Tag Archives: State Park

The Last of Utah (for Now): Canyonlands National Park

Damn. What a year! I’m a bit sad that I haven’t progressed on my goal to finish writing about our awesome National Parks Road Trip from the summer of 2013. Since then I’ve been completely side-tracked by grad school, summer jobs, and other adult life-related activities. Note to all the young people out there: Don’t grow up, it’s horrible (I’m only partially kidding).

Anyway, back to the story:

After finishing a pleasant half-day at Arches National Park, we made our way out of Moab and went back west towards our last stop in Utah: Canyonlands. Of course, most people these days know about Canyonlands due to that whole story about a guy that got his arm caught between some rocks…but we definitely aren’t that hardcore.


Canyonlands can’t be fully appreciated in just a day’s time, although you can certainly experience some great short hikes and amazing vistas (ABOVE). To truly enjoy Canyonlands, you need a 4WD vehicle, a GPS device, plenty of food and water, and a personal guide who really knows how to navigate the land – that’s how you get to see all the really sketchy and amazing stuff. But we weren’t there to visit the Maze section of the park. Nor the Needles for that matter, since we didn’t have much time. Most causal visitors like us take a day trip through the Island in the Sky.


But before we could begin our trip to Canyonlands, we first had to find a new place to stay for the night. We tried to find a site at the famous Dead Horse Point State Park — however, we soon found that EVERY site had been taken (the place is quite popular by both families and photographers alike). The ranger at the visitor’s booth was really nice however, and gave us directions to a great little campground down the road.

Little did we know that we’d be staying at one of the most gorgeous (and obscure) little campsites in Utah…



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Utah Diaries: From Escalante State Park to Burgers in Boulder

We were pretty beat as we drove away from Bryce Canyon National Park. After an all day hike amongst the hoodoos, we had to drive a few hours to our next stop: Escalante. Actually – to be honest – we didn’t really know what our next stop would be. I guess that’s the beauty of going on a road trip! A month ago when we were planning our trip, I saw a picture of some gorgeous slot canyons/land formations in a Utah tourist magazine, and decided that we had to go and check out that area. It was in Escalante, but we really didn’t know what that meant. Escalante National Monument? Escalante State Park and Petrified Forest? Escalante city? We had no idea.

As we drove on, we passed by buffalo farms on the roadsides, and miles and miles of the most beautiful landscape ever. No wonder this highway (Highway 12, I believe?) has been designated as one of the “Top Most Scenic Highways of America”. I honestly thought they were lying at first. But then it just kept getting better and better:

Jumping for joy

Jumping for joy


Mountains of red and tan rock as far as the eyes can see. Check out the highway on the bottom right.

Unfortunately, when we rolled into the town of Escalante, the visitor center had already closed (it was already past 5 pm). Joy was still sick and pretty tired, so while there were many places we could have camped at, I made an executive decision to stop and stay at Escalante State Park (and Petrified Forest – it was so cute). It also had a lake/reservoir nearby, and it was getting late. Joy likes water. I thought it might be a good match for us…

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Car Camping: Calaveras Big Trees State Park

This past February, I began planning three car camping trips and two backpacking trips for the summer of 2012 – because I thought I would be jobless and on funemployment by June. That didn’t happen…and through the course of planning those five trips for myself and my friends, I discovered that organizing that many camping trips with multiple groups of people is like herding ferral cats.

However, the experience did help me discover Calaveras Big Trees State Park on the edge of the Sierras – it seems to be the closest way to get to the Sierras from the Bay Area. And it’s purrty.

About the park and campground:

1. The Oak Hollow campground is much nicer than the North Grove campground, IMHO. The sites in the lower loop can be pretty spacious (if not gorgeous) and are not as close to each other as the sites in the North Grove section.

Oak Hollow site #105 – notice the matching Campdome 4 tents and the morning sunlight through the trees

2. You can swim in the Stanislaus river where everyone goes fishing, just be careful. If you don’t watch yourself you’ll just float down the river. The campground doesn’t officially condone it, but swimming is pretty feasible when the river is calmish. The rocks around the edges of the river are perfect for passing out in the sun; plus there’s some decent rock jumping around the boulders near the bridge/cascade area.

Loungin all day long. Check out the guy sitting in a chair on the rocks.

Swimmers can also get a natural cold spa treatment if they’re brave enough to scoot across the shallow rapids to the middle of the cascade.

Just make sure to clear the rocks when you jump

3. If you camp here, you must do the North Grove “hike”. It takes you on a gorgeous walk through various giant redwoods, including the most famous one that started the park. The South Grove loop, on the other hand, is a short walk through nothing scenic (my friends and I somehow got lost on this short trail, and ended up walking through the parking lot and up the street to find our car).

When the settlers first “discovered” these big trees back in the day, they chopped down the biggest one and displayed it at fairs. It’s a damn shame.

4. There’s apparently a lot of bears around this park, but don’t worry about them too, too much.

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Backpacking (and Day Hiking) Diaries: Henry Coe State Park

Oh Henry Coe State Park. Very few people know about you, yet you are one of the biggest wilderness areas near the Bay Area.

On the way in: Evening hike on the Spring trail towards Manzanita Camp.

Henry Coe is a really…really huge park.  Apparently it takes about a few days get out to the actual “wilderness” area – called the Orestimba Wilderness, to be precise – from the start of the trailheads near the ranger station/parking lot. If you do choose to venture that far out, they say you should be prepared for a lot of bush-wacking because very few people actually make it all the way out there, and the trails are not maintained (especially these days with budget cuts threatening our ability to still have state parks in California). Definitely bring a map and a compass.

On the way out: Hiking towards the Poverty Flat Rd. / Manzanita Point Rd. junction.

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