Utah Utopia: Perfect Spots to Watch a Sunrise or Sunset

Utah Utopia: Perfect Spots to Watch a Sunrise or Sunset

By Melinda Rhodes
May 18, 2022

As the blazing ball of gas and dust approached the horizon … 

No, this isn’t the opening scene of a dystopian novel or a doomsday sci-fi flick. It’s a daily occurrence — sunset. And like its a.m. counterpart known as sunrise, it's wonderful to watch. There really are no bad places to see twilight transitions in our six-sided state. But where exactly are the best places to watch the sunset or sunrise in Utah? Whether you’re a full-time resident or a part-time passerthrough, these spots are guaranteed to fill you with gratitude and happiness.

Vacation Destinations

Every getaway should start on a relaxing note. Yet stress and travel often go together in a less enjoyable fashion than ketchup in a mango smoothie. Delayed flights. Lost luggage. Long car rides. Don’t let travel woes set the tone for your Utah vacation. Instead, connect with your destination on a deeper level and let the sun's rays bathe you in tranquility. 

Snow Canyon Overlook | St. George

Locals know this is one of the best lookout spots in Utah, especially at sunrise or sunset. But you’re going to have to hike the 4.9-mile out-and-back trail to earn the sweeping view of Snow Canyon State Park. It’s worth every sandy, rocky step. Pack some gorp for showtime snacking and a headlamp for the before-dawn or after-dusk portion of the hike.

Dead Horse Point State Park | Moab

While everyone else flocks to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands to get an Insta-worthy shot of the sunrise, wake up and walk out of your tent/trailer/yurt for even more amazing views of Canyonlands. The national park can be seen from this mesa, as can the Colorado River some 2,000 feet below. Forget the square. Landscape mode won’t work either. You need a full-on panoramic pic to do this justice. Or better yet, ditch the camera altogether and simply savor the moment. Not staying in Dead Horse? Take the scenic drive in the evening, find a place to pull off the road (there are plenty of amazing lookout spots) and watch the sun slowly sink behind the crimson cliffs.

Red Canyon Overlook | Flaming Gorge

For a different perspective on sunset, pull up a rock at Red Canyon Overlook and sit with your sun to your back. Watch the Gorge change from bright to broody as the sun moves to meet the horizon, its reflection visible on the water below. Sunrise is pretty amazing here as well. 

Sunrise Yoga | Park City

Inhale energy. Exhale lethargy. Replace everything that drained you prior to this vacation with vitality as you move through your salutation sequence as the sky shows off its pastel palette. Book an early morning class through Eventful Yoga or do your own thing from the balcony of your vacation rental. If your morning mantra is more “namaste in bed,” you might instead consider a 9 a.m. Sun Up Hatha class from The Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge, held on the lawn during the summer months. Close enough, right?

Everyday Locations

Taking time to enjoy calming, inspiring moments at dawn or dusk while on vacation, free of daily obligations? That’s easy. But some of the best places to watch the sunset in Utah are just beyond the borders of a residential neighborhood. Samesies for sunrises. You can sneak in a sunset while waiting for your athletic progeny to get done with practice or plan an elaborate date and make a romantic evening out of it. You could even make a Monday morning ritual of waking up early to watch the sunrise to start your week off with the energy you need to make it to Friday.

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve | Layton

A 1.3-mile boardwalk winds around marshes and mudflats that hundreds of species of birds use for nesting and foraging. This habitat is a stunning place to watch the sunset while listening to the soothing soundtrack of birds and insects. A multistory tower along the boardwalk offers an elevated viewing experience.

Buffalo Point | Antelope Island

The signs on this 0.4-mile trail tout it as a great place to watch the sunset. The point offers 360-degree views, making it one of the best places to watch the sunrise in Utah as well. There are benches along the trail if you don’t want to make the short, steep climb to the rocky outlook. (Though if you do, you’ll be rewarded.) As with everything else in life, timing is everything here. Buffalo Point is more enjoyable in late fall or winter when the no-see-ums have vanished. The cool air just gives you an excuse to snuggle a little closer with that special someone.

Pine Hollow Trailhead | Alpine Loop

Alpenglow isn’t just for skiers. Make your way to the Pine Hollow trailhead early in the morning to watch the sunrise. It offers pink-tacular views of Mt. Timpanogos. If you’ve got time, hike or bike the 4.3-mile trail while you’re there. It’s beautiful any time of year, but summer brings yellow wildflowers into the meadow mix.

Hyrum State Park | Hyrum 

Is there a better sunset combo than a beach and water with a mountainous backdrop? Probably not. Pack a crudités platter, spread your picnic blanket on the sand and enjoy.  

Snowbird Resort | Little Cottonwood Canyon

Make a reservation at The Lodge Bistro — this one is for those who’d rather have their appetizers and entrees delivered to their table. The patio at this upscale-casual eatery is the perfect place to watch the sunset in the summer or winter. 

Bucket List Backdrops

Objects of divination aren’t necessary to achieve celestial alignment. All you need to do is mark your solar calendar and visit one of these human-made attractions designed to frame the sun perfectly two days a year: summer and winter solstice.

Nancy Holt Sun Tunnels | Great Basin Desert, Lake Bonneville Region

During daylight hours, this land art may look like nothing more than massive concrete cylinders plunked down in the desert. But when the artist created this installation in the 1970s, she precisely arranged them to encompass the sun as it set on the longest days of the year. It’s truly transcendent. The Sun Tunnels are located about 4 hours from Salt Lake City and there are no services within 45 minutes of the location. If you go, be sure to plan accordingly. Pack out what you pack in. 

Parowan Gap | Iron County

First, look at (but don’t touch!) the ancient petroglyphs here. Then make your way to the 10,000-year-old cairns on summer or winter solstice, when the rocky notch formed by wind seemingly embraces the sun as it sets. Already have plans on those days? Other cairns are positioned for equinox viewing in the spring and fall. But don’t you dare call these days for sunset second best. They are nothing short of spectacular.

Looking for more things to do in Utah? We’ve got plenty of ideas — from an urban wall crawl filled with larger-than-life murals to balloon festivals filled with (you guessed it!) hot air and hikes practically everywhere.