14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Utah
1 Arches National Park
Arches National Park is home to over 2000 natural stone arches. The most famous of these, and the most photographed, is the stunning delicate arch, standing like a horseshoe jutting out of the ground, framing the distant mountains. Numerous walking trails and hikes lead to the most popular arches and many other interesting rock formations. The premiere sites and hiking areas are Devil's Garden, Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, Double Arch, Park Avenue, Balanced Rock, the Windows, Broken Arch and Sandstone Arch.
Arches National Park is located just outside the town of Moab. The park is considerably higher than the town and reached via a winding road with impressive views.
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2 Monument Valley
The Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in southeastern Utah near the Arizona. Numerous films and commercials have been shot in this scenic area which is famous for its picturesque red mesas, buttes, and surrounding desert. The Valley Drive is a 17 mile, self drive dirt road running through the spectacular scenery. Along the route are many of the famous sights and formations, with pullout areas for viewing and photography. For ventures beyond this road visitors must use a guide, which can be arranged at the visitor center. There are also excellent views from the entrance of the park at the Monument Valley Visitor Center.
The Navajo Indian Reservation covers some 27,000 miles and is spread over the states of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.
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3 Zion National Park
Zion National Park, less than a three hour drive from Las Vegas, features some of Utah's most outstanding scenery, with red rock cliffs, waterfalls, and beautiful vistas. The falls are particularly impressive in the spring when the flow of water is abundant. Hikers will find all kinds of awesome hikes, from simple walks along the valley floor to the famous and more demanding Angel's Landing hike. From spring until fall a sightseeing bus takes visitors through the park, stopping at all the major sites and trail heads, making touring the park very simple.
Many of the park's most impressive sites are in Zion Canyon, along the scenic drive. The tallest towers and sandstone monoliths are found here, as are some of the more popular hiking trails. The 11 mile long Zion-Mount Carmel Highway goes off on the right at the junction of Pine Creek with the Virgin River, heading for the east entrance to the National Park.
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4 Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is Utah's version of the Grand Canyon. The park has three sections, but the main portion which attracts the majority of sightseers is "Island in the Sky". This area has incredible vistas looking out over the carved canyons below, and beyond to the snowcapped mountains. It is arguably as impressive as the Grand Canyon in its own unique way. The other sections of the park, the Needles District and the Maze offer a little different type of landscape but are also impressive. These areas are more remote.
One of the main attractions that is easily reached on a short walk is Mesa Arch. Here a beautiful arch, particularly stunning in the early morning hours, looks out to the landscape below. Also of note, although not necessarily something that everyone wants to do, is the White Rim Road, which runs down from the Island in the Sky portion of the park to the valley below. This winding dirt road runs along sheer cliffs and dramatic drop offs as it descends. Visitors can catch a glimpse down over the road, across from the Island in the Sky Visitors' Center.
Canyonlands is located not far from the town of Moab. The main access point is reached by continuing north along the highway beyond Arches National Park.The Needles District is located in the opposite direction, off the main highway heading south from Moab.
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5 Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon, located at an elevation of 8000 to 9000 feet, is home to some interesting landscapes. The most unique features are the tightly packed stone pillars that jut up from the floor of a huge natural amphitheater. The orange colored rocks glow in the sun, contrasting beautifully with the green trees. Due to the high elevation the area is cooler and receives snowfall during the winter months and into spring. The best time to visit it is from April to October.
Numerous hiking trails allow visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the landscape and walk through the forest of stone pillars. Some of the most popular hikes are the Fairyland Loop Trail, Queen's Garden Trail, Rim Trail, Bristlecone Loop, Navajo Trail, Peekaboo Loop Trail, and the Tower Bridge Trail. These range from 1 mile to 8 mile long hikes.
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6 Park City
Park City is a popular ski destination in Utah, with several ski hills in the surrounding area. Deer Valley Resort, Canyons Resort, and Park City Mountain Resort are some of the main ski destinations in the state. The Olympic Sports Park, also located in the vicinity, was used as a venue for the 2002 Winter Olympics. While this is mainly a winter destination, there are also plenty of ways to entertain yourself here in the summer.
