11 Of The Best Weekend Getaways In Southern Utah

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This post is a little different than I normally do just because it’s more aimed at people living in Utah or nearby where a weekend getaway in Southern Utah is easily done.

Of course, you can still use this to help plan a Utah road trip by combining or mixing and matching for slightly longer time periods, this is basically for a two day Utah road trip.

If you’re just doing a weekend trip in Utah, it will be best to stick to one town and stay close to make the most of your time there. This is all for southern Utah but a Utah ski road trip would make another great weekend getaway.

I included a good mix of desert and mountains with plenty of things to do that aren’t just the national park, though those are all included, too.

It leans more toward outdoor activities (like usual here) but will occasionally have something else thrown in that’s artsy or historic. I’ll try to keep it to the best things to do in each of these places instead of just listing everything.

Some of these will be pretty hiking heavy and may have up to eight miles of hiking in one day. Obviously, you don’t have to do all of it, but I’m trying to pack the days full of adventure.

All hike distance will be included and are all round-trip. I would also start the days pretty early to take advantage of daylight.

I’ll keep recommendations general (not time-of-year specific) but will also include the best time of year for each of these Utah weekend trips. I will be assuming that you will have all of Saturday available and at least half of Sunday (or whatever days you choose, so 1.5 days for activities.)

All of the hotels are places I’ve stayed or would stay in the future. I’ll keep the activities limited to 1.5 days but you can find alternatives to all of these and other things to switch in and out in my three day Utah road trip post.

lower pine creek waterfall zion

National Park Pass + Other National Park Deals

Utah travel guides

Moab

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Moab is an outdoor lovers paradise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times. It’s an incredible place. It’s home to two national parks, a state park, amazing adventure activities, tons of rock art, and so much more.

Whether you want to explore by foot or some kind of vehicle, there is so much to do. You can hike, rent UTVs, mountain bike, or go rafting, climbing, or canyoneering.

It really has everything: mountains, desert, river, you name it. Plus it has a cute downtown with great food and local shops. They even have a food truck park! This is a great Utah weekend trip because you can see so much in a pretty small area, which is ideal for limited time.

Best time to go

I would say fall, winter, or spring if you want to do a lot of hiking. Just know spring can be windy. I would pick fall or winter. If you’re visiting Arches between April 3 and October 3, you will need a timed entry permit.

Moab hotels

Things to do

Full day: Hike to Mesa Arch ( 0.7 miles) in Canyonlands at sunrise (this can also be moved to sunset, it’s less busy then), drive the scenic drive and stop at overlooks, hike to the White Rim Overlook (1.8 miles), and hike the Murphy Point Trail (3.4 miles).

End the day (or start it, then go to Canyonlands) with a hike to Corona Arch (2.4 miles) down Potash Road. Stop to see the dinosaur track and petroglyphs on your way there.

Half day: Head into Arches National Park and hike to Delicate Arch (3.2 miles) for sunrise, do the short hike to Sand Dune and Broken Arches (2 miles for both), hike to Landscape Arch, Pine Tree Arch, and Tunnel Arch at Devils Garden (about 2.5 miles for all three), then head back out the scenic drive stopping at the overlooks, The Windows area, Double Arch, and Park Avenue before hitting the road.

Moab tours

Arches National Park reservations

As of April 1, 2022, you now need a timed entry permit reservation from April 3 to October 3. You need this to enter the park between 6AM and 6PM. Your reservation allows entry in a two hour window. You can go in and out before and after that as the park is open 24/7.

Arches was facing serious overcrowding in the summer and were having to close the entrance by 10AM pretty frequently because parking would fill up. This new system is to help combat that.

The permit is $2 and you will also need to pay the park entrance fee when you get to the park. You can pay the fee or get the national park pass which covers all NPS site entry fees (but not camping, tours, parking, etc.)

If you can’t get a permit in advance, some are set aside for the next day (so April 2 entry permits would be available the evening of April 1). If you can’t get that either, your options are to skip it or enter the park before 6AM or after 6PM.

