Utah is home to 5 spectacular national parks and numerous national monuments and historic sites.
It’s too bad these national landmarks usually overshadow the state parks in Utah. If they were located in any other state, these areas would probably be designated as national parks.
Here’s a list of our favorite Utah State Parks to visit that offer amazing things to see, do and photograph. Take time to explore and enjoy the unique beauty each park provides.
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Utah State Parks Map
STUNNING UTAH STATE PARKS TO VISIT
Each Utah State Park has its own unique beauty. Take time to enjoy what each destination has to offer. The list below is in alphabetical order.
Antelope Island, Syracuse
Antelope Island State Park is located within the Great Salt Lake about 41 miles north of Salt Lake City. It’s a nice day trip from Salt Lake.
Recreational activities at this state park include camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, sailing and kayaking. Enjoy floating in the water where the salt content is several times more salty than the ocean.
We like visiting the island to photograph the reflections, sunset and wildlife. Antelope Island is home to over 500 bison and a variety of other animals and birds.
IMPORTANT NOTE: During warm months, insects are present on the island and emerge at different times.
- Biting gnats (no-seeums) are the worst! They are very tiny biting flies that emerge in the spring from April to June. Insect repellent is ineffective against these gnats. They are not present near the water’s edge.
- Mosquitos are around from mid-spring to early fall. Insect repellent is effective.
- Midges and brine flies are non-biting flies so they are harmless, but annoying, and can ruin a good photo! The midges form columns along the causeway mid-spring through early fall and cover your windshield while driving to and from the island. The brine flies cover the shorelines and can move onto land early-summer through fall. They move out of the way when approached.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Kanab
About 90% of the dunes in the park are open to ATV riders. All of the dunes are open for hiking and playing in the sand.
There are sand boards (stand up) and sand sleds (sit down) available for rent at the park. It’s a fun way to enjoy the dunes, although climbing the hill again afterwards can be a bit of a chore.
IMPORTANT NOTE: During the summer temperatures at Coral Pink Sand Dunes are around 100°F so the sand will get HOT! We recommend exploring the park in the morning or evening.
Dead Horse Point, Moab
The view from Dead Horse Point State Park towers 2,000 feet above the Colorado River and the canyons it carved. This state park is 32 miles from Moab and just outside the entrance to Canyonlands National Park Island in the Sky.
There are miles of pet-friendly hiking trails, an intrepid trail system for mountain bikers, and camping options in the park.
The name of the park comes from the legend that states horses were left corralled atop the mesa and died of thirst.
This state park has a separate entrance fee from Canyonlands. It is well worth the money to see this view that cannot be seen from Canyonlands.
There is a reason it is one of the most photographed landscapes in the world! Use our guide to Dead Horse Point to plan your visit and get our photography tips for the area.
Edge of the Cedars, Blanding
You will find the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) pottery on display in the Four Corners Region at Edge of the Cedars State Park. The park sits on the site of an authentic Puebloan village.
Explore the kiva and other structures that have been restored here. You can descend the ladder and go inside the kiva.
The junior ranger program for kids is simple and fun. The room dedicated for children includes a house to play in, puzzles and books to read, drawers with various activities to do, and pottery to sort by shape and size.
Make a stop at Edge of the Cedars as you travel between Moab, Utah and Monument Valley.
Goblin Valley, near Green River
The landscape comprises a strange and colorful valley, which is unlike any other in Utah. You’ll see sandstone goblins and formations that is often compared to Mars.
Once you descend into the valley, spend as much time as you want exploring and geology.
TRAVEL TIP: Summer temperatures here are hot, and the valley will seem even more hot as the sun reflects off the sandstone. We recommend morning and evening hiking during the summer months.
Goosenecks, Mexican Hat
This primitive state park offers camping, picnicking, photography and stargazing. The remote location of Goosenecks State Park means there is little light pollution. The stargazing here is some of the best in Utah.
The scene at Goosenecks is so spectacular that it’s hard to describe. The landscape of the area is vast. The canyons carved over time are a distance of one and a half miles, yet the San Juan River winds more than six miles through them.
This location was difficult to photograph. The edge of the canyon blocked the view of the river with no way to get a better perspective. We had been to Horseshoe Bend a few weeks prior to this and expected the view into the canyon to allow us to photograph the full river as it flowed around the bends of the goosenecks. There is no way to get the same result here.
PHOTO TIP: Capture the sense of a place. Goosenecks is not Horseshoe Bend and should not be photographed the same way. The beauty of Goosenecks State Park is the vast landscape with views stretching to the horizon and deep canyons with the river meandering back and forth for miles. Find the thing that best represents the location and focus on creating that image.
Kodachrome Basin, Cannonville
The towering red rock spire formations at Kodachrome Basin State Park are wonderful subjects to photograph against blue skies. It’s easy to see how the National Geographic Society came up with the name.
Kodachrome is located along Highway 12 close to Bryce Canyon National Park. It can be a quick stop to drive around the park, or you can spend time hiking, biking or camping in the park.
If you have time, visit nearby Grosvenor Arch about 10 miles southeast of the park. It is one of the more impressive double arches in the state. But you travel along a dirt road to the arch which means it takes more time to travel those 10 miles.
Utah Lake, Provo
Utah Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the state. It is located adjacent to Provo City and 38 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Utah Lake State Park offers boating, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and jet skiing. Facilities include a swimming beach, picnic areas and campsites.
The lake is a wonderful location to photograph birds, reflections and sunsets.
PHOTO TIP: We knew the lake produced interesting ice chunks and formations during the winter and made a point to visit during this time. The sunset glow on the sheets of ice made a wonderful photo.
UTAH TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES:
If you plan to visit even a few of the State Parks in Utah, it’s worth it to buy the annual pass.
If purchasing the pass doesn’t save money in the end, you can feel good knowing you have made a donation to the Utah State Parks.
Utah National Parks to Visit
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