pics or it didn’t happen is the mantra of our times. And here in Utah there are plenty of pics to prove it happens, whatever IT is. Utah is a state of contrasts, from the high-mountain landscape of the north to the Mars-like vistas of the south, there is practically no spot in the state that isn’t ready for its close up (except maybe the gravel pit on Beck Street, yuck.)
We polled you, our readers, on Facebook to discover what you thought were the greatest hits, so to speak, of our state’s splendor. Predictably, we had a huge response. Of course, we left out hundreds of scenic wonders, including the iconic Delicate Arch (been there, done that) but we’ve rounded up a taste of the best spots in Utah for that perfect shot.
And getting there is half the fun. Sure, you want to get those likes on Instagram but remember to put away your phone or camera after the photo shoot is over and, you know, just BE in these beautiful places. The pictures you take will trigger memories of the experience of getting there. Make those memories as good as your photos.
01 Calf Creek falls
More of a nature walk than a hike, this creek-side ramble will take you up canyon to the base of Calf Creek Falls, a bridal-veil of cascading water dumping into a tempting swimming hole. A helpful trail guide points out flora and ancient petroglyphs on the rock walls.
- WHERE: The Trail starts at Calf Creek Campground on Utah Highway 12 between the towns of Boulder and Escalante.
- TIP: You can also take the more strenuous hike to Upper Calf Creek Falls.
02 Snow Canyon Petrified Dunes
A moderate hike into the heart of Snow Canyon State Park crossing over giant mounds of Navajo Sandstone that resemble huge dunes of sand frozen in time. This picture-worthy hike rewards you with views of the entire park.
- WHERE: The well-marked trailhead is located in the Upper Galoot picnic area, about six miles from St. George.
- TIP: This is an excellent hike for the kids. Plenty of room for the tykes to run and play.
03 Bonneville Salt Flats
One of the most inhospitable places on the Earth, the Bonneville Salt Flats are also one of the world’s most starkly beautiful spots. The 30,000 acres of crusted salt are the remnants of prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which once filled the Salt Lake Valley.
- WHERE: From Interstate 80 take exit 4, near Wendover, Utah.
- TIP: Stick to the paved road. Do not drive out onto the flats. It’s easy to break thru the salt crust and become stuck in deep mud.
04 Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
No this is not the Sahara. These ancient piles of sand are a beautiful sea of shifting colors. The dunes move up to 50 feet each year and are always changing. This means every picture you take is one of a kind.
- WHERE: Located 22 miles west of Kanab on Sand Dunes Road.
- TIP: You can snowboard the dunes. Really.
- Get the best shot: Late afternoon and early evening until sunset are the best times to capture the dunes. Also sand. Keep your camera in a plastic bag and sealed off while you hike to your vantage point.
05 Goblin Valley State Park
This place is a trip. It’s filled with sandstone “goblins,” strange, mushroom shaped formations carved by wind and water. You can spend hours wandering among the goblins.
- WHERE: Located 24 miles south of Interstate 70 on Utah Highway 24. Turn at Temple Mountain junction.
- TIP: Venture to the far side of the valley. There are caves to explore and a whole choir of goblins in a smaller valley over the ridge.
- Get the best shot: Be sure to get up high for views of the entire valley, which is best photographed in the early morning or late afternoon and evening. The views on the far side are good bets for a great shot.
06 Antelope Island State Park
Located 12 miles out in the Great Salt Lake, the island is home to herds of bison and beautiful views of the salty sea that gives our city its name. It’s best explored in spring, fall or winter. Summer is hot and buggy and there is no shade.
- WHERE: Take Exit 332 off Interstate 15 and drive west on Antelope Drive.
- TIP: The west side of the island offers otherworldly views into the Great Salt Lake.
07 Canyonlands National Park
Less visited than nearby Arches National Park, Canyonlands is a difficult park to manage. Exploring often requires hiking down into deep canyons (and back up) but it rewards your efforts with a bounty of red rock splendor.
- WHERE: The Island in the Sky district, in the north of the park, is the closest district to Moab via Utah Highway 313.
- TIP: The Maze district is the most remote and rugged. Plan your trip carefully.
08 The Living Room
This much-loved hike to a vantage point from the foothills behind the University of Utah, is practically required reading to be a Salt Laker. The viewpoint features piles of flat rocks arranged into sofas and chairs straight out of the Flintstones, hence the name.
- WHERE: The trailhead is located above the University of Utah’s research park, 383 Colorow Road.
- TIP: Sunset is the best time to hike to Living Room. Enjoy the end of the day (and maybe a beer or two) but be sure to bring headlamps for the hike down in dusk.
- Get the best shot: The Living Room is a great spot to try out the panorama function on your phone or camera. It offers a sweeping view of the entire valley north to south and is best shot at sunset.
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