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Top 3 Perfect Substitute National Forests

Get national park-caliber scenery without crowds (or entry fees!) in these dead ringers for Great Smoky Mountains, Zion, and Yosemite.
august 09 top 3 dixie nf 445x260Dixie NF, UT (Whit Richardson)

DIXIE NF, UT
Meet Zion’s wild neighbor.
The canyon walls of the Virgin River Valley look impossibly sheer from 5,785-foot
Angel’s Landing, one of the most popular hike-up peaks in Zion National Park.
And they look even more imposing 50 miles northeast in the 2-million-acre Dixie
National Forest–where you’ll be 3,000 feet higher and not have to elbow
for the best camera angles. Take the Virgin River Rim Trail along a 9,000-foot-high
cliff past gnarled bristlecone pines, bony hoodoos, and red-rock amphitheaters.
In 3.5 miles you’ll reach your turnaround point at the Cat’s Den, a jumbled
collection of feline-shaped sandstone atop the Markagunt Plateau, home to the
headwaters of the Virgin River and an eagle-eye view of Angel’s Landing to the
southwest. In summer, pack three quarts of water.

Refuel
Park ranger’s choice: prime rib at Milt’s Stage Shop in Cedar City. (435) 586-9344

The Way
From Cedar City, head east 10 miles on UT 14 to the Duck Creek Visitor Center.
Turn onto FS 30370, and go one mile to a left onto FS 30054. Turn left to reach
Cascade Falls trailhead.

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