free primitive camping opportunities on BLM land.

Hotels Near Zion National Park

Zion National Park Lodge is a stunning, albeit limited, location inside the ‘walls’ of the park! However, just outside of Zion’s South entrance in Springdale there are a number of lodging options! We stayed at the Majestic View Lodge which is the farthest hotel from the entrance that still participates in the shuttle system.
We chose this hotel over others because:
– the rooms and the view from them is absolutely stunning
– it was away from the crowds of the park and the main drag of town
– it had a pool to beat that summer desert heat
– once we split it three ways, it was really affordable

We spent our last two days (of a 17-day camping trip) at this hotel in Springdale which was a real treat. We were able to do laundry, relax by the pool, and sit in the air conditioning. Honestly, watching a movie at night was a true luxury after 17 days of driving around the desert.

How Do I Get Around Zion National Park?

How Does the Zion Shuttle System Work?

Within the Canyon, your driving is very limited. Due to large crowds, Zion established a shuttle service in 2000 to eliminate traffic and parking problems, protect vegetation, and restore tranquility to Zion Canyon. Parking is limited inside Zion, and all parking lots commonly fill early in the day (like by 8:30 AM). To avoid parking hassles it is easiest to park in the town of Springdale and ride the free Springdale Shuttle to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance.

There are two shuttle loops. The Zion Canyon Shuttle connects the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to stops at nine locations on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive; many of the hikes that you might want to experience are accessible via one of the many trail heads found along this route.

The Springdale Shuttle has nine stops in the town of Springdale and will take you to the park’s Pedestrian Entrance near the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. You may get on and off as often as you like! Riding the shuttle is free.

Amazing Hiking Trails in Zion National Park.

Zion is home to a wide range of hiking opportunities ranging from short family-friendly hikes to longer strenuous day hikes and 2 to 3-day backpacking trips. If you’re looking for the best day pack around to carry your gear through Zion National Park, look no further than Gregory Packs. My go-to bag for day trips and overnights!

The Best Hikes in Zion Canyon

TRAIL: Weeping Rock

DIFFICULTY: Easy

DESCRIPTION: This very short, easy hike will lead you on a paved path to a refreshing weeping canyon overhang. It is wheelchair accessible, although the path has a few steep inclines. After .4 miles, you will find yourself at a lush hanging garden that is continually moist due to constant water flow from the canyons above.

TRAIL: Pa’rus Trail  

DIFFICULTY: Easy

DESCRIPTION: A non-strenuous, 100% paved, leisurely walk along the Zion canyon floor.  The one trail in the park that allows bicycles and dogs, as well as wheelchair access, which allows for everyone to enjoy all the sights down this path, including several zig-zagging bridges that cross the Virgin River, and multiple places with river access if you care to get your feet wet!

TRAIL: Emerald Pools

DIFFICULTY: Easy

DESCRIPTION: Enjoy a paved incline and a rather busy trail to the Lower Emerald Pool. Beyond Lower Emerald pools the trail is dirt, more rugged, and rock covered. Waterfalls, beautiful alcoves, and natural pools can be seen all around. Colossal cliffs surround the end of this trail on three sides in front of you creating a natural amphitheater. Enjoy a unique perspective with many majestic views of Zion Canyon. Be aware of frequent trail closures due to rock slides and inclimate weather.

Lower Emerald Pool
TRAIL: Canyon Overlook Trail  

DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate

DESCRIPTION: Considered one of Zion National Park’s essential hikes, one mile of an exciting and scenic trail brings you to an overlook of Zion Canyon. The hike begins as a steep incline for less than a quarter of a mile before leveling out and including awesome obstacles including an awesome, hidden cave. There are railings in steep sections which I think helps make this a family-friendly hike while also providing a sense of risk and excitement. When you reach the overlook you can watch cars travel the Zion-Mount Caramel Highway wind their way up the canyonside until they disappear into the tunnel.

