Wanderous Whimsy

5 Favorite Hikes in the Southwest

There is something beautiful about working for your scenery. A good hike clears the mind and refreshes the soul. This past year, I have tackled some of the best treks this part of the country has to offer. Take a look at the following trail stats and pictures. They are sure to inspire a trip out to these most rewarding and breathtaking destinations.

Angel’s Landing, Zion, Utah

This one is a bit of a climb but when it gets really sketchy there are chains to help you make it safely to the top. Warning: there are several people that end up turning back. However, if you can conquer the inevitable fear that you only get from standing on the ledge of a 4000 foot cliff, you will be promised a most heavenly experience from the top. My favorite part of the trail is a series of 21 short switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. Take a moment there to just admire the perseverance of early trail blazers and our human spirit that drives us to the summit.

Round-Trip Length: 5.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 4,320′ – 5,808′
Elevation Change: +1,488′ net elevation gain
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No

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The Figure 8 Loop, Bryce Canyon, Utah

Talk about an aesthetically appeasing trail. Between the red rocks and crazy hoodoo formations, you will be drawn into this canyon like a kid to a playground. If I could ever describe a trail as quirky, I think this would be it. The trail brings you down into the canyon, past distinctly named hoodoos such as Thors Hammer. You then find yourself weaving up and down, through the canyon walls, and around every turn, another impressive sight to behold.  We went in April and there were even patches of snow on the ground, giving great contrast to the already stunning landscape. The trail has a pleasing symmetry to it, leading you from Sunset Point and ending at Sunrise Point (or vice versa). While it is challenging at times, the inclines and declines are balanced out, creating a very enjoyable experience.

Round-Trip Length: 8.7 miles (distance includes travel to Bryce Point)
Start-End Elevation: 8,010′ – 7,472′ (8,020′ max elevation)
Elevation Change: -538′ net elevation loss (+2,267′ total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes

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Fremont Saddle – Weavers Needle Overlook, Gold Canyon, Arizona

Now I am a little biased here as this trail is right out my back door. Its a go to anytime I need a bit of a workout somewhere other than my gym or a yoga studio. Climbing alongside the canyon, you have some of the most beautiful untouched mountain vistas in the valley behind you. Its hard not to stop at every switchback to get another picture. The cherry on top is the sight of Weavers Needle as you reach the saddle at the top of the canyon. Layers of volcanic rock erode away to reveal a behemoth phallic formation enveloped by 360 degrees of Superstition Wilderness.

Round-Trip Length: 4.4 miles
Start-End Elevation: 2,395′ – 3,758′ (3,758′ max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,363′ net elevation gain (+1,396′ total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No

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The Narrows, Zion, Utah

Talk about an adventure. This is a hike that truly makes you feel like you have made it to the Mecca of the outdoor world. Depending on the time of year, you may need more than your hiking boots and sunscreen. This hike typically calls for water booties, walking sticks, and possibly a dry suit. You will get wet!

Round-Trip Length: 17.1 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,830′ – 4,420′
Elevation Change: -1,410′ net elevation loss
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No

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West Fork Trail, Sedona, Arizona

Last but not least, this is my all time favorite trail. It may not be as epic as Zion’s Narrows, as high as Angel’s Landing, or as geologically rich as Bryce Canyon and the Superstition Mountains, but it is magical. Any time of year, this trail offers something special. From the apple orchards that greet you in the beginning, to the soft dirt beneath your feet, to the 13 babbling brooks you cross along the way, you will find this spot to be a blissful sanctuary. It is relaxing terrain with a lovely and refreshing slot canyon at the end. The trail is also dog friendly which makes it a plus. Make sure to get there early as this trail is Sedona’s most popular (with good reason)!

Round-Trip Length: 6.4 miles
Start-End Elevation: 5,317′ – 5,586′ (5,646′ max elevation)
Elevation Change: +269′ net elevation gain (+732′ total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No

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BONUS: Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona

Ok this may not classify as a hike – but if you are in the area, it is one of my favorite spots! Because this special land is part of the Navajo territory, you have to take a guided tour. I recommend Ken’s Tours for a less crowded, more intimate experience. Be prepared for once in a lifetime shadow play.

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