The Best of Southern Utah
Collected by Cameron Martindell , AFAR Local Expert
Home to stunning parks, wilderness areas, and national forests, Southern Utah offers an otherworldly landscape for the adventurous traveler to explore. In every season, this dramatically beautiful part of the world will leave you breathless.
Capitol Reef National Park, Scenic Dr, Teasdale, UT 84773, USA
Located within Capitol Reef National Park, the Gifford Homestead brings to life the historic Mormon settlement of Fruita. While its fascinating past makes this place unique in and of itself, the Gifford home now also includes a small café...
599 W Main St, Torrey, UT 84775, USA
Just outside Capitol Reef National Park, Cafe Diablo serves Southwestern fare with a local twist. From pumpkin-seed-crusted trout to rattlesnake cakes with ancho-rosemary aioli, the dishes are classics in an unexpected way. Casual and...
20 UT-12, Boulder, UT 84716, USA
If you don’t think dinner reservations are necessary in a little hamlet with a population of 225, think again. An award-winning spot in Boulder, Hell’s Backbone Grill has been consistently packed since its opening in 1999. Here,...
150 E 100 N, Hanksville, UT 84734, USA
In the little town of Hanksville in Utah's southeast quadrant, you’ll find the unassuming Stan’s Burger Shak. It’s an unremarkable place at first glance, with its plastic and faux-wood furniture, but that impression quickly...
597 NM-597, Teec Nos Pos, AZ 86514, USA
This spot is only significant because of arbitrary political boundaries, but it still draws tourists wanting to see the only place in the United States where four states meet. Desolate as it is—aside from the monument that stands at the...
Only accessible by foot or horseback, Grand Gulch is a tributary canyon where water eventually flows to the San Juan River, which then ultimately flows into the Colorado River and Lake Powell. Home to the Anasazi people between 700 and 2,000 years...
Valley of the Gods, Utah 84531, USA
A breathtaking location, the Valley of the Gods is filled with stone pinnacles and jutting buttes that dot the mostly flat valley floor. A scenic 17-mile gravel and dirt road loops through the area and, while there are no designated campgrounds,...
Oljato-Monument Valley, UT 84536, USA
Nuzzled up against the Arizona border about 100 miles west of Four Corners are some 30 square miles of the most iconic scenery in the American West. Monument Valley is one of those places that you’ll recognize as soon as you see...
Bluejohn Canyon, Utah, USA
Blue John has been a favorite of canyon explorers for many years, but it became widely known after a large boulder fell and trapped climber Aron Ralston's arm. (He survived, and his story was told on film in 127 Hours, starring James...
San Rafael Swell, Utah, USA
Since the San Rafael Swell was created between 40 and 60 million years ago, various erosional forces have shaped the 40-by-75-mile expanse into a fascinating jumble of canyons, arches, hills, and valleys. Some have likened the topography to parts...
Lake Powell, UT 84533, USA
For those looking to try more-involved canyoneering, this five-mile stretch through White Canyon is a thrill. Just a few miles upriver from where White Canyon Creek flows into the Colorado River, you’ll find an easy-to-access...
The Wave Trail, Kanab, AZ 84741, USA
At this unique formation, Navajo sandstone in shades of deep red to white was first eroded by water and then primarily by wind to create smooth, rolling terrain that resembles ocean waves. The differing densities of stone have caused the structure...
Buckskin Gulch, Utah 84741, USA
Skimming along the Arizona border in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, Buckskin Gulch is considered the longest slot canyon in the Southwest. After entering the intimate narrows of the canyon, the route continues on for about 15 miles...
Dammeron Valley, UT 84783, USA
In 2009, the U.S. Congress designated nearly 19,000 acres as the Red Mountain Wilderness, which is located just north of St. George between Snow Canyon and Gunlock state parks. Here, mountain peaks sporadically poke up from the upland plateau....
710 Reservoir Rd, Escalante, UT 84726, USA
Around two miles north of the town of Escalante, this state park is famous for its stone trees. Visitors can hike a one-mile loop through the petrified forest, winding up the side of the mesa to its top, where most of the fossilized wood can be...
472 5300 W, Hurricane, UT 84737, USA
Just 30 miles from the southern gate of Zion National Park, Quail Creek State Park surrounds a 600-acre reservoir that boasts some of the warmest waters in Utah. Its consistently mild climate draws year-round tourists and day-trippers eager...
Cannonville, UT 84718, USA
Within striking distance of Bryce Canyon lies a landscape full of monolithic stone spires known as sedimentary pipes. Here, the stone towers complement multicolored sandstone layers, hinting at 180 million years of geologic time. In 1948, a...
Gunlock Rd, Gunlock, UT 84733, USA
Way out in southwestern Utah, this state park includes much of the Gunlock Reservoir, meaning there's ample opportunity here for boating, water sports, and fishing for bass and catfish. Its relatively low elevation and southerly location keep...
22 UT-22, Antimony, UT 84712, USA
Located at the south end of Otter Creek Reservoir, this small state park is a great place to get on the water or ride ATVs on the trails. Birders will especially love the area as it’s a stopping point along the Pacific Migratory Bird Flyway....
1002 Snow Canyon Dr, Ivins, UT 84738, USA
Don’t let the name fool you—snow rarely falls here. In fact, winter temperatures are fairly mild, making Snow Canyon a popular destination year-round. The park includes 38 miles of hiking paths and more than 15 miles of...
3351 Sand Hollow Rd, Hurricane, UT 84737, USA
Not far from St. George in southwestern Utah lies a park that’s mostly water. The 1,300-acre Sand Hollow Reservoir's waters warm up to more than 80 degrees in the summer; a number of sandy beaches here offer good access as well as rocky...
Goblin Valley Rd, Green River, UT 84525, USA
Goblin Valley State Park is famous for its series of mushroom-shaped rock formations, also known as hoodoos. While there are a few established trails within the park, the namesake attraction offers three square miles of open landscape, which...
12500 Sand Dune Road, Kanab, UT 84741, USA
Just a stone’s throw from the Arizona border, the eponymous main draw at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is the result of rose-hued Navajo sandstone eroding over time. Like any dunes, the ones here constantly shift under the wind’s...
UT-143, Brian Head, UT 84719, USA
Centered around a natural amphitheater, where a plateau breaks into a series of mini canyons, this intimate national monument is often compared to Bryce Canyon. Along the ridgelines between the carved canyons, visitors can observe interesting rock...
This national park is centered along the spine plateau above Bryce Canyon, which drops to the east from the main park road. Along the road are numerous pull-offs for enjoying views down into the canyon, with its miles and miles of awe-inspiring...
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