There is a canyon in the mountains called Ashdown Gorge that is only about 10 minutes out of town. The canyon itself is very open and easy to see but the route to the canyon is somewhat hidden. On the way up the highway you have to turn onto what locals like to call “faith road”. If you don’t know that there is a small dirt road to turn off of it seems as though you might just drive into a huge ravine and into the creek. Most travelers continue up the mountain without noticing the beautiful canyon that has a few hidden treasures.
I have hiked this canyon several times as a day trip but last year some of my family and I decided to do it as a backpacking trip. We loved it so much that it is now an annual family activity. The trail follows a creek all the way up the canyon. Most of the time you are walking in and out of the water through rocks and boulders. About 1 3/4 miles up the canyon if you stop at the right place in the trail you can look back and up the canyon to view Flannigan’s Arch. Arches are well known in Utah but this one is not very well known and is very difficult to hike to. It is, however, a fairly large arch. Another quarter of a mile up the trail is where we camp. There are very few places suitable to camp inside of the deep canyon but this one is perfect!
Since we were not hiking a long distance to camp we don’t exactly pack light. We all split up food assignments for dinner and cooked chicken chimichangas! I don’t recommend that meal for longer trips but it sure is fun and tasty to eat on a shorter trip. We got up in the morning and just left our tents and sleeping gear at camp while we carried day bags further up the canyon. My wife was 5 months pregnant during the trip so I tried to carry most of the weight for her. She was a trooper going backpacking for two!
At a certain point in the canyon it splits and a smaller creek runs into the main canyon. We took the side canyon called Rattlesnake Canyon. About a mile up that canyon splits again. We hiked up both of the canyons which turn into small slot canyons and end abruptly with waterfalls. It is a nice destination on a warm day of hiking.
I hiked the entire canyon in my Unshoes (the first pair I made as prototypes). Since the entire hike is through round river rocks, I wasn’t sure how well they would work. Although I am quite used to minimal footwear on the trail by now my feet were still quite sore by the end. The biggest problem was that I was so focused on where I was stepping I didn’t see the log that was sticking out from the side of the canyon. I heard a loud smack, felt my teeth come together really hard and then I was flat on my back on the ground! I saw stars for a few seconds but I was fine after that.