Utah is home to sooo many amazing things to see, do, and experience that there is obviously no way I can fit all of them into this post. Of course, Utah is known for its five amazing national parks.
However, as a Utah native, I’m going to do my best to fill you in on loads of Utah’s hidden gems that you’ve got to experience. This list of best places to visit in Utah covers the whole state starting in northern, central and then southern Utah.
So many of these places to visit are perfect for families, couples, or solo travelers. Between breathtaking vistas, sandstone hoodoos, spectacular salt flats (and a million other amazing things), everyone will find something they like in Utah!
Map of Unique Things to do in Utah:
*Use this map to create your perfect Utah itinerary with all of Utah’s hidden gems*
Things to do in Northern Utah
1. Mantua Poppy Fields
The Mantua Poppy field is a lovely area in a small town called Mantua (pronounced man-away), about one hour north of Salt Lake City. It makes a great stop on your way to Logan, a day trip from Salt Lake, or you can even make a weekend of it by camping at the nearby Box Elder Campground.
The peak time to see the Mantua poppies in bloom is usually the end of May-early June. Around dusk you may find a lot of photographers visiting with you, however, earlier in the day may result in a poppy field a little less crowded. While you’re there, visit Mantua Reservoir for fishing, swimming, and other water activities.
Utah is also home to another poppy field in Alpine. You can find more information about the Alpine poppies here.
2. Snowbasin Resort
When most people think of ski resorts in Utah, their first thought is Park City. However, just a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City in beautiful Ogden Valley rests a resort called Snowbasin that has not only great skiing but amazing summer activities as well like scenic gondola rides, hiking, mountain biking, mini-golf, and yoga.
My favorite thing to do at Snowbasin Resort in the summer is to ride the Needles Gondola up the mountain for endless mountain and valley views. Once at the top, you can hike on their variety of trails including the three hiking-only trails that lead to the crest of the ridge for breathtaking views of the valley below. Keep your eyes open for mountain goats, moose, and other wildlife!
You can pick up food from Needles Lodge at the top or pack your own picnic for a scenic lunch overlooking the valley. A great picnic spot is located off the blue Needles Trail above Moonshine Trees on Snowbasin’s Summer Trail Map. This breathtaking area is indicated with a picnic table icon.
Keep your eyes on their website for their summer full moon lift rides as well! It’s an event you’ve got to experience. Ride the Needles Gondola up at dusk for sunset views then you get to admire the moon through telescopes provided at the top. My husband and I did this when we were dating and you can’t ask for a better night out.
Check out this post: 16 Best Hiking Shoes, Boots, and Sandals for Women
3. Albion Basin
Hiking and strolling through Albion Basin is one of the best things to do in the summer in Utah. Albion Basin is located at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City above Alta and Snowbird ski resorts resting at 9,500 feet. The drive alone through Little Cottonwood is something you’ve got to do, but then add on Albion Basin and your day will be perfect.
Every July and August, Albion Basin turns into a spectacular wildflower-viewing area where you can go hiking, biking, and camping. An easy hiking trail for all skill levels with gorgeous wildflowers is the Albion Meadows Trail. Or another great trail option, rated as moderate, is the Cecret Lake Trail with both wildflower views and a gorgeous high-mountain lake.
You can find information on Albion Basin Campground here.
check out this post: Summer Camping Gear Essentials for First-Timers
4. Antelope Island
Antelope Island is the largest island in Utah’s Great Salt Lake which is the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere. The lake’s salt content is so high that you may be able to float in the water! You can also rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards on the island. Along with enjoying the water, you can also go hiking, biking and wildlife viewing (with some of the best birding in the country).
A great, easy hike is the Buffalo Point Trail which takes you to the top of a hill with beautiful views and fun rocks to scramble on. If you are looking for a longer, more strenuous trail, the Frary Peak Trail will take you to the peak of the tallest mountain on the island with stunning views along the way.
One of the most unique aspects of Antelope Island (besides the crazy salty water) is that you can see free-roaming bison and antelope herds! Remember, do not approach the bison. And you can learn more about the wildlife of the island at the visitor center.
