Utah is well known for its remarkable scenery.
From vast mesas to deep canyons, towering hoodoos, and buttes, Utah landscapes will blow you away on every corner. The state is an adventurer’s heaven with countless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, camping, and exploring the outdoors.
In this guide, I put together a list of the best places to visit in Utah that will help you to navigate the state and choose top destinations for your Utah road trip.
Utah road trip itinerary
There are a few ways to plan your itinerary around some of the best places to visit in Utah. I recommend flying into Las Vegas and starting your trip in Southwestern Utah by exploring St. George and from there, going to Utah National Parks and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument before arriving in Moab.
You can also fly into Salt Lake City and head south after exploring places like Park City and National Dinosaur Monument. After exploring southern Utah, you will catch a flight to Las Vegas.
Why you should visit Utah
Utah is a state famous for its national and state parks as well as world-class skiing and snowboarding. Utah delivers superb opportunities for adventure that have become a magnet for so many visitors from all over the world.
Since the state is jam-packed with otherworldly scenery, the best way to explore some of the best places in Utah is by taking a road trip around the state. Since there are so many scenic places in Utah, it can be tough to narrow down to just a handful of spots.
From Salt Lake City with its museums and rich history to backcountry camping and hiking in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and mountain biking in Moab, Utah is full of hidden jewels that only a few visitors get to see.
1. Goblin Valley State Park
Where to stay: Red Sands Hotel
One of the best places to visit in Utah, Goblin Valley State Park os about halfway between Capitol Reef National Park Interstate-70. This small state park has some of the most unique rock formations you’ll ever see – goblins that come in shapes of spires or hoodoo rocks.
Exploring Goblin Valley makes you feel like you have been suddenly transported to another planet, as you take a walk through the maze of alien-looking formations shaped like mushrooms.
While you won’t find long, challenging trails here, you will have an opportunity to enjoy shorter, spectacular hikes through this otherworldly playground.
Although there are no accommodations in the area, there are a couple of yurts inside the park that can be booked ahead of your visit. Summers can be a bit hot at this state park, and winters can get chilly, so visit during the shoulder season for a better experience.
The entrance fee is $20.
2. Cedar City
Where to stay: Abbey Inn
Located along Interstate-15, Cedar City is Utah’s hidden gem with a population of under 30,000. For a small town, Cedar City packs on plenty of adventure thanks to its location near Zion and Bryce national parks, as well as a handful of natural vistas within a quick drive.
Check out Cedar Breaks National Monument, a natural landmark that is overshadowed by its more famous sibling – Bryce Canyon National Park.
In summer, Cedar City hosts many festivals and in the fall, it boasts incredible fall colors with many visitors coming here to take photos. In winter, this town offers great opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing near Brian Head Ski Resort.
If you want to stay close to national parks and some of the best hikes in Utah and be able to choose from many hotels and restaurants in the area, Cedar City is one of the best places to visit in Utah!
3. Bryce Canyon National Park
Where to stay: Bryce Canyon Resort
Bryce National Park is a spectacular national park famous for its bright orange hoodoos rising from the bottom of the vast canyon. Bryce gets only a fraction of Zion’s visitors thanks to its remote location, making it a one of the best places to visit in Utah for a less crowded getaway.
There’s a good variety of easy and moderate hikes at Bryce Canyon, as well as overlooks that you can drive up to via Bryce Canyon Scenic Drive.
Check my complete guide to best things to do in Bryce Canyon.
Navajo Loop Trail is one of the most popular Bryce Canyon hikes where you get to walk among those jaw-dropping orange hoodoos.
Check out Inspiration Point, one of the best overlooks at this national park. From here, you can see the amazing Bryce Amphitheater, portions of the Navajo Loop, and Queens Garden Trail. Watch out for the steep cliffs and sheer drop-offs around the edge of Inspiration Point.
PRO TIP: With an average fee at Utah National Parks of $35, it makes sense to buy America the Beautiful National Parks pass which costs $80. The pass will quickly pay off and will give you access to other national parks within the U.S. National Parks System.
4. Salt Lake City
Where to stay: Sheraton Salt Lake City
The Capital of the state, Salt Lake City is one of the best places to visit in Utah if you are looking to learn the state’s history, check out some cool restaurants and visit museums.
While Salt Lake City wasn’t a popular destination not so long ago, it has undergone a lot of changes. Now it’s home to a booming tech scene and an excellent starting point for your adventures around the state thanks to the airport that offers connections to destinations around the United States.
