20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Utah

Jul 22, 2021

There are few states in America that can boast of both long-standing and pervasive history, as well as an ongoing artistic renaissance that is rivaled only by New York and California.

Utah is no exception. It has a long history as a mining state, but the state's major attractions today are the museums, arts and culture that continue to attract visitors from around the world.

There are countless places of historic interest, from temples in the desert and Victorian spas to the state's early 20th century Mormon pioneer history. The attractions that follow offer plenty of places where you can catch a glimpse of Utah's history, from colonial saloons to mountain cathedrals. Utah's vast sky-filled outdoors provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, both on the slopes and in the desert. Plan your trip with our list of the top tourist attractions in Utah.

Arches National Park

Photo of Arches National Park
Arches National Park: en.wikipedia.org

It's not always easy to distinguish true natural rock formations from man-made structures, but the impressive rock arch of Arches National Park, Utah, is clearly carved by nature. Formed by the arching of layers of rock, this natural rock formation consists of many different arches. Arches Park lies in central Utah's red rock country, just south of Moab and the Colorado River, a dramatic, color-filled landscape. Descend into the park's vast landscape of eroded sandstone formations for the chance to spot the characteristic black volcanic sandstone from which the park got its name. View this incredible arch formation at your own pace or try a number of guided tours, which vary in difficulty.

Capitol Reef National Park

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Capitol Reef National Park: en.wikipedia.org

You are almost guaranteed a memorable vacation in the Southwest if you visit Capitol Reef National Park. Situated just below the Hoover Dam on the banks of the Colorado River, the park encompasses some 550 square miles and contains a spectacular array of geological formations, the most famous of which is the layered red, green and white arches of natural stone known as the Toroweap Formation. To see these features, visit Levanthal Road where there is access to rugged trail through these archways, and you can even park your car and hike in to the middle of one archway to get a panoramic view of these natural wonders. Other attractions in the park include Beaver Lake with its fine rock arches, Boulder Mountain featuring a major climb for hikers of all abilities, and Zion National Park. Nearby, the city of Boulder City is famous for being the setting of the movie Water World.

Canyonlands National Park

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Canyonlands National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Canyonlands is located south of Utah's capital of Salt Lake City and is one of the least-visited parks in the U.S. A trip to the colorful rock pinnacles, towering slickrock formations, and massive slot canyons requires hardy outdoor lovers to spend at least a week hiking or rafting through the spectacular desert landscape, home to bighorn sheep and the greater-sized mule deer. The park is made up of more than 14 million acres of land and is incredibly diverse. Spanning three distinct geologic periods, the park displays a range of rock and fossils. The most notable natural feature is the arches, with almost 5,000 individual examples, and some 750 million years old. Since the park is open for a month each year, the main event is the Spring wildflower bloom.

Zion National Park

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Zion National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Situated within the Tintic Scablands ecoregion, Zion National Park encompasses 200 miles of breathtaking Utah landscape. This geological oddity is composed of thousands of acres of spectacular red sandstone formations, such as the mighty Zion Canyon, and narrows to a mere 1,200 feet at its narrowest point. The Park is home to approximately 4,000 archeological sites, including ancient dwellings, granaries, and rock art. For visitors, it is possible to hike along trails across the Great and Little Squaw mountain ranges, or, on the day tours, ride in a desert buggy and enjoy views over the astounding rock formations, which have been sculpted by water and wind over millions of years. As for lodging, Zion National Park has five accommodation options: the Zion Lodge, Zion Inn, Zion Lodge Riverside, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Village, and Grand Canyon Lodge.

Bryce Canyon National Park

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Bryce Canyon National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Located in southern Utah and with 3,500 meters of vertical cliffs, 300-meter canyons, and colorful, triangular-shaped rock formations, Bryce Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural sites in the US, full of color and staggering views. A guided tour is the best way to get a feel of the park and see the many unique sights. You can also drive in and see the amazing natural wonders in your own time, stopping at viewpoints or viewpoints for photos along the way.

