Visit Utah Seasonal Guide
No matter the season, there is always something to smile about in Utah
In the chillier months get stuck into deep POW – we’re talking 14 ski resorts – and visit the state’s stunning national parks. The rest of the year choose from picture-perfect canyon hikes and climbs, mountain biking, lake and fly fishing, plus scenic waterfalls and river cruises if something more sedate has your name on it.
Of course, we couldn’t call ourselves Destination Utah if we hadn’t sampled all of the above. Here’s our guide to Utah’s best bits by season.
FALL in Utah: Scenic Drives & More
Autumn in Utah means picturesque falling leaves, typically between mid-September and early-October depending on elevation.
To make the most of the falling foliage we recommend long drives, meandering hikes, and family-friendly camping.
Mirror Lake Highway
The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway runs through the Uinta Mountains, often parallel to the Provo River. At the road’s highest point – Bald Mountain Pass, a cool 10,715 feet above sea level – you’ll enjoy panoramic views of alpine landscape.
If you’re planning to take in the scenic byway by car, allow 3+ hours for the return trip. However, 2 million visitors annually can’t say no to the Uintas’ awesome outdoor activities including camping, hiking and fishing.
Top Hike: Christmas Meadows to Amethyst Lake.
Alpine Loop Scenic Byway
The 24-mile Alpine Loop takes in American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon, as well as family-friendly attractions Timpanogos Cave National Monument and Sundance Mountain Resort. The alpine scenery includes golden aspens, crimson maple and evergreen, plus views of Mount Timpanogos and other equally picturesque peaks. If views alone just won’t cut it, hit the trails around Mt. Timpanogos and Lone Peak Wilderness.
Top Hike: Mt. Timpanogos’ Aspen Cove.
Fishlake Scenic Byway Forest
Fishlake National Forest is an oasis not to be missed, offering beautiful drives, mountain biking, camping, hiking, and off-highway vehicle capers.
Located to the east of i-15 and the north and south of i-70, Fishlake is home to three mountain ranges and desert canyons, but the real prize is Fish Lake and its surrounding aspen forests. Be sure to check out Pando, a colony of single male quaking aspen that also goes by the name of the Trembling Giant, assumed to have one huge underground root system. The 30-mile route takes approximately 2 hours to drive, but we recommend adventuring along the way.
Top Hike: Pando/Lakeshore National Recreation Trail.
All-American Road Scenic Byway 12 through Boulder Mountain and Aquarius Plateau
The epic Scenic Byway 12 is often referred to as a journey through time thanks to its historical fossils and varied wildlife. The 4-plus hour trip (unless you stop along the way) includes nature’s eye candy Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks, and Boulder Mountain in Aquarius Plateau.
Aquarius Plateau, covering more than 50,000 acres, is North America’s highest timbered plateau. Thanks to its 80-plus lakes and ponds, well connected dirt and gravel roads, forests and meadowlands, it’s nature’s autumnal winner.
Top Hike: Fish Creek Reservoir via the Great Western Trail.
Flaming Gorge–Uintas National Scenic Byway
Throughout autumn, Flaming Gorge – awash with golden and crimson tones – certainly lives up to its name. The 82-mile scenic byway starts in Vernal, makes its way through Ashley National Forest, then passes Steinaker State and Red Fleet State Parks on its way to water-filled Flaming Gorge.
Stop at various access points to partake in an assortment of outdoor adventuring including hiking and biking.
Top Hike: Little Hole National Scenic Trail.
La Sal Mountains Loop Road Scenic Backway
The pine and aspen covered La Sal Mountains sit 20 miles south of Moab, within Manti-La Sal National Forest. Utah’s second highest mountain range, from nearly 13,000 feet there’s plenty of scope to soak up views of the red rock landscape below. Covering 60 miles, the loopy La Sal Mountains scenic backway is suited to family cars, but large RVs are a no-go.
Top Campground: Warner Lake.
Moab Mountain Biking Trails
Autumn in beautiful red rock Moab offers mountain biking trails for any experience level, minus the crowds and baking sun.
Beginners can enjoy a scenic pootle through canyons and mesa tops on the Bar-M Loop Trail, while seasoned thrill-seekers set their sights on world-renowned, highly technical Slickrock Bike Trail, a 9.6 mile track considered by many to be the pinnacle of biking challenges.
Top Bike Trail: Bar-M Loop Trail (beginners); Slickrock Bike Trail (advanced).
WINTER in Utah: Our Pick of the Parks
International visitors flock to Utah’s 14 resorts in winter for world-class skiing and snowboarding, plus backcountry snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and Nordic skiing.
Since the 2002 Winter Olympics in and around Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah has been home to elite resort facilities that can be enjoyed by amateurs and professionals alike. Test your mettle in the Comet Bobsled, pull on your skates at the Olympic Oval, or tackle sections of the Nordic skiing Olympic course at Soldier Hollow.
Further afield, the five national parks of Southern Utah are all about moody beauty throughout the winter months. Soak up solitude and stunning vistas to add another layer of adventure to your winter sojourn.