Getting around Salt Lake City is super easy because of its compact size and excellent public transportation system.
After visiting downtown Salt Lake City and the state capitol, get outside and explore some trails that can accessed via a quick drive from downtown Salt Lake City. Some of the prettiest hikes near Salt Lake City are Secret Lake Trail, Stewart Falls Trail, and the Brighton Lakes.
5. Park City
Where to stay: Waldorf Astoria Park City
A close neighbor of Salt Lake City, Park City Utah boasts some of the best skiing in the United States. Recently, it also became famous because of the annual Sundance Film Festival.
While Park City is known as a place for winter sports enthusiasts, this place offers something for everyone. If you are looking for a classic mountain town, Park City is one of the best places to visit in Utah!
Explore the historic downtown of Park City, a former silver mining town where you can find plenty of stores and restaurants for many tastes, and the Kimball Art Center where you can see artworks by many local and national artists. Or take a scenic drive on the 14-mile Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway where you can enjoy spectacular alpine views and spot wildlife.
6. Natural Bridges National Monument
Where to stay: River Canyon Lodge
Natural Bridges National Monument is home to many spectacular bridge-like formations many of which can be reached by hiking. Another point of interest here s the Horsecollar Ruins, where you can find the remains of the Native American dwellings dating back to more than 700 years back.
This national monument is one of the least well-known places to visit in Utah, thanks to its remote location, with only a handful of visitors making their way here.
While there are many bridges at this national monument, the three main ones are Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo.
Exploring Natural Bridges requires time and effort, as some of these hikes can be strenuous and require navigation skills. One of the best natural bridges within this national monument is Sipapu, can be accessed via a strenuous 1.2-mile hike.
If you have more time, take a trial to Kachina Bridge, a 1,5-mile round-trip hike, or Owachomo Bridge, one of the best hikes at Natural Bridges National Monument that spans for half a mile.
7. St. George
Where to stay: Inn On The Cliff
Located near some of the most popular national parks in Utah, St. George is the first stop in Utah, if you are traveling from Las Vegas.
St. George has many hotels, restaurants, and stores – everything that you might need while you are on your road trip.
Aside from national parks, St. George offers proximity to four state parks: Snow Canyon State Park, Gunlock State Park, Sand Hollow State Park, Quail Creek State Park that have great opportunities for hiking and camping.
St. George is one of the best places to visit near Las Vegas thanks to its outdoor scene.
The historic downtown St. George is where you can find a mix of galleries, restaurants, stores, and entertainment. While summers tend to be a little bit hot in St. George, shoulder season is a perfect time to visit as temperatures become milder and crowds dwindle.
8. Zion National Park
Where to stay: Zion Canyon Lodge
A true gem of southwestern Utah, Zion has become one of the most popular national parks in the United States in recent years.
This small park packs on plenty of adventure with its towering red walls, and a great variety of hikes for all levels. Whether you want to climb to Angels Landing or enjoy an easy walk along the Virgin river in the Valley, Zion will keep you busy.
Zion is a small but incredibly scenic national park with many well known spots such as Angel’s Landing, Emerald Pools and the Narrows, that see thousands of visitors every day, as well as less explored areas. Overall, there is a good variety of easy, moderate and difficult hikes.
For better experience, visit Zion on a weekday, as weekends and major holidays can be extremely busy, especially in summer.
9. Reflection Canyon
Part of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, near Lake Powell, Reflection Canyon is one of the best places to visit Utah thanks to its spectacular scenery that became famous after its photo was used to promote MacBook Pro back in 2012.
While landscapes here are stunning, this is not an easy place to reach: the 15.2 mile moderately trafficked trail near Kanab is recommended only for advanced hikers with good navigation skills due to its challenging terrain with narrow slot canyons, rugged ravines, and portions with slick rock.
Bring an offline map, as there is no cellphone service in the area, and the trail is not always well-marked. Due to the difficulty of this hike and hot summers in Southern Utah, it’s better to hike this trail in mid-spring or fall. Bring lots of water, food, and sunscreen. Many hikers have reported running out of water due to extreme heat in the summer months.
Entrance to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area requires a fee for vehicles and hikers. If you plan to visit multiple times, purchase a pass for the area that will allow you to enter it in the future.
Remember to leave no trace, pack in and pack out and leave the place exactly as found out whether you plan on camping there or heading back the same day.
10. Kodachrome Basin State Park
Where to stay: Travelodge by Wyndham
Drive less than 30 minutes away from Bryce Canyon National Park, and you will find one of the best-hidden gems in Utah – Kodachrome Basin State Park that boasts landscapes similar to Bryce and very few visitors.
