16 Epic Hikes in Southern Utah NOT in National Parks

Looking for some of the best hikes in southern Utah outside of the national parks? I’ve got some great recommendations for you – read on for details!

I love southern Utah – it’s probably my favorite spot in the entire United States. The desert landscapes, crazy rock formations, red-orange rocks, slot canyons, and adventurous trails just make my heart go pitter-patter!

And while southern Utah is most famous for its national parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion), there is SO much else to see and explore outside of the parks.

In this post, I’m sharing 15 insanely cool hikes in southern Utah outside of the national parks. These might be in state parks or national monuments, or just out in the middle of federal or state land.

All of these are truly fantastic ways to get a little bit off the beaten path and explore more of this beautiful state!

Note: I’ve written about many of these hikes individually, so check out the links in each section for more information about these trails!

16 Epic Hikes in Southern Utah NOT in National Parks

1. Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls is a picturesque waterfall hike in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument just south of Capitol Reef National Park.

The trail goes through a valley between two tall red and white cliffs. Although it’s not a slot canyon, the rock formations are still incredible and even have some petroglyphs in areas.

At the end of the hike, you’ll arrive at Lower Calf Creek Falls: a 126 ft waterfall descending over an orange-tan cliff. There’s a pool around the falls with refreshing, chilly water that’s a few feet deep. You’ll find people jumping in to swim and play during the warmer months but the whole area is gorgeous year-round with trees and a sandy beach to relax on.

It’s best to start this hike right away in the morning to avoid the crowds and heat. The falls area is a nice temperature but the first part of the hike is exposed and hot during the summer. We were glad we started at 7:30am and had lots of water.

It is quite sandy so wearing shoes that don’t take in sand easily will save you from stopping to pour sand out throughout the hike.

  • Distance: 6 miles round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 531 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate 

2. Corona Arch 

Corona Arch glows a deep orange, seen from underneath, against a blue sky. A wonderful hike to do near Arches National Park.

Corona Arch is a hike about 15 minutes outside of Moab (near Arches National Park but not in it) and leads to an impressively large arch. You’ll pass by multiple small arches and caves in the canyon walls as well as some old railroad tracks in the beginning.

An exciting part of the hike happens around a mile in where you hike up a very steep section next to a ridge, hanging onto a chain that’s attached to the cliff. Then you climb a ladder to get up another steep section.

After that, you follow along a curved ridge to get to Corona Arch. You’ll also see Bowtie Arch in this final section, which is a pothole arch – like a ring in a rock ledge.

Overall, I was very impressed with Corona Arch! It can definitely compete with the other arches in the nearby National Park and the trail was gorgeous, unique and exciting.

  • Distance: 2.4 miles round trip, with the option to add 1.2 miles as a spur to see Pinto Arch
  • Elevation: 450 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

3. Red Reef Trail

Red Reef Trail is a gorgeous, family-friendly hike near St George that is sure to be enjoyed by everyone. You begin by hiking towards a red walled canyon where you then come up to a stream.

You follow the stream into a narrow canyon as it twists around, with a few gorgeous waterfalls. You’ll cross the stream a couple of times and have to jump between rocks and climb up a rock using the handholds and footholds at one point.

Despite this, it’s still an easy hike with many picturesque areas. You can explore a little cave and other fun spots created by the curves of the canyon walls. Overall, this is a fantastic hike that definitely has a lot of wow and fun factor! 

  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 219 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

4. Scout Cave

A woman stands at the edge with the cave walls closing around her looking out at the mountains and villages below

Scout Cave is a fun and easy hike in Snow Canyon State Park. You begin by walking through a lava field and then descend into a canyon and hike for a mile along the cliff face. Near the end, you’ll be closer to the city and see the city on one side and the state park on the other which makes for a fun contrast.

The elevation gain comes at the end when you hike from the canyon floor up to the cave. Although it’s a small cave, it’s very photogenic and the trail is calm and beautiful.

Personally, I think Scout Cave is one of the best hikes in Snow Canyon State Park. The parking lot isn’t very big and is the lot for multiple trailheads so be aware that it does fill up easily on weekends.

  • Distance: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 613 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

5. Hidden Pinyon Lookout

A woman in a black and grey shirt stands on the edge of a ledge looking over the descending snow canyon.

This is probably my favorite hike in Snow Canyon State Park! On this trail, you go through boulders and mountains and are able to see the beautiful orange rocks up close.

The trail can be narrow at times and there are some fun spots if you want to stop and climb on the rocks and do some scrambling.

You end up with some phenomenal views over the mountain that make it so worthwhile! This hike is easy enough for kids and is quick, too. 

