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Planning to visit Utah? Get excited, because there are so many incredible places to visit in Utah that we often refer to the state as BeaUTAHful.
From the arches and red rocks, to the desert landscapes, the mountains, the rivers, and the sand dunes, it has enough of the colors in God’s Art Studio that we also think the entire state should just be claimed as a national park.
We recently spent 6 weeks in Utah as part of our one year USA road trip, a state we previously visited in 2006, and will continue to return to.
Whilst our list down below of the best places to visit in Utah is focused mostly on Southern Utah, we do plan eventually to cover more of the state, including Northern Utah and the ski resorts.
But all all of these places are within reach of the great Salt Lake City and we highly suggest putting these Utah attractions on your Utah travel itinerary.
Places to Visit in Utah
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful National Parks in the USA, and also one of the most popular.
Receiving over 4 million visitors a year, it is the fourth most visited park, and you feel it at Zion as you’re in a narrow canyon.
With its immense red and white sandstone cliffs that reach out of the forested river bed to the brilliant blue of the sky, Zion Utah is a Southwest USA wonder.
It’s towering sandstone monoliths, slot canyons, rock formations and hanging gardens makes it one of the most spectacular canyons in Utah and attracts outdoor adventures from all over the globe.
So not only will Zion’s beauty capture your heart, it’s epic adventures will give you memories to share around the campfire!
If you’re planning to visit Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah, the good news it’s one of the best places to visit in Utah with kids as the majority of the hikes in Zion are family-friendly – except the Angeles Landing hike!
Our kids now say that visiting Zion National Park currently sits along the Grand Canyon as their favorite national park in the USA.
- Riverside Walk
- The Narrows Hike
- Angles Landing Hike
- Zion-Carmel Tunnel Scenic Drive
- Canyon Overlook Trail
Capitol Reef National Park
What a surprise Capitol Reef National Park was, and we now claim it as one of the most beautiful national parks in the USA we have visited.
The colors of the massive domes, towering cliffs, twisting canyons, arches and bridges change with the light, moving from deep reds to pastel pinks, sunburnt orange, soft yellows and whites.
Capitol Reef NP is largely defined by the Waterpocket Fold, an enormous wrinkle in the earth’s crust forming the 100-mile backbone of the park.
Water has become the dominant erosive force shaping the beauty of the canyons, arches, cliffs, domes and bridges of Capitol Reef National Park Utah.
We spent three days appreciating its beauty on its many hiking trails and scenic drives, and still missed out on many things to do.
- Cassidy Arch Hike
- Hickman Bridge Trail
- 8 Mile Scenic Drive
- Cathedral Valley
- Burr Trail Drive
Snow Canyon State Park
Of all the places to visit in Utah, I think Snow Canyon was the biggest surprise for us.
Located near St. George, this park is as beautiful and unique as any National Park and we likened it to a mini version of Zion NP.
High above the Navajo sandstone cliffs surrounded us in pinks, burnt orange, reds, yellows and whites. And of, course up above a brilliant blue sky rounded it off.
We were blown away by the spectacular Snow Canyon hikes we did, particularly the Petrified Sand Dunes trail and our kids getting a good visual and understanding of how they were once sand and the wind ripples were soon frozen into rock.
And exploring the lava tubes that were created when a volcano erupted here 27,000 years ago was interesting as well.
Snow Canyon Utah is a true nature lover’s dream, and I have to say it’s almost as spectacular as the nearby Zion National Park.
- Hidden Pinyon Trail
- Petrified Dunes Trail
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is one of the four Utah national parks, with the closest town of Moab about 30 miles away.
We spent two days exploring this park including some of the best hikes and scenic drives.
In case you don’t know, Canyonlands is unique in that it is separated into three districts stretching across 527 square miles created by the Colorado and Green Rivers carving their way through the canyon.
The Green and Colorado Rivers form a Y through the national park creating:
- Islands in the Sky in the north
- the Needles District in the Southeast
- and the Maze District in the Southwest.
