Everyone has a must-see, must-do travel list. Those places, destinations, landmarks or events that just have to be visited and experienced at least once in a lifetime. Or perhaps 10 times.

With its myriad naturally stunning landscapes, cultural uniqueness and diverse recreational opportunities, it’s no wonder Utah destinations appear on many of these types of lists.

In no particular order, here is our list of top Utah getaway destinations.

(Sources: Deseret News archives, Utah.com, other travel sites)

Escalante area: Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase, Boulder Mountain

Among the endless scenic options available in this region, Bryce Canyon stands out in a class by itself, a giant natural amphitheater of ancient hoodoos created by continual erosion.

If not staying at Ruby’s Inn (Bryce’s landmark lodge), the regional towns of Torrey, Boulder, Escalante and Panguitch are great base destinations for camping, hiking, exploring and other activities.

Area highlights:

  • Waterpocket Fold
  • Golden Throne
  • Peak-A-Boo and Spooky Gulch slot canyons
  • Kodachrome Basin
  • Anasazi State Park Museum
  • Red Canyon

Cache Valley area: Bear Lake, Logan Canyon, waterways

Northern Utah’s Cache Valley is an endearing collection of rural communities with Utah State University and the city of Logan at its hub. Historically rich with cultural and artistic distinctions, the destination offers countless services and recreational activities.

Area highlights:

  • Bear Lake
  • American West Heritage Center
  • LDS Tabernacle
  • Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre
  • Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
  • Beaver Mountain Ski Resort
  • Hyrum State Park
  • Blacksmith Fork River
  • Hardware Ranch (winter only)

Cedar City area: Utah Shakespearean Festival, Cedar Breaks

Cedar City is home to the Utah Shakespearean Festival, held each summer, attracting tourists and visitors from around the country to be entertained by this world-class thespian event. At nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument, recreational activities include sightseeing, photography, hiking and camping.

Area highlights:

  • Parowan Gap Petroglyphs
  • Three Peaks Recreation Area
  • Brian Head resort
  • Dixie National Forest
  • Frontier Homestead State Park Museum
  • Southern Utah University

Moab area: Arches, Canyonlands, Colorado River

Slickrock, red rock and the most recognizable natural sandstone arch in the world can be found in this part of Utah, often described as the “mecca” of all things recreational. Moab earns its distinction of being Utah’s adventure capital with fine dining and lodging, bike and rental shops on every corner and a great local population.

Area highlights:

  • Delicate Arch
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Wall Street rock climbing
  • Fisher Towers
  • White Rim trail
  • Newspaper Rock
  • Gemini Bridges, Porcupine Rim, Slickrock, Klondike Bluffs ...
  • Annual Jeep Safari
  • San Rafael Swell
  • Manti-La Sal Nat’l Forest
  • Goblin Valley

Central Utah area: Little Sahara, Skyline Drive, waterways

One of the most popular Central Utah destinations is for folks who just need to play in a really big sandbox: the Little Sahara Recreation Area. For those who want to play in this region with less sand in their feet, bodies of water further south near Loa (Fish Lake) and Antimony (Otter Creek) will get your fish on.

Area highlights:

  • Sand Mountain, Little Sahara
  • 275-mile long Paiute ATV Trail
  • Fremont Indian State Park Museum
  • Palisade State Park
  • Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge
  • Yuba State Park
  • Topaz Mountain
  • Huntington State Park
  • Cove Fort

Davis County: Lagoon, Antelope Island

While many Utahns love a trip to Disneyland, a long-held tradition for countless Beehive State families is the amusement park playground of Lagoon in Farmington, 15 minutes north of downtown Salt Lake City. Lagoon adds new rides nearly annually, to go along with family-oriented talent showcases and other attractions. Camping is available at the park. But suburban Davis County is not just about carnival rides; among its rich natural beauties are Antelope Island State Park and the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve.

Area highlights:

  • Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area
  • Cherry Hill Resort & Waterpark
  • Hill Aerospace Museum
  • S&S Shortline Railroad Park and Museum

Kanab area: Grand Canyon North Rim, Monument Valley

Just 90 minutes from the border town of Kanab lies the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which forms the edge of the Kaibab Plateau. Access is via Highway 67, through a conifer forest and past scenic Jacob Lake.

Kanab — known as “Little Hollywood” due to hundreds of Westerns filmed in the area — offers visitors an unparalleled Old West experience. And Monument Valley has been the setting for more Westerns than any other site in the country. Unique sandstone formations, the Navajo Indian Nation and the Four Corners Monument define this vast, open desert region. 

Area highlights:

  • Buckskin Gulch and The Wave
  • Historic Kanab City
  • Hovenweep National Monument
  • Cedar Mesa
  • Paria Canyon Wilderness Area

Ogden area: Weber and Ogden Canyons, waterways

This northern Utah area is a center for skiing and adventure sports. Ogden is the gateway to Snowbasin, Powder Mountain and Wolf Mountain ski resorts. Historically, Ogden was a major player in the development of the Transcontinental Railroad. It is home to Weber State University and a diverse economic base of businesses as well as a thriving arts and cultural society.

Area highlights:

  • Pineview Reservoir
  • Ogden River Parkway
  • Historic 25th Street
  • Ben Lomond Peak
  • Quartzite cliffs, foothills
  • Bonneville Shoreline Trail
  • Ogden, Weber Rivers
  • Perry’s Egyptian Theater
  • Eden/Huntsville
  • Salomon Center
  • Fort Buenaventura

Park City resorts, Heber Valley

A premier national venue for world-class ski and summer resorts, Park City is also home to the annual Sundance Film Festival and first-class restaurants and lodging. Park City’s performing arts and entertainment options are superb, showcasing the best in jazz, classical and other genres. Add a thriving art scene, shopping and appealing nearby towns like Oakley and Midway to the local population, and by many standards, the Park City area is a perfect destination.

