We’ve already spent some time boasting about Utah’s splendor in our Explore Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Staircase with Wildland Trekking article, but we have so much more to discuss. Utah is an oasis for adventure, and with so much public land and numerous state and national parks to explore, it is no wonder that we have to split up the adventures we offer in this desert wonderland into two posts!
As mentioned in our last article, Utah is home to the Mighty 5 National Parks, several national monuments, and plenty of other nooks and crannies to explore. In this installement of exploring Utah with Wildland Trekking, we will be taking a look at a few very special, and some of the less-visited places to discover: Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, and the Paria Slot Canyons.
When to Go
Visiting Utah is a unique experience, and with each new season, the various corners of the state react differently. The landscape in Utah is largely desert, but there are plenty of mountains too. These variations in climate make an exact time to go bit difficult to pinpoint because visiting Southwest Utah is far too hot to enjoy in the middle of Summer, but that would be optimal for the mountains up north.
Another primary consideration is the type of activities you will be doing while you are there. Utah has a lot to offer when it comes to outdoor recreation, but our main focus will be on the best times of year to visit Utah for backpacking or hiking.
You’ll also want to consider your comfort level around large crowds. Utah has become increasingly popular within the last few years, but most visitors tend to stick to the Mighty 5 National Parks. If you don’t like crowds, finding time to go in the low or shoulder seasons could be ideal. However, you may have to deal with less than favorable weather.
Although it is the hottest time of year, June-August (Summer) usually has the most visitors. This is partially due to school being out of session, and planning vacations around when the whole family can visit.
While it may be warm in Utah, compared to other desert regions in the southwestern United States, temperatures are manageable. Average summer temperatures are usually in the mid-80s to mid-90s Fahrenheit. In more recent years, many desert regions like Arches and Canyonlands have seen temperatures upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures in that range can make hiking dangerous, especially mid-day.
Still, most of the time, daytime temperatures may be warm, but not unbearable, especially if you can get out in the mornings and evenings. Nighttime temperatures are usually in the 50-60 degree Fahrenheit range, making it perfect for camping. If you aren’t on a Wildland Trekking tour in Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks, park rangers will often lead guided hiking tours close to dusk each night. This is a safe and inexpensive way to experience the park.
With such a wide range of places to hike in slot canyons, we recommend avoiding hiking in summer showers. Late in the summer, heavy rainfall isn’t uncommon. These violent storms frequently cause flash floods, so watch the weather before you hike and ask park rangers for the most recent weather forecasts.
The Spring (March-May) and Fall (September-November) are the shoulder seasons for most of Utah. Most of the mountainous areas are still accessible, and many desert parks have fair weather with slightly fewer crowds. Still, there will be areas that will continue to attract a lot of visitors during this time, especially through the Spring.
In Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef, daytime temperatures are nearly perfect for outdoor activities like hiking. Most days, temperatures will be anywhere between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, so there are no worries about having a late start to a day hike other than crowds.
Since both Arches and Canyonlands are located very close to Moab, UT, be aware the Fall can have some busier times. This is because Moab holds several music and arts festivals during that time of year, drawing large crowds to the city and the parks.
As with most tourist areas, the winter always seems to be the slowest time of year (except for ski resorts, of course). November-March sees the lowest visitor count in all of the Mighty 5 National Parks and many other popular tourist destinations in Utah. The downtick in tourism has a lot to do with snow throughout most of the state and average temperatures ranging between 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
In some areas, not all roads will be accessible, limiting your ability to see all parts of the area. Plus, most rangers programs do not run either. The one good thing about visiting during the winter is that there will be little to no competition for trails or area permits.
All of Utah’s parks are extremely special in the winter. More wildlife comes around due to fewer crowds, and the landscape takes on new colors and contrasts. If you are a photographer, visiting in the winter is one of the best times. You will have a chance to experience some of the most famous parts of the parks with a bighorn sheep being the only likely photobomb.
Capitol Reef National Park is one of the Mighty 5 that often gets overlooked by many visitors, making it a somewhat hidden gem. You’ll experience arches, natural bridges, slot canyons, narrows, and various other natural wonders. It is also one of the few spots in Utah we have a winter backpacking trek. Beyond that, we offer another backpacking trip and a Llama Trek.
