Utah Vistas & Photo Ops
With a landscape characterized by mountain peaks and deep canyons, southern Utah is filled with big views. With a few exceptions, you won’t need to hike uphill for miles to get a bird’s-eye view—most of the vista points below are easily reached by a short hike or detour by car.
Okay, forget what we just said about not needing to hike uphill. If you really want the views, hike the West Rim Trail to Angels Landing. But if you’re not up for this steep hike and just want an eyeful, jump off the shuttle bus at the Court of the Patriarchs.
Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument
Between Escalante and Boulder, Highway 12 climbs up a steep fin of rock called the Hog’s Back, from which the slot canyons of the Escalante River and the cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau form a jaw-dropping 360-degree vista.
The end of the 57-mile Hole-in-the-Rock Road dead-ends at a cliff over the Colorado River. Mormon pioneers blasted a trail down the 600-foot-high precipice, but views from the top, with the Colorado in a maze of red-rock canyons below, are enough for most modern explorers.
It’s hard to get a handle on the fact that Waterpocket Fold is a vast wrinkle of rock more than 100 miles long. Unless, of course, you climb up and look down on it. From Navajo Knobs, 1,500 feet above the Fremont River Canyon, reached after a six-mile climb from Hickman Natural Bridge Trailhead, you’ll take in most of southern Utah and the snakelike ridge of Waterpocket Fold winding to the south.
From the main access road into the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands, two road-end vista points provide swallow-your-gum views over the incredible Colorado River Canyon. From Dead Horse Point State Park, a 30-foot-wide neck of land extends into the void over the twisting channels of the river 2,000 feet below. Continue to Grand View Point, above the confluence of the Colorado and the Green Rivers, for vistas of canyons, sheer rock walls, and pinnacles and distant mountains. This incredible vantage point displays hundreds of miles of the American Southwest.
In its sheer concentration of incredible scenery, it’s hard to beat Arches for dramatic vistas. Drive 16 miles from the park gates to Wolfe Ranch, then take the three-mile round-trip hike up a slickrock trail for the park’s most incredible view. Looking across the Colorado River Canyon to the distant La Sal Mountains through Delicate Arch is a memory-of-a-lifetime experience.
© W.C. McRae and Judy Jewell from Moon Utah, 9th Edition