Farther Away From It All
Searching for solitude? Follow this six-day itinerary to find unspoiled wild places, hidden trails, open spaces and perfect peace. It's a great escape from the hustle and bustle.
Utah writer Edward Abbey famously referred to wild places as “not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” This six-day itinerary will provide you with plenty of wild spaces to soothe your soul and boost your spirits along your journey.
For well-prepared backpackers with a permit and a shuttle, you could use this time to spend five spectacular days backpacking the 48-mile Trans Zion Trek with its deep canyons, high ridgelines, and all the striking views of Zion National Park you could imagine.
Or you can split up your Utah trip across several wild spaces. Start with the rugged scenery of Joshua Tree Scenic Backway or the Mars-like landscape of Gooseberry Mesa and then add the expansive views and natural quiet of Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.
You’ll find full solitude in Ashdown Gorge Wilderness Area, where only 10 miles of trail sprinkle the 7,000-acre expanse. Later, you can drop deep into Bryce Canyon National Park’s spire-filled backcountry, where few tourists ever venture.
Capitol Reef National Park will provide you with a national park experience without the usual crowds. After a spectacular sunset, you can gaze at the Milky Way in one of Utah’s internationally-certified Dark Sky Parks.
Towering sandstone buttes stand as silent sentinels over the spirit of the desert at Monument Valley and ancestral cliff dwellings hide in the canyons of Bears Ears National Monument. Soak up the vast expanses and cloistered spaces of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, where you can you feel like the only person in the world.
Spend a few days away from the hustle and bustle and gain a new appreciation for the peace you’ll find in wild places.
Read these resources to learn how to travel thoughtfully and experience Utah most fully on your journey.
St. George to Cedar City
Take mountain bikes for a rolling tour of Gooseberry Mesa or simply hike around the fascinating mars-like landscape. Tour the remote Joshua Tree Backway, then hike through the conservation habitat of Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. You might also make a stop at the reservoir of Gunlock State Park. Overnight in Cedar City. Alternatively, stop by the lesser-visited Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park for a hike — a long hike. If you really want to disappear for a few days, get a permit, arrange a shuttle and gear up for a multi-day Trans-Zion trip through the backcountry of Zion.
Cedar City to Bryce Canyon
On the rim of Cedar Breaks National Monument you might find yourself wondering, “What’s out there?” Turns out it’s the Ashdown Gorge in the Dixie National Forest. The Ramparts hike can separate you from the crowd, but you can truly pursue solace in the Ashdown Gorge. Time permitting, continue on to Bryce Canyon and set up camp or book a room in the area for closest access to the park's spectacular dark skies.
Bryce Canyon to Natural Bridges
Your high-clearance vehicle will get you deep into the backcountry of Capitol Reef, where some of its most iconic sandstone monoliths stand sentry over these peaceful but rugged lands. You can also break from the crowd on the Frying Pan and Cassidy Arch hikes between the popular Cohab Canyon and Grand Wash hikes. Continue to Natural Bridges for a second date with the Milky Way, this time by camping in the world’s first certified International Dark Sky Park.
Natural Bridges to Monument Valley
State Route 261 is a wonderful drive. Not only do you get the white-knuckle-inducing switchbacks of the Moki Dugway, a place where large RVs and trailers should not pass, but you get a glance at the lovely Cedar Mesa region of San Juan County. There are lots of trailheads here, or you can grab the aerial view of it all from Muley Point and continue down through Valley of the Gods to your spirit tour of Monument Valley. Overnight in Monument Valley or Bluff.
Monument Valley to Blanding
Here’s a good choice to have to make: Book a day on the San Juan River for the best angle on a number of excellent petroglyphs or take the lonely road to Hovenweep National Monument to peer into an ancient civilization. Regardless, the cliff dwellings of Bears Ears National Monument's Shash Jaa unit found on hikes along S.R. 95 are a must. Bears Ears National Monument Day Hiking passes are required year-round for day hiking in the Bears Ears National Monument, visit recreation.gov to obtain a pass. Overnight in Blanding.
Blanding to the Needles
By way of the Indian Creek unit of Bears Ears National Monument and a stop at Newspaper Rock, the final day takes you into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. This hiker-friendly landscape offers dozens of incredible trails, many of which are overnighters (with a permit), and will get you far away from the crowds. The even more popular Druid Arch is a solid 10.8-mile day, which means you’ll only hobnob with the dedicated hikers.
