Utah is a state recognized by many hikers as one of the best places to go explore the outdoors. Particularly South of Utah contains some of most iconic parks in the world where many tourists flocks these places during the Summer. Three must see spots are Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Coyote Gulch which are only a few hours apart from each other.
My visit took place during Memorial Weekend which was probably not a smart idea considering how this is usually one of the busiest times in the whole year. Don’t expect to find any available hotel rooms or camp grounds within national parks unless you reserve several months in advance. Either way that was not going to stop me from going to enjoy this exciting adventure. You’ll find below a few tips and awesome trails to look forward to if you ever plan on visiting Southern Utah.
Zion National Park:
Zion is Utah’s oldest national park as well as the state’s most visited park. What makes Zion so intriguing is the amazing scenery one can find here. The surroundings here appear so unreal and you want to believe it is some sort of a painting. Another great feature about Zion is that it offers trails for all types of hikers whether you’re into easy or strenuous thrilling hikes.
If you’re looking for the trail that will led to amazing views of the whole park, then you should check out Angel’s Landing. This trail is 5 miles round trip with several switchbacks. It’s considered strenuous mostly because it’s steep in some areas and as you approach the top it can be a little frightening with the narrow pathway.
It is good to know that Zion National Park offers it’s own free shuttle service for visitors to get from one trail head to another. The waits are not that bad as buses pass by every 10-15 minutes.
In the event you are unsuccessful in landing a camping permit within the national park or booking a hotel room, then I advise you to camp at BLM land. BLM land is free federal land for anyone to use and we stayed at a site called the Flying Monkey Mesa which is only 20 minutes from Zion. Very peaceful and I didn’t mind having the place to ourselves.
Bryce National Park:
Bryce National Park is like walking into a wonderland with all the crazy rock formations. These rock formations are called Hoodoos which are caused by erosion and Bryce contains the largest known collection of Hoodoos in the world. Best time to see these rocks up close and in person is during the Winter as the rocks are topped off with snow, which is truly a extraordinary sight to see. Summer time is just as beautiful and more trails open up during this time for hikers to get lost in. If you just want to pass by and get quick glimpses, then Bryce offers a few scenic spots where one can just pull up in the vehicle and snap some quick photos.
We couldn’t find anywhere to camp near Bryce so we decided to stay at a Best Western Hotel which wasn’t too expensive and they had breakfast included with the reservation.
Coyote Gulch is located within the Grand Staircase-Escalante desert and can be hiked within a day though it’s advised to spend at least one night. The trail leads you through a canyon that is roughly 11-12 miles roundtrip. Along the path you will encounter waterfalls, arches, and a natural bridge. Of the whole trip I would vote this place to be my most favorite one to explore due to it’s simple yet stunning views. I also enjoyed this part of the trip because there were less visitors at this location compared to the national parks. Without a doubt I was able to engage into that peace and serenity with mother nature. It is completely free to wonder in this area but still required to obtain a backpacking permit from the Escalante Visitor Center.
If you’re looking for a short cut to the arches rather than starting from the beginning of the trailhead, then you can head straight to sneaker route. It is highly recommended you bring your own rope as you will need it to descend below the canyon. If you don’t have rope then it is still doable but it may require one to slide down the slick rock on their bottom. Looking down can be very intimidating so I don’t suggest any one with a fear of heights or physical limitations to take this route to Coyote Gulch.
Once you make it to the bottom it’s just a matter of finding the best spot to pitch a tent. Although setting up camp anywhere near the water flow would seem ideal, I personally found camping near Jacob Hamblin Arch better. Other than the benefit of being close to one of the main attractions, camping here would allow you to have access to a nearby spring where you can collect fresh water.
The return home:
As the epic hiking trip was coming to an end, we had to make one final stop on our return to Phoenix. What better way to cap off an exhausting yet fulfilling trip than to catch the sunset at Horseshoe Bend with the crew. I can never get tired of seeing this place and this was the cherry on top to everything I’ve experienced that weekend.
If you didn’t know Southern Utah was that breathtaking…. well now you know! Plan your next road trip to these places mentioned above and you’ll thank me later. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any comments or questions about the trip.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Arches National Park. & Monument Valley.. ✌️