Backpacking in Utah: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Utah: A man in a river, walking with a backpack

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Utah offers immense variety for outdoor enthusiasts, from the rugged peaks of the Wasatch Range to the windswept canyons of the Colorado Plateau, including popular destinations like Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches National Parks.

And that’s what this post is all about – backpacking in Utah. We’ll provide tips to help you prepare for backpacking in this diverse state as well as showcase the TOP 5 multi-day trails in Utah.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Utah

  • What to expect: In southern Utah, you’ll find red rock canyons, alpine lakes, and mountain peaks in the Uintas. The weather can be extremely hot or cold, so be ready for that. There’s a lot of sun, not much shade or trees, and limited water, so plan accordingly. The sandy trails may tire you out, and in summer, there’s a risk of flash floods. On the bright side, you’ll enjoy beautiful views, solitude, starry nights, and the opportunity to explore slot canyons and natural arches.
  • Essential gear: Get ready for scorching desert heat and chilly nights. Pack essentials like a backpacking stove, fuel canisters, a pot, spork, and a water filtration system. Don’t forget a well-stocked first aid kit, maps, and either a compass or GPS device. Given the dry climate, bring extra water and electrolytes to stay hydrated.
  • Wildlife: Black bears are usually harmless, but mothers with cubs can be aggressive. Carry a knife for potential threats from mountain lions and coyotes. Stay alert around skunks, rattlesnakes, and aggressive deer/elk. Surprisingly, geese, bees, wasps, and mosquitoes also pose risks.
  • Wild camping: You can camp outside of designated campgrounds in most public lands in Utah, like Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, as long as you pick your spots responsibly. Just make sure to look out for closure signs. In certain places, you might need special permits for overnight camping, even if it doesn’t cost anything.
  • Best times to go are generally from late spring to early fall, spanning May to September. The summer months of June to August are particularly popular due to mild weather and optimal trail conditions, allowing for exploration of the state’s diverse landscapes. Fall, from September to October, offers pleasant temperatures and the added beauty of changing foliage, making it another favorable period for backpacking adventures.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Utah

Discover Utah’s finest multi-day trails:

1. West Rim Trail to Lava Point

Majestic brown mountains against a bright blue sky in this scenic mountain view

Length: 30.6 mi / 49.2 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 6328 ft / 1929 m
Location: Zion National Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 4200 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The stunning 30-mile West Rim Trail in Zion National Park is a challenging yet rewarding backpacking trip, taking about 15 hours to complete. Wending through beautiful canyons and rock formations, the trail offers spectacular views, diverse terrain, and opportunities to see wildlife. Backpacking March through October is ideal, though be prepared for some crowds. Highlights include Angels Landing for thrill-seekers and the chance to camp overnight mid-hike at designated backcountry sites. Be sure to bring plenty of water and backpacking supplies for this desert hike.

2. Highline Trail

A lone hiker stands surrounded by towering evergreen trees and filtered sunlight in a serene forest setting

Length: 101.6 mi / 163.5 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 18 097 ft / 5156 m
Location: Ashley National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 13 300 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 100-mile Highline Trail in the High Uintas Wilderness is a premier backpacking route, taking about 5 days to complete. Following the Uinta Mountains from Mirror Lake to Vernal, the trail stays above 10,000 ft. with epic vistas. Hiking June through October is best, though prepare for wet conditions and varied weather. Being a popular trail, expect to see fellow backpackers. Highlights include vast meadows, alpine lakes, and peaks over 13,000 ft. Start from Mirror Lake or Leidy Peak trailhead. Be ready for substantial deadfall near Rocky Sea Pass. Camp at scenic sites like Deadman Lake.

3. White House Trail to Lees Ferry

A rugged brown mountain peak rises into a bright blue sky amidst dramatic rock formations and scattered greenery in this breathtaking daytime view

Length: 37.6 mi / 60.5 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2700 ft / 823 m
Location: Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 4000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 38-mile Paria Canyon Trail from White House to Lees Ferry is a premier Utah backpacking route through the longest slot canyon in the world. Hiking March to June is best to avoid extreme heat and flash flooding. Expect solitude on the trail with few fellow backpackers. Highlights include magical narrows, rock formations, and desert wildlife. Multiple campsites dot the trail, like Big Spring and Bush Head Canyon (permits required). The best time to embark on this remote canyon hike is fall when temperatures are mild.

