Magical Grotto Hike

Last year I found a really cool hiking book at the Farmington City Hall in Davis County, Utah.  It has details on over 30 trails in Farmington, Utah (where I grew up).  Even after living in Farmington for 18 years I had never hiked this trail before.  So I grabbed a friend and we went on this hidden gem of a hike to “The Grotto”.  Picture mossy rocks, waterfalls, butterflies and magical dripping weeping rocks.  If fairies are real, they live here.

Farmington Grotto Hike (Steed Creek Trail to Hornet Canyon)

Little Mountaineers Rating: Moderate (around 3 miles round trip.  This hike starts out easy along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, then as you hike along the Steed Creek Trail it becomes more steep and often very narrow.)

Since my first hike here, I have been back several times and I never see other people around.  The first time I went the waterfall was flowing strong.  This spring the main waterfall was barely a trickle (we’ve had a dry winter).  If you go in the summer the plants can get huge and the trail will seem more overgrown.

My 4 year old hiked part of the way on her own, and I also carried her. My 8 year old hiked this on his own just fine.  I would not recommend this hike for toddlers or preschoolers unless you plan on carrying them and watching them carefully around the tricky/dangerous areas. This hike is better for older kids who are familiar with hiking and being safe on the trail.

My advice when trying a new trail is go without kids the first time, then you can make a better judgement of how your kids will do. For this trail do your research and find good directions because it can be easy to take the wrong turn if you don’t know where you are going.

In the photo below I’m standing right where there is sometimes a big strong waterfall!

Happy hiking!

Willis Creek Slot Canyon

As much as I love our National Parks, some of my favorite trails are just outside the parks, down dirt roads, and just on the border of a new strange land.

Willis Creek Slot Canyon is a place you wont want to miss and just so happens to be amazingly kid friendly.  My son still talks about this hike ALL THE TIME!  He can’t wait to go back.  Walking through water makes it fun for the summer heat and it is just outside Bryce Canyon National Park.

We decided to check out this trail last summer on a camping trip to Bryce Canyon National Park during the Astronomy Festival and we were glad we did.

The last 6 miles to the trail head are on a dirt road.  I recommend a 4 wheel drive, high clearance vehicle for any dirt road in Utah because then you are more prepared for unknown conditions.  Can cars make it okay on this road?  Yes, depending on the conditions, but I just don’t like taking that risk.  I’ve been the person in a car with a flat tire in the middle of the desert before and it isn’t fun.  It can be rocky at parts, some washboard, and you make a couple small stream crossings.  But don’t let this scare you away, it wasn’t terrible at all!

The trail head is about 25 miles outside of Bryce Canyon National Park.  The trail is part of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument but there are no fees or permits required.  It can get super hot in the summer and depending on the time of day you will probably not have much shade (besides some shade of the canyons).  Wear water shoes, clothes that can get wet and dry quickly, and sunscreen!  Bring plenty of water, snacks, and GPS (my favorite app is Gaia GPS).  Have fun exploring!

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy-Moderate. 2.5 + miles round trip depending on how far you go.  Most of the trail you are literally just walking in a shallow river through the beautiful canyons with minimal elevation gain.

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Hidden Gem In Moab

The great thing about living in Utah is that I feel we never run out of new adventures.  We are always discovering new favorite places and it is so fun!

Our most recent trip to Moab included exploring Hunter Canyon and it did not disappoint.  We were in desert heaven and we had the place practically to ourselves.  That’s saying a lot because we went over Fall break and Arches National Park was a zoo.  Finding solitude in nature is so refreshing but it’s not always easy in a popular place like Moab.

I feel like I don’t even need to describe this place.  The pictures speak for themselves.  We didn’t do the whole hike because it got dark, but we could have easily spent all day here.  Next time you’re in Moab check it out!

You do have to take a dirt road to get to the trail head, but it’s doable with most cars.  I just had my Honda Civic and we did fine.

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy-Moderate. 3 miles round trip and very little elevation gain.  Lots of sand to play in, rocks to climb and tunnels to explore.

Zion National Park Canyon Overlook Trail

We travel to St George quite often since we have family in St George as well as in Las Vegas.  We are usually there for just a quick extended weekend adventure  here and there so we are always left with more to come back too.  This last Christmas break we were there for a few days and had the chance to try out a new trail at Zion National Park.

Canyon Overlook Trail

Little Mountaineers Rating: Moderate (1 mile round trip, uphill climb at the beginning, some drop offs and cliff areas, watch your young ones closely!)

