Inside the South Cumberland State Park lies the beautiful 60ft Foster Falls. A quick 45 minute drive from Chattanooga will land you in Sequatchie, TN where the hike begins. You can either take the short route from the parking lot to the overlook and down to the swinging bridge, or for more of a challenge follow Fiery Gizzard Trail to Climber's Access 2. We missed the access the first time, bringing our total hike to 4.5 miles. On the Fiery Gizzard trail, you will have many different viewpoints of the falls. Once at the Climber's Access, you can watch sport climbers ascend the incredible walls.
The terrain varies between even to uneven and does involve rock scrambling if you continue on past Climber's Access along Fiery Gizzard trail. If hiking from the parking lot directly to the falls, the distance is 1.6 miles RT and an easy hike, but uneven terrain.
We had the falls to ourselves for a little bit, but I can imagine this being a very crowded place during the summer. There is also camping available.
Driving info: 498 Foster Falls Road
Sequatchie, TN 37374
Open year round. Large parking lot. Restrooms at trailhead.
Driving south of Moab on HWY191 stands an impressive roadside arch. Wilson Arch stands 46 feet tall and spans 91 feet wide. Park in the gravel lot, and climb on up!
The climb up is short - 10 minutes max - but it is across sand and slickrock. Make sure you have on appropriate footwear. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with views of the valley below. Traversing the ground under the arch is easy, but if you have kids please hold onto them. I saw toddlers in Crocs running around alone. Just because it so easily accessible doesn't mean it's safe.
There's not much else to say about Wilson Arch other than to do it! If you're getting out of your car to take photos, you might as well climb up the arch!
Bloods Lake is a quick and easy trail located at the top of Guardsman Pass accessed either from Big Cottonwood Canyon or Park City. Dogs are allowed on this hike if they are brought up the Park City side but prohibited in Big Cottonwood due to watershed restrictions. We always drive up BCC because of distance, but I feel that Buddy would LOVE the trail and all of the other doggo friends.
Parking can be a pain on Guardsman Pass. There is a parking lot that is usually always full in the late afternoon and evening due to its proximity to the Wasatch Crest Trail for MTB and the popularity of Bloods Lake. We have driven up plenty of times on a Saturday only to drive back down into BCC for another hike because of lack of parking. If you park on the road, make sure you can park and leave plenty of room for drivers. Guardsman Pass is a narrow mountain road with no guardrails.
The hike is a 1.1 mile out and back starting on the left side of the LNT sign. It's an overall easy hike with great views, wildflowers in the summer, and unfortunately... mosquitos. The descent the actual lake is steep. Keep this in mind when going back up. The first time I did this hike last year I was sucking air for the short uphill section. We recently did this hike with some of my flatlander family (740 ft above sea level) and they were also struggling just for that short section. My sister (who has severe asthma) and I managed just fine this time! The hike is in the 9500-9600 ft above sea level vicinity.
Keep in mind that this hike traverses on private property with access at the property owner's discretion. You will see a No Trespassing sign. Continue at your own risk! You are liable for yourself after that point. If you do continue on to the lake, clean up after yourself! Practice Leave No Trace. Better yet, leave it BETTER than you found it.
Once you descend to the lake, there is a trail that wraps around. We chose a nice hammocking spot to watch a group of dogs playing water fetch. Dog watching is my favorite sport! I also used my Adventure Mat to make my hammock time more enjoyable. Read all about the Adventure Mat here!
There is a trail that continues on to Laxawaxen Lake and Clayton Peak, however we have always enjoyed this as a late evening hike. One day I will continue to complete Clayton!
If you are looking for the best wildflower display in Utah, head up to the Albion Meadows Trail (3.7 miles out and back). Located at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon in the ski area of Alta, you will be rewarded with wildflowers by the millions usually the last two weeks of July. They even hold a free wildflower festival with guided walks, but we chose to go a week early to beat the crowds.... sort of.
Cecret Lake is a very popular hike that also starts in Alta. The parking for Cecret Lake fills up fast, so some people choose to take the shuttle and others choose to take the Albion Meadows trail until it connects with the Cecret Lake trail. There are a lot of people that say parking is impossible due to the popularity of Cecret Lake on weekends, however we had no problem finding a spot midday Saturday.
The hike pretty much starts from the parking lot. You can't miss it. After about a quarter mile you will have a choice between a wide gravel type path and single track. Take the single track as it is easier and in my opinion has better views.
You will eventually reach Alf's restaurant. Here you can continue on straight to the Cecret Lake trail behind some construction, turn left to make the Albion Meadows Loop, or turn right to head up Germaine Pass. We chose Germaine Pass and were so glad that we did! We met a man that showed us a pink Columbine, apparently the rarest flower that we would see there. Unfortunately it was in a spot that we couldn't grab a photo. We told him that we had seen a blue Columbine the day before on the Wasatch Crest Trail in Big Cottonwood. He confirmed that it was just as rare! (Photo below)
We also ran into this cute little guy! He was totally posing for us.
