Utah is well known for outdoor adventures. From it’s world-renowned national parks to its unique natural formations, this state is a well-traveled destination for nature lovers worldwide. While many people are familiar with the “Mighty 5” national parks such as Arches National Park and Zion National Park, Utah is also home to over 40 diverse state parks. These state parks are often overlooked, yet they have just as much to offer in terms of beauty and exploration.
Below are my 7 favorite Utah state parks I’d recommend visiting. All are less crowded than their national park counterparts, family-friendly, and have stunning views.
Dead Horse Point State Park | Moab
Dubbed as “Utah’s most spectacular state park”, Dead Horse Point State Park offers sweeping views 2,000 feet above the Colorado River. From this height, you are greeted by panoramic views of Canyonland’s sculpted pinnacles and buttes below. Additionally, Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographic views in the world, and for good reason. Millions of years of geologic history is to thank for transforming Dead Horse Point into the stunning beauty that it is today.
Aside from breathtaking views, there are also miles of developed hiking trails in the area, including easier trails to the most scenic views in the state park. Most hikes here are under three miles, providing you with plenty of opportunity to check out multiple trails.
Address: Utah 313, Moab, UT 84532
Snow Canyon State Park | Irvins
Snow Canyon State Park hasn’t been a backdrop for Hollywood feature films for no reason, it truly is a geological gem. With volcanic cones, sand dunes, red sandstone cliffs, and multi-colored rocks, its no wonder many people frequent this 7,400-acre scenic state park. Hikers will also rejoice knowing there are more than 38 miles of hiking trails and a three-mile paved walking trail suitable for strollers and wheel chairs.
Snow Canyon State Park is gaining popularity for good reason. It’s stunning red-rock scenery and mild weather make it an ideal destination for Utah residents and tourists alike. Zion National Park is also just a short drive away, if you’re looking to continue your exploration.
Address: 1002 Snow Canyon Dr, Ivins, UT 84738
Bonneville Salt Flats State Park | Wendover
You won’t find miles of hiking trails here. In fact, there’s not even an official parking lot for this location. What this state park does have to offer is one of the most unique natural features in all of Utah, spanning over 30,000 acres of land. Located near the Utah-Nevada border on I-80 you’ll witness an unusual find. Miles of what appears to look like snow-covered ground. There is no vegetation, no water, no rocks. Only a white, salt-covered surface to explore.
There aren’t many places where you can walk across water. While the Bonneville Salt Flats isn’t actually water, it does look like water from a distance. For the best viewpoint, stop at the rest area about 7 miles east of Wendover. Here you can walk out onto the salty soil and wash your shoes with a water spray station when you return.
Address: Exit 4, Interstate 80, Wendover, UT
Goblin Valley State Park | Green River
Goblin Valley State Park has one of the most obscure, surprising, yet astonishing views Utah has to offer. This colorful, oddly shaped valley is perhaps Utah’s most unique attraction. In fact, it was even used as a filming location for the movie Galaxy Quest, because of it’s out-of-this-world landscape. This other-worldy playground is an ideal destination for families to explore with their children.
The park also offers six miles of hiking trails, including the famous Goblin’s Lair. This 3-mile round trip hike features a slot canyon an observation point. What was once a hidden gem is now a marked trail everyone visiting Goblin Valley State Park should explore.
Address: Goblin Valley Rd, Green River, UT 84525
Fremont Indian State Park | Sevier
Ruins of a large ancient village: check. Interpretive hiking trails: check. A museum filled with preserved treasures: check. Cliff walls with ancient Native American art: check. The Fremont Indian State Park is a lesser-known Utah gem that can easily take up a whole day of your time to fully experience all it has to offer. Between checking out the pottery, baskets, and arrowheads on display at the Fremont Indian Museum and touring the rock art sites, you may even opt to camp overnight at the nearby Castle Rock Campground.
Hiking trails vary from five miles to one-quarter-miles in length. On these trails you will travel back in time, taking in the petroglyphs, pictographs, and pictoglyphs along your path. Hiking trails are for non-motorized use only, however there are also ATV trails available. The Sergeant Mountain Trailhead is recommended for those looking to ride on one of the most impressive ATV trail systems in the world.
Address: 3820 Clear Creek Canyon Rd, Sevier, UT 84766
Wasatch Mountain State Park | Midway
There aren’t many state parks that offer multiple golf courses and hiking trails in the same location. Wasatch Mountain State Park offers year-round entertainment: from camping in the summer to snow showing in the winter. Because of its extensive amount of activities offered, Wasatch Mountain State park is one of the most popular state parks in Utah.
This state park is also home to two historic areas: Historic Tate Barn and Huber Grove. Tate Barn was originally built by Francis Tate, a dairy farmer, but fell to pieces during heavy snowfall in 1997. It has since been rebuilt and was used as the entrance to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Huber Grove was once a orchard with over 350 fruit trees. In September, visitors can come to the orchard and pick apples from the remaining 80 trees left.
Address: 1281 Warm Springs Rd, Midway, UT 84049
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park | Escalante
Escalante Petrified Forest State Parks offers the best nature Utah has to offer: colorful rock formations, petrified wood, a reservoir for swimming, and trails for hiking. Whether you’re looking to camp on the shores of the Wide Hollow Reservoir, kayak across the reservoir’s clear waters, or hike through a supposedly haunted forest, this is one state park you can’t miss. Nearby you can also check out the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument: 3,000 square miles of Utah backcountry with brightly colored sandstone cliffs.
Check out the Petrified Forest Trail, a short, 1-mile loop that winds through lava flows and scattered pieces of petrified wood. Follow up your hike with time in the reservoir, even if you are just soaking your feet and basking in the sun after a fun-filled day.The Escalante Petrified Forest State Park is small, so a full-day here will be enough to satisfy your adventure needs.
Address: 710 North Reservoir Road, Escalante, UT 84726