Utah is packed with amazing outdoor recreational spots, but the desert temperatures can make those difficult to enjoy during summer months. That’s when autumn comes in — it’s the perfect season to look for cozy Utah vacation rentals to spend Columbus Day weekend. If you’re planning a trip to this gorgeous state, here are some places to consider.
Home to a popular ski resort and activity center, this gorgeous mountain town offers fun in every season. Columbus Day weekend is a too early for skiing, but you can enjoy hiking and mountain biking. The best reason to visit, however, is the popular Oktoberfest celebration held every year. This is one of the largest festivals in Utah, and it features two stages with live music to enjoy, as well as other family-friendly activities. Admission is free, and it is held on Saturday and Sunday starting at noon.
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If you want to feel like you’ve stepped into another world, head over to the small town of Hanksville. The main attraction is Goblin Valley State Park, which features strange buttes and fascinating red rock formations that would look equally at home on Mars. Hiking, mountain biking, and stargazing are popular activities in Goblin Valley. This area has little shade, so fall is the perfect time to visit to take advantage of the cooler temperatures.
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Moab is a popular outdoor destination spot all year, but the cooler October temperatures make Columbus Day weekend a particularly great time to visit. It is home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, which are considered two of the five “must-see” parks in the entire United States. It’s a good idea to book your vacation rentals early, though, since early October is a popular time for festivals, including the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
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4. St. George
The Saint George area offers more examples of Utah’s stunning natural beauty, including Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and Snow Canyon Park. Early October is still usually warm enough to enjoy some whitewater rafting on the Virgin River, or you can enjoy a stroll through the city’s historic district or stop in at the Saint George Art Museum. Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park are also within driving distance.
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5. Green River
For a relaxed, small-town experience, look for vacation rentals in the Green River area. The Crystal Geyser, an unusual cold-water geyser that erupts every 12-16 hours, is an amazing sight, and the Green River State Park offers a nice grassy, tree-filled respite from Utah’s often harsh desert landscape. For a fun, all-ages educational experience, stop in at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum to learn more about Green River and the surrounding region.
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The main attraction in Lehi is Thanksgiving Point, a sprawling nonprofit educational complex and museum that’s perfect for a long weekend. You can spend a day strolling through more than 55 acres of beautifully manicured gardens, or get up close and personal with some animals at the Farm Country exhibit. There are also two more traditional museums, the Museum of Natural Curiosity and the Museum of Ancient Life, as well as a butterfly biosphere. In the evening, if you’re not ready yet to head back your vacation rental, you can enjoy some world-class dining at the Harvest Restaurant or Trellis Cafe.
7. Salt Lake City
If you’re working with a diverse group or just aren’t quite sure where to go, plan on looking for a vacation rental in Salt Lake City. This city offers everything from zoos to art galleries. The Great Salt Lake is a fun place to hike and explore, and canyons outside the city offer miles of trails for hiking or cycling. This the Place Heritage Park is a nearby state park that features recreations of traditional life in Utah, including a living history exhibits to show what life was like for Native Americans and early settlers.
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Utah is famous for its amazing rock formations, and one of the most amazing ones is the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The layers of rock exposed on the Grand Staircase provide a natural guide through the Earth’s development, as well as some excellent hiking. The nearby Escalante Petrified Forest State Park also gives visitors a chance to see petrified logs and dinosaur fossils. It is located on the Wide Hollow Reservoir, so it’s a great place to visit if you want to take advantage of mild early October temperatures for one last canoe or kayak trip before it gets too cold.
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If austere desert landscapes aren’t your thing, consider spending your Columbus Day in Logan, one of the best spots in Utah for viewing fall foliage. Logan National Scenic Byway is a particularly good vantage point for viewing the colorful leaves. Bear Lake lies just outside of town if you want to get some fishing or boating in. The town itself offers plenty of shopping and dining, with options ranging from down-home American fare at Angie’s Restaurant to delicious Indian cuisine at Tandoori Oven.
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Nephi isn’t high on many lists of tourist destinations, so it offers all the dramatic scenery and excellent outdoor recreation opportunities without the crowds. The Little Sahara Sand Dunes, which offer miles of dunes to explore, are a particularly fun place to visit in the fall due to the cooler temperatures. Nephi is also home to Yuba Lake State Park, which is known for its warm waters and beautiful backdrop.
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Known for its unique slot canyons and easy access to some of Utah’s best recreation spots, the town of Kanab is a great place to spend a long weekend. Bring along your kayaks or paddleboards to explore the flooded side canyons of Lake Powell and search for hidden Native American ruins, or go for a hike at Buckskin Gulch or the Cottonwood Wash Narrows to see a classic slot canyon. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is also just a short drive away.
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