Picture endless waves of deep canyons, sedimentary rock, and mesas. That’s a panoramic view of Utah. Here’s where to see the sights without droves of tourists at National Parks.
Utah is a destination like no other for outdoor enthusiasts. In warm months, it’s a mecca for hiking and mountain biking. In winter, it offers powder white pristine snow skiing. Most tourists are drawn to the heavily marketed national parks, known as the Mighty 5. Those include Arches (Moab, UT), Bryce Canyon (Bryce, UT), Canyonlands (Moab, UT), Capitol Reef (Torrey, UT) and Zion (Springdale, UT).
Outdoor enthusiasts are fickle folks. We want everyone to be among us (get outdoors; it’s great!), but want no one to be around us (crowds, ew). For the outdoor preacher that wants away from the congregation, we suggest trails maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, instead of the National Parks. They give gorgeous Utah views with no permits, no reservations, and next to no one else around.
Where to Stay – Southwest Utah
The Advenire is a refined hotel in the heart of the historic district in St. George, UT. It is an intimate boutique hotel with 60 artfully designed guest rooms. The Advenire’s historic pioneer-federal architecture, adobe exterior and Dixie dormers are reminiscent of St. George’s legendary 1860’s-era inn, The Big House.
The Advenire is the one and only place in St. George where the bar serves alcohol without a requisite food purchase. (Liquor laws vary by county in Utah). For Texas travelers who are accustomed to throwing down a few brewskies without vittles, this cozy hotel just off of Main Street is the place to hang your hat and drink your beer.
Where to Hike – Southwest Utah
Candy Cliffs, also known as Yant Flat, is a flat, novice-level hike near St. George, UT, in the small town of Leeds. Depending on how much exploring you would like to do, the distance ranges from 2-7 miles. It is a hidden gem with little foot traffic. Here, you’ll see candy-like swirls of multi-colored sandstone.
Although far from the crowds of tourists, you’ll see views of Zion National Park from this vantage point. You’ll also see the Sand Hollow State Park reservoir, where IRONMAN hosted the swim portion of the 70.3 World Championship course last month.
Where to Stay – East Utah
The Radcliffe Moab is an independent hotel, owned by Robert Radcliffe, nestled in the cozy downtown of charming Moab, UT. A former competitive triathlete, himself, Radcliffe’s hotel attracts outgoing travelers. The hotel has an air about it as an indoor respite for outdoor people. The recently-opened hotel offers 38 spacious guest rooms, including two super spacious suites.
To drink an adult beverage anywhere in Moab, you’ll have to order food along with your drink. The bright side about that is the restaurant at The Radcliffe, II Posto Rosso, is outstanding – destination-worthy, even! Visiting a farm-to-table modern Mediterranean restaurant such as this and just ordering a drink is tantamount to flossing your teeth with your wedding ring. In other words, when you have something rare and precious, use as intended. When at II Posto Rosso, eat. The Carman Ranch Filet Mignon may make you forget you ever even wanted a drink!
Where to Hike – East Utah
Poison Spider Mesa Trailhead is a moderate, family-friendly hike close to Moab. A 1.2 mile trek up the trail will bring you to Longbow Arch.
Although Longbow Arch lacks the grandeur of renowned Delicate Arch in nearby Arches National Park, it’s still a geological marvel – and a great place to sit under and meditate.
There are cairns (trail markers) along the way to keep you on the path. You’ll find petroglyphs of shapes, animals, and anthromorphs (non-human images that resemble humans). You’ll see lots of large dinosaur tracks, far more impressive than the ones in Leander, TX (but if you’re not leaving Texas anytime soon, check those out). And you’ll find holds secured into the rock at one steep spot for a safe trek to the summit.
For your safety, it’s a good idea to hire a guide to lead you through your hike. Accidents can happen anywhere and you won’t have cell service on rural hikes. Professional guides work closely with both The Advenire, an Autograph Collection Hotel, and The Radcliffe Moab. Just let the concierge know that you would like to hire a guide for hikes on your trip, and they will connect you with trusted experts.
Cover Photo courtesy Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office.
Brook Benten, M.Ed., is an exercise physiologist in Austin, TX. She is mother to two young children, Hayes (9) and Julie Anna (5). Follow her on Instagram for fitness inspiration, wellness travel, and a helping hand in lifting the motherload.