Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like to spend time on Mars? When traveling through Utah, you just might ask yourself if you’ve actually taken a trip to the red planet, because the landscapes can be out of this world.
After spending a cumulative month in Utah spread out over four trips, I looked high and low for the coolest things to do, both urban and natural. These are some of the best things you can possibly do in Utah:
65. Zion National Park
If coming from the south, your first logical stop will be Zion National Park. Picture a gorgeous red canyon with hikes and adventures galore. This was my first stop on my first-ever trip to Utah, and I’ll always treasure my memories here.
The following are some specific places in the park you won’t want to miss:
64. Angel’s Landing
This has become the most popular hike in the park over the last few years, and when you see the viewpoint at the top, it’s obvious why. If you can believe it, when I did this like in 2007, I was the only one at the viewpoint! But times have changed, and now it can sometimes be dangerously crowded. Try to pick an off time to go, like a weekday afternoon or early morning.
Keep in mind that this hike has very narrow passages at the top, requiring that you hold onto chains as you go. For those afraid of heights, this could be an uncomfortable experience. But if you still want that view, consider the next entry.
63. Observation Point
This is the hike that I chose the second time that I visited Zion National Park. It is higher and steeper than Angel’s Landing but does not have the chains and narrow passages. You get a similar view — actually looking down on Angel’s Landing. I recommend starting this hike in the morning so that you’re not climbing up with the sun on you in the heat of the day.
Still choosing between the two hikes? Here’s a full comparison.
62. Slot Canyon
This canyon is the photography muse of many hikers, and for good reason! The way the light pours into the narrow cavern creates a dreamy orange atmosphere for the entire length of the canyon. The widest gaps you can walk through are just 10 feet wide, and the narrowest are a mere 6 feet wide. Considering the stellar height of the canyon walls — reaching 100 feet in some places — it’s a pretty breathtaking hike.
This tour features Slot Canyon and even provides a detailed description of its unique geology and Native American cultural significance.
61. The Narrows
Another iconic hike in the park, the Narrows takes you through a wide slot canyon that’s filled with water. In the winter, it even ices over!
These days a permit is required to hike the Narrows, and you’ll want some kind of amphibious shoes for the experience (this is my favorite pair (affiliate link)).
Be mindful of the weather forecast as well, particularly during the summer/monsoon season. The rain comes fast and flash floods are common, and any slot canyon is the worst place to be in this scenario!
60. White Mountain on horseback
What’s better than exploring the backcountry of Zion? Doing so on horseback! Horseback riding is very popular in southern Utah, so this is a fun way to get in touch with the local culture. Consider this White Mountain tour, which welcomes beginner riders and goes through some impressive slot canyons along the way.
59. Dixie National Forest
Are you ready to visit the largest national forest in Utah? Dixie National Forest is two million acres of red sandstone formations, mountain peaks, and unique landscapes in every direction. Plus, it’s right next to three national parks and two national monuments, making it the perfect central point for all kinds of outdoor adventures.
If you haven’t gotten enough of horseback riding after your White Mountain trek, you can explore Dixie National Forest on horseback as well!
58. Bryce Canyon National Park
Famous for its hoodoos (natural columns of rock) and overlooks, Bryce Canyon is stunning at any time of year. It’s great for camping and hiking, as well as those incredible sunrise and sunset viewpoints.
Here are a couple of trails in Bryce Canyon:
57. Bryce Canyon Rim Trail
This 5.5-mile trail is easily accessible from the road and takes you to many famous viewpoints throughout the park. Most of the pathway between sunset and sunrise viewpoints is paved as well, making it more accessible.
56. Navajo Loop Trail
Start at the sunset point and make your way down to the canyon floor on this 1-2-hour hike through the hoodoos. You’ll see the famous Wall Street, Twin Bridges, and Thor’s Hammer.
55. Mystic Hot Springs
These hot springs would be a detour if you plan on heading to Escalante from here, but a worthy one. The entrance fee is $25 for a two-hour soak, and you can also book one of the old buses to spend the night in.
