Salt Lake City is Utah's charming capital city, located on the banks of the stunning saltwater lake of the same name and known for its attractions connected to the region's Latter-Day Saints Church history. Area visitors and residents can easily day trip to some of the Rocky Mountains' top skiing destinations, including the acclaimed Sundance Mountain Resort, which hosts the prestigious Sundance Film Festival each year. Many attractions in the area preserve the history of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games, including Utah Olympic Park, located in Park City. Stunning natural areas include the unique Bonneville Salt Flats, which create a tundra-like landscape and are known as one of the United States' top outdoor destinations for motor racing. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
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Park City is a lovely resort town just east of Salt Lake City, best known as the home of festivities connected to the annual Sundance Film Festival. The city, which also hosted events for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, has been named as one of America's prettiest towns by Forbes Traveler Magazine. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for skiing and snowboarding at the Park City Mountain and Deer Valley ski resorts. Park City Mountain is the largest ski resort in the United States. During the summer months, award-winning mountain bike trails meander the region's mountain slopes. In town, visitors can explore northern Utah's largest collection of factory outlet stores or stroll along its charming Main Street, which showcases many preserved 19th-century buildings from the city's mining town era.
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Ogden is a lovely city located just half an hour of Salt Lake City, known as the region's first historic settlement during its pioneer era. Today, the city is best known as the gateway to the beautiful Snowbasin, Nordic Valley, and Powder Mountain ski resorts, renowned for its bustling nightlife, delicious fine dining destinations, and high-quality shopping. Visitors can peruse the city's historic 25th Street, which was once lined with Prohibition-era speakeasies, and explore its delightful art galleries, bars, and restaurants. Historic Union Station has been converted into a delightful museum complex, home to attractions like the Utah State Railroad Museum, the John M. Browning Firearms Museum, adn the Utah State Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Family-friendly attractions include the interactive Treehouse Museum and the unique Eccles Dinosaur Park and Museum, which showcases a paleontology lab and life-sized dinosaur statues.
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3.Antelope Island State Park
Antelope Island State Park preserves the Great Salt Lake's largest island, spanning an area of 42 square miles within the lake's southeastern portion in Davis County. The island, which once served as a cattle and sheep ranch overseen by the Latter-Day Saints church, was established by the Utah State Parks System in 1981. Today, it is accessible via a seven-mile causeway from Syracuse, known for its dramatic rugged mountain terrain and natural areas like White Rock Bay and Buffalo Point. Visitors can explore an extensive 25-mile backcountry trail system, which offers opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Antelope are often seen in visitor areas, giving the island its name. Bison and coyotes are also common, especially near the preserved Fielding Garr Historic Ranch House, which can be toured throughout the year as a living history museum. A visitor center is also offered, along with a marina, public swimming beaches, and RV and primitive campgrounds.
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Bear Lake is a lovely freshwater lake spanning 109 square miles across the Idaho-Utahborder, known as the "Caribbean of the Rockies" for its stunning turquoise waters, which are created from the refraction of limestone deposits within the lake. The lake, which was originally known as Black Bear Lake, is a popular destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts, who flock to area tourist towns like Laketown and Garden City. Bear Lake State Park is home to the mile-long Rendezvous Beach and the three-mile Cisco Beach, which both offer boat ramp and marina areas. Unique species native only to the lake can be observed, including Bonneville cutthroat trout and Bear Lake sculpin. The surrounding lake valley region is known throughout the West for its amazing raspberry patches, making it a popular picking spot during harvest season. Each year, the lake region hosts the annual Raspberry Days festival, celebrating the fruit with raspberry recipe cookoffs, rodeos, parades, and a Miss Berry Princess contest.
