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Category: Utah

22 Things to do in Salt Lake City, Utah

I got a chance to spend four days in Salt Lake City in late 2018 and had a blast exploring all over this famous city. I was shocked by how…

I got a chance to spend four days in Salt Lake City in late 2018 and had a blast exploring all over this famous city. I was shocked by how many fun adventures there are to be had here, ranging from seeing the bison on Antelope Island to diving into the cities culinary scene. I put together my favorite spots in a video, and you can see the video and all of the recommendations below.

Video

Utah National History Museum

Utah National History Museum is located at the base of the hills on the east side of Salt Lake City. This attraction is great for the whole family featuring four floors of interactive exhibits. The most impressive is the large dinosaur exhibit they have in the middle of the museum. It is awe-inspiring and if you have never seen dinosaur bones in real like you will appreciate it. Don’t forget to go to the top floor where they have a patio with views of Salt Lake City.

Living Room Trail

While at the Utah Natural History Museum, consider taking a hike on the popular Living Room Trail. This short two-mile hike is no joke, with over 1,000 feet of elevation gain to get to the top. But once you are there, you are greeted with some amazing views of Salt Lake City and a bunch of makeshift pieces of furniture that make from the rocks and representing chairs and couches, giving the trail its living room name.

Utah State Capitol

Often called one of the most beautiful capitol buildings in the USA, it is easy to see why when you visit. When it is open, you can wonder the main floor, look up at the sprawling dome and see all of the marble-covered walls. I spent a good 30 minutes here as it was breathtaking. You can also see the senate and house of representatives meeting rooms if they are open as well. A great, free spot to check out in Salt Lake City.

Pioneer Museum

This museum is designed to preserve pioneer history and they have done just that with more pieces then I have ever seen in a museum. There are four floors filled with artifacts ranging from spectacles and dolls to old photos. It is a truly overwhelming place with days worth of things to see, especially if you are into the history. Do be sure to head to the basement though where they have a preserved two-headed lamb and a really unique old fire engine. it is a free spot to visit and worth checking out.

Temple Square

Regardless of your personal views on the religion, Temple Square is a great spot to explore in Salt Lake City. The large courtyard area is open to the public daily, and you can see the old historic buildings, the concert hall and the temple itself. The temple is massive, and the best views are from the east side, where there is a pool that has a perfect reflection of the temple in it.

Family History Museum

Next to Temple Square, the Family History Museum is something that people come from all over to explore. This area houses centuries of ancestry information, and if you sit with them and create an account for 20 minutes, you can walk around and see lots of information about your relatives and lineage.

City Creek Shopping Center

My last recommendation in this specific area of downtown is the City Creek Shopping Center. I am not a huge fan of malls myself, but this one is pretty cool with a beautiful indoor and outdoor walkway and lots of unique shops. Its great for photos as well as there is a creek that runs down the middle of some of the walking areas.

Cathedral of Madeline

Moving on from the downtown area, the Cathedral of Madeline is a roman catholic church that was built in 1909 and which is the only cathedral under the patronage of St. Mary Magdalene. It is a beautiful old building to check out, and if you are into architecture like this, then you should definitely check it out.

Gilgal Statue Park

Built by Thomas Battersby Child in the mid-1900s this small park houses a series of unusual symbolic statues, including one with Joseph Smith’s head on a Sphinx body. The park has 12 sculptures in it and over 70 engraved stones around the walkway. I like finding the more unusual spots like this when I travel, which is why it is on this list.

Victim of the Beast Gravesite

I told you that I like to explore unique spots and this gravestone in the Salt Lake City Cemetery is undoubtedly that. This headstone for Lilly Gray get tons of visitors every year because of its unique inscription which reads victim of the beast, 666. While not much is known about it, it has quickly become a popular spot for visitors and one that is always inquired about at the Utah Historical Society.

 Original KFC

Many people don’t know that Kentucky Fried Chicken actually started in Salt Lake City. This famous fast-food chain still maintains the original restaurant, and it is fun to visit. Outside there is a statue of both the founders and inside there are all sorts of pieces of history, including one of Coronel Sander’s suits. It is a quick stop but its fun to eat some chicken in this historic restaurant.