It’s rustic, but I loved watching the sun setting over the mountains while soaking in the travertine hot springs. I highly recommend booking for the sunset hours. Reservations will most likely need to be made ahead of time due to popularity.
54. Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircase was once the largest protected area in the US. It was reduced by half in 2017, but it still remains one of the most remote areas in the country, full of adventures. A four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle is recommended.
53. Paria Canyon Backpacking Trip
This five-day backpacking trip begins in Kanab, Utah, and takes you through gorgeous canyons and rivers all along the way. Permits are required, as there is a strict 20-person per day limit.
NOTE: Keep in mind that this part of Utah is huge, and if you choose to experience this adventure, the best way to orient your itinerary would be to place this after Zion, and before Bryce. This is also close to Page, Arizona, the jumping-off point for the Wave and Horseshoe Bend.
52. Zebra Canyon
Love slot canyons? This one is way less popular than Antelope Canyon and the Narrows, though just as stunning. This out-and-back hike is just over 5 miles through a narrow slot canyon that can, at times, have waist-deep water in parts. The best time to hike it is in the spring and fall. Keep in mind that you want to avoid any times that rain is predicted in the vicinity.
51. Devils Garden
This requires a long drive down a washboard road outside of Escalante town, but it’s on the way to Coyote Gulch and has unique rock formations and hoodoos. So while I wouldn’t make it my destination, it’s absolutely worth the stop. The hike is short and easy!
50. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Glen Canyon covers a large area as well, and much of it is accessed via Grand Staircase–Escalante. Honestly, an entire trip could revolve around this part of Utah alone, as there’s so much to see and do. Here are some favorites:
49. Jacob Hamblin Arch hike in Coyote Gulch
When I did this hike, I actually thought that it was part of Grand Staircase–Escalante, because you’ll be driving through Escalante to access it. But as you begin this hike, you actually cross into the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
There are several ways to access the Jacob Hamblin Arch, including parking at the more accessible Hurricane Wash, or taking a 4WD vehicle to the crack in the wall. The third option, which is the only single-day one, is to take the sneaker route at the water tank and rappel down with a rope. This is how I did it, and you can learn all you need to know about the hike here.
48. Reflection Canyon backpacking trip
This hike is completely exposed and requires a 4WD vehicle — you’ll be driving along the same washboard road that brings you past many of the preceding stops on this list. It’s a 15.2-mile hike that requires overnighting, but imagine that view as the sun rises over the canyon!
47. Capitol Reef National Park
Are you tired of amazing national parks yet? Neither am I! Capitol Reef provides quite a grand entrance while you drive by gorgeous buttes and bentonite hills. This is one of my favorite areas of Utah.
46. Navajo Knobs Hike
The Navajo Knobs is a tough hike, clocking in at just over 9 miles. But the views are incredible. Imagine alien-like holes in the rocks, unique formations, and grand, sweeping views. This hike is uncovered, and is best done during the cooler months.
45. Goosenecks Overlook
I stopped by this overlook for the first time on my most recent trip to Utah, and I love how easy it is to just pull right up and do the quick hike to the overlook. This road can get a little tricky, and though I drove it in my 4WD truck, I feel a high-clearance vehicle would be best, as a 4WD is probably not needed.
44. Scenic Drive
The most accessible part of Capitol Reef National Park, the Scenic Drive takes you through lovely canyons and washes. Having driven it, I admit I’m not that impressed with it, and I believe there are other parts of the park that are more beautiful. Those would be the Bentonite Hills in the Temple of the Sun and Moon — which we will discuss next — but to access these, it is imperative that you stop by the visitor’s center at the beginning of the Scenic Drive, just off of Highway 24, to check the road conditions first (when wet, the road is impassable).
43. Bentonite Hills
Have you seen the photos of that Mars-like landscape with multicolored hills? Though there are probably hundreds of bentonite hills all throughout the American Southwest, these are some of the more famous. They’re conveniently on the way to the Temple of the Sun and the Moon (see below) as well. The whole drive is stunning, so give yourself plenty of time for it.
