10 Finest Utah Backpacking Journeys – Bearfoot Idea

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Though Utah is most well-known for its “Mighty 5” Nationwide Parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion), greater than 70% of the state is classed as public land from nationwide monuments to recreation areas to nationwide forests to BLM areas, and the alternatives for outside recreation are expansive.

In the event you’re able to stretch your legs on some longer multi-day hikes, listed here are 10 of the very best backpacking journeys in Utah, starting from extremely lovely overnights to difficult week-long journeys.

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Finest Utah Backpacking Journeys – Mapped

1. Coyote Gulch Loop

  • Location: Glen Canyon Nationwide Recreation Space
  • Path Sort: Loop
  • Distance: 10.6 miles
  • Instructed Time: 2 days, 1 night time
  • Issue: Arduous
  • Allow wanted? Sure
  • Finest Seasons: Spring and fall

In the event you’re out there for a comparatively quick however delectably candy in a single day hike, head to Coyote Gulch, which borders Glen Canyon Nationwide Recreation Space and Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument.

This hike might be performed in a number of variations, as much as 22 miles in size, however this 10.6-mile loop hits lots of the space’s highlights together with two arches, a pure bridge, and quite a few waterfalls.

First, cease on the Escalante Interagency Customer Heart within the city of Escalante to select up your allow, inquire about highway circumstances and get the newest climate report.

The ten.6-mile loop is accessed by driving the notoriously rutted Gap within the Rock Highway to the infamously sandy 40 Mile Ridge Trailhead. Relying on the highway circumstances, which change from yr to yr and season to season, you’ll seemingly want 4WD, particularly for the deep sand on the final two miles to the trailhead. In case your automobile isn’t 4WD, you could possibly begin the loop from the Hurricane Wash trailhead, 33.8 miles down Gap within the Rock Highway.

Coyote Gulch’s greatest draw is the miracle of water within the desert. You’ll seemingly get your ft moist on this hike because the route follows and repeatedly crosses a perennial stream to its confluence with the Escalante River. Watch out for flash flood hazard in late summer season and keep away from this hike if thunderstorms are within the forecast.

Red rock dome arch in Utah with two windows open to the sky and stream running underneach
Coyote Gulch

From the 40 Mile Ridge Trailhead, the primary mile is a little bit of a sandy slog however quickly you’ll enter the Crack within the Wall, a good 18-inch extensive fissure that drops you off the sting of the mesa into the canyon.

Plan to carry a rope to decrease your backpacks by this part. The very best campsites are discovered between miles 4 and 5 and water is discovered all through the canyon seeping from pure springs trickling out of the canyon partitions.

To exit the canyon, you’ll must deal with a brief scramble up some ledges simply previous Jacob Hamblin Arch. Inexperienced hikers could discover this part intimidating, however there are sometimes fastened ropes right here to assist shield the climb however you could wish to carry your individual.

Planning info

  • Permits: Permits are free, however you have to acquire one from the Escalante Customer Heart within the city of Escalante, Utah.
  • Trailhead instructions: There are a number of locations you can begin your Coyote Gulch hike. This loop begins on the parking space off of Fourty Mile Ridge Highway
  • Essential notes: The route might be harmful on account of flash floods. Verify the climate earlier than heading out and don’t try it if rain is within the forecast.

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2. Reflection Canyon

  • Location: Glen Canyon Nationwide Recreation Space
  • Path Sort: Out and Again
  • Distance: 15.2 miles
  • Instructed Time: 2 days, 1 night time
  • Issue: Average
  • Allow wanted? Sure
  • Finest Seasons: Spring and fall

This adventurous in a single day hike ends at probably the greatest sundown/dawn spots in southern Utah, overlooking a uniquely squiggly arm of Lake Powell. This view of vibrant blue goosenecked bays bordered by towering Navajo sandstone cliffs was made well-known by Nationwide Geographic after which Apple computer systems, which used a picture of this vantage level in ads for the 2012 MacBook Professional.

