When it comes to visiting Utah, boomer travelers will find plenty to see and do. The entire state is an active traveler’s paradise. But Alan and I are particularly drawn to the fun places to go in Southern Utah.
You could spend most of your Utah vacation exploring the Mighty 5—Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. But if you’ve been there and done that, it’s time to experience the hikes, four-wheel-drive-trails, history and scenery that the rest of the state has to offer. We’ll get you started by sharing our favorite fun places to go in Southern Utah.
Adventure Galore at Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument
Scenic Byway 12 stretches through Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. And it doesn’t take long to understand why the road is designated an All America Byway. Traveling a series of plateaus that descend from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon, you’ll discover cliff views, slot canyon adventures, four-wheel-drive roads to explore and plenty of hiking. Alan and I have fond memories of a hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls in the Cave Creek Recreation Area.
On our list for next time: A hike in Coyote Gulch, especially after reading this article by Mitch Stevens.
Dark Skies and Arches at Natural Bridges National Monument
Although Arches is the Utah national park most known for impressive sandstone arches, Natural Bridges National Monument offers a less crowded option. A loop drive introduces visitors to three sandstone bridges: Sipapu, Kachina and Owachomo. Hike to each bridge, enjoy a picnic lunch or stay into the evening for the amazingly dark sky. International Dark-Sky Association named Natural Bridges Monument as the first International Dark Sky Park.
Dramatic Views at Dead Horse Point State Park
Most visitors to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park motor on by the turn off to Dead Horse Point State Park. They’re making a huge mistake! Alan and I enjoy driving the road through the park, taking time to stop at all of the overlooks. It’s a land of vertical cliffs and extreme climate changes. We recommend packing a picnic lunch to enjoy at the end of the road. You’ll be rewarded with a view of the Colorado River, 2,000 ft. below.
Where to stay: You’ll find plenty of lodging options in Moab.
We always carry the Benchmark Utah Road and Recreation Atlas when exploring Utah. Don’t rely on phone apps as connectivity in remote areas is scarce.
Adventure Headquarters in Bluff
If you’re visiting Monument Valley on the border of Arizona and Utah, keep on driving Highway 63 until you reach Bluff. When Alan and I are looking for fun places to go in southern Utah, Bluff is our preferred headquarters. We had a blast on a January trip for the Bluff Balloon Festival. Next we want to arrive in early summer for a float down the San Juan River or drive the dirt roads looking for Anasazi history during a fall road trip.
Where to stay: Desert Rose Inn & Cabins offers cabins and luxury-style hotel rooms.
Remote Beauty at Valley of the Gods
Are you looking for Monument Valley type scenery without the crowds? Visit our favorite off-the-beaten-path Utah destination—Valley of the Gods. Alan and I have explored the area in the fall when golden wildflowers decorated the valley floor and again in winter when snow provided an interesting contrast to the red buttes. Located on BLM land, Valley of the Gods has no hiking trails or facilities, just a curvy dirt road with lots of room to pull off and explore.
Where to stay: Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast offers off-the-grid lodging with delicious breakfasts.
Planning a trip to Utah? Take a look at our Utah travel planning resources. You’ll be glad you did!
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