TRAIL: Watchman Trail

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

DESCRIPTION: After a long day we decided to head up the watchman trail. At 3 miles round-trip and never overly steep or strenuous, I’d consider this a family-friendly trail. A gradual incline up a visually appealing trail is met with only one small section of switchbacks; because we had a little kid kicking/throwing small rocks over the edge, I suggest hiking with caution in this section. Often overlooked by visitors with their sights on the more famous trails in the park, you shouldn’t run into too many other hikers. We stayed to enjoy dinner up here -made in a jet boil- and watched the sunset before hiking the loop the follow the edge of the watchman’s bench and hiking back down.

TRAIL: Hidden Canyon

DIFFICULTY: Moderate-Strenuous

DESCRIPTION: This trail begins at the Weeping Rock Trailhead; we decided to hit this side trail on our return from Observation Point and we were so glad we did! A great trail for those who enjoy a little uncertainty. Steep drop-offs, chains, rock scrambling, and hidden ‘arches’ are available to all who are willing to search for them!

TRAIL: The Narrows (Day Hike to Big Springs)

DIFFICULTY: Moderate-Strenuous

DESCRIPTION: Start from the Temple of Sinawava first thing in the morning for hiking the Narrows; the first ¾ of a mile becomes swamped with families and small children enjoying the virgin river by mid-morning. Your hike to Big Springs can be as leisurely or strenuous as you’d like it to be. Definitely come prepared to get wet, there are a few spots that were chest height on me and I’m 5’9. Not to mention, you’re bound to take a spill or two if the current is decent! We stopped at what we affectionately named ‘jump rock’ to, you guessed it, jump off large boulders into the freezing water of the Virgin River below before continuing on to Big Springs.

https://expeditioneducationblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/555910501.940685.mp4

This magical spot is lush with small waterfalls coming right out of the canyon walls; we met a lot of overnight hikers here hiking from the top-down seeing as it is the mandatory turn around spot for day hikers. On our way back we took a side trip up Orderville Canyon which provided a bit of extra adventure involving some rock scrambling and swimming. Don’t press your limits here and be sure to always make the decisions that are best for YOUR safety. No talk about The Narrows would be complete without mentioning that chance for flash flooding! Check the board in the visitor’s center each day for information regarding the safety of your hike.

TRAIL: Angel’s Landing  

DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

DESCRIPTION: Certainly one of the busiest hikes in the park but not for the faint of heart. At 5 miles roundtrip, after surviving Walters Wiggles -21 tight switchbacks- you will find yourself at Scout Lookout, where the narrow, steep ledges and chains begin. Please take extra caution on this hike; travelers have died here for various reasons. Be sure to fill up your water and use the restroom at the Grotto before you begin your adventure!

TRAIL: Observation Point

DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

DESCRIPTION: Angels landing was closed due to rock fall on our travels. A ranger in the visitor center suggested Observation Point as their favorite hike in the park; a better view than Angels Landing by far but a different trail experience overall. We hopped on the VERY FIRST shuttle to stop number 7 and began our climb. You literally gain elevation for about 3.5 straight miles until the final half-mile leading across the top of the canyon to the viewpoint. A really neat section of the hike that is slightly more horizontal than vertical is echo canyon; cooler temperatures due to the canyon walls towering around you are really awesome scenery. Be the first people/group of people to the viewpoint and you won’t regret the stunning views of the sun shedding its first light on the canyon.

Observation Point

Hikes in Zion National Park Outside of the Canyon

Although Zion Canyon is the ‘main attraction’ when it comes to Zion National Park it is NOT the only place to hike within the park. Hikes such as the semi-technical Subway Route, Kolob Arch, Northgate Peaks Trail, Middle Fork Taylor Creek, and Timber Creek Overlook. You will find these areas less congested and equally as beautiful!