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 299 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy

6. Lava Flow Trail

A rocky cave opening with lots of pebbles and large pieces of rock in the sandy path.

This trail is another located in Snow Canyon and has both lava rock fields as well as caves you can explore! The scenery is unique since the ground is filled with black lava rocks and the surrounding mountains are a beautiful orange-red.

There are 3 lava caves along the hike, the first being a deep hole you pass by and can explore if you don’t mind a sheer and somewhat difficult entrance and exit.

The second cave is easier to get into but harder to go deep into.

The third cave is the coolest and also the most accessible. You climb down into the surrounding depression then can easily go through the opening into the cave. It gets pretty dark the further you go in so, although a phone flashlight works, a headlamp is definitely useful! Inside is filled with large rocks and boulders to climb and scramble over making for an adventurous time.

Many people turn back after this cave, but there is more to the trail if you want to finish it. You hike past the lava fields, through some desert brush, and right up against the base of a red, orange and white rock mountain. This hike is very fun, unique and also a hit for kids!

  • Distance: 3.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 404 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

7. Elephant Arch Trail

Elephant Arch is very aptly named, as your destination is a rock arch that looks uncannily like an elephant! The hike is very sandy which makes it a little difficult but isn’t too bad since there isn’t much elevation gain.

The arch itself is in the middle of a rocky cliff, and you can climb on the rocks surrounding the arch. There are some fun spots to explore and scramble on, just don’t climb on the actual arch. 

  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 341 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

8. Kanarra Falls

Kanarra Falls is a beautiful hike about 45 minutes north of St. George, by the town of Kanarraville.

You start the hike near a stream and then eventually actually hike through the stream. You’ll enter a slot canyon with reddish walls to continue following the water and have to climb up ladders next to the waterfalls to continue the hike.

You end up in a gorgeous lush area with many different pools and small waterfalls that people are swimming and jumping in. Some pools even have smooth rock areas that you can use to slide down into the water.

This hike is fun, adventurous, and beautiful but you do have to have a permit, which can sell out quickly. It costs $12 per person and they limit hikers to 150 a day. If you know you want to hike here, you should buy permits online in advance since they regularly sell out weeks in advance during the summer.

  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 692 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate

9. Wire Pass to Buckskin Gulch

This super cool slot canyon hike borders the Arizona border in Southern Utah and is only 55 minutes from Page, AZ.

You begin by hiking through the Wire Pass trail, a short slot canyon section that intersects and merges into Buckskin Gulch. The canyons have tall, gorgeous curving walls with views you don’t want to miss!

Buckskin Gulch is actually the longest slot canyon in the world at 16 miles long. Most hikers go several miles in and then turn around and hike back out whenever they want. When we hiked it in February, we were able to hike 2.5 miles in before hitting deep water and needing to turn around.

You could hike a shorter distance or you could make it a multi-day trip and hike all the way to the Colorado River. This is one of my favorite slot canyons in the southwest and it’s definitely worth doing just a section of it!

There is a $6 per person (or dog) permit fee; I’d recommend paying it online beforehand. 

  • Difficulty: Moderate

10. Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park feels like an other-worldly experience with its mushroom-shaped rock formations called “goblins.” This park is tucked away in central Utah and is a very fun place to roam around.

There are three different valleys within Goblin Valley (called Valley 1, 2 and 3) that all have the goblin formations and are surrounded by ridges of tall pinnacles. The fun thing about visiting Goblin Valley is that there are no trails–you can walk, climb, and explore anywhere you want!

Valley 1 is the main section and what most people visit. It’s a large, flat valley with many mushroom-shaped goblins that range from 5-10 feet fall. Valley 2, just over the ridge, has taller rock formations and more hills.

Valley 3 has some great views, especially if you hike up on the perimeter, and is filled with densely packed goblins right up against the edge of a cliff. If you have time and want to get away from the crowds, this is a great option.

There are other hikes in Goblin Valley, but you can’t miss exploring the “playgrounds” of the main valleys!

  • Difficulty: Easy

11. Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch

A tight, twisting section of Peekaboo slot canyon highlighting strata, sharp edges, and pink and orange coloring.

Peekaboo and Spooky Gulch Slot Canyons are a very unique hike (one of my favorites!) in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Spooky Gulch is actually one of the narrowest slot canyons in the world at only 10 inches wide at its narrowest!

Peekaboo Slot Canyon begins with a 15 foot rock wall you’ll need to scale up in order to begin the hike. Once you’re inside, you’ll be enveloped by tall orange and pink rock walls that tightly twist and turn. There are arches you’ll have to duck through and some small ledges and rocks to climb over while you go; it’s lots of fun!

