We hear you. After publishing several outdoor adventure articles this summer, we've come to realize such stories need to be prefaced with some rules for the road. It's obvious that formerly homebound residents have been venturing outdoors with a vengence—if only to take their minds off the raging pandemic. But the problem is, Utah's most popular trailheads, campgrounds and attractions are becoming impacted by inconsiderate recreationists. We can do better! If the dumpsters are full, take your trash home and throw it away. Don't just leave bags outside receptacles where animals and winds can rip them open and spread your garbage.
Another concern is the potential for travelers to expose workers in Utah's rural towns to COVID-19. Herein lies a dilemma because the tourism businesses in rural towns depend upon our patronage to survive—but they can do without the virus, thank you very much. So, it goes without saying, wear your mask whenever you interact with lodging and restaurant staff. Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer at every opportunity. If you're feeling tired or sick, d'uh!, don't travel. If you fall ill while you're visiting a rural town, stay in your room or tent, and head home as soon as possible.
All that said, we're happy to share some of our favorite trails, dining and lodging tips to help you safely get out of town and clear your head while the summer weather holds. Megan Wagstaff writes about day trips outside of Salt Lake City that offer biking and hiking treks while Jared Blackley takes on the bucket-list hike of the Zion Traverse Trail. He also highlights an exceptional lodging experience in Tropic, Utah.
Leave No Trace
According to the nonprofit Leave No Trace, nine out of 10 people who visit the outdoors are uninformed about how to minimize their impacts. With more than 13 billion trips into the outdoors in the U.S. every year, and even more in the time of COVID-19, people are causing preventable damage. Leave No Trace urges travelers to reduce "the littered parks and damaged trails, the formidable impacts of fire, polluted waterways and serious wildlife issues." Their seven principles follow. For more information, visit LNT.org.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles
• Plan ahead and prepare
• Travel and camp on durable surfaces
• Dispose of waste properly
• Leave what you find
• Minimize campfire impacts
• Respect wildlife
• Be considerate of other visitors
© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: LNT.org.
- Derek Carlisle
Happy Trails to You...Until Coronavirus Ends!
Hiking and biking paths (mostly) far from the madding crowds
By Megan Wagstaff
Touring around on two wheels is never a shabby way to spend a weekend. And if you've been responsibly isolating yourself over the past couple months, it's a welcome reprieve from yet another Saturday of sleeping in, streaming shows and sipping beer on your porch. This might be where you say, "But I've been out biking on the weekend, and it's so crowded!" Indeed, you're not alone in wanting to pedal your way to some semblance of sanity.
Or maybe you're thinking, "I haven't been on a bike since the seventh grade!" Well, my friend, you're also in luck. The solution to both of these conundrums is City Weekly's top off-the-beaten paths for beginner and intermediate riders! Not only will they keep you 6-feet away from your fellow bikers, but guarantee you won't get in over your head.
Hobble Creek Parkway Trail, Springville
Distance: 9.2 miles round trip
Skill: Beginner to intermediate
Regardless of how long it's been since you've greased up the ol' bike chain, this route proves the saying, "It's like riding a bike," really is true. Tucked up against the Wasatch foothills outside Provo, Hobble Creek Parkway Trail gently climbs past houses on Canyon Drive into Hobble Creek Wildlife Management Area, where you'll find both shade trees and creek views for a refreshing ride.
Crossing a bridge, you'll link back up with Canyon Drive and skirt parts of Hobble Creek Golf Course before turning north. Your turnaround point is Rotary Park, so stop here to stretch and rehydrate. The second half of your trip is entirely downhill. (See, that was easy!)
Getting there: Take Interstate 15 southbound to exit 260 in Springville. Merge onto 400 South and head east for 3.3 miles. At the traffic circle, turn right onto Canyon Drive. The trailhead is 0.7 miles up the road.
Refuel: After your ride, a pit stop at Strap Tank Brewery nods to another kind of two-wheeled adventure. Designed as a replica of the original Harley-Davidson motorcycle factory, it features 100-year-old bikes, a rotating selection of a dozen craft brews and mouthwatering menu options like the shaved prime rib dip or fish tacos with cilantro lime aioli.
