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14+ Spots That Prove That Utah Is the Ultimate Outdoor Playground

Utah National Parks Insider Guides Hiking
by Matador Creators Mar 1, 2017

World-class hiking, rock climbing, overnight backpacking, canyoneering, horseback riding, and photography opps, it’s not surprising why the Utah is one of the ultimate destinations in the US for outdoor sport. Here are some of the highlighted activities to do in the state.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Climbing, Fisher Towers, Moab

 Fisher TowersMoab, United StatesThis is Ancient Art, a 4-pitch 5.8-5.10 trad climb. It’s fully exposed at the top and super scary, you have to walk across this tiny bridge to get to the spire. If you fall you’re going for a huge swing and probably bashing into the rock. The top of the spire is the size of a dinner plate, about 400 ft above the trail below, and the anchor is about a meter below you. Neither of us climb trad so we went with Nate, the owner of Moab Desert Adventures who led the climb for us. The climb of a lifetime! #extreme #rockclimbing #lookdown #desert

Fisher Towers is 20 miles northeast of Moab, along the scenic Highway 128. There’s camping here, as well as hiking trails that skirt the bottom of massive cliffs and skinny towers of striated sandstone. You may see some little dots moving upward on some of the spires; those are rock climbers.

Sandboarding, Coral Pink Sand Dunes

 Coral Pink Sand Dunes ParkKanab, United StatesAmazing scenery at Coral Pink. People rip around in dune buggies here but I was mostly all alone around sunset. #views #photography

Utah has so many opportunities in the way of offroading. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, near Kanab, is 2,000 acres of salmon pink sand and is the only major area of sand dunes on the Colorado Plateau.

Kayaking, Causey Reservoir

 Causey ReservoirHuntsville, United StatesAwesome place to kayak and jump off rocks #kayak

With the Colorado River running through some of the country’s most scenic landscapes — Arches, Canyonlands, Glen Canyon — the best way to experience it is by kayak or canoe. Moab makes for a good base camp to organize a paddle trip, with plenty of guided tours and rentals available.

Hiking Bryce Canyon National Park

 Bryce Canyon National ParkBryce, United StatesVisually stunning. Because of the high elevation it can get quite cold as well even in the summer. Make sure to walk amongst the hoodoos too. #hiking #nationalpark #desert

Bryce Canyon is relatively small compared to other Utah national parks like Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands. The 18-mile scenic road that runs north-south through the park traces the rims of the amphitheaters for the most part and has turnoffs for viewpoints, hiking trailheads, and picnic areas. There’s a 1,200ft elevation gain between the entrance and Rainbow Point at the end of the paved road. Pay attention to the changing flora — from ponderosa pine to spruce, fir, and aspen — as you ascend.

Top of Angels Landing

 Top of Angels LandingHurricane, United StatesNot for the faint at heart but totally worth it. Just be careful!

Angels Landing is one of the premier hikes in Utah, if not the entire US national park system, and as such is a “must-do” for any visitors physically fit enough and capable of handling the heights and exposure. The trail is around 5.5 miles round trip, is steep, and includes many switchbacks — the Walter’s Wiggles section alone has 22. It’s a strenuous but straightforward hike to Scout Lookout, a good resting spot with an outhouse and spectacular views up the canyon.

Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort

 Snowbird Ski & Summer ResortSandy, United StatesSnowbird is one of Utah’s most amazing ski spots. Winter doesn’t seem so bad from this angle. #snow

With a fresh coating of fine Utah powder, the landscape takes on a whole new aura. Perfect location to break out the snowshoes and skis.

Camping Granstaff Campground

 Granstaff CampgroundMoab, United StatesThere are some great options for BLM #camping near Moab, especially along the 128/Colorado River.

Granstaff has 17 campsites, spots are around $15 p/n. Some sites are reservable, but most are first-come, first served.

Sailing and Kayaking, Echo Reservoir

 Echo ReservoirCoalville, United StatesA less popular, and thus less populated, reservoir east of Park City and 45 minutes from Salt Lake City. Great for kayaking and boating. The beaches can tend to be muddy. What you give up in niceties are gain in lack of crowds. #kayak #utah

Rappelling, Negro Bill Canyon

 Negro Bill CanyonMoab, United StatesSo awesome! Rappelling into medieval chamber, off of morning glory arch, and then a hike out to the trailhead! #canyoneering #hiking

Utah is one of the world’s top canyoneering destinations. There are hundreds of remote and rugged canyons to scramble, rappel, and swim through. Neon Canyon makes for a mixed backpacking and canyoneering trip — it’s also super photogenic.

Hike to Fairyland Point

 Fairyland PointBryce, United StatesFairyland loop trail was my favorite in Bryce Canyon. Was a good length at about 13km and explored lots of different scenery amongst the hoodoos. I didn’t see a single person on the trail when I went, but it was December. #hiking

This trail begins at Fairyland Point and is 8 miles round trip. Most people take 4-5 hours for the entire hike, which has several elevation changes. A highlight is Tower Bridge, a unique rock formation consisting of two tall towers connected by a natural bridge, accessed by a spur trail off the main loop — don’t miss it!

Mesa Arch Trailhead

 Mesa Arch TrailheadMoab, United StatesSomeone else here said to go here at sunset…but they are wrong! Get here at sunrise. That’s when I took this photo. #hiking #camping

Dead Horse Point State Park

 Dead Horse Point State ParkMoab, United StatesAwesome little park not too far from Moab that has amazing #views into the canyon below. There’s really nice moderate cross country biking trails, some which skirt near the canyon ridge. #mountainbiking #hiking #desert

Don’t let the fact that Dead Horse Point State Park isn’t a national park dissuade you from visiting. It’s 32 miles northwest of Moab, and from the visitor center (and from many other places as well) you get views off of sheer cliffs that drop 2,000 feet to the Colorado River. If you have bikes with you, a great way to explore the area is on the Intrepid Trail system, which has routes for all different riding abilities. You can also hike on many of these trails.

Slickrock Bike Trail Practice Loop

 Slickrock Bike Trail Practice LoopMoab, United StatesA “mecca” for mountain bike enthusiasts? I think so. But too difficult for our moderate tastes so we just hiked along and around it. The slick rock in Utah is so cool… It’s not slick at all but provides great traction for rubber even when wet. I think it was named so because it wasn’t so great for shod horses. #mountainbiking #hiking #desert

ATVs, Moab

 Moab Information CenterMoab, United States4-wheeling through the crazy redrock formations of #moab

There are miles of trails for ATVs. Utah Off-Road Outfitters can set you up with all of the gear you need to rip through the sand.

Camping Horsethief Campground

 Horsethief CampgroundMoab, United StatesGreat BLM camp spot right outside of Canyonlands National Park

*Note, most national parks have drive-in campgrounds. Discounts are available for National Park Pass holders.

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