Utah Trip – Group Travel | Atlas Obscura Trips
Photo Credit: Lydia Ripplinger
Photo Credit: Tao Tao Holmes/Atlas Obscura
Photo Credit: Tao Tao Holmes/Atlas Obscura
Photo Credit: Tao Tao Holmes/Atlas Obscura

Private Trip: Tracking Utah's Tiny Owls

$4,630 USD per group for 4 days, 3 nights
See Dates
  • 6 People Maximum
  • Moderate Activity Level
  • Outdoor Expedition
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Trip Overview

On this private expedition into the mountains of northern Utah, you’ll have the chance to see one of North America's most secretive owl species up close. Alongside an expert avian biologist, his research assistant, and your small group of friends or family members, you’ll search for the Flammulated Owl, learning about its history, behavior, and resource needs in a shifting climate. These pocket-sized insectivores are less than six inches tall with dark, searching eyes and an unforgettable call that echoes through the dark forest in a low-pitched “boop.” 

By booking this private trip, you’ll have the chance to work closely with researchers in their search for active nest sites and add data to their long-term study of this tiny owl, doing so in a safe, private setting. Your group will have a spacious, six-bedroom home all to yourselves throughout the duration of the trip, where you can kick back and soak in the hot tub once you return from the mountains. To maintain appropriate precautionary safety measures, you’ll be responsible for your own food and transportation, with your trip leader meeting you for each day’s excursions.

  • Private group experience
  • Up-close owl observations
  • Hands-on field research
  • Beautiful forest hikes
  • Private accommodations


Itineraries and daily schedules are subject to change. We expect to do everything listed in the itinerary, though the order may be rearranged based on weather or other local conditions.

Trip Leader

Markus Mika
Dr. Markus Mika is an avian biologist with a background in ecology, evolution, and conservation. For his doctoral research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, he traveled between southern Mexico and British Columbia for five years investigating the evolutionary history of bird populations, specifically small owls, using genetic markers. He worked on the Northern Utah Flammulated Owl project during the summer field seasons between 1999 and 2002 for his MS degree. After finishing his Ph.D., he picked up the project again in 2011, and has been gathering longterm nesting data on Flammulated Owls ever since. He worked as Science Director at HawkWatch International,  leading raptor conservation and citizen science efforts across the western United States. Currently, he teaches in the Biology Department at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.

Additional Info

Activity Level

Full participation in group activities will be physically demanding. However, as a private group, Markus will be able to tailor each day’s excursion to your preferences and ability levels. 

To participate in the nest visits and night walks, you should be comfortable hiking four to five miles over the course of each day, often on steep trails and in unmarked sections of the forest, and sometimes involving bushwhacking and carrying field equipment such as ladders. You'll need sturdy hiking boots as well as protective clothing, as we’ll be walking through thick brush. You’ll also have the opportunity to spend extended time in the forest after dark with headlamps and flashlights.


Note that Ogden, Utah stands at 4,300 feet (1,300 meters) in elevation, and much of the fieldwork takes place between 6,000 and 7,500 feet (1,800 to 2,300 meters), which can make physical work more demanding. Altitude affects some more than others; if you're sensitive to altitude, we encourage you to arrive a day or two early to acclimate.


For the three nights of the trip, your private group will be staying in a spacious house located in downtown historic Ogden. This house has six bedrooms, three shared bathrooms, a large communal kitchen, and various lounge areas, including a ping pong and pool table. The house also features a large backyard with tables, a deck, and an outdoor hot tub.

Arrival & Departure

You’ll need to provide your own transportation to, from, and throughout the trip. You should plan to arrive in Ogden by 5 p.m. on Day 1 and leave after breakfast on the final morning. Note that your daily schedule is fully flexible, and can be adjusted in collaboration with your trip leader, Markus, based on your group’s needs and preferences.

  • Three nights of lodging in a spacious, private, six-bedroom house.
  • The company of an expert avian biologist and research assistant on daily excursions.
  • A brand-new headlamp for your after-dark forest excursions.
  • Global Rescue medical evacuation insurance.
  • Special access to unique places and extraordinary experiences.
  • Transportation to and from Ogden, Utah.
  • Transportation to and from nest locations during the trip.
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations.
  • All food and drink.
  • Travel insurance (recommended).
  • Applying for a U.S. visa, if applicable.
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Trip FAQ

Yes—under the close supervision of Markus and his research assistant. In light of Covid-19, you will be required to wear gloves when holding or touching any of the owls. 

Staring into the wide, dark eyes of a tiny Flammulated Owl is a unique experience. It's incredible what these creatures manage to achieve, flying thousands of miles south each year and returning to Utah in the summer, often to the same exact nest boxes.

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Upcoming Departures

  • Jul 17–Jul 20, 2020
    $4,630 per group
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