Hidden Gems: 10 Secret Utah Adventures You Must Try

Sep 13, 2017
By: Jake Wilhelmsen

You know that pleasant surprise of putting on a pair of pants and finding a $20 in the pocket? Well Utah is cargo pants. With a thousand pockets.

Every state likes to talk about the variety of experiences it offers, but Utah is uniquely qualified to brag.

3 discrete geographical regions (Mojave Desert, Great Basin, Colorado Plateau) + 4 distinct seasons + a dozen different biomes and climates + thousands of years of human history = diverse adventure tucked into every corner of the state.Here are 10 uniquely Utah sights that out-of-towners — and even lots of in-of-towners — may not have heard of. Ten points for each one you’ve seen, two points for each one you’ve heard of and five points for each one you start making plans to visit.

10. BONNEVILLE SEABASE, Grantsville

Near the southern point of the Great Salt Lake sits a weirdly natural inland sea. Spring water rising through the salty bed of the ancient Lake Bonneville reaches the same salinity as the ocean. Add some species of ocean fish and you have a perfect little snorkeling/SCUBA sanctuary, 600 miles from the coast.

  • Features: Four distinct diving areas including White Rocks Bay, Habitat Bay, The Trench and The Abyss
  • Day Use: $20 (make reservations for the best experience)
  • Rentals: Scuba gear, snorkel gear and kids snorkel sets
  • Location: 1600 UT-138 Grantsville, UT 84029
  • Learn More
Bonneville Seabase

9. HOMESTEAD CRATER, Midway

“Here’s what I’m thinking: geothermal spring.”

“Uh huh.”

“With hot-tub temperature sapphire-blue water.”

“Okay.”

“Inside an adorable mini volcano.”

“I mean, yeah, it sounds great, but where would that even happen?”

“Just like in the middle of a Swiss hamlet in Utah, maybe?”

  • Description: 55-ft geothermal spring and the only warm scuba diving destination in the Continental US.
  • Day Use: Reservations required.
  • Pricing: Soak Only $16 | Snorkeling equipment: $5
  • Location: 700 Homestead Dr, Midway, UT 84049
  • Learn More
Homestead Crater

8. CASCADE SPRINGS, near Midway

Crystal clear spring water flowing down terraced pools in a mountain forest. One of those places so naturally beautiful you couldn’t possibly paint it without your painting looking cheesy.

  • Description: Natural waterfall and springs with paved walking paths that loop through the area. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from May until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
  • Location: Located in the Uinta National Forest in the Wasatch Range,east of American Fork Canyon and west of Wasatch Mountain State Park. Also accessible via The Alpine Loop in American Fork Canyon.
Cascade Springs

7. FIFTH WATER HOT SPRINGS, Spanish Fork

This is the last natural spring on the list, we swear. This one makes you earn your soak with a 2.3-mile hike up Diamond Fork Canyon that gains 700 feet. Worth it — especially with the three waterfalls you’ll find as a bonus. It’s on the way from the Wasatch Front to Moab, too, if that means anything to you.

  • Distance: 5.0 mile round-trip moderate hiking trail
  • Location: Diamond Fork Rd, Springville, UT 84663. The trailhead is accessed at Three Forks parking area up Diamond Fork Canyon.
  • Pack List: Hiking or trail shoes, water, snacks, swimsuit, towel
  • Learn More
Fifth Water Hot Springs

6. SAND BOARDING AT CORAL PINK SAND DUNES, Kanab

No further description needed. Get onboard. (Ha!)

Coral Pink Sand Dunes / Utah DNR State Parks

5. HOUSE ON FIRE, near Blanding

One of the more popular and easier to access of the thousands of Ancestral Puebloan ruins in Cedar Mesa. The area is remote but the hike itself is short and flat.

(* These are relative terms for places in Bears Ears.)

  • Distance: 3 mile round-trip easy hiking trail
  • Best time to go: Spring, Fall, Winter
  • Dogs allowed: Yes
  • Location: South Fork of Mule Canyon in Cedar Mesa, Bears Ears National Monument
  • Learn More
House of Fire

4. PAROWAN GAP PETROGLYPHS, Parowan

The permanent collection in a 1,000-year-old art gallery. Park, walk and ponder the signs made by civilizations that explored Utah before you.

Parowan Gap Petroglyphs

3. SINGING CANYON, Boulder

You spent $10k at audio engineering and you’ve still got nothing on Mother Nature’s ear for acoustics. Hike a couple minutes on the flat trail off Burr Trail Road and stop when you hear sound the way it was meant to be heard. If you’re lucky, someone talented will be there making a joyful noise.

  • Distance: 15-minute round-trip hiking trail
  • Best time to go: Spring, Fall, Winter
  • Getting there: Drive about 11 miles east on the Burr Trail Road from Boulder to a small, unmarked paved pullout on the north (left) side of the road. Parking is free, but space is limited.
Singing Canyon

2. VALLEY OF THE GODS, Mexican Hat

In Greece the Gods live on Mount Olympus. In Utah they prefer the valley. While you’re in the neighborhood visiting House on Fire, stop by this mini-Monument Valley. If you happen to be there during the hot air balloon festival, lucky you, you just stumbled into the divine.

Valley of the Gods

1. GILGAL SCULPTURE GARDEN, Salt Lake City

Most of the sights above are secret because they’re in some remote part of Utah. This one’s hiding in the middle of city block in downtown Salt Lake City. A devout Mormon named Thomas Child, Jr., created deeply personal and mystical sculptures that draw on Mormon theology but resist easy interpretation. Like a sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith, for instance.

Gilgal Sculpture Garden / Robert Hirschi

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