As mentioned in the previous stop, be sure to check the road conditions at the national park headquarters before you go, as this road can become impassable when wet.
42. Temple of the Sun and Moon
I loved seeing this part of Capitol Reef. When my friend Kristen and I went a couple of years ago in February, we were the only ones there.
Keep in mind these are accessed down a dirt road that can become impassable at times. However when accessible, this is a must-see in my book.
41. Goblin Valley State Park
On your way from Capitol Reef to Moab, you’ll see a sign to the left with a detour to Goblin Valley State Park. This is absolutely worth it, as this is one of the most unique landscapes I have ever seen — and that is saying a lot, considering how crazy beautiful Utah is! These heaters are different from the ones that you will see in Bryce Canyon, with a more knob-like shape.
There is a campground in the area, and of course plenty of dispersed camping.
40. Little Wild Horse Canyon
For lovers of slot canyons, we’ve got another one close to Goblin Valley! Little Wild Horse canyon is an 8-mile loop, but you can see some amazing parts of the narrow canyon right at the beginning. When Kristen and I visited in February a few years ago, it looked like it might rain, so we just explored the beginning part, and that was amazing in and of itself.
Next we’re heading into my absolute favorite part of Utah, and the one place that I have visited every single time that I have made it out. There is so much to see in Moab that I always feel like I have only barely scratched the surface! It’s the perfect jumping-off point for the next 15 things on this list:
38. Off-road Canyonlands tour
Getting off-road to explore the canyons, cliffs, and winding rivers of Canyonlands is a thrill. This tour is perfect if you’re based in Salt Lake City and will take you on a wild ride through Canyonlands (of which there’s more information later on). It’s perfect for anyone who wants to get their heart pumping and enjoy the beauty of Canyonlands in an exciting way.
37. Rafting on the Colorado River
I think it’s a rule that you can’t leave Utah without rafting on the Colorado River, right? I’m pretty sure they won’t let you fly home unless you arrive to the airport soaking wet and flushed from the adrenaline rush…
All jokes aside, rafting on the Colorado River is a fun way to taking in the gorgeous scenery of the Fisher Towers and Professor Valley. You’ll be able to take in the spectacular desert sights while you splash through mild rapids on a raft fit for beginners and expert rafters alike. This rafting tour from Moab — along a seven-mile stretch of the Colorado River known as the Fisher Towers section — is an excellent option.
36. SUP-board the Colorado River
If rafting isn’t quite your thing and you’d rather take in the sights of the Colorado River at a slower pace, try stand-up paddleboarding! There is a section of the Colorado in Arches National Park where the steady flow of water is perfect for a leisurely float. Consider a guided SUP-board tour that includes some neat information about the area while you paddle.
35. Arches National Park
Easily one of the most famous parks in Utah, Arches truly delivers! Whether you are going into look at the beautiful dark skies, catch sunset at Delicate Arch, or drive up to the Windows, prepare to be wowed. You should also prepare to share this with plenty of people, as this somewhat small national park is popular, and highly accessible.
34. Corona Arch
This might be the best arch in the entire area, IMHO. Although you have Arches National Park practically across the street, I loved that Corona Arch was so much less crowded. When my friend and I hiked there in late July 2021, we were the only ones there for sunrise.
This is an easy, three-mile round-trip hike that also takes you past Bowtie Arch. Just keep in mind that it is completely uncovered and can get brutally hot. I highly recommend it for sunrise!
33. Bride’s Canyon
On your way to Dead Horse Point and much of Canyonlands National Park, you’ll have the opportunity to stop at Bride’s Canyon. I know at this point, you’ve seen a lot of unique rock formations, but Bride’s Canyon has a uniqueness all its own, and plenty of dispersed camping options too!
