Get out and explore off the beaten path in Utah!
By Redtail Air Adventures
You’re a trailblazer. A visionary. A fan of the road less traveled. You appreciate iconic sites, but you live for the hole-in-the-wall establishments, up-and-coming neighborhoods, and the next best thing before it’s in the public eye.
When in New York, you skip Times Square for The Bronx. In LA, you avoid Beverly Hills and drive straight to Silver Lake. In Utah, you appreciate Salt Lake City, but you spend most of your time frolicking in lesser-known areas that will capture your soul.
Utah is a state filled with forests, mountains, deserts, lakes, rivers, and some of the most diverse natural scenes in the West, so we have a lot to work with. But a few areas stand out when it comes to little-known local treasures that are well worth the hype.
Here are the hidden gems in Utah you need to add to your next trip.
1. Diamond Fork Hot Springs, Spanish Fork
Diamond Fork Hot Springs, AKA Fifth Water Hot Springs, is a gorgeous Spanish Fork hike leading to stunning glacial-water-colored hot springs and falls. This 4.5-mile round-trip hike will take you through the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest for leafy, romantic trail views. After a couple of miles, you’ll reach the hot springs, a series of stunning light blue pools ranging from cold to toasty hot. We love these springs for the incredible water hues and multiple pools.
These springs are best reached in warmer months when no snow is on the ground. While this is a hidden gem Utah spot to visitors, it is a fairly popular hike for locals. So don’t assume you’ll reach an empty hot spring at noon on a Saturday! Your best luck for having space while you soak is a weekday trip early in the morning or late in the evening.
2. Antelope Island State Park, Davis County
Maybe you’ve heard of the Great Salt Lake, but have you heard of Antelope Island? This state park in the lake is a curious little island that connects to the mainland via a causeway. This causeway is a popular cycling route that will take you to and around the island, but you can also drive.
Once you reach the island, you’ll be greeted with rolling hills, grasslands, marshes, Great Salt Lake Views and interesting wildlife sightings. You’ll see bison, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, and a diverse bird population. Bison are the most prominent animal, grazing and wandering all over the island.
Enjoy this interesting island for hiking, biking, animal sightings, and picnics, and some even choose to enjoy a float in the high-salinity water. There are also primitive campsites you can reserve for an overnight trip.
3. Dead Horse Point State Park, Southern Utah
Just a half-hour away from the ever-popular Arches National Park lies the quiet, expansive, spectacular Dead Horse Point State Park.
Dead Horse Point State Park is a less-traveled Moab area for gorgeous viewpoints and formations, with the most well-known viewpoint being Dead Horse Point Overlook, which offers one of the most photographed views in the American Southwest.
Dead Horse Point State Park is excellent for isolated camping, meandering hikes, and aerial explorations. Take a helicopter or airplane tour over the State Park to get a lay of the land and see just how much space there is to explore.
4. Bonneville Salt Flats, Tooele County
A photographer’s dream! If you’ve ever seen those other-worldly photoshoots where the model looks like they’re walking on water with a dreamy white background, they’re not in heaven – they’re at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
A little over an hour from Salt Lake City, this area is a good little day trip for a one-of-a-kind view. The salt flats developed as the Ancient Bonneville Lake dried up. There is no water left, but it did leave behind all the salt and minerals once found in the water. The result is a vast, flat valley covered in sparkling salt crusts.
You can plan to come to the salt flats during an event like Speed Week, where racers attempt to break records on the salt flats. Or, stop by on days without events for space to drive, take pictures and enjoy the bizarre views. During the dry season of Summer and early fall, the flats are firm, making it a better time for racing events. However, if you want that dreamy, reflective photo, visit during wet months. Parts of the flats get covered with water, creating a mirror-like, walk-on-water visual effect.
To preserve this delicate ecosystem, there are areas to enjoy and others to avoid. Many zones are deemed too fragile to hold weight, so only explore in clearly marked areas.
5. Timpanogos Cave National Monument
Stalactite and stalagmite fans, unite! Timpanogos caves are full of them. Nestled in American Fork Canyon, this cave (actually, it’s three caves – Hanson Cave, Middle Cave, and Timpanogos Cave) is full of wonder. Walking through these caves, you’ll hear the drip-drip-drip of stalactites creating stalagmites, and you’ll see sparkling minerals and clear cave water thoughtfully illuminated with dramatic lighting. The National Monument includes surrounding hiking trails, which turn this destination into a fun day trip for families and visitors. With a visitor center and guided tours, you’ll have access to information on how this curious cave came to be.
This destination is only reachable during certain times of year (late spring to early fall), so check the National Monument website before starting your trip.
6. La Sal Mountains, Moab, Utah
This mountain range near Moab perfectly melds desert beauty with higher-altitude forest scenery for unique mountain views. The La Sal Mountains are our backyard and a great place to escape to when the desert gets a little too hot.
With towering peaks, views of the desert and diverse trail systems, this area is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Go backpacking, camping, mountain biking, ATV riding and more as you enjoy the mountains.
Our favorite way to introduce new guests to the La Sal Mountains is with an aerial tour that guides you over several of the best views in the range. Once you finish the tour, you’ll have a long list of sights you’ll want to experience again on foot. Another great way to get oriented with the area is by taking a scenic drive on La Sal Mountain Loop Road, which provides breathtaking views of the range and the surrounding canyon country.
7. Homestead Crater, Midway
If you need more relaxation than adventure for your Utah hidden gem, check out Homestead Crater. This is no standard open-air hot spring – Homestead Crater is a geothermal hot spring found in an underground cave. The water is comfortable at 90-92 degrees, perfect for swimming and soaking.
This hot spring sets itself apart with its encapsulated shape and crystal-clear water – some individuals even like to snorkel or scuba dive in its depths. There is ample room to relax at 65 feet deep and 400 feet wide. To access this hot spring, you do need to book a guided experience in advance.
The entrance to the Homestead Crater is located within the Homestead Resort in Midway, Utah. Visitors can access the crater through the resort’s facilities. No need for a multi-mile hike!
8. Monument Valley Tribal Park
If you’re looking for isolated, untouched desert beauty, Monument Valley will leave you in awe. Monument Valley is a Navajo Nation park known for its iconic sandstone buttes, mesas, and expansive desert landscape.
You’ll find this park in the background of countless Western movies, highlighting its mesmerizing vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.
You can go on guided tours led by Navajo guides who share the stories and traditions of their people. As you explore the park, you’ll be captivated by the ever-changing colors and shadows cast by the sun, making it a photographer’s dream.
Whether searching for a unique adventure or a deep connection with Native American culture, Monument Valley Tribal Park is your destination – no extensive hiking required – just the promise of unforgettable experiences amid this striking desert landscape.
It’s a complex area to reach, even by car. So, our favorite way to reach Monument Valley is by airplane. Soar over the iconic sandstone buttes, mesas, and desert landscapes. Capture incredible photos and memories, all without the need for extensive hiking. You can even stay overnight to take in the desert sunrise.
Reach out to our team for help planning a perfect aerial overview on a Moab airplane tour or other Utah adventure!
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