The Casual Hiker™

Trails, Tips, & Other Topics

Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork) May 3, 2017

Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork)Grandeur Peak2

  1. The trailhead is past the paved Church Fork picnic area. Hike through the picnic area to enjoy the waterfalls.
  2. Pipeline intersects the trail. Go to the left a few steps, then right at the fork. The rest of the trail is obvious.
  3. The first mile is shady and cool with a mountain stream. Then it becomes more exposed and steeper with switch backs.
  4. At saddle, go to the left and along the ridgeline. At this point, you’ll have views of Parley’s Canyon and the north end of the Salt Lake valley. There will be a steep section with minor rock scrambling.
  5. Pass a grove of juniper.
  6. Once passed, go left for final rounding of Grandeur Peak. Again, some minor rock scrambling is involved in a few places.
  7. Ta da. At top, you’ll have a  360° view of Parley’s, Lamb, and East Canyons to the north, Salt Lake valley, and the length of Millcreek. Enjoy a picnic and relax before the return trip along the same path.

Minimal Supplies for Hiking August 5, 2013

Filed under: Tips — Chanté McCoy @ 3:06 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

At a minimum, take the following items with you when hitting the trails. Most of my items stay in my water-toting hip holster or my glove compartment all the time, so I just add water and go.

Minimal supplies check listWater

Always take at least one bottle of water.

On hot days (80°or higher), plan on at least one bottle for roundtrip hikes under 3-4 miles. For longer hikes, take at least two bottles. Along the way—even if you don’t feel thirsty—take one or two mouthfuls every 15 minutes or so to stay hydrated.  If you get to the point you’re gulping water, you’re dehydrated.

At higher altitudes, you may not have a sense of sweat because it evaporates quickly. It’ll catch up with you, though. You want to avoid getting to the point where you’re chugging water.

I carry a couple of 20 oz. bottles in a hip holster. This method frees up my hands. The holster also has a couple of pockets for carrying other supplies.

Camelbaks, or other backpacks with built-in water bladders and drinking tubes, also provide a nifty way to carry water hands free. They usually have a pocket or two also.

Steer away from caffeinated drinks. Caffeine has diuretic properties that won’t bode well for the trail. The salt in carbonated drinks will also contribute to dehydration, and the sugar increases the sensation of hunger. Water is the best choice all around.

Sunglasses & Hat

For glare and sun protection, don’t forget your pair of sunglasses and a hat. The hat will also provide the additional benefit of collecting sweat (and keeping it out of your eyes) and, for those with thinning hair, preventing a major sunburn.

Sunglasses and hats are easy to forget if you’re up early and the sun hasn’t crested the mountains yet. So, you might want to use the checklist above as a reminder.


Keep a bottle in the car and lather up just before the hike.


You’ll want tissue for the inevitable potty breaks, runny noses (possibly from exertion), and wiping off your hands. I keep a collection in a Ziplock baggie. Take another baggie for toting out.

ID, Credit Card & Cash

What? Not planning to shop on Grandeur Peak? I carry mine for a few reasons. One, I don’t leave any valuables in the car, but I need my driver’s license to get around. Two, a credit card or cash pays for canyon and park fees. Three, if I require medical attention, these come in handy. Speaking of, you might want to take your health insurance card with you too.

Car Key

I detach my car key from the key ring (which stays at home). To make sure I have this “key” piece, I lock the car only when I’m ready to hit the trail.

Cell Phone

For emergencies, a cell phone is invaluable, even if you are often be out of range for a signal. Cell phones also double as cameras.

Band Aids

I carry a half-dozen band aids for the occasional blister or stumble.

Alcohol Swabs

For that unanticipated stumble and resulting boo-boo, I take a few individually wrapped alcohol swabs to clean out the dirt.

Wet Wipes

Wet wipes serve many purposes. I have a couple individually wrapped wipes that I collect at barbecue restaurants.


Protect your lips with SPF. Plus the moisturizer will keep you more comfortable and reduce the sensation of needing more frequent swigs of water.


A bandana isn’t just a fashion accessory on the trail.  Bandanas work better than tissue for wiping off sweat and can substitute for a handkerchief. And if something bad goes down, you can use it for a makeshift bandage.


Buy a cheap, lightweight plastic emergency poncho that folds up into a tight wad. When it rains, you’ll be grateful for its protection.


Birds February 10, 2013

Filed under: Tips,Wildlife Watching — Chanté McCoy @ 11:58 pm
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Yellow-headed blackbird, California quail, Stellar's jay, and wild turkeys

Yellow-headed blackbird, California quail, Stellar’s jay, and wild turkeys

Lazuli bunting, Black-headed grosbeak, American avocet, and Spotted towhee

Lazuli bunting, Black-headed grosbeak, American avocet, and Spotted towhee

Utah is home to a wonderful variety of birds, from majestic raptors like Bald Eagles to shore birds like pelicans and egrets to magpies, quails, hummingbirds, and ibis…and everything in between.

In the mountains, you will encounter grouse, chickadees, blue jays, and finches. For shore birds, Antelope Island is your destination.

The best way to spy a bird is to hone in on its birdsong (particularly in spring) and pay attention to rustling in the surrounding area.  For photos, a good zoom capability will be invaluable.


Picnic Destinations

grassy slope skirting Dog Lake in Millcreek Canyon

grassy slope skirting Dog Lake in Millcreek Canyon

Picnics are another way to reward your good work along the trail. Pack a backpack with some sandwiches, granola bars, a juicy apple…and enjoy the fruits of your labor atop a mountain peak or in a wide meadow filled with wild flowers.

If looking for picnic destinations, these are great trails:

  • Burch Hollow
  • Catherine’s Pass (Albion Basin to Brighton)
  • Cecret Lake
  • Dog Lake
  • Elbow Fork to Mt. Aire

(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…)