6 Hidden Gems Located in Utah You Didn’t Know About

Anyone who’s been to Utah knows about The Mighty 5. The Mighty 5 refers to the 5 National Parks in Utah that are relatively close to one another including: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion. Of course these are some of the must dos and sees while in Utah, but if you want to beat the crowd in the summer months, I suggest spending some time outside of the touristy spots in order to be able to appreciate the true nature of Utah has to offer.

My Hand vs. a Dinosaur Print. A set of dinosaur prints overlapping one another.
Dinosaur print middle toe broken off.

6. Parowan: A little town just 20 miles outside of Cedar City is Parowan. While many people may drive through this area, thinking that there isn’t much to see here, there are a couple interesting spots that is worth stopping for. Along the Parowan Gap Road just pass the Little Salt Lake, is a pull out where you can spot dinosaur prints. Park in the designated area, and take a short walk down the dirt path. You’ll see signs with little dinosaur prints on it, that’s how you know where to look, and which rock to look at. It’s quite upsetting that this hidden treasure was destroyed by some inconsiderate people who could potentially ruin it for the rest of us. The BLM can potentially block this area off not allowing access to this amazing historical place. Any one caught vandalizing will be punished to the fullest extent. Just a little down further, you will find a parking area on the right hand side. This area is full of history, with petroglyghs all along the side of the rock through the narrow section they called “The Narrows.” On the left side of the street, look for a small cave that is blocked off by a fence, mainly due to vandalism, you’ll find even more petroglyphs along this side of the rock wall. Once you’ve taken a walk around the loop, continue driving down the Gap Road. Continuing along this road will allow you to see the back side of the lush green hills. Make sure to look behind you for the most magnificent views.

5.) Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park: In the middle of nowhere, near Kanab, is a little place call Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Getting there from Colorado City will require a drive along a dirt road. Do not attempt this route during the rain. Even SUV’s and trucks made for off-roading get stuck during the rain. Coral Pink Sand Dunes is an ATV rider’s dream. This place is also a great place for families and hikers alike. Once you enter Coral Pink Sand Dunes, park at the first parking lot you see on the left. Driving further will only lead you to a camp site, and eventually you will need to circle back out. Take the short walk to the outlook, if you’re more adventurous, take a hike to the pike of one of the sand dunes. Be aware of dirt bikes and ATV riders. Stay on the ridge line of the peak, to ensure that riders can spot you. There are areas that are marked with flags that you must avoid. Typically flags are used to mark a good spot for jumping, so stay clear of them. If the dirt road is a little too risque for you, take the nicely paved road long Highway 43 instead.

Hiking up the sand is actually extremely strenuous
Highway 43 – The Road Less Traveled

4. Dixie National Forest: Brianhead, Cedar Breaks, and Duck Creek are all a part of the Dixie National Forest.What makes this drive so beautiful is all the diversity in elevation, scenery, and terrain. At Brianhead, head up the slopes during the winter or grab a mountain bike in the summer. During the summer months, we would bring our bikes and head up to Brianhead Peak. We would pay for a shuttle to take us to the peak of the mountain, and we would ride downhill all the way down to Panguitch Lake. This is one bike ride you’ll never forget. If you’re lucky, along the way to and from Brianhead, you may be able to spot a field of wildflowers.

Driving through Cedar Breaks
Colors of Cedar Breaks
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Field of Wildflowers in Brianhead

3. Marysvale: Most people have probably never heard of Marysvale, UT, and if they had, they probably only drove through it, not knowing what Marysvale has to offer. We spend a couple days exploring the area. The 2 main attractions here are the Paiute ATV Trail and the Sevier River Rafting. You can start your tour at the Big Rock Candy Mountain Resort. We rented a 4-seater RZR and took the 5-hour tour discovering the trail system in the Paiute ATV Trail. From riding through rivers to rocky mountain terrains, this trail is definitely a must. We wouldn’t recommend taking the trail on your own. It’s easy to lost with all the branching trails.