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5.Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
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Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a spectacular 74,000-acre national wildlife refuge located along the delta of the Bear River, where it flows into the Great Salt Lake in Box Elder County. The refuge, which was established in 1928, is known as a significant habitat for migratory bird species, including bald eagles and tundra swans. Visitors can learn about bird species and wetland habitats at the James V. Hansen Wildlife Education Center, which is home to a half-mile accessible walking trail and recreated wetland habitat. A 12-mile one-way auto touring loop is open to the public daily between sunrise and sunset, accompanied by an audio tour elaborating on the area's wilderness habitats.
2155 W Forest St, Brigham City, UT 84302, Phone: 435-723-5887
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6.The Bonneville Salt Flats
The Bonneville Salt Flats is one of Utah's most unique geographical regions, located in Tooele County. The salt flats date back to the Pleistocene-era Lake Bonneville, which filled much of the Great Basin during ancient times. After the lake evaporated and receded, the salt flats were left behind, creating a unique landscape that mimics a frozen tundra landscape. Visitors can view the salt flat panorama via I-80 at an overlook point near Wendover, which offers access to explore the flats on foot. Great care should be taken while exploring the flats due to their sensitive environmental conditions. The salt flats are also unofficially known as the "Bonneville Speedway" due to their popularity as a motorcar racing site throughout the year since 1914. Five major speed events take place at the flats throughout the year, including the events of Bonneville Speed Week in August.
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Cedar City is Iron County's largest city, located approximately four hours from Salt Lake City, making it a great weekend trip destination for culture and nature lovers. The charming small town is known as the "Gateway to the National Parks, located within easy driving distance of Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and the exciting activities and visitor attractions of the Grand Canyon's North Rim. Cedar Breaks National Monument, preserving a stunning national amphitheater, is located less than half an hour away within the heart of the gorgeous Dixie National Forest. Each year, the city hosts the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival, held at Southern Utah University, which presents Shakespearean productions throughout the summer and autumn months. The Neil Simon Festival also celebrates the works of the great comedic playwright, presenting three plays of his each July and August.
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Cove Fort is a lovely preserved historic fort in Millard County, originally founded in 1867 by Ira Hinckley at the commission of Latter-Day Saints leader Brigham Young. The fort, which is located between the cities of Beaver and Fillmore, was once used as a significant waystation for pioneers traveling along the Mormon Road in the 19th century. It also served as a major communications hub, home to a telegraph office, blacksmith shop, and Pony Express stop. After private use throughout the 20th century, the fort was donated back to the LDS Church in 1988 and is open to the public as a visitor center and historic site. Today, the fort is open for guided tours each day, showcasing its unique volcanic rock construction and design elements, which have helped it withstand the test of time. All 12 of its rooms are furnished with period-appropriate furnishings.
Highway 161se, Beaver, UT 84713, Phone: 435-438-5547
9.Crystal Hot Springs
Crystal Hot Springs are the largest natural hot springs in the world, located just an hour and a half from Salt Lake City in the charming town of Honeyville. The hot springs were initially established as a visitor business in 1901, named Madsen Hot Springs. Throughout World War II, the hot springs served as a significant rehabilitation site for injured soldiers, who flocked to the site in droves to take advantage of the springs' supposed healing properties. Today, it is still maintained as a major tourist destination, home to cool and hot pools for swimming, soaking, and rejuvenation. The year-round complex offers three jetted hot tubs for visitor use, along with a lap pool, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and two 360-foot recreational water slides. Changing rooms are offered at the center's stone lodge, which is also home to several sand volleyball courts. A tree-lined campground provides more than 100 picturesque campsites, along with fire rings, restrooms, and a carp fishing pond.
8215 UT-38, Honeyville, UT 84314, Phone: 435-339-0038
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Eden is a lovely census-designated place in Weber County, best known as the access point to the beautiful Powder Mountain ski resort throughout the winter months. The city, which sits along the Ogden River's beautiful North and Middle Forks near Pineview Reservoir, is home to lovely attractions such as the South Skyline Trail, which offers some of the state's best skiing experiences along its 9.5-mile course. Visitors can ride the Needles Express Gondola to elevations of 8,800 feet above sea level and access the attractions of the ski resort, which were used as a venue for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. After hitting the slopes, resort guests can dine at the delicious Needles Lodge, which offers stunning panoramic views. Hot-air balloons are offered throughout the summer months, showcasing the region's beautiful mountain scenery.