If you have a camping reservation, a Fiery Furnace permit, or a backcountry permit you do not need a timed entry permit. You also do not need the permit from October 4-April 2. You can find all the details here.

Springdale

Canyon overlook trail zion national park

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Because it’s the entrance to the incredible Zion National Park! You can pack a weekend full of great hikes in here whether you want to tackle the classics, do something a little less-known, or even join a canyoneering tour.

This is a particularly great Utah weekend getaway because you can easily spend days in Zion without having to drive all that far. Plus, it’s Zion. I mean, look at it! No matter how many times you go, it’s still great.

Best time to go

I would say winter because it’s not as busy, 100%. It’s also way better hiking weather and you don’t have to worry about the shuttle or Angels Landing permits. Winter can be snowy and icy, so just be prepared for that.

If winter doesn’t work, spring and fall are great too and still a little less busy than summer. If you want to do some cool hikes in water, summer would be great but it is very busy and you need Angels Landing permits.

Springdale hotels

Zion national park east side

Things to do

Full day: If you can get a permit, hike Angels Landing (4.4 miles) in the morning and then hike the Narrows (as much as you want) in the afternoon. It will be a long day but it’s two of the best hikes in the park and they’re must-do’s.

If you can’t get a permit, then I would switch the Kayenta Trail to the Emerald Pools (2.4 miles) and Canyon Overlook trail (1 mile) in for Angels Landing.

Half day: Now for the half day, start out early on the Lower Pine Creek Waterfall trail (0.7 miles) and finish up on the Watchman Trail (3.1 miles). I would also recommend driving all the way to the east entrance just to see that side of the park, maybe first thing this day.

Zion tours

Boulder

Anasazi museum state park boulder utah

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Because you can cool off in a cute little mountain town with incredible food! It’s hard to beat that. This will be more of a driving and relaxing focused Utah weekend trip but it’s still amazing.

I love Boulder and think it’s the perfect place to escape the desert heat that’s fairly centrally located in Utah, which is always nice.

Best time to go

I think the seasons I would go, in order, would be summer, fall, spring, winter. Its almost always windy here, at least in the summer so that will make it colder. In fall, you can see the leaves changing in the Dixie National Forest.

Spring will also be cool and windy but opening up again. And a lot is closed in the winter or has very limited hours so I would stick to the desert in winter.

Hells backbone drive boulder mountain

Boulder hotels

Things to do

Full day: I would definitely spend this day driving the whole Burr Trail. This is my favorite scenic drive in Utah and one end of it is in Boulder! It takes about 2.5 hours each way and you can hike along the way.

In Capitol Reef, you can hike Headquarters Canyon (2.2 miles) and Surprise Canyon (2.2 miles). Closer to Bullfrog, you can hike the Pedestal Alley trail (2.8 miles.)

Half day: Relax wherever you’re staying and head to the Anasazi State Park Museum to learn about the Native history of the area. Finish off with lunch at Burr Trail Grill or Hell’s Backbone Grill.

Kanab

Toadstool Trail kanab utah

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Like Moab, Kanab is an outdoor lovers paradise, but with a little less variety in activities on offer. It’s great for hiking though, so if you want a hiking getaway in Utah, Kanab is perfect.

It’s close to a few pretty impressive hikes and has plenty of options whether you want slot canyons, impressive sweeping landscapes, rock art, or weird features.

Best time to go

I would say fall, spring, winter, summer. It would, of course be super hot in the summer making hiking not super enjoyable but short hikes aren’t bad.

Fall is just the best because weather is perfect, crowds aren’t as bad, and it’s not usually as windy. Winter is the slowest and I love it but restaurants have weird hours and dirt road driving can be tough with snow.

