When you think of Southern Utah and what there is to see, two National Parks usually come to mind; Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Both of these parks offer unparalleled beauty, but in the summer months, the crowds can make them feel like an Orlando theme park. For this reason, this past weekend I explored some lesser known areas of Southern Utah.
I picked up my bestie early Saturday morning, and we drove south from our homes in Salt Lake City. The plan was to get away and enjoy a girls weekend in nature. First item on the itinerary was hiking Kanarra Falls. Kanarra Falls is a popular hike near Cedar City, UT that consists of slot canyons and some picturesque waterfalls. I read about it during my weekly hiking research, and decided to check it out for myself. The Falls recently became so popular that a permit is now required to do the hike. The permit is $8 per person and can be purchased ahead of time at http://kanarrafalls.com, or at the trailhead. Either way, they only take credit or debit. No cash is accepted. I purchased our permits ahead of time to avoid any problems.
We arrived to the trailhead around noon on Saturday. There are two parking lots available. We parked at the first parking area on the right, and would recommend anyone else doing the same. It is about 20 feet further than the parking area on the left, but offer some great amenities. A family runs a pop-up at the parking with souvenirs, cold drinks, and ice cream. They have four port-o-potties that are cleaner than what you will find at the trailhead. The family who run the pop-up also have a wealth of knowledge. They will tell you how long it takes to get to each point of interest on the trail, and lucky for us offered some freshly sliced watermelon upon our return from the hike.
The hike itself is not strenuous. To get to the last waterfall of significance is about 2.25 miles from the trailhead, which would make it a 4.5 mile hike round trip. The obstacles with this hike are the heat and the water. As you would expect in the desert in summer, temperatures get high. The hike is not covered until about a 1.5 miles in when you reach the slot canyons. You should take plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat. Once you reach that 1.5 mile mark, you will spend the rest of the hike walking through water that varies from ankle to knee height. Wear clothes and shoes that you don't mind getting wet. The height of the water will vary as the seasons change, always check the weather before going out, as this is a slot canyon and prone to flash flooding.
The trail itself isn't marked, but it isn't hard to find your way. It was busy, but not overcrowded when we went. We had times of being alone along the trail. However, once you get to the waterfalls in the slots, the crowd increases and since there are only make shift ladders and ropes to climb, lines will form around the waterfalls. Be prepared to be patient and also to test your courage for climbing up logs and rocks.
Once we returned to the parking lot we decided to buy some lemon Italian ice as a reward. There were cute souvenirs designed by local artists, but we decided that the $1.50 Italian ice was perfect for our budget and drove back to our campsite in Cedar Breaks National Monument.
I had originally picked a campground that was deep into Cedar Breaks because I was not allowed to make a reservation online and picked one with a larger number of walk-up sites. Fortunately, I went out on a limb and drove into the first campground we came across and got a spot there instead. It was in between Sunset Point and Point Supreme in the park and offered some short hikes to spectacular views. Our campground was clean and offered bathrooms and a shower as well as running water. They even offered fire wood for purchase. The best part about our little campsite was the amazing surprise that awaited us that night.
Cedar Breaks is an official Dark-Sky place according to the International Dark-Sky Association. At over 10,000 feet of elevation and with limited light pollution, the night sky is a spectacular show of stars. We were fortunate enough to be camping during one of their star parties. The star party offered visitors a chance to look at the night sky with the help of four different telescopes. We got to see four different planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury), Polaris, and the moon all with the help of the telescopes. We also got to take part in a fun constellation tour given my one of the park's volunteers. I was amazed at how many stars we could see, because it is almost a full moon and the moon usually makes it impossible to see so many stars. I can't even imagine what that night sky looks like during a new moon, and frankly I would go back just to see. We finished our star gazing around 11pm and turned in for the night.
Waking up early, we got ourselves changed and headed out to the last stop on our mini-trip, Mystic Hot Springs. I have been jonesing for some hot springs time ever since I came back from Japan. Japan spoiled me rotten. I heard about Mystic Hot Springs late last fall when I first moved to Salt Lake City, but never found the time to get there. Luckily, it was a perfect stop on the way back home from Cedar Breaks. We got to the springs around 9:45am on Sunday. This was the best time, as the main office didn't open until 10am and I had purchased our passes online before hand. I did this because in Utah, almost nothing is open early or even at all on Sundays. I was thankful I did so. I wrote a quick note with our booking number on it, slid it through the door and off we went. We were some of the first people at the springs, and nabbed the best tubs in the place. Mystic Hot Springs is sourced from a natural hot spring that is millions of years old. The water is then channeled down and contained in 8 bathtubs and 2 concrete pools. The pools and tubs are kept between 98 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. They offer great views of the mountains and are very rustic. You can hear ducks, geese, and even a peacock as you soak. I would recommend getting there early, as more guests arrived as the morning went on. Take your own towel AND unlike Japan, wear a bathing suit! To purchase your soaking tickets ahead of time just go to www.mystichotsprings.com.
It was a quick trip, but exactly what I needed. It was also awesome to see some lesser known parts of Southern Utah, each stop was near a charming little town that made you remember what America is really about. I encourage you to get out there and explore! If you have any recommendations of your own, or would like more info on the places mentioned above, I would suggest joining the community page and posting there. Keep the adventures coming, and live goofy!!!!