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5 fun (and budget-friendly) fall family destinations in Utah

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You know the last drops you can never drink from the bottom of a can? If you pinch the can flat in the middle and fold it back and forth a couple times, it’ll rip a small hole at the hinge. Turn the can sideways and suck that baby dry.

That’s both a helpful tip and a metaphor for fall break. Sure, school is back in session and summer is as gone as your can of caffeine-free Diet Coke, but that doesn’t mean you can’t crack it open and suck out the marrow. Here are five great options for a last-gasp adventure before homework and the weather really snow your family under.

1. The heart of adventure (Monticello)

Thomas Jefferson never bothered visiting Utah — maybe because it was barely known to him and a full 100 years from statehood? — so we stuck it to him by creating our own Monticello that’s even better than his.


Canyonlands National Park

Things to do

  • Canyonlands National Park — Access the Needles District and feel like Lewis & Clark, sent by TJ himself to explore the wild west.
  • Ancient History & Rock Art — Newspaper Rock and lots of other archeological sites.
  • Indian Creek Rock Climbing — Trad climbing routes worthy of big shiny awards.
  • Stargazing — Southeast Utah is one of the darkest places in the country.
  • ATV Safari — No lions or tigers, but you might see something scarier: scorpions.
  • Hideout Golf Course — Ranked #2 in the state. Jefferson would have loved golfing.
  • Hiking — Elk Ridge/Dark Canyon Wilderness has hikes for all difficulty levels.
  • Canyon Country Discovery Center — Hands-on experiments & experiences for all ages.

Where to stay

2. The North Country (Snowbasin and Powder Mountain)


Snowbasin in fall


It won’t be snowing quite yet, but cooler sweater temps are exactly what you’ve been waiting for to take your family vacationing in ski resort class. You’ve got bikes? Frisbees? Extreme hiking shoes? Kids ready to get out their pent-up energy from sitting in school all freakin’ day? Welcome to Snowbasin.

Things to do

  • Mountain Biking — Adorable little trails for teeny tiny riders all the way to gondola-served downhills of the motorcycle-helmet variety.
  • Hiking — Trails galore, and three trails that are reserved just for hikers.
  • Spider Jump — Seven dollars lets your kids go crazy for five minutes. You’ll be the coolest parent ever. For five minutes.
  • FREE Disc Golf — Coolness Extreme. You can rent a kit for $12.
  • Blues, Brews & BBQ — Concerts end Sept. 30.

Climbing Wall — Seven dollars lets you remind your kids you’re better than them. Hopefully.

Powder Mountain

This resort is smaller and more quiet than others, with 15 miles of hiking & biking trails and views into infinity. Bonus: on-site bike shop in case you never learned how to use a screwdriver or duct tape to repair your own gear.

Things to do

  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Fall safari — A guided 4-wheel drive on Powzilla or Ski Rex. See nature’s twilight season.

Where to stayStay in a cozy room or a cozy tent. Coziness is a fall break vacation priority. Huntsville and Eden are cozy little towns with condos, inns and hotels.

You can camp at Anderson Cove, South Arm Campground or South Fork Campground. Remember your fuzzy blankets, fuzzy sweaters, fuzzy hats and fuzzy socks because fall time is cool time. Campfires are the coziest because because they warm your heart, soul and, finally, your body.

3. Local woodsy lodge (Daniel’s Summit)


Daniel’s Summit Lodge

Lodges are the best. There’s something magical about walls and furniture made of logs. A measly 15 miles outside of Heber, Daniel’s Summit lets you check all those family-bonding boxes you put off all year.

Things to do

4. Desert Exploration (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument)


Golden Cathedral at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante is grander than the grandest staircase you ever saw. Because it’s bigger. Lots bigger and made out of stone. It’s tough to see all the steps one visit, but that’s just because the curvature of the earth sometimes hides really grand things.

Fall weather is perfect down here. Here are a few autumn adventure options:

Things to do

5. Nature's most impressive sandstone sculptures (Monument Valley)


Monument Valley at sunrise

Owned by the Navajo Nation, Monument Valley is the backdrop to all the best Westerns, and it’s probably been on your bucket list for a while. Now is the time.

Things to do

  • Hiking — Mystery Valley, Hunts Mesa; Owachomo Trail or one of the Hovenweep trails if you like to stroll; Butler Wash Ruins or Natural Bridges trails if you want to take it up a notch.
  • Places to stayGoulding’s Lodge — Legendary for hosting movie stars. Plenty of rooms, a campground, restaurant, gift shops and a museum about the area’s history.
  • Tipi Village — Stay in a tipi or a hogan-style log cabin. Sign up for Navajo guided tours of the valley.
  • Tear Drop Arch Bed & Breakfast — Just like staying at home, except you’re not – unless you live here. Choose from two rooms with queen beds or stay outside in the campground. Quiet and cozy with a dash of movie glam.