Southwestern Utah

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Southwestern Utah - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

    On a typical day, this 3,700-acre compound 7 miles north of town houses some 1,600 rescued animals, mostly dogs and cats but also horses, rabbits,...

    On a typical day, this 3,700-acre compound 7 miles north of town houses some 1,600 rescued animals, mostly dogs and cats but also horses, rabbits, farm animals, and even wildlife in need of shelter. They receive dozens of visitors who come to take one of the free 90-minute tours (offered four times daily); a special tour of Dogtown, Cat World Headquarters, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, or one of the other animal-specific areas of the sanctuary; a walk through the animal cemetery; or even a hike in adjacent Angel Canyon. Founded in 1984 and with several other adoption centers and offices around the country, Best Friends is the largest animal sanctuary in the United States and one of the world's most successful and influential no-kill animal rescue advocacy organizations. It's a rewarding visit if you love animals, and if you have the time and interest, you and your family can volunteer for a day at this amazing place. The organization also operates the Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile, a unique pet-centric hotel and gift shop. All tours should be booked online or by phone, even if same day.

    5001 Angel Canyon Rd., Utah, 84741, USA
    435-644–2001
  • 2. Burr Trail

    Fans of epic scenic drives—along with mountain and even road bikers—should consider tackling at least a portion of this storied, 66-mile route that was established...

    Fans of epic scenic drives—along with mountain and even road bikers—should consider tackling at least a portion of this storied, 66-mile route that was established as a rugged and remote cattle trail in the 1870s. This remote backcountry byway crosses east through the northern end of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and then across the southern portion of Capitol Reef National Park. The 31-mile stretch from Boulder to the park's western border is paved, making it easily passable and thus more popular if you're driving a passenger car. Beyond the paved stretch, it's another 35 miles of unpaved and often very bumpy road that passes briefly through Capitol Reef, crossing the amazing scenery of Waterpocket Fold via a dramatic series of switchbacks, and then eventually to paved Highway 276 and the village of Bullfrog, at the northern end of Glen Canyon. If you don't have a lot of time, drive the first 12 miles or so, following the route as it descends into Long Canyon, with its sheer red-rock walls. Hop out at the turnoff for Singing Canyon, where an easy 0.3-mile trail leads into a slot canyon with impressive 80-foot-high walls. See the Capitol Reef National Park chapter for more on exploring the section of Burr Trail that passes through the park and connects with Notom Road, which you can follow north about 35 miles to reach Highway 24 just east of the park boundary—turn left here, and you can loop all the way back to Boulder via Torrey. Note that the unpaved sections of Burr Trail and Notom Road can get washed out and become impassable after heavy rains, especially in summer—monitor weather forecasts carefully, and at the first sign of stormy weather (even in the distance), it's best to turn back. 

    Off Hwy. 12, Utah, 84716, USA
  • 3. Calf Creek Recreation Area

    One of the more easily accessible and rewarding adventures in the national monument, this picturesque canyon rife with oak trees, cacti, and sandstone pictographs is...

    One of the more easily accessible and rewarding adventures in the national monument, this picturesque canyon rife with oak trees, cacti, and sandstone pictographs is reached via the 6-mile round-trip Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail, which starts at the Calf Creek Campground, 15 miles east of Escalante and 12 miles south of Boulder along scenic Highway 12. The big payoff, and it's especially pleasing on warm days, is a 126-foot spring-fed waterfall. The pool at the base is a beautiful spot for a swim or picnic.

    Hwy. 12, Utah, 84716, USA
    435-826–5499

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $5 per vehicle
  • 4. Cedar Breaks National Monument

    Cedar Breaks is a 3-mile-long natural amphitheater that plunges a half-mile into the Markagunt Plateau, offering spectacular scenery and fewer crowds than at the area's...

