City Travel

Utah’s coolest outdoorsy cities

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Colorful sunrise in Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah, USA

Image: Shutterstock/Edwin Verin

Utah’s coolest outdoorsy cities

Utah has moved to the forefront in the world of outdoor adventure. The state, often overlooked compared to the epic Rocky Mountains of Colorado next door, has some of the most diverse geology, ecosystems, and recreation opportunities in the country. And with stellar outdoor activities often comes cool outdoorsy cities to homebase your travels. Whether you’re a high class skier or a dirty backpacker, the options are truly endless in Utah.

From the north to the very south, Utah’s coolest outdoorsy cities will surprise you time after time. But that super well-kept natural wonder is what makes Utah such a gem.

Ready to discover Utah for yourself? Check out the states coolest outdoorsy cities first!

Moab

As the epicenter of the mountain bike industry, Moab certainly isn’t a town to be missed. Located on the eastern border of the state, the city’s proximity to Grand Junction makes the fun easily accessible. Moab is great by itself, but the abundance of outdoor adventures really make the area shine. Within a few miles from downtown you can be at Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, as well as hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails. Many outfitters take tourists on Jeep and Hummer tours of the region, while enthusiasts hit the red dirt on their own. Bike shops in town, such as Poison Spider Bicycles, rent out mountain and road bikes to use while you visit. You can also visit the shops for detailed advice on while trail systems are right for your level of experience. In fact, it’s highly recommended that you ask an expert for advice before jumping in—if you’re new to the region, the intense elements of the desert are quite unpredictable!

Another draw to Moab is it’s central location between national parks. To reach the iconic Arches National Park, simply head northwest on 191 until you reach the visitor’s center. To reach Island in the Sky Visitor Center in Canyonlands, drive northwest on 191 before turning left (south) on 313. At the split, continue south on Grand View Point View Road until you see the visitor’s center.

St. George

Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park near St. George Utah

Image: Shutterstock/Chris Curtis

St. George is an unexpected treasure on the southwestern border of Utah. Not only are the streets pristinely well-kept, trees flourishing green, and desert views outstanding, the outdoor adventures are abundant in every single direction. A short jaunt north brings you to the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, where the rusty rock formations and snow-capped mountains will take your breath away. Not far from St. George rests Zion National Park, known for it’s iconic canyon carved from the north fork of the Virgin River. The red and brown layered Navajo sandstone walls are thousands of feet high, comparable only to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Hiking trails interweave throughout the park, granting backpackers the opportunity to explore lesser known segments. Visiting Zion National Park is truly an unbelievable experience!

You can access St. George easily from Las Vegas. Simply head northeast on I-15, which leads directly into town!

Monticello

Fall sunrise in Park City, Utah, USA.

Image: Shutterstock/ Johnny Adolphson

Just like Moab to the north, Monticello is notorious for its access to miles of epic mountain bike trails in every direction. Poised perfectly to explore the Needles Section of Canyonlands National Park as well as Mesa Verde National Park (in Colorado), Monticello is a natural choice to homebase a trip to southeastern Utah. Another favorite spot in the region is Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where boating and floating in Lake Powell are prime activities. The scenery at Glen Canyon is so good, people (around two million per year) travel from all corners of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico to swim under the guise of the rust-red sandstone cliffs and arches. Closer into Monticello, however, the name of the game is golf. For a laidback experience, hit up Hideout Golf Club and spend your day driving and putting under the sun.

Monticello is a quick drive from Durango by heading west on 160 until the split with 491 in Cortez. Head northwest on 491 and you’ll reach the city. Don’t forget to stop in Dove Creek, Colorado at the Adobe Milling store- their name brand hot sauce will change your life!

Park City

Park City Main Street

Image: Shutterstock/Mehmet Dilsiz

While it often gets a bad rep due to it’s draw from the Hollywood crowd, the outdoor adventures surrounding Park City are unbeatable in the region. Not far from metropolis of Salt Lake City, Park City offers up a unique menu of seriously good skiing, epic hikes, and a cultured atmosphere. In one hand, you’ve got fine dining and luxurious hotels, while on the other you’ve got heli-skiing and backcountry powder. Who knows, you might even share a lift with someone famous? While in Park City, you can opt to horseback ride through the mountains, hike several trail systems, explore the Jordanelle Reservoir, and ski, of course! The Olympic Park from the 2002 Olympics is a cool spot to test your bobsled skills. There are even ski jumping demonstrations and guided tours of the facilities.

Park City is easily reached by driving east on I-80 from Salt Lake City. At Kimball Junction, head south on 224 and you’ll reach downtown.

Bryce

winter morning : Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA

Image: Shutterstock/teps4545

Something of a gateway to the natural wonders of the area, Bryce has kept roots in its western roots. Venture through the adorable Old Bryce Town replica village, where log-facade buildings create a true old west experience. Beyond that, the scene is all about Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Bryce Canyon is notorious for it’s abundance of rusty sandstone spires, technically called hoodoos, reaching high from the valley floor. The sight is almost unbelievable, as the pillars seem too fragile to stand the test of time. Of course, time and erosion are exactly what carved out the delicate structures. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has wonderful hiking and mountain biking trails interwoven throughout the 1.9 million acres within the park. You read that right—Grand Staircase is larger than the state of Delaware! Visiting the Escalante Canyons section of the park is a favorite, due to the expanse of intricate slot canyons to explore.

Bryce is roughly two hours from St. George, Utah. Take I-15 north to Cedar City, where you should head east on 14 towards Duck Village Creek. At the T, turn left (north) on 89 and drive until you reach 12. Turn right, the right again on 63.

Mandy Burkholder is a travel, adventure, and outdoor writer who honed her craft in the foothills of the La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado. After a stint in the Swiss Alps, she now resides in Tennessee. Follow her on twitter — @mandyburkhold3r