Utah is home to 5 spectacular national parks and numerous national monuments and historic sites. These national landmarks usually overshadow the state parks in Utah. There are 8 Utah State Parks that offer amazing things to see, do and photograph. Take time to explore and enjoy the unique beauty each park provides.
8 UTAH STATE PARKS
Antelope Island, Syracuse
Antelope Island is located within the Great Salt Lake about 41 miles north of Salt Lake City. You drive along a narrow causeway from the mainland to the island. 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 enjoy visiting the island to photograph the wildlife. Antelope Island is home to over 500 bison and a variety of other animals and birds.
PHOTO TIP: The island is a perfect location to photograph reflections in the water and watch colorful sunrises and sunsets.
Credit to @photojeepers : “Antelope Island is one of our favorite places to photograph the sunset.” . Beautiful colors. Thanks for sharing! . . #utah #utahgram #igutah #utahisrad #wowutah #utahphotographer #visitutah #instautah #utahphotography #iloveutah #beutahful #beautahful #exploreutah #hikeutah #utahtravels #weloveutah #utahlife #utahbound #utahrocks #utahexperience #utahisawesome #igersutah #ig_utah #utahcaptures
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
The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park is 3,730 acres of uninterrupted sand dunes that are a soft red color. For thousands of years the sand has been collecting as the wind whips the grains from the sandstone formations. 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. The park is in southwest Utah near Zion National Park.
It was a windy day when we visited. We tried to explore a bit, but turned back because the sand being blown into our faces was no fun! This is one park we want to be sure to visit again.
Dead Horse Point, Moab
The view from Dead Horse Point 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 National Park. 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 State Park to plan your visit.
PHOTO TIP: Due to the vast distances seen at the overlooks, photography is best in the morning when there are calm atmospheric conditions and less haze than late day views. Scattered clouds and passing storms can add depth to the image and dramatic lighting.
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.
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.
Jordanelle, Park City
The reservoir at Jordanelle State Park is very popular during the summer for boating, watersports and fishing. Due to the close proximity to Salt Lake City, it is a popular place for an afternoon escape or a quick overnight trip. Park City is minutes away where you can enjoy food and shopping along historic Main Street. At the Utah Olympic Park you can ride the bobsled and watch athletes in training. Enjoy hiking and fishing along nearby Mirror Lake Highway or Provo Canyon.
If you’ve followed us long enough, you know Dave enjoys photographing birds of prey. We participated in a Bald Eagle photography tour last year that was amazing. This year we spent a few weeks in the Grand Teton National Park searching for Osprey. But guess what!? These wonderful birds are less than an hour away from our home near Jordanelle State Park!
PHOTO TIP: Sometimes you don’t need to travel far from home in order to see and photograph amazing things. What sites do tourists visit or photographers shoot when they travel to the city where you live? View your city with new eyes and explore all it has to offer.
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. Enjoy hiking, mountain biking and 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. We started our journey to the arch too late in the day and had to turn back since it was getting too dark.
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.
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.
PHOTO TIP: When photographing a sunset, look for locations where foreground detail can lead the eye through the shot. This could be a path, fence, stream or objects such as trees, rocks and structures. This will create a an interesting composition that’s more three-dimensional.
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.
Use our Travel Guides and Tips to help you plan a trip to any Utah location or US National Park.
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