This truly is the most wonderful time of year! With a strong Latter-Day Saint (aka Mormon) culture here in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas, Christmas activities near Salt Lake City are plentiful and truly inspiring for any Christian or non-Christian visitor alike. So here are a few of my favorite things to do during Christmas, here at home, in Salt Lake City Utah.
Christmas Activities Near Salt Lake City Utah
Temple Square Lights
This is one of the BEST places to see Christmas lights! The Christmas Lights at Temple Square started over 50 years ago, in 1965. The lighting of the Latter-Day Saint Temple Square was overseen by their leader President Mckay who hired a leading arborist to spend six weeks hanging 40,000 lights. Using a cherry picker and a ladder, the magic of Christmas started in Salt Lake City Utah.
The number of lights in temple square today is not exactly known, but it is estimated that in 1997 there were over 800,000 lights (which grows a little more each year).
If you take a trip to Temple Square to see the lights, be sure you visit the Cedar of Lebanon. This tree is only lit every other year but is over 70 feet tall (a large tree by Utah desert standards). This tree has been growing for the last 75 years and is covered in 75,000 lights. The tree is quite special in that it was brought over from Jerusalem as a seed, planted and grown in Temple Square since that time.
Each year there are a few things that really make Temple Square special besides the lights. There is a life-sized nativity scene at the North Vistors center and an additional nativity scene on the reflection pool that has floating candles that make this a truly special visual Christmas feast.
Last but not least, grab some hot chocolate, listen to the volunteer carolers on the weekend, and stroll past hundreds of handmade paper lanterns with the message of ‘peace’ on them written in different languages.
Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square
This is a difficult concert to get into, mostly because it is free and hugely popular with the locals. Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert is an intensely moving musical phenomenon that happens yearly at the new Latter-Day Saint Conference Center.
It is a cast of over 600 individuals, with 360 choir voices rigorously trained throughout the year with some of the toughest competition to be a part of the choir. They are then accompanied by 150 instrumentalists, and 32 Bell ringers with various actors, singers, dancers, and a special guest artist invited to perform each year.
This concert is typically held for 3 days (Thursday-Saturday) at starts at 8 pm. You need to set an alarm for when the ticketing process begins, and/or put your name into a lottery for a ticket.
If you don’t get in, there are also 30-minute weekly music and the spoken word concerts that are broadcasted on Sunday mornings that will feature some of the guests involved in the program.
If you do get a chance to attend the concert though, it will be one of the most incredible and hair raising musical experiences you will ever witness. I always enjoy the Christmas concerts because they are so well done & just focus on the message of Christ in Christmas.
Festival Of Trees
This is a short four-day exhibit of a holiday winter wonderland with uniquely decorated trees, wreaths, playhouses, centerpieces, quilts, gingerbread houses all exhibited for a good cause. You see, everything you see here is for sale, and all the funds raised at the Festival of Trees go to the children at Primary Children’s Hospital. There is a specific person, patient, or family that the tree is donated for – to help with hospital bills, or get a procedure done.
If you can’t afford the items for sale, even buying a ticket or participating in some of the more affordable activities will all be contributed to a good cause. Shops are filled with dolls, handmade Christmas crafts, quilts, fresh baked cookies/candies/fudge/scones, and cinnamon rolls.
They also have a stage set up, where different children’s dance studios volunteer to provide the most adorable holiday ‘tutu’ entertainment for Festival-goers. Buy Tickets for the Festival of Trees today and support those families that will be spending their Christmas fighting for the life of a child.
The Dickens’ Festival is not just another craft show, it is an Olde English Christmas themed town full of shops, hundreds of period costumes, fortune tellers, orphans, royalty, and the REAL Father Christmas. Despite being in the middle of a desert, you truly feel you have been transported into an old European shopping show.
The aisles are transformed into old London streets, each vendor is dressed in Old Victorian fashion – really adding to the whole experience.
There are also Mini-productions of the musical based on Charles Dickens’ “Scrooge” that is performed nightly. I remember dancing here as a child and was delighted by the puppet shows, street theater. As an adult, I am dazzled by the Fezziwig Dance party and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future that wander old London shopping streets.
Tickets (as of 2019) are $6-$8, so it is really affordable to take the whole family for a little Pseudo-European Christmas delight.
Hogle Zoo Christmas Lights
This is a unique spin on Christmas lights, and will whimsically delight all animal lovers. Over 200 lighted animals glitter and twinkle throughout December right alongside the other zoo animals. If you go a little early, you can grab a delicious dinner at the Beast-ro, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and nibble on the tasty treats dotting the sidewalks around the zoo.
This year, (2019) is going to be a special year, because Hogle Zoo has hired Lightasmic (from California) to build 10 large animal lanterns. This will be a fantastic illuminated spectacle, along with the 135-foot lighted tunnel that is always a hit with photographers 🙂
It isn’t just animals, but elves that offer finishing touches to this Christmas Activity in Salt Lake City. My favorite part? In addition to the tunnel, it is actually the S’mores at the Oasis Plaza dipped in hot chocolate. This is a camping favorite and nothing tastes better right before a peaceful night of dreaming of sugarplums dancing in my head.
Ballet West Nutcracker Capitol Theatre
Did you know that Ballet West in Salt Lake City produces the longest-running American production of the Nutcracker? I didn’t either, but I remember growing up going to the Nutcracker all the time and wanting to be Clara. I wanted to be whisked away by the beautifully dancing toy soldier, swans and other creatures of the Toyland imagination of the Nutcracker.
Each year it changes, and not in a minor way, the core story stays the same, but there are different time periods, themes, and sets. There has not been a year that has been disappointing, and if you or your daughters/sons have a dancers’ heart – then I highly suggest going to see this on a Mommy-Daughter date.
Hale Center Theatre
What is Christmas without a good old fashioned visit to the theatre to see, A Christmas Carol? Hale Center theatre started as a small theatre next to Dick’s Market in Bountiful Utah, it has since grown into one of the premiere Theatres in Utah.
This circular theatre has all the bells and whistles to surprise and delight patrons with Christmas songs and dance. If you have never seen A Christmas Carol, I would recommend watching it as a family holiday tradition. It reminds us to think less about money, and more about how we treat people and serving others.
There is plenty of free covered parking, but I highly suggest bringing your own snacks and treats. The cost to quantity ratio is pretty exorbitant & they also still use plastic straws and cups.
Abravanel Hall Symphony
For a refined and cultured evening out, why not go listen to the plucking and prancing of notes with ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ at Abravanel Hall. There are different concerts throughout the holiday season, including the Messiah Sing-In, to Harry Potter.
City Creek Center
The City Creek Center is very close to Temple Square and offers the perfect parental tool to have your kids see Santa. This is one of the few places that offers a virtual ticket to see Santa, so instead of waiting in line, you can show up at the allotted time and let the munchkins pour out their deepest desires to the jolly man himself.
After seeing Santa, pop in and out of shops to grab your holiday bits and bobs. Bring a sucker for the kids as you walk over to Macy’s candy windows. I loved seeing these unique and artistic masterpieces as a child. These holiday-themed windows hold the best candy art you will see. Each window is made entirely of candy and can be anything from a massive Elf workshop, to a Polar Bear learning how to ice skate.
This shopping center is quite unique, in that it transforms from an outdoor shopping venue to an indoor shopping venue as the weather changes.
This is another favorite activity of mine because it takes place at ‘This Is The Place Heritage Park’, which is an old Pioneer village. This historic park is transformed into the Christkindle Market, a shopping and community experience inspired by the German Christmas markets.
There is a live Nativity, Christmas songs and mini-performances where they tell you the origin of the Christmas songs. You can get caramel apples, strudel, and so many other tasty treats.
They have a mini-parade down main street, where a parade of light, elves, and children followed up by Jolly Saint Nicolas. There is a stage for entertainment, fire pits to warm your hands, and so many Christmas decorations around it is hard to not feel the Christmas spirit. There are also truly unique mini log cabin shops dotted throughout the historic park that offer very unique and delightful Christmas gifts.
Shopping at SouthTowne – Hogsmead
The holidays are filled with giving of presents and trinkets….but the hoards of people and crowds can sometimes make for an unenjoyable time preparing for Christmas. This is why I recommend shopping at SouthTowne Center during Christmas – the magic of Christmas transforms it into a shopping Hogsmeade playground of spending your hard-earned money.
Feel the magic of Harry Potter entertain your kids, while you try and guess the deepest desires of those closest to you. It might make the stress of the holidays a little more enjoyable to feel like you are visiting a beloved children’s classic.
Walk into an ever-changing interactive movie set, and discover their famous sweet and savory treats in this Nordic-inspired fantasy world. When you visit, you will be addressed as a ‘World Walker’ as many of the staff are part of the story and characters who live in the Dickinsonian inspired wonderland. The trees are glittering with frost and lights, taverns, mills, and shops all have a story that is waiting to be discovered.
Here you, as a world walker, must go on a quest – interact with the characters and discover what the secret of magic is in this mystical wonderland. Tickets are a bit on the steep side, but if you plan on spending the whole day – it is well worth the cost (in my opinion at least).
Park City Torchlight Parade
If you are truly looking for a unique Christmas Eve experience, or like to be outdoors more than indoors celebrating – then head to Park City for the Torchlight Parade.
This is a Christmas Eve tradition that has been happening for over 55 years. You can begin the chilly evening with some holiday music at the base of the mountain, and then bring your light of choice to ski down the mountain with – creating a festival of lights in motion.
These are the farthest Christmas Activities near Salt Lake City, in Heber Utah.
The local train, the Heber Creeper transforms into the Polar Express, where the adults and kids alike can enjoy a 90-minute ride to the North Pole. They can sip on hot cocoa, and eat some of Mrs. Claus’ famous chocolate chip cookies, singing along to traditional Christmas favorites.
The elves and cocoa chefs will be bustling up and down the isles, entertaining and interacting with passengers along the way. Once you reach the North Pole, Santa will board the train and present a special gift to each child.
You can choose from a regular passenger ticket to a first-class ticket, or even rent out the Red Caboose for a private group of 10-12. If you really want to wow and entertain, then rent the luxury table and lounge gare or business car (20-50 passengers) for a perfect Christmas Party setting.
Midway Ice Castles
Make it an overnight trip from Salt Lake City and spend the night in Heber so you can visit the Midway Ice Castles. These famous Ice Castles started as a hobby for a family, who were then visited and promoted by Oprah herself.
