Southern Utah is hone to so many amazing hikes that it is nearly impossible to choose just one! But luckily for you, we’ve created this list of the 24 of the best hikes in southern Utah to help you plan your next desert adventure. We’ve spent several months living in southern Utah, which means we’ve had the chance to explore both the iconic hikes, as well as some more off-the-beaten-path treks, and we’re excited to share all of our favorites with you! In this article, we’ll tell you all about 24 of our favorite hikes in southern Utah to help you plan your next hiking adventure (or adventures, because there is too much to do on one trip!).

Hi there! We’re Sarah and Matt, two nomads road tripping across the United States with our cat, Fitzgerald, making a new place our home month to month while working full time and adventuring as much as possible. We spend any free time we can get hiking, camping, backpacking, and exploring new places! We hope that our experiences will help you plan for your next adventure and inspire you to be an outlier!

let’s be friends

views from the petrified dunes of Snow Canyon, an place to go hiking in Southern Utah

Overview | Best Hikes in Southern Utah

Below is our list of the best hikes in southern Utah, ordered by geographic location. If you are interested in a specific hike, you can use the links below to navigate to specific sections in the article.

Map | Hiking in Southern Utah

The map below shows the location of each hike on our list of the best hikes in southern Utah, grouped by park or general location.

  • To email this map to yourself for future use, click the three dots in the upper right corner.
  • To view more details about each location, click on the marker on the map.

Details | Best Hikes in Southern Utah

Below, we have provided more detail on each of the best hikes in southern Utah, including location, hike stats, fees, accessing the trailhead, and our thoughts on what makes the hike worthy of a spot on this list.

Bryce Canyon Figure 8 Loop

Hike Stats

  • Location | Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Hiking distance | 6.3 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1,600 feet
  • Total time | 3 – 4 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | moderate
  • Permits/fees: $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass.
  • Trailhead | Sunrise Point, Sunset Point (paved and accessible with any vehicle)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Wall Street and Queen’s Garden Loop to Peekaboo Loop (Figure 8 Trail)

The Figure 8 Loop is the most comprehensive hike in Bryce Canyon, giving you a nearly full tour of the park over the course of 6 breathtaking miles. The loop combines several popular shorter trails, including the Navajo Loop and the famous “Wall Street” area, Queen’s Garden and Queen Victoria, and the Peekaboo Loop. 

Each section of the trail offers views that are a little different. With everything from massive hoodoos to natural arches and window views, you can’t possibly get bored on this trail! We think it’s the best hike in Bryce Canyon and certainly one of the best hikes in southern Utah. 

The Wall of Windows on the Bryce Canyon Figure 8 Loop, one of the best hikes in southern Utah

The Fairyland Loop

Hike Stats

  • Location | Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Hiking distance | 7.8 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1,550 feet
  • Total time | 3 – 5 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | hard
  • Permits/fees: $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass.
  • Trailhead | Sunrise Point, Fairyland Point

Find this hike on AllTrails: Fairyland Loop Trail

Compared to other Utah National Parks, Bryce Canyon is relatively small and there aren’t a ton of remote hiking trails, so it can be difficult to break free from the crowds and find solitude. If you are looking for some alone time in the park, the Fairyland Loop offers a less crowded alternative to the Figure 8 Loop listed above.

The scenery is nearly as striking as the Figure 8 Loop (although we think the Figure 8 Loop is slightly more “wow” worthy), and there tend to be significantly fewer crowds. 

If you’re looking for a longer hike in Bryce Canyon that allows you to be alone among the hoodoos, we can’t recommend the Fairyland Loop enough! If you’re still undecided, we’ve written a complete guide to the Fairyland Loop Trail with all the details you need to know about the hike. 

The Zion Narrows

Hike Stats
  • Location | Zion National Park
  • Hiking distance | 9 miles
  • Elevation gain | 700 feet
  • Total time | 4 – 6 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | hard
  • Permits/fees: $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass.
  • Trailhead | Riverside Walk Trailhead (accessible only via the Zion Park Shuttle)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Zion Narrows Bottom Up to Big Spring

We have a love-hate relationship with this hike, but there is no way we could have a list of the best hikes in southern Utah without the Narrows!

