Book review: 'Hikernut’s Canyon Lands Companion' details 12 great hikes in the Southwest
“Hikernut’s Canyon Lands Companion” is a detailed, yet subjective guidebook. It offers information about some of the best hikes in the American Southwest. The book is a good start for novice hikers wanting to hit some of the major and most scenic canyon hikes in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
A transplant from the Northeast, author Brian J. Lane is a seasoned hiker who has lived the past two decades in Sedona, Ariz. In the guidebook, he gives his recommendations for the 12 “best” hikes on the Colorado Plateau, ranging from easier day hikes to overnight backpacking trips.
His selection of hikes, he admits, is completely subjective, drawing from his extensive hiking experience — hence the moniker “hikernut.” All the trails he recommends are canyon hikes, many of them through creeks and slot canyons. Seven of his recommended hikes are in Utah, including the Zion narrows and hikes in Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon national parks.
Though it is hard to narrow the myriad hikes down to a top 10, 12 or even 25, Lane does a good job at highlighting the trails that “epitomize the Southwest canyonlands.” He does not shy away from crowded trails, which are popular for a reason, or remote, more challenging routes.
He says none of the trails he recommends requires any special skills, aside from preparation and common sense. Most of the hikes would not be suitable for children, though there are some family-friendly trails.
Since most of the hikes are geographically distant, this guidebook should only be used as a starting point for planning a backpacking trip or vacation, with additional research supplementing the guidebook’s information.
In addition to detailed information on the hikes, Lane gives a guide to hiking essentials and a backpacking list, which are useful for backpacking newbies and hikers inexperienced with the desert conditions of the Southwest. Additionally, he provides chapters covering common plants and animals in the region, mishaps and remedies, the geology of the plateau, and his own tips and advice for hiking. He includes useful charts, maps and lists to supplement the information.
Throughout the book are breathtaking pictures — most taken by Lane himself — of views and vistas from the recommended hikes that enrich and bring the substance of the guidebook to life. The hikes are presented in an organized format with all the information needed to plan and prepare for the hike, including detailed trail descriptions and directions.
However, some of the maps are disorienting, with some regional maps provided for each hike having north pointed toward the left of the page, but the writing on the map does not follow suit. An orange background and black writing with lighter orange drop shadow in some lists and charts is jarring to the eye, though the information is good.
Alison Snyder has a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Brigham Young University. She lives in St. George and enjoys camping, hiking and photography.
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