Arches National Park
Like its name suggests, the scale of the sandstone arches in Utah’s Arches National Park will blow your mind. Chockers throughout summer if you’re hiking to the world famous Delicate Arch, in winter you can check it out sans crowds.
Top Hike: Delicate Arch.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Visit Bryce Canyon National Park in winter and be blown away by the sight of orange hoodoos – some as high as a 10-storey building – capped in snow. Catering to the cold weather crowd, Bryce Canyon offers ranger programmes including star gazing and snowshoe hikes, a Winter Festival at gateway town Bryce Canyon City, and cross-country skiing both in and around the national park.
Top Activity: Full Moon Snowshoe Hike.
SPRING in Utah: Chasing Waterfalls, & Golf Balls
Utah has snowmelt to thank for some of the prettiest springtime waterfalls in the USA. Plus, family-friendly hikes mean everyone can get in on the fun.
If, on the other hand, you’re taking in Utah sans kids, why not squeeze in 18 rounds on one of Utah’s world-class golf courses in amongst all the hiking, backpacking or biking?
Start at Timpooneke trailhead and meander your way through meadows and alongside streams before arriving at several waterfalls pouring from the top of the canyon.
Top Hike: Scout Falls.
Battle Creek Falls
If you’re the adventurous sort, team your waterfall hike with a spot of rappelling. The Battle Creek Falls hike is short and steep going, but if you have the gear and experience, the rappelling route – in a canyon next to Pleasant Grove – will take your Utah springtime experience to the next level.
Top Tip: At the top of the waterfall there are two bolts to the left. They’re about 5 feet apart so webbing is a must. There’s also one bolt at the top in the middle of the waterfall.
Lower Calf Creek Falls
Lower Calf Creek Falls delivers its waterfall amidst a natural desert oasis. What’s not to love? In fact, it’s featured on numerous ‘Best USA Waterfall’ lists over the years.
If your Utah adventure is taking in the Bryce/Escalante region, don’t miss this breathtaking hike.
Top Tip: Team the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike with the Emerald Pools trail in Zion, which is also home to an impressive waterfall.
If you prefer your hikes short and sweet, lace up your boots and head to Grotto Falls, where in the springtime you’ll find a roaring waterfall hidden in amongst a cave-like grotto.
Top Tip: Here’s your chance to walk on water, folks. The forest service have thoughtfully created tree trunk bridges so that you can criss-cross the river.
All Things Golf
Any self-respecting golfer aspires to tee off in Utah, whether at one of Wasatch’s high-altitude courses or amidst the red rock of Southern Utah.
Wasatch Back’s Heber Valley houses several clubs, including public courses in Wasatch Mountain State Park and Soldier Hollow.
Once winter gives way to spring, Park City puts the skis away in favour of the nine iron. And you won’t have to head far to get your golf on – Park City Golf Club sits adjacent to Main Street.
If you’re heading to Southwestern Utah with golf on the mind, the St. George area has some of the most spectacular courses in the USA.
Top Tip: St. George Course: Entrada at Snow Canyon Golf Course
SUMMER in Utah: Let’s Roll
The great outdoors don’t come much greater than Utah in summer. And hot!
When the temperatures go up a notch (or 50), many of Utah’s ski resorts transform themselves into premium mountain biking destinations. And what better way to take the edge of the heat than with the wind in your hair?
Park City Resort
If you’re keen to stick close to town, Park City is a gold level ride centre, according to the International Mountain Bicycling Association. With over 20 miles of cross-country trails throughout Park City Resort, hop off the Red Pine Gondola and pootle down Mid-Mountain, Ambush, Rob’s, Colin’s or Rosebuds Heaven Rolling.
Top Tip: Wasatch Crest and Mid-Mountain can get super crowded in the summer months. Instead of sticking solely to the crowd-pleasers, check out some of Park City’s 400 miles of additional single track.
Brian Head Resort
Speaking of single track, it’s also on offer at Brian Head. However, the resort’s better known for its bike terrain parks, offering jumps, drops, walls, ladders and more.
Top Tip: The bike terrain parks cater to all different skill levels.
Deer Valley Resort
Park City’s Deer Valley Resort features over 60 miles of quality bike trails, many lift served from Silver Lake Express at base level, Sterling Express mid-mountain, and Ruby express at Empire Canyon. Plus, many trails connect to Park City’s 400 miles of single track.
Top Tip: Beginners, head to Holly Roller. It descends over 1,300 feet along four fun-filled miles.
Snowbasin Resort gives visitors access to over 26 miles of trails for all levels, connected to additional Forest Service trails taking the tally up to 50 miles of fun.
Top Tip: Snowbasin trails are open 7 days/week, with gondola access from the base on weekends throughout summer.
Utah has a stellar reputation for water sports – no mean feat given it’s the second driest state in the USA.
One of the top ten states when it comes to boat-able waters, Utah’s Lake Powell boasts nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline – that’s bigger than the whole US West Coast.
Lake Powell offers house-boating, water skiing, kayaking, rafting, fishing, swimming, and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) – the fastest growing sport in the country. Take days to navigate Lake Powell’s waters, soaking up vistas of sheer canyon walls and petrified dunes.
Top Fact: Lake Powell is the second largest man-made lake in the US.