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Back Country Info

collared lizard in Utah

The rugged environment of Southern Utah is always in motion. Wind, sun, and water all shape the landscape. Often these elements come and go with great vigor. Spring winds and fall thunderstorms always factor into trip planning. Spring is a great time to visit the canyons. Rain and light snow are always a possibility, and freezing night temperatures are likely into May. But April and May can also bring perfect days in the high 70s. River crossings in spring can be numbing cold, or on warm days a refreshing bath. Fall is another story: September can be both beautiful and treacherous.  Summers afternoon thunderstorms are fueled well into September and often early October. From a safe location, these thunderstorms can be magnificent to watch, as clouds begin to form in the afternoon. Dark clouds begin the lightning shows, and the heavy rains create flash floods through the narrow canyons. A once crossable Escalante River can swell to dangerous levels in under an hour. Weather is the most dynamic environmental factor, but the desert has many unique characteristics to be considered. 

 

Escalante River crossing

The Mighty Escalante River! 

This photo is average depth and clarity for early- to mid-spring and late fall. Storms and floods can bring the red muddy river over the green banks and past the cottonwood trees. The Escalante River in normal conditions is fun and challenging to cross and hike along. Some sections of river are nice gravel beds; in other sections, round volcanic boulders cover the bottom, while some stretches are soft gentle quicksand. I have found there's no way to prepare for the conditions of this river until you experience it for yourself.

 

Utah tower

Slick Rock!

Day hikes often ramble over seemingly endless stretches of slick rock formations. Some slick rock areas are rolling hills with sandy valleys while some formations are steep and textured. Though they may at first look daunting, you'll quickly learn that you can easily walk on steep slick rock slopes and climb amazing formations. 

 

 

llama packing in Utah

Red Rock Canyons

Camping in these canyons is a rewarding experience: The light glowing on the walls, the bird calls echoing in the bends of the canyon. Cottonwood trees provide shady camps. There's a dramatic contrast between the warm red walls, the sandy slopes above the canyon, and the gentle spring-fed creek meandering through the maze.