Utah is an outdoor paradise. The desert meets the mountains in this holy mecca for exploring, hiking, and camping in the stark American West. The beehive state is home to five national parks: Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Capitol Reef, and Zion. Each offers unique adventures you can’t find anywhere else on Earth—putting it at the top of any explorer’s bucket list.
If you’re lucky to get your boots dusty with Utah’s signature red soil, your senses will be on full tilt when you see the jagged mountaintops pierce the crystal blue sky. And if the views don’t take your breath away, scaling the trails certainly will. So, if you’re vying to take on Utah’s Mighty Five, you’ll want to plan your trip to make the most of it.
Gearing Up, Heading Out
I’m lucky to live only four hours north of the Mighty Five, and I spend a lot of weekends in southern Utah breaking a sweat and resetting my mind in the desert. And my favorite spot to recharge is Arches National Park where the pièce de résistance is Delicate Arch. You’ve probably seen this iconic natural wonder—it graces the state’s license plate and will blow you out of your woolen socks when you see it for the first (or last) time.
But if you want to see it in person, you’ll have to gear up and head out. It’s absolutely stunning out on the trail, perfect for people of all ages: grandmas to grandkids. Here are a handful of tips to have a fun and safe trip in the desert.
The desert gets hot, and thick-soled hiking boots are a must to keep the heat off your feet. In addition, you’ll want good, sturdy ankle support. Desert hiking isn’t like walking through your local mall—it’s filled with rocks, crevasses, and rivers of sand that can play havoc on your ankles.
Test drive your new boots before you hit the trail. Lightly broken-in boots are key for a good day of hiking. They’ll be the most important piece of equipment you bring with you. And wear a pair of sweat-wicking socks to avoid excessive rubbing and blisters.
Skincare is critical—especially in the desert. Bring a good sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF—and use it! 30 SPF means you’re getting 30 times the protection from UV rays, which is important to avoid burning. I’m also a huge proponent of wearing a large, floppy hat to protect your head and a bandana around your neck for extra sun protection.
In addition, light cotton can provide additional SPF protection while hiking in the desert. Cover as much of your skin as possible to avoid exposure to the sun’s harsh rays. Your hike to Delicate Arch is in the glorious high desert (4,606 feet above sea level)—and at this elevation, you risk additional UV exposure. So, lather up and cover-up.
The desert doesn’t play. It can be a deadly place, especially if you don’t drink enough water. To avoid suffering from dehydration and heatstroke on your hike, drink 24–32 ounces of water an hour—which is about a quart. A backpack with a hydration system and an easy-to-reach drinking tube is perfect for keeping your hands clear while you adventure.
Before you head out, plan how much water you’ll need. If you hike about a mile every half hour for a five-mile trail, you’ll need five quarts to safely hike it. It’s also a good idea to avoid hiking during the hottest time of the day. Begin your hike early in the morning or head out at sunset when temperatures are cooler.
Though I rarely get hungry on the trail, you need to replenish the energy you burn. On average, an hour of hiking burns roughly 450 calories. A light and satisfying snack is perfect to keep your energy up. I suggest USANA’s Peanut Butter Snack Bar. At 110 calories, it has enough energy to replace what you’ve lost on the trail, and it’s the perfect reward when you finally reach your destination.
Not having enough energy can put a real damper on your hiking trip—and leave you with a disappointing or painful experience. You never want to be in a position where you don’t have the energy to get back to the trailhead and get home safely. Throw a couple of these Peanut Butter Snack Bars in your backpack when you head out so you won’t end up in a predicament.
Hiking is a perfect way to connect with nature and explore the world. And even if you can’t make it to Utah’s natural wonders, adventure is waiting right outside your door. So, gear up, grab your friends, and discover new places.