20 Short Hikes In Southern Utah Not To Miss Out On

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Lately, I’m learning to love slightly longer hikes but up until recently, I’ve stuck with hikes on the shorter side, like four miles or less. And today is all about those short hikes in Utah I love.

While there are, of course, tons of other amazing short and easy hikes in Utah, I’m focusing on southern Utah today. I’m also not including every single short hike in Utah I’ve ever done but some of my favorites (and a few I don’t love but know other people do.)

Why include some hikes I don’t like? Because I know they’re fan favorite and everyone is different, but don’t worry. I love way more on here than I don’t. Either way, they all belong on your Utah bucket list.

I’ll also update this as I do more easy hikes in Utah or if I just remember some other ones. I think I’ve got it pretty well covered for now though and I have done every hike on this list.

So, what am I considering easy and short for this? Under four miles and under 400 feet of elevation gain. It’s not going to be like easy Florida hikes, easy, but easy for Utah.

I did include a variety of hikes, distances, and elevation gain. Some are definitely shorter and easier than other but they’re all wonderful easy Utah hikes with a good mix in and out of the national parks.

Snow Canyon state park Utah

What to bring hiking in Utah

Water bottle – It’ll be hot and you’ll need to stay hydrated.  Even if it’s not hot you need to stay hydrated.  A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.  A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.

Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.  Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.

Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen.  I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.

Light Jacket – Because you just never know.  Weather can change quickly depending on where you are, time of day, and season.  I usually use my rain jacket for this.

Good hiking shoes – If you’re hiking when it’s warmer, Chacos will be good.  If it’s fall, muddy, or a little cooler out, you’ll want closed toe shoes.

National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals

Capitol Reef tanks

Capitol Gorge and the Pioneer Register

Location: Capitol Reef National Park, at the end of the scenic drive

Trail distance and elevation gain: 2.2 miles round-trip to the Tanks, 397 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? $20 per vehicle

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: This is one of my favorite easy Utah hikes because you get to walk through the incredible canyons of Capitol Reef to the amazing view above from the Capitol Reef Tanks.

Most of the trail is flat until the end where you climb up to the tanks and you can skip that part if you want. The main part is in a wash though, so you’ll be walking in deep-ish sand for most of it.

It gets super hot though, so be sure to bring lots of water even though it’s not a super long trail. There isn’t much shade, either. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Pioneer Register along the way, near the beginning.

You can always turn around there, too. The names will be on the left on your way in on the trail. If you want to make it a shorter hike than it is, you can always turn around here if you’re short on time or hate hiking in deep sand (I get that.)

Torrey hotels

Broken arch arches national park

Broken Arch and Sand Dune Arch

Location: Arches National Park, just before Devil’s Garden

Trail distance and elevation gain: About two miles for both (1.7 for Broken, 0.3 for Sand Dune), 167 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? $30 per vehicle

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: These two arches are at the same parking area and so easy to get to! Sand Dune Arch is a lot more popular and I feel like there’s always a ton of people there but we didn’t see anyone else at Broken Arch.

They’re both pretty cool arches because Sand Dune is tucked away almost in a slot canyon while Broken Arch offers the beautiful view above! Plus, there is very little elevation gain (for Utah.)

Arches National Park reservations

As of April 1, 2022, you now need a timed entry permit reservation from April 3 to October 3. You need this to enter the park between 6AM and 6PM. Your reservation allows entry in a two hour window. You can go in and out before and after that as the park is open 24/7.

Arches was facing serious overcrowding in the summer and were having to close the entrance by 10AM pretty frequently because parking would fill up. This new system is to help combat that.

The permit is $2 and you will also need to pay the park entrance fee when you get to the park. You can pay the fee or get the national park pass which covers all NPS site entry fees (but not camping, tours, parking, etc.)

If you can’t get a permit in advance, some are set aside for the next day (so April 2 entry permits would be available the evening of April 1). If you can’t get that either, your options are to skip it or enter the park before 6AM or after 6PM.

If you have a camping reservation, a Fiery Furnace permit, or a backcountry permit you do not need a timed entry permit. You also do not need the permit from October 4-April 2. You can find all the details here.

mesa arch canyonlands national park

Mesa Arch

Location: Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park

Trail distance and elevation gain: Just 0.8 miles round-trip with 88 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? $30 per vehicle

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: This is definitely the most popular hike in Canyonlands, especially for sunrise, but for good reason. It’s an incredible view from a cool arch.

