Utah is blessed with an abundance of fascinating and diverse geography that creates some of the most exciting opportunities for outdoor adventure in the West. Ranges like the Wasatch and the Uintas can keep a mountain lover in business for years, while the desert is home to incredible geologic formations that have been humbling visitors for centuries. Successfully finding your adventure in Utah can hinge on your choice of base camp, so we've taken some of the guess work out and rounded up a list of some of Utahs' top adventure towns.
The unusual but instantly recognizable name of this dusty desert town invokes thoughts of arches, insane rock climbing, amazing bike rides, and jeeps crawling across moon-like landscapes. Both Canyonland's National Park and Arches National Park are just a few miles north of town, but feel free to stay on free BLM land and still get up close and personal with the most amazing arch you could imagine, Corona Arch. If you like autumn sightseeing with red rock, take a spin on the La Sal Loop. For experienced riders, there are long and epic rides on the Porcupine Rim and Slickrock Trails. Do some rock climbing along Potash Road before floating the Colorado River to round out an otherwise dry trip, and enjoy the cool water on a hot sunny day.
One of the great mountain biking towns in the West, Park City has grown recently but still has its charm. The mighty Wasatch Crest Trail and the nearby Mid Mountain are both legends in the sport. Ski the largest resort in the U.S. during the winter or go boating at the many reservoirs in the summer; Park City is a year-round outdoor paradise. The Basin Recreation network of trails gives tourists and locals unparalleled access to hiking and biking just minutes from their homes and condos. Give the Iron Canyon hike a try if you'd like to avoid crowds. On top of that, the many hikes of Big Cottonwood Canyon sit surprisingly near to Guardsman's Pass, and the vast Uinta Mountains sits to the east along the beautiful Mirror Lake Highway.
Many people haven't heard of this town, but don't let that keep you from going to what might be the most adventure-laden spot in the state. You are literally smack dab in the middle of many of the great treasures of the southwest. From here you can easily access Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome State Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes and even the Vermillion Cliffs or Antelope Canyon in nearby Arizona. Kanab is also the base camp for people trying to land a walk-in permit to hike the enigmatic Wave of Coyote Buttes. Lake Powell, one of the most beautiful boating opportunities you can find, sits to the east. This is one of those towns where you will almost always drive away feeling like you've left a lot on the table.
Even though this place is wildly popular with the locals of Utah and Las Vegas, I still think the area is nationally underrated in terms of just how much adventure opportunities it offers. Known for being the conduit to Zion National Park, you could spend a month here having fun without even going into the national park. There are an amazing number of designated wilderness areas, desert preserves like the Red Cliffs, state parks like Snow Canyon, and random patches of beauty such as Yant Flat surrounding the greater St. George area. Look into the many unusual hikes around the small town of Leeds, including Babylon Arch that ends at a beach along the Virgin River. There are too many great mountain bike trails to name, but anyone would be blown away by the terrain and sights of Gooseberry Mesa near Zion.
More and more people are beginning to notice the sleepy town of Boulder, Utah, which lies 36 miles south of Capitol Reef National Park on Highway 12. The best and closest hike in town is one of the area's true gems, Lower Calf Creek Falls. Head out on the Burr Trail Road as it goes from paved to dirt to find beauty, solitude and adventures that seem to go on endlessly. This hamlet is also the gateway to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the legendary Hole in the Rock Road, which is home to Devils Garden and some of the best slot canyons in the world at Zebra Canyon/Tunnel Slots and Peek-A-Boo/Spooky Gulch. Two more of the finest backpacking trips in the southwest can be found in this area as well by way of Coyote Gulch and Reflection Canyon.