beautiful canyon scenery in utah valley

Image: by egorshitikov via Pixabay

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"

adult backpack on the side

Image: by via Pexels

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
  • Go 11.5 miles up the Arches Entrance road, turn right at the sign to Delicate Arch; the trailhead is on the left side of the road by the ranch
  • Moderately difficult hike with some rugged and steep sections
  • 3 mile, out & back hike
  • Starting elevation at 4,300 feet with a 500-foot elevation gain
 Iconic Delicate Arch in utah

Image: by Chris Janda via Pexels

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 …

arches national park

Image: by skeeze via Pixabay

  • Landscape Arch: the largest natural arch in the world
  • Located at the end of a well-manicured trail called Devils Garden, in the upper part of Arches National Park, right off the Arches Entrance Road.
  • As easy as hikes get—an "improved" trail that's both paved and level
  • 1.6 mile out & back hike
  • No significant elevation gain
  • Bonus: The Devils Garden area hosts an awesome number of arches and other natural sculptures

•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 …

  • Fiery Furnace, a maze-like collection of trails and paths east of the Devils Garden area
  • The trailhead is south of the entrance to Landscape Arch and north of the Delicate Arch formation, at about the 14-mile mark on the Arches Entrance Road
fiery furnace entrance

Image: by 12019 via Pixabay

  • Truly a maze of trails almost one mile long from north to south, and around 1/2 a mile wide from east to west, but plenty of space to get lost in
  • Be Aware: we weren't kidding about getting lost—guided tours are suggested until hikers familiarize themselves with the area
  • Sites include natural arches, rock formations called fins, and many small canyons
  • While there's no real single trail here, the ranger-guided hike is just about 2 miles long

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

view at zion national park

Image: by Infinite Thought via Pixabay

  • Canyon Overlook
  • To reach the trailhead, follow Highway 9 to the area around the east entrance of the Mount Carmel Tunnel. There is a parking area on the south side of the road, and the trailhead is north, across the road from the parking lot—you know you're there when you see the stone steps
  • Great for casuals, great for Instagram and Facebook, great for just standing there slack-jawed saying "Wow!" over and over again
  • Short (about a mile), relatively flat trail with an elevation gain of only about 100 feet between the parking lot and the viewing area
  • Though not much in terms of a strenuous hike, the breathtaking view more than makes up for it—and there are some other worthwhile trails nearby (keep reading!)

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 …

  • Emerald Pools, with several great hiking options right in the same area
  • All hikes have views of cascading waterfalls and glistening, emerald green (duh, right?) pools
  • Hikes range from super easy for the Lower Pool, moderate to the Middle Pool, and fairly strenuous to the less-often hiked Upper Pool (pretty cool how that works out)
woman at the river  in zion national park

Image: by Zion National Park via flickr

  • Round-trip hike to the Upper Pool is about three miles, with an elevation change of about 350 feet
  • Formations like Lady Mountain, Red Arch Mountain, and the Great White Throne can be seen along the trails, with incredibly gorgeous cliffs in all directions
  • A great "pit stop" for more strenuous Zion hiking, as the Zion Lodge is right across the highway from the trailhead
  • Emerald Pools is another breathtaking area in Zion National Park you really must see while you're hiking in Utah, and you can work the trails from the easy (and we mean really, really easy) Lower Pool hike all the way up to the more strenuous Upper Pool trail.

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.

zion national park border

Image: by Zion National Park via flickr

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?

zion national park canyon

Image: by Zion National Park via flickr

  • Angel's Landing is less physically demanding than mentally punishing
  • Anyone with a severe fear of heights should not even attempt the last leg of this hike
  • Sections of the trail feature chains bolted into the cliff to provide handholds over sheer drop-offs of hundreds of feet
  • 5,790 feet at its highest point, with an elevation gain of around 1,500 feet
  • Five people have died on this hike since 2004
  • Trailhead begins at the Grotto Drop Off point
  • Little known fact: this hike earns you eternal bragging rights

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.

man at the edge of the cliff

Image: CC0 by Snapwire via Pexels

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 …

  • Peekaboo Loop Trail
  • Trailhead begins at Bryce Point, one of the best spots in the canyon for taking in the sights
  • Gorgeous views of the Bryce Amphitheater and the many tall, thin spires, called hoodoos, that it's known for
canyon view during the daylight

Image: by derwiki via Pixabay

  • Strenuous 5.5-mile round-trip hike
  • Descends nearly 1,000 feet below Bryce Point—which is the easy part. The hard part is the climb back up.

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.

zion national park view of the canyon during sunset

Image: by Zion National Park via flickr

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

  • Queens Garden Loop Trail
  • Trailhead starts at Sunrise Point, directly east of the Bryce Canyon Lodge
  • A moderate difficulty, out & back 1.8-mile hike
navajo trail park

Image: by Hans via Pixabay

  • Nearby horse trail for those wimps tired of walking
  • Shares a junction with the Navajo Loop trail for longer hiking options

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.

 Queen Victoria hoodoo, a single stone spire visible from the Queens Garden trail

Image: by BerdacheBear via Pixabay

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…

  • Navajo Loop
  • Most Popular Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park
  • 1.3-mile, moderate difficulty roundtrip hike
  • 800-foot descent (and then ascent!) at the beginning and end of the hike
  •  Intersects with Queens Garden and Peekaboo Loop trails
  • Holds some of the most iconic views of Bryce Canyon
Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park

Image: by LoggaWiggler via Pixabay

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).

cloudy sky with a rainbow at zion national park

Image: by pamyjo via Pixabay

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.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This