Just know, this does get packed at sunrise and there’s usually a line of cameras on tripods set up in front of the arch. I’ve done this during the day and near sunset and thought both were great.

I would probably head here for sunset because it’s still great lighting and you won’t have the sun blasting your eyeballs. The hike itself isn’t super exciting but the view is totally worth it. This is definitely one of the best short hikes in Utah.

Mossy Cave Trail

Location: Along Scenic Byway 12 by Tropic in Bryce Canyon National Park

Trail distance and elevation gain: One mile and 118 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? Not for this hike!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: Because you get to see a waterfall without a lot of effort! And who doesn’t like that? Honestly, the cave part of it isn’t that good but the waterfall is cool.

This isn’t in the main part of Bryce Canyon but along Scenic Byway 12 near the town of Tropic. There isn’t tons of parking here and in the summer it can get busy, so just drive extra carefully when you’re here.

I think this is a great easy hike in Utah because it’s short and you get to see that awesome Bryce Canyon landscape with a beautiful waterfall in it. Even if you don’t go into Bryce, this is a great hike along Scenic Byway 12.

Mill Canyon dinosaur trail

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

Location: The trailhead is about 25 minutes from Moab, not far past the turnoff to Canyonlands

Trail distance and elevation gain: 1.8 miles round-trip with 108 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? Nope!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: It’s not the most scenic trail in the world, but it’s not bad either. But the main draw is getting to see dinosaur bones!

There are signs along the trail telling you about the bones, the dinosaurs that lived here, and other things that do now. This is a particularly good hike for anyone visiting with kids.

This isn’t a trail you do for the views but it’s still a great short hike in Utah. This also a good hike to do in the fall so you can see the cottonwoods changing colors!

Mill Canyon dinosaur trail

Things to keep in mind when visiting dinosaur sites:

  • Don’t take the bones.  I shouldn’t have to say this, but I do because people have dug out some of them.  While there aren’t any marked here that I’m aware of, if you do find some, leave them where they are.
  • Just look at the tracks, don’t fill them with water.  While it makes them easier to see, it can damage the tracks.
  • If you find artifacts, do not take them.  Leave them where they are and just take pictures.
  • And finally, don’t carve in or write on the rocks!  I don’t want to have to say this, but I need do.
mill canyon dinosaur tracksite

Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracks

Location: Maybe 20 minutes from Moab, just before the Mill Canyon Dinosaur bone trail above

Trail distance and elevation gain: Short and almost none (I believe it’s 0.5 miles)

Is there a fee? Nope!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: This is a short boardwalk taking you around a dinosaur track site where you can see over 200 prints! That’s wild!

This is easily one of the best places to see dinosaur tracks in Utah because there are so many and they’re very distinct. I’ve been here twice and love it.

I know I said one of the other trails was really easy, but this is probably the easiest trail on the list since it’s short with almost no elevation change.

mill canyon dinosaur tracksite

Want to read about dinosaurs before your trip?  Check out some of these books!

catstair canyon stacked cars lake powell

Catstair Canyon

Location: About 30 minutes from Page and Kanab on Highway 89

Trail distance and elevation gain: 0.5 miles round-trip and not much elevation gain. It’s mostly flat but there is a short rock scramble down to the cars

Is there a fee? Nope!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: This isn’t an iconic Utah trail in any way, but it is a quirky roadside hike! This short trail will take you to the stacked cars near Lake Powell right along Highway 89.

This is a fun, quirky little hike in Utah that’s easy to do if you’re driving between Kanab and Page since it’s right off the main highway. It’s just a short walk down into a canyon, around a rock wall, then down a few more rocks to the cars.

Toadstool Trail kanab utah

Toadstool Trail

Location: Smack dab in the middle of Kanab and Page on Highway 89 (about 30 minutes from each)

Trail distance and elevation gain: 1.8 miles round-trip with 141 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? Negative, ghost rider

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: Honestly, I do not like this trail but I know other people love it, so I decided to include it anyway. It’s right along the main highway not far from Catstair Canyon.

This is a great family-friendly hike in Utah perfect to add to any Utah road trip. This trail is also like, the crown jewel of Kanab so I had high expectations for it. If you can’t make it to Goblin Valley, these hoodoos are cool to see.

