Roaming Around Southeast Utah

Robbers Roost Country, Utah, slot canyon

Psychedelic hiker.

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 >>

Buckskin Gulch/Paria River Backpack

Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, hiking

Buckskin Gulch, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Utah

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

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, Utah, Willis Creek, hiking

Light at the end of the tunnel in Willis Creek, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah.

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 >>

Salt Creek, Canyonlands

Canyonlands National Park, Peakaboo, Salt Creek, Utah, pictographs, November
Peakaboo Pictographs : Prints Available

Ancient Puebloan pictographs from around 1,000-1,300 AD. It’s hard to see in this photo, but underneath these pictographs are older reddish figures dating from 1,000-3,000 BC!

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!

>> See more photos and leave a comment here! <<

Lake Blanche Overnighter

Lake Blanche, Twin Peaks Wilderness, Utah, Wasatch Range, sunset, Big Cottonwood Canyon
Big Cottonwood Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset over Big Cottonwood Canyon and the Great Salt Lake beyond, from high up in the Wasatch Range near Lake Blanche – Utah.

Lake Blanche, Sundial Peak, Twin Peaks Wilderness, Utah, Wasatch Range, moonlight
Lake Blanche Moonlight : Prints Available

A nearly full moon rises behind Sundial Peak and Lake Blanche.

Last night we did a quick backpack hike from Big Cottonwood Canyon to Lake Blanche and Sundial Peak, in the Twin Peaks Wilderness of the Wasatch Range in Utah. Though the wind was relentless during our stay, we had fun exploring this lovely basin and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and moonrise above the lake.

>> See more photos and leave a comment here! <<

Grand Gulch

Bears Ears National Monument, Bullet Canyon, Cedar Mesa, Grand Gulch, kiva, ruin, stars, Milky Way, galaxy
Cosmic Kiva : Prints Available

An Ancestral Puebloan kiva with a view of the Milky Way.

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!

Continue reading “Grand Gulch”

In, On, And Around The San Rafael Reef

San Rafael Swell, Utah, panorama

The first light of moonrise illuminates the entire San Rafael Reef, the colors enhanced by the camera’s long exposure.

Eardley Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, hiking

Walking through the narrows of Eardley Canyon.

Black Dragon Canyon, San Rafael Swell, Utah, panorama, sunrise

Sunrise light on the San Rafael Reef, above Black Dragon Canyon.

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.

>> See all the photos and leave a comment here! <<

Wasatch Color

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Trail Through Red Oak : Prints Available

After tromping around in the snow smothered aspens near the top of Guardsman Pass yesterday, we drove down below the snow line towards Midway and found a fantastic trail to hike through vast groves of colorful aspens and brilliant neon red oaks. Pure eye candy!

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Wasatch Colors : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Aspens and Oaks : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Colorful Forest : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, autumn
Guardsman Aspens : Prints Available

The beauty of autumn (especially amongst aspens) is sometimes so overwhelming that it fills me with an intangible sense of longing — a desire to grasp the beauty, to hold and own the moment forever. But these moments and feelings slip by like sand through your fingers, and there’s nothing to do but let the beauty stream by and be grateful for the experience, however brief it may be.

Autumn Snow in the Wasatch

Utah, Wasatch Range, Willow Heights Trail, aspens
Willow Heights Snowy Aspens : Prints Available

Our big summer road trip is almost over and soon I will start posting many new photos and trip reports from our adventures up north! In the meantime, here are some photos from yesterday up near Guardsman Pass at the head of the Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch Range of Utah. With a fresh snowfall smothering the golden aspens, along with a mystical foggy atmosphere, the photography conditions were just about as dreamy as can be!

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snowy Golden Aspen : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens, panorama
Snowy Aspen Vortex : Prints Available

A vertical panoramic view of a foggy, snow-smothered aspen forest in September.

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snowy Creeping Aspens : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snowy Foggy Aspens : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snow Smothered : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Leaning Aspens : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Autumn Snowfall : Prints Available

Guardsman Pass, Utah, Wasatch Range, aspens
Snow Covered Aspen Leaf : Prints Available

Across the Great Basin

Notch Peak, Utah
Notch Peak Storm : Prints Available

Ominous thunderclouds over Notch Peak in the House Range of eastern Utah.

In mid-June during the first week of our road trip we took a zigzagging route through the Great Basin of western Utah and Nevada. The Great Basin gets its name from the fact that no rivers flow out of the region; there are few rivers or streams, and any flowing water collects in broad lakebeds or salt flats where it eventually evaporates. Encompassing most of the state of Nevada and the western portion of Utah, the Great Basin is characterized by a seemingly endless series of rugged north/south ranges with broad, empty desert valleys in between. Our first stop was the remote House Range near the western border of Utah, where Notch Peak soars dramatically over the desert with a sheer 3,000 foot vertical north face.

Notch Peak, Utah, lizard
Collared Lizard in House Range : Prints Available

A collared lizard in the House Range, Utah.

Notch Peak, Utah
Notch Peak Clouds : Prints Available

Clouds shroud Notch Peak, Utah.

We had hoped to hike a ridge route up to the top of Notch Peak, but a forecast of high winds and thunderstorms quashed that plan, so we moved on to nearby Great Basin National Park just over the border in Nevada. Here the same relentless high winds also convinced us to abandon our plans to hike up Wheeler Peak, opting to not spend a day getting blasted by chilly gusts on the high ridgeline. But we did enjoy a tour through the famous Lehman Cave, a beautiful cave system under the base of the mountain.

Great Basin National Park, Lehman Caves, Nevada
Lehman Cave 1 : Prints Available

A path through Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Great Basin National Park, Lehman Caves, Nevada
Lehman Cave 2 : Prints Available

Inside Lehman Cave in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains
Island Lake Hike : Prints Available

Hiking the Island Lake trail at the head of Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada.

Next we drove north to the Ruby Mountains, the most “alpine” of Nevada’s numerous mountain ranges. We drove up Lamoille Canyon on the west side of the range, and were immediately awed by the super rugged peaks soaring precipitously above the valley on all sides. What awesome mountains!

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains, wildflowers
Lamoille Canyon Sunset : Prints Available

Early summer flowers in Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Nevada.

We’d been hoping to do a backpacking trip in the high Ruby peaks but were also expecting that there would probably be too much snow still. Indeed, the high peaks still had a substantial snowpack and the high lakes still frozen, so we camped a few nights in Lamoille Canyon and did smaller day hikes instead. We will have to return another year for some backpacking in this incredible mountain range!

Lamoille Canyon, Nevada, Ruby Mountains, wildflowers
Lamoille Canyon Flowers : Prints Available

Early summer flowers in Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, Nevada.