Canyonlands NP is a rugged, untamed land with mostly unpaved roads and primitive trails. If you seek adventure, you can find it in abundance here.
- Mesa Arch Trail
- Grand View Point Overlook Trail
- Shafer Trail
Dead Horse Point State Park
One of my favorite experiences in the USA is sunset at Dead Horse State Park, and we have done it twice now.
While it was busier during our recent visit in 2019 compared to when Caz and I visited in 2006, it’s one of those Utah tourist attractions that is still quite a hidden secret with only a few people around.
It’s close to the entrance of the Islands in the Sky district of Canyonlands and we incorporated it into our visit there whilst staying in Moab.
Pack a picnic, find a comfy spot on the rim, pour yourself a glass of wine or two (non-drivers) and enjoy one of nature’s greatest gifts.
It’s an experience to remember!
There are some places that stand above the others. They have this special magnetic pull that pulls you into their beauty.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is one of those must see in Utah places!
You know when you’ve arrived even before you see it as you can feel its energy.
Monument Valley has similar spiritual energy to Uluru, one of our favorite places in Australia. And whilst most of Monument Valley is in Arizona as it straddles the border with Utah, we highly recommend you put it on your list of best places to visit in Utah, if not the world!
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.
Monument Valley Video
Valley of the Gods
About an hour north of the above mentioned Monument Valley is this gorgeous area called the Valley of the Gods.
With its isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide open spaces it’s in a way similar to Monument Valley.
We found a little nook off the side of the road to free camp for a couple of nights, a stunning spot and besides resting around camp we did the Valley of the Gods Scenic Drive.
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.
There are loads of free camping spots, but you are better entering from the east side, as the west could be pretty tough for some RVs to get through on that road.
The colors and rock formations are stunning. And whilst there are no real hiking trails here, we enjoyed just driving for a change.
Consider putting this destination on your Utah road trip itinerary!
Arches National Park
This is one of the most popular National Parks in Southern Utah, and appropriately named as one of the best places to visit in Utah to see arches as it has more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches framing the park.
These natural arches have been created through over 100 million years of erosion.
The orange and red rock arches appear beside you as you drive along the scenic drive, and far into the distance you get glimpses of the towering spires, pinnacles, and balanced rocks you can explore.
They range in size from just a three-foot opening to Landscape Arch – the longest at a span of 306 feet.
This landscape is constantly changing and new arches being formed and old ones destroyed.
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.
Arches Park Utah is one of the best national parks with kids as many of the hikes are short, easy and fun.
- Delicate Arch Trail
- Landscape Arch
- The Windows Arch
- Fiery Furnace trail
Bryce Canyon National Park
We visited Bryce Canyon National Park way back in 2006, unfortunately we haven’t made it back again (yet), but it’s still one of our top 5 favorite USA national parks we have explored.
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.
But one of our most memorable travel experiences ever 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.
And it is totally worth getting up at sunrise and heading to the canyon – it’s one of the prettiest things to see in Utah.
Scenic Highway 12 is Utah’s only road that is recognized as An All American Road, which tells you how beautiful this scenic drive must be as there are incredible drives all over the state of 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.
You’ll probably drive at least some of Hwy 12 during your Utah national parks road trip, and you won’t forget it.
Lower Creek Calf Falls
What a wonderful surprise Lower Creek Calf Falls was. Can you believe this beautiful waterfall gushing down over the cliff in a tranquil, tropical feeling place?
This is a 6-mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located 19 miles from the town of Escalante, Utah, and reminded us so much of hiking in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
It was a big hike for us to do with the kids to get there, with an elevation gain of 500 ft. which wasn’t too bad.
And the views along the valley and rainbow colored escarpment walls the entire way were beautiful. Most of it was a sandy track which made it a little more challenging.
But so worth it when we arrived.
Our kids contemplated swimming in the pools underneath the falls, until they felt the very chilly water!
