Whether you've been to Utah a number of times or are planning your first visit, these bucket list adventures are sure to help you create an unforgettable itinerary!
By Redtail Air Adventures
Utah is chock-full of natural beauty and unique landscapes. With five national parks and many more notable recreation areas, opportunity for adventure among Utah’s landscape abounds! Perhaps you are planning your first visit to the Beehive State, or maybe you are a long-time resident who knows the area well. While there is truly something for everyone here, and it’s hard to go wrong when exploring Utah’s beautiful landscape, there are a few standout activities that we want to recommend for your Utah adventure bucket list!
This beautiful, unique state is best known for its world class mountain biking, rock climbing, and hiking terrain. We know that not everyone loves outdoor activities, and that’s cool too! We think that Utah also has a lot to offer when it comes to art, museums, and food and drink. While the Moab area is known as the adventure capital of the Southwest, there really are opportunities for adventure all over the state of Utah. Below is a great list of ideas to help get you started in planning some once-in-a-lifetime adventures during your stay in our beautiful state of Utah.
Utah Activities You Don't Want to Miss
1. Arches National Park
If you’ve ever seen a Utah license plate, you have already gotten a sneak peak of the world-famous Delicate Arch! Arches National Park sees over 1.5 million visitors each year, and for good reason. Within the boundaries of the park, there are over 2,000 natural sandstone arches that have each formed due to millions of years of weathering and erosion.
Arches National Park is located just outside of Moab, so it is easy to navigate to and through. To get into the incredible park, you will need to pay the park entrance fee or carry a valid Park Pass. Beginning on April 3, 2022, you will also need a timed entry ticket and photo ID. You can find out more information from the National Park Service. You can drive through the park all day, and stop and hike to each of the unique arches on the designated trails.
If you want to see the park from a unique perspective, consider a scenic air tour over Arches. The views from the air are breathtaking, and not many people get the chance to take it all in from this vantage point. Whether you see Arches from the land or the sky, this is a place you definitely do not want to miss!
2. Visit Real Ice Castles in Winter
Each year, talented ice artists from all over come together to create an enormous, fascinating wonderland of ice sculptures and castles for the public to enjoy. The ice castles are located in Midway, Utah, in Wasatch County, which is just outside of Salt Lake City. Collectively, the structures weigh in at around 25 million pounds! At the site of the ice castles, there are also fire shows and resident princesses that provide tons of fun for the whole family to enjoy.
If you are visiting Utah in the wintertime, you should stop by the Midway Utah Ice Castles before they are gone for the season. Weather permitting, they will be open to visitors from January until February or March, and tickets to see the ice castles can be purchased online in advance.
3. Take in a Bird’s Eye View of the Landscape on a Scenic Airplane Tour
If you are passing through or staying for a night or two in the Moab area, you cannot miss out on taking a scenic airplane tour of the national parks! Redtail Air offers a variety of tours that allow you to see an incredible amount of terrain in a short amount of time. Fly over vast canyons, incredible arches, and inspiring hoodoos. Experience the Green and Colorado Rivers from above, and get a whole new bird’s-eye perspective of the desert landscape surrounding you.
Our unique tours provide options for everyone, so you can pick the one that piques your interest and best suits your adventurous needs. Our tours are always family-friendly, educational, and memorable. Don’t forget to bring along a camera to capture the once-in-a-lifetime scenic views!
4. Rock Climbing
Whether you are a novice or a seasoned rock climber, Moab presents opportunities for climbers of all skill levels. Moab is somewhat of a rock climbing mecca, and climbers come from all over the world to experience climbing on the famous red sandstone. Beginner climbers can find accessible routes at Wall Street, the Ice Cream Parlor, Dakota Crags, The Cinema, and even in Arches National Park. More experienced climbers can check out areas like Indian Creek or Castleton Tower.
If you don’t have the skills, gear, or partner that you need to hit the local crags, you can hire a local climbing guide at Red River Adventures. The NPS has a lot of helpful tips and information about the regulations around climbing within the National Park boundaries that we’d suggest checking out when planning your Utah climbing adventures.
5. Visit the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage
Visiting the Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage is a great way to spend an afternoon if you aren’t feeling up to exploring any of Utah’s outdoor adventures, or if the weather is disagreeable. Located in the Red Cliffs Lodge on Red Cliffs Ranch, the museum boasts interesting displays and artifacts to check out. Learn all about the rich and colorful life of cowboys, past and present, in the American West.
In the 1940s, renowned film director John Ford first visited Moab’s unique natural desert landscape and decided to film the first movie in the area. Since then, many other filmmakers have had the same idea. Many films and commercials were created right there on Red Cliffs Ranch and hundreds more in the surrounding Moab area.
6. Raft on the Green or Colorado Rivers
A summertime trip to Moab wouldn’t be complete without dipping your toes (and oars!) in the water. Local rafting outfitters offer half-day, full-day, and even multi-day trips down the iconic rivers that helped shape the Moab landscape as we know it today. Western River Expeditions and Wild West Voyages offer a variety of rafting options to suit your river adventure needs.
Western River Expeditions offers multi-day trips into Cataract Canyon and Desolation Canyon outside of Moab. Wild West Voyages offers kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and a ropes course adventure in addition to their half and full-day rafting packages.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, a Moab adventure package is a terrific way to check off various activities from your Utah bucket list. It allows you to see the area by land, air, and water—giving you a unique and in-depth experience within this amazing desert landscape.
7. Shop and Dine in Downtown Moab
Downtown Moab offers many stylish boutique stores, fun souvenir shops, and delicious eateries of all kinds. Support your favorite small desert town by purchasing locally-made art or jewelry to take home, and satisfy your taste buds at a local restaurant after a fun-filled day of adventure! Meandering down Main Street is a great and simple way to become familiar with the town of Moab, where you’ll be sure to find some hidden gems.
