Home Guides The Best Utah State Parks You Haven’t Been To Yet

The Best Utah State Parks You Haven’t Been To Yet

by Peter Stringer
Snow Canyon State Park, Ivins, Utah

Snow Canyon State Park in Ivins, Utah on December 24, 2020. Photo by Peter Stringer

Utah plays host to five incredible National Parks, all of which are well worth a visit. Zion National Park, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park are all breathtaking in their own right, and deserve the praise they draw.

Utah claims an embarrassment of riches when it comes to jaw-dropping landscapes and natural features. And Utah boasts some of the best national parks in America, as well as some of the most underrated national parks in the country.

Less famous, yet in many cases equally amazing, Utah’s state parks rival what almost any other state can provide. In fact, Utah has several outstanding state parks that might enjoy National Park designation if they were located in any other state in America.

I’ve compiled a quick list of four of my favorite Utah state parks, and this list really just scratches the surface.

So next time you’re planning a trip to Utah, consider adding one of these incredible state parks to your itinerary.

Gaze the hoodoos – and the galaxy – at Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park in Green River, Utah. Photo by Peter Stringer

Goblin Valley State Park is in the middle of nowhere in Utah, leaving the park undersubscribed and far removed from light pollution. Known primarily for its gallery of natural hoodoos, Goblin Valley State Park is photogenic for its other-worldly landscapes and outer-space nightscapes.

Discovered near Hanksville, Utah in the late 1920s, Goblin Valley State Park was orignially dubbed “Mushroom Valley” for the distinct look of the hoodoos scattered across the valley. Years later, Goblin Valley State Park was acquired by the state of Utah and transformed into an official state park in 1964.

Serious astrophotographers are huge fans of Goblin Valley State Park’s dark skies – some of the darkest skies not only in all of North America; Goblin Valley has some of the darkest skies on planet Earth! Pull out your tripod, frame up a Milky Way backdrop with a few hoodoos in the foreground and you’ll capture a mind-boggling image.

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TIPS: Goblin Valley is about an hour away from Capitol Reef State Park, and is an hour south off of Interstate 70 on Route 24. It’s roughly 90 minutes from Moab, Utah as well.

Traverse Tough Terrain at Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park in Ivins, Utah on December 24, 2020. Photo by Peter Stringer

The next time you make a trip to Zion National Park, consider adding Snow Canyon State Park to the trip. Snow Canyon State Park is the highlight of the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area just north of St. George, Utah.

Whether you’re heading north from fabulous Las Vegas, or south from Salt Lake City, it’s a short detour from Interstate 15 off Route 18. Hiking options aplenty await in this jagged landscape, where remnants of volcanic activity cut across the red-orange sandstone cliffs leaving a palette of colors you’ll remember.

With over 16 miles of trails, there’s a path for everyone. Check out Jenny’s Canyon or the Petrified Dunes for a leisurely half-mile walk, or embark on a two-mile Johnson Canyon trek if you’re looking for a longer jaunt.

And if you’re worried about snow in Snow Canyon State Park, we’ll reassure you that it’s actually quite rare for flakes to fall here. It’s not named for the weather, but instead, early Utah leaders Lorenzo and Erastus Snow.

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TIP: If you don’t have much time to spend at Snow Canyon State Park, at least check out the overlook! It’s a short detour off the road on Route 18 and gives you a bird’s eye view of the park.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah on December 26, 2020. Photo by Peter Stringer

Whether you’re into off-roading, sledding or sunset photography, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park west of Kanab, Utah has a little something for everyone. The park is also big enough to make you feel like you’ve got the place to yourself.

While the name “Coral Pink Sand Dunes” would make you think the sand dunes will always be pink, the color seems to change throughout the day, depending on the sunlight. Just north of the Arizona-Utah border, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is fairly remote on Route 43 off of Route 89. Especially if you’re making Kanab your home base for a southern Utah trip, this is a can’t miss state park.

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Want a bonus location and want more hoodoos? Check out the Toadstool Hoodoos, which is about an hour east of Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. There’s a pretty easy hike to some very unqiue hoodoos, and it’s definitely an under-the-radar location.

Add Dead Horse Point State Park to Your Moab Itinerary

Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, Utah. Photo by Peter Stringer

Everyone’s heard of Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona, but have you heard of Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, Utah?

(That’s what I thought.)

You won’t see any dead horses at Dead Horse Point State Park, but you’ll figure out how it got the name when you see the spectacular Colorado River gooseneck overlook. You’ll get a knee-buckling view from 2,000 feet above the river, and that view is majestic.

Dead Horse Point State Park is sort of a one-trick pony in terms of visuals (see what we did there?), but that visual is truly spectacular. The location a favorite of photographers but isn’t nearly as famous or overcrowded as Horseshoe Bend.

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If you put your camera on a tripod near the edge of the overlook, you’ve been warned. It gets incredibly windy here! Make sure that tripod is weighed down, or your Nikon may go the way of legendary deceased steeds who tumbled into the Colorado.

Want More Amazing Utah State Parks?

Check out our Utah page for a more complete list of state parks.

 

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