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29 Amazing Hidden Gems in Utah

A state in the western region of United States of America, Utah derives its name from the Ute tribe, who were the earliest settlers in the region, long before Europeans and Mormons claimed their ownership. The state is known to be the only one of its kind to have a majority of its residents belonging to a single church – approximately 62% of the total population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Neighbored by Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada, Utah is the 13th largest state by area in the nation and has the least income inequality.

Did you know that Utah has 29 counties and that every county in the state contains some part of a national forest? Did you also know that Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken didn’t open his first shop in Kentucky but in Salt Lake City, Utah?

A true western haven, Utah is home to many geological diversities as well as a great range of tourist activities such as snowboarding, hiking, skiing, and rock climbing. Additionally, the state also holds a lot of many secret spots that are yet to be discovered. Let us explore some of the hidden gems in Utah and find out what else the state has in store.

1. Pando the Trembling Giant, Richfield

Pando the Trembling Giant, Richfield

Second only to the giant mushrooms of Oregon, Pando the Trembling Giant in Richfield, Utah is a group of 47,000 quaking aspens which share a single root system and has spread over 107 acres of land. Reportedly, they are over a million years old, hence, Pando is not only one of the largest organisms in the world but is also among the oldest.

Located within the grounds of Fishlake National Forest, the Trembling Giant was first discovered in the 1960s by botanist Burton Barnes. Pando, Latin for “I Spread,” is a forest in itself and is considered among the most picturesque group of trees found anywhere on earth.

Weighing roughly around 6,500 tons, Pando, like other trees of “his” (according to ecologist Paul Rogers) kind, reproduces asexually, thus, making all the other trees stem out of a large clone.

2. Nellie Pucell Unthank Memorial, Cedar City

Nellie Pucell Unthank Memorial, Cedar City

Nellie (née Ellie) Pucell Unthank was born in England in 1846. At the age of 9, Nellie, along with her entire family, joined the LDS Church and moved to the Salt Lake Valley, the United States to live close to the community they belonged to.

During their journey from England to Utah, they were hit by an untimed snowstorm. The catastrophe claimed her father’s life and five days later, Nellie and her elder sister lost their mother as well. Nellie walked across the snow barefoot and would have eventually died if Brigham Young didn’t send out for her and her sister. By the time the girls reached Utah, Nellie’s legs suffered majorly due to frostbite.

To save her from further ailments, her legs were amputated with a saw and a butcher knife while she lay conscious without anesthesia. Because of the unprofessional standards of surgery, her stumps never healed.

At 24, Nellie married William Unthank and moved to Cedar City to start her new life. Her injury didn’t stop her from being a hardworking and caring mother. Nellie and her children even took the initiative of cleaning the entire LDS meetinghouse once a year.

She died at the age of 69 and a statue of a smiling, brave Nellie with her legs attached was erected at the site of her former family home (present day Southern Utah University campus).

3. Trilobite Quarry, Delta

Trilobite Quarry, Delta

Going to a museum and appreciating a million-year-old fossil in a glass showcase is one thing, but the feeling of getting your hands dirty and digging for your own fossil is not just fun but extremely rewarding.

Blessed with one of the richest deposits of trilobites on earth, the U-DIG fossil site offers 500 million-year-old trilobite fossils. And, not only can you dig for your own fossils here, you can also keep the rewards of your own excavation adventure.

Spread over forty acres of land one mile off of the main highway, Trilobite Quarry preserves the fossils in a near-perfect condition which makes digging for fossils extremely easy.

Carry your own tools or rent some at the quarry and go trilobite hunting with the whole family – about ten to twenty fossils can be unearthed in a few hours.

4. The “Up” House, Herriman

The "Up" House, Herriman

Remember that amazing scene from Up (2009 movie) when Carl, tired of all the goons trying to throw him out of his house, tied a bunch of helium balloons and transformed his home into a makeshift airship, and flew away on an adventure? Well, there is good news and bad news – the “Up” house exists in reality, but, it isn’t flying away anywhere (at least not anytime soon).

With permission from Walt Disney Pictures, Bangerter Homes, a custom construction company, created the near-perfect replica of the wonderful house of Carl and Ellie in 2011.

Owned by Clinton and Lynette Hamblin, self-proclaimed die-hard Disney fans and real-life Carl and Ellie, the Disney dream house has been built to resemble the bright home as is shown in the movie.

A white picket fence, a weathervane, and a mailbox on the outside and the living room, nursery, and of course, the armchairs have been added to make the house look as similar to the “Up” house from the movie.

The Hamblins offer photo shoots (for a fee) inside and outside the house and you can bring in your photographer and props.

5. The Spiral Jetty, Corinne

The Spiral Jetty, Corinne

A part of the 1960s sculptural movement known as “Land Art,” the Spiral Jetty was created by Robert Smithson in April 1970, however, it stayed hidden submerged underwater for over 30 years until it resurfaced in 2004.

Constructed during a drought, the Spiral Jetty is made of mud, basalt rocks, and salt crystals and it spreads 1,500-foot in length in an anti-clockwise coil from the shore till far out in the Great Salt Lake.

Donated to Dia Art Foundation in 1999, the Spiral Jetty’s fate depends majorly on the surrounding level of water. Reportedly, the jetty is in the danger of sinking underwater again if the water level surpasses 4,197 feet.

The pink-hued water and the spiral-like dock makes even the most usual sunsets look surreal.

6. The Wahweap Hoodoos, Kanab

The Wahweap Hoodoos, Kanab

A couple of hours north from Grand Canyon’s southern end, the Wahweap Hoodoos, also known as the “white ghosts,” is unlike any other creek formation that you may have seen in your life. They are massive, they are white, and they are definitely worth the five-hour-long, 9.2-mile out-and-back hike.

Considered as one of the most peculiar geological formations on the continent, the Hoodoos hike takes you through the Coyote Creek followed by the Wahweap Creek and the strangely-dubbed Nipple Creek. At the 0.5-mile mark, the ramshackle “Hanging Garden” welcomes you and by the 3.6th mile, you enter the first Wahweap Hoodoo.

A hoodoo, as explained by geologists, is formed when a thin layer of hard rock covers a hard level of soft rock. Sometimes, a crack in the hard layer allows for the soft rock to erode. But, a small, resistant cap of hard rock protects the inner deposit of soft rock and gradually transforms into a vertical pinnacle.

Research shows that the Hoodoos have been in existence since T-Rex roamed the wild valleys of Utah.

7. Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial, Enterprise

Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial

After the death of their founder, Joseph Smith in 1844, the Mormons began fearing for their survival in the hostile environment of Missouri, and hence, the entire community, under the guidance of Brigham Young, Smith’s successor, began traveling west to Utah sometime in 1846-47.

The settlement was just adapting to their new living conditions and surviving the loss of their leader when the Baker-Fancher group of migrants, on their way to California from Arkansas, arrived in Salt Lake City to rest and refill their depleting stocks. However, due to their misplaced fear and irrational xenophobia, the Mormon government acted with despise towards the migrants, who quietly left the area.

Gradually, the emigrant group reached Mountain Meadows, but little did they know of the fate that awaited them. With the help of a few local Paiutes, the militia led an attack on the Baker-Fancher group and after a long struggle, every human being in the group of migrants who were elder than seven years of age was killed.

Though the militia tried to blame it on Paiutes, the truth came out sooner than later and the militia leader was sentenced to death.

Today, the Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial, established by the Mormons in 1999, stands as a symbol of a giant black patch of shame and disgust in the history of Americans, Westerns, and Mormons.

8. Mystic Hot Springs, Monroe

Mystic Hot Springs, Monroe

Mike Ginsburg, a self-proclaimed artist, director and producer, was on his way to Denver in 1995 when he accidentally came across what is now known as Mystic Hot springs.

Though the actual water source that caters to Mystic Hot Springs have been in existence for over a few million years, the modern resort and bathtubs were added around 1996.

Formerly known as the Monroe Hot Springs, the banks of the hot springs were used by the Native American tribes of Ute, Piute, and Shoshone for camping. Mike began with one cabin and soon realized that he needed much more. So, he went on to add more cabins, create designated soaking areas, set up workshops and concerts, and restore many of the pioneer cabins.

The best part – Mystic and its owner allow you to bring your furry friends along, provided they are well-behaved, kept away from the hot tubs, and that you can clean up after them. Also, they are always welcoming new volunteers to help out with restoring and working around the hot springs in exchange for room and board, so go ahead plan your gap year, if you haven’t already!

9. Homestead Crater, Midway

Homestead Crater, Midway

The Homestead Caldera, also known as “The Crater,” is a natural hot spring estimated to be around 10,000 years old. Open year-round, the hot springs are frequently visited by swimmers, divers, and bathers.

The giant hot tub is found nestled within the Homestead Resort, who have taken the initiative of blasting a horizontal tunnel through the area to provide easy access (for a nominal fee, of course).

The 55-feet-high cathedral-like dome that covers the Crater’s brilliantly soothing waters (between 90 to 96-degree Fahrenheit) have been formed naturally over time due to sediment deposit. At 65-feet deep and 400-feet-wide, the Crater is considered the largest mineral dome in the area.

A wooden deck and two designated soaking areas are available for tourists.

10. Museum of Ancient Life, Lehi

Museum of Ancient Life, Lehi

Established in 2000, the Museum of Ancient Life is known to house one of the largest collections of mounted dinosaurs in the world, including a 120-foot long Supersaurus specimen – the largest of its kind on earth.

The museum houses approximately sixty complete dinosaur skeletons and more than fifty hands-on exhibitions. A haven for your little scientists, the museum lets your kids dig for their own fossils and serve as a Junior Paleontologist. Alternatively, they can observe the Senior Paleontologists recover a 150-million-year old Barosaurus.

Designed by Cliff Miles, the expert paleontologist and the man behind naming Minotausaurus and Hesperosauras, the Museum of Ancient Life also houses an IMAX 3D movie theatre, correctly known as the Mammoth Screen Theatre, which runs several daily shows educating visitors about various geological and biological spectacles.

11. Victim of the Beast Gravestone, Salt Lake City

Victim of the Beast Gravestone, Salt Lake City

Amidst the many graves of Salt Lake City Cemetery, Salt Lake City, Utah lies a gravesite with an unusual tombstone that reads: Lilly E. Gray, Victim of the Beast 666. While a solid theory behind the strange inscription and the cause of Lilly’s death remain unsolved, several speculations have been made over the period of time.

Lilly died on November 14th, 1958 at the age of 77. Her obituary stated that she died of natural causes, but the theory seems far from the truth, at least as per the records of her husband, Elmer Gray’s journal. According to Elmer, he was kidnapped by Democrat officials and was held in Utah State Prison and his wife, Lilly, was murdered by the kidnappers.

Another, more viable story comes from Mike Ellerbeck of Salt Lake Monument, a company that has been making headstones for over a century. Ellerbeck recalled that Lilly’s family despised Elmer and wanted both to keep away from each other. The couple had met at a later stage in life and had an unusual chemistry. He further recounts that Elmer was the one to order the tombstone for Lilly and the “beast” he referred to was the Government.

Yet again, these are all speculations, and nothing has been known for sure, but that hasn’t stopped curious souls to pay a visit to this one-of-a-kind grave.

12. Gilgal Sculpture Garden, Salt Lake City

Gilgal Sculpture Garden, Salt Lake City

Located in Salt Lake City, Utah Gilgal Sculpture Garden is a small but interesting public park filled with intriguing figurines and engravings representing Mormonism and its influence on this part of the nation.

Established in the mid-twentieth century by Thomas Battersby Child, Jr., the garden comprises 12 original sculptures and over 70 rock formations engraved with scriptures, poems, and texts honoring the Mormons. The only entitled “visionary art environment” in Utah, the Gilgal Sculpture Garden belonged to Child from 1947 until his death 1963.

Among the many statues such as disembodied heads, grasshoppers, and a sacrificial altar, what stands out the most is a sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism.

There is a life-like statue of Child within the park which is now managed by a group of citizens who call themselves “The Friends of Gilgal Gardens.”

13. Hell’s Backbone Scenic Road, Escalante

Hell's Backbone Scenic Road, Escalante

Known by its creators as The Poison Road on a craggy terrain called the desert slick rock surrounded by the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness area around the town of Salt Gulch lies Hell’s Backbone Scenic Road!

The towns of Boulder and Escalante are joined by two separate routes – a nice, paved scenic route over Scenic Byway 12 and another, a gravel road which was built before the paved route and is still gravel today. But, the views around the gravel pathway that take you through a winding road that is 9,000 feet above the ground is unsurpassable.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC) in 1933, Hell’s Backbone may not be the last road on earth, but it is definitely one whose construction is extremely hard to imagine.

Equally beautiful in terms of scenery and landscape, the two roads make for a great drive, but only of the two offers a heart-thumping view of how life looks thousands of feet below.

14. Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Spanish Fork

Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Spanish Fork

The religious side of Utah is not unknown to the world, after all, it has the largest (62% of the total state population) community of believers belonging to a single church (LDS). However, the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple believers are slightly different than the usual 62%.

Established in 1998, the Temple was built by a group of Hindu devotees who belong to the special religious group known as the Hare Krishnas, worshippers of Hindu Gods, Radha and Krishna. The architecture, unlike the gothic and utilitarian styles of Mormon churches, includes a domed hilltop temple and a large amphitheater where hundreds of worshippers can gather and pray at the same time.

Take a walk among llamas and cows at the natural park, enjoy the Sunday Love Feast, admire the architectural beauty, or simply get involved in the festival of colors aka Holi, one of the largest festivals in the world.

15. Burr Trail Switchbacks, Garfield County

Burr Trail Switchbacks

If you think you are a professional hiker and can drive around through the toughest trails in the world, think again! The Burr Trail Switchbacks, since it was first established by John Atlantic Burr in 1876, have challenged the most adventurous travelers from around the world.

John Atlantic Burr was born aboard the SS Brooklyn in 1846, His family lived in Salt Lake City and later established the town of Burrville. Burr established the trail as a cattle trail through the valleys of Waterpocket Fold, Burr Canyon, and lower and upper Muley Twist Canyon trail. The same challenging yet picturesque pathway came to be known as the Burr Trail.

The trail passes through the striking landscapes of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Capitol Reef National Park, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Check the weather conditions before you make your way there since the roads are known to get tougher even for 4WDs during winters.

16. Parowan Gap Petroglyphs, Parowan

Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

Located near the Little Salt Lake in the small town of Parowan is a natural gap in the mountains that hides in its belly hundreds of ancient petroglyphs and pictographs.

Assumed to be over a few thousand years old, the Petroglyphs, formally known as the Parowan Gap Petroglyphs, have been interpreted in a lot of different ways. While some researchers argue that the engravings depict a complex calendar system, Hopi and Paiute people state that the inscriptions display different animals and geographic shapes.

Most of the petroglyphs are intact and have been preserved well, but some have been vandalized since the arrival of Anglos. Among the conserved are a few footprints that resemble that of dinosaurs.

A small cave that is believed to be occupied by shamans and used for ritualistic practices hides inside and a well-paved trail takes you along the natural gap.

17. Tintic Standard Reduction Mill, Genola

Tintic Standard Reduction Mill, Genola

An ore refinery which once served the nearby gold, silver, lead and copper recovered from Eureka, Tintic Standard Reduction Mill in Genola, Utah is one of the shortest-lived reduction mills in the history of United States.

Surprisingly, the construction of the mill began in 1921 and even though the building was completed and opened for operation, it closed for business by 1925. At the time of its operation, the mill used the “Augustine Process,” an acid-based procedure of ore refinement. However, the technology was deemed inefficient and so, the mill was shut down.

Today, the strong construction still remains where it stood almost a century ago and is now a graffiti-covered hillside fortress. Listed as a National Historic Site, the Tintic Standard Reduction Mill still emits a glow of ruinous beauty.

18. 17 Room Ruin, Bluff

17 Room Ruin, Bluff

Located right outside the city of Bluff, Utah is a gigantic 100-foot-deep hollow that overlooks the San Juan River. Within the natural alcove lays the 17 Room Ruin, an alleged settlement that was created sometime in the 1200s, and has since remained preserved by the hollow.

The Ruin is known to have between 14 to 18 rooms, though most researchers claim there are 17 and that these single-filed spaces were inhabited by a few Ute families. Access is through a narrow rooftop passageway which connects to one another via a number of internal passages.

Graffiti art covers the back wall of the ruins while handprints of several original residents of the settlement surround the vicinity. Also known as the 16 Room Ruins at times, the site is as great for hiking as it is for catching an insight into the lives of Southwestern Native Americans.

19. Grafton Ghost Town, Rockville

Grafton Ghost Town

Settled by Mormons under the guidance and supervision of Brigham Young, the town of Grafton was established with an intention to serve as a base for cotton plantation. Located a few miles from the Zion National Park, the town was formed in 1859 by five Mormon families who soon realized it was better to grow food crops here than cotton. Unfortunately, in 1862, the surrounding Virgin River flooded and washed away the entire town.

In 1866, local conflicts led to the abandonment of Grafton (resettled a mile from the original site) but farmers still kept coming back to take care of their crops. A couple of years later, a bunch of settlers returned to the town and established a schoolhouse, which stands to date.

By the 20th century, the town was left abandoned again and today, it stands as a ghost town with a history of on and off settlements.

An annual reunion of the town’s descendants is organized to honor the spirit of the village which has featured in popular movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and In Old Arizona.

20. 109-Year-Old Fruitcake and 70-Year-Old Bacon, Hurricane

Pioneer Heritage Museum, Hurricane

In Hurricane, Utah is a small museum known by the name of Pioneer Heritage Museum which has some of the most unique (and old) collection one can ever find, for instance, the remaining slices of a 109-year-old fruitcake and a 70-year-old slab of bacon.

In 1907, Emily Wood and Joe Scow got married, and Mrs. Ballard presented them with a Grafton-baked fruit cake covered in pink flower with dew drops on them. At the time, there was a trend of preserving such cakes as a keepsake and so their family held onto some. While most of the frosting and the dewy pink flowers were consumed over time by the family of the newlyweds, some of the fruitcake was kept on the original mantle for the next 83 years. The mantle, along with the remains of the cake, was donated in 1990 to the museum by the couple’s granddaughter.

The bacon slab, however, belongs to Grace Wright Jepson, a different, unrelated pioneer of the Hurricane Valley, who was known for her a great many talents. She served as a nurse, a midwife, and a cured meat magician. A mother of seven, Grace put away a slab of bacon wrapped in a sackcloth in the family shed sometime in 1945. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1958 and everybody forgot about the bacon lady’s master craft that still remained in the shed. In 1996, Woodrow, one of Grace’s son, rediscovered the slab and donated it to the museum.

The bacon slab still looks really well-preserved, though it most likely isn’t healthy to try anymore.

21. The Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

The Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City

Between 1846 and 1868, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) traveled across 1,300 miles of land from Illinois to Utah, covering the states of Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming on their way.

The Mormons who participated in the trail carried with them all sorts of daily survival necessities – clothes, bedrolls, quilts, tools, and guns, etc. The Pioneer Memorial Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah is the final resting place of most of those objects that were carried by Mormons during their grand hike through America.

Maintained by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, the display claims that it has the largest collection dedicated to a specific subject in the world. True or not, the exhibition at the museum definitely throws a bright light into the domestic living habits of Mormon migrants.

Though most of the compilations are quite intriguing, some of the more bizarre-natured objects on display are a petrified potato, an alleged magic-cured bloodstone, and a collection of rattles from the rattlesnakes killed by a woman named “Hilda.”

22. Sun Tunnels, Wendover

Sun Tunnels, Utah

Completed in 1976, the Sun Tunnels is a unique art installation by Nancy Holt, the late American artist known for her art installations and art related media work.

Set in an open X configuration, the four eighteen-foot-long and nine-foot diameter tunnels have holes of varying sizes pierced through them. It may seem like nothing to the untrained eye, but, in fact, the holes imitate the constellation of Capricorn, Draco, Columbia, and Perseus.

Located in a remote valley 45 miles north of Wendover, Utah in the Great Basin Desert, the Sun Tunnels have been divided into pairs to align with the setting and rising of the sun during the summer and winter solstice, respectively.

The best way to enjoy the tunnels – fill up your gas tank, charge your camera, pack a picnic lunch, blanket, sunscreen, and a sketchbook if you’d like and make a full day out of it.

23. Metaphor: The Tree of Utah, Wendover

Metaphor: The Tree of Utah

Installed in the 1980s by Karl Momen, a European artist, the Metaphor, often dubbed as the Tree of Utah as well as the Tree of Life, is a psychedelic artwork that has intrigued the interest of passing tourists ever since it was first put in its place.