    Cedar Breaks is a 3-mile-long natural amphitheater that plunges a half-mile into the Markagunt Plateau, offering spectacular scenery and fewer crowds than at the area's better known national parks. Mostly short alpine hiking trails trace the rim, meandering past wildflowers in summer. You can get a nice view of these distinctive red-rock formations that bear a strong resemblance to those of Bryce Canyon at the handful of overlooks along Highway 148—which means hikers, skiers, and snowshoers can usually find solitude along the trails. Winter is one of the best times to visit, when snow drapes the red-orange formations. As of this writing, the park service was constructing an attractive and much-needed new visitor center by the Sunset Trailhead parking area—it's slated to open in late summer 2023. From here, you can hike the 1-mile round-trip Sunset Trail, which is paved and wheelchair accessible, or embark on the most memorable of the park's hikes, the 5-mile round-trip South Rim Trail. This latter trek is moderately challenging, but if time is short, just hike the first mile to the Spectra Point viewpoint for an eye-popping panorama. Across Highway 148, the easy 0.6-mile round-trip Nature Trail connects with the Point Supreme Campground, which has 25 tent and RV sites. In winter, call ahead for conditions (the road is sometimes closed due to heavy snowfall), and keep in mind that visitor facilities are closed from October through late May.

    Hwy. 148, Utah, 84719, USA
    435-586–9451

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $10 per person (free under the age of 16), Visitor center closed mid-Oct.–late May
  • 5. Etta Place Cider

    This modern cidery on the west side of town honors the prolific orchards that have thrived in and around Torrey and Capitol Reef since pioneers...

    This modern cidery on the west side of town honors the prolific orchards that have thrived in and around Torrey and Capitol Reef since pioneers began settling here in the late 19th century. And the name honors Etta Place, the storied companion of the Sundance Kid, who holed up with the notorious, though charming, outlaw at his hideout with Butch Cassidy near Torrey. Since planting its first 50 trees in 2012, this boutique cider operation has developed a critical following for its clean and crisp dry, off-dry, and gingered hard ciders. One-hour tours provide an interesting look at the cider-making process and include a tasting; it's recommended that you book online, at least a couple of hours before you arrive. The on-site bottle shop also sells cheeses, meats, and other foods to snack on while you sip.

    700 W. Main St., Utah, 84775, USA
    435-425–2727

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $10 for a tour and tasting, Closed Mon.–Wed.
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  • 6. Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument

    This breathtaking, immense, and often difficult-to-access wilderness became a national monument in 1996. And although its federal status continues to generate controversy that has led...

    This breathtaking, immense, and often difficult-to-access wilderness became a national monument in 1996. And although its federal status continues to generate controversy that has led to reductions and subsequent restorations of its boundaries, this nearly 1.9-million-acre tract of red-rock canyons, stepped escarpments (the Grand Staircase), sheer rock ridges, and sweeping mesas continues to beguile hikers, canyoneers, and other outdoors enthusiasts. Unlike parks and monuments operated by the National Park Service, Grand Staircase–Escalante is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and visiting its key attractions requires a bit more research and effort than, for example, Bryce or Capitol Reef, which are relatively more compact and accessible. The best way to plan your adventures within the park is by stopping by one of the four visitor centers in the area, the best of these being the stunning Escalante Interagency Visitor Center in downtown Escalante. The smaller BLM Visitor Center in Cannonville is also helpful, or if you're entering the monument from the south, check out the BLM Visitor Centers in Kanab and Big Water. Given that many of the monument's top attractions are in remote areas with limited signage and access via unpaved (and sometimes very rough) roads, many visitors hire one of the area's many experienced outfitters and guides—this is an especially smart strategy if it's your first time in the area. Some of the monument's top attractions are big draws—including Calf Creek Recreation Area and the several hikes and vistas along Hole-in-the-Rock Road ( see Escalante), the Burr Trail ( see Boulder), and the Paria Movie Set and Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness ( see Kanab).

    755 W. Main St., Utah, 84726, USA
    435-826–5499
  • 7. Highway 12 Scenic Byway

    Keep your camera handy and steering wheel steady along this entrancing 123-mile route that begins at U.S. 89 south of Panguitch and meanders in a...

    Keep your camera handy and steering wheel steady along this entrancing 123-mile route that begins at U.S. 89 south of Panguitch and meanders in a generally northeasterly direction through Red Canyon, the south end of Bryce Canyon National Park, and the towns of Escalante and Boulder, before climbing Boulder Mountain and winding through Dixie National Forest to Torrey, just west of Capitol Reef National Park. The roughly 25-mile stretch from Escalante to Boulder is the most spectacular. Allow time to pull off and stop at the many scenic overlooks; almost every one will give you an eye-popping view, and interpretive signs let you know what you're looking at. Pay attention while driving, though. The road is sometimes twisting and steep—the section over Hogback Ridge, with its sheer drop-offs on both sides, will really get your heart pumping.

