At the end of March, I had the privilege of attending a retreat in southern Utah with more than a dozen really fantastic women. My friend Shanti is quite literally, a force of nature. She has a natural talent for bringing people together and does it in the most wonderful ways. She’s a writer for REI and Outside Magazine and the founder of Hike it Baby and Family Forest Fest and last year she published Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Adventures with Babies and Toddlers. One of her recent projects has been her Hiking My Way Retreats. Twice a year she hosts women for a long weekend of hiking, exploration, running, yoga, and reflection. For the last few retreats, she’s had The Mirnavator, Mirna Valerio, as a co-host.
We explored trails around southern Utah, mainly close to Zion National Park. I enjoyed taking lots of photos, but we were lucky to have Arika Bauer with us on a few hikes too. She’s an amazing photographer and if you find yourself in southern Utah, consider reaching out to her for family photos. If anything, check out her website for amazing tips on hiking at Zion National Park and the surrounding areas.
Here are the trails we explored:
Timber Creek Overlook Trail, Kolob Canyons - This trail is north of Zion National Park, just off of I-15. We’ve driven past the exit many times, me wanting to stop and explore, but alas, with my kids, sometimes it’s better to just stay in the car and get home. This trail is short and a climb, but it’s absolutely gorgeous, especially at sunset. The clouds hung low and clung to the steep, red cliffs. The trail was extremely muddy when we hiked because of recent rain, muddy enough that I wished I’d brought my trekking poles. I almost wiped out a couple of times coming back down in the near-dark, my iPhone as my flashlight. It was an absolutely stunning hike and I cannot wait to bring my kids.
West Cinder Knoll - This trail is popular with mountain biking because it’s open and mostly flat. We did climb up to the Cinder Knoll itself and we had a beautiful sunset view of the contrasting red rocks and the snowy mountains in the distance. It was a beautiful end to a really fun day.
What a gorgeous trail!
Red Reef Trail, Red Cliffs National Recreation Area - I was lucky enough to explore this trail with Shanti last year. It’s truly a hidden gem, although it’s not all that hidden anymore and was quite crowded on the Saturday we went. Because of all the snow and rain we’ve had this past winter, there was twice as much water in the creek as there was last year. The trail has lots of space to play in the creek, little waterfalls, and as it narrows into a slot canyon, there’s a fun spot where you can climb up and over a waterfall.
We climbed up into that big cave to stop and have a snack. We had a lovely view looking out over the creek and there was even a pictograph on the wall!
Snow Canyon State Park - Snow Canyon was a wonderful surprise (I’d never been!) and I cannot wait to bring my family there. It’s a state park just outside of St. George. It features petrified sand dunes that my kids will love to climb. Jenny’s Canyon is a fun and short slot canyon. We practiced yoga on the sand dunes at sunset and it was really beautiful.
Gould’s Wash, aka Molly’s Nipple Trail - This one is another popular mountain biking trail and features a little mountain formation that is called Molly’s Nipple. Some opted to jog on this trail and the rest of us enjoyed a peaceful walk.
Grafton Ghost Town, Grafton Gap Trail - Grafton is a historic Mormon town that resides along the Virgin River, just down the road from the entrance to Zion National Park. It was abandoned in the late 1800s and a few buildings still stand. You can explore inside a couple of the buildings too, but first we hiked a mountain bike trail that climbs up a mesa and it gave us an amazing, panoramic view of the area.
Shanti told us that this little cliff is called the Grafton Gap and mountain bikers try to gain enough speed to jump over it.
The town of Grafton from the trail we climbed. I can see our van from here!!
Confluence Trail, Virgin River - This trail was really close to the AirBnB houses where we stayed in La Verkin. The trail meanders past a golf course down to the Virgin River and then you can just explore the area from there. We tried to get there closer to sunrise than later and it was quiet and peaceful with no other hikers. We saw a few desert wildflowers too.
On our last night, we were all gifted this bracelet engraved with “Hiking My Way - Slow AF.”
All in all I had a wonderful time and I really hope I can get the pleasure of attending one of these retreats again some day. It was amazing meeting every one of the wonderful women there. Thank you so much Mirna and Shanti!