7 Signature Trails of Southern Utah
Round the corner, climb the switchbacks, criss-cross the stream as the sound of falling water gets louder. Does water flow through this sandy wash?
To make the most of your next trip to Utah, consider picking one or two signature hikes and building a vacation around that area. If the byways are calling, you'll also find Road to Mighty® road trip recommendations associated with each hike. Oh, and always carry plenty of water when hiking the arid, high-country desert of Southern Utah, along with snacks, sunscreen
These landscapes are becoming as familiar as Monument Valley to cinephiles thanks to Hollywood’s ongoing love affair with them. The scenic drive up S.R. 128 along the Colorado River is your introduction to Fisher Towers, a cluster of soaring sandstone towers on BLM land northeast of Moab. After a short drive on a graded dirt road, you’ll park at a trailhead and primitive campground among big-wall climbers. Look for them as tiny dots on their ascents up the jagged monoliths as you rise and descend along the rugged contours of the eroding landscape. Highlights along the hiking trail include Titan (the tallest of the towers), views to Castleton Tower and a culminating panorama that must be very near the end of the earth.
5.2 miles. 2–4 hours.
Related itinerary: Southwest Silver Screen
Tips: Dogs are allowed on-leash. A metal ladder on the trail to navigate a cut in the trail will prohibit some hikers with limited mobility.
Wildcat Trail of Monument Valley
Wildcat. Wildcat. If you’re looking for a trail to hike in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, this is the one. While guided jeep tours are the most educational and in-depth way to see and understand the significance of the park, Wildcat Trail may be the most intimate.
Hiking these fascinating and arid
4-mile lasso loop. 2–3 hours.
Tips: Summertime temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Large-reservoir Camelbaks are a great way to help ensure you have plenty of water. Respect tribal beliefs when visiting. Book accommodations the View Hotel or nearby Goulding’s Lodge well in advance.
House on Fire
There are so many ancestral
Drive this dirt road to the fee box ($2/person) then continue about a quarter mile to the trailhead for Mule Canyon. The mile to House on Fire trail is mostly flat, but it
2.2 miles. About 2 hours.
Related itinerary: Native Spirit
Tip: The House on Fire “effect” occurs late morning, and is best photographed from some very specific locations as the light bounces off the canyon wall. The wonder of the ruins, however, can be experienced any time of day.
Lower Calf Creek Falls
Three miles of hiking in the desert of Southern Utah often culminates in imaginative formations and sweeping panoramas. The big reveal of the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike is so stunning and so unexpected, it is one of the faces of Utah’s Road to Mighty® road trip campaign: It’s a 126-foot waterfall and plunge pool oasis in the desert. But the pictures don’t do it justice, nor do they reveal the lush, riparian trail of
6.2 miles out-and-back. 3–5 hours.
Related itinerary: Footsteps of Explorers
Tips: Parking is limited for this popular trail. Arrive early and carry water, snacks and, if it’s a warm day, a towel to dry off after a cooling dip in the plunge pool of the waterfall.
The signs might as well read, “Welcome to Mars.” Far away from any semblance of civilization and surrounded by a seemingly endless horizon of
Mileage and time vary but 9- to 12-mile options can occupy much of the day for well-prepared hikers.
Related itinerary: Further Away From it All
Tip: The mesa will get very hot in summer and water is not available anywhere on the mesa, so bring plenty, as well as sun protection during any time of year.
Kodachrome Basin State Park
The turn south from the All-American Road: Scenic Byway 12 feels … strange. The horizon is vast. Where am I going? After a few minutes and another turn, some formations
The trails of Kodachrome Basin State Park weave among 67 colorful monolithic stone spires, called sedimentary pipes, and every trail is spectacular. The park offers trails for virtually every ability, from the half-mile interpretive Nature Trail to the much longer 3- or 6-mile double loop of the Panorama Trail, which reveals much of the park’s fascinating geology. Get a bird’s-eye view from Angel’s Palace.
There are multiple trails ranging from 0.5 to 6 miles. Book campsites well in advance and plan multiple days to see them all.
Related itinerary: Red Rock & Dark Skies: Stargazing the National Parks
Tips: Keep dogs on-leash and always stay on the trails to protect fragile, protective communities of organisms known as
The Ramparts of Cedar Breaks
It’s only a short walk from the parking lot at Cedar Breaks National Monument to the rim, where a multi-hued fairyland amphitheater plunges 2,000 feet into the plateau. This scene, alone, makes Cedar Breaks worth the drive, but the hike along the rim reveals everchanging angles into the wildly colorful landscape of eroding limestone, shale
It’s about a mile to Spectra Point, where you’ll get your introduction to the elegantly twisted bodies of the grand, old bristlecone pines. The next mile rises and falls along an alpine stream to the park’s marquee overlook at The Ramparts.
Related itinerary: Away From it All
Tips: Two miles doesn’t sound like a lot until you factor in the elevation of 10,000 feet. Carry water and a snack. Look closely and you may see marmots watching you from their back porch, perched on the precipice of Cedar Breaks. Come for the scenery but stay for the star parties: Cedar Breaks is an IDA-accredited International Dark Sky Park.