*Take note that during the warm months, Antelope Island can be crazy buggy. Like you will not have fun because of all the bugs flying around. However, you can call the visitors center to see what the current conditions are.
5. Red Fleet State Park
Right in the heart of Utah’s Dinosaurland you’ll find beautiful Red Fleet State Park. Red Fleet features a picturesque reservoir where red rocks meet the water plus loads of amazing dinosaur tracks to see! The water is perfect for floating, kayaking, boating and fishing or you can just relax on the rocks and soak up some serious Vitamin D!
The dinosaur tracks at Red Fleet are thought to be more than 200 million years old and are preserved in the Navajo sandstone surrounding the lake! Paleontologists say the dinosaurs were three-toed and walked on two legs and their tracks range from 3 inches-17 inches. Isn’t that nuts to think about these dinos roaming the same area you are now hiking and camping? You can see the tracks on the Dinosaur Trackway Trail or from the lake if you have a kayak or paddle-board to approach the area.
Red Fleet is a 3-hour drive from both Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. You can either camp at Red Fleet Campground or there are plenty of Airbnbs and hotels in Vernal which is only about 20 minutes away.
6. Dinosaur National Monument
When in Utah, you must do something dinosaur-related. Dinosaur National Monument is an amazing dinosaur fossil bone quarry located right in the heart of Utah’s Dinosaurland. You can visit the Quarry Visitor Center to learn about the history of the area and the dinosaurs. Then head to the world-famous Quarry Exhibit Hall which showcases over 1,500 dinosaur fossils exposed on a cliff face within a refurbished, comfortable space. It’s an amazing place to see dinosaur bones still within the rock and not yet excavated.
Within Dinosaur National Monument you can also go hiking, see petroglyphs, enjoy river rafting and mountain biking. Camping is available within the park or you can stay just 20 minutes out of the park in Vernal with plenty of hotel and Airbnb options.
7. Stansbury Island
One of the most unique hidden gems in Utah and one of the best places to visit in Utah is Stansbury Island. Stansbury Island is a quiet island that doesn’t see many visitors in the Great Salt Lake.
The best part of Stansbury Island is seeing the Morton salt fields on your way in and viewing and the gorgeous pink-hued water along the shores. The pink-colored water comes from salt-tolerant bacteria and algae that survive in the highly-salinated Great Salt Lake.
I recommend visiting Stansbury Island in the spring or the fall for ideal chances of seeing the pink water. Take Stansbury Island Road to the north point of the island to find the best viewing point for the pink water. Take note that some areas of the island are private property, however, it is clearly marked. You also may find people target-shooting along the base of the small Stansbury peak.
Experiencing the salt fields and the pink water of the Great Salt Lake from Stansbury Island will be a memorable experience for everyone.
8. Bonneville Salt Flats
One of the best things to do in Utah and for sure one of the most “Insta-worthy” things to do in Utah is visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats. Did you think you had to travel clear to Bolivia to see some gorgeous salt flats? Think again! Just a two-hour drive from Salt Lake City, you will find about 46 square miles of crystalized, gorgeous, stark-white salt flats.
It’s super fun to walk out on the salt, take photos and enjoy the views. You can also drive on the salt flats. If you choose to drive, you will want to to make sure the flats are dry otherwise they may crack and your vehicle may get stuck.
The Bonneville Salt Flats not only have stunning out-of-this-world views, but they are also an international racing hub! Since 1914 land-speed races have taken place at the salt flats in every kind of vehicle imaginable. We are talking vehicles reaching speeds over 400 miles per hour 😮! The best time to visit Utah’s salt flats to see racing is Speed Week which happens each August.
9. The Sun Tunnels
The Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt (1973-76) is a unique art installation west of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah’s Great Basin Desert. The artwork consists of four concrete cylinders (18-feet long and 9-feet wide) laid out to frame the rising and setting sun each summer and winter solstice.
Not only does the tunnel frame the sun, but each tunnel has holes throughout which cast shadows of various constellations inside the tunnel depending on where the sun sits in the sky. Fun times to visit the Sun Tunnels are during the summer and winter solstice (around June 21 and December 21). Oftentimes a large group will gather to enjoy the art and nature of the solstices at the Sun Tunnels. However, you can enjoy the Sun Tunnels year-round.