    Hwy. 12, Utah, USA
  • 8. Kayenta Art Village

    In the heart of an upscale, contemporary planned community in Ivins, not far from Tuacahn Center for the Arts and Snow Canyon State Park, this...

    In the heart of an upscale, contemporary planned community in Ivins, not far from Tuacahn Center for the Arts and Snow Canyon State Park, this beautifully situated arts colony contains several of southern Utah's top galleries, including Gallery 873, known for jewelry and ceramics; Kayenta Desert Arboretum & Desert Rose Labyrinth, which visitors can freely stroll through; Zia Pottery Studio, a co-op operated by talented local potters; and several others. Set against a red-rock landscape, it's an enchanting neighborhood to stroll through, especially during the Art in Kayenta outdoor festival in mid-October. Also check to see what's on at the Center for the Arts at Kayenta—which presents lectures, movies, theater, and concerts—or grab a bite at the excellent Xetava Gardens Cafe.

    875 Coyote Gulch Ct., Utah, 84738, USA
    435-688–8535
  • 9. Kodachrome Basin State Park

    Yes, this remarkable landscape in Cannonville, about 40 miles southwest of Escalante, is named after the old-fashioned color photo film, and once you see it...

    Yes, this remarkable landscape in Cannonville, about 40 miles southwest of Escalante, is named after the old-fashioned color photo film, and once you see it you'll understand why the National Geographic Society gave it the name. The stone spires known as "sand pipes" are found nowhere else in the world. Hike any of the trails to spot some of the 67 pipes in and around the park. The short Angel's Palace Trail takes you quickly into the park's interior, up, over, and around some of the badlands. Note that the oft-photographed Shakespeare Arch collapsed in 2019; although the trail leading to what is now a pile of rubble is still open, it's not as interesting as the Angel's Palace or Panorama Trails. 

    Off Cottonwood Canyon Rd., Utah, 84718, USA
    435-679–8562

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $10 per vehicle
  • 10. Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness

    In this extremely remote 112,500-acre expanse of otherworldly canyons, cliffs, and mesas that straddles the Utah–Arizona border south of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and along...

    In this extremely remote 112,500-acre expanse of otherworldly canyons, cliffs, and mesas that straddles the Utah–Arizona border south of Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument and along the Arizona border, you'll find the subjects of some of the most famous and photographed rock formations in the Southwest, including "The Wave," an undulating landscape of waves frozen in striated red, orange, and yellow sandstone that can be accessed by permit only—it's reached via a somewhat strenuous 6.4-mile round-trip hike. The area has a number of other spectacular features, several of them a bit easier to access, such as the moderately easy 3.7-mile Wire Pass Trail, which leads to the longest slot canyon in the world, 13-mile Buckskin Gulch. For any visits to this wilderness, part of which falls within Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, it's essential that you check with the area's BLM ranger offices in Kanab or Big Water (near Lake Powell) for guidance and conditions (deadly flash floods can occur with little warning in some of these slot canyons); staff can also provide permit information about visiting The Wave (aka Coyote Buttes North) and Coyote Buttes South. Or consider visiting the area on tour through one of the reputable outfitters in Kanab or Escalante, such as Dreamland Safari Tours, Forever Adventure Tours, and Paria Outpost & Outfitters. The parking lot for the Wire Pass Trailhead, a good place to start your explorations of the area, is 45 miles east of Kanab via U.S. 89 (turn right onto House Rock Valley Road shortly after milemarker 26 and continue 8.5 miles down the unpaved road). Only 64 people are granted permits to visit The Wave each day, and all are awarded by online lottery (48 of them by advanced lottery up to four months in advance, and 16 of them by daily lottery issued two days in advance). Visit  www.blm.gov/node/7605 for details.

