We’ve been on a lot of fun adventures this summer- but going camping in the fall is definitely our favorite! We’ve been looking forward to the cooler temps, the changing leaves and going back down to the desert more. We spent last weekend with our kids and our new little adventure pup at our favorite place! We love going down here to reset and recharge when we need to get away in nature and don’t want to be around crowds of people. We just got our little pup a few weeks ago and have been so excited to start hiking and going on adventures with her, so we also wanted to go somewhere we knew we could have dogs. If we thought it was lots of work to take two babies hiking and camping – we definitely have our hands full now adding a puppy into the mix. 🙂

Some of our Favorite Areas in the San Rafael Swell

Buckhorn Wash is one of the most iconic canyons in the swell and when you are standing at the bottom of these winding sandstone canyons you’ll see why we love this place so much 🙂 There are so many different trails to hike and explore around and some of the coolest camp sites! It’s so fun to be able to camp here with the red cliffs all around you and wake up to the sun coming up over the ridges. It always makes me feel like we are on a different planet.

The Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel is a must see for anyone who has never been here before. These designs are from the Barrier Canyon People who passed through the 130 foot horseshoe canyon seasonally and is the perfect example of barrier canyon rock style art. These are some of my favorite pictographs and petroglyphs in the whole state and I wish I knew what all of the pictures meant! Utah has such interesting history and I love learning about the areas we explore. Even though I’ve been here so many times before something knew I just learned is that Butch Cassidy once hid from the law in these caves and canyons! You can even see the names carved in the sandstone of some of his outlaw friends.

Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel

Swinging Bridge is a 160′ suspension bridge that was built in the 1930’s and was the only bridge over the river until the 90’s! They have rebuilt the bridge over the river to drive on now, but you can still walk across the original bridge to get the other side of the water. With the large red rock cliffs as your backdrop and the San Rafael River rushing by you with the large cedar trees giving the perfect shade – it was the best little hang out between our hikes and exploring and the perfect place to stop and eat lunch and play by the water. There is even a campsite here if this is somewhere you want to set up and stay.

Another must see site at the Swell is The Wedge that overlooks the massive gorges and San Rafael River and is nicknamed the, “Little Grand Canyon.” Here you will see panoramic views of Sid’s Mountain Wilderness Area, Window Blind Peak and Buckhorn Wash. This will always be one of my favorite places to camp! While we have camped here lots of times before – now that we have small babies and a pup I think I would be too nervous to set up camp here again until these kiddos get a little older since you’re so close to the cliffs. I definitely had a death grip on their shirts while we were here hiking around 🙂

After we explored and hiked in the deep canyons we headed over to Cedar Mountain to spend our last day. We hiked to the rim and had an amazing birds eye view overlooking the Swell. I love that you get the Utah desert vibe while you are in the bottom of the Swell and on top of Cedar Mountain you feel like you’re in the middle of the mountains. It was the perfect place to let our pup explore and kiddies wander.

While it definitely isn’t always easy to take a toddler and baby camping and hiking we’ve learned a few tricks along the way that has made it feel (a little) easier for us.

-Bring familiar items from home to help them settle at night when it’s time for bed! I don’t like to get crazy packing a ton of things so one or two is enough for us!

-I pretty much have learned to accept the fact that I can’t stick to normal routines for bedtime and naps 🙂 when I try to force them, it usually ends in tears for everyone. So naps are usually at random times when they get tired, and bedtime is usually later than it is at home. But I’ve found that letting them play – adds to the experience for them and us. Then when they are REALLY tired they usually end up crashing and sleep better and stay asleep through the night!

-A trusty hiking backpack is a must! Our little three year old is getting pretty good at hiking on his own these days and it’s so fun to watch him get stronger and experience new things on his own! We still always have our favorite Osprey kid carriers that we use for when his little legs get tired and for our one year old! We use the Osprey Poco Plus for our toddler – we have been using this since he was 6 months old and love that it has grown and adjusted as he has gotten bigger. Then we use the Osprey Poco LT for our one year old. This is their smallest and lightest kid carrier and I love how comfy it is for me and my son. When our toddler is hiking on his own we use the Osprey Daylite Pack so he can carry his own snacks and water.