Leonardo Museum

The Leonardo Museum is my favorite museum in Salt Lake City. I appreciate when museums are interactive, and that is just what this spot is. They have new exhibits every few years, and when I went, the main one was on flight. There were all sorts of science experiments you could interact with about flight and a large plane which has a slide you could go down. Heading upstairs they had an exhibit on optical illusions and one on Legos which were both pretty cool as well.

Public Library

Across from that is my next recommendation for a quick stop, the public library. Sure, most people wouldn’t see a library as fun, but this one in Downtown Salt Lake City is beautiful. The library has floor to ceiling glass windows, a glass elevator and a large deck on top where you can read a book or just look out over the city from a high vantage point. Also, there is a large stairway that adds to the stunning architecture and connects you with the viewing deck. Just a unique spot to check out in the city.

Tracy Aviary

Located in the popular Liberty Park, this 8-acre aviary houses over 130 different types of birds and was opened in 1938. You can spend a few hours here just walking around and checking out all of the different species, which range from eagles to condors. Many of the exhibits are interactive as well with you being able to enter into an enclosed area and see the birds fly around you. Fun for the whole family, but I even enjoyed it without kids as well.

My last three recommendations leave Downtown Salt Lake City, and the first is This is the Place Heritage Park.

This is the Place Heritage Park

On the east side of Salt Lake City, this park has a large monument that was designed to commemorate where Brigham Young first saw Salt Lake Valley and where he decided it would be there home. There is a large heritage village here as well which has many houses designed to look like what the original city would have looked like. there are animals to interact with here, volunteers that will tell you about the time and even a train that takes you around the park if you don’t want to walk. On the way out, also stop and see the National Pony Express Monument as well.

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons are popular winter destinations for skiing and snowboarding, but during the summer they become excellent hiking spots and great areas for scenic drives. I recommend going during the fall if you can, as you can drive through all of the fall colors and it is a truly memorable experience. If you have a full day, then stop at the many trail heads and head out on a hike up to one of the lakes.

Antelope Island

My last recommendation before talking about food is Antelope Island. This is probably my favorite spot in Salt Lake City as it is beautiful with tons of hiking trails, great views of the lake itself and lots of bison. The bison freely roam the area, and while you don’t always see them, often they will literally be wandering along the road only 15 feet from where the cars drive. It is a super cool spot to spend a few hours at. Be sure to also hike up to Buffalo Point as well which is a short half mile and has impressive views of the surrounding area.

Red Iguana

Now to jump into food, my first recommendation is Red Iguana. Red Iguana is the most popular spot in the city if you look at places like Yelp and TripAdvisor and this restaurant is almost always busy because of it. They make some excellent Mexican food with a focus on mole and really good salsa, so it is an easy recommendation. If you go to the second location, be sure to check out the massive iguana outside.

 Eva’s Bakery

This bakery in Downtown Salt Lake City has a fun french vibe from the outside and makes terrific pastries. I like going here for a quick breakfast while in town since they have good coffee and all sorts of amazing food items to choose. They have a small sit down restaurant in the back as well.

Caputos

Caputo’s market and deli is an excellent lunch spot in Salt Lake City. They make some fantastic sandwiches, with my favorite being the Caputo, and the large area is always filled with people. Also, they have a fish market, cheese cave for all their specialty cheeses and a chocolate bar, it’s like a small foodies paradise.

Avenue’s Proper / Hatch Chocolate

With the gastropub type vibe and their own beers brewed on site, Avenue’s Proper is a popular SLC establishment. I have been many times, yet I find myself always going back tot he chicken and waffles. The chicken sausage they use for these is fantastic the thyme-infused maple syrup takes them over the top. Also, they share a building with Hatch Chocolates a family run candy maker, and you know that nothing goes better with chicken and waffles then some good chocolate.

Oh Mai

Oh Mai sandwich kitchen is probably my favorite spot in Salt Lake City. I already love the banh mi sandwiches, but this spot does the best ones I have ever had. My wife loves them too cause their vegetarian banh mi is fantastic. Its hard to beat a meal this food for 6-7 bucks.

So there you have it, my recommendations for places to visit in Salt Lake City, be sure to leave your favorite spots in the comments.