As the story goes, Karl was on his tour of the Bonneville Salt Flats when he had an epiphany. The result – a 90-foot tall, square-trunk concrete tree with multicolored orbs that looks like the rendition of a user on an acid trip!

In total contrast of the salt lands underneath its feet, the Metaphor is surrounded by spherical objects made of concrete, looking like as if they fell from the tree.

A plaque sits on the bottom that reads: Ode to Joy by Friedrich Schiller – who’s Joy and what’s the connection, you ask? Well, we are hoping you could tell us because we have absolutely no idea.

24. The Cassidy Trail, Panguitch

The Cassidy Trail, Panguitch

Within the boundaries of Dixie National Forest, Utah lies the bewitching red sandstone hoodoos of the Red Canyon, formed over a period of a few thousand years of erosion, frost, and rain. Also known as tent rocks and earth pyramids, the red hoodoos comprise Pine trees that adds more flavor to an already-intriguing bunch of rock formations. But, this isn’t all that lies hidden within the geological formations of Red Canyon.

The area, aside from its magnificent beauty, is also known to be related to the famous American robber, Butch Cassidy. It is believed that Cassidy was born close to the area and hence, it’s no surprise that the trail is named after him.

As the story goes, Cassidy got into a fight with another man over a woman in Panguitch. Enraged, the famous outlaw tried to kill his competitor with his bare hands. Believing that he had killed his opponent, Cassidy went into hiding amidst the vast terrain of Rock Canyon. Little did he know that the man survived and chased after him with a gang of his own. Cassidy got word of it and spent the next few days hiding out along the trail until the gang left.

Reportedly, a lot of modern-day criminals (perhaps a fan of Cassidy’s) have followed the same hiding trail to escape conviction after committing crimes out of Utah.

25. Gravesite of Utah’s First Jedi Priest, West Valley City

Gravesite of Utah’s First Jedi Priest, West Valley City

Within the grounds of Valley View Memorial Park and Funeral Home lies a hidden gravesite marked by an onyx-colored craft that states, “Steven Allan Ford, May The Force Be With You – Always.” You may think of it as a grave of a diehard fan or even a prank, but the grave is as real as graves can be.

Steven Allan Ford, born in 1980, was many things – a father, a brother, a son, an FX artist and a minister. He was also known to cheer people around him with his gifted sense of humor. And, he was also the first ordained Jedi priest of the Temple of the Jedi Order.

Jediism, for those who haven’t watched a single episode of Star Wars (seriously?), is not a strict, separate religion but a combination of one or more religions combined with Code of Chivalry and practice of martial arts. Needless to say, Ford was a true believer, follower, and preacher.

Ford died on September 7th, 2010 of a broken heart and was buried at the Park underneath a plaque that best describes his true self.

26. Fantasy Canyon, Vernal

Fantasy Canyon, Vernal

Canyons, craters, rock formations, and other such natural phenomena are usual in the state of Utah, especially in the northeast. However, no other region is as ethereal as the pertinently named Fantasy Canyon.

Spread over a short stretch of 10 acres of land, Fantasy Canyon has some of the most unusual and intriguing rock formations to be found anywhere in the world. Officially documented for the first time in 1909 by Earl Douglas, a notable paleontologist and explorer, the site comprises rock formations made of quartzose sandstones which are believed to be from Eocene Epoch (about 50 million years ago that is).

While most of the formations look abstractly beautiful, a few distinctively resemble animals such as bears and dinosaurs – maybe that’s why it is called Fantasy Land – a place where you can let your fantasy run wild!

27. First Lady Dolls, Vernal

First Lady Dolls, Vernal

Uintah County Western Heritage Museum, at first glance, looks like just another usual collection of prehistoric artefacts, objects signifying the state’s history and geography, and tools that represent a part of Vernal’s medical history, but take a closer look and you will be amazed to find three glass cabinets full of doll replicas of every American First Lady till Nancy Reagan.

Situated on the second floor of the museum, the dolls have been arranged chronologically, starting from Martha Washington (1789-1797) to Mary Ann Todd Lincoln (1861-1865) to Eleanor Roosevelt (1933-1945) to Nancy Reagan (1981-1989).

Created by Salt Lake City-based sculptor Phyllis Juhlin Park, the set of 43 porcelain dolls are slightly larger than your usual Barbie and were unveiled to the public on the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. Unfortunately, Park retired after creating the doll replica of Nancy Reagan, so she is the museum’s last First Lady (so far).

While Park has passed away since then, the museum awaits a magician-sculptor to add the remaining five First Ladies since Nancy. Until then, the current collection holds an exquisite display for you to enjoy.

28. This Is The Place Monument, Salt Lake City

This Is The Place Monument, Salt Lake City

Brigham Young, the successor of Joseph Smith after he was killed in 1844, was the second president of the LDS Church who served the Mormon settlers and the Church for three decades until his death in 1877. He is most noted for his outstanding role as a leader during the forced exodus of Mormons from Illinois to the present-day land of Mormons, Utah.

Young arrived at the Salt Lake Valley (then part of Mexico) on July 24th, 1847 and as he stood overlooking the vast basin, he realized that he had found just the place. Reportedly, Young actually uttered the words, “This is the place.”

Located in the eastern region of the city, This Is The Place Monument seizes the day Young decided to establish a new Mormon colony in the heart of Utah. Crafted between 1939 and 1947 by Young’s grandson, Mahonri M. Young, the monument is a historical monument not only dedicated to Mormonism and its great leader but also to the explorers of the American West.

29. Nine Mile Canyon, Carbon County

Nine Mile Canyon, Carbon County

It’s unsure why they are called the Nine Mile Canyons considering they spread over forty miles, but, there is no doubt that it is the largest art gallery in the world!

Known for its extensive ancient pictographs and petroglyphs, the Canyon dates back to Fremont and Ute people, and the engravings surrounding the canyon were reportedly created between 400 and 1400 CE. Equally popular among tourists and archaeologists, the canyon served as a major transport route during the 1880s.

Many of the rock art creations depict hunting processes and rituals of the tribes as well as animal life such as bison and birds.

Relics of a short-lived town named Harper, a stagecoach stop at the time and a ghost town now, can be found near the Canyon. Though threatened by natural as well as man-made erosion, 63 archaeological sites of the Nine Mile Canyon are listed in the National Register for Historic Places.

29 Amazing Hidden Gems in Utah:

  • Pando the Trembling Giant, Richfield
  • Nellie Pucell Unthank Memorial, Cedar City
  • Trilobite Quarry, Delta
  • The "Up" House, Herriman
  • The Spiral Jetty, Corinne
  • The Wahweap Hoodoos, Kanab
  • Mountain Meadows Massacre Memorial, Enterprise
  • Mystic Hot Springs, Monroe
  • Homestead Crater, Midway
  • Museum of Ancient Life, Lehi
  • Victim of the Beast Gravestone, Salt Lake City
  • Gilgal Sculpture Garden, Salt Lake City
  • Hell's Backbone Scenic Road, Escalante
  • Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Spanish Fork
  • Burr Trail Switchbacks, Garfield County
  • Parowan Gap Petroglyphs, Parowan
  • Tintic Standard Reduction Mill, Genola
  • 17 Room Ruin, Bluff
  • Grafton Ghost Town, Rockville
  • 109-Year-Old Fruitcake and 70-Year-Old Bacon, Hurricane
  • The Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City
  • Sun Tunnels, Wendover
  • Metaphor: The Tree of Utah, Wendover
  • The Cassidy Trail, Panguitch
  • Gravesite of Utah's First Jedi Priest, West Valley City
  • Fantasy Canyon, Vernal
  • First Lady Dolls, Vernal
  • This Is The Place Monument, Salt Lake City
  • Nine Mile Canyon, Carbon County
  • Netherlands
  • Northern Ireland
  • Travel Gear We Love
  • Family Travel Guides

Destination Daydreamer

weird places to visit in utah

27 Amazing Things to Do in Utah that Aren’t National Parks

weird places to visit in utah

Utah is home to sooo many amazing things to see, do, and experience that there is obviously no way I can fit all of them into this post. Of course, Utah is known for its five amazing national parks.

However, as a Utah native, I’m going to do my best to fill you in on loads of Utah’s hidden gems that you’ve got to experience. This list of best places to visit in Utah covers the whole state starting in northern, central and then southern Utah.

So many of these places to visit are perfect for families, couples, or solo travelers. Between breathtaking vistas, sandstone hoodoos, spectacular salt flats (and a million other amazing things), everyone will find something they like in Utah!

Map of Unique Things to do in Utah:

*Use this map to create your perfect Utah itinerary with all of Utah’s hidden gems*

Things to do in Northern Utah

1. mantua poppy fields.

 The Mantua Poppy field is a lovely area in a small town called Mantua (pronounced man-away), about one hour north of Salt Lake City. It makes a great stop on your way to Logan, a day trip from Salt Lake, or you can even make a weekend of it by camping at the nearby Box Elder Campground .

Orange poppies in field

The peak time to see the Mantua poppies in bloom is usually the end of May-early June. Around dusk you may find a lot of photographers visiting with you, however, earlier in the day may result in a poppy field a little less crowded. While you’re there, visit Mantua Reservoir for fishing, swimming, and other water activities.

Utah is also home to another poppy field in Alpine. You can find more information about the Alpine poppies here .

weird places to visit in utah

2. Snowbasin Resort

When most people think of ski resorts in Utah, their first thought is Park City. However, just a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City in beautiful Ogden Valley rests a resort called Snowbasin that has not only great skiing but amazing summer activities as well like scenic gondola rides, hiking, mountain biking, mini-golf, and yoga.

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My favorite thing to do at Snowbasin Resort in the summer is to ride the Needles Gondola up the mountain for endless mountain and valley views. Once at the top, you can hike on their variety of trails including the three hiking-only trails that lead to the crest of the ridge for breathtaking views of the valley below. Keep your eyes open for mountain goats, moose, and other wildlife!

You can pick up food from Needles Lodge at the top or pack your own picnic for a scenic lunch overlooking the valley. A great picnic spot is located off the blue Needles Trail above Moonshine Trees on Snowbasin’s Summer Trail Map . This breathtaking area is indicated with a picnic table icon.

Man and woman on trail in front of mountain peak

Keep your eyes on their website for their summer full moon lift rides as well! It’s an event you’ve got to experience. Ride the Needles Gondola up at dusk for sunset views then you get to admire the moon through telescopes provided at the top. My husband and I did this when we were dating and you can’t ask for a better night out.

Check out this post: 16 Best Hiking Shoes, Boots, and Sandals for Women

3. albion basin.

Hiking and strolling through Albion Basin is one of the best things to do in the summer in Utah. Albion Basin is located at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City above Alta and Snowbird ski resorts resting at 9,500 feet. The drive alone through Little Cottonwood is something you’ve got to do, but then add on Albion Basin and your day will be perfect.

Trail with wildflowers at Albion Basin in Utah mountains

Every July and August, Albion Basin turns into a spectacular wildflower-viewing area where you can go hiking, biking, and camping. An easy hiking trail for all skill levels with gorgeous wildflowers is the Albion Meadows Trail . Or another great trail option, rated as moderate, is the Cecret Lake Trail with both wildflower views and a gorgeous high-mountain lake.

You can find information on Albion Basin Campground here .

weird places to visit in utah

check out this post: Summer Camping Gear Essentials for First-Timers

4. antelope island.

  Antelope Island is the largest island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake which is the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere. The lake’s salt content is so high that you may be able to float in the water! You can also rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards on the island. Along with enjoying the water, you can also go hiking, biking and wildlife viewing (with some of the best birding in the country).

Shoreline along Great Salt Lake

A great, easy hike is the Buffalo Point Trail which takes you to the top of a hill with beautiful views and fun rocks to scramble on. If you are looking for a longer, more strenuous trail, the Frary Peak Trail will take you to the peak of the tallest mountain on the island with stunning views along the way.

weird places to visit in utah

One of the most unique aspects of Antelope Island (besides the crazy salty water) is that you can see free-roaming bison and antelope herds! Remember, do not approach the bison. And you can learn more about the wildlife of the island at the visitor center.

*Take note that during the warm months, Antelope Island can be crazy buggy. Like you will not have fun because of all the bugs flying around. However, you can call the visitors center to see what the current conditions are.

5. Red Fleet State Park 

Right in the heart of Utah’s Dinosaurland you’ll find beautiful Red Fleet State Park. Red Fleet features a picturesque reservoir where red rocks meet the water plus loads of amazing dinosaur tracks to see! The water is perfect for floating, kayaking, boating and fishing or you can just relax on the rocks and soak up some serious Vitamin D!

Reservoir in desert surrounded by sandstone and sagebrush

The dinosaur tracks at Red Fleet are thought to be more than 200 million years old and are preserved in the Navajo sandstone surrounding the lake! Paleontologists say the dinosaurs were three-toed and walked on two legs and their tracks range from 3 inches-17 inches. Isn’t that nuts to think about these dinos roaming the same area you are now hiking and camping? You can see the tracks on the Dinosaur Trackway Trail or from the lake if you have a kayak or paddle-board to approach the area.

weird places to visit in utah

Red Fleet is a 3-hour drive from both Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. You can either camp at Red Fleet Campground or there are plenty of Airbnbs and hotels in Vernal which is only about 20 minutes away.

Woman facing camera in front of reservoir surrounded by sandstone

related post: Bryce Canyon National Park-Experience the USA’s Most Unique Winter Activity

6. dinosaur national monument.

When in Utah, you must do something dinosaur-related. Dinosaur National Monument is an amazing dinosaur fossil bone quarry located right in the heart of Utah’s Dinosaurland. You can visit the Quarry Visitor Center to learn about the history of the area and the dinosaurs. Then head to the world-famous Quarry Exhibit Hall which showcases over 1,500 dinosaur fossils exposed on a cliff face within a refurbished, comfortable space. It’s an amazing place to see dinosaur bones still within the rock and not yet excavated.

Dinosaur National Monument Sign with  mountains in the background

Within Dinosaur National Monument you can also go hiking, see petroglyphs, enjoy river rafting and mountain biking. Camping is available within the park or you can stay just 20 minutes out of the park in Vernal with plenty of hotel and Airbnb options.

7. Stansbury Island

One of the most unique hidden gems in Utah and one of the best places to visit in Utah is Stansbury Island. Stansbury Island is a quiet island that doesn’t see many visitors in the Great Salt Lake.

Woman walking towards pink lake in Utah which is one of Utah's hidden gems

The best part of Stansbury Island is seeing the Morton salt fields on your way in and viewing and the gorgeous pink-hued water along the shores. The pink-colored water comes from salt-tolerant bacteria and algae that survive in the highly-salinated Great Salt Lake. 

weird places to visit in utah

I recommend visiting Stansbury Island in the spring or the fall for ideal chances of seeing the pink water. Take Stansbury Island Road to the north point of the island to find the best viewing point for the pink water. Take note that some areas of the island are private property, however, it is clearly marked. You also may find people target-shooting along the base of the small Stansbury peak.

Experiencing the salt fields and the pink water of the Great Salt Lake from Stansbury Island will be a memorable experience for everyone. 

Utah's pink lake

8. Bonneville Salt Flats

One of the best things to do in Utah and for sure one of the most “Insta-worthy” things to do in Utah is visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats . Did you think you had to travel clear to Bolivia to see some gorgeous salt flats? Think again! Just a two-hour drive from Salt Lake City, you will find about 46 square miles of crystalized, gorgeous, stark-white salt flats.

Beautiful cracked salt flats with blue sky on Bonneville Salt Flats

It’s super fun to walk out on the salt, take photos and enjoy the views. You can also drive on the salt flats. If you choose to drive, you will want to to make sure the flats are dry otherwise they may crack and your vehicle may get stuck.

Bonnneville Salt Flats International Speedway sign

The Bonneville Salt Flats not only have stunning out-of-this-world views, but they are also an international racing hub! Since 1914 land-speed races have taken place at the salt flats in every kind of vehicle imaginable. We are talking vehicles reaching speeds over 400 miles per hour 😮! The best time to visit Utah’s salt flats to see racing is Speed Week which happens each August.

9. The Sun Tunnels

The Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt (1973-76) is a unique art installation west of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah’s Great Basin Desert. The artwork consists of four concrete cylinders (18-feet long and 9-feet wide) laid out to frame the rising and setting sun each summer and winter solstice.

Silhouette of person in large cement tunnel during sunset

Not only does the tunnel frame the sun, but each tunnel has holes throughout which cast shadows of various constellations inside the tunnel depending on where the sun sits in the sky. Fun times to visit the Sun Tunnels are during the summer and winter solstice (around June 21 and December 21). Oftentimes a large group will gather to enjoy the art and nature of the solstices at the Sun Tunnels . However, you can enjoy the Sun Tunnels year-round.

Remember, if you do visit the Sun Tunnels , they are basically in the middle of nowhere so you need to make sure you have a full tank of gas (like seriously- coming from the north the last gas station is in Snowville 1.5 hours away, and coming from the south the last gas station is in Wendover also 1.5 hours away). Plus be sure to bring proper weather protection, snacks, plenty of water, and download maps because cell reception may be spotty.

weird places to visit in utah

10 Dugway Geode Beds

If you are looking to dig for geodes in the desert… this is your place! The Dugway Geode Beds have got to be one of the most unique outings and interesting things to do in Utah. The geode beds are definitely a long drive out in Utah’s west desert (just less than 3 hours west of both Salt Lake City and Provo actually). However, if you are a rock or crystal lover, this area is the perfect place for you!

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What you get to do here is hunt for geodes, crack them open, and keep what you find! For directions to the beds and tips on the best way to break open the geodes check out this page . You camp anywhere in the area as it is BLM land or a designated campground is available about one hour away at Simpson Springs which is the site of the former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in the 1930s and 1940s.

Remember that as this location is out in the middle of nowhere, be prepared. Be sure to take plenty of water, spare tires, full tank and/or extra gas, first aid kit, downloaded maps, extra chargers and plenty of food.

related post: Summer Camping Gear Essentials for First-Timers

11. the spiral jetty .

Another unique art installation you’ve got to see in Utah is the Spiral Jetty . The Spiral Jetty was created in 1970 by artist Robert Smithson using over 6,000 tons of black basalt rocks and earth from the site. He formed a spiral measuring 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide winding off the shore. Depending on the year and season, the Spiral Jetty may have water over it or it may be completely dry.

Jetty made of rocks in the shape of a spiral

You can walk down to the jetty and walk the spiral enjoying its remote destination. Or for a pretty view of the jetty, climb up the hill next to the parking area to look out over the Great Salt Lake. If you’re lucky, you may also find pink water in this area of the lake! However, it does depend on water levels and specific algae levels.

I also recommend exploring the area to the southeast where you will find wooden columns from a pier or dock left over from an oil exploration operation that shut down in the 1980s. For interesting information and questions to think about, The Utah Museum of Fine Art put together a great Spiral Jetty experiential guide that you can find here .

Woman with sunglasses in front of a large jetty made of rocks shaped in a spiral

The Spiral Jetty is quite remote on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake and about a two-hour drive from Salt Lake City. The map on our phone was able to get us there just fine, however, I suggest bringing the driving directions you’ll find on this page along with you. A noteworthy stop along the way is Golden Spike Historic Park where the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.

weird places to visit in utah

12. Uintah Mountains 

weird places to visit in utah

The Uintah Mountains are an incredibly beautiful mountain range in north-eastern Utah and one of the only mountain ranges in the country that runs east to west. The Mirror Lake Highway is an amazingly scenic drive through the Uintahs where you will pass gorgeous high-mountain lakes, picnic areas, viewpoints, and campgrounds and summit at over 10,000 feet.

weird places to visit in utah

I was lucky enough to grow up camping every summer in the Uintahs and I highly recommend visiting. You can find almost any outdoor activity you are looking for in these mountains. An amazing *almost* 12,000-foot peak to summit in only a 2.7-mile hike is Bald Mountain . This trail rewards you with amazing views and lovely rock formations.

Three gorgeous lakes for camping and exploring are Mirror Lake, Moosehorn Lake, and Trial Lake. Or if you only want to take a scenic drive on the Mirror Lake Highway, it makes a great road for fall foliage peeping!

related post: 12 Gorgeous Northern California Hikes in the Sierra Nevadas

13. kennecott copper mine .

Kennecott Copper Mine (sometimes known as Bingham Copper Mine) is one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world at almost 4 miles wide and 1 mile deep. It can even be seen from space! This mine is an amazing hidden gem in Utah and many people (locals included) don’t know you can tour it.

Huge mining hole with terraced hillsides

The tour includes a shuttle up to Bingham Canyon Overlook where you can learn its history, look over the spectacular mine, and see the huge operational vehicles up close. The trucks have tires over 12-feet tall! The tours are only $5 and you can find reservation information here.

