The state of Utah derives its name from Ute – the folk name of its native inhabitants. Utah has a particularly interesting geographic location, as the state includes major portions of the Colorado Plateau (in the southeast) as well as of the Basin and Range Province. The state is home to several natural wonders and has plenty to offer culturally and historically.
Most of the state is characterized by dry steppe climate and has a relatively high elevation above sea level. The highest mountain is Kings Peak in the northeast. The state capital, Salt Lake City, is a magnet for visitors, both for its abundance of opportunities to practice various winter sports and for its numerous cultural attractions.
Below we present 16 of the most exciting places in the state of Utah, which ensure that thousands of tourists visit the state year after year. Utah is home to a number of National Monuments, which are cultural and natural sites and attractions that are of special significance to the state’s history.
16. Lake Powell
Lake Powell is a reservoir formed as a damming of the Colorado River and is a tourist hub for travelers in the state of Utah. Nearby is the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon and the picturesque Monument Valley on the Colorado Plateau. The sunny and dry Arizona climate around the lake attracts an average of three million tourists a year. The lake has several marinas. A ferry runs regularly between the ports of Bullfrog and Halls Crossing.
Would you like to stay on a cozy houseboat in the lake or one of the campgrounds on land – Lake Powell offers something for every taste.
The largest natural stone bridge in the world, Rainbow Bridge, is located in the lake area and is difficult to reach by land, but can be admired from close up by excursion boats. The range of activities around and in Lake Powell is inexhaustible – from excursions by boat and helicopter, to fishing, hiking and horseback riding, to golf and water sports events.
15. Antelope Island
Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. The island rises majestically. The highest point is at 2011 meters above sea level with Frary Peak. The island can be reached within three quarters of an hour from Salt Lake City. Antelope Island has a causeway a little over 11 kilometers long and is therefore accessible by car. Several sandy beaches are available to visitors here. Most of these are equipped with picnic areas and restrooms. If you want to spend the night here or stay a little longer, this is no problem – the island is open to camping fans and offers a variety of accommodation.
The island is a popular destination especially among Utah residents, yet large crowds of tourists usually stay away. By entering the island you dive into a completely different world. Around the island, the so-called salt pans can be explored and marveled at. You can observe antelopes and bison in the wild. The beautiful landscapes offer excellent opportunities for the most beautiful photos and video shots. The mountainous center of the island offers many opportunities for longer hiking tours. Well-maintained, picturesque sandy beaches invite you to soak up the sun.
14. Dead Horse Point State Park
Just over 50 km west of Moab is Dead Horse Point State Park. One of the most fascinating state parks, it offers many opportunities for picture and video shooting. The canyon landscape is the result of geological processes that have lasted several million years. Impacts of archaic oceans, freshwater lakes and water sources formed the particular landscapes in the course of geo evolution.
Here and there, large mountains of volcanic origin rise to the heights. In the past, due to a favorable circumstance, the area was used as a catch pen for wild horses. Hence the name Dead Horse Point. Hunters chased the wild animals to the plateau through a narrow passage and fenced off the entrance with branches and twigs.
From Dead Horse Point, visitors enjoy a sweeping panorama of the canyon landscape and the Colorado River, which lies about 600 meters below. The river makes an almost 180 degree turn around the outstanding Dead Horse.
The state park has been a frequent filming location for Holywood productions. For example, the movie Thelma and Louise was shot here, and Mission Impossible II also used the location as a backdrop.
It is also possible to stay overnight in the park: on one of the campsites in the park or in one of the yurts you can of course spend a longer vacation here. Besides hiking on well-equipped trails, you can also ride mountain bike routes in the park.
Moab is a town located on the Colorado Plateau at an elevation of over 1200 meters above sea level. The town and surrounding area are ideal for hikers and nature enthusiasts due to your scenic location overlooking canyon backdrops. Nearby are Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. The nearby Slickrock Trail is a popular route for mountain bikers and is located a few miles east of Moab.
Arches Park is home to countless stone arches, which also give the park its name. The park was added to the list of National Monuments over 90 years ago.
In the immediate vicinity is Canyonlands Park, which is naturally divided into three parts by deeply cut canyons: Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze. Spectacular sunrises and sunsets can be observed here. The Colorado River invites canoe trips and campsites are available to spend the night in a tent under the stars. In Moab, which is heavily tourist-oriented, travelers will also find plenty of accommodations to suit every taste and class.
12. Park City
Park City was first established as a mining town. The population increased rapidly at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, as many new industries had emerged. Nowadays, the city has rediscovered its image as a desirable winter sports destination.
Annually, Park City also hosts the Sundance Film Festival in the winter.
The city is also home to the largest accumulation of outlet stores. Therefore, shopping trips are a common pastime among visitors and residents of the city. Since Park City has a distinctly high location, about 2100m above sea level, it is much cooler here in the summer than in neighboring cities. Therefore, the city is often used by Salt Lake City residents as a resort to escape the heat.
11. Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is the capital and the most populous city in Utah. It is known to most as the home of the Mormon Church and the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics. It has established itself as a vacation destination for skiing and outdoor sports.East of the city is the Wasatch Range. The mountain range is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders. Known as a distinctly green city, Salt Lake City is home to 85 urban parks.