These hand-built, carefully crafted castles are a true winter wonderland. It almost appears as if Elsa (from the popular Disney movie Frozen) built them herself. If you are lucky Elsa and her sister may be taking photos and greeting guests outside the Ice Castles.
These Ice Castles are a fabulous playground because adults can play with their kids, instead of just having to watch them. I think we are often forced to believe that we cannot participate in child-like fun because we are ‘adults’. I believe we really begin to age when we lose the childlike innocence and suppress our imaginations.
Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point
This is a newly discovered Christmas Activity near Salt Lake City that I definitely want to participate in this year. The Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point transforms the hill with changing pictures made from 5,000 luminaries.
While I don’t personally have experience at this event, I know how beautiful Thanksgiving Point Gardens are outside of Christmas time, and so can only imagine how beautiful this will be. They also have a section of the gardens that was donated with statues of scenes from the Bible. It is a very peaceful and reflective place, that I think combined with the Luminaria will be a perfect way to remember the reason for the season.
Volunteering For Christmas Near Salt Lake City
There are other ways to remember the reason for the season, and that is by volunteering to serve others. You can do it in so many different ways, but here are a few ideas I have in how to serve those around you during this holiday season. Out of all the Christmas activities near Salt Lake City, this one will be far more moving for you than anything else – by giving back into the world for all you have been given.
Wrap presents at Provo Towne Center Mall to raise money for Habitat for Humanity to help families who may need a home, to finally have a warm place to stay.
The Forgotten Patient Christmas Project, hosted by the Utah State Mental Hospital, has been operating for the last 50 years. Rather than providing Christmas for an entire family, a patient comes up with a Christmas List, and when you buy one gift for the patient and give it to them on Christmas and spend some time together. If you are interested in sponsoring a patient, please contact Shawna Peterson, Director of Volunteer Services at 801-344-4254.
Christmas season in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit is not the ideal place to spend the ‘babies first Christmas’. Sunset Crochet (from Sunset Family Living) hosts 12 days of Christmas knitting project. Where for 12 days you knit a hat each day for a baby in the NICU. The patterns are sent by email, and then you are asked to donate the knitted hats to the nearest NICU.
Candy Cane Corner in Salt Lake gives those receiving services from the YWCA Utah, The Road Home, or Volunteers of America, Utah, the opportunity to choose Christmas gifts in a shopping-like environment. As a volunteer, you will help organize, lift and carry items, sort donations and wrap presents for the individuals/families in need. If you plan on bringing more than five people, please call and make an appointment to help better facilitate and organize according to the needs of the Candy Cane Corner.
Happy Holidays to You and Yours
I love this time of year, the giving, the feeling, the movies, the treats, the anticipation of good things to come. Christmas truly has a reason for the season, and that is Christ, his example of loving those around him – even those who society as a whole had a hard time loving. So embrace the strange, weird, or rejected of society – let them know they are loved.
I hope by sharing this guide on Christmas activities near Salt Lake City will help those visiting or locals be able to forge long-lasting memories. I pray that you can cherish the family and the connections with those who are close to you. Never stop believing in a little magic, and I truly wish you and yours a happy holiday and Merry Christmas this year.
Like it? Pin it! Tis’ the Season of Sharing and Caring!
Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family, friends, loved ones and was originally celebrated by Pilgrims and Native Americans to give thanks for the harvest. It has since turned into a time of gorging ourselves on food, followed by a (sometimes violent) Black Friday. It has been sad for me to see this happening in my lifetime, to be honest. I decided to write a post on how you can better spend your Thanksgiving with your family or friends in a way that fosters unity, family bonds, and to encourage the good memories that will last far longer than the material possessions you may acquire on Black Friday. So here is the perfect guide for Thanksgiving Activities near Salt Lake City Utah from a local, who is trying to turn Black Friday into a White Friday of service and outdoor fun.
Get in Shape for Thanksgiving
This has been a favorite tradition of mine because it gets the common and chronic New Years Resolution of continuing to try to be healthier started early (at least for my own goals it has become a chronic goal). Get in shape for Thanksgiving with the whole family, or invite your friends and make it a group run. Here are a few of my favorite runs here in Utah that I would suggest.
Utah Human Race
This was my first and favorite run I have done. Arriving at the Utah Human race I saw families dressed in matching T-shirts, college kids dressed as turkeys and different thanksgiving dishes, there were tu-tu’s and various other Thanksgiving-themed costumes. It doesn’t matter if you walk with your kid in a stroller, or sprint the whole race – all are welcome. The feeling of this race seemed a little more relaxed and more fun.
What makes this run really special, is that your entry fee goes to the Utah Foodbank. It helps those who are homeless in the city or families that can’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner, to have dinner with their own family. Either way, it is a great run, for a good cause.
The Turkey Trot is still filled with loads of costumes, families, and college kids and is just as fun as the Utah Human Race but is in Sandy Utah, about 15 minutes south of Salt Lake City. This 5k run is good for all ages, and really close to movie theatres.
Lehi Thankful 13
This run is for those who want to maintain their training with a half marathon, those who want a good workout before a big meal and a specific kids run is also available. This run is right down by Thanksgiving Point and gardens, with the Wasatch Mountains and Timpanogus mountain in the distance & the Oquirrh Mountains on the opposite side for a fantastic landscape view. It is about 30 minutes outside Salt Lake City, easily accessible via Uber or a group ride.
Thanksgiving Activities near Salt Lake City : Ski and Snowboard for Family Bonding
While going up to the ski resorts on Thanksgiving, or the day after Thanksgiving is getting more popular – it is still far less crowded than weekends. There are going to be changes to parking regulations this year, due to how crowded the resorts are getting.
You will now need to pay for parking at the ski resorts (prices vary), you will need to check the resort to get the full details. Some ski resorts have actually built gondola rides from the lower parking lots to the resort entrances (ie/ Park City) to make parking further away a little easier.
Here are the projected opening times for 2019 for the ski resorts. These opening times can change so check each ski resorts site. I have a gut feeling winter this year (2019) is going to be quite brutal, based on the amount of cold weather and small snow flurries we have had already. This means terrible Utah driving, but great skiing this winter at the resorts.
This is arguably my favorite place to go skiing. There are no snowboarders allowed on these slopes. I personally can no longer snowboard because of a major head injury (think life-flighted to the hospital), if I fall or get whiplash even a little bit, I end up with pretty severe migraines.
While banning snowboarders isn’t personal, this private resort focuses on catering to skiers. The sideways stance of a snowboarder leaves blind spots when they make their wide sweeping turns, which can be dangerous to skiers. Because I have to be very protective of my neck and avoid hitting my head when falling – being able to ski in a safer environment like this (at least for me) is very reassuring and allows me to have a better time.
It makes it more peaceful, and more enjoyable to not always have to be on the lookout for being hit (or cut off) by a snowboarder. It is also a great resort for beginning skiers, especially kids. I would recommend the Albion, Sunnyside, and Cecret on the looker’s left side of the mountain. rooked Mile is ideal for beginners at Alta, as you can ski at altitude and enjoy sweeping mountain views.
If you have snowboarders in your party, you can get a combo pass for Alta and Snowbird, called the ‘AltaBird’ pass where you can ski Alta over to Snowbird and meet up halfway through the day to ski and snowboard together so everyone enjoys their time.
There are plenty of lodgings in Park City and the surrounding areas. If you are looking for cheaper lodging options, try Heber Utah, it is about 20 minutes north of Park City is a smaller town full of red brick pioneer buildings and doesn’t require you to drive through Parley’s canyon which can get quite dangerous.
This resort was actually one of the first ski resorts in Utah, and one of the first resorts in the United States. Brighton Ski resort is located up Big Cottonwood Canyon is about 35 miles from Salt Lake City Utah.
This resort isn’t as popular with out-of-towners because there isn’t as much lodging available that is close. This is why this resort is ideal for locals and those with kids. Many local families bring their kids to this resort specifically to learn how to ski because it is less crowded, and there is ample terrain for beginners. The season pass is generally $300 cheaper than season passes closer to Park City.
As I mentioned before Alta and Snowbird are very close together, and there are ample lodgings here. If you are a skier and are there for a weekend, I highly recommend getting the ‘AltaBird’ lift pass to give you a wide range of options for skiing.
They have 2,500 acres, 169 runs with a wide range of options for beginner to intermediate. If you have someone in your family that does not want to ski/snowboard there are snowshoeing options, and snowmobiling options as well.
This resort has 1200 acres of runs available, with many of them being geared towards intermediate to more experienced. Only 6% of the runs are geared towards beginner skiers. This resort is not close to Park City, so is less crowded and a local favorite. There are snowshoeing options available as well as a spa to make it a romantic Thanksgiving getaway.
Thanksgiving Activities near Salt Lake City: Be A Kid Again and Go Sledding
I remember going out and sledding at midnight with my siblings, and church friends as a kid. We would sneak out and laugh and laugh about trying to get up the frozen hills, then stop at a 7-11 for some cheap hot chocolate on the way home. There are a lot of kids in Utah, and so sledding is a big deal here (in addition to skiing). Here are a few local favorites, but keep in mind that these spots will get crowded on Saturday, and days that it snows. I would suggest going on a weekday, or on a Sunday to avoid some of the crowds.
This is a great area for sledding as it is just across the street from a lot of small eateries, is well maintained, the hill is steep and wide and there are plenty of parents and kids to help monitor and keep your kids safe. The hill is shorter, so not as tiring for the smaller kids.
This will be a lot less crowded, the hills are longer and a little steeper. It is also a great place for snowshoeing, and other winter activities. I personally like to find a trail that has a high grade of steepness, then bring a sled that you can control the direction really well. Snowshoe up the trail, then sled your way back down – it is really really fun.
This is the PERFECT sledding adventure because they have sledding assisted tow rope, where a rope helps you get back up the hill to do more sledding. No more sliding back down the hill with every step. Tubing admission ranges anywhere from $13 to $27 depending on age and how long you decide to use the hill. The hill is open typically open from Dec to March (conditions permitting). Tubing sessions are two hours long and start on the even hour (i.e. 10-noon, noon-2, 2-4, etc.) I suggest buying your tickets online in advance to avoid the long lines.
This sledding heaven is right near Park City, with 7 lanes for tubes available. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, you can jump back on the lift to get back up the hill. Rates for the tubing ranges anywhere from $7 to $46 depending on age and the number of hours purchased. Fort Frosty costs $10 per ticket or free if you purchase a 2 or 4-hour tubing ticket. For $12 you also get 10 laps on the mini snowmobiles.
