In our latest adventure on ‘Off the Beaten Path but Not Lost,’ Episode 109, we’re unveiling our top picks for Utah’s hidden treasures! Thanks to Tiffany, a fantastic local from Utah, this episode sprang to life. She reached out with a treasure trove of dinosaur-themed spots, tapping into Kylie’s passion for these magnificent prehistoric wonders. Join us as we explore these exciting destinations and share our family’s favorite Utah experiences!
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Places to visit
Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, Utah: Spanning over 210,000 acres across Colorado and Utah, this site is a must-visit for any dino enthusiast. Want to see actual dinosaur fossils? Head to the Utah side. The Quarry Visitor Center and the Dinosaur Quarry Exhibit Hall are like stepping back in time. There’s an incredible display of over 1,500 dinosaur bones, including Allosaurus and Stegosaurus. And don’t miss out on the scenic drives and trails offering breathtaking views of river canyons and petroglyphs. More info here.
Red Fleet State Park: Near Vernal, this park offers a unique adventure where you can hike or paddle to dinosaur tracks. How cool is that?
McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs: This site, on private property (with a suggested donation for maintenance), showcases ancient petroglyphs that tell stories of a time long gone.
Moonshire Arch: Stop here on your way from Vernal to Red Fleet. It’s a relatively easy hike, but remember, there’s no shade, so plan accordingly. Learn more about the hike. The BLM has more information about the arch: “Moonshine Arch spans a length of 85 feet and a height of 40 feet. It is tucked among the Weber sandstone formation at the base of Red Mountain.”
Utah’s not just about dinosaurs; it’s also about beautiful landscapes and hands-on experiences.
Arapeen Trail System: Ideal for boondocking along Skyline Drive, this trail offers stunning views, lakes, and even a chance to find arrowheads and fossils!
Fairview Museum: In the quaint town of Fairview, this museum houses a model of a woolly mammoth skeleton and an array of fossils. It is a perfect educational stop for the kids.
U-Dig Fossils: U-Dig is the ultimate hands-on experience for the family. You pay an entry fee, but whatever fossils you find, you get to keep! This spot is just 50 miles west of Delta and is a must-do for any budding paleontologist.
Bryce Canyon National Park: Bryce Canyon is a magical landscape with unique hoodoos (spire-shaped rock formations). Remember to check them out under the night sky – it’s an otherworldly experience! For photography enthusiasts, we’ve shared some great spots for starry photos in Episode 78. Don’t miss the Annual Astronomy Festival, which transforms the park into a celestial wonderland.
Capitol Reef National Park: This park is known for its stunning cliffs, canyons, domes, and natural bridges. Capitol Reef is also a Dark Sky Park, making it another fantastic spot for night photography. You can enjoy delicious apple pies thanks to the park’s historic orchards.
Canyonlands National Park offers breathtaking landscapes, particularly at Island in the Sky and the famous Mesa Arch. Like Bryce and Capitol Reef, it’s also designated as a Dark Sky Park, so bring your camera for some stunning night photography. Also, don’t miss the Shafer Trail, a thrilling drive that offers unique landscape views.
Fins & Things in Moab, Utah: A Jeep Lover’s Dream. Fins & Things in Moab is a must-visit if you’re into off-roading. This trail is part of the Sand Flats Recreation Area. With a nominal $5 entry fee, you can experience fins, slickrock, steps, and more.
Zion National Park & Arches National Park: Zion and Arches are two of Utah’s most iconic parks, each offering unique landscapes and breathtaking views. These parks are a nature lover’s paradise, from towering rock formations to natural arches.
Bonneville Salt Flats: The Bonneville Salt Flats are an exciting place to visit with 30,000 acres. The best time to visit is July to October when you can drive on the flat service.
Valley of the Gods: Less known but equally stunning, the Valley of the Gods offers scenic sandstone formations and a serene escape from the more crowded parks. It’s a hidden gem waiting to be explored.
Boating on Lake Powell: Lake Powell, straddling the Utah-Arizona border, is an oasis in the desert. Part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, this vast lake offers boating, fishing, and stunning canyon views. It’s the perfect spot for a family day out on the water.
Utah’s Natural History Museum: In Salt Lake City, the Natural History Museum of Utah is a must-visit. You will see dinosaurs and a wealth of knowledge on archaeology, paleontology, and much more, with interactive workshops that are great for kids and adults alike.
Rafting the Colorado River in Moab: Rafting down the Colorado River in Moab is a bucket list experience. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned rafter, the river’s varying levels of rapids offer a thrilling adventure for the entire family.
Utah Olympic Park: Remember the Winter Olympics in Utah? The Utah Olympic Park in Park City is a tribute to that event, featuring the Winter Olympics Museum and Alf Engen Ski Museum. But it’s not just for winter; summer activities include ziplining, an alpine coaster, and scenic chairlift rides.
Goblin Valley State Park: Located near the Green River, it is known for its unique rock formations. It’s also an International Dark Sky Park, making it an excellent spot for stargazing.
Mystic Hot Springs Resort of Monroe: In central Utah, the Mystic Hot Springs Resort of Monroe offers a chance to unwind in a geothermal spring. It’s the perfect way to relax after a day of exploring.
Red Cliffs Desert Reserve: Spanning almost 69,000 acres, the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is dedicated to protecting the Mojave Desert tortoise and other rare wildlife. It’s a fantastic spot for nature lovers.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park: Known for its OHV use and hiking opportunities, this state park offers a unique landscape of shifting dunes.
Sand Hollow State Park: This park is a popular spot for water sports and beach activities, offering a respite from the desert heat.
Homestead Crater: The Homestead Crater is a geothermal spring in a natural, hourglass-shaped limestone rock. It’s 65 feet deep with an average temperature of 95 degrees – a unique swimming and diving experience.
Bear Lake: Straddling the Utah-Idaho border, Bear Lake is renowned for its intense turquoise-colored water. It’s an excellent destination for water sports and relaxation.
Eureka: Located southwest of Provo, the small town of Eureka is a hidden gem with a rich mining history. It’s like stepping back in time.
Off-Roading in the San Rafael Swell: For off-roading enthusiasts, the San Rafael Swell, with its vast network of trails, is a paradise. From accessible to extreme, there’s something for every level of adventure seeker.
If you love off-roading and want to visit Utah’s excellent trails, check out BlueRibbon Coalition. The BlueRibbon Coalition champions the responsible use of public and private lands and encourages individual environmental stewardship. Here’s a post on the San Rafael Swell area.
Our family adventures in Utah have been nothing short of extraordinary. From dinosaur tracks to stargazing in dark skies to off-roading in Moab, it’s a land filled with adventure and learning opportunities.
We’d love to hear your Utah experiences or suggestions! So, have you visited any of these spots in Utah? What are your favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations?
P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast “Off the Beaten Path but Not Lost” for more fun-filled family adventures!