Considering traveling to Utah, USA, and wondering what the top experiences are that you shouldn’t miss on your first visit? In this guide, we share some of the best things to do in Utah for your bucket list. Find out!
Utah is renowned for its stunning natural beauty. So you likely already heard of “The Mighty 5” – Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion National Parks. Indeed, no Utah bucket list would be complete without these places. But there’s so much more to see and do in Utah!
The state’s diverse landscapes extend from the Great Salt Lake to the iconic Monument Valley, known for its sandstone buttes and a rich cultural history influenced by the Navajo Nation.
With the highest concentration of Dark Sky Parks, Utah is also a prime destination for stargazers. If you are interested in prehistoric life, you can admire ancient art and dinosaur fossils. Winter sports enthusiasts flock here to find the “Greatest Snow on Earth” and speed lovers are drawn to the vast expanse of Bonneville Salt Flats for land speed record attempts…
Utah’s cultural diversity, shaped by Native American tribes, Mormon pioneers, and other settlers, is also reflected in its festivals, architecture, and museums. This cultural influence adds an enriching layer to the state’s natural wonders as well.
With such a wide array of landscapes and activities on offer, you can imagine that no list of the best things to do in Utah could ever do it justice – even if it contains 85 or 379 experiences… Plus, there’s no way you could see it all in one trip.
So in this guide, we showcase only the VERY BEST places and diverse bucket list experiences in Utah that – in our view – are worth it the most. If you are visiting for the first time and want to see the best that Utah has to offer, this list will give you plenty of ideas.
Good to know: This guide is published with the help and tips of Janae McCormick, a full-time travel writer and founder of Adventures With TuckNae. She has spent several months traveling all around Utah and exploring its vast beauty. We hope that this guide and our experience-based tips will help you plan the most memorable trip as well.
Here are some of the best things to do in Utah for your bucket list:
1. Roadtrip Through the “Mighty 5” Utah National Parks
Let’s start this list with some of the most famous places in Utah!
No trip to the Beehive State would be complete without seeing the famous landscapes of the “Mighty 5” Utah National Parks – Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion. Ideally, you plan a road trip that includes at least a few of them. Time permitting, definitely visit them all!
TIP: Driving from west to east, the best order to visit them is starting with Zion and Bryce Canyon, then Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. If you are visiting from east to west, reverse the order.
Here are a few photos and top things to do at each National Park:
Arches National Park
Arches is famous for its over 2,000 natural stone arches. Key activities include visiting the iconic Delicate Arch, exploring the Windows Section for easily accessible arches, and enjoying spectacular landscapes from the best viewpoints along the Arches’ scenic drive.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Arches National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Famous for its dramatic desert landscapes, Canyonlands is known for panoramic views and backcountry adventures. Must-dos include viewing the expansive vistas at Island in the Sky, exploring the Needles District’s unique rock formations, and enjoying stargazing in its remote wilderness.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef offers a mix of historical and natural attractions. Popular activities include exploring the Waterpocket Fold, a unique geological feature, visiting the historic Fruita orchards, and hiking to viewpoints like Sunset Point.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is known for its extraordinary hoodoos and landscapes. Top activities include hiking the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden trails amidst the hoodoos, enjoying breathtaking views from Bryce Point, and stargazing under the park’s dark skies.
LEARN MORE: Zion – Bryce Canyon Itinerary
Zion National Park
Zion is famed for its stunning canyon views and hiking trails. Key activities include hiking Angel’s Landing for panoramic views, exploring The Narrows, a unique slot canyon experience, and taking scenic drives like the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. For a quieter adventure, the Riverside Walk offers beautiful scenery.
LEARN MORE: Best Hikes in Zion National Park
2. Admire the Majestic Temple Square
Temple Square in the heart of Salt Lake City is one of Utah’s most visited and significant landmarks. This 10-acre complex is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and serves as a spiritual, cultural, and historical center.
Even if you are not religious, this is an absolute must-see in Utah!