Here’s what we love: 

  • It’s different! Hiking the Narrows is an entirely different experience from your typical hike. Hiking through the Virgin River adds an extra challenge and makes for a fun way to spend the day in Zion!
  • It’s absolutely beautiful! You may see photos of the teal Virgin River and think there’s no way it’s actually that color. But it is. The picturesque waters flowing through the towering orange canyon walls is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen!

And here’s what we hate:

  • It takes a lot of advance planning. You will need to rent a dry bib, water shoes, neoprene socks and hiking stick to hike the Narrows, especially if attempting earlier in the spring season.
  • Crowds, crowds, crowds! The full Narrows hike is about 9 miles roundtrip, but you’re unlikely to find a spot where you can’t see another group of humans, even if you start early. 
  • It can be very cold! If you’re hiking in the spring or fall, the water is freezing and the canyon is so narrow that it doesn’t get much sun. It’s all too easy to slip on a slick rock in the riverbed and fall in (speaking from personal experience), which makes for a frigid rest of the hike…

Angel’s Landing

Hike Stats
  • Location | Zion National Park
  • Hiking distance | 4.4 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1,600 feet
  • Total time | 2 – 3 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | hard
  • Permits/fees: $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass. Advance permits required for backpacking.
  • Trailhead | the Grotto (accessible only via Zion Park Shuttle)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Angel’s Landing Trail

Sometimes referred to as the “most dangerous hike in America” (honestly, we don’t think it’s that bad), Angel’s Landing is an (in)famous hike in Zion National Park. The hike is known for a series of 21 winding switchbacks, appropriately called Walter’s Wiggles, and the steep climb up a very narrow, exposed ridge to reach the summit, that leaves many hikers clinging to the rock.

Sure, the final stretch is exposed and can be a bit scary but the views from Angel’s Landing looking down Zion Canyon are worth the challenge! If you have a serious fear of heights, you can always turn back at Scout Lookout, just before the narrow section.

Angel’s Landing is a very popular way to spend a day in Zion National Park, and permits are required to climb up the final ridge starting in April of 2022. Although you aren’t likely to have this trail to yourself, hiking Angel’s Landing is an adventure you’ll never forget and definitely worthy of a spot as one of the best hikes in southern Utah.

  • You can find more information about how to get permits on the Zion NPS website

Zion West Rim Trail

Hike Stats

  • Location | Zion National Park
  • Hiking distance | 15.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 4,400 feet
  • Total time | 9 – 12 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | difficult
  • Permits/fees: $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass. Advance permits required for backpacking.
  • Trailhead | the Grotto (accessible only via Zion Park Shuttle)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Angel’s Landing, West Rim, Telephone Loop

While most hikers who climb to Angel’s Landing turn back after completing the iconic narrow ridge, the trail actually continues towards the West Rim of Zion Canyon. Of course, nothing compares to Angel’s Landing but the reminder of the West Rim Trail isn’t too far behind!

To complete the West Rim trail, you will continue on after passing Angel’s Landing, where you will leave the crowds behind as the trail continues to climb for another 2,000 feet up. From the West Rim, you’ll be treated to expansive views of jagged ridges, swirling honeycomb rock formations, and striped canyon walls. 

The full West Rim Trail is 15 miles one way, but the best sections of the trail can be hiked as a 15.5 mile loop via the Grotto Trailhead. If this sounds like too much to squeeze into one day, the West Rim Trail is also a great one night backpacking trip. 

views from the West Rim Trail in Zion, one of the best hikes in southern Utah

For more information about backpacking the West Rim Trail, check out our trail guide:

Observation Point

Hike Stats
  • Location | Zion National Park
  • Hiking distance | 9 miles
  • Elevation gain | 2,200 feet
  • Total time | 5 – 6 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | hard
  • Permits/fees: $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass.
  • Trailhead | Stave Spring Trailhead (East Zion), 4WD and high clearance recommended.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Observation Point via Stave Spring trailhead

One of Zion’s best viewpoints, Observation Point offers unimpeded views down Zion Canyon. Observation Point sits about 700 feet higher than Angel’s Landing, which means the views are actually better!

