Utah is beautiful, mystifying, and captivating. These are our top-5 stops in Southern Utah. These might not be the most popular, but they are unique, creative, and rewarding experiences for the traveler that is looking to beat the crowds and still see amazing things.
- Explore the Irish Slot Canyons
Utah is synonymous with canyoneering. Spend some time exploring the labyrinth of slot canyons along the highway near Hanksville, UT( Mile Marker 80.5 ish). You will be rewarded with amazing views, challenging climbs, and amazing solitude.
- Backpack in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
Explorers that venture down Hole-in-the-Rock Road near Escalante, UT will be rewarded with nearly endless trails and awesome scenery. The overnighter that we chose followed Harris Wash to the Escalante River and back. We had the trail mostly to ourselves and got to hike in some of the most remote and scenic areas of the Monument.
- Drive Scenic State Highway 12 and the Moki Dugway
Utah is home to very progressive road design in most of its cities, however, the most primitive roads in the state are the best to get lost on. First, travel up the Moki Dugway to explore Cedar Mesa and Bears Ears National Monument. This gravel road switchbacks around the side of the mesa and provides unparalleled views of the valley that extends to the Arizona border.
Next, drive Scenic Byway 12 from Torrey to Bryce Canyon and enjoy the twisting roads that lead to some of the most panoramic views in the country. Highway 12 was touted as a top-10 scenic drive by Time Magazine and is absolutely worth the scary turns and excitable local drivers.
- Take the Rainbow Bus Tour at Bryce Canyon National Park
We don’t take tours normally, but we are glad we signed up for the FREE Rainbow Route Bus Tour in Bryce Canyon National Park. Rachael was nursing a foot injury so we opted to ride the guided shuttle through the park. We were so glad that we did!
April, our tour guide and bus driver, is a 5th generation resident of the area and is married to a 5th generation Bryce Canyon family as well. To say that she had local knowledge is an understatement. She was enthusiastically knowledgeable about the place that she called home. Throughout the nearly 3-hour tour, we were shown the beauty of Bryce Canyon through the eyes of one of Bryce’s biggest fans. April showered us with stories of bank robbers and water development as well as wildlife information and dad jokes. We left the tour with a smile on our face despite the fact that we were the youngest passengers on board by 40 years.
In addition to driving the shuttle bus in the park, April also operates a private tour business in the Bryce area. To book her or to get more information, check her out at Canyon Fever Tours.
- Backpack in the Zion backcountry to Kolob Arch
This scenic and undulating hike through Hop Valley and along LaVerkin Creek is full of big red-rock features and beautiful scenery. Take your time and enjoy the creative water crossings as your meander through Hop Valley and into Kolob Canyon. This section of Zion National Park is less-travelled than the main areas near the visitor’s center and we got a permit the day before we planned to hike.
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