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Canyon Overlook Trail at Sunrise: Zion National Park

Over the winter I got the opportunity to spend a few days in Zion National Park, you can read all about the parks best attractions here. During that time I…

Over the winter I got the opportunity to spend a few days in Zion National Park, you can read all about the parks best attractions here. During that time I was determined to find the best spot for sunrise and after a few attempts I finally went to Canyon Overlook Trail, which is clearly my favorite spot for sunrise in the park. Here is all the details so you can see / photograph it yourself.

Overlook Trail Sunrise-9

Details

  • 1 mile round trip
  • 200 feet elevation gain

Getting There

Overlook Trail Sunrise-1

From Springdale I would recommend leaving about an hour before sunrise. It takes 20 minutes to drive to the spot and another 20 to hike to the viewpoint, plus you want to make sure you are there early enough set up. After driving up and out of the East entrance to Zion National Park you will pass a long tunnel, immediately after the tunnel there is a small parking lot on the right where you will park for the hike.

The Hike

Overlook Trail Sunrise-2

From the parking lot you will cross the street and then immediately head up a series of steps. Be sure to bring traction devices if you do this in the snow or ice.

Overlook Trail Sunrise-3

The trail flattens out and the hugs a cliff side for the next .15 miles. This area has a decent drop but there is a guard rail beside you for most of the way.

Overlook Trail Sunrise-4

The trail then heads across a platform that was built into the rock wall itself and that allows you to pass what would normally have been a sketchy area.

Overlook Trail Sunrise-5

It then heads under the rock before continuing up some more stairs.

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From here the trail is mostly over and it just heads straight over a flat path until it drops you at the observation point.

Canyon Overlook

Overlook Trail Sunrise-8

The payoff for how easy this hike is immense. The views of the canyon itself and the road you took to get up are stunning.

Overlook Trail Sunrise-7

When you see the first light come over the hill behind you and hit the mountains in front of you it will take your breath away. Here is what it looks like about 45 minutes after first light too.

Overlook Trail Sunrise-10

It was incredibly windy and cold when I went so it wasn’t great for waiting around but I had a lot of fun and saw only 4-5 other people the entire time.

Overlook Trail Sunrise-11

If you are looking for a great spot for sunrise or just a fun hike in general then check out the Overlook Trail. 

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Delicate Arch at Sunrise: Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is probably one of the most well-known attractions in any park in the United States. I would put it up there near Half Dome and Devils Tower as…

Delicate Arch is probably one of the most well-known attractions in any park in the United States. I would put it up there near Half Dome and Devils Tower as one of those spots everyone has seen, even if they don’t know where they saw it at. I got a chance to check it out myself and I have to say it should be on everyone’s bucket list as it is even more amazing in person. That being said it can be busy and I would recommend visiting at sunrise to miss the rush. I sat at the arch with 15 other people on a busy 4th of July weekend and on the way down after sunrise I passed 150 people coming up the trail. Here is all the info if you want to do what I did.

delicate arch sunrise-1

Details

  • Need to get to the trailhead about 45 minutes before sunrise as it is a 1.5 mile hike with 500 feet of elevation
  • Small parking lot so early is better to get parking
  • Bring a headlamp

Sunset is the popular time at this attraction and it is easy to see why, the colors dance all over the arch. Sunrise is not as majestic, but you have fewer people so it can be more relaxing to experience, especially if you are not a professional photographer.

Delicate Arch-1

I was staying at the Motel 6 in Moab so I checked Google Maps the night before and realized it would take about 45 minutes to get to the arch parking lot in the morning. Knowing that it was a 1.5 mile uphill climb I left about an hour and a half before sunrise. I was in the parking lot walking towards the arch in the pre dawn light. It was a full moon so I didn’t need a headlamp but you should bring one just in case.

Delicate Arch-2

The hike to the arch this early in the morning is not too memorable as you are just trying to get to the destination. It does head over single track most of the way, then you are just walking up a large sandstone slab towards the end, be sure to follow the cairns in this section.

Delicate Arch-3

Once at the top of this hill you will proceed through small trees and brush till you reach a small slab of trail that hugs the side of a mountain.