Traditionally, the most popular route to Observation Point is via the Weeping Rock trailhead located in Zion Canyon. However, this trail is closed for the foreseeable future due to a major rockfall, which unfortunately may not be cleared for several years.

Luckily, there are still two other routes you can take to get to Observation Point, via either the Stave Spring Trailhead or the East Mesa Trail, which both depart from the east side of the park. Parking at the Stave Spring Trailhead requires high clearance and 4WD. If you don’t have 4WD, it probably makes sense to hike from the East Mesa Trail, but you will need to take the East Zion Adventures shuttle from Zion Ponderosa Ranch to the trailhead.

Chesler Park Loop

Hike Stats

  • Location | Canyonlands National Park
  • Hiking distance | 10.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1,800 feet
  • Total time | 5 – 7 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | moderate-hard
  • Permits/fees: $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass. Advance permits required for backpacking.
  • Trailhead | Elephant Hill Trailhead, located 3 miles down a gravel road that is typically accessible with 2WD. Parking is very limited.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Chesler Park Loop

Canyonlands National Park is composed of 4 distinct districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the Rivers. While Island in the Sky is the most popular (located within 30 minutes of Arches and Moab), we think the often overlooked and more remote Needles district is the coolest and offers the best hiking opportunities.

Within the Needles District, the Chesler Park Loop offers the best c views of the pointy spires, or “needles” for which the district is named. The trailhead is located 3 miles down a narrow dirt road but is usually accessible even with 2WD.

The Chelser Park Loop is a one-of-a-kind hiking experience in southern Utah, and we think it’s totally worth the extra effort required to reach the trailhead.

Druid Arch 

Hike Stats

  • Location | Canyonlands National Park
  • Hiking distance | 10.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1,600 feet
  • Total time | 5 – 7 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | moderate-hard
  • Permits/fees: $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass. Advance permits required for backpacking.
  • Trailhead | Elephant Hill Trailhead, located 3 miles down a gravel road that is typically accessible with 2WD. Parking is very limited.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Druid Arch Trail

Even in southern Utah, where the landscapes are incredibly diverse, the hike to Druid Arch in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park is unlike anything you’ve seen before. We were completely blown away by the sheer size of Druid Arch, and perhaps more so, the stunning view looking down Elephant Canyon from the base of the massive stone monolith.  

If you are up for it, you can take an optional detour from Druid Arch to hike through some of Chesler Park, which will add 3.1 miles round trip – a great way to hit two of the best hikes in southern Utah at once!

View of Druid Arch in Canyonlands the Needles District

For more information about hiking to Druid Arch, we’ve put together a detailed trail guide:

Devil’s Garden/Primitive Loop

Hike Stats

  • Location | Arches National Park
  • Hiking distance | 8 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1,100 feet
  • Total time | 4 – 5 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | hard
  • Permits/fees: Timed entry ticketed required to access Arches National Park. $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass.
  • Trailhead | Devil’s Garden Trailhead (paved and accessible with any vehicle).

Find this hike on AllTrails: Devil’s Garden

In recent years, Arches National Park has become swamped with crowds who flock to the many short, easy hikes in the park. In fact, the park has implemented a timed entry system in 2022, hoping to curtail some of the overcrowding that caused the park service to close the entrance during peak season.

As you would expect, there are many lovely arches in Arches National Park that are easily accessible via short hikes or overlooks, but if you want to truly experience the park , we highly recommend the Devil’s Garden/Primitive Loop hike. 

Over the course of 8 miles, the hike features at least 9 arches (there are seriously so many we lost track), including the famous the Double O Arch, Landscape Arch, and Private Arch (tucked away on a short spur trail).

The first couple miles of the Devil’s Garden Trail are quite busy, and you’re likely to share the trail with many other hikers. The Primitive Trail (the eastern section of the loop) is where you will find the most solitude, as most hikers turn back after a few miles on the Devil’s Garden Trail. The Primitive Trail involves a few challenging rock scrambles and can be difficult to follow, so we recommend downloading the AllTrails Pro map in advance.

