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6 Days   •   820 Miles

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.
SALT LAKE CITY

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.

Day 1

St. George to Cedar City

115 Miles

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. 

Day 2

Cedar City to Bryce Canyon

100 Miles

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.

Day 3

Bryce Canyon to Natural Bridges

300 Miles

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.

Day 4

Natural Bridges to Monument Valley

115 Miles

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.

Day 5

Monument Valley to Blanding

100 Miles

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. Overnight in Blanding.

Day 6

Blanding to the Needles

90 Miles

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.

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