Utah is home to majestic scenery, namely beautiful mountains, vast lakes and rivers, and even a few national parks. Whether you venture north, central, or south, you’re sure to find an outdoor adventure along the way. Many people who live up north and don’t necessarily enjoy the colder winter months, like to venture down to Southern Utah for a change of scenery and options for adventure. When looking for opportunities to get away, it’s a good idea to keep in mind the various possibilities that Southern Utah has to offer to the outdoor enthusiast.
Hiking, biking, trail riding, off-roading, and water options are all part of what’s available down south. No matter what the purpose or preference is, there is sure to be an adventure waiting that will suit each person’s goals. Southern Utah’s deserts are some of America’s most iconic scenery and perfect for adventurers in the west. Boasting five national parks, or the “Mighty Five” as they are sometimes referred to, there is opportunity for many choices and locations for people to enjoy this awe-inspiring landscape. Over many years, the national parks in Southern Utah have become more popular and have skyrocketed with tourists. Because of this influx of visitors, it has made it somewhat tough to find the peace and solitude that so many seek. The good news is that the desert is expansive and quite undeveloped, which gives visitors the chance to recreate an adventure outside of the parks.
In the southwestern part of the state, you’ll find 4 popular destinations for outdoor adventures and trail riding, Candy Cliffs of Yant Flat, Chuckwalla Trail to Scout Cave, Red Cliffs Trail, and Kanarra Creek Trail. Candy Cliffs is a largely unknown area and is a great example of what is awaiting when you get onto a dirt road. You’ll find a short trail that leads to quite a large open territory, perfect for riding horses, ATV’s, or other vehicular craft.
Chuckwalla Trail starts in the northern suburbs of St. George and leads to a large cave, which overlooks part of Snow Canyon. It is connected to a larger system of trails called the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. It’s not quite as remote as some other locations, but the draw is that it is free and not too many people venture out along the trails at any given time.
Like Chuckwalla, the Red Cliffs Trail is part of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve and is located just outside the town of Leeds beyond St. George. True to its name, the trail offers views of soaring red rock cliffs, beautiful waterfalls, and camping and historical trails nearby.
The last of the trails available in the southwest is Kanarra Creek Trail. It used to be quite unknown but has been gaining popularity in recent years. Kanarra boasts slot canyons and red rock waterfalls sandwiched in between giant valley walls. This trail is perfect for taking a leisurely afternoon hike or horse ride up to these magnificent views.
Venturing a little to the east, you’ll come across the south-central part of the state. Here you’ll find 3 of the most popular outdoor locations for different activities. Bring your horse, hiking boots, or ATV, and you’ll be set for an adventure that will be top notch. In south central you’ll find, Little Wild Horse Canyon, Reflection Canyon, and Peek a Boo Slot and Spooky Gulch.
If you’re looking for an off-trail hike or riding path, look at Little Wild Horse Canyon. This is a pretty popular trail considering it’s somewhat out-of-the-way, which may prove to be enticing to many seeking an outdoor adventure. Accessing this trail is fairly easy because it connects to many slot canyons. Just outside Goblin Valley, locals find this hike to be a favorite in the San Rafael Swell.
Boasting a more difficult adventure is Reflection Canyon. Taking 20-miles round-trip, you’ll find yourself in a remote corner of Lake Powell with stunning scenery. Even getting to the unmarked trailhead is a journey in and of itself, so if a rugged, rough terrain adventure is what you’re seeking, this is it. Despite the lack of ease that accompanies this hike, the reward is definitely worth it.
Part of Coyote Gulch, which is a long backpacking trail that is quite difficult to attempt, is a shorter 3 mile loop that takes you directly to some of the narrowest slot canyons in Utah, called Peek A Book Slot and Spooky Gulch. Although it is a shorter trip, be careful of the possible danger that these narrow slot canyons pose. Southern Utah is known for its somewhat unpredictable flash floods, and if you happen to be caught in a narrow slot canyon during one of these times, you’d be in quite a predicament. Check weather reports and talk to locals before attempting this exciting, but risky adventure.
In the eastern portion of the state, 3 more outdoor locations await exploration. Here you’ll find Corona Arch, Natural Bridges Loop, and Mule Canyon.
Corona Arch is home to the largest arch in Utah that is not located inside a national park, it is simply breathtaking! The ease of this trail is suitable to beginning outdoor enthusiasts all the way to the more experienced. Across from the Colorado River, you’ll start on the trail and continue on until you reach two arches located just a few yards from each other.
If it’s a more remote adventure you’re seeking, try out Natural Bridges Loop and National Monument. Many consider this trail to have the darkest skies in the lower 48 states. There is not much light in this area, so you’re sure to get a good view of the sky, stars, and galaxies. In fact, if you take the time to plan your trip during a new moon, you’ll be able to see and experience the Milky Way more clearly than you’ve ever been able to before.
Lastly, Mule Canyon is home to some famous native ruins. One such ruin is the iconic ruin known as “House on Fire”. This ruin shows just how ingenious indigenous people truly were. Even after roughly 700 years, the structures are still holding up for many to enjoy. An interesting rock formation is present around these ruins that looks very similar to a mule, hence the name of the canyon. Boasting a fairly easy hike, with mostly flat terrain, this is a destination that the whole family can enjoy.
To wrap up these destinations, because many of them boast a more remote location, it’s a good idea to do a little more planning beforehand. You might want to be prepared with a little more gear and keep a backup plan just in case things don’t go as planned. Many of these locations don’t have cell reception, so make sure to inform others of where you are going and how long you should be gone for. As long as you prepare accordingly and don’t rush into visiting these places on a whim, you’re sure to have a good time exploring the beautiful outdoor scenery that Utah has to offer, all while getting away to a warmer destination.