August 2018 Hikes

Upper Big Water to Dog Lake

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Upper Big Water is a trail in Millcreek Canyon – 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Millcreek Canyon is a State Park in Salt Lake County that has miles of hiking and biking trails. On odd numbered days, no bikes are allowed on the trails and dogs can be off-leash. Snickers and I set out to do the Upper Big Water trail to Dog Lake and return on  the Little Water trail. It was a 5 mile loop that wound through the pine forest to a large lake. The Big Water Trail is longer than Little Water, but isn’t very steep; Little Water is a much shorter distance, but is much rockier and fairly steep. We chose to hike up Big Water and run down Little Water. The lake at the top was filled with dogs cooling off, which was a nice break before the descent. The wildflowers were in full bloom in early August making for some beautiful scenery. The trail is pretty heavily trafficked – we probably wouldn’t do it again – but it was nice to get into some elevation to have a break from the heat and experience some shade.

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Centerville Canyon via Deuel Creek Trail

The South Deuel Creek Trail in Centerville is a 4.3 mile lightly trafficked trail. The trail gains roughly 1,400 feet over the first half and runs along a creek. Snickers enjoyed the multiple creek crossings and the shade from the trees was much welcomed. About a mile in, there’s a rope swing and there are numerous campsites along the way. The trail ends at a small waterfall which you can view from both the top and bottom. It was a very enjoyable, short hike close to the city.

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Midmountain Trail – Park City

The Midmountain Trail is a 25 mile, point-to-point trail in Park City that can be accessed at a number of points for anywhere from a 9-25+ mile hike. We went on a Saturday morning and, aside from two 1/2-1 mile sections where the trail met up with other bike trails, it was very lightly trafficked. The trail itself was relatively easy. There are very few steep inclines and the trail isn’t too technical. The elevation gain was 2,500 ft, but the trail is overall downhill (though it didn’t feel like it!) with an elevation loss of 3,186 ft. The trail is very well marked, though I did get off at one point and ended up adding 1 mile to the expected distance. We went slower than normal mainly due to the altitude – Park City is at 8,000 ft, so even a slight incline left us winded. Beth did 26.5 miles for a long training run, and Matt and Snickers did about 9 miles starting at the end and meeting up with Beth around mile 21.5. Park City is a great place to get on the trails because there’s a lot more shade and the elevation makes it much cooler than in the city. This is a nice, gradual trail to log some serious miles. Udpate – I ran into two moose on the run! Running in the mountains has its perks.Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 10.07.56 AM

Utah Progress Report: Months 2-4

Whew, the summer truly flew by. We haven’t done a progress report since early June, so this is long overdue. Most of our posts have been about hiking – with a few recipes thrown in for good measure – but we haven’t popped in for a proper life update. So, here goes.

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June, July, and August came and went faster than we expected. We had a couple of visitors and some personal trips planned, which led to busy few months. We went to southern Utah with Matt’s parents, Moab with Beth’s parents, Beth went to Boston, and Matt went to Vegas and on his annual fishing trip to Canada.

We were initially going to head to our next destination at the end of August, but due to some job flux and a rigorous running schedule, we’ve decided to stay put for another month. We’re a little torn because we were looking forward to spending a month or so in Wyoming. Luckily we’re a quick drive to Jackson Hole, so we’re planning to spend a long weekend exploring Yellowstone in a couple of weeks.

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Salt Lake City and County Building

As far as the rest of our summer, it’s been great. We’ve gotten into a routine in our time here, so, while it might not be the most exciting, we’ve gotten to do the things we love: hike and drink good coffee and beer. The summers in Utah are HOT! It’s been great for getting to the pool, but there’s not a lot of shade in town so the sun can be a little unrelenting. Thankfully, the mountains are so close and we can hop in the car and be 20 degrees cooler in a quick 30 minutes. We also haven’t had much rain in the last 3 months so the grass is dry and wildfires are rampant. The skies have been pretty hazy and some mornings you can even smell the smoke. We actually saw a fire less than a mile from our apartment behind the Capitol!