14. Thanksgiving Point 

If you think you need to travel to Amsterdam to see tulips- think again. Thanksgiving Point in Utah has an amazing tulip festival every spring with over 280,000 tulips in bloom in over 150 varieties all imported from The Netherlands. This tulip festival is one of the best things to do in Utah in the spring.

Field of red tulips

You can spend around 2-3 hours walking through the gorgeous gardens, sculptures and water features of the Thanksgiving Point Gardens. You can even participate in the tulip 5k if you’d like!

Thanksgiving Point has other amazing activities and events along with the Tulip Festival. For example, the Butterfly Biosphere, Museum of Natural Curiosity, Museum of Natural History, Museum of Ancient Life (Dinosaurs), a working farm and special seasonal events.

weird places to visit in utah

15. Timpanogos Cave National Monument

One of the best things to do in Utah’s American Fork Canyon is hiking to and exploring Timpanogos Cave National Monument . Three beautiful limestone caves sit at the top of a strenuous 1.5-mile hike with switchbacks to the cave entrance. Because of the steepness of the trail, strollers and other wheeled vehicles aren’t allowed. Within the cave, baby carriers worn on the front are allowed, however, baby carriers worn on your back are not allowed.

Paved switchbacks leading up mountain side in American Fork Canyon

The cave-tour experience at the base of the mountain at the visitors center, you then have 1.5 hours to hike to the entrance of the cave where you are met by a ranger to explore the 0.3 mile cave. The winding passageways of the cave are decorated with gravity-defying helictites, and crystals.

Rock arch over paved trail

For a more extreme experience, you can even participate in an ‘introduction to caving’ tour where you can learn how to cave away from the trails and paths that usual tours take. You will scramble and crawl along the cave floor along unique caving paths.

weird places to visit in utah

16. Provo Canyon

Provo Canyon is a stunning and magnificent canyon connecting Provo to Heber City. I may be biased as I lived only a few minutes from Provo Canyon for almost 10 years. I drove through the canyon each day when I worked at Sundance Mountain Resort and even got my engagement photos taken in this canyon. It’s breathtaking.

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The Provo River is a relatively calm river (after the crazy spring runoff is over) with a few small rapids. You can rent tubes or larger rafts from various retailers and they will shuttle you to the top to let you float down. I definitely recommend using a rental company as the tubes they supply will be sturdy enough to not pop on the bushes (I’ve seen it happen) and they supply lifejackets which are required by law. Plus you won’t have to deal with shuttling logistics. The river is cooooold so you’ll definitely want it to be a hot summer’s day when you choose to float!

You can also bike the paved Provo River Trail which begins at the mouth of the canyon , passes Bridal Veil Falls, and ends at Vivian Park (which is a great picnic area). The length of that trail is 6-miles each way, however, there are many parking areas along the way to start or finish. Bridal Veil Falls is a beautiful waterfall where you can feed fish at the small pond at the base or take a short hike up to the second level of the falls. And if you visit in winter-you may see ice climbers on the falls!

17. Sundance Resort 

Sundance Mountain Resort is a hidden gem in Utah among Utah’s many ski resorts. In 1969, the famous actor Robert Redford bought the land now known as Sundance in an effort to create a community of conservation, art and nature. Sundance is located in beautiful Provo Canyon sitting at the base of majestic Mt. Timpanogos at over 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) tall.

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In the summertime, Sundance offers ski lift rides to enjoy the views or you can take the lifts all the way up to Bearclaw for a tasty meal with stunning mountain-peak views. You can also mountain bike, hike, visit the art blowing gallery, and shop at Sundance’s shop which was the start of the Sundance Catalog. Sundance also hosts summer concerts and musicals at their stage in the mountains.

If you have a little money to splurge (summer is much less-expensive than winter) I highly recommend spending a night at Sundance and enjoying breakfast at The Foundry Grill. No matter whether you stay in the summer or winter, two lift tickets are included each day with your lodging accommodations. I worked in lodging reservations at Sundance Resort and I can’t recommend it enough. People travel from all over the world to experience the majesty, tranquility, and peace found at Sundance Resort.

you’ll love this post: 16 Best Hiking Shoes, Boots, and Sandals for Women

18. homestead crater .

If you’ve been dying to visit a cenote in Mexico, but just haven’t gotten there yet… the Homestead Crater may just do the trick. The Homestead Crater is one of Utah’s many hidden gems located between Park City and Provo. The Crater is a uniqe hot spring, located within a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock with a hole in the top. You can float in the water, snorkel, and even scuba dive. It’s actually the only warm scuba destination in the continental US.

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However, if you don’t want to get wet, you can enjoy a self-guided crater tour to see its unique beauty and learn its history. The Homestead Resort (where the crater is located) has created an entrance at ground level with a deck over the water to make the crater easy to access. No matter the time of year or weather, the interior of the crater is always between 90-96° F.

19. Fifth Water (Diamond Fork) Hot Springs 

Fifth Water Hot Springs are a collection of beautiful, soaking hot pots and picturesque waterfalls along Fifth Water Creek located about 40 minutes southeast of Provo. It’s a 4.5-mile easy, roundtrip hike to reach the gorgeous hot springs plus the hike alone is an enjoyable experience.

Like most hot springs, weekends and evenings are likely to be more crowded so I recommend off-times for a quieter experience. Also, like with many hot springs, you may stumble upon a few people folks enjoying the hot springs in the nude.

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Things to do in Central Utah

20. young living lavender farm.

Located just 30 minutes south of Provo in central Utah’s dry and rugged landscape you’ll find the Young Living Lavender Farm and distillery. This peaceful area is has over 1,400 acres of lavender and other herbs, a beautiful reservoir, a pretty garden area and even horse stables.

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You can walk through the lavender fields, take photos and enjoy the serene beauty of the Young Living Lavender Farm. The peak months for lavender blossoms are usually June and July. The visitor center is open year round and you may even be able to pay a small fee to take home some of your own lavender. You can also experience distillery tours, wagon rides, and a small animal farm visit or participate in their annual Lavender Farm 5k!

21. Topaz War Relocation Center and Museum

The Topaz War Relocation Center was a Japanese-American WWII Internment Camp where Americans of Japanese ancestry were forced to live – some for up to four years resulting in one of the biggest violations of civil rights in American history. The American government and the US Army, falsely cited “military necessity,” and removed 120,000 adults and children from their homes on the western coast of the US, and forced them into ten remote camps.

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The Topaz Center was one of those camps and housed around 8,300 Japanese Americans at any given time. The camp was only 42 blocks big, held thousands of people and the main structures included two elementary schools, one junior/senior high school, a gymnasium, and a hospital. Very little is left at the site of the relocation center, however, some signs and scraps are still left and it makes for a good place to reflect and pay your respect.

Before visiting the site, stop by the Topaz Museum in Delta 16 miles from where the relocation center was located. The museum is full of amazing history about the site and beautiful Japanese artwork. Topaz is located about 2.5 hours south of Salt Lake City and makes for a great stop on your way to southern Utah.

22. Little Sahara Sand Dunes

Did you know that Utah is home to 60,000 acres of amazingly beautiful free-moving sand dunes, sagebrush flats, and juniper-covered hills? Who knew right?! Little Sahara Recreation Area is located just under two hours southwest of Salt Lake City and a perfect pit stop on your way to southern Utah.

Little Sahara is a mecca for Off-Highway Vehicles with multiple areas of various levels of difficulty. If ATV and OHVs aren’t your scene, you may want to steer clear of holiday weekends because the park can have as many as 20,000 visitors/riders on a weekend like Easter.

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However, you can also experience Little Sahara on foot! If you are looking for a great photo-op (and a bit of a workout) hike Sand Mountain which is the tallest dune in the park at 700 feet and sandboard down! Or you can fat-bike your way across the dunes. Little Sahara also has two ‘children play areas’ (which are quite large) completely closed to vehicles in White Sands Campground and the Jericho Picnic Area.

Four campgrounds are available at Little Sahara Recreation Area with 255 campsites in all at White Sands, Oasis, Jericho, and Sand Mountain. Dispersed camping is also available outside the designated campgrounds.

23. Pando (The Trembling Giant)

Pando, sometimes known as The Trembling Giant, is a beautiful grove of aspen trees of 40,000 individual trees covering over 106 acres located in Fishlake National Forest. Aspen trees can be found in many areas in Utah, however, Pando is unique because it is a grove of aspen clones that originated from one single seed. Pando is believed to be the largest, most dense organism ever found at nearly 13 million pounds.

The best times to see Pando is in the summer for green leaves or in the fall for gorgeous yellow leaves. Peak color changes are different each year, however, the color change generally occurs mid-September to mid-October each year.

You can pull off the road to walk into the aspen forest, or you can drive up to Fish Lake/Pando Overlook on the opposite side of Fish Lake for great views of Pando.

24. Goblin Valley State Park

Visiting Gob lin Valley is a completely out-of-this-world experience and one of the top things to do in Utah. The actual valley portion of the park is 3 square miles and full of thousands of ‘goblins’ or hoodoos. These amazing rock formations are made of sandstone and created because of the uneven hardness of rock. The softer rock is worn down by wind and water leaving this valley of amazing goblins.

weird places to visit in utah

You can freely roam and play in the Valley of Goblins as you wish. You are even allowed to climb on top of the goblins. One of our favorite things to do is to play tag and hide and seek. It’s like nature’s playground for your littles!

Along with playing among the Goblins, Goblin Valley has 6 hiking trails in the park. I recommend hiking The Carmel Canyon Loop. It is only 1.5 miles roundtrip and features a small area of beautiful narrows. A little scrambling is required, but that just makes it more fun :). If you are looking for a more intense outdoor experience, you can go on a guided canyoneering adventure to rappel down into a huge chamber and see Goblin Valley in a new way.

weird places to visit in utah

If you have time and energy, just a short drive out of the park is a gorgeous red-rock slot canyon called Little Wild Horse . Little Wild Horse is a long stretch of narrows where the smooth and sculpted red rock walls are so close together you may have to turn sideways. It’s a beautiful experience! Be aware that slot canyons can be extremely dangerous if rain occurs (even if the rain is far away from the slot canyon). So check weather forecasts and steer clear of August because of frequent afternoon rain showers.

Campsites are located in the park along with a beautiful yurt you can reserve.

weird places to visit in utah

You’ll love this post: Bryce Canyon National Park-Experience the USA’s Most Unique Winter Activity

Things to do in southern utah, 25. cedar city’s utah shakespeare festival.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival is a famous, Tony Award-winning, professional theatre located in Cedar City on Southern Utah University’s campus. Each June through October the festival presents Shakespeare plays as well as other noteworthy plays in multiple different theaters. The most unique theater is by far The Englestad Shakespeare Theatre which is an outdoor replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre!

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Besides Shakespeare performances, there are many other festive activities to enjoy like multiple seminars about actors, costumes, and props or taking backstage tours. Children must be six years old or older for the festival performances, however, the whole family is invited to The Greenshow each night before the play begins which is a free, fun, and lighthearted event for the entire family.

Not only is Cedar City home to The Shakespeare Festival, but there are also loads of great outdoor activities to enjoy in the area like at Cedar Breaks National Monument .

26. Snow Canyon State Park 

Beautiful red rock mountains with dry grass at dusk

Snow Canyon State Park is a beautiful red rock park located just over an hour from St. George and often overlooked by visitors in southern Utah whose main goal is to see Zion National Park. Snow Canyon features a beautiful canyon carved from the red and white Navajo sandstone, the extinct Santa Clara Volcano, interesting lava tubes, and flowing petrified sand dunes. 

weird places to visit in utah

Activities in Snow Canyon include hiking, biking, rock climbing, and horseback riding. Two beautiful and easy trails are the Butterfly Trail and Jenny’s Canyon . Jenny’s Canyon is perfect for families who are looking for a short hike but also want to have the unique experience of exploring a slot canyon. In the heart of the park is the Petrified Dunes trail which is a beautiful area to explore off the trail and take amazing photos.

Camping is available among the red rocks in the park at Snow Canyon Campground or you can stay in a small town called Ivins just a few minutes out of the park. There are some beautiful hotels in the area and some amazing Airbnbs .

27. Tuacahn Amphitheater 

One of Utah’s hidden gems in the art world is Tuacahn Amphitheater . Tuacahn is located just 1 hour outside Zion National Park and 20 minutes outside of St. George. It makes a great place to spend an evening after exploring

Each year they hold multiple concerts and theater productions under the stars and right among the stunning red rocks of Southern Utah.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tuacahn Center for the Arts | Ivins, Utah (@tuacahn.amp)

Check out these other posts, I know you’ll love them:

  • Things to do in Bryce Canyon in Winter: The Perfect 1-Day Itinerary
  • How to Spend One Perfect Day in Island in the Sky: Canyonlands National Park
  • 11 Best Utah State Parks You’ve Got to Visit
  • Summer Camping Gear Essentials for First-Timers

weird places to visit in utah

And those are your top 27 things you need to do in Utah beyond the national parks!

Let me know if you have any questions about Utah in the comments below. As a Utah-native , I love to talk about all things to do in Utah and beyond.

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weird places to visit in utah

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Really appreciate this list! Was able to find things to do not on every other typical list. Thank you!

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So great to hear, Jo! I hope you have a great time in Utah!

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Kyle Sullivan

Hi. I don’t know if this will get seen but I enjoyed the list too to bottom. I’m planning a trip in November as I’ve started a new job out here( I live in CT )and can’t get the time off until such a time but I have always wanted to visit Utah. It’s a state that I want to visit and see as much of while I’m there. If I find good reason to move, then I shall highly consider it as it’s one of the states that I’m looking at moving to. But, if there is anything that you can say that you’d advise me to do with my 1 week in this upcoming November, I’d be very grateful! Thank you!

Hey Kyle! How great that you get to visit Utah this fall. Although this article highlights things do to in Utah that aren’t national parks, for a first-time visit I would highly consider visiting 1-2 national parks in Utah (along with any of these other places that interest you.) Southern Utah will have great, cool weather in November which is much better than the heat of the summer. You may want to look into visiting Zion National Park or visiting Moab to see both Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park (which are right next to each other). Depending on when you visit in November (and mother nature) northern Utah may be getting snow in the mountains come November, but usually ski resorts don’t open until the end of the month. I Hope you have a great trip!

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Your post has some of the best information I have found in researching your beautiful state. We are mostly interested in enjoying your beautiful scenery on day trips from either one or two home bases. Also, we would like to find some easy short hikes along the way as we range in age from 11 to 70 years. Since we don’t ski we are thinking about an early October visit. We will probably confine our trip to mostly Northern Utah with maybe one day venturing as far south as the Provo area. Any suggestions on where to make our home base? I love getting first hand information from locals. Thank you!

Hey Joan 🙂 I’m so happy to hear that enjoyed the post. I hope you have a wonderful time in Utah. If you visit around the last week of September-the first week of October you will hopefully be in Utah for the changing of leaves in fall. If you plan to spend any time up in the mountains, this is a beautiful time to visit. I’m not sure what you are planning to do in Utah, but if you want to spend most of your time in the north, Salt Lake would probably make a good home base. You may also want to spend some time in Park City. Another fun thing to do in the fall is to take a ski resort lift ride to see the leaves changing color. Most ski resorts probably do it, but I have personally taken the fall lift ride at Sundance Ski Resort between Park City and Provo. A good hike might be the hike in Albion Basin in Little Cottonwood Canyon in SLC which is listed as ‘easy’ and you can hike as far or as little as you’d like. If you do have time available- I do highly recommend making your way a little further south in Utah to see a little bit of the amazing red rocks. A great place for this is Moab which is one of my favorite cities in Utah with Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park right nearby. However, that will require a few hours of driving. I hope you have a great trip!

Thank you for your suggestions! I know they will be very helpful in my planning our trip.

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I absolutely love this list! I have been to Utah so many times but have never heard of or been to most for the places your recommend. I can’t wait for my trip this April-July to explore everything you mentioned. Thank you!

Hey Desiree 🙂 I’m glad you found this helpful! I hope you have a great trip this spring/summer 🙂

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These were great ideas for trip planning ideas other than the National Parks. Do you have recommendations what town to base when visiting Southwest Utah? We will be there 9 days in October.

Hey Amber! I’m so excited for your trip to Utah- I think you will have a great time. It really depends on what you plan on seeing while you are in Southern Utah, but some great cities to look at are Kanab or Springdale (right outside Zion National Park’s entrance). Or if you want a larger city, St. George is also a great option. Since you will be there for 9 days, I would possibly suggest choosing 2 different cities to stay to help you make the most of your driving.

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Ashley Sullivan

Such a good list! 😍 thanks for the great spring break ideas!!

Hey Ashley! Thanks for checking it out 🙂 Have an awesome spring break!

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so helpful! cant wait to incorp some of this into our trip

I’m glad you found it helpful Chelsea 🙂 Feel free to reach out if you have any questions as you plan!

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14 Beautiful California State Parks You’ve Got to See

7 perfect beaches in los angeles you’ve got to visit.

17 Secret Places in Utah (Off the Beaten Path)

04/26/2022 by Kristin Addis 19 Comments

Utah’s landscape is as varied as it is colorful to describe. Shaped by waves and sediments, the rich colors and shapes are endlessly fascinating as they change from moment to moment.

The clouds turn red, reflecting the ground as they pass overhead. The rocks form into hat and mushroom shapes, and with a dusting of snow, it all turns even more magical.

Parts of Utah, such as  Zion , Bryce Canyon, Arches , and the famed Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, are mega-popular, and it’s almost impossible to get these amazing areas to yourself. However, the great thing about Utah is that the adventure potential is almost endless. There are equally impressive sights all over the state that are just begging to be explored — with almost nobody around.

My friend Kristen and I took her camper van out for a week in February and managed to go for days without seeing any other people in the natural wonders we visited. That’s harder and harder to do these days and is one of the reasons why the American Southwest is so special: there are still plenty of wide-open spaces lacking a cell signal.

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience in Utah, here are some of the best:

Table of Contents

1. Mystic Hot Springs

Mystic Hot Springs

Spend a couple days soaking your sore muscles in the mineral-rich waters at Mystic Hot Springs. This unique spot is certainly off the beaten path, as there isn’t much around it to see. This can be a huge plus if you want to find some peace and quiet.

Mystic Hot Springs is located in Monroe, in the middle of the desert. It has earned the nickname “the best hippie hot springs in the West” because of its counterculture vibe, which includes a thriving permaculture community, a holistic spa, and renovated buses that you can stay in.

Find everything you need to know to plan your stop at Mystic Hot Springs here .

2. Dead Horse Point State Park

dead horse point

Sometimes the easiest way to avoid the crowds is to avoid the national parks. This can be done in Moab, Utah. The area is practically overflowing with rock arches, beautiful canyons, and impressive overlooks, and plenty of them are hidden and uncrowded. My personal favorite is Dead Horse Point at sunset. It’s an easy, drive up to the view and is just as impressive as the Grand Canyon, if you ask me!

dead horse point

There are hiking trails in the park, which you can see in the photo above. It’s also super close to Canyonlands National Park and practically across the street from Arches. The entrance fee is $15.

3. Corona Arch

Corona Arch

This arch is quite near Arches National Park but far less crowded. If you venture here for sunrise, you might even have the area to yourself. To get to Corona Arch, it’s an easy three-mile round-trip hike, which will also take you past Bowtie Arch. The area has no shade, so go prepared for the direct sun.

4. Bonneville Salt Flats

Bonneville Salt Flats

If your eyes are confused, wondering why there’s snow on the ground, you’re not alone! The Bonneville Salt Flats features a vast white landscape made of salt, which looks eerily similar to snow. The flats are not always dry enough to walk or drive on, so aim to visit during the summer months to get the full effect. You can camp nearby, but not on the salt flats themselves.

During the late summer, you might find cars racing on the Racetrack Playa. This is a good indication that the salt flats are dry enough to traverse. Otherwise, don’t risk it.

5. Needles Overlook, Canyonlands

needles overlook

Canyonlands is a huge national park, and although it has some very crowded spots, like the Mesa Arch at sunrise, other parts are practically deserted. Heading south out of Moab, you’ll pass by a road offshoot (linked in the map below) that takes you to the Needles Overlook (no hiking required). The drive itself is gorgeous, and the overlook at the end is a large area that allows you to see almost 360°. If you have the time, it’s worth working in a stop here to see the incredible view.

The Needles area also offers  several hiking trails  of varying lengths and difficulty if you can invest the time, and weather permitting.

6. Bears Ears National Monument

This national monument started to appear in the headlines recently due to some conflict over whether it should remain protected land or not. This otherwise unheard-of part of Utah is worth stopping into if you love being able to view ancient cave drawings and ruins without having a barrier between you and history. We did not stop in here, however, but heard great things about some of the hikes. The visitor center is only open in the warmer months.