Accommodation: Where to Stay on Long Island
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7 Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
This huge area of rugged landscape receives far less visitors than the big national parks in Utah, and definitely offers a sense of remoteness. Paved and dirt roads, where a person can drive great distances without ever passing another car, are all part of the attraction of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The scenery is a mix of canyons, arches, hills, waterfalls, forest, and scrubland.
Hiking is popular and Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail offers some fabulous scenery. It is one of the most photographed locations in Escalante. In the southern part of the park is Paria, a town near the Paria River that was founded in 1865, but abandoned by 1920. Besides the remains, the area features the Paria Movie Set where numerous westerns have been filmed.
8 Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is another great place to explore Utah's interesting landscape. With canyons, rock spires, cliff walls, arches, and gorges it is an inspiration for anyone with an interest in photography or hiking.
Located 60 miles west of Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef is a reef-like wall of banded sandstone rising above the Fremont River. It is the most impressive section of the Waterpocket Fold, which runs north-south for some 100 miles. This geological flexure (an S-shaped fold of the strata) is the largest of its kind in the United States, with a variety of bizarre rock formations and chimneys carved out by erosion. In the area are rock paintings from the Indian Fremont culture.
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9 Cedar Breaks National Monument
The same forces of nature that shaped Bryce Canyon were at work also in Cedar Breaks, in southwestern Utah, creating a smaller but even more colorful rocky landscape in the form of a gigantic amphitheater. The best views are those from the Rim Drive. The amphitheater is more than 2,000 ft deep and three miles in diameter. The colors of the cliffs come from minerals.
The Ramparts Trail is a popular 4 mile route along the edge of the plateau that leads to a viewpoint of the spectacular Cedar Breaks Amphitheater. Less spectacular, but interesting nonetheless, is the Alpine Pond Trail, a circular 2 mile hike to a subalpine forest glade and a pond at the end of the trail.
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10 Natural Bridges National Monument
Just under 100 miles southeast of Canyonlands National Park is the Natural Bridges National Monument. There are three natural bridges, the Kachina, the Owachomo, and the Sipapu. They are accessible by short hikes from the trailhead parking lots. Also of interest are the Horsecollar Ruins with the remains of ancient Native American buildings.
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11 Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument is known for the large number of Jurassic period fossils that have been discovered here, as well as for the lovely scenery of mountains and rivers. Dinosaur fossils can be seen embedded in the cliff wall of Carnegie Quarry. The new Quarry Hall has been built right over top of a section of the rock, allowing for close up access and comfortable conditions for visitors. Hiking, rafting, and camping are also popular activities at Dinosaur National Monument.
12 Golden Spike National Historic Site
On the north side of the Great Salt Lake is the Golden Spike National Historic Site. This is the point where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads, starting respectively from Omaha in Nebraska and Sacramento in California, joined up. This first transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10th 1869, when the last spike, the "Golden Spike", was ceremonially driven in. The Visitor Center has an exhibition illustrating the importance of the railroad in opening up the West. The site at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory joined 1,776 miles of rail.
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13 Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake, half an hour's drive northwest of Salt Lake City, is the largest inland lake west of the Mississippi, measuring 72 miles long, 34 miles wide, and up to 50 feet deep. It is a remnant of a much larger freshwater lake, Lake Bonneville. Following a fall in the water table this lake was left with no outlet and shrank as a result of evaporation, leaving the Great Salt Lake Desert. The combination of evaporation with the inflow of surface waters rich in minerals led the salt content of the lake to rise steadily, and at one stage it reached 27% (eight times as high as the world's oceans). At the south end of the lake are bathing beaches and a recreation park. Like the Dead Sea in Israel, Great Salt Lake is salty enough to allow bathers to float without sinking.
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14 Mormon Temple
Standing on Temple Square in Salt Lake City is the Mormon Temple. Built in the last half of the 19th Century temple is one of the principal sites in Salt Lake City. However, the structure can only be entered by Mormons.