I have a goal to hit all the state parks in Utah. Why do I have this goal? Simple answer is I’m poor and can’t afford to travel far distances. The longer, better answer is that run into people from all over the world gracing my beautiful state, and some of them have seen more of it than me.
Utah’s state parks offer visitors an escape from the more crowded national parks. Bathrooms are clean (and have soap), campsites aren’t so close you know your neighbor’s nightly bathroom rituals, and trails don’t resemble a line at Disneyland. Click on the link to access the full review.
Anasazi State Park is a little tiny spec of a park between Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Dwarfed by its more impressive neighbors, it offers a brief view into the ancient peoples who settled here and a respite from the sun in a picnic area under the trees.
Antelope Island, the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, proved to be a fun surprise in my park quest. No, it didn’t smell; yes, it was full of bugs but not as bad as you’d expect. There were also a few buffalo herds, great hiking and biking trails, and yes, even antelope.
A professor at Utah State University down the road a bit chose working at the school because someone told him that Bear Lake is the Caribbean of the West. While the water is the ice blue of the sea, it is a slab of ice a good chunk of the year. His dreams of cocktails with umbrellas were replaced with raspberry shakes. While not the Caribbean, Bear Lake is a beautiful place to chill on a hot summer day, or cold winter, whatever the case may be.
Camp Floyd State Park is a rare look at a Civil-war era military camp in the Rocky Mountain West. Lying just southwest of Salt Lake Valley, the park hosts a variety of activities through the year. Day camps in the summer and field trips allow kids a glimpse into the past. Only one of a few education parks in the state.
Dead Horse Point is far more than a panoramic selfie setting, it’s a jaw-dropping backdrop for camping, hiking, and mountain biking. You will have to elbow your way for a clear image but totally worth it. This is one of several parks perfect for a road trip through southeastern Utah.
In the far southeast corner of Utah lies Edge of the Cedars museum. Built in the city of Blanding, the park sits on the site of an ancient pueblo settlement. The museum contains a large collection of ancient artifacts and outside are a few pueblos. One of which has a ladder leading into a 1,000-year-old kiva.
Escalante Petrified Forest sits on the edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument next to a large reservoir and surrounded by a petrified forest at least a million years old. The peaceful campground (with showers) is the perfect base camp to visit the hundreds of surrounding slot canyons. Within a few hours drive is, not only the monument but Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Park. This area is still largely ignored by the tourist hoards.
Fremont State Park, just off I-70, is a terrific jumping off point for hundreds of miles of ATV trails, an Indian museum, and home to several petroglyphs. Also, the place where I rolled a four-wheeler over my leg but we don’t talk about that.
Goblin Valley is my absolute favorite state park so if you could do me a solid and stay away, I’d sure appreciate it. Already hard enough to get a campsite there, I don’t want even more crowds. This out-of-the-way park makes you feel like you’re eight years old and the world is just waiting to be explored at no less than a sprint.
If you want to avoid the crowds of Dead Horse Point but still want to see the majesty of a river carving through the desert landscape, visit Goosenecks State Park. This little park in southeastern Utah is a beautiful footnote in the red rock landscape. This is one of several parks perfect for a road trip through southeastern Utah.
The Great Salt Lake is the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere and the eighth largest in the world. Its ever-changing shores and multitude of islands offer a unique adventure. (The big pile of white stuff isn’t snow; it’s salt!) The lake provides a plethora of activities and our own weather system.
Gunlock State Park may appear as an oasis in the desert, but it’s more of a mirage. Blink and you’ll miss it. This usually quiet and small reservoir outside of St. George turns into a water park for a short time of year and some years not at all. Visit before the weather turns off the spigot!
Twenty miles and three thousand feet beyond the crowds and lines of Bryce Canyon, lies Kodachrome State Park. Hidden by three walls with several hoodoos standing as sentinels, this little park is little known and little visited. I stayed at this gem one lonely weekend in late October. When people heard I was camping in Kodachrome, their response was, “Where?” I adore that response; it means not a lot of people.
There are parks you go to for a peaceful commune with nature; this is not one of those. This is a park you go to for a bitchin’ good time. Acres of red sand dunes and a clear reservoir make for a wild adventure of your choice. Boating, ATVing—whatever your flavor hang on and live well.
Don’t let the name fool you. You could not find a less fitting moniker for this park. In the southwest corner of the Utah desert, it rarely sees snow. Filled with trails for hiking, biking, and horse riding. One fun thing that sets this apart from other parks are two things—the sand dues and the lava tubes.