Best Hikes in Manti-La Sal National Forest (UT)

Manti-La Sal National Forest Overview

The 1.4 million acre Manti-La Sal National Forest is located in central and southeastern Utah. The Forest is divided into three land areas: the Manti Division, the La Sal Division at Moab, and the La Sal Division at Monticello. With its close proximity to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, most people simply drive right by. Certain areas of the forest are remote and can be difficult to reach but there are many beautiful areas worth checking out. Climbing and mountain biking might be the most popular recreation activities in the forest. However, there are plenty of trails to explore as well in addition to the best hikes in Manti-La Sal National Forest described below. Many more hikes are within a short drive of the forest’s boundaries. As with all hiking in isolated areas, lack of water is the biggest thing to worry about so make sure you are staying plenty hydrated!

Nearest Metro AreaMoab, UT
Area Size1,413,111 acres
EstablishedMay 29, 1903
Hiking Trails492 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Manti-La Sal National Forest

(*** = Best hikes in Manti-La Sal National Forest)

Burro Pass Trail – 4.8 mile out and back
Aspen Stand on the “Whole Enchilada”, Photo by Dough Wewer

This trail is often closed due to snow and wet, muddy conditions until July.  Many users will prefer to begin from Geyser Pass on Forest Road #071 (increases distance) as Forest Road #240 is rough and steep.  Steep, narrow switchbacks are common along this trail as it winds through open meadows and spruce/fir forest.  It is a steep climb from the trailhead to Burro Pass and an even steeper narrow descent from Burro Pass toward Warner Lake and Wet Fork Mill Creek. Mountain bikers, consider the Whole Enchilada Trail which combines a series of Forest Service and BLM trails to create a primarily downhill, 35 mile singletrack trail from Burro Pass high in the La Sals to the Colorado River and back to Moab. 

Clark Lake Loop*** – 2.6 mile loop

This trail connects #141 and #037to create a nice loop trail through spruce/fir forest. The entire loop is approximately 2.5 miles roundtrip. This trail passes by Clark Lake, the only lake in the La Sals not accessible by road. This popular trail sees use by multiple different types of users, primarily, hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian users. 

Horse Pasture Canyon Trail – 8.2 miles out and back
20170523-FS-Manti-La Sal NF-ET5A1218
Horse Pasture Trail in Dark Canyon Wilderness, Photo by Charity Parks

The trail travels along the rim of Horse Pasture Canyon (1.5 miles) with views into the canyon and Dark Canyon Wilderness, before dropping steeply into Horse Pasture Canyon.  The trail continues along the riparian area in the bottom of Horse Pasture Canyon to end at Scorup Cabin. This trail travels through Dark Canyon Wilderness, designated in 1984 and along an intermittent stream dropping from Elk Ridge to the bottom of Dark Canyon.  The Wilderness was designated for its deep canyon graced with unique steep sandstone cliffs and a vast archeological record.

Maple Canyon Loop*** – 5 mile loop

Three steep scenic loop trails provide access to many of the rock climbing sites in the canyon. Panoramic views east into Sanpete Valley and beyond to the Wasatch Plateau reveal themselves as you near the top. All trails begin near Maple Canyon Campground which is nestled among thick groves of maples below beautiful towering rock walls. Rock climbing is the campground’s main draw, attracting climbers from all over the world with its numerous routes for beginners and experts alike.

Featured Image: Manti-La Sal National Forest, Photo by Lindsey Winkel

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  1. HorseWeb

    Thank you for the recommendations! I pass this place quite often on my way to my pasture, but I’ve only been here a couple of times. It turns out that there is something to see here! I’ll have to check it out =)