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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Desolation Lake Trail and Overlook - Fall in Big Cottonwood Canyon

I used to think nothing beat the colors of New England Fall.  The deep reds, subtle oranges, and crisp yellows of the New England Autumn just makes your heart leap.  Couple these changing colors with the drop of humidity, warm sunny days followed by cool sweater weather nights, and fall in New England is easily one of my favorite seasons. 

Fall on Desolation Trail  

And then I moved to Utah.  Sure, there is a serious lack of trees, especially here in the city, but a drive to the canyons will solve that.  At the bottom of the canyons you may not be very impressed, but as you climb up the canyon, the colors will POP.  The yellows of Utah are the most stunning to me, and coupled with the reds and the oranges, the mountain looks like they are on fire.  

The one thing I am missing is that drop in temperature and cooler nights.  Downtown, temperatures were still hitting the 90s during the day, and nights were still AC weather.  I am waiting for that crisp New England weather so I can start baking apple pies. 

The canyons are the perfect place to escape some of that city heat, and see Utah's amazing fall colors. And while you can drive the Aspen Loop, or drive up and down the canyons, a long hike through the woods is the best way to experience Autumn in the American West. 

 I am officially in love with Autumn Aspens 

Desolation Lake and Overlook
(Desolation Trail and Wasatch Crest Trail Spine )

Trailhead:  Mill D North, Big Cottonwood Canyon    Season:  Mid summer to fall (due to high altitude snow accumulation) (This hike was September 26th, perfect time for fall leaves).   Distance:  7.4 RT to the lake, 8.75 RT to get to the ridge and back.   Elevation:  Start at 7,927' to 9,577' (2,303' gain).   Dogs: No - Big Cottonwood Canyon Protected SLC watershed.   Kids: Maybe, easy trail to follow but due to its long distance I would say no.    Camera:  Nikon 3200 DSLR

Mill D Trailhead 

The trail starts off at the Mill D trail head at the top of the canyon  There is a large parking area on both sides of the street.  It is quite a ways up the canyon so be patient and drive carefully up the canyon.

Mill D Trail head and Desolation Trail 

Big Cottonwood Canyon

The trail is well defined and easy to follow. For the first half mile, keep your eyes on the gorgeous peak to your right. 

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Fall in Big Cottonwood Canyon

When you reach a junction to go left towards Dog Lake or right to Desolation Lake, keep right to Desolation Lake.  If you want to keep the hike short, Dog Lake is an okay option (you can check out my Dog Lake post here).  Desolation is much prettier and is worth the extra hike. Do note that this is a very popular downhill mountain bike trail.  You will encounter a lot of mountain bikers coming down the narrow section of the trail- keep your eyes open and share the trail. 

Desolation Trail to Dog Lake or Desolation Lake 

Fall on Desolation Trail  

Fall on Desolation Trail  

The reds, greens and yellows in this field were fall perfection.  

Moose on the Desolation Trail  

I have a serious Moose fear (like, I have nightmares about hiking with moose).  They are beautiful and I enjoy watching them, but I have a large fear of coming around the corner to an aggressive moose on a trail.  Moose are not normally aggressive, but can when:  it is a female with her calf, or males during the mating season (rut) in the fall.  I came around the corner to see this female moose laying about 20' off the trail with her calf.  Thankfully her calf was older, and this was a popular trail with a lot of hikers and bikers in front of me.  I nervously and briskly walked by and survived to tell the tale. 

Desolation Lake 

Finally you reach Desolation. This gorgeous and quiet lake had an emerald hue and was the perfect place to have lunch and relax before climbing the last half mile to the ridge. 

Desolation Lake 

Desolation Lake 

Desolation Trail

Desolation Lake and Trail
Heading up to the ridge adds another mile+, but is so completely worth it.  Looking back, the view of the lake and the peaks, with the fall colors is breath taking.  

Desolation Trail

Desolation Trail meets the Crest Trail

At the Ridge !

When you reach the ridge you will have cell service again, and see park city on one side, and the Desolation Lake basin on the other side.  You will also see a lot of mountain bikers coming across the ridge and down the Desolation trail. 