Strap Tank Brewery
596 S. 1750 West, Springville
Rio Oso & Bear River Nature Trails, Evanston
Skill: Beginner to intermediate
Surface: Dirt, paved, gravel
If you feel like you've checked out the majority of Utah's bike trails, why not take a day trip to Bear River State Park in Wyoming? Entrance to the park is free. Rio Osso offers a network of 10 mountain biking trails, plus a pump track, of varying terrain and difficulty. With climbs maxing out at just 220 feet, Rio Oso is perfect for an afternoon of short laps on hand-cut trails with lots of fun twists and turns, plus a few longer and more mellow loops for beginners looking for a scenic ride instead of technical thrills.
For paved roads and cycling options, the Bear River nature trails network caters to beginners and families with 4 miles of trail, half paved, half gravel. Ride among picnic and day-use areas along the Bear River, cross a couple of bridges and keep an eye out for moose and deer. Even the gravel portions of this trail are smooth enough for kid's bikes, single-speeds, and baby carriers.
Getting there: Take Interstate 80 eastbound to Evanston. Get off on exit 6 onto Bear River Drive. Turn right into Bear River State Park and head to the cul-de-sac at the end of the road to find the Rio Oso trailhead.
Refuel: Whether you need a bite on your way to Bear River State Park or something to nosh on post popping wheelies, Jody's Diner has your taste buds covered. Serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner, town favorites include the Jacked Up Ham sandwich with pepperjack cheese and raspberry jalepeño jam or the turkey dinner, complete with stuffing, potatoes and rolls—comfort food at its finest.
260 Bear River Drive, Evanston
Sardine Peak, Ogden
Distance: 7.7 miles round-trip
Salt Lake's Bonneville Shoreline and Mill Creek Pipeline trails are tire-to-tire traffic these days, so pull a locals-only move and check out Ogden's Sardine Peak for a scenic loop with additional add-ons like links to Green Pond, Icebox and Wheeler Canyon trails. Pros say approaching the trail in a counterclockwise direction guarantees more downhill and less climbing, with alpine views and an optional Pineview Reservoir overlook.
Getting there: Take I-15 northbound to US-89 until you reach Weber Canyon. Head east up Interstate 84 to the Huntsville/Mountain Green exit 92. At the Sinclair, take a left onto UT-167 until you reach the Snowbasin turnoff, which follows UT-266. Park at Snowbasin Lot 2, where you'll see the Maples trailhead.
Refuel: With locations in both Ogden and Clearfield (plus Logan), you have plenty of opportunities to dig into a pie from Lucky Slice once the bikes are back in their racks. Can't all agree on which 'za to get? Go by the slice; there are three options daily, like Saturday's The Real Dill with dill pickle chips or the famous Lucky 7 on Sunday topped with all your faves.
- Courtesy Photo
- Lucky Slice’s vegan Shirra pizza with barbecue sauce, pineapple, jalepeno and vegan mozzarella
- Phillip Tess
- Mantua Resevoir’s Eagles Rise Trail near Brigham City
Eagles Rise Trail, Mantua
Distance: Up to 9 miles
Skill: Beginner, intermediate and expert
Surface: Dirt and gravel
If you and your riding buddies aren't all at the same level, Eagles Rise Trail and its offshoots hold something for everyone. The Mantua Dike Trail, outside of Mantua between Brigham City and Logan, links with Eagles Rise, and can be explored fully for about 7 miles. Along your route, you'll find turnoffs for the Ridge Trail loop and the Knoll loop. If you're an intermediate rider, you may want to explore the Knoll; Ridge Trail is best left to the experts. Any route you choose, you'll enjoy mountain scenery, views of Mantua Bay and rolling farmland.
Getting there: Take I-15 northbound to the first Brigham City exit, where you'll merge onto US-89 heading east into Sardine Canyon. About 4.5 miles into the canyon, pull off into Mantua at 600 North. Turn right, then right again onto Main Street. Look for marked trailheads around Mantua Bay; the first should be on your immediate left.