7. Valley of the Gods

valley of the gods

This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turnoff on the way south into Arizona is one of my favorite parts of Utah, because it’s so beautiful and yet so uncrowded. The Valley of the Gods is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, meaning you can camp in any of the road pulloffs, provided you leave no trace.

The rocks in this area look like chimney stacks and sombreros. Though it’s close to Monument Valley and has similar formations, this area is completely free and open to the public. Just be careful if there has been rain or heavy snow, as the road is dirt and can easily turn into mud.

8. Goosenecks State Park


When you get to the end of the road in the Valley of the Gods, take a right toward Goosenecks State Park for an overlook onto the Colorado River weaving through the canyon as far as the eye can see.

valley of the gods

If you continue to head north from there, you’ll wind your way up a steep, gravel canyon wall, which is an incredible drive for the views, though not ideal if in an RV or if it’s dumping rain or snow. There’s some awesome BLM camping at the top, too. I considered linking to where we camped here, but I feel that takes so much of the fun and discovery out of finding your own campsite, which was half the fun for Kristen and me.

9. Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural bridges national monument

Another under-the-radar and relatively small area, this national monument has three major bridges that can each be done as an out-and-back hike or in a loop, to see all three. Each hike has steps down to its respective bridge — which would be totally fine in the summer, but when I went in the winter, parts of it were icy. Bring along spikes for your shoes if attempting this in the winter months. Be sure to stop by the visitor center to inquire about the conditions of the trails as well.

Natural bridges national monument

In the winter months, the trail to Sipapu Bridge can get icy, since it’s is mostly in the shade. However, Kachina was more accessible and brought us to a waterfall as well. When the trail is less icy, the entire loop would be incredible.

hite overlook

From there it’s a gorgeous drive that you won’t be sharing with many people at all through the northeast end of Glen Canyon through Hite.

10. Goblin Valley State Park

goblin valley utah

This is one of the trippiest parks we visited in terms of landscape. It looks like you’re walking among giant mushrooms at first, and then it feels like you’re passing through a watery underworld of clay that almost looks like coral formations as you progress. This is a pretty small park but absolutely worth taking a walk through to see these unique formations. I’ve never seen anything like it before!

goblin valley

The entrance fee is $15, and there are nice bathrooms at the overlook; the campground costs an extra $10.

11. Little Wild Horse Canyon

little wildhorse

This hike is located on BLM land just outside of Goblin Valley. There are some free camping spots nearby that will put you in a perfect position to do the entire loop hike, through two slot canyons. If you’ve always wanted to see  Antelope Canyon  without the crowds, Little Wild Horse delivers a similar experience.

Unfortunately, it looked like rain was possible on the day that Kristen and I wanted to hike it. Please be aware that slot canyon hikes are incredibly dangerous if there is any rain — not just in the area but anywhere upstream. Rain can cause flash floods quickly, and it’s not worth taking the risk. We just ventured into the first canyon partway, which was probably already a stupid move, and then exited and went on our way.

12. Forrest Gump Point

Forrest Gump Point

If the image looks familiar, you might recognize this place from the movie Forrest Gump . The long stretch of highway here is called Forrest Gump Road, and it makes for a great scenic drive or a quick photo. This is the spot from the movie when Forrest finishes his cross-country run. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the film, it’s still worth it to check out Forrest Gump Point, as it offers up some incredible views, all the way to Monument Valley in Arizona.

13. Dixie National Forest

Encompassing nearly two million acres of mountain peaks, red sandstone formations, and vast landscapes, Dixie National Forest is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. It’s the largest national forest in Utah and right next to three national parks and two national monuments, making it the perfect addition to your Utah road trip .

Check out this horseback-riding tour through Dixie National Forest , which goes all the way to Bryce Canyon!

14. Capitol Reef National Park

capitol reef

Kristen and I had both seen incredible photos of Capitol Reef and wondered where they were taken, since the more impressive things didn’t appear to be on the popular Scenic Drive. After speaking to a helpful volunteer at the visitor center, we learned that they were up a dirt road that can turn into a peanut buttery consistency when it rains.

We were getting a little bit of snow but decided to go for it — and it ended up being an incredible drive, with nobody else around. The best parts were the Temples of the Sun and the Moon, two sail-like rocks that seem to appear out of nowhere.

capitol reef

Even though this is a national park, this part of it doesn’t receive many visitors, as evidenced by the dirt road. It could become impassible in particularly wet weather, but when it’s dry, a Prius could drive over it. Check what the conditions might be at the visitor center.

15. Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

coyote gulch

This will be a sizable deviation if you decide to do it, but it’s so worth it! Grand Staircase-Escalante has some of the best adventures in southern Utah, and Coyote Gulch is the crown jewel.

This hike has several access points and can be done as an overnight or single-day trip if you take the sneaker route, which I did last time I passed through. The trail out is mostly washboard dirt and gravel, and could become treacherous if it’s raining or muddy. If you decide to take the route I did, you will need a rope, just in case. You can  read more about the hike here.

16. Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Known as one of the most rugged national forests in the US, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is the ideal place to unplug from modern society and connect with nature. Here you’ll find over two million acres with fantastic hikes, scenic byways, recreation areas, and even cabins to stay in. How’s that for off the beaten path?

17. Driving Conditions and Food

capitol reef

Kristen and I did the trip in her 4 x 4 Sprinter van. When I previously drove through the American Southwest , I had a minivan camper that did not have 4 x 4 capabilities, but I could have taken it on most of the roads that we went on. In both cases, I/we camped on BLM land (public land with no facilities) and packed out absolutely all of my/our trash (including toilet paper!) and was/were completely self-sufficient. It’s important that when traveling in this part of Utah, you’re prepared to do the same.

➵  Rent a car in Utah here

You will want to do your grocery shopping in Salt Lake City, or whatever major area you’re departing from. Once you leave Moab, it will be nothing but tiny towns with gas stations for groceries and incredibly limited food selections. Even restaurants will be hard to find.

Your best bet is to either come prepared with a way to cook and store food, like a camper van, or to have an ice chest and stove. If you choose to stop by Page in Arizona, or head out toward Zion, you’ll have a few more food options at that point.

Always be sure to keep your gas tank full as well, and bring an extra tire just in case. Cellphone signals can also be hard to come by out there, so I suggest downloading these stops onto an offline Google or map, so that you have them at your disposal before you go:

Even though these off-the-beaten-path gems are fantastic to check out, that’s not to say that other parts of Utah should be skipped just because they’re more popular. Kristen has a fantastic post about  Utah’s best national parks  worth taking a look at.

So pack your sense of adventure, download this map offline, and get ready for an incredible journey through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

Pin me for later:

Utah secret places off the beaten path

*Some links in this post are affiliate links for products and services we personally use and love. Any purchase you make through them supports us at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much!

About Kristin Addis

Kristin Addis is the founder and CEO of Be My Travel Muse, a resource for female travelers all around the world since 2012. She's traveled solo to over 65 countries and has brought over 150 women on her all-female adventure tours from Botswana to the Alaskan tundra.

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adisson00 says

07/04/2019 at 1:06 am

I really like to share your all these images which looking very fabulous and cool. I also spent a really good time at Capitol Reef National Park during my last journey and came back with unforgettable memories.

Kent H Young says

09/14/2019 at 8:15 pm

The best kept secrets are now known by everyone so they aren’t a secret. I used to love the West until it became a over crowded polluted place thanks to these kind of advertisements.

Kristin says

09/16/2019 at 1:36 am

This isn’t an advertisement, this is talking about State parks, that have existed for years, the same way that they were once talked about in guidebooks. Nature is for everyone.

Kara Laws says

03/11/2020 at 2:59 pm

I totally feel you, Kent. Poor Moab.

Anonymous says

06/03/2022 at 11:46 am

Than why are you reading this stuff?

01/22/2020 at 6:37 am

Hi, Is the 2nd shot under Goosenecks State Park a drone shot ? So helpful blog post and video for my trip next fall, thanks,

01/22/2020 at 8:21 am

It is! That’s in the valley of the gods

Danielle says

05/30/2020 at 4:34 pm

I’m thinking about taking a similar trip. What did you guys do about bathrooms and showers?

05/31/2020 at 8:32 pm

We didn’t actually shower all week, which might sound weird if you’ve never done it but the more you backpack and camp the less of a big deal it is.

Bathrooms you dig a hole and pack out all TP, wipes, associated things in a ziplock. In some areas they prefer you pack out the solid waste too, in which case you use a bag much like a dog bag. It’s REALLY important that you leave no trace in the wilderness.

To me it’s worth giving up bathrooms but I’ve gotten this question a lot this week so I guess that’ll be new for a lot of hikers and campers this year.

05/04/2022 at 5:43 am

“NO Bathrooms or showers and carry it out with you. “ An important piece of information most don’t understand, especially if not accustomed to visiting wilderness areas. Lake Powell was trashed with human waste years ago before being shut off in many areas to protect important Native American land and history. This area is only for those who know how to truly respect it. Most don’t have a clue what that means.

Michael says

08/18/2020 at 12:45 pm

Great pictures and content. I thought our blogppost on this was good, until I saw yours. Great job. I love that we went to so many of the same places. We love to go off-season and get to the lesser known places too.

I look forward to reading more on your site (I just found it).

Again, great job!!

Michael & Melissa

Valentina says

08/27/2020 at 11:53 am

Loved this post! Thank you for sharing with such detail and for the beautiful photos. You mentioned above that without 4×4, you wouldn’t have been able to go on most roads you drove on. I won’t have 4×4 when I go visit next month (end of September) . Are there any of these places that I can still access without four wheel drive? Thank you!

08/31/2020 at 10:36 pm

Yes all of the national and state parks in the area would be accessible!

09/09/2020 at 7:25 am

Thank you Kristin!

10/11/2020 at 6:16 am

Hi. Wonderful view of the Colorado River from Gooseneck State Park! Rivals the view of the Nile from Cape Town.

12/26/2020 at 5:41 pm

Coyote gulch is in glen canyon national recreation area…not grand staircase., So different regs. Also, road is generally in shit shape getting there.

Lucas James says

05/13/2022 at 7:48 pm

Beautiful. I never knew Utah had such sights! Thanks for bringing it out! Plans shall be made! Keep it up.

Liam Smith says

06/14/2022 at 5:55 am

Such a great article! thank you for sharing and keep posting

Tammie says

07/18/2023 at 6:49 pm

Totally loved all the information you provided! Thank you! We are so looking forward to our trip to Utah!

Hidden Gems: 10 Secret Utah Adventures You Must Try

Hidden Gems: 10 Secret Utah Adventures You Must Try

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You know that pleasant surprise of putting on a pair of pants and finding a $20 in the pocket? Well Utah is cargo pants. With a thousand pockets.

Every state likes to talk about the variety of experiences it offers, but Utah is uniquely qualified to brag.

Three discrete geographical regions (Mojave Desert, Great Basin, Colorado Plateau) + four distinct seasons + a dozen different biomes and climates + thousands of years of human history = diverse adventure tucked into every corner of the state. Here are 10 uniquely Utah sights that out-of-towners — and even lots of in-of-towners — may not have heard of. Ten points for each one you’ve seen, two points for each one you’ve heard of and five points for each one you start making plans to visit.

10. Bonneville Seabase, Grantsville

Near the southern point of the Great Salt Lake sits a weirdly natural inland sea. Spring water rising through the salty bed of the ancient Lake Bonneville reaches the same salinity as the ocean. Add some species of ocean fish and you have a perfect little snorkeling/scuba sanctuary, 600 miles from the coast.

  • Features : four distinct diving areas including White Rocks Bay, Habitat Bay, The Trench and The Abyss
  • Day Use : $25 (make reservations for the best experience)
  • Rentals : scuba gear, snorkel gear and kids snorkel sets
  • Location : 1600 UT-138 Grantsville, UT 84029

9. Homestead Crater, Midway

“Here’s what I’m thinking: geothermal spring.”

“With hot tub temperature sapphire-blue water.”

“Inside an adorable mini volcano.”

“I mean, yeah, it sounds great, but where would that even happen?”

“Just like in the middle of a Swiss hamlet in Utah, maybe?”

  • Description : 55-foot geothermal spring and the only warm scuba diving destination in the continental U.S.
  • Day Use : reservations required
  • Pricing : soak only, $15-18; snorkeling equipment rental is $8
  • Location : 700 Homestead Dr, Midway, UT 84049

8. Cascade Springs, near Midway

Crystal clear spring water flowing down terraced pools in a mountain forest. One of those places so naturally beautiful you couldn’t possibly paint it without your painting looking cheesy.

  • Description : Natural waterfall and springs with paved walking paths that loop through the area. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips and birding and is best used from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
  • Location : Located in the Uinta National Forest in the Wasatch Range, east of American Fork Canyon and west of Wasatch Mountain State Park. Also accessible via The Alpine Loop in American Fork Canyon.

7. Fifth Water Hot Springs, Spanish Fork

This is the last natural spring on the list, we swear. This one makes you earn your soak with a 2.2-mile hike up Diamond Fork Canyon that gains 700 feet. Worth it — especially with the three waterfalls you’ll find as a bonus. It’s on the way from the Wasatch Front to Moab, too, if that means anything to you.

  • Distance : 4.5-mile round-trip moderate hiking trail
  • Location : Diamond Fork Rd, Springville, UT 84663. The trailhead is accessed at Three Forks parking area up Diamond Fork Canyon.
  • Pack List : hiking or trail shoes, water, snacks, swimsuit, towel

6. Sand Boarding at Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Kanab

No further description needed. Get on board . (Ha!)

5. House on Fire, near Blanding

One of the more popular and easier to access of the thousands of Ancestral Puebloan ruins in Cedar Mesa. The area is remote but the hike itself is short and flat.

  • Distance : 3-mile round-trip easy hiking trail
  • Best time to go : spring, fall, winter
  • Dogs allowed : yes
  • Location : South Fork of Mule Canyon in Cedar Mesa, Bears Ears National Monument

4. Parowan Gap Petroglyphs, Parowan

The permanent collection in a 1,000-year-old art gallery. Park, walk and ponder the signs made by civilizations that explored Utah before you.

3. Singing Canyon, Boulder

You spent $10K at audio engineering and you’ve still got nothing on Mother Nature’s ear for acoustics. Hike a couple minutes on the flat trail off Burr Trail Road and stop when you hear sound the way it was meant to be heard. If you’re lucky, someone talented will be there making a joyful noise.

  • Distance : 15-minute round-trip hiking trail
  • Getting there : Drive about 11 miles east on the Burr Trail Road from Boulder to a small, unmarked paved pullout on the north (left) side of the road. Parking is free, but space is limited.

2. Valley of the Gods, Mexican Hat

In Greece the Gods live on Mount Olympus. In Utah, they prefer the valley. While you’re in the neighborhood visiting House on Fire, stop by this mini-Monument Valley. If you happen to be there during the hot air balloon festival, lucky you, you just stumbled into the divine.

1. Gilgal Sculpture Garden, Salt Lake City

Most of the sights above are secret because they’re in some remote part of Utah. This one’s hiding in the middle of city block in downtown Salt Lake City. A devout Mormon named Thomas Child, Jr., created deeply personal and mystical sculptures that draw on Mormon theology but resist easy interpretation. Like a sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith, for instance.

  • Location : 749 East 500 South in Salt Lake City



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11 must see off the beaten path places in utah, 11 must see off the beaten track places in utah.

Utah is one of the most geologically diverse places in the USA. There is just so much to explore, below is a highlight of the most off the beaten path locations for adventure in Utah that aren't National Parks. Check out our list of hidden gems.

weird places to visit in utah

1. Monument Valley ‍

On the border of Utah and Arizona, this is such a beautiful place with massive monument rocks, big red sand deserts, tons of land to explore and is known by some as “Forest Gumps Road”, as this is the road he is running along in the famous movie scene. This is also a great place for rock climbing, hiking, exploring sandstone cliffs and valleys. A certain bucket-list spot for anyone visiting Utah.

weird places to visit in utah

2. Goblin Valley

One of the more unique places in Utah. It has some of the really crazy rock formations unique to this area, and the surrounding rock Mesas have very distinct colorations and layering in the rock. There are also a really cool valley of “Goblins” where you can see thousands of small hoodoos that go on for miles inside the State Park. Consider this one of nature's greatest playgrounds.

weird places to visit in utah

3. Dead Horse State Park

This State Park is located in between Arches national park and Canyonlands National Park, and because of that it is often overlooked. But, this place is well worth the visit, and some of the overlooks have similarity to the Grand Canyon. There are so many layers and depth to the canyon making for a great off the beaten track trip void of mass crowds.

weird places to visit in utah

4. Blue Hill Badlands Region

A vast region where there are crazy rock formations in every direction, and the patterns in the landscapes are so diverse and colorful. In this region you can photograph the monolith mesa known as Factory Butte, or explore the badlands region known for its rainbow colored hills that are popular amongst photographers. The bluer colored hues can be found near The Mars Desert Research Station on Cow Dung Road of hwy 24 near Hanksville. No wonder people say this place feels like another planet.

weird places to visit in utah

5. Meadow Hotsprings

This hot springs is Located on private land, but the owner has granted access to the respectful public. This is a location unlike any other and offers 3 distinct pools of thermal hot springs. The first of the 3 pools is the warmest and is 27 feet deep, the second pool is a little cooler 40ft deep, the last one is the coolest so save that for the warmest months in the hot summer sun. There are also campsites around the pools with fire-pits, so it can be your own little oasis. As always be respectful of the land during your visit to keep it open to public access.

weird places to visit in utah

6. Bonneville Salt Flats

This unique landscape is just 1.5 hours west of SLC, and is a massive salt flat that goes on for miles (over 30 thousands acres). Depending on the time of you go you will witness the dry conditions that form endless hexagonal shapes in the salt, or you may see the amazing mirror reflection that happens during rainy times and offers a magical experience rarely seen. Be prepared to take lots of pictures, sunset and sunrise offer amazing light, and the astro photography is world class.

weird places to visit in utah

7. Cathedral Valley

This is a beautiful remote area in Capitol reef Utah. In the remote northern section of the park you will find Cathedral valley famous for its giant cathedrals and monoliths. The road to the valley starts at an unmarked dirt road near mile marker 91 on the north side of the road traveling to the east from the visitor center on Hwy 24. You have to forge a river at the start of the road, so be prepared with a 4x4 high clearance vehicle.

weird places to visit in utah

8. Hole in the Rock Road

From Hole -in-the- Rock Road in Escalate National Monument you can slot canyons, rock gardens & hoodoos, multi day hiking trails, and the unique views at Reflection Canyon. Below is an overview of where to access the impressive adventures down this 55 mile gravel road.

Mile 7.8, Zebra Slot Canyon

Located on the right side of the road you will see an unmarked parking area for the Zebra Slot Canyon trail. This is a 5.3 miles roundtrip trail taking around 3-4 hours to complete.

Mile 12, Devil's Garden

A fun little stop to explore some cool rock formations. You can weave in and out of the rocks making for a nice place to photograph and witness what makes this desert landscape so special. This site has been designated as an Outstanding Natural Area by the BLM.

Mile 26, (Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons) via Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch trailhead

At mile 26 you will reach the turnoff for the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch trailhead. Make sure you have all the details and information before heading out on this hike, as there is no cell service. Upon arrival check your maps to ensure you are heading the right direction to explore the famed non-technical slot canyons known as Peek-a-boo and Spooky, from this gulch. (Both are doable as a day-hike.)

Mile 55,  Reflection Canyon Hike

At the end of the 55 mile gravel road you will reach the trailhead for the amazing Reflection Canyon hike. This hike is on fairly easy terrain but you need to allow for 3-4 hours each way as it covers 18.7 miles in total. The rewards of reaching this place are well worth the efforts.

weird places to visit in utah

9. Corona Arch

This is a little off the beaten path and not on many peoples radar as it is just outside of Moab and Arches National Park. For this reason we love this lightly trafficked but spectacular trail to the Corona Arch. The trailhead is along the Potash Road on Hwy 191, and you will hit the trailhead sign about 10 miles into Potash road.

weird places to visit in utah

10. Petroglyphs + Dinosaur Tracks - Potash Road

There are many places to visit and view petroglyphs in Utah. One of our favorite places offers you the chance to see both dinosaur tracks imprinted in the sandstone, and some amazing petroglyph panels still in great condition.

Potash Road is just north of Moab and is well marked from Highway 191.  The drive is along the Colorado river offering great views and sheer canyon walls making for an enjoyable drive in itself.