Delicate Arch

Hike Stats

  • Location | Arches National Park
  • Hiking distance | 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain | 630 feet
  • Total time | 2 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | moderate
  • Permits/fees: Timed entry ticketed required to access Arches National Park. $35 entrance fee per vehicle. Entrance is covered by the America the Beautiful annual U.S. National Parks pass.
  • Trailhead | Delicate Arch Trailhead (paved and accessible with any vehicle).

Find this hike on AllTrails: Delicate Arch Trail

The most popular hike in Arches National Park, if not all of Utah, Delicate Arch is an icon of the American Southwest and is featured on the Utah license plate and several of the “Welcome to Utah” signs on the highway! You’ve almost surely seen photos of the massive arch, standing ever so precariously on orange rock that a strong wind gust would seemingly knock it over.

Visiting Delicate Arch up close requires a 3.2 mile round trip hike. As you can imagine, this is a very popular hike so come prepared to circle the parking lot looking for a spot and to wait in line for a photo up close with the arch.

We thought we would beat the crowds by getting up early and hiking to Delicate Arch for sunrise but that was not the case! There must have been 50 other hikers there even at 6am.

But don’t let the crowds deter you! Seeing this magnificent arch with your own eyes is an incredible experience, as long as you go into the hike with the right expectations. 

Buckskin Gulch

Hike Stats (via Wire Pass)

  • Location | Paria Canyon – Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness Area
  • Hiking distance | 5.6 miles (plus option to continue further into Buckskin Gulch)
  • Elevation gain | 600 feet
  • Total time | 3 – 4 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | moderate
  • Fees | Day use permit required, $6 per person
  • Trailhead| Wire Pass Trailhead, located about 9 miles down House Rock Valley Road, which gets muddy if it has recently rained. 4WD drive and high clearance are recommended, although it’s typically doable with 2WD.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

Buckskin Gulch is one of the longest and tallest slot canyons in the world, stretching for nearly 16 miles and reaching a height of over 400 feet! It’s hard to describe the magnitude of the towering canyon walls – Buckskin Gulch will certainly make you feel small!

The easiest way to access Buckskin Gulch is via the Wire Pass Trailhead, located about 8.5 miles down a dirt road that is typically accessible with 2WD but becomes very muddy following rain or snow. From Wire Pass Trailhead, it’s about a 1.7-mile hike to reach the entrance to Buckskin Gulch. From there, you can continue either north or south through Buckskin Gulch for as long as you wish (the entire canyon is about 16 miles in length).

Alternatively, the eastern-most end of Buckskin Gulch can be accessed through Paria Canyon via the White House Trailhead for a 14-mile roundtrip hike, covering two of the best hikes in southern Utah at once!

Paria Canyon

Hike Stats (Whitehouse to Buckskin Gulch)
  • Location | Paria Canyon – Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness
  • Hiking distance | 14 miles
  • Elevation gain | 900 feet
  • Total time | 7 – 9 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | hard (involves hiking in sand and many river crossings)
  • Fees | Day use permit required, $6 per person
  • Trailhead | White House Trailhead (usually accessible with 2WD, but may become muddy after recent rain or snow)

Find this hike on AllTrails: White House Trailhead to Buckskin Gulch

Easily one of the best hikes in southern Utah, Paria Canyon stretches for 40 miles from southern Utah into northern Arizona. For a short taste of the canyon, you can hike roughly 14 miles out and back from the White House Trailhead to the Paria Canyon-Buckskin Gulch confluence. Alternatively, to see the full canyon in all its glory, start from White House Trailhead and hike the full 40 miles down to the Lee’s Ferry trailhead, typically done as a 3-night, 4-day backpacking trip.

In its northern section, Paria Canyon is a beautiful slot canyon with towering sandstone walls and the typically docile Paria River meandering through its center. Of course, water levels can change rapidly, depending on the time of year and recent weather conditions, so always be sure to check the weather before you go. Do not hike if there is rain in the forecast as this is a prime flash flood location.

As you continue the trek down towards Utah, the canyon begins to slowly open up for magnificent views of enormous canyon walls and unique rock formations.