    House Rock Valley Rd., Utah, 84741, USA
    435-644–1300

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $6 per person day use; reservations and permits required for some hikes
  • 11. Red Canyon

    This arresting 7,400-foot-elevation landscape of dark green Ponderosa pines and Douglas fir trees is part of Dixie National Forest. You'll see fiery-red sandstone pinnacles and...

    This arresting 7,400-foot-elevation landscape of dark green Ponderosa pines and Douglas fir trees is part of Dixie National Forest. You'll see fiery-red sandstone pinnacles and hoodoos, as well as clear blue sky, as you make your way via Highway 12 from Panguitch to Bryce Canyon—at one point the road even passes beneath a dramatic red-rock arch. Have a picnic and a short stroll on one of the several trails that lead from the Red Canyon Visitor Center (open daily, late May to early September). Longer treks—the Hoodoo Loop, Ledges, and Losee Canyon Trails all showcase the rewarding scenery—are worth checking out if you have a bit more time. Some trails are well-suited to mountain biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing, and the paved 5-mile Red Canyon Trail is ideal for road biking. There's also a campground.

    5375 Hwy. 12, Utah, 84759, USA
    435-676–2676
  • 12. Red Hills Desert Garden

    Opened in 2015 as the state's first botanic garden devoted to desert conservation, this beautiful space in the red hills on downtown's northern edge is...

    Opened in 2015 as the state's first botanic garden devoted to desert conservation, this beautiful space in the red hills on downtown's northern edge is ideal for a peaceful stroll and learning about water-efficient plants. More than 5,000 of them—including fragrant mesquite trees, prickly pear cactus, blue agave, Joshua trees, weeping yucca, and desert willows—thrive here, along with a meandering stream that's stocked with desert suckers, Virgin River chub, and other native species. Paths also lead past a number of boulders that preserve the tracks of dinosaurs that roamed here some 200 million years ago. The garden adjoins rugged Pioneer Park, a 52-acre expanse of rock-climbing and hiking terrain, with barbecue pits, picnic pavilions and tables, and both short and long trails.

    375 E. Red Hills Pkwy., Utah, 84770, USA
    435-673–3617
  • 13. Snow Canyon State Park

    Named not for winter weather but after a pair of pioneering Utahans named Snow, this breathtaking 7,400-acre red rock wonderland—about 10 miles northwest of St....

    Named not for winter weather but after a pair of pioneering Utahans named Snow, this breathtaking 7,400-acre red rock wonderland—about 10 miles northwest of St. George and located entirely within Red Cliffs Desert Reserve—abounds with natural wonders, many of which are easily explored from the well-marked parking areas. The best strategy is to enter from the south from Ivins and drive north along the 4½-mile park road to Highway 18, which leads south back to St. George. Nearly 40 miles of hiking trails lead to lava cones, petrified dunes, cactus gardens, and high-contrast vistas. Great options if you have only a couple of hours include the short trek to the soaring slot canyon known as Jenny's Canyon and the slightly longer (it takes an hour) Lava Tube Trail. Upper Galoot is a pretty picnic area with grills as well as a short trail lined with interesting interpretative signs about the desert tortoise. From the campground you can scramble up huge sandstone mounds and look across the entire valley. Park staff lead occasional guided hikes.

    1002 Snow Canyon Dr., Utah, 84738, USA
    435-628–2255

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $15 per vehicle
  • 14. Anasazi State Park Museum

    Believed to be one of the largest Ancestral Puebloan sites west of the Colorado River, the village preserved at this museum is largely untouched. A...

    Believed to be one of the largest Ancestral Puebloan sites west of the Colorado River, the village preserved at this museum is largely untouched. A paved outdoor trail leads to the protected ruins of a surface pueblo pit house that predates AD 1200. Within a reproduction of an ancient dwelling is a museum featuring interactive exhibits and views into the climate-controlled environment where artifacts are stored.  In the parking lot, Magnolias Street Food dispenses delicious farm-to-table burritos, tacos, and seasonal specials from a pale-green converted school bus.

    460 N. Hwy. 12, Utah, 84716, USA
    435-335–7308

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $5
  • 15. Brian Head Peak Observation

    This 11,312-foot stone lookout hut was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1935 atop the highest summit in Iron County. You can see...