This under-the-radar state park has over 2,000 acres of prime wilderness and is surrounded by the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
At Kodachrome, you can take in stunning views of hoodoos, and sand pipes, that are believed to be remains of geysers that used to dot this area. As the sandstone eroded, the layers of sediment became exposed giving the area an array of unique colors ranging from pinkish to bright orange and red.
Kodachrome also has multiple hiking trails. Some of the best hikes here are Shakespeare Arch and Sentinel Trail, a 1.7-mile loop that offers a gorgeous overlook of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.; and the 1,5-mile Angel’s Palace Trail.
Where to stay: The Flagstone Boutique Inn
A small town that looks like it was taken straight from a movie about the American West, Kanab is full of natural wonders.
Due to its location along the Utah-Arizona border, Kanab is a good stop if you are traveling between these two states, and is one of the best places to visit in Utah, if you want to be close to Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.
One of the most popular places to visit near Kanab is the Wave, a stunning, remote red-rock formation that can be reached via a 5-mile hike. Hiking the Wave requires a permit that can be obtained through the annual BLM lottery.
Another place near Kanab that is worth your attention is the White Pocket and Coyote Buttes that boast incredible colors, but you will need a high-clearance vehicle to access these places because the road is pretty rough.
Other cool places near Kanab are Coral Pink San Dunes, Pipe Spring National Park, and Peek-a-Boo Canyon.
Where to stay: Hotel Moab Downtown
Moab is the adventure capital. With seemingly endless things to do in Moab, there’s little surprise that it has become the most popular place to visit in Utah.
Even if you haven’t been to Moab yet, there’s a chance you’ve seen photos of the iconic Arches, deep canyons, and giant red walls. There’s also a good chance these images gave you a serious case of wanderlust!
Whether you want to hike national parks, raft in the Colorado River, camp in the backcountry, or count stars in its clear dark skies, Moab has it all!
13. Corona Arch
Corona Arch is a true hidden gem and one of the best stops on your Moab itinerary.
While this 2.3-mile hike is super pretty, you will not meet many people here, and if you happen to visit on a weekday, you very well might be the only person here (just like I was when I did this hike on a Wednesday morning).
Since the trail is exposed and goes on the slick red rock, wear good hiking shoes and carry plenty of water. At the end of the hike, you will arrive at a natural arch that towers over the red-rock landscape.
14. Canyonlands National Park
Where to stay: River Canyon Lodge
Canyonlands National Park is a vast national park with deep canyons, sprawling mesas, and towering buttes just north of Moab. It’s divided into three sections: The Needles, The Maze, and The Island In The Sky, the most popular and accessible area of the park.
One of the most popular stops in the park is the Mesa Arch attracts tons of photographers during the sunrise. But here’s a little secret: You can visit Mesa Arch right after the sunrise between 7 and 8 a.m. when everybody is gone and the place is mostly empty.
Some of my favorite hikes at Canyonlands National Park are Upheaval Dome that can be reached via Upheaval Dome Trail. If you are looking for something easier, White Rim Overlook is a trail under 2 miles perfect for beginner hikers. Another cool hike is Grand View Point that provides incredible vistas.
15. Arches National Park
Where to stay: Under Canvas Moab
One of the most popular Utah national parks, Arches is a compact but scenic national park jampacked with beautiful vistas and over 2,000 arches. The park offers plenty of easy-to-moderate hikes suitable for all hiking levels.
Most people know Arches National Parks because of the world-famous Delicate Arch, but there’s so much more to this national park!
Don’t miss other stunning spots such as Sand Dune Arch, Double O Arch, and Landscape Arch. The good thing about Arches is that many of its landmarks are easy to reach via clearly marked trails.
Check my complete guide to best hikes at Arches National Park.
16. Dead Horse Point State Park
A close neighbor of the Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point State Park has surprisingly few visitors. Meanwhile, this state park boasts some of the most fantastic landscapes in Utah!
Looking for an epic sunset spot? Dead Horse Point State Park offers some of the best sunset views in the Moab area. The most popular spot for sunset watching is Dead Horse Point that offers tons of space, so you will have plenty of room to yourself.
And if you want to hike, check out the easy loop that goes around the edge and takes you through the stunning red rock country. Like other hikes in the Moab area, do it early morning or late in the afternoon, when it’s not too hot.
This is one of the most underrated places to visit Utah with spectacular views and fewer people than in Moab.