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Ensign Peak is a lovely mountain peak within the mountain foothills surrounding Salt Lake City's skyline, located approximately one mile north of the Utah State Capitol. The peak was named by Latter-Day Saints leader Brigham Young in 1847 after a climb by several LDS Church members. Today, visitors can explore the gorgeous Ensign Peak Nature Park, which preserves the sacred religious site mountain and its surrounding natural terrain. Delightful hiking and biking trails are offered throughout the park, including trails that connect to the nearby Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the nearby Stansbury Shoreline Preserve. At the top of the peak, a small monument honors the history of the LDS Church and its leaders.
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12.Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park is a delightful Utah state park named in honor of its unique hoodoo rock formations, which line the park's terrain and reach heights of several meters at some points. The park's distinctive rock features, which were created by the erosion of soft sandstone covered in erosion-resistant rock layers, are frequently referred to as "goblins" by local residents. They are some of the largest hoodoo formations in the world and have been recognized as important cultural sites by indigenous and pioneer cultures for hundreds of years. Visitors can explore the park's surreal landscape throughout the year, which was showcased in the feature film Galaxy Quest as an interstellar landscape. Picnicking, camping, and nature photography are popular at the park, which is also known as a popular spot for families to play hide-and-seek amongst the unique landscape.
Goblin Valley Rd, Green River, UT 84525, Phone: 435-275-4584
13.The Heber Valley Railroad
The Heber Valley Railroad is a lovely heritage railroad in Heber City, offering passenger excursions throughout the year traveling to beautiful Provo Canyon in nearby Vivian Park. The passenger line, which carries over 100,000 passengers each year, stretches for 16 miles throughout the Utah landscape, traveling for three-hour roundtrip excursions within the Wasatch Mountains. It travels the route of a former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad line, which operated between 1899 and 1967. Along the way, visitors can view natural wonders like Deer Creek Reservoir, Mount Timpanogos, Cascade Mountain, and the beautiful Sundance Ski Resort. Native wildlife is often seen from the train, including mountain lions, deer, bald eagles, moose, and foxes. Seasonal excursion train opportunities include snow tubing and river rafting excursion rides, murder mystery train events, and a seasonal North Pole Express ride.
450 S 6th W, Heber City, UT 84032, Phone: 435-654-5601
Hidden Falls is a lovely scenic waterfall located within Big Cottonwood Canyon, accessible via a parking area at the canyon's S-Curve. The waterfall, which is accessible from the city of Cottonwood Heights via State Route 190, is located just north of the trailhead for the Mill B North Fork Trail, accessible via a beautiful creek that can be crossed by a log bridge. Several viewpoints of the falls are offered, showcasing its secluded cascades, which make for a great nature photography opportunities. The hike to the falls is very family-friendly due to its minimal changes in elevation and easy-to-traverse paths. It is a popular hike site throughout the year, showcasing spectacular ice-covered cliffs during the winter months.
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Logan has been named as one of America's most unique towns by Newsmax Magazine, located in Cache County just an hour and a half north of Salt Lake City. The city is best known as the home of Utah State University, which showcases a variety of cultural programming throughout the year at its lovely art galleries and concert halls. Visitors can also attend cultural performances at the Utah Festival Opera and the Ellen Eccles Theatre, which presents classic film showings, ballet performances, live music concerts, and performances by national theatrical touring companies. Community art classes are offered by the Cache Valley Center for the Arts, which sponsors the city's monthly Gallery Walk events. Outdoor adventures await at Logan Canyon, a popular spot for fishing, hiking, and camping. Between May and October, the city hosts a popular vendor-owned farmer's market at its City Hall, named as one of America's best farmer's markets in 2009. Annual special events include the Summerfest Arts Faire and the Cache Valley Cruise-In, the largest automotive festival in Utah.
