With five popular national parks and a remarkably diverse landscape, Utah is a well-known destination for outdoor adventurers. If you’re hoping to escape the crowds in Zion National Park, Park City, or Moab, you’re in luck — this beautiful state is packed with hidden gems. From red-rock canyons to secret hot springs, these spots take your trip to the next level. Many are within a short drive of most Utah vacation rentals and well-known attractions, so you can get the best of both worlds.

1. Meadow Hot Springs, Meadow

Hot springs in a pasture.
Source: Wikimedia Commons/The Dye Clan

Hidden in the middle of an expansive field with excellent mountain views, Meadow Hot Springs is one of Utah’s most spectacular hidden gems. These colorful hot pools are hidden by the waving prairie grass, so they’re invisible until you’re on the shore. Plus, a lack of signage on nearby Interstate 15 means that most people drive right by – as a result, you rarely need to deal with crowds. Ask for directions in the tiny town of Meadow; the springs are just west on unmarked roads, and stay nearby in Fillmore.

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2. Kolob Canyons, New Harmony

Large cannon in the desert.
Source: Flickr/Andrew K. Smith

Many visitors to Utah stop into Zion National Park, but many miss out on Kolob Canyons, which lies in the northern section of the park. In this lightly trafficked area, you can hike through a forested canyon past historic settler’s cabins and hear your voice bounce off of the cave walls in the Double Arch Alcove. This section of Zion is open year-round, but snowstorms occasionally cause road closures. A short drive away, Cedar City offers multiple vacation rentals; St. George is also close by.

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3. Snow Canyon Lava Tubes, Ivins

Lava tubes in a park
Source: Flickr/mark byzewski

Tucked into the hills near vacation rentals in popular St. George is Snow Canyon State Park. Above ground, you can climb on petrified sand dunes, see writing from historic settlers, and climb around red-rock cliffs. The real secret is underground – beneath piles of black lava rock on the surface, huge lava tubes twist and turn through the earth. Bring a headlamp and sturdy shoes, as many of the tubes require climbing. You can explore the caves any time of year, but be aware of slippery conditions during the rare snowfall.

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4. Goblin Valley State Park, Green River

Unique boulders in the desert.
Source: Flickr/Michael Jolley

If you can’t get enough of Utah’s red rocks, Goblin Valley State Park is a must-see. Here, twisting towers of rock form strangely shaped pillars called hoodoos; locals call these stubby rocks “goblins.” Wander through the rocks, climb the cliffs, and enjoy stunning hikes in near solitude at this park, which is open all year. Goblin Valley is isolated, but you can find vacation rentals in Green River or Hanksville.

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5. Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument, Monticello

Panel of petroglyph
Source: Flickr/David Smith

Hundreds of ancient petroglyphs spread across a 200-foot rock at Newspaper Rock State Historical Monument. With Native American art dating back more than 2,000 years, this collection is one of the largest and most exciting in the United States. Best of all, you can enjoy the site in Utah’s lovely wilderness – you can stand beneath the rock in the same place that the original artists stood in centuries past. The best place to stay locally is in Moab, about an hour north.

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6. Edge of the Cedars State Park, Blanding

A stone wall in the desert.
Source: Facebook/Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum

Explore an Anasazi kiva building at Edge of the Cedars State Park in the remote southeastern corner of Utah. The park sprawls across the desert and canyons that were once home to ancient tribes of Native Americans. Today, you can see restored ruins of an Anasazi community and check out a huge collection of Ancestral Puebloan pottery and relics – many of which were preserved from communities in the surrounding area. Book vacation homes in Blanding, Bluff, or Monticello.

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7. Homestead Crater, Midway

A crater made into a swimming hole.
Source: Homesteadresort.com/Homestead Resort

Less than an hour from Salt Lake City, one of Utah’s most unexpected hidden spots sits on the grounds of the Homestead Resort: the Homestead Crater. This underground cave, which is lit by sunlight streaming through a hole in the ceiling, is filled with geothermically heated natural spring water. Inside, you can soak in the warm water, snorkel, and even scuba dive into the depths. The crater is open to everyone year-round; you should call the resort to make a crater reservation in advance. Nearby, Midway and the Heber Valley offer plenty of mountain-view vacation rentals.

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8. Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, Spanish Fork

People painted for the Festival of Colors.
Source: Flickr/Steven Gerner

Utah is well known as a major center for the Mormon faith, but at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple, you can get a glimpse of the Hindu religious tradition. This sprawling structure, which is located in Spanish Fork, is open for tours year round. If you can, visit during the late spring Holi Festival of Colors, when visitors throw colored powder at each other in celebration of the changing seasons. The temple is easy to reach from Provo, Salt Lake City, or Park City.

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9. Metaphor: The Tree of Utah, Wendover

A sculpture in the middle of he desert.
Source: Flickr/Ken Lund

As you’re driving west on Interstate 80 toward Wendover, look to your right; emerging from the flat desert is an enormous, cartoon-like tree sculpture called Metaphor: The Tree of Utah. This unusual sculpture was created in the 1980s, and is visible for miles in any direction. It’s a great spot to check out on the way to the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats. If you want to stay nearby, look for rentals in Wendover.

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10. Hole N’ The Rock, Moab

A cliff with writing
Source: Facebook/Hole N’ The Rock

Take a break from climbing around Moab’s arches and canyons for a visit to Hole N’ The Rock, an unusual house carved directly into a cliff. Built by Albert Christensen in the 1940s, the former residence is now a fascinating museum. Don’t miss the bathtub that’s hollowed out of a large piece of rock. This fun attraction takes less than an hour to explore, and it’s easy to find from vacation rentals in Moab. The house is open all year, seven days a week.

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