5 Best Overnight Backpacking Trails in Utah (2023)
In the world of backpacking, there are very few places in the United States that offer the stunning level of scenery and remoteness as the state of Utah. Whether you are hiking on the majestically high ridges in the mountains or exploring deep within the desert canyons of Utah, there are many backpacking trails in Utah that are perfect for providing an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life.
5 Best Overnight Backpacking Trails in Utah
While there are endless backpacking opportunities in Utah, here are some of the best overnight backpacking trails in the state that you must explore.
1. Neon Canyon and Golden Cathedral
Located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, the length of this backpacking trail in Utah is 9.2 miles. The elevation gain here is 1260 feet, and the difficulty level is moderate. When you visit the Grand Staircase-Escalante National monument in Utah, you will understand why this is known as the remotest and exciting landscape in the US.
With majestic canyons, washes, and epic night skies, the Neon Canyon and Golden Cathedral backpacking trail draw adventurers and nature lovers here. And once you visit this place once, you will find yourself wanting to come back again and again.
It is important to note, though, that the Neon Canyon and Golden Cathedral trail requires you to have some technical know-how of backpacking as well as the right gear.
You will need ropes for rappelling, and depending on the time of the year, you might even need dry suits. Always make sure to check out the weather report before heading into canyon country. Flash floods are a real risk while backpacking in places like the neon Canyon and Golden Cathedral, so make sure that you are prepared beforehand.
2. West Rim Trail at the Zion National Park
Taking you through the Zion National Park, the West Rim Trail is a 12.2 miles round backpacking trip. The elevation gain here is 2510 feet, with a moderate difficulty level. The West Rim Trail will allow you to be absorbed into the Zion National park’s awe-inspiring sheer-cliff sandstone beauties as you check out the summit Angels Landing and then continue onwards to explore more gorgeous views. As you come in contact with the grand western landscape, you will feel like never leaving.
The West Rim Trail is a seasonal backpacking trail in Utah that will take you south from just below the Lava Point Campground as you trek across the large Horse Pasture Plateau here. You then head down towards Angels Landing and the Grotto Picnic Area. However, a certain part of the trail, a valley nestled in between the Mount Majestic and the plateau, known as Little Siberia, becomes impassable due to ice and snow. While it is possible to trek the entire length of this route in one day itself, most visitors love to turn it into a two-day trip to enjoy the gorgeous landscape and views all around. You can either camp at Potato Hollow or at Cabin Springs. You need a permit to camp within the park.
3. White Pine Lake
Located in the greater Salt Lake area and Little Cottonwood Canyon, this backpacking trail takes just five miles to the lake. The elevation gain of the trail is at 2696 feet, and the difficulty level is strenuous. It is not advisable to bring children along on this trail.
The beautiful Salt Lake City is sitting right next to some of the most majestic and stunning mountains in the whole world. It takes only 30 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City to reach the White Pine Trailhead. The trail is also perfect for an overnight getaway from your routine life in the city. While the trail starts out easy with wide roads, the incline starts to increase once you pass the river junction. At the river junction, you can either continue going left up to some switchbacks that will take you to White Pine Lake or take a right to go to Red Pine Lake. The trail is steep enough to get your heart pumping, so it is necessary to make several stops to rest and hydrate yourself.
The White Pine Trail is a favorite backpacking trail in the Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. With the natural beauty of the glacially carved valley, sharp ridges, lush alpine forests, and cold lakes, the trail basically takes you through an abandoned road. This makes it quite easy to traverse through, despite the steep elevation gain.
At the end of the trail, you reach some of the most gorgeous meadows you will ever see in your lifetime. The lake is located in a cirque with rocky cliffs surrounding it on all sides. The alpine scenery and the majestic mountains all around make for an incredible experience.
4. Ibantik Lake
Situated in the Uinta Mountains region of Utah, this trail has a length of 4.2 miles to reach Ibantik Lake. With a moderate challenge level, the elevation gain of this trail is 590 feet only. The Uintas area is relatively less crowded, but it takes a bit more time to reach here from the city. The trailhead to the lake is located just off east of Kamas, the Mirror Lake Highway. When you get to the exit for Trail Lake, exit west onto the paved road and drive for a mile or so until you come to a fork in the road. Then turn north for another mile to reach the trailhead.
You will enjoy passing by many mesmerizing lakes and several smaller ponds on the way to Ibantik Lake.
5. Mount Timpanogos
One of the most impressive and breathtaking overnight backpacking trails you can explore in Utah is at Mount Timpanogos. Mount Timpanogos is the most remarkable wall that dominates and stands tall in the landscape on the northern part of the Utah Valley. It is indeed a sight to behold. Mount Timpanogos is one of the most popular mountain biking destinations in Utah, as well as one of the most recognizable mountains in the state. With an altitude of 11749 feet, it is also the second-highest summit of the Wasatch Mountains, with Mount Nebo being the highest.
There are two trails here that are commonly used to reach the summit. The first is known as the Aspen Grove Trail, which has a length of 8.3 miles one way. It starts at the Theater-in-the-Pines picnic area on the eastern side of the mountain, and it is a very beautiful trail that takes you through several breathtaking waterfalls.
The second trail is the Timpooneke Trail, which also leads to the summit, and extends around 7.5 miles one way from the Timpooneke Campground in the American Fork Canyon. Horses are allowed on this trail, but the Aspen Grove Trail does not allow horses.
You will see some of the most spectacular wildflowers along both trails, along with the fall colors. Wildlife is commonly seen along both paths, including several herds of mountain goats. A snowfield perched on top of the mountain never melts, and it is a must-see when you reach the summit.