32. Dead Horse Point Overlook
This must be one of the best sunset views in all of Utah! Having seen the sunset on the Grand Canyon, I can’t say it’s any better than Dead Horse Point State Park. There’s not much to do other than drive up and look, but I highly recommend that you do so at sunset.
Plus, if you happen to go in the winter, you can buy a drone permit, which they don’t allow in the summer. This was one of the best drones of my life!
31. Canyonlands National Park
On the same road as Dead Horse, you’ll find your way to the most accessible and popular part of Canyonlands National Park. For incredible canyon views and even more arches, you’ve come to the right place!
30. Island in the Sky District
The Island in the Sky District is the most popular part of the park, but for good reason. There are several overlooks in the area, including the Green River Overlook, that are stunning at sunset.
I recommend giving yourself plenty of time in order to stop at all of the overlooks that interest you. Most of them are easily accessible and quick stops, but they each have unique views.
29. Mesa Arch at sunrise
Certainly the most popular sunrise spot in the whole area, Mesa Arch provides the perfect frame for the rising sun over the canyon. Having witnessed it myself, I can vouch that it is beautiful, but even having arrived an hour early, the best spots for the photo were taken up by other people and their tripods. I got lucky, though, as there were low=hanging clouds on the morning that I went, causing some of the photographers to leave early and vacate a prime spot. By waiting a little bit longer, I got that gorgeous morning glow on the arch.
The moral of the story is, if you’re a photographer and you want an iconic photo, it’s probably best to get there at least two hours early during the busy spring and fall months. If you don’t really care, then still prepare to queue up for your opportunity to take the photo at any time of day!
28. Flight over Canyonlands and Arches at sunset
The sunset flight over Canyonlands and Arches National Parks was one of the highlights of my Utah experiences. Imagine the opportunity to view these amazing places from above, and with the perfect light! It’s a small, lightweight plane, so everyone gets an amazing view.
This is such a special experience to share with one or two other people as you fly for an hour over stunning landscapes and get a bird’s eye view of what would take weeks to traverse by car and foot.
Our pilot, Tracey, always had photography in mind and would perfectly situate the plane for photos, chasing the best light. There is only one company that is allowed to fly over the national parks, as helicopters are too loud! You can book a flight here.
27. Needles Overlook
Canyonlands covers a large area, with many hikes and districts. We could talk for hours just about the options in Canyonlands alone, but for those who love a gorgeous view for minimal effort, I recommend the Needles Overlook. Because sometimes you just don’t want to hike, amiright? This one provides sweeping views in nearly every direction.
26. Hite Overlook
In the more accessible part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, you’ll find the Hite Overlook. This is one of my favorite drive-up views in Utah, looking out over the Colorado River. Note that this is included on the list here because of how you’d logically access it, after Capitol Reef and via Hanksville.
25. Goosenecks State Park
You could be forgiven if you’re confused by how many things are named “goosenecks” in the American Southwest, but this state park provides yet another wonderful, drive-up overlook of a unique, winding canyon. You can also camp in the area.
24. Valley of the Gods
The Valley of the Gods isn’t in a national or state park. It’s not even on most itineraries of Utah, and I wouldn’t have ever known much about it unless I had decided to go explore it when I saw the sign on my way to Monument Valley — and I am so glad that I did! The road is probably not always perfectly accessible, as it is dirt and gravel, but it provides gorgeous views and red buttes.
There are also plenty of dispersed camping spots. As always when dispersed camping, there will be no services, and you are responsible for leaving absolutely no trace.
23. Forrest Gump Point
For lovers of the movie, this is where Forrest Gump famously finishes his long run. But it’s not just for the movie buffs out there. This gorgeous stretch of highway provides beautiful views all the way to Monument Valley in Arizona.
You can find the perfect spot to snap a photo of this iconic point just outside of Monument Valley, in Mexican Hat County along Highway 163 Scenic Drive, also known as Forrest Gump Road.