The entire hike is absolutely beautiful and worth the time and effort to complete the full 40-miles. However, if you only have time for a day hike, the section of Paria Canyon from Whitehouse Trailhead to Buckskin Gulch (linked above) is definitely worth doing!

Zebra Slot Canyon

Hike Stats

  • Location | Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Hiking distance | 5.2 miles (+1.4 miles for Tunnel Canyon)
  • Elevation gain | 400 feet
  • Total time | 3 – 4 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | moderate (requires some challenging rock scrambling)
  • Permits/fees: none
  • Trailhead | Located 8 miles down Hole in the Rock Road, a washboard dirt road that is typically passable with 2WD but may become impassable following rain or snow.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Zebra Canyon

Southern Utah is home to some of the most amazing slot canyons in the entire world and Zebra Slot Canyon is probably our all-time favorite (though Peekaboo and Spooky come awfully close). 

Named after the stripes that line its walls, visiting Zebra Slot Canyon involves a 5 mile hike that can be tricky to follow and a challenging climb through a very narrow canyon, which is often filled with ankle to waist deep, freezing cold water. While the entrance to the canyon doesn’t look like anything special, deep in the canyon you will reach the “zebra” section that makes this canyon so beautiful! 

When we visited Zebra Slot Canyon, we started the hike at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning and made it to the canyon before anyone else. We had the place entirely to ourselves for a solid 30 minutes, and exploring this narrow slot canyon alone was one of the coolest (and also most terrifyingly claustrophobic) experiences of my life! 

You can read more about hiking to Zebra Slot Canyon here:

Coyote Gulch & Jacob Hamblin Arch

Hike Stats (via Hurricane Wash Trailhead)

  • Location | Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Distance | 14 miles
  • Elevation gain | 550 feet
  • Time | 6 – 9 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Difficulty | Hard
  • Permits/fees: A free wilderness permit is required for backpacking, which may be completed at the trailhead. No permits or fees for day use.
  • Trailhead | Located 33 miles down Hole in the Rock Road, a washboard dirt road that is typically passable with 2WD but may become impassable following rain or snow.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Hurricane Wash to Coyote Gulch

An entire world hidden below the otherwise barren crust of the desert of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Coyote Gulch is an oasis of lush green trees, otherworldly rock formations and epic views. 

Hiking in Coyote Gulch is great because there are so many landmarks to see along the way, including Jacob Hamblin Arch, Coyote Natural Bridge, a swimming hole, Cliff Arch and Cliff Falls, and Steven’s Arch. The most popular sight in Coyote Gulch (and for good reason!), is Jacob Hamblin Arch a massive 150 foot wide and 100 foot tall arch that towers over the trail below.

While there are several possible routes to reach Coyote Gulch and Jacob Hamblin Arch, the trail from Hurricane Wash is the most popular option for a 14 mile roundtrip hike to the arch. 

Although it would be tough to see all the cool sights in Coyote Gulch in one day hike, you can also explore the gulch as part of a backpacking trip.

You can find more information about backpacking in Coyote Gulch in our detailed guide below:

Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyons

Hike Stats

  • Location | Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Hiking distance | 4.2 miles (+0.8 miles including Dry Fork Narrows)
  • Elevation gain | About 600 feet
  • Total time | 3 – 4 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | hard (requires some challenging rock scrambling)
  • Permits/fees: none
  • Trailhead | Located 26 miles down Hole in the Rock Road, a washboard dirt road that is typically passable with 2WD but may become impassable following rain or snow.

Find this hike on Dry Fork Narrows, Peek-a-boo and Spooky Slot Canyons

With some minor rock scrambling, a remote location on the iconic Hole-in-the-Rock road, and extremely narrow passages – sometimes down to 10 inches – the Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyons hike is perfect for those seeking an adventure! This one-of-a-kind experience will take you through two incredible slot canyons as part of an epic 4.2-mile hike.

While the hike is relatively short with minimal elevation gain, the rock scrambling and tight squeezes required to navigate the canyon certainly make for a challenging adventure! The unique striped walls and beautiful colors of Peekaboo and Spooky slot canyons make the hike 100% worth the effort.

