Utah is world-famous as an outdoor playground unlike any other. That’s a sturdy claim, but the trails and wild spaces of Utah earn their reputation. Nevertheless, we have whittled down our favorites to create our Top 5 Scenic Hikes in Utah list. From mysterious rock formations to sparkling blue hot springs to vast and rugged deserts, Utah has something for everyone. Still, hiking in Utah is not without its challenges! Bring water, good footwear, and always seek out information from rangers and locals to ensure that you get to enjoy the best of the best, while avoiding the worst.
#1 Angel’s Landing
ZION NATIONAL PARK
STRENUOUS (5 MILE out and back)
The massive rock that makes up the majority of this hike sat unaltered from the cretaceous period all the way until 1928, when the “Temple of Aeolus” trail was first cut. Aside from the name change, this dramatic hike has remained more or less the same ever since. This hike begins following the Virgin river and climbs precipitously up switchbacks and finally out onto a knife-edge ridge not well suited for anyone with a fear of heights. The peak rewards those brave enough to reach it with an undeniably magnificent view of the surrounding cliffs and down into Zion Canyon to the North. As with all of these incredible Utah hikes, bring plenty of water and do your best to arrive early – you won’t be the only one on the trail.
#2 The Narrows
ZION NATIONAL PARK
STRENUOUS (8.6 mile out and back)
If you’ve ever been curious to explore a slot canyon, you would be hard-pressed to find a better example than The Narrows of Zion Canyon. The most popular route begins at the sandstone amphitheater of the Temple of Sinawava and weaves upstream through just over four miles of canyon, each twist and turn revealing a secret grove of trees, swimming hole, or other natural treasure. Rather than a trail, this route takes the form of the Virgin river itself so it’s important to seek out information about rainfall and water levels, available at the local ranger station. Hiking beyond Big Springs at the end of the first four miles requires a permit, but if it’s a bigger adventure you’re after we would recommend the 16 mile, shuttle-served one way trip downstream from Chamberlain’s Ranch. Whichever option you chose, this hike is a classic.
#3 Delicate Arch
ARCHES NATIONAL PARK
MODERATE (3 mile out and back)
There’s a reason this one is on most of the license plates in Utah. The delicate arch is a world-famous iconic sight and well worth the easy out and back trail that serves it. Worn away by eons of sandy wind and winter, the arch stands magnificently, balanced so improbably that it looks as if it will topple at any second. This hike should only take a couple of hours, so there’s no excuse not to have a look. Still, it is always important to bring water and sunscreen when hiking in the desert so be prepared!
#4 Fairyland Loop
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
STRENUOUS (7.8 mile loop)
Visiting Bryce Canyon is like stepping into the pages of a fantasy novel, its bizarrely alien rock formations peeking out from the canyon walls like mythical creatures frozen in place. It’s appropriate, then, that the most deservedly famous trail in the park is the Fairyland loop. This moderately strenuous hike will take you down the rabbit-hole and back up to the rim of the canyon, treating hikers to wildlife, wandering streams, and ridges teeming with hoodoos, the strange natural gargoyles that make this place famous. From start to finish, this trail usually takes about five hours, but you could spend a lifetime exploring all of the hidden places of this magical world.
#5 Fifth Water Hot Spring
MODERATE (4.5 mile out and back)
When you picture the perfect tucked-away hot spring, it probably looks like these. From the trailhead hikers will climb just over six hundred feet along the linked waterfalls of sixth water creek. Natural mineral hot springs bubble up and join the river in this scenic valley where locals have built up a series of pools in which to enjoy the warm and vibrant blue waters. Due to COVID-19 the springs are currently closed, but they are typically accessible year-round. We’re hopeful that a return trip is in our collective future sooner rather than later.
This post is part of our local recommendations series. If you’re like us, when you go to a beautiful place you want to spend your time exploring it, not reading and researching it on your phone. These posts attempt to save you some screen time and point you in the right directions so you can leave the stress of decision making to us and lose yourself in places of wild scenic beauty. Because we’re keeping it simple, we had to leave out some truly incredible places and experiences and stick to the best of the best. If you are looking for something specific a little farther off the beaten path, contact our itineraries department for a custom trip designed just for you.
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