The slickrock country of southern Utah and northern Arizona is filled with both day-hiking and backcountry exploration opportunities.
Canyonland National Park
Canyonlands National Park, over the the southeast corner of Utah, is another jewel of National Park Service. The Island in the Sky and Needles regions of the park have hundreds of miles of pleasant walks, day hikes and backcountry trails.
Here's a sampling:
The Mesa Arch Trail is easy, only half a mile round-trip, which leads to a widely photographed arch. From various positions, the arch frames distant mountains, the Colorado River below and the Washer Woman Arch.
A moderate hike is found on the Aztec Butte Trail -- 2 miles round-trip to the top of a sandstone dome. A side trail leads to an archeological site.
Syncline Loop, at 8.3 miles is a strenous hike into the backcountry. Blisteringly hot in the summer, it offers stunning views of Upheaval Dome or the Green River.
Most of the longer trails on the Island start on top of the mesa, then take switch-backs to reach the White Rim bench below. These strenous hikes drop 1,000-2,000 feet and involve scrambling over steep slopes of loose rock.
In the Needles district, hikers can venture out to Tower Ruin, Confluence Overlook, Elephant Hill, the Joint Trail, and Chesler Park. There's 60 miles of interconnecting trails, with opportunities for day hikes and multi-day backpacking.
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is Just Across the Border
The Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon is only 2.5 hour's drive south of Zion National Park -- leaving plenty of time for day hikes and other adventures.
An easy jaunt is the 3-mile, round-trip Transept Trail from the Grand Canyon Lodge (enjoy that classic view!), skirting the rim to the North Rim Campground and back.
Even easier is the half-mile, round-trip walk along Bright Angel Point Trail, from the parking lot to a superb view of the canyon.
The North Kaibab Trail is the only maintained trail down into the canyon from the North Rim. You can venture down to the Coconino Overlook (1.5 miles round-trip) or further to Supai Tunnel (4 miles round-trip).
If you have a full day, are physically fit, properly outfitted with hiking shoes (are you really dumb enough to wear sandals?) and can hit the trail by 7 a.m., then you can hike to Roaring Springs and back -- 9.4 miles round-trip and a 3,050 foot-descent, followed by a 3,050 ascent. No one should try and go beyond Roaring Springs.