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 >>
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 >>
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 >>
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 >>
‘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 >>
Sunrise light and Squaw Peak in the Kofa Mountains.
In the remote Sonoran desert of southwest Arizona rises a rugged volcanic mountain range called the Kofa Mountains. In March we spent four days camping and backpacking in these awesome desert mountains. Continue reading >>
While the vast majority of visitors to southern Nevada only see the bright lights of Las Vegas, there is actually an abundance of wonderful wild desert lands surrounding the city which will please any nature lover. In mid-March we escaped the cold winter and spent a week camping around in the much warmer weather of southern Nevada, enjoying locations including Valley of Fire State Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Muddy Mountains Wilderness, and Red Rocks Canyon National Conservation Area. Continue reading >>
In early November a friend and I backpacked about 30 miles through Salt Creek and the Peakaboo Trail in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Utah. This canyon is renowned for its numerous Ancient Puebloan ruins and pictographs; in fact I’ve never seen so many ruins outside of the Cedar Mesa area!
At the end of May we spent three days hiking through the upper portion of Grand Gulch, in Cedar Mesa, Utah. This was the third time I’ve backpacked in Grand Gulch, but the first since the area was designated as part of Bears Ears National Monument by President Obama in 2016. Nothing has changed as far as I can tell – just the same amazing canyon scenery and fascinating archeological history to be found around nearly every bend. See more pictures from the canyon below!
The San Rafael Reef is the jagged uplifted eastern edge of the greater San Rafael Swell, a giant dome-shaped anticline rising to the west of the Green River in central Utah. People who have driven Interstate 70 west of Green River will likely remember the incredible highway route that cuts right through the vertical red walls of the San Rafael Reef. Though most travelers blow through the Reef at 70 MPH, in mid-April we spent a week hiking in, on, and around the San Rafael Reef to the north and south of the highway. This often ofterlooked region boasts amazing geologic wonders and a seemingly endless array of canyon and slickrock adventures and solitude.