Landscape view out over winding river through Reflection Canyon in red rock country of Utah
Reflection Canyon

You’ll want a dependable 4WD automobile to drive the 50 miles of ruts and bumps down the Gap within the Rock Highway to the trailhead. From there, you’ll want a powerful sense of path and loads of water. There are not any sources of water on this trek so that you’ll want to hold sufficient for 2 days of strenuous mountain climbing and an evening of tenting and cooking.

Earlier than leaving Escalante, remember to have the route downloaded in your favourite mountain climbing app. Many of the route runs over slickrock and there’s no outlined path. Purpose to comply with the lengthy line of cliffs in your proper (west) as you hike south. In the event you stray too far east away from the cliffs you’ll find yourself in a maze of usually impassable slot canyons.

About 5 miles from the trailhead, you’ll flip southeast to go in the direction of the overlook. From right here, you’ll be handled to magnificent views from sundown to stars to dawn.

Planning info

  • Permits: Permits are free, however you have to acquire one from the Escalante Customer Heart within the city of Escalante, Utah.
  • Trailhead instructions: The parking space is off Gap-in-the-Rock Highway
  • Essential notes: You need to carry sufficient water for 2 days and one night time of mountain climbing and cooking. There isn’t a water on the route.

Learn Extra

New to mountain climbing within the desert?

3. Decrease Hackberry Canyon

  • Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument
  • Path Sort: Out and Again
  • Distance: 12.4 miles
  • Instructed Time: 2 days, 1 night time
  • Issue: Average
  • Allow wanted? Sure
  • Finest Seasons: Spring and fall

Journey again in time to go to a historic cabin and the gorgeous Sam Pollack arch on this in a single day trek into Decrease Hackberry Canyon.

Positioned on the southern finish of the Cockscomb, an imposing and colourful ridge of uplifted sandstone, Decrease Hackberry Canyon winds into the guts of the comb, following a good looking creek that runs many of the yr.

About 4 miles into the hike, you’ll attain Frank Watson’s cabin. Inbuilt 1914 utilizing cottonwood logs harvested on-site, this one-room cabin was restored in 2021 and is a wonderful instance of a 100-year-old homestead.

Intrepid hikers may additionally wish to hunt down an excellent older abode within the close by facet canyon: a small meals storage granary, some grinding stones, and an intriguing humanoid pictograph discovered close by in a hidden alcove.

After exploring the cabin and the facet canyon, hike one other half mile north up Hackberry Canyon to the confluence with Sam Pollock Canyon the place you’ll discover some nice tenting choices beneath the cottonwood timber.

Following Sam Pollock Canyon to the northwest, in one other 1.5 miles you’ll attain the spectacular Sam Pollock Arch.

a man stands near the Sam Pollock Arch on the Hackberry Canyon Trail
Sam Pollock Arch | Photograph: Mary Caperton Morton

Planning info

  • Permits: In a single day permits are free, however should be obtained at a Grand Staircase-Escalante Customer Heart or at developed trailheads.
  • Trailhead instructions: Begin your hike from the Decrease Hackberry Trailhead close to Kanab, Utah.
  • Essential notes: The AllTrails map beneath doesn’t embody the 3-mile spherical journey hike as much as Sam Pollock Arch.

4. Paria River to Lee’s Ferry and Buckskin Gulch

  • Location: Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Space
  • Path Sort: Level to Level
  • Distance: 40 miles
  • Instructed Time: 4 days, 3 nights
  • Issue: Arduous
  • Allow wanted? Sure (and they’re aggressive)
  • Finest Seasons: Spring and fall

Get your fill of world-class slot canyons on this 40-mile route that begins in Utah and ends on the Colorado River in Arizona.

The Paria River is a significant tributary of the Colorado, becoming a member of the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry upstream of the Grand Canyon.

Alongside the best way, you’ll spend two complete days in a slim slot canyon with an optionally available facet journey into Buckskin Gulch, one of many world’s longest steady slots.

Permits for each the Paria and Buckskin Gulch are extraordinarily aggressive with solely 20 individuals a day allowed into the Paria. See allow information beneath.

