UTAH OUTDOOR TRAVEL GUIDE
Utah is a hub for outdoor adventurers with over 80% of the state set aside for public use which means tons of recreation and unlimited camping opportunities. From mountain biking to to hiking to skiing to canyoneering, Utah will not disappoint. Utah offers peaks, brilliant red slickrock and canyons cut with raging rivers, not to mention there are 5 National Parks in Utah as well!
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT UTAH
Utah has 4 seasons of recreation and when you visit depends heavily on what you want to do. Are you looking for incredible alpine lake hikes? Are you looking to hit some of the best ski slopes in the country? Or are you interested in visiting one of Utah’s incredible National parks? Southern Utah is best explored in Spring and Fall when the temperatures are most comfortable. I’d avoid southern Utah in the heat of summer at all costs. Salt Lake City, on the other hand, is a summer/winter destination with the Wasatch mountain range right on the edge of town.
TOP OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN UTAH
Skiing – Some ski resorts near Salt Lake City receive over 500 inches of snow a year. I’m an Alta girl and have spent the last two seasons learning how to shred the pow. Don’t ski? These mountains also offer snowshoeing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing.
Mountain Biking – Mountain biking can be done all over the state. From Southern Utah’s White Rim Trail to mountain biking trails around Park City, there are thousands of miles of bikeable terrain.
Night Sky Viewing – Utah is famous for having one of the darkest skies, and Canyonlands, Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks offer astronomy programs with rangers.
Canyoneering – Southern Utah is home to the narrowest slot canyons in the country and is a great place for those interested in canyoneering to get their feet wet. Check out my post about canyoneering near Zion.
Climbing – Climbing culture in Utah is big. Southern Utah and the mountains around Salt Lake have a ton of places to give climbing a try.
White Water Adventures – Utah’s Colorado and Green Rivers offer some of the rafting in the country. Whether you are looking for a lazy float trip or a multi-day whitewater adventure, Utah has options for you.
GETTING TO UTAH
Salt Lake City is the largest airport in Utah. Las Vegas, NV is also a close airport with great deals, especially on Southwest Airlines. While there is the Greyhound Bus in Utah, a car is pretty much a necessity for exploring Utah’s National Parks and wilderness.
NATIONAL PARKS IN UTAH
Canyonlands National Park was made famous by Aron Ralston’s story of survival in the blockbuster film, 127 hours. Canyonlands is located in south eastern Utah near the town of Moab and is a vast park with countless canyons to explore for days. Biking and white water rafting are also options for getting around Canyonlands.
Capitol Reef National Park offers a little bit of everything from cliffs to canyons to domes to natural arch bridges, and when the lights go out it also boasts incredible dark sky viewing. It’s one of the more difficult parks to get to located right in the center of southern Utah.
Bryce Canyon National Park is famous for its red sandstone hoodoos that look like they are straight out of Mars. Don’t miss the Fairyland Trail if you are looking to get away for the overlook crowds.
Zion National Park is my favorite park in Southern Utah. From swimming holes, the famous Zion Narrows, and the harrowing hike up to Angel’s Landing, you could easily spend a week exploring Zion. Don’t expect to have the Park to yourself though. Zion sees over half a million visitors every year.
Arches National Park boasts over 2,000 natural sandstone arches including the longest in the US, Landscape Arch, and the beautiful Delicate Arch that graces Utah license plates.
TOP UTAH TOWNS TO EXPLORE
Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah. Downtown is full of good restaurants, a couple of awesome music venues, and offers immediate access to the mountains. There are 9 ski resorts within 50 miles of the SLC airport.
Moab is the gateway city to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. Moab is also a hub for adventure tour operators who will take you rafting, canyoneering, ATVing, rock climbing and more.
Park City has 3 ski resorts and hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival every January. Summertime is quieter but not without a shortage of things to do. A downhill mountain bike park, free summer concerts, and the Weber River keep visitors busy.
OTHER MUST-SEE UTAH DESTINATIONS
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a playground for those wanting to explore south-western wilderness at its finest. The monument encompasses nearly 1.9 million acres and is known to have the most intricate slot canyon network in all of Utah.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park features pink-hued sand dunes side by side with red sandstone cliffs. 90% of the dunes are open for ATV riders to explore and 100% are open to all for hiking and exploring.
Lake Powell, on the border of Arizona & Utah, boasts 2,000 miles of shoreline. Kayaking, swimming, houseboating, and beach front camping are popular activities. Lake Powell is also part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which offers even more backcountry exploration opportunities.