The 10 Best Hikes in Utah

Man looking at Druid Arch in Utah

Getty / Sierralara

Where does one start when it comes to explaining how amazing the hikes in Utah truly are? The state has varied terrain, ranging from desert to high-alpine environments—you can drive for less than an hour but feel like you're hiking in another country. It's also home to five incredible national parks known as "The Mighty 5," plus several other national monuments and protected areas as beautiful as their national park neighbors. The land includes hot springs, colorful canyons, waterfalls, and towering rock spires, and because of the elevation changes, you can hike year-round, even if you live in the mountains.

The only tricky part of hiking in Utah is figuring out where to go, but the flip side of that is that no matter where you are in the state, you probably have a bucket-list hike within a short drive. But to help get you started, check out these 10 amazing hikes in Utah below.

01 of 10

Fairyland Loop Trail

USA, Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park, hoodoos as seen from Fairyland Point

Westend61 / Getty Images

Bryce Canyon is one of five stunning national parks in Utah. It's best known for its towering hoodoos—pinnacle-like rock formations ranging between 3 feet and 170 feet tall. Hoodoos are prevalent in the park, but this hike features (slightly) smaller crowds and epic views—so epic that the trail is named for the otherworldly feeling of standing in between hundreds of hoodoos.

The trail loses nearly 1,000 feet of elevation as it leads into the canyon, giving hikers the chance to see hoodoos from above and below. Bring lots of water as there's not much shade. While this trail tends to be long enough to weed out families with children or novice hikers (it's 8.3 miles long), it's still popular, so be patient when taking photos and sharing space at the lookouts.

Fairyland Loop Trail, Bryce, UT 84764, USA
Phone +1 435-834-5322
02 of 10

Golden Cathedral

Man standing near Golden Cathedral (Neon Canyon) in Escalante.

Federica Grassi / Getty Images

At nearly 1.9 million acres, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is bigger than Rhode Island, so to say that there's only one must-do hike in the monument would be laughable. But if you've never visited before, start with one of the most stunning sights in Utah: Golden Cathedral. It's in the monument's aptly named Neon Canyon. The actual "Cathedral" is a substantial multi-arch natural structure through which rays of sunlight filter in through a small gap at the top. Try to get there when the sun is high in the sky to watch the stream of light move across the floor.

It's a long hike to get there, about 9.5 miles, made longer because it drops elevation significantly right after the trailhead, which means you'll have an uphill climb at the very end (it goes up about 1,270 feet in height). There are also several water crossings. Plan for a full day and bring more water and food than you think you'll need. Cell service is usually nil, so have your map downloaded (or printed) in advance.

Utah, USA
03 of 10

Fifth Water Hot Springs

Flying above tourists taking a relaxing bath in hot springs in Utah

Helivideo / Getty Images

What's better than a hike to a remote hot spring? How about one that has a waterfall, too? Located in Thistle, visitors can make the out-and-back trek to Fifth Water Hot Springs any time of year to soak in the various pools, the hottest of which is around 109 degrees Fahrenheit (they get progressively cooler as they go downhill.)

It's a popular place for night soaks and nude soaks; the latter is technically illegal but still very common.

The hike on any given day is roughly 4.5 miles, with an elevation gain of about 640 feet. However, while a truly magical experience, visiting in the winter puts the hike closer to 13 miles with closed roads, which means you'll probably need to get there via fat bike or get a very early start if you're moving on cross-country skies. 

Fifth Water Hot Springs is a victim of its own popularity, and irresponsible guests have been known to leave bottles and food scraps around the springs. Do your part to leave it better than you found it, and bring a plastic bag to carry out any plastic you see on the trail. 

Diamond Fork Rd, Springville, UT 84663, USA
04 of 10

The Big Needles Loop

Man looking at Druid Arch at sunset, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, America, USA -

Sierralara / Getty Images

If your favorite kind of Utah hike involves one where you're sleeping under the stars, plan a trip to the Big Needles Loop, a 24-mile loop through Canyonlands National Park. The park is divided into the Needles, Island in the Sky, and the Maze. The Needles is the most visited, making it an excellent area for first-time backpackers. You can hike the loop in either direction and spend one or two nights on the trail, but two is better if you include popular offshoots like Elephant Hill (+ 3 miles) or Druid Arch (+ 4 miles).

You'll need a permit and need to have basic backcountry camping skills. There's no water along the trail, so plan to have a heavier pack than usual during your first day or two. Make sure you have a physical map and know your route as many trails criss-cross the area. And wayfinding can be a bit tricky across slickrock and washes. The elevation gain is around 4,250 feet, so prepare yourself for deep breathing and shortness of breath.

The Needles, Utah 84535, USA
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

The Narrows

Hikers in the Narrows in Utah's Zion National Park

Courtesy of Suzie Dundas

It's a tough call between The Narrow and Angels Landing if you're trying to decide the best hike in Zion National Park, but the Narrows probably take the cake just for its uniqueness. The "trail" is just a section of the Virgin River you'll follow in reverse. Hikers travel upriver through the sometimes very narrow canyon, usually with hiking sticks in hand, passing walls roughly 2,000 feet tall. Most hikers turn around about 2 miles in at a section called "Wall Street," but the actual hike can be up to 16 miles long if you do it as a backpacking trip.

It's one of the most challenging hikes in the area, not because of elevation gain (which is only about 100 feet), but because of other factors that up the risk: you'll be walking across slippery rocks through cold water nearly chest-high at times, navigating around debris and narrow passes. However, there's an entire industry outside the park to support hikers. You can rent waterproof pants or chest-high waders, dry bags, hiking sticks, neoprene socks, and waterproof shoes at any one of several outfitters outside the park. Though they're pricey, consider renting e-bikes to make the 8-mile trip to the trailhead to avoid waiting for the crowded park shuttles.