22. Utah Lake
Utah Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the state, at 148 square miles in size. The lake and surrounding areas are part of Utah Lake State Park, which hosts a variety of recreational activities, including swimming, boating, paddleboarding, kayaking, and fishing.
The lake’s location in the middle of the desert definitely gives it an oasis feel, which is the perfect refreshing break after a desert hike.
21. Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
The United States Department of Agriculture says this national forest is “free from modern human control or manipulation, is undeveloped, and provides outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.” If that’s not a good enough reason to go there and completely unplug from modern society, I don’t know what is.
The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest encompasses 109 million acres of land featuring scenic byways, recreation areas, cabins, and epic hikes.
20. Uinta Mountains
Whether you’re looking for a day hike, a full-on backpacking trip, or an equestrian adventure, the Uinta Mountains are an awesome destination. The scenery in this part of Utah is sure you make your jaw drop, and there are a variety of trails that all have something special to offer.
19. Mount Timpanogos
On the northeast side of Utah Valley sits Mount Timpanogos. This 11,749-foot monstrosity of a mountain is one of Utah’s most popular hiking destinations. Two trails are available to hike to the summit: the 8.3-mile Aspen Grove Trail and the 7.5-mile Timpooneke Trail. Each of them provides a different hiking experience, but both promise incredible views, wildlife settings, and plenty of wildflowers to admire.
18. Wasatch backcountry skiing
Get ready to immerse yourself in a winter wonderland in the Wasatch Mountains. Here skiers of all levels can hit the slopes and spend the entire day in the fresh, powdery snow. This is one of the best places in the state for backcountry skiing, and this guided tour provides a professional skiing guide who can show you the ropes.
17. Utah Olympic Park
In 2002 when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics, Park City was the site of five events: bobsled, skeleton, luge, and the Nordic combined events. Nowadays, the Utah Olympic Park is open to the public and has plenty of activities available, including a zip line tour. This is a great place for solo travelers, small groups, and families alike.
16. Hot-air ballooning
If you want to get your hot-air balloon fix while visiting Utah, Park City is the perfect place to do it! From a thousand feet above the gorgeous landscape surrounding the city, you’ll be able to see the Kamas Valley and the Wasatch Mountains. Each season offers a different kind of beauty: bright blue skies with lush green hills in the summer, red- and orange-speckled mountains in the fall, snow-capped peaks in the winter, and colorful wildflower blossoms in the spring.
15. The Park City Mountain Resort Alpine Coaster
This roller coaster is nothing like the mega-industrial ones you’d find at Six Flags. With over a mile of loops and turns, the Park City Mountain Resort’s Mountain Coaster offers a breezy mountain atmosphere while moving at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. It’s a must-visit if you like your gorgeous views served up with a side of adrenaline.
14. Salt Lake City
As Utah’s state capital, Salt Lake City is a hub for arts, culture, entertainment, gastronomy, and much more. The city has a unique and fascinating history worth exploring. Its proximity to so many state and national parks makes it another wonderful launching point for your outdoor adventures.
13. Great Salt Lake
No visit to Salt Lake City is complete without checking out Great Salt Lake. As the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, it’s truly an amazing site to marvel at. Consider taking a road trip on Interstate 80, along the southern coastline of the lake, for some stellar views.
There are several beaches along Great Salt Lake’s shores that are ideal for swimming, kayaking, SUP-boarding, and fishing. You’ll also find plenty of hiking trails at nearby parks that showcase the area’s wildlife and flora. Make sure not to miss one of the lake’s iconic colorful sunsets!
12. Antelope Island
Antelope Island is easily one of the most popular places to enjoy Great Salt Lake. It’s a small peninsula that features soft, white-sand beaches ideal for swimming and sunbathing. At Antelope Island State Park, you can explore backcountry trails on foot, horseback, or mountain bike while admiring the natural beauty all around. This is also a highly popular camping spot and great for viewing local wildlife.
