Explore the history and beauty within Utah’s 43 state parks. Venture back in time through discovery of artifacts and remnants of the past. Journey along meandering trails and waterways, or ride off-highway vehicles on shifting seas of coral pink sand. Marvel at geologic wonders carved and sculpted over time or view the night sky from a secluded campsite.
While visiting Utah’s national parks, consider a stop at one of seven parks within a day’s drive to the Grand Canyon: Edge of Cedars, Goosenecks, Kodachrome Basin, Coral Pink Sand, Dead Horse Point, Snow Canyon, and Goblin Valley.
For more information or camping reservations for all 43 Utah State Parks, see contact information at the bottom of the page.
Edge of the Cedars State Park
It’s one thing to see ancient Southwestern ruins, but to get a true sense of the ancient peoples who inhabited them, go to the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, Utah.
Along with seeing a rare beetle-leg necklace and 2,000-year-old sandals in pristine condition, you’ll learn about people like Blanding’s infamous Earl Shumway who looted thousands of sites in the 1980s and ‘90s, leaving behind a trail of empty Mountain Dew cans and cigarette butts. His DNA on one of the cigarettes led to his arrest.
“If you want to ask some of the big questions of humanity like how do we become farmers, city dwellers, crucibles most of us on the planet have passed through, this is the best place to do it,” says Jonathan Till, curator of Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum. “It’s because the number of sites here, the dry environment that lends itself to preservation and the fact we have descendants of those folks who we can talk to to find out how these things came to pass.”
There’s even a 1,000-year-old kiva you can climb into outside the museum. But don’t miss the stunning 850-year-old scarlet macaw feather sash found on the very southern edge of Canyonlands National Park. Because the scarlet macaw is found in Mexico and Central America, researchers think the more than 1,000 feathers on the sash must have arrived in the area through a long-distance trade network.
Visit Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum at 660 W. 400 N., which is in a residential area.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
This state park is made up of a shifting landscape of sand. It can move as much as 50-feet each year. The color of the sand moves too – from red to pink depending on the light.
The dunes are formed from the erosion of Navajo Sandstone surrounding the park. High winds passing through the notch between the Moquith and Moccasin Mountains pick up loose sand particles and then drop them onto the dunes because of the Venturi effect. The dunes are estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old.
The park is a popular area for off-road vehicles such as ATVs and buggies. Or you can just walk it. Sports rentals and guides are available in the area. The park includes a 22-unit campground, hot showers, modern restrooms, and a sewage disposal system. It is open year round.
Goblin Valley State Park
The landscape covered with mushroom-like sandstone goblin formations and eroded cliffs is often compared to Mars. The park draws hikers and campers to to its three trails.
Goosenecks State Park
Before it reaches the Colorado River, the San Juan River flows through a series of tight loops known as “goosenecks.” Look down 1,000 feet to see this amazing sight with no crowds.
Dead Horse Point State Park
Cliffside park offering camping, hiking/biking trails, plus overlooks & views of the Colorado River. Fun fact: In the movie, “Thelma and Louise,” the car went over the cliff at Dead Horse Point, not the Grand Canyon as stated in the movie.
Snow Canyon State Park
Trails for hiking, climbing & horseback riding amid dunes & sandstone cliffs.
Kodachrome Basin State Park
Over 60 monolithic stone spires of colorful, striped sandstone inspired the park to be named “Kodachrome,” after the popular Kodak color film.
Some montrose best western locations may even offer extra little benefits and cheap cost for frequent travelers.