The Ultimate Utah Hiking Guide

The Ultimate Utah Hiking Guide

If you ask me, hiking is much more than an occasional pastime activity: it is a philosophy and way of life. I have practiced it since a young age, but only recently, I reached a pinnacle. I was lucky enough to visit Utah and go on multiple trail adventures, through mystical desert canyons, spellbinding waterfalls, ancient forests, and other landmarks. One thing is sure: you need to be prepared. Robust approach shoes can be life-saving when it comes to protecting your ankles. Since you can’t always place your foot perfectly, you can at least reduce any serious injuries with a good pair of boots. The state has five national parks, nine million acres of forested area, and numerous national monuments and recreational centers. The choice of trails is simply unbelievable: it would take a lifetime to complete them all.   

Natural splendor

Utah is a coveted destination for hikers across the globe due to incredible natural diversity.  The terrain is as varied as it gets. Namely, the state offers everything from arid deserts to lush pine forests. This is no surprise considering it lies at the convergence point of three distinct geological regions: The Great Basin, the Rocky Mountains, and Colorado Plateau. One thing to note is that Utah has semi-arid, desert-like climate, albeit mountains differ a bit in this regard. Nevertheless, it is advisable to embark on your escapade early in the day and avoid the heat.

It’s a real sport

Hiking in Utah is a well-known and beloved exploit. The state has almost 2,925 hiking trails, which stretch across thousands of miles. So, picking the one that suits you might be challenging. Well, do your homework and get to know what the options are. Some trails are in remote locations that attract only the most serious backpacking daredevils. On the other hand, there is no shortage of routes that involve shorter, pleasant walks. If you are not keen on walking that much, you can reach most trails with off-highway vehicles and mountain bikes.

A roadmap in hand

It is wise to rely on hand-curated trail maps and driving directions. Also, there is a plenty of reviews and photos from various hikers, campers, adventurers, rangers, and nature lovers. Finally, you should ponder enhancing your experience with the help of many guides and outfitters. They offer half-day casual hikes, multi-day expeditions, and everything in between. There are also special tours that provide different flavors, be it geology, archeology, history, or ecology. In any event, once you venture off the beaten track, the landscape opens up before you in unexpected ways.

Through the Narrows

When it comes to the best hikes in Utah, one name always pops up— The Narrows of Zion Canyon.  As the name suggests, this the narrowest part of the majestic canyon in the Zion National Park. The trail takes you through the gorge with walls hundreds of feet tall. Most people, including me, start from Temple of Sinawava via the Riverside Walk. At one point, you reach Virgin River and that is when things get a bit wet. There is no trail to speak of further and wading upstream can last the whole day. I learned the hard way that to go on a top-down hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch, you need a permit.

The High Uintas

The High Uintas backcountry is another popular choice for tourists, backpackers, anglers, equestrians, and locals alike. There is a lot of wilderness to go around, family-friendly amenities to utilize, and some amazing lakes to visit (I found a lakeside “me” place only after two days). Immersing in peace and quiet in grand scenery is something I will remember for the rest of my life. It may be a good idea to start near the town of Kamas— one can find many day hikes and overnighters there. Moreover, information on hiking, usage, camping, and finishing is readily available there.

Bruce Canyon

I would also advise you to check out the Bruce Canyon National Park, which has a unique landscape deserving of any hiker’s attention.  Views from the canyon rim are quite spectacular, but it is certainly worth it making your way down. There, you walk among the stunning hoodoos and other peculiar formations forged by the numerous eons. One of the most popular trails is the Rim Trail, which is a rather easy hike, with less than 200 feet of elevation gain. I also had a blast on the Mossy Cave Trail, which gave me chance to observe the natural wonders of the park up close.

Capitol Reef

When talking about Utah hiking, one cannot leave out Capitol Reef National Park. It offers a wide selection of trails across varied terrain. Slot canyons are no less magnificent than the ones in Zion National Park, but you can also ascend higher, to marvel at knobs, ridges, natural bridges, and other scenic wonders. Lama hikes and camping trips are certainly one of the most unique backcountry adventures you can undertake. There are also many inns and resorts along the way, where you can unwind and recharge the batteries.  

Arches National Park

My last stop on the Utah pilgrimage was Arches National Park, located in the Moab region of Eastern Utah. It is famous for its picturesque and fragile rock formations, as well as iconic bright red rock scenery. Most of the trails are easy to moderate and they can satisfy both parents with children and hardcore adrenaline junkies.  One of my highlights was the Windows trail. The gravel trail led us to massive North Window and Turret Arch. As with many other trials, some jaw-dropping viewpoints and arches were well-kept secrets not visible from the road.

Hit the road

Hiking is hand down the best way to explore the immense natural diversity of Utah. Whether you want quick tots to towering landmarks or backpacking endeavors that lasts for days, this beautiful country has got you covered. Just do not throw caution to the wind. Never hike alone and keep friends and family updated on your location and plans. Carry plenty of water with you both in deserts and mountains. High-energy snacks also come in handy. With these precautions in mind, go ahead: It is time to lace up your boots and brave the wild frontier.

Sean Lockwood

Sean is a programmer with a passion for extreme sports. Favourite extreme sports discipline is biathlon. Started this blog because of the great love for nature and adrenaline which results in something extreme like Extreme Sports Lab (ESL).

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