Kodachrome Basin State Park
Kodachrome was named by the National Geographic Society after the then-popular color film with good reason. The Park features 67 monolithic stone spires, or pipes, which reveal sandstone layers ranging from gray to pink to deep red. These brilliant colors are further accentuated by the deep greens of pinyon and sage. The 3-mile hiking loop is kid-and-dog-friendly and highlights some of the more recognizable spires, including Fred Flintstone, Ballet Shoe, and the Hat Shop. Try it out in winter, when it’s quiet and the already striking landscape is wearing a bright coat of white. –Maggie Hughey AbuHaidar
Herbert to the Rescue
I was disappointed when Jon Huntsman, Jr. left Utah for an appointment in China, and Gary Herbert became Utah Governor by default. But Herbert has grown in my estimation over the years, especially when he found a way to re-open Utah’s spectacular national parks last fall. A dysfunctional US Congress had refused to compromise on fiscal policy, resulting in a government shutdown just before the prime season for adventure tourism in Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, etc. Travelers, locals and southern Utah’s businesses were losing out in a BIG way, and Herbert came to the rescue. He’s a bit of a hero in my eyes for this. –Tyson Bradley
Outdoor Wannabe Dream: Playing Guitar Beside the Campfire – Campfires are awesome for so many reasons there’s no room to list them all here. But one thing that makes staring into flames an even more heightened experience is when someone breaks out the guitar and mesmerizes the group. I wish I was that guy. I was raised listening to John Denver, and watching too many 70’s-era Coors commercials of happy hippies downing beers amongst sound waves of lilting guitars, so I set out to learn the acoustic six-string. Unfortunately, I’m not good or brave enough to start taking requests when the nighttime embers start crackling… yet. –Jared Hargrave
The Bryce Canyon Ranger Station deserves a spot on our list of favorite things. Home to some of the friendliest, most helpful rangers in the state of Utah, the park couldn’t do a better job of offering the ultimate experience in family camping convenience. Swing by the main ranger station to learn about the orange hoodoos you’ll see all over the park, pick up the obligatory national park fridge magnet, and schedule a moonlit guided hike. Then ditch the mayhem in the station and pitch your tent in one of the many secluded camping spots – a rarity in desert camping.
Fall Mountain Biking
The great range of elevation in the Wasatch and the other alpine mountain biking spots in the state means that the riding season, while sometimes starting late in July, can often go deep into the fall. As the higher trails on the crest of the ranges start to collect snow, sometimes as early as September, and begin to lose access- follow the fall colors down to the lower elevations. Who doesn’t love a crisp morning ride on a quiet singletrack that’s covered in the gold, yellow and red carpet as the trees change colors and shed their leaves? The change of season is in the air, winter is coming, and your days of riding are numbered. Good news- ski season is right around the corner. Good news- the views of the changing colors are spectacular, and it’s been a great riding season. A favorite all –around. –Paul Oelerich
We’re fortunate to have a load of stellar non-profits in Utah dedicated to improving the outdoor experience on a personal, environmental, educational or grassroots level. It’s impossible to recognize the value of each organization here, but SheJumps has edged its way to the top of this list. SheJumps was established to support the growth of women and girls through outdoor challenges in the Wasatch. Its reach now includes 7 regional chapters and 1 international chapter, and its mascot – the regal, mythological girafficorn – is a reminder to hold your head high and infuse a little bit of magic into your daily adventures. –Stephanie Nitsch
Utah Avalanche Center (utahavalanchecenter.org)
This is my other favorite website. Where would winter backcountry users be without this beacon of enlightenment? Six feet under, possibly. Local forecasters Brett Kobernik, Drew Hardesty, Evelyn Lees and UAC director Bruce Tremper detail the conditions on a daily basis, explaining the dangers to avoid and providing the info for optimal decision making. The winter sports of the Wasatch backcountry are world famous but they are not without danger for the unprepared. Considering that backcountry use has gone up dramatically with the ubiquity of AT gear and accidents have decreased is a testament of the UAC’s positive impact on snow users. Whoever thought up the avalanche danger rose is a genius. –Ron Penner
Hippie Haven: Mystic Hot Springs
Magic Mike’s kingdom down in Monroe is the real deal. With a dilapidated charm only achieved through full commitment to the lifestyle (check-in is in his living room), Mystic is a bubble of simplicity in an otherwise crazy, mixed up world. Bunk in a school bus, steep in an old fashioned bathtub under the stars, and learn to appreciate the act of doing absolutely nothing. It’s not even that far, man.
