The 15 Best Hikes in Utah - Travel for Your Life

The 15 Best Hikes in Utah

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No doubt Utah is one of my favorite states in America. Its wild and remote landscapes and hiking is the best way to explore its diverse terrain. With red-rock cliffs, snow-capped peaks, arid deserts, cascading waterfalls, and slot canyons, Utah’s scenery is impossible to categorize. The state is a hiker’s paradise, and I could spend years here and never get enough of its sculpted treasures.

Fortunately, Utah preserves its natural beauty through many national parks, state parks, and national monuments. And those lands each host tons of hiking trails to explore Utah’s scenic wonders. From colorful hoodoos to fertile canyon floors, Utah has it all. It’s one of my favorite states for a hiking holiday, and here are 15 of the best hiking trails to start your journey.

 

The 15 Best Hikes in Utah

 Best Places to Hike | Angels Landing Trail | Zion Canyon Overlook Trail | Syncline Loop | Lost Canyon | Delicate Arch Trail | Fairyland Loop Trail | Navajo Loop Trail | Mount Olympus Trail | Lake Blanche Trail | Cassidy Arch Trail | Hickman Bridge Trail | Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail | Dead Horse Rim Loop Trail | Little Wild Horse Bell Canyon Trail | Under the Natural Bridges Loop 

 

Best Places to Hike

 

In Utah, it’s all about the “Mighty 5.” The state is home to 5 beautiful national parks that feature much of the natural wonders of Southern Utah. These iconic parks feature a diverse array of landscapes that include sandstone cliffs, red-rock hoodoos, slot canyons, forested plateaus, and more. It’s a geologist’s paradise, and the best way to explore each park is to hit the hiking trails.

But the Mighty 5 only scratches the surface of the scenic beauty found in Utah. The state’s bewildering southern region also hosts gorgeous state parks, preserved national monuments, and isolated places for solitude. And don’t underestimate the wilderness that lies on your doorstep when visiting Salt Lake City. The snow-capped peaks, verdant forests, and alpine lakes feel like another world compared to Southern Utah.

Not many U.S. states can hold a candle to Utah’s diverse natural beauty, and that’s why it ranks towards the top of my favorite hiking destinations. The state is also perfect for a National Parks road trip. Utah spoils you for choice with its outdoor adventures, but these are my picks for its best trekking locations.

 

  • Zion National Park – Utah’s most famous national park and one of the most visited national parks in the United States. The piercing red cliffs rising above Zion Canyon offer some of the top hikes anywhere in Southern Utah. Climb steep ridges, hike along the Virgin River, and reach viewpoints for spectacular images of sharp cliffs.

 

  • Bryce Canyon National Park – Bryce Canyon earns its fame from the bizarre hoodoos that adorn the landscape. Hiking trails here bring you up close and personal with some of Utah’s most iconic geologic landmarks.

 

  • Arches National Park – Arches National Park features more geological marvels, and thousands of sandstone arches are the main attraction. Many of the world’s most famous rock formations reside here, so don’t forget your camera for unbelievable photos.

 

  • Canyonlands National Park – The Green and Colorado Rivers cut through Canyonlands to form images of the enigmatic Wild West. Hit the trails here for dramatic viewpoints of sheer cliffs, rocky pinnacles, mesas, and sharp canyons.

 

  • Capitol Reef National Park – Although it often gets lost in the shuffle in Utah’s south-central desert, Capitol Reef is full of geologic beauty. Wander around red-rock cliffs, slot canyons, natural bridges, and other striking landmarks.

 

  • Dead Horse Point State Park – You won’t find many people from out-of-state who have ever heard of Dead Horse Point. The state park is a hidden treasure that boasts spectacular views of red-rock canyons, immense cliffs, and snaking rivers. I’d also recommend camping here for the unique chance to sleep inside a yurt and to enjoy one of Utah’s best stargazing locations.

 

  • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – When you’re driving between national parks, a stop at Grand Staircase-Escalante offers solitude in the remote wilderness. Wander around towering slot canyons, sandstone cliffs, and the arid Navajo desert.

 

  • Natural Bridges National Monument – This epic canyon features 3 sandstone bridges and breathtaking viewpoints of Utah’s rocky landscapes. Hiking trails in the national monument take you beneath the bridges and reveal how early explorers walked the terrain.