A less visually stunning, but more easily accessible slot canyon, Dry Fork Narrows, can also be added onto the Peekaboo and Spooky hike adding an extra 0.8 miles.

For more details about hiking Peekaboo and Spooky Slot Canyons, check out our detailed guide:

Cosmic Ashtray

Hike Stats

  • Location | Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Hiking distance | 8.3 miles
  • Elevation gain | 880 feet
  • Total time | 5 – 6 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 9
  • Permits/fees: none
  • Difficulty | Moderate-hard (requires route finding)
  • Trailhead | Located 7 miles down Spencer Flat Road, 4WD and high clearance recommended

Find this hike on Alltrails: Cosmic Ashtray via Volcano Trail
(Note there are two possible routes to Cosmic Ashtray. We recommend the route above)

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path hike in southern Utah, the trek to Cosmic Ashtray is a unique adventure to one of the craziest geological formations we’ve ever seen! The Cosmic Ashtray, also called the Cosmic Navel, is an otherworldly wonder nestled among the rocky hills of Grand Staircase Escalante. It reminds us of a giant adult-sized sandbox!

The trailhead is located down a bumpy dirt road, and there is no designated trail to follow which deters many hikers from visiting this unique spot (but means fewer crowds). We recommend downloading the AllTrails Pro map and/or carrying a GPS device to help you navigate to the Cosmic Ashtray – it would be nearly impossible to find otherwise.

Once you arrive at Cosmic Ashtray, there is a set of footholds carved into the rock that you can use to climb down into the giant sandbox. And yes, the sand really is that orange in real life!

We’ve put together a detailed guide with everything you need to know to visit Cosmic Ashtray here:

Boulder Mail Trail

Hike Stats

  • Location | Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Hiking distance | 15.4 miles (one way)
  • Elevation gain | 2,800 feet
  • Total time | 2 days/1 night or 10 – 12 hour day hike
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Hard
  • Permits/fees | Free permit required for overnight backpacking (available at trailhead)
  • Trailhead | Escalante Town Trailhead or Boulder Mail Trailhead

Find this hike on AllTrails: Boulder Mail Trail

Traversing over 15 miles through Grand Staircase Escalante, the Boulder Mail Trail connects the town of Boulder to Escalante and makes an epic 1-night backpacking trip, or very ambitious day hike. Before Highway 12 was paved back in the 1970s, the route was used to deliver mail via mule between Escalante and Boulder, hence where the trail gets its name!

Tackling the Boulder Mail Trail is no easy feat, with about 2,700 feet of total elevation gain including an extremely steep drop into and climb out of Death Hollow, a stunning canyon with crystal clear blue water flowing through. It’s hard to imagine trusting a mule’s footing to carry you safely across this rugged terrain!

The Boulder Mail Trail is over 15 miles one way, and while it’s possible to complete as a 30-mile out and back, it’s best to hire a shuttle to drive you one way. We’d recommend starting the hike from the Boulder Mail Trailhead/Boulder Airstrip and hiking to Escalante, as this direction includes less elevation gain. With Escape Goats, the shuttle with set you back $120 (per vehicle).

Willis Creek Slot Canyon

Hike Stats

  • Location | Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Hiking distance | 3 miles (option to extend up to 6+ miles)
  • Elevation gain | 200 feet
  • Total time | 1 – 2 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Easy
  • Permits/fees: none
  • Trailhead | Located 9 miles down Skutumpah Road, typically accessible with any vehicle (note that recent snow or rain may make the road impassable)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Willis Creek Narrows

Willis Creek Slot Canyon (a.k.a. Willis Creek Narrows) is one of the more underrated slot canyon hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante. Though slightly less visually stunning compared to Peekaboo, Spooky and Zebra Slot Canyons, Willis Creek Slot Canyon is easily accessible and never gets too narrow (roughly 4 or 5 feet at its narrowest).

You will pass through multiple slot canyons along the trail until you reach the tallest and narrowest section of the Willis Creek Narrows at about 1.5 miles into the hike. From there you can turn back, or continue for another couple miles through the wider sections of the canyon if you wish to extend the hike.

