If you love nature, Utah has got plenty to keep you busy. With five national parks and over 40 state parks offering winter sports, off roading, scenic road trips, horseback riding, golf, mountain climbing, and white-water rafting opportunities, you’ll never run out of new sights to explore or things to do in Utah.
The state also features an abundance of bustling cities–like Salt Lake City, Moab, Monument Valley, and Park City–each with an array of cultural and historical sites and landmarks. Here is just the tip of the mountain of things to do in Utah, catering to all types of travelers.
Get Awestruck at Arches National Park
Wander amongst more than 2,000 arches made of natural stone. This red-rock landscape features scores of titanic balanced rocks, enormous rock fins, and pinnacles reaching for the sky. Perfect for daytime hiking and weekend camping, reservations are required, and between April 1 and October 31, you must receive a timed ticket for entry.
Wander Through a Water Wonderland in Zion National Park
Created by water, Zion is nothing if not a water wonderland in the desert. Featuring rivers, waterfalls, and a constantly shifting landscape, Zion features a plethora of natural diversity, from the lilies, aspen, and elk at its rims to bats, tortoises, and mountain lions in its canyons to tree frogs, cottonwoods, and hummingbirds in its rivers.
Don’t forget to visit the Zion Human History Museum while you’re there.
See Ancient Petroglyphs at Canyonlands National Park
The Colorado and Green Rivers cut this expansive park into three land districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles District, and the Maze District. Featuring 337,598 acres to explore, it’s a good thing the park is open year-round, as it will surely take more than one visit to see in its fullness; fortunately, no reservations or timed-entry tickets are necessary.
Be aware, however, that no roads connect these remote districts, so jaunting between them can take hours to drive. One of the highlights of Canyonlands for many visitors is Newspaper Rock, covered with petroglyphs dating back potentially 2,000 years.
Celebrate a Century of Bryce Canyon National Park
Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023, Bryce is a bastion of pink cliffs, red rocks, and sprawling scenery. It boasts the biggest collection of hoodoos–or irregular rock columns–on the planet. View it all from the high plateau atop the Grand Staircase, where you’ll find a variety of skyscapes, vivid communities of life, and geologic marvels.
Among the highlights of your visit may be Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, Sunrise Point, Black Birch Canyon, Ponderosa Canyon, Natural Bridge, and, of course, the iconic Bryce Amphitheater. Head out along the Mossy Cave Trailhead or the Tropic Trailhead for backcountry hiking and mountain climbing.
Experience Cinematic History at Bonneville Salt Flats
See one of the main location sites where the blockbuster film Independence Day (streaming on Hulu) was shot, including the iconic scene in which Will Smith dragged an unconscious alien in his parachute across the desert. Exactly twenty years later, the site was featured once again in the franchise, this time in the sequel to that alien-invasion classic, “Independence Day: Resurgence.”
In addition to a bit of film lore and one of the most interesting Fourth of July celebrations–UFOs and all–in the world, there you’ll also find the vast white salt crusts rimming the Great Salt Lake that made the site so appealing to the film’s director and cinematographer, to begin with.
Film aficionados may also recognize this barren salt landscape as the place where Pirate Captain Jack Sparrow lugged his gargantuan ship in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, as well as from The Amazing Race, The World’s Fastest Indian, Need for Speed and Con Air.
Get Lost (and Find Yourself) at Coral Pink Sand Dunes
A bit different from the other parks in this list, this site offers 4,000 sprawling acres of virtually nothing but sand dunes. There are many ways to explore this ocean of blush-colored desert, from ATV-ing and backcountry hiking to sandboarding and sledding. Pause at any of a myriad of slot canyons and view spectacular, one-of-a-kind sunsets.
Soak in Mystic Hot Springs
Not technically a park, this natural phenomenon nevertheless invites visitors traveling to or from Escalante to stop, relax for a while and soak their weary bones. The experience is a rustic one, but the soaks are unparalleled, as are the spectacular sunset views they afford.
Other Parks in Utah Worth Visiting
● Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
● The Narrows (part of Zion National Park)
● Dead Horse Point State Park
● Angel’s Landing
● Fantasy Canyon
● Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
● Big Cottonwood Canyon
Learn About The Mormons at Temple Square
The global heart of the Mormon religion, here is where you’ll find the preeminent Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, still holding worship services to this day. The square spans five blocks in Downtown Salt Lake City.
While there, you can view the Christus statue, the 19th-century Beehive House, the Brigham Young Family Cemetery, and the historical Salt Lake Assembly Hall.
Explore museums, libraries, concerts, events, activities, exhibits, and free self-guided tours, and if your timing is right, even witness the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing.
Go Back in Time at Anasazi State Park Museum
If you’re traveling through South Central Utah, you can leap back in time to explore an ancient Puebloan Village and see how the people of this place lived way back then. One of the largest communities of its kind west of the Colorado River, it is believed to have been occupied in about 1050 AD.
Trace the unearthed stone walls to orient yourself in this village while plumbing the 100 excavated buildings and artifacts. It may only be six acres in size, but it’s packed with history and culture.
Learn About Native Cultures at the Natural History Museum of Utah
Directly east of Salt Lake City’s University of Utah campus, this museum features both temporary and permanent exhibits, ensuring each and every visit offers something new to see.
