From its earliest inhabitants, as far back as 12,000 years ago, to today’s modern humans, Utah draws people from far and wide to its natural beauty and resources. Here are SeeTheSouthwest’s top 10 picks (in no particular order) of things to see and do if you visit Utah.
1. Bryce Canyon National Park
Hoodoo! Sound spooky? In truth, a hoodoo can have a spooky, eerie, yet whimsical, quality. What is a hoodoo? Hoodoo is the geologic term for the pillars of eroded rock make Bryce Canyon National Park such a special place. Paiute history says the hoodoos are the Legend People who Coyote turned to stone for misbehaving. You can see them in that place now — some standing in rows, some sitting down, some holding onto others. You can see their faces with paint on, just as they were before they became rocks.
2. Zion National Park
The Paiute Indians call it Mukuntuweap, “straight up place.” An apt name considering massive canyon walls soar to enormous heights to be framed by a shockingly blue sky. Today, we call it Zion National Park.Amazingly, all the natural beauty and wonder in Zion was carved by water! The North Fork of the Virgin River begins high on the Markagunt Plateau at an altitude of 9,000 feet. The river drops roughly 80 feet per mile as it carves its way through 20 miles of Navajo sandstone, including carving one of the most popular slot canyons in America, The Narrows. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, to red, and are the crowning jewels of a fantastic and beautiful setting.
3. Arches National Park
Swirled slickrock, towering arches, soaring pinnacles and painted rocks are what you will find in Arches National Park. Located a few miles north of Moab, Utah, Arches National Park offers some 2,000 natural arches, one of the greatest concentration of such structures anywhere in the world. The arches come in all shapes and sizes, from small keyholes at the beginning of their lifespan, to monumental creations that dominate the landscape.
4. The Wave
The Wave, located in the Coyote Buttes area of Utah, is a multi-colored chute that has been cut into a sandstone mountain. Brightly colored bands of sandstone twist and undulate, like Technicolor waves on the ocean, which is how it earned its name. Please note that to hike to The Wave requires a permit that may take MONTHS to acquire.
5. Canyonlands National Park
Surrounding the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River in Southern Utah is a mesmerizing stretch of remote wilderness called Canyonlands National Park.With more than 527 square miles, the park is huge and encompasses the two canyons of the Green and Colorado rivers. Wind and water (mostly water) have carved the amazing canyons and rock formations throughout the park. The rivers divide the park into three districts: Island in the Sky, the Needles District, and the Maze.
6. Dinosaur National Monument
About 145 million years ago, the northern parts of Utah and Colorado were a low-lying plain crossed by several large rivers and many smaller streams. A huge variety of ferns, cycads, clubmosses, and clumps of tall conifers dotted the plain. This was the home to dinosaurs such as Apatosaurus (better known as Brontosaurus), Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, and other vegetarians. Allosaurus, the sharp-toothed carnivore, preyed on them all. As these animals. lived and died, most of their skeletons decayed without a trace, but in at least one spot, river floodwaters washed a great number of carcasses and bones onto a sandbar. Layers of sediment were deposited on top of the sandbar, fossilizing and protecting the bones at Dinosaur National Monument.
7. Glen Canyon Dam (and Glen Canyon Recreation Area)
Stretching for hundreds of miles from Lees Ferry in Arizona to the Orange Cliffs of southern Utah, Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers a world of wonder for visitors. With 1.2 million acres of golden cliffs, lush hanging gardens, impossibly narrow slot canyons, and the brilliant blue of Lake Powell at the heart of the canyon, this is a great place to get away during the hot summer months.
8. Great Salt Lake
Among the largest salt lakes in the world, with an average of 12% salinity, second only to the Dead Sea, Great Salt Lake in Utah is a unique stopping place in the Southwest. A remnant of the massive ancient Lake Bonneville, a pluvial lake which covered much of western Utah in prehistoric times, the lake is now landlocked. It is the largest body of water between the Great Lakes and the Pacific Ocean, and is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. The Jordan, Weber, and Bear rivers (the three major tributaries) deposit around 1.1 million tons of minerals in the lake each year, and the balance of evaporated water is mineral-free, concentrating the salt in the lake further.
9. Heber Valley Railroad
The Heber Valley Railroad offers a variety of exciting train ride adventures throughout the year!
• Rafts and Rails Adventure (combo river rafting and train ride)
• Reins and Trains (combo horseback ride and train ride)
• Comedy Murder Mystery Train (help figure out whodunit!)
• Fiddlers ‘N Fireworks (to celebrate Pioneer Days)
• Haunted Canyon Train (a Halloween the spooky train, destination unknown)
• Lakeside Limited (scenic excursion)
• Soldier Hollow Express (winter view of the Wasatch Mountains)
• The Polar Express (carols, hot chocolate and Santa)
• Jingle Bells and Whistles (combo train and sleigh ride, and cookout)
• Tube ‘N Train (snow tubing and train ride)
10. Mormon Tabernacle Choir
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir got its start in 1847. The pioneering Mormons set out across country to find a place where they could worship freely. At night, the pioneers would gather around the fire to sing hymns and this joyful practice continued once they reached their new home. Just one month after the pioneers arrives in what is now Salt Lake City, a small choir sang hymns to give thanks for a safe arrival. The first official director was appointed in 1869. Today the choir is 360 members strong. The group sings every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in the off season, and in the Conference Center during the summer. They also provide a host of special concerts throughout the year.