Melissa Marsted

Melissa Marsted loves trail running and skiing and lives a life of adventure, while advocating for nature and public lands. She writes children's books about the national parks. When not on the road, she lives in Park City with her Jack Russell and two cats.

Great as a run, too!

I ran solo out and back to the Chapel. It was a beautiful morning. I felt safe out on the trail as a single woman and was happy to see the Chapel, then escape the crowds again back into nature!

Start your day with this hike!

It's worth it to drive to this far end of Bryce as early as possible. I had been to Bryce a number of times but had never driven to this point. I was here in July 2019, and the parking lot was empty. The views at Rainbow Point are stunning so check the views first, then start your day with this short and sweet one mile hike, then work your way back to the Visitors Center.

Definitely an endurance runner's dream!

This is easily one of my top ten Utah based long distance runs, close to 23 miles. We started at Rainbow Point and left our car to run point to point with plans to have a park shuttle bring us back to our car. It was an amazing, amazing day though very hot. We did bring a water filter which we had to use. When we ended we found out that the shuttles to Rainbow Point do not run all day so we had a very complicated way to get back to our car which was rather unfortunate, but I would highly recommend this trail as the ultimate way to see and experience Canyon while almost in complete solitude.

Great hike with lots of amazing scenery

As a runner, I thought I could do this rather quickly but it ended up taking me a bit longer than expected but partly because I took a lot of photos. I was headed to White Sands National Park for sunset but the entrance closed right at 5pm. I would definitely go back to explore more!

Expansive Gypsum Dunes for miles and miles

I was on my way back to Utah from Big Bend National Park and was trying to time my arrival for sunset but I took a little bit too long at the Pine Tree Trail in the Organ Mountains and missed the entrance opening for sunset. The next morning I stopped at almost every turnout to experience the sand dunes. I learned the difference between silica dunes versus gypsum and gypsum dissolves much like sugar and salt. Also, the sun's rays get reflected instead of absorbed into the sand so the dunes are not as hot as other silica type dunes. Definitely worth a visit!!

Yes! A must do hike in Big Bend!

As a children's book author of national parks, I cover the only two national parks in Texas in the third book in the series and I always visit the parks before I write about them. Well, of course! I organized an almost ideal trip for my younger son and me to fly into El Paso and have six days to explore Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns. This is one of the hikes we chose to do in Big Bend and I would recommend this hike 100%. I only give it a four because I could have enjoyed the scenery all day! I highly, highly recommend Big Bend NP and this hike, too!

A Hidden Gem!

I definitely give this five stars for off the beaten path and being able to camp right on the rim with amazing sunrises and sunsets. As a runner, I love the rim trail but I did go at the end of April and was surprised how hot it was! I hope to go back to do the entire 22 mile loop. It is a fairly quick drive from Park City and SLC for one day-one night overnight. Because of the solitude it calls for repeat visits. Yes, I give this FIVE stars!!!

One of the many awesome Utah State Parks!

Now that I have lived in Utah for almost years and now I write children's books about the national parks, I am often on the road to sell my books and explore more. I would say that this state park is closer to Bryce and just outside of one of my favorite Utah town's Kanab. I am also trying to explore all of Utah's 43-44 State Parks and have been to this one many times and have found camping VERY easy to find here. There are some great places for dinner in Kanab, too, like Peekaboo Canyon Woodfired Pizza and Rocking V Cafe. I highly recommend the Kanab Balloon Festival called Balloons and Tunes Roundup and camp at Coral Pink Sand Dunes!

BLM (FREE!) Camping in Valley of the Gods

In Dec 2019 I had bought a used Sprinter Van to take on the road to sell my children's books about the national parks and go to running races and find other adventures. The last time I was on the road for my book sales was Feb 29, 2020 and then Covid hit and my world seemed to come to an abrupt stop. We made some small trips but I had not ventured into stores and most national park visitors centers were closed. I finally planned a two day solo Utah road trip to see how things were opening up. I left Park City for Helper, Utah to Green River to Dead Horse Point to Moab then to Bluff and wondered where I would stay that night, knowing full well I wanted to find BLM land. I happen to know the owners of Combs Ridge Bistro which has take out only so while I was waiting for a buttermilk battered chicken salad I searched and soon found that Valley of the Gods was only 22 miles away! I had been there in March 2016 and had done the 17 mile loop so I knew I could easily find a pullout for the night! It was the prefect ending to a very long day!! Those fortunate enough to figure out that Utah is very generous with its BLM camping rules so why pay when you can have this for free!


