5 Must-do Adventures
You don’t have to be stuck indoors as temperatures soar. From slot canyons to ski slopes, here are five of Utah’s “coolest” adventures to check off your bucket list this summer.
1. HIKE SOUTHERN UTAH’S BEST SLOT CANYONS
Shade plus water equals paradise when temperatures in southern Utah’s beautiful red rock country reach the triple digits, and slot canyons offer both.
Willis Creek Slot Canyon (4.8 miles roundtrip)
This dog- and family-friendly retreat is a fun introduction to slot canyons for hikers of virtually all ages and fitness levels. Accessible via Skutumpah Road off Highway 12 in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument—just south of the tiny town of Cannonville.
Less than 10 feet wide in some places, the canyon walls display impressive curves and lovely, subtle color changes. Shade and continuous trekking through the cool creek water, which is typically just a few inches deep, keeps hikers comfortable. Though easy to find and traverse, Willis remains a hidden treasure that is far less visited than the area’s other slots.
Kanarraville Falls (4.4 miles roundtrip)
This out-and-back water hike features a stunning slot with two small waterfalls. Though it sits just off I-15, 40 miles northeast of St. George, the scenery rivals any backcountry attraction. Dogs are not allowed.
The first waterfall is a popular spot for photographers. A rustic wooden ladder and ropes have been fastened to the rocks to assist in climbing about 10 feet to the top. The other lies just a few hundred yards ahead and requires scrambling, though ropes are sometimes available. Hikers will be rewarded for their efforts upon arriving at a swimming pond with a mossy rockslide that brings out the kid in everyone.
2. EXPLORE SUMMER AT SKI RESORTS
The powder may be long gone, but summer is still a great time to visit Utah’s ski resorts. Experience mountain biking, hiking, camping, and fishing while gaining a new appreciation for your favorite slopes.
Alta Ski Area: The Alta Lodge offers overnight accommodations and a scrumptious Sunday brunch from June until October. Camping is available in Albion Basin, where wildflowers flourish. Take an easy, family-friendly hike to discover the perfect picnic spot at nearby Cecret Lake.
Brian Head Resort: Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through September 11, summer here includes scenic lift rides, mountain biking, tubing, disc golf, a climbing wall, and archery. The annual Rocktoberfest on September 16 rounds out the season. Cedar Breaks National Monument—which offers camping, stargazing, and hiking—is only 10 minutes away.
Deer Valley Resort: Offering 70 miles of thrilling singletrack spread out over six mountains, this mountain biking mecca challenges riders from novice to expert. After a busy day spent hiking, biking, or stand-up paddleboarding, spend the evening enjoying live music at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater.
3. ESCAPE THE HEAT WITH A HIGH-ALTITUDE HIKE
Take advantage of these beloved Wasatch trails before the snow returns. Cooler temperatures, lush greenery, and an abundance of wildflowers make for unforgettable hiking at 9,000 feet.
Desolation Lake (7.5 miles roundtrip)
Starting from the Mill D North Trailhead in Big Cottonwood Canyon, this well-maintained route is a steady climb, gaining roughly 1,900 feet in elevation. About halfway up, the trail splits to offer an optional, shorter side trip to the more heavily trafficked Dog Lake.
This alpine hideaway has plenty of shoreline and rarely feels crowded. Set up a hammock among the pine and aspen trees and relax for the afternoon. Overnight stays are allowed, but dogs and swimming are prohibited.
Wasatch Crest Trail (12.5 miles point-to-point)
Popular with mountain bikers as well as hikers, the Wasatch Crest Trail runs from Guardsman Pass in Big Cottonwood Canyon to Big Water in Mill Creek Canyon. Most prefer to start at Guardsman Pass for a gentler climb.
Expect panoramic views of the Wasatch Range before descending into a shady forest. Wildflowers can often be found into late summer. Dogs are prohibited. To avoid mountain bikers, visit on an odd-numbered day.
4. CHILL OUT IN THE NARROWS
Arguably the most famous feature of Zion National Park, the Narrows is one of Utah’s best-known hikes. It can be done as an out-and-back trek from the bottom up or a canyoneer from the top down, which requires a wilderness permit.
The majority of visitors approach the Narrows as a casual day hike. This route begins with the Riverside Walk, a gentle mile-long paved path from the Temple of Sinawava Trailhead to the mouth of the Narrows.
The narrowest and most spectacular section, nicknamed “Wall Street,” begins about 1.5 miles from the end of the Riverside Walk. The Virgin River is sometimes just 25 feet wide, with sandstone cliffs towering 1,000 feet on either side.
Bottom-up hikers are allowed to go as far in as Big Spring, which makes for a fairly strenuous 10-mile roundtrip. Crossings are anywhere from ankle- to waist-deep; sturdy waterproof hiking boots, and a walking stick are strongly recommended.
Trekking 16 miles from the top down requires technical descents and spending the night at one of 12 campsites along the river. The route begins at Chamberlain’s Ranch, a 90-minute drive from Zion. Many hikers leave their cars in Springdale and book a shuttle service to the trailhead through one of the local outfitters.
Reservations to acquire a permit can be made up to three months in advance. Visit nps.gov/zion or call the Visitor Center at 435-772-3256 for more information.
Like any other slot canyon, the Narrows should not be attempted when thunderstorms or flash floods are a possibility.
5. WATCH THE SUNRISE FROM THE SUMMIT OF MOUNT TIMPANOGOS
Summiting Mt. Timpanogos—the Wasatch Range’s second highest peak at 11,752 feet—is among Utah’s legendary hikes, but doing so in time to watch the sunrise is an otherworldly experience. Be sure to immortalize your climb by signing the logbook in the summit house at the top.
The summit is accessible via two dog-friendly trails. Aspen Grove Trail begins at the Theater-in-the-Pines picnic area on the mountain’s east side. It is the longer of the two, at 8.3 miles in, and passes several scenic waterfalls. The 7.5-mile starts at the Timpooneke Campground in American Fork Canyon.
Some hikers choose to combine both routes to make a loop, which requires a ride to one trailhead and a vehicle left at the other. The trails meet just below the Timpanogos Saddle. For mountain bikers, Timp’s lower elevations offer miles of exhilarating rides with unbeatable scenery, including a portion of the Great Western Trail. Pack your camping gear and take a refreshing night’s rest either at Timpooneke Campground or in the backcountry before riding more singletrack.
Camping is available along the shoreline of Emerald Lake or in the lovely meadow at Timpanogos Basin. Spending the night helps with altitude acclimation before climbing the remaining two miles to the top, and lets you wake up much later to catch the sunrise than if driving from the valley. Flashlights or headlamps are a necessity for navigating the summit trail pre-dawn, as the footing can be treacherous.
Campfires are prohibited, and any water found along the trail must be filtered before drinking. Temperatures drop quickly overnight, so bring plenty of layers.
Early August is the best time for wildflowers, but Timp’s fall colors are glorious as well. Wildlife, including deer, moose, marmots, pikas, and mountain goats, is often spotted along both trails. This majestic peak is also home to Utah’s only remaining glacier.
Even in summer, hikers should verify trail conditions before attempting to reach the summit by contacting the Pleasant Grove Ranger District at 801-785-3563.
While completing your bucket list adventures, stay safe and please remember to Leave No Trace.