We turned around about .5 mile into Germaine Pass. On the way back past Alf's, Karl spotted a moose! This was our first moose sighting while hiking. We sat and watched him forever.
Albion Meadows Trail is the perfect way to wander around Little Cottonwood Canyon. There are so many other trails to explore along the way that I guarantee you won't stay on the Albion Meadows trail the whole time.
If you're looking for great, clean campsites away from RVs & cars altogether, Jordanelle Resevoir's Keetly hike-in campground is for you. Located just north of Heber City (think Park City area) the Jordanelle State Park is perfect for boaters, SUP, kayaking, beaching, and just relaxing by the water. The beauty of the Keetly campground was the privacy, unlike hanging out at the beach area which can be very crowded.
We chose campsites 171 with easy access to the water but no shade. Everything you bring must be hiked in .5 mile to 1 mile depending on your campsite and the foot path you choose. Once you park, there is a spot for wagons that were donated to the state park for campers to haul their gear to the sites. Even though the sign clearly said to not leave the wagons at your site and to hike it back the parking lot after unloading, we saw many campers with the wagons at their site all night. We were not lucky enough to grab a wagon on the hike in - but we did see two girls with a wagon each hauling nothing but one backpack in each wagon. Talk about annoying. Moral of the story - don't bring more than you can carry in or else you may be making multiple trips.
The campsites are equipped with concrete pads with picnic tables, large firepits with primitive grills, and tent spaces. Pretty similar to most car camping set ups.
Our campsite was located on a cove - perfect for floating, kayaking, and SUP. A few campers did "park?" their boats along the bank in the cove and hiked up to their campsites. The water was pretty still and free from wake in the area.
We cooked our dinner of veggie brats and squash on our BioLite grill (favorite outdoor equipment purchase ever!) & watched the sun set. After dark, a heat lightening storm started, but we weren't lucky enough to catch a good photo.
If you're looking for a nice quiet weekend on the lake or a family fun filled trip, Jordanelle State Park Keelty Campground is for you!
Some Saturdays we wake up with no plans but to head south and explore a new trail amongst the red rock. On this particular morning, we had slept in so we knew that our hike had to be within a 3 hour drive. Moab it was! In between cell phone recpetionless patches along US-6, I scoured Google and Instagram (seriously the best inspiration for future hikes) for a unique trail in the Moab area. We decided on the Grandstaff Trail to the Morning Glory Bridge, a 4.5 mile trail with river crossings that ultimately leads you to a 243 foot natural bridge, the 6th largest natural rock span in the United States.
To reach the trail head, drive (or bike) east along US-128 3.1 miles from its intersection with US-191 until you see the Grandstaff Trailhead sign. The Colorado river flows on the opposite side of the road. There are restroom facilities at the trailhead.
The canyon is managed by BLM. No need for permits or access fees. This is also a great way to avoid the crowds that Arches brings. While the trailhead parking lot was full when we arrived, we were never in a crowd of hikers. We mainly passed people that were enjoying the stream with their pups.
The trail is 2.25 in to the bridge on a mostly shaded trail that follows a stream. You do have to cross the stream quite frequently, but it isn't deep and there are perfectly placed rocks to help you stay dry. This is a side of Moab that I never knew existed; everything was lush, green, and breezy. The cacti were even blooming! There are only a few times in which I felt we were in direct sun - mostly on our final approach to the bridge.
We arrived at the bridge just in time to watch a guided group rappel off the bridge. Totally doing this next time we head to Moab! Other than the guided group of 5, there was only one other couple at the bridge making it very peaceful to sit and enjoy its beauty. There is a small unusual spring(?) coming out of the base of the bridge on the right.
On our hikes back out, we spent sometime hanging out by the stream. There are plenty of large rocks you can sit on while you enjoy the water. Once we arrived back at the car, we headed to Moab Brewery - a must do on every trip to Moab no matter how long the wait is!
What are you favorite so hidden gem hikes in Moab?
Karl and I were in Augusta Georgia for an extended weekend for one of his best friend's wedding in which he was a groomsmen. Georgia in April is H-O-T. I spent almost all of my life living in the south, but after a year in Utah I forgot how hot and humid it could be. (My hair was a mess all weekend). It was refreshing to get some sun though!
Since Karl was a groomsmen and the wedding wasn't til the evening on Saturday, I needed to find a way to fill my day. After dropping Karl off for groomsmen festivities, I pulled up my Apple Maps. One of my favorite ways to find parks and monuments nearby that might not pull up in a Google search is to zoom in and out on the maps until I find something of interest. I came across Congaree National Park in South Carolina (about an hour and a half from Augusta, GA) - a NP that I had never heard of!
I drove from Augusta to Congaree via Columbia, SC in a little less than an hour and half. Upon arriving, I went into the Visitor Center to show my parks pass only to find out this is a fee free park! I grabbed a map and headed out on the Boardwalk Loop Trail - 2.4 miles.