Remember, if you do visit the Sun Tunnels, they are basically in the middle of nowhere so you need to make sure you have a full tank of gas (like seriously- coming from the north the last gas station is in Snowville 1.5 hours away, and coming from the south the last gas station is in Wendover also 1.5 hours away). Plus be sure to bring proper weather protection, snacks, plenty of water, and download maps because cell reception may be spotty.
10 Dugway Geode Beds
If you are looking to dig for geodes in the desert… this is your place! The Dugway Geode Beds have got to be one of the most unique outings and interesting things to do in Utah. The geode beds are definitely a long drive out in Utah’s west desert (just less than 3 hours west of both Salt Lake City and Provo actually). However, if you are a rock or crystal lover, this area is the perfect place for you!
What you get to do here is hunt for geodes, crack them open, and keep what you find! For directions to the beds and tips on the best way to break open the geodes check out this page. You camp anywhere in the area as it is BLM land or a designated campground is available about one hour away at Simpson Springs which is the site of the former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in the 1930s and 1940s.
Remember that as this location is out in the middle of nowhere, be prepared. Be sure to take plenty of water, spare tires, full tank and/or extra gas, first aid kit, downloaded maps, extra chargers and plenty of food.
related post: Summer Camping Gear Essentials for First-Timers
11. The Spiral Jetty
Another unique art installation you’ve got to see in Utah is the Spiral Jetty. The Spiral Jetty was created in 1970 by artist Robert Smithson using over 6,000 tons of black basalt rocks and earth from the site. He formed a spiral measuring 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide winding off the shore. Depending on the year and season, the Spiral Jetty may have water over it or it may be completely dry.
You can walk down to the jetty and walk the spiral enjoying its remote destination. Or for a pretty view of the jetty, climb up the hill next to the parking area to look out over the Great Salt Lake. If you’re lucky, you may also find pink water in this area of the lake! However, it does depend on water levels and specific algae levels.
I also recommend exploring the area to the southeast where you will find wooden columns from a pier or dock left over from an oil exploration operation that shut down in the 1980s. For interesting information and questions to think about, The Utah Museum of Fine Art put together a great Spiral Jetty experiential guide that you can find here.
The Spiral Jetty is quite remote on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake and about a two-hour drive from Salt Lake City. The map on our phone was able to get us there just fine, however, I suggest bringing the driving directions you’ll find on this page along with you. A noteworthy stop along the way is Golden Spike Historic Park where the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.
12. Uintah Mountains
The Uintah Mountains are an incredibly beautiful mountain range in north-eastern Utah and one of the only mountain ranges in the country that runs east to west. The Mirror Lake Highway is an amazingly scenic drive through the Uintahs where you will pass gorgeous high-mountain lakes, picnic areas, viewpoints, and campgrounds and summit at over 10,000 feet.
I was lucky enough to grow up camping every summer in the Uintahs and I highly recommend visiting. You can find almost any outdoor activity you are looking for in these mountains. An amazing *almost* 12,000-foot peak to summit in only a 2.7-mile hike is Bald Mountain. This trail rewards you with amazing views and lovely rock formations.
Three gorgeous lakes for camping and exploring are Mirror Lake, Moosehorn Lake, and Trial Lake. Or if you only want to take a scenic drive on the Mirror Lake Highway, it makes a great road for fall foliage peeping!
13. Kennecott Copper Mine
Kennecott Copper Mine (sometimes known as Bingham Copper Mine) is one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world at almost 4 miles wide and 1 mile deep. It can even be seen from space! This mine is an amazing hidden gem in Utah and many people (locals included) don’t know you can tour it.
The tour includes a shuttle up to Bingham Canyon Overlook where you can learn its history, look over the spectacular mine, and see the huge operational vehicles up close. The trucks have tires over 12-feet tall! The tours are only $5 and you can find reservation information here.
14. Thanksgiving Point
If you think you need to travel to Amsterdam to see tulips- think again. Thanksgiving Point in Utah has an amazing tulip festival every spring with over 280,000 tulips in bloom in over 150 varieties all imported from The Netherlands. This tulip festival is one of the best things to do in Utah in the spring.
