Salt Lake City is surrounded by some of the most spectacular natural sites in the country, many just a short distance away from the city. From Golden Spike to Flaming Gorge, our local insiders have rounded up the best national parks near the capital of Utah.
For lovers of history and trains, this is a perfect half-day excursion from Salt Lake City. Visit the site where the transcontinental railroad was completed, the tracks that changed American history forever. Immerse yourself in history at the museum, take a tour out to the engine house to see the remarkable engines and see the 1869 railroad construction features. Our local insider recommends the auto tour to get a true understanding of what an incredible feat the construction of the railway was. Recommended by local insiders David Smurthwaite and Whitney Brown
One of Utah’s lesser-known national parks. Flaming Gorge is an impressive location for hiking, camping and exploring, dominated by a huge reservoir that spans miles of the beautiful recreation area. There are countless campgrounds and mountain retreats scattered across the diverse topography, so there’s something for everyone no matter the preference. With over 360mi (580km) of shoreline and a diversity of terrain, it’s a fascinating visit for anyone interested in geology. Recommended by local insider David Smurthwaite
Beautiful canyons, second-to-none mountain views, lakes and wetland swamps. Uinta-Wasatch National Forest is crammed with trails winding through its valleys, differing in length and difficulty, so you can pick what suits you best. Quiet hikers may get the chance to spot moose and deer in their habitat. Winter months herald ski season when the resorts open up and welcome skiers to the beautiful forest. Recommended by local insider Whitney Brown
The steep trail to the top is difficult, but worth it. With an elevation of 6,730ft (2,050m), it can get a little arduous; yet, stunning vistas await, and informative signs on the route share knowledge of the flora and fauna of the area. The roughly 90-minute hike is rewarded by an underground cave tour with informed experts guiding you through the subterranean world of incredible rock formations. Recommended by local insider Whitney Brown
Think Utah, think stunning mountain views. The Wasatch-Cache National Forest doesn’t disappoint, with awe-inspiring landscapes and mountain scenery. Outdoor activities are in abundance here, including horseback riding along mountain trails, camping at Pine Creek campground and practicing your swing at one of the golf courses. During the winter months, the alpine terrain is the perfect playground for skis, snowmobiles or snowshoes. Recommended by local insider David Smurthwaite
In this unique corner of Utah, find glimpses of an ancient time. Visit the Quarry Exhibit Hall to see 1,500 dinosaur fossils exposed on the cliff face before discovering the different examples of petroglyphs in the area. The area is rich in history and you can learn all about the outlaws and homesteaders that sought refuge here. Camp, hike or river-raft through the beautiful, rugged landscape of Dinosaur. Recommended by local insider David Smurthwaite