The square is famous for its stunning architecture, beautifully landscaped gardens, and historical and religious significance, making it a focal point of Salt Lake City for both members of the LDS Church and visitors from around the world.
At the center of Temple Square is the impressive Salt Lake Temple, a magnificent granite structure that took 40 years to build and was completed in 1893. While the temple itself is not open to the public, its imposing Gothic and Romanesque architecture, with six spires rising into the skyline, provides a striking image.
Next to the temple, you’ll find the Tabernacle, home to the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The Tabernacle is notable for its remarkable acoustics and the grand organ, which is one of the largest in the world. It’s absolutely impressive – a must-visit!
TIP: If you are in Salt Lake City, try to see Tabernacle Choir Performance. It’s a unique experience!
Good to know: Temple Square is particularly enchanting during the holiday season when it is decked out with thousands of lights and nativity scenes.
3. Stand Under the Iconic Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is one of the world’s most recognized geological landmarks. It is so iconic that is also pictured on the Utah license plate. So it definitely deserves a separate mention on any Utah bucket list!
The Arch can be reached by hiking one of the most popular trails in the park. The hike is about 3 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of about 480 feet. It’s a moderate hike but it can be done by most people, including children.
This trail begins at the Delicate Arch Trailhead, which is easily accessible by car. You’ll start on a well-defined path that winds through rugged terrain, offering glimpses of the park’s various rock formations.
The trail gradually ascends, leading you over slick rock and along a relatively exposed ledge for the final stretch. It requires some caution, especially with young children or those with a fear of heights.
Before you know it, you will reach Delicate Arch and be rewarded with an awe-inspiring view of the arch standing majestically against the backdrop of the La Sal Mountains. It’s hard to put into words just how incredible it is to see this arch in person!
TIP: The best times to hike to Delicate Arch are in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler. Summer months can bring extreme heat, making it essential to carry plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and wear appropriate hiking attire.
LEARN MORE: Delicate Arch Hike Info
4. Walk Through the Belly of the Dragon
One of the most unique things you can do in Utah is wander through the Belly of the Dragon. Although it’s obviously not a dragon’s belly, it definitely resembles one!
Located under Highway 89 near Kanab, Utah, this unique attraction is actually an old drainage tunnel. It received its name due to the erosion through the passageway, which resembles the inside ribcage of a dragon.
Belly of the Dragon is part of a short 1.8-mile round-trip hike. The entrance to the tunnel is at the beginning of the trail and requires a small 4-5 foot scramble down into the ditch. Once you start through the tunnel, you will wind your way through until you reach the other end.
Afterward, you can continue hiking through the sandy wash, or turn around and head back the same way you came.
Good to know: Depending on the time of day when you visit, there is minimal light inside the tunnel, so be sure to pack a good flashlight. The terrain is rough and uneven in places, so watch your footing.
This is a fun place to visit for kids and adults alike, and it’s also dog-friendly, which is a nice bonus. If you’re driving through the Kanab area, add a stop at Belly of the Dragon to your Utah bucket list.
TIP: Plan your visit early in the morning or late in the evening to have Belly of the Dragon all to yourself. This is a popular stop and can become crowded very quickly. There is also free camping at this location.
5. See Bison at Antelope Island State Park
The Great Salt Lake, the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, is a must-see in Utah. The scenery is stunning and a swim in this lake is a unique experience in itself. Due to the high salinity of the water, you can effortlessly float at the surface of the lake.
One of the bucket list destinations on the shores of the lake is Antelope Island State Park. This park is located northwest of Salt Lake City, just 45 minutes drive from downtown. It’s accessible via a causeway from Syracuse, UT. Despite the proximity to the city, it’s a serene getaway with open, grassy plains, rocky beaches, and the backdrop of the Wasatch Range.
Antelope Island is known for its wildlife, but it’s particularly famous for the herd of bison that call this state park home. The bison were first introduced to Antelope Island in 1893, with the initial herd consisting of just 12 animals. Since then, the population has flourished, becoming one of the largest and oldest publicly owned bison herds in the United States.