The Paria’s stunningly lovely setting makes this a preferred hike however it’s vital to know that it’s also extraordinarily difficult. For a lot of the trek, you’ll be repeatedly crossing the creek and sometimes wading within the water in addition to dodging ubiquitous quicksand.

Paria Canyon
Paria Canyon

Spring and fall are probably the most fascinating months however freezing water temperatures early and late season could make for depressing circumstances.

In the summertime, the canyon dries up and turns right into a furnace whereas late summer season monsoons can ship lethal flash floods in these inescapable canyons.

In the event you handle to snag a allow throughout an excellent climate window when the Paria is operating however not too excessive, you’ll be in for a few of the most lovely days of your life.

After leaving from the White Home trailhead, the canyon begins narrowing down into its legendary slot, passing between towering crimson partitions of Navajo sandstone.

Simply after 7 miles, you’ll go the confluence with Buckskin Gulch with a couple of campsites close to the junction. A facet journey up the slim hall of Buckskin Gulch is a must-do. This is among the most lovely and harrowing slot canyons on Earth!

Woman stands in Buckskin Gulch slot canyon in Utah
Buckskin Gulch | Photograph: Jono Melamed

Again within the Paria, you’ll proceed south, following the infinite twists, turns, and meanders into the ever-deepening and narrowing slot. Hold your eyes out for springs seeping from the partitions. These are your greatest water sources, because the Paria itself is normally too silty to filter.

After greater than 30 miles within the narrows, the canyon widens because it approaches its mouth on the Colorado River. Right here you’ll discover Lee’s Ferry, a historic crossing of the Colorado that now serves because the put-in for rafting journeys into the Grand Canyon.

Planning info

  • Permits: Permits for Paria Canyon are very aggressive. They grow to be accessible on the primary of the month 3 months forward of the month you wish to hike (for instance, Could dates can be found on February 1st). You may apply for Paria Canyon permits at Recreation.gov.
  • Trailhead instructions: There are a number of trailheads accessible for Paria Canyon. For the route above, begin your hike from the White Home Trailhead close to Kanab, Utah.
  • Essential notes: Since this can be a point-to-point hike you’ll both must arrange your individual automotive shuttle or organize one. There are a number of outfitters you could e-book with.

5. The Boulder Mail Path

  • Location: Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument
  • Path Sort: Level to Level
  • Distance: 15 miles
  • Instructed Time: 3 days, 2 nights
  • Issue: Arduous
  • Allow wanted? Sure
  • Finest Seasons: Spring and fall

Till the Nineteen Thirties, the distant city of Boulder, Utah acquired its mail by mule, transported through the Boulder Mail Path. Working in a reasonably straight line between Escalante and Boulder, the Mail Path crosses three main canyons and loads of slickrock.

With precipitous drop-offs and deep water sections, the route isn’t for the faint of coronary heart and it’s a marvel that the postal mules recurrently traversed it with few mishaps.

The Mail Path might be hiked in both path however because the Boulder trailhead is nearly 1,000 ft increased in elevation than the Escalante trailhead, most individuals hike from east to west for a web downhill hike, ending in Escalante.

Many of the route is well-cairned however you’ll wish to be accustomed to navigating on slickrock and have the route downloaded in your favourite mountain climbing app earlier than you start.

Silhouette of hiker standing on overlook with views out onto Utah slickrock landscape
Photograph: Mary Caperton Morton

The three main canyons, from east to west, are Sand Creek, Dying Hole, and Mamie Creek, every with its personal character.

Water is normally present in each Sand Creek and Dying Hole and fewer reliably in Mamie. Dying Hole is the deepest and arguably loveliest of the three canyons, requiring an 800-foot descent down by Navajo sandstone benches into the canyon.

In Dying Hole, you’ll seemingly get your ft moist as you comply with the creek for a couple of mile. Keep away from the brushy banks as they’re usually rife with poison ivy. Additionally, flash floods are an actual hazard right here so remember to verify the climate earlier than you decide to this hike.

The slickrock climb out of Dying Hole is marked by cairns and is simple to overlook. The opposite route continues downstream to the place Dying Hole meets the Escalante River.

