Well Hello Utah – land of striking landscapes, vibrant rainbow colors, and epic outdoor adventures. There are endless fun things to do in Utah, and we’re happy to share our unique perspective.
When we first visited Utah in 2006, we called it God’s Art Studio. We couldn’t get over its sculptured beauty. It was like nothing we’d seen before, and it captured our hearts.
Exploring Utah on that two-month road trip across the USA was the highlight and the moment when I decided – I must come back to this country and explore more.
Last year we went on a 12 month RV trip of Western USA and spent about 6 weeks in Southern Utah exploring a little deeper.
It’s a fantastic road trip destination and we recommend you explore it this way. You can either do a long road trip (we recommend at least 4 weeks) or keep coming back on shorter road trips.
Utah is one of the best states in the country for free camping so you might want to consider traveling in an RV (if it’s self-sufficient) or camping. We have done both.
We have a few printable southwest itineraries to help you which you can get when you join our email community (its free and full of good tips and insider secrets.
We still have a few things to do in Utah on our bucket list which we have included in this list below. We haven’t had a chance to visit yet but did not want this comprehensive list to not include great places to visit in Northern Utah. These are places we’ve heard about, been inspired to visit via Instagram or friends who have visited.
In this post, you’ll find links to more in-depth articles on each place in Utah and activity mentioned. I’ve split them into regions to make it easier for you to plan.
The Moab region is one of the most popular places to visit in Utah. Known as the adventure capitol of the Southwest due to its incredible red rock country surroundings and easy access to some of Utah’s best national and state parks.
Clutch your seat belts as you hit the frightening switchbacks of the Shafer trail in Canyonlands National Park in Moab.
It looks scarier from the lookout point above then when you’re on it. Driving down the switchbacks of Shafer Trail switchbacks to the quiet canyon floor was a highlight of this Utah national park.
You can take the trail all the way back into Moab, which we recommend, especially getting close to the Colorado River at Horseshoe Bend.
One of the best things to do in Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky is the Mesa Arch hike. It’s only 0.5 miles return and is beautiful, interesting and easy!
I loved the arch and the view behind it into the canyon and towards the La Sal Mountains. Being popular, you may need to line up to get your photo taken in front of the arch – it’s one of the most popular Canyonlands hikes!
Be sure to safely lean over the rock for a sheer drop view into the canyon. To the right sits a large rock I recommend climbing up for views above and over Mesa Arch.
Sunrise at Mesa Arch is meant to be the thing to do. If you are camping at Canyonlands it will make sunrise at Mesa Arch easier.
Read More: Things to do in Canyonlands National Park (includes The Needles)
Utah keeps hitting it out of the park with their superlative experiences.
One of the best sunset experiences in the USA is at Dead Horse State Park just outside of Islands of the Sky region of Canyonlands National Park.
Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the USA. The overlook towers 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, providing a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands’ sculpted pinnacles and buttes.
Pack a picnic and find a spot on the edge of the mesa and enjoy the magic of the setting sun lighting up the spectacular horseshoe bend in the Colorado River as it carves out the surrounding canyonlands.
You can even camp there or spend more time exploring the state park and the many hikes and biking trails that are meant to be awesome. It’s on our Utah bucket list for when we return.
Are you ready for one the best Utah adventures you can find? How does crawling over vertical rock faces in a jeep sound?
We screamed, we cried, we laughed, sometimes all it once. This was one of those epic family experiences we’ll never forget and are stunned that we had the bravery to do it.
The ever-changing Moab Red Rock country scenery only enhanced the experience.
Our drive took us through the alpine forests of the La Sal Mountains, up and over the steep red rocks and giant boulders and finished with fun driving up and down sand dunes.
Read More: Jeep adventures in Moab
Of course, you are going to see way more Arches in the national park. An 18-mile paved loop road will share with you a vibrant and colorful landscape filled with fins and pinnacles and hiking trails that wind under arches and windows.
Delicate Arch is the one arch you don’t want to skip out on. It’s a three mile return hike, slightly challenging but worth it.
Sitting at the edge of the surrounding cliffs looking over Delicate Arch and across the bowl it sits at the edge of, I felt like I was in an ancient Roman amphitheater.
Stand under the arch (look at me below for a scale of how big this thing is) and then stand on the brink of the canon, with the dramatic La Sal Mountains in the background (snow capped when we visited in April) making for a contrasting desert image.
Read More – 11 amazing things to do in Arches National Park
The shorter hike to North and South Window Arches are another do not miss in Arches National Park. It’s only a 1 mile round trip and probably my favorite view in Arches National Park.