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, USA

You will drive right through Capitol Reef National Park as you drive across Utah on your Big 5 National Parks tour. Driving through this beautiful park is FREE and can provide fun for the whole family. Whether you have a few hours or a few days, Capitol Reef has a rich history as well as beautiful trails to explore.

This is a very interesting and unique park rich in history, geology, and adventure. A true hidden treasure in the heart of red rock country; the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline extending 100 miles wide, is filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges for you to explore.

Accommodations Near and In Capitol Reef.

Fruta Campground is an oasis within the desert along the Fremont River. They offer 64 RV/Tent sites each including firepits and picnic tables. Seven additional walk-in sites with a grill and a picnic table provide extra room for visitors. There is an RV dump and potable water fill station near the entrance to Loops A and B. Restrooms feature running water and flush toilets, but no showers. Accessible sites are located adjacent to restrooms. The nightly fee is $20 and check-out is at 11:00 AM.

There are tons of RV parks, campgrounds, and lodging to the west of the park entrance. We stayed at Sunglow Campground which was practically empty, cheap, and absolutely stunning. We had beautiful scenery, a more than acceptable restroom, and freshwater; the stargazing was a phenomenal addition to an amazing campsite just about 10 minutes from the park’s entrance and 5 minutes from restaurants, a general store, and a post office. We were also informed of some BLM land just outside of the East entrance that you may also be interested in.

The History and Culture of Capitol Reef National Park

The lush landscape of the Capitol Reef Area has been home to numerous archaic and settlers throughout the years who have migrated through the canyons. Fremont Culture solidified around 500 CE when food foraging groups began to incorporate farming into their lives. Petroglyphs etched into rock walls alongside painted pictographs remain as sacred remnants of an ancient saga. Explorers, Mormon pioneers, and other groups arrived in the 1800s, settling in what is now the Fruita Rural Historic District. They planted and nurtured orchards of apples, pears, and peaches which you can still pick today. Stop by and pick the juiciest fruit from the shores of the Fremont River (BRING YOUR BUG SPRAY)!

The National Park Service preserves the culture of those who came before them through ranger programs, audio clips, and the protection of historic buildings and other structures. Don’t forget to stop by the 1908 Gifford Homestead to experience a museum-like still-life of early Mormon pioneer days; the best time for pie is 8:00 A.M. but you can also chow on homemade scones, fresh ice cream, jellies, and dried fruit.

Capital Reef if Full of Interesting Geology.

The geologic story of Capitol Reef can be broken down into three steps. Each of these steps occurred over the course of millions of years: deposition, uplift, and erosion. The Waterpocket Fold is unique in that the ongoing erosion of sandstone layers is caused by water. The erosion of tilted rock forms creates the colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, stark monoliths, twisting canyons, and graceful arches that are found throughout Capitol Reef National Park.

Just look at all of this geology!

Hiking Through Capital Reef National Park.

There are a number of Day Hiking options and backcountry hikes available throughout the park. Whether you’re driving through on route 24 or heading south down Notom-Bullfrog road towards Headquarters Canyon, you will find adventure for every skill level. As a result, you may want to plan on spending multiple days at this normally overlooked park!

TRAIL: Goosenecks Overlook

DIFFICULTY: Very Easy  

DESCRIPTION: A short walk off of Highway 24 will provide dramatic canyon views with Sulphur Creek winding below.

Image Via TripAdvisor

TRAIL: Hickman Bridge  

DIFFICULTY: Moderate  

DESCRIPTION: Just under a two-mile round trip will bring you to a 133-foot natural bridge with stunning canyon views. This photo is from up above the bridge along the Canyon Overlook .