Moqui caverns kanab utah

Moqui Caverns

Location: About ten minutes from Kanab on Highway 89

Trail distance and elevation gain: 0.7 miles round-trip and all trails says just 26 feet

Is there a fee? Nope!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: While the caves are manmade, this is another great short hike in Utah right along the side of Highway 89. The caves were actually made to store sand for glass!

The way up can feel a little treacherous just because the part you’re walking on is fairly narrow and steep on one side but it’s not terrible. And it’s a short walk.

This is a fun short hike and it’s super easy to stop and see if you’re driving between Zion and Kanab since it’s right along the side of the road.

Belly of the dragon kanab utah

Belly of the Dragon

Location: Mount Carmel Junction along Highway 89

Trail distance and elevation gain: almost none for either unless you hike past the belly, then it’s 1.8 miles round-trip and 180 feet of elevation gain, but just the belly takes like, 15 minutes max.

Is there a fee? Negative!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: Ok, I’ve said at least two hikes on this list are probably the easiest hikes on this list, but this one for sure is. This is like, Queen of short hikes in Utah.

The Belly of the Dragon in Kanab is actually just outside of Mount Carmel Junction, not too far past the Moqui Caverns. This is just right on the side of the road because it’s actually a manmade drainage tunnel going under Highway 89.

The hardest part of this hike is a small climb down into the drainage wash but it’s almost like a hop, and it’s gets a little dark in the middle, but it’s very easy. This is another fun one for kids and it is a cool tunnel.

Just please don’t add to the carvings in the walls. I know this isn’t natural, but still. Scratching the walls up isn’t necessary and it’s still graffiti.

Landscape arch arches national park utah

Landscape Arch

Location: Along the Devil’s Garden Trail in Arches National Park

Trail distance and elevation gain: 1.9 miles round-trip with 252 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? $30 per vehicle

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: Not only do you get to see Landscape Arch, the picture on the Arches National Park map, but it’s also one of the world’s longest arches at 306 feet across and just 11 feet thick at it’s center.

If you don’t want to hike all of Devils Garden (which is not an easy hike) this is a good way to see part of it and you can stop at Pine Tree and Tunnel Arches on your way in or out.

I really like this trail and would definitely recommend making time for this one on your trip to Arches. I’ve done this one twice but I love the views from it and would definitely do it again.

Upper sand Island petroglyphs bluff utah

Upper Sand Island Petroglyphs

Location: To the left of the Sand Island Campground (on your way in, the trailhead is from a campsite on the left) about 8 minutes from Bluff

Trail distance and elevation gain: 1.2 miles round-trip with just 26 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? Nope!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: There are tons of petroglyphs here and it’s so flat AND it’s shady! First, there are the regular Sand Island petroglyphs to the right when you pull in. This is a wall covered in them, it’s pretty impressive.

But I like the Upper Sand Island Petroglyphs more. When you pull in, head to the left and park at the little ranger building then head into the camping area to the little trail there (directions are in my full post linked above) and there are tons of panels along here.

Not too far in, you’ll see the first one on the cliff wall on your left with the river on your right. Don’t turn back, just keep going until you reach the big open area.

There are tons of petroglyphs the whole way down from quite a few different time periods. I loved this hike and would definitely recommend it if you want to see rock art but don’t want to work too hard for it.

Upper sand Island petroglyphs bluff utah

Things to keep in mind when visiting rock art & ruins:

  • Do not touch the rock art (pictographs or petroglyphs) because the oils on our fingers can degrade them.
  • If you find artifacts, do not take them.  Leave them where they are and just take pictures.
  • If there are structures (rooms, kivas, anything like that) don’t enter them unless it is stated that you can.  Most places you can’t but national and state parks will have restored structures you can enter.  Mesa VerdeEdge of the Cedars, and Anasazi Museum all have ruins you can enter.
  • And finally, don’t carve in or write or paint or draw on the rocks!  I don’t want to have to say this, but I need to for real.
Butler Wash Ruins Utah

Butler Wash Ruins

Location: About 20 minutes from Blanding, down Highway 95

Trail distance and elevation gain: 0.8 miles round-trip and 108 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? Nope!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: This is a wonderful easy hike in Utah where you can see ruins. It’s also great because it’s not super busy. And there’s a Geocache here!

