What are the best hikes in Utah? The answer is debatable, and with good reason — there are literally hundreds of fascinating treks in the Beehive State.
With five national parks, seven national monuments, six national forests, 15 state parks and one or more mountain ranges in each of the state's 29 counties, Utah is a hotbed for hiking opportunities.
For me, the best hike of all is walking in the water through the Narrows in Zion National Park. Here's a brief synopsis of each of my 10 favorite hikes: (Your 10 best obviously aren't going to agree with mine, but then it's always interesting to ponder the favorites of others. You're invited to e-mail me your top 10 hikes to the address below.)
1. Narrows in Zion National Park
This is a unique hike to say the least. There's no set trail, no perceivable elevation change and nothing quite like it anywhere else in the state. You will get wet. You may even have to swim a little.
You're swallowed up by the splendor of the heaven-stretching but sardine-like narrow canyon walls that are up to 1,500 feet high and as little as 20 feet apart. You can make this hike as long or short as you want — an hour, a day or more.
2. Delicate Arch, Arches National Park
The fact that this scenic wonder adorns thousands of Utah license plates should be your first clue at how spectacular this arch is.
This is a great spring or autumn hike, and at only three miles round-trip with a 500-foot elevation gain, it can be a family hike.
3. Timpanogos Peak
Many hikers refer to this as "the best hike in Utah." Indeed, this 11,750-foot mountain has to be the most majestic peak in the state — and it's not even among the 50 tallest summits in Utah.
There are several ways to hike Timp, but the classic way is from Aspen Grove along a 9.4-mile trail that passes numerous waterfalls, cascades, meadows and glaciers. Mountain goats are sometimes spotted along the trail.
4. Angels Landing, Zion National Park
The best views in Zion National Park, Utah's Yosemite, are 1,500 feet above the valley floor, reachable by a five-mile moderately strenuous hike.
This is not a trek for young kids. The final half-mile section of the trail features cliffs and steps where chains have been added for extra safety. The Walter Wiggles switchbacks are amazing. This hike is ideally done in the morning — to beat both the high temperatures the crowds.
5. Frary Peak, Antelope Island
This trail, one of Utah's newest, opened in 1999. You'll find nothing else quite like it in Utah: an accessible mountain peak in the center of a desert island in the middle of an inland sea in the midst of a Great Basin valley, 20 miles or so from a million people.
It's a 4-mile trek to the top, a modest elevation of 6,596 feet. Once there you're treated to a 360-degree view of the Great Salt Lake. The west side of Antelope Island looks like a remote national park.
The only drawback is that the peak is closed for several months each spring during lambing season.
6. Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
No trail in the park beats this one.
It's only a 1.5-mile loop from Sunrise Point with a 521-foot elevation change. Hiking through "The Wall" — a narrow chasm with an 800-year-old Douglas fir tree at its end — make it a delight. Add Twin Bridges, Thor's Hammer and other such wonders, and this trail is unforgettable.
7. Kings Peak, High Uintas
The highest point in Utah, this hikes goes way above timberline to 13,528 feet above sea level.
It's not easy, but those who attempt it experience a wilderness setting with numerous lakes, boulder fields and forests.
8. Notch Peak, House Range
This lesser-known hike in the House Mountains will surely add a special notch to your hiking belt. Located 50 miles southwest of Delta, it's a five-mile, one-way hike through a narrow canyon. There is a 3,225 elevation gain to reach the 9,655-foot peak of this distinctively shaped mountain.
Notch Peak is a premier test for those with acrophobia; it's the state's ultimate drop-off. Only cliffs in Yosemite National Park can rival this one, which is a dream spot for hang-gliders. Look over its northwest edge and it's a 3,000-foot drop, with another 2,000 feet of more gradual slope to Tule Valley. You can find refreshing solitude in this remote hike.
9. Deseret Peak, Stansbury Mountains
This kingpin of the Stansbury Mountains is a "Sky Island," at 11,031 feet above sea level. It's also the centerpiece of a wilderness area of the same name, where postcard views are common. Few people hike this desert oasis, 40 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
Deseret is about a 6-mile hike (one way). Trail mileage estimates vary. That's because many seem to measure this hike by peaceful serenity — not miles.
10. Willard/Ben Lomond Peaks, Wasatch Mountains
At 9,764 feet, Willard is Weber County's tallest point. The view to the west is spectacular, encompassing Willard Bay and the Great Salt Lake. Some churchlike rock spires below create a fantasy atmosphere, and on a clear day you can see into Cache Valley.
The way parts of the trail are cut into the mountain saddle make you feel like you're walking on air. Nearby Ben Lomond Peak, to the southeast (9,712 feet), likely inspired the famous Paramount Motion Picture Co.'s mountain logo — its creator grew up in Ogden.