Refuel: Typically, a Sunday adventure in Utah is less busy than a Saturday one, but if you're heading north, Maddox Ranch House might be enough to sway your decision away from the day of the Lord, because lawdy their fried chicken is to die for! Pedal pushing got you feeling a bit more carnivorous? Maddox has choice beef and bison cuts as well. Wash it all down with housemade root beer, sarsaparilla or cream soda—your bishop would approve.
Maddox Ranch House
1900 S. Highway 89, Perry
- Courtesy Photo
- Filet mignon, fried chicken and fried shrimp at Maddox Ranch House
High Star Ranch Trail System, Kamas
Skill: Beginner, intermediate and expert
With more than 20 miles of trails for all levels, High Star Ranch Trail System in Kamas can be your reward for cleaning the garage, or you can make it an all-day event. Located on private property adjacent to the DeJoria Center, land use is open to the public free of charge. Trails are easily marked by name and ability level with a multitude of trail maps throughout the system; in other words, you won't get lost. Beginner trails include Lazy Dazz, Tombstone and Graveyard.
Getting there: Head east on I-80 to US-40. Take the Kamas exit onto SR-248 eastbound. Turn left on SR-32 and drive to the DeJoria Center and High Star Ranch trailhead.
Refuel: Detour up Mirror Lake Highway to The Notch, which now has a family dining room for all ages serving up dishes from Collie's BBQ. Order a plate of smoked wings (we're partial to the garlic-parm buffalo sauce, but there are five options to choose from) followed by The Goat burger, which is actually a 100% beef patty topped with goat cheese, green chiles and jalepeño.
The Notch Pub
2392 E. Mirror Lake Highway, Kamas
- Frances Gunn on Unsplash
- It takes some planning to hike the Zion Traverse Trail. But once you get there, you’ll experience the solitude and stillness of the national park wilderness
Zion Traverse Trail
This 50-mile trail offers beauty and solitude beyond measure.
By Jared Blackley
It's not until the trail turns and the famous narrow rock fin of Angel's Landing comes into view—approximately 35 miles into our hike—that we realize just how few people we've seen over the past three days. Dozens of hikers are now scrambling up the crux in front of us; dozens more are making their way back down. Hundreds more are somewhere on the trail.
More than 4.3 million nature lovers descend upon Zion National Park each year, making it almost impossible to experience the solitude and stillness of wilderness. However, after a couple of friends and I discovered the Zion Traverse hike, we found these qualities in abundance.
The traverse is actually a series of interconnected trails that run almost 50 miles from Lee Pass in the Kolob Canyons to Zion's East Rim Trailhead (or vice-versa, depending on your preference). Navigating the trails is easy. But the logistics of the hike, usually done between April and September, can be complicated.
There are, for instance, few reliable water sources along the way. What few springs there are may dry up. One solution is stashing one gallon of water per person near the Connector Trail or Wildcat Canyon Trailhead before you begin the hike. Just make sure to write something on the container, such as "Don't drink this water—I need it to survive."
And always inquire with the visitor center when you pick up your permit about the flow status of springs along the way.
Getting a permit is a competitive process. You'll need at least two campsite reservations: one for the Kolob Canyons and another for the West Rim. Reservations can be made online—beginning at 10 a.m.—on the fifth day of the month, two months prior to the month of your hike. For example, permits for June become available on April 5. If you plan to book your permits online, secure the more popular West Rim campsite first, as there are only four campsites per night that can be reserved online. They will be gone by 10:05 a.m.
If you aren't fortunate enough to secure reservations online, you can book them in person the day before the start of your trip. Because there are only five in-person campsite reservations available for the West Rim, it's best to be at the visitor center before it opens.
Be prepared to adjust your schedule, if necessary, as there will be others trying to secure permits the same day. Therefore, you may need to spend two nights in Kolob Canyons in order to secure a campsite on the West Rim.
Once we had our permit, we set out from Lee Pass on a sunny morning in early May. Patches of snow are still visible on the basaltic caps at the top of the breathtaking Finger Canyons. We follow Timber Creek south for approximately 3 miles, slowly descending to La Verkin Creek, where the trail turns east. The first few miles of any long backpacking trip are filled with laughter, conversation and excitement, but a rhythm soon sets in. The final 3½ miles to the camp are usually hiked in silence.
