Social distancing? Most Utah State Parks are OPEN for now! However, some visitor centers, campgrounds and other services are closed. Check https://stateparks.utah.gov/ for updated information before you go.
Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Utah State Parks always rank high on my list of close-to-home travel options because they are fun, accessible, and inexpensive.
My favorite state parks feature unique natural or historical wonders. However, there are activities to suit most interests. They include:
- OHV Trails
- Historical Sites
- And More
Here are my favorite Utah State Parks.
People come from all over the world to float in the Great Salt Lake, and Antelope Island State Park is one of the best places to do it. The experience of effortlessly floating in the briny water of this unusual lake is worth the trip on its own.
There are lots of other fun things to do at Antelope Island State Park. My favorite the the half-mile trail to Buffalo Point at sunset. The views of the sunset and the surrounding mountains are gorgeous! If that's not enough, the point is covered in hundreds of boulders that make a fun natural playground for families.
Biking, kayaking, sailing and picnicking are also popular activities. Antelope Island is conveniently located less than an hour's drive from downtown Salt Lake City.
Goblin Valley State Park is perhaps the best park in Utah for kids and kids at heart. The unearthly rock “goblins” that made this Utah state park famous are the perfect size for climbing, exploring and imaginative play. Goblin Valley is remote, but worth the drive. Pair it with a visit to Capitol Reef National Park or Canyonlands National Park.
The campground can fill quickly so make reservations and avoid school holidays if you can. Bring your own tent or RV, or reserve a yurt. Staying at the park is the best way to enjoy a game of flashlight Capture the Flag after dark!
Dead Horse Point
Despite its strange name, Dead Horse Point State Park has some of the most spectacular scenic views in the State of Utah. In a state with an extra helping of amazing scenery, that's saying something. The view is the biggest selling point, but this park is a fun place to go hiking, mountain biking and camping too.
The story goes a herd of horses was penned on this point and left too long without water, so they jumped to the Colorado River far below. It's probably not true because horses have always been a valuable commodity, but the name stuck. Dead Horse Point is located near Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
- Best Hikes in Canyonlands' Island in the Sky
- Top Stops for Families in Arches National Park
- 10 Fun Things to Do in Moab, Utah
Bear Lake State Park
Bear Lake is a favorite summer getaway for many Utah families. This large lake straddles the Utah-Idaho border, and there are a lot of fun things to do here. Boating, swimming, camping, beach play and finding the best local raspberry shake are some of the most popular activities.
Bear Lake State Park has three sections:
- State Marina on the west side
- Rendezvous Beach on the southwest curve
- Eastside, including First Point, South Eden, Cisco Beach, Rainbow Cove, and North Eden
Bear Lake is just one of many lakes and reservoirs in the Utah State Parks system. Chances are, there is one near you. See the full list of Utah State Parks at https://stateparks.utah.gov/.
Utah Field House of Natural History
The Utah Field House of Natural History is unique because it is a dinosaur museum, rather than an outdoor recreation destination. The new museum is chock full of hands on, educational activities for dinosaur lovers of all ages. With indoor and outdoor exhibits, the museum is a fun year-round destination.
Located in Vernal, just minutes from Dinosaur National Monument, the Field House is a natural addition to any trip to Utah's Dinosaurland. If you haven't been here lately, a lot has changed. Be sure to add this unique state park to your list!
- Tips for Visiting the Utah Field House of Natural History
- Tips for Visiting Dinosaur National Monument
- Review of Adrift – Rafting Dinosaur National Monument
Snow Canyon State Park has the distinction of being one of the best off-season parks in Utah. It is located just a few minutes' drive from St. George where the year-round sunshine is most welcome in the fall, winter and spring. Ancient lava flows, colorful sandstone cliffs and blue skies create a beautiful backdrop for all your favorite activities at Snow Canyon.
Hiking and biking are popular at Snow Canyon State Park, and it has several unique features as well. Our favorite activity was digging in the clean, fine orange sand, so be sure to pack your flip flops and beach toys. Snow Canyon pairs well with nearby Zion National Park.
- Tips for Visiting Snow Canyon State Park
- Top Stops for Families in Zion National Park
- 10 Fun Things to Do in St. George, Utah
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Coral Pink Sand Dunes is located just outside of Kanab, Utah, on the east side of Zion National Park. As the name implies, the main reason to visit this park is to play in miles and miles of brightly colored sand.
My family enjoyed climbing to the top of a big dune and running down in bare feet. We saw other families who brought snow sleds, and that looked like a lot of fun. ATVs are welcome at Coral Pink Sand Dunes.
I recommend visiting this park in the spring or fall. Summer can be very hot here – too hot to play in the sand.
- Tips for Visiting Coral Pink Sand Dunes
- 6 Ways to Experience Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
- Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon North Rim
Edge of the Cedars
Edge of the Cedars is an indoor/outdoor archaological site in Blanding. It's well worth an hour or two if you are traveling through or live in Southeastern Utah.
The indoor museum is filled with ancient relics collected from local archaological sites. I found the section of recent finds most interesting. There is also an educational play zone for kids.
Walk outside to see the remains of an ancestral Puebloan village that is hundreds of years old. You can walk in and around an ancient home, and climb a sturdy ladder down into an underground room. My kids thought that was the best part of our visit.
- 10 Fun Things to Do in San Juan County
- Tips for Visiting Natural Bridges National Monument
- What to Expect at Four Corners Monument
Utah has a lot of amazing state parks! Here are a couple more tips for your visit.
For kids, ask for Junior Ranger packets at any state park ranger desk. It's a FREE way to learn about the park and take home a souvenir ranger badge.
In recent years, Utah State Parks has upgraded many of its facilities, which means that they are even easier to enjoy. I'm talking about clean, modern restrooms! Many of the parks now offer cabins, yurts or canvas cabins with real beds, so you don't need to bring your own tent or RV to stay at the park. Look for boat and equipment rentals too.