When it comes to scenery and the great outdoors, Utah is one of the most impressive parts of the United States. As a state which boasts incredible expanses of desert, rugged snowy mountains and famously spectacular night skies – so if you’re planning a vacation that will allow you to experience the best of the West, a vacation in Utah is a great idea.
And it’s not just the stunning landscape that makes Utah such a perfect place for a vacation in the western USA: Utah is also home to some of the most enchanting small towns in this part of the country, where old western architecture and dusty streets are set against a backdrop of orange rock and open plains to create an iconic and unique image.
If the small town scene isn’t really what you’re looking for, the state capital – Salt Lake City – is a constant center of energy and activity. With lots to see and do, great restaurants, luxurious hotels and excellent nightlife, Salt Lake City is a city-lover’s dream.
With such variety in terms of activities and places to visit, Utah really is the perfect place to choose for your next vacation. Below are seven places you should be sure not to miss in this diverse and exciting state.
Zion National Park
It’s easy to work out why Zion is one of the most famous of Utah’s national parks. A great place for both casual tourists and more serious adventurers, the park is home to the incredible Zion Canyon, a deep and narrow gorge carved by the Virgin River. The history of this part of the United States stretches way back, and it’s thought that the first visitors to this area came looking for food. Today, huge numbers of people pass through Zion simply to marvel at its stunning red rock cliffs and enjoy over 200 square miles of wilderness and dramatic landscapes.
Whether you want to hike, cycle, drive or simply use the shuttle bus to find somewhere nice for a picnic, Zion is a great all-around destination.
To most Utahns, Vernal means one thing: dinosaurs. Utah is known across the United States as a haven for dinosaur enthusiasts, with many fossils and bones having been found in the state. Nowhere in Utah is the state’s connection with dinosaurs so obvious as Vernal, home to the Dinosaur National Monument and the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum.
Vernal is proud to be home to one of the largest collections of Jurassic fossils in the entire world, and many people come from all across the country to explore the dinosaur quarry at the Dinosaur National Monument. For those for whom dinosaurs simply aren’t all that interesting, Vernal has plenty more to offer: the city is also the gateway to Flaming Gorge National Recreational Area, where you can enjoy water sports or fishing amidst stunning natural scenery.
Bryce Canyon National Park
One of the most visually impressive natural parks in the entire country, Bryce Canyon attracts professional photographers, serious hikers and casual tourists alike due to its otherworldly landscape. The canyon’s distinctive hoodoos are rich in color and create a dramatic spectacle, and the other red rock formations combine to create an image that is as unbelievable as it is iconic.
Spend the day taking a casual stroll around the rim and marveling at the unique scenery before sitting beneath the amazing night sky – at Bryce Canyon is also one of the top places around to view the clear and awe-inspiring skies that Utah is famous for.
Goblin Valley State Park
If the scenery at Bryce Canyon has got your excited about landscapes that seem to have come from outer space, you’ll love Goblin Valley State Park. The area has frequently been used as a double for the landscape of other planets in movies, and its small sandstone rock formations (‘goblins’) truly do give visitors the feeling that they’ve somehow been transported to the surface of Mars.
In many places the rock formations are very close together, producing a sort of natural maze for children to explore – everywhere the experience of wandering through the formations is fascinating and completely surreal. A strange and entirely unique landscape, Goblin Valley is a place that once visited is never forgotten!
If you’re more interested in the culture and history of the state than its abundant natural treasures, head to Salt Lake City for a huge variety of things to see and do. Perhaps the most obvious place to visit for culture enthusiasts, and one of Utah’s most popular tourist attractions, is Temple Square.
Owned by the LDS Church, this 10 acre complex in the heart of Salt Lake City is one of the most iconic places in the entire state. Salt Lake Temple, located in Temple Square, is the largest LDS temple by floor area and is architecturally stunning. Dedicated in 1893, it has become a powerful symbol not just of the LDS Church and of Salt Lake City, but of the entire state of Utah.
The complex frequently attracts almost as many visitors in a year as do all of Utah’s national parks combined, and consistently attracts more visitors than the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. So for a true glimpse of what Utah and its history are all about, Temple Square should be right at the top of your list!