Great Salt Lake

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Great Salt Lake: en.wikipedia.org

Great Salt Lake is famous for being the largest body of fresh water in the world. Although frozen most of the year, in the summer months it becomes an emerald-green sea, home to around 20,000 largemouth bass. Salt Lake is one of the premier fisheries in the U.S. The lake is divided into a series of sections by freshwater streams, the largest of which is the north end. Great Salt Lake and the surrounding area are home to several local parks, including Bear Hollow State Park, a recreation area that offers camping, fishing, and waterskiing, and offers visitors a chance to see bald eagles, in addition to various fish and mammals. Located along the shores is the Sundraes Celebration of the Arts and Culture center, which serves as a small museum and hosts occasional events such as dances and musical performances. Perhaps the most memorable thing to do in the area is to take a ride on the Salt Lake Temple, a local landmark and a symbol of Utah. With its 177-meter-high steeple, the church is home to an elevator system that allows visitors to explore the narrow, nearly 30-meter-tall interior of the structure without climbing up ladders.

Lake Powell

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Lake Powell: en.wikipedia.org

Lake Powell is located between Lake Havasu and the town of Page, Utah. The lake is actually a glacial lake that is more than 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) deep and covers 16,000 square kilometers (6,100 square miles). The area's massive snowpack is held back behind the canyon walls of the Colorado River, forming the lake. Because the lake is in the middle of the desert and many visitors come for recreation or recreation, it is recommended that you stay and play near the water and then visit nearby Page and find some interesting natural and historic sites such as Chinle and Montezuma Canyon National Monument.

Dinosaur National Monument

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Dinosaur National Monument: en.wikipedia.org

With its remote location in Utah's southern Colorado Plateau, Dinosaur National Monument makes an excellent spot to discover and appreciate the grandeur of the Colorado Plateau region. In this landscape of cliffs and canyons, sandstone dunes, buttes and towers, and sagebrush and juniper forests, Dinosaur National Monument is like stepping back into the late Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic Era, a world of massive dinosaurs where giant long-necked sauropods roam the plains and spires of sandstone. At Dinosaur National Monument, the biggest and most exciting dinosaur attraction is the new Hall of the Ages exhibit. Here, visitors get to ride a self-guided bus tour through a towering mountain of fossils. Discovered and protected in the 1930s, this vast collection of dinosaur fossils are housed in the only dinosaur museum in the world that exists solely to provide non-stop access to its treasures. Visitors to the new Hall of the Ages pass through huge dioramas portraying the geology of the Colorado Plateau, the evolution of life in the Cretaceous Period, and the behaviors and feeding habits of early dinosaurs. Other highlights at Dinosaur National Monument include the 12-mile scenic Byers-Museum loop road. Along the way, visitors can check out scientific research being conducted on the dunes and explore a dino garden. Within the monument itself, the Cretaceous Trail is also open to visitors, giving them the chance to explore as much or as little as they wish.

Natural Bridges National Monument

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Natural Bridges National Monument: en.wikipedia.org

Natural Bridge State Park is home to one of the most spectacular geological formations in the state. The aptly named Zion Pinnacles stretch out from the east side of the Virgin River, creating natural stone bridges that rise seemingly from the forest floor. The bridges range in height from just a few feet to about 40 feet. Visits to the area begin with a short shuttle ride from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center. After lunch, take a self-guided tour of the area with a ranger to learn about the history and geology of the area. During the early days of the state park, only a few areas of the valley were accessible. There are no roads, trails, or other means of travel into the area; for many, the park was off limits. Today the park is much more accessible. The idea for the park dates back to 1897 when Lieutenant Charles Woodruff, a geologist, sought permission to drill for coal. The drilling caused damage to the area and, when it was discovered that the oil geysers of the area were actually hot springs, Woodruff was asked to clear the area. The only permitted visitors to the area are those who go to the free ranger-led natural history program. Explore the rock formations of the West Rim Trail, located on the east side of the park. Head to the west rim for a walk, hike, or drive the park road. Hike through some of the formations to see the geology at work, view incredible rock art, or visit one of the stone bridges.