Since the park lies on floodplains, everything is very flat. Congaree is actually the largest tract of bottomland hardwood forest. The particular trail I chose was on a boardwalk constructed over the plains. There are benches along the way for enjoying the scenery. Congaree is very lush! I also saw tons of lizards/geckos/salamanders (I cannot tell the difference).
I didn't have very much time too spend here as I had to be back in time to get ready to attend the wedding - however I did notice that you can rent kayaks/canoes and tour the flooded areas!
Head up to Logan Canyon (you will love the views the last part of the drive has) and watch out for Gunivah-Malibu campground on your right about 5 miles up. Opposite from the campground on the left side of the road is the Wind Caves trailhead! This trail is 3.5 miles each way and is considered a moderate trail due to the incline the entire way up. There are many loooong switchbacks, shaded parts of the trail, and fully exposed trail.
You will actually start to see the wind caves well before you reach them. This builds the excitement even more! Most of the trail is wide and well trafficked, however in March the last bit was snowy and narrow. I would recommend this as a spring or fall hike, unless you love snow or sunburns!
The Wind Caves are actually a triple limestone arch and natural cave. You can hang out on top of the cave or inside. We chose not to walk on top of the caves arches when possible (some things won't last forever!). There were plenty of great places to sit inside and enjoy the views.
Buddy really enjoyed this hike. I loved watching him stare over the edge as if he were taking in the mountain views.
The hike down is super fast and easy as it is pretty much all downhill. This was my first time in Logan Canyon, but there seem to be some great trails and fly fishing!
Once inside the State Park ($10 fee or UT state park pass), we took a left a the first intersection. You will eventually see a sign for Frary Peak hiking trail. There is a single restroom at the bottom of the road that leads up to the trailhead. There is plenty of parking up top and the views are amazing! Even if you don't want to hike Frary Peak or Dooly Knob, the drive up to the parking lot will provide you with awesome views of the Wasatch and the Great Salt Lake.
There are two options on this hike, Frary Peak (about 7 miles total) and Dooly Knob (just under 3). They both require the initial uphill hike which can be quiet strenuous going up (& down!) We carried on the trail to Frary Peak, after all it was my goal to bag a peak that weekend!
On the trail you will come to a small boulder field that you actually get to walk through. I really loved this part and acted like a total dork running back through it and climbing on the rocks. This is pretty much the last time you get to walk on level ground for the remainder of the ascent. I mean, you are gaining 2100' in just over 3 miles.
The views on the hike to the peak were breathtaking. I really felt like I was somewhere other than Utah. The peaks were green and seemed to go on forever. The Great Salt Lake was mirrored. The Oquirrh and Wasatch views were A+. All of this helped distract from the lack of shade -- I was sunburn city just from the short time I had my jacket off.
The last bit of the hike was dicey; there was a ton of mud, plus it was narrow. But everything opened p again and before we knew it, we were there! We met a ton of people on the peak (pretty much everyone had a tie to the state of Michigan except my husband - he's not cool enough ;) ) and enjoyed a well deserved beer. We hung out for about 30 minutes (I could not understand the people that would reach the top, take a selfie, and immediately head back down) before some rain clouds moved in. It never rained on us, but I knew the muddy section of the trail would be a little more challenging if it were to rain.
The hike down was REALLY hard on my knees. I don't think I have particularly bad knees, but both Karl and I were in so much pain hiking down. I feel like hiking poles might have helped the impact not be as bad or maybe our walking technique is just terrible. Nobody else seemed to be having trouble....
We are pumped for some more peaks to start clearing off so we can enjoy more mountaintop views this spring!
If you are looking for a slot canyon that requires no special equipment, no permit, no fee, and pretty much no experience - head over to the San Rafeal Swell for an adventure! About 3.5 hours southeast of Salt Lake City sits Goblin Valley State Park. A few miles outside of the park is Little Wild Horse Canyon. (It also looks like there is some AWESOME BLM camping nearby, so skip the campground inside the park).
We arrived at the trailhead about 4pm and the parking lot was packed, but it seemed like everyone was getting ready to leave. If you plan on doing this hike, I would recommend arriving early for a parking spot. Head past the bathrooms into a large dry wash to begin the hike.
We only had about an hour to spend inside the canyon so I was very excited when I found out the reward came with little to no effort! There were two places where we had to "scramble." I did have the pick our German Shepherd up one time. He tried to climb up but ended up sliding back down and waited patiently on me to lift him. He isn't into trying things more than once ;)
The canyon didn't narrow on us to the point of claustrophobia, but it did narrow enough to make it feel like you were in a slot canyon! Eventually the walls opened back up, and the scenery was amazing. This is the point we chose to turn around and head back since we wanted to check out Goblin Valley before sunset.
Slot canyon safety: DON'T enter a slot canyon if there is rain in the forecast for any of the surrounding areas. Head over to Youtube and search "slot canyon flash flood" if you don't believe me. Flash floods can happen within a matter of minutes. Stay safe!