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!
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- Red Ledge RV Park: This campsite is a short drive from the trailhead and known for its friendly hosts.
- Indian Peaks RV Park: A great option just outside of Kanarraville in Cedar City.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- Filmore KOA Journey: This clean and modern KOA campsite isn’t far from the hot springs and has full hookups and pull-thru sites.