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15 Best National and State Parks Near Salt Lake City

Home to the Mighty Five National Parks—Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion and Bryce Canyon—as well as an incredible 45 state parks, Utah has earned its reputation for outdoor adventure. From the iridescent water of Bear Lake to the otherworldly hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, there’s no shortage of destinations to explore. Here are the best places in Utah to hike, climb, bike and breathe in some fresh air.

Zion National Park

Where: Washington County, Utah

What to expect: Utah’s first and most iconic park, there’s no end to Zion’s natural marvels. Start off by visiting the park’s main attraction: vast sandstone cliffs situated at the edge of the Colorado Plateau. Next, challenge yourself on some of the state’s best hiking and backpacking trails, such as Angels Landing, trek up the Virgin River at the Narrows, see towering pinnacles on horseback, or go on a guided cycling or canyoneering trip.

Size: 229 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, visitor center, ranger-led programs, concessions, guided horseback rides, shuttles, and hiking, cycling, and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are only permitted in certain areas

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible trails and shuttle buses.

Wasatch Mountain State Park

Where: Wasatch County, Utah

What to expect: Just 18 miles south of posh Park City, this popular park is a playground for locals year-around. In the winter, Soldier Hollow Nordic Center (which hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics) opens snowmobile and skiing runs. Come summertime, you can hike, bike, camp, horseback ride, or golf at award-winning courses.

Size: 34 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, shuttle, archery range, restaurants, golf course, picnic areas, winter rentals (cross country skis/snowshoes/fat tire bikes), summer rentals (fishing poles/fat tire bikes/yard games), ski and snowmobiling runs, tubing hill, boat ramps and motorized, hiking, cycling and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including an accessible fishing pond and campgrounds.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park

Where: Kane County, Utah

What to Expect: A wonderland of pink (yes, pink) sand dunes, this park is best viewed at sunset when the brilliant colors really stand out. Thrill-seekers can ride through the sea of sand on ATVs and slide down the dunes on boards and sleds.

Size: 6 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, sand board/sand sled rentals, ATV tours, rappelling tours, ATV trails, and ranger-led programs

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers some accessible amenities, including campsites.

Antelope Island State Park

Where: Davis County, Utah

What to Expect: Just 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, this Utah state park sits next to Great Salt Lake itself. Come to see the island’s plentiful wildlife, including a herd of wild bison, bighorn sheep, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. You may also choose to climb to the top of 6,000-foot Frary Peak, cruise along the sandy beaches, or camp under the stars.

Size: 42 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, public beach, visitor center, guided e-bike tours, restaurant and hiking, cycling, and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome on a leash in some areas.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible picnic areas and vistas.

Capitol Reef National Park

Where: Wayne County, Utah

What to Expect: The least crowded of Utah’s national parks, Capitol Reef can feel like a world unto itself. Visit Waterpocket Fold (a 65-million-year-old, 100-mile-long ripple in the earth’s crust and the park’s most famous formation), hunt for petroglyphs, and hike through Cottonwood Wash’s narrow slot canyon.

Size: 378 square miles

Amenities: Visitor center, picnic areas, ranger-led programs, historic sites, visitor centers, exhibits, and equestrian, cycling and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are only permitted in certain areas

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible trails and campgrounds.

Canyonlands National Park

Where: San Juan, Wayne, Garfield, and Grand Counties, Utah

What to Expect: As Utah’s largest national park, Canyonlands is best tackled in its four districts carved up by the Colorado River and its tributaries: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers. First-timers should begin with Island in the Sky, which is easily accessible via hiking trails and scenic roads for overnight camping in canyon country.

Size: 403 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, ranger-led programs, guided tours, guided rafting trips, visitor center, paved and four-wheel-drive roads, picnic areas and hiking, biking and equestrian trails

Pets Permitted: Leashed dogs are only permitted in certain areas

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including scenic roads. The Island in the Sky district is the most accessible.

Snow Canyon State Park

Where: Washington County, Utah

What to expect: Frequently overlooked in favor of its neighbor Zion, Snow Canyon—a rugged backdrop of ancient lava flowers and sandstone cliffs—merits its own visit. Bike along the canyon floor, explore 18 hiking trails, camp among red Navajo sandstone and try your hand at technical rock climbing.