    This 11,312-foot stone lookout hut was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1935 atop the highest summit in Iron County. You can see for miles in every direction, as far as Nevada and Arizona, enjoying especially dramatic views of nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument. The windy and dramatic nearly 3-mile drive along bumpy and unpaved Forest Road 047 from Highway 143 (take it slowly) is part of the fun; when there's snow, the last section of road is closed to vehicles, but you can still hike or snowshoe up to the top. You can also hike to the summit from the junction of Rocky Road and Highway 143—the rugged and picturesque trek is about 3½ miles each way.

    End of Forest Rd. 047, Utah, 84719, USA

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 16. Brigham Young Winter Home and Office

    Mormon leader Brigham Young spent the last seven winters of his life in the warm, sunny climate of St. George. Built of adobe on a...

    Mormon leader Brigham Young spent the last seven winters of his life in the warm, sunny climate of St. George. Built of adobe on a sandstone-and-basalt foundation and now a museum, this two-story home, with pretty green and red trim and well-tended gardens, contains a portrait of Young over one fireplace and furnishings from the late 19th century. Visits are by guided tour.

    67 W. 200 N, Utah, 84770, USA
    435-673–2517

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 17. Bryce Wildlife Adventure

    Imagine a zoo frozen in time: this 14,000-square-foot private museum contains more than 1,600 butterflies and 1,100 taxidermy animals in tableaux mimicking actual terrain and...

    Imagine a zoo frozen in time: this 14,000-square-foot private museum contains more than 1,600 butterflies and 1,100 taxidermy animals in tableaux mimicking actual terrain and animal behavior. The animals and birds come from all parts of the world. An African room has baboons, bush pigs, Cape buffalo, and a lion. There's also a collection of about 40 living fallow deer that kids delight in feeding and ATV and bike rentals for touring scenic Highway 12 and the Paunsaugunt Plateau.

    1945 W. Hwy. 12, Utah, 84764, USA
    435-834–5555

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $8, Closed Nov.–Mar.
  • 18. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

    This sweeping, 3,730-acre expanse of pink sand about 20 miles west of Kanab is the result of eroding sandstone. Funneled through a notch in the...

    This sweeping, 3,730-acre expanse of pink sand about 20 miles west of Kanab is the result of eroding sandstone. Funneled through a notch in the rock, wind picks up speed and carries grains of sand into the area—the undulating formations can reach heights of 100 feet and move as much as 50 feet per year. It's a giant playground for dune buggies, ATVs, and dirt bikes. If you just want a quick scamper through the dunes, park in one of the small roadside lots; there's no fee collected at these areas, and they're farther away from where vehicles zoom through the sand and so tend to be quieter.  Children love to play in the sand, but check the surface temperature; it can get very hot.

    Coral Sand Dunes Rd. (Hwy. 43), Utah, 84741, USA
    435-648–2800

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $10 per vehicle
  • 19. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

    This park just 2 miles northwest of downtown protects a huge repository of petrified wood, easily spotted along two short but moderately taxing hiking trails...

    This park just 2 miles northwest of downtown protects a huge repository of petrified wood, easily spotted along two short but moderately taxing hiking trails (the shorter and steeper of the two, the Sleeping Rainbows Trail, requires some scrambling over boulders). Of equal interest is the park's Wide Hollow Reservoir, which has a swimming beach and is popular for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, trout fishing, and birding. Keep an eye out for Escalante Rock Shop, just before you reach the park border, which sells petrified wood and other geological wonders.

    710 N. Reservoir Rd., Utah, 84726, USA
    435-826–4466

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $10 per vehicle
  • 20. Frontier Homestead State Park Museum

    This interactive living-history museum devoted to the county's early iron industry is home to a number of interesting attractions, including a bullet-scarred stagecoach that ran...

    This interactive living-history museum devoted to the county's early iron industry is home to a number of interesting attractions, including a bullet-scarred stagecoach that ran in the days of Butch Cassidy and the oldest standing home in all of southern Utah, built in 1851. Local artisans demonstrate pioneer crafts, and numerous mining artifacts and tools are on display.

    585 N. Main St., Utah, 84721, USA
    435-586–9290

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: $4, Closed Sun. in Sept.–Apr.

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