You’ll additionally cross a fourth, unnamed canyon earlier than reaching the Escalante trailhead. In whole you’ll acquire and lose round 2,500 ft of elevation all through the 15-mile trek, going from Boulder to Escalante.

Planning info

  • Permits: Free permits for in a single day Boulder Mail hikes can be found at any Grand Staircase-Escalante Nationwide Monument customer heart.
  • Trailhead instructions: Begin your hike from the Boulder Mail Trailhead close to Boulder, Utah.
  • Essential notes: Since this can be a point-to-point hike you’ll both must arrange your individual automotive shuttle or organize one. There are a number of outfitters that may show you how to out.

6. Bullet Canyon to Grand Gulch

  • Location: Bears Ears Nationwide Monument
  • Path Sort: Level to Level
  • Distance: 20 miles
  • Instructed Time: 3 days, 2 nights
  • Issue: Average
  • Allow wanted? Sure (and they’re aggressive)
  • Finest Seasons: Spring and fall

Greater than 1,000 years in the past, this complicated of deep serpentine canyons in what’s now Bears Ears Nationwide Monument was a neighborhood inhabited by a whole bunch of individuals.

Many generations of households made a residing right here by rising meals and looking wild recreation and residing in multi-roomed dwellings, usually located beneath overhanging cliffs. Additionally they created artwork by portray and etching the partitions of the canyon.

However because the local weather grew to become hotter and dryer, sources grew to become scarcer and folks started constructing defensive dwellings and meals storage constructions excessive on cliff ledges, reachable by solely seemingly superhuman feats of athleticism and bravado. Round 700 years in the past, individuals left the canyon, shifting into bigger Pueblo communities to the south and east.

Hundreds of historic dwellings are discovered all through the Bears Ears area however Grand Gulch is known for the density and preservation of web sites. In the present day, Grand Gulch is preserved as an out of doors museum, with many artifacts and relics left in place.

Open air kiva from Native American sight in Bears Ears National Monument in Utah
The Grand Gulch space of Bears Ears Nationwide Park is preserved as an out of doors museum with many websites like this kiva | Photograph: Mary Caperton Morton

All guests to this fragile and sacred place should comply with all Go away No Hint ideas, in addition to further tips for visiting archaeological websites, together with:

  • Leaving all the pieces the place you discover it
  • Not consuming in or close to websites (meals attracts rodents)
  • Not coming into constructions
  • Not climbing or leaning on partitions
  • Not touching or respiratory on rock artwork

Permits for this journey, which follows Bullet Canyon to Grand Gulch to Kane Gulch, are aggressive and all hikers, together with day hikers, must verify in on the Kane Gulch Ranger Station earlier than exploring the realm.

Water stays scarce in these canyons so remember to verify with the rangers that springs are flowing or you could want to hold water to your whole journey.

Planning info

7. Below the Rim Path plus Rigg’s Spring Loop

  • Location: Bryce Canyon Nationwide Park
  • Path Sort: Level to Level
  • Distance: 31.8 miles
  • Instructed Time: 3 days, 2 nights
  • Issue: Arduous
  • Allow wanted? Sure
  • Finest Seasons: Late spring, summer season, and fall

Bryce Canyon is among the nation’s smallest nationwide parks, solely protecting 55 sq. miles of land. However what the pocket-sized park lacks in dimension it makes up for in surroundings. It boasts an extremely colourful hoodoo spire-studded amphitheater that has been scooped out of the high-elevation Paunsaugunt Plateau.

Bryce is known for its awe-inspiring overlooks however backpackers can get to know the park’s hoodoos, home windows, and slot canyons on a extra intimate stage on the Below the Rim Path.

Landscape views over Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah with red rock and hoodoo features
See the hoodoos and spectacular Bryce Canyon panorama up shut on the Below the Rim backpacking journey | Photograph: Mary Caperton Morton

This 23-mile path begins at Rainbow Level within the south and runs north to Bryce Level, skirting the forested base of the plateau’s japanese edge. For bonus miles, add on the 8.8-mile lengthy Rigg’s Spring Loop at first of your trek.

