Hello readers! Welcome to another GUEST POST WEEKEND here on A Loco Viva Voce. Today’s Guest Post is a Hiking Story written by Tom Garrison. Tom is an independent writing professional who has had his stories published on a number of other blogs including thespectrum.com.
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Read Tom’s story after the cut and enjoy!
Beat summer heat at Cascade Falls
Southwest Utah — home to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and many wonderful national monuments and state parks — delivers major-league scenery, places you should visit. It also contains many seldom visited jewels awaiting your footsteps. One of the overlooked natural wonders is Cascade Falls.
Even desert dwellers are familiar with waterfalls — a stream or river cascading down a plateau. Cascade Falls is a geologically unique feature in that the water tumbles out a cliff side cave. How can that happen?
Water flowing out of the cave originates in Navajo Lake, more than a mile away. The water drains through a series of sink holes in the southeastern end of the lake and travels through underground lava tubes until it splashes down a steep cliff face — Cascade Falls. The flow continues down the mountain and forms the headwaters of the north fork of the Virgin River.
Depending on the water level in Navajo Lake, the waterfall ranges from a raging torrent to a small trickle. Lucky for us the lake was relatively high and the falls were gushing.
Cascade Falls is located in the Dixie National Forest. It is part of the Markagunt (a Native American word meaning highland of trees) Plateau which is itself part of the larger Colorado Plateau. In addition, due to the elevation, clear vistas extend scores of miles.
As do most people who are not half lizard, we needed a break from the summer heat in St. George. (It reached 108 degrees the day of this hike.) Since Cascade Falls is much higher elevation and not too far away, it became our destination. (Be advised the trail is generally inaccessible from late fall to late spring due to snowpack.) On an early July morning, my wife Deb, our friends Rob and Janet, and I began our journey.
From St. George we drove north on Interstate 15 and took Exit 57 (Main Street) at Cedar City. We continued north on Main Street for two miles until reaching University Boulevard/Center Street and turned right (east) onto Center Street/Highway 14. After setting our odometer at this intersection and driving 27.5 miles, past Navajo Lake, we turned right (south) onto the signed Duck Creek Visitor Center turnoff. At the Visitor Center we confirmed there is no fee for this hike.
Passing the Visitor Center, we continued west on Forest Road 370, a good dirt/gravel road (which except when wet is fine for a regular car), for 1.7 miles and met an intersection. At the intersection we took the left fork (Forest Road 054) for another 1.7 miles (a total of 3.4 miles past the Visitor Center) to the trailhead. The Forest Road is well marked with signs.
At approximately 8,900 feet elevation, the parking area is developed with restrooms and a large viewing space. The trailhead is clearly marked and we began our adventure. The route overlooks the Pink Cliffs escarpment of the Markagunt Plateau — beautiful red mountains studded with a green forest under blue Utah sky. The trail is about 1.2 miles round trip and the temperature during our hike was in the mid-80s. It is well marked and mostly level with a few moderate inclines. (There is about a 100-foot elevation change.)
Along the way are several benches and about half way is a wooden viewing platform allowing hikers to appreciate the red rock canyon into which Cascade Falls flows. The summer offers a special feature as small meadows along the trail flaunted color thanks to the many species of wildflowers. The end of the trail has a wooden deck from which to admire the water tumbling down the cliff side rocks from the cave.
Inspired by the hike, our group created a new concoction — the life elevated. It is comprised of one part waterfall, one part red rock country, one part 9,000-foot elevation, and one part good hiking companions. You should try it.
To top off the adventure we visited the nearby ice cave. We traveled back to the Visitor Center and took Forest Road 059 following the signs approximately one mile. The ice cave is a 60 by 40 foot (with a 15 foot high ceiling) eroded limestone cavern with perpetual ice on the floor. It must have been at least 40 degrees cooler in the cave. If you are in the area, don’t bypass this geological oddity.
We drove home via Highway 89 and through Zion National Park. While in the park we were treated to a herd of a dozen or so Big Horn Sheep slowly crossing the road. There is nothing like being 10 feet from these magnificent animals.
I highly recommend this day trip, especially as a summer excursion. Imagine yourself as a water molecule happily floating around in a nice lake. Suddenly you are caught in a powerful whirlpool, sucked into a mile-long underground tunnel, and flung out of a cliff side.
While we are not water molecules, we can appreciate their journey by making our own trek to Cascade Falls.
– Tom Garrison
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