On your way, look for a sign pointing to petroglyphs and pull off to the side. Look up to see the petroglyphs on the sheer rock face. As you continue driving about 3 more miles you will see a turn off to a parking lot where you can see the dinosaur tracks and more impressive petroglyphs.

weird places to visit in utah

11. Homestead Crater

One of the most unique places to go swimming. This is a 65 feet deep geothermal hot spring located in a crater. There is scuba and snorkel gear you can rent on site. The water averages around 95 degrees, and is featured in the movie 127 hours. This crater dome costs $16usd to enter.

Explore our list of USA adventures HERE

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Discovering Utah’s Hidden Gems: 10 Secret Cool Places You Need to Visit Now!

secret cool places in utah

Utah is a state that is full of surprises, and there are plenty of secret cool places waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers. These hidden gems offer a unique experience that is off the beaten path and away from the crowds. So, if you’re looking to explore the state in a new way, here are 10 secret cool places in Utah that you need to visit now.

The Top 10 Secret Cool Places in Utah

1. the wave.

Located in the Coyote Buttes area of the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, The Wave is a natural rock formation that is unlike anything else in the world. The Wave is made up of Navajo sandstone that has been eroded over time to create a stunning swirl pattern that is both mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.

2. Mystic Hot Springs

Mystic Hot Springs is a hidden gem located in Monroe, Utah. The hot springs are surrounded by stunning mountain views and offer a unique and relaxing experience that is unlike anything else in the state. The hot springs are also home to a collection of vintage buses that have been converted into cozy cabins for visitors to stay in.

3. Kanarraville Falls

Kanarraville Falls is a hidden gem located in Southern Utah that offers a unique and challenging hiking experience. The hike to the falls involves wading through shallow streams, climbing over boulders, and navigating narrow canyons. But the reward is worth the effort, as you’ll be treated to stunning waterfalls and breathtaking views.

4. Little Sahara Sand Dunes

The Little Sahara Sand Dunes are a hidden gem located in Central Utah that offer a unique and exciting experience for adventure seekers. The dunes cover over 60,000 acres and offer opportunities for hiking, camping, and off-road vehicle riding.

5. Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum

The Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum is a hidden gem located in Salt Lake City that offers a unique look at the state’s history. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the pioneers who settled Utah and features a collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents from that era.

6. Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island State Park is a hidden gem located in the Great Salt Lake that offers a unique and beautiful landscape. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including bison, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep. Visitors can explore the park’s hiking trails, go for a swim in the lake, or take a scenic drive around the island.

7. Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway is a hidden gem located in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest that offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The drive takes visitors through beautiful forests, past alpine lakes, and offers breathtaking views of Mount Timpanogos.

8. Fifth Water Hot Springs

Fifth Water Hot Springs is a hidden gem located in the Spanish Fork Canyon that offers a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. The hot springs are surrounded by beautiful scenery and can be reached by a short hike along a scenic trail.

9. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is a hidden gem located in Southern Utah that offers a unique look at the state’s ancient history. The park is home to a collection of petrified wood and fossilized dinosaur bones that date back millions of years.

10. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is a hidden gem located in Southern Utah that offers a unique and beautiful landscape. The park is home to stunning pink sand dunes that have been formed over millions of years by wind and water.

What is the coolest place in Utah?

There are many cool places in Utah, but some of the coolest include The Wave, Mystic Hot Springs, and Kanarraville Falls.

What is the most secluded place in Utah?

There are many secluded places in Utah, but some of the most secluded include Fifth Water Hot Springs, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.

What is the #1 vacation attraction in Utah?

The #1 vacation attraction in Utah is Zion National Park. However, there are many other hidden gems in Utah that are worth visiting as well.

Is there anything cool to see in Utah?

Absolutely! Utah is full of cool and unique places to visit, from stunning national parks to hidden waterfalls and hot springs.

Utah is a state that is full of surprises, and these 10 secret cool places are just a few examples of the hidden gems waiting to be discovered. So, if you’re looking for a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience, make sure to add these secret cool places in Utah to your travel itinerary.

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7 Bizarre Roadside Attractions In Utah That Will Make You Do A Double Take

weird places to visit in utah

Catherine Armstrong

Writer, editor and researcher with a passion for exploring new places. Catherine loves local bookstores, independent films, and spending time with her family, including Gus the golden retriever, who is a very good boy.

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Utah has so much beauty that we’re hesitant to ruin it with roadside attractions such as the Largest Ball of Twine or silos painted like beer cans. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to get in on the fun a little bit, though. Here are seven roadside attractions that just might make you pull off the side of the road when you see them!

weird places to visit in utah

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weird places to visit in utah

Want to see some more interesting things in Utah? Here are 11 more Strange Spots In Utah !

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28 Fun Things to Do in Utah

Natural attractions and otherworldly landscapes make Utah one of the most unique states to explore.

things to do in utah

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From mountains to unique rock structures to lakes, there are plenty of things to do and see in Utah.

Utah's landscape might be one of the most unique in the country. From flat expanses of salt that seem to go on for miles to vibrant red rock formations that make you feel like you've landed on Mars, this state is something of a natural playground.

Utah boasts five national parks and a whopping 40-plus state parks for visitors and residents to explore. Plus, with an array of small towns, mountains, ski areas and an urban hub in Salt Lake City, it's difficult to get bored in Utah. On the other hand, there are so many adventurous options and fun things to do at your fingertips, you may have difficulty deciding where to begin. Keep reading to narrow down your shortlist of things to do in Utah.

(Note: Some tours and excursions may be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. New policies may be in place, including capacity restrictions and parking reservation requirements. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)

Arches National Park

things to do in utah

Soaring sandstone arches and towering hoodoos make Arches National Park in eastern Utah one of the most striking places in the state. Plus, the snow-capped La Sal Mountains in the distance only add to this area's beauty. If you only have a few hours to explore, drive the 18-mile scenic road (Arches Scenic Drive) to enjoy a brief, but thorough tour of the park. You'll pass Balanced Rock as well as the Windows area, which is home to a large concentration of arches. Luckily, there are plenty of spots to pull over and admire the views.

If you have a full day or more, get out of the car and explore on foot. Some of the most popular hikes in the park include the trails to Delicate Arch and Double Arch . If you're looking for less crowded hikes, there are plenty of hidden gems. The 3-mile round-trip hike to Navajo Arch is a relatively easy excursion that brings you to a quiet arch in a fairy tale-like setting. Ring Arch is another lightly trafficked route (3.5 miles round trip) with stellar views.

Visitors recommend touring the park in the late fall or early spring for cooler temperatures and fewer tourists than the busy summer season. Thanks to the park's convenient location near the town of Moab, you can stroll downtown and grab a bite to eat after a long day of hiking. Entrance to the park costs $30 per car, and the pass is valid for seven days.

[See more of Arches National Park: Things to Do | When to Visit | Photos .]

Canyonlands National Park

Top things to do in Utah

If you can't make it to the Grand Canyon or you're just seeking a less-crowded park with similar geological features, consider Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah. The Colorado and Green rivers cut through the park and act as natural dividers between three designated sections: Island in the Sky, the Needles and the Maze.

Island in the Sky is the most popular among visitors as it contains diverse hiking opportunities as well as a scenic driving route with ample pull-out spaces and picnic areas. Some of the best stops include Mesa Arch and Aztec Butte, according to visitors. (If you have time, schedule a stop at Dead Horse Point State Park, which is located near the entrance to Island in the Sky, to witness a spectacular sunset over the canyon.)

For a more off-the-grid experience, head to the park's Needles section via Route 211, which ends at the Needles Visitor Center. Note: You cannot drive directly from Island in the Sky to the Needles within the park. This area is reserved for more advanced hikers and is overall less accessible. However, dramatic views of towering sandstone columns await those who make the trek.

The Maze is the most remote and least-visited area of the park. This section features difficult roads and very challenging trails; you shouldn't travel there without the proper equipment and the ability to be self-sufficient for at least three days. Canyonlands National Park costs $30 per car to enter; the pass is valid for seven days.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Top things to do in Utah

The whimsical landscape of this park in southern Utah will amaze travelers young and old. Visitors can explore mazes of towering hoodoos as they descend into the canyon, or admire them from above while strolling along the rim. Bryce Canyon is the smallest of Utah's five national parks, and it's easy to conquer in a day. If you visit for a daytrip, be sure to stop at Sunset Point and Sunrise Point to take in the views. Then, hike the Queen's Garden and Navajo Loop trails for an approximately 3-mile tour of the land.

Those who would rather do a scenic driving tour of the park can start at Rainbow Point (located on the southern end of the park) and enjoy views throughout the 38-mile round-trip excursion. If you have more time, opt for one of the park's more challenging hikes, such as the 8-mile Fairyland Loop or the strenuous out-and-back 4-mile Hat Shop trail.

The park is open 24 hours a day and costs $35 to enter. Entrance passes are valid for seven days. Most people choose to park at the Sunset Point lot, which acts as the trailhead for an array of hikes. (Even the views from this parking lot are spectacular.)

For more specific guided activity options, check out the free ranger-led programs at the park. You can drive to this park from St. George (about 140 miles southwest) or Moab (around 245 miles northeast). Or, plan to stay overnight in one of the nearby hotels .

[See more of Bryce Canyon National Park: Things to Do | When to Visit | Photos .]

Zion National Park

Top things to do in Utah

Zion is Utah's most-visited national park and for good reason. It's characterized by the gaping Zion Canyon that measures 15 miles long and 3,000 feet deep, drawing adventurers looking for one-of-a-kind canyoneering opportunities.

Meanwhile, hikers will find an expansive network of trails to choose from, with many routes offering adrenaline-pumping experiences. Angels Landing , one of the most famous and highly trafficked routes in the park, starts at the Grotto Trailhead and weaves through narrow spaces and along steep, stomach-lurching drops. The trail is only a 5-mile round-trip excursion, but with a 1,488-foot elevation change, it is strenuous and not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights.

Less intense but equally beautiful hikes include the approximately 3-mile Watchman Trail , the 3.5-mile Pa'rus Trail and the 2-mile Middle Emerald Pools Trail. Ranger-led programs are available in Zion as well.

If you drive the park's scenic road (on U.S. Highway 9 from Interstate 15 to Mt. Carmel Junction), you can view Angels Landing and other attractions from below. Past visitors recommended planning your Zion trip for the late fall or early spring to avoid the sweltering temperatures and swarms of tourists that plague the summer season. Entrance to the park costs $35 per car. For easy access to the park, located in southwestern Utah, consider staying in nearby St. George.

[See more of Zion National Park: Things to Do | When to Visit | Photos .]

Bonneville Salt Flats

things to do in utah

About 100 miles west of Salt Lake City , you'll find one of the country's most unique natural attractions: the Bonneville Salt Flats. This area features 30,000 acres of dazzling yet desolate white earth surrounded by mountains. The flats are a result of the ancient Lake Bonneville, which dried up long ago and left an otherworldly landscape behind.

Visitors can drive their cars directly onto the flats, or park in the lot and walk the flats on foot. In fact, there is even a section of the flats, the Bonneville Speedway, which is designated for car racing; the flat landscape and the salt's moisture balance makes for prime racing conditions. Some of the fastest driving speeds – more than 500 mph – have been recorded on these flats and there are racing events held here each year, including Bonneville Speed Week and the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials each August.

The journey to the salt flats is essentially a straight shot on Interstate 80 from Salt Lake City; travelers recommend bringing snacks and water with you since you won't pass many towns or stores on the trip. If you're venturing to the flats in the winter months, be sure to check weather updates as it's not safe to drive on the flats in wet conditions. The Bonneville Salt Flats are free to enter.

Salt Lake City

Top things to do in Utah

Known for being the center of American Mormonism, Utah's capital city is home to plenty of religious and historic attractions. Spend some time in Temple Square to see the immense Salt Lake Temple and learn more about the Mormon faith from church representatives. For those interested in learning about the Great Salt Lake or the area's Native American populations, visit the Natural History Museum of Utah, which is located about 5 miles from the square. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is also a great place to spend the afternoon, according to travelers. Plus, it's situated near the University of Utah campus as well as the large botanical garden and amphitheater at Red Butte Garden.

What's more, Salt Lake City offers an array of international cuisines and breweries. Some visitor favorites include Bewilder Brewing Co., Fisher Brewing Company and Kiitos Brewing. Families visiting the area may enjoy stopping at the Hogle Zoo or the Redwood Drive-In Theatre. There are plenty of luxurious accommodation options as well as budget-friendly properties here as well; check out the best hotels in Salt Lake City before booking your stay.

There are also plenty of ski resorts in the Salt Lake City region. Visitors love Snowbird for its 140 runs – many of which are quite challenging – and its terrain park. Another traveler-favorite is Solitude Mountain Resort which offers more beginner-friendly options among its 82 trails. Both resorts are located about 30 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport making them very accessible even if you're only in town for a brief visit.

[See more of Salt Lake City: Things to Do | Hotels | When to Visit | Photos .]

Lake Powell

Top things to do in Utah

Deep blue water surrounded by towering red rock cliffs makes the picturesque Lake Powell well worth a trip. Known for being the second-largest human-made reservoir in the country, this popular summer destination is located in southern Utah and spills into northern Arizona, where it is one of the state's most popular lake destinations and places to visit .

The water is used for swimming as well as water sports, such as kayaking and paddleboarding. Motorized water sports, including Jet Skiing and motor boating, are also allowed. (There are many equipment rental areas in the area.) The reservoir is encircled by 2,000 miles of shoreline, although much of it is only accessible by foot or by recreational vehicle. This means there are quite a few hiking opportunities on its shores, including traveler-approved areas like Davis Gulch and West Canyon.

While there are some hotels in the surrounding area, previous visitors agreed that staying in a houseboat is the best way to experience Lake Powell. Many of these houseboats – which you can book in advance from a marina – come equipped with kitchens, grills, bedrooms and even waterslides for fun, easy access to the lake. You don't need a boating license to rent a houseboat, but many rental companies will offer renters a lesson before they depart on their floating home.

[See: The Top Lake Vacations in the U.S. ]

Capitol Reef National Park

Top things to do in Utah

Although Capitol Reef is not as well-known as Utah's other national parks, the lack of tourists makes it all the more exciting to explore. Located north of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and west of Canyonlands, this park offers diverse terrain. You can see much of Capitol Reef National Park from your car. The main Scenic Drive stretches just about 8 miles and takes passengers past the park's notable geological features like the Moenkopi Formation, Waterpocket Fold, Grand Wash and Wingate Sandstone. You can also opt to drive the nearly 60-mile Cathedral Valley Loop, which weaves through a more remote section of the park, passing massive sandstone structures like Temple of the Sun (the peak of which sits nearly 6,000 feet above sea level).

Visitors who would rather explore the park on foot have many memorable hikes awaiting. The easy-to-moderate Hickman Bridge (1 mile round trip) and Cassidy Arch (1.7 miles round trip) trails showcase Capitol Reef's stunning sandstone arches, while the leisurely Grand Wash Trail (6.25 miles round trip) brings hikers through narrow canyons. The Fruita Historic District – home to old Mormon settlements, a schoolhouse and a fruit orchard – is also worth exploring on foot. What's more, ranger-led programs like geology talks and full moon walks are available for free.

Entrance to the park costs $20 per car. Many travelers recommend exploring Capitol Reef on the way to or from Bryce Canyon via the 124-mile Scenic Byway 12. You might also consider glamping at Capitol Reef Resort , where you sleep in a Conestoga wagon.

Visit downtown Moab

Top things to do in Utah

If you're planning to visit Arches National Park or Canyonlands National Park, Moab is the best place to hang your hat. There are plenty of lodging options in town no matter your budget. While many people travel to Moab because of its proximity to many natural wonders, the downtown area itself is also worth exploring. You can visit Moab's cafes, peruse food truck options and sample an array of cuisines, including mouthwatering barbecue and Thai favorites, from downtown restaurants. There is also a popular brewery and distillery you can check out. You'll find art galleries and independent shops selling pottery, traditional Native American jewelry and souvenirs. Recreational activities abound in the city, including river rafting, horseback riding, rock climbing and all-terrain vehicle tours.

Past visitors recommended booking a UTV tour or renting a vehicle through the Moab Tour Company. And, don't miss the chance to drive along the Colorado River and even stop at wineries along the riverbank. After the sun sets, head to Dead Horse Point State Park (or pretty much anywhere outside the downtown area) for excellent stargazing opportunities.

[See the Best Hotels in Moab .]

Ski Park City

things to do in utah

Park City is the perfect winter playground for skiers and adventurers. There are two major ski resorts in the area, as well as a lively downtown and ample upscale accommodation options. Park City Mountain Resort – the largest ski resort in the country – offers a plethora of shredding options for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. There are more than 330 trails across 7,300-plus acres of skiable terrain. Adrenaline junkies can hit any of the eight terrain parks, which vary by difficulty level.

Deer Valley Resort offers a more intimate ski setting compared to its counterpart thanks to its smaller size and prevalence of more beginner-friendly trails. Plus, snowboarders are not allowed at Deer Valley, which many skiers appreciate. The runs are longer, but the lift tickets are more expensive than those at Park City Mountain Resort. Both mountain resorts offer tons of fresh powder (typically seeing an average of 355 inches annually), making the slopes in Park City skiable from November to April. No matter which resort you choose, you won't be far from the city center. The historic downtown area offers a multitude of boutiques, pubs and fine dining experiences. Galleries and theaters bring life to the town as well. If you're visiting in the summer, there are often farmers markets, festivals and events as well. Best of all, free buses will transport you around the area.

[See more of Park City: Things to Do | Hotels | Restaurants | When to Visit | Photos .]

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Top things to do in Utah

Millions of years of erosion, high-powered winds and water flow resulted in a striking landscape scattered with lofty buttes and distinctive rock formations. This area, now known as Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, is open year-round for all to explore. Visitors can drive through the park on the scenic U.S. Highway 163 route (four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended).

If you want to escape the car, you can also book a formal tour of the land . There are classic vehicle-operated tours that will take you to the top attractions, but there are also horseback tours and hot air balloon tours available if you are seeking a more unique experience. It's important to note this land belongs to Navajo Nation and is sacred to the tribe. If you want to learn more about the land's cultural significance and the tribes to whom this land belongs, opt to book a tour operated by a Navajo local. As you tour, the scenery might look familiar since the park has been used as the backdrop for many films, including "Stagecoach," "Forrest Gump" and "Once Upon a Time in the West."

Because this park is operated by Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation rather than the federal government, your national parks pass will not be sufficient to enter. Instead, you'll have to pay $20 per vehicle.

Top things to do in Utah

This city in the southwestern corner of Utah offers plenty of activities, whether it's your final destination or just a stop along your road trip. Travelers visiting sans kids can admire the city's massive Mormon temple and visit a plethora of art galleries. What's more, downtown offers plenty of bars and restaurants. A children's museum and a spacious town square – complete with a lazy river and picnic areas – make the city a great stop for those traveling with kids, too. Parents also recommend bringing little ones to the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm where they can marvel at fossilized dinosaur tracks.

St. George benefits from plenty of sunshine and mild- to hot weather, which means it's great for outdoor activities. Explore the red rock formations at Pioneer Park, hike the trails in nearby Snow Canyon State Park and swim in the reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park. Past visitors also recommend driving to Quail Creek State Park where you can swim, kayak and camp. St. George is frequented by visitors to Zion National Park as the city sits about 40 miles west of the park.

[See the Best Hotels in St. George .]

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument

Top things to do in Utah

Similar to Utah's other parks, this national monument offers a rugged landscape with striking geological features like arches, slot canyons and mesas. Named for its series of plateaus and its proximity to the Escalante River, this area was declared a national monument in 1996. It's made up of three distinct sections: Grand Staircase, Kaiparowits Plateau and Escalante Canyon.

The Grand Staircase section offers a mix of trails and backcountry hiking opportunities; some popular trails include Upper and Lower Calf Creek Falls trails (2.2 miles and 5.8 miles, respectively) as well as Escalante Natural Bridge (3.2 miles round trip).

On the other hand, the Kaiparowits Plateau, which measures 1,600 square miles, is the most remote section as it sits 9,000 feet in the sky. It's sandwiched between Grand Staircase in the west and Escalante Canyon in the northeast.

The Escalante Canyon area is a popular destination for canyoneering trips. This section also boasts waterfalls and an array of gorges.

There is no entrance fee for this national monument. It's located near Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon, and travelers say it's easy to fit into a road trip itinerary. You can also experience great views of the monument on a drive from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park by following state Route 12 (also known as Scenic Byway 12).

Antelope Island State Park

things to do in utah

Located on a peninsula that juts into the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island is an adventure-lover's paradise. You can try hiking, mountain biking on the network of trails or swimming in the lake. Past visitors recommended visiting Bridger Bay Beach for the best swimming options.

