Stretch out at 13,000 feet above sea level and gaze out over alpine lakes and dense forests of pine and aspen thousands of feet below. Pull on shoes suitable for hiking in water and step into a stream for a journey through a mystical desert canyon with periodic swim breaks beneath beautiful waterfalls. Crane your neck as your pace slows and you walk beneath natural bridges, and wonder what life must have been like for the Anasazi who lived here a thousand years ago. Welcome to Hiking in Utah.
There are thousands of miles of great hiking trails throughout Utah. Some trails are most well-suited to rugged, multi-day backpacking, but there are innumerable "out and back" and "loop" hikes ranging from quick trots to stunning formations, and moderate paths than can be done in a few hours to full-day explorations. Before setting out on any hike, check with local rangers or guidebooks about a hike's difficulty ratings, descriptions, and cautionary advice — and always carry plenty of water.
The season can determine whether you choose to head for the mountains or opt for a desert hiking trail. More than 70 percent of Utah is public land: five national parks, nine million acres of national forest, millions of acres belong to the national monuments and national recreation areas (including the monumental Grand Staircase–Escalante and diverse Flaming Gorge), and 42 percent of the land in the state is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. It all adds up to unbelievable choices for hiking trails that would take more than a lifetime to complete.
If your Utah vacation takes you to Southern Utah, see our National Parks Hiking Guide and Moab Guide below for family and adventure hikes across that famous Utah red rock in Zion and other destinations. In Northern Utah, spend some time checking out the five top hikes in the Salt Lake City area. Then gain a little elevation in the High Uintas, Utah's highest mountain range, accessed from Kamas, Utah, only 20 minutes east of Park City, or 45 minutes from Salt Lake City.
Regardless of where you choose to hike, be cautious. Never hike alone, always tell your friends and family where you are going and when you plan to return, and keep them updated on your location if possible. Always carry plenty of water in both the deserts and mountains. Each person should carry one liter of water for every two hours of hiking time. For a full day hike, that adds up to one full gallon per person. It's important to keep hydrated, even if you don't feel thirsty. Bring plenty of high-energy snacks that will help to keep your energy up all the way back to your car.
Most importantly, have a safe, fun and rewarding experience hiking in Utah — oh, and let us know your favorite hikes with the hashtag #LifeElevated.