Have some free time this weekend? Or any weekend in the near future? You could binge-watch your favorite show. Or — hear us out — you could put down the remote and experience the ever-streaming scenery in a state park. Utah is lousy with ‘em. Drive a few hours in any direction and you’re bound to run into one. Or six. And most of the lodging near Utah state parks has amenities aplenty, including cable TV so you don’t go into total withdrawal on your weekend getaway.
With wind-shaped mountains of dawn-tinted sand spread across 3,700 acres, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park looks like it could be on another planet. But there are no bounty hunters or baby Yodas here. Upwards of 1,200 acres of open riding area make this is the perfect place to bring your dune buggies, UTVs, ATVs and other toys — even in the winter. The high temps average from 45-57 degrees November through March, while summer highs remain in the 80s. While you’re there, rent some sandboards or sleds and shred the salmon-colored slopes. Then head back to a spacious room in the pet-friendly Comfort Suites Kanab and hop in the shower to get those grains out of … well, you know.
Explore the area where the fearsome tyrannosaurus and other behemoths once roamed.
Vernal, Utah, is a small(ish) but scenic town that boasts a coupla state parks and a museum:
Even if it’s too cold to swim in or paddle on the reservoir in the parks, you can still go hiking, fishing or birding, and, of course, marvel at hundreds of Red Fleet dinosaur tracks preserved in the rock for 200 million years or so. You can also check out the Fremont Indian artifacts and dinosaur skeletons at the museum before resting your weary bones at the Quality Inn on Highway 40 — an affordable hotel where free breakfast isn’t extinct.
You won’t find a black glove or a blue dress in Snow Canyon State Park. But you will discover Navajo sandstone formations in more shades of orange and red than a certain president’s face that combine to create six distinct climbing areas — including the popular Island in the Sky section — with multi-pitch sport routes and trad climbs. Before your calluses give way to nasty flappers, check out other areas by foot. Those approach shoes work like wonders on the Petrified Dunes Trail. Johnson Canyon is also one of the best hikes in Snow Canyon. It has black lava flows, a natural spring and a red-rock arch near the end. Not a fan of van life? Enjoy the AC in a king suite at the St. George Clarion Suites during the summer months when the mercury rises well into the 90s (and sometimes over 100) or jump in the heated outdoor pool/spa during the milder winter months.
Choice Hotels is one of the oldest hotel chains in the country and has several properties located near state parks in Utah to fit different budgets and travel needs. Search all of its accommodations here.