If you’re new to hiking and looking for a hiking backpack I wrote an article for TETON Sports linked HERE. I walk through how to measure your body, how to adjust your pack and how to pick the perfect hiking pack for you! Even though we have been hiking forever it is still good for me to have refreshers when I get a new backpack to make sure it’s fitted correctly. Nothing is worse than when you are half way through your hike and your shoulders and back hurt from not having your pack adjusted properly.

-Clothes that are easy to layer on and off when the temperatures change throughout the day. Plus I always make sure I’m prepared for them to get dirty and wet so I always bring extra!

-Shoes that can get wet – we love Keens!! They easily to go from dirt to water and always dry quickly. So we are usually wearing these while we are out hiking and then we have a pair of camp shoes or sandals we can switch into when we are done hiking and exploring for the day.

-Lots of healthy snacks that are easy to prepare and pull out when your kids are hungry. If I spend the time getting snacks and meals ready before hand, it’s easier to pull out quickly in the moment when everyone is ready to eat! We also keep things super simple when it comes to meal times for our quick trips and overnighters so we don’t have to pack too much. We like brats and Mountain House dehydrated meals. When we are going for more than a few days is when we get a little more creative with our meals and bring stuff to actually cook. 😉 For us, the less to pack the better – so anything that makes it easier and less stressful is what we aim for!

-For some of my favorite camping games to entertain your kids click HERE.

Cedar Mountain

Even though we were in familiar places where we’ve been before, it felt different being there this time with our kiddos. Our hiking pace was a little slower, we had more stops for snack breaks, we stopped at practically every river, lake, and puddle we found to throw some rocks, but it was so fun to be there with them making new memories! When we revisit our favorite places with kids it really is like seeing it for the first time again. We love giving our kids as many opportunities as we can to run wild and let their imaginations be free!

33 thoughts on “Buckhorn

  1. Ahh, this is fantastic Melanie! I love this story and the photos. The “mountain man in training” shirts are my favorite! San Rafael is a place I definitely need to get – this makes me want to go even more! Y’all look happy and great! 🙂

    1. These are my favorite shirts if theirs too!! Lol
      Yes we love the swell so much – fall is the best time to go for sure too!! It’s still warm down there but not too hot anymore and the leaves are starting to change! It’s my favorite against the red rock backdrop!
      Thanks for reading!!

      1. Yeah, fall is the best time for most things in Southern Utah. I went to Capitol Reef, Zion and Bryce in late October last year and the changing colors were a dream. I can only imagine how it looked with red rock!

      2. Yes!!! Fall is the best this time of year down there!! We were in Zion during the fall a few years ago and it was my favorite time I’ve ever been there- so pretty!!

  2. As I have mentioned, I grew up camping with the family and my daughter and grandkids are at home in the woods now too. Great time with your little ones.

    1. I love that you grew up camping and have such great memories of it as a child! That’s what we hope for our kids too that they will have great memories of these trips!

  3. I love camping in the fall too as the days are usually still warm, but the nights are cooler. Plus the campgrounds are typically quieter. This looks like such a lovely place to explore with your family.

    1. Yes it’s our favorite time of year to explore! The weather feels perfect and you get the pretty fall colors too! And we are all about quieter times without a ton of other people around too 🤣

  4. Oh my gosh, the snack breaks! We love to hike and went to a few National Parks this past summer with my boys who are 6 and 8. We stopped for so many snack breaks! But we love getting outdoors and hiking and camping.

    1. Yes we always have sooooooooo many snack breaks!!! Lol but it’s so fun to get out with them! That’s great you went to some national parks with your boys to go hiking!! Time outside with family is so special!!
      Thanks for reading!

  5. I love the colourful canyons and geography. The rock art is pretty amazing. I am always up for hiking in the desert.

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