On the Trail -- and in the Maze -- with Escape Adventures

Located on the west side of Canyonlands National Park, the Maze is one of the most spectacular places in the Lower 48. It's also one of the most remote and unforgiving places in the Lower 48. It certainly doesn't hurt to have one of the state's many excellent guide services showing you the way.

Escape Adventures (tel. 800/596-2953; www.escapeadventures.com) is one such outfit, and a highly recommended one at that. I took one of its guided hiking/mountain-biking trips into the Maze in September 2008 and rank it as one of my top trips ever. With guides Rachel and Marc leading the way -- and cooking up three scrumptious meals a day -- we rode more than 50 miles and hiked another 20 in the span of 5 days, then caught a plane ride back to Moab from the lonely airstrip in Hite, retracing our serpentine path from the air over the course of a half-hour flight.

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We started our adventure from the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, riding into Canyonlands and camping on the brink of the Maze on day 1. The scenery was second to none, all gnarled sandstone in reds, oranges, tans, and whites. On the second day, the group let Marc drive the bikes around -- 9 miles in 6 hours -- as we followed Rachel into the Maze itself. Its labyrinthine nickname is well-earned -- I would not wander in there without a guide or an excellent map and plenty of water. And it's not even possible to get to the trail head without a very burly 4X4 vehicle. (Luckily, Escape's biodiesel-fueled truck -- expertly piloted by Marc -- fits the bill perfectly.)

Day 3 involved another hike, this one down to the Colorado River via an interesting geological -- and archaeological -- area called the Dollhouse. We rode the next day to our campsite above devastatingly beautiful Cataract Canyon before making the 25-mile ride to the Hite airstrip the following afternoon.

The trip proved navigable with even my novice mountain-biking skills, but being in fairly good shape is certainly a prerequisite. The guides were excellent in every respect, and I ate better in this ultra-remote corner of Utah than I usually do at home.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.