When considering places to see in Utah you probably have the top Utah attractions like Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park on your list.
We think you should. They are incredible national parks in the United States.
But, there are so many other cool places to visit in Utah off-the-beaten-path you may not have even heard of.
They are just as spectacular as the main attractions in Utah and often involve greater adventure – mostly because there is a significant less amount of people to share it with.
We spent six weeks on our recent USA trip exploring Southern Utah.
As we always prefer to write from experience – not desk research or collabs – we only recommend what we’ve done, so we only have Southern Utah recommendations in this post. Hopefully we can return to Utah to find more cool places near Salt Lake City.
These are the hidden gems in Utah and lessor known adventures.
We have in-depth posts and videos on all the places to see in Utah mentioned below. Click each link to read the post and the Utah Hidden Gem Destinations video playlist is at the end of the post.
Podcast: Adventures & Places to See in Southern Utah
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1. ATV adventures in Sand Hollow, St George
The colors of Sand Hollow State Park are out of this world – snow peaked mountains, vivid orange and red dirt, aqua blue lake.
You have to see it to believe it, and there is no better way than via the adventure of an ATV ride up and down the sand dunes, and in and out dinosaur carved rock formations. The sunset tour is a dream!
It’s a thrilling Utah adventure for families and one of our favorite places to see in Utah that absolutely no one told us about!
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.
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!
2. Snow Canyon State Park, St George
A wonderful alternative to nearby Zion National Park, Snow Canyon is a a 7,400 acre scenic park located just outside of St George in Southwestern Utah.
Our hike took us on a diverse adventure through a forested area, gorge area, petrified sand dunes, and lava tubes.
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.
- 5 Spectacular hikes in Snow Canyon State Park, St George
- Undara Lava Tubes, Savannah Way, Outback Queensland (mentioned in the podcast)
3. Red Reef Trail, St George
The Red Reef Recreation Area is probably one of the places to see in Utah you have never heard of.
I think I found a little paragraph about it in a brochure and thought it looked cool. Thankfully, it was across the road from our campsite in Hurricane so we decided to pop over and check it out.
The Red Reef hiking trail was the girls first introduction to adventurous hiking. They fell in love. I’ll never forget the fear and excitement on their faces as they climbed up a steep rock face next to a waterfall with only a rope to hold on. Their bravery was amazing
This stunning hike will take you through
4. Spooky and Peek-a-Boo, Grand Escalante
We rate this Utah adventure as our favorite hike on our USA road trip (so far). The girls still rave about how much fun this was.
Peek-a-boo and Spooky Canyon are slot canyons deep within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
It’s intense – filled with holes to climb up and crawl through. The adventure only gets better with a 12 inch narrow space to slide through at the very end.
Read More: Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons – an amazing Utah Adventure
5. Lower Calf Creek Falls, Highway Scenic 12, Utah
The Lower Calf Creek Falls is 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 – that is oh so typical of Utah, the most colorful place in the world.
It then passes through a shady low scrub and bamboo forest sandy track beside a shallow creek before opening up to this stunning waterfall – an iconic Utah attraction
- 12 awesome things to do on Fraser Island – water purity similar to here
- 12 Coolest Things to do in North Cascades National Park – the 15 mile hike mentioned
6. Capitol Reef National Park, Southern Utah
The only Utah national park we’ve included on this hidden gems in Utah list, because it is so much quieter and lessor known than the other four national parks in Utah.
It’s exquisite. Actually, its one of my favorite national parks in the country and made our list of US national parks you may not have heard of list.
Within this national park is one of the few natural arches in Utah you can walk on top of. Capitol Reef is also filled with scenic drives, verdant valleys, beautiful views and adventurous hiking trails.
7. Goblin Valley State Park
If you’re looking for cool places to see 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. It’s a fun thing to see in Utah.
Read more: Goblin Valley State Park Utah – one of the most fun places to go in Utah
8. Corona Arch, Moab
The drive into the Corona Arch trail is an indication of the natural beauty ahead. This hidden gem is one of the best things to do in Utah.
This is a great Moab hike with kids as it’s relatively easy, and with ladders to climb, slick rocks to maneuver with cables, caves to explore and cairns to build they’ll be thoroughly entertained.
The 3-mile round trip hike starts in the parking lot across from the Colorado River and goes up a short hill, across the railroad tracks and then up into the canyon.
Corona Arch, with an opening of 140 by 105 feet, is also known as Little Rainbow because of its resemblance to Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell.
We enjoyed this arch just as much as, if not more than, the famous arches in Arches National Park
9. Fisher Towers, Moab
The Fisher Towers are photogenic rock formations eroded into interesting shapes.
Dark red sandstone has been carved into spires, minarets, soaring fins, gargoyles and strange rock formations. 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. We didn’t make it as far as the towers, but were more than satisfied with the dramatic scenery and outdoor adventure.
The stunning U-128 Scenic Byway takes you there and back. Be sure to stop in at the Winery on the drive back. You’ll enjoy that glass of wine with those views over the Colorado River and valley after your hike.
Believe it or not, drinking wine in Utah is a unique thing to do as the state has strict drinking laws.
10. Jeep Off Roading in Moab
Are you ready for one the best Utah adventures you can find? I think by now you’re getting that Moab is a pretty cool Utah destination.
Rock crawling in a jeep takes it to a whole other level. As mentioned on the podcast, insane fun was had taking on vertical rock faces that had us squealing, screaming and laughing at the same time.
What a fun family activity to do in Utah! The ever changing 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
11. Shafer Trail Drive, Canyonlands National Park
Get ready to hold on to your seat belts as you hit the frightening switchbacks of the Shafer trail in Canyonlands National Park in Moab.
Driving down the Shafer Trail switchbacks into the quiet of the canyon floor was an incredible experience.
Check conditions at the Visitor Center as you may need a 4WD. You could at least drive the switchbacks in a 2WD down to the bottom. I wouldn’t recommend taking the rest of the trail back to Moab in a 2WD though.
I loved driving this road and coming out to Horseshoe Bend where only a couple of days before we sat above watching the sunset here. It’s a magnificent spot.
It can get pretty rough.
Read More: Things to do in Canyonlands National Park (includes The Needles)
12. Sunset at Dead Horse Point State Park
A Utah highlight to add to your Utah bucket list. Actually we think it’s one of the best sunset experience in the USA.
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.
Time your visit after a day exploring Islands of the Sky nearby in 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.
Podcast mention: Tips for visiting Horseshoe Bend in Arizona
13. Valley of the Gods + National Bridges Monument
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.
We highly recommend you free camp in this area It’s quite and stunning. Our views of Monument Valley in the distance were spectacular.
It’s also close to National Bridges Monument, which is easy to explore in a day. You can take short trails down to any of the three natural bridges, or do the longer 10 mile hike that passes by all three.
We hiked to Sepiku which was probably the most fun hike to do especially with kids.
- Valley of Gods and Natural Bridges – two Utah off the beaten path adventures
- 16 inspiring things to do in Monument Valley Utah
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Hidden Gems in Utah Video Playlist
Getting to Utah
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More Southwest USA travel tips
What other cool places in Utah would you add to this list?