If the kids get a little too cold or a storm blows in, they also have a 52,000 sqft indoor facility full of trampolines, foam pits, a lounge, coffee shop, cafeteria, equipment rentals, and Utah’s only indoor concrete skatepark.
This sledding haven, on a good snow day, is usually jam-packed, but free (though parking is always difficult). It has a few really long runs too; fun to go down, long to hike back up. It is right next to a large golf-course so the views are really stunning and about 16 miles East of Salt Lake City.
This sledding nook has steep hills with some jumps built-in, for the more adventurous teenagers. To help with safety there are Hay bails that have been put into place to help you stop at the bottom of the hill. I thought this was a really nice touch, because of how many sledding accidents I hear about in Utah.
Service With A Smile
If you want your Thanksgiving activities to have a little more meaning, then do a little service for those around. Make your Black Friday a ‘White Friday’ by providing service to those around you. (Let’s coin the hashtag #WhiteFriday – to fight the materialistic Black Friday and overspending).
Bring your family/friends to volunteer and help distribute meals to families and other individuals experiencing homelessness in Utah at the Road Home. You can put together sack lunches, make dinner and bring it to share with another family, or put together a turkey dinner box to give to the shelter for the families there. With rising costs of rent in the Salt Lake City area, as well as an opioid epidemic — there is an increasing issue with homelessness in the Downtown area for individuals and families across the spectrum.
Contact the volunteer coordinator and bring the whole family to help serve others as a way to give back for all you have been given. Even if it is just sitting and listening, and connecting to another human being. This truly is a month we need to focus on giving, not getting the best deal on Black Friday.
Utah is a service-oriented state, and volunteering at the food bank is quite popular – but because it is so organized it makes it a really enjoyable experience for everyone. Make sure you contact them beforehand to schedule a time to volunteer because they do not take ‘walk-in’ volunteers.
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23: Feast With The Beasts at Hogle Zoo
If you need an activity for the kids while the Turkey is roasting, take a quick trip to Hogle Zoo. You can see the animals playing with Pumpkins, or Turkey shaped pinatas. The open their doors, especially for this event on Thanksgiving Day from 10, am to 1 pm.
Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23: Lindon Community Thanksgiving Dinner
For all the college kids that aren’t able to make it home and/or don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving – head over to Lindon’s annual community dinner. This takes place at the Lindon City Community Center, 25 N. Main St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free, but people can donate food, time or money to help out. I would call 801-785-5043 for more information and see how you can help. Who knows maybe you can meet some people who will become a pseudo-family for you until you can get home.
Where to Eat A Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Near Salt Lake City
Those who don’t have the energy or time to deal with dishes, can’t get back to their family or don’t have a family to be with here are some places I suggest you go to eat a delicious Thanksgiving meal that will be hassle-free.
Buca Di Beppo
This is traditionally an Italian restaurant, but the chefs at Buca di Beppo will open at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving. They will serve a traditional Thanksgiving dinner family-style, or you can order directly off the Italian Menu.
Homestead Resort – Midway
Homestead Resort in Heber serves a grand buffet on Thanksgiving including roast turkey and prime rib, plus salads, sides, bread and cheese boards, shellfish, and desserts. This place really is the full package for a Thanksgiving getaway including cross-country skiing, sleigh rides, ice skating, downhill ski packages, a spa, hot springs, and other activities. The buffet is a little pricey, but well worth it for the amount of food and variety available. For adults, it typically runs $49.95 and $32.95 for children.
Log Haven restaurant in Millcreek Canyon is a smaller and more intimate venue for Thanksgiving Day. They offer a four-course prix-fixe luncheon from 1 to 5:30 p.m. The menu offers unique ricotta and butternut squash pancetta, potato leek soup, wild mushroom ragu with Parmesan grits, baby winter greens, juniper-brined turkey, grilled king salmon, pan-roasted filet, or butternut squash risotto, and dessert of creme brulee, pumpkin cheesecake, or pumpkin pie. The cozy settings allow for a more refined approach to a Thanksgiving Dinner, and costs run $54.95 for adults and $29.95 for children.
Hub and Spoke Diner
If you have a large family or are trying to be a little more frugal then head to Hub & Spoke Diner. Their Thanksgiving Dinner is served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu is a la carte so you can pick and choose your perfect Thanksgiving plate. Prices for items typically range from $4 to $17.
Caffe Niche specializes in local ingredients, and the restaurant is offering a special prix fixe menu from 1-7 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. There is a flat rate of $40 per person and includes three courses. The menu features fall salad, a classic turkey dinner, and other choices. For dessert, you will be deliciously delighted with homemade Ding Dongs.
Grand America or Little America
Thanksgiving at The Grand America often fills up quickly but is one of the best local Thanksgiving dinners you will have. If you can’t get into the Grand America, there is typically space available at its sister hotel The Little America. The Little America serves a buffet in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Prices for adults are $57 and $27 for kids.
End It With An Attitude of Gratitude
There is a culture within the United States to end Thanksgiving with the family (or friends) with brutal and frenzied shopping on Black Friday. May I humbly suggest you replace Black Friday, with a White Friday. Fill your Thanksgiving holiday with activities, service and plenty of bonding time that doesn’t involve material possessions and more quality time with those you love. Life is so short, and you never know when someone will be taken from you. Foster positive memories and activities that will help you grow as a family, as an individual and encourage those human connections this holiday season.
Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year, I think it is because everyone can be whatever they want. A child who dreams of being a princess, a little boy who dreams of big muscles and fighting like spider man can let their imagination run wild. So for all my fellow U-tards, here is a guide on Halloween Activities near Salt Lake City Utah.
Unique Halloween Experiences in Utah
About an hour north of Salt Lake City, there is a small town called Heber Utah – where every season their iconic train, the Heber Creeper transforms into a holiday delight.
They start off with the Pumpkin Train, where adults, toddlers, and babies alike can dress as pumpkins. It is a 40-minute train ride costumed characters enthrall you with G-rated stories and jokes. Each passenger is given a delicious pumpkin cookie, and at the end of the trip, you get to pick out a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch for carving. They also have a family-friendly haunted train car, and if you survive the haunted car you even get a Halloween sticker.
If you can’t make it on the Pumpkin Train, then I suggest the Wizard Train! Dress up as your favorite wizard, and take a 90-minute train ride through the fall colors and canyons. Each wizard will be sorted by the sorting hat, receive a delicious chocolate frog, and if you are brave enough – you get to try the Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean. There will be costumed wizards, characters, wands, games, trivia, photos and more.
The Best Haunted Houses
If you haven’t been to Utah or lived here during Halloween – you will miss out on the incredibly spooky culture of Haunted Houses. Yes indeed, from Happy Valley Haunts, to spooktacular and incredibly terrifying hands-on haunted houses – there is something for everyone. There is even a new wave of ‘leveled hauntings’ where you can choose the level of fear you want to experience within a haunted house (for your little ones as well. Boo-fore I get ahead of myself, I will just briefly share my top 5 haunted houses for the whole family.
Castle of Chaos
Castle of Chaos is the “home of hands-on horror” and known for The Mansion, The Caverns, Nightmare in 3D, X-Scream Dungeon. There are several ticket options including General Admission, glow wand admission (that keeps the monsters away). There are four levels of scares, and the extreme haunt: X-Scream Hands-On Horror™ involves some pretty heavy hands-on actor interaction. Not only can the actors touch you, but they can pick you up, drag you off, get you wet, place things or our pets on you, restrain you, mock torture you, put you in things, and anything else that is legal and safe. They have 5 levels of tickets that range from mild glow wand to extreme.
I remember going to the Haunted Forest as a kid and really liking it. This place has been running for more than 25 years. You wind your way through the forested areas, into and out of creepy makeshift buildings and get scared off with a grand finale. While there are mixed reviews on this haunted area, I really enjoyed it as a kid.
Nightmare on 13th
Nightmare on 13th boasts itself as one of the top haunted attractions in America. Getting through all 3 haunted houses takes you about an hour. Everyone gets a free online photo taken with one of the haunted characters, which you download from their site. You will find yourself wandering through Haunted Hollywood, Swamp Blood, and Delirium. They also have a separate extreme fright experience.
Dead City Haunted House
Dead City Haunted House is one I definitely want to check out this year, as they just made over $50,000 in animatronic updates, and now have over 50 rooms of fear. There is an option for less scary days, but there are only 4 days so be sure to check online to arrange those.
The Fear Factory dates back to 1894, this former cemetery factory is a deadly paranormal hotspot. It is full of a history of twisted accidents. If some in your party aren’t partial to haunted houses, then do not fret – there are also DJ’s, bands playing, concessions and a few deadly characters outside. It takes about 45 minutes to go through Fear Factory. They have several options for extreme levels of fright depending on your ticket purchase, as long as your willing to sign the waiver.
Corn Mazes Near Salt Lake City
Pack Farms – Farmington, UT Darryl Pack started farming with his family in Davis County about 1950. They’ve been selling pumpkins to local grocery stores for years, but demand caused them to open their farm ten years ago so you can pick your pumpkin from the field. You can also enjoy the hay maze and scarecrow picture gallery.
Wheeler Historic Farm – Salt Lake City, UT This agricultural living history museum and outdoor recreation are operated by Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation that was founded in 1887 by Henry Wheeler Sr. They have a pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay maze, and wagon ride. Each October they also hold a Scarecrow festival and contest.
Crazy Corn Maze – West Jordan, UT – 8 Acres This will be the twentieth year for their maze. There is also a separate haunted trail after dark and 4-acre pumpkin patch.
Cornbelly’s – Lehi, UT – 12 Acres – 3 Mazes Up for US Today’s Top Ten Corn Mazes. It is a perfect place for the whole family to run amuck. There are animal shows, face painting, games, rides, inflatable dinosaurs/monsters, mini hay mazes, zip lines, and plenty of places to get those enviable family fall photos. At night, there is a separate haunted maze and other haunted attractions here. It is located right behind Thanksgiving point, where you can grab some sandwiches and swing over to the Farm barn and petting zoo, or the Dinosaur Museum.
Pumpkin Patches Near Salt Lake City
Cross E Ranch – Salt Lake City Utah
This is the only interactive working cattle ranch in Salt Lake City Utah. During their Fall festival, there are plenty of animals to interact with. Their corn maze (of which there are 3 different ones) is 14 acres, with nearly 7 miles of trails weaving throughout the corn maze. They also have a 12-acre pumpkin patch, hayrides, corn pits, straw pyramid, mini straw maze, zip lines, pig races, fire pits, slides, and new this year they have an archery shooting range!
