Utah's natural beauty knows no rival. It is, hands down, one of the most stunning places on earth, and home to some of the most awesome hiking trails known to man. If hiking in Utah isn't a bucket list item for you yet, something's wrong with you. The state is home to hundreds of miles of rugged, beautiful back country trails.
To get the absolute most out of hiking in Utah, plan it ahead of time. You'll generally want to go in late spring or early fall, when the weather isn't too hot or too cold.
You can still expect to get a little warm, a little cold, and sometimes a little wet—but views like these are more than worth a little discomfort.
Above all else, you'll want to be safe—some of the trails we'll be looking at here have fall-offs of hundreds of feet … and ending your vacation that way would be the bummer to end all bummers. In fact, let's talk a little about safety.
Pack the "Ten Essentials"
Navigation: a map with a compass, a GPS device, a personal locator beacon, or satellite messenger
Light: pack a good headlamp with extra batteries
Sun protection: maximum SPF sunscreen, sunglasses, and sun-protective clothes
First aid: you'll want a good basic kit that includes items for foot care and some insect repellent
Tools: you'll want at least a multi-tool with a good knife and maybe a gear repair kit
Fire: waterproof matches, lighter, tinder (cotton soaked in petroleum jelly works great for tinder)
Emergency Shelter: always carry at least a light, emergency bivvy
Extra food: Always carry more than you think you'll need
Extra water: Always, always carry more than you think you'll need
Extra clothes: Especially dry socks—and think in layers and wicking
The list above is an updated version of the National Park Service's "ten essentials." Be smart—make that your trail bible while hiking in Utah. Not to be a drag, but plenty of great hikes have ended in not so great ways because folks went off unprepared. Don't be that guy.
So let's get down to it. We'll be looking at some of Utah's most iconic and scenic hikes. Some are well known and heavily trafficked—but still worth the trip.
Others aren't as well known—and one is downright dangerous. The choice is yours—pick one that meets your style and conditioning, or better yet: work your way up to hiking all of them. Except maybe that dangerous one, that thing is insane.
Hikes in Arches National Park
First Up: The Iconic Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch is so pretty, they put it on the state license plate. Definitely, a must-see when you're hiking in Utah. Located near the town of Moab, Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 amazing, breathtaking natural arches. We make it our first stop for a reason: it's that awesome.
Delicate Arch is probably the prettiest—it's certainly the most famous. This magnificent natural monument only comes into view at the very end of a 1.5 mile, slightly strenuous hike, but man, is it worth it.
Nothing can prepare you for the thrill of coming up that final rise, around that final corner, and seeing Delicate Arch—boom!—standing there, majestic as all get out. The smooth, stone ledge it rises up from can be slippery, so if you go in for a closer look, watch your footing (again, seriously, don't be that guy).
You'll get some hardcore Instagram-worthy moments here, as the natural sweep of the arch beautifully frames the mountains on the distant horizon. Take your time and soak it in, then when you're ready, make the round trip back down to the trailhead.
While You're in Arches National Park …
•Another truly awesome and—no lie—magnificent site, and incredibly easy to get to. The trail is good for beginners, birders, or your basic grandma types who might find themselves hiking in Utah. But it's worth it, promise.
Landscape Arch is the largest single natural arch in the world, beating out the nearest competitor (also in Utah!) by only three short feet. Car-sized chunks of the arch have fallen off in the past few hundred years, most recently in the 1990s.
Since the last rock fall, the trail under the arch has been closed (for good reason!), but the nearby (and safe) view is still nothing short of breathtaking. Landscape Arch is an amazing site you should check out just to witness its astonishing width and delicate, slim center span.
And On Your Way Back Down the Arches Entrance Road …
This collection of rock formations is described maze-like, and for real? It is. The rocky landscape here transitions naturally from the shattered stone fins of the Devils Garden area off to the west, and the paths between the orange, pink, and brown limestone twist and turn without warning.
The Fiery Furnace is made up of a ton of winding, meandering gorges, canyons, and narrow slot canyons that have plenty of room to get you lost in—so keep your wits about you, or better yet, go on the guided tour (really, you can totally get lost—don't do that).
