Canyonlands National Park is enormous: 525 square miles—and the best way to see it is on foot. Hikes can be short; the Mesa Arch is only a half mile round trip, or they can be long and difficult with up to 2000-foot elevation changes from rim to river. Hiking in each of the three districts can offer completely different experiences, from massive views in the Island in the Sky to surreal landscapes in the Needles District to some of the finest examples of “rock art” in the western hemisphere at the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon in the remote and rugged Maze District. Hikers in Canyonlands need to be prepared for the backcountry: plenty of food and water (a gallon per day per person in warm weather!), a map and compass, proper layering, good shoes, a hat and sunglasses; hiking poles are a great piece of gear to aid your journey!
The most popular Mighty 5 park is Zion Canyon, a two-thousand foot deep canyon carved by the Virgin River. Hiking Zion usually involves climbing up a portion or all of the height of the canyon walls to places like the infamous Angel’s Landing and its extreme exposure, or Observation Point and its view all the way down the canyon. Gentler hikes include visiting the Weeping Wall; a vertical face with water seeping out all over; the Emerald Pools; or climbing up the goofy Walter’s Wiggles to Scout’s Landing. There are also hikes and adventures available for those who don’t mind getting wet — walking in the river through the Narrows, or for the truly adventurous, there’s a variety of “canyoneering” routes — highly technical travel using ropes to navigate tight steepwater courses. Zion is not a good place to be in a storm, as lightning hazards exist on the rim, and flash floods are a real threat in the narrower passages. Pay attention to the weather beforehand if you’re heading to the Mighty 5’s most-visited park.
Bryce is the land of the hoodoos, tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins and "broken" lands. The hoodoos in Bryce are isolated towering blocks of pink rock supported on narrow columns of pastel hued broken sandstone; the blocks act like umbrellas supporting their own pedestals. Hiking in Bryce involves dropping from the ponderosa pine-covered rim of the Paunsaugunt Plateau down into hoodoo land. The Navajo, Peekaboo, and Fairyland loops all present surreal topography amongst the balanced features, while rim walks offer fantastic views into the eroding walls of the Plateau and out over the entire Grand Staircase — a series of plateaus descending from the height of the Aquarius at over 11,000 ft. to the Kaibab and the north rim of the Grand Canyon — a swath of thousands of square miles. Be prepared with hiking poles and plenty of water. Because because Bryce’s rim is over 9000 feet above sea level, you can expect cooler weather.
Hiking in Capitol Reef can take you through historic passages marked with ancient etchings on the canyon walls of Capitol Wash and the Fremont River. The Capitol Reef also offers absolutely surreal views on the Navajo Knobs, Upper Muley Twist trails or the Strike Valley Overlook. Just getting to the Strike Valley Overlook and Upper Muley Twist trails is a blast; either driving south along the Waterpocket Fold to the Burr Trail or coming east out of the Grand Staircase National Monument. Many of the drainages coming out of the Waterpocket Fold are worthy of a hike as well (though some require the skilled use of ropes). As with the rest of the Mighty 5 parks, summer in Capitol Reef can be hot with the sun reflecting off the barren rock — and some of the trails take you deep in the backcountry — so come prepared!
America’s National Parks have some of the best hiking anywhere — and here in Utah, we're lucky enough to have the Mighty 5® Parks in our backyard.
Most hikes in Arches National Park are day hikes. The most popular hike at Arches is to the most famous on the planet, Delicate Arch, a mile and a half and a 500-foot climb from the parking lot. The Devil’s Garden primitive loop is the longest trail in Arches (7.2 miles) and passes the longest natural span in the world, Landscape Arch. Short hikes can be found at the Windows section, Park Avenue, or to Skyline and Sand Dune Arches; a more off-the-beaten-path experience can be found by hiking to Tower Arch. All you need for these hikes is a sturdy pair of shoes and plenty of water.
1 a long walk, especially in the country or wilderness.
It’s one of my favorite things to do; hiking has brought me to places I’d never visit otherwise and has given me unforgettable experiences. I’ve seen, heard, felt, smelled, and yes, even tasted things that I would have missed had I not been hiking. I’ve met some amazing people while hiking, and learned much about plants, animals, birds, rocks, clouds, wind, rain, snow—all because of hiking. I’ve taken hour-long hikes for a bit of exercise, or just to clear my head. I’ve also hiked for a couple weeks or months on end just to be one with nature and celebrate life; I call this “wilderness therapy.” I’ve discovered ancient artifacts and even a previously undocumented natural bridge. But the best discovery of all? Myself.