Kanab hotels

Moqui caverns kanab utah

Things to do

Full day: Try for a permit to hike The Wave for the next day. Then head out to Belly of the Dragon (0.5 – 1.8 miles) and the Moqui Caverns (0.9 miles) and go over to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. On your way back into town, stop and do the short hike to the Kanab dinosaur tracks (0.7 miles.)

Half day: If you got a Wave permit, do that and head out first thing. If you didn’t, still head out to House Rock Valley Road and hike the Wire Pass slot canyon trail (3.7-5 miles if you go into Buckskin Gulch at all.) If you want one more short hike, Catstair Canyon (0.5 miles) is close to the turnoff and super short.

Kanab tours

Torrey

Capitol Reef apple orchard

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Because Capitol Reef is just the best. It’s my favorite Utah national park and a weekend in Torrey means not too much driving. Plus, they have the cutest bed and breakfast.

I think, aside from Moab and Springdale, this might be one of my favorite weekend getaways in Utah, generally just one of my favorite places to go in Utah. There are amazing hikes and delicious treats in the park and it’s hard to beat that.

Best time to go

Fall, winter, spring, summer. In the fall you can pick fruit in the orchards which is my favorite thing to do here. In the spring or early summer you might be able to see the orchards blooming.

Winter is great because it’s off-season. Summer is good if you want to hike Sulphur Creek, though. It does get hot here but it doesn’t seem quite as bad as other areas.

Hickman bridge capitol reef national park

Torrey hotels

Things to do

Full day: If you’re visiting in the summer, maybe fall, Sulphur Creek. If you’re not then head into the park on the scenic drive to Capitol Gorge (2.2 miles) at the end and hike to the Pioneer Register and the Tanks.

Then head back to the Gifford Store for cinnamon rolls, salsa, ice cream, and pie. From there, hike Cohab Canyon (3 miles.) Finally stop at the petroglyphs, Sunset Point, and Panorama Point.

Half day: Hike to Hickman Bridge (1.7 miles) and if you want to do another hike, the Cassidy Arch trail (3.1 miles) is perfect. And if you want, stop for more snacks at the Gifford Store.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley Utah

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Ok, I know Monument Valley is technically in Arizona but it’s practically in Utah so I’m counting it. Monument Valley is iconic southwest and would be perfect if you want a relaxing weekend away since there isn’t much hiking here.

Best time to go

I would say spring or fall because the weather is best. Summer will be hot but since most of it is in the car, that might not matter. Winter could be iffy but I still don’t think it would be bad. If it snows, the road might not be great since it’s dirt but I would just check before going.

Monument Valley hotels

Monument valley without a guide

Things to do

Full day: If you’re down for a tour, I would do the full day Monument Valley/ Mystery Valley tour below. Either that or the Hunts Mesa tour if you don’t mind an extremely long day.

But those are both places the average visitor doesn’t go since only tours can see them. If I were to go back, I would do one of these, for sure.

Half day: Hit the only trail in the park, the 3.9 mile Wildcat Trail. AllTrails says it’s moderate and I’m thinking it’s because it’s mostly in sand and only had 380 feet of elevation gain. This should just take a couple of hours, so enjoy the morning before getting out there, or hit the trail right away in the summer.

Monument Valley tours

Books to read before visiting the Four Corners area:

Blanding

House on fire ruins mule canyon

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Blanding (or Bluff if you want a town more pro-Bears Ears) is the gateway to Cedar Mesa. There are so many great outdoorsy things to do in Blanding, but you’ll have to pick and choose with just one weekend.

Best time to go

Fall, spring, winter, summer. Like almost everywhere else, summer will be super hot. Fall is my favorite time in this area, but in 2020 we were here for like, a week in the spring and it was great. Winter is best to avoid crowds but snow can make roads impassable.

Butler Wash Ruins Utah

Blanding hotels

Things to do

Full day: Ok, for the full day you’re going to be busy. I would get started early and go to the Butler Wash Ruin (0.8 miles) first thing. Then, head just a bit down Texas Flat Road and hike to the House on Fire Ruin (1.9 miles). These are two of my favorite short hikes in Utah!

