My Thanksgiving weekend was spent with my parents in Phoenix, AZ, and instead of shopping on Black Friday, we wanted #OptOutside and explore an area they had heard about called the Black Mesa Indian Ruins. Hundreds, and maybe thousands, of people drive by the "trail head" every day, but not many know that there are 800 year old ruins sitting on top of the mesa. I put "trail head" in quotes because there's not really a trail - just route finding through thick cactus.
Sunset Peak via Catherine Pass (10,648 ft) offers a 360 degree view of the Wasatch Mountains, plus a view of Heber City, Park City, and the Salt Lake Valley. Hiking up via Catherine Pass contains a great mix of meadow, wooded areas, a fantastic vistas. Hiking this trail provides for a good workout, but getting to the peak doesn't require months of training. While this trail is only 3.5 miles one way, your calves will burn on the elevation gain! The best time of year to hike this is typically July when the wildflowers are in full bloom.
Little Wild Horse Canyon is the perfect introduction to slot canyons in Utah - it was actually my first slot canyon in April 2014. This slot canyon is easy to navigate, the trail is well marked, it's usually free of standing water, the canyon walls are just wide enough for you to fit through, you can drive to the trail head in a small, compact car (most slot canyon entrances require a 4X4 car to get to the TH), you can hike this within 2 hours, and it's like a fun maze for kids and dogs. You can make this hike longer by completing it as a loop with Bell Canyon, however most people just hike in as far as they want up Little Wild Horse, then return they way they came.
Goblin Valley State Park feels like another world - most say it resembles what would be Mars, however the park sits at the northern end of the San Rafael Swell. The hoodoos ("goblins") are mushroom-shaped pinnacles that are only a few feet high. The formations have large orange/red boulders of hard rock on top, with weaker sand layers below that have eroded more quickly over millions of years from the combined effects of rain and wind.
Spotted Wolf Canyon is located off I-70 at the Northern end of the San Rafael Swell, which makes up about 1/4 of Utah. "The Swell" as us Utahns call it, is what most people think of when they think of Utah. The arid area, with little vegetation is often very scenic, with mesas, cliffs, buttes, springs, and many canyons; these are sometimes wide or can be very narrow such as Little Wild Horse Canyon. Most of the swell is owned by the BLM and encompasses 2,000 square miles! This is great for 3 main reasons in my opinion: 1) the land is protected and will not be built on 2) dogs are allowed off leash 3) you can camp almost anywhere, for free!
The Wave is a hiker & photographers dream destination! The smooth, unique rock formations make for an unforgettable experience. The Wave has become so popular in the last few years due to social media, photographers, and many articles naming it one of the "coolest", "most unique", "most isolated", most blah blah places on earth! And it really is. However, people don't do their research before hiking here and many have needed to be rescued or have even died while gone missing. Why? The reason is because they go unprepared. There is no trail, the temperatures can be up to 115 degrees in summer, and people don't bring enough water and food.
Ibapah Peak is the tallest point in the Deep Creek Mountains and Juab County, at 12,087 ft. Getting to to the trail head is a long drive, since it's about a 4 hour drive from SLC. The Deep Creeks are truly a unique place in the West Desert. The long distance from major population allows hikers to find solitude. The desert at the foot of the mountain is at an elevation of about 4,800 ft, giving the mountains an enormous vertical rise of 7,300 ft - greater than that of the famous Teton's in Wyoming. Plan on camping near the TH the day before you hike here - camping is free, and there are a few spots that already have a fire ring. You'll want to have an early start to your hike, and be prepared to give your legs a workout.
Mt. Nebo (11,929 ft) is the highest peak in the Wasatch Mountains. and Utah County. Mt. Nebo actually has two summits, the north and south, with the North being the higher of the two. This is a popular hike, so the trail is well maintained and easy to follow. Around 9,000 ft a bench trail runs level North to South, as it reaches Wolf Pass. From there, the trail steadily climbs to a false summit, before reaching the ridge that leads to the true summit. This is a strenuous, yet very rewarding hike, as you can see for several miles around.
Rishel Peak (6,196 ft) is a fin-like peak created by volcanic activity, and is located in Utah's West Desert in the Silver Island Mountains. There is no trail, no shade, no water, and no true parking area or signs. Be aware that you MUST have a high clearance or 4X4 car to drive out here, and be prepared for flat tires from old mining nails still scattered about.The best time of year to hike this peak is in Spring or Fall when the temperatures are not as hot. Because this area is BLM Land, you can camp for free anywhere. However, there are no established camping areas, and Leave No Trace principles apply.