Backpacking, Camping & Hiking By Jason France on August 3, 2018
Nature, Fresh Air, Exercise and Exploration: MY Tips for Summer Family Fun
By: BRIDGET FABEL, RoadKing Outdoors Contributor
Now is the time to get out in the sunshine and enjoy the great outdoors! Warm summer nights all across the country provide perfect camping weather. Whether short adventures or long, I love to hike, fish, camp and backpack as much as possible. At least one 5- to 10-day backpacking adventure in the woods or desert is part of my summer planning.
Coyote Gulch, part of the Grande Staircase National Monument in Escalante, Utah, provided the venue for one of my favorite backpacking trips. For good measure, I added a couple of days hiking around Bryce Canyon National Park, which is only a few hours away. The red rock scenes in these areas are drop-dead gorgeous.
Coyote Gulch is a semi-narrow canyon that snakes its way down through incredible red rock formations, joining with the Escalante River just above Lake Powell. The hike is long, best suited for an overnighter, but can be spread out into a multiple-night adventure. Hikers will travel through the Gulch’s resilient wetlands that thrive within the shade and moisture of Utah’s desert oases.
The Grande Staircase National Monument firmly believes in “keeping the wild west wild.” In an effort to retain the look from thousands of years ago, this simply means that they do not make trails in the barren dessert. This makes the scenery beautiful, but sometimes the hiking can be somewhat difficult.
A couple of roughness routes take you into Coyote Gulch. My personal favorite is through the “Crack-in-the-Wall,” where you enter the gulch through a narrow slot canyon and repel your backpack many times as you maneuver down some large cliffs. It’s challenging, but so fun!
Once in the gulch, you can explore famous arches such as the Jacob Hamblin Arch and Stevens Arch. Coyote Gulch surrounds a tributary of the Escalante River, so you never need to stress about having enough water. This is a major plus for backpacking trips in the desert! Simply bring a water purifier and you can have fresh, clean, and cold water at any time. Nothing like free refills from Mother Nature.
Much of the sweeping Grand Staircase region is quite remote. Very few trailheads can be reached on paved roads. Nearby Escalante City is a small ranching town nestled along Utah’s Scenic Byway 12 that has very few amenities for travelers. With only 850 residents, it’s the largest town for 70 miles in all directions.
Interesting Fact – Escalante is relatively new to us humans. It was the last part of the lower 48 United States to be cartographed. Once people started poking around, they realized they were dealing with an unspent wealth of ancient and modern science, as well as culture.
One of my favorite summer destinations is Moab, Utah. Known for its dramatic arches and breathtaking red rock landscapes, this is a place you have to see. Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park are just 26 miles apart. You can camp at either park, or in any designated camp sites outside the small town of Moab. My favorite place to camp is in the middle of nowhere on Kayne Creek Road. However, if you’re afraid of heights, don’t attempt to camp there. The drive is one edge of a HUGE cliff!
In the past, I’ve owned a couple Wranglers built to rock crawl Moab, and I’ve explored all sorts of jeep trails there. If you have the equipment to do it, you’ll have the time of your life! Make sure to bring plenty of food and water everywhere you go in Moab. Temperatures in the summer can be scorching hot, and the desert scenery offers little to no shade. If you need a break from camp food, head into town for a local burger and beer. The tiny town of Moab has tons of locally owned restaurants that offer some of the greatest meals I’ve ever had. Plus, you’ll find hotels and grocery stores. Explorers have the option of camping and being off the beaten path or staying in a hotel and exploring by day. Either way, you should plan to visit this must-see vacation destination at least once!
Every summer, summiting mountain peaks across the West ranks high on my priority list. Utah has fun trails to the peaks of numerous mountains topping 11,000 feet. Though not easy, trails provide positive challenges for those wanting to see the best views of their lives.There’s nothing in the world like being on top of a tall peak by yourself in the back country. You look around and see deer, moose, lakes, other peaks, and barely any signs of civilization. The difficulty of summiting high mountains is what has gotten me addicted to them. Every summer I push myself harder and harder to try more. Utah, as well as Colorado, Idaho, California, and Nevada have some great peaks to hike.
My favorite hikes are the ones that involve lakes with good fishing! Research local stocking reports and old legends about lakes that are off the beaten path. I like to hike to lakes that are anywhere from 2 to 12 miles away in search of trout. The farther you hike, the more likely you are to be the only one fishing that lake. All over the country, many lakes have hiking-only access. If you do your research and confirm the fishing is good, give one a try! Whether you’re fishing with a spinning rod or fly rod, remember that these fish are going to be spookier than usual.
They probably don’t see people very often and sometimes can be tricky to catch. I like to use streamers along the inlets of high alpine lakes in hopes of stirring up the trout’s natural predator instincts. I often have luck with very dark, natural colored streamers with fast strips. Mix it up and see what your local fish like, and when you find the right fly or lure stick with it.
If you’re planning a trip to any area in the Southwestern deserts of the United States, be sure to plan around rain. Desert rain can be extremely dangerous! One time, I was hiking Calf Creek Falls, a very popular and beautiful trail near Escalante, when a lightning and thunder storm suddenly popped up. Moments later, a single drop of rainfall turned into a chaotic mudflow that was 100-ft. wide! It was wild to see how fast it happened. Be sure to watch local weather stations and keep an eye on the sky. If you’re near water and see a storm approaching, move to higher ground ASAP!
Remember: Leave No Trace!
When exploring this summer, please remember what a privilege Americans have to access so much public land for backpacking, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and exploring. Please be mindful of your garbage and practice a “Leave No Trace” mentality when spending time at these treasures. Treat them like you would your dream home, and don’t do anything to damage or destroy them for future generations. Our beautiful public lands and freedoms to use them are one of many privileges that should make us proud to be Americans.
Hiking & Fishing Checklist
- Fly Rod and/or spinning rod
- Flies, lures, or live bait
- Emergency equipment
- Lightweight tent
- Lightweight sleeping bag
- Comfortable, large backpack
- Water purifier
- Fire starter
- Emergency gear
- Food that will not perish
- Empty bottles for water refills
- A water bladder for use in the desert
- Tarp for tent
- Light-weight cookware
- Some people like to use trekking poles