This is a nice short trail that is unique and ends with stunning views of the canyon.  There are cliff and drop off areas, so for very young children you will want to carry them.  My 6 year old did great on his own.

Arches National Park

We had a chance to visit Arches National Park this February and all I can tell you is that my kids were absolutely in love.  I’ve always loved this park and it was fun to see it differently through the eyes of my children.  I have a good friend who lives in New Mexico and the other day we found out that Moab, UT was the half way point between us.  What better reason to plan a fun weekend getaway.  Just moms and kiddos this time (2 days,2 moms, 5 kids 7 and under).  Needless to say things were crazy, but we had a blast.  I hope these kids cherish these memories, I know I will.

Here is a link to the current Arches National Park guide.  This park is so family/kid friendly.  You’ll notice that there are 7 trails 1 mile round trip or less and 3 trails 1-2 miles roundtrip!  Don’t worry, there are also some great longer/harder trails too.  The drive through the park is a gorgeous scenic drive and you’ll feel like you hundreds of miles from civilization (you kind of are).  You’ll also probably feel like you took a trip in the time machine back to when dinosaurs roamed the red rock.

wp-1487903383426.jpgThe animal statues at the visitors center were a real hit with the kids.  They were hugging and kissing them goodbye.  Awe, to be a kid again.

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Our first stop along the scenic drive through Arches NP was Park Avenue!

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Little Mountaineers Rating:  Easy Moderate (2 mile round trip, 320 ft elevation change, section of rock stairs, some rocky/sandy areas)

Picture above is majestic Park Avenue trail.  This 2 mile round trip trail is so surreal.  Don’t let the stairs scare you, they aren’t too bad!  My kids actually loved the stairs, so much that my daughter kept asking to go back to them.  You can start this trail from either end and even have someone pick you up at the end so you only do 1 mile.  Even if you don’t do the whole trail it is definitely worth the stop and the view.

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Next up was The Windows trail.  This easy trail takes you on a path to explore two large windows and Turret Arch.  While we were there we were able to see researchers in action on top of the first Window, they used parachutes to send their equipment down and rappelled off the side.  Pretty neat!

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy (1 mile round trip, mild climb with some areas with stairs)

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The Windows come with some pretty amazing views!

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We were lucky to be here during great weather!  Blue skies and low 60’s.  February can be hit or miss with weather.  As we were leaving it was raining which even turned to snow on the way back to Salt Lake City.

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Sibling love!  I’m glad these too get to share these memories together!

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Above you can see both the North and South Windows.

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Turret Arch is also a part of this short hike.

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The red rock desert is so stunning against those blue skies!

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After we said our goodbyes to our New Mexico friends we were getting ready to head home.  Well my children decided there was no way they wanted to head home yet.  We still had a few hours so we headed back to Arches to do a couple more trails on our own.

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Our first stop was Delicate Arch.

Little Mountaineers Rating: Moderate (3 mile round trip to Arch, 480 ft elevation change, multiple areas of uphill climb, steep slick rock climb area, some rocky/sandy areas, some ledges/drop offs.  No shade, this hike becomes more difficult in harsher weather conditions)

My son has a rock book he got for Christmas and there is a picture of Delicate Arch in the book.  He was eager to see it in person so we decided to head out.  I knew my 3 year old daughter was not going to be able to do this trail on her own, so she got to ride in our Onya Baby Pure carrier.  The guide says to give yourself 2-3 hours for the trail.  We completed this trail in under 2, partly because it wasn’t sunny or hot and apparently my son was an energizer bunny that day!  Weather can make this trail deadly.  In the summer I would advise going early in the morning or later in the evening and bringing plenty of water and snacks.  I’ve hiked this hike in August when it is extremely hot, but we did it as a sunrise hike, even then it was warm.  I loved this hike in February, it is nice not to have the heat!  This hike isn’t too long and has a few areas of uphill climb to give you that great leg workout and get your heart pumping, but I don’t consider it an extremely difficult hike which is why I gave it a moderate rating.  I would definitely plan on carrying your baby/toddler/preschooler age child and make sure you rest when needed especially during the steep climbs.

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Different rock formations to see along this trail!

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Once you see this little window you know you are almost there!

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Delicate Arch!  Even more stunning in person.  My son’s reaction when he rounded that last corner was priceless.  He was truly in awe and couldn’t believe how big it was in real life.  He was such an amazing hiker this trip!   It’s so fun to watch them grow and learn.

