Southern Utah, a land of captivating red rock landscapes and natural wonders, has been drawing a growing number of visitors year after year. In 2021, Utah welcomed a remarkable 17.8 million travelers, marking a 5.8% increase from the previous year. This statistic reflects the region’s immense appeal and the allure of its unique attractions.
A vacation in Southern Utah promises a wealth of exciting adventures and experiences. From the iconic red rock formations of Zion National Park to the breathtaking canyons of Bryce Canyon National Park, this destination offers a diverse range of outdoor activities, cultural explorations, and opportunities for relaxation. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a serene escape, Southern Utah has something for everyone.
In this guide, we’ll unveil seven thrilling things to do in this enchanting region, allowing you to make the most of your vacation and discover the magic that has been captivating travelers from near and far.
Fun Things in Southern Utah
1. Enjoy Exquisite Accommodation
Southern Utah is home to a variety of world-class resorts known for their luxury amenities and stunning red rock settings. Many resorts are situated close to national parks, monuments, and scenic areas, providing easy access to outdoor activities. You’ll find resort options ranging from lavish hotels with full-service spas and fine dining to cozy, charming vacation rentals and cabin retreats.
The resorts in Southern Utah allow you to unwind in style with amenities like pools, fitness rooms, massage services, and more. Some properties offer shuttle service to nearby hiking trails, kayaking tours, and attractions. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing spa getaway or an activity-filled adventure vacation, the resorts let you rejuvenate in comfort amid the area’s natural splendor.
2. Savoring the Local Food Scene
From casual cafes to fine dining, eating your way through Southern Utah offers culinary delights. Springdale options like Whiptail Grill and Bit & Spur Saloon offer breakfast and Southwest cuisine near Zion. Cedar City boasts restaurants like Centro, serving wood-fired pizzas and modern dishes.
When it comes to fine dining, St. George’s Reserve offers an exquisite ambiance complemented by a tantalizing selection of steaks and seafood. Embracing the farm-to-table concept, establishments like Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm in Cannonville procure fresh, locally sourced ingredients, adding a unique dimension to their culinary offerings.
Meanwhile, the smaller communities of Torrey and Panguitch host charming diners and cafes featuring daily specials that exude homey, comforting flavors. Throughout Southern Utah, a culinary journey unveils an array of unforgettable dishes, from the iconic Navajo tacos to mouthwatering bison burgers, all while surrounded by the region’s stunning vistas, making each dining experience a feast for the senses.
3. Attending Annual Events and Festivals
Utah is a vibrant hub for culture and festivities, drawing visitors year-round. Southern Utah’s towns and cities host exciting annual events ranging from marathons to holiday parades. The St. George Marathon takes runners through picturesque desert vistas each October. In January, cinephiles gather for the acclaimed Sundance Film Festival in Park City, founded by Robert Redford.
In March, the St. George’s Art Festival bathes in the warm, gentle sun as it showcases art with a western flair. As spring unfolds, Cedar Rapids takes center stage with the Utah Shakespearean Festival, which runs from June through August, bringing a burst of thespian energy to the area. Amid the summer splendor, Deer Valley becomes a harmonious haven in July during its Music Festival, where melodies resonate against the backdrop of picturesque alpine valleys.
4. Hiking and Canyoneering
Southern Utah offers a wealth of hiking and canyoneering adventures beyond the national parks. You can explore remarkable places like the Virgin River Narrows and Subway in Zion or venture into the secluded slot canyons of the Grand Staircase, such as Peekaboo Gulch. Take on challenging trails like Angel’s Landing for breathtaking canyon vistas, or try canyoneering, descending sheer sandstone walls into crystal-clear pools below.
Local outfitters provide canyoneering classes and guided excursions. With a variety of trails, you can customize your experience in both frontcountry and backcountry settings. Hike iconic routes like Zion’s Observatory Trail or explore lesser-known paths in the Grand Staircase’s unique badlands. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced adventurer, the diverse terrain accommodates hikers and canyoneers of all levels.
5. Mountain Biking the Slickrock Trails
Mountain bikers flock to Southern Utah for the unique slickrock terrain. World-famous areas near Moab, like the Whole Enchilada Trail, offer incredible backcountry cycling. Gooseberry Mesa by Hurricane has epic single-track with panoramic views. Bike parks at Brian Head Resort and other mountains provide lift-accessed downhill runs.
6. Rock Climbing and Canyoneering
Southern Utah’s towering sandstone formations offer a haven for rock climbers. You can put your skills to the test at well-known spots like Indian Creek and Maple Canyon. Try classic climbs in Zion, such as Moonlight Buttress in the Narrows. For a safe exploration of slot canyons, consider canyoneering courses where you’ll learn to rappel down steep drops into pools below.
Climbing schools provide instruction for climbers of all levels, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced multi-pitch climber. Southern Utah offers a wide range of climbing experiences, from challenging big wall ascents to scenic scrambling routes. Amid these stunning landscapes, your vertical adventure promises unforgettable moments.
7. Water Recreation at Lakes and Reservoirs
Beat the Southern Utah heat with a refreshing aquatic getaway. You can rent boats, jet skis, or paddleboards at reservoirs like Sand Hollow near Hurricane. For a more leisurely experience, try fishing for rainbow trout and largemouth bass at lakes such as Panguitch up on the Markagunt Plateau. Quail Creek State Park near St. George is an ideal destination for swimming, wakeboarding, and waterskiing.
Many of the area’s reservoirs offer RV camping right on their sandy shores and have convenient boat launches. For a unique adventure, head to Lake Powell, which grants access to thrilling rapids in Upper Cataract Canyon and the scenic beauty of the San Juan River. Regardless of the season, you’ll find year-round aquatic enjoyment at a range of lakes and reservoirs, each with its own charm, from remote hideaways to popular destinations.
With its iconic red rock landscapes, national parks, excellent restaurants, luxury resorts, and endless outdoor activities, Southern Utah provides diverse vacation experiences to suit every interest. Take in the sweeping canyon panoramas while hiking, biking, and climbing. Explore the geology of vibrant, slick rock formations, petroglyphs, arches, and more up close.
Savour delicious cuisine inspired by Southwestern flare and local ingredients. From adrenaline-pumping adventures to relaxing spa getaways, Southern Utah’s mix of natural wonders, amenities, and charm creates an unforgettable travel destination.
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