Fall Treat – Green River Watermelon – It’s seems every fall we make at least one trip to Moab, Fruita, Canyonlands or Goblin Valley and drive right by the heart of Utah’s melon country, Green River. Sandy soil, hot days and cool nights with just the right amount of water make the melons sweeter than any other. A quick drive through town reveals numerous stands loaded not only with watermelon but crenshaws, canaries, honeydews, cantaloupes and Israeli melons. Stop once on your way south to have a treat for your weekend escape then stop again on your way home to load up for juicy eats for the next week or so at home. –Louis Arevalo
Om, The Shop Yoga Studio
Yoga may not be for the masses but yoga is definitely for everybody. With it’s beautiful gardens and Zen-like atmosphere, The Shop Yoga Studio in Park City is a great place to ground yourself while improving your strength, flexibility, balance and breathing techniques to make you a better person as well as a better athlete. Classes in the 4000 square foot studio are held 7 days a week and are by donation only, which is a great reminder to everyone in the world that money isn’t everything but feeling good is. –Alex Stoy
Mexican Mountain provides a geology lesson in a glance, striped as it is with layers of Kayenta, Wingate, Chinle, Sinbad and Kaibab. A history lesson too, given its proximity to Butch Cassidy’s famed Horse Thief Pass to the east and Robber’s Roost to the south. If archaeology is your thing, explore the large, undisturbed petroglyph panels featuring reindeer warriors, slithering snakes, and large hands. Of course, you could visit just for the beauty of the dense cottonwoods flanking the San Rafael River or the absolute quiet. Located in a Wilderness Study Area in the San Rafael Swell, Mexican Mountain is reachable by foot. But, it’s more fun to fly. Built back in the 1950s for oil exploration, the 1300 foot, dirt airstrip is a backcountry pilot favorite. –Maggie Hughey AbuHaidar
The 7-11 at the Mouth
I’ve gotten blank stares before from people who are out-of-state when I try to give them directions that include the phrase ‘the Sev at the mouth.” Anyone who has spent anytime around the Wasatch knows exactly what this means however, as you pass by it regularly on your way to any of the Cottonwood Canyons for whatever recreation you are pursuing. It’s the most convenient place to snag some extra water, an energy bar or a terrible cup of watery coffee on your way up- or a hot dog, salty chips, and a cold brew in a can on your way down. It’s a Wasatch Front landmark as much as anything. Fun facts- of all retailers in the US, 7-11 sells the most cold beer, and sells more than a million cups of coffee a day. Myth- often touted as this location being the ‘world’s busiest” Sev, the distinction is apparently held by the location in East Quogue (Long Island) NY. –Paul Oelerich
National Park Time
Utah’s National Parks, especially in Fall and Spring, are like Mecca for worshippers of the outdoors. Europeans, Asians, Americans and everyone in-between who loves red rock, blue skies and rugged topography flocks to Southern Utah for adventure and rejuvenation. Whether scaling the Touchstone Buttress or wading through Subway canyon in Zion; pedaling the white rim trail in Canyonlands; or car camping in Arches, I LOVE these parks. When they were closed in fall of 2013, it was a major bummer that reflected superstition. Thirteen was unlucky for me, and I’m glad to have put it behind me. –Tyson Bradley
View-Capturing Device: Wide Angle Lens – Ever get to the top of a mountain with a breathtaking view, take a photo, and become dismayed that the scenery you experienced didn’t even come close to translating in the frame? Get a wide-angle lens. They are expensive, so I put off getting one myself for years. But after pulling the purchasing trigger and snapping my first shot, I kicked myself for not buying one sooner. The foreground, horizon and sky was not only as I remembered, it was even better, like hyper reality. Any outdoorsman or woman who dabbles in photography and wants to impress their friends back home must have a wide-angle lens in their kit. –Jared Hargrave
Epic Mountain Bike Ride
Moab gets a lot of glory when it comes to the top mountain bike destinations in Utah. But don’t be fooled – it’s not the only trail that will leave you craving flowy singletrack for the rest of the year. The Cathedral Valley Loop covers sixty miles of desert terrain in Capitol Reef National Park, essentially riding the geological wave of the park. Consider making it a multi-day epic ride or work a shuttle system. The best part? You aren’t fighting for position with hoards of tourists in padded bike shorts. Remember to check for conditions, watch for spring runoff, and bring enough supplies for the long haul.- Whitney James
Camping Coffee Maker
