From Zion to Bryce to Arches National Park, Utah has so many options when it comes to exploring new lands. Whether you love mountain biking, climbing or backpacking, Utah has something for everyone in this vast and changing landscape. Planning a trip to this area can be a hard task, especially if you want to find some solitude away from the crowds. While we love the popular trails, we did some digging and found perhaps some lesser known area to explore on your next trip. Don’t skip out on the major stuff, but maybe trickle in some unknowns into your schedule! You never know what you may find!
1) Capitol Reef National Park
Located in Utah’s south-central desert, Capitol Reef National Park features golden sandstone canyons and rising rock formations. One of the biggest features of this park is the Waterpocket Fold. The Waterpocket Fold is a buckle in the earth’s surface, almost 100 miles long running north-south from Thousand Lake Mountain down to Lake Powell. Along this fold, rocks have been pushed upward and erosion has cut through the layers creating deep narrow canyons and fascinating formations. Just like most rock formations throughout Utah, pictures don’t do it justice! Head to Capitol Reef National Park to learn more about the geology of the area.
2) Manti-La Sal National Forest
Manti-La Sal National Forest has a very diverse landscape featuring deep sandstone canyons, mountaintops, meadows, lakes and streams. Located in central and southeastern Utah this is a great stop if you are driving through the state. Depending on the time of the year you go the park has a variety of camping options and even hiking guides available to show you around. An easy drive from Moab, the La Sal Mountains not only provide a stunning visual contrast to the red rock town, but also a climactic, and recreational contrast as well. Spring, summer and fall are the best times to check out this area unless you enjoy skiing/snowboarding and have a 4 x 4 vehicle! Check out some of these hiking trails before you go.
3) Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Wasatch-Cache National Forest is a United States National Forest located mostly in northern Utah, with smaller parts passing into southeastern Idaho and southwestern Wyoming. Because of the climate and high elevation of many parts of this Forest, some areas may be closed to automobile travel in winter. If you have your winter gear and the right vehicle this is a wonderful place to visit to snowshoe and explore the silence of the mountains. Several of Utah’s top ski resorts are in this area and there are plenty of trails open to those ready to snowshoe!
Fun Fact: The name is derived from the Ute word Wasatch for a low place in high mountains, and the French word Cache meaning to hide
4) Fishlake National Forest
You guessed it! Calling all fishermen and women this spot is for you! Step back from the dry deserts in Utah and enjoy some reprieve at the largest freshwater mountain lake in the state. This area offers some great trophy fishing and bird watching. The mountains of the Fishlake are a source of water for many of the neighboring communities and valleys in the region.
Keep an eye out for elk, deer, black bear, cougar and moose, as well as wild turkey and mountain goats.
5) Canyonlands National Park
While this park may be just as popular as Zion, Bryce and Arches we wanted to highlight this area for its beautiful landscape and various hiking trails! You may know this area for the popular Mesa Arch trail which is very popular at sunrise. The countless canyons and buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries make this area a wonder.
Pack smart on your trip and don’t forget to bring along your Crazy Creek Chair! Whether you are camping or sitting and waiting for the sunrise a backpacking chair can all the difference! Crowded parks usually mean a jam-packed parking lot. Arrive early, pop out your chair and enjoy breakfast at the trailhead. Early risers for the win!
Remember to always hike with a buddy and/or tell somewhere exactly where you are going. Stay safe out there!