If you follow us over on Instagram then you know we’ve spent a lot of time exploring Utah. Today, I’m excited to share 18 of our favorite Utah bucket list destinations with you!
Utah is one of our favorite states to explore because of the many things to do, and the vast differences you’ll find from place to place. From sand dunes and slot caverns to hoodoos and arches, Utah is sure to impress. We spent the majority of our time in southern Utah, so naturally, that is where most of this list is located. We are hoping to explore northern Utah more in-depth in the future!
National parks that should be on your Utah bucket list – “The Mighty 5”
Utah holds 5 incredible national parks often referred to as “The Mighty 5”. They all cost between $20-35 to visit each park, or you can invest in a yearly America the Beautiful national park pass for $80 which will get you access to over 2,000 recreation sites across the United States.
One thing to keep in mind when visiting these national parks is that dogs are not allowed on most (if not all) of the hiking trails. Make sure to plan ahead if you are traveling with pets and find somewhere safe for them to stay if you are planning on doing any hiking.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is easily one of our favorite places in Utah. In fact, it’s one of our favorite national parks from all of our travels so far! The park boasts over 2,000 natural rock arches that are each beautifully unique. Some of our personal favorites were the Window Arches, Double Arches, Landscape Arch, and Sand Dune Arch.
In addition to the beautiful arches, the park also offers towering spires, balancing rocks, and plenty of rock climbing and exploring! There are also offroad trails for Jeeps although ATVs and OHVs are not allowed in the park.
You’ll want to give yourself several days to explore Arches National Park if you’re able. Below are a few of our favorite hiking recommendations for your visit to Arches National Park:
- Double Arch Trail (easy 0.6 miles roundtrip)
- Park Avenue Trail (easy 1.8 miles roundtrip)
- Sand Dune Arch Trail (easy 0.3 miles roundtrip)
- Landscape Arch Trail (easy 1.9 miles roundtrip)
- Broken Arch Trail (easy 1.7 miles roundtrip)
- Balanced Rock Loop Trail (easy 0.3 miles roundtrip)
- Windows Loop and Turret Arch Trail (easy 1.2 miles roundtrip)
Click here to read about the top 8 hiking trails in Arches National Park!
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most unique national parks and is gorgeous! Once again, this park makes it into the list of our Utah bucket list favorites for sure! One of the best things about this park? It contains the largest concentration of hoodoos found anywhere on Earth. How awesome is that?!
We have been lucky enough to visit Bryce during three different seasons. Fall, winter, and summer. Although it is always beautiful, winter was especially appealing to us. Not only are the crowds lower, but the contrast of the white snow on the orange and red hoodoos was stunning!
Although most of the park can be seen in a full day, we recommend staying for 2-3 days if you can. You can take a horseback ride down into the hoodoos, go on a bike ride, or of course, hike one of the amazing trails the park has to offer.
Below are a few of our favorite hiking recommendations for your visit to Bryce Canyon National Park:
- Navajo Loop Trail (moderate 1.5 miles roundtrip)
- Peekaboo Loop Trail (moderate 5.2 miles roundtrip)
- Wall Street & Queen’s Garden Loop Trail (moderate 3.2 miles roundtrip)
- Bristlecone Loop Trail (easy 1-mile roundtrip)
- Mossy Cave Trail (easy 1-mile roundtrip)
Find even more bucket list National Park hikes here!
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is unique and very different from any of the other national parks we’ve visited. The Fruita Valley (considered the heart of Capitol Reef) was first settled by Mormon settlers in the 1800s. Many of the original buildings are still in use today. When visiting Fruita, make sure to stop at the Gifford House for amazing homemade goodies including scrumptious pies! Personally, I liked the apple pies best.
We found a beautiful boondocking location right outside of the park and stayed for a few days. A few of the most common activities in the park are biking, wildlife viewing, visiting petroglyphs, and horse riding.
There is also plenty of great hiking in Capitol Reef National Park. Below are a few of our favorite hiking recommendations for your visit to Capitol Reef National Park:
- Cassidy Arch Trail (moderate 3.1 miles roundtrip)
- Grand Wash Trail (you can hike as much or as little of this as you’d like to)
- Capitol Gorge Trail (moderate 4.5 miles roundtrip)
- Capitol Reef Petroglyph Trail (easy 0.3 miles roundtrip)
- Panorama Point (easy 0.3 miles roundtrip)
- Goosenecks & Sunset Point (easy 2.5 miles roundtrip)
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of the top 10 most visited national parks in the USA with over 5 million visitors last year alone. Because of the popularity of the park, they have currently implemented a shuttle system and visitors are not allowed to drive personal vehicles on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive during shuttle operations from May 22 to September 18.