TRAIL: Sulphur Creek  

DIFFICULTY: Moderate/Difficult  

DESCRIPTION: Follow this meandering stream 5.8 miles down from the trailhead at Chimney Rock on Utah 24. This trail passes through scenic narrows, known as the Goosenecks, and down three waterfalls before emerging conveniently at the visitor center. Bypassing the falls does require the ability to scramble down 12-foot ledges; the route nearly always requires walking in shallow water. It is not uncommon for there to be much deeper water that might even require swimming. Because this is not a roundtrip or out and back style hike, you will need to leave a shuttle vehicle at your endpoint. If you don’t have this option, you will have to hike the 3 miles back along the road Please keep an eye on the weather, flash floods can kill.

Image via Backcountrypost.com

TRAIL: Rim Overlook  

DIFFICULTY: Strenuous  

DESCRIPTION: A five-mile RT, uphill trail that will bring you past the for Hickman Bridge and to a gorgeous panorama view of the Fremont River and the Visitor Center below. Tie the Hickman Bridge Trail into your day for an extra route!


Don’t Let This Lesser-Known Park Go Unseen

This park is such a hidden gem amidst so much desert. Lush river beds with orchards full of sweet, juicy fruit meet steep, red and white layered canyon walls full of history; it’s unlike no other places I’ve seen. Be sure to take the scenic drive! Although a majority of the park is free to visit, the 8.3-mile scenic drive costs $5 per vehicle and not only provides stunning roadside views but also access to two of the park’s most popular hiking trails.

Canyonlands National Park

Explore Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Canyonlands National Park is truly phenomenal! I invite you to explore the countless canyons and bewildering buttes that make this wilderness feel exceptionally wild. Rivers divide the park into three districts. Island in the Sky, Needles, and The Maze district each have their own unique opportunities for adventure.

Mesa Arch, Island in the Sky

FAQSACCOMMODATIONSTRAILS

Canyonlands National Park FAQs

Utah is home to 5 beautiful National Parks. Canyonlands is unique in that it has three separate districts, each with its own distinctive landscape. These three districts are not connected and have very different landscapes, which might pose a few questions!

How Long do I need in Canyonlands National Park?

I think this depends on what level of adventure you’re looking for and how much you want to see. The Island in the Sky district is the most visited. You can see this part of the park’s most popular viewpoints on a day trip.

If you’re looking to visit multiple districts and embark on some longer, more time-consuming hikes I would recommend 2-3 days dedicated to Canyonlands National Park. For reference, we completed all of the hikes and visited all of the viewpoints described in this post in two days’ time.

 

Sunset in Canyonlands National Park

What time of Year is Best to Visit Canyonlands?

This depends on whether or not you mind the heat and the crowds. Canyonlands National Park is busiest in the summer months and can reach temperatures in the high 90s. Although this is the busy season, Canyonlands isn’t known to be overly popular at any time of the year.

Winter and early Spring temperatures may be more tolerable, if not cold. Due to cooler temps and generally, less vacation time, these month’s provide lesser crowds. It might provide a nicer opportunity to complete longer hikes in the park.

Can you Do Arches and Canyonlands in the Same Day?

If you were only driving through and stopping at a few vistas, I’d say you could see both parks in one day. You would most definitely need the full day to see both parks most visited sights. I don’t think this is the ideal way to see either park…

I would allot at least one day for each park. Ideally, you should schedule 2 days in Canyonlands. This would allow you to see both The Needles district and The Island in the Sky district. Due to how far apart these entrances are, seeing both parts of the park in one day wouldn’t be worth it.

All Smiles at Canyonlands National Park

What can you Not Miss in Canyonlands National Park?

It may be the most popular viewpoint in the park, but with good reason. I wouldn’t miss Mesa Arch if you’re traveling to Canyonlands National Park. Additionally, checking out the granaries at Aztec Butte is pretty neat as well! 

I would end any trip at Island in the Sky with a sunset hike at Murphy’s Point. The way the last light of the say lights up the canyon below is spectacular. Make sure you’re prepared with headlamps, snacks, and a layer to put on for when the sun goes down.

Which Part of Canyonlands is the Best? 