The trailhead for Willis Creek Slot Canyon is located 9 miles down Skutumpah Road, near Kodachrome Basin State Park. Although Skutumpah is a dirt road, it’s fairly well-maintained and typically passable with any vehicle. However, note that the road may become muddy and impassable following recent snow or rain).

Golden Cathedral

Hike Stats

  • Location | Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Hiking distance | 10.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 1500 feet
  • Total time | 6 – 8 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Hard
  • Permits/fees: none
  • Trailhead | Located 17 miles down Hole in the Rock Road, plus 9 miles down Egypt Road. Conditions deteriorate in the last 5-6 miles before the trailhead. High clearance and 4WD recommended.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Golden Cathedral Trail

Golden Cathedral is one of the most iconic hikes in Grand Staircase Escalante. That being said, getting there is no easy feat!

First, the hike begins from Egypt Trailhead (yes, the name feels fitting) which is located 17 miles down Hole in the Rock road, plus 9 miles down Egypt Road. Egypt Road starts out in fairly good condition but deteriorates the further you drive. Furthermore, the trail to Golden Cathedral is not well marked, requires hiking through sections of deep sand and 5 river crossings, which are frequently knee to hip deep.

If this sounds like the type of adventure you’re up for, the payoff upon reaching Golden Cathedral is well worth the effort! If you are looking for off-the-beaten-path hikes in Southern Utah, add this hike to your bucket list.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Hike Stats

  • Location | Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
  • Hiking distance | 6.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 550 feet
  • Total time | 2-4 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | easy-moderate
  • Permits/fees | $5/vehicle parking fee
  • Trailhead | Located right off Scenic Highway 12, easily accessible with any vehicle.

Find this hike on AllTrails: Lower Calf Creek Falls

A hidden oasis hidden away in the remote desert of Grand Staircase Escalante, the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail follows along the shores of peaceful Calf Creek for 3 miles until arriving at a majestic waterfall. Tumbling 125 feet down a massive sandstone wall, Lower Calf Creek Falls is one of the most popular spots in Grand Staircase Escalante, and for good reason!

As you relax under the canopy of trees surrounding the pool of water that gathers at the base of the waterfall, you may find it easy to forget you are in the desert at all! While the waterfall is definitely the main attraction, the entire trail is beautiful and even offers the chance to see a set of Native American petroglyphs painted onto the canyon wall along the way.

The trailhead for this hike is located about 15 miles east of Escalante at the Calf Creek Campground and is accessible with any vehicle. Gaining only 544 feet of elevation over 6 miles, the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls is relatively easy.

Lower Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase Escalante

Cassidy Arch

Hike Stats

  • Location | Capitol Reef National Park
  • Hiking distance | 3.4 miles
  • Elevation gain | 670 feet
  • Total time | 2 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Moderate
  • Fees | $20 entrance fee to access the Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, or covered with annual U.S. National Parks Pass
  • Trailhead | 1.5 miles down Grand Wash Road (typically accessible with 2WD)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Cassidy Arch Trail

Perched high in the cliffs of Waterpocket Fold, the Cassidy Arch Trail in Capitol Reef National Park leads to the top of a massive sandstone arch and is easily one of the best hikes in southern Utah. The arch can be accessed via a moderate 3.4-mile round trip hike that features incredible views of the colorful layers of the Waterpocket Fold. You can even walk out on top of the arch for better views of Capitol Reef’s unique landscape.

Cassidy Arch is named after Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker), the infamous train and bank robber and leader of a gang of outlaws during the late 1800’s. Cassidy reportedly had a hideout in nearby Grand Wash while on the run, which is how the arch gets its name! 

Standing on top of Cassidy Arch in Capitol Reef

Hike Stats

  • Location | Capitol Reef National Park
  • Hiking distance | 9.1 miles
  • Elevation gain | 2150 feet
  • Total time | 4 – 5 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 8
  • Difficulty | Hard
  • Fees | None
  • Trailhead | Paved, accessible with 2WD

Find this hike on AllTrails: Navajo Knobs Trail

For the best views in Capitol Reef National Park, look no further than the Navajo Knobs Trail! This hike traverses along a ridge with stunning views of the Waterpocket Fold and overlooking the Fruita Valley, and culminates in an amazing 360-degree vista from the Navajo Knobs. On the way to the Navajo Knobs, you will also pass by the Rim Overlook, another popular viewpoint about 2 miles into the hike.