Among the permanent exhibits are Native Voices, bringing to life the experiences of the eight Native American tribes federally recognized in the state, and the Life exhibit, where you can learn about the rich biodiversity of Utah and its three distinctive regions: the Middle Rocky Mountains, the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range.
Attend the Sundance Film Festival
Another matter of timing, visitors to Salt Lake City, Park City, and Sundance Mountain Resort during the start of every year can also be among the first to view the next big box office hits like “The Blair Witch Project,” “Saw” and “Get Out,” which all premiered there.
Just be sure to book your stay well in advance, as the 10-day festival attracts some 100,000 film fans each year.
Experience the Utah Arts Festival
Taking place every summer, this three-day, outdoor art festival is the largest in the state and features a wide range of visual and performance art, including documentary screenings, poetry readings, storytelling sessions, and music and dance performances.
Held in Salt Lake City, the event attracts some 70,000 art lovers each year.
Roam Salt Lake City
More than the hub of American Mormonism and the site of the Great Salt Lake, this bustling urban enclave also offers visitors the esteemed Natural History Museum of Utah and Utah Museum of Fine Arts as well as Red Butte Garden, with its enormous botanical garden and amphitheater.
Breweries like the Fisher Brewing Company, Kiitos Brewing, and Bewilder Brewing Co. abound, while families can enjoy the Redwood Drive-in Theatre and the Hogle Zoo.
Enjoy Winter in Park City
Don’t miss the snowmobiling tours of Thousand Peaks, and make sure to hit Deer Valley, Utah Olympic Park, High West Distillery, and Alpine Coaster and Slide while you’re in town.
There’s even a historic downtown center with multifarious boutiques, cafes, theaters, galleries, and pubs. Getting down to what makes Park City most famous and such a popular tourist site, however, is of course its skiing.
The Park City Mountain Resort is the biggest ski resort in the United States, featuring over 330 trails spanning 7,300 skiable acres. To ski without the presence of snowboarders sharing your slopes, there’s also Deer Valley Resort, where that activity is prohibited.
Check Out Provo
This home to BYU (Brigham Young University) includes the BYU Museum of Art, the BYU Museum of Paleontology, and the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum.
As a college town, there are plenty of sporting events and eateries to enjoy, while it’s also only a brief jaunt to the Wasatch Mountains where you can hike Rock Canyon Trail, Lost Creek Falls Trail, and the “Y” Mountain Trail.
You can also boat in the state’s grandest freshwater lake in Utah State Park or take in the rushing, 600-foot high waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls.
Play in Logan
Found in Cache Valley, Logan is a lesser-known hub of the state filled with endless arts, heritage, recreation, dining, shopping, and lodging opportunities; there are even activities, entertainment, and events for the whole family.
Enjoy the Artists’ Gallery, the Winborg Masterpieces Gallery, and the USU Sculpture Walk. Explore the American West Heritage Center, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museums, the Museum of Anthropology, the Intermountain Herbarium, and the USU Geology Museum.
In addition to all the outdoor activities you can imagine–from fishing and hunting to soaking in hot tubs to motorized and horseback Logan Canyon tours-indoor activities here for all ages include Cache Valley Fun Park and the Elevation Rock Gym, Heber Hatchets Axe Throwing, George S. Eccles Ice Center; there’s also a public shooting range, archery tag and Nerf tag, a bowling alley, a trampoline park, and a virtual golfing experience.
Release Your Inner Child in Davis
This town boasts being “Utah’s Amusement Capital,” playing home to the Lagoon family-friendly theme park, the only one in Utah and the largest in the nation, as well as the family-owned Cherry Hill amusement park, the Rush Funplex, the Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park, the interactive SeaQuest aquarium and the indoor and outdoor fun offered at the Boondocks.
Foodies visiting Davis will enjoy a buffet of over 400 mouth-watering restaurants. Davis is also where you’ll find Antelope Island State Park. Get your sports fix at the Legacy Events Center, enjoy camping at Davis’s many campgrounds and RV parks, check out scheduled events at the Davis County Conference Center, and shopping galore at the likes of Station Park, Layton Hills Mall, and Bountiful Main Street.
Relax and Recuperate in Moab
More than just the place where you stay when you’re visiting Canyonlands or Arches National Park, this quaint, historic town is also a tourist destination in its own right, featuring Native American art and artisanry, a delightful array of cafes, barbecue grills, and food trucks and, of course, additional outdoor activities for those who still have more fuel in their engine after visiting the major nearby outdoor adventure lands.
Ski the State
It’s impossible to explore things to do in Utah without noting one of the greatest reasons people visit the state: to ski. Some of those highlights, which also offer endless snowboarding opportunities, include:
- Utah Olympic Park in Park City
- Alta Ski Area and Albion Basin Trails in Alta
- Powder Mountain
- Brian Head
- Beaver Mountain
- Deer Valley
- Eagle Point
- Nordic Valley
Traverse countless trails, slopes, and runs for all levels of experience and intensity, then warm yourself by a fire with delectable food, beverages, and delicacies. Most of Utah’s ski resorts also offer plenty to keep the youngsters and non-skiers in your party entertained.