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Midway is a delightful city in Wasatch County, located just half an hour across the Wasatch Mountains from Salt Lake City. The charming Heber Valley city was established in the mid-19th century and has become a mecca for outdoor recreation today, home to the stunning Homestead Resort, a popular alpine skiing area. Visitors can enjoy year-round opportunities for outdoor recreation, including opportunities for excellent Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, and snow tubing during the winter months. In the summer, visitors can hit the links at the resort's 18-hole championship golf course, take guided historic property tours, snorkel and scuba dive within the unique Homestead Crater natural area, or enjoy Friday Night Campfire and Saturday evening concert series events.
Mount Timpanogos is the Wasatch Mountains' second-highest peak, reaching elevations of 11,752 feet above sea level. The mountain, which is located within the lovely Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, is one of the tallest mountains in the contiguous United States, towering over the skylines of the nearby cities of Lehi, Provo, and American Fork. It receives heavy annual snowfall, meaning its peak is covered with snow throughout much of the wintertime, making for picturesque nature photography opportunities. Visitors can enjoy amazing opportunities for hiking and rock climbing year-round or explore the stunning Timpanogos Cave National Monument, which preserves a series of decorated caves along the mountain's northern end. Guided ranger tours of the caves are offered daily throughout the summer months.
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18.The Natural History Museum of Utah
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The Natural History Museum of Utah is a family-friendly museum in Salt Lake City that is located within the University of Utah's Research Park, showcasing a wide variety of visitor exhibits on the natural history and geography of Utah and the Intermountain West. The museum, which opened to the public in 1969, moved into its current facility at the Rio Tinto Center in 2011. Today, it showcases a collection of more than 1.6 million objects acquired throughout the Intermountain West, presented in a variety of lovely interactive permanent exhibits to please visitors of all ages. Visitors can explore the museum's Native Voices exhibit, which documents the cultural traditions of Utah's eight federally-recognized indigenous tribes, or journey through the state's three distinct geographical regions in its Land exhibit. Other exhibits detail the story of the Great Salt Lake, explore the region's weather and climate, or detail the evolution of life and animal species throughout the area.
301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, Phone: 801-581-6927
Provo is best known as the home of the famed Brigham Young University, located approximately 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City's downtown district. Visitors can explore a plethora of attractions on the BYU campus, including the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, the BYU Museum of Art, and the BYU Museum of Paleontology, which showcases a significant collection of dinosaur fossils. The Covey Center for the Performing Arts showcases live theater and dance performances throughout the year, while the Provo Utah Temple is home to significant attractions and places of worship connected to the Latter-Day Saints Church. Each year, the city hosts the America's Freedom Festival Independence Day celebration, which brings in major celebrities such as Mandy Moore, Sean Hannity, and Taylor Hicks.
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20.Sundance Mountain Resort
Sundance Mountain Resort is the home of the renowned annual Sundance Film Festival, which was originally founded as a three-day filmmaker's conference in 1979 by American actor Robert Redford. Today, the festival is considered to be America's premiere independent film festival, overseen by the Sundance Institute, which strives to promote independent filmmakers and engage the community with the arts and nature. It is held each January and receives more than 9,000 annual submissions, showcasing 200 selected films throughout its festivities and attracting a crowd of more than 50,000 festivalgoers. The resort is also known as one of the Rocky Mountains' top skiing resorts, stretching for more than 5,000 acres along the slopes of beautiful Mount Timpanogos. Visitors can enjoy amazing outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the year at the resort, ranging from skiing and snowshoeing to mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian riding.