 

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest – The scenery takes a dramatic turn when you venture to this alpine environment outside of Salt Lake City. The Mount Olympus and Twin Peaks Wilderness feature rugged snow-capped peaks, sparkling lakes, and radiant foliage.


1. Angels Landing Trail

  • Length: 5.0 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

Angels Landing is the most iconic hike in Zion National Park and turns up the adrenaline for avid trekkers. Starting at the Grotto trailhead, the path takes you along steep switchbacks, narrow ridges, and fear-inducing heights. But that’s not where the real spine-tingling thrills begin on this epic trail. With the assistance of metal chains, you’ll ascend a precipitous cliff that offers an unbelievable panorama of Zion Canyon.

The half-mile climb lets you stand 1,500 feet above the canyon and offers some of the best glimpses of Zion’s geologic marvels. Angels Landing isn’t for those afraid of heights, and I’d even rate it as one of America’s most terrifying day hikes. But for those who salivate for the most exciting adventure in Utah, look no further than Angels Landing. You’ll teeter on the edge of a narrow ridge, and one stumble could lead to a catastrophic fall. Save this hike for a sunny day since rain, wind, or snow will make it too dangerous.

best-hikes-in-utah-angels-landing


2. Zion Canyon Overlook Trail

  • Length: 1.0 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

For something in Zion National Park less terrifying, the Zion Canyon Overlook Trail doesn’t miss those spectacular canyon views. At only 1 mile long, this hiking trail is great for any skill level wishing to soak up the majestic Zion Canyon. While more avid trekkers might not get a thrill on this path, the vistas directly above the canyon are too miraculous to pass up.

The path climbs the ridge rising above the road, and handrails provide support on exposed sections. Once you arrive at the overlook, Zion Canyon appears in its full glory right in front of you. The viewpoint gives you have a front-row seat to the West Temple, Towers of the Virgin, and Beehive. Avoid this iconic Utah hike during high season if possible since the crowds can be unbearable at the legendary national park.


3. Syncline Loop

  • Length: 8.6 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Hard

The Syncline Loop is one of the toughest hikes in Canyonlands National Park and only for experienced trekkers. You’ll venture into the Island in the Sky section of the park and face plenty of rock scrambles. The exposed terrain encircles Upheaval Dome and has unbelievable views of red-rock formations. It’s a steady climb that includes over 1,600 feet of elevation gain, and hot summer days make this a gruelling expedition.

Only hikers in good shape should attempt this trail due to the isolated terrain, steep ascents, and exhausting rock scrambles. In fact, most of the rescues in Canyonlands National Park result from hikers pushing their limits on this trail. But if you have experience navigating cairns, you’ll be rewarded with heart-racing views of the red-rock canyons.

best-hikes-utah-canyonlands


4. Lost Canyon

  • Length: 8.2 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate

For something not as strenuous in Canyonlands, Lost Canyon is one of the park’s most alluring locations. The sandstone cliffs and unique vegetation make it a fascinating canyon to explore for hours. You’ll have to scramble over sections of slick rock and climb narrow ridges. The diverse terrain also leads you to gorges, ravines, and tumbling streams.

Lost Canyon has beautiful flora that’s difficult to find elsewhere in Canyonlands, but you still have fantastic views of rocky pinnacles and red-rock formations. While this trail isn’t as brutal as the Syncline Loop, you’ll still need sturdy hiking boots. There are some rock scrambles and unstable terrain that warrant proper footwear.


5. Delicate Arch Trail

  • Length: 3.4 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Delicate Arch is a Utah icon, and hikers from across the globe hit the Delicate Arch Trail for views of the beautiful landmark. Just outside of Moab, Arches National Park has over 2,500 stone arches, and Delicate Arch is the most iconic. It’s a symbol of Utah, and you’ll notice the free-standing arch is the image on many Utah license plates. At 46 feet high and 32 feet wide, Delicate Arch is a geologic marvel that leaves you speechless.

