Goblin Valley State Park, Green River
The name alone inspires intrigue. Here, an otherworldly expanse of hoodoo formations that resemble goblins are the primary draw. Wind and water erosion created the shapes that welcome you across a three-square-mile expanse of the state park. Take them in from above on a viewing platform, then stroll across the valley to see the hoodoos up close. There are five hiking trails, including trails that lead to Goblin’s Lair and Goblette’s Lair, both of which involve an exhilarating rock scramble to scrutinize interior rock formations. The park’s remote location roughly 3 hours from Provo also makes it a prime destination for stargazing.
Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Escalante
Skip the crowds and see petrified wood, lava flows, shell fossils, and petrified dinosaur bones at this lesser-known gem. Several easy hiking trails, including the Petrified Forest Trail, allow you to examine beautiful petrified wood and take in the views across the Wide Hollow Reservoir. You can also fish, camp, and rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards to get out on the crystal-clear reservoir waters at this 1,350-acre state park. At the visitor center, enjoy educational exhibits on the park’s history, wildlife, and geology.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Kanab
It’s easy to be awed by the ever-shifting landscape of red sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, which was created by wind erosion of red Navajo sandstone over thousands of years. If you get your kicks from a dune buggy, a sand board, or a sand sled, this park is for you. Bring your ATV or rent one from an outfitter outside the park, like ATV Rentals Utah, to zip across the rose-colored dunes. Within the park, you can rent sand boards and sleds for the day to play.