You are still able to drive the main road (Hwy 9) through the park, but most of the scenic locations and popular hiking trails can only be reached by shuttle. There is currently no additional fee to ride the park shuttle, but you will have to pay the park entrance fee if you do not have a national park pass.
There are a lot of incredible hiking trails in Zion National Park but below are just a few of the most popular ones:
- Angel’s Landing (hard 4.4 miles roundtrip)
- Narrows Bottom-Up to Big Springs (hard 8.9 miles roundtrip)
- Narrows Riverside Walk (easy 1.9 miles roundtrip)
- Emerald Pools (moderate 3.0 miles roundtrip)
- The Watchman Trail (moderate 3.1 miles roundtrip)
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is the park to visit if you are hoping to avoid crowds. It is one of the lesser-visited Utah national parks but it boasts some incredible views of the surrounding area. After visiting Grand Canyon National Park, it wasn’t quite as impressive, but it’s still worth a visit, especially if you are already in the area.
You won’t need as much time at this national park unless you are planning on hiking some of the longer trails. We easily saw everything we wanted to see in the park in just a few hours. The most popular park activities are the viewpoints and the hiking trails.
Below are a few of the most popular trails in Canyonlands National Park:
- Mesa Arch (easy 0.7 miles roundtrip)
- Grand View Point Trail (easy 1.8 miles roundtrip)
- White Rim Overlook (easy 1.8 miles roundtrip)
- Aztec Butte Trail (moderate 1.7 miles roundtrip)
- Druid Arch Trail (moderate 10.4 miles roundtrip)
Find even more bucket list National Park hikes here!
State parks that should be on your Utah bucket list
Utah state parks typically charge between $10-30 per day or you can also buy an annual Utah state parks pass for $100 if you’re a Utah resident or $150 if you’re from out-of-state. There are currently 43 state parks in Utah. We haven’t been able to visit all of them yet, but here are a few of our favorites.
Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is another destination that should make the top of your Utah bucket list! The park is almost like a giant playground with endless hoodoos to play in and explore.
You can purchase a permit to fly a drone for $5 and dogs are allowed which makes this an even more appealing place to visit for dog parents like us! We actually made a short YouTube video about this park which you can watch below.
Seriously, do yourself a favor and add this one to your Utah bucket list!
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
The sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is true to the name, a beautiful vibrant coral color! There are many activities in the park including sandboarding, ATVing, and hiking. We booked an ATV tour with Kanab Tour Company and riding through the sand dunes was so fun! We even had the chance to try sandboarding on the dunes. I have horrible balance so I just ended up embarrassing myself the whole time haha!
You are also able to purchase a drone permit for $5 which we did. However, be aware that sometimes there is more wind out on the dunes than it first appears. We had some trouble with our drone due to the wind.
There is also nice camping in the park with shower houses and other amenities. However, there is poor to no cell service in the park so don’t plan to stay if you need to be connected.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park is located just outside of Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah. It is a great alternative if you are traveling with pets as dogs are allowed. The viewpoints in this park are incredible!
There are also hiking trails and biking and horseback riding are also popular. We didn’t spend very long at this park since we were on a tight schedule but it was worth the stop for the views.
Other Utah bucket list destinations
The Up House
Have you ever seen the cute Disney/Pixar movie, Up? It’s about a man named Carl who goes on a grand adventure to visit Paradise Falls in his flying house! There is a house nearby Salt Lake City, Utah that is an exact replica of Carl and Ellie’s house and it’s super cute!
The house is in a residential neighborhood and actually has people living there. You can’t go inside but visitors are encouraged to stop by for a quick picture from the outside! You can find the address on Google Maps here. Is this a super amazing place that you should go out of your way to visit? Probably not haha! But it is a fun little stop if you’re already in the area.
The Moqui Caverns
These sand caves are located just off U.S. 89 outside of Kanab, Utah. You used to be able to park on the side of the highway and hike up to them but due to growing popularity, you now have to park in a parking lot down the road and hike further in.
