Utah surely finds itself on nearly every family travel bucket list. The National Parks, dinosaur discoveries, and pioneer history make it a vacation mecca. While the big draws put Utah at the top of the vacation list, the opportunities for exploring just outside the major tourist attractions are what make Utah extraordinary. These 7 short hikes will take your family away from the camera-clad crowds and closer to where we, as locals, like to play.
Snow Canyon State Park Choosing just one hike from this park would be cheating you out of great opportunities. Located in easy driving distance of Zions National Park, Snow Canyon offers all of southern Utah’s varied landscapes in one place. The hikes range from short ½ mile excursions to full-day adventures. Our family favorites include Jenny’s Canyon, which includes a dead-end slot canyon not far from the road, Pioneer Names, where you can see history in writing as well as watch rock climbers high overhead, and West Canyon Sand Dunes, which give the kids a chance to roll around in soft, red sand.
Ensign Peak Pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in the 1840s after traveling through 1000 miles of treacherous winter conditions.Two days later a group of men hiked to the top of Ensign Peak on the north end of that valley to survey the land they now would call home. From that peak they could see the Great Salt Lake to the north, dry desert to the west, and to the south, a broad valley reaching as far as the eye could see. From there they mapped out the beginnings of their new community, and the fruit of that exploration is visible from that same spot today.This hike is less than a mile and takes less than an hour.
Donut Falls Drive up any of the canyons near Salt Lake City and you will find plenty of opportunity for alpine hiking. Many of the trails circle lakes or traverse mountain meadows. Donut Falls is perhaps the most popular of all those and great for the whole family. After a short drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon, a dirt trail leads to a unique waterfall cascading down through a large “donut” hole. This hike is less than a mile and an easy 30-minute walk, but leave time for scrambling around and playing.
Battle Creek Falls Sometimes it’s nice to just get out into the mountains on a trail the kids will love. The Battle Creek Falls trailhead is easily located, even from the freeway, and offers plenty of interesting landmarks to keep the kids on the move searching for the next great treasure. They’ll race to find fallen trees, trickling streams, wooden bridges, caves, and finally to play at the foot of a roaring waterfall. This hike is a bit of an incline, but still less than a mile. Plan for an hour of walking; take a picnic lunch and time for a little splashing.
~Enjoying Battle Creek Falls~
Copper Ridge Dinosaur Tracksite The Moab area is most well-known for grand spanning arches and stunning red slick rock. The area is also home to prehistoric fossils and on this trail you can follow the path of up to 6 different dinosaurs as they meandered across an ancient sandbar. The hike from the parking area will take only a few minutes. Take water with you to fill the tracks and make them easier to see.
~Tracks along Copper Ridge Trail~
Corona Arch The majority of Moab’s arches are well-preserved and protected beyond the entrance of Arches National Park. Corona Arch is a spectacular arch that is not in the park, meaning it is free to hike to, and explore around, this natural wonder. The hike itself is an adventure as you use cables and ladders to climb the slickrock and the panoramic payoff at the end is breathtaking. This hike is 3 miles, but accessible for all ages and worth the extra footsteps.
Little Wild Horse Canyon After playing hide and seek in Goblin Valley, the fun does not have to end. Take a short drive to the mouth of this canyon and the family can soon be squeezing through narrow slot canyons. The kids will love trying to climb the walls and it’s fun for everyone to feel and see how water and erosion shaped the color and texture of the rocks. This can be a long 8-mile loop, but many hikers simply wander in for a while and then turn around to exit the same way they entered in.