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It always seems a little windy near the arches.  Guess that makes sense.  Here is our lovely windy Delicate Arch selfie.

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If you don’t think you are ready to tackle this hike you can still take your kids to see the cool rock art panel, it is at the start of the trail and doesn’t require any uphill climb.

We decided to tackle another quick trail before we headed home so we headed over to Skyline Arch.

Little Mountaineers Rating:  Easy (.4 mile round trip flat and sandy areas)

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Of course whenever my kids see rocks/boulders they have to climb them.

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Just like pretty much everywhere we go, we left wanting more.  Moab has so much to offer, even more than just Arches National Park.  We only touched on a few of the trails this post but I can’t wait to share more later on.  We only spent 2 days here this time, but it was definitely worth it, there is so much to see even in a short period of time.  Happy hiking!

Check out our little bonus adventure below!

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You thought dinosaurs were extinct…well not in Moab!  We decided to take all the kiddos to Moab Giants Dinosaur Park after our long drives to let them play and get some energy out before we checked into our motel.  We didn’t pay for the museum or any of the indoor stuff, we just did the Dinosaur Trail to see all dinosaur statues and there is also a playground area for kids to play on.  To do this portion of the park it is 12$ for kids 4 and older and 16$ for adults.  The dinosaur statues were really cool, and looked liked they fit right in with stunning Moab as the backdrop.

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Zion National Park

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Lower Emerald Pool Trail:

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy (1.2 mile round trip to lower emerald pool/waterfall, paved trail)

Weeping Rock Trail:

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (.4 mile round trip, 173 ft elevation gain so some steep parts and minor drop offs)

Riverside Walk:

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (2.2 mile round trip to river narrows, mostly flat, paved trail)

Last spring we took our kids on their first trip to Zion National Park.  We were only going to be there 1 day so we kept it super easy.  You drive through Zion Canyon on a shuttle bus that has 9 stops.  There are many family friendly hiking and walking trails.  We ended up doing 3 hikes that day.  We decided to do the Lower Emerald Pool Trail, Weeping Rock Trail and Riverside Walk.  We also stopped at many of the scenic stops and lookouts along the way.  The trails we hiked were beautiful, mostly paved and easy to navigate, but there are a lot of tourists since it is very popular.  I can’t wait to go back and try some of the less traveled and more difficult hikes.  I also want to hike The Narrows with my kids when they are older.   It was a dreary day with a light drizzle of rain, but it was beautiful and my kids did really well.  They were exhausted by the end of the day of course!  I feel like Zions gives you beautiful scenery and fun hiking trails without you feeling like you are out in the middle of the wilderness, so I think it is perfect for families and beginner hikers.  You have easy access to modern amenities and the paved trails and railings help even the youngest of hikers. On the flip side there are more wilderness type hikes and strenuous options for those looking for that as well.   You could easily spend several days here or make a good day trip like we did.

Here is the link to Zion National Park website.

DSC_0594DSC_0636DSC_067120150425_15063720150425_142619My son loved Weeping Rock and was trying to catch droplets of water in his mouth.20150425_15133620150424_152523The Lower Emerald Pool features this water cascading off of the cliff above.20150425_152729Riverside Walk trail ends at the start of The Narrows, it’s quite majestic and the kids loved playing in the water and on the rocks.  However, we couldn’t manage to take a normal family picture here.  Don’t mind our awkward facial expressions.DSC_067520150424_150301This girl was 18 months and was barely taking a few steps (she was a very late walker) so I carried her all day.  Lot’s of people laughed at how funny she looked in my little carrier with her super long legs.20150424_15284020150425_15133920150424_153035Another angle of Lower Emerald Pool.

 

Buffalo Point Trail

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Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (.8 mile round trip with uphill climb to top, rocks to climb and explore on top)

Ever since I was a little girl I have always loved Antelope Island.  I don’t even have a particularly good reason.  I think it just felt magical to me.  So close to home, yet you feel like you are on some grand adventure.  I’ve loved going back as an adult and taking my kids.  The views are grand, you will most likely spot some wildlife, and there are rocks for climbing, and beaches to explore.

