A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Activities and Destinations In Utah

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Utah is a state in the western part of the United States. It’s known for its stunning natural beauty, with tall mountains, deep canyons, and vast deserts. The capital city is Salt Lake City, which is famous for the Great Salt Lake, a huge inland sea with salty water.

Utah is also home to several national parks where visitors can see incredible rock formations and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and camping. The state has a rich history, including its early settlement by Native American tribes and later by Mormon pioneers. Today, Utah is a mix of modern cities and breathtaking wilderness, making it a popular destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Here are some of the best things to do on your next trip to this hilly state.

1. Best Cities to Experience

1.1. Salt Lake City

The hub of urban development and the largest populated city in Utah, Salt Lake City is known for its distinguished liberal mindset in contrast to the rest of this conservative state. With elevations of 4,000 ft and above sea level, you will see plenty of trails to hike or simply paths to take and enjoy the scenery below.

Salt Lake City is also popular for its skiing, religious tourism, and the Utah Pride Fest celebrating equal rights and love in a show of support towards the LGBTQ community.

salt lake city landscape.
Source: Pixabay

1.2. Moab

This city in Utah is home to some of the most dramatic scenery. It hosts many arches, canyons, and national parks. This city is also a hub for events such as the Moab Music Festival, and Folk Festival. Moab is welcoming to all nature enjoyers and bikers as well as off-roading enjoyers.

1.3. Park City

Park City is one of the biggest tourist attractions of Utah, with two popular ski resorts; Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort. It held the prestige of being a major ski area at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Apart from this, Park City hosts the United States’ largest independent film festival the Sundance Film Festival. This festival is a major event throughout America and many people come to attend, we hope you are one of them next time!

park city landscape
source: Unsplash

1.4. Provo City

This city is the second-largest metropolitan area after Salt Lake City. It boasts a plethora of activities and fun-loving people making it ideal for tourists to visit on their trip to Utah. The Ice Peak arenas in Provo city were also privy to the 2002 Winter Olympic events. Apart from these activities, Provo is also a hub for cultural development with the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taking precedence in this region, and for technological advancements with several billion-dollar startups.  

1.5. Cedar City

Known for its impressive Shakespearean festival, this is a charming picturesque city surrounded by mountain ranges and passes. It also provides a great path to Zion National Park and various other parks. If you love comfortable aesthetic places to take great pictures this is the city for you.

cedar city wilderness
source: Pixabay

1.6. Ogden

An up-and-coming city situated 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, Ogden has a brilliant downtown area lined with budget-friendly cafes, galleries, and spots to hang out as well as a rich history as a railroad town. Another interesting activity here is the self-audio tours offered to tourists starting at Union Station at 25th Street and Wall Avenue.

2. Best Places to Visit

2.1. Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of the most biodiverse habitats of Utah and boasts a staggering number of plants, animals, and bird species. The highest peak stretches to 8,726 ft, and the lowest a staggering 3,666 ft. The inhibited joy of this park is attributed to its beautiful scenery and the reddish-tan hue of the Navajo sandstone that makes up the Zion Canyon. This park has mountains, canyons, rivers, and arches making it a must in your Utah checklist!

zion national park stream and wilderness
source: Unsplash

2.2. Arches National Park

Arches National Park gets its name from just that, its arches! The reason for the large number of arches in this region is the fact that it lies over an evaporite salt bed. This particular predicament has led to some of the strangest yet coolest geological formations. The coolest arch here is termed the delicate arch and creates an unusual loop shape making it a prime tourist attraction.

2.3. Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park was previously inhabited by Mormons in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce. The most popular attraction of Bryce Canyon National Park is not its canyons but the large mass of hoodoos found in this region, created by frost weathering and steam erosion. The Bryce Canyon National Park is rich in wildlife, hues, and geological formations creating an unforgettable experience.

bryce canyon snowy landscape
source: Unsplash

2.4. Capitol Reef National Park

This National Park is known for its arid desert landscape and scenery, though it is not too high up on the elevation scale. It still has some of the most beautiful trails and views. This park gets its name from the whitish Navajo sandstone formations and domes. It also holds some pretty impressive petroglyphs on cliffs from the period 300-1300 CE.