Area highlights:

  • Alpine rides
  • Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons Resort
  • Mirror Lake Highway, Kamas
  • Guardsman Pass
  • Park City’s Main Street & Historic District
  • Kimball Art Center
  • Park City International Music Festival
  • Utah’s Olympic Park
  • Jordanelle State Park
  • Strawberry Reservoir

Lake Powell, Glen Canyon

Lake Powell is the second largest reservoir in North America at almost 200 miles long with nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline. Hundreds of side canyons, slots, inlets and coves sheltering American Indian ruins and natural wonders make Lake Powell a paradise for houseboating, photography and general exploring. Powell offers some of the nation’s finest fishing for striped, smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, catfish, crappie and northern pike. Other recreational activities include boating, water skiing, wake boarding, scuba diving and swimming.

Area highlights:

  • Rainbow Bridge National Monument
  • Glen Canyon Dam and Visitor Center
  • Antelope Canyon
  • Escalante Arm
  • Kayaking slot canyons
  • Padre Bay
  • White Canyon
  • Hole in the Rock
  • Lees Ferry

Box Elder County: Golden Spike National Historic Site, Willard Bay

Northern Utah’s Box Elder County bore witness to one of the most important accomplishments of the 19th century when on May 10, 1869, officials of the Central Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad met to drive four symbolic spikes (two gold), celebrating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

For travelers looking for a more aquatic experience in the region the warm waters of Willard Bay are perfect. Camping is available, and during winter months Willard is a wildlife watching area for nesting eagles.

Area highlights:

  • Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge
  • Transcontinental Railroad Back Country Byway
  • Historical towns of Lucin, Grouse Creek and Locomotive Springs
  • ATK Thiokol’s Promontory plant

Salt Lake Valley: Temple Square, Salt Lake area canyons, Great Salt Lake

As the Crossroads of the West, Salt Lake City is the gateway to the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” with Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude attracting skiers and snowboarders from around the globe.

Historic Temple Square comprises three downtown city blocks containing nearly 20 attractions related to Mormon pioneer history and genealogy, including the Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle and the Family History Library.

A truly four-season region, activities such as hiking, camping, rock climbing and mountain biking are popular in the mountains, as many small reservoirs and rivers in the Wasatch Mountains are popular for boating, fishing, and other activities. The valley also offers professional sporting events, lively nightlife, fine dining and dozens of entertainment venues.

Area highlights:

  • 2002 Winter Olympics venues
  • Cathedral of the Madeleine
  • Salt Lake historic sites
  • Bonneville Salt Flats
  • Red Butte Gardens Arboretum
  • Miller Motorsports Park
  • This Is the Place Heritage Park
  • Kennecott (Bingham) Copper Mine
  • Salt Lake County Equestrian Center
  • University of Utah

Vernal area: Flaming Gorge, Green River, Uinta Mountains, Book Cliffs

Eastern Utah’s Vernal and the Uinta Basin are known for high adventure and even higher mountain ranges. Flaming Gorge Reservoir offers spectacular outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, camping, biking and hiking. Vernal hosts festivals and rodeo celebrations as well as live local music. Throughout the winter months, Vernal teems with snow great for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

Area highlights:

  • Ashley National Forest
  • Dinosaur National Monument (reopens Fall 2011)
  • Ouray National Wildlife Refuge
  • Kings Peak
  • Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge
  • Lodore Canyon
  • Utah Field House of Natural History Museum
  • Dowd Mountain
  • Desolation Canyon
  • Sheep Creek/Spirit Lake
  • Dry Fork Canyon Rock Art

Utah Valley: American Fork, Payson and Provo Canyons, waterways

Sundance Resort, Utah Lake and Mount Nebo are featured getaways for the state’s centrally located suburban communities of Utah Valley. Bound on the east by Mount Timpanogos and on the west by 139-square mile Utah Lake, the area is a state favorite for outdoor recreation. Hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, golfing and water sports of all kinds rule in the summer climate; while hunting, snowmobiling, ice climbing and skiing satisfy the adventurous during the colder months of the year.

Area highlights:

  • Provo River
  • Bridal Veil Falls
  • Springville Museum of Art
  • Nebo Loop
  • Deer Creek Reservoir
  • Thanksgiving Point
  • Spanish Fork Canyon
  • Alpine Loop
  • Pony Express National Historic Trail (west of Utah Lake)
  • Brigham Young University
  • Utah Valley University

St. George area: Zion National Park, Snow Canyon, waterways

”Utah’s Dixie” is well known for at least three things: sunshine; outstanding golf courses; and, simply, Zion, one of the most stunning national parks in the United States. Zion is known for its incomparable canyons, including The Narrows, which attract canyoneers from around the world. Nearly 3 million people visit Zion each year, and the scenic and recreational possibilities are as limitless as the experiences afforded. The city of St. George is a mix of old town charm with modern accessibilities, great dining, shopping and entertainment options. And Las Vegas is only a mere 2-hour drive away.

Area highlights:

  • Angels Landing, Zion
  • Kolob Terrace, The Subway
  • Virgin River
  • Coral Pink Sand Dunes
  • Tuacahn Amphitheatre and Center for the Arts
  • Sand Hollow State Park
  • Pine Valley Mountains
  • Quail Creek
  • Snow Canyon
  • Dixie State College