1. Sights and Bikes at Dead Horse Point
Get up early to start your trip on the right note: sunrises are spectacular in canyon country. Many visitors find Dead Horse Point State Park to be even more captivating than the views at the Grand Canyon. Grab your camera. You’ll want to be sure to take lots of pictures to try and share the experience with your friends. For mountain bike enthusiasts, Dead Horse has a splendid network of rolling singletrack trails over gentle slickrock domes and through the knee-high sage. The trails offer several opportunities to stop and savor the views before tackling the next leg of trails. Though technically mild by Moab standards, the trails are a hit for riders of all abilities.
In the Neighborhood: Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park
Entrance Fee: $20 per vehicle up to eight passengers; $15 for Utah seniors 65 and older; $10 per motorcycle; $4 pedestrian or cyclist
Camping: Reserve a Yurt for a unique overnight experience.
2. Hoodoos, Yurts and Slots of Goblin Valley
Sandstone goblins and fascinating formations cover Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, to which Hollywood frequently turns for its unusual landscapes, like alien worlds. Explore the geology and camp among the nooks and gnomes. Bring the family and experience this amazing place by hiking, camping, mountain biking, and exploring the surrounding canyons. Three established trails through the Valley of the Goblins are suitable for almost everyone. If you brought mountain bikes be sure to check out the nontechnical Wild Horse Mesa Mountain Bike Trail. If not, introduce yourself to the family-friendly canyoneering of Little Wild Horse Canyon (may not be suitable for smaller children).
In the Neighborhood: Capitol Reef National Park.
Entrance Fee: $20 per vehicle; $10 for Utah seniors 62 and older; $10 per motorcycle, bicycle or pedestrian
Camping: Goblin Valley also offers a couple of yurts in addition to standard back-in and tent sites (no hookups).
3. Cool Waters and Kaleidoscopes at Escalante Petrified Forest
Explore the kaleidoscopic colors of wood reclaimed from the Earth and find yourself in awe at the ancient remnants at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Pause to take in the expansive vistas of the reservoir and surrounding mountains from the top of the hiking loop. Then, cool off in the refreshing waters of the reservoir, popular for boating, canoeing and fishing. The Sleeping Rainbows Trail is a .75-mile loop that is much steeper than the other trails but has the densest concentration of petrified wood in the park.
In the Neighborhood: Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park
Entrance Fee: $10 day-use pass; $5 for Utah seniors 62 and older
Camping: Escalante Petrified Forest State Park has 19 standard RV sites (some with electric hookups) and 1 group site.
4. Pillars and Pictures at Kodachrome Basin State Park
If ever a state park was made to be photographed, it is Utah's Kodachrome Basin State Park. Many of the gorgeous rock columns in the park can be seen while driving, but it’s worth your time to get out and explore. Some of the popular sites include Chimney Rock, Shakespeare Arch and Ballerina Geyser. Kodachrome Basin covers 2,240 acres and is surrounded by Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument on three sides. With its close proximity to other popular destinations down Cottonwood Road, it makes for a spectacular base camp or a stop on an event-filled day in the desert. The park was certified as an International Dark Sky Park, making it a great place for stargazing too.
In the Neighborhood: Bryce Canyon National Park
Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle (max. 8 people per vehicle); $5 for Utah seniors 62 and older (max. 8 people per vehicle)
Camping: Kodachrome Basin has more than 30 stand sites and 14 sites with full hookups.
5. Climb the Dunes of Coral Pink
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is where weekend warriors can leave footprints in soft sand. Walk among old juniper, and pinion and ponderosa pines. Then take your shoes off to leave footprints in the orange-red sand dunes. These geological oddities were formed by the continual erosion of the nearby Navajo sandstone cliffs. Coral Pink Sand Dunes are open for hiking and kid-friendly playing. About 90-percent of the dunes are open for ATV riders, an attraction for which this state park has become ever popular.
Visitors to Coral Pink Sand Dunes have a world of outdoor adventure just around the corner: several additional trailheads access Grand Staircase–Escalante along U.S. 89 in the extreme southern part of Utah. Explorers will discover some of the best slot canyons while lovers of the water have Lake Powell’s thousands of miles of shoreline just a little further along the road.
In the Neighborhood: Zion National Park
Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle; $5 for Utah seniors 65 and older
Camping: Coral Pink Sand Dunes has 16 standard campsites and 1 group site (no hookups).
6. Get Out and Play at Sand Hollow and Quail Creek
Sand Hollow and Quail Creek state park are less than 10 miles apart, where warm reservoirs play host to an array of water sports and quality fishing and the surrounding landscapes provide sites for camping and extensive off-highway action. Lovers of hiking, nature and wildlife alike will want to visit one (or both) of these sister reservoirs.
Quail Creek State Park lures swimmers, boaters and anglers year-round with its exceptionally warm waters and mild winter climate. Spend a day on the water then retire to a campsite in a spectacular red rock desert setting.
Sand Hollow State Park is a favorite destination for local off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts and provides 15,000 acres of perfectly sculpted dunes within the vast 20,000-acre park. The red sand is an incredible backdrop for Sand Hollow reservoir. At nearly twice the size of the nearby Quail Creek Reservoir, Sand Hollow offers boating and other water recreation in a spectacular setting.
