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Utah and the American Southwest. The Great Outdoors

Hiking. Exploring. Adventuring in Utah and the American Southwest

Kersee Willis

Instagram: @kerseewillis

Photos by Kyle Willis

Instagram: @kylewillis_24

The American Southwest is a hiker’s paradise, with many national parks and monuments within a day's drive. Even after living in the area for three years, we still have tons of places to see. 

Capitol Reef National Park

The first place I want to highlight is the Capitol Reef National Park area. Not just Capitol Reef—I’m talkin’ from Torrey to Hanksville. This part of Utah is less touristy and has many hidden gems to explore—for those reasons, it is my favorite part of Utah. Goblin Valley State Park is an excellent place to stop—especially if you drive between Capitol Reef and Arches National Park. Parts of the Star Wars franchise were filmed at Goblin Valley. For a small fee, you can get a permit to fly drones (if that’s your thing). This is also where you will find Factory Butte and the moonscapes of Utah. If you are into riding dirt bikes, this is the place to do it. The land here is so diverse—you need to experience it to understand what I’m talking about.

The Utah-Arizona Border

Another favorite of mine is the Utah-Arizona border. When planning a trip here, you can stay either in Kanab, Utah, or Page, Arizona. There are numerous hikes, guided tours, and activities in this area. However, unless you plan on hiring a tour guide, I recommend having a 4-wheel drive vehicle for this trip so you don’t feel restricted. If you are up for an off-roading adventure, White Pocket would be my recommendation. Deep sand makes it a challenging trek for vehicles. Plus, the lack of cell service can make it difficult to find. Upon arrival, you will walk about 100 yards down a sandy path to discover rock formations that are out of this world. One thing that surprised me about white pocket was its size—so many areas to roam and explore. From rock formations resembling the scales of a dragon to colorful rainbow rocks, you will be blown away and feel like you just returned from outer space. 

National Parks 

My favorite National Park in the Southwest is Bryce Canyon. I love Bryce Canyon in winter; the snow contrasts the valley even more. If you want to descend into the valley while there is snow, ensure you have spikes for your boots, as it’s very steep and can get slick. 

Great Basin National Park in Nevada is a hidden gem in the national park world. You can schedule a tour of an extensive cave system called Lehman Caves. You can also summit Wheeler Peak and see the last remaining glacier in Nevada or just hike to one of the many alpine lakes.

Something else to consider: Utah has a marvelous display of fall foliage. In southern Utah, I recommend visiting Navajo Lake to see the quaking aspens display brilliant yellow foliage. The Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake are hard to beat if you want to see red, orange, and yellow foliage.


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