11. Ensign Peak
This lookout point is one of the best ways to see Great Salt Lake from above. You can find the trailhead in Salt Lake City behind the capitol building. From there, make the upward hike to the top and catch an amazing view of the city and the lake all in one. It’s only about a mile round-trip but definitely best to do early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as the scorching temperatures of Utah summers are not ideal for a midday hike.
10. Salt Lake Trolley Tours
If you want to see the sights of Salt Lake City in the most theatrical way possible, consider a trolley tour. This “show-tour” features historical tales told by an eccentric crew of entertainers, which is bound to have you laughing the entire ride. You can make your reservation here.
9. Natural History Museum of Utah
If you go to any museum in Utah during your visit, make sure it’s this one. The Natural History Museum of Utah features an impressive collection of dinosaur bones, anthropological artifacts, and fossils dating back millions of years. You could spend hours exploring the treasures inside! Reservations are required and can be made here.
8. Temple Square
The entirety of Salt Lake City was built around Temple Square, indicating that this point is the city’s origin. In fact, the gridded street system designates addresses according to how many blocks to the north, south, east, or west a particular place is in relation to Temple Square.
When the temple stands today was once the epicenter of the city, but it now encompasses 35 acres and several city blocks full of landmarks. You’ll find the temple, tabernacle, assembly hall, and visitor centers here, along with other important buildings.
7. Red Butte Garden
Created by the University of Utah, the Red Butte Garden is easily one of the most beautiful botanical treasures in Salt Lake City. This 21-acre garden features a variety of plant species, five miles of hiking trails, and loads of community events year round. The garden is known for its outdoor summer concert series, which hosts big-name artists as well as local favorites.
6. Salt Lake Public Library
You might be thinking, why is she telling me to visit the library? I get it — it’s not exactly your typical tourist destination, but hear me out. The Salt Lake Public Library is one of the coolest buildings in town and has some stunning modern architecture to admire. It’s completely free to visit, too! After all of the outdoor adventures, this could be a welcome change of scenery and an excellent place to relax with a good book.
Ogden is the ultimate gateway to northern Utah’s ski resorts. This charming city is brimming with delicious eateries, hip breweries, and fresh outdoor spaces. It also makes a great central point for adventures to the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and other natural areas.
4. Nordic Valley
Nordic Valley is the perfect place to visit during the wintertime. This ski resort is known to be the best for all levels out of the three resorts close to Ogden. It has well-groomed slopes, of which 35% are suitable for beginners. For intermediate skiers and snowboarders, 45% of the slopes are ideal and 20% for advanced skill levels. You can even go night skiing here, as all of the slopes are lit up at night!
3. Fort Buenaventura
This historic park is a popular community gathering place. Here you can camp, fish, play disc golf, check out the visitors center, canoe, or catch an event at the pavilion. It’s only about a mile from downtown Ogden and is the ideal place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
2. Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
If you’re a birding enthusiast, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is about to become your new favorite place. The refuge is a habitat for over 250 species of migrating birds, with different ones passing through with every season. It’s a wetlands area that is beautiful and serene to visit any time of the year and has plenty of opportunities to see wildlife.
1. Bonneville Salt Flats
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to walk on a landscape that looks like snow in July, head to the dreamy Bonneville Salt Flats!
The best way to access this lake bed covered in salt deposits is to navigate to the Racetrack Playa, where in the late summer months, cars go out to race and set land speed records.
That said, don’t just drive on any part of the flats, and keep time of year in mind: it is not always dry, and people are constantly having to be towed out. Since there’s only one company that tows out there, prepare to shell out hundreds of dollars for the service. It’s really only the summer months that it is dry enough to drive on. That’s why it’s best to head to the Racetrack Playa, where the salt is patted down.
It’s also located on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, and although you cannot camp directly on the flats, there is plenty of dispersed camping nearby!
With this list, your options for things to do in Utah are truly limitless. It’s one of the most beautiful states in the USA because of its diverse and otherworldly landscapes, but it also has some lovely mountain towns that are worth visiting as well.
Have you been to Utah? Let us know what your favorite thing to do there is!
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