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We’ve spent a lot of time on the trails, both in town and in the mountains, and it’s been great. The wildflowers are in bloom and you can’t beat a mountain trail. Beth’s been training for a race in October and has logged quite a few miles on the trails with Matt and Snickers joining at the end as the support crew. We also managed to get out to a professional rugby game one weekend. The only place you won’t see a line at the beer stand during halftime!

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With all of the travel, we haven’t tried too many new restaurants and breweries since our first update. We have managed to go back to a few favorites and have hit a handful of new “wins.” We tried RoHa the other week, and loved their selection on tap, plus their take-home high gravity beers. We also found some good lunch spots – Caputo’s deli for a meaty, Italian sandwich and Bagels and Greens for a bagel sandwich (Lox and Loaded is a go-to) that goes great with a cup of coffee. Speaking of coffee, Publik is a new favorite with bright, airy spaces and robust roasts. We’ve also hit up some nicer establishments for date night: Laziz Kitchen had some killer Mediterranean food, Water Witch was a nice, intimate spot for some pre-dinner cocktails, Takashi was amazing for sushi (we did omakase where we left the choice up to the chef and it was all so good; definitely worth the wait), and White Horse had tasty cocktails and tapas.

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We never thought Utah would be the place we’d stay the longest (5 months!), but we’re really enjoying our time here.

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July 2018 Hikes

Here are a few hikes we enjoyed in July.

Frary Peak Trail

Frary Peak is a 7 mile out-and-back hike on Antelope Island. We did this as a sunset hike on the 4th of July. To read Matt’s full recap, check out our post: Antelope Island Sunset Hike.

Devil’s Garden Double O Arch Trail

The Double O Arch Trail is located in the Devil’s Garden area of Arches National Park. We left Snickers at the hotel for this one since dogs aren’t allowed on trails in the National Parks. To be honest, we didn’t make it all the way back to the Double O Arch because it was sunset and we wanted to be off the trail before dark, but there are many other arches along the trail. The trail starts on a flat, sandy surface and winds through the fins to the Landscape Arch, which at 290ft is the world’s longest arch! It then scrambles along some slickrock faces to a ridge line. This is where we turned around and stopped at Navajo Arch and Partition Arch on the return.

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Corona Arch Trail 

Corona Arch trail is a moderately trafficked 2.5 mile trail in Moab. The trail has a slight climb at the beginning and then winds along the smooth rock to the towering arch. There is a section that you have to climb rock using cables and another section with a ladder, but overall it was a fairly moderate hike. Dogs are allowed on the trail but may need some assistance on the cables/ladder portions. It was easily 100 degrees the day we went, so go early to try and beat some of the desert heat. The arch at the end is worth the sweat.

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Spring Creek – Flying Dog Trail

The Flying Dog trail from Spring Creek is a 16.5 mile trail in Park City. It is heavily used by mountain bikes, but if you get there early enough, you can get some decent hiking in. Beth did this as part of a training program and did the entire loop in the counterclockwise direction while Matt and Snickers did an out-and-back meeting up at their mile 5. The loop gains 2,000 ft elevation over the course of 16 miles, but there are long switchbacks that make it less daunting. The first few miles winds through some neighborhoods making its way into the Aspen forest. After mile 8, the trail is pretty much downhill to the end with a slight climb around mile 13. It was a good way to log some distance, but with all of the bikes, we probably wouldn’t do it again.

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Lofty Lake Loop Trail – Uinta National Forest

The Uinta National Forest is located near the high Uintas wilderness area of the Uinta Mountains – roughly 80 miles from downtown Salt Lake. The drive through the mountains is gorgeous as you ascend from the valley through Park City and into the pine forests of the Uintas. The trail itself is lightly-to-moderately trafficked and not too difficult. There are areas of climbing, but they are concentrated in small sections with most of the trail being relatively flat. It is a 4.2 mile loop that winds through the wilderness past many lakes. One thing we loved was just how many lakes are concentrated in a small area. The wildflowers were in full bloom at the end of July making for more gorgeous scenery.