Arches National Park
Stunning rock formations abound! This national park boasts over 2,000 rock arches, not to mention absolutely jaw-dropping fins and pinnacles along with incredibly photogenic balanced rocks. All this splendor has been crafted over millions of years of water erosion and geologic forces – and today its amazing views will leave you speechless. Wildland Trekking’s Best of Moab Tour is your optimal avenue to explore this National Park’s most stunning vistas, and relax in a comfortable lodge each night!
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is filled with desert wonder like you wouldn’t believe. Located just southwest of Moab, the stunning buttes and rock formations – courtesy of the Colorado River – make for near limitless photo opportunities and vistas to explore. To experience it once will only leave you wanting to return again and again. Wildland Trekking offers several stunning backpacking trips to this area, allowing you to get up close and personal with the very best this park has to offer.
Paria Slot Canyons
For a bit more desert solitude, Paria Slot Canyon gives the best of southern Utah’s canyon splendor without all of the crowds. The slot canyon traverse is a 5-day, 4-night backpacking trek from upper Paria Canyon to where it enters the Colorado River just East of the Grand Canyon. Enjoy peaceful campsites each night as we explore the longest slot canyon in the world.
Need to Know
All the logistics during your trip are covered from food to transportation. However, it will still be your responsibility to get to your trip meeting place and arrange lodging for before and after your adventure. Therefore, let’s take a look at some essential information and tips to make sure your trip with us goes as smoothly as possible!
Primary Starting City
For the most accurate information about where to meet your guide before departing on your desert adventure, visit the specific tour page, and click on “trip logistics.” This will detail some of the most frequently asked questions regarding where to fly into, stay before and after your trip, and where pre-trip orientation is held.
For any Arches or Canyonland National Park tours, the primary city for departure is Moab, UT. Be aware that Moab is a somewhat remote city with very few flights in and out. One of the only cities that fly directly to Moab is Denver. It is far more common to fly into Salt Lake City, UT, and drive the 3+ hours to Moab.
Since Capitol Reef National Park and Paria Canyon/Buckskin Gulch are both further South, the primary city for departure is St. George, UT. St, George has an airport and is within a 2-hour drive from the Las Vegas International Airport. You can rent a car to get to St. George or take one of the many daily shuttles that run to and from St. George to the Las Vegas airport.
Beyond booking your trek with Wildland Trekking, you will also need to consider how you’re getting to and from either St. George or Moab, UT before and after your trip. Before you book a flight or hotel, be sure that we have confirmed the trip dates. Then, once those dates are confirmed, you can move on to booking flights, transportation, and hotels.
As mentioned in the last section, depending on which trip you’ve chosen, you should plan to fly into either Salt Lake City, UT, or Las Vegas, NV. There will be some flights into St. George, but they will be limited.
Additionally, we highly recommend that you include a one-day buffer before and after your hiking trip when booking flights. This means arriving one day early and having an extra day to relax before flying out. While this extra time will hopefully be your opportunity to relax and explore the area, it can become invaluable if a flight is delayed or if we get off the trail a little late.
As for lodging, it is best to stay in Moab, UT, if your trip is in Arches or Canyonlands and St. George, UT, if your trip is in Paria Canyon or Capitol Reef. There is always a pre-trip orientation the night before departure, so you will need to be in town for that as well. Your guide will reach out well before your trip start date in order to arrange a meeting place and exact time.
There is an extensive number of lodging options in and around Moab, UT. Just keep in mind that Moab is an extremely popular destination for both in-state and out-of-state visitors. Therefore, booking lodging should be a priority once we have confirmed our trip dates with you. If you wait until the last minute, you likely won’t be able to find anything, or prices will be extremely high.
There are plenty of lodging options in St. George as well. If you do stay in town, we recommend the Best Western Coral Hills (20% discount) or the Seven Wives Inn (10% discount). Let the hotel staff know that you will be traveling with a Wildland Trekking tour, and they will apply the discount during payment.
No matter where you stay, be sure to ask if you can leave any luggage there while you’re away on the trek with us. This way, you can bring more comfortable clothes to wear before and after the trekking dates. If you chose an inn-based tour, this will not be an issue.
Have more questions? Send us an email or call us at 800-715-HIKE (4453). We’re here 7 days a week from 9:00 to 4:30 Mountain Time to make sure your trip planning goes as smoothly as possible.
For more information about all your options, check out our Utah page on the website with the button below! Individual trip pages have detailed itineraries, trip specifics, travel information, and more.