2.5. Canyonlands National Park

Situated in southeastern Utah, Canyonlands National Park is home to many canyons, buttes, and mesas formed by the Colorado River and its tributaries. It is one of the most magnificent places to visit if you have a knack for trails and rivers. Author Edward Abby described the park as “the most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth—there is nothing else like it anywhere.” One of the major attractions is the Mesa Arch which creates an unnatural fold shape and is worth checking out.

2.6. Alta Ski Area

For skiing enthusiasts, this ski resort is a perfect place to visit. As one of the oldest and most successful ski resorts in the country, it boasts 8 lifts and more snow than almost any Utah ski resort. People love the Alta ski resort and frequently visit it for its fun-filled snow experience, it is constantly improving its facilities and experiences so visiting this ski resort is a must.

alta ski snowy mountains
source: pixabay

2.7. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

A Park that majorly gets its name from the pink dunes formed due to the erosion of pink Navajo sandstones. Located below red sandstone cliffs, this creative colour palette allows for the immense popularity of this park. Photography, snowboarding, hiking, and off-road vehicle driving are also large parts of this scenic park providing an immensely enjoyable experience. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is another gem in Utah!

coral pink sand dunes
source: Unsplash

2.8. Park City Mountain Resort

Another brilliant ski resort located in Park City and known for its training courses. Park City Mountain Resort hosted the snowboarding men’s and women’s events in the 2022 Winter Olympics. The resort has brilliant race arenas such as its eagle race arena and its slalom courses. A Resort with 7,300 acres 43 lifts, 341 runs, and 6 terrain parks, it truly is a prime skiing destination and a must-visit.

2.9. Angel’s landing

A beautiful rock formation for sunset and hiking lovers, this trail rewards its passersby with a surreal view at the top known as Angels Landing. Zions Canyon from the angels landing at sunset is a view you will not want to miss.

angels landing hill
source: Unsplash

2.10. Joe’s Valley

This large bouldering climb settled near Orangeville is perfect for rock climbers looking to get into bouldering or simply for boulderers. With a nice rocky way, this climb requires little to no roping and has 3 main sections: left fork, right fork, and new joe’s. An estimated 15,000 climbers attempt Joe’s Valley per year, we hope this year you will be one of them!

joes valley and lake
source: pixabay

2.11. Logan Canyon

Situated in the Wasatch range in northeastern Utah, this canyon is famous for various activities such as camping, fishing, and majorly rock climbing along with mountain biking. Logan Canyon also houses the blue bear lake which is a very fun scenic stop to make if you enjoy beautiful water bodies.

2.12. Bonneville Salt Flats

One of the largest salt flats of the Great Salt Lake, it is a densely packed salt land made of 90% table salt. This white landscape will leave you reeling. Comparable to heaven on earth, it resembles a snowy wonderland but is a salty wonderland, The sunsets here are also especially wonderful.

salt flats
source: Unsplash

2.13. Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

This land although open to the public is very sacred to the Navajo tribe that inhabits it, thus it is very important to be respectful and gracious. If you wish to learn more about the native Navajos, you could opt for a formal tour operated by a Navajo local. Apart from cultural importance, this park has many activities such as hot balloon rides and horseback riding.

2.14. Antelope Island State Park

Like the other national parks Antelope Island also offers breathtaking views and gorgeous hikes but also a great opportunity for wildlife spotting. This park is home to many species of bison, bighorn, deer, sheep, and antelope. For animal lovers this park is perfect.

bisons roaming antelope island state park.
source: Unsplash

2.15. Anasazi State Park Museum

A historically rich must-see, this museum has a blast from the past effect. Filled with traditional Anasazi tools, art, and more, you can visit to see for yourself how the Puebloan villages operated. The museum is not too big and takes the perfect time to explore giving you a little intellectual stimulus among all the extensive sceneries.