9 months ago

An amazing experience point to point!

I had the opportunity to take part in a three day TransRockies Run and this was day #2. We started in Vicksburg and ran 1.7 miles from the parking lot to Sheep Gulch Trailhead. It was a steady climb for the next 2.5 miles to summit of Hope Pass at 12,500' where we were greeted by volunteers. The trail is pretty technical and eventually leads to the historic town of Interlaken from the 1880s and was once a glamorous tourist resort. Overall, our point to point adventure totaled 13 miles and we were fortunate with the weather. I definitely recommend Hope Pass as a hike to acclimate to 14ers!

Good hike with few people and probably bison!

We were lucky to have the chance to go inside the caves and have a chance to run this loop! It was very well-marked at the beginning and it's true that it is very confusing at the end. Because we were there in August, the poison ivy seemed abundant and we had no choice but to find out way through a massive patch but luckily neither of us got poison ivy. For us, this was short and sweet and the best part was seeing the bison right along the trail. I hope the trail gets better markings so you have to be ready to make it up and trust the journey!

A must do in Custer State Park

I've done this hike twice and both times in the month of August. The first time a storm was rolling in and we decided to push for the summit, made it but quickly departed as we heard thunder so we made a very quick escape. The second time, almost exactly a year later we had perfect weather and few crowds. I love this hike and the views of the spires!


9 months ago

Closed until further notice due to Covid

I was there a year ago (Aug 2019) and the cave was closed due to elevator repairs so I checked on the status and it is now closed until further notice. There are some trails in the area but it is unfortunate that most if not all caves are closed around the US at this time so I cannot rate this appropriately but because I have been to other caves I am not particularly keen on other cave tours. I have been inside Carlsbad Caverns and the wait to get out was so so long. Seeing the bats flying in and out of the entrance of Carlsbad is on bucket list.

Great dirt road for trail running!

As a Park City local, I have done this trail numerous times and have parked at both ends. I am pretty sure it is 7.5 miles one way so 15 miles RT. The dirt road follows the Deer Creek Reservoir the entire way and depending from which side you start there are amazing views of Mount Timpanogos. The entrance by the dam is free while the entrance closer to Heber is part of the State Parks and requires a pass or a fee. I almost always see deer on the hillside. Love this trail and highly recommend it for runners in particular!


9 months ago

Amazing fall colors hike!

This is one of the most stunning hikes around in October when the fall leaves are reflected in the water. This area is known for moose sightings, too. I would highly recommend this short and sweet hike for locals who have visitors in town. Simply magical!

Add Raymond and Gobblers Knob Peaks to your bucket list!

From this TH it is possible to summit two peaks. We chose to summit the more difficult of the two first. Once you reach the saddle, there is a fairly difficult climb and scramble to Raymond on the left and then come back down and head to Gobblers Knob on the right. If you have already done some of the other peaks in the area, this hike is absolutely stunning in July and October. Love this trailhead!! Highly recommend exploring here!!

Great trail known for moose sightings!

This trail can be very busy but it is accessible all four seasons! As a local I tend to avoid this trail on weekends and in the summer. The views towards the Canyons ski area are beautiful and the trail does continue on and there are multiple choices to make this hike longer. Moose definitely like this area so keep a watch for them and keep your distance.

Love this hike!

I live about six miles from the Lambs Canyon exit so I hike/run this trail about once a month. It is a really great trail in the summer because it is very well shaded. It is almost exactly two miles to the top with gorgeous views into Millcreek Canyon. I have hiked the Mount Aire Trail from the Millcreek Canyon side which is equally stunning. It's on my bucket list to hike up and over as a shuttle or round trip for an eight mile hike. I highly recommend Lambs Canyon which I consider off the beaten path. Definitely a favorite, quiet hike.

One of my favorite local, off the beaten path

But I start at the trailhead just off of the freeway exit, right below the golf course on the right side of the road. It is such a quiet trail, passing by beaver homes. I almost always see deer, too. It is a very quiet trail to get away from more crowded trails. I love exploring the trails along Emigration Canyon, including the trails at the very top with Great Western Trail on the left where you can hike or run for miles!