Buffalo Point Trail is a great family friendly hike.  It isn’t very long (.4 miles one way so just under a mile round trip) and the views at the top, along with all the fun rocks to climb and explore, makes it a great place to take your family on an adventure.  We most recently went last July in the evening and it was perfect, this is a great sunset hike in the summer.  This trail doesn’t really have shade so it is best to go in the morning or evening during the summer.  Spring can be a great time to go to Antelope Island as well, but make sure you check their website or call ahead and make sure you aren’t going to be there during biting gnat season, trust me it isn’t fun.  (Biting gnat season is usually April-June) As with any hike it is always important to be prepared.  Bug spray, sunscreen, water and snacks are always important.  When my daughter was younger it was always important we had a carry option as well.  After finally learning to walk at 18 months, she had only a couple of months walking experience by the time we went on this hike.  I carried her up to the point, but she was very anxious to get out and explore and climb, then she went back in my baby carrier on the way down.  Little children with limited walking experience can tire quickly so this is a good thing to remember if you are taking them with you, make sure you have a comfortable option to carry them if needed.

Here are some pictures and highlights.  I can’t wait to share some other great trails Antelope Island has to offer.

Here is the link to the Antelope Island State Park website with maps of trails and other info.

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Bryce Canyon-Winter Hiking

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Navajo Loop:

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (1.3 mile loop, 550ft elevation change, some steep climb.  Not always accessible during the winter, snow/ice will require extra equipment/precaution and will bump my rating up to Moderate during those conditions)

Rim Trail (Sunrise to Sunset):

Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy (1 mile round trip, paved mostly flat.  Not always accessible during the winter, snow/ice will require extra equipment/precaution)

I’m not the biggest fan of winter, I’ll admit it.  My 6-year-old went on a snowshoeing field trip this winter and loved it, which got me thinking that maybe some winter hiking wouldn’t be too bad.  So in February we decided to try some winter hiking and it was a big hit.  I’m actually looking forward to next winter and trying out some more winter hiking and snowshoeing.

Here in Utah, winter can mean terrible air quality.  We can get inversions that last for days and weeks.  Pair that with freezing cold temperatures and you might as well hibernate for the winter!  Luckily once you get out of the valley you can reach some clear air and sunny skies.  During a particular bad week in February we decided to ditch the inversion for the weekend and head south for an adventure to Bryce Canyon National Park and Escalante.

It was sunny, the air was clear, and temperatures during the day were 50’s and 60’s.  It felt amazing!

Hiking on snow can be tricky.  You definitely need snow boots or winter hiking boots.  These need to have good tread and they also need to be warm and waterproof, especially for kids to keep them comfortable.  You can use spike attachments to add to your shoes or use snowshoes and skis depending on where you go as well.  A beautiful sunny day may get you excited for some hiking, but it brings its own risks.  Warmer temps and sunshine can make it harder to navigate snow making it more slick and slippery.  So when you attempt any winter hiking, please be careful!  It is also important to remember hydration and even sunscreen in the winter, sometimes we forget these things since it isn’t summer but they are still important!

Bryce Canyon was absolutely breathtaking in the winter.  I can’t wait to go back, and also go visit in the warmer months too.  Not all the hiking trails are completely open, so you kind of just have to be flexible.  We hiked parts of the Rim trail that was open and also parts of the Navajo trail.  I only did the part of the Navajo trail with my 6-year-old though, I didn’t feel quite comfortable enough to bring my 2-year-old down the icy decent.  I felt like Bryce Canyon was really kid friendly in general, however winter hiking isn’t probably the best for beginners.  My kids did really great overall, but they have quite a bit of experience.  In the late spring and summer when the snow melts there will be more kid friendly hiking options with several easy and moderate trail options.  The viewpoints are breathtaking, I’m glad we made the trip this winter.  I consider Bryce Canyon a must see if you ever come visit Utah, or if you live in Utah and haven’t ever been then you really need to visit!

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Valley of Fire State Park: Part 1

Little Mountaineers Rating: Moderate (1 mile loop, sandy trail and rocky decent)

Last week we ventured to Henderson, Nevada for spring break to visit family, and enjoy some warmer weather.  We have spent many vacations in the Las Vegas area and I always get asked what we do.  When most people think of Las Vegas they think of the Strip and Casinos, not quite what they would consider a family friendly destination.  The Las Vegas area actually hosts some of the most beautiful and interesting outdoor adventures.  Each time we go we find new places to explore.  I can’t wait to share some of our past experiences as well.

Just over an hour outside of Las Vegas you will find Valley of Fire State Park.   Click HERE for more information on the park.  We were excited to venture out to this park for the day and do some exploring.  We looked up the map of trails, decided on a few we wanted to try, and left after breakfast.