Delicate Arch-4

From here do not forget to make it up to frame arch, which is a perfect spot to view Delicate from as it is framed within the arch. It requires a small scramble but you can see it from the trail.

Delicate Arch-6

After this you will proceed around the last bend and see the first view of Delicate Arch. This view will probably take your breath away as it is awe-inspiring. 

Delicate Arch-7

In the predawn light the arch is beautiful as it is still fully shaded. As the sun goes up it will slowly light the arch up from the top down. I stayed for the entire lighting process and just sat at its feet taking it all in. 

Delicate Arch-9

Many people came and went during this time but there was never more the 15 people at the arch with us, it was fantastic. 

Delicate Arch-10

After that we proceeded down the hill and like I said, passed over 150 people, including two tour buses full of tourists. I cannot stress more how amazing it is to be here for sunrise and even though the light is not as good as sunset fantastic, the experience of fewer people at this famous spot is not to be missed. 

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Mesa Arch at Sunrise: Canyonlands National Park

If you are reading this, then you probably know how insanely popular Mesa Arch is as a sunrise spot. This is for good reason, as it is one of the…

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How to Explore Zion National Park in the Winter

Zion National Park is pretty much perfect in the winter time, the views are spectacular, you can drive yourself without the shuttle and there is 10% of the normal amount…

Zion National Park is pretty much perfect in the winter time, the views are spectacular, you can drive yourself without the shuttle and there is 10% of the normal amount of people. I got an opportunity to spend three days in the park last winter and here are my recommendations for what you should do and where you should go for photography.

Zion National Park Sign-1

Details

  • $20 for park entrance but I recommend just buying a year pass for all National Parks for $80

The Stops / Parking Areas

Watchman

watchman-1

This area is where the visitors center is and where the short loop to see the Watchmen mountains are. It is a good winter hike and if you are feeling hungry or thirsty there is a brew pub / restaurant here as well.

Museum

Zion National Park Winter-7

From this stop you can visit the museum and see the famous Alter of Sacrifice Mountain. This mountain really is crazy to see as it does look like there is blood that has stained the rocks.

Canyon Junction

Zion National Park Winter-8

The parking here can be difficult as this is a really popular area for photographing the sunset in the park. The main view is on the bridge looking back at the Watchman but you can see a lot of the other mountains around too. I would recommend coming here for sunset if you are a photographer.

Court of the Patriarchs

Zion National Park Winter-1

This quick stop has a few hikes, but during the winter it is just a great place to get out and take some pictures. The mountains that ascend on both sides of you and the river that flows through the middle provide a perfect backdrop for beautiful photos.

Zion Lodge

Kayenta Trail-8

This is a great place to stay as it is the only place you can stay in the park. It is also the stop for the incredibly popular Emerald Pools Trail. The Lower Emerald Pools can be closed in the winter though so if it is then go up one more stop to the Grotto where you can hike the Kayenta Trail and reach the pools where they are not closed.

The Grotto

Kayenta Trail-3

This is the most popular parking area in Zion during the winter and because of that it can be hard to find a spot. This is the trailhead you will leave from if you choose to hike Angels Landing. I would honestly recommend that you don’t do this in the winter if you are not prepared though as it is really sketchy, I did it in the summer and it was sketchy enough without snow and ice on the ground. The Kayenta Trail though is a fantastic trail that I highly recommend in the winter, it has beautiful views and takes you to the Emerald Pools. Read more about it here.

Weeping Rock

Zion National Park Winter-2

This short hike is a nice, easy winter hike. It will take you up to the famous rock that drips water like it is crying. This is also the trailhead for the Observation Point hike which is popular but can be hard in the winter.

Big Bend

Zion National Park Winter-4

This stop is mostly for photographs as there are only a few places to park, but it really does make you feel like you are in a canyon and the views are stunning.

Temple of Sinawava

Riverside Walk-1

As the last stop in the park this is a good place to take the easy river walk trail. It will take you all the way to end of the Narrows Trail which is a fantastic spot in hike in the summer and provides a lot of beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

Overlook Trail

Overlook Trail Sunrise-7

If you want a nice easy way to see a spectacular view then the Overlook Trail, which is above the park, is a good choice. From here you can see the Zion Canyon itself and get a taste of the snow since it is higher in elevation.

