Grand Staircase; Escalante   |  Ace Kvale


Backpacking opportunities are virtually unlimited in the Canyon Country of Southern Utah. Most of this land is seldom visited, and its backcountry affords excellent opportunities for solitude and unconfined wilderness recreation. Wherever you travel here, whether down remote desert washes or up narrow, lonely canyons, you will be rewarded at the end of your trip with vivid memories and a yearning to return.

But with so many backpacking possibilities to choose from, where do you begin? To help, we’ve compiled a selection of some stellar backpack trips throughout Canyon Country’s finest destinations. From the awesomeness of Canyonlands and Zion National Parks to the seldom-visited reaches of Cedar Mesa, the Dark Canyon Wilderness, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, you are sure to find one of the following trips to your liking.

1. The Big Needles Loop (Canyonlands National Park, Needles District): 23.2 miles. A major backpacking trip covering most of the outstanding features of the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.

2. Harvest Scene (Canyonlands National Park, Maze District): 8.7 miles. This trail is not only a rare loop (most Maze trails are out and back), but it’s also the longest designated trail in the Maze and takes hikers to Harvest Scene, one of the most famous rock art sites in the world. There are several great campsites along the route.

3. West Rim Trail (Zion National Park): 14.2 miles. A great backpack along the top of the Horse Pasture Plateau from Lava Point to the floor of Zion Canyon.

4. Owl Creek–Fish Creek Loop (Cedar Mesa): 17 miles. A multi-day loop backpack in two spectacular desert canyons. Both Owl Canyon and Fish Canyon are quite deep and narrow, with an abundance of stark, scenic beauty. During the hike you’ll pass Nevill’s Arch, two unnamed arches, and a few Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and rock-art sites. 

5. Dark Canyon (Dark Canyon Wilderness): 40 miles. The Dark Canyon Wilderness, south of Canyonlands National Park, offers beautiful forest and desert scenery, Indian ruins, and peace and solitude. This five- to seven-day trip is for experienced backpackers.

6. Egypt-Twentyfive Mile Wash (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area): 20 miles. This loop hike offers a diverse desert canyon hiking experience. The hike can vary in duration, depending on the number and length of side trips taken, but requires a minimum of two long days. The recommended and more leisurely trip, with time for exploring, takes four to five days.

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