Spring has sprung – or so the calendar says. At the moment though, snow is falling outside my office window and it’s looking very much like winter. Perhaps that’s why, for over 20 years now, we’ve made an annual spring trip to Utah.
Each year the weather’s a little different – sometimes hot enough for shorts, others making use of that down jacket for more than a pillow – but we always find new canyons to explore and old favourites to visit again. Here are two options for early season hiking areas in the southwest corner of the Beehive State:
Zion National Park
What’s not to like? Consistently warmer spring temps than anywhere else, stunning scenery, good camping options and endless hiking. There’s a reason this is one of the most popular national parks in the state. Don’t miss the short but sweet stroll up to Emerald Pools, the more challenging cliffside zigzag up to the saddle below Angel’s Landing (and on up the chains to the summit if you don’t suffer from vertigo). You can avoid crowds completely by sidewinding your way into Hidden Canyon (again, if exposure makes you woozy, avoid this one).
Snow Canyon State Park
Don’t let the name fool you – this hidden gem in the SW corner of the state is often overshadowed by Zion’s mighty presence. But those who wander off-the-beaten-path will appreciate fewer crowds and diverse hiking opportunities. Take a stroll up the side of a cinder cone, wander across lava and sandstone to a desert waterfall or get lost (not literally) in the dunes.
If you go this spring, be prepared for a variety of weather (from light snow to hot sun). Use a hiking checklist to ensure that you don’t leave those sunglasses or extra warm layer behind.