I’ve done a reasonable amount of hiking in Utah over the years, mainly around Salt Lake City and in the canyon country in southern Utah. I’d never thought of writing about it, but in September 2022 I did two amazing hikes around Escalante that made me change my mind – slightly. So here I’ll just briefly mention those two hikes and two of my favorite hikes around Salt Lake City.
There are many great hikes in the Escalante area, both down in the canyons and up on the slickrock. I particularly love the cross-country slickrock hikes that require descending into canyons then climbing back out the other side. So here are my two current favorites.
Boulder Mail Trail
The Boulder Mail Trail is one of the most amazing hikes I’ve done. There is so much hiking in spectacular white slickrock scenery, and the descent into Death Hollow is stunningly unlikely.
As you do this hike, consider that this route was traveled by mules carrying mail between Escalante and Boulder. I figured that Death Hollow got its name because the route was so difficult that some of the mules decided to jump over the edge rather than continue. Of course I was wrong 🙂
Even though the route usually starts in Boulder and “descends” to Escalante (which means you need a car shuttle), there’s still a lot of ascent. Depending on where you get the information, the route is between 15.4 and 16.2 miles, with between 2,600 and 2,900 feet of ascent. The actual numbers are pretty irrelevant because the hike is long and tough, with many ascents. And the good stuff continues right until the end.
I’m not going to describe the details here, because the best description is at Earthline. If you have All Trails, you can download a GPX file, although its start and finish points are slightly inaccurate. Better to get the start and finish from Earthline.
So, IMHO, maybe the best hike in the Escalante area.
Bowington Road via Big Flat Wash and the Escalante River
This hike is another stunning hike in the stunning slickrock area above Escalante. The hike is basically a big loop with a lollipop stick. It’s intricate, varied, and beautiful, and you probably will see no one else out here. It’s about 10 miles with 2,300 feet of climbing.
Again, I’m not going to try to describe the route, leaving it to Debra Van Winegarden and her great web page at Earthline.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is nestled up against the spectacular Wasatch mountains. There are some wonderful bicycle rides up the canyons, and a lot of incredible hikes. I’ve done quite a few of them and will just mention my favorite two, both big and tough.
The book I used for hiking around Salt Lake City is Take A Hike Salt Lake City.
Lone Peak is one of the toughest and most remote hikes in the area. Unlike many of the other hikes that start up Little Cottonwood or Big Cottonwood Canyon, this starts where the plains meet the mountains, and so has a lot of elevation gain. The round trip is about 10.5 miles with 5,700 feet of climbing.
A beautiful peak that is visible from the lovely Alpine Loop Road (which is a great bicycle ride). Apparently the Aspen Grove Trail is one of the most popular mountain hikes in Utah, and I’m not surprised. The hike is a 12 mile round-trip with about 4,900 feet of climbing.