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Drives in Utah to get You out of the House

(Last Updated On: May 23, 2020)

We are stuck inside most of the time with the Corona Virus social distancing that is happening here in Utah. This is really tough on us because we love to be outdoors adventuring. Trails are too busy, the mountains are too snowy, playgrounds are risky if there are too many people around, and it’s still pretty cold outdoors.

So we have put a list together of our favorite drives in Utah. Some of these spots are far away depending on where you are located, but you’ve got a whole day to explore, right? These spots often have viewpoints or short trails where you can get out and stretch your legs. Hopefully these ideas will help you get out of the house.

Antelope Island State Park

This is one of our favorite places to go in the Spring before the bugs come out. You can drive the entire island looking at bison, birds, and other animals. There are some easy trails and a few spots to access the beach next to the Great Salt Lake if you’d like to leave your car. The Visitor Center is closed, so I’m not sure about restroom access.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Located in Brigham City, this bird refuge has a 12 mile one way loop that drives along the Bear River and the marshes it creates. We see hundreds of birds here every time we go. There is a short trail next to the Visitor Center where we spot frogs if you’d like to hike, or there are a few spots to get out and look at the river along the drive, too.

Utah Lake

We live in South Lehi and there used to be no houses out west of us. On Sunday afternoons, we would take Redwood Road to the south and follow it around the lake to Elberta and then back home. We would see tons of birds and pronghorn, and enjoy the views of Utah Lake. Now the houses extend far to the south along the west side of Utah Lake, but we still enjoy this drive. You can also stop at Lincoln Beach or other places along Utah Lake to stretch your legs.

Provo Canyon

Provo Canyon is actually a busy canyon, maybe not right now, but it is a beautiful drive. We love to drive all the way up into Heber. Midway and Heber are also beautiful. The roads are well maintained even in winter and you can stop and look at Bridal Veil Falls, the Provo River, Deer Creek, and if you want to go further, you can keep going all the way to Strawberry Reservoir.

Buckhorn Wash

Buckhorn Wash Road

This drive is in the middle of the state near Green River and Castle Dale. There are some beautiful places to explore including some amazing pictographs and the Wedge, which is called the Little Grand Canyon. We would recommend going to Green River and then start the Buckhorn Wash from the 1-70 and head back north as you drive. This is the way it is written on our blog post.

Scenic Highway 12

This is the ultimate drive in Utah, often called the Million Dollar Road. It winds through Red Canyon near Bryce and over through Escalante. You can continue over to Boulder and then around up to Torrey by Capitol Reef. We have never done the full loop in one trip, but we have driven different parts at different times. This may be Utah’s most beautiful drive.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is probably the best park to just drive through (Arches is a great choice, too). There are many viewpoints to hop out and look at the amazing canyon along the drive, and you can stop at the Rim Trail and view the amphitheater which is the main attraction at Bryce. Most of the time you will be driving in your car, so social distancing will be easy. (Updated April 1: Closed until further notice).

Burr Trail Road

The Burr Trail Road is a branch off from Scenic Highway 12 mentioned above. It starts by Anasazi State Park in Boulder, and then heads through a beautiful canyon and eventually comes to the border of Capitol Reef National Park. Here the road turns to dirt and is not really passable in bad weather, so we have never driven the complete loop since we are always there in Spring. But just to the border is gorgeous!

Bonneville Salt Flats

Really, this drive should be called 1-80 because you are taking the 1-80 west from Salt Lake City. Luckily, you can stop at Great Salt Lake State Park and walk along the lake on your way out to the Bonneville Salt Flats. And the salt flats are amazing and worth the drive. Great for pictures and exploring!

Ouray National Wildlife Refuge

We love the wildlife or bird refuges for drives because they are so scenic, but there is also so much to see. Our boys love seeing birds and animals, and we have seen porcupines both times we visited Ouray. This refuge is out by Vernal.

Jones Hole Road

Another beautiful spot by Vernal is the Jones Hole Road. This road travels out to the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery and the Ely Creek Falls trail in Dinosaur National Monument. We were stunned with how beautiful this drive was when we visited in the Fall, and it quickly became one of our favorite spots in Utah.

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods is like a mini Monument Valley. There are some amazing rock features, and you drive through like it’s an amusement park. You can also check out Mexican Hat and Goosenecks State Park while you are in the area.

Moki Dugway

If you visit Valley of the Gods, you should definitely check out Moki Dugway Road. It is a dangerously steep road, but so adventurous. We loved driving this road even though Mom was a little stressed the entire time.

Flaming Gorge

We haven’t spent much time around Flaming Gorge, but it is one of the most scenic spots in Utah. It is out near Vernal, and there are beautiful drives around the reservoir. You can check out more info here.

Other Drive Ideas

Here are a few roads that we love, but aren’t really accessible right now. Save these roads for summertime if we still need drives to escape.

We hope this gives you a few ideas for adventures that will keep you social distant from people, but get you out of the house and exploring. Make sure to take lunch and snacks on your drives to avoid restaurants (most are closed). We know there are lots of other spots in Utah, so please let us know your favorite drives in Utah so we can check them out and add them to the list.

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6 Comments

  • Have you been to fantasy canyon? It’s very near the Ouray Wildlife Refuge. It’s pretty unique and the perfect time of year to go while there aren’t many mosquitoes.

  • Just as an fyi– Arches Ntl Park is closed as of today! I’m not sure about Bryce Canyon yet, but most state and ntnl parks aren’t open to anyone but locals or closed indefinitely. Thanks!

    • We have listed drives all over the state because we have followers who live all over Utah. And as of today Bryce Canyon is still open. I know that could change.

  • Nebo Loop is a nice one, it’s a higher elevation, so I’d safe it for late spring/ summer due to snow

    • Oh my goodness. That is one of our favorites that I completely forgot. I will add it to our save for summer list. Thank you!