Unless you're spending two nights in Kolob Canyons, try to book a campsite numbered from 7 to 11, as the other sites are far from where the La Verkin Creek Trail meets the Hop Valley Trail.
(Only two of those campsites can be booked online). After setting up our camp, we made the short jaunt—1-mile roundtrip—to the second longest natural arch in the world, Kolob Arch.
The next morning, we filtered water from the creek before starting the climb over the large landslide that dammed Hop Valley several thousand years ago. The next 6 miles is sublime. A small creek meanders along the valley floor, which is mostly sediment from a lake that dried up only 700 years ago. We don't see another person until we exit the valley and begin a steady, 1½ -mile climb to the Kolob Terrace Road.
We hike another 7 miles, with sweeping views of the West Temple Pantheon to the south and Job's Head to the north, followed by long stretches of Ponderosa forest before we set up camp in the at-large camping area near Wildcat Canyon.
Day 3 takes us around the rim of Wildcat Canyon and up near Lava Point lookout. From there, we begin the crown jewel of the hike—the West Rim. The first 4 miles are relatively flat traveling across the northern end of Horse Pasture Plateau. The trail then drops into Potato Hollow, where you see remnants of a fire that burned through this area several years ago.
As you climb out of Potato Hollow, the scenery becomes world class. And it stays that way for the next several miles. Gentle vegetated slopes dramatically give way to steep sandstones cliffs that drop deep into canyons. Some cliffs drop 2,000 feet, while some canyons, one after another, are even deeper. It is an incredibly impressive jaw-dropping sight. Superlatives to describe what you're seeing will be inadequate. The vistas along the West Rim are, simply put, some of the best in the world.
Early the next morning, we begin the 6-mile, 3,400-foot descent to the Grotto. The views are so extraordinary along the way, we rarely speak. We had made plans to hike Angel's Landing, but when we see all the people with the same hike in mind, we forego it. When we reach the road, we immediately regret our decision to bypass the final 10 miles along the East Rim. We weren't ready for our journey to end, but we'd made arrangements to be picked up in Springdale.
Because the hike is point to point, we needed a shuttle to return to our car near Lee Pass. A friend from St. George was kind enough to meet us in Springdale, but we thought it a tall order to ask this person to drive up to the East Rim park entrance to pick us up, so we cut our trek short.
I'll return soon, however, to complete the traverse and hike to the East Rim Trailhead. The adventure is worth every single step.
Each campsite requires its own reservation and a $5 nonrefundable deposit. Multiple reservations will be combined into one permit at the time you check in at the visitor center. There are Zion National Park visitor centers at the south entrance near Springdale and the entrance to Kolob Canyons. The cost for permits is $15 for 1-2 people, $20 for 3-7 people and $25 for 8-12 people.
If you don't have enough people in your group to justify bringing two vehicles or a friend who is willing to shuttle you, Red Rock Shuttle in La Verkin can help. Reservations must be made in advance.
Red Rock Shuttle
Zion Wilderness Map
Download a map at:
[The above article was previously published in the April 2020 issue of Vamoose Utah.]
- Courtesy Photo
- Stone Canyon Inn’s Treehouse lodging in Tropic
Digs We Dug
Stone Canyon Inn in Tropic, Utah
By Jared Blackley
When Mike and Dixie Burbidge decided it was time to retire in 2018, they were hesitant to sale the Stone Canyon Inn (1380 W Stone Canyon Lane, Tropic, 435-679-8611, stonecanyoninn.com) to just the highest bidder. After all, for nearly 20 years they had put their love, devotion and passion into the property just outside of Tropic. They built it from an 80-acre piece of land bordering the southeast corner of Bryce Canyon National Park into an inn with 15 comfortable and unique accommodations in a beautiful setting.
There was interest from investors with larger resorts, but the couple was worried something might be lost if the inn was purchased by a resort. The couple had known April Roberts for a long time. She worked with their daughter in finance and had grown up in town. When they asked her to review the financial history and help put together a proposal for investors, she agreed.
