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More Utah!

Although my primary purpose in coming back to Utah was to explore more slot canyons, I actually did quite a few other things. If you head down to southwest Utah at any point, here are some outdoor adventures worth checking out. I stayed in Hatch and found that it was a perfect jumping off point for all these activities and more. There were a handful of restaurants in town, plus a few more in Panguitch and at the intersection of 89 and 12, but you should stock up on groceries and booze before you arrive. Supplies are pretty limited for sixty miles in any direction.

Snow Canyon State Park (7/22)

This park is down near Saint George, so I stopped here on my way from Vegas to Hatch. It wouldn't be a place to day trip from Hatch. Jenny's Canyon was cool, but the Petrified Sand Dunes were the real park highlight for me. I did a loop of the Butterfly Trail, Lava Tube/Lava Flow, back route up Snow Canyon road, part of Red Sands Trail, and then up the backside of the Petrified Dunes. I would have run around those hills all day long in cooler weather! This state park also has 170 sport climbing routes which I imagine are lots of fun, just not in July. 

Red Canyon (Multiple Visits)

If you are heading south to Bryce Canyon National Park from Route 89, you will first drive through Red Canyon. In my opinion, Red Canyon is more spectacular than Bryce, and it was only 12 minutes away from AirBnB in Hatch, so it was the perfect place to head out for morning trail runs. Runs there vary in elevation from around 7,500 to 8,500 feet, so if you need elevation, it's a great option. There was hardly ever anyone else on the trails and the one morning I got tired of the intense uphill of the trails, I used the eleven mile long bike trail instead.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Since Bryce was only 35 minutes from my AirBnB, I had to stop there as well. I thought I had been there before, but when I got there, nothing seemed familiar. I think I was confusing it with Canyonlands. We drove all the way to the end, an 18 mile drive, stopped at a few turnouts on the way and the hiking the short Bristlecone Pine trail. It was really nice because we were the only ones out there and had a lovely bench with a view of the valley below all to ourselves. But honestly, I didn't find Bryce that impressive compared to everything else that Utah has to offer.

I went back myself the following weekend on the way out of town, and instead of turning down the road toward Bryce Canyon town and the main entrance, I drove through to the east side of the park to the Mossy Cave trail. At first, this stop was really touristy. The cave itself is nothing remarkable to look at, although I understand it's remarkable to have a damp, mossy cave in that arid environment. I do think it's probably quite beautiful in winter when it's filled with ice. 

To the other direction is a waterfall where 30 or so people were beating the heat, and I had no intention of going there. But that's where I found a really cool trail I had all to myself. From the top of the waterfall, a somewhat dicey path goes upstream. I mean, not really dicey at all for adults, at least in low water season, but I don't think families would want to take kids on it. I went back about a half mile and found another waterfall area that I had all to myself. It was really lovely.  

Sand Cave and Tunnel

These two interesting geological features are near Kanab (where I spent two days volunteering at Best Friends Animal Society). Here again, I think the number of people around makes all the difference. We went to the Sand Cave on an evening that looked like a massive thunderstorm might break at any moment. It never did, but the threat kept people away and we had it all to ourselves. Another night when I drove by, there were eleven cars in the parking lot. I think that would have been miserable on this short trail and this beautiful place. You do have to hike up and across some slick rock to get into the caves, but it's not difficult. 

The tunnel is even easier - it's right off the highway and definitely worth the quick stop if you're going to the Thunderbird Restaurant for some Ho-Made Pie. It's also carved out of sandstone. If you hike another half-mile beyond the cave, you'll come to a cool waterfall early in the season, but it was bone dry when I went the last day of July.

Dixie National Forest

The Dixie National Forest is massive, but somehow I had never heard of it. For this blog, I'm specifically referring to the area around Duck Creek. There are lava flows, lava tube caves, waterfalls to hike to, trail runs along the canyon edge (with thousand foot drop offs at your feet in some points), lots of backcountry camping, lakes for kayaking or paddleboarding, and endless ATV trails. This is truly a playground and I would love to come back to this region.