Most people visit Moab and head into Arches National Park to see impressive arches.
Here’s a hidden secret, one of the best arches in Moab is located outside the national park on Scenic Byway 279.
A 3-mile round trip hike brings you to Corona Arch, to an impressive 140 foot by 105-foot opening arch.
This was a fun family friendly hike climbing small ladders and scrambling over rocks and finding small caves to hide in.
Even the short drive along the Colorado River from Moab to the trailhead was beautiful. Put this on your list of best hikes in Utah.
Read more: Top 16 things to do in Moab
Utah State Route 128 (U-128) is a 44.6-mile-long (71.7 km) state highway north of Moab that follows the Colorado River. This road also forms part of the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway, a National Scenic Byway.
The drive through the gorge offers incredible scenery with green valleys, red rock monoliths and the Sal Mountains.
You might also want to bike part of it.
For a gentle and tranquil experience jump on your bike and ride along the Colorado River just outside Moab on the U-128 scenic drive.
You will follow the Colorado River and wind past the border of Arches National Park. The scenery is spectacular. You will pass a campsite amongst the cotton trees on the edge of the river and eventually come to the end of the bike path. It’s about 4 miles return.
Dark red sandstone carved into spires, minarets, soaring fins, gargoyles and strange rock formations capture your imagination along this Southern Utah hike. Rock climbers love it here.
It’s a 5.2-mile round trip trail that does through canyons, beneath sheer vertical cliffs and through the towers. The Fisher Towers are photogenic rock formations eroded into interesting shapes.
We didn’t make it as far as the towers but were more than satisfied with the dramatic scenery and outdoor adventure. This is one of several Utah places to visit that has featured in many movies including mission Impossible and Geronimo.
The stunning U-128 Scenic Byway takes you there and back.
I know. Utah? Wine tasting?
In a state that seemed to have the strictest drinking laws ever, you’d be shocked to learn you can taste wine in this arid environment. It’s a unique Utah thing to do.
Castle Creek Winery for a little wine tasting Is located on the U-128 Scenic Byway and is one of only three wineries in the entire state.
You’ll enjoy that glass of wine with those views over the Colorado River and valley after your hike.
This is the region that incorporates many places along Highway 24 and 12, including Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Park.
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Utah, you do not want to miss Goblin Valley State Park, especially if you are visiting Utah with kids.
You only need an hour or two to explore this land filled with mushroom, gnome, and goblin shaped orange and yellow rocks.
It’s perfect for games of hide and seek and tag. You can also do a few short hikes here. We loved boondocking nearby at Little Horse Canyon. Another addition to your Utah bucket list would be exploring this area and hiking through the canyon which is said to be extraordinary.
I had no idea such a dramatic waterfall existed in Utah until we took the winding 6 mile return trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah.
The trail winds a valley enclosed by towering cliffs of red, pink, orange and yellow, through a shady low scrub bamboo forest sandy track beside a shallow creek before opening up to this stunning waterfall, It’s an iconic Utah attraction.
Are you ready for one of the best hiking adventures we’ve ever done?
3.5 miles of rock face scrambling, crawling through small holes and over boulders, and wiggling your way through 11-inch-wide slots.
Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyon is in the Dry Forks region of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Take off your backpacks and tuck in your boobs and bums!
If you want an Indiana Jones type adventure, put this on your list of top things to do in Utah.
Keep in mind it gets extremely hot here in the summer, and crowded, so get there early to avoid the crowds, and bring plenty of drinking water!
One of the most beautiful scenic drives in the USA is Scenic Highway 12 in Utah. It’s the only road in Utah recognized as An All-American Road. Since every road in Utah is stunning, this tells you just how dramatic this highway is.
It’s a must not miss thing to do in Utah.
A highlight for us was the section from Torrey near Capitol Reef to Escalante.
We have done sections of Highway 12 twice now and continue to be blown away by the lunar like landscape mixed in with every color of the rainbow and style of rock formation you can think of.
Bryce Canyon is one of the most famous places to visit in Utah and a fairy tale kingdom of dreams. A kingdom of bright orange and pink pastel spires and towers, archways and paths leading into enchanted forests to get lost in.
We spent a day hiking and exploring the trails, nooks, and crannies, surrounded by a sea of orange.
One of our most memorable global travel experiences was horse riding into the canyon on the Fairy Trail with our cowboy guide Jake. Jake was a real cowboy complete with studs, leather pant protectors, a cowboy hat and whiskey jokes spewing forth from a heavy cowboy western accent.