Salt Lake City

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Salt Lake City: en.wikipedia.org

In its heyday, Salt Lake City was home to more than one million residents in a massive industrial park extending far into the foothills of the Wasatch Range. No longer a major regional and metropolis, Salt Lake City remains a sizable city and is a good choice for visitors to Utah. The main attractions include the majestic Mormon Temple and Salt Lake Temple. They stand side by side on Temple Square, while walking tours of the historic downtown can take you to most of the city's major historical sites. Also visit Mormon Island, where the founding of Utah's major cities took place. It's best to get there by walking or bicycling from the city center. There are also more than 30 parks within the city limits and hundreds of miles of walking and cycling trails along with playgrounds and the giant Mill Creek Canyon Water Park.

Washington Monument

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Four Corners Monument: en.wikipedia.org

Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, is home to the US Congress, and as you can probably imagine, security is tight. In order to get inside, visitors must pass through one of three main checkpoints on the east side of the US Capitol, facing the Washington Monument. Among the people who have taken the short hop on the Washington Monument elevator to the top of the 555-foot, stone obelisk is John Hinckley Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Reagan in 1981. Outside the White House, take the World War II Memorial to see the 37-ton granite memorial dedicated to the soldiers of all sides killed in the war.

Mesa Verde National Park

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Mesa Verde National Park: en.wikipedia.org

Mesa Verde, home of the famous cliff dwellings that were the focus of the first major investigations into the West's prehistoric past, lies in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Archaeologists believe the great central plaza town, named Cliff Palace after its numerous interconnecting rooms, was occupied by 600-1000 people from AD 700 to 1100. After your visit to the cliff dwellings, see the Three Rivers Ruin on the Navajo Reservation, which served as a model for the Hopi dwellings at nearby Montezuma's Castle.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Photo of Grand Staircaseā€“Escalante National Monument
Grand Staircaseā€“Escalante National Monument: en.wikipedia.org

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is home to some of the country's most breathtaking landscapes and one of the most magnificent backdrops for outdoor adventures in the United States. This spectacular scenery, located in the northwest corner of the state, is where the mighty Colorado River has worn down the limestone layers of Grand Staircase. This giant staircase, sculpted into the earth over millions of years, is the tallest and longest in the world and provides a cool escape from the desert heat. The monument is a national treasure and will be changed forever. Since its establishment in 1996, new archaeological discoveries have proven that the area will yield much more of interest for future generations. Although you can enjoy the wonders of Grand Staircase-Escalante by visiting it on your own, hiking and kayaking tours of the region are plentiful, providing you with a chance to fully experience the beauty of this massive natural monument. To get to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, take I-15 east of Escalante to the eastern exit. There you will find the monument on your left in front of the white gateway.

Salt Lake Temple

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Salt Lake Temple: en.wikipedia.org

A place of deep mystery, Salt Lake Temple was built on a 1,200-acre mountain reserve in 1857. Just 1,800 people lived in the area, and a windmill was constructed to power a steam-powered sawmill. With a 200-meter tower, 1,550-meter paved road and panoramic view of the surrounding area, Salt Lake Temple is probably the most photographed place in the United States. Although tours take about an hour and cost about $10, you can also rent a cab ($10 per hour) and make the 30-minute ride yourself.

Moab

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Moab, Utah: en.wikipedia.org

Moab is one of the jewels of the Colorado Plateau. Utah's smallest state capital has a population of approximately 3,000 and is an endearing town with a historic downtown, excellent restaurants and a wealth of outdoor activities. Known for the uniqueness of its canyons, Moab's red-rock deserts and vast expanses of flat land full of wildflowers make for a truly unique place to visit. The high country and Colorado River lead visitors to beautiful mountain hikes, backcountry camping, and four world-class national parks and a few national recreation areas, all of which offer an abundance of scenic wonders.