Park City below the ridge 

Desolation Lake 

This is the perfect long day hike to see fall. The aspens, the lake, the meadows and the wildlife- this is a perfect way to spend a weekend. I would plan this hike ASAP as the colors wont last, and snow will be making its way to the top of the canyons soon. 

Happy Hiking,

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Killyon Canyon Hike, Emigration Canyon, Utah

Although the temperatures here in Utah are still screaming summer, the leaves are changing at the top of the canyons.  This week we are talking about some great fall hikes around the Salt Lake City area. Lets start with Killyon.

UPDATE - Parking Restrictions:   
1-  You CANNOT park anywhere up the canyon road. There are "No Parking, Fire Lane" signs posted everywhere. There are 2 small areas (4 spaces each) now set aside right as you begin to turn off Emigration Canyon. They are approximately .9 mile and .8 mile from the trailhead. This adds quite a bit of distance to your hike now. Also, if you have a dog (I do), you need to have your dog on leash while you walk up the road. Still a great trail. Pretty fall colors. Just way harder to access
2-  You will get ticketed ($40) if you park at the top/main area.  There are "No Parking" signs but it can be easy to miss.  

You may not have heard of Killyon Canyon.........until now.  Well, that is because Killyon Canyon is a new nature preserve located in Salt Lake County.  This area was slated to be (surprise), an expensive housing complex for the wealthy.  Instead, it has officially been designated as an open space.  A 1.8 million dollar deal protects these 268 acres on top of Emigration Full Article Here

No one really talks about Emigration (besides Ruth's Diner) so I was really excited to check out this hike up Emigration Canyon. The colors up at the top of Emigration are insanely beautiful right now.  GO check it out!

All of these great little graphics from an article with the Salt Lake Tribune tell you everything you need to know for this hike.  Be warned, the trailhead is a little tricky to find and the parking lot is small (2-3 cars) so I would not plan this hike with a group.

If you are bringing your dog, note that you cannot go into the Birch Springs or Lookout Peak watershed areas.  According to this article, you can continue to the ridge overlook, just not to the Birch Springs or Lookout Peak watershed. 

"After 1.5 miles, you will reach a junction at Birch Springs. this is the watershed boundary; no dogs are allowed on or over the ridgeline. Go left (north) and stay on the trail as it makes a couple of broad switchbacks toward a craggy rock formation. The overlook to Mountain Dell canyon is about 2.8 miles from the trailhead, just beyond the rock formation. Enjoy the view or continue another mile or so to the top of Lookout Peak."

I am pretty confident dogs are allowed up to the saddle, and must go left (north) as highlighted in red.  Dogs cannot go past the saddle down the Birch Springs trail. 

UPDATE:   You CANNOT park anywhere up the canyon road. There are "No Parking, Fire Lane" signs posted everywhere. There are 2 small areas (4 spaces each) now set aside right as you begin to turn off Emigration Canyon. They are approximately .9 mile and .8 mile from the trailhead. This adds quite a bit of distance to your hike now. Also, if you have a dog (I do), you need to have your dog on leash while you walk up the road. Still a great trail. Pretty fall colors. Just way harder to access 
Source: MNGInteractive

Again, the trailhead is not posted, and there is a very small parking lot.  If you see about a million graphics and signs about picking up after your dog and the "Killyon Canyon Poop Ferry" you are in the right area.  This trail is in the midst of some private residents so pick up after your dog and be respectful. 

Source: MNGInteractive

Killyon Canyon Parking Area-  Trail Head is beyond the barriers. 

There are about 50 of these signs all over the parking area and trails.  Be respectful and pick up after your dog. 

Fall Colors, Emigration/Killyon Canyon 

Fall Colors at Killyon Canyon, Emigration 

Fall Colors at Killyon Canyon, Emigration 

After your hike, instead of going back down Emigration, keep going and make your way up to the reservoir.  Little Mountain Pass/ Little Dell Reservoir offers stunning views.  Make sure you leave fido in the car. 

Keep your eyes peeled for critters! We spotted this gigantic Porcupine by the reservoir. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ferry and Attractions on Block Island


The most popular way of getting to the island is by Ferry.  Yes you can take a personal boat over (which I have a few times) but the ferry is the easiest way to get to the island. The ferry leaves from a few different places and has a few different rules and schedules.  See below!

