OUTDOORS + RECREATION

The hike of your life is not worth your life

Mar 28, 2023, 3:00 PM

tim hughes is pictured in the narrows at zion national park...

(Tim Hughes/KSL NewsRadio)

(Tim Hughes/KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — There has been a series of close calls, rescues and tragedies in Utah’s red rock country recently involving flooding in or around our slot canyons.

Areas long sought out for their unique beauty and towering sandstone walls that have been carved out by generations of fast-moving water, a powerful force fierce enough to do nature’s amazing work and certainly fierce enough to end the lives of even the most experienced outdoor enthusiasts.

A few years ago my wife and youngest son joined me in checking a “Bucket List” item off my outdoor wish list as we headed to Zion National Park to hike “The Narrows.”

Just as the name implies this canyon that at times is only 20 to 30 feet wide and 2000 feet deep is home to stretches of the Virgin River. 

During runoff times however, the ankle to calf deep water that we experienced can be fast flowing and much much deeper. For our experience I enlisted the expertise of Bob Grove and Mark Wade of roadtrippinwithbobandmark.com

Know before you go

One of the mantras we share often on the KSL Outdoors Show each week is the need to “know before you go” no matter the outdoor experience you are looking forward to. Realizing that getting that special photograph or squeezing in an experience that is ill-timed is not worth your life to get it!

With record snowpack in Utah’s high country pretty much statewide it’s time to take a pause and refresh our thoughts in the weeks and months to come with what could be a crazy runoff season.

Look to the skies

First and foremost: know the forecast!

Sure the sun may be shining in Zion National Park the day you have planned your hike but what is the forecast upstream? 

A rainstorm even 50 miles away could impact the water levels in the slot canyon that day and by the time you are committed to the hike, there can be few options to make your safe escape.

Enlisting the help of the park service before heading up the canyon is always a good idea.

Have a plan

Notify friends and family about your expected itinerary for the day or week and when you’re expecting to be back.

Pack the right gear

Prepare for the unexpected.

Even though you only planned a day hike, what happens if an injury or weather keeps you out in nature longer than expected?

Prepare for long nights in cold conditions or water including dry clothes in a backpack to prevent hypothermia. 

Electronic safety measures are always a good idea in the form of a GPS or satellite phone but also understand that getting access to satellites with those 2000-foot walls can be spotty. 

Also, include in your prep bag a source of heat in the form of a fire starter which can be packed with very little space or weight.

Bring the right food

That lunch sandwich and protein bar will be great for an afternoon but could leave you awfully hungry or dehydrated in the heat of the spring or summer day.

Enjoy!

We have been blessed with an abundance of beauty that in most cases is right out our back door or just a few hours drive in Utah.

We’ve also been blessed with incredible amounts of much-needed precipitation that will not only ease our extended drought in the state but will continue to carve and create these beautiful canyons that deserve exploration but also deserve our respect with careful, thoughtful planning.

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The hike of your life is not worth your life