17. Goosenecks State Park
Utah has over 40 state parks, so it can be very difficult to pick just a few to visit. Goosenecks State Park is one of the most unique places to visit in Utah thanks to the incredible deep canyons carved by the winding San Juan river that flows over 6 miles through the park.
“The Goosenecks” is referred to the long nearly symmetrical canyon walls surrounded by the river. When you look at them from above, you can easily see why this state park was named “goosenecks.”
Jut like the Dead Horse Canyon State Park, Goosenecks State Park is one of the best places to visit in Utah for astrophotography. It’s also a great place to catch the incredible sunset and enjoy the pristine desert environment since the area has been spared from development.
HOW TO GET THERE: To reach Goosenecks State Park, take Utah-316 and get on US-163 about 8 miles northwest from the small town called Mexican Hat. The entrance fee is $5 per car. There are also separate fees for camping.
18. Monument Valley
After spending a few days in Moab, head south to Monument Valley, an amazing red-sand area straddling the Utah-Arizona that is known for its towering buttes.
Monument Valley is one of the symbols of the American Southwest. It has been featured in countless movies, commercial and video clips.
However, Monument Valley is NOT a national park, and it is not covered by the America the Beautiful Pass. If you want to drive along Monument Valley’s scenic loop and do some hiking, you will have to pay a $20 fee.
19. Bears Ears National Monument
Where to stay: Inn at the Canyons
Bears Ears National Monument is a hidden gem of Utah that often gets overlooked by travelers.
This vast area was named after the two buttes that resemble bears’ ears and is considered sacred by Native American tribes. While it is open to visitors, there are no facilities, and many parts of Bears Ears require a 4X4 vehicle.
Do not to touch any Native American artifacts – and don’t take them home as Bears Ears has a rich cultural heritage and boasts several impressive Native American ruins.
One of the most impressive features of the Bears Ears National Monument is the Cital, a ruin site at the heart of the monument; the Newspaper Rock, one of the best collections of Native American petroglyphs in Southern Utah and many other parts such as the Valley of the Gods, the Ballroom, and the Blackhole, one of the easiest and most fun canyons in the area.
If you like canyoneering, Bears Ears National Monument is one of the best places to visit in Utah. This national monument boasts many canyons such as Cheesebox, Bullet Canyon, and Fish and Owl Creek that require advanced canyoneering skills and offer the ultimate challenge.
20. Dinosaur National Monument
With a staggering 210,000 acres, Dinosaur National Monument is a treasure trove of undiscovered beauty and thousands of years of paleontological history that was unearthed by the climatic forces.
Located on the borders of Utah and Colorado, this national monument is especially popular with history buffs who come here to see the evidence of the dinosaurs that used to roam this area.
This is one of the best places to visit in Utah, if you want to see dinosaur fossils, footprints, and cool prehistoric sites.
21. Hovenweep National Monument
Located in the Four Corners region, Hovenweep National Monument is one of the less discovered places to visit in Utah. Overshadowed by the famous Monument Valley, this area sits on the vast Cajon Mesa between Utah and Colorado.
This monument offers a remarkable lesson in Native American history, as it is home to six Native American Pueblo villages built between 1200 and 1300 AD.
Spend some time driving on the dusty roads of this monument before getting out of your car to explore the well-preserved ruins that include towers, ceremonial spaces, and dwellings.
Hovenweep National Monument is an international dark sky park with some of the best dark skies. Check ranger-led stargazing events at Hovenweep National Monument ahead of your visit.
Similar to the rest of Southern Utah, keep in mind that this is a remote place with no facilities, and at times, extreme heat during summer. Bring a paper map, plenty of water, and keep your distance from the sites. Do not climb them or carve anything on the walls.
22. Snow Canyon State Park
Where to stay: Escape to St. George
If you are looking for the best places to visit in Utah, you are likely thinking of national parks. One of the best things about Utah is that it has plenty of under-radar destinations.
Located just 11 miles away from St. George, Snow Canyon State Park is one of the best places to visit near Las Vegas by car. It’s a great starting point for your Utah road trip, if you are traveling from Las Vegas.
It offers plenty of red-rock scenery and top-notch hiking trails totaling about 16 miles. Contrary to the name, this cozy state park rarely receives any snow, and it was named after Utah leaders Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.
Snow Canyon State Park offers a small campsite with 14 sites for RVs featuring water and electrical hookups and 17 multi-use campsites suitable for tents. The best time to visit is mid-spring and early to mid-fall as summers tend to be very hot in Southern Utah
Check skateparks.utah.gov ahead of your visit to see updates and conditions at individual state parks.