Where to See the Sunrise

Overlook Trail Sunrise-10

Overlook Canyon Trail that I wrote about above is the best place in the park for sunrise, mostly due to the incredible payoff and view for the ease of access. The view with the sun rising behind you and warming up the canyon in front of you is something you will not soon forget and an amazing place for photography.

Where to See the Sunset

There are so many good spots for sunset, but for me I prefer the bridge near Canyon Junction as it has a great composition with the river running below you and Watchman in the distance. There are also a bunch of other mountains that you can see around you as well.

Where to Stay

Lodge-1

There is a lodge in the park, but I like the Driftwood Lodge in town. The rooms here are massive with a living area and a large patio. Plus, the views are great and the price is as well during the winter.

Where to Eat

Zion National Park Winter-6

You won’t find all of the traditional chain companies here which is a plus, so here are my recommendations for food and coffee.

Coffee

For coffee the main spot in the area is Deep Creek Coffee Company. It’s in a small little building but the coffee is great.

Breakfast

For breakfast I really like Oscar’s. They have a unique menu with fun things like M&M pancakes and Corn Flake Crusted French Toast. Oscars is one of the most popular spots for all meals in the area though so it could be a wait.

Lunch

For lunch it is hard to beat Brew Pub, one because it is the closest meal to the park, which you will surely be in the middle of exploring and two because they make their own beer on the property. Also, the location / view is hard to beat. You can always grab food at the market and take it into the park with you if you prefer though.

Dinner

For dinner I like to keep it simple so I usually grab a pizza at Flying Monkey. The pizza has a Neapolitan style with light cheese and a lot of sauce. I like the crust a lot as well since the pizza is cooked in a wood fire oven. Also, you can go to Oscar’s which I wrote about above and which has really good Mexican / American food for dinner.

So there you have it, my recommendation for how to spend some time in the park. Let me know what I left off in the comments.

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Mossy Cave in Bryce Canyon National Park

Often overlooked in Bryce Canyon National Park, Mossy Cave is East of the main entrance, but it is a great little hike to a very unique cave, especially in the…

Often overlooked in Bryce Canyon National Park, Mossy Cave is East of the main entrance, but it is a great little hike to a very unique cave, especially in the winter. The cave has a series of hanging icicles that makes it like something you would expect to see in Alaska, not in Utah. Here is all the info:

Mossy Cave-10

Details

  • .8 miles round trip
  • 200 feet of elevation
  • Not a lot of parking and trailhead and no sign from the road

Getting There

After heading out of Bryce you will turn right on Highway 12 and from there proceed 4 miles till you reach the base of the hill you are going down. You will see the parking area on the right, do not that this area can jump out at you as there are no signs from the road but if you are generally watching for four miles then you will see it.

Mossy Cave-2

After parking there is a small pit toilet and the trial heads out from behind it. I went during the winter and since it is not a very popular area we had to pretty much make the trail ourselves.

Mossy Cave-3

The trail heads up over a small hill and you can see a few tiny rock arches in the distance. From there it crosses a bridge and then hugs the river until it crosses a second bridge.

Mossy Cave-4

From here it heads up a series of short switchbacks and at the top of the switchbacks you can go left to the cave or right to the waterfall, both are close so go to both.

Mossy Cave-5

The Waterfall

Mossy Cave-9

Since it was in the winter and there was no trail blazed, I am not sure if this trail went longer or not but we walked about 50 feet and saw a small waterfall flowing. In the distance though was a snow waterfall which was more impressive as you can see above.

The Cave

Mossy Cave-6

After leaving the waterfall you will head up the other part of the path to the cave. About 300 feet from the split you will reach the platform that you view the cave from.

Mossy Cave-7

During the winter this cave is amazing as it has water that flows from inside of it and the water freezes so that it forms a bunch of icicles hanging in the cave.

Mossy Cave-8

I had never seen a cave like this before and it reminded me of something you would see in Alaska or something, it was really cool.  After that you will just head back down the way you came, completing the almost one full mile.

Mossy Cave-11

I recommend checking out this area in the park if you go as it is a nice little hike with an awesome winter payoff. You can read about my time at Bryce Canyon here if you are interested as well.

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