6 Hidden Gems in Utah’s National Parks

Utah’s Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks illustrate the diverse terrain and geological splendors of America’s top national parks. But if you want to see these two marvels without rubbing shoulders with other visitors, you’re going to need to take a different approach. “Millions of people visit Zion, but relatively few go exploring into the park’s secret places,” says Janice Holly Booth, author of the book “Only Pack What You Can Carry: My Path to Inner Strength, Confidence and True Self Knowledge,” a book published by National Geographic. Instead of hiking on the popular trails with the masses and venturing to well-traversed parks like the iconic Arches National Park, immerse yourself in the backcountry and remote spots to enjoy seclusion and stunning scenery. To help you plan an outdoor adventure to remember, U.S. News pinpointed little-known gems in Utah’s iconic national parks that merit a visit all on their own.

[See: 7 Affordable Ways to Experience America’s National Parks.]

Mossy Cave

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Outside the main park at Bryce Canyon is a trail that leads to the “mossy cave,” an ideal trail for children that’s not long or strenuous. The trail snakes along a creek and leads both to the cave and a waterfall. You can also enjoy the characteristic “hoodoos” of Bryce Canyon National Park, or spires of red rock formed by weathering and erosion. Most visitors stop at the cave and large waterfall not realizing even more beauty exists beyond. Travel along the creek farther back along a flat path for even more breathtaking landscapes featuring several small waterfalls cut into the rock and a slice of Bryce’s backcountry that still feels largely undiscovered.

Peek-A-Boo Loop Trail

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Within Bryce Canyon’s main park, you’ll find many different hiking trails leading into the canyon that intersect with one another, allowing hikers to hop on and off various trails for a tailored experience. While most of these trails are filled with visitors, Booth says her go-to trail in Bryce is the Peek-A-Boo Loop, which leads further into the canyon itself. “The trail offers all the visual rewards of the more crowded trails — hoodoos, walls and arches — but in a more expansive and open environment,” Booth explains.

The Narrows

Zion National Park, Utah

The Narrows are one of the most popular areas within Zion, because the hike takes you through Utah’s dramatic slot canyons. But there is a different way to tackle the Narrows, according to Melanie Tucker, owner and chief designer at adventure tour operator Rare Finds Travel. She recommends starting from the opposite direction; at this end, the slot canyons are only visited by a handful of people each day, she says. Tucker also recommends using Zion Rock & Mountain Guides to drop you off at the Chamberlain’s Ranch Trailhead. You then “head down the river creek-stomp style, into and through Zion Canyon and end up, 16 miles later, at the end of the canyon road where the Zion…

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