Reaching the Navajo Knobs is no easy feat, requiring a 9-mile roundtrip hike that includes 2150 of elevation gain and a brief rock scramble up to the final viewpoint. The trail begins from the same trailhead as the popular Hickman Bridge hike. A detour to Hickman Bridge can be tacked on to the Navajo Knobs hike for an additional 1 mile. If you aren’t keen on adding more mileage to your hike, you can also catch a glimpse of Hickman Bridge from the Hickman Overlook on the Navajo Knobs Trail.

Snow Canyon Loop

Hike Stats

  • Location | Snow Canyon State Park
  • Hiking distance | 3.5 miles
  • Elevation gain | 600 feet
  • Total time | 2 – 3 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 6
  • Difficulty | Moderate
  • Fees | $15 day use fee out of state, $10 Utah residents
  • Trailhead | Johnson Arch Trailhead (paved road and parking area accessible with an y vehicle)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Snow Canyon

Interested in getting away from the crowds of Utah’s National Parks to explore a lesser-known spot? Snow Canyon State Park near St. George in southern Utah is full of unique gems, including the Snow Canyon Loop which gives hikers a taste of the several unique landscapes found in the park.

What makes Snow Canyon so cool is the contrast of orange Navajo sandstone canyons with black basalt lava rocks, leftover from volcanoes that erupted between 1.4 million and 27,000 years ago. The trail also leads over perhaps the park’s most special landscapes: petrified dunes! 

Kanarra Falls 

Hike Stats

  • Location | Spring Creek Canyon Wilderness
  • Hiking distance | 4 miles
  • Elevation gain | 800 feet
  • Total time | 3 – 4 hours
  • Epic-ness rating | 7
  • Difficulty | Moderate
  • Fees | $12 permit required, permits often sell out in advance
  • Trailhead | Kanarra Creek Trailhead (paved and accessible with any vehicle)

Find this hike on AllTrails: Kanarra Creek Canyon Trail
Note that AllTrails says the hike is 6 miles, but it is actually 4.

In many ways, Kanarra Falls reminds us a bit of the Zion Narrows, on a smaller scale. The hike to Kanarra Falls is located just an hour from Zion National Park and under two hours from Bryce Canyon, and is a great chance to escape the crowds and explore a lesser-known gem in Utah.

This 4 mile round trip hike follows Kanarra Creek upstream into a beautiful slot canyon with two waterfalls, and includes some moderate rock scrambling, a climb up a ladder and hiking through ankle-deep water. 

For more information about hiking to Kanarra Falls, we’ve put together a trail guide with all the details:

Red Reef Trail

Hike Stats

Hiking distance | 2.2 miles
Elevation gain | 223 feet
Total time | 1.5-2 hours
Epic-ness rating | 6
Difficulty | Easy
Fees | $5 day use fee per vehicle (cash only)
Trailhead | Red Reef Trailhead (paved and accessible with any vehicle, parking is very limited)

The Red Reef Trail, located 30 minutes from St. George, Utah, is a great adventure for families and those looking for a short hike that comes with plenty of cool sites! This 2.2 mile hike follows along a babbling creek, snaking its way through narrow canyons, past a set of pictographs drawn onto the walls of a cave, and culminating with a picturesque waterfall.

To continue beyond the waterfall, there is a set of Moki Steps (alternating hand and footholds) carved into the canyon wall beside the waterfall, along with a rope to help you climb. If you are feeling adventurous, you can scramble up the Moki Steps and continue a bit farther into the canyon.

Other useful resources

Planning a road trip through Utah? Read more about a few of our favorite adventures in the area here:

For all things Utah: Utah Travel Guide

Questions about hiking in Southern Utah? What would you add to our list of the best hikes in southern Utah?! Let us know in the comments section below!

Leave a Reply