Lack of water for drinking and cooking bumps many canyon-country trips out of the beginner category: If you don’t have advanced water-scouting skills, you’re stuck hauling in a heavy load of your own supply. Not here: This 4-mile out-and-back leads to a bona fide oasis 1,000 feet beneath sunset-hued cliffs. Early Native Americans must have liked it, too—petroglyphs and pictographs on the rocks date to the Fremont people, who lived here more than 1,000 years ago. (Take the obvious 100-yard spur trail at mile 1.5 to see the etchings.) From the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery, follow the pancake-flat trail along spring-fed Jones Hole Creek, tracing the bottom of a sandstone canyon in the shade of cottonwoods and box elders. Pitch your tent at one of the two sites at Ely Creek, then head west for the real treat: a 10-foot waterfall tucked in a cove so cool, a few Douglas firs grow in its microclimate. Refresh under the cascade or splash in the pool at its base (bring your suit). Got time for a longer hike? Continue 2 miles past camp to the banks of the Green River, snaking 2,500 feet below the surrounding escarpment. Tip: Bring a rod to catch dinner in Jones Hole Creek, which teems with trout from the hatchery upstream (Utah fishing license required).
Go May/June/September for moderate temps Get there From Vernal, follow Diamond Mountain Rd. 19.4 miles northeast. Turn east onto Jones Hole Rd. for 16.6 miles to the hatchery. Permit Required; free Map Trails Illustrated Dinosaur National Monument ($12, natgeomaps.com) Contactnps.gov/dino