Prior to this October, I had never spent time in Utah other than in SLC (Salt Lake City International Airport). So, given the travel restrictions still in place due to COVID and my longing to get out of the city of Atlanta and explore, I decided to book a plane ticket and *safely* spend a week in Southern Utah. Most people in my circle asked, “UTAH??” …so, based on that, I want to share some of the places to visit, things to do and where to stay based on my experiences. I must preface this blog with the caveat that I was interested in getting plenty of fresh air, taking in the mountainous landscape, and continuing to get regular exercise even though I was vacationing.
PLACES TO GO
In case you were not aware, the Mighty 5 are all located in Southern Utah (Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reed National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park).
Additionally, The Grand Canyon is within 2 hours of St. George, UT. So, with a well-planned trip, you can see a wide variety of our country’s national treasures that all have unique landscapes and breathless views that just make you gasp at the surreal beauty of our Earth.
Photo taken by Ronda Wright.
While in Utah, I spent a day at Zion National Park. I joined a small group and hiked Watchmen Trail and Kayenta Trail. As a novice hiker and someone that is not accustomed to the high altitudes, these two trails were enough for me! On the first hike, when I finally made it to my destination, I got to see beautiful views of Temples and Towers, lower Zion Canyon, and Watchman Peak.
On the Kayenta Trail hike, I got to see the Emerald Pools and some stunning views overlooking the Virgin River. The picturesque views in the park were phenomenal – I am talking screensaver gorgeous! It was the perfect place to, not only get in some exercise, but also reflect on life and reground myself mentally.
Photo taken by Ronda Wright.
Utah has 43 state parks and 7 of them are in Southern Utah.
State parks are a great option to see some of the geologic wonders in this area while avoiding some of the crowds that are common for the national parks (particularly while we are still battling COVID). Because I lodged at a resort in St. George, I visited Snow Canyon State Park several times during my week visit to the area. It is located at the edge of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin and Colorado Plateau so it is full of many dramatic geological formations. It also has large lava fields and petrified sand dunes from lava flows that occurred almost 30,000 years ago.
One of the best things about the state parks is the wide variety of recreational activities you can do in addition to hiking: mountain biking, ATV riding, kayaking, rock climbing and fishing are just a few.
THINGS TO DO
As I started to explain in the previous section, Utah is known for its amazing outdoor reaction. The terrain ranges from snowcapped mountains to wild rivers to colorful red rock canyons. This makes the perfect location to get out and explore the great outdoors and take in something a little different each time.
During my time in Utah, I took advantage of several activities: exploring bike paths on an e-bike, hiking across the parks, and climbing down lava tubes. I took an e-bike and wrote backroads up through the Red Mountains and then into the town of Santa Clara. An e-bike was a great option after days of hiking. Speaking of hiking, I hiked different areas of Snow Canyon on multiple days and, of course, Zion National Park.
During the first hike in Snow Canyon, I observed more of the desert vibes: Mojave sand, a roadrunner, small sand dunes. During the second hike, it was all about lava formations and sandstone cliffs. This one park is a perfect example of the varied landscapes that you can explore recreationally in Southern Utah.
Utah has a rich history that goes all the way back to when the dinosaurs ruled the land.
The Anasazi and Fremont cultures added to the local culture with their gifts of pictographs and petroglyphs. The cultural tapestry continued to be woven as Mormon pioneers established settlements in the area. Utah’s culture is one to understand!
I had the privilege to visit the Kayenta Art Village in Ivins, Utah. It is named after a regional group of the Anasazi. The Kayenta Anasazi are ancestors of the Hopi. This art village is an enclave of art galleries, studios, a theatre, restaurant, and gift and coffee shops. Everything from fine arts to photography to pottery are offered in this area. I even saw a flyer for a scaled-down arts festival where local artists would showcase some of their pieces (hate that I missed that!).
I absolutely love exploring local culture when I travel – there is so much to learn about people and places when you actually have your boots on the ground in their space.
WHERE TO STAY
What is my recommendation on where to stay?
Red Mountain Resort of course. Let me be clear: Red Mountain Resort is a health and wellness resort. So, it is the perfect place for your stay to Southern Utah if you are interested in healthy meals, fitness, and recreational activities. They offer package options that include accommodations, meals, and daily activities. I thoroughly enjoyed having an activities calendar that offered daily hikes, guided bike tours, hiking trips to Zion or Bryce Canyon National Parks, and fitness classes like the butt and ab workout session. The resort has 2 outdoor pools that were a great option during COVID (the indoor pool was closed) and a spa onsite as well.
My absolute favorite thing about this resort was opening the shutters in the morning and watching the sun rise over the red mountains!
If you are looking for a spot to renew your energy and focus on your health, this is the prefect location. Bonus: you can be as social or private as you would like…none of the activities are mandatory!
Photo taken by Ronda Wright.
So now you know why I chose Utah. It is a beautiful state, and I am so thankful for the time I got to spend there rejuvenating. I came back with a clear mind and 5 pounds left behind! 😉
Hey, I'm Ronda Wright 👋🏽
I’m the founder of The Wright Getaway. I love all things travel and helping other people experience the world.
Let's chat about your upcoming travel plans!