  • Ferry Point Judith RI High Speed (30 minutes)
    • pets in the cabin in pet carrier only, on leash outside deck  
  • Ferry Point Judith RI Traditional (1 hr 15 min minutes) 
    • pets permitted (on leash or in carrier)
  • Newport RI (60 minutes)
    • pets in the cabin in pet carrier only, on leash on outside deck 
  • Fall River MA (2 hr 15 min)
    • pets in the cabin in pet carrier only, on leash on outside deck 
  • New London (1 hour 15 minutes) pets in carriers only 
Rates depend on the weekday/weekend, round trip, same day, one way and season.  Check the website for rates and the schedule.  

Getting Around

The best and most popular way to get around the island is by bike or moped.  Although the roads are not particularly "bike friendly", bikes and mopeds dominate the road and take over.  A bike is a great way to see the island on your own time, stopping wherever you want, and enjoy the day.  Be warned, the island does a lot of rolling hills so you will be getting your workout in. 

 General Prices:
Bike rental rates start at $15 for 2 hours or $30 for the whole day. (Prices vary depending on the style of bike.)

If renting a moped is more your style, bring your driver's license. Rates range from $60 for 2 hours to $85 for 4 hours (longer rentals possible). 

There are a lot of rental places around the island, and many of them situated right at the ferry terminal. 

Island Bike and Moped, Aldo's Moped (bike, car, moped), Beach Rose Bicycles (bikes only), Block Island Bike and Car Rental, 

You can also rent a car, and take a taxi ride around the island. 

Once you figured out HOW you are getting to the island, HOW you are getting around the island, now you want to know what to do.  

Well, there are 17 miles of beaches on the island, but if you missed my post on Block Island Beaches, you can find it here. 

There are a lot of hiking and walking opportunities on the island. 


For such a small island, there are some great hikes and walks on the island.  We stopped for a nice walk around the Hodge Family Wildlife Preserve. Nice cleared trails wandering through a gorgeous field of flowers with views of the ocean. 

There are also some great walking trails at the north end of the island by North Light. 

Rodmans Hollow is another popular spot for hikers.  It is a 230-acre glacial outwash basin, located in the southwest part of the island with great hiking trails. 

You can find a list of more great hikes on this page. 

North Light

The lighthouses on the island are a main attraction.  There are two lighthouses on the island full of history. 

Block Island North Light (Lighthouse), built in 1867, is a historic lighthouse on Block Island, Rhode Island (New Shoreham). The light was deactivated in 1973 and United States Fish and Wildlife Service acquired the lighthouse. The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.  After years of neglect, the lighthouse, along with two acres of land, was sold to New Shoreham in 1984 for 1USD. Following much renovation by the North Light Commission, it was relighted in 1989, and a museum opened on the first floor in 1993. Then, in 2008 the light underwent restoration at Georgetown Ironworks in Massachusetts and was returned in 2009. Finally, on 23 October 2010, a relighting ceremony took place.

Southeast Light 

Block Island Southeast Light is a lighthouse located on Mohegan Bluffs at the southeastern corner of Block Island, Rhode Island. It was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1997 as one of the most architecturally sophisticated lighthouses built in theUnited States in the 19th century. The light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.[4] The latter designation was made in recognition of the light's historic importance as an aid to navigation, and for its sophisticated architecture.

In 1990, the Coast Guard deactivated the light and replaced it with a nearby steel tower. Because of ongoing erosion of the bluffs, in 1993 the entire 2,000 ton structure was moved about 300 feet (91 m) back from the cliffs. 

Other Attractions

Of course, there are a ton of water related activities on Block Island.  Fishing, diving, banana boat rides, parasailing, surfing, you name it, Block has it.  There is also a zoo, North Light fibers, and various other attractions like visiting the Mohegan Bluffs.  If you are more into the social scene, there are a ton of popular restaurants and bars on the islands.  Mudslides at Champlins are always a favorite, or drinks at the Yellow Kitten or Mahogany Shore.  You can even stop at the Oar for a Lobster BLT.  

Block Island is surely a piece of paradise right off the coast of Rhode Island.