Schmidt’s Farm – West Jordan, Utah
This pumpkin patch is one of the largest with around 500 tons of pumpkins produced each year. While it doesn’t have the family activities that Cross E Ranch has, it is a garden center that boasts some of the best pumpkins around. They also have some delicious salt and peppercorn to take home along with your pumpkins. The crazy corn maze is close by if you wanted to make it a longer activity for family and friends.
Maybe’s Pumpkin Patch – South Jordan
This is a farm with historical roots, in fact, it is named as a ‘Utah Century Farm‘ because it was founded in 1884. It is a 14-acre patch, with over 45 different pumpkins and plenty of Instagram-able backdrops, barns and photo booths to capture the moment.
Halloween Park Fun
As a World Walker, you enter into Evermore Park where it feels as if you are walking onto a movie set straight out of Europe. There are seasonal themes to the park, but during Halloween, you enter Evermore Lore. You take a quest through the fairyland where the Fae King has fallen to the darkness and you must help the other inhabitants figure out how to protect themselves and save the Fae King. The story develops and becomes a little more haunted each time you go back.
If you just want to dress up as your favorite hobbit, elf, magician or fortune teller – all fae folk are welcome. You can try your hand at chess in the Tavern where songs with local scallywags are sung. Train your elvish senses in the art of Archery or Ax throwing, learn about the birds, reptiles, and Evermore Park themed cuisine.
While there are portions of the park that are still under construction, visiting Evermore during Lore is well worth the visit.
There are over nine haunted attractions during Frightmares at the theme park in Farmington. You can ride different rides and roller coasters, along with a stroll through an old cowboy town and a haunted carriage house. Hosted by Lagoon, the staff here pull out all the tricks and treats to make the whole family enjoy their Halloween.
Boo at the Zoo – Hogle Zoo
There are various booths for kids 12 and under throughout the Boo at the Zoo where they can trick-or-treat. Even the animals get special pumpkin and Halloween treats, making the animals throughout the zoo quite active and lively in the holiday spirit. The trick-or-treating activity is free with regular Zoo admission or membership and begins at 9 am and ends at 3 pm.
Pumpkin Nights at Utah State Fair Park
Located in four major cities, this array of pumpkin art will spark the imagination and fill your SD cards with Halloween delights. There is the pumpkin dragon, pumpkin turtle, fire breathers, and the tunnel of pumpkins. There are plenty of sweet treats to fill the belly, and sights to fill the soul as well with holiday delights.
Halloween Shows and Convention
Thriller by Odessey Dance Theatre – Kingsbury Hall
This year’s show will have all of the favorite pieces from the past – Thriller, The Curse of the Mummy, Dem Bones, Frankenstein, Jason Jam, Salem’s Mass, The Lost Boys – plus a few new surprises. Get your tickets early because many of the shows sell out quickly! This show has been running for as long as I can remember and is truly a tradition your family can enjoy, although I wouldn’t suggest bringing kiddos younger than 8 to this show as it can get a little spooky for them.
Desert Star Theatre
This is a show for the whole family, young and old, it is quite fun and very interactive. Make it a dinner and a show, there are tables, popcorn, and food available. Shows play year-round, but they have popular Halloween characters pop in this time of year for a pumpkin smashing good time. You do have to reserve your tickets in advance.
Red Butte Garden
The Garden After Dark is a two-weekend family-friendly event with a theme and activities great for kids. This year the theme is ‘Trouble in Oz’, where kids get to follow the Yellow-Brick road around looking for the flying monkeys that the witch released. Are dazzled by light shows, explore the corn maze, and meet Dorothy, Glinda, and the Wicked Witch at the Ozdust Ballroom. This is a ticketed event that sells out quick.
Where all things ghoulish, ghostly, and downright creepy are celebrated and shared. Bring out the inner darkness, and witchy ways within with this convention of fear and fright. It isn’t just about vendors, and costumes – the convention requires each vendor to dress up, provide interaction and add to the ‘show’. There is ax throwing to get you ready for the zombie apocalypse, haunted trailers, a frightmare street, and an opening night party to start the spook season off right.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year, a season of warm blankets, hot chocolate, Halloween and beautiful color. It might be hard to pick where to take a scenic road trip for fall colors in the USA. I have put together the top 15 places to see fall colors in the United States for you to make it easy and a dreamy vacation. So grab your cup of hot cocoa, light the fire, and let us explore where your next adventure will be.
Utah Road Trips for Fall Colors
American Fork Canyon, Logan Canyon, Park City Utah, Sundance Utah these are all the places I can unequivocally recommend for seeing Fall colors for the entire family.
American Fork Canyon
This can just be a drive through the Alpine loop where Aspens grace the steep slopes. Pull off on the side of the road under the fall foliage to have some ‘hobo dinners’ complete with meat, carrots, potatoes and your favorite seasonings over a fire. Finish off with a hike and sm’ores over the embers.
This is also a great drive through, a lot more of an open space where you can see fields of oranges, fiery reds. Hike up to the wind caves, visit the nature center, hike along the limber pine trail with an overlook of Bear Lake – one of the clearest lakes in Utah. Rent a cabin and make a weekend of it on your fall color road trip!
Park City and Sundance Utah
Take an easy walk up to the ski lifts, where you can enjoy a 30 minute ski lift ride right over the fields of wild flowers in the summer, or fall colors. The crisp mountain air, places to shop and dine along with the last remnants of the summer farmers markets will make for a perfect Fall getaway before the winds of winter arrive.
Colombia River Gorge, Oregon
This Gorge is about 2,100 feet deep with waterfalls, and fall foliage galore! Hike the challenging Hamilton Mountain, about 9.4 miles in passing 2 waterfalls ( Rodney and Hardy Falls ) along the way.
Participate in part of the PCT along the 5 mile out and back Dry creek falls. Despite being called a ‘creek’ this 75-foot waterfall will impress even the most negative hikers.
Lastly, end your day with a picnic at Pioneer Point on the 1.3 mile Cape Horn Loop. Where you will bask in the beauty of the Colombia River adorned with a spectacular spectacle of fall colors. Bring your thermos full of hot cocoa, you will want to stay here and drink in the view for awhile.
Maine is known as the ‘vacation state’ to many East Coasters. Vast landscapes packed with adventures for all. Yet, Kennebunkport Main stole my heart when searching for the perfect fall getaway. I would suggest visiting in September specifically as many of the local shops begin to close around the first week of October.
This quaint fishing village was known for its shipping, and packs a punch when it comes to historical value – including being the home town of one of one of the former President’s of the United States.
Be sure to wander the city on foot, take a whale watching boat ride, jump on a lobster boat and catch your meal for the day, and finish up with some blue berry ice cream, or a cuppa tea.
Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
I mistakenly thought that Arkansas didn’t have much to offer in the way of beauty. Yet it is like finding Where’s Waldo when going hiking. The trees cover all the hidden gems like hidden waterfalls, caves used by slaves to hide while getting to freedom, a Popeye Statue in the middle of a small town city and all sorts of down to earth people to talk to. The best part is that this great state is filled with trees that turn into beautiful fall colors – not to miss when fulfilling your fall colors bucketlist.
The iconic Whitaker Point hike with trees in reds, yellows, and oranges as far as the eye can see. A perfect time to hike in the Southern United States, because the humidity will be a lot less potent than in the throws of summer in this area.
There are plenty of hikes to enjoy here like Compton’s Double Falls, Sam’s Throne, and the Narrows with a fabulous display of nature’s beauty.
Catskill Mountains, New York
One word will convince you to visit the Castskill Mountains in Fall….Octoberfest. Beginning the end of September there are 4 weeks of Bavarian festivities held at Hunter Mountain. What is unique to this area is that it grows crisp, juicy, flavorful apples for a perfect hard apple cider. If festivals aren’t your thing, then stop by Delhi’s picturesque Wayside Cider for a more refined sip of these suds.
You can also drive the scenic route of the Catskill Mountains, hitting a round of golf, or spending the night camping in the cool autumn air. If you take a look at all the festivals held in the Catskill Mountains, you are sure to find something for everyone. My favorite is their lumberjack festival, I never realized just how intense the competition was until I saw one of these.
Enchanted Circle of New Mexico
Many people think of the East Coast as the only place with beautiful fall colors. Suprisingly New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle will give you a whole new perspective on Fall in the desert.
This is a circle you will need your RV for, or at the very least a tent as it is 84 miles of exploration. The circular route takes you around Wheeler Mountain ( 13,161 feet – 4.011 meters), and through the lush Hondo Valley blazing with colors of fall.
Stop at the Red River Fish Hatchery and take a self-guided tour. Enchant your children with the large rainbow trout pond. Maybe even travel down stream and try to catch a fish or two.
Carry on around to Questa, to visit Artesanos de Questa, where woodworkers, tinsmiths, painters, stained glass workers and sculptors show their work at this cooperative.
You will get an array of fall festivities, art shows, animal encounters and gorgeous scenery as you take a very memorable and enchanting drive around this circle.
Stowe Vermont Road Trip For Fall Colors
Known as the Fall Color Capital, is a time of vibrant colors that your eyes drink in calming the soul. There are many ways to see the breathtaking fall foliage here through the extensive network of hiking trails, kayaking down the reservoir, or just taking a leisurely scenic drive.
Despite the plethora of mountain biking paths, I recommend the leisurely ‘Rec Path’ for your fall foliage leaf peeping. This path is one the whole family or group of friends can enjoy no matter what their physical skill level is. For the more adventurous, I would take a zip line through the fall foliage, a guided tour, or a Stowe, at Night, Lantern Tour where you are regaled with tales of ghost stories.
Festivals such as the Stowe Tango Music Festival, Stowe Jazz Festival, Stowe Foliage Arts Festival, Stowe Arts Week, Art on Park and the outdoor art exhibit, ‘Exposed’ are just a few events that grace the artistic stages in this small town.
North Conway, New Hampshire
This is one of the more unique and off the beaten path places to visit for fall foliage. North Conway in New Hampshire may not be the first destination you would choose, but for train lovers it should be. There is a historic Victorian Station built in 1974 and on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States.
When you jump on the this train there are different lengths of time you can enjoy the fall foliage in comfort and class. If you like the spooky and scary, like me – try the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in October. Be sure to plan ahead as it only runs on certain weekends in october, and only in certain cars on the train so space is limited.
You cannot mention fall to me without immediately thinking about Halloween. There is no other town more fit to celebrate all Hallo’s Eve than Salem. Discover what it was like to live in New England during the time of the Salem witch trials. Take a ghost tour, explore the museums, meet real practicing witches, attend a play about witches – there are so many ghoulishly great activities you may forget you traveled there to see fall foliage as well.
