Tag Archives: Alta

Road Trip Part 3 – Tetons to Grand Canyon

Day 5: Yellowstone to Salt Lake City, UT

We knew that Day 5 was going to be a long drive, but also that it would pass some of the most spectacular vistas on the trip (as well as 2 new states for much of the family). We left the park fairly early and fought construction from the South exit of the park until the Grand Teton visitor center. We didn’t spend much time in the park, but did enjoy the great views of the range from the road.

The Grand Teton from the north
Panorama of the range
Grand Teton from the south

The hazy conditions due to forest fires in the area reduced visibility somewhat but not enough to conceal America’s most distinctive mountain range. Passing through Jackson, along the Snake River into Idaho, and then into Utah, we got our first taste of how enormous the West is, and how desolate the parts of the Southwest can be. We rolled into Salt Lake City in the early evening, and I showed the family around Temple Square. I talked them into eating at my favorite restaurant in town, Squatter’s Pub, which was a real treat after road food.

Day 6: Salt Lake City, UT to Springdale, UT

I wanted to do an easy hike in the Wasatch to expose my brother and dad to the beauty of the area without making the trip too difficult or hazardous. We ended up hiking Sunset Peak (for my fourth time) from the Alta side. Needless to say, they both really enjoyed it. I’ve posted lots of pictures of the area on the blog before, but here are some of the nicer ones from that morning:

Devils Castle in the morning light
Twin Lakes from the summit ridge of Sunset Peak

The rest of the day consisted of a fairly lengthy drive on the interstate to Springdale, which is right outside Zion National Park. We took a bus tour of Zion Canyon in the evening as the sun set, and the colors were pretty unreal. It’s a very different view of the Canyon than when I had previously seen it in the morning light.

Zion Canyon
Evening colors as the sun sets – near the entrance to the park

 

Day 7: Zion National Park to Grand Canyon North Rim

The primary goal of the day was for my brother and I to hike Angel’s Landing. I had hiked it in the spring and really enjoyed it, but he was concerned about the exposure. I told him he had nothing to worry about, and he handled it pretty well.

Waking up early

We got on the first bus into the park, which put us on the trail earlier than anybody (always good for the crowded Angel’s Landing trail).

First view of the valley from higher up on Angel’s Landing
Don’t slip here

We handled the chain section with no problem. My brother who isn’t a very experienced hiker said it wasn’t as bad as he was expecting.

The infamous “knife edge” (not actually that narrow)
Topping out

The second trip up Angel’s Landing presented the same view, but it’ll be

Crazy lower trail carved into the canyon wall

This was my second trip to the top of Angel’s Landing, but I imagine it will always be worth the trip due to the unparallelled view of the rest of the valley and the “exciting” trail!

Back in the Canyon Floor

We hiked out and rode the bus back to our hotel in Springdale, where we linked up with the rest of the family and headed to the Grand Canyon via Kanab. This route goes through the Zion-Mt. Carmel tunnel, which was carved out of the sandstone by WPA crews in the 1930’s. It is sort of sketchy with regard to lack of guardrails and narrow parts of the tunnel, but worth it for the views (and for getting to the Grand Canyon of course).

Navajo sandstone domes on the drive to Kanab

From there it was several hours of driving to get to the North Rim. Along the way, we stopped in the little town of Kanab for a quick bite to eat before heading through the Kaibab National Forest to the North Rim visitor’s center. Be advised that there are very few services along this road. It definitely feels like a remote corner of the country, despite the number of visitors.

When we finally arrived (in Arizona time, one hour behind) it was pretty rainy and chilly, although it cleared up enough for us to see a canyon. We were gawking at the view until we realized it was only a side canyon. The main canyon is beyond imagination in scale. It’s easily the largest natural feature I’ve ever seen, wider even I believe than the Yellowstone caldera.

Grand Canyon

Due to the long drive and easily accessible views, we didn’t plan to hike much in the park, but we did walk to a small point by the N. Rim Lodge where we were able to get a pretty good view of the main canyon. We stayed around after dinner until the sun set, and that’s when the scenery really came to life. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, it was just awe inspiring.

Luckily we were done driving for the day, as we had a reservation at one of the cabins. I recommend staying in the park if at all possible, because the drive back to Kanab really would have put a damper on the day and would have made it impossible to watch the sun go down over the canyon.

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Brighton Ridge Traverse

Brighton Ridge (Clayton Peak to Sunset Peak)
8.5 miles RT
3200′ gain
3:46 for the loop
Route map

After Lone Peak the previous day, I took out my map of the Wasatch to find something not too remote that I could hike safely on my own, without too much elevation gain. Brighton Ridge fit the bill nicely.

Rolling up to Brighton at 7am, I was surprised by a bull moose in the parking lot!

Bull moose at the lodge

I started up the mountain on the main trail until reaching the turnoff right around Dog Lake – I took the trail toward Clayton Peak instead of continuing on to the lakes. I saw two more moose in the woods here – a calf and a cow. They ran off down the hill silently. For as awkward as moose are they are graceful and fast when in motion.

Barely visible cow and calf

After not too much longer I gained the saddle and saw a great view down the Wasatch Back over to the Park City side.

From the saddle below Clayton Peak

From here I followed the obvious cat track along the base of Clayton Peak until I found a climber’s trail marked by a cairn (a very nice trail at that). From there it was a breeze to my first peak of the day.

Lake on the backside of Clayton Peak
Looking over the pass to Little Cottonwood
Heber Valley

From here I continued back down the ridge until reaching the saddle and continuing very close to the ridge line the other direction toward Preston Peak. Sometimes there is a use trail, sometimes it is not obvious. Just keep following the ridge. Soon you’ll come to the very indistinct peak that is Preston Peak, although there is a plaque on top for some reason. I didn’t stay long and continued down the ridge.

Coming off Preston Peak

From here, the rest of the route is very scenic but not very challenging.

Moderate south slopes of Brighton Ridge

You’ll reach a saddle with another ski lift, then follow a use trail down the other side to Pioneer Ridge highpoint. Continue down one more saddle to reach the foot of Pioneer Peak. I ascended steeply following a climber’s trail to the top of Pioneer. To the north, Catherine Lake is clearly visible and you can hear the hikers below.

Lake Catherine, Lake Martha, Lake Mary, Dog Lake
Sunset (I think) from Pioneer

From there I just followed the west side of Pioneer down to Sunset Peak and scrambled up crappy, sandy rock to the top where I was surprised to see no one. Usually this peak is packed. This was my third visit to Sunset Peak and I enjoy the view for how little it is. I didn’t like the look of clouds forming to the West so I headed down without delay. I would have liked to have hit Tuscarora, Wolverine, and Millicent and then head back down that way, but I had already climbed Tuscarora and Wolverine and since the weather looked like it could turn it didn’t seem like a good idea today.

The lakes from Sunset Peak
Pioneer Peak above (I think) Lake Catherine

I dropped down the normal trail to Catherine Pass and headed down to the car at a quick pace. I saw my next moose of the day in the meadow below Lake Catherine – a big bull moose!

Bull moose below Lake Catherine

He wouldn’t leave the trail so I walked far around him and continued on my way. The rest of the trail down to the car was actually really nice. Lake Mary is scenic with Mount Millicent behind.

Lake Mary with Mount Millicent
Lake Mary
Wildflowers on the way down

The lower trail was quite crowded. Overall it was a nice quick, moderate hike. I didn’t see a soul from the turnoff near Dog Lake all the way until Catherine Pass, so expect to get away from the crowds on this route, particularly from the Clayton saddle to the summer of Pioneer Peak.