3. Bakeries, Coffee houses, And Restaurants

3.1. Café Diablo

This restaurant located just 8 miles from Capitol Reef National Park is a delicacy for meat eaters of all kinds. known for its delicious taste and ambience, this restaurant has it all from steak to fresh trout to even their signature rattlesnake cakes served with anch-rosemary aioli. a rattlesnake cannot just be eaten anywhere so we highly recommend trying this restaurant if you are into exotic foods.

coffee and lattes
source: Unsplash

3.2. Prairie Schooner Steak House

Utah and steak go hand in hand here at the Prairie Steak House with their locally sourced steak and out-of-the-box dining experience. At Prairie Steak House, you can wine and dine under the stars in an open wagon next to a prairie campfire and awaken your inner cowboy!

3.3. Communal Restaurant

Located in Provo, this restaurant is a great choice for solo travellers looking to make some friends. A family-owned farm and chain, Communal Restaurant believes in the goodwill of good food and sharing with the community. Everyone is seated on a long communal table filled with random strangers so if you are an extrovert, you will probably be leaving with a lot of connections in Utah.

3.4. Stone Ground Kitchen

steak meal
source: Unsplash

Located in Salt Lake City, this prime eatery is privy to an incredible ambience and taste, great waiters, a 5-star average of reviews, and the best Italian food you will ever have. If ever in Utah with a craving for a freshly made Italian-style pizza, this must be the place you visit.

3.5. The Capital Grille

Also located in Salt Lake City, the Capital Grille shows you how good steak and wine can be if paired correctly. With an extensive collection of rare and old wines/liquor, The Capital Grille is one place that you must visit to experience the Flavors of an authentic Utah steak.

3.6. Salt Lake Coffee Break

This cozy and artsy grunge café in Salt Lake City is known for some of the best coffee around, so for our caffeinated travellers coming to grab a cup of coffee this might be a sight worth seeing. With an intrinsically unique style, the interior of this coffee house screams the 1800s, it helps that the coffee is great too.

3.7. Encircle Café

If you want to have your daily caffeine fix and somehow feel like you have done your part for the world on this fine day, Encircle café is the place for you. A non-profit coffee house that contributes all its profits to LGBTQ+ youths and their family to support equal rights for all sexualities, this place is a morality must-visit on your trip to Utah.

3.8. Vosens Bread Paradise

The best thing since sliced bread, Vosens Bread Paradise is known for its delicious, soft, fluffy, and flavorful breads. From options such as the traditional baguette or loaf bread to sandwiches and Cubans as well.

baked bread
source: Unsplash

3.9. Eva’s Bakery

Located in Salt Lake City and famous for its melt-in-the-mouth cheesecakes, this is one sweet shop you do not want to miss, especially if you have a sweet tooth. With a wide range of desserts and stellar reviews not only is Eva’s Bakery rich in taste but also clientele. This bakery will drag you inside by the nose!

3.10. Stein Eriksen Alpenglobes

Another unique dining experience in the middle of the mountains in Deer Valley Utah, this strange but enthralling affair is centred around you enjoying your food around nature, in a glass dome. You can see the rich snow-covered terrain in front of you as you enjoy the delicious delicacies prepared by Alpenglobes.

4. Some Water Bodies To See

4.1. The Great Salt Lake

Also known as “America’s Dead Sea”, it is home to millions of brine shrimp, birds, and the largest population of Wilson’s phalaropes in the world. The Great Salt Lake is the largest lake in the western hemisphere as well as the 8th largest terminal lake in the world.

It is famous due to its sheer size and the striking unnatural pinkish hue of its water which is caused due to large amounts of halophiles in the water. Halophiles love salt and the Great Salt Lake true to its name is 6-7 times saltier than the ocean. When in Utah, these pink shores are a must-do if you wish to enjoy Utah’s biodiversity to its fullest!

pinkish and whitish color mix of the great salt lake.
source: Unsplash

4.2. The Narrows

Referring to the narrowest part of Zion Canyon in Zion National Park, this opulent trail is also a waterway to dip your toes in, surrounded by canyons and walking in clear waters. It is one of the most beautiful experiences one can have. You can even hike to the temple of Sinawava to enjoy some spiritual zen time.

zion canyon, narrow stream
source: Unsplash

4.3. The Colorado River

Specifically, the part of the Colorado River that runs through Moab Utah. You can enjoy a variety of water sports and river rafting in this opulent waterway. There is also the option to have a romantic (or not, go solo we do not judge) dinner cruise with a music and lights show. The Colorado River provides the people of Utah with water and entertainment, really what more could you ask for?

the colorado river
source: Unsplash

4.4. Emerald Pools

Another beautiful example of a trail on Zion National Park, these pools have a clear greenish hue giving them their name “the emerald pools”. It is of course a journey to be able to see them but we promise you it is worth every step.