Although you’ll spot Delicate Arch from nearly a mile away, a steady uphill climb brings you face-to-face with the mammoth stone. The trailhead starts around the rustic Wolfe Ranch cabin and reveals images of Ute Native American petroglyphs. If you visit Arches National Park during the high season, arrive early at the parking lot due to the crowds. For the best pictures, my advice is to tackle the trail just after sunrise. The stone arches and sandstone cliffs turn a surreal color, and the light is perfect around this time.

best-hikes-utah-arches-national-park


6. Fairyland Loop Trail

  • Length: 7.8 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Starting at Fairyland Point, the Fairyland Loop Trail is one of the toughest hikes in Bryce Canyon National Park. The trail includes over 1,500 feet of elevation gain and tests your limits while descending into the canyon. You’ll trek along a spur trail to Tower Bridge and follow the canyon rim between Sunrise Point and Fairyland Point. The meandering path offers spectacular views of the park’s hoodoos and dramatic canyon vistas.

The trail leaves you exposed to the brutal Utah sun, and you’ll need plenty of water for the 7.8-mile loop. If you’re hiking in summer, then don’t forget your hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. I’d also recommend sturdy hiking boots that offer protection from mud, snow, or snakes. But with the heart-racing views around every turn and incline, it’s the best Bryce Canyon hike for serious trekkers.

One tip for winter hikers, the road to Fairyland Point closes during the season. During this seasonal closure, you must start the hike from Sunrise Point.

best-hikes-utah-bryce-canyon-bridge


7. Navajo Loop Trail

  • Length: 1.5 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The Navajo Loop Trail isn’t the lengthiest path, but it offers arguably the best views anywhere in Bryce Canyon National Park. Starting at the famous Sunset Point, the loop traverses steep switchbacks into an amphitheatre of hoodoos and red-rock cliffs. As you walk amongst the rocky pinnacles, the trail offers breathtaking views of Thor’s Hammer. With the sheer cliffs rising above you, Douglas-fir trees adorn the path into the canyon. The foliage seems out of place, but it speaks to Bryce Canyon National Park’s incredible diversity.

The Wall Street side of the loop makes you feel insignificant as the gargantuan walls tower above you. I was fixated on the hoodoos and gazing at the geologic beauty of the canyon. If you hike the Navajo Loop in winter, seeing the forest and hoodoos capped with snow is a magical sight. But be aware that the Wall Street side can close during cold, rainy weather. On the flip side, hiking this exposed trail in summer can be dreadfully hot, and I recommend lots of water.

best-hikes-utah-bryce-canyon


8. Mount Olympus Trail

  • Length: 8.0 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

If you’re searching for a challenging climb near Salt Lake City, look no further than the Mount Olympus Trail. The rocky summit of Mount Olympus rises over 4,000 feet above Salt Lake City, and the trail makes a steep ascent up the mountain. The path is mostly exposed, so don’t forget your hat and sunscreen if tackling the terrain during summer. But the tough climb and rock scramble make it an exciting endeavour to the summit.

Once you make the roughly 4,000 ft climb, the vistas overlooking Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains are incredible. If you pack a headlamp, the views at sunrise are particularly striking as you gaze into the valley. While the Mount Olympus summit is certainly not for hiking newbies, it’s a thrilling Class 3 climb for amateur mountaineers.


9. Lake Blanche Trail

  • Length: 6.9 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Hard

The Lake Blanche Trail is another strenuous trek to put on your list of awesome Salt Lake City hikes. Situated in the Twin Peaks Wilderness, the path ventures through a rugged canyon and into an alpine wonderland. You’ll make a steady ascent of around 2,700 feet, but dramatic peaks rise above you in the canyon. It can be a struggle to reach Lake Blanche, but you’ll feel a sense of serenity at the mountaintop lake.

Serrated peaks and evergreen foliage adorn the landscape and don’t be surprised to spot tons of wildlife around you. Mountains reflect on the emerald lake surface, and it’s easily one of the more stunning places in the Wasatch Mountains. If you’re hiking this trail with snow on the ground, I’d recommend spikes to help with the climb. But regardless of the season, it doesn’t get more scenic around Salt Lake City than Lake Blanche.

best-hikes-utah-bryce-canyon-snow


10. Cassidy Arch Trail

  • Length: 3.1 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Cassidy Arch Trail is among my favorite day hikes in Capitol Reef National Park, one of America’s most underrated national parks. The trail lets you stand atop natural bridges and provides stunning views of red-rock formations. Cassidy Arch is a famous landmark that sits high above a canyon and offers glimpses of the sheer walls of Grand Wash. The path follows the canyon rim, and the arch sits around 400 feet above the wash

It’s a steep climb in the early portions of the trail, so don’t be discouraged about quickly huffing for air. When you reach the arch, you’ll have a remarkable panorama of precipitous cliffs and slot canyons around you. For intrepid explorers, you can also rappel into the canyon from Cassidy Arch. If you’re with a trained guide and have the equipment, it’s a unique way to wander the geologic beauty of Capitol Reef.


