This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy.

5 Must-Visit Destinations in Utah That Are Not National Parks

Utah reigns supreme as one of the United States’ most scenic states with incredible natural beauty. Not only that, but Utah is home to some of the most famous national parks in the country, with the Big 5 being some of the most visited. Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks are all located in Utah. 

With so many big names, it’s easy to overlook some of the other natural beauties that Utah has to offer. If you’ve already checked the Big 5 off your list or you’re looking for a slightly lower key option, there are plenty of more breathtaking places to visit in the state. Check out these five gems in Utah that aren’t national parks but definitely deserve a visit!

Buckskin Gulch

If you want to feel small, you should head for the Buckskin Gulch near Kanab, Utah. What some consider the longest slot canyon in the world, the cliffs around you reach up to 500 feet, blocking out most of the light from reaching the bottom. The deep canyon was carved over many years and has eroded into tons of unique formations that will please hikers of all skill levels.

Sign up for the newsletter today!

Please enter a valid email address.

An error occurred. Please try again later.

× logo

Thank you for subscribing to the Camper Smarts newsletter, keep your eye on your inbox for updates.

One of the deepest and longest slot canyons in the world is Buckskin Gulch

What to do in Buckskin Gulch

The main thing to do here is the Buckskin Gulch hike. Most people prefer to tackle the trail as an overnight backpack, but you could hike the whole thing in a long day if you have the stamina. You can choose from three trailheads: Middle, Wire Pass, and Buckskin.

  • If you want a longer hike to see the canyon slowly grow narrower and taller, Buckskin is the best route for you. You’ll start in a wide valley for several miles before the canyon starts to transform into stunning narrows.
  • Wire Pass is a great option for those who want to fast access to the famous parts of the canyon. You’ll skip about two miles of uninterested terrain and instead start in the Wire Pass Canyon.
  • The Middle Trail is the least common, as the trailhead is not easily accessible. You will need a four-wheel-drive car to arrive and then downclimb and lower your packs with ropes. This option is best reserved for experienced climbers.

Nearby Campgrounds

  • Dark Sky RV Campground: About an hour from the Buckskin Gulch trailheads, you’ll find this highly rated RV park with big rig access and full hookups.
  • Grand Plateau RV Resort: This slightly larger campsite is brand new and has a great dog park if you’re bringing your furry friends.
  • Boondocking: The Bureau of Land Management has two developed campsites in the area: Ponderosa Grove and the White House Campground. You can also boondock outside of these campsites, but you must check in with BLM and obtain a permit.

Kanarra Falls

Calling all adventure seekers! This hike will get your adrenaline pumping as you scale a 20-foot ladder up the first waterfall and then continue your hike through and along the river. Later, you’ll climb a boulder and then zip down a natural waterslide, finally arriving at a slot canyon.

A unique split canyon waterfall at Kanarra Falls

What to do at Kanarra Falls

  • The main attraction is the hike through Kanarra Creek. This is a trickier hike and should be done with caution and without children.
  • During the hike, you’ll see two sections of the Kanarra Falls. The falls are on private land, and tickets are required.
  • Throughout the 3.5 mile hike, you will be in the Kanarraville Slot Canyon. The entire trail is a photographer’s dream come true.

Nearby Campgrounds

Row of Class A motorhomes sitting at Indian Peaks RV Park
Indian Peaks RV Park. Photo from RV Life Campgrounds

Red Cliffs Conservation Area

This national conservation area comprises 45,000 acres and offers some incredible recreational activities while protecting crucial at-risk species and the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise.

Snow-capped mountains in the background of ancient ruins at Red Cliffs.

What to do in Red Cliffs

  • Dinosaur fans should head on the quick Silver Reef Trail, where you can see Jurassic-age dinosaur tracks of three different species.
  • Another short trail will lead you to the former home of the Ancestral Puebloan farmers, where you can see remains of ancient life and habitation and learn more about their culture.
  • The trails here go on for miles and miles, and you can find the perfect spot for hiking, mountain biking, or even horse riding throughout the conservation area.

Nearby Campgrounds

Southern Utah RV resort
Southern Utah RV Resort. Photo from RV Life Campgrounds
  • Red Cliffs Recreation Area: You can camp right in Red Cliffs at the recreation area for $15 per night. There is a limit of 14 days for campers, and campsites are first-come, first-served.
  • Southern Utah RV Resort: Just a quick 8 miles from the Red Cliffs area, this RV campsite is relatively new and has sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. 