8. Zion National Park
Spectacular scenic drives, incredible canyoneering adventures, and iconic hiking trails are plentiful and easy to find within the 229 square miles of Zion National Park.
The Narrows is one of the most popular hikes within the park. As the name suggests, The Narrows is the narrowest section of the entire Zion Canyon, and it boasts thousand-foot-tall walls that tower above you. Hiking deep into The Narrows requires you to get your feet wet. However, you can also opt to simply experience the site by hiking along a paved, wheelchair-accessible Riverside Walk! Another popular and gorgeous scenic hike in Zion National Park is Angels Landing. The 4.4-mile hike gains around 1600 feet of elevation and is rated as difficult, but the views at the top are well worth the sweat it takes to get there.
9. Saratoga Hot Springs
Located just outside of Saratoga Springs, Utah, the natural hot springs are the perfect place to kick back and relax on the northwest side of Utah Lake. The trail leading to the hot springs is only 0.7 miles out and back, and it’s easy and flat. The trail is paved most of the way and is made of hard-packed dirt once the pavement ends. The hot springs offer great views of the lake and can be fun for the whole family to enjoy!
10. Hit the Slopes in Park City
Utah has so many opportunities for recreation, not only in the summer, but all year round. If you are visiting Utah in the wintertime, be sure to stop by Park City for some world-class skiing or snowboarding. In fact, there are multiple incredible ski resorts within close proximity to Salt Lake City airport. Snowbird, Alta, Deer Valley, Brighton, Solitude, Snow Basin, Powder Mountain, and Sundance all have great terrain to explore.
Park City is a great area when it comes to skiing because it receives an abundance of snow each winter. The snowpack is largely due to the “lake effect” from the large Salt Lake. As cold fronts sweep in during the winter and pass over the large body of water, the collision of warmer air evaporating from the lake with the colder air passing through causes intense storms with high levels of snow. This makes for incredible, unforgettable powder days in the Wasatch mountains!
11. Wind Down at a Relaxing Spa
After shredding the powder all day at the world-famous ski resorts around Park City, your body will certainly thank you for taking a nice, relaxing trip to an upscale spa. In fact, Park City is known as Utah’s “spa capital” thanks to the many options around town. It is home to luxurious facilities, with exceptional therapists to help soothe sore muscles. There are many different types of spas to choose from in the area, and even more treatments, so you can find exactly what your mind and body need to feel rejuvenated!
12. Bridal Veil Waterfalls
Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning waterfall located in the scenic Provo Canyon. The park at Bridal Veil Falls has ample parking, picnic tables and barbecue grills. It makes a great location for a day out in the sun with family or friends. The waterfall itself is a short hike from the parking lot and is easily accessible. At 1.4 miles roundtrip, the trail is relatively flat and very easy to navigate. While the trail is best used from May to September because of winter snow, it can still be accessed year round. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be kept on leash.
13. Bryce Canyon National Park
Over two million visitors come to Bryce Canyon National Park each year to experience the spectacular landscape. This park is unique, as it is home to the greatest number of natural hoodoos in the entire world. A hoodoo is a tall and thin spire of rock protruding from an arid canyon. They are formed by weathering and erosion of the surrounding rock. Hoodoos are truly magnificent to behold! The park is accessible year round, and there are many hiking trails to choose from. You can hike the perimeter of the canyon and see the hoodoos from above, and then hike down into the canyon to see them from below.
Redtail Air offers a magnificent airplane tour of Bryce Canyon that allows you to see the sights and splendor from high in the sky. During this tour, you get to see Horseshoe Canyon, Bluejohn Canyon, Robber’s Roost, Henry Mountains, Goblin Valley State Park, and so much more!
14. Swimming and Cliff Jumping in Mill Creek
Summertime in Moab can get sweltering hot, and nothing feels better than the sweet relief of jumping into a cool body of water! Mill Creek is a popular destination for hiking and even cliff jumping (if you are a daredevil type, that is). The trail to reach Mill Creek is only a quarter mile long and easy to follow.
Mill Creek is shallow and has plenty of nooks and crannies with relaxing pools to dip into. If you do choose to cliff jump, beware that the only spot deep enough to do so is pretty narrow. To ensure a safe experience, it can be a good idea to watch others take the plunge before you do.
15. Hike to “The Wave”
As one of the most photographic destinations in the American Southwest, you won’t want to forget your camera for this outing! The famous “Wave” is located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Utah-Arizona border. The sunlight from mid-morning to early afternoon makes for the best photographs in this location, because shadows are minimized during those hours.
Because of its popularity, there is a permit system in place to hike to see The Wave. To minimize environmental impact and overcrowding, 64 people are permitted each day. The hike is a 6-mile round-trip trek, and there is no trail. Instead, it is important to use a map and compass or a GPS. There are also multiple rock cairns along the way to help keep you on the correct route.
Why Should You Visit Utah?
This year, plan an unforgettable vacation and travel to the gorgeous Beehive State. In Utah, you can experience the American west in an entirely new and exciting way! The opportunities for recreation are truly bountiful in this wonderful state, where you can try out everything from mountain biking and rock climbing to flightseeing and heli-canyoneering!
Driving to Utah or opting to fly into Salt Lake City and renting a car will allow you to explore far and wide throughout the expansive landscape, making the most of your vacation. Whether you choose to visit our iconic state in the summer or winter, there are endless possibilities for fun to be had. While you may need to return many times to check every activity and outdoor adventure off your Utah bucket list, we’re sure you will look forward to coming back for years to come.
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