This depends on what you’re looking for! If you’re a family looking for a few short hikes and/or viewpoints to enjoy on your trip, I’d suggest Island in the sky. Nothing here is too strenuous and everywhere you look there is a beautiful view!

If you’re someone who wants to ditch the crowds and feel like you’re lost in the desert, I’d suggest the Needles District. We spent an entire day there and only saw a few folks, none of which were on the trail we decided to hike. This part of the park, although not the most remote (the Maze district has earned that title), feels pretty untouched and wild. 

How Should I Spend One Day in Canyonlands National Park? 

If you only had one day to spend in Canyonlands National Park, I would spend it at Island in the Sky. Arrive early, for sunrise even, at Mesa Arch before moving on to some longer hikes. Upheaval Dome is really cool and is an out and back with multiple viewpoints. You can make this hike work for your family, however, it is another incredibly popular spot in the park so be prepared. 

If you have the times, I’d encourage you to explore Aztec Butte. It’s a beautiful little hike, void of most visitors, that brings you to ancient granaries and provides gorgeous views into Taylor Canyon. When the time comes, I would make the trip out to Murphy Point for sunset. It’s absolutely gorgeous! Don’t forget to eat along the way pals – there’s nowhere to buy food in the park so pack it in and pack it out my friends.

Where Should I Stay in Canyonlands National Park?

There are no lodging or dining facilities within the park. Your nearest towns for dining and lodging include:

Moab, northeast of Canyonlands nearest Island in the Sky

Monticello, southeast of Canyonlands nearest the Needles District, and

Green River, North of Canyonlands near The Maze.

The districts each have their own entrances and are hours apart.

There are two campgrounds; one at The Needles where you may reserve some individual and group sites and one at Island in the Sky where sites are first-come, first-served.

Backcountry camping is also available for those who are experienced enough to enjoy the extensive trails designed for backpacking, four-wheel driving, boating, and bicycling.

There are numerous picnicking areas throughout the park that provide shade and tables; we packed a cooler each morning full of water and our food for the day when visiting Canyonlands and utilized these spots. There are water fill-up stations throughout the park; it is important to have a map to know where these stations are.

The Best Drive-Up Viewpoints in Canyonlands

Canyonlands is home o many stunning views! Luckily, all of them don’t require a strenuous hike. Some of them you can simply drive up to!

  1. Green River Overlook
  2. Grand View Point Overlook
  3. Shafer Canyon Overlook
  4. Buck Canyon Overlook

The Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park

Island In The Sky.

We found Island in the Sky to be the of the two districts we explored. There are certainly more family friendly hiking experiences to be had here than the other two districts and that may be why. There were a lot of different hiking options; we spent an day hiking about 4-5 trails of varying length.

TRAIL: Mesa Arch

DIFFICULTY: Very Easy

DESCRIPTION: One of the busiest trails in the park and for good reason! A short .5-mile stroll over some sand and will bring you to a crowd of people enjoying a stunning view! The spires and canyon below through the opening of the arch is just breathtaking. Please do not walk on top of the arch and don’t hog the picture space if it’s busy. Try to arrive at sunrise to avoid some of the largest crowds the park will see.

TRAIL: White Rim Overlook

DIFFICULTY:  Easy

DESCRIPTION: Enjoy a flat, just under 2 mile hike to an east-facing overlook for views of the Colorado River, Monument Basin, and La Sal Mountains. There is very limited trailhead parking, but some really awesome views from just off the parking lot if you’re not down for the hike.

TRAIL: Murphy Point

DIFFICULTY: Easy

DESCRIPTION: 1.8 flat miles to a gorgeous cliff edge where we enjoyed some rock hopping and a gorgeous sunset despite the smoke pollution from a nearby forest fire. At 3.6 miles round-trip, this is a fairly easy hike with a great pay off! If you hike for sunset, be sure to bring your headlamp and watch out for low flying bats on your return hike.