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Moab, UT

The second week in July, we hit the road for Moab – about 230 miles, or just shy of a 4 hour drive southeast from Salt Lake City. Maybe it was a bit crazy to hike in the desert when the temps were in the 100s, but we were hell-bent on visiting the two National […]

The second week in July, we hit the road for Moab – about 230 miles, or just shy of a 4 hour drive southeast from Salt Lake City. Maybe it was a bit crazy to hike in the desert when the temps were in the 100s, but we were hell-bent on visiting the two National Parks in the area: Arches and Canyonlands.

Arches National Park

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Balanced Rock – Arches National Park

Arches is located on the Colorado Plateau near the Colorado River. With over 2,000 arches, it has the largest concentration of natural arches in the world. The majority of the rock in the park is sandstone. The arches are formed as water seeped into cracks and through the freeze-thaw cycle ice created pressure breaking off parts of the rock. As wind cleaned out loose particle, fins remained, which further give way to water and wind and became arches. You can see the some of the progress below – the pictures on the right shows the fin stage while the one on the left shows an arch. Fun fact, Skyline Arch (pictured in the photo on the right below) was actually only half that size until 1940 when a boulder fell out and doubled the opening. While we didn’t get to the most famous arch in the park – Delicate Arch – there are so many other beauties to see.

We went in the evening to beat the heat, and while it was still in the 90s the shade made it much more bearable. We drove through the park stopping at Balanced Rock and Skyline Arch before hiking through Devil’s Garden. We passed the Landscape Arch, which is one of the longest arches in the world, before climbing up the rock face to head back toward Double O Arch. We ended up turning around before we got there because the sun was setting and we didn’t want to be scrambling in the dark, but we were able to stop at the Partition and Navajo Arches on the way back. In the dark, we pulled up to the Delicate Arch viewpoint to try and capture it with a long exposure.

Corona Arch

Corona Arch is located along a trail in a side canyon along the Colorado River. The arch is partially free-standing and has an impressive 140 ft x 105 ft opening. The trail is relatively easy with only a few short, steep sections,  and is 2.3 miles round trip. It’s easy to follow with cairns and green paint to mark the way. While summer is probably not the most ideal time to hike in Moab, we went early in the morning before the sun got too high in the sky. This allowed for some shade along the way from the canyon walls and we were able to finish before the trail got too crowded. We ended the hike with a quick splash (for the dog) in the Colorado River.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park covers over 330,000 acres of land in southeastern Utah. It is one of the more remote National Parks with very little for services throughout; the NPS encourages you to take anything you might need for your visit with you due to the remoteness. The park is divided into three “districts” that are bounded by the Colorado and Green Rivers. You cannot access the different areas from within the park as there are no roads that cross the rivers. To get from one district to the next is anywhere from a 2-6 hour car ride.

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The three districts that make up Canyonlands are: Island in the Sky,  The Needles, and The Maze. Island is the Sky, with its proximity to Moab, is the most highly visited area. Island in the Sky is a sandstone mesa that sits over 1,000 above the surrounding terrain. We visited the Grand Viewpoint, which is at the southernmost point of the scenic drive. It gives a great vista of the White Rim – a sandstone formation above the river convergence, as well as The Needles and The Maze.

The Needles is east of the Colorado River and is named after rock pinnacles that can be found in the landscape. The Needles was once the home of Pueblos, and there are still traces of their heritage including well-preserved petroglyphs. The Maze is located to the west of the Colorado and Green Rivers and is the most primitive area in Canyonlands. It is also one of the most remote and inaccessible areas in the entire United States, which has led to it being called on of the most dangerous places to hike. It has many geological features unique to the area including Orange Cliffs and Golden Stairs.

 

Weekend trip to Southern Utah

Beth and Casey came to visit us back in June, and we road tripped to southern Utah to take in the sights. Utah is home to 5 National Parks, third only to Alaska and California, which both boast 8. Not only does Utah have these gorgeous parks, but it also ranks 3rd for most federally owned land – this includes not only the National Parks, but National Monuments, National Forests, and wilderness areas, to name a few. This is especially important because these publicly-owned lands provide protections to the land and wildlife, ensuring their preservation for the future.