In addition to the bison, you’ll also have a chance to spot wild pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and an abundant variety of birds. The island has hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, and you can also camp here if you’d like.
If you’re looking to photograph some of the best wildlife in Utah, then Antelope Island State Park needs to be on your bucket list!
TIP: There is an annual bison roundup, typically held in the fall, when the bison are corralled and checked for health, allowing for the management and study of the herd. Plan your visit accordingly if you want to watch this fascinating event!
6. Brave the Heights of Angels Landing
Angels Landing in Zion National Park is perhaps the most famous hike in the USA. This is one of the most thrilling hiking trails in the world, renowned for its stunning views and challenging terrain.
Angels Landing is not for the faint-hearted or those with a fear of heights, but it offers an unforgettable experience for those who choose to take the challenge.
The round-trip hike is about 5 miles long, with the trail ascending approximately 1,488 feet. It typically takes 4 to 5 hours to complete, depending on fitness level and crowd conditions, and is rated as strenuous due to its steep and exposed sections.
The hike begins at The Grotto trailhead, accessible by the park’s shuttle bus. The first section is a well-maintained path that gradually ascends along the West Rim Trail.
A series of 21 short, steep switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles significantly increase your hiking elevation. This section is physically demanding but manageable for most hikers in good condition.
After the switchbacks, you’ll reach Scout Lookout, a relatively flat area where you can take a break and enjoy the stunning views. This is also the decision point for many, as beyond here, the trail becomes more challenging and exposed.
The final half-mile is the most daunting, following a narrow spine with sheer drops on either side. Chains have been installed along this section for hikers to hold onto, providing stability and security. This section requires careful navigation and patience, especially when the trail is really crowded. Always stay focused, and hold onto the chains where provided.
TIP: Start early in the morning to avoid the crowds that can make the narrow trail more dangerous. Ensure you have enough water, wear sturdy hiking shoes, and check the weather forecast before starting. If you are afraid of heights, reconsider attempting the final spine to Angels Landing.
Good to know: Nowadays, you need a permit if you want to hike to Angels Landing. You can find more information about it here.
7. Hike Through a Slot Canyon
Utah boasts over 1,000 slot canyons so a trip to Utah wouldn’t be complete without hiking through one of them! Some of the best Utah slot canyons include Peek-A-Boo Slot Canyon, Wire Pass, and Crimson Slot Canyon. Some are technical canyons (requiring special equipment and training), and others are non-technical and can be easily visited by everyone.
If you are nervous about exploring a slot canyon on your own, you can hire a guide or a tour agency to take you through one. Some slot canyons are also hidden away and difficult to reach, making a guided tour even more appealing.
The slot canyons in Utah are made up of various colors and sizes, so do some research to determine which one is most appealing to you. One of the best slot canyons you can easily add to your itinerary is Crimson Slot Canyon in East Zion, on the way to Bryce Canyon.
Good to know: Slot canyons can be very dangerous during flash floods. Make sure to check the weather before heading to a slot canyon, and never hike through one when any potential rain is in the forecast.
TIP: While not in Utah, the famous Antelope Canyon is located just over the border in Arizona. So a visit here can be easily added to any Utah itinerary.
The three most impressive slot canyons that you can visit here are the Lower Antelope Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, and Antelope Canyon X. Keep in mind that they can only be visited with a guide and are extremely popular. So it’s essential to plan and book ahead! Check here for availability and book as soon as you know your travel dates!
8. Touch Dinosaur Bones at Dinosaur National Monument
Located on the Colorado and Utah border, Dinosaur National Monument is a paleontological treasure trove known for its well-preserved dinosaur fossils. The highlight is the Quarry Exhibit Hall, built over the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry, where an array of dinosaur bones are still embedded in the rock wall.
Here you have a rare opportunity to see and even touch dinosaur fossils that date back to the Jurrasic period. Visitors can get up close to the remains of dinosaurs like Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Stegosaurus, among others.