The parking area is right on the side of Highway 95, one of the best scenic drives in Utah, and is marked by an Indian Ruins sign. It’s an easy trail over dirt and white rock. There is a little shade along the way.

The hike takes you to an overlook of the Butler Wash ruins but if you’re really feeling determined, you can actually head to the left of the fence, down that hill, across the wash, through some brush, and up to the ruins.

If you do that, just really keep in mind the tips above. I believe you can go in these (they aren’t blocked off) just be respectful and try not to touch anything or take anything.

Butler Wash Ruins Utah

Books to read before visiting the Four Corners area:

Hickman bridge capitol reef national park

Hickman Bridge

Location: About 5 minutes from the Capitol Reef Visitor Center, along Highway 24

Trail distance and elevation gain: 1.7 miles round-trip with 416 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? Not for this one

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: I know, I know, I said under 400 feet as my requirement but I’m letting this one slide since it’s less than two miles and barely over 400. But it’s worth it!

The hike is uphill on the way in but that makes the hike out even easier. This is a great hike to an awesome natural bridge and the trail actually goes right under it.

The view along the loop section of the trail (left at the fork, the bridge is to the right, but it’s a loop) is also incredible and reason enough to do the hike. It may be a little more work than some of the other hikes on this list, but it’s definitely worth it.

Pa’arus Trail

Location: Zion National Park Visitor Center

Trail distance and elevation gain: 3.4 miles round-trip with 157 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? $30 per vehicle

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: Every time I went to Zion I was like ugh, I’ll never do the Pa’rus trail, it looks so boring but on our last visit there we had already done pretty much everything else we could and gave it a shot.

Turns out, I liked it a lot. This trail is all paved, it’s basically a bike trail (it’s also used for that) and it’s the perfect easy Utah hike. Whether you just like easy hikes more or want something easy after a tough hike, this is the perfect option in Zion.

Some of the trail is shady, some isn’t, but you’re walking along the Virgin River and can get down to it in a few places which would be a great way to cool off on a hot day. Plus, you get occasional great views of the cliffs around you.

House on fire ruins mule canyon

House on Fire ruins

Location: Texas Flat Road along Highway 95, about 30 minutes from Blanding

Trail distance and elevation gain: 1.9 miles round-trip with 68 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? $2 day use fee

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: I think almost all ruins are exciting to see, but this one is more than others because of where it is. House on Fire is under an overhang and the roof makes it look like, well, it’s on fire!

To really get the fire effect it’s best to go between 10-11 AM. This is an awesome easy hike but a lot of it is in a wash, meaning it’s in deepish sand, so that can make it seem more difficult than it would on a packed trail.

Like Butler Wash, this is another great ruin site that is easy to visit. It’s a little longer of a hike, but it’s worth it. I like it a lot.

Headquarters Canyon Capitol Reef National Park

Headquarters Canyon

Location: Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park. It’s about 2 hours 20 minutes from the visitor center if you take Notom Road (washboardy dirt), or about 2 hours 40 minutes if you go around through Hanksville, down Highway 276, and up Burr Trail.

Trail distance and elevation gain: 2.2 miles round-trip with 404 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? Nope!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: I’m actually surprised about the 404 feet, I wasn’t expecting that. This is a great easy hike that even my parents did no problem.

Headquarters Canyon is in Capitol Reef but because of where it is, it doesn’t get that many visitors. If I see other people here, it’s usually only one or two.

This is an awesome hike taking you across some open desert and into a slot canyon! It’s not a glowing red canyon like Antelope Canyon or Leprechaun Canyon, but it’s still very impressive.

While you’re down here, you could also do Surprise Canyon Nearby but I like this one more. These are perfect if you’re driving the Burr Trail from Boulder to Bullfrog and wan to hike along the way.

Canyon overlook trail zion national park

Canyon Overlook

Location: East side of the tunnel on Mount Carmel Highway in Zion National Park

Trail distance and elevation gain: One mile round-trip qith 187 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? $30 per vehicle

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: I think this is one of the best views in Zion and the best view to effort ratio, too. There is a little bridge on this trail that kind of freaked me out and may not be great if you hate heights, but it’s not terrible otherwise.

This is definitely one of the best short hikes in Utah because you’re rewarded with a view rivaling Angels Landing but with less terror (because there’s no chains section) and while it’s busy, it’s not Angels Landing busy.