A 25 mile scenic drive from Moab along the Colorado River brings you to to Fishers Towers, which is a 4.4 mile return hike through rocky terrain, gullies and hoodoo spires and towering cliffs.
Fisher Towers are a series of towers made of Cutler sandstone capped with Moenkopi sandstone and caked with a stucco of red mud.
This is one of several Utah places to visit that has featured in many movies including mission Impossible and Geronimo.
We didn’t hike the full 4.4 miles but what we saw of the views over the valley were so rewarding.
On the way back to Moab considering stopping off at Castle Creek Winery for a little wine tasting. Utah has really strict drinking laws, and there are only three wineries in the entire state and this one was the first.
Sand Hollow State Park
Looking for fun places to visit it Utah? Want to go on an ATV and quad biking adventure? Look no further than Sand Hallow State Park!
This 20,000 acre state park is well renowned for its ATV and OHV off-road trails that take you to 3,500ft in elevation.
These world class off-roading trails are just outside of St. George and it’s the perfect recreational area for ATV adventures as it offers some of the best Utah ATV trails around.
It’s Utah’s newest State Park and already one of the most visited destinations in the Utah State Park system, with recreation opportunities for nearly every user from boaters to bikers, and OHV riders to equestrians.
The clear blue of the man made lake surrounded by orange sand dunes, red rock formations and the snow peaked mountains in the background make this a feast for the eyes.
And there is no better way to explore it than in a side by side ATV or on a quad bike!
This is an outdoor adventure your family will remember forever! You can book a tour here.
Goblin Valley State Park
Okay. This is Hidden Secret time. This is one of the most unique places to visit in Utah.
This is one of those Utah destinations most people haven’t heard of, including us, until we got amongst the RV community.
Goblin Valley State Park is a magical land of hobbit hiding places, goblins, and mythical creatures.
Our kids definitely enjoyed it as the playground that exists in their minds came to life with endless places to crawl, climb, and hide.
This is a small valley, but large enough for you to go on a few hikes and explore further afield.
We chose to let the kids run wild playing hide and seek and tag, and joined in or watched perched on top of a Goblin and enjoying a much needed rest.
Natural Bridges National Monument
We visited the Natural Bridges National Monument in conjunction with our visit to the Valley of the Gods, 45 miles away.
Just getting there from the Valley of the Gods, the drive up the escarpment via a bunch of very tight switchbacks was incredible and a thrill we weren’t expecting – another reason to love Utah.
Natural Bridges Monument has three natural bridges, “Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu charged by water.
You can visit by way of a 9-mile scenic drive with view points, or, you can hike down to each one.
There is a loop walk (10 miles) you can do that connects each natural bridge – perhaps that’s one we can come back and do when our kids are a little older.
What we did do was hike down into the canyon to Sipapu bridge, which was a short adventurous hike that involved a few ladders and plenty of views along the way.
Sipapu Bridge is one of the top Utah landmarks as it’s the second largest natural bridge in the world, and in Hopi mythology Sipapu means the gateway entryway their ancestors came into this world.
Most people visit Moab as one of their Utah vacation spots to go jeeping (which we did), and to use Moab as a base two explore two of the most popular Utah parks, Arches NP and Canyonlands NP.
There’s an interesting vibe here with a decent amount of places to eat, and if you’re into RVing, there is a ton of boondocking (free camping) space.
We got a great group discount on jeep hire and knew it would be loads of fun exploring the backcountry roads of Moab – this area is famous for it – I’m sure Moab would have the highest number of jeeps in the world.
Our jeep adventure started pleasantly enough through the scenic La Sal Mountains, and then we hit the trail and our first rock. For the next 7 hours we learned how to be pros at managing our fears, enjoying our screams, and crawling up and down rock faces.
Who knew jeeps were so awesome and sturdy and flexible – we know now why it’s one of the most fun things to do in Utah!
The scenery was spectacular and reminded us of Sedona. We ended our day in the sand dunes having fun driving the jeeps up and over the hills.
Another favorite thing of ours in Moab was biking along the Colorado River, and we’d love to come back and go kayaking or stand up paddle boarding!
