The Best Ways to Explore Southern Utah

Travel Ideas
Mar 2016

See the rock formations of Bryce Canyon National Park, hike beneath towering red walls of Zion Canyon, and explore the slots of the Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Southern Utah is filled with beautiful and unique rock formations, slot canyons, and magical hard-to-reach wilderness corners. The best way to explore the areas around Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, and Escalante National monument is on a human powered adventure. There are countless options for exploration, from hiking trips to slot canyons, backpacking in Zion and Escalante, to cycling scenic highway 12. It can be difficult to plan the perfect adventure in Southern Utah because of all the amazing options, but with a few tips you can easily decide on the best hiking, backpacking, or cycling trips in the area around Zion, Bryce, and Escalante.


What’s your travel style?

Do you prefer the intimacy of day hiking through twisting slot canyons, or is the solitude of a backpacking trip more your flavor of travel? Do you crave the rush of riding over undulating slickrock or would you rather conquer long smooth road climbs to breathtaking peaks, plateaus, and picturesque campsites? Southern Utah offers countless options in each of these travel styles.


Hiking and Camping


Hike Bryce, Zion, and Escalante 

backpack in zion National Park

DIY Day Hiking: Day hiking is a great way to see a wide variety of the iconic destinations in the area and allows you to choose your accommodations flexibly. There are endless opportunities for day hikes to choose from in Southern Utah such as Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park or exploring the Zion Narrows, hike Wall Street in Bryce Canyon National Park or venture out on the lesser-known Fairyland Loop trail, visit Lower Calf Creek Falls in Escalante, or hike the veritable wonderland of Escalante’s slot canyons such as Willis Creek, or the Peekaboo and Spooky canyons loop.


Road Cycling


Cycle Bryce, Zion, and Escalante 

Cycling Zion Park Road

DIY Road Cycling: The scenic roadways of southern Utah provide some of the best road bike touring options in the American southwest. Explore Zion by bike, there are a number of great options for cycling within Zion National Park and the surrounding area. Further east, cycle scenic byway 12 through the pastoral towns nestled in the Escalante wilderness. Don’t forget to top at the Kiva Coffeehouse just east of the town of Escalante for a refreshing pick-you-up in the most scenic cafe you’ve ever seen.


Mountain bike


Gooseberry Mesa & JEM trail Mountain Biking

Mountain Biking Gooseberry mesa

DIY Mountain Biking: Less-known than the slick-rock hotspots of Moab and the mountainous terrain of the Wasatch range, the singletrack of southern Utah is not to be ignored. Just a few miles from Bryce Canyon National Park you’ll find Thunder Mountain, a high elevation thriller through canyons and tall pines that is a great addition to your visit to Bryce. Further west near Zion, Gooseberry Mesa and the trails outside Hurricane are not to be missed. Consistently ranked among the top trails in Utah, Gooseberry Mesa offers challenging technical features blending classic slickrock sandstone with jaw-dropping views of Zion National Park and the surrounding area.