The Beehive State has so many fantastic vacation spots, it’s hard to shortlist the most iconic summer destinations near Salt Lake, but we did it anyway! Some of the state’s best attractions are only a few hours from Salt Lake, while others require a little more travel time. Each one is well worth the trip, however.
While we couldn’t fit every one of the 45 state parks, five national parks, and five national historic trails and sites, our list includes some of the best spots for camping, hiking, dining, and enjoying the season.
1. Bryce Canyon National Park
Located in the southern part of the state, Bryce Canyon features a series of natural amphitheaters that have been carved into a plateau over millions of years. It also has the largest concentrations of hoodoos (irregular rock spires) in the world. Opportunities for camping, hiking, and horseback riding give visitors the chance to enjoy the dark green forest set against the red rock canyon walls. Visitors can take in the view from four main viewpoints of Bryce Point, Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point. For an easy hike with the family, be sure to include The Rim Trail in your itinerary. Or step it up with a backpacking trip on the Under The Rim Trail.
2. Arches National Park
You don’t have to be a geologist to be blown away by the landscape of Arches National Park. Rock formations that go by the name of hoodoos, gargoyles, ribs, and fins are amazing to witness as are the over 2,000 arches located within the park. Hike the Delicate Arch trail to see why this park is a truly iconic summer destination. You’ll be taking a lot of pictures, we guarantee. Stick around until the sun goes down and you’ll see more stars than you could possibly count.
3. Timpanogos Caves National Monument
Hike your way among natural formations of stalagmites and stalactites within the hidden underground world of limestone caves at Timpanogos Caves National Monument. Situated in the beautiful American Fork Canyon along the Wasatch Mountain Range, Timpanogos offers an adventure for everyone. Cave tours take you through an awe-inspiring underground system of paths not to mention the breathtaking views of canyons and mountain rivers, and exciting hiking along the cave trail.
4. Zion National Park
Awesome views and majestic scenery do not begin to describe why Zion National Park is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. Zion’s massive cream, pink, and red sandstone cliffs set against the beautiful Utah sky are the perfect backdrop for amazing family adventures. Explore Lava Point, follow the labyrinth of tributaries and side canyons carved out by the Virgin River at Zion Narrows, and make time for the sites at Main Canyon, the most popular Zion destination. Enjoy biking, horseback riding, fishing, river tubing, golfing, canyoneering, take a helicopter or Jeep tour, and then relax for dinner at one of the many restaurants.
5. Bear Lake
Known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its eye-catching, turquoise-blue water surrounded by mountains and sandy beaches, Bear Lake is well worth the visit. Start your day off with a stop at Minnetonka Cave, hike and bike around Bloomington Lake then rent a boat and enjoy inland water scuba diving at Cisco Beach. There are also plenty of opportunities to fish, kayak, sail, paddleboard, and water ski at the beautiful state park beaches. For some downtime, enjoy a round of golf, birdwatch, cheer on your kids at go-karts, or enjoy the sunset from your campground or hotel balcony.
6. Bonneville Salt Flats
If you want to experience one of the most intriguing places in the U.S., set your GPS to Bonneville Salt Flats. Located on the Utah/Nevada border an hour and a half from Salt Lake City, the salt flats are so barren that not even the simplest life forms can exist. A dried-up body of water left a 30,000 acre, blinding-white plain of salty soil and a white crust that looks like a frozen lake covered in snow. Visit the flats during Speed Week and watch cars and motorcycles reach unbelievable speeds across the barren land, or visit nearby Wendover for exciting nightlife options.
7. Capitol Reef
Located in Torrey, Utah in Red Rock country, Capitol Reef is the ideal combination of spectacular views, sightseeing, hiking, backpacking, and camping. Experience the rocky domes and bridges from Gooseneck and Sunset Points, hike Cathedral Valley, Sheets Gulch, and Sulphur Creek, and backpack through Pleasant Creek and Spring Canyon. Stop by the Fruita Historic District, check out the Fremont Culture Petroglyphs, and explore the Gifford Houses. After horseback riding and fruit picking, settle into the Fruita campground and gaze up at limitless stars in the designated International Dark Sky Park.
8. Antelope Island
For a great day trip close to Salt Lake City, head to Antelope Island. In addition to the island’s namesake animal, there are many other varieties of birds and waterfowl to observe plus bobcats and coyotes. The most famous animal on the island, however, is the American Bison which has called the island home since 1893. Drive, hike, or bike the island’s trails for a glimpse of one of the 600 bison found on the island. Other recreational opportunities include sailing, kayaking, horseback riding, picnicking, and sunbathing. Pitch a tent or bring the RV and enjoy several days of amazing sunrises and spectacular sunsets.
9. Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Located in the southern part of the state, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes is an iconic summer destination for hiking, camping, horseback riding, wildlife watching, and of course, playing in the sand. The dunes are also enjoyed by ATV riders and other enthusiasts of off-highway vehicles. Even if you’ve visited before, things will look different as the dunes move thanks to shifting winds. In fact, the dunes can move up to 50 feet over the course of the year. It gets hot here in the summer, so it’s best to visit in the morning, which you can do as a side trip during a longer visit to close-by Zion National Park.
10. Utah Lake
The Great Salt Lake is an iconic summer destination near Salt Lake, Utah, of course, but some may find it too salty for good swimming. For a freshwater option, head to Utah Lake. Visitors to this lake enjoy water sports such as paddle boarding, jet skiing, sailing, and canoeing on the lower Provo River. Located close to Provo City and Salt Lake City, this area makes for a good day trip for fishing, picnicking, or boating. Stay longer at campsites that accommodate tents and RVs.