The desert of Southern Utah offers some of America’s most iconic scenery for adventurers in the west. The five national parks, or the Mighty Five, provide many choices and locations for people to enjoy this fascinating landscape. Over the years their popularity has skyrocketed, and that has made it tough to find the peace and solitude many of us seek while enjoying nature. Fortunately for us the desert is vast and mostly undeveloped, giving us far more opportunities to recreate outside of the parks than in them. Many of these trails are on BLM land, which means I can bring my dogs, avoid the crowds and often not have to pay to enjoy it. Sure you might have trouble finding a bathroom facility or sometimes even paved roads, but these are the things that make it so much more interesting, right? Without further ado, here are my 15 favorite adventures in southern Utah that are not in national or state parks.


This region is home to Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP and Snow Canyon State Park. The bustling city of St. George is the main hub, and it is located only 90 minutes north of Las Vegas and 45 minutes from Zion. This is the most developed part of southern Utah, but it still has many great options away from the crowds and is sparsely populated outside of St. George and Cedar City.

Candy Cliffs of Yant Flat: This unusual and largely unknown area is a great example of what can be found in Utah when you are willing to get onto a dirt road. A short trail takes you to a giant open territory that rivals any state-run location. A truly unique place and a hidden gem of the desert. The road is not recommended after heavy rains, but those are rare.

Chuckwalla Trail to Scout Cave – This trailhead starts in the northern suburbs of St. George and takes you to a decently sized cave and along a ridge overlooking golf courses and part of Snow Canyon. This trail is connected to a massive system called the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, and it offers many options besides this one trail. It is not remote, but it is free and not overly crowded.

Red Cliffs Trail: The flagship trail of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is located near the town of Leeds just off of I-15 outside of St. George.  Experience the soaring red rock cliffs, waterfalls, nearby camping and historical trails this area has to offer. This hike does have a $5 day use fee and get can a little crowded, but it is a very easy way to see some pretty great desert scenery.

Kanarra Creek Trail: This trail is getting very popular, so I hesitate to add it to this list. It is simply too beautiful and unique to leave it off, however, especially since it’s still much less traveled than the parks. Slot canyons with red rock waterfalls await between giant valley walls. It is located very close to the freeway, and it makes a great stop while driving the I-15.

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