Park shuttles join all the overlooks, together with Rainbow Level and Bryce Level, making for straightforward logistics at first and finish of your hike.

Bryce Canyon reaches elevations over 8,000 ft, preserving this park a lot cooler in the summertime months than the remainder of Utah’s crimson rock nation, which is commonly too scorching for summer season exploration. However even with cooler temperatures, water remains to be scarce within the amphitheater. All the time verify with park rangers about water availability earlier than starting your trek.

Some hikers elect to depart a water cache on the junction of the Below the Rim path and the Swamp Creek connector path. Bottles should be labeled with the hiker’s title and allow dates and should be packed out on the finish of your hike.

Planning info

  • Permits: Permits for backcountry tenting in Bryce Canyon Nationwide Park might be obtained on-line by Recreation.gov. Permits can be found as much as three months prematurely. Permits may additionally be accessible on a walk-in foundation on the Guests Heart.
  • Trailhead instructions: Begin at Below the Rim Trailhead.
  • Essential notes: The map beneath solely exhibits the 23-mile Below the Rim Path. You even have the choice of including on the 8.8-mile Rigg’s Spring Loop at first. For transportation, use the Park shuttle to get to/from the trailheads.

8. West Rim Path

  • Location: Zion Nationwide Park
  • Path Sort: Level to Level
  • Distance: 14.1 miles
  • Instructed Time: 2 days, 1 night time
  • Issue: Average
  • Allow wanted? Sure (permits are aggressive)
  • Finest Seasons: Spring and fall

Take the scenic footpath route into Zion through the West Rim path. This 14-mile route begins at Lava Level within the Kolob Canyons unit of Zion, northwest of the primary a part of the park.

Lava Level sits at practically 8,000 ft of elevation, whereas Zion Canyon dips all the way down to 4,000 ft, making this a web downhill hike.

For the primary 6.5 miles, you’ll be handled to sweeping views of Wildcat Canyon and the West Rim of Zion earlier than starting your descent at Cabin Spring into Zion Canyon the place you’ll finish on the Grotto Picnic Space.

With just a little planning and loads of luck, you could possibly additionally apply for a allow to hike Angel’s Touchdown, which you’ll go in your manner down into Zion. A brand new lottery system was applied in 2023 to restrict the variety of hikers on the notoriously slim route, however it’s value attempting for a allow because it’s a spectacular hike (in case you don’t thoughts heights!)

The West Rim’s increased elevation makes this route attainable in the course of the hotter summer season months, however try to be ready to spend a part of the day within the shade and hike within the cooler morning and night hours.

There are 9 designated campsites alongside this route and water is normally accessible from a number of springs and pure sources alongside the best way however remember to verify availability earlier than you begin your hike.

Backpacker hiking on rock ledge in high country of Zion National Park
Take pleasure in unbelievable views as you descend down into Zion Nationwide Park on the West Rim Path | Photograph: Mary Caperton Morton

Planning info

  • Permits: Half of the accessible permits for the West Rim Path might be obtained on-line by the Zion Wilderness Reservation web site. Observe that you have to reserve a campsite for every night time of your journey. The opposite half of the campsites can be found on a walk-in foundation on the Zion Nationwide Park Customer’s Heart.
  • Trailhead instructions: The West Rim Trailhead is situated close to Lava Level within the northern part of Zion Nationwide Park.
  • Essential notes: There are a number of personal shuttle operators that present transportation to the West Rim Trailhead. The Zion Nationwide Park shuttle doesn’t present service to this trailhead.

9. Mount Timpanogos

  • Location: Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Nationwide Forest
  • Path Sort: Out and Again
  • Distance: 14.3 miles
  • Instructed Time: 2 days, 1 night time
  • Issue: Arduous
  • Allow wanted? No
  • Finest Seasons: Summer time and early fall

Towering over the better Salt Lake Metropolis metropolitan space, Mount Timpanogos, affectionately generally known as “Timp”, is the second-highest peak within the Wasatch Vary, reaching 11,753 ft in elevation.