23. Lake Powell
Few lakes can beat Lake Powell in terms of the adventures that you can enjoy here.
From cliff jumping to paddle boarding, kayaking to water skiing, and exploring this stunning lake by boat, there is a long list of things to do on Lake Powell – a good reason to put it on your Utah itinerary.
While Lake Powell is only 186 miles long, it boasts 2,000 miles of shoreline with hidden coves, harbors, and secluded beaches. Add spectacular scenery with bright red rocks, and you get a real adventure paradise.
What makes Lake Powell so appealing is how crowded it is: Despite its stunning beauty, this lake doesn’t see a lot of visitors, thanks to its remote location, and massive canyons. The further away you get from the popular beaches, the fewer people you will meet.
After indulging in fun activities during the day, savor the bright skies at night. Whether you decide to sleep on top of the boat or camp on one of the beaches, you will be blown away by Utah’s star-lit skies with zero light pollution.
24. Capitol Reef National Park
Where to stay: Red Sands Hotel
The least visited of all national parks in Utah, Capitol Reef is a treasure trove of unspoiled beauty. If you ask me, I’ll say that it’s one of the best places to visit in Utah if you want to enjoy the state’s stunning backcountry without the crowds of Zion and Arches.
Capitol Reef might not be as famous as other Utah national parks in the “Mighty 5,” but it boasts many unexplored places that will blow you away!
Cathedral Valley is one of the most popular stops at Capitol Reef, although you need a 4X4 vehicle to get there, as this is a day trip to the remote part of the park along unpaved roads.
If you want a quick lesson in history, stop at the Petroglyph Panel at the beginning of the park where you can see an amazing collection of prehistoric drawings that were done by the tribes that once called this part of Utah home.
25. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Where to stay: The Inn of Escalante
One of the largest national monuments in the United States, Grand Staircase covers about 1 million acres in South Central Utah. To the west of Grand Staircase is the famous Bryce Canyon National Park; to the east is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and to the north is Capitol Reef National Park.
This national monument designated in 1996 is a true geologic wonder with narrow slot canyons, towering buttes, and sprawling mesas – a serene environment where you can explore around for days, weeks and months.
The easiest way to reach the park is from the west via Henrieville, Tropic, or Cannonville. Another way to enter the monument is via Scenic Byway 12 or U.S. Route 89 via Kanab.
The Bureau of Land Management has divided the monument into three distinct regions: the Grand Staircase Escalante in the southwest, the Escalante Canyons in the northwest and the Kaiporawits Plateau in the center. The monument for its name after the series of plateaus in the southwest portion that look like a set of stairs from the distance.
How much time do I need for my Utah road trip?
Checking some of the best places to visit in Utah off your bucket list can take a very long time!
You can spend months roaming Utah’s spectacular backcountry, visiting national and state parks and taking time to boat on Lake Powell, among many other things! Utah is a never ending adventure, and once you visit it once, you will want to come over and over again!
If you have never been to Utah before, set aside at least a week for your Utah itinerary, because there’s just too much to do! Whether you are planning on exploring Utah’s national parks, or hanging out in Park City, time will fly once you get here.
What is the best time to visit Utah?
There’s no right or wrong time to visit Utah, because it is beautiful at nay time of the year!
Summer is the best time for spending time outdoors, hitting the trails and camping, while winter is great for winter sports and photography.
Summer is the busiest time in Utah, and if you want to see some of the most popular places to visit in Utah, plan your adventures for early morning or late evening. This is especially true for Utah National Parks, and Moab – the most popular destination in Utah.
For best experience, visit Utah during shoulder season either in May or late-to-mid September, when it’s not as busy. If you don’t mind slightly chilly weather, October is also a great time to visit Utah, as you can enjoy uncrowded trails and see the spectacular foliage in Zion and Capitol Reef National Park.
What is the most popular place to visit in Utah?
Moab, also known a the gateway to adventure, has become one of the most popular places to visit in Utah in recent years.
Visitors from all over the world flock to Moab to enjoy its unparalleled scenery and countless outdoor opportunities like hiking in the surrounding national parks, camping under the clear dark skies and rafting on the Colorado River.
What makes Utah special?
There’s a good chance you have already seen plenty of pictures of Utah’s world-famous landscapes.
Home to the “Mighty Five,” Utah also has many lesser known state parks and scenic vistas that are worth including on your Utah itinerary. Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Snow Canyon State Park and Kanab are excellent alternatives, if you are looking for best places to visit in Utah that are less busy.
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