AeroPress, French press, pour over, percolator… It’s a perpetual quest to make the most satisfying cup of morning sludge while camping. Of course, drinking coffee outside always tastes better no mater what device you use, but nothing has come close to the consistency and efficiency of a great cup of java than some cheapo “coffee sock”-style apparatus I picked up at Smith’s. Less than $5, no adjustable parts, backpack-friendly, and only makes as much coffee as what fits in my cup – ideal for rationing supplies and perfecting the grounds-to-water ratio. –Stephanie Nitsch
Los Jilbertos Mexican Food
Adventure in Southern Utah can generate an exceptional appetite, and that is when a quick stop at Los Jilbertos in Wellington satisfies. This favorite opened in 2009 and is located on Main Street in the north end of town. Their breakfast burritos deliver food security and provide a welcome break during dreary drives. They are fast with tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and tostadas. My all time favorite is the soul-satisfying chile verde burrito. A typical trip down South involves a stop both going and returning. My kids dig it the most. Before Los Jilbertos it was either Maverick gas station or Cowboy Kitchen, neither of which did my gastrointestinal system any justice. –Ron Penner
Worst Bushwhack in the Wasatch: Deaf Smith Canyon
With less foot traffic than the sahara, the western drainage of Twin Peaks, known as Deaf Smith Canyon, is quite possibly the least traveled area of the Wasatch. And for good reason. The steep, narrow gut is littered with massive boulders and thick brush. Trail? Not bloody likely. And if you’re lucky enough to be there in the spring, you’ll be treated to a raging torrent of snowmelt threatening to sweep you away at any moment. You know, good family fun. –Andrew Scarcella
Canyon Breakfast – Silver Fork Lodge – For breakfast I tend to be a creature of habit. I have my local diners where they know my name, but every once in a while I like to mix it up and drive the eleven miles up to the country atmosphere of the Silver Fork Lodge. Real coffee, sourdough jacks, corned beef hash, eggs benedict, etc. the breakfast fare is sure to sate any appetite. A cobblestone fireplace is warm and cozy during the cooler months and the patio in the warmer months offer great ambiance of upper Big Cottonwood Canyon. They also offer dinner fare and wine pairing meals for a reasonable price. –Louis Arevalo
Biking the Maze District
If you enjoy beautiful vistas, off the beaten path places, solitude, and peace and quiet, pedaling the Flint Trail in the Maze District is just for you. Not to say this ride is easy, because its not. It’s a one-way, 100-mile ride on a double track road that sometimes greets you with hundreds of yards of soft sand or rocky, yet fun, descents. Plan on 2-3 days if you want to see the Doll House and the Golden Stairs.
Go light but don’t go fast. You won’t want to miss a second of the extraordinary views and vistas. –Alex Stoy
A chalky-white, dry lake bed at the eastern edge of the Great Basin, Ibex may be the closest you ever get to walking on the moon. It’s a ‘middle of nowhere’ kind of place, with little rain and moderate temps. In spite of its remoteness, Ibex was made popular as a bouldering destination in the nineties, featuring the solid quartzite Red Monster in the Ibex Crags. As long as you don’t mind a little white dust in your sleeping bag, it’s also an amazing place to (plane) camp, especially with kiddos. No rivers to fall in, no bears looking for s’mores, 3 miles of playa to wear them out, and epic skies. In 2007, on the summer equinox, we watched the sun set and the full moon rise simultaneously. Now, that was a keeper. –Maggie Hughey AbuHaidar
Lone Peak, the Alpine Escape
The ultimate escape from freeways, malls and congestion is the Lone Peak Cirque, where world-class alpine climbing exists within plain sight of it all! The Open Book Route, is an old-school 5.7 that ascends directly to the peak. The awkward squeeze chimney and bear-hug moves “make” the classic, 7-pitch route. Beautiful camping below, amazing views, and a pleasant walk-off / rappel to the south add to enhance the experience. Bear in mind, however, that Lone Peak is a lightning rod or sorts, and has been struck more than any other point in Utah. Climb on (efficiently)!
Mountaintop to River Bottom Transport: The Whole Enchilada by Mountain Bike – The Whole Enchilada. This name describes the ride well, as it encompasses a smothered tortilla of terrain filled with Moab singletrack like Burro Pass, Hazard County, Kokopelli and Porcupine Rim. It’s also the “whole enchilada” in terms of the style of riding one encounters as the trail begins in the high alpine of the La Sal Mountains and descends through four different climate zones, starting with singletrack among groves of aspen trees, and ending with desert rock down to the Colorado River. It’s a classic in Moab’s already awesome trail-arsenal that will test your technical bike-handling skills and heart rate in a 26-mile, 7,000 foot descent. This summer, reserve that shuttle, get on your trustworthy steed, and ride it!