ATV Through Marysvale.
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River rafting in the Sevier River

2. Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument: Between Page and Kanab, is a hidden gem called The Wave. This is a 6 mile hike and permits to hike the wave is mandatory. If you plan on hiking to the wave, make sure to plan months in advanced. I’ve heard from a few individuals that they have applied for permits for 2 years and was unsuccessful. I, on the other hand, was able to get it on my first try. Oh and did I mention that only 20 permits are issued per day. This is why the chances of you winning the lotto for the permits are extremely slim. Let me start off by telling you how I was able to get this on my first try. Not only do I think that this is not a “lotto” but I don’t think that this it was a coincident that I got the permit on my first try. In my personal opinion, I think it’s based on first come first serve. If you go to the website and apply for it on the first day of the month for 3 months in advanced, than you will notice some dates are more popular than other dates. It will tell you how many people applied for each day. You are allowed to pick 3 dates. If the one you picked has more than 20 people applying, don’t bother. More than likely you won’t get it. Try picking dates that have less than 20 people applying, and I can guarantee that you will get your first pick. Once you’ve been approved for a permit, the park services will send you detailed instructions on how to get here. Because there is no marked trail, navigating might a bit difficult, even with the picture instructions the park provides. Expect to get to the trailhead early. The best time to shoot The Wave is around midday when the sun is directly above The Wave. Too early or too late, will cast a harsh light and shadow. Be prepared and bring plenty of water. There is minimal shading throughout the hike and temperatures can get scorching hot in the summer months, and cold in the winter months. Rmemeber, this is the desert. Weather can be unpredictable. If it rains, avoid driving down the dirt road altogether. You WILL get stuck, 4-wheel drive or not. Bring plenty of sunscreen, water, and a packed lunch. Expect to take at least 4-6 hours, taking into consideration of getting lost, and back tracking. If you don’t have any navigating skills, do your research, and bring a GPS. With only 20 permits issued a day, it is very slim that you will encounter other hikers until you’ve reached The Wave itself.

To avoid the harsh shadows – get here by midday.
I’ve never seen anyone shot this angle of The Wave before. This is my husband standing on The Wave. One of my favorite shots.

1. Subway: The Subway is a hike located on the backside of Zion, where you can hike through a lava tube. Similar to The Wave, a permit is required to hike The Subway. Instead of 20 permits though, you have a better chance with getting a Subway permit, as Zion allows 80 permits a day. I have applied for and successfully gotten 3 permits on my first 3 tries. Again, I honestly think that this is not a lotto system, but instead first come first served. During the government shut down a couple years back in 2013, I received an email saying that I had gotten awarded the Subway Permit. Which was a bit strange considering the entire government was shut down and everything was closed. None of the National Parks were open, and yet I still received an email granting me access to a closed park. Of Course, I ended up not going, in case the road was blocked with no access to the trail head, but if you just follow what I tell you – by applying on the 1st of the month 3 months prior to your departure, I am sure you’ll be granted a permit. The trail head for the subway is called Left Fork Trail Head. When applying on the Zion website, make sure to click on that one. There are 2 ways of getting there. First is the easier route, taking the bottom down and back out the same way. This is what majority of the people do – when they do not have rappelling experience. This still requires some navigating skills, but at a minimal. The second way is taking the top down and shuttle back to the car. This route is for the more advanced hiker. Navigational skills is a must. Rappelling down the canyon is required. Please do not attempt this without the proper gear and equipment. Having the proper gear is the difference between life and death. Get details on: How To Ge to The Subway in Zion from Left Fork Trail.

My favorite shot of my husband at The Subway
After swimming through ice cold frigid waters, we were shivering at this point. My #1 tip is: Bring wetsuits!

2 thoughts on “6 Hidden Gems Located in Utah You Didn’t Know About

  1. I’ve been to Utah many times, but not to any of the places you’ve listed. Do you have any tips as to hw to navaigate the Subway from the bottom down. I was to risk it and try without a permit. what are your thoughts?

  2. Hey There,I found your blog using bing. This is a very well written. I grew up in Utah and had never heard of half these places. didn’t know that the parawon gap existed with the dinosuar tracks. I will have to make a day trip there since I like in Salt Lake. so cool…

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