Utah is an adventure travelers dream. The state is made up of sprawling red deserts, giant lakes, national forests, and scenery that looks like it belongs on another planet. It’s no wonder that many visitors, both domestic and international, list Utah as one of the must-see destinations for those who love the outdoors.
Utah’s highlights include the winter wonderland of Park City, the geological wonders of Moab, the Bryce Canyon National Park, the city of St. George, and the state’s capital, Salt Lake City. There is also the world-famous Zion National Park, where you’ll see steep red cliffs, a plethora of wildlife, waterfalls, and more. You can visit all the Mighty 5 National Parks, or just the few that strike your fancy.
Nestled between these incredible landscapes are friendly small towns that make the perfect base to truly get away from it all and gives a true taste of the great American West. Camp in the woods or stay at a five-star luxury retreat. Go alone or bring your entire family. Stay on the main path or head to the backcountry. No matter what type of travel style you’re into, you’ll love Utah.
Lets explore the best small towns to visit in Utah:
1. Green River
Simple, relaxed, and raw, Green River is a small town with less than 1,000 residents that offers a retreat away from any semblance of city life. Obviously, there is an incredible river that weaves through town, where explorers often raft through the Desolation and Gray Canyons.
Visitors can visit the John Wesley Powell Museum that exhibits pristine adventure boats that were once used to explore the waterways of the state, before the invention of today’s rubber rafts. Be sure to fuel up on melon – some of the best in the world – and grab a drink at Ray’s Tavern, a casual pub serving cold beer and classic American fare.
Kanab is a small town that’s a great base for exploring Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, or both! Around town, you can go hiking, rafting, camping, horseback riding, and even ATV riding. Like much of Utah, there’s no shortage of activities that require sturdy shoes and sunscreen.
Take a picture at the incredible red rock wave and visit the surreal coral-pink sand dunes that look like you’ve just stepped foot on a bubblegum moon.
There are a variety of accommodation options to choose from, most notably the Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort and the Arrowhead Country Inn.
Moab is the only small town in Utah where you can visit two of the five national parks within the state’s borders – but it’s more than just a home base. Moab is famous for its incredible red sandstone arch, in Arches National Park, a geological feat that took nature thousands of years to carve. It is also nearby Canyonlands National Park, where you can score panoramic views of surreal scenery.
If those parks aren’t enough, Moab is also right next to Dead Horse Point State Park and the La Sal Mountains.
The locals are passionate about their town and the land that surrounds it. Knowledgeable guides offer tours of all types around the area, including biking, rafting, hiking, canyoneering, and hot air balloon tours.
Heber is a small town with prime views of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, where you can step back to yesteryear and see the traditional way of life in the Wild Wild West. There is even an old steam locomotive that runs through the town along the Heber Valley Historic Railroad Line, where tourists can hop on and go for a ride. It’s a hands-on piece of history that is well preserved and likely to still be around for generations to come.
After exploring the town center (with a thriving country music community), you can go skiing, swimming, and lakeside relaxing at the Deer Creek Reservoir.
And like many of Utah’s small towns, Heber makes a great base for seeing other natural sites like the Wasatch Mountains with Mount Timpanogos and Soldier Hollow, as well as Jordanelle.
This small town, located in near the Wasatch State Park is committed to living the mountain life in peace. Every year, the town puts on Swiss Days, a celebration that pays a tribute to its European counterpart.
Water lovers can even go for a snorkel or scuba dive in the Homestead Crater, a cone-shaped crater with water temperatures that reach up to 96 degrees Fahrenheit! And even if you don’t want to get wet, you can walk around the crater on a tour.
In the winter, Midway makes a great snow-adventure destination thanks to its proximity to Park City Ski Resorts and spacious fields for snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and tubing.
Fillmore holds the title of being Utah’s first capital. The original Statehouse building is the oldest government property in Utah and has been turned into a museum. Today, Fillmore is well known for being a historic town that prides itself in preserving old architecture and offering outstanding hospitality.
Fillmore makes the perfect stop for visitors driving along the I-15 freeway, where you can get out and explore the town center, go trout fishing, and rent ATVs to explore the nearby trails. If you visit in June, there is even an annual festival dedicated to ATV riding!
Step into Panguitch and you might feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. And who can blame you? With Western-themed architecture and a laid-back feel, most of Panguitch’s main road is featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Apparently, the town was settled by pioneers who had to pursue through knee-deep snow in the middle of winter in search of food. Their endurance saved the settlement and every year the town celebrates a Quilt Walk Festival – because the pioneers wrapped themselves in thick quilts to survive the cold.
