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Backpacking Utah - The best way to experience the multiple landscapes of Utah is by hiking through them. Utah has some very remote areas that are accessible only to serious hikers. Utah's mountains and deserts will open up for you in unexpected ways once you get off the beaten path on foot.
The first time I went to Utah was with my friend Harry Johnson. When he asked if I wanted to go with him, I remember saying, "what the heck is in Utah?" Well, Utah is like one great big National Park! It has beautiful mountains and scenery that I'll never forget. There are so many National Parks, National Monuments, and State Parks that it is hard to see them all!
Utah is Like One Great Big National Park!
Utah's 5 prominent hiking areas - Red Rock, Great Basin, Dinosaurland, Northern Mountains, and Wasatch Front.
I remember going to Great Basin National Park on the Utah, Nevada border and hiking to the top of Wheeler Peak, the 2nd highest peak in Nevada (elevation 13,063 ft). It only took me two years and two tries to do it!
This hike starts out at 10,160 feet, has an elevation gain of 2,900 feet, and is 8.6 miles round trip. Because of the risk of afternoon storms, this hike should be started very early in the day. Along most of the trail, the route follows the ridge up to the Wheeler Peak summit. It is best to start the hike from the Summit Trail parking lot.
I remember riding with Harry up the mountain to the parking area. The roads back then (prior to 2003) had no guard rails. I would be literally sliding over in the seat to get away from the drop off on the side of the road. Since Harry and I are from south Florida, we were not used to such high mountains! The highest hill in Florida is around 305 feet. The first year we tried to get to the top, we did not make it. The wind felt like it was blowing at 50+ miles per hour above the treeline! A sudden gust of wind blew my straw hat off and it flew off the mountain. We joked that a mountain goat somewhere was probably eating it!
Well, the second year we tried to hike Wheeler Peak again and this time I made it to the top! I had to ask a stranger to take a picture of me up there since Harry had the camera and I did not. The stranger told me he would email the photo to me but I never received it. Too bad, that would have been a great picture to keep.
My friend Harry did not get to the top because he is a Sugar Diabetic and was having trouble seeing. He was told by his doctor not to hike mountains because it can lead to blindness. So he stayed at a lower elevation while I climbed to the top. This turned out to be the first of two mountains I climbed while Harry kept to a lower altitude. The second mountain was in Flagstaff, AZ. at around 12,633 ft. I got that photo!
The Great Western Trail provides great opportunities for hiking, and other adventures. It runs north and south through the center of Utah.
Before visiting a remote, backcountry or wilderness area, please check with the people in charge for maps, permits, advice, and information about fire restrictions and other regulations. The places to see here include Utah's public lands including national park areas. Many excellent maps and guidebooks to hiking in Utah are available.
Some of the National Parks I visited included Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. I stayed in Moab, Utah (known worldwide for their Slick Rock Trail) which is close to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks as well as the Colorado River and Dead Horse Point State Park. Other parks I went to included Escalante, Monument Valley, Grand Staircase and Glen Canyon.
Camping is very popular in the national parks, state parks, recreation areas, and national forests. Advanced reservations are accepted for many campgrounds and can be made at this website: www.reserveamerica.com.
Utah State Parks Reservation Call Center - 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 800-322-3770 toll-free from outside the Salt Lake City area, 801-322-3770 From within the Salt Lake City area.
Depending on the facilities at the individual campground, overnight camping or day use fees are charged at most of the public campgrounds. An Annual State Park Permit is available. A Family State Park Permit is also available. A reduced cost pass is available for Utah residents 62 years of age and over or permanently disabled. These permits do not provide a reduction in camping fees.
The Senior Pass and Access Pass provides savings for people who frequently visit national parks and recreation areas and is offered by National Parks, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management.
Utah has 100's of miles of trails and backcountry. Some remote areas are accessible only to experienced backpackers. Before heading into the backcountry, you should check with the people in charge about fire restrictions and other regulations. Stay on the trail and have fun backpacking Utah!
One last thing I want to leave you with is this video. It includes Hell's Backbone which is a road that my friend Harry and I drove over that you just got to experience! It is quite a drop on either side.
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