Best Places to Visit in Utah

Utah is truly an outdoor lover's dream. With natural wonders – including five national parks – and small towns with outdoor activities galore, Utah offers ample opportunities to reconnect with nature. To help you decide where to go for your next getaway, U.S. News took into account factors like attractions, value and accessibility to determine the best places to visit in Utah. Vote for your favorite destination below to help decide next year's list.

SUMMARY

Best Places to Visit in Utah

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    Bryce Canyon National Park

    #1 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    Bryce Canyon National Park is often described as otherworldly, and it's easy to see why. Its sunset-colored natural amphitheaters and hoodoos (Bryce Canyon has the highest concentration of the latter on Earth) almost look too perfect to be real. Hiking and horseback riding are great ways to see these natural beauties during the warmer months. Meanwhile, cold-weather pursuits like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are available in winter. For an extra memorable experience, visit this International Dark Sky Park at night to enjoy a full moon hike.

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    Arches National Park

    #2 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    With an array of jaw-dropping red rock formations, including 2,000-plus natural arches (the most you'll find in any area on Earth), Arches National Park delights more than 1 million visitors each year. Some of the park's most popular rock formations include Landscape Arch (one of the world's longest arches), the Windows Section (one of the most scenic locations in Arches) and Fiery Furnace (a challenging natural labyrinth between sandstone walls). Adventurous visitors can go hiking, rock climbing, canyoneering and more, while less-active travelers might prefer to see the park from the comfort of a vehicle or on horseback.

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    Moab

    #3 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    Moab sits conveniently between Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, making it a great base for travelers looking to visit the two. Vacationers will find plenty to do in and around town, too, including outdoor activities like biking, hiking, off-roading and whitewater rafting. For a bird's-eye view of Moab's stunning red rock formations, visitors can go skydiving or enjoy a scenic flight in a plane or hot air balloon. After an active day, head to a local restaurant to satisfy your appetite and listen to some live music.

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    Park City

    #4 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    Winter sports enthusiasts flock to Park City every year to shred powder. Many 2002 Winter Olympics' events took place here on the town's world-renowned slopes, but travelers can do more than just ski and snowboard. Film fans flood the streets in January and February to attend the annual Sundance Film Festival. And in summer, vacationers can try activities like zip lining and whitewater rafting. No matter what time of year it is, visitors can check out Historic Park City's variety of shops, galleries and restaurants.

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    Zion National Park

    #5 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    More and more people are discovering the beauty of Zion National Park. Utah's first national park features more than 90 miles of backpacking and hiking trails, including The Narrows, the slimmest section of the park. There are also easier paths like Canyon Overlook Trail and Pa'rus Trail, as well as more scenic ones, such as Observation Point and the Watchman Trail. If hiking doesn't present enough of a challenge, visitors can also go canyoneering down or rock climbing up Zion's 2,000-foot-tall sandstone cliffs.

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    Capitol Reef National Park

    #6 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    While Capitol Reef National Park may not be as well known as Utah's other national parks, it is just as breathtaking. The park's main attraction is the nearly 100-mile-long Waterpocket Fold, a buckling of the Earth's surface. Hiking trails and backcountry routes can also be found throughout the park. But remember, backcountry routes here are not official maintained trails, so you'll need to obtain a backcountry permit and exercise caution. Other popular activities include biking, horseback riding, rock climbing and canyoneering. If you'd rather exert less energy during your visit, opt for a scenic drive.

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    Salt Lake City

    #7 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    You may immediately think of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when you think of Salt Lake City, but you would be remiss if you limited yourself to Temple Square. Utah's capital city is also home to interesting museums, multiple professional sports teams and an exciting live music scene. Plus, Salt Lake City boasts proximity to a number of ski resorts and trail-filled Wasatch Mountain State Park, making it especially appealing to adventure seekers.

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    Monument Valley

    #8 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    Located in Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley features a red landscape that is easily recognizable. Here, you'll find Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which houses sandstone towers and buttes that have appeared in movies like "Forrest Gump" and "Stagecoach." Must-do activities in the Utah section of the valley include hiking, horseback riding and whitewater rafting. You'll want to also save time for learning more about the park's Navajo history, which you can do while admiring the scenery during a guided vehicle or horseback tour with a Navajo tour operator.

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    Canyonlands National Park

    #9 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    This Utah national park is divided into four districts, each of which offers a different experience. The most accessible district is Island in the Sky; it rises more than 1,000 feet above the ground and provides spectacular views of the area. In the southwest corner of the park lies The Needles, a region with colorful sandstone spires, a historic cowboy camp and prehistoric rock art. The Maze's challenging, remote roads and hiking trails are best attempted by those with experience. And in the last district – where the Colorado and Green rivers form – you can explore via canoe or kayak.

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    Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

    #10 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a natural wonder that took millions of years to create. Occupying about 1 million acres, this protected area is divided into three units. The Escalante Canyon section is a hiker's dream, with backcountry trails that travel past waterfalls, arches and narrow canyons. The remote Grand Staircase region is where visitors will find Utah's most extensive network of slot canyons, as well as the colorful cliffs that give the monument its name. Separating the two areas is the Kaiparowits Plateau, which contains an impressive collection of fossils that are sure to delight paleontology enthusiasts.

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    Dinosaur National Monument

    #11 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    Dinosaur National Monument, a protected area on the Utah-Colorado border, is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in dinosaurs. Budding paleontologists can venture to the Utah side of the monument to see its array of fossils, many of which are on display inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall. After admiring the fossils, visitors can head to the Cub Creek Area, where several hiking paths – including the Fossil Discovery Trail – and pictographs and petroglyphs left behind by the Fremont people are located. The national monument also offers opportunities to camp, fish and go whitewater rafting.

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    Bonneville Salt Flats

    #12 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    Perhaps Utah's most unique natural attraction, the Bonneville Salt Flats are composed of 30,000 acres of hard, white salt. While you should stay off of the salt flats when they are wet, which is typically in spring, they are generally safe to drive on as long as you stay on existing roads and approved areas. In fact, every year, racing teams from around the world compete on the flats to set new land speed records. Plan on visiting in summer or fall if you want to witness one of these heart-pumping events.

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    Provo

    #13 in Best Places to Visit in Utah

    Provo, Utah's third-largest city (by population), offers easy access to many of the state's national parks. Plus, visitors can go biking, rock climbing and whitewater rafting all within city limits. For a break from outdoor pursuits, vacationers can wander around the Brigham Young University campus, which is one of the country's largest private universities. The city is also home to museums, art galleries and the Peaks Ice Arena, a family-friendly venue with ties to the 2002 Winter Olympics.

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