Hiking Utah's Majestic Parks

Destination: Utah

| Activities: Hiking

Southern Utah is home to some of the most well known National Parks, State Parks, and National Monuments; each with its own special magic and unique attractions. Zion National Park is famous for its soaring red Navajo Sandstone cliffs. Nearby Bryce Canyon is a testimonial to the erosive power of ice and rainwater, carving its colorful limestone into windows, fins, and soaring spires called hoodoos. Capitol Reef is a monument to the amazing power of uplift. Snow Canyon offers a strikingly fragile and unique desert environment, all provided by multiple volcanic eruptions in the areas tens of thousands of years ago. While we need to drive between parks (on some of the most scenic highways you will ever have the pleasure to drive on), this is not primarily a driving trip. We will hike between 3 and 6 hours every day and see each park as only hikers can. Maximum group size: 10

Highlights

  • Exploring the Emerald Pools Trail in Zion National Park
  • Walking among the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Take in the glory of the deep canyons around Escalante
  • Marvel at the geological formations of southern Utah
  • Enjoying the remoteness and solitude of Capitol Reef National Park

Departures and Prices

April 08 to April 15, 2023
$3450.00 - Available
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April 18 to April 25, 2023
$3450.00 - Available
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Inclusions

  • 1 - 2 experienced AGC guides based on group size
  • Seven nights of double occupancy accommodation (unless you upgraded to a single)
  • All meals as listed on the itinerary
  • Transportation during the trip
  • National Park entry fees

Not included: Airfare to St. George or from Moab, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities and travel insurance

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

We have rated this trip as a 3 because of the choice of a longer and shorter hike on most days. This trip is a great choice for women in very good physical condition with some hiking experience who are looking for hiking, some of it challenging, in a desert environment. Prior to beginning the trip, participants should be engaged in aerobic conditioning such as walking vigorously up hills, jogging, or stair stepping for 30 - 45 minutes at least 3 - 4 times a week. If you are planning on the longer hikes, we recommend aerobic exercise for 40-50 minutes 4-5 times a week and additional endurance exercise (e.g. going for a 2 hour hike once a week) and/or strength training. If you are looking for a trip in this area with shorter hikes or have very limited prior hiking experience, please look at Exploring the National Parks of Utah. Rating: 1 2 3 4 5.

This trip combines hiking with an immersion into the unique geology of this fascinating area - there is no better way to understand the different geologic processes that formed each Park than to explore them on foot. It is an excellent trip for intermediate and advanced hikers.

We stay at a variety of accommodations on this trip, starting with one night at a Best Western Plus in St. George. We then stay at lodges that are located right inside the parks, one night at Zion Park Lodge and two nights at Bryce Canyon Lodge, a very short walk from the rim. Then there are two nights at a resort just at the edge of Capitol Reef National Park in Torrey, UT. We finish our trip at the hotel in St. George.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
Our trip starts today at 4:00 PM. at the St. George airport. Plan to arrive by 3:30 PM so you can be ready for the guides to pick everyone up at 4:00 PM. Nestled in a vast expanse of red rock scenery, St. George has grown in popularity over the years, with amazing access to the outdoors and plenty of options for art and culture. We'll start getting to know each other and have a trip orientation in the evening before sharing our first dinner. Bedtime is likely to be early tonight! (D)