AND if you’re really lucky, you might get to see bighorn sheep here! We saw a bunch in the canyon below, along the trail but I know they like to hang out on this side of the tunnel in the area. I love this hike. If only one of these hikes makes it onto your national park bucket list, it should be this one.

Willis creek slot canyon utah

Willis Creek Slot Canyon

Location: About an hour from Escalante and about 50 minutes from Bryce Canyon down Skutumpah Road

Trail distance and elevation gain: 3ish miles round-trip (if you turn around at the giant boulder, but it can be more if you want) with maybe 200 feet of elevation gain

Is there a fee? Nope!

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: Willis Creek Slot Canyon is a great easy hike in Utah because you get to see this golden glowing slot canyon! The hardest part of this trail is the drive there.

Another bonus, besides being easy, is that this hike is very dog friendly! They’re supposed to be leashed but they can join you on this adventure.

If you want a secret slot canyon, this isn’t the one. It’s not packed but it was fairly busy when we went (not Zion busy, though). I would just get there early in the morning or later afternoon to avoid so many people.

While this isn’t my favorite slot canyon, it is really cool and I can’t think of any off hand that are this golden glowy color which I did like a lot. It’s a great one to add to a Utah road trip.

Escalante hotels

hummingbird in Willis creek slot canyon utah

Slot Canyon Safety

Flash floods are a huge risk in slot canyons and people die from that far too often. In May 2020 a 7-year-old girl and her 3-year-old sister died in a flash flood in Little Wild Horse Canyon, a popular slot canyon in the San Rafael Swell. This isn’t even a super narrow canyon. And it’s popular. It can happen anywhere.

In 1997, 11 hikers died in a flash flood in Antelope Canyon (the storm was 15 miles away) and that’s a huge reason you need to go with a tour now.

In 2015, seven people canyoneering also died in a flash flood in Keyhole Canyon in Zion National Park. People have even died in flash floods in The Narrows in Zion!

Flash floods are no joke kids. I haven’t seen one in a slot canyon but I did see one right as it was starting in a more open canyon and it really picked up fast. I also saw one in Zion along the Mt. Carmel Highway this summer. It was small but they just happen so fast, please be safe.

  • DO NOT ENTER THEM IN THE RAIN
  • DO NOT ENTER THEM WITH RAIN IN THE FORECAST
  • DO NOT ENTER THEM IF IT’S NOT RAINING IN THEM BUT NEAR THEM TOO
  • If you don’t feel comfortable with any climb or narrow squeeze and can turn back, do that! You don’t want to get hurt or stuck and need to be rescued. I linked tons of stories of this below.
  • Make sure you’re following the right fork. A lot of slot canyons have multiple forks or are close to other ones and ending up in the wrong one can have dire consequences (especially in the North Wash area of Utah.)
goblin valley utah

Goblin Valley

Location: About an hour from Green River and about 40 minutes from Hanksville

Trail distance and elevation gain: However long you want and not very much

Is there a fee? $20 but it’s good for two days

Why this is a great easy hike in Utah: Because this is just plain fun. Goblin Valley is basically a playground for grown ups but it’s great for kids, too!

This is, for sure, my favorite state park in Utah because it’s. so fun. The first time I went was with like, ten people and as soon as we got into the Valley of the Goblins (the area pictured) we all ran off in different directions.

We climbed on everything (as far as I can tell, it is allowed there, if anyone knows otherwise, please let me know!) and even up the far wall facing the highway. I wouldn’t recommend that unless you’re comfortable with desert scrambling.

While this isn’t really an official trail, it’s such a fun area to just wander and run around, climbing rocks and creeping into caves. I love it!

Green River hotels

Utah posts you may also like:

What is your favorite easy Utah hike? Have you done any of these short Utah hikes? Which ones? What did you think of them?

3 thoughts on “20 Short Hikes In Southern Utah Not To Miss Out On

  1. Great list, Megan. I’ve done 6 of these: Mesa Arch, Broken Arch and Sand Dune Arch, Landscape Arch, Hickman Bridge, Pa’arus Trail, Goblin Valley. (Also several that you wouldn’t consider “easy”.) Agree with everything you say!

    1. Thank you! There are so many great Utah hikes of all levels, I might have to make more lists for harder hikes!

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