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Utah Hiking Trails • Hiking Trail Finder
A quick glance at any National Parks atlas will reveal that Utah should be high on the slackpacker's list of places to visit, if not at the top. As you plan your journey, you can expect the following conversation when you describe your plans to an obtuse, television-addled non-hiker:
"You're going to Utah!? What's in Utah? Are you a Mormon?"
You'll explain that there are five breathtaking National Parks, a number of National Monuments and similar areas, Native American archeological sites, mysterious petroglyphs, pictographs, massive canyons, soaring mountains, fascinating rock formations, and other outstanding scenery...
"Huh. I didn't know that. Are there any theme parks?"
Don't say we didn't warn you.
- American Discovery Trail The eastern part is in red rock country on the Kokopelli Mountain Bike Trail along the Colorado River, and through the Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks. In central Utah the ADT traverses the heavily forested high mountains of the Dixie and Fishlake National Forests. The western part introduces the ADT traveler to very dry desert conditions that require careful planning for a safe journey. This is the "official" ADT page, with in-depth descriptions, photos, maps, suggestions, etc.
- Arches National Park NPS hiking page for Arches; covers 14 trails, not bad but not great. Gives starting point, length, average time, basic descriptions.
- Arches National Park -- Delicate Arch This hike can be quite crowded. Fortunately, most people drive to the overlook first, where they are rewarded with an uninspiring view of a distant rock formation, so they skip the hike. That's a shame really. For you, our favorite slackpacker, take our advice and skip the overlook. Go straight to the trail. This is one of the finest hikes in the United States of America...but first check out this awesome page on the Natural Born Hikers website. Now if you go to the overlook, and get stuck behind some monstrous RV belching smoke and careening all over the road, don't say we didn't warn you.
- Guide to the Arches at Arches National Park This is a webpage I put together, with instructions for getting to and finding 40+ key features within Arches National Park. These are the "easy" arches, attainable for anyone with a passenger car and some moderate hiking capability. I've included some "where, how and why" about arches -- not overly scientific, just the basics to make the experience more enjoyable. There are a bunch of photos on this page to help you with your arch hunting.
- Arches National Park -- Tapestry Arch often overlooked easy 1 mile hike to a unique triple arch formation. On the UtahOutdoorActivities.com site.
- Bryce Canyon -- Fairyland Trail Bryce Canyon NP; site gives trail info, description of hike, trail data, photo; nice site by travelwest.com.
- Bryce Canyon -- Queens Garden Trail Bryce Canyon NP; site gives trail info, description of hike, data, photo; nice site by travelwest.com.
- Bryce Canyon -- Riggs Spring Trail Bryce Canyon NP; 8.8 mile hike presented in this site as a two day backpacking trip. Trail info, suggestions, description, specs; good trail site by travelwest.com.
- Big Cottonwood Canyon site includes trail descriptions, directions, nice details and photos for seven trails, including Lake Blanche, Solitude Lake, Mt. Raymond. Nice site by Alan Moller.
- Cedar Breaks National Monument -- Ramparts Trail this is on the OneDayHikes.com site. I've done this hike, it is incredible...at 10,000 feet the world falls away below you, but immediately in front of you is a tremendous ampitheater of erosion. This is some spot. This site gives you all the information you'll ever need for this hike. We really have to tip our hat to the OneDayHikes.com website...great info, an no silly registration required.
- Cedar Breaks National Monument -- Ramparts Trail Here's a photographic tour of the same trail listed immediately above, on the WorldFromTheWeb.com site.
- Capitol Reef National Park Hiking site by NPS -- and a good one by any standards. Divides the park into sections, then lists trail descriptions, with links to online maps, etc. Why can't all NPS hiking sites be like this one? Then again, why do so many people throw cigarette butts out of their car window? And why do so many hikers carry those ridiculous metal poles and scratch the heck out of our trails? Some things may always remain a mystery.
- Cohab Canyon/Cassidy Arch Trail Capitol Reef National Park. Excellent trail description & data by travelwest.com.
- Capitol Reef National Park this is just a quick guide to the major trails; the rest of the site is good overall for trip planning. From a series of very good National Park sites by John William Uhler
- Capitol Reef -- Five Mile Wash Incredible slot canyon on the east side of the Waterpocket Fold. Webpage on AmericanSouthwest.net features photos, description, details.
- Capitol Reef -- Hall's Narrows Trail This is a backpacking trip report by Stan Wagon of a trip through Hall's Narrows and some other highlights of the Waterpocket Fold. Very well done personal site. A "must-click" if you want some insight about this trail. link fixed 2/17/2004
- Capitol Reef National Park -- Upper Muley Twist Canyon Park Service website gives a well-written overview & directions for this popular trail.