There are also spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities here. For starters, there are about 500 bison roaming the island. If you visit in late October or early November, you can witness the annual bison roundup. The park's other wildlife species include bighorn sheep, deer and, of course, antelope.

There are no formal lodging options on the island; if you want to stay overnight, you can reserve a spot at one of three campgrounds. The closest hotels are located on the mainland, near Syracuse, Utah. The route from Salt Lake City is just about 60 miles long, so Antelope Island makes for a good daytrip as well.

Note that you should come prepared with food as there is only one restaurant – the Island Buffalo Grill – on the peninsula. Entrance to the park costs $15 per vehicle.

Experience the Sundance Film Festival

Top things to do in Utah

Movie stars, directors and other celebrities flock to northern Utah each January to attend the Sundance Film Festival. Famous films like "Get Out," "Saw" and "The Blair Witch Project" have premiered to audiences at Sundance. In a typical year, the film festival draws more than 100,000 attendees from around the globe. Events at this 10-day festival take place in the theaters of Park City, Salt Lake City and Sundance Mountain Resort. The best part of this festival is that it's open to everyone.

If you're visiting Utah during mid- to late January, simply purchase a festival pass or a ticket package. Depending which kind you buy, a pass may cost upward of $1,000, but it gives the holder total access to screenings, panel discussions and other events for a range of dates. On the other hand, a ticket package provides a select amount of passes that can be used to attend different panels, events and screenings. You can also purchase an individual ticket to one specific screening for about $20. If you happen to be a local resident, you'll be able to purchase tickets before the general public.

Visitors should book accommodations early to ensure they secure a room with a reasonable rate (rates are known to double in price during this popular event). Check out the best hotels in Park City and the best hotels in Salt Lake City for lodging ideas.

Top things to do in Utah

This city in central Utah is known for being home to Brigham Young University – a large private research university sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of the college, there are plenty of restaurants to try, sporting events to enjoy and museums to peruse. Visitors recommend stopping by the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, the BYU Museum of Paleontology and the BYU Museum of Art.

However, there is more to Provo than the college campus: The city, which is situated at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains, is a great spot to stay for an outdoorsy vacation. Popular hikes include Rock Canyon Trail (about 5.5 miles round trip), Lost Creek Falls Trail (2.8 miles round trip) and the "Y" Mountain Trail (about 2.2 miles round trip). The short (about a half-mile from the parking lot), but scenic route to Bridal Veil Falls also draws many visitors who want to catch a glimpse of the more than 600-foot-tall rushing waterfall. Utah Lake State Park – which is home to the largest freshwater lake in the state – is located near Provo as well, and it offers swimming, boating and camping opportunities.

Attend the Utah Arts Festival

Top things to do in Utah

Swingman Photo | Courtesy of Utah Arts Festival

If you're visiting Utah in the summer, don't miss the chance to experience the state's largest outdoor arts festival. Over the course of three days, attendees can witness performance and visual art from an array of local and international artists. Events like poetry readings, storytelling presentations and documentary screenings add diversity to the festival. Musical acts bring a lively energy to the event, and dance groups entertain with everything from ballet to modern dance to hip-hop performances. Everything at the festival is infused with art – even down to the food. Food and beverage vendors impress visitors with culinary art techniques and serve a variety of international cuisines.

The festival is held in Salt Lake City and draws about 70,000 attendees every year. Tickets are available for purchase online or at the event and start around $15; three-day package ticket options are also available.

Address: 200 E. 400 S., Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Anasazi State Park Museum

Top things to do in Utah

Courtesy of Anasazi State Park Museum

A trip to Anasazi State Park Museum is essentially a trip back in time. At this museum in south central Utah, visitors can explore the remains of an ancient Puebloan village and learn about the people who once occupied the land. This area was home to one of the largest Puebloan communities west of the Colorado River and was thought to be occupied around A.D. 1050. A walk along the unearthed stone walls can help visitors understand the structure of the village. In addition, an excavation uncovered more than 100 buildings and numerous artifacts from the village.

In the museum, visitors can admire showcases of traditional Anasazi pottery, tools and art. The on-site gift shop offers authentically designed crafts and educational books, so visitors can learn more about these ancient civilizations.

Past travelers said the state park doesn't take long to explore because of its small size (about 6 acres), but they agreed it's an educational stop for people of all ages. The park, which is located in the town of Boulder, charges $5 per person to enter.

Address: 460 UT-12, Boulder, UT 84716

things to do in utah

Outdoor adventure and small-town charm draw visitors to Ogden in northern Utah, set about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City. This up-and-coming city sits in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains – specifically the towering Willard Peak and Ben Lomond – so there are plenty of recreational activities in store. Ogden offers easy access to Snowbasin Resort and Powder Mountain – two of the area's premier ski resorts.

If you're visiting in the summer, be sure to experience the Ogden River whether by swimming, boating, fishing or strolling along the shores. You can also explore the region's hiking and biking trails. Some visitor-approved hikes include the moderate Waterfall Canyon trail (2.5 miles round trip) and the more challenging Malan's Peak trail (about 5 miles round trip).

The downtown area is also not to be missed. Streets are dotted with art galleries, public art attractions, restaurants, breweries and dive bars. Plus, there are budget hotels, bed-and-breakfast accommodations and campgrounds for visitors to reserve. There are also museums in the area that teach travelers about the city's rich, yet tumultuous history as a railroad town. Ogden also offers free self-guided audio walking tours that start from Union Station at 25th Street and Wall Avenue.

[See: 15 Epic Outdoor Adventures to Enjoy Across America .]

Snow Canyon State Park

Top things to do in Utah

This expanse of red rock and petrified sand dunes covers 7,400 acres of land in southern Utah and is popular among travelers visiting nearby St. George or Zion National Park. Formed by an intense mixture of volcanic eruptions, flowing lava, rushing rivers and sandstone erosion, this state park's landscape is anything but ordinary. Luckily, there are many ways to explore the area.

Those looking to drive through the park should head from St. George to Snow Canyon Drive, which weaves through the park. The road trip should only take an hour or two even if you stop along the way. (Jenny's Canyon is a popular place to stop, as this slot canyon is located right off the road.)

If you want to get out and hike, try the easy Johnson Canyon Trail (2 miles round trip) or the moderate Lava Tube Trail (2.5 miles round trip). Cyclists may enjoy touring the park by bike on the paved trail that loops from St. George through the park and back. Entrance to the park costs $5 for pedestrians and cyclists or $15 for cars ($10 for Utah residents). If you're looking to stay overnight, there are spaces to camp as well.

Enjoy adventure activities in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Top things to do in Utah

Nearly 4,000 acres of blush colored sand dunes comprise this unique state park. One of the most exciting ways to experience this state park is on an ATV tour. Coral Pink ATV Tours offers a variety of excursions to choose from. The Sand Dune Paradise tour crosses over the dunes to backcountry trails, while the Dunes & Boarding Tour incorporates sandboarding and sledding into the typical route; both options are about an hour long.

Other tour options include hiking stops at slot canyons and prime sunset viewing. If you're interested in only sandboarding or sand sledding, you can rent equipment (for a fee) from the park's visitor center on a first-come, first-served basis. It's also possible to explore this state park on foot, though hiking options are limited. You can traipse the rolling dunes and admire the array of vegetation, or head a few miles north to hike the South Fork Indian Canyon. Entrance to the state park costs $10 per vehicle. There are options for camping in the area, or you can stay at a hotel in the nearby town of Kanab.

Fantasy Canyon

Top things to do in Utah

This geological attraction in northeastern Utah is straight out of a fairy tale. The gray-hued sandstone rock formations, which have been heavily eroded since prehistoric times, curve at peculiar angles and almost look as if they are dripping down to the ground. Because of its somewhat remote location – situated 40 miles from the nearest city of Vernal – Fantasy Canyon is a peaceful and quiet roadside attraction. It's a calming place for an afternoon stroll, and the signs on the self-guided trail educate wanderers on the natural forces that created the landscape. Plus, visitors often witness antelopes, horses and other wild animals grazing in the area, making the experience even more memorable.

Although the area is relatively small – about 10 acres – visitors agree Fantasy Canyon is worth the trip because the rock formations are unlike any others in the state. Plus, it's a great spot to take some Instagram-worthy snapshots. It should only take about an hour to walk around, though there are places for primitive camping near Fantasy Canyon if you want to spend more time here. The canyon is free to explore, and there are well-marked signs leading visitors to the area, according to recent travelers.

[See: 13 Unusual Roadside Attractions Across America .]

Boating at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area

things to do in utah

Escape Utah's sweltering summer heat with a trip to this enticing reservoir surrounded by crimson rocks that might seem as though they're on fire. The reservoir, which was created by the Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River, stretches 91 miles from northeastern Utah through to southwestern Wyoming. It's popular among locals and tourists for its boating opportunities. There are plenty of marinas where you can rent boats and other equipment like kayaks and Jet Skis. Swimmers can escape the summer heat with a dip in the refreshing waters, which usually hover around 65 degrees in the summer.

If you visit between April and September, you can opt to book a tour of the dam to experience its depth and learn more about the powerful energy source. The recreation area is free to enter, though you'll have to pay a small fee if you plan to launch a boat.

There are numerous camping areas here, but some visitor-favorite spots are Antelope Flat – thanks to its accessibility and water sports options – and Dutch John Draw, because of its quiet cove. If you're in search of more traditional accommodations, there are a few motel-style options to choose from. Note: Because of the area's location at 6,000 feet above sea level, nighttime temperatures can drop by about 50 degrees, so pack accordingly.

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Top things to do in Utah

Big Cottonwood Canyon, which is located about 20 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, offers attractions for skiers, hikers, mountain bikers and even those travelers who simply want to enjoy views from the comfort of their car. The canyon is home to two renowned ski areas, Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Resort, which are connected by an intermediate trail. If you're visiting in the summer months, consider hiking the challenging 5-mile round-trip Broads Fork trail to see sprawling meadows and canyon viewpoints or the easier roughly 3-mile out-and-back Donut Falls trail to see a unique waterfall.

Visitors also recommend heading to nearby Little Cottonwood Canyon to hike or bike in the Albion Basin for spectacular mountain views and a plethora of wildflowers. If you don't have much time to spend, you can soak up the canyon views with a scenic drive. From the interstate, follow the signs for the ski resorts; the road snakes through mountains and passes stunning alpine scenery. There are also plenty of spots to pull over and snap photos as well as numerous designated picnic areas along the way.

Natural History Museum of Utah

Top things to do in Utah

Brian Twede | Courtesy of Natural History Museum of Utah

To fully comprehend Utah's unique beauty, you must understand its geological elements and the impacts of its native inhabitants. There's no better place to learn about all of this than the Natural History Museum of Utah , located just east of the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City. The museum offers temporary exhibits as well as a breadth of permanent ones including Native Voices – a presentation about the art and culture of the state's eight federally recognized Native American tribes and the tribes' presence in modern-day Utah.

Visitors also enjoy learning about Utah's biodiversity at the Life exhibit and about its three distinct geographical regions – the Basin and Range, the Colorado Plateau and the Middle Rocky Mountains – at the Land exhibit. According to visitors, there are many kid-friendly elements at the exhibits, and children especially love the dinosaur attraction.

Entrance costs about $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and young adults ages 13 to 24 and $15 for children 3 to 12. The museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. The museum recommends buying tickets online at least one day in advance. Visit the website to buy tickets and learn more.

Address: 301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108

Dead Horse Point State Park

Top things to do in Utah

Located near the northeast entrance of Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park is a captivating site with an interesting history. In the 19th century, the area was used by cowboys herding wild mustangs. Now, the park is frequented for its scenic hiking and biking trails. The park sits about 2,000 feet above the Colorado River and is surrounded by vibrant red buttes and mesas as far as the eye can see. Dead Horse Point Overlook is one of the best spots for a photo-op and is easily accessed from the parking lot. Visitors say sunrise and sunset are the most beautiful times to visit. Popular hiking trails include the easy East Rim trail (which measures 2 miles one way) and the moderate West Rim trail (which measures 3.5 miles one way).

The park offers well-maintained campgrounds and yurt areas. It's worth staying overnight because Dead Horse is recognized as an International Dark Sky Park , making for prime stargazing opportunities. Kayenta Campground and Wingate Campground offer electrical hookups and restrooms; Wingate also offers a few tent-only sites as well as some yurts – which feature beds, table and barbecue areas – available for rent. Entrance to the park costs $20 per vehicle (up to eight people).

Address: UT-313, Moab, UT 84532

Red Fleet State Park

Top things to do in Utah

You can find this state park in a region of northeast Utah nicknamed "Dinosaurland," thanks to the plethora of dinosaur tracks discovered in the area. To witness these dinosaur relics firsthand, head to the northern section of the park and walk the Red Fleet Dinosaur Trackway Trail. While the park would be worth visiting for this attraction alone, there is even more to this park than just 2 million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

A lake surrounded by sandstone cliffs makes for a scenic place to kayak, paddleboard or lounge on the deck of a boat. There are water sports equipment rentals available within the park. Also, many hiking and biking trails surround the lake. Past visitors recommended the Three Amigos, Handsome Cabin Boy and Jazz Chrome Molly trails for mountain biking. Travelers who wish to spend the night can camp on the eastern shores of the reservoir. Campsites come equipped with fire pits, drinking water, flush toilets and electric hookups. The park costs $7 to enter and camping fees vary by season.

Address: 8750 N. Highway 191, Vernal, UT 84078

Take an adventure to the Uinta Mountains

Top things to do in Utah

Travelers looking for outdoor recreation options in northeastern Utah should look no further than the Uinta Mountains. This mountain range is one of the only ranges in the country that runs east to west, and it has some of the tallest peaks in the state. The area is a prime spot for essentially any outdoor activity you can imagine, including hiking, backpacking, riding all-terrain vehicles, off-roading, fishing, paddleboarding and snowshoeing.

Mirror Lake, one of the area's top-rated attractions, is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day. Situated about 10,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by majestic mountains, the lake is definitely worth a stop despite the crowds, according to recent visitors. Plus, it's open for nonmotorized water sports and swimming. Driving along the 42-mile Mirror Lake Scenic Byway is the perfect way to see the mountain area, and in the fall, drivers will be amazed by the bright foliage.

Many travelers choose to camp in these mountains and there are plenty of campgrounds to choose from. Summer is the best time to visit for outdoor adventuring. Even so, be prepared for changing weather conditions when visiting – snow can fall in the Uintas as early as September.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best National Parks in the U.S.
  • The Best Places to Hike in North America
  • The Best Travel Backpacks
  • Print and Pack: The Ultimate Camping Checklist
  • The Top Things to Do in Colorado
  • The Top Things to Do in Arizona
  • The Top Things to Do in New Mexico
  • The Best Tourist Attraction in Every U.S. State

Tags: Travel , US Vacations , Utah Vacations , U.S. West Vacations

World's Best Places To Visit

  • # 1 South Island, New Zealand
  • # 4 Bora Bora

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Skip Arches National Park And Visit This Underrated State Park Instead


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  • Snow Canyon State Park offers a quieter alternative to Arches National Park with similar red rock landscapes and more hiking trails.
  • The park is easily accessible and has a lower entrance fee compared to Arches, making it a more budget-friendly option.
  • Snow Canyon State Park provides a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels, making it an excellent choice for hiking enthusiasts.

Arches National Park is home to one of the most iconic natural formations in the US, the Delicate Arch. Year after year, millions of people from around the world visit Arches specifically to get their picture in front of this unusual structure. With the highest concentration of natural bridges and arches in the world, it's clear that Arches National Park has earned its fame.

Unfortunately, that fame comes with a price. Arches National Park is the smallest of Utah's five national parks, with relatively few hiking trails and only one major road running through the park. Even with the timed entry system, Arches National Park, and particularly the Delicate Arch trail, gets very crowded, especially during peak season. Visitors struggle to even get close to the park's most popular arch formations, and park rangers have to put out signs by the gate warning people of wait times to get in.

So what are Utah visitors to do? While there is no exact replica of Arches National Park, there are plenty of places to enjoy Utah's vibrant red rock landscape without 10,000 other people in the way. Some guests skip Arches for Canyonlands National Park just 30 minutes away , but the park's limited accessibility means that it is not a great destination for everyone.

Located near St. George Utah, Snow Canyon State Park is one of the most underrated alternatives to Utah's busy national park locations. With a similar layout to Arches — and plenty of hiking and scenic driving opportunities — this relatively quiet state park may just be the perfect solution to a crowded Arches National Park experience.

7 Things I Learned On My First Trip To Arches National Park

I took my first trip to Arches National Park, and it lived up to the hype. Here are my tips for a productive and awe-inspiring Arches trip.

About Snow Canyon State Park

Snow canyon is fairly easy to reach, and boasts a much lower entrance fee than arches national park.

Snow Canyon State Park is surprisingly easy to reach, despite seeing only a fraction of the visitors of Arches National Park. While there are some local tips on reaching Arches National Park , the reality is the park requires winding through a canyon and following some more remote desert highways.

Snow Canyon State Park, on the other hand, is right along I-15, Utah's major north-south freeway. Located just outside the big city of St. George, Snow Canyon is easy to include as a day activity during a Southern Utah trip.

What To Do In Snow Canyon State Park

Scenic drives and plenty of hikes make snow canyon a full day experience, much like arches.

Of course, when it comes to finding alternatives to major national parks, the next question is, what is there to do there? Guests spending the day in Snow Canyon instead of Arches (or nearby Zion National Park) will have plenty to explore, both in their vehicle and on the trails.

Similar to Arches National Park, Snow Canyon has one major scenic drive that runs through the park. From the road, sand dunes, lava flows, and red slickrock are easily visible, highlighting the desert landscape. This is the same kind of coloration and environment guests would enjoy in Arches, where not a single tree can be found disturbing the barren rock.

Of course, this is Utah, so the biggest question is, what are the hiking trails like? Arches National Park has mostly easy and moderate hikes and is considered one of the best places for hiking in Utah .

Snow Canyon State Park, however, may be even better for hiking enthusiasts. Nearly 50 trails crisscross Snow Canyon, exploring caves, lava flows, petrified sand dunes, and the walls of Snow Canyon itself.

Considered one of the best underrated hiking spots in Utah , Snow Canyon State Park puts even Arches and Zion National Parks to shame. Numerous easy trails, like Jenny's Canyon Trail and Petrified Dune Trail , make Snow Canyon State Park perfect for beginner hikers, much like Arches.

Moderate and hard trails like the Lava Flow Trail, Snow Canyon Trail, and Gecko to Gila Trail give more experienced hikers a challenge that they may not be able to find in Arches National Park. These longer trails and the unique sights they lead to make Snow Canyon State Park an experience all its own.

Temperatures in both Arches National Park and Snow Canyon State Park can quickly reach dangerous levels, particularly during the summer. Pack double the "recommended" amount of water for the group and pay attention to signs of heat exhaustion.

7 Most Scenic But Tough Hikes in Utah

These demanding routes take hikers through breathtaking landscapes, from towering red rock formations to lush alpine forests.

Snow Canyon State Park Vs. Arches National Park

The arches of arches national park are iconic, but snow canyon offers more hiking and less competition.

Looking at location, scenery, and hiking opportunities, how does Snow Canyon State Park compare to the mighty Arches National Park? As a Utahn, I have a soft spot for Arches National Park, and even ranked Arches above Zion National Park after visiting both less than a month apart.

Having also visited Snow Canyon State Park, its suitability as an alternative to Arches all depends on what visitors want to experience. For guests hoping to enjoy the unique arch formations, there is no substitute for Arches National Park.

There is no equivalent to the Delicate Arch in any of Utah's other parks, and other images like the Windows Section and Landscape Arch are equally unique.

However, visitors hoping for a unique hiking experience, similar to the Devil's Garden area in Arches National Park, may find themselves much happier in Snow Canyon State Park. With more trails to choose from and half a million fewer visitors than Arches, the trails in Snow Canyon are much quieter, and just as scenic.

Snow Canyon has a variety of petrified sand dunes, which are also abundant in Arches. These similarities make Snow Canyon State Park perfect for those looking for a quieter place to enjoy Utah's unusual geology.

Underrated, But Worth Visiting: Utah's Most Overlooked National Park

Of Utah's five national parks, Canyonlands National Park is the least visited. This underrated gem has amazing hiking, with low crowds throughout.

Navigating Utah's national parks can be challenging, with millions of visitors flooding through the gates year after year. Arches National Park, with its small size and limited trail options, can get particularly crowded during peak months. With more hiking trails and fewer visitors, Snow Canyon State Park is an excellent, underrated alternative to Arches National Park.

