Southern Utah is filled with unique hiking opportunities. From slot canyons to rock scrambling, and hoodoos to waterfalls, hiking in Southern Utah is a must for those who love the outdoors. While the Mighty 5 national parks do account for many of the best hikes in Southern Utah, this post will share some Southern Utah hikes beyond the national parks. Here are some of my favorite Southern Utah hiking spots as well as a few other contributions from avid hikers.
Hiking Southern Utah: Map View
If you are planning to visit Southern Utah on a national parks road trip, consider taking some time to explore other areas of this scenic state. In fact, some of the most scenic drives in Utah can be found in this area of the state. Below is a map of the best hikes in Southern Utah (ranging in ability from difficult to kid-friendly).
Note – By no means is this list all-encompassing. There are so many other Southern Utah hikes that are not on this list; however, this is a great starting point.
10 Best Hikes in Southern Utah (Not in National Parks)
Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is just over an hour from Moab and is one of the more popular state parks in Utah. Often described as “otherworldly”, the goblin formations are the star of the show here. You will have to pay to enter this state park, but can stay here as long as you like.
There is no dedicated trail, visitors park and descend into the valley to climb and play. While Goblin Valley is a great place for anyone, kids will particularly enjoy this natural playground. I would consider this one of the easy hikes in Utah, as you can choose how much you would like to challenge yourself climbing and there is no official trail. If you were to ask our kids, this was one of the highlights of our entire Utah experience and, for us, one of the best hikes in Southern Utah. I can’t wait to return and stay in the campground or maybe even rent the yurt on site. If you have bikes, there is also a mountain bike trail within the park.
Little Wild Horse Canyon
About fifteen minutes down the road from Goblin Valley is Little Wild Horse Canyon. This popular slot canyon is one of the well-known hikes in Southern Utah. It can be done as a loop if you add Bell Canyon; however, it makes the trek 8 miles. Parking was located on a small, dirt lot and the trailhead signs were not clearly marked.
Our kids (10 and 12 at the time) enjoyed walking through the slot canyon and “crab-walking” on all fours a couple of times. There were a couple of sections we did have to climb, but it was not too difficult. We had to get to Capitol Reef National Park, so we hiked maybe a mile or so and then headed back. This was a great hike, and I hope to be able to return to complete the loop in the future.
Something to note about this trail is that it should not be attempted right after heavy rain or during periods of potential flash floods. This is common when hiking in Southern Utah. If you are concerned, check with the ranger at Goblin Valley to see if this is an issue.
Dry Fork Narrows, Peek-a-boo, and Spooky Slot Canyons
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a great place to visit for those interested in hiking Southern Utah beyond the national parks. Explore some of the best slot canyons on the trail to Dry Fork Narrows, Peek-a-boo, and Spooky Slot Canyons. This 6.3-mile difficult out-and-back hike starts at the Dry Fork Trailhead off Hole in the Rock Road. Get here early to get a parking spot and beat the afternoon heat.
The hike begins on an exposed, sandy trail before descending about 300 feet to the slot canyon entrances. Explore Dry Fork Narrows first, the widest of the 3 slot canyons. A flat 1-mile trail leads you out-and-back through Dry Fork Narrows. Continue the hike on a loop through Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons. Scramble your way through the narrow Peek-a-boo canyon before emerging up above the canyon. Follow the trail markers about a 0.25 miles to the entrance for Spooky slot canyon. Spooky slot canyon is narrow and winding, requiring squeezing and ducking around the canyon walls. Spooky features a 10-foot drop about halfway through. While not essential, it can be helpful to bring a rope to descend safely. Finish the adventurous hike with the steep climb back to the trailhead.
This hike is a perfect introduction to slot canyons for intermediate hikers and great for athletic kids who love to explore. On your Utah road trip, be sure to bring plenty of water, particularly in the summer, as the unshaded area of the trail can get very hot. As always with slot canyons, do not attempt if there is a risk of rain or thunderstorms as flash floods can fill the canyons.
Contributed by: Julia from Well Planned Journey
Calf Creek Falls
Another one of the popular Southern Utah hikes is Lower Calf Creek Falls in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. You’ll find the trail-head just off Utah Scenic Byway 12, the highway between Escalante and Boulder. Allow approximately 3-4 hours for this 6-mile, in and out hike. The trail is relatively flat and takes you past two granaries, beaver dams, and an impressive pictograph on the way to the falls. Just when it seems like you can’t possibly go any further, you hear gurgling water and are treated to spectacular views of a stunning waterfall seemingly in the middle of nowhere!
Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it in view of this gorgeous backdrop. Many hikers even stop to take a swim in the chilly water. Much of the hike is un-shaded, so don’t forget your sunscreen and bring plenty of water. But also bring a jacket because once you get to the falls, it gets very cool. It’s a long hike, but so worth it!
Contributed by: Lynne from Well-Caffeinated Traveller
Belly of the Dragon
Belly of the Dragon hike near Kanab, Utah is probably one of the most unique hikes you could do in the state. It is a hike through a long, tube-like cave with 2 entrances that literally looks like a large intestine of some sort of a huge monster. Part of the hike is in the cave and the other part is outside, along the bottom of a hidden canyon.
It is one of the easy hikes in Utah, and less than 2 miles both ways, with no elevation gain, which makes it great for kids or those who don’t want anything too strenuous. If you walk all the way till the end of the canyon you will encounter a small waterfall. We visited in winter and the bottom of the canyon was dry but in spring, I assume, a small creek flows there from the aforesaid waterfall that will be fed by melting snow and rains.
Parking is off Highway 89; there is a short dirt road leading to the start of the hike, just drive till you see an entrance to a huge cave and then park anywhere in its vicinity. There is no entrance or parking fee. When you are in the area check out other not to miss Utah attractions.