21.The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve
The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve protect more than 4,400 acres of wetland and upland habitat along the eastern banks of the Great Salt Lake, the Western Hemisphere's largest saline lake. The preserve stretches for over 12 contiguous shoreline miles and is known as an important habitat for migratory shorebird and waterfowl populations, attracting more than six million migratory birds each year. It is a birdwatcher's paradise throughout the year, offering an observation area at its lovely visitor center where visitors can observe more than 250 species. A 30-foot observation tower can be ascended for amazing views, while a mile-long boardwalk trail can be strolled through for unique glimpses of bird habitats. Educational exhibits on the park's boardwalk offer information about bird species, habitats, and preserve conservation efforts.
S 3200 W, Layton, UT 84041, Phone: 801-531-0999
22.Utah Olympic Park
Utah Olympic Park preserves significant venues connected to events of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, located just half an hour east of the city's downtown district in Park City. The massive winter sports park was originally constructed in phases beginning in 1991. When it was completed, it served as the site for many Olympics events throughout the Games, including its ski jumping, luge, skeleton, bobsled, and Nordic combined events. Today, it stays in operation as an Olympic training center and visitor attraction, showcasing two museums connected to its Olympics festivities and sporting event history. Visitors can explore the free-admission Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, which is home to the Alf Engen Ski Museum, showcasing prestigious skiing trophies and artifacts. The George Eccles Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum also showcases Olympic medals, opening and closing ceremony props, and other Olympics-related artifacts and memorabilia.
3419 Olympic Pkwy, Park City, UT 84098, Phone: 435-658-4200
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Vernal is Uintah County's largest city, located approximately three hours from Salt Lake City, making it a great destination for weekend trips. The city, which sits just 20 miles west of the state's border with Colorado, is known as the site of the infamous 1879 "Hard Winter," when many area pioneers nearly perished due to harsh weather conditions. Unlike most Utah towns, the city was not originally settled by Mormon pioneers, but was populated following the designation of part of the region as the Uintah Indian Reservation in 1861. Today, it serves as a great launching-off point for exploring the attractions of nearby Dinosaur National Monument, which preserves more than 800 paleontological sites connected to dinosaur research. Real-life dinosaur replicas are showcased at the city's Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum. The city also serves as a gateway to nearby Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, which attracts more than two million annual visitors for excellent hiking, biking, and white water rafting opportunities.
23 Best Day Trips from Salt Lake City, Utah (Small Towns, Natural Wonders)
- Park City, Photo: Roman Tiraspolsky/stock.adobe.com
- Ogden, Photo: Jenny Thompson/stock.adobe.com
- Antelope Island State Park, Photo: MelissaMN/stock.adobe.com
- Bear Lake, Photo: swisshippo/stock.adobe.com
- Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Photo: Martha Marks/stock.adobe.com
- The Bonneville Salt Flats, Photo: forcdan/stock.adobe.com
- Cedar City, Photo: Shane/stock.adobe.com
- Cove Fort, Photo: Donley Despain/stock.adobe.com
- Crystal Hot Springs, Photo: twinsterphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Eden, Photo: Jenny Thompson/stock.adobe.com
- Ensign Peak, Photo: Filip Rytych/stock.adobe.com
- Goblin Valley State Park, Photo: amadeustx/stock.adobe.com
- The Heber Valley Railroad, Photo: Johnny/stock.adobe.com
- Hidden Falls, Photo: alexalen/stock.adobe.com
- Logan, Photo: Legacy Images/stock.adobe.com
- Midway, Photo: pureradiancecmp/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Timpanogos, Photo: Craig/stock.adobe.com
- The Natural History Museum of Utah, Photo: Budimir Jevtic/stock.adobe.com
- Provo, Photo: Harold/stock.adobe.com
- Sundance Mountain Resort, Photo: peony/stock.adobe.com
- The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, Photo: creativenature.nl/stock.adobe.com
- Utah Olympic Park, Photo: Jason/stock.adobe.com
- Vernal, Photo: Galyna Andrushko/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
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