The color palette along the New England Coastline is one you will never forget. An array of colors even the witches of Salem would have in their cauldrons. No matter where you go in this town, you will be surrounded by brilliant fall colors. Take a ferry down to Boston from Salem (30 min and $25 for one way) to avoid the incredible parking fees. Stroll along Beacon Hill, or Boston Commons two iconic places both photographically and historically. This where the warmth of the color of the trees matches the picturesque buildings of the 1700’s full of history and divine food – it is a perfect way to end your fall foliage frolicking.
Yellowstone National Park Road Trip for Fall Colors
Many people visit Yellowstone National Park in the Summer to see the buffalo, bears, and new babies emerging to find food after the long winter. Yet they often forget just how incredible the colors in the fall can be. It can get a bit chilly in the fall, and even snow if there is an early winter.
Seeing Old Faithful when the crowds are not as oppressive amid the backdrop of beautiful fall colors – should be on everyone’s bucketlist. This is one place that fall hits a bit earlier than the rest of the country, being early August/late August. Be sure that you check on hotels/camping sites you plan to stay at as there are many staggered closings up until Oct 20th.
The reason this is such a wonderful time to see the rutting season. The bison rutting season starts in August, and the Elk rutting season is in September. The park rangers admit, that it is not unusual to see the massive elk sparring and fighting throughout the season. I recommend visiting Mammoth Hot Springs for the best Elk Rutting shows, as this tends to be a place the congregate.
If watching the rutting season isn’t your thing, then maybe catching a fish is! Fishermen from around the world are drawn here for the Brown Trout spawning season. You are guaranteed to have a fish dinner every night that your heart desires. I would recommend Madison and Gardner rivers for the best trout fishing for the fall season.
Jackson Hole National Park
The swarms of summer visitors are gone, and a cornucopia of fall festivities is now in full swing. I would plan a visit in September for the best chance to see the full variety of fall foliage, as the parks will still be open and so will many of the best hikes. Take a ride through Grand Teton National Park full of aspens suffused with brilliant yellows of fall. Go on a wildlife viewing tour (which happen all year round) where the dark colors of elk, deer, and even bears pop out in your photos against the backdrop of fall colors.
Bundle up and catch one of the tram rides up Rendezvous Mountain at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Teton Village. Grab a cup of hot chocolate, and drink in the fresh crisp fall air. Make your way back down to Jackson Hole and reserve a uniquely western experience for dinner, with a Chuck Wagon Supper.
Fall in Jackson Hole is any photographer enthusiasts dream, with wild colors amid wildlife at their peak for mating season – there is no other time I would rather go.
Colorado is often known for the skiing in the fall, but it is one of my favorite places to see Fall Foliage. The people are very down to earth, you can take a horse back ride through Aspen Falls and Estes Park to see the best of the fall foliage without even breaking a sweat. Home to Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest, with a massive network of mountain biking, and heart warming food – it truly is a fall foliage paradise.
Estes Park is a more luxurious and relaxing way to spend your time seeing fall foliage in Colorado. It is a Swiss inspired town, with songs, shows, and plenty of activities when the sun sets. It is also home to thousands of Elk that will be in the rutting season just like Yellowstone, and Jackson Hole – yet with more of the luxury comfort.
Washington State Road Trip for Fall Colors
I cannot say it enough, I love Washington! The first (of many times) I visited was when I went on my first sailing trip in Seattle. I was hooked and am already planning a trip back to experience fall foliage in Leavenworth. This small town has its own Autumn Leaf Festival. Where a parade full of fall colors and even Lady Fall Royalty is crowned in this small town.
Take a scenic road trip for fall colors through Mt Rainer National Park and see just how incredible the colors light up the land. While it is a very touristic area in the summer, many children are back in school. So it is a great camping getaway for both single and couples alike. Nothing is better than cuddling up in a blanket or next to your loved one than during fall.
The best places to take your epic fall foliage road trip in Washington are Paradise, Reflection Lakes, Bench and Snow Lakes for fabulous fall reflections. Get spiritual at the Grove of the Patriarchs, where you can worship giant Redwood trees. Drive along Chinook Pass on State Route 410 or the White Pass Scenic Byway on U.S. Highway 12 for vast landscape views unlike anything you have ever experienced.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
This is where you will find the iconic old, dark colored mills against the flaming red colors of aspens. Because of the iconic nature along this drive, I highly recommend making reservations months in advance (especially for October). The best time to see the fall colors here is in mid to late October when the colors are at their peak.
When driving this parkway, you will be surrounded by foliage on east and west facing slopes. A perfect drive for the morning, or during golden hour especially along James River. As you travel south you will gain about 6,000 feet of elevation (1828 meteres) up to Mt. Pisgah into North Carolina.
This is one destination that you will need to plan on a journey to see the fall foliage at its best. Due to the varying elevations along this parkway, the peak fall foliage is going to be dependent upon the elevation.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia
Located along the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, this is a fabulous place for fall photography. It is four parks from four different States in one, with massive historical ties to the Civil War. Due to this, the parking can be limited with narrow stalls. So I wouldn’t suggest bringing your RV on this one, unless you have a boat load of patience. Alternatively, I would bring/rent a small car and use the shuttle while here.
Be sure to jump off at the footbridge to the C&O Canal stop, as this is where the rivers meet, and give a view like none other. The two rivers collide here, with an island like center, full of fall foliage and color to satisfy any leaf peeper. I highly recommend going to Maryland Heights viewpoint as this is going to be the most iconic and stunning view of the park during fall.
Even though I don’t have children of my own, I really appreciate it when parks provide things like passport stamps to kids, and junior ranger badges, historical tours that the whole family can enjoy. I think it is important to teach the younger generations the beauty that can come from traveling, and especially from traveling responsibly. Showing them and even our own friends just how beautiful nature can be when we take care of it. Harpers Ferry National Historic Park offers all of these things – which is why I highly recommend this place. You are going to need at least 4-5 days to properly explore the fall foliage, hiking, and historic parts of this town.
Gathering Up the Best Fall Leaves
Fall is my favorite time of year. There is not other time that you are still relaxed before Thanksgiving, or Christmas, and can celebrate creativity during Halloween. The crisp air and crisp apples contrast with the warmth of fires, warm drinks and warm fall colors.
No matter where you live, or where you visit in the United States – I hope you are able to visit one of these places during your search for the best places to see fall foliage. From the East Coast to the West Coast, from North to South, from High to Low- there are plenty of scenic road trips for fall colors in the USA for everyone.
If you have ever seen The Labryinth, you know what fantastical worlds can be made up by the human mind – Goblin Valley State Park looks like it should have been part of that movie. The unique sandstone formations within the depressed valley in southern Utah are a perfect playground for young, old, and the whole family.
There are so many hoodoo’s, or mushroom shaped formations, it is hard not to feel like a child again exploring all the twists and turns. The best part is, you can take your pups with you to run a muck and get all the energy out.
Getting to Goblin Valley
There are a couple of options to get there. You can fly into Salt Lake City International Airport, explore Salt Lake City the first few nights, then take a three and half hour ride down to Southern Utah to explore Goblin Valley, Kodachrome Basin, and Moab. If you live in the States you can also fly into Grand Junction Colorado, explore that cute rural town, then Moab, and on to Goblin Valley. No matter which way you care to venture, it is going to be a gorgeous ride with open fields full of purple wild flowers in April, or Sunflowers in the Fall. You really can’t go wrong with a road trip in Utah.
What To Do In Goblin Valley
Explore the Hoodoo’s
There are so many shapes within the Hoodoo/Goblin Valley that it is hard to not have your imagination run wild. It can also be a little spooky, because of how well the rocks block sound, you can turn a corner and run into someone.
The shapes, curves, corners spur different stories in my head when I’m there. My Dad and I used to lay on the trampoline on the weekends together, looking at the different shapes of clouds, assigning an animal or a person and making up different stories to accompany those mental images. Letting those stories of goblins, ghouls and miscreants creep along the lining of your conscious curiosity makes you feel like you are a child again.
Be Careful When You Explore
Respect the Rocks in Goblin Valley
Living in Utah, with five National Parks, and a plethora of State Parks is such an incredible blessing. Growing up here though, visiting Goblin Valley State Park is a bit of a right of passage. The love the locals have for the rocks, parks, and natural space is a bit like caring for a family member in a way. So if you visit Goblin Valley, please do not deface our beautiful area that bring so much joy and families closer together.
The reason I mention this, is due to a fairly destruction of one of the Hoodoo’s that had been there for thousands of years, and was an iconic part of the park. A Scout leader, who has now been charged criminally for destruction of State land, and removed from the National Scouting league; decided to climb atop the teetering rock and video tape it. The rock toppled off it’s precarious perch, and made the national news because of how iconic it was.
Heat of the Day
Another thing I would like to warn you about in this valley is the heat. What many visitors don’t realize is Red Rock of Southern Utah absorbs heat and reflects it. So although Goblin Valley State Park may appear a balmy 90F (32.2C), when you get into the Valley or your on your hike exposed to the sun it can feel like your standing in a dry sauna with temperatures sometimes reaching up to 109F (42.8C).
It is also unique in that you typically need to pack in your own water. There are a few watering stations available at nearby camping areas, but they are a little cumbersome to get to once your in the park itself.
Little Wild Horse Canyon Hike
While not directly in Goblin Valley, this is still part of the San Rafael Swell. With some of the narrowest slot canyons in Utah, it is a great place for scrambling, and perfect introduction route for learning how to do canyoneering.
The hike begins in a parking lot, winds your way through paths toward the canyon; but spits you out into the dry river wash that you follow towards the canyon.
While we didn’t do any canyoneering due to our dogs coming along with us; it was quite comical to see them try to navigate and get past each other at different junctures.
You feel like a real explorer when walking down these canyons, and the walls are so perfectly sculpted with varying shades of red, orange and white rock it almost looks as if a butter knife had carved out the canyon. In the early spring and fall there can be standing water and small pools of water, but they are typically only ankle deep.
There are a couple of ways to do this hike, one where you just hike in to as far as you feel comfortable, and then back out. Option two is to do the full 8 mile loop with some canyoneering down bells canyon.
Please be careful during rainstorms as some of the areas along this hiking route are prone to flash flooding and people have been known to get trapped.
