Our six-sided state is full of diverse scenery, from desert landscapes in loud, showy shades of red and orange to lush alpine meadows with pastel wildflowers quietly stealing the show. But you don’t have to be a gram-counting fool who straps everything on your back to get out and enjoy nature in Utah.
There are trails made for everyone. Stroller-pushing parents. Limit-pushing individuals recovering from injuries. People born with motor impairments. Older adults who are still young at heart. These paved trails, boardwalks and wide swaths of smooth terrain are accessible to anyone who may otherwise experience barriers to outdoor recreation.
A River Runs Through It
Few sounds in nature are more soothing than water burbling beside you. Each of these paved paths parallels a river, sometimes crossing it atop an interesting bridge or tunneling beneath a busy road before meeting it again.There are various access points along each path, as well as several benches where you can rest by the water.
Ogden & Weber River Parkways
The Ogden River Parkway begins in the mouth of Ogden Canyon, just off 12th Street on Parkway Boulevard. It passes by a dinosaur park (roar!), botanical gardens, wall murals and rodeo grounds (yee-haw!). It also connects with a couple of other paved trails: the West Haven Trail and the 21st Street Pond Trail.
The primary route, however, merges with the Weber River Parkway in the general vicinity of Fort Buenaventura, for a combined distance of approximately 22 miles. There are a few boardwalks interspersed with the paved portion of the Weber River Parkway, which ends when it crosses the river on the cement bridge. The trail continues for another 1.75 miles on a wide, well-maintained dirt/rock path that can be traversed with all-terrain tires before terminating at Cottonwood Drive in South Weber.
Jordan River Parkway
Sometimes referred to as the “hydrological backbone of the Salt Lake Valley,” Jordan River is fed by snowmelt from mountain streams as it makes its way to Utah Lake. Its namesake parkway is paved almost continuously for 45 miles. On the north, it connects with the Legacy Parkway Trail (another awesome paved walking/biking trail, albeit not by a river). The southernmost trailhead on the Jordan River Parkway can be found at Inlet Park, located at 6800 N. Saratoga Road in (where else?) Saratoga Springs. The trail passes by waterwise gardens, picnic areas, parks, equestrian trails, marshes and urban areas.Those who make the climb to Jordan Narrows will be rewarded with expansive views.
Provo River Parkway
This paved path is just over 15 miles point to point. It follows the Provo River from Vivan Park down the canyon to Utah Lake State Park. A wheelchair-accessible spur trail on the northern portion takes you to Bridal Veil Falls — Utah’s tallest waterfall (607 feet). Much of the Provo River Parkway is flanked with tall trees, but open portions offer views of horses grazing on farmland as well as Mount Timpanogos.
Moab Canyon Pathway and Colorado River Pathway
From Lions Park in Moab, you have two choices. You can cross the Colorado River on the pedestrian bridge (be sure to stop for a sculpture selfie!) and head northwest on the Moab Canyon Pathway. This 2.8-mile stretch of the scenic paved trail is relatively flat as it snakes through stunning sandstone cliffs to the entrance of Arches National Park. It’s friendly to training wheels and wheelchairs alike. The path continues beyond Arches for another 30-something miles to Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park, but it is definitely a climb to get there. This portion of the paved bike trail is better suited for riders who are experienced on adaptive bikes or parents who have the mettle to pedal while towing toddler trailers behind their bikes.
Your other option is to hit the Colorado River Pathway instead of crossing the pedestrian bridge at Lions Park.This 2.5-mile point-to-point trail is wheelchair accessible. Parts of it are constructed on a platform that overhangs the river. Other sections cross campground access roads. All of it is jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Virgin River Trail
This paved path runs about 14 miles through St. George and Washington City. Portions of the pavement are next to a busy road, but this is where you’ll find a bridge built in 1908. (Do the math, kids. That’s practically ancient.) The trail also offers solitude in red-rock canyons, features a few boardwalks, passes a soccer complex (Offsides, you turnip!) and provides stunning views of the surrounding area. The Virgin River Trail connects with Cottonwood Wash Trail, which sports a series of rollercoaster-ish hills. It also connects with Hell Hole Canyon Trail, which is aptly named thanks to its 12% incline.
What’s that? The mountains called? You must go? When you’re feeling alpine inclined, these trails offer a sweet escape from your urban/suburban life.
Located in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Cascade Springs Interpretive Trail is a short but scenic loop accessible from Alpine Scenic Loop. It consists of both pavement and boardwalks. The water from the springs flows over travertine ledges and pools in various places along the tree-lined trail, which is especially beautiful in the autumn.
Silver Lake Loop
Situated in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Silver Lake is the place for early bloomers. (We’re talking wildflowers not puberty, people!) The trail is just shy of a mile long and consists mostly of boardwalks with a few wide swaths of well-packed dirt mixed in. It is typically encompassed with color from mid July through late August. Pale petals and bright blossoms mingle in the meadow surrounding the lake. There are picnic tables and fishing access points here as well.
Bell Canyon Loop
An all-abilities asphalt loop was added to the array of trails in Sandy’s ever popular Bell Canyon area in May 2022. As of this writing it’s “smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy,” as Mark and Bruno might croon. It also boasts interpretive signs, benches and picnic areas. Go for the sunset and stay for the stars — the new trailhead also has dark sky-friendly lighting.
These are just some of the many boardwalks and paved trails in Utah. There are many more that circle wetlands and connect neighborhoods. There are even several paved walking trails in our state and national parks, making some of the jaw-dropping scenery accessible to everyone.