We could go on and on about the benefits of preserving nature and how we shouldn’t be stripping those protections away, but that’s a post for another day :).

Back to our trip. We loaded up the car early Saturday morning heading to our final destination – Zion National Park. Since Utah has such amazing scenery and a high concentration of these lands are in the south, we made sure to detour and see as much as possible. On the list: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Dixie National Forest, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Cedar Breaks National Monument. For more about our hikes through all of these parks, check out our post on June 2018 Hikes.

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

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Grand Staircase Escalante – whose name derives from the Escalante River and geological “steps” corresponding to various time periods over millions of years – stretches from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon. It is among some of the most remote in the country and was the last part of the contiguous United States to be mapped. There are five “steps” in the Grand Staircase: the pink cliffs formed of pink and red limestones that has many different rock formations including Bryce Canyon’s famous hoodoos; grey cliffs made of Cretaceous sandstone comprising the area between Bryce Canyon and Zion; white cliffs formed of Navajo sandstone and home of the majestic cliffs of Zion; the vermillion cliffs made of silt and found near Kanab; and the chocolate cliffs, which are the oldest formed of Kaibab limestone and makes the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Needless to say, the sights were spectacular. Driving through the changing landscapes and noting the different geologic periods that made this possible kept us in awe of just how small we are in the grand scheme of things.

Bryce Canyon National Park

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Bryce Canyon National Park has the highest concentration of hoodoos in the world. It’s at 8,000-9,000 ft elevation at the rim, which looks out over the canyon filled with hoodoos. Bryce Canyon is technically not a canyon, but an amphitheater created by headward erosion wherein erosion occurs at the origin of a stream in the opposite direction of the flow. This erosion has led to the exposure of hoodoos where a layer of soft rock (typically mudstone) has been covered by a layer of hard rock (limestone, sandstone) leaving spires. We only made it to Sunrise-Sunset point, where the views were spectacular, but there are many other viewpoints and hikes throughout the park.

Zion National Park

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Zion National Park could have an entire post of its own. After visiting a handful of National Parks in the last couple of months, what struck us most about Zion is how majestic it is. While the park actually encompasses a large area from Zion Canyon to Kolob Canyon, most people only go through Zion Canyon in the southern end of the park. The north fork of the Virgin River cut through the Navajo sandstone creating looming, red cliffs. The park winds through a canyon, and due to the small size and high traffic is only accessible by shuttle in the summer months. There are plenty of trails and sights to see through the canyon including the Court of Patriarchs – a trio of peaks named after biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Angel’s Landing – a rock formation that got its name because it appears that only angels could summit, and the famous narrows – the narrowest section of the canyon and an incredibly popular hike. We didn’t get to hike Angel’s Landing this time, but it’s on our list for our next visit.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

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Cedar Breaks is off the beaten path and easy to skip even if you’re in the area, but we would highly recommend visiting. It’s a natural “amphitheater” that stretches 3 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep. It’s not an amphitheater in the casual sense – no concerts are held there – but it is a rock formation that naturally amplifies sound. It is at 10,000 feet elevation and has rock formations similar to Bryce Canyon. We only ventured along the rim, but were awestruck by the magnitude of the space and just how far you could see out into the valley.

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Dixie National Forest

Dixie National Forest is the largest forest in Utah, stretching across 2 million acres at the southern end of the state. In fact, most of the above national lands lie within the areas of Dixie. We were constantly passing through the forest as we wound our way to all of the National Parks and Monuments. The area is composed of many different ecosystems and is quite beautiful to behold.

To note: National Parks are not dog-friendly, but National Monuments and National Forests are.

Antelope Island Sunset Hike

Independence Day we decided to head out for a sunset hike on Antelope Island in the middle of the great Salt Lake!  It was _hot_ and the evening sun provided no relief.  The views were fantastic from the top of Frary trail, a 7.3 mile out-and-back, the sunset gorgeous, but the fireworks were but small twinkles in the city skyline 30-miles away!

