If the spread of COVID-19 has you staying as far away from strangers as possible, it might seem like your only option is to hunker down at home.
But Springdale, Utah’s major, Stan Smith doesn’t think so. In fact, this week, he said that he fully expected those canceled reservations from European and Asian tourists would quickly be replaced with bookings by native Utahns, or residents of other nearby states.
With plenty of fresh air and open space, Southern Utah and its national parks aren’t a bad place to ride out the wave of this latest outbreak, just so long as your practice some healthy habits.
If you want even more seclusion than you’ll find in popular parks like Zion, keep reading to learn 5 other scenic spots to enjoy in Southern Utah.
1. Monument Valley
Located on the border between Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley is a part of the Navajo Tribal Park, within the 16 million-acre Navajo Reservation. Just over a four-hour drive from Springdale, this destination is as massive as it is incredible. The park’s towering buttes and rock formations have featured in a number of films over the last century. Plus, the very structure of the park itself lends itself to enjoying it in solitude.
The Scenic Drive is Monument Valley’s main attraction. A one-way 17-mile self-driving tour, the dirt road takes you past the park’s most iconic features. While there are plenty of pullouts along the way for snapping photos, there aren’t many hiking trails that you are allowed to take without a guide along. But the stunning sights more than make up for it.
2. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
If you’re looking for a way to get away without driving quite so far from Springdale, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a great choice. While it may not have the distinction of a national park, the monument’s rock formations and stunning landscapes rival those of Zion and Bryce Canyon.
Here you’ll find arches, forests, waterfalls, hills, canyons, and more. But unlike the state’s national parks, this lesser-known destination sees far fewer visitors each year. Covering more than 1.9 million acres, you’ll have no trouble finding a hiking trail that you’ll have all to yourself.
3. Cedar Breaks National Monument
Another example of a national monument that could easily pass for a national park is Cedar Breaks. With similar rock formations to the iconic ones found at Bryce Canyon National Park, the amphitheater here is smaller but no less majestic.
Located 10,000 feet above sea level, Cedar Breaks National Monument sees its share of snow all winter long. While the monument remains open all year, the scenic drive through the park, Highway 148, closes in the winter and reopens in late May or early June, through mid-November most years.
When the roads are clear, head for Rim Drive. Here you’ll find several shorter hikes with great views of the canyon.
4. Snow Canyon State Park
This popular state park a short distance from the entrance to Zion National Park will see plenty of visitors come summer. But this early in the year, while it’s still a bit too cold to enjoy the park’s large lake, crowds are thin. In Snow Canyon State Park, you’ll find hiking, climbing, horseback riding trails, and more, all set beneath towering sandstone cliffs.
Located adjacent to Snow Canyon is a massive piece of federally protected land where off-roading is the main attraction. With large expanses of sand dunes, rocky surfaces, grasslands, and more, you’ll find every type of landscape to test your skills or enjoy a thrilling ride. Even during the busy season, the size of the preserve means that you’ll have plenty of room to yourself. Bring your own off-road vehicle, rent one from one of the many local rentals, or, better yet, join in a tour for a once-in-a-lifetime ride!
5. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Another popular destination for off-roading is Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Thousands of years of eroding sandstone cliffs lead to the formation of this incredible set of sand dunes. Depending on the time of day and the light, the dunes change from a deep red to a light pink color. If you don’t want to ride an ATV or UTV, you can also enjoy the dunes with hiking or sledding.
Escaping the Crowds in Southern Utah
If you’re looking for a place that offers seclusion and open space to enjoy, any of these 5 destinations is sure to be a hit.
Of course, you also still have some time left to enjoy Southern Utah’s winter activities. Check out this list to learn a few ways to enjoy the snow before it’s gone.