Carpe Diem! Seize the day and take it. Work and obligations will always be there, but traveling and exploring the world is something most people put on the back burner. Take adventures at this time in your life, even in your own “backyard.” Be like Bilbo Baggins, who sets off on an adventure – minus the Shire and an all-encompassing ring. As a Utah Native, you have the luxury of exploring exciting attractions, both famous and hidden gems across the state. Utah is part of the great history of the Wild West, meaning many places have some sort of connection to the past. Not only that, but you also have the opportunity to explore your home state. From small towns to the big cities, there are chances to get lost in the vibrant histories of the state you grew up in.
The best thing about living in Utah is that you have access to diverse landscapes. If you want to immerse yourself in red rocks and southwest deserts, you have attractions like Arches National Park or Monument Valley Tribal Park. But if you want something with higher elevations closer to the sky, you can hike Antelope Island or the great Wasatch Mountain Range. These are popular locations, but we wanted to shed some light on attractions that we think you shouldn’t look past in this article. If you wish to take day trips or week-long vacations to these places, we promise you won’t be disappointed by these four must-take Utah road trips.
1. Canyonlands National Park
Best time to visit: Spring (March – May) and Fall (September – October)
Explore beautiful terrain and spectacular sights when you come to Canyonlands National Park. It’s an actual recreational park where you’ll have opportunities to camp, hike, 4×4, rock climb, or horseback the 337, 598 acres of the rugged landscape. Both Green River and the Colorado River cut through the canyons, giving this place a wondrous vibe you can’t quite find anywhere else. A few distinct areas, including Islands in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze, are just otherworldly. Every site has its own attractions, but the most well-known sight is Mesa Arch, which perfectly frames the red rock canyons, rivers, and far-away mountains – where the skies meet the earth. The Needles is the perfect place for hikers to get an up-close and personal view of unique rock formations, rock paintings and drawings, and Pueblo dwellings.
If you want to experience the outdoors without large tourist crowds or true seclusion, this is your place. Immerse yourself deep into the local scene in nearby towns like Moab and Monticello. Not a camping person? No problem because these towns have access to splendid comforts like shopping, dining, hotels, and AirBnbs.
2. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Best time to visit: Year-round; There are higher temperatures during the Summer (June – August), possibly making the sand hotter.
Spend all day playing in the sand! You’ll feel like a little kid again. The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is the absolute perfect place for families – we can’t overstate this enough! It’s like a giant sandbox that even you can play in. Located near Kanab, the dunes make a perfect day trip for anyone. You can sandboard, sled, ATV, rappel, camp, or simply play in the sand. There are rentals and spots to enjoy a picnic, ideal for families and friends alike.
The pink coral sands make it a picture-perfect scenery for photos, including for influencers who want beautiful shots or families who wish for unique family portraits. The mountains and mountains of sand attract most visitors, especially OHV or ATV enthusiasts who want to enjoy the off-road freedom and excitement. Children can bring their own sleds and slide down the mountainsides for a thrilling ride. When you’re feeling hungry or tired, simply venture into Kanab for local hotels and restaurants.
3. Bonneville Salt Flats
Best time to visit: Year-round; be careful of icy roads during the winter months
You’re not a true Utah Native unless you’ve been to Bonneville Salt Flats at least once. This location is ideal if you’re someone who lives in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, or Weber counties, and you’d rather stay close. It’s also a must-see for those living outside these counties because the Bonneville Salt Flats shouldn’t be overlooked. The Salt Flats attracts worldwide visitors due to its flat, barren, and white landscape. Because the surface is a salt crust ranging from a few inches to 5 feet thick, plant life is non-existent. The even, uniformed landscape makes it perfect for car racing, calling home to a few events like the Utah Salt Flat Racing Association’s World of Speed competition.
This is the only location on this list that doesn’t charge an entrance fee and is open to the public. The Salt Flats also make the perfect location for photos and movies, including backgrounds in blockbusters like, Independence Day. There are no camping or overnight accommodations, making it a nice day trip for locals or a quick road-trip stop. Spend a few hours walking around, snapping pictures, and taking in the landscape. Be sure to wear sunscreen because the white surface is like a mirror reflecting the sun. Keep in mind that you can get stuck in the mud in certain areas, so stay on the designated roads. Above all, be respectful and mindful.
4. Bear Lake State Park
Best time to visit: Year-round; Summer months are most popular (June – August)
Located in the northern part of Utah and southern part of Idaho, Bear Lake State Park is a place for leisurely fun. Nicknamed “the Caribbean of the Rockies,” the turquoise-blue lake is enticing and marvelous. Bear Lake is a recreational wonderland. Take pleasure in camping, fishing, swimming, sailing, water skiing, and many other water activities. It has some of the best beaches in Utah, making day trips effortless fun for families. We recommend booking picnic sites and reserving day-use spots ahead of time so that you can take advantage of all that Bear Lake has to offer.
If you want to stay in the great outdoors, you can also reserve camping areas, but local towns like Garden City and Laketown offer accommodations like lodging, dining, and shopping if you don’t want to camp. It’s a definite must-see attraction!
These Utah favorites all have something to offer and see, but depending on what you’re looking for, take a look at this list and click on the links for further information.