The Casual Hiker™

Trails, Tips, & Other Topics

Wild Flowers & Fall Colors February 10, 2013

autumn colors in American Fork Canyon

autumn colors in American Fork Canyon

While panoramic views are breathtaking, I take a lot of joy in the small details: flowers, twittering birds, and the contrasting colors of rock. This explains why I’m a meanderer. Half the time, I have to remind myself to stop looking down to take in the bigger picture.

Indian paintbrush and lupine in Albion Basin

Indian paintbrush and lupine in Albion Basin

Wild flowers are most abundant along sun-drenched slopes and open meadows. Considering you’re in Utah, you’ll have lots of opportunity to enjoy their array of colors.

Asking which trails have the best wild flowers or fall colors is comparable to asking someone to pick their favorite child. Wild flowers, notably in late spring through summer, are amazing on any of the alpine mountain trails. Look for colorful and abundant asters, wild rose, cardinal flower, columbine, larkspur, bee plant, fireweed, gentian, lupine, phlox, paintbrush, and penstemon.  This list doesn’t even begin to suggest the breath of flowers to be found on the mountains, let alone more arid terrain. This guide offers photographs of some of the common flowers to be found.

Come autumn, the fall colors are amazing on any mountain trail too. I particularly like the golden quaking aspens and cottonwoods and red-orange mountain maples set off by the evergreens.

For wild flowers, check out the following trails:

  • Catherine’s Pass (Albion Basin to Brighton)
  • Desolation Lake (via Big Water Trail)
  • Dog Lake
  • Elbow Fork to Lamb’s Canyon
  • Lake Blanche (via Mill B South Fork)
  • Scout Falls

(more links to come…)


Large Wildlife

Hoping to see a magnificent moose? Or a cliff-climbing mountain goat? The best times to see wildlife are in the early morning or late evening.

female Shira's moose, bison (Antelope Island), and male mule deer

female Shira’s moose, bison (Antelope Island), and male mule deer

To improve your odds, leave the dog home. Tread lightly. Talk quietly. Listen for twigs cracking.

If you’re lucky enough to spy one, be still as possible to not scare them. Deer skitter away with any sudden movement. Moose hold their own ground better. With their bulk and imposing antlers, they can assume more confidence.

However, in the excitement of your Kodak moment, don’t try to get closer. If they spook and charge, guess who’s going to lose. For close-ups, use a zoom lens.

Rocky Mountain goat and black bear

Rocky Mountain goat and black bear

Rocky Mountain goats can be found throughout northern Utah, including the High Uintas, Lone Peak, Mt. Olympus, Twin Peaks and Mt. Timpanogos. wilderness areas. They’re found on the rugged cliff ledges at higher elevations.

If interested in bison and pronghorn antelope, head to Antelope Island. Antelope Island boasts a bison herd of about 500. Pronghorn abound all around. And you might even see bobcat or bighorn sheep.

For better chances of seeing these impressive animals, check out these trails:

  • Antelope Island (bison, pronghorn antelope)
  • Bell Canyon (Rocky Mountain goats)
  • Catherine’s Pass (moose, mule deer)
  • Desolation Lake (moose, mule deer)
  • Scout Falls (moose, mule deer)
  • Timpooneke (moose, mule deer, Rocky Mountain goats)

(more links to come…)



Bell Canyon, Timpooneke (Timpanogos), and Church Fork

Bell Canyon, Timpooneke (Timpanogos), and Church Fork

It may not be Maui, but water always runs downhill on Utah’s splendid mountains. We have torrential drops and delicate-laced falls and rapid white-topped streams working their way to the canyon floors.

In spring and early summer, waterfalls are plentiful and particularly dramatic. So be sure to seek out these attractions earlier in the warm months.

On a warm hike, not only are waterfalls wonderful to encounter, but they are cooling.

Dip your feet.

Take a photo.

Let your dog lap up his fill.

So, despite what TLC says, go chase some waterfalls.

To find waterfalls, go on these trails:

  • Bell Canyon
  • Donut Falls
  • Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork)
  • Scout Falls
  • Waterfall Canyon

(more links to come…)


Dog Friendly Trails

City Overlook

At the top of City Overlook trail

If you have a dog, take him along. You know he wants to go.On “dog friendly” trails, I love to take my hiking buddy, Elvis, a natural-eared Doberman. I enjoy his companionship and clownish antics. Meanwhile, hiking exercises the 110-lb canine in a way that the neighborhood jaunt never can.

Being in Utah, a desert “where God don’t give water free,” most mountain canyons are closed to dogs to protect watersheds. The national parks also ban dogs on hiking trails. State parks are friendlier, with the exception of Deer Creek State Park and the Rock Cliff area at Jordanelle.

Leash laws vary. State parks require leashes at all times. Millcreek, one of the few dog-friendly canyons along the Wasatch Front, alternates days on leash requirements: leashes “off” on odd days, leashes “on” on even days.

City Overlook trail

City Overlook trail

Protocol for cleaning up after your dog involves carrying plastic bags (such as one from a grocery store), scooping up the offending matter, and tying off the bag to deposit in a trash receptacle. Some hikers, if returning along the same route, leave their baggies by the trail side to be retrieved later. If you do so, please remember the bag. We need to keep complaints from other trail users to a minimum, so we can continue to take our dogs along on the few trails open to them.On a side note, fleas and ticks are practically a non-issue in Utah. The dry weather and high altitude are less than ideal conditions for fleas. The ticks—which I’ve yet to encounter—apparently aren’t infected with Lyme disease. Lucky us!

If you’re looking for trails that both you and your dog can enjoy, check out:

  • Burch Hollow
  • City Overlook (via Desolation Trail)
  • City Overlook (via Rattlesnake Gulch and Pipeline Trails)
  • Dog Lake (via Big Water Trail)
  • Elbow Fork to Lamb’s Canyon
  • Elbow Fork to Mt. Aire
  • Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork)
  • Mt. Olympus
  • Neff’s Canyon
  • Pipeline
  • Scout Falls

(more links to come…)