There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure in Utah state parks. Between free-range bison, coral pink sand dunes, sandstone goblins, stargazing, and pictographs, there are a host of unique things to see when making your way from one park to the next. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for camping, hiking, fishing, and boating and a lot of these parks have interesting ties to the state's history, including the Mormon Chuch and fur traders of the 1800s.
Antelope Island State Park is located on a peninsula in the Great Salt Lake northwest of Salt Lake City. Backcountry trails provide opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding and the sandy beach by the lake is the perfect place to relax. This park is home to free-range bison, mule deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, and countless birds that take advantage of the 40 fresh water springs in the park to survive. Be sure to visit the historic Fielding Garr Ranch located in the park as well. It is the first permanent residence on the island and the oldest Anglo-built structure in Utah that still stands on its original foundation.
About an hour's drive southwest of Salt Lake City is Wasatch Mountain State Park. Miles of mountain trails are perfect for hiking, horseback riding, or ATVs and are used for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobile riding in the winter months. Guests can also enjoy one of the four 18-hole golf courses when the weather is warm. There are two historic areas, too: Tate Barn and the Huber Farmhouse and Creamery. Guests have access to plenty of camping and picnicking areas to enjoy throughout the park.
Located in southwest Utah just across the Arizona border is Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, a great stop for adventure seekers. The shifting red sand moves the topography as much as 50 feet every year, and the dunes are estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old. Visitors have a one-of-a-kind opportunity for adventure as well as a landscape made for taking stunning photographs. This is a destination spot for ATV riders and people who want to hike the dunes or just play in the sand.
Goblin Valley State Park is located southeast of the center of Utah, about a 90-minute drive west of Arches National Park. The strange landscape is covered with sandstone formations that resemble gnomes and mushrooms and is often compared to the surface of Mars. These odd formations are the result of sandstone cliffs eroding unevenly from water or windblown dust. This alien landscape is an interesting place to walk around and take pictures that you cannot get anywhere else.
East of Park City in the Heber Valley is Jordanelle State Park. This park is actually composed of three distinct areas: Hailstone, Rock Cliff, and Ross Creek. Hailstone is designed to support all kinds of outdoor water activities, including fishing, wakeboarding, water skiing, and canoeing. Rock Cliff features elevated boardwalks among the cottonwoods to get up close and personal with nature. Finally, Ross Creek offers a paved trail so everyone can experience all sides of the reservoir. Camping is allowed throughout the park at various locations.
Dead Horse Point sits 2,000 feet about a Colorado River gooseneck and is one of the most photogenic places in the state. The steep vertical cliffs were carved by millions of years of ice, wind, and water wearing away at the canyon. Because it is located far from the light pollution of the city, this park was designated an International Dark Sky Park and is an amazing place to stargaze. Plus, there are plenty of trails for biking and hiking to keep guests busy during the day. Just be sure to bring a camera.
Gunlock State Park is located in the southwest corner of Utah just 15 miles northwest of St. George. It is near both the Arizona and Nevada borders. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors here but be sure to take a camera along. Streams and waterfalls flow over the bright red rocks making this a great spot for photographers. The Gunlock Reservoir allows for boating, swimming, and fishing, particularly anglers looking to catch bass or catfish. Because the winters are so mild, the park is open all year round.
Located in Fishlake National Forest in western Utah, the Freemont Indian State Park and Museum provides a unique opportunity to travel back in time. The museum preserves artifacts from a Fremont Indian village that was discovered when Interstate 70 was being built. Artifacts include arrowheads, baskets, and pottery. There are plenty of petroglyphs and pictographs on-site as well. Hike through the park or take a guided tour of the cave art for an experience unlike any other.
Hyrum State Park is in the Cache Valley in north-central Utah, only about 30 miles from the border with Idaho. The area has a rich history tied to the Mormon Church as well as fur traders in the 1820s. Today, visitors enjoy fishing, boating, and other water sports, though some people prefer to hang out on the beach and go for a swim. The land surrounding the reservoir is covered in maple, box elder, and willow trees and provides great opportunities for hiking and exploring.
Bear Lake straddles the border of Utah and Idaho in the northeastern corner of the state. This natural lake was formed by an earthquake 28,000 years ago. Minerals in the water make it a bright, brilliant blue that visitors cannot stay away from. There are a lot of ways to have fun at Bear Lake, including boating, jet skiing, sailing, water skiing, and tubing. It is also one of the best places for inland scuba diving in the tristate area. Guests who want to stay overnight have access to multiple campsites and cabins and food and concessions are available in the park.