Category Archives: General

This Winter has Been a Good One for Skiers—and Everybody

Photo from Alta Ski Resort

After what was already a semi-steady line of snow squalls over the first half of winter, the beginning of February brought in a huge system that dumped a ton of snow in the mountains (more than 5 feet in some areas) as well as many areas of the Salt Lake Valley (more than 18 inches in some areas). The upcoming forecast include additional snow squalls that should help keep a fresh layer of powder on top of what is now a solid snowpack. And while they don’t have the same eye-popping numbers or media coverage of their weather, parts of southern Utah have seen even more snow than normal, as a percentage, than the Wasatch Front.

Last we checked in the middle of February, the Wasatch Front and major population centers where at 133 percent of normal for their snowpack. Notably, all 16 areas in Utah defined by the National Water and Climate Center as having established snowpack levels were above normal. Southwestern Utah was at 159% with some areas reaching as high as 172% of normal.

Not a Return to Normal—Not Yet

Most Utahns are well aware that we’ve been below average for our snowpack for a number of years as part of a larger debate among climatologists as to what constitutes a drought and what constitutes a new normal. This time last year, some areas in Utah were recording their lowest snowpack levels in 30 years.

With this in mind, a heavier than normal year for snowfall does not in itself reverse the effects of a sustained “drought.” Experts suggest we need something more along the lines of five straight years of a snowpack that’s above 125% of normal to get our ecosystem back to what used to be considered normal. Now, this is a decent down payment, and it’s unclear how climate change stands to impact our annual snowfall and precipitation.

Looking to Take Advantage of this Year’s Snow Fall?

It’s not our thing, but we know a lot of people in Utah and around the country love the state and the Wasatch Front especially for its accessible ski areas and multiple resort options. If you’re looking for upscale accommodations and a secluded vibe, we recommend Deer Valley. If you’re looking for something with a little more friendly and welcoming, we recommend Solitude or Alta. We asked around. If you don’t already have a local connection for cheap tickets and lodging, here’s a user-friendly website to research lift ticket and lodging prices for Utah ski discounts.

Late Hiking is Beautiful Hiking

If these snowstorms keep up through the rest of winter and the snowpack holds put or expands even further, then we can count on late access for full highway and trail openings in the Uintas as well as higher elevations along the Wasatch Front. This may not be ideal news for the most hard-core trail runners…who aren’t also ski fans. For everybody else, once you get past the headaches of digging out your car and driving in the snow, it’s pretty good news. And a late, sloshy start to the hiking season usually yields an abundance of colorful, summertime wild flowers that are truly a sight to behold along with many of the other more famous attractions in Utah.

Bryce Canyon: Navajo/Queens Garden Loop

Known colloquially as the most beautiful 3-mile hike in the world, the Navajo/Queens Garden Loop is the go-to hike for people who are only passing through Bryce for the day as part of a longer road trip through the American southwest. Ideally, you’ll have set aside enough time to do all the amazing hiking available in this stretch of south central Utah.

We learned that timing matters. There’s a slight difference here between “summer” and off-season months. This last time we visited was in October, the beginning of the off-season. Thus, we were allowed to hike this loop counter-clockwise and by starting the descent down the steep, if breath-taking, set of switchbacks known as “Wall Street.” We greatly preferred this way, which is not an option in the summer during which the trail is shared with horses and mules. The backside of this loop was still steep but not nearly as bad.

 

With a short half-mile connection between Sunrise and Sunset Point, you’ll also have two different fairly large parking lots to aim for as landing spots. Try one. If you can’t find a spot there, head over to the other point.

 

Bryce Canyon: Fairyland Loop Trail

This is our favorite hike in Bryce. Aside from Tower Bridge, it doesn’t have the same famous postcard spots, but it’s also 8.5 miles of quintessential Bryce Canyon. The parking lot is modestly sized, but a lot of people are only there for the scenic viewpoint. We were able to wait on a parking spot to open up after only a few minutes. Good thing, too. We were told after the fact that the shuttle wasn’t running to this trailhead.

This is another hike in which we recommend going counter-clockwise. There is a huge steep stretch a few miles long right in the middle of this trail. By going counter-clockwise, you can go uphill for half the distance at both the beginning and end of the trail, rather than enduring it all at once in the middle of the day.

 

The Fairyland Loop can be something of a money hack for those traveling on a shoestring budget. While the trail itself is inside the National Park, the turnoff for the trailhead is outside the Visitor Center and ranger station where they collect vehicle fees. The assumption is that, if you came to Bryce to hike Fairyland Loop Trail, you probably want to see the rest of the canyon as well. And they’re right. Pay the entrance fee and see the park in its entirety.

Bryce Canyon: Peek a Boo Loop

This 5.5 mile loop is the second most popular hike in the park. It’s not for non-stop views around every corner as you play “peek a boo” with many of Bryce’s finest specimen of hoodoos. If you’re looking for the perfect combination of hoodoos and rock tunnel paths, this is a can’t-miss hiking destination.

We did this loop counter-clockwise and didn’t regret it. The loop is only part of the trail; it’s more of a lasso. And the steepest part of the trail feels like the initial out-and-back before getting to the loop. As with all the loop hikes in Bryce, if you get tired, take the opportunity to look around. The same geological feature can look quite different from either side.

This trailhead is, arguably, the most troublesome for finding parking. It’s a single, moderately sized parking lot. And while it’s nowhere near the full 16-mile drive out to Riggs Point, it’s some distance into the park. The good news is that the shuttle does reliably run to Peek a Boo Loop trailhead. If you’re going into the park on multiple days, a reasonable plan would be to drive into the park one day and use the shuttle on another day to access Peek a Boo Loop.

Utah Hiking and Lakes

Learn about the amazing hiking trails and lakes in the Beehive State. Utah Hiking and Lakes can help you plan your next day trip, weekend getaway, or weeklong vacation itinerary. Our state’s natural beauty and outdoor landscapes are world-renowned. And for good reason. It’s hard to take it all in and to properly appreciate everything the state has to offer. A lot of outsiders think of Utah as just arches and desert with one big salt lake and a few mountains thrown in from the Rockies. And we do have all things, but there are so many wrinkles and nuance between the different regions.

The Wasatch Front is a little different than the Uinta Mountains which is a lot different than the plateaus and canyons of southern Utah. There are enormous, ancient forests. There’s rock hounding, and there are river adventures. There’s serious archaeological study and discovery. Even the starkness and the plains of the Great Salt Flats is known for racing and off-roading, as well as being an amazing backdrop and topography for the Sun Tunnels and sky gazing.

 

Why Utah Hiking and Lakes?

We’re not afraid to ask the existential questions. We don’t want to be a website that exists just to exist. We want to offer some kind of value as an informational resource primarily, but also as a kind of civic advocacy for the better management of Utah hiking and lakes. We’re first and foremost about helping people, long-time residents and out-of-town visitors alike, achieve the best experience possible with the state’s lakes and hiking trails. With that being said, we do believe the best experience possible is itself only possible so long as these lakes and trails can be safely visited and traversed.

Thus, we also do what we reasonably can to promote the future health of these unparalleled natural resources—from governmental programs that fight beetle infestation in the Uinta Mountains…..to the individual responsibility to use best practices to prevent forest fires…..from an honest debate about the future of river dams and water diversion…..to containing the threat and spread of invasive mussels.

Utah Hiking and Lakes is working to bring you as much basic information as well as timely updates about how to best visit, explore, summit, and preserve the state’s trails and lakes.