We trotted down into the canyon, in and out of ravines, and under natural formed archways, in total awe at what we were seeing.
While we’re in one of my favorite national parks in the USA, be sure to get yourself out of bed for sunrise over the canyon. It’s one of the prettiest things to see in Utah. Stay the night too as sunset is equally beautiful.
Go deep into Bryce Canyon on the 2.75-mile Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trail.
Combining these two will give you the best experience of the orange and pink hoodoos, canyons, arches, and pine tree forests. Wall Street is the most popular section on the Navajo Trail so be sure not to miss it.
The Cassidy Arch Trail in Capitol Reef National Park follows the edge of the canyon over slick rock to a natural arch and gorgeous views of the rainbow rock.
The 3.4 miles return hike can be strenuous at times but the views are spectacular and you get to stand on top of the arch – one of the few in Utah in which you are allowed to!
The 1.8-mile Hickman Bridge hike is perfect for any kind of traveler offering a colorful, unique and diverse landscape.
It begins at the river and climbs up a scrubby mountain, before dipping into a sandy ravine with trees offering shade and little caves and waterfold pockets to climb over.
You then scramble over rocky terrain to views of 133-foot natural Hickman Bridge.
A loop trail runs underneath the bridge with incredibly beautiful views over the valley and creek lined with green cottonwoods.
While Highway 12 starts just outside Capitol Reef NP and gets all the accolades as an All American Road, Highway 24 is also very good.
Take it slow, enjoy the views, and pull over for any of the many trails and attractions that begin off this highway.
It goes all the way through the national park and out to the nearest town of Torrey.
The landscape changes dramatically from one end to the other moving from mauve and white cliffs, to domes and towering peaks of yellow and pink, to deep red canyons walls.
Yes. These cookies were that good! We returned each day to stock up and they are gluten free.
The historic Fruita District and Griffith Homestead was one of my favorite places to visit in Capitol Reef park and just sit and relax
under gigantic trees and lush green grass near horses. This area makes Capitol Reef even more enticing and beautiful.
The Burr Trail Road in the southern part of the park is spectacular!
This follows the Waterpocket fold and the colors as you look back on the rocks are extraordinary: pink, grey, chocolate, orange, yellow, and white
The Burr Trail Scenic Byway winds through a deep red slickrock canyon and rolling desert forest of orange and green. It goes through the eastern portion off Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument before reaching Capitol Reef National Park.
You’ll know when you’ve reached it you’ll see the jagged outcropping of bright rainbow colored rock that is so recognizable as the Waterpocket fold and the stunning Capitol Reef.
Read more: Things to do in Capitol Reef National Park
Another popular region in Southern Utah, and a fantastic base, is St George Hurricane. It’s the closest region to those driving in from Las Vegas. (and if you are driving in from there don’t miss Valley of Fire State Park and the North Road in Lake Mead.)
Angels Landing is one of the most legendary hikes in Southwestern USA, and one of the best things to do in Zion National Park.
It’s also terrifying, especially with kids. We only made it to Scouts Landing, which is a common turning around point for those not wanting to take the scary last narrow ascent to the top.
The views are just as beautiful from there. The hike involves crazy switchbacks and narrow sections with hand chains preventing a steep drop off down to your death.
What makes it most dangerous are the intense crowds. In 2006, it was empty when Craig and I did it. In 2019 it was wall to wall people.
Another incredible thing to do in Utah, and possibly as dangerous if you don’t time it right, is Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park.
Craig and I did it in 2006 but could not with the girls as the water levels were too high, and it was closed.
Flash flooding can easily occur here, and trap (or drown) hikers so pay attention to weather conditions and advisories.
the Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and for much of it, involves wading through the Virgin river. Be prepared to get wet and walk across unstable ground, but it is so worth it for the unique adventure and spectacular scenery through the narrow gorge.
Here is an in-depth guide on hiking The Narrows.
One of the easiest hikes to do in Zion National Park and uniquely beautiful is The Lower Emerald Pool trail. It leads to the Lower Emerald Pool and bottom of the waterfalls.
The Upper Emerald Pool Trail was closed when we visited due to rock fall.
This trail is great for families.
This migh seem like an unsual thing to include on a list of what to do in Utah, but drinking beer is usually not a Utah thing to do!
Here it’s all about the view. Perhaps one of the best you could have hope for drinking a craft brew. The local IPA from nearby Springdale was actually delicious and perfect after an intense Zion hike. .
