The planet seems to snap into otherworldly terrain here, with blazing red rock piercing bright blue skies, dipping green valleys, canyons so vast they take your breath away, and rushing blue rivers that beg to be conquered by raft.
With the wild, barren Canyonlands National Park and the magnificent stony surrealism of Arches National Park in its immediate clutches, the artsy little town of Moab is a natural place to hunker down for all sorts of outdoor adventure.
Take the fairly short, but steep, hike up to Arches’ iconic Delicate Arch, and get your must-post IG snap; or drive up Route 313 one morning to the 2,000-foot vantage point at Dead Horse Point State Park for a once-in-a-lifetime sunrise. Look to the west and you might spy Shafer Trail, where Thelma and Louise flew to their fate in the 1991 Ridley Scott film.
In the fall, the Colorado River is at low water, a perfect run for beginners. Afterward, head to Milt's Stop & Eat in Moab, a diner that’s been doling out delicious burgers and malts since 1954. If you’re looking for less-traveled terrain, Capitol Reef National Park offers cliffs, canyons and domes in the Waterpocket Fold, a 100-mile long geologic monocline (a wrinkle in the earth’s surface).
Southern Utah may get more air time on the state highlight reel, but Northern Utah has plenty of magic to call its own. This area is famous for its winter tourism, offering some of the world's best skiing and snowboarding, but many locals prefer the summer, when perfect temperatures meet fresh mountain air and the land is teeming with beautiful trees and flowers. Much of Utah’s north is unspoiled, preserved as part of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking are popular here, with miles of trails that are far less crowded than southern Utah’s.
Where Utah meets Idaho, you’ll find gorgeous Bear Lake. Nicknamed the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its stunning turquoise color (#nofilter, indeed), the shade is a result of heavy calcium carbonate deposits in the water. The lake dates back some 250,000 years, and is home to several species of fish that can only be found in these waters.
Sand dunes, red rock and hoodoos, oh my. Utah’s entire southwest quarter, extending from St. George to the center of the state, feels like one jaw-dropping vista after another.
Starting in the far corner of the state, Snow Canyon State Park offers hiking, climbing and horseback riding among petrified sand dunes and jagged underground lava tubes. An hour east is the legendary Zion National Park – an area you’ve visualized via countless surreal photos, but is guaranteed to leave you shook in person. You can spend hours – or years – soaking in the park’s astounding beauty. Hike up Angel’s Landing, or drive down Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. Trek past the Emerald Pools, or aim for the Kolob Canyons.
A little over an hour northeast of Zion, you’ll find the towering amphitheater of crimson-colored hoodoos that make up the Bryce Canyon National Park’s Amphitheater. Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce Points are all great overlooks to take in a sunrise or sunset. South of Zion, the lesser-known Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park offers an equally ethereal landscape with seemingly endless rolling sand dunes.