Size: 12 square miles

Amenities: Campground, visitor center, picnic areas,  and hiking, equestrian, and cycling trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are only permitted in certain areas

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible picnic areas and pathways.

Arches National Park

Where: Grand County, Utah

What to expect: Boasting more than 2,000 red rock arches, Arches National Park is home to more of these fascinating sandstone formations than any other place on earth. Choose from a variety of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, and be sure to hit the highlights, including Delicate Arch, Turret Arch and Double Arch.

Size: 120 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, visitor center, ranger-led programs, and hiking, cycling, and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are only permitted in certain areas.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible trails and campsites.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Where: Garfield and Kane Counties, Utah

What to expect: Home to the hoodoos, travelers come from all over to see Bryce Canyon’s iconic irregular rock columns. While they exist in other destinations on every continent, this is the highest concentration in the world. Start by hiking to Sunset Point to see Thor’s Hammer (the most famous hoodoo) and continue exploring the park’s fantastical formations on foot, bike, and horse. 

Size: 56 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, museum, visitor center, ranger-led programs, concessions, and hiking, cycling and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are only permitted in certain areas.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible viewpoints and lodging.

Goblin Valley State Park

Where: Emery County, Utah

What to expect: Bryce Canyon isn’t the only Utah park with hoodoos. Goblin Valley’s prehistoric land is covered in sandstone “goblins” from the Jurassic period. Explore on foot or one of the looping mountain bike trails and return at night to take in the night sky. A certified International Dark Sky Park, this is one of the best places to stargaze in the country. 

Size: 5 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, yurts, picnic areas, visitor center, disc golf course, ranger-led programs, and mountain biking and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible overlooking and campsites.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Where: Grand County, Utah

What to expect: The rare state park that might be just as popular at night, Dead Horse Point State Park is well-known for its dark sky programs and stargazing. You can even stay over in one of its campgrounds or yurts. Come during the day to wander the immense desert landscape  and canyons, and see the subtly beautiful colors of the sediment light up at sunrise and sunset.

Size: 8.4 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, yurts, mountain bike rentals, dark sky programs, picnic areas, visitor center, and hiking and cycling trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible scenic vistas and campsites.

Bear Lake State Park

Where: Rich County, Utah

What to expect: Turquoise blue waters might be the last thing you expect to discover in Utah, but you’ll find them at Bear Lake. Often described as the Caribbean of the Rocky Mountains, this spectacularly colorful recreational lake is where locals come to fish, boat, camp, hike, and just chill out.

Size: 112 square miles

Amenities: Marina, campgrounds, boat ramps, boat rentals, visitor center, picnic areas, hiking trails, and concessions

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome with restrictions at some beaches.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible beach facilities and campgrounds.

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Where: Kane County, Utah

What to expect: Picture perfect Kodachrome Basin State Park is named after the famous brand of color film, and for good reason. It’s full of photogenic landmarks, including orange and cream stone spires and scenic trails that are accessible to mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians. If you only have time for one, don’t miss the Panorama Trail, which passes highlights like Indian Cave and Ballerina Spire.

Size: 3.5 square miles 

Amenities: Campgrounds, visitor center, concessions, guided horseback rides, e-bike and mountain bike rentals, picnic areas, and hiking, biking, and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including an accessible nature trail and campgrounds.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

Where: Garfield County, Utah

What to expect: This underrated state park is hidden between two popular national parks, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. Escape the crowds while hiking through ancient lava trails and a petrified forest, and examine 100-million-year-old dinosaur bones and fossils at the visitor center. There’s also an oasis-like reservoir for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. 

Size: 2 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, visitor center, picnic areas, canoe and kayak rentals, and hiking and mountain biking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including an accessible petrified tree exhibit and campsites.

Jordanelle State Park

Where: Wasatch County, Utah

What to Expect: With three distinct recreation areas, Jordanelle has something for every type of outdoor enthusiast. Spend the day boating, fishing, wakeboarding, and canoeing in Hailstone. Go camping in Rock Cliff. Enjoying hiking and top-notching birding in Ross Creek.

Size: 10.5 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, cabins, picnic areas, visitor center, boat ramps, boat rentals, playground, nature center, snowshoe rentals, and hiking, biking, and equestrian trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are only permitted in certain areas.

Wheelchair accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including accessible fishing and campsites.

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