Hot Frary Trail hike

We started at 6pm and it was still in the upper 90’s, sun blazing.  It is an hour drive from SLC because the only way to the island is over a land bridge on the North side of the island.  After we entered, we were treated to views of hundreds of bison (buffalo??) right from the car.  Looks like they were trying to cool off on the salty beaches.

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Frary Trail is rated Hard on Alltrails.com and it earns primarily through zero shade, a good, 2,300 ft climb, and some rocky terrain inside a 3.1 mile trail (plus the return).  We were a bit worried about how many people might be out there for a sunset hike on July 4th, due to fireworks.  However, we only met 1 person returning when we got to the trailhead!

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The trail offered a beautiful, rolling grasslands, with plenty of wildlife and quite a few exposed rocks.  Apparently these are some of the oldest rocks around!  Definitely not what we expected seeing the island from SLC.  The pup was ready for action and did very well, but she was feeling the heat by the time we hit the top of the mountain.

 

We ran into some antelope(??) on our way up- they were crossing the field in front of us, just a hundred feet or so.  They were really eye-ing us up, so we waited and they meandered across the path.  We saw a few more scattered around the paths as the sun set.

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The last leg of the hike is a bit of challenge- it offers 2 paths.  One is across a craggy ridgeline that is really not meant to be hiked at all, and the second is down and then up and up a pretty well-marked path.

Golden hour makes for some fantastic shots

Take a look at the shot I capture of Beth during the last hour or so of sunlight.  Fantastic shadowing at this faux-peak about a half mile still to go.

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Sunset at the peak offers spectacular 360

The real show was at the the peak at 6,445 ft of elevation.  You are able to see 360 and miles and miles in every direction.  Salt Lake City sits due East about 30 miles as the crow flies and makes for a humbling setting in front of the mountain range.  The real show is to the West, with the sunset over the far mountains and the Salt Lake.

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When we hit the top we were joined not long after by a few more folks:  a couple single hikers plus a group of 4 that was struggling to get up… Looks like they were planning to have a few drinks and stay up past the fireworks.  They were going to be in for an unpleasant return hike.

Dark, dark return hike

We started down the return around 10pm, just as the sun had set.  We still had some light for the most difficult half mile; however, that bit of good fortune quickly ended as the sky grew darker.  When the sun sets out on Antelope Island it is DARK.  Not true International Dark Sky’s dark, but no artificial lights outside SLC.  We had a heck of time coming down the entire trail after nautical twilight. We really had to pick around the rocks in the trail that hadn’t even given us notice on the way up.  On top of that, we heard animals… I mean, all kinds of them.  We heard coyotes as soon as the sun set, the bleating of the deer and antelope in the distance, and the constant, low rumbling of the bison(!!!) at the lower elevation.  On top of that, there are many large rocks sticking out of the ground, just outside flashlight view that at every turn make you think you’re going to run right into one of those big things.  It really felt like being out in nature.

For the dog, the return hike was just… miserable.  We would highly discourage folks from making the dark decent with their furry friend.  It was hard for us to see, but impossible for the dog to see, so it was slow going picking through the trail.

The fireworks were but small twinkles

So, what about the FIREWORKS!  It is July 4, after all.  Well… We were able to see some grand city views on our return hike.  The fireworks, though, were only small twinkling lights that must have been spaced every city block.  In fact when I first saw them, I thought I was looking at blinking street lights.  It’s amazing how small the fireworks look at such a distance when they look so big and beautiful when you are beneath them!  The whole of the greater Salt Lake City area was twinkling the entire time we descended.

It was a long, dark, and lonely drive back to civilization off the island… very appropriate way to end it!