But as she began to crunch the numbers, she began to wonder if perhaps she and her husband, Riley, should make an offer on the property. Both were residents of Garfield County, and Riley had spent the past 15 years working in HR and management at Ruby's Inn in Bryce. Transitioning to be an owner of the well-loved inn seemed to be a good fit.
The couples got together. The Roberts discussed their assets and what they could offer for the property. A deal was made.
The inn has four cabins, four bungalows, two treehouses, a guesthouse, a four-plex and a restaurant. The villa-style cabins each have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a pullout sofa bed, a kitchen and a living area with a gas fireplace. Each cabin also has a deck with a gas grill and a private hot tub.
Each of the bungalows has a bedroom with a king-size bed, which appear to be hanging but are actually attached securely to a frame on the floor. There is also a queen-size Murphy bed in the main living area, as well as a gas fireplace and a kitchenette. The bathroom features a deep soaking tub, a perfect way to relax after of fun day of outdoor activities.
A short walk from the bungalows is a large sauna that all guests are welcome to use. Unlike the cabins, however, the bungalows don't have private hot tubs or gas grills on the patios.
The two studio-style treehouses have a king-size bed and a smaller bed in a loft above. They both have large decks that are great for watching the sun disappear below the western horizon.
With a large bedroom on the second floor, two bathrooms and queen-size Murphy bed in the living area, the guesthouse accommodates four people. The four-plex was designed to provide guests a private patio in a studio-style setting, with a king-size bed, kitchenette and full bath with a soaker tub.
"There isn't much we intend to change," April says. "But we'd like to expand the [the Stone Hearth Grille] just a little bit. We currently serve an average of 80 customers per night and often have to turn customers away. We'd like to be able to increase that number to 95 or 100, so long as the quality of the food isn't jeopardized."
She calls the restaurant "a casual fine-dining experience." There are candles and table clothes and a wine list in a tranquil setting. "But we know most people who come to [this area] are hiking or enjoying the outdoors during the day," she says. "Most people don't bring suits or dress clothes."
More than anything, the Roberts want to make your stay in the area as comfortable and memorable as possible.
While You're There
Most visitors to this area spend their days hiking the beautiful trails in Bryce Canyon National Park, and for good reason. The canyon is a geological wonder with more orange and crimson hoodoos and spires than one could ever possibly count. But the area also has a number of incredible mountain biking trails. Cassidy Trail in Red Canyon is approximately a 25-minute drive west on Highway 12 from the Stone Canyon Inn.
Not only does it offer a 4 ½-mile one-way ride through red limestone with similar, though less dramatic, hoodoo formations as Bryce Canyon, it also offers a ride through a region rich in local lore. The infamous Butch Cassidy is said to have fled along this trail after attempting to murder a man in Panguitch who was dancing with a woman Cassidy had his eyes on. Cassidy succeeded in hiding in the area from the local posse that went out to find him, and he would use the area again after robbing a stagecoach a few years later. If you keep your eyes peeled, you'll notice occasional clusters of Bristlecone Pine, which are some of the oldest living things on earth.
Thunder Mountain offers another more difficult 16-mile point-to-point trail in Red Canyon. The trail offers a technical descent of more than 1,400 feet, as well as sweeping views all the way to Powell Point.
But there is no need to just view from afar that dramatic edge of the 10,000-foot tabletop to the northeast. A dirt road continues past Pine Lake Campground (recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/231915) for approximately 6 miles to the trailhead. With a high-clearance vehicle, you can drive the 6 miles to the trailhead. From there, it's a beautiful 4 ½-mile ride to what seems like the edge of the world.
Twenty minutes south of Tropic, Kodachrome Basin State Park (Utah.com/kodachrome-basin-state-park) has several bike-friendly trails, including a six-mile loop that essentially navigates the outer perimeter of the park, which offers views of the famous monolithic spires almost the entire trail. There is a daily use fee of $8 per vehicle.
The IDK BBQ (161 N. Main, Tropic, 435-679-8353, idkbarbecue.square.site) offers Southern barbecue favorites such as smoked beef brisket and pulled pork sandwiches on an Asiago bun. One can get a side of mac-and-cheese or beans and corn bread. You can dine-in or take the food to go, though it is perhaps advised to eat such hearty meal after exploring.