Escalante Slot Canyons
Wow. This was one of the most incredible hiking adventures we’ve ever done!
Our kids had a blast and did not want this 3.5 mile long adventure to end as they climbed and scrambled over rock faces, small holes and boulders, and wiggled our way through the slots.
We started with the tough and super fun climb through Peek-a-Boo slot canyon, and then we entered Spooky Canyon, called that for how deep and dark and narrow it gets – 11 inches wide.
It was backpacks off backs, and bums and boobs tucked in.
We slid our way through the crack climbing down further into the canyon as we went.
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 very hot here in the summer, and crowded, so get there early to avoid the crowds, and bring plenty of drinking water!
Who knew you didn’t have to go into Arches National Park to see incredible arches.
Just a short drive from downtown Moab on Scenic Byway 279 brings you to the Corona Arch Trailhead, a 3 mile round trip hike to an impressive 140 foot by 105 foot opening arch.
Because of its close proximity to Arches NP and Canyonlands NP, Corona Arch often gets overlooked as one of the best places to visit in Utah evidenced by the much smaller crowd we experienced here.
This was a fun hike for our kids, with the need to climb small ladders and use safety cables. But don’t worry, kids as young as five have done this trail without difficulty.
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.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
We camped in our RV at Lone Rock Beach Campground in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Lake Powell for 5 nights.
Mostly just to relax in a gorgeous lake setting and catch up on blogging work.
It was the perfect playground for kids AND us adults. We spent the mornings working out followed by an icy dip in the lake – like a 2 second dip.
Our kids even did a half day Survivor challenge over on Lone Rock. The kids kayaked over there and spent four hours playing and trying to stay there as long as possible. The hunger pangs drove them back into our arms.
I would love to return to this spot for more camping and to explore the Glen Canyon Recreation Area 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:
- Glen Canyon Dam
- Lower Antelope Canyon
- Horseshoe Bend
It’s worth stopping off to the Glen Canyon Dam. 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.
There are great views into the dam and you can take a your if you like. We skipped the tour.
Red Cliffs National Recreation Area
St George in southeastern Utah is one of those places in Utah that is a great jumping off point for some outstanding natural beauty.
We didn’t even scratch the surface and would like to return another time to visit many other places in Southern Utah.
Our 7 year old Savannah claimed the Red Cliffs Nature Trail in the Red Cliffs National Recreation Area as the one of the most FUN hiking trails of our USA road trip.
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.
We soon discovered how icy that was when we arrived at the slot canyon and had to wade through it. We didn’t get too far!
As you hike further the canyon narrows until it is just a few feet wide and a beautiful little waterfall blocks the trail.
All up the conservation area’s 130 miles of non-motorized trails in Southwest Utah encompasses two wilderness areas, the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, the Red Cliffs Campground, and over a hundred miles of non-motorized trails.
Planning a Trip to Utah
Hotels in Utah
Booking.com has thousands of hotels in Utah to choose from at every price point. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.
Airbnb in Utah
If you fancy a home and living like a local, or have a large family or traveling with a group of friends, consider Airbnb. They can be a better option than booking several hotel rooms.
Flights to Utah
Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
Rental Cars in Utah
RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.
RV Rentals in Utah
Best Selling Tours of Utah
3 Week American Southwest Itinerary
Time to plan your Southwest USA adventure:
Best places to visit in Utah map
We’ve added all the Utah highlights listed above to this map to help you with your planning.
More Southwest USA Tips
- 14 epic adventures in the American Southwest
- 8 tips for planning a trip to the Grand Canyon
- How to visit Las Vegas without spending a fortune
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Planning to visit Utah soon? Here are 20 amazing places to visit in Utah for your Utah road trip. Don’t take a Utah vacation before reading this Utah travel guide! #Utah#travel #vacation #Utahtravel#bucketlisttravel #familytravel#nationalpark #nationalparks
Do you have any tips on what to do in Utah? Share in the comments below!