There is a large grassed area with a gorgeous gigantic tree in the middle of it. Bring your own picnic lunch and enjoy the sunshine and views of the canyon walls. There is also a cafeteria here and a restaurant with an outside deck overlooking the canyon.
We had quite a lovely veggie burger here.
If you want the best views in Zion (IMO so far) then do the lessor known Canyon Overlook trail.
The one-mile return trail ends at the extraordinary view point of Pine Creek Canyon and lower Zion Canyon Utah.
The trail is rocky most of the way but is super cool as it passes through a couple of caves and you have a good chance of seeing Bighorn Sheep – one of the famous Zion National Park wildlife!
Plus, you get to drive through the mile-long Zion-Carmel Tunnel Drive, a popular scenic area of the park.
Read more: Things to do in Zion National Park
One of the most beautiful places in Utah, possibly the US, is Sand Hollow State Park. I could not believe I had never heard of it before. It epitomizes the colorful nature of this state– snow peaked mountains, vivid orange and red dirt surrounding an aqua blue lake.
This 20,000-acre state park is Utah’s newest and well renowned for its 6,000 acres of ATV and OHV off-road trails that take you to 3,500 ft in elevation.
It’s WOW at every airborne turn and one of the best things to do in Utah.
Jump in the ATV with your family and zip squealing up and down sand dunes and in and out dinosaur carved rock formations. We recommend you do the sunset tour and end it with a fiery sun set over the dunes.
Sand Hollow State Park is just outside St George in Southern Utah and is the perfect recreational area for ATV adventures as it offers some of the best Utah ATV trails around.
Read more: ATV adventures in St George, Utah
Snow Canyon is a 7,400-acre scenic park located just outside of St George in Southwestern Utah. It is a fantastic alternative to the much busier nearby Zion National Park.
This park is comprised of volcanic cinder cone, sand dunes, deep red, burnt orange, yellow and white sandstone cliffs, and twisted layers of rock. It’s also a popular place in Utah for rock climbing.
The best hike to experience the beauty of it is the Petrified Sand Dunes being sure to turn left just after you join from hidden pinyon trail and take the very short trail up to red rock mounds.
Do a 360 degree turn and blow out your Utah travel dreams. It will surpass it all.
You can find all the details in our post sharing 5 hikes in Snow Canyon State Park, St George
The Red Reef hiking trail was the girls first introduction to adventurous hiking climbing up a steep rock face next to a waterfall with only a rope to hold on. Bravery to remember.
This trail starts from the Red Cliffs Campground and hikes up to a slot canyon, the fun part scrambling up rocks beside the river and navigating around the small cliff side using the small footholds and a rope to stop you from plunging into the icy water.
As you hike further the canyon narrows, wading through icy water until it is just a few feet wide and a beautiful little waterfall blocks the trail.
Read More: Hike the Exciting Red Reef Trail, St George
Every time I see a photo of someone sand boarding the beautiful pink dunes of this Utah State Park I kick myself for not going! We were so close when we stayed in St George and had all intention of visiting.
But then we got distracted by all the other St George adventures and somehow forgot!! It’s only small and easy to visit in half a day.
This region is close to the Arizona, Colorado border, which makes it an easy place to explore on a longer Southwest road trip. There is so much in this area we did not get to explore. Here are some highlights.
You can either self-drive the 17 mile loop road through Monument Valley or join a guided tour with a Navajo Guide.
The guided tour takes you to restricted areas you can only access with a Navajo guide. It was an incredible experience and one of the highlights of our USA road trip so far.
Our guide, Charles was very sweet and accommodating for our large group of 8 kids and 6 adults.
We rode around in an open jeep which made the experience loads of fun especially some of the adventurous off-roading tracks we went on.
We visited a traditional Navajo home, a Hogan – and learned some of the traditions of the Navajo people.
Another cool place to visit in Utah is the Valley of the Gods. It’s more of a serene adventure as it’s mostly just a scenic drive and stunning views.
With its isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide open spaces it’s in a way similar to Monument Valley.
There is a 15-mile loop road through the Valley of the God which involves a few hills, washes and bumpy dirt roads. It adds to the adventure and the beauty of this drive.
We highly recommend you free camp in this area It’s quite and stunning. Our views of Monument Valley in the distance were spectacular.
The drive up the escarpment to National Bridges Monument via tight switchbacks was a Utah thrilling adventure.
You can explore all three natural bridges, “Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu on a 9-mile scenic drive with view points, or, you can hike down to each one individually or a 10 mile loop walk that connects each natural bridge.
