The Best Fun Things to Do in Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City and its surrounding area offer plenty of fun and unique activities
Salt Lake City and its surrounding area offer plenty of fun and unique activities | © Andriy Kravchenko / Alamy Stock Photo
Amy Blyth

Salt Lake City is famed for its Mormon heritage, but there’s more to Utah’s capital than the religious wonders of Temple Square. Discover the best fun things to do in Salt Lake City, including picnicking in the park, lakeside swims and day trips to some of the northwest’s top national parks for hiking, rafting and canyoning.

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Spend a day at Arches National Park

Park

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Head a few hours south of Salt Lake City to see over 2,000 natural sandstone structures at Arches National Park. Covering over 76,500 acres (31,000ha), the park is home to huge rocks and orange-hued bridges, fins and pinnacles. Hike or drive through this other-worldly landscape, formed over 65 million years ago, to see highlights like the Landscape Arch, Balanced Rock and Delicate Arch. If you’re short on time, the Windows Section of the park has some of the most staggering formations.

City Creek Canyon

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail

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Hop on a bike to uncover Salt Lake City’s green spaces. Start downtown at the Gilgal Garden, where Mormon Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. carved a collection of surreal sculptures. The most famous features the religion’s founder, Joseph Smith, portrayed as a sphinx. Cycle on to City Creek Canyon, a Protected Watershed and Nature Reserve. The peaceful trail follows the river and is popular with hikers, bikers and dog walkers.

Go hiking and canyoneering around Zion National Park

Park

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Around 80 percent of Zion National Park is a designated wilderness, perfect for hiking. Picture a vast landscape of red cliffs, high-altitude forests, plunging canyons and the gushing Virgin River. Famous trails include the Zion Narrows wading hike, Observation Point and the Emerald Pools. Zion is also known to have some of the best canyoneering in the country and is famous for its deep slot canyons. Spend a day swimming, rappelling and scrambling through this rocky wonderland.

Go rafting on the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park

Natural Feature

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Escape a few hours north to Grand Teton National Park, a mass of lakes and alpine terrain bisected by the winding Snake River. This torrid waterway offers whitewater rafting complete with gnarly class II and III rapids, including the nail-biting Big Kahuna. If you’re after something less adrenaline-pumping, take a guided, scenic boat trip along a quiet stretch of the river instead. Along the way, you’ll be surrounded by Teton peaks, lush flora and wildlife such as moose and bald eagles.

Swim at the Great Salt Lake

Natural Feature

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If you’re keen to cool off on a hot Utah day, drive 20 minutes west to the Great Salt Lake. Part of prehistoric Lake Bonneville, it’s the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. The best place for swimming is Antelope Island State Park with its soft-sand beaches, showers and direct water access. Spend some time simply floating in the water, buoyed by its high salt content, which can top 27 percent.

Visit Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring and Yellowstone Caldera at Yellowstone National Park

Park

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The world’s first national park, Yellowstone, is a land of volcanic wonders. Since the park covers over 2.2 million acres (890,300ha) across three states, it’s best to focus on the highlights. Start with Yellowstone Caldera, site of a super volcano that erupted over 640,000 years ago. Its magmatic energy continues to power geothermal wonders like the famous cone geyser, Old Faithful. Then there’s Grand Prismatic spring, Yellowstone’s most photographed feature, with its steaming aqua pool encircled by bands of yellow, orange and green.

Picnic and play tennis at Liberty Park

Natural Feature

© Steve Greenwood / Alamy Stock Photo

Spend an afternoon in Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park, where you can enjoy a slice of local life. This green haven is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and covers 80 acres (32ha) of land home to indigenous flowers and ancient trees. People come to picnic on the lawns, stroll and enjoy a game of tennis, basketball or volleyball on one of the courts. There’s even a swimming pool for cooling off, and harmonious drum circles on Sundays.

Tour Salt Lake City’s historic Mormon sites

Architectural Landmark

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Salt Lake City is steeped in Mormon heritage, most of which revolves around the holy Temple Square. This walled neighborhood is the official headquarters of the Mormon Church and home to 20 religious sites. Catch choirs singing at the domed Mormon Tabernacle and marvel at Salt Lake Temple with its towers and gilt angel statues. Don’t miss the Beehive House, former home of Salt Lake City’s Mormon founder Brigham Young, or the Joseph Smith Building.

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