If anything could rival the appeal of Utah’s famous snows, it would have to be the breathtaking canyons and rock formations found across the state.
Utah’s stunning arches, scenic lookouts and rolling slick rock areas are known far and wide as must-see attractions. Those looking to see and experience them hands-on can find no better destination than San Juan County, Utah’s “Canyon Country.”
Goosenecks State Park
Perched on the edge of a deep canyon, Goosenecks State Park gives visitors a singular experience in affording them a bird’s eye view of the San Juan River 1,000 feet below.
The canyon walls showcase the meandering river below, framing a view so beautiful that many consider it to be one of the most breathtaking in the entire United States. The view is nothing short of miraculous. Onlookers can peer out for miles and miles at the desert landscape.
This landmark is truly a testament to nature’s power, and visitors can gaze through time at the results of 300 million years of geological activity. The San Juan River flows 360 miles from its source to the Colorado River, starting at an elevation of 14,000 feet and dropping to 3,600 feet at Lake Powell.
Popular activities at this park include sightseeing, photography, stargazing, hiking at nearby Honaker Trail and picnicking. Goosenecks is also pet-friendly, so bring along your furry companion.
Love what you see at Goosenecks? Stay awhile at one of the primitive campsites right near the overlook. There are no modern amenities at this campsite and it can get hot in the summer months, so be sure you bring along plenty of water and shade to enjoy the day comfortably. Reserve your campsite and learn more about the park by visiting the Utah State Parks website.
Natural Bridges & Hovenweep National Monuments
Roughly a 45-minute drive from Blanding, Natural Bridges National Monument is another must-see for Canyon Country visitors.
The first of its kind in the United States, this monument features three well-known natural bridges named Sipapu, Katchina, and Owachomo. Sipapu also happens to be the largest natural bridge in the entire world. The names for these bridges come from the Hopi Tribe.
The hikes leading to each bridge are all considered to be moderate trails and are all under 1.5 miles long. There are hiker aids found along some portions of the trails, including stairs and wooden ladders.
Stop by the Natural Bridges visitor’s center to learn more about the area and pick up some goodies to take home.
Want to continue the National Monument adventure? Head on over to Hovenweep National Monument. The area was originally designated in 1923 to help protect the six ancient villages found inside the 21-mile-area.
These towers were built by the Ancestral Puebloans who lived in the area between 500-1300 A.D. and are believed to have once been home to over 2,500 people. Of the six structures, two fall within the Utah border and the other four are in Colorado. The carefully engineered architecture is truly awe-inspiring and the area’s rich history will leave you wanting to explore even further.
If you consider yourself an artistic person, ask about “Arts in the Parks.” Created to connect local artists to the stunning landscapes, the Arts in the Parks program also gives visitors from across the globe an opportunity to see first-hand how the rugged landscape and natural treasures of the region have inspired local artists. The program also provides local artists an opportunity to teach and demonstrate their mediums and methods, furthering creative expression.
Community artists host events throughout the summer where you can watch them in action and even try your hand at some artwork.
Experience the Dark Skies of Canyon Country
The fun in Canyon Country doesn’t end when the sun goes down. Southeastern Utah is home to some of the darkest skies in the entire country. People often travel from across the globe to view and photograph the Milky Way in the region’s tranquil, secluded areas.
Natural Bridges was the world’s first “International Dark Sky Park,” with Hovenweep designated not long after. These national monuments have made protecting the area’s dark sky a priority so that in some places, it's possible to see up to 15,000 stars throughout the night.
These parks aren’t the only places for stargazing, however. Take a drive north over to Dead Horse Point State Park for a dark sky experience like no other. This park was dark sky certified in 2016 and offers amenities such as full and partial hookup campsites, astounding mountain bike trails and even yurts. Be sure to stop by the visitors’ center for some dark sky programs and to hear the legends behind Dead Horse Point.
Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum
Is your inner archaeologist still not satisfied? Sate your desire for knowledge at the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum.
Come view the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) pottery on display in the Four Corners region and explore an authentic Puebloan village behind the museum.
In addition to permanent collections, Edge of the Cedars offers special exhibits, festivals and events throughout the year. Park facilities include a short, paved interpretive trail around the ruin, landscaping with native plants and outdoor sculptures, and picnic area.
To learn more about recreation opportunities in the area and start planning your trip, visit the Canyon Country and the Utah State Parks websites.