Dixie National Forest

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Dixie National Forest: en.wikipedia.org

Utah's oldest national forest contains some of the state's most breathtaking scenery. The Dixie National Forest covers about 1,350 square miles of pristine wilderness, some of which was burned to create the forest. It contains more than 2,000 lakes and is home to streams, rivers, waterfalls, and geothermal pools. The Dixie Forest is also one of the state's most popular day hiking and backpacking destinations. Waterfalls, mountains, towering pines, granite rocks, high mountain lakes, small meadows, red cliffs, and quiet glades all add up to make Dixie National Forest one of the state's most stunning locations. The season for outdoor activities tends to be shorter than in the neighboring mountains of Yellowstone, with summer and fall offering the best options. The west and south sides of the forest are sparsely populated, and as such, offer some of the most remote wilderness areas in the state. You can visit the visitor center in Dixie, where you can find out about trail conditions and mountain weather as well as hike, picnic, camp, or rent fishing tackle.

Pioneer Memorial Museum

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Pioneer Memorial Museum: en.wikipedia.org

Pioneer Memorial Museum in Provo, Utah, displays the preserved remains of the famous covered wagon that arrived in Utah with Mormon settlers in 1847, and has the distinction of being the only place in the world that can be seen what it was like to live in a covered wagon for the year. Visitors can also see a replica of the wagon as it appeared 100 years after the settlers first arrived in Utah. Inside the museum are exhibits relating to the history of pioneers, the Mormon settlement, and the exploration of the region, with opportunities to talk to volunteer historians and people who were actual settlers.

Lake Bonneville

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Lake Bonneville: en.wikipedia.org

One of America's strangest sights is Lake Bonneville, whose size - nearly one million square miles (almost the size of Australia) - makes it one of the biggest lakes in the world. Located in Utah, this salt lake is the result of evaporation from the Ogden River basin, about 150 miles to the southwest of Salt Lake City. For much of the year, it is a watery desert and the vast salt bed supports species found in the tropics. At the edge of the salt pan are patches of green vegetation. The islands that line the lake are artificial. Today, Lake Bonneville is the world's largest man-made body of water (as opposed to an estuary or ocean). The salt content of the lake is about 10 percent, well below that of the ocean but well above the 2 percent of rainwater and streams. The area is sparsely populated but the lake itself attracts numerous visitors. It is frequently mentioned as a camping ground, thanks to its climate (it has more than 40 inches of rain per year) and its proximity to Las Vegas. Visitors can also enjoy a wide range of activities, such as fishing, swimming, bird watching and boating. Lake Bonneville is considered to be a saline lake. When the lake evaporates, salt is dissolved in the water and floats on the surface.

Mesa Arch

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Mesa Arch: en.wikipedia.org

Mesa Arch is a famous tourist attraction in Utah. Located in Arches National Park, a southwestern Utah site known for its otherworldly, arched sandstone monoliths, it is the world's highest paved natural arch. It is most famous for its colorful, oddly shaped rock structure, also known as the Window Arch, but it is only a part of the broader Arches National Park. Two viewing areas allow you to explore the arch at a variety of distances: on the west side, you can get a bird's-eye view of the sandstone pillar, with light-scattering ripples and even a hole providing a glimpse of the main chamber underneath. The other viewing point is about 1,400 feet away and takes you right into the small arch opening. You can walk along the edges and between the columns of the arch, which are wider than their tops.

Snow Canyon National Park

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Snow Canyon State Park: en.wikipedia.org

Stretching for miles in the Clear Creek Canyon along the Colorado River, this park is one of the more spectacular watercourses in the Southwest, and a photographer's paradise, as it is frequently covered with crystal-clear ice water. Park road signage is adequate, and the best way to enjoy the trip is on one of the infrequent passenger ferry services from the islands of Lee's Ferry, Lemmon Ferry, or City Park Ferry. In fact, the best way to get around on the island is by rental car as public transportation is nonexistent. The rugged nature of the area makes this a great backpacking destination, as few commercial attractions are located here.