Secret Places of Utah

The landscape of Utah is as varied as it is colorful to describe. Formed by waves and sediments, its rich colors and shapes are endlessly fascinating because they change from moment to moment.

The clouds turn red and reflect the ground as they rise above us. The rocks are formed in the shape of a hat and a mushroom, and with a dusting of snow, everything becomes even more magical.

Some parts of Utah, such as Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches and the famous Mesa Arch at Canyonlands, are very popular and it is almost impossible to find these awesome areas on your own. However, the great thing about Utah is that the potential for adventure is almost endless. There are equally impressive sights all over the state just waiting to be explored — with hardly anyone around.

My friend Kristen and I took her RV for a week in February and managed to go days without seeing other people in the natural wonders we visited. It is increasingly difficult to do this today and this is one of the reasons why the American Southwest is so special: there are still many open spaces without a mobile signal.

1. Hotels near Mystic Hot Springs

Spend a few days with your sore muscles in the mineral-rich waters of Mystic Hot Springs. This unique place is definitely off the overcome path because there is not much to see. This can be a big plus if you want to find a little peace and quiet.

Mystic Hot Springs is located in Monroe, in the middle of the desert. It has earned the nickname “the best hippie hot springs in the West” because of its counter-cultural vibe, which includes a thriving permaculture community, a holistic spa and renovated buses that you can stay in.

Here’s everything you need to know to plan your stop at Mystic Hot Springs.

2. Hotels near Dead Horse Point State Park

Sometimes the easiest way to avoid the crowds is to avoid national parks. This can be done in Moab, Utah. The area is practically overflow with rocks, beautiful canyons and impressive panoramas, and many of them are hidden and quiet. My favorite is Dead Horse Point at sunset. It’s an easy way to get to the view and it’s just as impressive as the Grand Canyon, if you ask me!

There are hiking trails in the park, which you can see in the photo above. It is also very close to the Canyonlands National Park and practically in front of Arches.

3. Corona Arch

This arch is quite close to the Arches National Park, but much less frequented. If you venture here before sunrise, you might even have the area to yourself. To get to Corona Arch, it’s an easy three-mile walk, which also takes you beyond Bowtie Arch. The area has no shade, so be prepared for direct sun.

4. The Bonneville Saltworks

If your eyes are confused and you are wondering why there is snow on the ground, you are not alone! The Bonneville Salt marshes have a vast white landscape made of salt, which looks suspiciously like snow. The apartments are not always dry enough to walk or drive, so try to visit during the summer months to get the most out of it. You can camp nearby, but not on the salt flats themselves.

At the end of the summer, you can race cars on the Playa racecourse. This is a good indication that the salt flats are dry enough to be crossed. Otherwise, you don’t risk it.

5. Canyonlands National Park, Canyonlands

Canyonlands is a huge national park, and although there are some very busy places, such as the Mesa Arch at sunrise, other parts are pretty much deserted. Driving south of Moab, you will pass a spur (on the map below) that will take you to the Needles viewpoint (no hiking necessary). The walk itself is beautiful, and the view at the end is a large area that allows you to see almost 360 °. If you have time, it’s worth stopping here to see the awesome views.

The Aiguilles region also offers several hiking trails of different lengths and difficulty levels if you can invest the time and weather permitting.

6. Bear Ears National Monument

This national monument has recently been in the news due to a conflict over whether it should remain a protected land or not. This otherwise unpublished part of Utah is worth a stop if you like to be able to see ancient cave drawings and ruins without a barrier between you and history. However, We did not stop here, but heard great things about some walks. The visitor center is only open during the warmer months.

7. Valley of the Gods

That blinking, not found fork in the road south of Arizona is one of my favorite parts of Utah because it’s so beautiful and yet so quiet. The Valley of the Gods is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, which means you can camp in one of the pulloffs on the road, as long as you don’t leave a trace.

The rocks in this area look like chimneys and sombreros. although it is close to Monument Valley and has similar formations, this area is completely free and open to the public. Be careful if there has been rain or heavy snow, as the road is dirty and can easily turn into mud.

8. Hotels near Goosenecks State Park

When you get to the end of the road in the Valley of the Gods, turn right towards Goosenecks State Park for a view of the Colorado River flowing through the canyon as far as the eye can see.

Heading further north from there, you go up a steep gravel canyon wall, which is an awesome ride for the view, but not ideal if you’re in a camper or if it’s raining or snowing. There is also a large BLM campsite at the top. I’ve been considering connecting to where we camped here, but I think it takes so much fun and discovery to find your own campground, which was half the fun for Kristen and I.

9. Nature Bridges National Monument

Another under-the-radar and relatively small area, this national monument has three large bridges that can each be done as a round trip or loop walk, to see all three. Each walk has steps leading to its respective bridge -which would be totally fine in the summer, but when I went in the winter, some parts were icy. Bring spikes for your shoes if you try this during the winter months. Also, be sure to stop by the visitor center to inquire about trail conditions.

During the winter months, the path to the Sipapu Bridge can become icy, as it is usually in the shade. However, Kachina was more accessible and also took us to a waterfall. If the path is less icy, the whole loop would be awesome.

From there, it’s a nice ride that you won’t share with many people through the northeast of Glen Canyon via Hite.

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