A Winter’s Desert: Visiting Southern Utah in the Slow Months
Experiencing the peace of canyon country in the winter is an attraction of its own.
Backpacking in Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park offers a spectrum of backpacking opportunities — from short trips at designated backcountry campsites to longer, adventurous trips that require extensive planning and desert canyon navigational knowledge.
Desert Shutter Speed
After lunch isn't the prime time to head to the desert. Come early or late, and Utah's deserts will reward you with their isolated landscapes, sunrises and sunsets, and stargazing opportunities.
Elevate Your Hiking with Mindfulness
Incorporating simple mindfulness techniques into your next hike can take the edge off anxiety and enhance your overall well being.
Exploring Mule Canyon: House on Fire and Cave Tower
Driving the up the dusty, terracotta-colored road toward Mule Canyon in Cedar Mesa, you get a sense that this is a special place, though you might not be able to put a finger on why.
Find a Winter Refresh in a Utah State Park
The best Utah state parks will entice you with ice fishing, white sand and snow-dusted scenery. Take a winter break to refresh with a visit to a few of these places.
Finding Strength and Inspiration Deep in the Utah Desert
How a series of hiking and camping trips in Utah’s parks and wilderness put Elisabeth Brentano on a transformative journey from urbanite to nature lover.
Gravity and Water: Mark Making in a Winter’s Desert with Anne Kaferle
Finding Helper at a time when she “needed it the most,” landscape artist Anne Kaferle has put down roots in Utah, thanks to plein-air painting and the healing power of time alone in the landscape.
Ice and rock, snow and splendor: Winter in Southern Utah
For an extraordinary adventure, plan winter hikes in Utah’s Zion National Park. Winter rewards hikers with stunning sights of stalactites and snow covered mountains.
In Search of Robbers Roost
Robbers Roost Utah, one of the infamous hideouts of Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch, is not easy to find even with directions from the locals. Explore Utah.
It’s About Time We All Unplugged
After months of being at home, we’ve all been disconnected from each other but connected permanently to our screens. It’s time to pull the plug—literally. In Utah, you can find far-flung places to reset, wellness resorts that promote digital detox, and destinations where you can swap screen time for much-needed adventure time.
Knobby Tired Nomads: Bikepacking the Utah High Country
If you’re into bikepacking, Utah is a place you’ll want to check out. Read about a self-supported tour of Utah’s backcountry here, and start planning your trip.
Lost and Found in Desolation Canyon
Fully unplug on a return trip down the Green River through the remote Desolation Canyon. Along the way, read as the author navigates a few friends through tricky rapids and pauses on stillwater and at night to appreciate the beauty, stillness and solitude of desert wilderness. It's a 100-mile journey for dedicated adventurers, but it comes with real healing power.
Paddling the Escalante River: Surfing Spring’s Runoff Through the Grand Staircase
Four friends embark on an otherworldly standup paddle journey through the heart of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, assisted by a local guide and his team of llamas.
Permit of Solitude
Watch this video of a guided experience canyoneering in the remote Robbers Roost. Find a guide to take you canyoneering in Utah.
Reclaiming the Stars
Utah’s public lands are beautiful and dramatic during the day, but they might well become famous for how awe-inspiring they are during the night.
San Rafael Swell Throughout the Seasons: 4 Reasons to Visit
From narrow slot canyons to grand sweeping vistas, sandstone plateaus to meandering rivers, San Rafael Country and the San Rafael Swell are home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Utah.
The Complete Winter Camping Packing List for Staying Warm in Southern Utah
For most travelers, Southern Utah winters prevent comfortable camping, and occasional snowfall can make outdoor adventure a little more challenging. With a little extra planning, good layers, and the right equipment, however, you can enjoy Utah's national parks in the solitude of winter.
Tips for Astrophotography
Need tips on how to take pictures of stars? Utah is the perfect location to put tips from an award-winning photographer into action.
Wandering: Between the Contours
Wandering pathless ways in the desert, everything I need strapped to my back, is, I believe is as close as most of us get these days, to the life evolution prepared us for.
Winter Wonders in Greater Zion
As you’re mapping out your winter trip through southeastern Utah, consider adding the following parks and natural wonders to your itinerary.
Yurt Camping in Utah: How To Have a Wintertime Yurt Excursion
Whether you’re glamping or choosing a simpler option, yurt camping in Utah during the wintertime is a fun, unique experience you won’t want to miss out on.