Highway 12 in Southern Utah Road Trip

Highway 12 in Southern Utah

Highway 12 in southern Utah is a breathtaking journey past some of southern Utah’s most picturesque features, including Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. The highway explores high desert rock formations, historic sites, badlands, and aspen forests high in the mountains through …

Mesa Arch

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Distance: 0.75 miles (loop) Difficulty: Easy Best time of year: Spring, Fall The Mesa Arch Trail is an easy and welcoming loop that brings visitors to a jaw-dropping view of a massive canyon crowned with a large arch to peer through. Anyone visiting the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park should do this hike. Mesa Arch Trail …

Angel’s Palace

Angel's Palace Trail

Distance: 1.7 miles (round trip) Difficulty: Easy, but some route-finding possible Best time of year: Fall, Winter, Spring Last hiked: 2016 May The Angel’s Palace Trail is a short and sweet hike, showing off some outstanding views in Kodachrome Basin State Park. The trail is mostly easy-going and makes great use of slickrock at its higher points. This gives it …

Panorama Trail

Sandstone Canyon

Distance: 6.6 miles Difficulty: Easy or Moderate Best time of year: Fall, Winter, Spring Last hiked: 2016 May The Panorama Trail starts off easily enough, winding through junipers and pinyon pine trees past large sandstone buttes. All of these lie below the signature Entrada Formation of sandstone walls for which Kodachrome Basin State Park is named. The trail gives hikers …

Upper Escalante River Alcove

Hiker in Sandstone Alcove

Distance: 3 miles (one way) Difficulty: Easy Best time of year: Fall, Spring Last hiked: 2016 May The Upper Escalante River Alcove is a great alternative to the increasingly popular Hole-in-the-Rock Road. The out-of-the-way trail brings you into a landscape like something right out of Zion National Park. You follow a healthy desert river through an enormous sandstone canyon with …

Spooky Slot Canyon

Slot Canyon Abstract

Distance: 1.2 miles (one way – to Spooky) Difficulty: Easy, but tight spaces and some scrambling Best time of year: Fall, Winter, Spring Last hiked: 2016 May There’s a great loop that connects Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon to Spooky Slot Canyon, which was my original plan for a hike. As it turns out, ascending into Peek-A-Boo Slot can be very tricky …

Wire Pass

Hiker Admiring Slot Canyon

Distance: 1.8 miles (one way) Difficulty: Easy, but a few hurdles Best time of year: Fall, Spring Last hiked: 2016 May I knew there was rain in the forecast, but I had also never really poked into any slot canyons in the Vermillion Cliffs area. Since I was nearby having just come off the Arizona Trail, I wanted to change …

Capitol Gorge and the Tanks

Capitol Gorge Abstract

Distance: 1 mile (one way, to Tanks) Difficulty: Easy Best time of year: Year-round Last hiked: 2015 October The Capitol Gorge Trail is an easy trail to give visitors a taste of what lies in the rest of the backcountry of Capitol Reef National Park. A wash cuts through massive sandstone cliffs creating an extraordinary wonder when viewed from below. …

Fremont River Trail

Rainbow over Fremont River

Distance: 1.3 miles (one way, depending on starting location) Difficulty: Moderate Best time of year: Year-round Last hiked: 2015 October The Fremont River Trail roughly parallels the Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail, only it does so from the other side of the river. It’s also a little easier in that it’s not quite as long of a trail. And like the …

Frying Pan

Cohab Canyon and Waterpocket Fold

Distance: 2.85 miles (one way) Difficulty: Strenuous (N-S), Moderate (S-N) Best time of year: Year-round Last hiked: 2015 October The Frying Pan Trail can either be hiked as an in-and-out hike, or as a connector trail to another location, especially if you have a shuttle car. And like the Chimney Rock Trail, this was another that I vastly underestimated in …

Upper Calf Creek Falls

Hiker at Upper Calf Creek Falls

Distance: 1.1 mile (one way) Difficulty: Moderate Best time of year: Year-round Last hiked: 2015 October This is the much less populated and much more wilderness feeling alternative to Lower Calf Creek Falls. Found just a few miles upstream from Lower, Upper Calf Creek Falls sees a fraction of the visitors and can easily give you a more remote desert …

Navajo Knobs

The Castle and the Waterpocket Fold

Distance: 4.5 miles (one way) Difficulty: Moderate Best time of year: Year-round Last hiked: 2015 October Navajo Knobs was the first trail I did in Capitol Reef National Park, and it remains one of my favorites. Most of the trail is spent winding around the rim of the Waterpocket Fold. …and that is just about as underwhelming as you can …

Petrified Forest Trail

Petrified Wood

Distance: 2 miles (round trip) Difficulty: Moderate Best time of year: Year-round Last hiked: 2015 October Obscurely tucked away behind the grander adventures of the southern Utah region is a little state park that preserves a treasure chest of petrified wood. It’s relatively overlooked which means the trail can have plenty of quiet moments. And since it’s also in a …

Chimney Rock Loop

Chimney Rock

Distance: 3.8 miles Difficulty: Strenuous Best time of year: Year-round Last hiked: 2015 October I was fooled the first few times I saw the Chimney Rock Trailhead. Just a few hundred yards to the east is Chimney Rock. Surely the trail can’t be that long or even that interesting, I mistakenly thought. Of course it wasn’t until much later I …

Fremont Gorge Overlook

Fremont River Gorge

Distance: 2.4 miles (one way) Difficulty: Moderate Best time of year: Year-round Last hiked: 2015 October I had hoped that the Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail would make for a great sunrise hike, but it turns out this one’s much more suited to late afternoon/evening. Regardless, I made the best of it and am glad I did. The overlook at the …