Utah & The Mighty Five
Updated: Mar 29, 2022
Zion - Bryce - Lower Calf Creek - Canyonlands - Capitol Reef - Dead horse State Park - Diamond Fork Hot Springs - Kanarraville Falls - Monument Valley -
To me UTAH is probably one of the most underrated states in America. It is home to the "Mighty Five" meaning 5 National Parks as well as various state parks and various trails. Each park is so unique and has something new to offer! Follow along as I break down each adventure.
Arches National Park
Our last day in Moab we had to stop at Arches but sadly did not have much time to explore it! We had planned to hike to Delicate Arch and do Double Arch but only had time for Double Arch.
Arches National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Bryce Canyon National Park
While in 2017 Nita and I did not get to check this one off the Mighty 5, my brother Peter and I decided we definitely needed to make the stop since it was not too far from our campsite! Luckily, we were able to score a free Annual Park Pass since my brother is in the Military which covered entrance for both of us! Otherwise the pass is $80 for the year and is always a great investment especially if you are in Utah and plan to stop at the other 4 national parks.
Bryce Canyon National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Once in the park we decided to hit Inspiration point trail first. This trail has three different points as you hike uphill to overlook the canyon. Make sure to wear your hiking boots and wool socks! At each point you can overlook the various Hoodoos that fill the canyon formed from unique erosion.
Sunset Point - Navajo Loop Trail
The next stop was at Sunset Point to start the Navajo Loop Trail which has the option to connect to the Queens Garden Trail which is part of Sunrise point.
We started with the trail heading down into the canyon towards wall street. The trail is filled with switchbacks and various tunnels until we reached the bottom and could experience the various terrain.
We then took the loop around, passing the two bridges and Thors Hammer.
Sunrise Point - Queens Garden Trail
Our last hike in Bryce we decided to stop at Sunrise Point for the Queens Garden Trail.
Canyonlands National Park
Plan Your Visit - Canyonlands National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Shafer Off Road Trail
Following our night in Moab, we spoke with some locals who recommend the Shafer off-road Trail which is about 18 miles long and starts in Canyonlands National Park and goes through the backwoods passing Moab Evaporation Pons (blue green water in the middle of the desert) and then back out into Moab. While not my picture, I have supplied a photo from google to show the birds eye view of the Pools.
Capitol Reef National Park
We only got to check out a small portion of Capitol Reef National Park but there is definitely so much more to explore!
Capitol Reef National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Hickman Bridge Trail
Dead Horse Point State Park
Legend has it that the name comes from the 19th century cowboys that used to round up the wild mustangs and would gather them on the peninsula that juts out about 2000 feet above the Colorado River, blocking them off in this area till the elements would get the best of them.
Dead Horse Point State Park | Utah State Parks
Diamond Fork (Fifth Water) Hot Springs
Definitely recommend stopping by this trail while near the Salt Lake City. This was the end of our trip and it was great to admire all the trees changing colors for the fall on the 4.5 miles RT hike and to help our legs recovery from all our hiking!
Kanarra Creek Canyon & Falls
Found in Iron County just outside of Zion is the Kanarra Falls Trail Head. When we went in 2017, tickets were not needed, but now they limit the hike to 150 people per day! The round trip hike through canyons and shallow rivers all the way to the second waterfall is about 6 miles. Due to the time of day we went, we only made it to the first waterfall, which is about 3.8 miles round trip.
Kanarra Falls | Kanarraville, Utah
I would definitely recommend this hike earlier in the day due to the poor lighting at the waterfall and slot canyon because we hiked this so late in the day!
Lower Calf Creek Falls
Lower Calf Creek Falls is part of the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. This hike is a relatively easy trail and is 6 miles round trip. There is a upper calf creek falls, but it is a more strenuous hike and is a shorter waterfall. The Lower Calf Falls are 128 feet high and descend over a small swimming pool.
Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail Map (blm.gov)
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park | Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation
Zion National Park
Probably one of my favorite national parks I have ever been to and definitely my favorite within Utah is Zion.
Zion National Park Information Guide (nps.gov)
One of the main attractions of Zion is Angels Landing, a strenuous 5.4 miles round trip hike the ascends to heights of 1500 feet above the Zion Canyon. This hike is not for the faint of heart, between the numerous switchbacks and hiking very narrow cliff sides, but the views from the top are not like anything else and I would re-do this hike any time! This hike is part of the Grotto (Stop 6) within the canyon. If you have not been to Zion before, you typically park in town or at the visitor center, then have to take the shuttle into the canyon and/or some people opt to walk to the various spots. During my first visit Zion, we did not need permits to get onto the shuttle, but the second visit to Zion (late 2020) you did need a shuttle time slot permit.
You start at the bottom of the Grotto and the hike takes you up into the back canyon as shown above. From there the numerous 21 step switchback also known as Walter's Wiggles raise you above the canyon, which is about a 1.8-mile stretch of the hike. At the top of Walter's Wiggles you reach Scout Lookout where there are restrooms and most people stop for water or snacks before ascending and descending Angels Landing.
From here begins the fun part where it typically takes most of the time to allow people to pass each other and to be able to hold onto the chain link hand rails as you ascend to the top! Below you can see the view from Scout Look out before entering the last portion of the hike up.
At the top you can walk across and find a spot to sit and enjoy the views of the canyon. There are chipmunks at the top that love to come extremely close and take little snacks from people.
Emerald Pools Trail has three portions: a lower, a middle, and an Upper Emerald Pool, which all begin at the Zion Lodge (Stop 5) in the canyon. These different pools are all 1.2, 2.2 and 1 mile trips in which swimming is not allowed in any of them. Peter and I decided to hike all three then take the Kayenta trail which connects from the Upper Emerald Pool to the Grotto, where you can pick up the shuttle bus again.
The other biggest attraction of Zion is the Narrows, which begins at the Temple of Sinawava (Stop 9). This hike attracts all ages because at anytime you can turn around and return to the bus stop. The first portion of this hike is about 1.1 miles along the Riverside Walk and is well paved. From here, you can walk down off the trail and cool off in the waters. Once completed, the hike can be as long as 9.4 miles round trip for the "bottom - up" portion. There is also a top-down trail you can take but this requires a permit and hiking overnight. I would definitely recommend strong waterproof hiking boots and hiking poles for this hike. Outfitters in town by the Visitor Center do rent out gear specifically for those trying to do this hike, where in some portions of the hike you end up in chest-high waters!