People have compared this lair to that of the Labyrinth as well. Where ghouls, trolls and other creatures of the dark gather at night to wreck havoc on the campers in the area. If they are caught outside the lair, this is when they turn into the knobby rocks and how Goblin Valley was made.
The hike is moderately strenuous, you do have to scramble at some points, and getting down into the lair is quite precarious. The views from the lair are quite beautiful though, with unobstructed views of the desert landscape – serene and quite with only the crows cawing. The afternoon is the best time to go so you aren’t in full sunlight on the way up.
Dark Sky Park Experience At Goblin Valley
Not only is this a great place to explore in the spring and fall, it is also considered one of the remaining dark sky parks in the world. Being from Utah, I forget how fortunate I am to experience things like this. There isn’t a night where you wouldn’t at be able to see a plethora of stars visually dancing above you. Shooting stars to make your wish, and dreams come true are quite common as well.
The sunsets are almost as pretty as when the galaxy rises, with your eyes feasting on a spectrum of colors from dusk until dawn. I suggest planning your trip to when the moon will be either a sliver, or absent as this is when you can truly see the universe in all it’s grandeur.
My favorite thing was to sit on the floor of the Goblin Valley, snuggling with my dogs, taking photos of the sunset with the hoodoos giving a perfect silhouette. Then as the sun was tucked behind the mountains for the night, the start slowly emerged….we stayed there until we all started shivering and then headed back to camp – where there were even more wonderful photo opportunities with nearby crackling fires.
It truly was a perfect way to end the night, feeling small but happy enveloped into a perfect slumber knowing that we just witnessed something not many people in this age of technology truly get to appreciate anymore.
Like it? Pin it! Sharing is Caring!
Where to Stay Near Goblin Valley State Park
There is plenty of BLM Land near Goblin Valley that you can set up a remote camp site. I would definitely recommend four wheel drive, as well as some sturdy tent stakes. The wind in the area can get quite strong, and I’ve had the lovely experience of chasing a tent across the desert landscape in the past.
No matter if you are traveling with children, alone, or just with your furry friend – Road Trips can either be Hell on Earth; or a vacation in and of themselves. So after driving all over the Western United States for most of my life, here are a few Travel Hacks for Road Trips I highly recommend following when planning your own Road Trip at home or abroad.
This is a fantastic app for your road trip, and can also be accessed online to help plan your vacation on the road. I first found and utilized this when taking a Road Trip from Dallas Texas to Nauvoo Illinois. I was going to be traveling through a bunch of open fields. After planning out my route I explored all the spots along the road that had a good rating and found this gem in the middle of nowhere! It is in the Spinach Capital of the United States. A statue of the spinach-eating machine himself has his own little garden and fountain. This also happens to be across from the Police Station, so you have ample entertainment for all!
This app and website are a fantastic way to make those 12 hour drives a little more bearable on the road. From a medical standpoint, it also gives you an excuse to get out of the car every few hours to walk around. People who sit and travel long distances can have swollen legs and blood clots at times as well if they do not walk around sufficiently.
How to stay awake while driving
Get enough rest the night before
Doing this will help you be more alert on the road and less prone to falling asleep at the wheel.
IF YOU ARE TIRED AND START TO LOSE CONCENTRATION THAT IS THE FIRST SIGN YOU ARE AT RISK FOR FALLING ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL.
Pull into a gas station and take a power nap.
I have done this a few times in the past, where I pull into a busy gas station and take a 15-20 min nap. This always helps me feel more refreshed.
Avoid sugary foods or high carbohydrate content as your snack.
When you eat high carbohydrate and high sugar content foods, it starts a vicious cycle of fatigue. Why? Well, you eat that doughnut or candy, your body sees it as too much sugar, so it releases insulin and then drops your blood sugar again. Then you become very sleepy or hungry again, starting the cycle over. I try to avoid sugary foods whenever driving for this reason.
When I get warm I tend to fall asleep much easier. It is more comfortable to be warm, but I would rather have cold toes and arms before risking crashing my car and killing someone else.
This is my favorite way to stay awake. Imagine this like the old radios back in the day that would tell the cowboy stories to the children. The children would be so enthralled by the battles and day to day explanations because they didn’t have TV, this was their entertainment.
Audiobooks typically have quality actors and actresses that are able to do multiple accents, voices, and inflections to keep the listener engaged. Yes, some of the audiobooks are entirely too boring and drab to listen to on the road, but there are many that are not.
I personally have signed up for Amazon’s Audible Book subscription for $14.95 per month. I am an affiliate with them, but I have never been more grateful for the positive entertainment value it provides and now listen to them on the way to and from work all the time.
This is something my flatmate is really into. She has several Podcasts that she listens to on a daily basis to and from work. I think this could also work for road trips as well, you may just need to download the podcasts to your mobile device prior to starting your trip.
What are some of your favorite podcasts?
If all else fails, just start swigging Caffeine. Think of all those boring meetings from work you have survived on the sweet nectar of the Gods.
Travel with a friend:
Switching off while driving is really important while on the long road trips and stretches of the road.
Stretches and Facial exercises:
This is an odd one, but I start stretching my legs, toes, fingers, neck, back arms etc…. It keeps your heart rate slightly more elevated than at baseline, thus increasing blood flow to your brain and keeping you refreshed.
Facial exercises also help to keep me awake at the wheel. I open and close my mouth as hard as a can, wiggle my jaw side to side, see how many animal sounds I can make with my tongue etc….
Check road conditions and weather conditions
With the age of the internet came the ability to check your road conditions prior to starting your journey. There have been several instances that I wish I would have, and others where I didn’t and wish I would have.
There was one instance where I didn’t want to leave my parents house to drive back to Las Vegas and did not look at road conditions. I ended up leaving the house when it first started to snow, and by the time I hit Cedar City Utah, I was in a complete blizzard. Traveling at 25 mph on the freeway because of road conditions, and was nearly hit by a snow plow.
Organizing the car
This is paramount for safety while driving. The less distracted you are on the road, the better off and safer you will be.
I will put all the luggage in the very back of the car, the cooler in the middle of the back seat where it is easy for your friend to reach if needed. If you are traveling alone, set up your ‘snack bag’ where you can easily reach it.
Make sure you have Sunglasses to help with Glare.
If you are driving at night, turn down the dashboard lights. This will help your eyes not feel as tired from trying to adjust to the brightness of the dashboard vs the road.
Have your music or audible book playing before you put the car in drive.
Garbage bag, paper towels, and Kleenex should also be nearby where you don’t have to bend over, reach, or stretch to access them.
Check Your Car for Maintenance
Before you pack anything in the car, make sure your spare tire is filled up and in good condition.
Have a small gas can handy, just in case you miss an exit and the next gas station or turn around isn’t for another 50 miles and you are on empty.
Make sure you check your tire pressure after everything is loaded and in the car.
Change your oil, cabin filter, and engine filter before you go. This will help with gas mileage in your car.
Have your local mechanic esure all fluids are topped off, and the washer fluid is the appropriate one for the area you are traveling to.
I once was driving from Las Vegas to Utah in the snow and went to use my windshield wiper fluid and it froze on my windshield. I had to do an ACE Ventura head out the window to drive to the next town to get it fixed. They had to thaw out the windshield wiper lines with a hairdryer and vinegar, then unplug them. This really cut into my total driving time and was a major stressor. So mention to your mechanic if you find you will be driving to different climates and what they suggest for those areas.
Plan for Gas Stops
Don’t push the car to the point the gas light comes on! I always make a rule for myself that should I take a long road trip where I have never been before I never let the tank get down past 1/4 tank. Even a 1/4 tank is pushing it for me, I typically will fill up at 1/2 tank because I know I will be able to drive for several hours to the next gas station.
Get On The Road Again
Road trips can be a fantastic way to make bonds with friends, and see new destinations. It is important to plan, stay safe and stay awake on the road. There are over 100,000 car accidents per year from people falling asleep at the wheel in the United States. Make sure you know your own limits on when you need a break, even if it is just a mental break. There are plenty of unique things you can see on the road, not every place has to be Instagram worthy. The best adventures will always be the locations that make you feel more fulfilled and productive in your daily life, spark your creativity or help you create a more meaningful connection.
Happy Travels, Happy Tales & See You On The Flip Side.
Moab, Utah is known for being an adventure lovers playground. River rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, and being so close to not one but TWO National Parks with fantastic views, there is SO much to do! But the national parks don’t allow dogs on their trails, I haven’t gotten around to teaching my dog to ride a bike, she doesn’t have the opposable thumbs necessary for rock climbing, and I don’t think the river guides would appreciate my dog’s nails and teeth on their inflatable raft… so what about for those who want to bring their furry friend along on their trip to Moab? Never fear! There is still PLENTY for you and your dog to do and see! Here is a comprehensive guide to a Dog-Friendly Moab.
Let’s start with the Dog-Friendly Hikes:
Dead Horse Point State Park:
Shade: Little to none
Water: they have to have it brought in by water truck from Moab, so just plan on bringing your own.
While you may not be able to get into Canyonlands National Park with your dog, just a few miles before you reach the Island in the Sky district of the park. There is a small State Park with absolutely STUNNING and dramatic views from above of the Colorado River. Though its name doesn’t inspire these types of images, don’t be deceived: Dead Horse Point State Park is absolutely breathtaking and has 7 miles of different hiking trails (all of them flat and easy to traverse) with both you and your dog.
Dotting the path are informational signs, learn about the geology and plant life of the park. I slept peacefully that night after hiking and meeting my “learn something new every day” quota.
The park’s facilities include a visitors center, two restrooms (with plumbing!), and even a small coffee stand outside. Two campgrounds, one which includes yurts, you can reserve your spot and view the night in style. With this park being a “Dark Sky” certified park, consider staying the night to go stargazing, see the Milky Way, and watch for shooting stars. This is a popular park so reserve your accommodation early. There are several first come, first serve spot in one of the nearby Cowboy or Horsethief BLM campgrounds. Just make sure to keep your dog on a leash while in the park. So take that National Park dog haters!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WasYs7Obh4 This trail starts from a well-marked parking area next to the Colorado River. It immediately takes you up a few switchbacks to climb up onto the landing where you will get a great view of the river and the canyon. Cross the railroad that goes through a short stretch of a man-made slot canyon (very Instagram worthy!).
Follow the rock cairns to help keep you on the path. Eventually, you will come to a section where both you and your dog will have to channel your inner mountain goat to climb up to the next shelf. But don’t worry! There are foot holes carved into the rock and a rope to help you up. With a little encouragement and coaching your dog should be able to get to the upper level just fine.
