With their colorful settings and majestic geology, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion national parks in Utah rightfully should be explored on foot, even if you only have a few hours to hike.
That's where 50 Best Short Hikes In Utah's National Parks comes in handy. Now coming out in a second edition crafted by Greg Witt, this paperback overlooks long-distance treks such as the Under the Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon and the Narrows at Zion in favor of relatively bite-sized hikes, none longer than 8 miles.
Broken down by park, each chapter presents a quick overview of the park at hand, and then delves right into the hikes. Each hike contains an at-a-glance overview with trailhead information, trail use (walking and hiking, horse use, whether pets are allowed, whether it's ADA accessible), distance, whether it's a loop or out-and-back route, elevation gain or loss, whether there are any facilities (ie, restrooms), and highlights along the way.
There are rather barebones drawings that lay out the hike (if you're a bit hesitant to wander off into these landscapes, pick up the appropriate Trails Illustrated maps that National Geographic produces), and interesting sidebar tidbits dropped into the chapters.
For those technologically-inclined, there also are GPS coordinates. Having a GPS unit can help, as the author occasionally notes exact distances along the trail to help you identify specific areas. For instance, in the Hat Shop hike at Bryce Canyon he notes that, "There is no sign marking the Hat Shop, so you'll need to pay attention to the hoodoos on the right side of the trail. At exactly 2.0 miles from the trailhead, the path makes a quick rise onto a promontory where, on your right, you'll see hoodoos topped with precariously perched dolomite capstones -- the Hat Shop!"
There is, in the very front of the book, the ubiquitous listings of best short hikes in each park, best for small children, best for archaeology, best for "iconic natural features," and so on. That's the section you and your friends can quibble over and debate. (It's also one where the author and editors overlooked the need to clearly identify in which park the named hikes exist. Most entries identify the park, but some don't.)
If you're heading to one of Utah's five national parks, and wondering what trails you should plan on hiking, this is a great book to have in your daypack.