Manti LaSal National Forest Overview
Three's a charm in Manti-LaSal National Forest in southeastern Utah. That is, three unique land ecosystems—alpine, desert, and red-rock canyon. For thrill seekers, solitude cravers, and nature lovers that adds up to year-round amusement.
At Manti-LaSal, you're in charge of the climate control switch. Summer's heat too much to bear? Then head up into the cool, green LaSal Range. Winter's deep Utah powder not your thing? Then direct your steering wheel to the low desert areas, where snowfall is a rare and fleeting occurrence.
While the majority of visitors to this part of Utah bypass Manti-LaSal en route to nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, they've most likely laid eyes on the forest's signature feature, the beautiful LaSal Range. These 12,000-foot peaks provide the dramatic visual backdrop to the hot red-rock landscape that you've probably seen in travel posters and nature calendars.
It's down in the midst of red-rock zone that you'll find Manti-LaSal's marquee attraction: Moab. This, of course, is the town that mountain biking built. Knob-heads from around the world flock to Moab to test themselves on the famous Slickrock Trail and other routes. What started out as a curious sideshow has turned into the region's economic engine.
If your idea of outdoor adventure doesn't involve tattoos, pierced body parts, and bicycles costing more than a good used car, then Manti-LaSal's other natural assets should satisfy your interests. There are streams to fish, petroglyphs and stone dwellings to ogle (look in the Monticello ranger district), weird geology to comprehend, national recreation trails to hike, lakes to camp beside, ghost towns to visit, elk herds to watch, and snowmobile and cross-country trails to travel.
Bow to Fat-Tire Mecca
For mountain bike enthusiasts, Moab is Mecca. Which would make the justly famous Slickrock Trail its al-Haram mosque. Slickrock's mix of strenuous wall climbs and hair-raising dips, half-pipes, and ledge drops on gravity-defying, high-traction sandstone will make you a changed rider. As you'd expect, the trail is crowded, but worth a trip nonetheless. Avoid high-season riding—around spring break, generally—when lines form at the trickiest sections of the ride. If the trail frightens you, well, good. The hazards are fairly visible and therefore avoidable (i.e. walkable).
Canyoneer in Dark Canyon
Dark Canyon Wilderness—46,000 acres of knife-sharp slot canyons carved hundreds and thousands of feet into Utah red rock—is the country's premier canyoneering destination. Unlike most other forms of hiking, canyoneering can get you in a world of trouble, fast, so go with a guide or a wily veteran. Experienced canyon hikers should try the three-day hike on the Black Canyon Trail to Lake Powell, which features impressive sandstone arches, bubbling springs, trickling seeps, and hanging gardens.
Explore the Abajo Mountains
The Abajo Mountains, or "Blues" as they're also referred to, are a small range topping out at the 11,362-foot Abajo Peak. They are forested with aspen and fir and in summer provide a good break from the harsh desert conditions you'll encounter at lower elevations. From scenic drives to hiking and horseback-riding trails, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling, the range is an uncrowded alternative for four-season fun. Anglers will want to pay a visit to Lloyd's Lake, which is stocked with rainbow trout, while cowboy wannabes should look up Dalton Gang Adventures, which lets city folk participate in honest to goodness cattle ranching.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication