Oh, Utah. This Southwest state, boasting an abundance of red deserts, green canyons and marvelous rock formations, is constantly ranked as one of the USA’s most scenic. You, in fact, need to be a bit careful with this one — the grandeur of Utah will most likely put you under a spell.
Prepare for a jaw-dropping cocktail of must-see places to explore. From the heavily trekked Zion National Park to hidden Natural Bridges National Monument, here are the most beautiful places in Utah.
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1. Zion National Park
Zion National Park in South Utah was established as early as 1919, making it the oldest among the five national parks in the state. A national park pioneer, it’s also Utah’s most visited national park.
Savor enchanting sandstone cliffs in cream, pink and red beautifully contrasted by green canyon floors. The environment is spectacular in Zion, offering some of America’s best and most famous hikes.
Hiking Zion’s Angels Landing, Observation Point and the Narrows are some of the best things to do in Utah. These awe-inspiring hikes, in the state’s first national park, are eye-popping contenders for all Utah bucket lists.
Do you plan on hiking? Pay attention to that you need a hiking permit for Angels Landing.
Visit: It’s 2.5 hours by car from Las Vegas to Zion National Park. For the best experience, there’s Zion lodging within the national park and in the gateway town of Springdale.
2. Monument Valley
For Monument Valley, the state of Utah shares the glory with Arizona. Where Southern Utah and Northern Arizona collide, this famous red valley leaves visitors, including the most seasoned travelers, in awe.
Here, even masters of geography wonder where in the universe they really are. Defined by red valley floor and giant buttes shooting up towards the sky, Monument Valley Tribal Park is otherworldly.
Do you need more motivation to visit this gorgeous Utah spot?
If so, watch Forrest Gump. In the iconic movie, Monument Valley is where Forrest ends his cross-country run.
Visit: Monument Valley is situated in the middle of nowhere. Check in at a one of the hotels in Monument Valley with valley view to take your stay to the next level.
3. Bryce Canyon National Park
Dotted with peculiar rock formations, called hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park constitutes another unique Utah chapter. Undulating like a rocky forest, its hoodoo population is the planet’s densest.
Magnificent products of erosion, hoodoos typically have a softer base and harder top, or head. Some look like totem poles, while others appear more like mushrooms — your imagination sets the limit.
Among all Bryce’s hoodoos (there are thousands), the most famous one is Thor’s Hammer. It’s THE hoodoo in Bryce Canyon, and the one you especially don’t want to miss.
To reach Thor’s Hammer, just take a short hike down from the main road. The easy hike to the iconic Utah spot is certainly worth every single step.
Visit: Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, under two hours by car apart, is a popular Utah combo. But to capture the full magic of Bryce, a day trip isn’t enough — take advantage of the convenient Bryce accommodations.
4. Capitol Reef National Park
Compared to the heavily frequented Zion and Bryce powerhouses, the humble Capitol Reef National Park offers an under-the-radar experience. But, sometimes the path less traveled turns out to be the best one.
Capitol Reef is unique in the way that it offers both diverse nature and interesting history.
In particular, Fruita Historic District adds a historic dimension to a Capitol Reef visit. As you explore the notable buildings in Fruita, one of them a school house, it’s easy to see why pioneers chose to build a settlement here.
Framed by red cliffs, the thriving Fruita setting is just stunning — this is Utah’s best kept national park secret.
Visit: You find surprisingly many quality Capitol Reef hotels in the tiny gateway town Torrey. Here you bed down just a 15-minute drive from the spellbinding Fruita.
5. Dinosaur National Monument
On today’s border between Utah and Colorado, dinosaurs used to roam in a distant time. When visiting the fascinating Dinosaur National Monument, you get to marvel at their well-preserved remains.
In the Quarry Exhibit Hall, one of the world’s richest dinosaur deposits, visitors can view more than 1,500 dinosaur fossils. Species on display include Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus and Stegosaurus.
Would you like to touch 150 million year old bones? There are some fossils in the extensive dinosaur graveyard that you’re allowed to touch — wow!
You certainly don’t have to be a dino enthusiast to appreciate Dinosaur National Moument. It amazes visitors of all ages and is both one of the most unique and educational places in Utah, and even America.
Visit: Vernal offers great options for where to stay near Dinosaur National Monument. From the Utah town, it’s only 16 miles (26 km) to Dinosaur National Monument Quarry Visitor Center.
6. Canyonlands National Park
Encompassing more than 335,000 acres, Canyonlands National Park is a Utah park with several different faces. Both big and diverse, there are three distinct districts to explore: Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze.
Island in the Sky is the by far most popular district in Canyonlands National Park. It’s easy to visit Island in the Sky from the gateway town of Moab, and paved roads take you to its most scenic spots — lovely.
The Needles is slightly more challenging, while The Maze can be outright dangerous if you come unprepared. Not only is The Maze extremely isolated, but its bumpy roads also demand four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Visit: Moab, 4 hours from Salt Lake City, makes up a paradise for outdoor lovers. It provides the best lodging for Canyonland’s Island in the Sky district, while you might consider Monticello for The Needles excursions.
7. Arches National Park
Boasting a timeless red-rock landscape, Arches National Park has a unique lure. It’s filled with over 2,000 signature arches, each contributing to Arches’ position as one of the most beautiful places in Utah.
But among all those sensational structures, there’s in particular one that stands out: The Delicate Arch. Make sure to bring your camera — this is Arches’ most photographed monument.
For a close-up view, hike the 3-mile (4.8 km) round-trip Delicate Arch Trail.
Too hot for you? The roadside Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint and 0.5-mile (0.8 km) round-trip Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint offer less intimate but also less sweltering views.
Visit: Yes, Moab really is a bucket list destination for adventurers. In addition to being a gateway to Canyonlands National Park, it’s also the best place to stay when visiting Arches National Park.
8. Lake Powell
It’s often called a lake although this, in fact, is a colossal man-made water reservoir. However, no matter if you call it a lake, a reservoir or something else — Lake Powell is one of the most beautiful places in Utah.
A wet oasis in the otherwise dry desert, millions of people travel to Lake Powell each year to enjoy water activities. On the Utah-Arizona border, the tranquil lake offers ideal conditions for boating, kayaking and paddleboarding.
It might be a fake lake, but the fun is certainly real.
Top off life on water with lovely land-based expeditions. In the area, Horseshoe Bend, a unique Colorado River meander, and Antelope Canyon, possibly America’s most photogenic canyon, complete a Lake Powell trip.
Visit: Now you’re really in luck. Where Lake Powell calmly splashes, Page boasts prime access to both Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon.
9. Park City
Sure, red deserts filled with jaw-dropping rock formations is the quintessential Utah landscape. However, Park City represents another side of the Southwest state — a whiter and fluffier such.
7,000 feet (2,134 m) above sea level, the snowy slopes of Park City overwhelms you. The town, frequented by national teams and with Olympic events on its resume, is filled with options for skiing and snowboarding.
After an active day on the slopes, retreat to the cozy downtown area of Park City. Once the hub of a booming mining town, Main Street is lined by historic Victorian buildings, providing the perfect setting for a night out.
Visit: This is one of the most accessible ski hubs in America. Most visitors drive from Salt Lake City, whose downtown area is only 45 minutes from the glistening slopes of Park City
10. Natural Bridges National Monument
At under 8,000 acres (32 km2), Natural Bridges National Monument definitely lacks the scope of Utah’s national parks. However, the acres on display here are, although much fewer, at least as impressive.
Far from the crowds — not many find this Utah gem — drive the 9-mile (14 km) one-way Bridge View Drive. Along the loop, short hikes take you to overlooks showcasing the monument’s biggest drawcards.
In order, savor three eye-popping bridges: Sipapu Bridge, Kachina Bridge and Owachomo Bridge.
The grand final, Owachomo Bridge is the easiest of the three to reach by foot. A 0.5-mile out-and-back trail leads to the base of the bridge, offering one of the most unique Utah perspectives.
Visit: Mexican Hat and Blanding (both about 1 hour away) are the closest towns. For a bigger trip, detouring to Natural Bridges between Monument Valley and Moab adds about 1.5 hours to your total.
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