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Antelope Island, westside panoramic

June 2018 Hikes

Indian Trail – Ogden

 

In early June we headed up to Ogden to hike the Indian Trail. The trail is just shy of 8.5 miles and has 2,700 feet of gain. It follows an old Shoshoni Indian trail through the mountain pass, climbing up to Ogden Canyon and descending into Cold Water Canyon. It’s a steep climb and goes through various terrain – rocky and exposed at the bottom, winding through shady pines, and descending into a lush forest on the backside. The second half of the trail winds along a creek, which our (sometimes) water-loving dog thoroughly enjoyed. Once we got to the bottom, we turned around and did the whole thing in reverse.Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 8.56.43 AM

Escalante Natural Bridge – Grand Staircase Escalante

 

Escalante Natural Bridge is a 4 mile out and back trail in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. There will be a more detailed post about our trip to the National Monuments/Parks in Southern Utah later, but suffice to say, Grand Staircase Escalante is amazing. We detoured here on our way to Bryce Canyon for the simple fact that National Parks don’t allow dogs and we wanted to hike with Snickers. The trail itself is flat and easy, though it is very sandy and there are about 4 stream crossings. We’d recommend wearing sandals or shoes you don’t mind getting wet. The trail goes through a canyon surrounded by sheer, red rock faces. There are supposedly petroglyphs on the walls, though we didn’t see any. It makes its way through desert landscape until it ends at a gorgeous natural bridge. We went in the afternoon and the trail was completely empty despite the parking lot being full. It was a perfect place to stretch our legs after a long drive.

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Navajo Loop Trail – Bryce Canyon National Park

 

Bryce Canyon is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s spotted with hoodoos, which are tall, thin spires of rock that formed when a thick layer of soft rock (mudstone, sandstone) is covered by a thin layer of hard rock (limestone, basalt) that protects the softer layer from erosion. Our initial plan was to just go to some of the lookouts and walk the Sunrise-Sunset trail since that’s the only place dogs are allowed, but Beth and Casey offered to hang out with Snickers on the rim so Matt and I could do a quick hike of the Navajo Loop Trail. The trail is short (1.3 miles) and not too difficult. It winds down via switchbacks into an amphitheater and loops around through fir trees before climbing back up to Sunset Point. The views were amazing throughout and the rock formations were incredible. The trail meets up with other trails at the bottom, so you could easily log some miles in the canyon if you have time (and don’t have a dog).

The Narrows – Zion National Park

The Narrows is the last stop along the Zion Canyon bus ride.  This place is aptly named, as you drive up this curvy road the walls becoming closer and higher until you arrive at the bus stop where you are in the flat washout from a hard cut river with tower rocks on both sides.  There is a 1 mile walk from the bus stop to the Narrows proper where you will see hundreds (thousands!) of people wearing goofy rental water hiking shoes in the mid-morning going for a COLD! walk in the shallow, rocky water.  We walked maybe a half mile up the river where it never gets above waist deep; however, the more adventurous will want to start at the end and do the 14 mile water hike descent.

 

My parents had this as their must-see item on the trip into Zion and it doesn’t disappoint.  No dogs allowed on this section, so it was just the three of us here while Beth did the Pa’rus trail.

Pa’rus trail – Zion National Park

 

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While Matt, Beth, and Casey were off enjoying the Narrows, Snickers and I explored Zion a different way. Unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed (which we knew going in) so we walked along the Pa’rus trail and up the Scenic Road for a total of 10 miles. The Pa’rus trail is a nice, paved path that winds along the Virgin River and into the canyon. You can see all of the incredible rock formations that Zion is known for with very little disruption from other people. Snickers loved getting to play in the river to cool off and I enjoyed a leisurely walk. Since we knew it would be a while before the gang got back, we also walked along the road to Zion Lodge so we could experience a taste of what goes on in the park. Cars aren’t allowed on the road during the summer – only shuttle buses – so we didn’t have to worry too much about traffic. The pink and red sandstone cliffs are a sight to behold and we enjoyed just being outside and exploring.

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Holbrook Canyon Trail – Bountiful

We hiked this trail back in May, but came back for an easy weekend hike/jog in June. Check out our May Hikes post if you want to see this trail again 🙂