Educational exhibits and ranger-led programs provide deeper insights into the lives of these ancient creatures and the area’s natural history.
TIP: Don’t forget to explore the grounds outside of the Quarry Exhibit Hall as well! The scenery is very nice and quite different from the rest of Utah, plus, there are no crowds. Nearby, you can also find several sites with ancient petroglyphs, some just a few minutes drive from the visitor center. If you are lucky, you may even spot some wildlife like bighorn sheep and eagles.
9. Marvel at the Unique Scenery of Bonneville Salt Flats
The Bonneville Salt Flats is yet another famous natural landmark of Utah that’s well worth a detour. It’s located at the Nevada border, about a 1.5-hour drive west of SLC. So you can easily visit here on a (half) day trip from Salt Lake City.
Spanning over 30,000 acres, the salt pan is the result of a dried-up prehistoric saltwater lake that used to cover much of the Utah and Nevada desert. The surreal landscape captivates with seemingly endless white salt-crusted terrain that looks like a snow-covered desert. It’s somewhat comparable to the Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, but is much larger.
The Bonneville Salt Flats also attract adrenaline junkies and speed enthusiasts. The vast area of thick salt crust provides an ideal track for racing and is renowned worldwide as a high-speed haven. In fact, almost all the land-speed records in the world have been set or broken here!
Good to know: During the dry season (summer – early fall), the flats become a hardened, reflective surface due to the evaporation of rainwater. This creates a mirror-like illusion that merges the sky above with the ground below—a photographer’s dream.
When it’s dry, it’s possible to drive on the Bonneville Flats Speedway. However, the flats can occasionally be wet or impassable after rainfall, so be sure to check the conditions! It’s still worth visiting to admire the scenery and amazing reflections, but you are not allowed to drive on the salt pan when it’s wet. See here for more info.
TIP: If you just want to see the unique scenery, one of the best spots to go is a rest stop along I-80, about 10 miles east of Wendover. You can leave your car here and walk on the salt flats. There is even a place where you can wash the salt off your shoes after you come back.
Alternatively, you can visit here with this highly-rated private half-day tour from Salt Lake City. It also stops at a few other landmarks along the way.
10. Drive ATVs in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
A fun bucket experience for the adventurous traveler is ATVing in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park! This park is famous for the color of its coral-pink sand and is located in southern Utah, just east of Zion National Park.
Although you can enjoy the park on foot or even rent sandboards to take on the dunes, arguably the best way to enjoy this park is by ATV. There’s nothing else quite like racing over these pink sand dunes!
You can either choose to rent ATVs independently, or you can enjoy a guided ATV tour. Either option is great, but we recommend taking a tour, as the guides know the best dunes and are also there to help should you get stuck in the sand and need any extra assistance.
TIP: This is a great activity to enjoy in the winter months when the heat is more bearable! Just make sure to wear layers, and have a blast taking on the dunes.
11. Discover Mystic Landscapes of Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park, located in southeastern Utah, is truly a hidden gem with otherworldly landscapes. The park is known for its thousands of hoodoos and mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles, known as “goblins”.
These unique formations create a surreal and almost alien environment that attracts visitors from all over the world.
The Valley of Goblins is the park’s main attraction. In this extensive area, you can wander among the hoodoos, enjoying an almost maze-like experience.
Photographers find this landscape particularly enchanting, especially during sunrise and sunset when the warm hues of the rocks are accentuated. Another great time to photograph the hoodoos is in the winter when the rocks are covered in a light dusting of snow.
Despite its remote location, the park has a campground, picnic areas, and restrooms, making it accessible for day trips and overnight stays.
TIP: Goblin Valley is a very remote destination, with few amenities nearby and almost non-existent cell service. Bring everything that you need with you, including plenty of water and snacks, and don’t forget to fill your gas tank before reaching the area.
12. Meander Through Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park
Goblin Valley State Park is not the only place to find other-worldly landscapes. Another great place to see hoodoos in Utah is Bryce Canyon National Park. The scenery here is phenomenal and should definitely be on your bucket list!