Goblin Valley State Park

There are no actual goblins here, right? Actually, yes, there are! Locals refer to the hoodoos as goblins, which are mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles that appear to be little creatures in the desert. This area has some of the most hoodoos in the world.

Giant rock formations that look like goblins called hoodoos in Goblin Valley

What to do in Goblin Valley State Park

  • You can visit all the adorable little goblins by one of the three marked hiking trails in the state park. Get even closer with the hoodoos off-trail, but be sure not to damage them!
  • Check out the Goblin’s Lair, a slot canyon where you can rappel down in the crevice and then hike back out.
  • If you’re there on a clear night, you’ll be rewarded with some epic stargazing from inside the park.

Nearby Campgrounds

  • Goblin Valley State Park Main Campground: You can camp directly in the park in a tent with restrains, a fire-ring, and a picnic table at each site.
  • Yurt Camping: The park also offers two yurts for those of you looking for some unique clamping.
  • RV Sites: Goblin Valley also has RV sites for those of you who prefer to stay in your rig. There are no hookups, but there is a dump station.

Meadow Hot Springs

Can you imagine having property in Utah with three soaking hot springs that reach 100 degrees? One landowner in Meadow, Utah, is just that lucky but has been so kind as to keep it accessible to the public. 

A hot spring with warm and crystal clear water.

What to do at Meadow Hot Springs

  • There’s one thing to do here, enjoy the warm, natural hot springs that mother nature has gifted us. The first one is super clear and sits around 100 degrees. From there, there are two trails you can take to two other pools. These pools are a bit cooler, so perfect for hotter summer days.

Nearby Campgrounds

Fillmore KOA Journey
Fillmore KOA Journey. Photo from RV Life Campgrounds
  • Filmore KOA Journey: This clean and modern KOA campsite isn’t far from the hot springs and has full hookups and pull-thru sites.

About the Author:

14 thoughts on “5 Must-Visit Destinations in Utah That Are Not National Parks”

  1. I used to live in Utah and these are definitely “must see” places. I’ve been away for 25 years, so wonder if Vernal still has the dinosaur museum and dig area? They had discovered whole skeletons of some dinosaurs back in the day and I hope those are still available for the public to see. Look for it.

  2. This is really great info. We’ve traveled Utah for many years but, primarily heading to and from Moab for the Jeeping thing. We’ve noted that Utah does have lots to see and do, it’s nice to be presented with specifics. I’ll definitely try and get to most, if not all of what’s been presented here. Thank you so much.

  3. You might want to warn about rainfall and the slot canyons. It can rain in the distance and come roaring down through those canyons like a flushed toilet, taking everything/one with it.
    That is how they were formed.

  4. Great information. One more place you might add, the Hite, Utah area. This is what was once the upper reaches of Lake Powell. They installed a brand new full hookup Campground a couple years ago. Very lightly used area only because the lake has receded and no more water access from there. It is a amazing beautiful area. Many times you’ll have the whole place to yourself.

  5. Sadly, our hiking days are over. I’d be excited to see some suggestions for those of us who are older and much slower now.

  6. Stop polluting the places we love that “used to be quiet” I can’t go to some of these places now without having thousands of visitors. They aren’t a secret. People can do their own research without having it posted everywhere. Social media is ruining our solitude

  7. Advertising these previously unknown spots are a great way to ruin solitude and the spots themselves. I’ve been to 2-3 of these spots listed. Glad I got to see them before they’re inundated with people.

  8. Thanks for the information. I understand the sentiment of the “Stop polluting the places that we love” comment but it is far better that more people see and learn to conscientiously use these places so that a strong base of support is built to preserve them from overuse and development. As a lifetimer in the “back country” in my mid 70s, I know I have to adjust to more people in my old favorites. It also reminds me to continue to explore our (all of us) beautiful land looking for new favorites. Get out there, respect others, and leave no trace!

  9. in Utah last fall. I would have included Kodachrome St Park and the Devil’s Garden in Grand Escalante. For those who don’t want to hike a lot, Red Hollow Slot Canyon near Orderville is a short hike and good introduction to slot canyons


Leave a Comment

Welcome! Please follow these guidelines:

  • Be kind and respectful.
  • Keep comments relevant to the article.
  • Avoid insults, threats, profanity, and offensive remarks.
  • Refrain from discussing gun rights, politics, or religion.
  • Do not post misleading information, personal details, or spam.

We may hide or remove comments at our discretion.