Have you ever been to Snow Canyon State Park? Tell us in the comments!


weird places to visit in utah

13 Best things to do in Utah

U tah, located in South Western United States, is home to some of the most incredible national parks and encompasses one of the most iconic road trips that can be done in the US!

From the red valleys, monumental canyons, to delicate sandstone arches, Utah is the perfect destination for all things outdoor adventures. 

But with so many options of hikes and sights to see, it can be challenging to choose how to best spend your time.

So below, we will highlight the 13 best things to do in Utah and also explain what made each of them stand out. This way, you will get a good sense of what type of marvels you will get to experience at each spot.

We have ensured to provide a variety of activities ranging from admiring landscapes, short hikes, and water activities, to adrenaline-filled canyoneering. There is something for everyone! 

Quick summary of our top 5 best things to do in Utah

If you are short on time and just want to know the best 5 experiences we had in Utah, then check out this list. We try to include not just the typical tourist hotspots but also some unique off-the-beaten-path adventures!

  • Angel’s Landing hike (US’s most dangerous hike)
  • Paddleboarding/Kayaking the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend

Canyoneering in Moab

  • Sunset at Delicate Arch
  • Hiking and standing on top of a 400-foot-high sandstone arch at Cassidy Arch at Capitol Reef

How to do this trip?

To travel through Utah, it is highly recommended to rent a car. This will allow you the freedom to visit off-the-beaten-path locations and experience the true nature of Utah.

Although it is possible to take shuttles between the main national parks, they are expensive and also inconvenient. 

Utah is one of the most iconic road trips of the United States so it is well worth renting a car to do it justice.

We have highlighted the ideal 2 week Southern Utah road trip itinerary here that includes all the 13 best things to do, how to plan each day, where to stay, and some truly unique hidden gems. 

Utah is an amazing destination for outdoor enthusiasts. From incredible landscapes, and hikes, to adrenaline activities like canyoneering, Utah definitely has something perfect for you!

Below, we’ve compiled the best 13 things to do in Utah. We spent over 2 weeks exploring Utah and these are what we would consider the must-sees!

Angel’s Landing

Angel’s Landing , located in Zion National Park, is known as one of the United State’s most dangerous hikes. Here, you will climb up multiple switchbacks until you are about 1500 feet high, and then start traversing a rock fin, straddled on both sides by sheer cliffs.

By holding onto a network of chains anchored into the rocks, you will balance your way through the trail, intermittently taking a look behind to admire the magnificent views. For us, this was definitely one of the most exciting hikes you can do in all of Utah.

At the end of the hike, you are presented with a full 180-degree view of the entire valley of Zion National Park. This hike is not for the faint of heart or for those who have a big fear of heights.

Due to the high popularity of this trail, Zion National Park has implemented a lottery system by which to limit the number of entries per day. If you are interested in doing the hike, make sure to inform yourself about how the draw works. 

Narrows hike

The second unique hike in Zion National Park is the Narrows. Here, you will be trekking through ankle to knee-deep water through one of Utah’s largest slot canyons. Over 3-5 hours, you will get to admire the massive canyon cliffs on both sides, winding you through incredibly variable scenery.

It is an out-and-back hike so the length of the hike is totally up to you as you can turn around whenever you’d like. In total, the slot canyon stretches on for 15 miles but most will only do about 1/3 of it before turning back.

Also, make sure to purchase the Water gear package including the neoprene socks, waterproof boots, and a hiking stick. We unfortunately thought we would be fine without it but ended up freezing in the cold water of the Narrows.

Paddleboarding Colorado River

One of the most unique experiences you can have in Utah is Paddle boarding down the Colorado river through Horseshoe Bend . By taking a backhaul boat to bring you upriver, you will then be dropped off and paddle about 10 miles along the current back down to Lee’s Ferry.

Along the way, surrounded on both sides by towering red cliff walls, you will have the opportunity to admire the true wilderness of the Colorado River. These cliffs were carved over millions of years of erosion, and some still have the ancient remnants of petroglyphs.

You will also be able to make several stops and embark on some short hikes along the way. In total, this activity should last between 5-8 hours and was one of the most breathtaking off-the-beaten-path and rarely mentioned activities in Utah.

Book your own unique experience here in advance

Yant Flats is located only a 45-minute drive away from Zion National Park and is often overlooked. However, it was one of the most spectacular landscapes we saw in all of Utah.

The Yant Flats are also known as “Candy Cliffs” due to their unique bubbly rock formations and the red and white hue of the rocks.

It requires driving through some windy cliff roads, followed by a 1-hour hike to reach it, but the adventure makes it even more worth it! This is the ideal spot to enjoy the sunset and you will likely have the place all to yourself.

The area can be freely explored and we would highly recommend climbing down lower into the valley where you can fully admire the otherworldly landscapes.

We spent a total of 2 hours there and could’ve easily spent more time, however, it was getting dark after sunset and we still needed to do the 1-hour hike back.

Horseshoe Bend

Although theoretically located in Arizona, Horseshoe Bend is often recommended also as one of the best things to do in Utah . The reason for this is that it is located so close to the border of Utah, and is one of the iconic symbols of the area.

Here you will witness the canyon carved out by the Colorado River into a horseshoe shape. As much as that may not sound so impressive, when you stand on the edge and witness its gargantuan size, you can’t help but be mesmerized.

There is one main viewpoint but you can freely explore along the edge of the cliff to see it from multiple perspectives. This is also a popular and ideal spot to visit during sunset.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is one of the most iconic symbols of the American West and is located right on the border of Utah and Arizona. The land is owned and protected by the indigenous Navajo people and is considered a sacred site.

It was showcased in multiple Western films and also in one of the famous scenes of Forest Gump. This is the perfect scenic drive that winds through the park on a 17-mile route.

If you are interested, you can also join in one Navajo-guided tours that bring you up close to the buttes, pinnacles, and cliffs.

Some of the highlight features of the park include monolithic red sandstone buttes, mitten buttes, elephant buttes, totem pole, and John Ford’s point.

You can book a tour with a Navajo Local Guide here

Arches National Park

When you research Utah, one of the most renowned pictures you will see is that of Delicate Arch. I mean, it is even on the Utah license plate. Delicate arch is one of the many impressive arches you will find in Arches National Park.

In fact, Arches National Park has the densest concentration of natural arches in the entire world! Visiting this park is perfect for families as most of the arches can be seen from the parking lot or by way of a short paved walk.

Most of the sites are also wheelchair accessible. You can easily spend the entire day exploring the multitude of arches and short hikes.

Note: Keep in mind that during the peak season, Arches National Park may limit the number of cars that can enter to control the tourist crowds.

Pro Tip: If you want the iconic hike, then make sure to go to Delicate Arch for sunset!

Dead Horse Point State Park

Picture the Grand Canyon, but more compact, and you will have Dead Horse Point State Park. Here you will witness some of Utah’s most impressive canyons.

In fact, we preferred Dead Horse Point State Park over the Grand Canyon since it had far fewer crowds, was less touristic, and the more compact nature of it made us feel like we could take it all in better.

There are a couple of hikes that you can do here, mostly flat trails along the rim of the multiple canyons. It is also one of those easier hikes and perfect for enjoying the sunsets . 

For those who want an adrenaline-filled adventure, look no further than canyoneering in Moab . Imagine scrambling across the cliffs and valleys of slick rock, far from the beaten path, and then rappelling 200 feet down a cliff.

Canyoneering allows you to access places that others cannot get to. You will feel the thrill of navigating the otherworldly terrain, and reaching totally remote areas.

Some canyoneering adventures will have you rappelling down massive cliffs, others wedging and scrambling through slot canyons, whereas some even have you swimming through rivers.

There are multiple levels of difficulty available so you are sure to find one that is suitable for you. If you are interested in Canyoneering, check out our guide reviewing the experience of canyoneering and essential things to know before trying it out !

Book a Canyoneering Experience in advance here

Valley of the gods

Valley of the Gods is located only a short drive away from Monumental Valley and is the perfect alternative. Landscape-wise, it presents a similarly impressive terrain of buttes, pinnacles, and mountains.

However, Valley of the Gods is free to visit, has far fewer tourists, and is free from the rules of private reserves. This means you can drive your car freely through the park, hike wherever you’d like, and be able to fully admire the beauty of the nature.

Along our 17-mile scenic drive, we only encountered 3-4 other vehicles, making it an amazing off-the-beaten-path experience. 

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park presents a truly unique landscape of hoodoos, which are carved-out rock spires.

There are multiple hikes that you can do here to fully explore, ranging from hikes down in the valley amongst the hoodoos, to impressive above-the-valley viewpoints.

One of the hikes we would highly recommend is the Figure 8 trail which combines 3 hikes together to give you the best views the park has to offer.

Cassidy Arch

Cassidy Arch, located in Capitol Reef National Park , gives you the rare opportunity to stand on top of a rock arch formed over a million years ago.

Through a short 2-3 hour out-and-back hike, you will traverse through alien-like landscapes and finish off by walking over a 400-foot high sandstone arch.

It was one of our favorite shorter hikes during our trip and we had the place almost all to ourselves. Oh and before doing this hike, make sure to go to Gifford Homestead for their famous pies!

Antelope Canyon / Canyon X

Both Antelope Canyon and Canyon X are located in Arizona , but again due to its proximity to the border of Utah, they are often included in the best things to do.

Imagine walking through a fiery red narrow slot canyon, the walls carved out by wind and water through millions of years, creating a smooth and wavy rock tunnel.

If you are here at just the right time, the sunlight will stream in at just the right angle, illuminating the canyon in an ethereal glow.

Although Antelope Canyon is the most famous, if you are seeking a less touristic alternative, then we would recommend Canyon X.

Our Canyon X experience was excellent and it was just us and 1 more couple with the guide. 

Book this unique Canyon X experience here

How long to stay in Utah?

To properly visit the best things to do in Utah, we would highly recommend 14 days. If you are willing to skip a couple of the spots, then a minimum of 10 days is required.

Although we have seen some proposed itineraries with only 1 week, this would require you to drive long distances on most days.

We do not recommend this as you will be spending more time driving than admiring. Also, since many of the activities are physical and can take a good portion of the day to do, it is important to have some rest time in between.  

Best time to visit Utah

The best time to visit Utah is during the months of April to June, and then September to October, when the temperatures are comfortable and there is minimal rain.

During the Peak season of July to August, temperatures can soar up to 40 degrees Celcius and with very little shade on the hikes, it can become quite uncomfortable.

We ended up visiting at the end of September and had perfect weather with temperatures around 25-30 degrees Celcius and no rain. 

It is also important to consider that Utah’s National Parks are some of the most visited in the entire United States. This is particularly the case for Zion National Park and Arches National Park.

For some of the hikes like Angel’s Landing, the park has implemented a lottery system to control the crowds. In order to be allowed to participate in that hike, you need to enter a draw and be granted a permit. Therefore during the high season from July to August, the chance of being granted access is reduced. 

Recap: 13 Best things to do in Utah

These are what we would consider the 13 best things to do in Utah. Although there are so many options to explore, this list will provide you with a full array of experiences and have something suitable for all interests. Utah was definitely one of our favorite road trips ever and we can’t wait to go back!


About the author:   Ryan & Nan are two curious travel storytellers and adventure photographers who started WaylessTravelers to share their passion for travel with the world. Having explored over 25 countries across the globe, they seek to share their passion for travel planning and photography to help others organize their next adventure. Ryan & Nan seek authentic culture, adventure, hiking, and venturing off-the-beaten paths to uncover the true marvels of the world. Click here to check out our Instagram !

The post 13 Best things to do in Utah appeared first on Dreams in Heels - Travel and Lifestyle Blog by a Latina Abroad .

Utah, located in South Western United States, is home to […]

Sedona, Arizona, USA downtown cityscape and mountains.

  • The Most Picturesque Small Towns in Colorado Plateau

The Colorado Plateau is a wide, flat region of the western United States. Its vast area spans from Utah and Colorado in the north to parts of Arizona and New Mexico in the south. The area includes distinct geographical features, including the Colorado River, distinct red rock formations and cliffs, vast canyons, and hot springs. Many small towns exist in the area, each with impressive picturesque views of the surrounding natural landscape. Visitors can take in the region's beauty and enjoy the unique features of these picturesque small towns in the Colorado Plateau.

The Colorado River runs through Canyonlands National Park near the city of Moab, Utah.

Moab is a picture-perfect town. It is unique for its many red rock formations and expansive scenic desert-scapes. Visitors can take in the iconic beauty of the area at one of the Mighty Five National Parks of Utah . Arches National Park features the classic red rock arch that has to be seen to truly be appreciated. Canyonlands National Park is also nearby and has an impressive deep canyon and towering rock formations called hoodoos. Visitors can also check out Dead Horse Point State Park, just a short distance from town. Aside from the stunning beauty, visitors can enjoy white water rafting on the Colorado River or hiking the many scenic trails. Camp under the stars and experience the meaning of Dark Sky Country. In town, don’t miss the Museum of Moab, which has a collection of locally found dinosaur bones and artifacts. Grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant or take in the views from the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery.

Kanab, Utah

The charming town of Kanab, Utah. Editorial credit: Christophe KLEBERT /

Another picturesque small town in Utah is Kanab. Like Moab, it has surreal landscapes and wide open plains. Kanab is so picture perfect, in fact, that it is the site of many TV and movie shoots. Hundreds of old Western movies were filmed here, sparking the name ‘Little Hollywood.’ Abandoned film sets are popular tourist attractions. Explore the nearby Buckskin Gulch, home of some of the deepest and longest slot canyons. Don’t miss the amazing, unique pink sands of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Kanab is also about 2 hours from the iconic Grand Canyon, world-renowned Zion National Park , and Bryce Canyon National Park . Other natural attractions in the area include the other-worldly North Coyote Buttes, known as “The Wave”. The area is permit-only, though it is highly restricted. Alternative options that don’t require a permit include White Pocket. After a long day of exploring, enjoy drinks at Sego, which serves beer and craft cocktails. For a great local meal, stop at Wild Thyme Cafe.

Durango, Colorado

Aerial view of Durango, Colorado.

Durango is right on the edge of the Colorado Plateau in the San Juan National Forest. It is overlooked by striking mountain peaks and forests. Take in the beauty of the region on the historic Durango Train. This old-fashioned train travels through Durango and the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, offering unique mountainside views and sheer cliffs. Learn about the region and the stunning landscape from the on-board guide. In town, the Durango Museum is another great place to soak up some history and view photos and artifacts from the early days of Durango. Explore the nearby forests and hills by hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. Popular trails in the region include the extensive Colorado Trail. Durango is also home to natural springs. Relax and let your cares drift away at the Durango Hot Springs. These natural baths let you soak while enjoying the amazing views of the mountains and plateau.

Telluride, Colorado

The gorgeous town of Telluride, Colorado. Editorial credit: Michael Vi /

The Colorado Plateau extends east to Colorado and includes the visually impressive town of Telluride. Another gorgeous town in Colorado worth a visit is Telluride . Backed by the scenic Colorado Plateau, it is a stunning town nestled in a box canyon. Rugged mountain peaks rise up to 13,000 and 14,00 feet around the tiny downtown district. Telluride was once a former American West boom town. Its history has placed the entire eight-block by twelve-block downtown in the National Historic Landmark District. Stroll the old streets and take in the Victorian-style architecture and gold-rush history. Telluride offers two unique experiences in the charming downtown and adjoining Mountain Village. The village sits above the valley at a height of 9,500 feet. Ride the gondola up to the village in the clouds for amazing views of the mountains, valley, and town below. Visitors can also access the Telluride Ski Resort and Uncompahgre National Forest from Mountain Village. The village is particularly popular in winter for skiing. Telluride has a little bit of everything, from horseback riding, hot springs, stand-up paddle boarding, ziplining, rafting, and various outdoor recreational activities. After a day of adventure, enjoy scenic dining spots, including Allred’s restaurant and Alpino Vino in Mountain Village. Dine in town at French-inspired La Marmotte, or Cornerhouse Grille

Sedona, Arizona

Aerial view of Sedona and the surrounding spectacular landscape.

Sedona is a beautiful town of red rock cliffs and orange desert lands. The extraordinary sandstone rock formations rise up around town and are some of the most iconic images of Arizona . Visitors can hike the Sedona Secret 7 Trails that wind up and down the many cliffs. Popular natural landmarks include the Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock. The town of Sedona is an artistic hub. Many creatives have been inspired by the surrounding natural beauty, and Sedona has blossomed into a haven for arts, galleries, studios, and workshops. Check out the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village for local fare. Accommodations and dining options are also plentiful. Stop by the Cowboy Club or enjoy the view from Poco Diablo Resort or Arroyo Pinion Hotel.

Taos, New Mexico

Ancient dwellings of Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.

Ancient dwellings of Taos Pueblo in New Mexico.

Taos is a magnificent town full of history and natural beauty. It is at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The region is full of immense beauty - both in the landscape and architecture. In fact, the town has inspired a strong arts scene, including the Taos Art Museum. One of the most distinct parts of the town is Taos Pueblo . Indigenous Toas people have continuously inhabited this ancient village for some 1000 years. It consists of traditional adobe-style buildings and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark. Explore the impressive Rio Grande Gorge for hiking and rafting adventures, or take to the skies in a hot air balloon for a unique view of the expansive landscape.

Jemez Springs, New Mexico

Spanish Colonial Mission at Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

Another town in New Mexico that is picture-perfect is Jemez Springs . It is about an hour outside of Albuquerque and a great option for those looking to explore the natural beauty of the Colorado Plateau. As the name suggests, the area has several natural hot springs . Visitors can spend the day hiking the gorgeous Santa Fe National Forest and soak in the outdoor Spence Hot Springs or Soda Dam. For those who prefer a more spa-like experience, the Jemez Spring Bath House and Cañon del Rio Retreat and Spa also have hot baths, lovely views, spa treatments, and lodgings. In town, visit the Jemez National Historic Landmark or walk through the village. The town dates back over 700 years and has an interesting history.

Gallup, New Mexico

Church Rock in Gallup, New Mexico, USA, has a shallow depth of field along Route 66.

Gallup, New Mexico, is a picturesque town off the iconic Route 66. It features red sandstone cliffs and rock formations and, like Toas, is popular with artists and creatives. Most of all Indigenous American artwork originates in Gallup, including silver and turquoise jewelry, which has become synonymous with New Mexico. Visitors can shop at the many galleries and boutiques and enjoy local festivals, including the Red Rock Balloon Rally and the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial or rodeos at the Red Rock Park Arena. For history and culture, check out the Red Rock Park Museum. It has artifacts and exhibits dating back to 300 A.D.

The beauty of the Colorado Plateau is undeniable. Visit the distinct red rock formations, explore the deep canyons and gorges, or hike among the forests. This region has so much to discover, from artistic hotspots to culturally significant villages. Take in mountain views in Telluride and ancient villages in Taos Pueblo, soak in the natural hot springs, or explore the National Parks of Moab. Each small town has something unique and beautiful to offer.

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Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More

The 10 Best Places to Live in Utah in 2024

Reading Time: 12 minutes

If you’re planning on moving to Utah, add these cities to your list.

In this Redfin article, we’ve uncovered the best places to live in Utah, ranking them on qualities such as affordability, navigability, and number of amenities. You can find more information about our methodology here or at the bottom of the article.

Overview of Utah

Utah is a haven of rugged mountain ranges, high desert plains, and boundless outdoor activities. With its three unique regions , the state provides a mix of charming towns, rich history, and convenient amenities, making it a great place to call home. People are taking advantage of this, too; Utah was the fastest-growing state in the country from 2010-2020.

Natural beauty is one of Utah’s defining factors. The beautiful Uinta Mountains dominate much of northeastern Utah, providing ample opportunities for skiing, hiking, and fishing. In the southwest, the awe-inspiring canyons of Zion National Park draw visitors from around the world. 

Utah’s climate is also fairly pleasant. The nearby mountain ranges shield Utah from most extreme weather, especially heat and cold. As such, dry, mild weather is fairly common. Precipitation is more likely the higher and farther north you go, with most falling in the winter and spring .

Over 80% of Utah’s population lives in the Wasatch Front , a 150-mile valley home to cities like Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden. The valley is bordered by the steep Wasatch Mountains to the east, and the Great Salt Lake, Oquirrh Mountains, and Utah Lake to the west. Here, urban amenities blend seamlessly with outdoor recreation, offering the best of both worlds.

Skyline of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA in early spring as the sun sets.

1. Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah’s capital and largest city, tops our list as the best place to live in Utah. Ample access to the outdoors, a relatively affordable cost of living, and competitive housing market all contributed to its high ranking. The city is located in the heart of the Wasatch Front just west of the Wasatch Mountains and is known for its dramatic vistas, year-round outdoor recreation, and long history. 