You can spend around 2-3 hours walking through the gorgeous gardens, sculptures and water features of the Thanksgiving Point Gardens. You can even participate in the tulip 5k if you’d like!
Thanksgiving Point has other amazing activities and events along with the Tulip Festival. For example, the Butterfly Biosphere, Museum of Natural Curiosity, Museum of Natural History, Museum of Ancient Life (Dinosaurs), a working farm and special seasonal events.
15. Timpanogos Cave National Monument
One of the best things to do in Utah’s American Fork Canyon is hiking to and exploring Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Three beautiful limestone caves sit at the top of a strenuous 1.5-mile hike with switchbacks to the cave entrance. Because of the steepness of the trail, strollers and other wheeled vehicles aren’t allowed. Within the cave, baby carriers worn on the front are allowed, however, baby carriers worn on your back are not allowed.
The cave-tour experience at the base of the mountain at the visitors center, you then have 1.5 hours to hike to the entrance of the cave where you are met by a ranger to explore the 0.3 mile cave. The winding passageways of the cave are decorated with gravity-defying helictites, and crystals.
For a more extreme experience, you can even participate in an ‘introduction to caving’ tour where you can learn how to cave away from the trails and paths that usual tours take. You will scramble and crawl along the cave floor along unique caving paths.
16. Provo Canyon
Provo Canyon is a stunning and magnificent canyon connecting Provo to Heber City. I may be biased as I lived only a few minutes from Provo Canyon for almost 10 years. I drove through the canyon each day when I worked at Sundance Mountain Resort and even got my engagement photos taken in this canyon. It’s breathtaking.
The Provo River is a relatively calm river (after the crazy spring runoff is over) with a few small rapids. You can rent tubes or larger rafts from various retailers and they will shuttle you to the top to let you float down. I definitely recommend using a rental company as the tubes they supply will be sturdy enough to not pop on the bushes (I’ve seen it happen) and they supply lifejackets which are required by law. Plus you won’t have to deal with shuttling logistics. The river is cooooold so you’ll definitely want it to be a hot summer’s day when you choose to float!
You can also bike the paved Provo River Trail which begins at the mouth of the canyon, passes Bridal Veil Falls, and ends at Vivian Park (which is a great picnic area). The length of that trail is 6-miles each way, however, there are many parking areas along the way to start or finish. Bridal Veil Falls is a beautiful waterfall where you can feed fish at the small pond at the base or take a short hike up to the second level of the falls. And if you visit in winter-you may see ice climbers on the falls!
17. Sundance Resort
Sundance Mountain Resort is a hidden gem in Utah among Utah’s many ski resorts. In 1969, the famous actor Robert Redford bought the land now known as Sundance in an effort to create a community of conservation, art and nature. Sundance is located in beautiful Provo Canyon sitting at the base of majestic Mt. Timpanogos at over 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) tall.
In the summertime, Sundance offers ski lift rides to enjoy the views or you can take the lifts all the way up to Bearclaw for a tasty meal with stunning mountain-peak views. You can also mountain bike, hike, visit the art blowing gallery, and shop at Sundance’s shop which was the start of the Sundance Catalog. Sundance also hosts summer concerts and musicals at their stage in the mountains.
If you have a little money to splurge (summer is much less-expensive than winter) I highly recommend spending a night at Sundance and enjoying breakfast at The Foundry Grill. No matter whether you stay in the summer or winter, two lift tickets are included each day with your lodging accommodations. I worked in lodging reservations at Sundance Resort and I can’t recommend it enough. People travel from all over the world to experience the majesty, tranquility, and peace found at Sundance Resort.
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18. Homestead Crater
If you’ve been dying to visit a cenote in Mexico, but just haven’t gotten there yet… the Homestead Crater may just do the trick. The Homestead Crater is one of Utah’s many hidden gems located between Park City and Provo. The Crater is a uniqe hot spring, located within a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock with a hole in the top. You can float in the water, snorkel, and even scuba dive. It’s actually the only warm scuba destination in the continental US.
