Bryce Canyon National Park February 2016

Yes sir, another blog post this weekend. I’m attempting to clear my backlog of trips and hikes before May arrives and the season really picks up. I am the Evening Hike Coordinator for the Wasatch Mountain Club this year so I anticipate having a full slate of new and exciting hikes to post.

Bryce Canyon in the winter was a bucket list destination, so now we can scratch that one off the list. The red rock and white snow mix to become photograph magic. I by no means have an eye for photography but I’m very pleased with the shots I was able to capture with only the camera on my Samsung Galaxy S6.

This trip was another of the weekend warrior variety. We left Salt Lake early on a Friday with reservations at the famed Ruby’s Inn waiting for us in the town of Bryce just outside Bryce Canyon National Park.

Ruby’s Inn is about the best meal you’re going to find in the “town” of Bryce, doubly so in the winter time as the town is all but closed up. They do have Wasatch Beers on tap, but you’re going to be paying a lot for a glorified buffet.

The next day we woke up and decided to let the sun warm the air a little before venturing out into the park. By 11am it was 45* F, not bad for the elevation and time of year. For our first trail we journeyed all the way up to Rainbow Point, the terminus of the park’s road and a great viewpoint of the entire park which stretches northwards from that point.

From there, we took the Bristlecone trail to Yovimpa Point which sometimes required breaking new trail in several feet-deep snowdrifts. Though in other, more sunlit areas bare rock was exposed. It would have been worthwhile to pack in some snowshoes for the deep bits but we made it (mostly) fine with microspikes. Speaking of which, I believe the best are Kahtoola and ICETrekkers. The latter are nice because you can wear them to your car on concrete or asphalt and not be worried you are bending spikes. The traction is superb with both.

From Yovimpa Point you can get a great view of the lands further south including the Grand Staircase / Escalante region which I’ve written about before (and will again soon). The weather did not disappoint with bluebird skies and a field of vision extending for many miles.

After completing the Bristlecone Trail we went back down the rim to Sunrise Point with the intention of doing the Navajo/Queen’s Garden Loop trail. The final trail of our trip took us down into the hoodoos of the canyon itself. This is something neither of us had done and it was very different experience than viewing the canyon from the rim.

This is really an enjoyable hike in the winter. You descend down into a lush green canyon that you can’t quite perceive of from the rim. The walk is easy though the descent down was very muddy and steep in places. I imagine that during the summer months this trail can get quite hot so pack in plenty of water.

We came up out of the canyon around 5pm which meant around 3 hours of hike time to do the loop. The evening sun was beautiful on the red rock and hoodoos, a great ending to the trip. In my last hours, I scouted several potential backpacking trips in the park for future adventures…no trail ends forever.

Snowshoeing Winter 2015

Donut Falls

This is a perennial hiking favorite for the Wasatch Front. S and I have done this trek many, many times in the summer but never attempted it in the winter. I started snowshoeing this past winter (see Green’s Basin below) and by the end of winter convinced S to give it a try as well. We’ve both enjoyed having an activity to get us outdoors in the winter months and love having an excuse to get out of the valley and the inversions.

It was a beautiful day with light clouds, the temperature was in the high 20s and a fresh snowfall had went through the mountains a few days before. Perfect snowshoe conditions!

The normal terminus for this hike is at the base of the waterfall that the trail is named after. This past winter the entire waterfall was covered in snow and you could hike up to the cave which forms the “donut” in Donut Falls. I ventured into the cave itself and found a warm subterranean pocket of water. It was a fun experience.

After some much needed coffee, the trail home couldn’t have provided a better view.

Green’s Basin

I did this hike with the Wasatch Mountain Club on the day after Thanksgiving. It was a large group that hit the trail, roughly 30 people, which isn’t too surprising given the holiday and fresh powder that had fallen the days before. The trail is several miles long to the basin but easy to follow as it hugs the mountain upwards with few switchbacks and a gradual incline.

A few weeks before this trip I purchased  a pair of MSR Ascent Lightning Snowshoes.  This was the their first real test and I came out of the canyon very pleased with their performance. The crampons provide excellent traction on the way up and down. Their light weight meant my legs weren’t destroyed by the end of the hike either.

I bought the 30″ at REI: MSR Lightning Ascent. I also picked up the 6″ extensions but have not used them yet. There hasn’t been a real need for them in the snow level situations I’ve been in.

This was the first winter where I’ve built a winter kit. The center piece being a  Patagonia Snowdrift 20L — which was the perfect size for a day on the trails. There was enough room for extra layers of clothes, food, specialized compartments for a water bladder and snow goggles. The snowshoe extensions fit nicely in the pack as well. The left strap has an insulated cover for your bladder hose which is a great idea for a winter pack.

When we made it to Green’s Basin the view opens up, behind us is the canyon we came from and in the front is the basin. In the corner of the basin is an old mining cabin, now decrepit and almost entirely covered with snow.

It was one person’s birthday in the group and they surprisingly brought enough champagne and cups for the entire party! It was an amazing experience to sip champagne as the sun peeked over the snowy mountains and basin.