Located a few minutes from famous ski town Park City is Jordanelle State Park where the locals head for fun beach days in the summer. The resident rangers do a great job maintaining comfortable campsites, and provide a number of water-based activities such as SUP, kayaking, and even inflatable obstacle courses (sadly, just for the kids). Tent sites are around $20/night, and there’s a decent market with kitchen on property for easy meals.
If you’re looking for vast and expansive landscape that sends your mind straight to classic westerns then head to Oljato-Monument Valley. While you’re in the area you may as well trek the rest of the way to the Four Corners which, frankly, isn’t the most amazing stop but the entrance fee goes straight to the Navajo who run it, so that’s good.
This giant natural deposit of salt in the middle of Utah is a surreal location for creative photography. But its claim to fame is as host to the world’s fastest car time trials. The consistently flat surface allows for such tests to occur and is the famous location for the breaking of the sound barrier. Admittedly, there isn’t much more to do beyond a stopover for photos and a chance to taste the ground.
Consisting of strange formations created by the ocean, that’s right, Capitol Reef is just that, a reef that is now well above sea level and existing in Utah for some one-of-a-kind hiking opportunities. There are a few arches within the park, as well as an array of wildlife who thrive in the ecosystem, such as rattlesnakes.
This may show our age a bit, but do you remember that scene on the “rock planet” in Galaxy Quest? It was wise to film such a strange scene in Goblin Valley State Park because it truly does look other-worldly. It’s not a huge park, but well worth the stop for a hike and a picnic as you can largely go wherever you like. Unfortunately, there has been some vandalism in recent years driving some negative press, but take our word for it that this is a must-see locale.
A must-do activity in Moab, Utah is a quick visit to Arches State Park. You’ve probably seen these unique rock formations on visitor center promotions, and even on some designs of the Utah license plate. Arches is definitely worth your time to explore, and thankfully the park has multiple options from several mile hikes to said arches, to mere ¼ mile walks to them. Pick your distance or try to knock them all out in a weekend.
Zion continues to grow in popularity which has led to the restriction of cars in the park, but this isn’t a terrible thing, as it reduces artificial sound, reduces traffic (to effectively nothing) and allows for a great venue to meet other adventurers via the iconic trails offered. Two such trails are “The Narrows” which has you wading through water for miles (might want to do that one in the summer), and Angel’s Landing which is one of the riskiest open hikes in national parks, looking straight down a cliff and at points requiring chains along the way.
If you’re in the Moab area there are two places you simply must visit, Canyonlands is one of them. This is a huge national park and takes more than just a day to explore. Check out Newspaper Rock which has rock art from Indigenous Americans from centuries ago. Beyond that, you can venture on Joint Trail which takes you to split rocks where you can either squeeze between on the ground, or test your jumping skills 30ft above. Careful when playing in the Needles area, where the authorities strongly (strongly) suggest you always have a compass on you.
Located near St. George, a hub to beautiful natural sights, Bryce Canyon National Park offers breathtaking views from the cliffside, allowing for some of the best landscape photos you will ever take. Pack your hiking boots, however, as the many trails that weave throughout this unique canyon will take your breath away in a different way, especially when you have to climb back out when you’re finished.
We can’t describe this location any better than the official website for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: “A Delaware-sized museum of sedimentary erosion that walks you down through a 200-million-year-old staircase of animals (that’s us!), minerals and vegetables.” Check out the Jacob Hamblin arch and the strange Wave.