So first time coming to Utah, eh? Congratulations and welcome. Expect beautiful landscapes, nice people, and a lot of surface area. Between mountains and deserts, snow, and sun, Utah has so much to offer that it can be overwhelming. We’re here to help you figure out the what, where, when, and why of your Utah vacation. Suss that out and everything else will fall into place.
A note about current conditions:
COVID-19 has disrupted travel plans across the world and Utah is no different. Most tourist destinations are still accessible — but with restrictions. State and national parks are currently open but some amenities (like bathrooms or campgrounds) may be closed. Bring your mask and check in with your destination for updated info.
What brings you to Utah?
Choosing what you want to do will help you decide when to visit. Pick one option, or all three. There are no wrong answers.
I want a relaxing/fun trip with my family.
Get a true vacation at a family-friendly resort
Glamp under the stars, no camping gear required
Check out under-the-radar spots like Deadhorse Point State Park and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park
Tour world-class museums and historic sites
I want to see famous sites with my own eyes.
Hike Angels Landing in Zion National Park
See Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
Watch the sunset at Monument Valley Tribal Park
Do everything on Utah.com’s top ten list
I want an adventure I’ll never forget.
Backpack the Uinta Mountains or Canyonlands National Park
Canyoneer Zion National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Mountain Bike in the Wasatch Mountains or Moab
Ski the Wasatch Mountains or Dixie National Forest
ATV the Paiute Trail System, Moab or Canyonlands
When are you coming?
There is no wrong time to visit Utah. You can find fun things to do at any time of year. But if you want to ski, then there is the right time to visit — winter. If you want to waterski, summer is your best bet. The optimal dates for your trip depend entirely on what you want to do.
Utah Climate and Weather
Utah’s weather motto? Change is good. Utah has a semi-arid climate and four-seasons. We get snow, sun, rain, and more sun. There are 10,000 feet of elevation between the lowest and highest points. Temperature and weather will vary with every change in elevation. Generally speaking, the northern half of the state has more high-alpine mountains, and the southern half of the state is mostly red-rock desert. And just to make a point: Bryce Canyon National Park is in southern Utah red-rock country, but is high-elevation and gets quite cold. Make sense?
SPRING: March, April, May
Great time to visit southern Utah before the scorching heat of summer. Hiking and backpacking are especially popular this time of year. Ski season is winding down with most resorts closed by May.
Pro tip: Weather can be unpredictable. Snow, rain, and sun are all possible on the same day. Bring a coat.
SUMMER: June, July, August
Warm to blazing hot with “monsoon” thunderstorms in the afternoon. Perfect time for water sports or heading to the mountains for wildflower season. Not great for hiking in the desert mid-day. Try canyoneering, paddling, and boating.
Pro tip: If you still want to hike the desert, go early in the morning and hang out in shade for the afternoon.
FALL: September, October, November
Cooler temperatures make for another great desert hiking season. By October, autumn has hit the mountains, and fall foliage is in full swing. Try fishing, mountain biking, and ATVing.
Pro tip: Weather can be unpredictable. By November, temperatures have dropped and snow is on the way.
WINTER: December, January, February
Primetime for world-famous skiing. Lots of snow in the mountains and a few skiffs in the desert. Great time to avoid the crowds in southern Utah. Try off-season desert hiking (just know it will be cold).
Pro tip: Unless you are taking the kids skiing, winter isn’t recommended for your family vay-cay.
How long is your trip?
The length of your trip will also determine what you can see and do. Luckily, we have done some of the work for you. Our itineraries are various lengths and cover destinations from across the state. We hope you can see everything your heart desires while you’re here. But we know how it is. If you only have one day, make it a great day. Go big then go home. Hike Angels Landing or one of the other destinations on our top ten list.
Utah isn’t like Disneyland where you have to pay an arm and a leg for a churro, but you should still prepare a budget. Restaurants and accommodations can be expensive near popular places. But we welcome everyone, no matter their economic status. Utah has a range of digs from luxury five-star resorts to free primitive campsites. And bargain hunters can find great deals. National parks offer fee-free days if you are willing to trade-off for the crowds.
The minute the idea to visit Utah pops in your head, start looking for lodging, campsites, and permits. We cannot emphasize this enough — book early. Permits for many popular hikes are on a lottery system and must be acquired months in advance. Whether it’s a hotel, guide service, or fancy restaurant, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress if you get your shiz together.
What you bring depends on your itinerary, but there are a few things you will want anywhere and any time of year in Utah.
● Sunscreen: Not to brag but we have a LOT of UV rays.
● Sunglasses: Not kidding. Always wear protection.
● Rain jacket: Be prepared for wack weather, especially in spring and fall.
● Water bottle: We have 1% humidity on a wet day. A different kind of thirst trap.
● Versatile shoes: You never know when you might end up on a hiking trail.
● Moisturizer: That's not snow in the mountains, it’s skin flakes.
● Daypack: You need something to carry your impractical (i.e. cool) shoes.
Camping and backpacking will require specialized gear. Check out our camping checklist and remember that most things can be rented from outfitters or provided by guides. You don’t have to bring your kayak with you on the plane unless you want the attention.
We’ll See You Soon!
We’re excited for you! Utah is the best. Just sayin’. We know you’ll have an adventure no matter what you choose to do. Our site is full of good info from native Utahns that know best. Feel free to browse, plan and book (early of course).