50 Best Short Hikes Utahand39;s National Parks  by Greg Witt

50 Best Short Hikes: Utah's National Parks Guide Book

by Greg Witt (Wilderness Press)
50 Best Short Hikes Utahand39;s National Parks  by Greg Witt
Are you ready to be amazed by Utah’s national parks? With this guide, you’ll discover the dramatic arches, natural bridges, soaring cliffs, balancing rocks, mysterious hoodoos, and slot canyons that make the region famous. There’s no better way to experience Utah’s national parks than on foot. Every hike is an adventure waiting for you to enjoy.

© 2014 Greg Witt/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "50 Best Short Hikes: Utah's National Parks" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 50.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 50.

One of the signature hikes in Zion National Park, and one of the very best short hikes in the United States, takes the West Rim Trail from The Grotto picnic area to Angels Landing. The climb to the top takes on the characteristics of a heroic journey as you overcome a series of obstacles. Along the way you’ll traverse and surmount iconic features with legendary names, such as Refrigerator Canyon, Walter’s Wiggles, Scout Lookout, and the Step of Faith. The trek culminates in a slickrock stroll to the crest of Angels Landing.
Springdale, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.2
From high above the mesa, one of the highest elevations in Canyonlands, Aztec Butte overlooks sheer cliffs and labyrinthine canyons in every direction. As you scramble up these steep slickrock faces in high-traction trail shoes and ultralight day packs, consider the ancestral Puebloans shod in yucca sandals and laden with baskets of grain as they ascended these buttes to store their harvest in small stone structures sealed with mud. These beautifully preserved granaries still stand today as a testament to the ingenuity and determination of people who survived in this desert climate.
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
You’ll see Balanced Rock in the distance and may even be tempted to drive right by as you head down the road in search of the more spectacular arches in the park. But this red-rock monolith is certainly worth a short stop, if for no other reason than to stretch your legs. In return you’ll be rewarded with an up-close 360-degree view of this natural wonder that seems to defy gravity. The short walk gives you a chance to become familiar with the natural forces that created the arches farther down the road.
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.5
Rainbow Point sits at the highest elevation within Bryce Canyon National Park. It’s a harsh alpine environment— a windswept perch where only the strong survive. At the windiest point of the trail, where few other species endure, a bristlecone pine tree has lived for more than 1,600 years. This bristlecone’s trunk has been dead for many years, but a surviving branch has become the main tree in a textbook example of how species adapt to even the most severe environments.
Bryce Canyon, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
Cable Mountain is barely recognizable from the depths of Zion Canyon. It’s just another spot along the rim and hardly worth comparing to some of Zion’s magnificent thrones or cathedrals. But Cable Mountain’s historical significance, coupled with the view you’ll get into Zion Canyon, make this hike an incomparable experience.
Kanarraville, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.4
The Canyon Overlook Trail packs a lot of adventure into 1 mile and culminates in a dramatic overlook, with Pine Creek Canyon in the foreground and Zion Canyon beyond. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s, the path reflects the trail-building craftsmanship found in other national parks of the same era, such as Grand Canyon and Yosemite. You’ll find some steep drop-offs along the route, but the terrain and short distance make it great for hikers of varied abilities, though you’ll want to keep young children close at hand.
Springdale, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
A stroll down the wash of Capitol Gorge takes you through one of only six drainages that cut through the Waterpocket Fold from east to west. This particular drainage was once a wagon road and subsequently a route used by motor vehicles before the construction of the present UT 24 in 1962. Capitol Gorge offered travelers a passage through the Waterpocket Fold that was free of the many Fremont River crossings required by the current UT 24 route.
Fruita, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.4
For an avid hiker, Capitol Reef is one of the most appealing national parks in America, and Cassidy Arch is a showstopper in Capitol Reef. The trail offers the variety, the adventure, and the kind of culminating destination that every great hike should have. And at just 3.3 miles round-trip, it’s a walk with broad appeal—experienced trekkers, families, and first-time hikers alike will find something to get excited about.
Fruita, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.3
The trail’s namesake is a stately pillar of rich red Moenkopi Formation that’s clearly visible and best photographed from UT 24 near the trailhead. Chimney Rock is like a tower of puff pastry—hundreds of thin layers of sandstone sculpted by erosion and decoratively topped with a capstone of tan Shinarump Conglomerate. But once you’re on the trail, Chimney Rock is largely out of view. What you’ll see instead are Meeks Mesa and Chimney Rock Canyon, a small side canyon north of the mesa.