We hiked into the canyon down a few ladders to Sipapu bridge, on of the top Utah landmarks as it’s the second largest natural bridge in the world. In Hopi mythology Sipapu means the gateway entryway their ancestors came into this world.
One of the most stunning boondocking locations in Utah we camped at was Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell. Look at all that space we had on the expansive flat beach. The views out to the escarpment and Lone Rock was stunning. Grab your paddle board and kayak and go explore.
Lone Rock Beach is on Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, the heart of the “Grand Circle” of Southwest national parks. It offers 1.25 million acres of golden cliffs, lush hanging gardens, narrow slot canyons, and the brilliant blue waters of Lake Powell. I’d love to come back and explore it more in-depth.
Although it’s one of the top places to visit in Utah for relaxation, we didn’t stay on the beach the entire time and did the following things in nearby Page, Arizona:
It’s worth stopping off to the Glen Canyon Dam for great views. The visitor center there is free and there is a small museum to learn more about the construction of the dam and the importance of water.
Read more: Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell
The rest of this Utah Bucket List post will share highlights and attractions we have not yet done, but is high on our list of things to do in Utah.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument is the tallest natural bridge in the world. It is roughly the sixth longes and a popular thing to do in Utah for those who want to go off the beaten path.
It’s a scared bridge of the Navajo culture for its symbol of deities responsible for creating clouds, rainbows and rain – the essence of life in the desert.
The bridge can be reached by boat (50 miles) and then an easy 0.75-mile trail up the twisting canyon to a spectacular overlook near the bridge Intrepid travelers can hike strenuous backcountry trails (17 miles) from Navajo Mountain.
It’s a legendary thing to do in the Southwest as it’s only place in America where four states meet in such a way. The spot also marks the boundary between the Navajo and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe governments, making it an excellent location to learn about the indigenous culture and history of the region.
We don’t know a lot about this region as we have not yet explored it, but we certainly intend to. If it’s anything like its neighbour Idaho, then we know spectacular beauty and outdoor adventures await.
This is what is on our bucket list now. Let us know in the comments what else to include.
The Great Salt Lake is the largest lake between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean, and largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. IT’s also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Utah.
It’s popular for floating like you’re on the dead Sea, swimming off its white sand beaches, sailing its torquoie beaches and just enjoying lake life. You know we love lake life! Can’t wait to come here for a summer!
Antelope Island is the largest island on the great Salt Lake and one of the most popular places to visit in the area. The island is a haven for wildlife including its namesake antelope, as well as bison, sheep, coyotes, and water birds, which visitors live to see.
Its craggy mountains attract hikers and mountain bikers and the island has several natural springs. The island features several mountains and natural springs.
Near the Utah Nevada border you’ll find one of the most unique natural attractions of the state. The Bonnville Salt Flats stretches over 30,000 acres.
Fancy driving over them? We’ve driven over salt flats before in Namibia, Africa and its fun.
The famous Bonneville Speedway has a perfectly flat, thick crusty salty soil for you to drive over. It looks like a frzone lake of snow. The area also has low mountains and hills adding a little contrasting beauty to the salt plains.
located on the Utah border with Colorado, Dinosaur National Monument offers a treasure trove of fossils in a land that has been tilted, warped, and eroded by natural forces.
You can tour the dinosaur quarry, see ancient petroglyphs, take scenic drives through the park, hike many nature trails, and go white water rafting on the Green River and the Yampa River .
It’s also been designated an International Dark Sky Park so stay the night and gaze at the sky in wonder. Imagine what those dinosaurs must have bene thinking.
Skiing in Salt Lake City has been on our USA list of things to do since forever. Not only have we heard the powder is phenomenal but the Wasatch Mountains proximity to Utah’s largest city is a huge drawcard.
It’s nicknamed “Ski City”for a reason. Sip on a warm mug of coffee in the morning and wave hello the jagged snow-topped peaks before you jump in your car to ski them.
Downtown Salt Lake City is only one hour from Powder Mountain, the largest ski resort in the United States and 30 minutes from Park City Mountain Resort, the second biggest.
How cool is that? Utah we love you!
Tips for road tripping through Utah and a few itinerary ideas.
We have several videos on the best things to do in Utah. Click play below to start watching the playlist. Click the grid icon in the bottom right to choose specific videos.
Each of the posts below have accommodation recommendations specific to the destination and from our personal experiences + ones we have thoroughly reviewed.
We recommend the following two booking sites (it’s the ones we use the most)
As you can see from the comments, we already have so many wonderful tips on places to visit in UT. Please shares yours as well!