4.5. Lake Powell

A strikingly scenic waterbody situated in Utah, with an extensive list of water-based activities and sports such as fishing, kayaking, jet skiing boating. Lake Powell is great for all types of recreational activities with sandy beaches, white skies, and crystal blue water. So, do like a seagull and migrate on over to Lake Powell so you too can enjoy its exceptional environment.

lake powell and sunset
source: pixabay

4.6. Kanarra Falls

A waterfall situated in Kanarraville and part of a moderately strenuous trail that will leave you breathless, because of the view of course! This hike will have you looking at all the colours in the canyon surrounding you in awe, only if you do not mind getting your feet wet. However, this trek is a little slippery so make sure you wear shoes with a good grip and get your cameras to enjoy the surreal experience!

5. Activities To Do

5.1. Horse ridding

Utah with its extensive outback and cowboy lifestyle is known for its desert and arid environment. And what better way to get around in a landscape like that than on horses? Many popular trails and parks in the state offer horseback riding such as Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Provo City. You will feel like you have been transported to an old Wild West movie touring the beautiful canyons on horseback.

5.2. Hiking

The main attraction of this state is its wonderful hikes and trails encompassing everything from wildlife, to rock formations and waterfalls. Utah is known for its beautiful parks and lakes, so going to Utah and not checking out at least one of the parks mentioned above would be an absolute shame.

man on top of hill observing a scenic view
source: pixabay

5.3. Water Sports

Some of the coolest things to do in Utah the desert state, ironically have to do with water bodies. Above you will find listed some of the best water bodies and rivers to frolic about when the heat gets to you. Along with waterfalls and lakes that change colour! Mountain biking and off-roading are great of course but kayaking and fishing seem to have their place in Utah.

5.4. Skiing

Although a majority of Utah seems to be hot, dry, and sandy there are extreme mountain regions where temperatures drop enough to form snow, making skiing one of the largest attractions of Utah. The region has hosted many events in the Winter Olympics over the years. Some popular ski resorts are Alta Ski Arena and Park City Mountain Resort.

people skiing down snowy hills
source: Unsplash

5.5. Rock Climbing

In an ode to the bumpy terrain of Utah, rock climbing seems to be quite popular in the mountains and hikes. Of course, rock climbing such extreme terrains is quite risky if you do not have previous training, thus as a recreational activity, we suggest you choose fewer straining climbs and have all the proper precautions in place.

man climbing a mountain
source: Unsplash

6. Festivals To Attend

6.1. Sundance Film Festival

Held in Park City Utah, this annual festival organized by Sundance Institute is the largest independent film festival in the United States. With over 40,000 people attending annually, many films premiering at Sundance have gone on to win Oscars and various acclaimed titles.

sundance film festival board.
source: Unsplash

6.2. Salt Lake City Pride Event

Usually held around June-July and in many different cities, however, Salt Lake City hosts the largest pride festival. Including parades, guest speakers, and members of every section of society that come together to celebrate the various sexualities and genders of the world. In 2021, a massive arch of 1,000 balloons was made with a 300-foot pride flag a festival worth coming to Utah for!

love is love pride wall art
source: Unsplash

6.3. St. George Art Festival

A celebration of the fine arts, held in St. George Utah this festival has attracted quite the buzz due to its unique out-of-the-box concepts and entertainment. With everything from food, dance, every type of creative art and a create-your-own art station this festival is a must-do on your Utah checklist!

brushes stained with paint
source: Unsplash

7. Conclusion

Utah though a partial desert state is quite like a metaphor, simple at first glance but increasingly complex and fun on further inspection. Worth travelling to and recommending to others, of course, if you end up visiting any of the places mentioned in the list and have a fun experience.

Don’t forget to leave a comment letting us know, filled with outback activities, food, and some of the best hikes and trails, someone who loves outdoor scenery and wildlife observation would love a trip to good old Utah!

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