We may have been overly ambitious thinking we could take on 3-4 trails that day.  We ended up doing 2 and arriving home around 3:30 pm exhausted.  Here are some tips if you want to venture to Valley of Fire State Park with your family.

TIPS

  1. Hiking in sand is much more difficult than hiking on nice hard flat ground, especially for young children.  Almost all of the trails at this park include sand, and lots of it.  The sand was especially difficult for my 2-year-old and we carried her part of the time.
  2. Many of these trails have little to no shade.  This is probably not the best park to visit in the middle of summer.  Sunscreen, hats and plenty of water is a must.
  3. The age of your kids will matter here.  Young kids will maybe be able to finish one hike.  You will probably have a more enjoyable time just hanging out in the sand, exploring rocks, and having a picnic, rather than doing a full hike.  Older kids will be able to do more hiking, but plan on it being longer and more tiring.

Driving through the park is a beautiful scenic drive on its own.  Even if you didn’t do any hiking and just drove around, had a nice picnic, and did some exploring it would be more than worth it for the beautiful scenery.

The first trail we decided to take on was the White Domes Loop.  A mile loop trail that included unique rock formations, a narrow slot canyon, and lots and lots of sand.

WHITE DOMES LOOP

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So much sand!

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The trail starts off with a fairly steep rocky decent.

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My son was always on the lookout for shade, sometimes you had to be a little creative.

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The kids loved playing in the sand.

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This is just a short slot canyon, but it was still fun to venture through.

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My 2-year-old has to follow my 6-year-old everywhere, and she’s pretty good at it!

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The desert is a beautiful place.

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We found the perfect spot for a nice break to refuel.

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Despite the sand, my kids managed to survive and we finished the whole loop in about 1.5 hours.  Stay tuned for part 2 of this adventure where I go into detail about the 2nd hike we explored.

Red Reef Trail

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Little Mountaineers Rating: Easy Moderate (1 mile round trip to waterfall steps)

This past week we headed south to find some warmer weather to enjoy our spring break.  One of the stops we made was in St George, Utah.  The St George area has all sorts of neat trails and hikes.  This trip we found the wonderful Red Reef Trail.  This trail is part of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and we accessed it through the campground at the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.  Here is a link with more details and how to get there.

This trail was very kid friendly, especially when you follow my tips below. (my little mountaineers are 2 and 6).

TIPS

  1. Don’t ever feel like you have to finish the whole trail.  Always do what is comfortable for you and your family.  If you get to a hard spot it is okay to turn around.  Spend more time at the places along the trail that interest your family.
  2. If you want your kids to have fun, let them have a little control.  If they want to stay by the stream and throw rocks for a while, or hike some of the fun rock formations, let them do it.  Child led hikes are usually not quick or with a destination in mind, they are usually all about exploring, curiosity and the sensory experience.
  3. Bring plenty of water and snacks.  I bought my kids Camelbak Kid’s Mini M.U.L.E. backpacks for Christmas and it was the best investment ever.  A days supply of water and snacks fits in their backpack and hydration pack and they carry it on their own backs, even my two year old.
  4. Check weather and plan a time of day that works best for your family.  Kids can get grouchy when their comfort is compromised.  Make sure the clothes and shoes they are wearing are weather and hike appropriate.  If you think they’ll get wet it is good to bring spares.

Okay now for all the fun parts.  Follow along my pictures below and check out our favorite parts of this trail.  Check it out for yourself and let us know how you like it!

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We did quite of bit of “off trail” exploration.  There were many cool rock formations and other neat things right along the trail, my kids were in climbing heaven.

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The picture above is a tree that looks like an elephant.  Below is the same tree on the backside with a perfect little area for exploring.

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We hiked this trail the end of March so there was water in the stream and many waterfalls.

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Pictured above and below was some of the “off trail” exploration we did.  You don’t have to do any of this as part of the trail, but it is right along side if you are feeling brave.

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Pictured above was basically the very end of the trail.  You are able to scale the rocks with the rope and on the other side there are a couple more waterfalls and more rock and narrow canyon hiking.  We did cross this area with our kids because we felt comfortable doing so.  Feel free to call it quits here if you aren’t quite ready for this step.

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Well that’s about it.  We spent a couple hours (round trip) on this trail in the early afternoon and it was the perfect way to spend our afternoon.  Stay tuned for more adventures from our spring break.   This blog will also feature adventures from other parts of Utah, other states, and even around the world.  Get out and become a mountaineer with your family!