You want to time it so you get to House on Fire, the actual ruin, one mile in a wash, between 10-11 AM so you get the best fire effect with the light.

Then, head down to Natural Bridges National Monument and hike to Sipapu Bridge (1.2 miles), Kachina Bridge (1.3 miles), and Owachomo Bridge (0.7 miles).

If you’re feeling really determined, you can hike to all three as an 8.2 mile loop but I would only do that if you don’t do Butler Wash or House on Fire. Of course, that just depends on how much you want to hike.

Half day: Then, for your half day, I would do the super short hike to Five Kiva Pueblo (0.6 miles) then head to Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum to get a close-up look at all kind of artifacts from the area.

Things to keep in mind when visiting rock art & ruins:

  • Do not touch the rock art (pictographs or petroglyphs) because the oils on our fingers can degrade them.
  • If you find artifacts, do not take them.  Leave them where they are and just take pictures.
  • If there are structures (rooms, kivas, anything like that) don’t enter them unless it is stated that you can.  Most places you can’t but national and state parks will have restored structures you can enter.  Mesa VerdeEdge of the Cedars, and Anasazi Museum all have ruins you can enter.
  • And finally, don’t carve in or write or paint or draw on the rocks!  I don’t want to have to say this, but I need to for real.

Hurricane

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Because you’re right between Zion and hiking around St. George! You can easily visit Zion and other places nearby like Snow Canyon or Sand Hollow without having to drive all the way from Springdale. It’s also just more affordable than Springdale.

Best time to go

Like most places, fall, spring, winter, summer. I would even almost put winter first since Zion isn’t as busy then, as long as you’re prepared for snow and ice. If not, then fall or spring. It’s pretty much all the same reasons as everywhere else though.

Snow Canyon state park Utah

Hurricane hotels

Things to do

Full day: I would spend this day in Zion but I would do other hikes today than I have listed in the full day in Springdale. This time, I would hike the Sand Bench Trail (5.6 miles), a great place to get away from some of the crowds.

Then I would do the Watchman Trail (3.1 miles) before enjoying dinner either in Springdale or at River Rock Roasters in La Verkin.

Half day: For the half day, I would head over to Snow Canyon State Park and hike either the Scout Cave Trail (4.4 miles) or the Lava Tube Trail (2.3 miles) and the Petrified Dunes Trail (1.2 miles).

The Butterfly, Lava Flow Overlook, West Canyon Road and Petrified Dunes Loop (2.8 miles) is another great option and a good way to combine some of these.

Escalante

lower calf creek falls escalante

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

I know I’ve said this at least twice in here, but because it’s Escalante! Ok, ok, because it’s an outdoor haven and easy to find places to yourself since it’s so huge. I think this is another one of my favorite Utah weekend trips.

Best time to go

Fall, spring, winter, summer, like most and for all of the same reasons. I would say winter and fall are my favorite here but winter can make roads impassable if it’s snowy. I was here for a few days in spring 2020 also and it was pretty perfect weather but it can get windy in spring.

100 hands pictograph escalante

Escalante hotels

Things to do

Full day: Most people would probably say spend the whole day hiking the Escalante slot canyons, and you could, but I’m going a different direction here because there are so many other great things to do in Escalante.

Instead, I would say start the day doing the short hike to the 100 Hands Pictograph (1 mile) then stay at that trailhead and hike the Escalante River Trail (6.1 miles). This is a lesser-hiked trail and both are great for seeing rock art.

Half day: I would spend your half-day doing the hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls (6 miles). This takes 2-3 hours and it’s a little tough because you’re walking in sand a lot of the way. It’s the perfect way to spend a few hours in the morning before heading out. Finish up with a coffee from Kiva Koffeehouse!

Green River

goblin valley utah

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

This one probably seems weird on the list because it’s Green River which is not the top of the list of Utah tourist hot spots, but it’s a great base for exploring the area whether you want to hike slot canyons or to see rock art, do off-roading or just regular hiking, there is so much around here.