However, if you don’t want to get wet, you can enjoy a self-guided crater tour to see its unique beauty and learn its history. The Homestead Resort (where the crater is located) has created an entrance at ground level with a deck over the water to make the crater easy to access. No matter the time of year or weather, the interior of the crater is always between 90-96° F.
19. Fifth Water (Diamond Fork) Hot Springs
Fifth Water Hot Springs are a collection of beautiful, soaking hot pots and picturesque waterfalls along Fifth Water Creek located about 40 minutes southeast of Provo. It’s a 4.5 mile easy, roundtrip hike to reach the gorgeous hot springs plus the hike alone is an enjoyable experience.
Like most hot springs, weekends and evenings are likely to be more crowded so I recommend off-times for a quieter experience. Also, like with many hot springs, you may stumble upon a few people folks enjoying the hot springs in the nude.
Things to do in Central Utah
20. Young Living Lavender Farm
Located just 30 minutes south of Provo in central Utah’s dry and rugged landscape you’ll find the Young Living Lavender Farm and distillery. This peaceful area is has over 1,400 acres of lavender and other herbs, a beautiful reservoir, a pretty garden area and even horse stables.
You can walk through the lavender fields, take photos and enjoy the serene beauty of the Young Living Lavender Farm. The peak months for lavender blossoms are usually June and July. The visitor center is open year round and you may even be able to pay a small fee to take home some of your own lavender. You can also experience distillery tours, wagon rides, and a small animal farm visit or participate in their annual Lavender Farm 5k!
21. Topaz War Relocation Center and Museum
The Topaz War Relocation Center was a Japanese-American WWII Internment Camp where Americans of Japanese ancestry were forced to live – some for up to four years resulting in one of the biggest violations of civil rights in American history. The American government and the US Army, falsely cited “military necessity,” and removed 120,000 adults and children from their homes on the western coast of the US, and forced them into ten remote camps.
The Topaz Center was one of those camps and housed around 8,300 Japanese Americans at any given time. The camp was only 42 blocks big, held thousands of people and the main structures included two elementary schools, one junior/senior high school, a gymnasium, and a hospital. Very little is left at the site of the relocation center, however, some signs and scraps are still left and it makes for a good place to reflect and pay your respect.
Before visiting the site, stop by the Topaz Museum in Delta 16 miles from where the relocation center was located. The museum is full of amazing history about the site and beautiful Japanese artwork. Topaz is located about 2.5 hours south of Salt Lake City and makes for a great stop on your way to southern Utah.
22. Little Sahara Sand Dunes
Did you know that Utah is home to 60,000 acres of amazingly beautiful free-moving sand dunes, sagebrush flats, and juniper-covered hills? Who knew right?! Little Sahara Recreation Area is located just under two hours southwest of Salt Lake City and a perfect pit stop on your way to southern Utah.
Little Sahara is a mecca for Off-Highway Vehicles with multiple areas of various levels of difficulty. If ATV and OHVs aren’t your scene, you may want to steer clear of holiday weekends because the park can have as many as 20,000 visitors/riders on a weekend like Easter.
However, you can also experience Little Sahara on foot! If you are looking for a great photo-op (and a bit of a workout) hike Sand Mountain which is the tallest dune in the park at 700 feet and sandboard down! Or you can fat-bike your way across the dunes. Little Sahara also has two ‘children play areas’ (which are quite large) completely closed to vehicles in White Sands Campground and the Jericho Picnic Area.
Four campgrounds are available at Little Sahara Recreation Area with 255 campsites in all at White Sands, Oasis, Jericho, and Sand Mountain. Dispersed camping is also available outside the designated campgrounds.
23. Pando (The Trembling Giant)
Pando, sometimes known as The Trembling Giant, is a beautiful grove of aspen trees of 40,000 individual trees covering over 106 acres located in Fishlake National Forest. Aspen trees can be found in many areas in Utah, however, Pando is unique because it is a grove of aspen clones that originated from one single seed. Pando is believed to be the largest, most dense organism ever found at nearly 13 million pounds.
The best times to see Pando is in the summer for green leaves or in the fall for gorgeous yellow leaves. Peak color changes are different each year, however, the color change generally occurs mid-September to mid-October each year.