After Peekaboo, you go through some rocky hills and sand dunes to get to the beginning of Spooky Gulch Canyon. Spooky Gulch Canyon has many similarities to Peekaboo but there are a few key differences.

Visually, the rock walls are different, with more knobby protuberances on them. The canyon is also much narrower here and you’ll need to hold your bag and walk sideways for a large chunk of this canyon!

  • Distance: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 604 ft
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time to Complete: 3-4 hours (we took 4 hours, but we were hiking with kids and took a couple of breaks for resting + snacks)

12. Toadstool Hoodoos

Ready for some more hoodoos? Similar to Goblin Valley, Toadstool is a collection of shorter hoodoos in a small valley that you can explore. A major difference, however, is that many of these hoodoos are multi-colored, often resembling mushrooms with their caps.

You’ll find brown on white, red on brown, and a few other color combinations. There aren’t nearly as many as in Goblin Valley, but it’s a cool area to explore, and it doesn’t take much time; it also features some cool vistas.

Go to the west (left side) to see a large area of active formation and the best views of the surrounding area.

Note: Don’t climb on the toadstools as they are extremely fragile and will break easily.

Toadstool Hoodoos is about 2 hours east of Kanab, and is also a great hike to do near Page, Arizona.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Length: 1.2 miles round trip
  • Elevation: ~100 ft

13. Moqui Sand Caves

These sand caves are just north of Kanab and a very fun spot to explore! They are actually human-made and were originally from a sand mine that operated in the 1900s. The hike is very short, but you’ll have to scale up a steep rocky area to reach the caves so make sure to wear grippy shoes and choose your footing carefully.

Once you get up to the caves, you can walk through the cave passageways and stop at the many arched openings that overlook the valley.

  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 124 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate

14. Little Wildhorse Canyon

Little Wild Horse Canyon is a fun slot canyon trail located on the San Rafael Swell about 5 minutes outside of Goblin Valley. You’ll arrive at the canyon after a half mile walk on a wide, sandy wash. The canyon starts out around 10-15 feet wide and gets narrower and taller as you go.

You’ll end up walking along a path that’s only a couple feet wide – so pretty narrow, but plenty wide to fit without having to turn sideways. This makes for lots of shade and cooler temperatures which feels so nice on a hot summer day! The canyon is very visually dynamic and exciting with many horizontal layers in the rock walls, different ledges to climb on, and small “caves” to sit in.

When we did this hike with our whole family, we decided to just go to the section of the trail that was the “most slotty”, so we went in about 1.5 miles and then turned around (for a round trip total of just under 3 miles). 

  • Distance: You can either do an out-and-back hike in Little Wild Horse Canyon, which is 3.6 miles one way. Alternatively, you can do a loop hike, by hiking through Little Wild Horse, walking down behind the Reef Road, and then back out neighboring Bell Canyon. This loop is 8 miles total.
  • Elevation Gain: We gained 328 feet in our 2.8 mile round trip hike
  • Difficulty: Easy

15. Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park is a massive hidden gem in Utah, especially in the popular Moab area (where Arches and Canyonlands are located). The West Rim Trail is probably the best trail in the park.

It starts out at the Dead Horse Point Overlook (pictured above), and takes you along the west rim of the canyon, where you will pass multiple viewpoints of different angles of the canyon.

  • Distance: 3.5 miles to 7 miles, depending on if you combine with other hikes in the area
  • Difficulty: Moderate

16. Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument, in the southeastern corner of Utah, is home to 3 incredible and massive natural bridges. The natural bridges are located in a deep yet narrow gorge, and while you can view the bridges from the canyon rim, you can also hike down to the canyon floor to see them up close and personal.

The hikes down to the bridges are exceptionally fun and adventurous. You’ll hike down a variety of steps – some carved directly into the stone, some wood or stone staircases, and others metal staircases attached to the smooth rock.

You’ll also get to descend ladders and walk along cliffs and under overhangs, with great views of the bridge throughout the hike down.

Sipapu and Kachina Bridge each require a 1.5 mile round trip hike down, where you’ll drop 400 feet in 3/4 mile. It’s short but steep! (But well worth the effort)

Tips For These Trails

  • Always check the forecast before doing a slot canyon, as flash floods can and do come out of nowhere, and can and do kill hikers every year.
  • Bring enough water. Seriously, do not skimp on the water – bring about 4 L per person per day in the hot season.
  • Download offline maps for navigation. You will often be without cell service in the backcountry of Utah, so you’ll definitely want to download Google Maps for offline use to be able to navigate and pull up driving directions.
  • We love using AllTrails Pro to navigate and track our hikes. It’s ~$35/year, but if you do even a moderate amount of hiking per year, it’s worth the cost.

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