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Backpacker Magazine – May 2009

America's Best Day Hikes: Southwest

From canyons to rock art to waterfalls, the Southwest has an abundance of natural beauty.

by: Chuck Graham

Bryce Canyon's Sunset Point (Chuck Haney)
Bryce Canyon's Sunset Point (Chuck Haney)
Zion's Subway slot (David H. Collier)
Zion's Subway slot (David H. Collier)

 

WEST | ROCKIES | SOUTH | SOUTHWEST | NORTHEAST | MIDWEST

 

Wildest Geology
Navajo/Queens Garden Trails, UT 3 miles (Easy)
Get life-list scenery for stroll-in-the-park effort on this classic Bryce Canyon hoodoo tour. A hike starting from Sunset Point and connecting the Navajo Loop with the Queens Garden Trail coasts past hundreds of these sedimentary pillars, some reaching 150 feet high. The hoodoos have been compared to church steeples, castle walls, and even poodles. Best time to see them: after a rain- or snowstorm, when the oranges and reds appear even more vibrant than usual, or under the otherworldly light of a full moon.
Season Year-round
Info nps.gov/brca

WATERFALLS

Ice Box Canyon, NV 3 miles (Moderate)
Cool off here on the hottest day: This deep canyon, with its steep walls and reliable breezes–and secret waterfall–is always cooler than the surrounding desert in the Red Rock National Conservation Area. The short out-and-back is scrambly, with a final stiff climb that leads to a waterfall freefalling off a sandstone cliff. Here, you'll find a bathtub-size pool perfect for a dip before the turnaround.
Season October-June
Info blm.gov/nv

Calf Creek Falls, UT 5.5 miles (Easy)
This swimming hole comes with a side of prehistory: The out-and-back route winds past two ancient granaries and a Fremont Indian pictograph at the outset, then heads into the narrowing Calf Creek Canyon. Soft sand makes the going slow, but it's less than three miles to Lower Calf Creek Falls, which plunges 126 feet from mineral-streaked Navajo sandstone–into an inviting almond-shaped pool.
Season April-October
Info blm.gov/ut

Best Bushwhacking
Bowl of Fire, NV 7 miles (Difficult)

You'll need solid navigation chops to wander in this desolate landscape of flaming-red sand, green limestone, and mazelike canyons, but the rewards are worth it: hidden rock arches, a "waterfall" of coarse gray limestone, and polished blue stones decorating the desert floor. Head north from the trailhead in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, aiming toward the base of Peak 651 for a mile, then swing northwest into Callville Wash to access the Bowl of Fire. Rule of thumb: Head downhill in any wash to reach Callville again.
Season October-May
Info nps.gov/lame


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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Red Rock Friend
Sep 28, 2010

Please note this book and website contain information about hikes that are unauthorized and which leads to damage of fragile areas. The author blazes his own trails which sounds nice, but in reality trails are there for a reason. People like him are the reason why land management agencies exist in the first place. It's not about man conquering the wilderness - at this stage it's about protecting because there's not too many places the animals & plants that live in Southern Nevada can live somewhat naturally. If you go wherever you want to hike - then you disturb a lot of homes to plants & animals not to mention contributing to erosion and disturbing the crust that helps to keep soil together. Vegas is already smoggy enough! Do you really think leading hikes with 70 people to places that aren't designated hiking trails is smart?
Trust me - you don't want to be near these groups when they hike. If you're out there for seculusion & to enjoy wilderness & you come near one of his hiking groups - you're peacefulness will be destroyed.

Branch Whitney
Jun 25, 2009

When you do a story about hiking in the southwest, contact me. I have tons of information, photos and even video, plus a 1,000 page web site. Links to the BLM? Who are you kidding?
For more info: www.hikinglasvegas.com

Branch Whitney
Jun 25, 2009

When you do a story about hiking in the southwest, contact me. I have tons of information, photos and even video, plus a 1,000 page web site. Links to the BLM? Who are you kidding?
For more info: www.hikinglasvegas.com

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