Contributed by: Tatiana from Family Road Trip Guru
Kanarra Creek Falls
Kanarra Creek Falls is a stunning waterfall in Kanarraville, Utah. It is about an hour north of Zion National Park and a popular summer spot for those looking for Southern Utah hiking spots to cool off. This hike is maintained by the city of Kanarraville and there is a permit fee of $12 you will need to pay to hike to the waterfall. This is also your ticket as it is limited to 150 hikers per day. This slot canyon in Utah has been formed over the years from the rain and wind that goes through it. There are several waterfalls along the way but the first main waterfall is about 1.5 miles into the canyon. The second waterfall is about another mile in and you need to use ropes and ladders to get to it.
Do note this is not a normal hike on a path. The first part of it is dirt but you will be walking along the stream of water to get to the waterfalls. Over the years this hike has become more and more popular so it is great to see that they are limiting the number of people who can do this hike per day. If you are interested in doing this hike, be sure to get your permits first well in advance, as they do sell out. The best time of year to do this hike is from April – October and make sure you check the weather as there is a chance of flash floods if it is raining.
Contributed by: Nicole from American SW Obsessed
While Bryce Canyon has plenty of incredible hikes to fill your time, it’s worth leaving a little time to explore the nearby state parks. Kodachrome Basin State Park, just a quick 35 minute drive from Bryce, has more than 12 miles of trails that offer incredible views of the area which features monolithic stone spires.
One of the easy hikes in Utah that shouldn’t be missed in Kodachrome Basin State Park is the Panorama Trail. This 3.1 mile hike is perfect for families and especially those hiking with toddlers. It’s a relatively flat and wide trail with plenty to see along the way. With hoodoos, white chimney-like spires, a Secret Passage, and panoramic views, there’s enough to keep everyone engaged. You won’t find much for shade on this trail, so make sure you pack hats, sunscreen, and plenty of water. Better yet, start early in the day to avoid that hot midday sun!
If 3.1 miles isn’t long enough, there are other segments of trails to add on that would bring the hike closer to 6 miles long. The Panorama Trail parking just under a mile north of the visitor center and is shared with the Grand Parade Trail, though the Panorama Trail starts across the road.
Contributed by: Celine from Baby Can Travel
The Toadstool Hoodoos Trail is one of the easy hikes in Utah perfect for kids. It is a short and scenic hike right near the border of Utah & Arizona, in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The trail is 1.8 miles round trip and is an easy, mellow hike that is also dog-friendly. To get there, you can simply input “Toadstool Hoodoos” into your Google Maps to arrive at the trailhead. The trail is open year-round, and there are no fees or permits needed.
The sandy trail starts off in a wash located in a small canyon. The trail itself feels like you are hiking on Mars. The terrain is seriously out of this world! At the end, you’ll reach the unique Toadstool Hoodoos rock formations, which look like rock mushrooms. The first toadstool you encounter may look familiar to you, as it’s featured in many Utah guidebooks. It’s definitely a great photo-op! This hike is a must-do when you are in the area, and leaves you plenty of time and energy afterward to keep exploring the other awesome spots in Southern Utah!
Contributed by: Lauren from Ready, Set PTO
Fisher Towers hike in Moab is a lesser-known hike that often gets overlooked by visitors coming to see Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Located just off the scenic highway 128, this hike is located in a small campground that offers stunning views of the area. It is one of the Southern Utah hikes that are not well known and would make for a great stop on your way in or out of Moab.
This hike is 5.2 miles out and back and is rated as moderate. It takes about 2-3 hours to complete start to finish, but since this is an in-and-out trail you’re free to hike as far out as you want before turning around. There are plenty of sights to see and photo opportunities without hiking to the end of the trail! This hike features some incredible red rock cliffs and canyons, a descent down to the valley, and then ascent back up to the rim where you will be rewarded with views of the Fisher Towers and Colorado River Canyon. Unlike the nearby national parks, this hike allows dogs on leash so you’re welcome to bring fido on the trip!
Contributed by: Dalya from Sweet Little Journey
Hiking in Southern Utah is filled with countless trails to explore, especially with its five national parks. Located just outside of Arches National Park, Corona Arch is one of the best hikes in Southern Utah not located in a national park. The trailhead is located right across from Gold Bar Campground and the Colorado River. There is parking at the trailhead, but if it is full, there is another parking lot very close by.
This hike is 3 miles round trip, and much less crowded than other hikes in Arches National Park. The hike to the arch was not difficult, but it did involve some scrambling and using a safety cable. The arch itself is huge and I loved that it was not as crowded! If you are looking for a longer hike, you can add Bowtie Arch and Pinto Arch which have spur trails from the Corona Arch Trail.
Why You Should Consider Hiking in Southern Utah
Hiking in Southern Utah should definitely be on your outdoor bucket list. There are so many scenic Southern Utah hikes that are not found in the national parks. While that is where most first time visitors flock to, consider spending more time on lesser-known hikes in Southern Utah. Honestly, our family did focus the majority of our time in Utah on the five national parks. We were able to get a free fourth-grade national parks pass, and completed many junior ranger programs. One of our favorite hikes in Utah was Delicate Arch.
If you are planning a trip for the first time, I would recommend you spend most of your time in the Mighty Five because they are national treasures. However, if you have about two weeks, consider adding these other trails mentioned above when hiking in Southern Utah.
Although this list covers many hikes in Southern Utah, I am sure we missed plenty of others. Southern Utah is filled with awesome hiking adventures. Let me know in the comments below some of your favorites that weren’t mentioned, and I’ll be sure to add it to my list when we return.
I hope you enjoyed this post about hiking Southern Utah. Pin it for later if you are interested in visiting any one of these great spots listed above.
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