- Capitol Reef National Park -- Lower Muley Twist Canyon This is the longer, less popular but arguably much more rewarding of the two well known Muley Twist Canyon hikes. This web page, on the AmericanHiker.com site, features a terrific photo, description, and all the details you'll need. Bring water.
- Dark Canyon Primitive Area Remote canyon wilderness west of Blanding. Here's a terrific 4-day backpacking trip report on a personal page by Scott Yost. Great photos and description of the trip.
- Dinosaur National Monument National Park Service page with basic info on a dozen or so trails. Good overview.
- Escalante River & Related Canyons You may notice that we've got a lot of links to the AmericanSouthwest.net website. Well, that's because it's a darn good website. Great photos, sufficient directions, notes, suggestions, just outstanding. This link goes to the main menu page for all things Escalante, with individual pages on Big Horn Canyon, Brimstone Gulch, Davis Gulch, Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch, Egypt 3, Harris Wash, Little Death Hollow, Llewellyn Gulch, Neon Canyon, Peekaboo Gulch, Red Breaks, and Spooky Gulch. A "must click" if you're headed to the Escalante area.
- General here's a laundry list of about three dozen of the key, "must-do" hikes in Utah. Each link leads to a nice descriptive page with a photo essay on the individual hikes. This is on the UtahOutdoorActivities.com site by Troy Webb.
- General GORP entry page for Utah; links to nice pages to research hiking in NPS areas and other Federal lands.
- General this site is actually a pitch for a book, but that's ok -- it's a very good site (we imagine the book is worthwhile too). Lists dozens and dozens of trails, with location, mileage, hiking times, elevations, seasons, some with photos, and brief but informative descriptions, possibly pulled or a synopsis of those in the book. Excellent site by David Day/Rincon Publishing.
- General UtahHikes.us website by Mark Hamilton; statewide hiking hub type site with trails, news, photos, how-tos, etc. Trail focus seems to be on Utah Valley region.
Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument -- Big Horn Canyon 400' deep slot canyon with a few different access points via Utah Route 12. Very good webpage with photos, directions, description on the AmericanSouthwest.net site.
- Kings Peak highest point in Utah; photos and journal of a four day backpack trip to scale this peak. Well done page on the UtahOutdoorActivities.com site.
- Little Cottonwood Canyon site includes trail descriptions, directions, photos for hikes from the White Pine Trailhead, Alta & Snowbird Trails, and Albion Basin Trails. Excellent website by Alan Moller.
- Manti La Sal National Forest Nice roster of 9 popular hiking trails, includes rudimentary description and directions, on TheOutdoorForum.com website.
- Moab This little canyon town is one of the key hiking destinations on the planet, so we've created its own webpage for all the Moab hiking links you'll need. Be sure to send us a postcard.
- Natural Bridges National Monument National Park Service site, this is a link directly to the page that you can click on for specific details about hiking to each of the three bridges, as well as the other highlights in the monument.
- Mt. Olympus detailed trail description, directions, photo, other info. Excellent page by Alan Moller.
- San Rafael Swell Very good guide to some of the key slot canyons of the San Rafael Swell on the AmericanSouthwest.net website.
- San Rafael Swell Comprehensive guide to canyons of the San Rafael Swell, on Tom's Canyoneering website. Some of these are more for the advanced or "technical" climber, but this is quite a website. In depth descriptions, maps, photographs.
- Timpanagos Cave National Monument Hike description and photo journal of family hike at Timpanagos. Nice page on the UtahOutdoorActivities.com website.
- Mt. Tukuhnikivatz This is an online "excerpt" from Utah's Favorite Hiking Trails, a great book by David Day. At 416 pages, it's quite comprehensive. But we're glad to link to Day's page on Tukuhnikivatz, as it provides detailed directions, stats, and photos. Well worth a click.
- Zion National Park -- Angel's Landing This is one of those jaw-dropping hikes in Zion (aren't they all?) described with excellent description and photos on the Natural Born Hikers website.
- Zion National Park -- Slot Canyons Fantastic series of pages on the AmericanSouthwest.net website. In addition to the well known Virgin River Narrows, this site features, describes, details, and provides photos for narrows elsewhere in Zion, including Clear Creek,
Echo Canyon, Hidden Canyon, Kanarra Creek, Kolob Creek, Left Fork of North Creek, Middle Fork of Taylor Creek, Misery Canyon, Orderville Canyon, Parunuweap Canyon, Pine Creek, and Spring Creek, as well as Mineral Gulch, which is located just outside the park.
