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Here’s a list of my top five favorite places to hike in southern Utah, chosen based on trails that are less crowded and off the beaten path. Two are from the Grand Staircase-Escalante Region, an area of more than two million acres with only one maintained trail. Spring and fall is the perfect time to check out southern Utah before the heat becomes unbearable. Click on the links to learn more.
5. Zebra/Tunnel Slot Canyon
Zebra Canyon is called one of the most photogenic slot canyons. The striped walls are what give this canyon its name. Wear waterproof shoes—not for water but sand—we had stop constantly to dump silt out of our boots. This is first of the slots along the Hole in the Rock Road, about 8 miles down. Keep in mind, none of the trails are marked or their trailheads. The trail is found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of the most remote parks in the country. It has only one maintained trail in the entire park, which brings us to:
4. Lower Calf Creek Falls
Bring a swimsuit on this one. The clear emerald waters will mock you with its siren call if you don’t. The hike is six miles round trip but doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain. We almost needed a machete to cut through the caterpillars hanging from the trees but other than that it’s a lovely hike. Please report back if you manage to spot the petroglyphs supposedly there. There is a campsite at the trailhead but it’s first come first serve and fills up quickly during the peaks seasons. This is the only marked trail in the entire Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
3. Willis Creek Slot
The challenge of this slot is not the hike but the drive to get there. The trail is outside Kodachrome State Park (south of Bryce), about six miles down a dirt road. If recently graded, the road can be accessed with a car. If it’s recently rained, take something tougher. Some slots, like Zebra, take a long hike to get to. Willis requires you to walk across the road to the trailhead and down into the canyon. It immediately descends into a slot that follows a meandering stream that leads you to more solitary than any national park.
2. Little Wild Horse Canyon
I know I said I wouldn’t list the more popular crowded trails but I couldn’t resist including Little Wild Horse. This trail is worth the drive, the crowds, the hike, everything. Go, you won’t regret it. While you’re there, be sure to stop at Goblin Valley and run around. There’s plenty of camping on BLM ground by the trailhead but the campground at the state park fills up months in advance. The earlier in the morning you hike, the less crowded the trail is. Please check the weather at the ranger station before attempting. We’ve lost lives in this canyon due to flash floods.
1. Fisher Towers
I struggled with including this last hike on the list. It doesn’t show up on the popular hiking trails lists about Moab and not a lot of people think to go up there. Hopefully not enough people read this post to change that. I’ve been camping at the base of these towers since I was a kid. I took more photos of their beauty and majesty than any other last year. Hike at sunset or sunrise when, in the soft light, the trail becomes an almost spiritual experience (photo at top). Located on Hwy 128 about 20 miles up.
For a an outdoor adventure without ever having to get outside, check out the Lost Gorge Mystery series!