Southwest Guide: Utah
Bike Moab’s new king trail, kayak Lake Powell from a houseboat, cruise the newly open Navajo Nation, and more.
Ride Moab’s Newly Christened King Trail
Taking in the view from the top of Burro Pass—over the La Sal Mountains, across Canyonlands National Park, and all the way down to the Colorado River—is more than window-shopping. It’s a sneak preview of the consummate Moab biking experience, a series of trails that locals linked up with connectors, fittingly dubbed the Whole Enchilada, and officially opened last year. “It’s one of the top five rides in my book,” says Miles Venzara, a pro rider for Trek Bicycles. “The views from the ride make you feel like you left Earth.”
Perhaps it’s the diversity that’s so unbelievable. Starting at over 10,000 feet in the La Sal Mountains, the 25-mile-plus (40-kilometer-plus) route climbs 1,000 vertical feet (305 meters), then descends 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) through an encyclopedic array of Southwest terrain. Riders splash through streams, huff up switchbacks, navigate technical root-and-rock sections, and then scream downhill on steep, buffed-to-a-polish singletrack. Meanwhile, conifer forests give way to high-alpine meadows, which turn into piñon-studded desert and classic Moab slickrock. It all ends in a stunner of a grand finale: the Colorado River itself. As Venzara sums it up: “übersick.”
Get Going: Rent full-suspension bikes at Poison Spider Bicycles ($40-$60, www.poisonspiderbicycles.com) then take the Porcupine Shuttle from the shop to the trailhead ($25, 1 435 260 0896).
DIY Potential: High. 1 shuttle 1 bike = epic bike ride.
Kayak Lake Powell With a Reformed Houseboat Captain
“Hardy” doesn’t begin to describe Maggie Cummins, a 53-year-old ex-cowgirl, mother of six, (de)converted missionary, houseboat captain, and kayak guide who launched the Page, Arizona-based outfitter Awesome Adventures in April. Her can-do, however, is precisely why she makes the perfect guide to Lake Powell, where she has searched for the most scenic and unfrequented locales for the last seven years.
A four-day trip starts at the Wahweap Main Launch Ramp in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where Cummins meets guests with her 23-foot (7-meter) Sea Ox outfitted with a kayak rack, kayaks, camping equipment, and meals. (You bring the libations.) She’ll then motor to a far-out canyon of your choice, such as Secret or Twilight, where you’ll set up a tented base camp. What ensues is three days of kayaking up the skinny arms of Glen Canyon, sometimes as narrow as your boat’s width, scrambling up slot canyons, and leaping off rocks into glass-clear water. After the nightly barbecue, a campfire illuminates the 600-foot rust-hued cliffs that frame a window into the blinking cosmos.
Get Going: Tours: $795 per person, www.kayakexplorations.com
DIY Potential: Low. No boat, no kayaks, no fun.
Cruise the Newly Open Navajo Nation
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Stretching across more than 26,000 square miles (6.7 million square hectares) of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, the Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the country. It is also, some might argue, the most scenic. As of late last year, the tribe decided to point out the best driving routes through its lands by producing detailed maps that point out the roads’ salient and often least visited stops.
Hit two of their 13 scenic roads by traveling south from the Utah-Arizona border on Highway 163 through Monument Valley and Kayenta, then looping west and cruising Highway 98 to Page. The two-day plan: Take in Monument Valley by enlisting the required Navajo guide and hiking three hours to the top of Hunt’s Mesa for a hawk’s-eye view of what the Navajo call the Valley of the Rocks. Stake your tent at the peaceful (and free) campground at Navajo National Monument, 70 miles (113 kilometers) southwest. The next morning, after hiking five strenuous miles to and from Betatakin, a spectacular and intricate ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling deep in the monument, Naat’tisis’aan Scenic Road (Highway 98) beckons with views of precarious rock formations.
Get Going: Tours: $100 a day, www.monumentvalley.com; road maps available at Monument Valley’s visitor center, www.navajoscenicroads.com
DIY Potential: Moderate