A Utopia of Stone
There are so many things to do and see in Southern Utah, sometimes it can be tough to narrow it down. Trust us, we know. That’s where this dictionary comes in. We’ve dubbed it the “Utahopian Dictionary: an A to Z guide to Southern Utah.” While it doesn’t cover everything that you might want to discover, it should at least point you in the right direction.
And since we’ve covered a lot of these locations in-depth in our blog, feel free to click on the “read more” links if something peaks your interest!
A—Arches National Park protects the State’s largest collection of natural arches, more than 2,000 geological examples. It is located near the city of Moab. To really explore the best of the park, be prepared to hike. The iconic Delicate Arch is part of Arches National Park, a representation of which is found on the Utah Centennial license plate. Read more about Arches!
B—Bryce Canyon National Park is an amphitheater of impressive sandstone spires and pinnacles, known as hoodoos. The park also preserves hundreds of years of Native American archeological history. Be sure to explore Mossy Cave and some of the overlook trails. Bryce Canyon is best explored on foot and bicycle. Read more about Bryce Canyon.
C—Capitol Reef National Park is our favorite park in Utah. It’s less crowded, more diverse and less expensive than other parks. Be sure to explore both the northern and southern sections of the park, since that’s where the adventure really begins. We’ve got a short list of things you should check out in Capitol Reef.
D—Dixie National Forest is the largest forest in Utah, covering more than two million acres. The forest is perfect for all types of outdoor activities. You can enjoy camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and boating in various areas of Dixie National Forest. Cedar Breaks, known as “Little Bryce Canyon,” is part of Dixie.
E—Escalante Petrified Forest State Park has 1300 acres of petrified woods and dinosaur bones. Visitor can enjoy desert hiking on marked trails. The park also includes an off-highway vehicle designated area. Go here to read more about the petrified forest and the Grand Staircase.
F—The Fremont River is a great river to float on, fly fish, photograph, or simply watch. It is named after the famous 19th century explorer John Fremont.
G—Grand Circle Tour is probably the best, and most scenic, road trip in the world. It takes you on tour of all five national parks in the state — Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Bryce Canyon. The perfect way to see Utah in a week. This really is a roadtrip to remember. We’ve covered it in more detail here!
H—Hell’s Backboneis a narrow, gravel road that winds through the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument and part of the Waterpocket Fold. It stretches 38-miles, includes an awesome bridge over a 1,500 foot drop, and provides the traveler with new, incredible views.
I—Indian Monuments and archeological sites are plentiful in Southern Utah. Evidences of Anasazi, Ute, and Navajo tribes can be found in many locations. Hovenweep National Park, the town of Boulder, Canyonlands and National Bridges National Monument are some examples of preserved Native American history. As is the new Bears Ears National Monument.
J—Johnson Reservoir is part of Fish Lake National Forest. In addition to the obvious water recreational opportunities, Johnson Reservoir connects to one of the finest scenic byways in the state. Early autumn is the most popular time to drive this route. Because it’s a great place to see the fall colors!
K—Kolob Canyon, a section of Zion National Park, is a beautiful finger canyon that is relatively unvisited. It is located just off Interstate 15. This remarkable area of the park is noted for its huge, red cliff faces. There are plenty of hikes and scenic drives to enjoy.
L—Lake Powell is a universally loved weekend vacation spot for residents of Utah and Arizona. It contains 24 million-acre feet of water, making it the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States. Bring your jet-skis! And read more about this great recreational area!
M—Moab is a city that lies between Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. As a result, the surrounding desert is a montage of sandstone cliffs and sifting dunes. The area receives and influx of annual tourists who come to use the desert as their playground. A perfect spot for off-highway vehicles. We’ve written a whole guide on what to do in Moab!
N—Natural Bridges National Monument is home to three of the world’s best natural bridges. It is also a haven of Indian archeological treasures. The monument is one of the best stargazing locations in the state, having the least light pollution in Utah. It was also the world’s first International Dark Sky Place. We’ve mentioned it in this post about natural arches and bridges in Southern Utah.
O—Off-road vehicle trails abound in Southern Utah. Many are designed specifically for ATV use. Some of the most popular routes include the Great Western Trail, the Canyon Rims Recreational Area, and the various trails in Dixie National Forest. One of our favorites? The White Rim Road in Canyonlands.
P—Palisade State Park holds a pristine mountain reservoir that allows all types of non-motorized water sports. The park also has an incredible 18-hole golf course. Six-mile canyon is nearby and provides hours of fun for hikers and those riding off road vehicles. The park is near Manti, Utah.
Q—Quail Creek State Park is a perfect place for boaters that want to enjoy the southern sun without the usual crowds. The surrounding desert produces a Lake Powell-like feel, but with much less competition.
R—Rainbow Bridge National Monument is home to Rainbow Bridge, the largest natural bridge in the world. It spans a length of 270 feet, and is 290 feet tall. The monument includes many desert hiking opportunities, and can only be reached by foot, horse or boat.
S—Snow Canyon State Park lies just 11 miles north of Saint George. It is a compilation of Navajo sandstone and black volcanic rock, formed in spectacular manner. Hiking and photography are the avid pastimes here. Read more about Snow Canyon.
T—Temple of the Sun and Moon is an isolated part of Capitol Reef National Park in the Cathedral Valley. Visitors enjoy hiking, rock climbing, nature photography and exploring the area around these temples. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended to reach this location. We’ve written a lot about Cathedral Valley and what you can expect when you visit there.
U—Utah Shakespeare Festival is a collection of the Bard’s plays performed in Cedar City. The sets, production, acting and re-creation of Shakespeare’s classics are top-notch. For those who don’t relish Elizabethan language, check out the works of other world famous playwrights. You can see this year’s lineup at Bard.org.
V—The Valley of the Gods lies to the northeast of Monument Valley and Mexican Hat. The area is famous for its “eerie” monoliths and for the dirt road that switchbacks up the mountain face, climbing 1200 feet. The view from the top is stunning.
W—Waterpocket Fold is the geographical feature that defines the southern part of Capitol Reef National Park. The dozens of unvisited slot canyons make the Waterpocket Fold a cult classic for photography aficionados and adventurous backpackers. Most trailheads are accessible by car. Plus it’s the location of one of our favorite scenic routes: The Burr Trail.
X—Extreme Sports are for people who are bored with regular excitement. Whether it’s repelling down canyons, trick boarding, shooting the rapids, sports climbing, or kickin’ it on dirt bike, nothing says extreme like Southern Utah.
Y—Yuba State Park is another of Utah’s fine water recreational parks. Located near Nephi, Yuba reservoir provides ample boating, fishing and swimming for all visitors.
Z—Zion National Park is perhaps the pinnacle of all Utah parks and monuments. Every year over 2.6 million visitors come to experience this park. The park offers hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and the splendor of the natural world: so if you only visit one entry in this dictionary, make it Zion. Here’s what you should check out when you’re there.
Gotta See It In Person!
It’s no fun to just read about it! You gotta experience Southern Utah in person. We’re not exaggerating when we say it’s a true Utopia!