Time For a Change of Scenery…
Hikes in Zion National Park
Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park is one of the most photographed spots in Utah because it really is just that pretty. It's a favorite with casual tourists hiking in Utah because it's so easy toreach, but don't let that put you off.
The trail itself is pretty easy, passing through shady little niches with trees and beautiful, lush ferns, over bare slickrock, meandering and winding until it makes its way to the Wow! Spot—the edge of the cliff that gives the Overlook its name.
You can see almost the entirety of Zion Canyon right there in front of you, with glorious, really astounding monumental formations on either side of the canyon.
Rock formations with names like the Towers of the Virgins, the Streaked Wall, and the Beehives are all laid out for you to ooh and ahh at, as well as the towering East Temple, which rises more than 2,200 feet directly above the Overlook.
And there are some more amazing sites nearby …
The Lower Pool trail is about a 1.2-mile round trip, the Middle Pool trail is 2 miles out & back, and the Upper Pool is a pretty spirited 3-mile there-and-back-again.
These are great trails for year-round hiking, so if you find yourself in Utah during the hottest summer months or the frigid winter (and no kidding, it gets cold in Utah), these trails are a great spot to get your hike on, regardless.
If you're there during the summer months, you'll want to make your hike (especially to the Upper Pool) early in the day, as summers can be super toasty. During winter, ice might be a problem, so watch your step, bro.
Spring is maybe the most awesome time to hike these trails, as winter runoff makes the waterfalls glisten and roar, and they're at their most robust then.
And Zion Lodge is right across the highway from the trailhead, with restrooms, drinking water, even a snack bar and a restaurant for you lightweights.
While you're there, you really owe it to yourself to cowboy up and make the trek to the Upper Pool, as it is much larger with a high waterfall crashing down from an immense cliff. Super dramatic, guaranteed to look dope on social media, and make everyone you know jealous that they're not hiking in Utah with you.
Oh, so you wanna be hardcore?
All of the hikes on this list will show you some amazing sights, but this one will show you what you're made of. This puts the phrase "hiking in Utah" right up there with "playing Russian Roulette for kicks."
The first part of this hike is fairly level and follows the West Rim Trail, which is improved and kept in good condition. So far, so good.
The next section is a series of switchbacks which send you hiking up the canyon wall to Refrigerator Canyon which (surprise!) is always several degrees cooler than the surrounding area, very scenic, and with more easily walkable trail.
Then we get a little more interesting. The trail hits another series of 21 switchbacks called Walter's Wiggles. They're tight and steep, but it's a relatively short climb and it's not going to wreck you.
After Walter's Wiggles, you hit Scout Lookout, with some truly dope views. There are restrooms here, but no drinking water, and as the whole hike takes about five miles, you'll want to be sure that camelback is stuffed before you head out.
Now comes the fun part—the final half mile of trail follows a ridge across a saddleback formation, then up a bristly line of ridge called the hog's back—this is where it gets real, and you're gonna become best friends with the chains that have been installed to (try to) keep people from falling to their doom.
At that point, you badass you, it's time to show the world what you've got because to reach the end of the trail at Angel's Landing means you'll be clinging to those chains for dear life (omg literally).
If you can hack the trek from Scout Lookout across the ridge to Angel's Landing, you've done what few have: mastered the Angel's Landing trail. Congrats! Now take a minute and enjoy the view … because you've got to go back the same way.
Needless to say, you don't want to try this hike in icy weather, and if it's storming? Unless you enjoy getting struck by lightning while hiking in Utah, stay in the lodge (seriously, dude, don't even try it).
Hikes In Bryce Canyon National Park
Going Down Easy …
Since we looked at one way to go down hard, we figured we'd take a look at Bryce Canyon and another way to take it easy on the decline while hiking in Utah—Peekaboo Trail.
The trailhead starts at Bryce Point, with sick views of the Bryce Amphitheater and all of its tall, stone spire hoodoos and sweeping canyons.
You can take in the formations called Fairyland Point to the far north, Sunset and Sunrise Point to the northwest, and check out the trails that meander and crisscross the bottom of the amphitheater canyon while you prepare for your trek down.
