Yearning for some closer-to-home adventure this spring, we ventured out for a few quick overnight backpack trips to explore some canyon and desert areas along the Dolores and Gunnison Rivers, both major river drainages of the San Juan Mountains where we live in southwest Colorado. See more photos here >>
Category: Deserts & Canyons
2 Weeks in Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah
In the second half of September we spent two weeks in one of our favorite canyon areas of southern Utah – Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. During our first week we hiked through five different slot canyons, some of which were the narrowest slot canyons I’ve ever hiked (or squeezed) through! After that we repeated two of our favorite backpack trips through Coyote Gulch and Death Hollow, each 3-day journeys through magnificent spring fed canyons. See all the photos here >>
Rainy Day Hike in the Canyonlands
In mid May we met up with family from Germany in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park in Utah for a couple days of camping and hiking. Our timing wasn’t great, as it rained more than I’ve ever seen in the desert! But we did get one somewhat dry-enough day for my brother-in-law and I to do the ultra-classic hike to Chesler Park and Druid Arch. See more photos >>
Explorations in the Mojave Desert
As is usual in late winter, Claudia and I have been itching for some desert hiking and backpacking time, so this March we spent three weeks camping and backpacking in various mountain ranges and wilderness areas in the Mojave Desert in Nevada, California, and Arizona.
There are many wild, rugged, and seldom-visited mountain ranges in the Mojave, making it a prime area for exploratory missions. I appreciate that there are still places like this out there where we can explore on our own with little to no guiding information, and find little or no evidence of previous human visitation when we’re there. Continue reading >>
Roaming Around Southeast Utah
In late October and early November we spent a dozen days camping and backpacking around in the deserts and canyonlands of southern Utah, including the San Rafael Swell, Robbers Roost/Dirty Devil area, and Cedar Mesa. Though the days were short and the nights cold, it’s always worthwhile to spend time in these wonderful, wild, and lonely places. Continue reading >>
After our trek through nearby Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon, we made the long, sandy drive to Coyote Buttes South (also within the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness) which we had permits to explore for a couple days. I honestly didn’t have much expectations for this place, but figured we might as well go check it out since we were already in the general area. Well, it’s safe to say my mind was blown once we hiked into the buttes! I’ve never seen such a sandstone fantasy land, with its psychedelic formations and swirling sandstone, all infused and painted with a spectrum of bright colors. This is nature at its most artistic, the exquisite result of eons of random geology. Continue reading >>
Buckskin Gulch/Paria River Backpack
With 15 miles of continuous narrows, Buckskin Gulch in southern Utah is renowned as the longest slot canyon in the world. Buckskin flows into the even longer Paria Canyon and hiking through both these canyons forms a famous backpacking trip showcased in numerous guidebooks and coffee table books, requiring permits reserved months in advance. Twice before we’ve had permits but had to cancel last minute due to rainy forecasts and potential flash flood danger. This April we had permits for a third time and the weather forecast was nice and sunny, allowing us to finally experience these amazing canyons. Hiking through Buckskin and Paria is an unforgettable experience, like a sacred journey into the heart of the Earth. Continue reading >>
Narrowing Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
In mid April we hit the road again for more desert time, and spent a week camping and hiking through various narrows and slot canyons in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in central southern Utah. This has long been one of my very favorite parts of Utah and I was happy to return and check out a bunch of canyons new to me. This was also the first time I’ve returned since the monument size was controversially reduced by 46% last year, and I have a few words to say about that below along with the usual trip report. Continue reading >>
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Sunrise behind a forest of saguaro cacti.
Our final destination for our desert road trip in late March was Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona. We spent two nights at the campground near there and enjoyed visiting the “forests” of saguaro cacti (pronounced like “sa-waro”), as well as a bit of touring through the city of Tucson. Continue reading >>
Backpacking in the Superstition Mountains, Arizona
‘Stonehenge’ campsite surrounded by rocky pinnacles in the Superstition Wilderness. Though it looks kind of like sunset, the clouds are actually illuminated by the light of Phoenix.
After our time in the Kofa Mountains in March, we drove east through Phoenix and immediately embarked on a two-night backpack trip through part of the Superstition Mountains. We hiked a clockwise loop from the Peralta Trailhead around the prominent Weavers Needle spire via the Peralta and Dutchman’s Trails. I imagine that this popular route is probably often done in a day by trailrunners, but as usual we wanted to savor the scenery so we camped two nights along the way. Continue reading >>