Fruita, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.5
Capitol Reef is full of great nooks and crannies. The park’s centerpiece, the Waterpocket Fold, is nothing more than a crinkle in the earth’s crust that results in hundreds of natural-made hiding places in the form of slot canyons, arches, natural bridges, and fins. Before Butch Cassidy made his hideout here, Mormon polygamists, known as cohabitants (“cohabs” for short), found refuge in some of these canyons in the 1880s when polygamists were pursued as felons by US marshals. Cohab Canyon would have been a perfect shelter given its proximity to Fruita, its barely noticeable entrance, and its shady, hospitable setting.
Fruita, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.4
The Court of the Patriarchs is the first shuttle stop after you enter Zion Canyon and begin the dramatic ascent. Most visitors stay on the bus and glance at the three Patriarchs from the shuttle’s windows. But if you have a few days to enjoy the park and aren’t rushed, then stopping at Court of the Patriarchs and leisurely walking to Zion Lodge is a wonderful way to enter the heart of the canyon—evoking the days when early settlers walked the riverbanks and gazed in amazement at the towering mountain cathedrals above.
Springdale, UT - Hiking,Horseback Riding - Trail Length: 1.4
Crater View Trail, a short, steeply pitched trail, leads to a dramatic overlook on the south rim of Upheaval Dome and returns along the same route, with an elevation gain of 200 feet. The attraction here is Upheaval Dome, a geologic oddity and somewhat of an unsolved mystery.
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8
If you have just one day in Arches National Park and time to hike just one trail, then a pilgrimage to Delicate Arch, the landmark symbol for Utah and the desert Southwest, is the must-do hike in the park. You’ll cross a desert wash, ascend an impressive span of slickrock, and enjoy commanding views along the way. But none of that can prepare you for the surprise that awaits you at the end of the trail as this freestanding geologic masterpiece suddenly appears in majestic splendor.
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
Imagine that you’ve had a full day at Arches; it’s late in the afternoon, everyone is tired and hungry, and there’s no water in the car. You’ve seen the Windows, Double Arch, and Devils Garden. You have just 20 minutes remaining in the park, and not enough time, energy, or water to hike the Delicate Arch Trail. You know you could never forgive yourself if you left without seeing Delicate Arch, so what do you do?
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.4
With so many prominent arches along the route, it’s no surprise that Devils Garden is one of the most heavily used trail networks in the park. But all this attention is very much deserved, so don’t let the crowds keep you away. You’ll be rewarded with not only nine headliner arches but also a trail that courses its way between immense fins. The trail then ascends those fins to offer some of the best panoramic views in the park.
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.6
Double Arch is a spectacular sight and one of the most popular arches in the park. Because of its fame, if you want to have it to yourself, consider making this an early-morning or late-afternoon stop
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 0.6
This hike captures what many regard as the best of the Needle district’s varied landscape. The formations you’ll see make up only the outer edge of many more needle-like pinnacles and parallel canyons that extend to the Colorado River. Canyonlands’ Needles were formed by a series of stress fractures in the rock surface caused by movement along a deep underlying layer of salt. Erosion by rainwater and snow along the fracture lines resulted in these rows of columnar rocks.
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.8
The Emerald Pools Trails are among the most popular hiking trails in the park, and justifiably so. From the valley floor, the trail crosses the Virgin River and ascends through three sets of pools. The route passes through varied habitats: riparian, desert, and cool canyon—each with its own microhabitats. Along the way, you’ll have panoramic views up and down the canyon before entering deeply set alcoves.
Springdale, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.3
Bryce Canyon is relatively compact as national parks go, so finding an off the-beaten route not already lined with tourists shortly after sunrise may seem unachievable. But that’s what you’ll find in Fairyland, a lesser-known bowl on the park’s northern fringe. You will actually access the trailhead and hike in Fairyland before ever entering the park.
Rubys Inn, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.2
The name Fiery Furnace comes not from the scorching summer sun— actually, you’ll find plenty of shade here—but from the fiery red hues of the rock and the flamelike contour of the sandstone fins. The Fiery Furnace is compact—less than a mile long and never more than 0.5 mile wide. But in that maze of tightly formed fins, it’s easy to get lost, or at least briefly disoriented. That’s why hikers must join a guided hike or obtain a special permit to enter Fiery Furnace. The rule is as much for the protection of the native plants and soils as it is for the safety of inexperienced hikers. If you’ve never hiked in Fiery Furnace previously, it is strongly recommended that you join a ranger-led hike.
Moab, UT - Hiking - Trail Length: 2