Planning the Perfect Utah Vacation

Aug 17, 2020
By: Utah.com Staff

So first time coming to Utah, eh? Congratulations and welcome. Expect beautiful landscapes,

nice people, and a lot of surface area. Between mountains and deserts, snow, and sun, Utah has

so much to offer that it can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you figure out the what,

where, when, and why of your Utah vacation. Suss that out and everything else will fall into

place.

A note about current conditions:

COVID-19 has disrupted travel plans across the world and Utah is no different. Most tourist

destinations are still accessible — but with restrictions. State and national parks are currently

open but some amenities (like bathrooms or campgrounds) may be closed. Bring your mask and

check in with your destination for updated info.

What brings you to Utah?

Choosing what you want to do will help you decide when to visit. Pick one option, or all three.

There are no wrong answers.

I want a relaxing/fun trip with my family.

  • Get a true vacation at a family-friendly resort
  • Glamp under the stars, no camping gear required
  • Check out under-the-radar spots like Deadhorse Point State Park and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
  • Tour world-class museums and historic sites

I want to see famous sites with my own eyes.

  • Hike Angels Landing in Zion National Park
  • See Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
  • Watch the sunset at Monument Valley Tribal Park
  • Do everything on Utah.com’s top ten list

I want an adventure I’ll never forget.

  • Backpack the Uinta Mountains or Canyonlands National Park
  • Canyoneer Zion National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
  • Mountain Bike in the Wasatch Mountains or Moab
  • Ski the Wasatch Mountains or Dixie National Forest
  • ATV the Paiute Trail System, Moab or Canyonlands

When are you coming?

Dinosaur National Monument

There is no wrong time to visit Utah. You can find fun things to do at any time of year. But if you

want to ski, then there is a right time to visit — winter. If you want to waterski, summer is your

best bet. The optimal dates for your trip depend entirely on what you want to do.

Utah Climate and Weather

Utah’s weather motto? Change is good. Utah has a semi-arid climate and four-seasons. We get

snow, sun, rain, and more sun. There are 10,000 feet of elevation between the lowest and

highest points. Temperature and weather will vary with every change in elevation. Generally

speaking, the northern half of the state has more high-alpine mountains, and the southern half

of the state is mostly red-rock desert. And just to make a point: Bryce Canyon National Park is in

southern Utah red-rock country, but is high-elevation and gets quite cold. Make sense?

Seasons:

SPRING: March, April, May

Great time to visit southern Utah before the scorching heat of summer. Hiking and backpacking

are especially popular this time of year. Ski season is winding down with most resorts closed by

May.

Pro tip: Weather can be unpredictable. Snow, rain, and sun are all possible on the same day.

Bring a coat.

SUMMER: June, July, August

Warm to blazing hot with “monsoon” thunderstorms in the afternoon. Perfect time for water

sports or heading to the mountains for wildflower season. Not great for hiking in the desert

mid-day. Try canyoneering, paddling, and boating.

Pro tip: If you still want to hike the desert, go early in the morning and hang out in shade for

the afternoon.

FALL: September, October, November

Cooler temperatures make for another great desert hiking season. By October, autumn has hit

the mountains and fall foliage is in full swing. Try fishing, mountain biking, and ATVing.

Pro tip: Weather can be unpredictable. By November, temperatures have dropped and snow is

on the way.

WINTER: December, January, February

Primetime for world-famous skiing. Lots of snow in the mountains and a few skiffs in the desert.

Great time to avoid the crowds in southern Utah. Try off-season desert hiking (just know it will

be cold).

Pro tip: Unless you are taking the kids skiing, winter isn’t recommended for your family vay-cay.

How long is your trip?

The length of your trip will also determine what you can see and do. Luckily, we have done

some of the work for you. Our itineraries are various lengths and cover destinations from across

the state.

We hope you can see everything your heart desires while you’re here. But we know how it is. If

you only have one day, make it a great day. Go big then go home. Hike Angels Landing or one of

the other destinations on our top ten list.

Preparation

Budget

Utah isn’t like Disneyland where you have to pay an arm and a leg for a churro, but you should

still prepare a budget. Restaurants and accommodations can be expensive near popular places.

But we welcome everyone, no matter your economic status. Utah has a range of digs from

luxury five-star resorts to free primitive campsites. And bargain hunters can find great deals.

National parks offer fee-free days if you are willing to trade-off for the crowds.

Plan Ahead

The minute the idea to visit Utah pops in your head, start looking for lodging, campsites, and

permits. We cannot emphasize this enough — book early. Permits for many popular hikes are

on a lottery system and must be acquired months in advance. Whether it’s a hotel, guide

service, or fancy restaurant, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you get your shiz together.

Packing

What you bring depends on your itinerary, but there are a few things you will want anywhere

and any time of year in Utah.

● Sunscreen: Not to brag but we have a LOT of UV rays.

● Sunglasses: Not kidding. Always wear protection.

● Rain jacket: Be prepared for wack weather, especially in spring and fall.

● Water bottle: We have 1% humidity on a wet day. A different kind of thirst trap.

● Versatile shoes: You never know when you might end up on a hiking trail.

● Moisturizer: That's not snow in the mountains, it’s skin flakes.

● Daypack: You need something to carry your impractical (i.e. cool) shoes.

Camping and backpacking will require specialized gear. Check out our camping checklist and

remember that most things can be rented from outfitters or provided by guides. You don’t have

to bring your kayak with you on the plane unless you want the attention.

We’ll See You Soon!

We’re excited for you! Utah is the best. Just sayin’. We know you’ll have an adventure no

matter what you choose to do. Our site is full of good info from native Utahns that know best.

Feel free to browse, plan and book (early of course).

Related Articles

Utah Coronavirus Updates

The Pros Know: 5 Adventure Tours to Make You Feel Better

Rockets, Rails and Really Good Food

Find things to do in Utah's Box Elder County including Golden Spike National Historic Site, Willard Bay, and more.

Binge This: Where to Play and Stay in Utah This Weekend

4 Reasons to Dump Disneyland for Zion National Park


Back To Top