9 months ago

Definitely a good exercise hike, but not very pretty

I live in Park City and decided to meet a friend who lives in SLC for this hike. We met at a trailhead close to the Zoo. We are both fit and runners but from where we started on this trail only about 10% is runnable and very steep in some places. We went in late August, too, so everything was dry and mostly brown. It was windy at the top so we didn't take the time to climb the ladder - maybe next time but I won't be rushing back to do this hike when I would prefer to do Lambs Canyon off of Highway 80 for example.

Definitely worth the time!

Although this hike says 1/4 of a mile, there is a longer trail to follow along the river. There is the very short hike to the standard more crowded, touristy overlook, but the additional dirt trail takes hikers to even more dramatic views with fewer people. I attached a photograph that shows the trail in addition to the overlook.

Forget Old Faithful! Do this hike!

One of the best experiences I had in Yellowstone (besides Lamar Valley) was finding the hike above Grand Prismatic. My son and I had already done the rather boring boardwalk around the spring, but we found the parking lot and perfect timing since areas of Yellowstone were crowded this summer. Not only did we do the hike to the overlook but we kept going to the waterfall. Definitely worth the extra effort to find a little more quiet time in Yellowstone. We stopped briefly to see what time Old Faithful would erupt but too many people! Our Yellowstone highlights were this hike, for sure, Lamar Valley, Norris Basin with the absolutely stunning Steamboat Hot Spring and Yellowstone Lake.

Head to Black Canyon for a quieter national park

As an author of children's books about the national parks, I am constantly exploring and had already been to Black Canyon, but I was curious how it was operating during the first summer of Covid. It was QUIET!! It was also pretty warm so it seems this park would be amazing in September! The entrance was free that day (although I have my pass), but the campgrounds were open and the visitors center was closed. Since I had already done the drive, I only drove to the visitors center and hiked down to the overlook (and no one else was there!). It was a magical feeling to be looking into the canyon and be free of social media, news and masks. It was only a few moments but it was so breathtaking I wish I could have stayed longer but I had a destination to reach before night. I highly recommend visiting and camping at Black Canyon to avoid more crowded national parks. I plan to head back to do more hiking and exploring!

Great sense of accomplishment to hike four peaks!

The last time I summited over 14,000' was when I hiked Mount Whitney in 2007. I live in Park City at an elevation around 6200' and regularly hike in the 9000-10000' range, but as I approach 55 years old, it is difficult to find adventurous hiking partners. I was able to convince a college classmate in Colorado Springs to meet at the Kite Lake Trailhead after work one night (while I would spend the night outside of Grand Junction the prior night) and then we would have Friday to hike the loop. I had only done one winter hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park this past Jan (2020) with hiking poles and my friend convinced me to buy my first hiking pole for our adventure and I was glad I had it. There are other words of wisdom that camping at 12,000' having not acclimated prior is not a good idea but neither my friend nor I had any trouble except for the fact that cars started arriving at 3:30am to get to the first summit for sunrise. We decided to stay with our plan and started our hike at 6am, after many of the day's hikers had already started. I happen to have written a children's book about pikas so I was thrilled to hear their little calls all day long as if to cheer us on. When we reached the saddle, it was very, very windy and my friend was not sure if she wanted to continue. I encouraged her to keep going a step at a time and on the way down (before traversing to Cameron) we could decide what to do. The day was perfect and during a huge season of wildfires we were fortunate to have clear, clear skies and just the particularly strong winds at that one saddle point between Democrat and Cameron so once we were heading up the trail to Cameron, we did not have the winds so a fairly easy hike to Cameron and to Lincoln. Along the way it was fun to see people we had seen either behind or head of us. It was busy but not so busy that it was crowded and it seems the number of hikers dwindled as we continued from Lincoln to Bross. On the way down was tricky for both of us - very loose rock and steep. So we were in no hurry and took our time and still managed to finish the four peak loop by 1:30 or so (having started at 6am), but we also took our longest stop (which I wouldn't call a rest) towards the end when we reached the stream and wildflowers. It felt as if nature was rewarding us for our courage with its spectacular beauty. This is a hike not to miss. Just go for it! You will not be disappointed!