We took Cap with us and he loved it! Once you make it up to the caves there are several openings and you can explore back into them a little bit. The sand is also fun to play in. We recommend coming early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid having a lot of people in your photos.
Before I tell you too much about Toquerville Falls, I must warn you. The road to get to the falls is very (and I mean very) rough. You must have a high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle to make it. We almost got stuck with our Jeep and passed three vehicles that were broken down due to the road conditions. The worst part is the first few miles and then it smooths out from there.
Most people actually drive ATVs to get to the falls. You can even drive across them once you get to the top if you want to. The falls are beautiful and are quite rewarding once you reach them. If you’re up for the drive, add this to your Utah bucket list!
Peekaboo Slot Canyon
Another one of our favorite places in Utah is Peekaboo Slot Canyon. This canyon is absolutely breathtaking and was a blast to explore! It is located just outside of Kanab, Utah, and is reached either by an 8-mile roundtrip hike or by driving in with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
It’s not as easily accessible as some of the other slot canyons in Utah and as a result, it’s not as overrun by tourists. When we visited near the end of October we only saw a few other people there. This was our favorite slot canyon so far in all of our travels!
We chose to book an ATV tour with Kanab Tour Company to reach the slot canyon and it was so much fun! You can read all about our experience ATVing to Peekaboo Slot Canyon here.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
I’ll be honest, this was not originally on our list, but we were driving by and decided to stop in. And I have to say, we were pleasantly surprised by what we found! Cedar Breaks National Monument has incredible views that reminded us of Bryce Canyon National Park!
At over 10,000 feet in elevation, the weather was unexpectedly cool in the summer. There were even still patches of snow in the park! We didn’t have much time to spend since we were just passing through, but we plan to go back and visit again in the future.
Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds! The Belly of the Dragon is located on U.S. 89 outside of Kanab, Utah, and is actually a culvert that runs under the road. Over time, water has eroded the sand walls and has created an ominous passageway that is super fun to explore!
You can continue on through the other side and hike through the wash for a while. We even did a little rock climbing! This is a neat spot and is great for kids and dogs to explore as well.
Read our Complete Guide to Visiting Belly of the Dragon here!
There is also a great free campground right next to the Belly of the Dragon that we tent camped at for 2 nights. You can watch our short review of the area and see more of the passageway in our Youtube video below.
The toadstool hoodoos are located in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument area outside of Kanab, Utah. There is a short 1.8-mile roundtrip hike to reach the hoodoos. It’s a really fun hike including a few rock scrambles. Dogs are also allowed on this hike which is a great bonus.
Although not quite as impressive as some of the other hoodoos Utah has to offer, they are still worth a stop. We did this hike on a Saturday in the summer and surprisingly only saw 3 other hikers. I’m not sure if we just lucked out or if that is common, but it was a great stop and we fully enjoyed it.
Monument Valley is just barely inside of southern Utah on the Arizona border. This is a popular stop as many movies have been shot in the area. We stopped through on our way from Moab, Utah to the Grand Canyon.
The landscape is very unique and beautiful! We recommend stopping by even if you only grab a few quick pictures. Visit early in the day to avoid crowds and get a picture without anyone else in it. Be sure and stay safe and watch for vehicles.
Wire Pass is a great slot canyon trail in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. It does not require a permit, but there is a fee of $5 per person. Dogs are also allowed on this hike.
The hike is 3.7 miles round trip and much of the distance is in a wash with no shade at all. The sun can be brutal especially in the summer so make sure that you bring plenty of water and avoid hiking during the heat of the day if you can.
As you can see above, once you get to the slot canyon the passageways are narrow and there is some maneuvering required, including the iconic wooden ladder. This was a great hike and we really enjoyed it!
The Red Canyon is located in Dixie National Forest just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Unlike Bryce Canyon, dogs are allowed to hike in Red Canyon. There are beautiful red hoodoos that make this area gorgeous and worth the stop.
We enjoyed hiking the Hoodoo and Pink Ledges Trails with our dogs when we visited last. Be sure and stop by the visitor center for a map and information on everything that you can do in the area.
And that’s a wrap!
I hope that you’ve found these Utah bucket list destinations inspiring for your next Utah road trip! Which of these places will you be adding to your Utah bucket list? Drop a comment below and let me know!