Living in SLC means you’re never far from fun. The Utah Arts Festival and Downtown Farmers Market are popular options during the warmer months, while skiing is a local winter favorite. Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude resorts are all within an hour from downtown SLC. 

Salt Lake City also has hundreds of local shops and eateries. The King’s English Bookshop is a beloved independent bookstore, while Eva’s Bakery and Caputo’s Market & Deli serve up delicious fare in the heart of the city. Historic Salt Lake City neighborhoods like The Avenues and 9th and 9th boast charming hotspots, including the iconic Tower Theatre and rustic Pizza Nono.

However, the region’s air quality and water security are important issues to know about if you’re moving to the area. Due to the region’s rapid growth, demand for water has skyrocketed. With the majority of the state facing long-term drought conditions , a growing portion of the water has come from the Great Salt Lake, whose water levels recently fell to its lowest recorded levels . This has had compounding effects on the region’s already poor air quality.

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Deciding between renting or buying your next home?

Just south of Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake is the second city on our list of the best places to live in Utah. What used to be a fairly undeveloped part of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area is now a hip, bustling city with its own character and attractions. The city’s affordability is one of its main selling points; house prices in South Salt Lake are $200,000 less than Salt Lake City proper. And while the city has historically been fairly industrial, this can be a benefit for some.

South Salt Lake is also very convenient for commuters into downtown Salt Lake City. TRAX , UTA’s light rail system , offers three lines into and out of South Salt Lake: the Red Line, Blue Line, and Green Line. Trains run every 15 minutes and provide access throughout the SLC metro area. Commuting by car might take a while, though, especially along Interstate 15. 

South Salt Lake is home to quite a few local hotspots, including the Old Bridge Cafe, Pie Pizzeria, and King Buffet of Salt Lake. Chinatown Supermarket is especially popular among locals, with 30,000 square feet of authentic and unique Asian goods. And for people who want to spend a day on the greens, six golf clubs are within two miles of the city center. 

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3. Orem, UT

Orem comes in as the third-best place to live in Utah. A suburb of Provo about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City, Orem is known for being a fairly affordable college town. Rentals in particular are quite affordable, with rent prices $600 below the national median . Utah Lake borders the city to the west, while 10,000-foot mountain peaks are just two miles to the east. The scenic Provo Canyon is located in the easternmost part of the city limits. 

You can find most of what you’ll need in Orem along State Street (SR 89), which runs through the center of town. Restaurants like Pitada Brazil and Lomito’s, shopping destinations like Orem Plaza and Asian Market, and local attractions like the Hale Center Theater and Scera Park can all be found along a one-mile stretch of the road. Walking around State Street can be difficult, but the city government is working to transform the boulevard into a haven for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Commuting into Salt Lake City may be a challenge if you don’t use public transportation. For example, driving into Downtown SLC using Interstate 15 can take well over 40 minutes, longer depending on traffic and weather. On the other hand, The FrontRunner , UTA’s regional commuter rail, runs straight through Orem into SLC and can be a stress-free way to commute. This route takes around an hour, but the time is much more reliable.

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4. Midvale, UT

Next on our list is Midvale, a small suburb 12 miles south of Salt Lake City. Similar to many suburbs in the region, Midvale boasts a more affordable cost of living than SLC, along with a more relaxed feel. Midvale developed separately from SLC and retains its own historic, old-school downtown while also providing plenty of new housing both east and west of Interstate 15. 

Like Orem, most of what you need can be found along Main Street in the center of town. Midvale Plaza is a popular shopping mall, while Moochie’s Meatballs and More and the Midvale Mining Company Cafe are beloved local restaurants. Main Street is also being renovated and updated to better serve pedestrians and cyclists. Other Midvale hotspots include The Shops at Fort Union, and Gardner Village. 

One of the benefits of living in Midvale is that you’re right in the middle of the SLC metro area. You’re within five miles from most of what the area has to offer, including renowned outdoor recreation and local shops and amenities. It’s easy to drive out to the Bear Canyon Suspension Bridge Trailhead, Heughs Canyon Trail, or Great Salt Lake State Park for a fun day outside. You can also easily head into downtown SLC for a night on the town using the TRAX Blue Line, or drive 17 miles south to the Outlets at Traverse Mountain.

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5. Murray, UT

Located just north of Midvale in the center of the Wasatch Front, Murray ( formally Murray City ) comes in at number five on our list of the best places to live in Idaho. Murray is a historic city with roots in mining and smelting, specifically gold, silver, and lead, and still retains a rustic industrial feel today. Historic attractions include the 170-year old Wheeler Historic Farm , which provides education and summer camps, and the Carlisle Family Monument.

Despite its close proximity to the city center, Murray retains a distinct sense of tranquility. Tree-lined streets and spacious parks offer residents ample opportunities to unwind and enjoy the gorgeous Utah scenery. One of the most popular outdoor spots is the Jordan River Parkway Trail , which parallels the Jordan River for 45 miles and provides a paved and equestrian trail. Murray Park is another local favorite, with athletic fields, an ice skating rink, and an amphitheater. 

As with most suburbs in the Salt Lake Valley , most amenities are on or near State Street. The Desert Star Playhouse and the Paradise Buffet are fun spots to visit. The Ivy Place Shopping Village in the northeast has some other amenities as well. 

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6. St. George, UT

A historic Mormon farming town turned outdoor paradise, St. George is the seventh-best place to live in Utah. Located on the Colorado Plateau in southeastern Utah, St. George is home to renowned natural beauty, historic architecture, and abundant outdoor recreation . Due to its pleasant climate and location near public lands, it’s also one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation . The cost of living is fairly high, however, and wages sit well below the national average. 

Layers of red rock, narrow canyons, mesas, and volcanic lava flows dominate the landscape, while 300 days of sunshine makes it easy to get up and explore. St. George’s proximity to iconic natural wonders like Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park, and the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area provides residents with endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and more. 

Another plus about St. George is that it has relatively good air quality, especially compared to the SLC area. In fact, the city has the 10th-cleanest air in the nation for year-round particle pollution.

St. George’s climate is markedly warmer and drier than cities further north, with average summer temperatures reaching 100°F and very little winter snowfall. Its climate is generally dry year-round, with most rain falling in the winter and late summer. Due to this dryness, water insecurity is a major issue in the region, especially as its population grows.

St. George homes for sale | St. George houses for rent | St. George apartments for rent  


7. Provo, UT

Home to Brigham Young University (BYU) and a rich Mormon history, Provo is the seventh-best place to live in Utah on our list. Situated along Utah Lake 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, Provo is known for its college town vibes, active outdoor culture, and close-knit community. A big plus is the city’s affordability compared to SLC, especially for renters. However, many renters still spend more than 30% of their income on rent. The government has been working to improve the situation. 

Four-season recreation is around every corner and within minutes from the city. The Y, Provo Peak, and Rock Canyon trailheads are all a mile from downtown and offer stunning views of the valley and surrounding mountains. To the west, Utah Lake provides space for boating, swimming, canoeing, and paddleboarding, although the water quality is variable. The Provo River Trail, Paul Ream Wilderness Park, and Provo Recreation Center are popular spots in the center of town. 

It’s also easy to learn about the region’s Mormon roots. The Museum of Mormon Mexican History and Museum of Mormon History of the Americas showcase the religion’s history, while BYU hosts events and talks year-round. Numerous sacred temples are scattered throughout the city, too. 

Restaurants, shops, and other amenities are located throughout the city, too. Communal, Black Sheep Cafe, and Tucanos Brazilian Grill are especially popular. Orem Plaza is a good spot for getting together with friends, too. 

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8. Taylorsville, UT

Just west of Murray, Taylorsville comes in at number eight on our list. Affordability is one of the top selling points of Taylorsville, with median sale and rent prices 16% and 7% lower than Salt Lake City, respectively. Commuting can be a challenge, though, and most errands require a car . TRAX doesn’t operate in Taylorsville, but numerous bus routes run throughout the city. The Taylorsville Temple is a regional landmark.

Taylorsville is laid out on a grid bisected by Redwood Road, the Taylorsville Expressway, and 5400 S, which is where a majority of the city’s amenities are located. These hotspots provide a lot to do, including dining at local restaurants to visiting one of dozens of parks. Red Maple Chinese and Great Harvest Bread Co. Bakery & Cafe are popular eateries, while Vista Park, Gary C. Swenson Valley Regional Park, and two golf courses provide space for a fun day out. 

Further outside the city, the Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre provides space for large-scale concerts and comedy shows. The Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center is great for more intimate performances. 

Taylorsville homes for sale | Taylorsville houses for rent | Taylorsville apartments for rent


9. Millcreek, UT

Located southeast of Salt Lake City and north of Murray, Millcreek is a relatively expensive suburb known for its quiet streets, mountain views, and gorgeous parks. Eastern Millcreek extends into the Wasatch Mountains, providing ample opportunities for exploration and fun. The Mount Olympus neighborhood, for example, is within one mile from Millcreek Canyon, Neffs Canyon, and the Mount Olympus Trailhead.

The Big Cottonwood Regional Park, Parleys Historic Nature Park, and Scott Avenue Park are outdoor hotspots within city limits. After spending a day outside, locals love to eat at restaurants like Provisions, Roots Cafe, and Eggs in the City. 

One of the latest and greatest attractions to open in Millcreek is Millcreek Common , the new heart of the city. The Common is home to the New Americans International Market, the brand new Millcreek Farmers Market , and dozens of events throughout the year. There’s also a climbing wall, ice skating rink, splash pad, and coffee shop. 

Like many cities in the Western United States, especially around Salt Lake City, most neighborhoods are managed by a Homeowners Association (HOA) . HOAs can heavily regulate your home’s maintenance and appearance and influence your quality of life. Take this into account if you’re planning on buying a house in the area. Luckily, they can no longer require you to maintain a lush, green lawn. 

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10. Sandy, UT

Sandy, UT rounds out our list as the tenth-best place to live in Utah. Just south of Murray in the southeastern edge of the SLC metro area, Sandy is a fairly expensive suburb surrounded by mountains, parks, and wide open streets. Traditional cape cod and farmhouse homes line the quiet roads, along with well-paved sidewalks and large trees. And no matter where you live, you’ll have views of Lone Peak, White Baldy, and even Flat Top Mountain to the west on a clear day. 

There is no main avenue in Sandy, with most shops and amenities instead situated in mini-malls scattered throughout the city. Little Cottonwood Center, Union Square, and High Point Center are popular. The largest park in the area is Dimple Dell Regional Park, which offers miles of trails, including one that runs through a gully. Stopping at Sunrise Point on a brisk sunny morning is a favorite pastime among locals. 

Commuting into SLC from Sandy can be a challenge, though. The TRAX Blue Line stops in west Sandy, but because local public transportation is limited, you will likely have to use a car to get to the station. If this isn’t an option, you can drive into the big city along I-15 or State Street, but this can take upwards of an hour depending on traffic and weather. In general, Sandy is very spread out, and it can be hard to get around without a car. However, improvements are underway to help promote pedestrian safety and navigability.

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weird places to visit in utah

House hunting made easy


Redfin’s Best Places to Live rankings are meant to help home searchers make an informed decision when choosing where to live. To attempt to measure the overall quality of a metro area, each ranking takes into account several key factors, including access to healthcare, open outdoor space, navigability, housing trends, employment statistics, income, and travel time to work. Only metros with a population of 20,000 or greater were considered for our Utah list. More information about our methodology can be found here .

Data valid April 2024. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

Jamie is part of the content marketing team and is passtionate about climate change, housing affordability, and housing market trends. His dream home is a small, modern, and minimalist forested home where he can hear the wind blowing at night.

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  1. 10 Weird and Quirky Things to Do in Utah

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  2. 10 Weird and Quirky Things to Do in Utah

    weird places to visit in utah

  3. 10 Weird Landmarks In Utah That Many New Utahns Won’t Know About

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  4. 47 Bizarre And Weird Places In Utah

    weird places to visit in utah

  5. 9 Bizarre and Weird Places in Utah

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  6. Here are the 12 Weirdest Places You Can Possibly Go in Utah

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  1. Unreal Places In Utah 🇺🇸

  2. The Utah Display. "it's weird going to Utah when in Utah."

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  1. 150 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Utah

    Explore Utah. Geology 26. Nature 20. Natural Wonders 17. Rocks 14. Geological Oddities 13. Rock Formations 13. Ghost Towns 11. Museums 11.

  2. 29 Amazing Hidden Gems in Utah

    26. Fantasy Canyon, Vernal. Source: Galyna Andrushko / shutterstock. Fantasy Canyon, Vernal. Canyons, craters, rock formations, and other such natural phenomena are usual in the state of Utah, especially in the northeast. However, no other region is as ethereal as the pertinently named Fantasy Canyon.

  3. 27 Amazing Things to Do in Utah that Aren't National Parks

    15. Timpanogos Cave National Monument. One of the best things to do in Utah's American Fork Canyon is hiking to and exploring Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Three beautiful limestone caves sit at the top of a strenuous 1.5-mile hike with switchbacks to the cave entrance.

  4. 17 Secret Places in Utah (Off the Beaten Path)

    1. Mystic Hot Springs. Spend a couple days soaking your sore muscles in the mineral-rich waters at Mystic Hot Springs. This unique spot is certainly off the beaten path, as there isn't much around it to see. This can be a huge plus if you want to find some peace and quiet. Mystic Hot Springs is located in Monroe, in the middle of the desert.

  5. 10 of the Most Bizarre Places in Utah

    Things to do in Salt Lake City. 3. Pando, the Trembling Giant. Location: 1 mile southwest of Fish Lake. Utah wins again! The oldest and heaviest living organism in the world is nestled and sprawling within our state border. Pando is an Aspen clone 80,000 years old that weighs in at about 6 million kilograms.

  6. 15 Places in Utah that Prove the State is Weirder Than You Think

    Venture into Nature's Unseen Realms with Our New Book Atlas Obscura: Wild Life Pre-Order Now. Here are 15 locations that make a compelling case that Utah is one of the most wondrous states in ...

  7. 20 Hidden Places in Utah to Visit

    With expansive desert terrain, forests, monoliths, cliffs, canyons, and terraces, this famous landmark in Utah is littered with opportunities for adventure. ☂️ Experience the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument with a tour. Grand Staircase-Escalante GPS-Guided Audio Driving Tour. HIDDEN PLACE 4.

  8. 12 Hidden Gems in Utah: Underrated Spots in UT

    11. The Wedge Overlook and Little Grand Canyon. If you're on the hunt for unique places to visit in Utah, The Wedge Overlook and Little Grand Canyon should be on your radar. This spot is a hidden gem that offers some of the most stunning canyon views in the state, yet it's surprisingly not as crowded as you'd expect.

  9. 10 Weird and Quirky Things to Do in Utah

    10 Weird and Quirky Things to Do in Utah Discover Utah's Unusual Landmarks on a Road Trip. ... Today, it's a must-see and cool roadside resting spot on road trips through Utah's Canyonland Country. You can't miss the huge rock bearing the site's quirky name - painted white and in all capitals - as you drive south along Highway 191

  10. 10 Secret Things To Do In Utah

    Location: South Fork of Mule Canyon in Cedar Mesa, Bears Ears National Monument. Learn More. 4. Parowan Gap Petroglyphs, Parowan. The permanent collection in a 1,000-year-old art gallery. Park, walk and ponder the signs made by civilizations that explored Utah before you. Learn More.

  11. Off the Beaten Path in Utah ~ 12 Hidden Gems to Explore

    Next time you're in south-east Utah you need to visit Goblin Valley State Park, it's amazing! GPS co-ordinates 38.579, -110.708… If you've seen the movie Galaxy Quest, the fight with the Rock Monster was filmed in Goblin Valley, a real place, not something made up for the movie.

  12. 11 Must See Off The Beaten Path Places in Utah

    A certain bucket-list spot for anyone visiting Utah. Goblin Valley @ Sashajuliard. ‍. 2. Goblin Valley. One of the more unique places in Utah. It has some of the really crazy rock formations unique to this area, and the surrounding rock Mesas have very distinct colorations and layering in the rock.

  13. 10 Weird and Quirky Things to Do in Utah

    10 Weird and Quirky Things to Do in Utah Discover Utah's Unusual Landmarks on a Road Trip. ... Today, it's a must-see and cool roadside resting spot on road trips through Utah's Canyonland Country. You can't miss the huge rock bearing the site's quirky name - painted white and in all capitals - as you drive south along Highway 191

  14. Discovering Utah's Hidden Gems: 10 Secret Cool Places to Visit Now

    Utah is full of cool and unique places to visit, from stunning national parks to hidden waterfalls and hot springs. Utah is a state that is full of surprises, and these 10 secret cool places are just a few examples of the hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

  15. Weird Places in Utah

    Step outside your comfort zone a little and visit these 12 weird Utah places — they might be odd, but they're fascinating! 1. Goblin Valley, Green River. Dyana/flickr. The thousands of mushroom-shaped "goblins" at this state park are pretty weird. Like much of Utah's landscape, the sandstone formations were created by erosion.

  16. 148 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Utah

    Discover 148 hidden attractions, cool sights, and unusual things to do in Utah from Hole n" the Rock to 17 Room Ruin.

  17. 15 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Salt Lake City

    K Cady. 1. kjmoore12. 1. Join the Ranks! Add an unusual place to Salt Lake City.

  18. 7 Bizarre Roadside Attractions In Utah

    That doesn't mean that we don't want to get in on the fun a little bit, though. Here are seven roadside attractions that just might make you pull off the side of the road when you see them! 1. Metaphor: The Tree Of Utah. Ken Lund/flickr. Karl Momen, a Swedish artist, created this sculpture in the 1980s. The "tree" is 87 feet tall, and has ...

  19. 28 Top Things to Do in Utah

    Utah boasts five national parks and a whopping 40-plus state parks for visitors and residents to explore. Plus, with an array of small towns, mountains, ski areas and an urban hub in Salt Lake ...

  20. Utah Tourist Attractions and Oddities Index

    Utah Attractions and Oddities. All the weird attractions, hidden sights, and unusual places in Utah.Visitor Tips, news, stories, field reports. City roadtrip recommendations: Salt Lake City Also see: Gone But Not Forgotten - Closed classic attractions Utah Page | Utah Map

  21. What are some weird places in Utah to visit? : r/Utah

    Tree of Utah, along I-80 in the Salt Flats (westbound side), is a quirky site to see. Just be careful pulling off, as there's no dedicated parking lot or anything. The Spiral Jetty is nifty as well. Takes a while to get to. It's south west of Tremonton, and jets out into the Salt Lake.

  22. Skip Arches National Park And Visit This Underrated State ...

    While there is no exact replica of Arches National Park, there are plenty of places to enjoy Utah's vibrant red rock landscape without 10,000 other people in the way. Some guests skip Arches for Canyonlands National Park just 30 minutes away , but the park's limited accessibility means that it is not a great destination for everyone.

  23. Things to do in Salt Lake City

    Wrapping up the most unique things to do in Salt Lake City We hope you enjoyed our recommendations and found some things to do in Salt Lake City, Utah. Whether you've purchased a new trinket in 900 South, got a sugar rush from a soda, learned a new art skill, or have some dinner leftovers for later, our aim is that your main takeaway was some ...

  24. 8 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Moab

    8 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Moab, Utah Updated August 2, 2023 Share Tweet Email Attractions Map Leaderboards ... Visit a place in Moab. Recent Moab Activity S sarahroseeppen.

  25. 13 Best things to do in Utah

    To properly visit the best things to do in Utah, we would highly recommend 14 days. If you are willing to skip a couple of the spots, then a minimum of 10 days is required.

  26. Mysterious monolith appears in Colorado

    Since 2020, strange objects have appeared in Nevada, Utah and California. Now the mystery has deepened with a shiny monolith in Colorado.

  27. The Most Picturesque Small Towns in Colorado Plateau

    Moab, Utah The Colorado River runs through Canyonlands National Park near the city of Moab, Utah. Moab is a picture-perfect town. It is unique for its many red rock formations and expansive scenic desert-scapes. Visitors can take in the iconic beauty of the area at one of the Mighty Five National Parks of Utah.

  28. Cool and Unusual Things to Do in St. George

    3 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in St. George, Utah Updated August 16, 2022 Share Tweet Email Attractions Map Leaderboards ... Visit a place in St. George. Recent St. George Activity A

  29. The 10 Best Places to Live in Utah in 2024

    With its three unique regions, the state provides a mix of charming towns, rich history, and convenient amenities, making it a great place to call home. People are taking advantage of this, too; Utah was the fastest-growing state in the country from 2010-2020. Natural beauty is one of Utah's defining factors.