There are a million hikes in Utah but only a handful are hike-onic. From superstar trails like Delicate Arch and Angels Landing to low-key famous trails like Lake Blanch and Hickman Bridge, these are the best places to hike in Utah. They are also very popular, so don’t expect solitude, but do expect to see what all the fuss is about.
Delicate Arch is iconic. Quite literally, this beauty is the quintessential icon of Utah. Located in Arches National Park, aka the Holey Land, Delicate Arch is set on a sandstone butte with the La Sal mountains as a background. The trail takes you up a slickrock slope to a sandstone bowl with the free-standing arch perched on the edge. Sunset is a particularly busy time for visitors, but you may beat the crowds at sunrise.
Tall, beautiful and a little dangerous, Angels Landing is the femme fatale of Zion National Park. This short but strenuous hike zigzags to the top of Zion Canyon where angels land their angel-mobiles to make out. It’s consistently rated as one of the best hikes in southern Utah and has become very popular as a result. You now need a permit from the National Park Service, but it's worth the extra bureaucracy. Less people on this high-risk trail makes it safer for everyone.
While you’re in ZNP, don't miss The Narrows. It’s the most popular hike in Zion for a reason. The 1,000-foot canyon walls are dramatic, but the Virgin River is the star of the show. Meander up the canyon a little ways or hike all the way to Big Spring. Bring your hiking sandals and grab a walking stick at the trailhead to help you keep your balance on slippery river rocks. And of course, keep an eye on the forecast for perilous flash-flood weather.
If you want an urban-wilderness interface, check out the summit of Mount Timpanogos via Timpooneke Trail. Timp, as it's called by the locals, is 11,749 feet high, and is sometimes snow capped throughout the summer. The Timpooneke trail winds through Timp’s wildflower-covered backside. It looks like Switzerland until you get to the top and can see the cities of Utah County and the Great Basin desert stretching on into the west. It's strenuous but worth it to see that much of Utah at once.
Lake Blanche is a quadruple threat. Once you get there you’ll have views of Sundial Peak, Lake Florence and Lake Lillian. Plus it's accessible, as the trailhead is just a few minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. Hike in July or August for the best wildflower and moose sightings. It's snowshoe-able in winter but the trail passes through avalanche terrain. Check the avalanche forecast before you go.
Word has it that the queen of the hoodoos overlooks her freaky garden on the Queen’s Garden Trail. This trail has it all: panoramic views of the unique Bryce Canyon Amphitheater and up-close views of hoodoos. It’s open year-round but recommended March through October. Sunset and sunrise are remarkable times to see the queen all lit up in pink and orange. Be sure to curtsey.
If the queen can have a garden, the devil can have one too, right? Devils Garden is full of geologic mischief with arches, ancient trees and a mysterious stone tower. Hike to all points of interest like Double O Arch, Pine Tree Arch and Dark Angel, or just hike in a mile or two. The beginning section is good for kids but gets harder as the trail goes on. Summertime is very hot so consider going in the morning or evening.
Yep, another Zion National Park trail makes our list. Emerald Pools is a stunning series of pools and waterfalls set against Zion’s cliff walls. Lush greenery line the walls and pools and you will get a refreshing mist as you walk under a waterfall. The trail to the first pool is wheelchair and stroller accessible but requires more scrambling the farther you go. It’s tempting to take a dip, but the pools have been lovingly restored to their natural state. Please don't touch them!
In the Moab area? Take a quick and easy stroll to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. Mesa Arch clings to the edge of Island in the Sky mesa, making it the perfect frame for the vast ocean of canyons in Canyonlands. As usual, dawn and dusk are the most spectacular, but also the most crowded. This hike is great for kids, although there are no guard rails near the edge so watch those little ones carefully.
Hickman Bridge trail is a short and moderate hike to one of Utah’s prettiest natural bridges. The trail follows the Fremont River and then starts switchbacking up the white and pink sandstone that Capitol Reef is known for. It eventually goes under the arch and then loops back around to the original trail. Grab a guide from the visitors center to learn more about the local animal inhabitants along the way.
Want to get high? Head to the High Uintas Wilderness. The Uinta mountain range is home to every Utah peak over 13,000 feet. Good old King’s Peak is the highest at 13,528 feet. It’s pretty much peak peak. This multiday trip is pure wilderness, meaning that you might get to meet moose, deer, elk and black bear along the way.