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
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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.


Bell Canyon (Lower Falls) February 11, 2013

(top to bottom): Bell Canyon lower reservoir, milkvetch, canyon stream, nearby rocky cliffs, Bell Canyon Lower Falls

(top to bottom): Bell Canyon lower reservoir, milkvetch, canyon stream, nearby rocky cliffs, Bell Canyon Lower Falls

Bell Canyon (Lower Falls)

Bell Canyon (Lower Falls)

The trailhead parking area is conveniently located off Wasatch Blvd. Bell Canyon ultimately leads up to Lone Peak.

  1. Follow the signs and navigate the neighborhood to reach the canyon mouth. The trail quickly steepens. For about 1/4 mile, you’ll clamber over some small boulders too.
  2. The trail evens out to a more modest incline. This section features the rugged beauty of Utah desert scrub: sage, Gambel oak, and rabbit brush.
  3. At a half mile at the lower reservoir, go north to wrap around this little body of water. Follow a wide maintenance dirt road.
  4. About a half mile, watch for the trail sign to turn off the road and head east. After 5 – 10 minutes, the trail becomes forested.
  5. Go over a little wood bridge another 1/4 mile in. After this, the trail forks to the left and stays to the southside of the stream. Meandering trails intersect the main trail. Look for fresh footprints and other tell-tale signs to stay on trail.
  6. About 5 minutes after bridge, go with the steeper, rockier trail (although the other ones look tempting). Stay on this rocky staircase for about .5 mile.
  7. The next trick is to find the waterfall. After you’ve crossed over a wet section (or a spring during the snow run-off), go another 5 minutes. At a split in the trail, go left, leaving the rockier incline.
  8. Follow the sound of rushing water. Careful getting there: the trail is eroded. Grab branches for stability.
  9. Near the waterfalls are great slabs of granite. Enjoy a picnic while taking in the panoramic views of the canyon and Salt Lake valley.
  10. Return the way you came.

Bell Canyon alternatives


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…)


Wild Flowers & Fall Colors

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…)


Panoramic Views

Martha Lake near Catherine's Pass, American Fork Canyon, and and view from Sunset

Martha Lake near Catherine’s Pass, American Fork Canyon, and and view from Sunset

An obvious attraction is the panoramic view afforded by many trails along the way or at the final destination: valley views, stretches of mountain peaks, and glimpses of other geographic wonders, such as the Great Salt Lake.

A hike may be more about the journey than the destination…but what a lovely destination! I’ll go after that carrot anytime.

Consider these trails for views that won’t disappoint:

  • American Fork Canyon
  • Antelope Island
  • Bell Canyon
  • Catherine’s Pass (Albion Basin to Brighton)
  • Cecret Lake
  • City Overlook (via Desolation Trail)
  • City Overlook (via Rattlesnake Gulch and Pipeline Trails)
  • Grandeur Peak (via Church Fork)
  • Lake Blanche (via Mill B South Fork)
  • Mt. Olympus

(more links to come…)