Cottonwood Canyon Rd, Utah, USA
Phone +1 418-540-1143
06 of 10

Double Arch Trail

Double Arch, Arches National Park, Moab Utah

Chan Srithaweeporn / Getty Images

A note before describing this trail: you can't pick a bad trail in Arches National Park, so don't panic if you run out of time to make the drive to the trailhead. However, the Double Arch Trail is an excellent choice if you want to get a feel for the park's namesakes but aren't up to a long or difficult hike. 

The trail is pretty short (.5 miles round-trip), making it a top choice for kids and older travelers (there's only a 90 feet elevation gain). But the drive to the Double Arch Trailhead is pretty long at 12 miles, so you'll need to budget enough time to reach the trailhead on a slow desert road. 

The double arches were formed by dripping downward erosion, leaving two narrow, elegant rock arches high above the trail. And since the trail is so short, there are several other excellent sites you may be able to knock out while you're there, too. Just across the parking area is a 1.5-mile loop hike past the natural wonders that give "The Windows" section of the park its name.

Go early or late to avoid the crowds; most days, the parking area is full by late morning. The short distance makes it an unbeatable stargazing destination on clear nights.

Arches National Park, Moab, UT 84532, USA
Phone +1 435-719-2299
07 of 10

Scout Cave Trail

Rear view of woman with backpack looking at mountains while standing on rock formation against sky in Snow Canyon State Park

Cavan Images / Getty Images

If Zion feels too crowded, save the hassle of driving and head instead to Snow Canyon State Park near St. George. The greater Zion area has scenery just as beautiful as the sights in the national park, and Snow Canyon's Scout Cave Trail certainly delivers when it comes to red rock views and southwest vibes.

This trail, coming in at 4.5 miles and an elevation gain of 660 feet, has excellent views of the red rock spires and walls across the valley from the get-go, though most people take this trail to stand in Scout Cave. It's a narrow, tall cut-out in the red rock with fantastic photo opportunities looking out and across the park. Dogs are allowed to use the trail, but it does pass across a long section of hardened lava flow that may be tough on paws.

For a longer hike (totaling about 11 miles with 1,600 feet of gain), continue hiking to the Snow Canyon petroglyphs before returning the way you came. Rest your tired legs at The Adventure in St. George, a surprisingly trendy hotel with an excellent cocktail menu.

5605 N 1180 W, St. George, UT 84770, USA
Phone +1 435-634-5759
08 of 10

Stewart Falls

This is Stewart Falls which runs off the side of Mount Timpanogos in central Utah.

Aaron Hawkins / Getty Images

This out-and-back hike in the Mount Timpanogos Wilderness is a beauty any time of year, though if you visit too late in the fall, you may find that the falls are a lot narrower than they are at their summer peak. Because the trail is relatively easy at a short distance of 3.4 miles and an elevation gain of 646 feet, it gets very busy, so try to visit on a weekday if you can. Or, if you don't mind a bit of cold-weather action, head out in the winter and see the falls when they're frozen. Depending on the weather, you'll need snowshoes or at least waterproof hiking shoes with traction devices.

If you stay at Sundance Resort, there's a shorter trail you can take to the falls. Otherwise, you'll park along the Alpine Loop Road to reach the trailhead. Parking is self-pay or via a staffed booth and is currently $6.

Provo Canyon Rd, Provo, UT 84604, USA
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Peek-A-Boo Gulch and Spooky Canyon

A man hiking through Spooky Gulch, a narrow slot canyon in Southern Utah.

Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

One of the most distinctive features of Utah's varied landscapes are the many narrow slot canyons across the state, usually washed in paintbrush-like stripes of orange, red, and gold. There are dozens across the state, but one of the coolest for adventurous types is Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument—the Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyon loop.

Coming in at a distance of 3.4 miles and a slight elevation gain of 490 feet, the trail first winds through Peek-A-Boo Gulch, which is no wider than 18 inches at times. The beginning is easy to navigate on foot with just a bit of scrambling, so it's well-suited for beginners.

However, after Peek-A-Boo is Spooky Canyon, which gets trickier. Think dark spaces, passes so tight you'll have to turn sideways, and a difficult rock climb at the exit. However, Spooky is a 10-minute walk from the end of Peek-A-Boo, so it's an optional add-on rather than a mandatory feature. For an outdoorsy trip, stay at nearby Yonder Escalante. It has impossibly hip renovated Airstreams and tiny houses, outdoor showers, fire pits, and tons of outdoor guest events like yoga and drive-in movies.

Peek-A-Boo Canyon, Utah, USA
10 of 10

Above Zion Via

A hiker looking into Kolob Canyon with Zion National Park on the left

Courtesy of Suzie Dundas

While it's not technically hiking, about 75 percent of the Above Zion via Ferrata involves trekking on foot along two miles of Kolob Canyon. When not hiking, you'll be climbing ladders and navigating ledges and walkways, all while strapped to the rock wall with a secure cable. The route itself isn't exceptionally challenging, and anyone who can walk 2.2 miles can likely finish the adventure with no problems.

The best part of the via ferrata—and what makes it a must-do hike in Utah even for far more experienced hikers and climbers—are the views. On the other side of the canyon is the most remote section of Zion National Park. It's so remote that there's no other way to see it other than along the route. Go in the fall for the best visual mix of bright blue skies, orange foliage, green pines, and bright red-rock walls nearly 2,000 feet tall.

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The 10 Best Hikes in Utah