The city also has plenty to offer culturally. In addition to the Museum of Church History, visitors to the city will also find a planetarium, the state’s art museum the Utah Museum of Fine Arts or even the Natural History Museum. The city has several theater venues and concert halls, also several music festivals are held regularly in Salt Lake City, such as the Utah Pride Festival and the Dark Arts Festival.
Last but not least, the city is home to architectural landmarks such as the Utah State Capitol, the Salt Lake Temple and the County Building.
10. Capitol Reef National Park
Located in southern Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is an insider’s paradise with an extensive network of hiking trails.
The centerpiece of the park is the Waterpocket Fold, a monoclinal fold about 150 km long. It is the result of a plateau uplift of tectonic strata at an altitude of up to 2000 m. Visitors will find numerous accommodations in and around the park, such as campgrounds, hotels, motels and more.
The park attracts many mountain bikers and can also be explored on foot or by car. Guided jeep tours can be booked on site. Several local clubs offer the opportunity to participate in a guided tour here. There is a wide range of activities to choose from. From family trips, to fishing, photography or participate in a wildlife hunt. Visitors can explore these experience offers on site or also reserve in advance.
In Canyonlands park, you can explore myriad canyon landscapes created by the impact of the Colorado River and its tributaries. The park is divided by its rivers into three areas or territories: The Sky, The Needles, The Maze. The separate areas appear adjacent on the map, yet there are no land connections between the areas and the only connections are through marked places where the river can be crossed. The rivers themselves offer a good opportunity to get to know the park by canoe or rafting.
The park has a long history and its territory has been inhabited and traveled for over 10.000 years. The US writer Edward Abbey visited the area of the present park very often and described it as unique and magical in his works. The park has a diverse fauna and flora. For example, the rare pronghorn, which only appears to be similar to an antelope, but biologically is an entirely different species.
8. Homestead Crater
Homestead Crater is a natural geothermal spring in Midway, Utah. It is surrounded by a stone dome. The hot spring is about 10.000 years old. The place has always attracted recreation seekers. Meanwhile, the crater has become a center of attraction for snorkelers and divers due to the ever-warm water.
The stone dome was formed throughout the history of Homestead Crater as a result of sediment deposition. The site has served as a backdrop for the movie 127 hours by Danny Boyle.
Fresh air enters through the opening of the dome, while the interior temperature remains constantly warm due to the hot spring. For this reason, it is not a problem to visit the natural phenomenon in summer as well as in the cold season.
7. Arches National Park
Arches National Park is a national park located in the north of the Colorado Plateau in the state of Utah. It is home to a variety of natural stone arches that are continually formed and eroded as a result of weathering. The park has over 2000 stone arches that have an opening of at least 90 cm. The park covers an area of 300 km², from the banks of the Colorado River. The average altitude is about 1500 m above sea level.
6. Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in southwestern Utah. Over two million tourists visit the park’s fascinating landscapes every year.
There is not just one canyon landscape to marvel at here, but a series of natural amphitheaters. They contain striking stone formations, also known as hoodos. These are formed as a result of erosion of stone plateaus.
It is recommended to visit the park for at least a full day, but if you would like to stay here longer, this would not be a problem. You can stay at the numerous campgrounds in the park or at the hotel in the Bryce Canyon area.
5. Zion National Park
This fascinating canyon park is located on the border with the state of Arizona. Geographically particularly contrasting, here high plateaus with a subalpine climate border low-lying canyon gorges with a dry desert climate. The park has varied vegetation and abundant wildlife. For example, cottontail rabbit,dipper, variegated hawk, cougar, gray fox, cat fox, bobcat.
4. Monument Valley
Monument Valley has often been the backdrop for the production of many western movies and is considered the symbol of the US western par excellence. The valley is not particularly large, with an area of 13 square kilometers, but it attracts millions of visitors year after year. Monument Valley is a part of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation is 1500 to 1800 meters above sea level. As a result of the natural erosion of the sandstone, the strangest shapes can be seen here. These scenic areas also serve as landmarks for U.S. cinematography.
3. Bonneville Salt Flats
In northwestern Utah are the Bonneville Salt Flats, which originate from an ancient lake of the Pleistocene era. Nearly 150 million tons of salt lie here in an area of about 150 square kilometers. Motorcycle races have been held here since the beginning of the last century, and year after year several thousand visitors admire the fascinating area. The Salt Flats are named after Benjamin Bonneville, who explored the place in the 1830s.
Kanab is county seat of Kane County in Utah. The city is known as Little Hollywood. In fact, the city has often served as a backdrop for several western movies. Kanab is located on the western Colorado Plateau. Kanab has both cultural and natural attractions to offer its visitors.
Here are for example the Kanab Heritage House Museum and the Little Hollywood Movie Museum. Moqui Cave is an archaeological museum built in a natural cave in the sandstone. Dinosaur prints, ancient fossils and more can be discovered here. A variety of state parks, including Old Paria, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Paria River Canyon round out the offerings.
1. Gooseneck State Park
Gooseneck State Park is located not far from Monument Valley. Unlike most state parks, there is no visitor center here and you can visit this attraction anytime without making an appointment. Here you have the opportunity from a high vantage point, about 1500m above sea level, to experience the unusual riverbed of the San Juan River, which winds back and forth here in large arcs within a short aerial distance of 1.6 km. On the sandstone you can also see how the river has dug itself deeper and deeper into the plateau over thousands of years. The path to the viewpoint is marked and visitors can also use a simply equipped campsite.