Best time to go

Fall, spring, winter, summer with the same thing, that winter would be amazing because of less people, but snow could make roads impassable. I was here one spring though, and it was packed so that may happen since weather is usually so good then.

san rafael swell

Green River hotels

Things to do

Full day: For your full day, I would head over to Goblin Valley State park where you can do as much hiking as you want in the Valley of the Goblins. There aren’t really any trails in this part so you can go wherever.

Then, head over to Little Wild Horse slot canyon (8 miles) just a short drive from the park. If you don’t want to hike the full eight-mile loop with Bell Canyon, you can turn back after the narrows sections.

Half day: For the half-day, I think I would go with Moonshine Wash (6.4 miles), a non-technical slot canyon in Robbers Roost, not far from Green River. While you don’t need ropes for this hike, you will probably need some rock scrambling and stemming skills for this one.

san rafael swell utah

Slot canyon safety

Flash floods are a huge risk in slot canyons and people die from that far too often. In May 2020 a 7-year-old girl and her 3-year-old sister died in a flash flood in Little Wild Horse Canyon, a popular slot canyon in the San Rafael Swell. This isn’t even a super narrow canyon. And it’s popular. It can happen anywhere.

In 1997, 11 hikers died in a flash flood in Antelope Canyon (the storm was 15 miles away) and that’s a huge reason you need to go with a tour now.

In 2015, seven people canyoneering also died in a flash flood in Keyhole Canyon in Zion National Park. People have even died in flash floods in The Narrows in Zion!

Flash floods are no joke kids. I haven’t seen one in a slot canyon but I did see one right as it was starting in a more open canyon and it really picked up fast. I also saw one in Zion along the Mt. Carmel Highway this summer. It was small but they just happen so fast, please be safe.

  • DO NOT ENTER THEM IN THE RAIN
  • DO NOT ENTER THEM WITH RAIN IN THE FORECAST
  • DO NOT ENTER THEM IF IT’S NOT RAINING IN THEM BUT NEAR THEM TOO
  • If you don’t feel comfortable with any climb or narrow squeeze and can turn back, do that! You don’t want to get hurt or stuck and need to be rescued. I linked tons of stories of this below.
  • Make sure you’re following the right fork. A lot of slot canyons have multiple forks or are close to other ones and ending up in the wrong one can have dire consequences (especially in the North Wash area of Utah.)

Lake Powell

south lake powell

Why it’s the perfect weekend getaway in Utah

Finally, Lake Powell, specifically Bullfrog. This is the perfect weekend trip in Utah if you want to be on water and still do some hiking in a remote area.

Sure it can be busy in the summer but it’s still pretty easy to find places you can have to yourself, especially at north lake. It’s also just prettier at the north end of the lake (I’ll die on this hill).

Best time to go

If you want to swim, summer. If you want to totally avoid crowds and not swim, winter. For the best of both worlds, fall, though swimming can still be chilly. Spring can get really windy but it’s still good weather just not good for swimming.

lake powell

Lake Powell hotels

Things to do

Full day: Definitely rent a boat and spend the whole day out exploring. I would probably go north from Bullfrog and just go into all the canyons to see everything. This post will help you plan a Lake Powell vacation whether it’s just a weekend trip or a week long trip.

Hiking in them will depend on the water level, but with it so low right now (February 2022) it could be pretty muddy where the water ends. Smith Fork is a good one to hike. Forgotten Canyon is home to the Defiance House Ruins and you can see dinosaur tracks on the bottom of an overhang on Tapestry Wall!

Half day: For the half-day, enjoy breakfast with a view of the lake at the Anasazi Restaurant then head out and hike the Pedestal Alley Trail (2.8 miles) on Burr Trail.

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Have you been to any. of these places? What is your favorite Utah weekend getaway? Any you want to go to?

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