Of all the states in the nation, Utah has one of the most diverse and beautiful geographies. From the deep canyons of the Colorado River, through rust-red, slickrock deserts, to the craggy tops of the Uinta Mountains, this state contains nearly two vertical miles of relief and infinite ecosystems within it. And though driving through this landscape is a spectacular adventure, penetrating the backcountry on foot is even better. Of the countless hiking trails in Utah, this set contains a diverse selection of some of the best routes.
Utah's beautiful Zion Canyon — Photo courtesy of snowpeak
Angel’s Landing Trail, Zion National Park is one of the most spectacular, non-technical climbs in the state. Beginning at the waters of the Virgin River, this trail ascends quickly away from the valley floor via steep switchbacks. After sneaking through a dark, narrow canyon, the trail reemerges at an incredible viewpoint overlooking the length of Zion Canyon. Brave hikers may continue half a mile to the namesake Angel’s Landing itself. Wild exposure, hand chains and carved steps characterize this last stretch of trail; this should be avoided in stormy weather, and by those prone to vertigo. This 5.4-mile round-trip hike requires nearly 1500 feet of climbing.
Photos don't do justice to Captiol Reef — Photo courtesy of Christine Balaz
Chimney Rock Loop, Capitol Reef National Park takes a lollipop-shaped tour of the absolutely stunning Waterpocket Fold. This 125-mile-long anticline (the geologic feature around which Captiol Reef N.P. is centered) is an incredible area of dramatic and colorful uplift. Called the “Land of the Sleeping Rainbow” by indigenous tribes, this landscape contains spectacular shades of yellow, orange, purple, ivory, green and red. This 3.5-mile trail requires nearly 800 feet of climbing.
Fisher Towers — Photo courtesy of Christine Balaz
Fisher Towers Trail, Castle Valley tours a classic Wild West landscape just east of Moab and south of the Colorado River. Exploring empty desert lands, this trail traces along the base of the Fisher Towers–some of which are 1000 feet tall. Composed of Moenkopi sandstone, these unlikely features more closely resemble mud drippings than rock towers. While on this route, you’ll see the iconic Castle Valley Towers to your southwest, and possibly rock climbers on the Fisher Towers themselves. This 4.3-mile round-trip hike requires roughly 1000 feet of climbing.
Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake from Frary Peak — Photo courtesy of Christine Balaz
Frary Peak Trail, Antelope Island State Park offers one of the most unique sets of views in the entire state of Utah. Reaching the highest point on the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, this trail provides ever-changing views of the arid Great Basin landscape–allowing hikers to imagine what the Wasatch Front must have looked like before 2 million people took up residence there. This 6.6-mile round-trip hike requires nearly 2000 feet of climbing.
In the notch of Notch Mountain — Photo courtesy of Christine Balaz
Notch Mountain Trail from Bald Mountain to Trial Lake, Uinta Mountains starts at the highest point of the Mirror Lake Highway at flanks of Bald Mountain. This trail cuts a crescent-shaped path through the high Uintas backcountry to the Trial Lake Trailhead. Passing numerous lakes, incredible alpine peaks and rocky basins along the way, this trail is often overlooked and therefore provides a good deal of solitude. Though long, this hike features relatively little climbing, so can be done relatively quickly. This 9.8-mile one-way trail requires a shuttle vehicle and roughly 1000 feet of climbing.