At the top of this shelf, you will be able to see both Corona Arch (right) and Bowtie Arch (left upper). Make sure to hike all the way under the arch, it will give you a better perspective of the epic proportions of this free-standing monolith.
Traveler tip: A lot of this hike is over slickrock, which is really good at reflecting heat. This is a great hike during colder months for this reason. During the hotter months, be sure to do this hike earlier on in the morning and bring LOTS of water for you and your dog!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT_EO2KsPdQ Across the street from the main parking area for Corona Arch, there is more parking, picnic pavilions, and an outhouse toilet. There are no garbages at the trailhead for doggie bags, so please be considerate: pick up after your dog and just take it with you to dispose of later.
Traveler Tip: In the Big Bend campsite across from the trailhead (next to the river), there is a dumpster where you can take your trash and dog droppings.
Morning Glory Natural Bridge:
Length: 4.3 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 416 ft.
Shade: Morning and evening shade
Water: a stream your dog can drink from
Starting in the parking area next to the Colorado River, this trail follows a stream up a lovely little side canyon. This canyon is formerly known as Negro Bill Canyon, now Grandstaff Canyon. You can enjoy the dramatic red cliffs on both sides as you listen to the birds sing, the gurgle of the stream, and walk under some the of trees that have taken advantage of the little water source. You do cross the stream a couple of times, so unless you and your dog have some acrobatic balancing skills to jump from rock to rock, just expect to get your feet wet.
When you come to the point in the trail where the canyon forks and goes two separate ways, go to the left. The first time I hiked this trail, I got confused and started to climb up, following what looked like a path (probably made by many other confused souls like myself). Just stay down below and follow the stream. At the second fork of the canyon, go right to reach this canyon’s dead end and see Morning Glory Natural Bridge, with the 5th longest span in the world! When you get there, you will be treated to a large, deceiving arch with a spring feeding a little pool directly underneath it.
You can sit there to relax and enjoy the sites and sounds echoing around the dead end of the canyon. At times, you’ll even be able to watch people rappel down between the bridge and the cliff into this little oasis. But be aware of your surroundings! There is poison ivy included in the plant life in this area. Not a ton, but enough you should be aware of the plants so you and your dog can avoid touching it. Just remember: leaves of three, let it be! This is a popular hike and the main parking area isn’t that big, but there is some overflow parking down and across the street a short way. There is an outhouse-like toilet, no plumbing in the main parking area. And while there are no garbages in the actual parking areas of the hike, next to the overflow parking area is a campground where there is a garbage to throw out your doggie bags.
Poison Spider Dinosaur Tracks and Petroglyphs:
Length: 0.3 mile loop
Elevation gain: 68 feet
Although this is a short hike, it is well worth it for you and your dog. This trail has lots of history includeing the writings of an ancient people and tracks left behind by the dinosaurs that used to roam this area. Against the red rock, both the petroglyphs and the tracks are easy for you to see. Just be prepared to climb up to see both the tracks and petroglyphs. As you start, it won’t be far until you come across the Dinosaur tracks.
The slab of rock they are on has fallen from above where the petroglyphs are, so keep going to see the petroglyphs and a few more tracks. There are informational signs by both sites where you can read more information about what you are seeing. An outhouse is available here, but no garbage cans.
Distance: 2-3.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,459 feet
This hike is about a 25.5-mile drive outside of Moab, but worth it to see these unique rock formations. The drive itself is pretty spectacular as you are driving through the canyon on Scenic Byway 128. With the Colorado River on your left and the dizzying red cliffs on your right, you’ll wish you were the passenger in the car so you can just enjoy the scenery! When you get to the trailhead, you will be able to see Fisher Towers immediately. The best perspectives, and viewpoints to really be able to appreciate that enormity of these natural structures comes when you hike the trail itself.
Traveler Tip: Make this hike the ‘go to’ hike if someone in your party is too tired, or has physical limitations. It is a great spot to have a picnic with great views – and provides a fantastic trail for those who want to keep pushing themselves.
The beginning of the trail is a bit deciving because you have to begin the trail heading away from Fisher Towers, down into a canyon, and then turning back towards the Fisher Towers. Three-quarters of the way up the trail, you will get the full perspective of just how massive the Titan (the larger of the Fisher Towers) truly is. At this point you can continue on to the end of the trail where there is another viewpoint of the valley and an ampitheater like rock formation; or you can turn back to head to your next unique adventure. If you are lucky, you may see some rock climbers attempting to conquer the Titan – it is a very popular climbing right of passage. Facilities available: An outhouse is available but no garbages. There is also a picnic area/campground near the beginning of the trail. It is a BLM campground so, don’t expect water or hookups to be provided.
Jeep Arch (also known as Goldbar Arch):
Distance: 4 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 944 feet
Jeep Arch Hike is a unique advneture that not a lot of people know about. About a half mile down the road from the Corona Arch, there is a pull-out on the right side of the road. There is no sign to indicate it is the beginning of the trail, but once you park, go through the culvert that leads under the train tracks.
You will see a sign on the other side of the culvert that indicates the beginning of the trail for Jeep Arch. The trail leads you up and to the left. The first 1/8th of a mile of the trail is uphill to get you up on the shelf. After that, the trail is well marked with cairns. About a mile into the trail, there is a sign indicating the trail becomes a loop. You can go either way and it will take you uphill to the arch. If you go to the right, the uphill route is more gradual. To the left, the climb up is steeper and in between the split rocks shown in the picture, but once you do, the rest of the hike to the arch is flat. Either way you go, you can hike through the arch to complete the loop, or just hike back the way you came.
This is a great trail to get away from the crowds! I hiked this trail in February, and for the whole hike, I only saw one other person on the last 1/4 mile of the trail. Otherwise, I was able to just take my time and enjoy the quiet solitude of the desert.
Travler Tip: Like the Corona Arch Trail, the majority of this trail is on slickrock which makes it really good at reflecting the sun’s heat. This makes it a great trail for hiking in the winter, but take that into consideration when hiking in summer: hike early in the morning and bring lots of water.
There is no garbage can at the trailhead to place your dog’s waste, but since it is so close to Corona Arch and the Goldbar Campground, you can go ahead and use the campground garbage. You can use the toilet facilities at the campground area as well.
Distance: 3 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 164 feet
Shade: most of the day (except midday)
Water: Yes. a stream for your dog to drink from (for most of the year)
To get to this trail, on the way from Moab, keep an eye out on your right-hand side for a big boulder with some fencing around it and make sure to stop! This rock is covered in petroglyphs, including the famous Birthing Scene! It’s fascinating to think about the people who engraved their stories into the rock! Who was the lady in the depiction? Was she or her baby a really important person in the tribe? Or was this just a proud father carving a family portrait? I don’t know, but I wish I did! Oh to be a fly on the…..rock? The parking area for this hike is the same parking area for the small campground that is right at the beginning of the trailhead. As you begin hiking up the canyon from the campground, you’ll be hiking among some of the vegetation that grows along the stream.. You’ll criss-cross the stream a few times and there are some opportunities for you to scramble up huge slabs of sandstone. About a half of a mile into the hike, make sure to look up and to the right to see Hunters Arch. Hiking in this canyon, with its huge, sweeping cliff walls and its stream and vegetation is what makes this a great hike for you and your dog to take. There is an open-air style bathroom with no door on it, just a sign to indicate if it’s occupied or not. There is also no garbage so be prepared to haul our your dogs mess out with you.
Mill Creek Falls:
Distance: 0.5-7.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 629 feet
Water: Yes. a creek for your dog to drink from.
Moab in the summer gets HOT! Hiking in summer, of course you are going to be doing most of your hiking in the mornings and in the evenings where the temperatures of the day are coolest, but what about those blistering afternoons? Well because of the waterfalls and swimming holes on Mill Creek Falls Trail, this is a great option to still get some hiking in and take a dip in the cool, refreshing water flowing straight from the La Sal mountains! The start of this hike is just outside of Moab. Getting out of the car, and starting along the trail, it won’t take you very long at all to get to the first swimming hole and waterfall (man made). If you are looking for just a quick dip to get cool, go ahead and spend some time here to cool off a bit. Make sure to keep going up the canyon, you will find more swimming holes, waterfalls, and see some native american petroglyphs on the cliff side.
Post Hiking Puppy Care:
I don’t know about your dog, but mine LOVES to play in the dirt and sand! After a long day of hiking in and around Moab, I knew if I wanted my pooch anywhere near my sleeping situation; I would have to give her a bath and wash out all of the red dirt she had collected in her fur. I tried to wash her off in the hotel tub the first night, but it was a near disaster as she was all over the place! I could barely get her clean enough to call it good enough before she jumped out and tore all over the room in her after a bath frenzy… then there was the wet dog smell that lingered for a long time afterward. So the second day, I decided to give the Moab Barkery a try.
The Moab Barkery is a pet shop in Moab that includes 2 dog baths (one walk-in, one raised) where you can wash off all that Moab dirt. For my 45 lb pooch, it cost me $15 and they provided the apron to save my clothes, bath, shampoo, conditioner, combs/brushes, ear drops, cotton balls, and dryer to dry her off when she was all clean. Oh my goodness, it was so much easier! I was able to save my back and bathe her in the raised tub, with a special leash so she couldn’t move around all over while I was giving her a bath. The shampoo and conditioner were very nice smelling and made it easy to brush her out afterward. I was able to dry her out with the dryer. They even have some special supplies there 😉 I was able to buy my spoiled pooch a treat and a new toy. All in all, my puppy and I had a great experience here!
Moab Bark Park:
We had spent all of the morning and afternoon hiking around Moab. Finishing around 4 pm, I knew I wouldn’t have time to complete the next trail I had wanted to do before sunset. I dog tired (pun intended), but I wasn’t ready to call it a day quite yet. I knew Moab had a dog park so I looked it up: I found out it’s open from dawn until dusk so I decided to go and let my puppy get the rest of her energy out before we went back to the hotel.
It is a large space with two enclosed areas: a smaller one for dogs up to 30 lbs, and another, larger one for everyone else. It was all red dirt which I didn’t love, but my puppy sure did! There were plenty of other dogs there for her to frolic with. Several poop stations are available with bags to clean up your dog’s waste. There is also a puppy watering station where for a drink break between play sessions. My sweet dog was exhausted after playing so hard at the Bark Park. We both slept like the dead once we got back to our Hotel.
When I first got my puppy, I didn’t think about the fact that my accommodation options would become more limited. My first trip to Moab I researched hotels with the “pet-friendly” filter on. The frustration quickly mounted, when I would call to double check they would allow my pooch to come and they said they didn’t allow dogs.