In the Neighborhood: Red Cliffs Desert Preserve and Zion National Park
Entrance Fee (Quail Creek): $15 per vehicle (max 8 people per vehicle); $10 for Utah seniors 62 and older (max 8 people per vehicle)
Entrance Fee (Sand Hollow): $15 per vehicle; $10 for Utah seniors 65 and older
7. Mojave Majesty at Snow Canyon
Located at the edge of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin and Colorado Plateau, Snow Canyon State Park explodes with dramatic geology perfect for your outdoor adventure. Snow Canyon State Park is a 20-minute drive from St. George, Utah, and just an hour from the entrance to Zion National Park. Snow Canyon is popular with road cyclists touring the park’s scenic drive and hikers exploring the network of trails through the main canyon and numerous side canyons. Numerous bolted routes throughout the canyon lure rock climbers.
In the Neighborhood: Zion National Park
Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle (up to eight people); $5 for Utah seniors 65 and older per vehicle (up to eight people); $5 pedestrian/cyclists (up to eight people)
Camping: The Snow Canyon Campground has 27 total available campsites, including accomodations for groups, pets and partial hookups.
A Van Lifer’s Guide to Responsible Travel in Southern Utah
When Utah’s dirt roads are calling you, it’s time to plan your van life road trip. Here’s what you need to know to travel safely, protect Utah’s rural communities, and help preserve sensitive desert landscapes.
A Winter’s Desert: Visiting Southern Utah in the Slow Months
Experiencing the peace of canyon country in the winter is an attraction of its own.
Across a Snow-Covered Desert
Follow this itinerary for a week-long winter road trip across the snow-covered desert of Southeastern Utah.
Cycling Scenic Byway 12: Escalante to Boulder
Looking for scenic bike rides in Utah? Scenic Byway 12 has all the breathtaking views (and riding) you could ever hope for. Get the scoop and get ready.
Filmed in Utah: 7 Itineraries Through Hollywood's Most Iconic Settings
Whether hitting the Sundance Film Festival in Park City and Salt Lake City in January or visiting Utah throughout the year, you’ll find yourself near some Utah’s most iconic and most filmed places.
Hidden Gems Along Scenic Byway 12
When exploring Southern Utah, just about every road is a stunner, featuring views of the red-rock landscape that’s unlike anything else in the country. So when you find a route specifically designated as a scenic byway, you know you’re in for a treat.
How to Stay Safe and Stoked as a Solo Woman Traveler
Tips to help keep solo women travelers safe on road trips and outdoor adventures in Utah and beyond. From a gear checklist to suggestions about where to camp and how to handle stressful situations, writer and photographer Elisabeth Brentano shares her experiences.
Kiva Koffeehouse is a welcome stop for fresh food and espresso tucked on a hillside down a dirt driveway near milepost 73 on the scenic byway.
Moonscapes, Marscapes and More
If you want to know what Mars looks like — then the dramatic terrain of Capitol Reef National Park and the surrounding lands are a good place to start.
Movies Filmed in Utah: Plotting a Cinematic Drive-Through
Follow a Germany-based film enthusiast on an extended road trip to discover the rich history of Utah cinematography.
Reclaiming the Stars
Utah’s public lands are beautiful and dramatic during the day, but they might well become famous for how awe-inspiring they are during the night.
Reef Walking, Petroglyphs and Bones
Check out the world’s densest concentration of dinosaur bones at Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry and explore other prehistoric wonders around Utah.
Roaming Grand Staircase–Escalante
Ace Kvale is a photographer and guide in Boulder, Utah. Whenever possible, he hikes Utah's Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument with his dog.
San Rafael Swell Throughout the Seasons: 4 Reasons to Visit
From narrow slot canyons to grand sweeping vistas, sandstone plateaus to meandering rivers, San Rafael Country and the San Rafael Swell are home to some of the most spectacular scenery in Utah.
The 10 Top Stops on the National Pioneer Mormon Heritage Area
Here are 10 of the best stops along Utah's Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area’s backroads and byways. Explore rich Mormon historic sites, awe-inspiring canyons and mountains and unforgettable outdoor adventures.
The All-American Road: Scenic Byway 12
This is 122.863 miles (to be exact) of pure driving bliss. Welcome to Utah’s Scenic Byway 12, a designated All-American Road.
The Art of Supporting Utah Artists
Here’s a look at six local artists whose work draws upon Utah’s diverse environments as inspiration.
Turning the Lens on a Wintry Southern Utah
Discover some of the most picturesque places to photograph in Southern Utah, and learn some tips for how to shoot and travel responsibly.
Utah’s Pie-Ala-Road: A Sweeter Way to Explore the State
Follow the Utah Pie Trail through a scenic landscape of water-sculpted canyons and sandstone peaks and past three iconic national parks to savor the flavor at five delectable pie stops.
Utah’s Unexpected Pit Stops
You’re doing it wrong if you think road trip pit stops are boring layovers on your way to more exciting destinations. How many of these hidden gems have you been to? Here are 11 mini-adventures to check off your list next time you’re road-tripping through Utah.
View Millions of Years of Geologic History in an Afternoon
Unlock new levels of understanding about the land you are traveling through, around and on by learning about the geology in Utah.
Why You Should Ditch I-15 on Your Way to Zion
If you’re not in a rush to get to Zion National Park from Northern Utah, consider taking a long, meandering route that features historic sites, adventure breaks and out-of-this-world scenery. Hop off I-15 and take Highway 89 and four nearby scenic byways to see and do as much as you possibly can on your way to Zion.
Winter in Southern Utah Like a Local
Southern Utah comes alive in winter with unexpected experiences for those who are well-prepared and solitude for those who want to expand their view.
Winter Road Trip: Where to Stay, Hike and Eat When Traveling from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon
Need winter break ideas? Take a road trip from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon and enjoy the best of Utah landscapes during its quiet season.
Winter Wonders in Greater Zion
As you’re mapping out your winter trip through southeastern Utah, consider adding the following parks and natural wonders to your itinerary.