4. Zion Traverse: Lee Pass to East Rim Trailhead

An overhead view captures a winding river flowing through a lush green forest canopy on a sunny day

Length: 49.7 mi / 80 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 8467 ft / 2581 m
Location: Zion National Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 6500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 50-mile traverse from Lee Pass to Zion Canyon is an epic Zion backpacking trip for experienced adventurers. Using connected trails like La Verkin Creek, Hop Valley, and the renowned West Rim, the route spans Zion from north to south. Hike April to September for ideal conditions. Though popular, the trail allows for solitude during quiet times. Highlights include diverse landscapes, reliable springs, and remarkable viewpoints. Descending into Zion Canyon brings larger crowds. Be prepared for bugs in some areas and sandy trails.

5. Death Hollow and Escalante River

Aerial view of the Escalante River carving through rocky orange and brown canyon walls under a clear blue sky on a sunny day

Granger Meador, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 34.9 mi / 56 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 6407 ft / 1953 m
Location: Box-Death Hollow Wilderness
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 4700 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 35-mile Death Hollow Loop in Utah is an epic backpacking adventure, taking 2-3 days to complete. The route descends into Death Hollow Canyon to the Escalante River, then follows the river upstream to the Boulder Mail Trail. Highlights include petroglyphs, natural bridges, and diverse desert scenery. Hike February to November for ideal conditions. Though popular, the loop allows solitude during quieter times. Be prepared for rugged terrain, river crossings, overgrown brush, and poison ivy.

Annual Weather Averages

In Utah, you should be prepared for rapidly shifting mountain weather:

  • Spring (March-May): Mild temps of 50-70°F, wildflowers at lower elevations. High snowmelt swelling rivers, some mountain trails still inaccessible.
  • Summer (June-August): Hot, dry temps from 90-100°F in the deserts, cooler 70-80°F in the mountains. Afternoon thunderstorms frequent.
  • Fall (September-November): Pleasant temps of 60-80°F. Cooler in higher terrain. Less rainfall and fewer bugs.
  • Winter (December-February): Frigid highs of 30-50°F and lows below freezing. Deep snow in mountains necessitates technical gear.

Prior to choosing your gear, review the weather data for Utah (Cedar City):

High °F414554617182878577655141
Low °F192340475667737162503728
Rainy days455432454434
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Utah is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Nevada and Colorado.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Utah?

When backpacking in Utah, campfires are usually restricted or prohibited to prevent wildfires in the dry climate. Public lands like national parks, monuments, forests, and recreation areas often ban campfires outside designated areas. In backcountry camping areas, you may need a portable stove for cooking, and gathering wood might be prohibited.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Utah?

Pack plenty of water and electrolyte supplements to avoid dangerous dehydration in the dry climate. Carefully check weather and avoid hiking narrow canyons during monsoon season when deadly flash floods can occur. Guard against sunburn, heat exhaustion, and dehydration by covering up, wearing sunscreen, and hiking during cooler hours. Carry detailed topo maps and a compass or GPS device and know how to navigate with them. Share your hiking plans and itinerary with someone beforehand and consider carrying a satellite communication device on longer trips. Wear sturdy, broken-in hiking boots with good ankle support and tread to negotiate the rocky, uneven terrain and use trekking poles for added stability. Watch out for rattlesnakes, black widows, scorpions and other hazards. Apply insect repellent and wear long pants and sleeves. Take a wilderness first aid course and carry a well-stocked medical kit for emergencies. Practice Leave No Trace ethics when camping and take steps to properly store food and supplies. Pack essential but lightweight backpacking gear like a tent, sleeping bag, cookware, and lighting. Following these tips will help ensure you safely enjoy the immense beauty and adventure of backpacking in Utah’s magnificent but unforgiving backcountry.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Utah?

Be cautious of potentially dangerous animals like bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and spiders in Utah’s wilderness. Make noise while hiking to avoid surprising them, and give them plenty of space without approaching or interacting. If you encounter a mountain lion, stand still and make yourself appear large. In rare bear encounters, speak calmly, back away slowly, and be prepared with bear spray. Watch where you place hands and feet to avoid snakes near logs or rocks, shake out shoes before wearing, and carry snake bite kits and know first aid. Never feed or approach wildlife, regardless of how harmless they may seem.

Spread the word →

Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

Have any questions?

More Insights

Suscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay smartly informed with our weekly newsletter

Follow us

hikinglite logo white
© 2024 Hikinglite - All rights reserved

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe now to stay ahead of the pack with the most up-to-date outdoor content.