The 14.3-mile spherical journey hike to the summit positive aspects over 4,400 ft of elevation and for many individuals, is greatest damaged up into an in a single day hike.

The trek begins on the Timpooneke trailhead, subsequent to the Timpooneke campground, and follows the South Fork River previous Scout Falls up into Timpanogos Basin. Most individuals elect to camp right here, close to Emerald Lake, and deal with the ultimate climb as much as the saddle and scramble alongside the windy ridge to the summit.

On prime, you’ll be rewarded with unparalleled views of the Nice Salt Lake Valley, Utah Lake and Provo Canyon. Mountain goats are sometimes noticed on the encompassing cliffs and ridges.

Watch out for lightning hazard in the summertime, although. It’s greatest to be off the summit by early afternoon to keep away from thunderstorms.

This hike may also be performed from the Aspen Grove Trailhead, which has the same mileage and barely extra elevation acquire, assembly the Timpooneke route close to Emerald Lake.

Woman sitting on summit of Mount Timpanogos in Utah with beautiful mountain ridge vista behind her
Take pleasure in unbelievable vistas on the summit of Mount Timpanogos, the second highest peak in Utah’s Wasatch Vary

Planning info

  • Permits: No allow is required to hike Mount Timpanogos
  • Trailhead instructions: Begin on the Mount Timpanogos North Trailhead. Alternatively, you can begin at Aspen Grove Trailhead and even make it a loop backpacking journey.
  • Essential notes: Mount Timpanogos is thought for late afternoon thunderstorms. Purpose to be off the mountain by early afternoon.

10. Uinta Highline Path

  • Location: Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Nationwide Forest
  • Path Sort: Excessive Uintas Wilderness
  • Distance: 104 miles
  • Instructed Time: 9 days, 8 nights
  • Issue: Arduous
  • Allow wanted? No
  • Finest Seasons: Summer time

Utah’s most well-known long-distance hike follows the crest of the Uinta Mountains, an east-to-west operating mountain vary within the northeast nook of the state. Alongside the best way, you’ll tag King’s Peak, the best level in Utah at 13,528 ft and recognized for being one of the crucial distant excessive factors within the state.

Landscape photo of King's Peak and Uintas Mountain Range in Utah
The Highline Path passes beneath the shadow of King’s Peak, the best level in Utah at 13,528 ft. Hikers have the choice so as to add 1.2 miles to the summit

The Highline Trai might be hiked in both path, however most thru-hikers elect to go from east to west, beginning at McKee Draw and ending at Hayden Cross close to Mirror Lake.

The path crosses eight named mountain passes, throughout 11,200 ft of elevation, altogether gaining and shedding over 16,000 ft of elevation.

Water abounds on this route and might be discovered in lots of small creeks and alpine lake basins and meadows. In between the passes, you’ll dip again into aspen groves and pine forests, which can provide some cowl in the course of the afternoon thunderstorms that usually roll throughout the mountains in late summer season.

The mountain climbing season might be quick within the Uintas, particularly in deep snow years when the passes could stay snow-covered till late July or August.

Planning info

  • Permits: No allow is required to backpack the Highline Path
  • Trailhead instructions: If beginning within the east (the most well-liked path), begin at McKee Draw Trailhead. The western trailhead is on Hayden Cross.
  • Essential notes: In the event you plan on doing the total Highline Path, you’ll must have a resupply plan because the route doesn’t go by any cities.

Utah is house to limitless outside adventures. Listed below are a couple of extra Utah weblog posts that will help you plan an epic journey to this unbelievable state:

Have you ever performed any backpacking journeys in Utah? What are your favourite trails and routes? Which of those are in your bucket checklist? Tell us within the feedback!

Bearfoot Theory | Looking for an adventure in Utah? Look no further than these top backpacking trips! From the red rock canyons of Zion National Park to the remote wilderness of the Uinta Mountains, Utah offers some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in the country. Whether you're a seasoned backpacker or a beginner, this blog post will guide you through the best backpacking trips in Utah, with tips on planning your trip, what to pack, and what to expect on the trail.

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