When folks in Park City are ready to say goodbye to winter, the southern Utah buzz begins. Locals phone friends to see who’s “heading south.” Roadtrips begin to take form. For those not familiar with this lower half of Utah, it’s time for a little clarification—there’s “south” toward St. George, Bryce and Zion national parks, south to Lake Powell/Hanksville and south to Moab. All of these desert oases may share ecosystems, geological mazes, and unbearable summer heat but, make no mistake, each spot deserves your undivided attention. You don’t do them all in one weekend.
The Zion Narrows
A trip to Zion might take years in the planning—especially if hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park is on your bucket list. Online reservations for coveted wilderness permits open three months in advance and are gone in minutes. The 16-mile stretch can be hiked year-round, but with only 12 campsites available, the Park only issues 12 permits per day. Plus, most want to venture at a time when the water doesn’t freeze you from the waist down.
Ethereal photos of deep, colorful canyon walls, cool water and happy backpackers are all over the internet. There’s also an element of danger as you navigate the slot canyon created by centuries of Virgin River flow. Although park rangers do their best to forecast rain and deny entry to those heading out, deadly fl ash fl oods can roll in with little warning to those already on the trail.
Hundreds of happy campers opt to splash around in the lower (Bottom Up) section of the Narrows, which can be completed in a couple of hours. However, the stretch from Chamberlain Ranch and the Temple of Sinawava (Top Down) is a “true” hike.
It starts with a private morning shuttle that drops you at the Ranch for a walk through an open pasture that gradually narrows into artistic majesty. You can take the Top-Down route in a long day. However, we suggest the two day option, which takes about 15 hours and is worth every minute. Appreciate your surroundings, snap photos, stop for snacks, go swimming in the pools and waterfalls and relish being far away from civilization.
South to Moab
When you want all things outdoorsy in the desert, Moab’s your destination. Just four hours south through Price and Green River, you’ll eventually enter the bustling, beer brewing, mountain biking mecca that is a mix of western honkytonk and red rock wilderness. You’ll have plenty of restaurants and craft beer, and your choice of hotels, campgrounds or BLM pullouts to rest your tired limbs after a long day paddling in the Colorado River, hiking deep canyons or peddling slickrock.
Moab is known for its world-class bike trails that range from meandering Jeep roads to dangerous single track. Bring your own bike or rent one from one of the bike shops in town. It’s also easy to find a local instructor to help you master those scarier rides.
If you prefer to let the four-legged mounts do most of the work, book a trail ride at Hauer Ranch. The wranglers guide you on a personalized horseback and mule trail ride rich in the history and folklore of Moab.
Autumn through spring is the best time of year to climb the scorching rock, as temperatures are just right. You’ll find everything from single-pitch sport routes to multi-pitch spires. There’s plenty of bouldering in and around Moab as well.
At night, admire the universe with Red Rock Astronomy. They provide 2-hour stargazing tours filled with discussions and observations of the night sky, away from city light pollution.
More cultured tastes can admire the sounds of a symphony or jazz arrangement echoing through ancient canyon walls in the fall. Every September, the award-winning Moab Music Festival brings world-class musicians to outdoor venues around town for “music in concert with the landscape.” The event hosts nearly 20 performances over 10 days including the signature Grotto Concerts.
Though there are 26 campgrounds in the Moab area, it’s always a treat to stay at Red Cliffs Lodge. The ranch resort gives a nod to the history of the area with its rustic rooms, barbeques and red rock backdrop. There’s also wine tasting and a small movie museum that showcases the westerns stars and films that have graced Utah.
For something a bit more glam, the Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa is a true oasis in the desert. Private cabins and a ranch house overlook 240 acres of wide-open ranch land along the Colorado River. Whether you arrive for an intimate getaway or a family adventure, you’ll never be bored with the Ranch as your home base. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are nearby for hiking and climbing, while hundreds of trails for off-roading and mountain biking surround you. The ranch itself offers horseback riding, hiking, farm-to-table meals, and rejuvenating spa services.
2020 ZION FOREVER ART EVENT
(Art In The Park)
Virtual show and sale September 3rd – November 8th
For more information visit zionpark.org/2020/2020-art-in-the-park-celebration
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