Looking for a new type of adrenaline rush? Try the ropes course at the Adventure Park Moab. After a brief safety and protocol introduction, you can scale the climbing wall to a platform 40 feet above the ground which is the starting point for 18 different ‘elements’ that range from the easier wheelchair bridge (yes- wheelchair accessible) to the nerve wracking ‘leap of faith’- a trapeze type leap from a tiny platform to a swinging bar. You disembark the giant skills course in the sky by means of the ‘giant swing’, which includes a brief gut-dropping free-fall before the cable swings taut and you launch through the air with a whoop and a holler. Safety is first of course, and you are always secure in a harness and tether. Some folks take to it easily, for others, the rush and accomplishment are visibly apparent.
When you spend all week dirtbagging in the desert, things start to smell. That might not be a problem if you’re camping solo, but even the most adventurous explorers might want to freshen up at some point. Look no further than the Riverside Oasis in Moab. With the best five-dollar shower this side of Lake Powell, an RV park has never looked so good. Pay the friendly people their dues and bring your own fixin’s, and scrub away the sand. Then fuel up in town and go get dirty again at Arches or Canyonlands National Park, both a short drive away. –Whitney James
Trail to Let Loose
I don’t remember the exact count, but the number of screams, hoots, hollers and Hell Yeah’s on one ride down the Bearclaw Poppy Trail in St. George totaled more than a few dozen. It’s arguably the most popular trail in St. George – and for a righteous reason. The ride is quick, yet far from unforgettable. From a distance, you can see clues that hint towards something fun, but it’s not until you’re rolling the petrified dunes in the Southern Utah desert that the uncontrollable giggles kick in. Smooth dirt oscillates up and down like a bermy, BMX-inspired rollercoaster, and exhilarating drops appease any level of rider. –Stephanie Nitsch
Goblin Valley Group Site
This favorite fabulous developed campsite located within the Goblin Valley State Park accommodates 35 people and 8 vehicles. The group site sits in natural amphitheater and is removed enough from other campsites that loud and late night festivities do not draw the ire of the ranger. There is a spacious covered pavilion with 6 picnic tables and bathrooms with pay showers nearby (a bike is recommended for faster bathroom access). The park is located on the San Rafael Swell’s southeastern flank, a 10-minute drive from Little Wild Horse, Ding & Dang and Temple Mountain. The world famous hoodoos are a half-mile hike. The group site is by reservation only. –Ron Penner
Badass First Date: Hiking Jack’s Peak (in the east bench foothills)
Want to find out if your new beau is as badass as you are? Take them for an evening hike up Jack’s Peak, a steep ridge climb to one of the best Salt Lake overlooks in the foothills. Loose, rocky, and unforgiving from the get-go, the relatively short hike ends with an amazing view and a mailbox full of happy messages written in old notebooks. If your date makes it up and still wants more, you know you’ve got a keeper. –Andrew Scarcella
Wasatch Touring Spot – Mineral Fork – As the snow piles up in the spring months and stability improves I love tours in Mineral Fork of Big Cottonwood. Maximize your day by approaching from Little Cottonwood. Starting with a run in Cardiff you can enter in from the back of Cardiac or an easy traverse in upper Mill B. Conditions dependent, choose your entrance. Room of Doom, Santiago Ridge, all the way north, it offers a new run every step down the fork. With plenty of lines over 1,000 feet and even more snow to go around Mineral never disappoints. Seems like my legs give out before the snow runs out. The exit can be a little fast and boney, but it’s totally worth it. –Louis Arevalo
A Room with a View
Navajo Mountain. Mt. Hillers. Lake Powell. The Straight Cliffs. Kaiparowits Plateau. Boulder Mountain. Capitol Reef National Park. Powell Point. Factory Butte. Caineville Mesa. The San Rafael Swell. The Book Cliffs. La Sal Mountains. Canyonlands National Park. The Abajo and San Juan Mountain Ranges. The Four Corners. The Robber’s Roost and all that lies in between. You won’t see a better view from anywhere in Utah other than the view from atop Mt. Ellen in the Henry Mountains. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a glimpse of one of the last free ranging herds of Bison in the country. Enough said. –Alex Stoy