With so many spectacular national parks in Utah, its state parks are often overlooked. But don’t sleep on them, Utah is one of the most beautiful states in America!To help you in your quest to visit these under-appreciated areas, we’ve gathered basic itineraries for three road trips that take you to 11 of Utah’s best state parks.
Remember to do research ahead of time if you’re traveling during the era of COVID-19. Not all visitor centers may be open, and typical gear rental options may not be available.
Road Trip #1: Antelope Island, Wasatch Mountain, and Millsite
Often, red rocks are the only thing associated with Utah’s nature scene, but this landscape is only one part of what Utah offers. Embark on this three-day road trip to see what we mean.
Parks on Road Trip #1
Day 1: Antelope Island State Park
After entering the park, hike the 1-mile Buffalo Point Trail, stopping to soak in views of Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake. Once you’ve worked up a sweat, head down to take a dip at Bridger Bay Beach. After you’re done bobbing around in the salty water, drive the rest of the park’s road. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for large animals such as bison, pronghorn, mule deer, and bighorn sheep.
Day 2: Wasatch Mountain State Park
Distance from Antelope Island: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Hike the 6.1-mile trail to Lake Mary via Catherine Pass. Just be sure to get an early start and have a backup plan for parking as this is a popular trail. If you’re comfortable with adding on less than a mile, take two detours to visit Lake Catherine and Lake Martha while you’re on the trail.
Day 3: Millsite State Park
Distance from Wasatch Mountain: 3 hours
Bring your water vessel of choice for a phenomenal day of paddling on the beautiful waters of the Millsite Reservoir. With stunning views all around, you won’t want to get out of the water.
Road Trip #2: Goblin Valley, Dead Horse Point, Edge of the Cedars, and Goosenecks
This three-day road trip showcases both the natural and cultural resources Utah has to offer by delivering otherworldly views and teaching you about Anasazi history.
Parks on Road Trip #2
Day 1: Goblin Valley State Park
Venture to another planet on your first stop of this road trip. Goblin Valley State Park transports you to Mars as you hike among astonishing sandstone formations. Explore the Valley of Goblins, a free-roaming area without trails. Once you’re ready for a slight change in scenery, head to the campground with a frisbee (or rent one) to play on one of the most unique 9-hole disc golf courses you’ll ever find.
Day 2: Dead Horse Point State Park
Distance from Goblin Valley: 1 hour, 45 minutes
This often-forgotten Moab state park offers similar views to Canyonlands National Park with far fewer visitors to share them with. Complete the 5-mile loop on the rim to hit as many scenic overlooks as possible.
Day 3, Part 1: Edge of the Cedars State Park
Distance from Dead Horse Point: 2 hours
At this park, you’ll step away from the focus on natural resources and turn your attention towards history and culture instead. Edge of the Cedars State Park includes a museum housing fascinating exhibits such as an incredible collection of Ancestral Puebloan pottery. After you’ve finished exploring the museum, gain a better understanding of how people used to live there by wandering the ruins outside. You even have the opportunity to enter a 1,000-year-old kiva!
Day 3, Part 2: Goosenecks State Park
Distance from Edge of the Cedars: 1 hour
After you’ve finished exploring Edge of the Cedars, take the short drive to Goosenecks State Park. Goosenecks is an interesting park in that it does not hold any hiking or biking trails within its boundaries. This means it’s best to simply enjoy the park via an overlook accessed by your vehicle. Bring a picnic to extend your time spent watching the San Juan River carving the rock below.
Road Trip #3: Escalante Petrified Forest, Kodachrome Basin, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, and Snow Canyon
This four-day road trip incorporates quite a few unique activities in Southern Utah, including sandboarding, geocaching, and hiking inside lava tubes!
Parks on Road Trip #3
After stopping by the visitor’s center to learn about petrified wood and how it’s formed, take a stroll through the park to see this magnificent phenomenon with your own eyes. A 2-mile trail combining the Petrified Forest Trail and the Sleeping Rainbows Trail will take you through lava flows and oodles of petrified wood.
Day 2: Kodachrome Basin State Park
Distance from Escalante Petrified Forest: 1 hour
Explore the towering spires of Kodachrome Basin State Park by foot! The park has put together a geocache challenge that takes you on four trails. GPS coordinates for this challenge are found on Kodachrome Basin’s website. Save the geocache located on the Cool Cave loop for last so you can traverse the rest of the 6-mile Panorama Trail loop if you have the time (and energy).
Distance from Kodachrome Basin: 2 hours
Bring along (or rent) a sled or snowboard to shred some sand in this wild landscape of sand dunes. Once you’re ready for a change of activity, go explore the dunes on foot! Just be sure to stay aware of ATVs as off-roading is a popular activity in the park.
Day 4: Snow Canyon State Park
Distance from Coral Pink Sand Dunes: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Finish up your road trip with a long day of two hikes at Snow Canyon State Park. The first is the 4.8-mile Snow Canyon Overlook Trail, one that rewards you with a remarkable view at the end. The second is the 2.3-mile Lava Tube Trail, one offering the rare experience of meandering through–you guessed it–lava tubes!
We hope these itineraries help you explore some of the lesser-known areas of an absolutely phenomenal state. Be sure to let us know in the comments which road trip you’d go on and whether we missed any of your favorite Utah state parks!