The name of Panguitch translates to big fish in the local Native American language – and big fish there are aplenty. Head to the Paragonah Reservoir, Panguitch Lake, Panguitch Creek, or Asay Creek where the fish populations are healthy and thriving.
Tiny but mighty, this small town knows how to have an adventure. The town was settled in 1868 and has been a hub for outdoor sports ever since. You can go biking, boating, ATV riding, camping, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, paintballing, river tubing, water skiing, wagon riding, and snow skiing as soon as the snow starts to fall. You can also stop by Devil’s Slide, an incredible rock chute that looks like it was built for the devil himself.
If you’ve spent too much time in the sun, you can also go ten-pin bowling, shopping, and dining.
9. Mt. Pleasant
With a name like Mt. Pleasant, can you really expect it to be anything but? This small town of just under 3,500 people but has a variety of interesting things to do within its small space. Most of the buildings, especially along the main street, have been preserved to reflect the pioneer era and are even listed on the National Historic Register. The LDS Tabernacle is also an incredible feat of architecture and one of the town’s main highlights.
There is also the Fairview Museum of History and Art, a museum with relics and artwork that tell the interesting stories of the region’s past.
For wine aficionados, Mt. Pleasant even has its own winery, where you can sample wine paired with cheese every Saturday.
Kamas, a quiet small town with less than 2,000 residents is the perfect stopover for those wanting to explore the Uinta Mountain Range. The town itself has wide open spaces and a population of friendly locals happy to help outfit you for any mountain or outdoor explorations.
While in Kamas, be sure to check out the Provo River Falls and drive along the Mirror Lake 56-mile byway.
There is also a local art shop called Artique, where you can pick up handcrafted souvenirs for your friends back home. For western-style dining, grab a bite at the Mirror Lake Diner, the Gateway Grill or try some house-smoked jerkey at the Samak Smoke House.
11. Garden City / Bear Lake
With less than 600 residents, Garden City is not just a small town but a tiny one, located on the shores of Bear Lake. Bear Lake with its strangely bright blue water and surrounding rolling hills is a hidden treasure. Here, visitors can sail, swim, water ski, hike to stunning viewpoints, bike ride, and explore the trails from atop the wheels of an ATV.
In the winter, Garden City offers snowmobiling fields, a ski area, and plenty of trails to snowshoe along.
Veyo in Utah is synonymous with pies – delicious ones, in fact. Foodies (and well, travelers in general) would be foolish not to stop in Veyo at Veyo Pies and try one of its world-famous pies. With flavors like strawberry rhubarb, sour cream and lemon, peach, coconut cream, blackberry, banana cream, and much, much more. They’re so good, many Utahans from neighboring cities make a regular pilgrimage to pick up these pies.
If you’ve eaten a few bites too many, you can undo the damage at the local pool or at Crawdad Canyon, a rock climbing park. Visitors can even spend the night in Crawdad Canyon, a protected resort where you can cook, climb, and camp.
With a proximity near rock formations that resemble castles, dinosaur sites (including bones and footprints), ancient Native American petroglyph artwork, Nine Mile Canyon, and much more, Price is the perfect one-stop destination for travelers interested in history and nature.
For the full experience, stop at the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum, the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, the Healing Arts Center, and ride along Luke’s Trail. There is also the Museum of the San Rafael Swell, which features plant life and native artifacts collected throughout the region. For an even more in depth look into how Price was settled, there is also the Pioneer Museum.
14. Park City
Park City is the heart of Utah’s winter wonderland with incredible mountains, world-class ski resorts, and year-round events. Skiers and snowboarders can expect fresh powder nearly all season long and will love exploring the slope’s mix of groomed runs, parks, and backcountry trails.
Don’t pass Park City just because it’s summer. This town offers hiking, hot air balloon tours, spa retreats, and more once the weather warms up.
Being a world-famous resort small town, you can expect incredible dining options, massage spas, and luxury accommodation – a nice change from the camping and rustic type of hospitality that is so common throughout the rest of the state.
Springtown is the gateway to Zion National Park, a must-see destination for any visitor coming through Utah. This town takes pride in its many celebrations and events, some of which include creating giant Jell-O sculptures, an Elvis Extravaganza, art displays, and so much more.
Rumor has it that visitors often pass through Springdale to visit Zion National Park, but end up staying forever. Perhaps the strong sense of community, beautiful surroundings, many events, outdoor views, and the history has something to do with it?