As a result of that frustration, I called quite a few of the hotels/motels/etc in the Moab area and asked them three things: 1. If they allowed dogs 2. if they had a fee for pets staying 3. what their cheapest off-season rates were versus their most expensive in-season rates.
The result of that effort is what follows: (USA Country phone code is +1) Dog-friendly Hotels:Pet Fee:Price Ranges(Off/On-season)
So when you decide to visit Moab with your furry friend, be sure to make your hotel reservations early, bring your poop bags and water for your pooch, bring your camera, and experience Southern Utah, like never before.
As Always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side!
All you have to do is say a park is dog-friendly and I will be going to visit. Kodachrome has much more to offer than just being dog-friendly though. Kodachrome Basin State Park is unique because of the single monolithic spires that dot the park.
These rock formations seem to shoot up out of the ground into the air with no reasonable explanation as to why. Some of these spires can rise nearly 170 feet into the air, with different colorations striating the spire making for a unique natural structure. There was one spire that I could not figure out for the life of me if it was a petrified tree or just an odd rock. Arches in this park are, uniquely, on the tops of the mountain rather than closer to the ground like in Arches National Park. The Grosvenor Arch is one of these arches that is located about 11 miles from Kodachrome Basin that is the most well-known arch in this area. A white towering arch that is the perfect place for those epic Instagram photos.
There are 67 different monolithic stone spires identified in Kodachrome Basin State Park. Geologists are still baffled by their formation to this day. Several theories are circulating as to how, when and why these spires were formed. One of these theories is this area used to be covered in water and over time the area wore the stone down and the waters dried up leaving Kodachrome Basin as we know it today.
How to get there:
Here is a map I made for you on how to get to Kodachrome Basin State Park. There are two options for those flying in, one to the Salt Lake City International Airport and the other to the much smaller St George Airport. You have another option of flying into Las Vegas and driving three and a half hours to Kodachrome Basin State Park as well. The drive to this area is much prettier driving from Salt Lake rather than Vegas.
It is an easy drive, but I would not try and drive the route from Salt Lake City if it is snowing. The roads can be very dangerous with multiple slide-offs. If you are coming from Las Vega in the winter, that drive will have clearer roads without snow.
Where to Stay:
In the Summer
The easiest and cheapest place to stay is typically in the Basic Land Management areas, or the Camping Areas near Kodachrome Basin. Most of these camping areas are very safe to stay in but make sure to keep your dogs on a leash as there are bobcats and coyotes in the area. Basic Campgrounds can cost you up to $20.00 per night, and you will most likely need cash to pay for these as they are typically envelope drop places. Park rangers come by around 6-7am and check cars for the campsite tickets in the window. The Park Rangers compare it to their list of envelope drops and how much you paid. If they catch you staying without paying, you can get a large fine.
In the Winter:
I would stay in Cannonville at a hotel. Kodachrome Basin State Park can have unpredictable and harsh weather changes at all hours of the day. The temperatures drop dramatically at night and hypothermia can be a problem unless you are properly equipped. Many of the campsites are also closed in the Kodachrome Basin area without restroom facilities. The hotel that we stayed at was Ruby’s Inn in Cannonville Utah. This hotel is just outside Bryce Canyon National Park and allows dogs both inside the hotel rooms and inside the common areas, but not in the grocery store. If the weather is too harsh, they have loads of activities (both in the winter and in the summer). There is an indoor pool, grocery store, convenience store, shows, restrooms, even a fireplace with cozy chairs and couches that you can crack open a book and feel as if you are staying in a grandiose cabin. Their prices are reasonable, especially in the off-season & there are refrigerators, microwave, and warm showers to chase away the chill in every room.
What to do in Kodachrome Basin:
Kodachrome Basin State Park has loads of activities for you to do and experience. With hiking trails, horseback riding trails, mountain biking trails, ATV trails and with all the unique rock formations, is truly a photographers paradise. Bree (my roommate) and I had so much fun imagining what the rock formations looked like, just as you would imagine shapes in the clouds. There were a few of the rock formations that had us in stitches from laughing.
Angel’s Palace Trail:
The trailhead is across the street from where you park. In the winter there are no restrooms open, nor are there any garbage cans – so be prepared before you go. As you start this trail it is deceivingly marked with arrows that point to the right way. Maybe it was because we were hiking this trail in the winter, I don’t really know, but about 1/4 of the way into the trail the arrows started to point the wrong way, the posts had blown over, or there were two arrows pointing two different ways on the fork, but then no other signpost.
What you want to do is get over the hill onto the other side. There is a cliff with an unbelievable view of the valley below. Coming around the corner you are struck with a breathtaking view of a mountain face that begins in a reddish orange and bleeds into a white multi-point peak that without evening knowing the name of the trail, I named it, “Heaven’s Castle”.
We spent quite a bit of time here, taking pictures, enjoying the view and wishing we could pitch a tent in this spot and forget the world and let nature heal our souls. If you do not have time to do any other trail, this is the trail I would suggest doing. It is 1.6 miles and is fairly easy to hike. It is an exposed trail to the sun, so it is fantastic to hike in winter and will be quite hot in the winter.
This was the last trail that we were able to hike before having to head back to our real life and resume our adulting duties. I think I enjoyed hiking this trail more than actually reaching Shakespeare Arch. The trail had fun little areas that you could explore the riverbed and a beautiful view of a surrounding valley. This trail is not well marked and is a 2.6-mile loop. There is no water here for you or your dogs. Most trails in Kodachrome Basin are exposed to the sun, with very little shade.
When we arrived at the Arch, well…….it was disappointing. I almost said out loud, ‘That’s it?! Well…….that’s………cute’. Not exactly a reward for the 2.6-mile moderate hike in, but the views along the way, the dogs enjoying the sand and playing in it & the comedy of Bree getting lost on the trail and almost getting stuck on the edge of a cliff is what made this hike fun for me.
Kodachrome Basin is definitely a place I will return to, it is off the beaten path. It is unique and has locations that have not been over Instagrammed and feel special when you visit. The colors of this area are striking, and around every corner, you will have both shocking and spectacular surprises.
There is so much to explore in this Park. I would give yourself at least three days to explore all the corners of Kodachrome basin adequately. Bryce Canyon National Park, Dead Horse Point, Moab, Zion National Park are just a short ride away as well, although not as dog friendly. L
Happy Travels, Happy Trails, and see you on the Flip Side
Discover the Legends of Moab Not only is Moab a great place for Jeep Safari’s, hiking, climbing, river rafting and pretty much anything you can think of to do outdoors. The Legends of Moab & its history are something everyone should know, so that travel becomes not just a grand adventure, but a meaningful and educational grand adventure. Here are some of the Legends and History of Moab that I have recently learned about:
History of Dead Horse Point & its Legends:
This is 5200 acres of beautiful deserts, steep cliffs, and sunsets that will knock your socks off. I didn’t realize this was a State Park actually, so be sure to stop by the visitors center and pay the entrance fee.
Where does the name Deadhorse Point come from?
The name Dead Horse Point comes from the story, that in the 1800’s this area was used to herd wild Mustangs. When you walk or drive along the Road you come to an area where, it is said, that a herd of ‘unwanted’ Mustangs was herded into this small area next to the 2000 ft cliff and eventually died from thirst due to the brutality of Drovers during that time.
The truth is, that yes the area was often used as a place to herd mustangs because of the natural corrals that were created by the surrounding cliffs. The story has changed over time but really was just that because it was so often used as a herding location, the unforgiving nature of the desert in Summertime caused many horses to die from exposure or thirst. It seems to depend on where you get your information from, which of these perspectives is true…..I will let you decide.
Interesting facts about Dead Horse Point:
Beyond the Legend, a rather depressing one at that, this place is an iconic photography location for weddings, landscape photography, and filmmaking. You would have seen Dead Horse Point featured in the final shot of the film ‘Thelma & Louise‘.
If you come at sunset, you can get stunning photos of the red rock and play of light and dark on the cliffs and surrounding area. Sunrise is the best time to get the clearest photos of the picturesque Colorado River winding around the canyons. It is also an ideal place for those who love Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing or hiking.
Your hike will begin just at the Visitor’s Center and is 1.5 to 2 miles long with an easy trail, well marked, slight elevation gain. We frequently stopped and took photographs, enjoying the views, to complete the trail it took us 45-minutes, even with all the photography breaks. We took the walk back to the Dead Horse Point Visitors Center, which took about 25 minutes & was accompanied by a spectacularly colorful sunset.
Legends of Moab within Indian writings:
Along Potash Road in Moab, you will find Indian writing and Petroglyphs. These unique and historical drawings are so ancient, that the drawings are typically dated by what is depicted (500 AD for bow and arrows, 1500 AD if horses are seen).
I stood in wonder at how archaic these writings are, what their meaning was to the people of that time period & if we will really ever know why exactly they chose to make the effort of carving them into the stone.
How were the Petroglyphs Discovered?
Archeologists discovered the petroglyphs prior to construction of Potash Road. There are many other Indian Petroglyphs throughout Moab, to view more of them visit Discovermoab.com where a map will be provided & tips on how to find them.
Johnny Depp filmed a portion of Lone Ranger along Potash Road, so if you see the film keep a look out for it.
Dinosaur tracks in Moab:
To see the toe prints of the dinosaurs and more of the Indian Petroglyphs, follow this map and bring your binoculars! One of the few places you can likely see something like this, so don’t miss it!
Legends of Moab and the Fisher Towers:
Located 16 miles South of Moab, with a rather bumpy dirt road that approaches it, is the Fisher Towers. These sandstone giants (of up to 1,000 feet) each have different names, with the largest tower being called the Titan Tower, with the popular climbing route called Sundevil Chimney.
There is not just one tower, but several towers each with distinct names. One of the more famous towers, is the corkscrew tower (part of the Ancient Arts formation), due to its draw for Rock Climbers along the Stolen Chimney route.
These unique natural wonders are 245 MILLION years old! Named after a miner who lived in the area in the 1800’s. Would you rather have a natural wonder or a celestial star named after you? I like to imagine that he was a great cook of fish stew, told wicked campfire stories, and never gave up his dream of finding copper in those sandstone mountains.
Legends of Moab in the Miners Town
In the 1800’s there was a mining town near here. The Mining community consisted of only 75-80 families. The mining, tragically, didn’t last for very long and most of the families moved to other towns for better work. Some of the mines actually still survive today, although most are too dangerous to explore now.