24. Goblin Valley State Park
Visiting Goblin Valley is a completely out-of-this-world experience and one of the top things to do in Utah. The actual valley portion of the park is 3 square miles and full of thousands of ‘goblins’ or hoodoos. These amazing rock formations are made of sandstone and created because of the uneven hardness of rock. The softer rock is worn down by wind and water leaving this valley of amazing goblins.
You can freely roam and play in the Valley of Goblins as you wish. You are even allowed to climb on top of the goblins. One of our favorite things to do is to play tag and hide and seek. It’s like nature’s playground for your littles!
Along with playing among the Goblins, Goblin Valley has 6 hiking trails in the park. I recommend hiking The Carmel Canyon Loop. It is only 1.5 miles roundtrip and features a small area of beautiful narrows. A little scrambling is required, but that just makes it more fun :). If you are looking for a more intense outdoor experience, you can go on a guided canyoneering adventure to rappel down into a huge chamber and see Goblin Valley in a new way.
If you have time and energy, just a short drive out of the park is a gorgeous red-rock slot canyon called Little Wild Horse. Little Wild Horse is a long stretch of narrows where the smooth and sculpted red rock walls are so close together you may have to turn sideways. It’s a beautiful experience! Be aware that slot canyons can be extremely dangerous if rain occurs (even if the rain is far away from the slot canyon). So check weather forecasts and steer clear of August because of frequent afternoon rain showers.
Campsites are located in the park along with a beautiful yurt you can reserve.
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Things to do in Southern Utah
25. Cedar City’s Utah Shakespeare Festival
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is a famous, Tony Award-winning, professional theatre located in Cedar City on Southern Utah University’s campus. Each June through October the festival presents Shakespeare plays as well as other noteworthy plays in multiple different theaters. The most unique theater is by far The Englestad Shakespeare Theatre which is an outdoor replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre!
Besides Shakespeare performances, there are many other festive activities to enjoy like multiple seminars about actors, costumes, and props or taking backstage tours. Children must be six years old or older for the festival performances, however, the whole family is invited to The Greenshow each night before the play begins which is a free, fun, and lighthearted event for the entire family.
Not only is Cedar City home to The Shakespeare Festival, but there are also loads of great outdoor activities to enjoy in the area like at Cedar Breaks National Monument.
26. Snow Canyon State Park
Snow Canyon State Park is a beautiful red rock park located just over an hour from St. George and often overlooked by visitors in southern Utah whose main goal is to see Zion National Park. Snow Canyon features a beatuiful canyon carved from the red and white Navajo sandstone, the extinct Santa Clara Volcano, interesting lava tubes, and flowing petrified sand dunes.
Activities in Snow Canyon include hiking, biking, rock climbing, and horseback riding. Two beautiful and easy trails are the Butterfly Trail and Jenny’s Canyon. Jenny’s Canyon is perfect for families who are looking for a short hike but also want to have the unique experience of exploring a slot canyon. In the heart of the park is the Petrified Dunes trail which is a beautiful area to explore off the trail and take amazing photos.
Camping is available among the red rocks in the park at Snow Canyon Campground or you can stay in a small town called Ivins just a few minutes out of the park. There are some beautiful hotels in the area and some amazing Airbnbs.
27. Tuacahn Amphitheater
One of Utah’s hidden gems in the art world is Tuacahn Amphitheater. Tuacahn is located just 1 hour outside Zion National Park and 20 minutes outside of St. George. It makes a great place to spend an evening after exploring
Each year they hold multiple concerts and theater productions under the stars and right among the stunning red rocks of Southern Utah.
Check out these other posts, I know you’ll love them:
- Things to do in Bryce Canyon in Winter: The Perfect 1-Day Itinerary
- How to Spend One Perfect Day in Island in the Sky: Canyonlands National Park
- 11 Best Utah State Parks You’ve Got to Visit
- Summer Camping Gear Essentials for First-Timers
And those are your top 27 things you need to do in Utah beyond the national parks!
Let me know if you have any questions about Utah in the comments below. As a Utah-native, I love to talk about all things to do in Utah and beyond.