The trail crosses the saddle of Bryce Point a few times, at one point coming close to a formation called The Alligator—which is a collection of stone spire hoodoos that look a little like an alligator when seen from above.
There's a formation called the Wall of Windows which is hella pretty and sits snug up against the lower slopes just west of Bryce Point's rim, so be sure to check it out on your way past. It's considered by many to be the best view along the Peekaboo Loop, so be sure to check it out on your hiking in Utah adventures.
Further along the Peekaboo Loop, you'll run into (well, not literally, unless you're really determined) a formation called The Cathedral, a collection of incredible spire formations that sit on a bluff at the northwest end of the loop trail. It's a great place to catch your breath.
You'll have descended about 1,000 feet from the top of Bryce Point, and you've got another 2.25 miles to go back—mostly all uphill—so be sure to pack in plenty of water and an energy bar or two for the return trip.
The Peekaboo Loop trail actually joins up with the Navajo Loop at one point, so if you're up for a challenge you can break off here and head north toward Sunrise and Sunset points. If you're up for a longer hike, you can take the Navajo Loop to …
The Queens Garden Loop Trail
This trail starts at Sunrise Point, itself one of the wonders of Bryce Canyon and worth a few "ooh, ahh" minutes before you head out on your hike.
To the northeast from Sunrise Point, you can see both the Boat Mesa and the Sinking Ship, both standing out in sharp contrast from the Pink Cliffs and the Aquarius Plateau.
Fun fact: Boat Mesa is one of the highest elevation points in Bryce, rising above Fairyland Canyon and all of its tall stone spires to a height of 8,073 feet.
The Bryce Canyon Lodge sits directly west of Sunrise Point, so it's a good place to replenish your water and grab a few energy bars, especially if you plan on hooking up with some of the other loop trails you can access further along.
Once you're ready to go, you'll head south to Queens Garden and its collection of hoodoo spikes and spires. One formation, in particular, is worth noting—the Queens Castle, which rises out of the rest of the garden area like a huge stone citadel.
You'll also want to check out the Queen Victoria hoodoo, a single stone spire visible from the Queens Garden trail that (for real) actually resembles photographs of the chubby queen in her long trailing dress. You know, if she were made entirely of rock.
There are two junctions with other trails accessible from the Queens Garden trail: a junction with the Navajo Loop, which is the most popular trail in the park, and shares a return leg with the Queens Garden trail.
And there's a horse trail here that's also accessible to hikers that leads down to the Peekaboo Loop, so if you're out for a long-haul kind of adventure, you've easily got some all-day options.
You could start at Queens Garden, pick up Navajo, then work your way over to Peekaboo Loop (and if you're really made of iron, hike both loops and then return back to pick up the Queens Garden return leg).
Speaking of the Navajo Loop…
The Navajo Loop trail starts at Sunset point, which showcases some pretty rad views and which you'll want to give at least a few minutes to.
Once you get your jaw back up off your chest, you're ready to start the hike—you'll need to carefully descend about 800 feet of rock and sandy trail down the side of Bryce Rim to the trail below.
Once down the rim, you'll navigate narrow corridors called Wall Street (because, you know, it reminds people of the other wall street, which isn't nearly as cool to hike). It's a slot canyon with narrow passages that are some of the most photographed views in the park.
Keeping with the city vibe, you'll then pass nearby the Silent City, a collection of spires and rock outcroppings all jammed together like a view of a, well, silent city. Urban sprawl never looked so good—imagine a skyline made up of brown, pink, and orange limestone. The name might be a little spooky, but this is a really imposing sight.
Past the Silent City, there's an intersection with the Queens Garden Trail and another right at the top of the Peekaboo Loop, which you can branch off on for an extended adventure if you're a serious hiker up for more of an outing (but you do you, boo).
The Final Word
There are, of course, more hiking attractions in Utah than you can shake a walking stick at—and more than we have room for here. This is a great collection of key hikes, and though most of them (except for Angel's Landing) don't require you to be an apex predator of a hiker, you will come away from these hikes with some amazing memories, photographs, and (if you're not careful) a couple of well-earned blisters. Happy hiking, yo.