11. Hickman Bridge Trail

  • Length: 1.8 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you have limited time in Capitol Reef National Park, don’t exclude the Hickman Bridge Trail from your hiking list. The 1.8-mile path follows the Fremont River and has some of the park’s best landmarks. Thanks to its short length, it’s a beautiful outing for novice trekkers hitting the trails for the first time. You’ll spot arches, sandstone cliffs, natural bridges, and rushing rivers on this gorgeous trail.

There’s a slight incline but nothing too treacherous for most hikers. The path is well-maintained, and you can pick up a brochure that helps you find the landmarks that make this one of the best trails in Capitol Reef.

best-hikes-utah-capitol-reef


12. Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail

  • Length: 6.7 miles
  • Route Type: Out & Back
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Located in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail gives you access to one of Utah’s most stunning waterfalls. The 6.7-mile path is mostly flat and easily accessible off Utah Scenic Byway 12. While hiking the cascade can be strenuous in summer, the pristine swimming hole is a refreshing reward. Even if you don’t dive into the water, the misty waterfall and rocky walls offer respite from the brutal heat.

Lower Calf Creek Falls plunges 126 feet along the canyon walls and into the pool. With the sandy shore near the sandstone cliffs, it’s an otherworldly location to pretend you’re at the beach. Apart from the waterfall, you’ll pass red-rock canyons, blooming wildflowers, and deep sandpits. It’s one of the more unique hikes you’ll encounter in the Utah Navajo desert.


13. Dead Horse Rim Loop Trail

  • Length: 5.0 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate

While Utah’s Mighty 5 gets all the credit, Dead Horse Point State Park is a vastly underrated destination. The state park lies just south of Moab and features breathtaking viewpoints of the Colorado River Canyon. With vistas of red-rock canyons, snow-capped peaks, and the meandering Colorado River, it’s an adventurer’s dream. The trail follows the canyon rim and has modest elevation gain to limit its difficulty.

The winter months are a spectacular time to visit since the views of snow lining the red rocks are unbelievable. Around sunset is my favorite due to the sky’s piercing orange color as the sun dips below the canyon. And if you’re hoping to beat the national park crowds, the scenery at Dead Horse is similar to the nearby Canyonlands National Park.

best-hikes-utah-salt-lake-city-wasatch-mountains


14. Little Wild Horse Bell Canyon Trail

  • Length: 8.0 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Between Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks, Little Wild Horse Bell Canyon Trail is worthy of a pit stop on your Utah adventure. The slot canyon near Goblin Valley can be extremely narrow, and you’ll need to brush against the rocky walls to make it through. It’s one of Utah’s best routes to give you an up-close glimpse of these sculpted beauties. The loop meanders into Bell Canyon to provide breathtaking views of red-rock cliffs, craggy pinnacles, and mammoth boulders.

Due to the narrow slot canyons, either hike in a group or ensure others know where you’re going. There’s a risk of falling rocks into the canyon, and it conjures up images of 127 Hours if you’ve ever seen the movie. Flash floods are also possible, and you’ll often see pools of water in the canyons.


15. Under the Natural Bridges Loop

  • Length: 8.2 miles
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Located inside Natural Bridges National Monument, the Natural Bridges Loop takes you underneath each natural bridge. The trail ventures into White Canyon to offer striking views of red-rock cliffs, sandstone formations, and monoliths. But the best highlights are the viewpoints of the bridges that give this preserved area its name.

Measuring 268 feet, Sipapu Bridge is the 2nd largest natural bridge in the entire country. Deeper into the canyon, you’ll hike under Kachina Bridge and the thin Owachomo Bridge. If you trek in the winter months, the trail could be icy or covered with snowfall. Bring proper sun protection for brutal temperatures if hiking during the summer. The path includes some river crossings, so don’t be surprised to get your feet wet.

best-hikes-utah-sipapu-bridge

 

Which trail would you say offers the best hiking in Utah? Let me know in the comments below.

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