MURPHY’S POINT FOR SUNSET

TRAIL: Upheaval Dome

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

DESCRIPTION: A crater-view trail with a couple of different theories on and an opportunity to educate yourself on the mystery. The first overlook is about .3 miles in to the hike after climbing about 150 feet via stone steps. Thin out the crowds and continue on to the second viewpoint, which will add an additional mile and elevation change to your hike. We had some fun climbing around the rock formations and marveling at what could have caused the different color folds.  

UPHEAVAL DOME, ISLAND IN THE SKY
A NICE SHADY ALCOLVE ALONG THE SIDE OF THE BUTTE

TRAIL: Aztec Butte

DIFFICULTY: Moderate

DESCRIPTION: Explore ancestral Puebloan granaries and ruins along the edge of a dome shaped butte that rises 225 feet above the mesa. Nestle yourself into the natural alcoves of the rim trail and enjoy some mid afternoon shade with a view of Taylor Canyon. At just under 2 miles, this hike has a steep climb to the top of the butte but otherwise traverses flat, sandy, grassy plains.

CHECKING OUT THE ANCIENT GRANERIES

The Needles District.

We might’ve seen four people all day at Needles and not a single one of those people were found on the trail. Enjoy the canyons and spires of the great american outback; peep the folks in the visitor center at opening for the opportunity to feel the ‘Salute Your Shorts’ nostalgia of a trumpet playing while the flag is being raised.

TRAIL: Cave Springs

DIFFICULTY: Easy

DESCRIPTION: At only .6 miles this trail was a welcomed easy stroll compared to our previous 10- mile adventure. Although not strenuous, the trail does involve a number of ladders and cave-like overhangs which is exciting! Enjoy a look at a historic cowboy camp & prehistoric petroglyphs on a fun little walk through some interesting terrain.

TRAIL: Pothole Point

DIFFICULTY: Easy

DESCRIPTION: About a .5 mile loop over to a diverse pothole community with an expansive view of the needles. On a clear you can see for miles, therefore, I suggest this playful loop for families.

TRAIL: Peekaboo Springs

DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

DESCRIPTION: Follow the cairns through 10 miles of sandy canyon bottoms, over slick rock, up a few ladders, and a few scrambles to a brilliant rock art site. Enjoy crossing Squaw and Lost Canyons, climbing headwalls with views of the La Sal Mountains and Six Shooter Peak and climbing through rock openings. Be sure to pack ample snacks and water; you are very exposed on this hike so many sure you are wearing appropriate sun protection.  

TRAIL: Druid Arch

DIFFICULTY: Strenuous

DESCRIPTION: Druid Arch is another popular, but long hike through the Needles District Backcountry. This trip explores canyons, and involves some light rock scrambling but will provide spectacular views. There are three backpacking sites along this trail and seasonal water.



The Maze district.

Due to the remote nature of this undeveloped land, we did not have the opportunity to explore The Maze although guided hikes in horseshoe canyon are offered most Spring and Fall weekends. It is requested that individuals obtain backpacking permits to explore the remote, primitive trails of The Maze.

Canyonlands 2 Day Itinerary

Are you looking for a pick-and-choose itinerary for your trip to Canyonlands National Park? Look no further! This Itinerary includes the top hikes, sights, accommodations, and dining for a two-day trip to Canyonlands. If you have two days to spend in Canyonlands National Park, take a look at this itinerary to see if it’s rght for you:

Canyonlands Itinerary by Kaitlyn Fortier

Let’s Go to Canyonlands National Park!

Canyonlands is wild! Prepare your days ahead of time to fit as much exploration in as you can; I would say at minimum you should spend one day in the Island in the Sky District and an additional day in the Needles District. Be sure to pack in (and out) all of your hydration and nourishment needs. I went for the long hauls in the lightest pair of hiking books I owned and made sure to bring my Chacos for shorter trails; they were MORE than durable and I wouldn’t hike in the desert without them.

Explorer Kati, Reporting for Duty!