Overnight: St. George
DAY 2
After an early breakfast, we'll load up and drive to our first National Park. Today we'll head towards the Zion National Park Visitor's Center to hike the Watchman Trail, a Zion classic. The trail is about 2 miles round trip with 500 feet elevation gain through a desert environment. Along the trail we'll see many of Zion's landmarks: Beehives, Towers of the Virgin, West Temple, and the Altar of Sacrifice. The trail ends up at a viewpoint that oversees much of the lower canyon as well as the Watchman, a red spire rising to an elevation of 6545 feet. We'll then visit the Zion Human History Museum, or possibly join one of the Zion rangers for what are always informative walks. Those who would like another hike can explore the Emerald Pools Trail System in Zion this afternoon. The 3-mile hike (about 2.5 hours long) to the Upper Pool passes through pinyon-juniper habitat as we visit the lush environment of the lower pool and gaze at the soaring canyon walls of the upper pool. Along the way we'll talk about how Zion Canyon was formed and see evidence that it is a process that is still quite active. Our lodging tonight is right in the bottom of Zion Canyon, in one of the most beautiful and peaceful settings in the entire park system. Overnight Zion National Park Lodge. (B, L, D)
DAY 3
Today our choice of hikes starts on the trail to Scout's Landing. This paved trail switchbacks up on a wide trail for about 2 miles. For those who have no fear of heights and want a mental challenge, you can choose to hike Angel’s Landing**. Angels Landing is one of the classic hikes in Zion. From Scout’s Landing, the trail follows a narrow ridge (there are chains there for support) out to a fantastic overlook high above Zion Canyon. For many, however, this will be far enough, and you can either wait (the view is amazing) or return to the trailhead and walk along the Virgin River trail. In either case you can make your final decision once you've actually seen the trail. Hiking up to Angels Landing is about .5 miles out and back. In late afternoon we'll drive to Bryce Canyon. The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway is a dramatic feat of engineering, taking us through a very different looking part of the Park. We'll arrive in Bryce in time for dinner. Our lodging tonight is about a 5-minute walk from the rim. Hiking: 5 miles, 4 hours. Overnight Bryce Canyon National Park.
**Angel’s Landing is now permit-only, and you must apply on the NPS website prior to starting the trip: https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/angels-landing-hiking-permits.htm.
DAY 4
Another park, another choice of classic hikes: the Peekaboo or the Fairyland Loops. No matter which you choose, we'll start by descending into Bryce Canyon. The Peekaboo Loop is a 6 mile trail, which follows an up and down loop around a major formation with constantly changing views and provides an excellent opportunity to see hoodoos from the bottom up. For those wanting a bit longer hike, the Fairyland Loop is an 8 mile trail. The trail starts with 2.5 miles along the rim before plunging down into the hoodoos of Fairyland Canyon. The scenery is spectacular: along the way we get a great view of the Chinese Wall, hike past Sinking Ship Mesa, and take a short spur to Tower Bridge. With much less traffic here than other trails in the park, it may be one of the park's best kept secrets. That evening we'll have the chance to watch the sunset over some of the most amazing geology you'll ever see. Bryce is known for having one of the most glorious nighttime skies of anyplace in the U.S. and if stargazing appeals to you, this is the perfect place to do it. Hiking 6 - 8 miles, 4 - 5 hours. (B, L, D)

Overnight: Bryce Canyon National Park
DAY 5
Today we hop in the vans for a three hour drive to Capitol Reef National Park. We will make a pit stop in Escalante for some great coffee and a small hike to stretch our legs. History and geology can be seen in southern Utah, and the petrified wood and slot canyons of this area proves it! All around Escalante, you will find this petrified wood, which is the fossilized remains of trees, transitioned into stone throughout millions of years. After our short hike, we will continue to Capitol Reef on one of the most scenic drives of the whole trip as we drive through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, crossing over vast stretches of slickrock before climbing up and over the Boulder Mountains. Capitol Reef is a small section of the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long wrinkle in the earth's crust composed of colorful canyons, buttes, mesas, and monoliths. After a picnic lunch, we can visit the visitors center, and spend the afternoon hiking Navajo Knobs trail. On this out and back trail, we will hike around 4 miles to a rim view of Capitol Reef, all while spotting natural formations like Hickman’s Bridge and ancient petroglyphs. Hiking 3 - 6 miles around 1,000 ft of elevation gain. Overnight Capitol Reef Resort, Torrey, UT (B, L, D)
DAY 6
Today’s hike is on the Frying Pan trail, a 7-mile primitive trail through Cohab Canyon to Cassidy Arch and out Grand Wash. This hike offers more solitude and wilderness than any other on the trip as we follow it across country that is typical of the entire Park. We will also get to see Cassidy Arch, a natural rock formation juxtaposed against the red rock canyon. On this hike, we can spot many native flora and learn all about the fascinating Indigenous culture throughout this fertile valley. An undulating trail, we will gain approximately 1,100 ft throughout the hike. After the hike, we will return to our hotel to relax (maybe hop in the hot tub!) before a well deserved dinner. Hiking 3- 6 miles, 4 - 5.5 hours. Overnight: Capitol Reef Resort, Torrey, UT (B, L, D)
DAY 7
After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, we bid adieu to Capitol Reef National Park and all of its wonder. We head out on our 3.5 hour long car ride back to St. George to hike in the beautiful Snow Canyon State Park. Against a backdrop of red rocks and sage brush, we’ll have a picnic lunch here before our final hike of the trip. Snow Canyon State Park, a 7,400-acre scenic park quietly tucked amid lava flows and soaring sandstone cliffs in a strikingly colorful and fragile desert environment. We will see a little bit of everything the park has to offer on a loop connecting the following trails: Butterfly, Lava Flow, West Canyon, Red Sands, Whiptail, and Petrified Dunes. (4.8 miles, 639 feet elevation gain) Tonight, we celebrate our week of hiking with a final farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight St. George. (B, L, D)
DAY 8
This morning we share a final breakfast, pack up, and say our goodbyes to Utah. You can fly out any time from SGU. Our guides will provide one airport shuttle in the morning. (B)

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  1. I have never hiked before. Would this be a good trip for me?

    This trip is designed for women with some hiking experience. That being said, if you have a good level of fitness and love a challenge, then please join us.
  2. Where do we eat?

    Breakfasts and dinners will be in restaurants where you can order off the menu or are buffet style. Before you leave in the morning the guides will put out lunch 'fixings' and you will take a packed lunch to eat along the trail.
  3. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  4. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.
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