Ranked number 2 for the amount of public land and coined the “land of many uses,” Utah boasts some of the most unique and spectacular scenery in the nation. If you are planning a trip to the deserts and canyons of southern Utah, you may have already heard a lot about places like Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. If you are interested in discovering some lesser-known, but no less incredible sites for exploration, check out these 5 exciting and captivating locations near Zion.

sand hollow state park

Sand Hollow State Park Reservoir

In Southern Utah, the high temperatures can sometimes make it difficult to spend time outdoors. However, Sand Hollow State Park provides a picturesque reservoir within Zion National Park, making it a fun and refreshing destination to beat the heat. Right outside of Hurricane, this reservoir is conveniently located and can be enjoyed for as little or as long as you would like. Here you can find red sand beaches, cool waters, and intriguing rock formations that are fun to climb on or jump off. The reservoir is also open to boating with a rental company within the park. You can choose from all sorts of things like pontoon boats, seadoos, ski boats, paddle boards, kayaks, or even ATV rentals to explore the surrounding landscape more. The Dive Shack at Sand Hollow provides options for snorkeling and scuba diving in the water to explore under the surface. Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day tanning and participating in water activities in a beautiful location. However, be aware that there is a small fee for visiting as it is a Utah State Park. You can pay the $20 fee per vehicle ($15 for Utah residents) or buy a State Park pass for $125 if you would like to visit more than once or see any of the other surrounding State Parks.

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coral pink sand dunes state park

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes are a cool and unique natural phenomenon between Apple Valley and Kanab. This is a great spot to stop and enjoy on the way to Kanab as it doesn’t have to take much time, but it is definitely worth checking out. The sand dunes stand out from others in landlocked areas due to their distinct reddish-pink hue. This color is a result of the unique landscape, the wind, and the erosion of the surrounding rock formations. The area is quite extensive and can be fun to frolic across, or you can walk up and sled down. Enjoy the summer alternative to snow sledding or snowboarding by riding down the dunes. You can bring your own gear or rent stand-up boards and sit-down sleds on the premises to get a little adrenaline in. There are multiple ways to have fun exploring the dunes. You can either opt for an ATV tour or go solo riding on an ATV. If you don’t want to get sandy, you can also enjoy the scenic views from the visitors center’s porch.

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water canyon

Water Canyon has a feeling similar to Zion but with fewer crowds. It is named because of the stream running through the canyon, causing interesting landscapes and formations, and a couple of waterfalls as well. Located outside of Hildale, it is only a short drive from Apple Valley or Hurricane. It is great for a hot day if you want to have easy access to some refreshing water to dip in. A moderate hike, about a mile up the canyon, is the first waterfall that comes with spectacular views behind you of the canyon opening up. After this major area, you can continue up the canyon and hike to the top if you should choose, but it gets more difficult and unstable as you continue on, so this may not be the best option if you are traveling with young children or are less confident in your hiking abilities. Along the hike, you will encounter serene pools, slot canyons, cascades, and more. The trail itself can be hard to follow at some points, so the best advice is to follow the river and have fun hopping over rocks. Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet.

snow canyon state park

Another cool and captivating State Park near Hurricane and St George, Snow Canyon boasts shows of tiered and wavelike rock formations with a cool collage of red, orange, white, and even black rocks. With over 7,400 acres, you can explore the lava flows and sandstone cliffs by foot, bike, or horseback on this extensive trail system. Easy to difficult trails are available for whatever kind of adventure you may be feeling up for. No matter how daring you are, it can be fun to scramble and scamper over the ancient Navajo sandstone and petrified sand dunes for views and maybe even wildlife sightings. Driving along the Snow Canyon Road is also a fast and easy way to see all the sights and views there are to offer. A much quieter alternative to some of the more famous attractions, you could definitely spend many hours here getting lost among the rocks and cliffs of Snow Canyon.

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buckskin gulch

Slot canyons are a bucket list item for many people visiting Zion National Park. As you navigate through the narrow passageways of the winding canyon floor, you’ll be treated to sights of undulating walls and fascinating formations. For an accessible but endless and unique experience, look no further than Buckskin Gulch. Located past Kanab, it is a bit of a longer drive to get here, but the experience is worth it if you’re up for it. With 16 miles worth of slot canyon to explore, it is easy to check this incredible type of desert feature off your list with however much time you want to spend in the narrow walls of the canyon. The best way to experience this slot is to park at Wire Pass trailhead and walk just over a mile and a half following a wash until the canyon begins. With pools of water and patches of mud throughout the canyon, it can be easy to get dirty here, so feel free to walk as much or as little as you want. Buckskin is also special for the petroglyphs that appear along the cave walls. However, if you are to venture here, it is very important to be mindful of the weather, as even a little bit of rain can cause flash floods that can be dangerous in the enclosed space of the slot canyon. Buckskin Gulch is a spectacular slot canyon with a lot to offer that is definitely worth a trip on your next adventure to Southern Utah.

All in all, it is hard to go wrong in whatever adventure you may choose for the day in Southern Utah. However, it can start to feel too crowded if you only stick to the major tourist destinations, and it can be hard to know where to start when interested in looking deeper into the landscape. Hopefully, this short guide can give you a good reference if you are interested in finding some prime locations for adventure in a land of never-ending opportunities.

smithsonian retreat

zion, utah

Explore Southern Utah, Lake Powell, and the Grand Canyon from our Smithsonian Retreat. Enjoy stunning views of Zion National Park and take day trips to majestic sites or relax in the giant playroom and private tennis court. Easy access to federal lands makes our backyard your playground.