These tall, thin spires of rock, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion, create a natural amphitheater of red, orange, and white hues that change with the light of day. You can admire the stunning scenery from various viewpoints on top of the canyon. But if you have the chance, be sure to take a hike and see the hoodoos up close!
Walking inside the Bryce Canyon is like stepping into another world. Trails like the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden descend into the canyon and offer easy access to get up close to these unique rock formations.
As you explore the paths, the towering hoodoos rise around you, creating narrow passageways and sudden openings to reveal stunning vistas. The play of light and shadow through the corridors adds to the magic, especially during sunrise or sunset when the colors of the rocks are at their most vibrant.
Good to know: Wintertime offers an even more unique experience. The stunning contrast of white snow on the red and orange hoodoos is beyond gorgeous! Just beware that some roads might get temporarily closed during snowstorms.
13. Hit the Ski Slopes in Park City
While Utah is mostly known for its dry desert-like landscapes, the state also has some impressive mountains. And yes, in winter you can even go skiing in Utah!
One of the best and most popular destinations for winter sports enthusiasts is Park City, Utah. The charming and historic town transforms into a bustling hub of activity during the winter months.
Park City is known for its light, powdery snow, and extensive terrain. The area is home to two major ski resorts: Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort.
Park City Mountain Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in North America. It provides a variety of runs suitable for all skill levels, from beginner to expert. Its interconnected trails and lifts offer plenty of areas to explore, and the resort is particularly known for its high-quality terrain parks and halfpipes.
Deer Valley Resort is recognized for its luxury services and meticulously groomed runs and caters to a more upscale experience. It is a skiers-only resort known for its exceptional customer service, fine dining, and ski-in/ski-out accommodations.
Park City’s outstanding ski facilities and charming town atmosphere make it a top destination in Utah in the winter.
Good to know: The town also hosts various winter events, including the Sundance Film Festival, which brings a unique blend of art and culture to the snowy town.
14. Take a Drive Through Monument Valley
And finally, no list of the best places to visit in Utah would be complete without the iconic Monument Valley. White technically in Arizona, it’s located right on the Utah border so we find that it’s well worth a mention here as you would not want to miss it when road-tripping in the area!
Monument Valley is one of the most recognizable landscapes in the American West. Its vast, open vistas and dramatic skyline have been featured in numerous films and advertisements, making it familiar even to those who have never visited.
Despite the name, it is not a valley in the conventional sense but rather a vast flat landscape interrupted by towering formations, sometimes rising to over 1,000 feet above the desert floor. These formations are made of de Chelly sandstone, which provides the red and orange hues that define the area’s distinct color palette.
The Valley Drive, a 17-mile dirt road that runs through the park, allows visitors to experience the area’s beauty at their own pace, with many stops at popular viewpoints.
Good to know: Monument Valley is part of the Navajo Nation Reservation and holds deep cultural and historical significance for the Navajo people. The best way to support the local community and explore the area is with guided tours.
Tour options vary from scenic drives to more adventurous options like horseback riding and hiking. They offer insight into the cultural history and geology of the region from the Navajo perspective, plus, local guides can take you to places that are not accessible to the general public.
TIP: To replicate the famous picture from Forrest Gump, stop along the road at one of the provided pull-offs on the Utah side several miles before you reach the valley. Use caution and watch for approaching vehicles, as this is a busy road!
LEARN MORE: How to Visit Monument Valley
As you can see, there are so many amazing places and experiences to add to your Utah bucket list.
From vast salt pans and deserts to canyons and mountains, and from prehistoric life and ancient rock art to contemporary landmarks, Utah has plenty to offer for all sorts of travelers and in any season.
This unique combination of natural beauty, cultural richness, and outdoor recreation opportunities makes Utah an unparalleled destination. One thing is certain – no matter where you decide to go on your first visit, you will want to return.
Have a great trip!
READ ALSO: Arizona Bucket List – Top Places to Visit
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Images: Janae McCormick of Adventures With TuckNae, Depositphotos.com, and personal collection.