Hiking in Arizona and Utah are known for their fantastic surroundings and incredible geological wonders. Odd shapes and colorful red rocks keep the hikes interesting and overwhelm photographers with endless photographic opportunities. Here are the best of Arizona and Utah.
The Wave, AZ
If you get a chance to visit The Wave in Arizona, you are pretty lucky because it is very difficult to obtain a permit as they only allow twenty people a day to visit due to the fragility of the sandstone. They offer ten online permits that must be book months in advance, or you can attend the lottery the morning before for a chance to win a spot out of ten. My family of four took our chances at the lottery and were extremely pleased to secure our permits! However, the rest of the room of mostly couples seemed annoyed that 4 spots were just taken. It is located in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes. The trek starts in Utah, crossing over the border into Arizona. There is no marked path or map (or else people would be trying to sneak in for free), but the Bureau of Land and Management will give you a secret set of directions, with photos of landmarks to head towards. This is a destination on every hiker and photographer’s bucket list for it stunning marbled, undulating, and colorful shapes. The rock formation is basically sand dunes frozen in time from he Jurassic era. You can even see an indentation in the lines where a dinosaur is believed to have stepped. During the hotter months, some visitors suffer from heat stroke or dehydration, get disoriented and can’t find their way back and end up sleeping stranded in the cold dessert night. Please, dress appropriately and be prepared with plenty of water and snacks.
Antelope Canyon, AZ
Another hiker and photographer’s paradise, this slot canyon east of Page, Arizona offers incredible colors and light shining through the narrow canyons. There are actually two separate sections: Upper Antelope Canyon or The Crack, and Antelope Canyon or The Corkscrew.
Horseshoe Bend, AZ
This famous picturesque geological structure formed by the Colorado River is accessible by car or by hiking 1.5 miles round trip from US Route 89. It is five miles downstream from Lake Powell which is about four miles from Page, Arizona. The canyon is 1, 000 feet deep, so the views from the overlook are breathtaking.
The Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
One of America’s most famous landmarks, the Grand Canyon is also one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. It’s average depth is one mile, with an average width of ten miles, and stretches an incredible 277 miles, cut by the Colorado River. The south rim is more accessible and more popular with visitors, but if you’re coming from Utah, the north rim is still worth the visit. The south rim sits at 7,000 feet above sea level, while the north rim sits at 8,000 feet above sea level, so take some time to get acclimated before attempting any major hikes. For a not so crowded hike, take the Hermit Trail on the south rim to discover an epic display of cross section canyon formations. At the bottom, you can find a cool spring in an alcove of Coconino sandstone. It is seven miles round trip dropping 1,700 feet into the gorge, so plan accordingly.
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Utah has interesting rock formations called hoodoos which are sandstone spires that rise up in intriguing shapes up to your imagination. Fantastic hikes to admire the hoodoos are the Queen’s Garden Trail and the Peekaboo Trail which together form a 6.5 mile figure eight loop. You can admire the scenic view of thousands of hoodoos standing tall from Sunrise point, then drop into Bryce Amphitheather to walk among the hoodoos on the Garden Trail. Peekaboo Trail has a lot of windows that let blue sky peak through the bright red and orange formations. There is a big hoodoo that looks like E.T. and a narrow canyon to end the hike called Wall Street for its tall walls. The hike isn’t very challenging, so if you’re game, go for the eight mile Fairyland Loop, which is popular for full moon hikes.
Cedar Breaks National Monument, UT
This massive amphitheater has several outlook points that are accessible by car, which offer impressive views. A local ranger will even give you geology lesson and point out special formations with mythical stories behind them as you snap photos of the never ending hoodoos, pinnacles, spires, and arches. If you visit after it snows, the contrast of white and red is magnificent. The rim is 10,000 feet above sea level and hiking in Cedar Breaks can be very challenging, so please take caution. Rattlesnake Creek Trail is nine miles and considered strenuous, dropping 2,5000 feet within four miles. The treat for taking this challenge is the Flanigan Arch, 100 feet tall and fifty feet wide. Two easier, shorter hikes along the rim are Alpine Pond Taril and Spectra Point.Ramparts Overlook Trail.
Zion National Park, UT
When you initially drive through this park, it seriously feels as if you have time traveled to a prehistoric time and a lurking dinosaur may come around a corner at any moment. The amazement and wonder of Zion makes me want to return to see more. A whole week can be spent here camping and hiking its natural beauty. One of the most famous hikes, Angels Landing, is not for those with a fear of heights. This adventurous hike ascends 1,488 feet from the center of the canyon. Walter’s Wiggles are the twenty one intense, steep, narrow, switchbacks carved right into the sandstone. At the top, the sheer drop offs are accompanied by chains bolted into the cliff to give hikers a hand. This leads to Scout Lookout with a view of the Virgin River and an ariel view of the canyon floor. Another adventurous hike without any incline, is The Narrows. Get suited up in boots and waterproof overalls, and use a giant wooden stick to navigate upstream through the Virgin River. This is only accessible when the water is low enough. The further you go, the narrower the red walls become. Looking up in amazement of the height while balancing on rocks as the water pushes against you is a neat experience.
Arches National Park, UT
In eastern Utah along the Colorado Rive, five miles north of Moab, you will find the amazing Arches National Park. Home of over 2,500 natural stone arches and other uniquely distinctive formations, this park draws the attention of hikers and photographers alike. There is little to no shade in this park and temperatures can rise to 100 degree Fahrenheit, so avoid hiking between 10am and 6pm, the hottest hours of the day. The good news for hikers, is that most viewers take in the sights from afar in a motorized vehicle, so you won’t be crowded when admiring its triumph up close. There are numerous hikes and landmarks to see, but the main attraction is The Delicate Arch, which symbolizes Utah. It is a four mile hike round trip up and down. Something unique about this trail is the the petroglyphs at the trailhead. Have fun exploring and roaming about this vast park and enjoy the sights.