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Utah is often overlooked by international travelers visiting the US. But this unsung hero has a rich landscape that boasts both unparalleled natural beauty and charming hometown cities. Outside of Utah’s larger cities, hundreds of small towns sit quietly at the feet of some of the most beautiful terrain in the world. We list ten of the most charming towns and villages in The Beehive State.
Utah has no shortage of terrain for the adventurous spirit, and Moab is no exception. The small town is in a perfect location for access to both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. The city draws thousands of visitors each year for rock climbing, hiking, jeeping, and mountain biking. From anywhere in the city of Moab, onlookers are treated with a sprawling view of red sandstone walls. Being an area with desert climate, the summers get extremely hot, and the winters dry and cold. This area of Utah does not get the heavy snowfall that other areas are famous for, making this an outdoor-lover’s paradise nearly every season of the year.
Tucked away on the back of the Wasatch mountain range, Midway is a pristine alpine town. Many of the 18th century settlers were Swiss immigrants, and the city honors that heritage with a festival each summer. Midway’s Swiss Days attracts thousands of visitors each August with a parade, live entertainment, craft booths, and food vendors. Not far from the center of town, swimmers and scuba divers flock to the Homestead Caldera, a natural geothermal hot pool that is over 40 feet deep, and stays at a temperature of 90-95F year round. With abounding charm, unique outdoor activities, and stunning mountain vistas, Midway is a small town with a lot to offer.
At the gate of one of Utah’s five national parks lies the quiet city of Springdale. The city is surrounded by the area’s famous red rocks – natural cliffs formed by the Virgin river in the iron-rich soil. The nearby Zions National Park is full of hikers and backpackers during the summer months, all of which pass through Springdale on their way to their adventures. The number of actual residents in the city is fewer than 1,000, and the town’s economy is largely supported by the local tourism industry, with visitors frequenting the handful of local restaurants and shops. Though this is far from what most would consider a resort town, Springdale is a haven for adventure-seekers and scenery enthusiasts.
Garden City sits in a large valley, along the shores of Bear Lake. The lake is large, stretching over 18 miles across the border of Utah and Idaho, and is called the Caribbean of the Rockies, for its turquoise-colored water. The population of this small town fluctuates greatly with the seasons, as visitors flock to the lake in the summer. During the winter months, Garden City gets a lot quieter, with heavy snowfall and cold temperatures. One of the city’s most popular events is Raspberry Days, a festival celebrating the local raspberry harvest, usually in early August. Garden City is also home to Pickleville Playhouse, a community theater that attracts patrons from all over northern Utah.
Mantua is a small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town in Northern Utah. It is located just a few miles along a windy highway outside of Brigham City in Sardine Canyon. Though city is somewhat sleepy, the views are absolutely spectacular. During the spring and summer months, the surrounding mountains are lush and verdant, fall brings a spectrum of autumnal colors, and during the winter, the town is blanketed in deep, white snow. At the heart of the town is the Mantua Reservoir, popular for boating, water skiing, fishing, and swimming. Mantua is a close-knit community that makes the most of its beautiful surroundings and country living.
With a majestic backdrop of vibrant cliffs and natural rock formations, Torrey sits on the edge of Capitol Reef National Park. The city itself is small, with just a few commercial establishments, but they serve thousands of visitors each year, coming to enjoy the nearby national park, and traveling through for the annual Tour of Utah bike race. Torrey claims fewer than 200 residents, and has a relaxed and friendly feel about it. The town has a rich history of pioneer settlers, evident in historic buildings and relics throughout. The weather is typical of the area’s desert climate, with typically snow-free but cold winters and hot, dry summers.
Located in central Utah, Spring City is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit. The town was settled in the middle of the 19th century by northern European immigrants that met with some resistance from Native Americans inhabiting the area. Today, the town is modest in size, encompassing less than two square miles, with locally-run shops, restaurants, and art galleries. In the last few decades, Spring City has become a surprising center for local artists, finding inspiration in the natural surroundings, and historic buildings and homes. The city frequently hosts events featuring celebrated local artists, musicians and writers.
With wide, clean streets, friendly locals and an idyllic, shop-lined main street, Brigham City seems like the quintessential American small-town. Settled by Mormon pioneers in the 19th century, the city remains a quiet, safe place for residents and guests. Popular sites like the Golden Spike National Monument and the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge are just minutes from the center of town, and the options for hiking and biking in the surrounding mountains are endless. Each summer, the city hosts the Peach Days festival, celebrating the year’s crop of the town’s famous local peaches. Located at the base of the Wellsville Mountains, and only 60 miles from the state’s capital, Brigham City is a small town offering something for everyone.
Another town, hidden on the back of the Wasatch Mountain range, is Morgan. Set in the Ogden Valley, the surrounding landscape is as beautiful as it gets. The people are warm and friendly, serving visitors in family-run cafes and shops near the center of town. Outside of the main town, there is access to ATV and biking trails, horseback riding, rafting and fishing. Morgan is only minutes from Snowbasin Ski resort, a world-class skiing and snowboarding destination. During summer months, the town also hosts a county fair with a rodeo, demolition derby, livestock sales, and horse shows.
Smithfield is located in Northern Utah, just ten miles from Idaho’s southern border. The town sits in the beautiful Cache Valley, which is often heralded as one of the most picturesque places in Utah. The valley is completely surrounded by towering mountains, and encompasses at least a dozen other small towns and cities. For over a century, Smithfield was primarily a farming community, growing sugar beets, and raising dairy cows. The town has a charming central business district, with historic buildings housing locally owned stores, restaurants, antique shops, and a movie theater. Within minutes, visitors can access superb skiing, rivers, lakes, and hiking trails.