- Zion National Park -- Virgin River Narrows Zion National Park; this is the penultimate Zion hike, and this page tells you everything you need to know to make it happen. If you're gonna do the Narrows, click this one, or forever hold your peace. Website by Shiney Lewis
- Zion National Park -- Virgin River Narrows well-written article describing hike as well as some of the folklore surrounding the canyon. Great reading courtesy Jeff Schmerker on the Utah.com website.
The ultimate tour of Southern Utah requires a lifetime of exploration, or a job like Edward Abbey's. Unfortunately, most of us have about a week, so it requires a little more judicious planning. One group that can help with this is Stone Canyon Adventures, who "wrote the book" (or the CD) on the natural arches & some of the more fascinating geological areas around southern Utah. They publish a database of natural arches, as well as some other stuff, and I know that this is a reputable group from their involvement with The Natural Arch and Bridge Society, which is just about the coolest society going. When you tell your friends that you're a member of the Natural Arch and Bridge Society, they'll look at you like your hair is on fire.
Virgin River Narrows
While most books and guides will tell you that the Virgin River Narrows requires a two-day effort, with an overnight, loads of preparation, etc., you have to remember that -- as slackpackers -- we'd much rather spend the night in a comfortable bed. Get to the Gateway to the Narrows (at the end of the road) by late morning. Bring plenty of food and water. Hike in a couple of hours, hike back a couple of hours. By late afternoon you'll have seen one of the greatest natural wonders in the world, and you'll be ready to sit down to a steak dinner by nightfall. By all means, check out the website listed above, but remember, thousands of people hike in from the south, see a portion of the Narrows, and hike back on the same day. You should also be aware that thousands more enter the river -- then turn around after an hour of plodding through calf-deep water -- and miss out on a fantastic site. Stick to it, do it, do it, do it! It's an awe-inspiring place.
One of the "insider's tricks" is to simply wear a pair of old socks and sneakers -- be sure they're the type that won't be slippery on wet rocks -- and simply deposit them in the Park Service trash can when you return. You'll be glad you did.
It always irks me a little bit when I've visited a place like Canyonlands National Park, and done the Chesler Park and the other popular hikes...only to find out later that I passed the trailhead for a relatively unknown, outstanding hike. If I knew where to go, where to head off on the side trail to see that one priceless view...not that Chesler Park wasn't spectacular, mind you, but the end of the trail wasn't a heck of a lot different from the beginning. My first visit to Utah was 1990, and I've had to make a number of trips to make up for what I missed the first time around. That's not a bad thing, really, but I still recommend Canyon Country Hiking and Natural History by F.L. Barnes to give you a better editorial menu of the countless hiking opportunities this area offers. If you use this link to Amazon, it will take you right to a page where you can grab a used copy for about three dollars. Alright, it might be an earlier edition, but things haven't changed that much. I don't believe too many new canyons have formed in the last ten years.
While I'm personally partial to Barnes' book for its emphasis on southern Utah, the state-wide book that gets the overwhelming kudos is Utah's Favorite Hiking Trails, by David Day. There are other guidebooks and popular series for Utah, but Day's is by far the best. The fact that even used copies sell for a good buck indicates how highly regarded it is.
Here's a cool link by the National Weather Service, or some such place: It's the current weather picture in Dixie National Forest, but pretty much covers all of Southern Utah and Four Corners country. If you look in from time to time, you'll see a surprising amount of small, concentrated areas of precipitation move through canyon country. Little known fact is that a lot of the features in Southern Utah overall form quite slowly, but the changes that occur are harsh, sudden and cataclysmic...usually from the flooding and whatever that hit. A feature will remain unchanged for 300 years, until a sudden deluge rips ninety tons of rock off a canyon wall. Interesting stuff.
-- Rick Bolger
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Got kids? Got kids? Recently caught this guy, Brady Rymer, at a show in the northeast. Infectious to say the least, a fun, energetic sing-along type thing had the audience singing and grinning from ear to ear. Now don't ask why, but I bought the CD (my own kids are teenagers) and now I can't get these tunes out of my head. If you've got kids between the ages of 2 and 7 or thereabouts, you'll just love this music. So much better musically and lyrically than the usual drivel recorded for kids, that mind-numbing stuff that drives you nuts. If you don't have kids, you'll have to think up some other excuse for buying it. And when you do, let me know, because my daughters think I'm crazy. Not sure where'd you find it in stores, so here's a direct link to Amazon.com for I Found It! and again, the singer's name is Brady Rymer. Just great stuff, excellent gift for pre-K kids.