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Five Marvelous Hikes for Nature Viewing/Photography in Utah

1. Island Lake (Uinta National Forest). Located in northeastern Utah, in an area known for towering mountain peaks and mountain lakes, this 6-mile (RT) hike is memorable for the views of several lakes, marshes, and meadows -- and the altitude, at approximately 10,000 feet. From Kamas, travel east about 32 miles (and the drive itself is amazing) on Mirror Lake Highway (Hwy 150) to the Trial/Washington Lake Road at mile marker 26, where you'll turn left and travel another mile to the Crystal Lake Parking Area. Follow the trail for Long Lake, which will take you around Washington Lake and offer great views of Mount Watson. Keep following the trail, and when you reach a fork, take the trail toward Island Lake, coming to Long Lake on your right (and home to a large frog population). Continue west on the rocky trail, crossing another bridge, a rocky ledge, and more smaller lakes until you arrive at Duck Lake. As the trail splits again, take the northern path up through several switchbacks until reaching Island Lake, named for the rocky formations in the middle of the lake that look like small, floating islands.

2. Lower Calf Creek Falls (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument). Located in south-central Utah, this 6-mile (RT) scenic trail -- a verdant oasis among the tumbled stone monoliths of the Grand Staircase-Escalante area -- has become a rite of passage for anyone hiking in Utah -- and is named for its use as a natural pen for calves back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Hiking the sandy trail, you'll pass beaver ponds and pre-historic rock art sites, and, finally to the paradisiacal pools. Along the way, hikers will find an abundance of trees and other vegetation because of the creek, as well as numerous animals, such as birds, mule deer, and coyotes. The stunning lower falls are 120 feet high, with a deep swimming hole underneath them. The trailhead is located at Calf Creek Campground in the Calf Creek Recreational Area, on HWY 12, 11 miles south of Boulder, Utah, and 15 miles east of Escalante. The Recreation Area includes a 13-sie campground and a day-use picnic area. Don't forget to visit the rest of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park while here.

3. Stewart Falls (Provo Canyon). Moderate 4-mile (RT) trail located near Pleasant Grove, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City (and north of Sundance), and close to Utah Lake, features a walk through forests (on the east side of Mount Timpanogos, part of the Wasatch Mountain Range) and a beautiful waterfall. Stewart Falls is one of the most scenic in northern Utah, and features a 200+ foot fall. The recommended trail starts at Aspen Grove, at the mouth of the American Fork Canyon, along the Alpine Loop Road (HWY 92). From Aspen Grove, the trail travels southwest to the ridge above the falls, providing amazing viewpoints along the way. Form the ridge, one can see the falls, but continue down the steep trail to the base of the falls, Side note: Pleasant Grove is known as "Utah's City of Trees." Alpine Loop road closes in the winter months, so best visit spring or fall. While in the area, make sure to stop at Timpanogos Cave National Monument.

4. Wildcat Trail (Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park). Easy 4-mile loop trail located in southeastern Utah, near Mexican Hat, within the Navajo Nations. Traveling down and around the West Mitten Butte, this trail goes through one of the most scenic areas of Monument Valley, allowing hikers to feel transported back to the Wild West -- to a place the modern world passed by; a place that looks like it did 300 -- or 3,000 -- years ago... a vast, wild, and sunbaked desert plane with deep canyons and towering buttes. A highlight is a spot in the trail in which three towering sandstone rock buttes surround the trail. From Mexican Hat, drive west on HWY 163 for 20 miles to Monument Valley Road, turning left (southeast) for 4 miles to the visitor center parking area. The trailhead is just a short walk on Indian Route 42.

5. Boren Mesa Trail to Oowah Lake (Manti-La Sal National Forest). Located in southeastern Utah, about seven miles south of Moab, this 6-mile (RT) trail takes you through an aspen forest, ranging cattle land, and then to Oowah Lake, a 2.9 acre lake located in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, and stocked with rainbow trout. From Oowah Lake, which features a small picnic and tent-only campground, find connections to the Trans-Mountain Trail system, as well as the Clarks Lake, Moonlight Meadows, and Warner Lake Trails. From Moab, travel south on Hwy 191, turning east at signs for Kens Lake. Drive past the lake and turn right on La Sal Mountain Loop Road, following it up the mountain for 11+ miles, bearing right onto Forest Road 071 at the Y. Take the forest road about 2.5 miles until you reach the trailhead. While in the area, be sure and visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.


Bonus: Rail-Trails Highlights: Utah has 14 Rail-Trails totaling about 158 miles. One of the most beautiful is the 28-mile Historical Union Pacific Rail Trail, which weaves its way from Park City, through smaller communities (Wanship and Coalville), before ending at Echo Reservoir, following an old railway used for hauling coal and silver ore, wandering near Silver Creek for about 14 miles and going through a narrow volcanic canyon. Find close up views of wildlife (including bald eagles, herons, moose, and beaver) and wildflowers. Trailheads: Poison Creek Trail at Bonanza Drive, Park City and Echo Reservoir, Echo Dam Road, near I-80, Coalville.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.

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