When you return from your day excursion, you get the chance to revel in Salt Lake City’s array of cuisine and friendly small-town-like vibes, despite being a city with 1.2 million residents. Read on to find the best day trips from Salt Lake City—it could be fun to make it your goal to try all the following places in one year! Challenge accepted? Let’s go!
Tucked between the Wasatch Mountains, the Oquirrh Mountains and with some of the United States’ most epic national parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Moab Arches—just hours away, Salt Lake City boasts a jackpot of adventures. While the most popular national parks may be out of reach in terms of a day trip, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find unforgettable outdoorsy experiences under two hours from Utah’s capital. For example, you’ll find incredible hikes within an hour from the city, as well as other unique explorations, ranging from salt flats to salty lakes (can you see why it’s called Salt Lake City?), and a wonderland of rugged, unique scenery.
Here’s our list of the 10 best day trips from Salt Lake City:
Bonneville Salt Flats
With a blanket of white bleeding into the horizon, it’s hard not to mistake the Bonneville Salt Flats for snow. In the Ice Age, Lake Bonneville started to dry up, which is when the salt flats took over. This 46-square-mile piece of salty wonder remains open year-round, but you won’t find any facilities here, so make sure you stock up and go to the restroom before you leave the city. The best thing you can do here is to simply bask in the otherworldly surroundings for a few hours by walking around, and trust us when we say that it’s so worth the drive!
Do note that this is also a hotspot for international car racing!
How to get to the Bonneville Salt Flats from Salt Lake City
To get to the Bonneville Salt Flats from Salt Lake City, you’ll take exit four off of Interstate 80. From here, continue north, looking for signs directing you to the Speedway. Then, you’ll take a right to head on Leppy Pass Road, which will take you to the flats. You can park your car at the end of the road in the parking area.
The Wasatch Mountains soar as Salt Lake City’s backdrop, giving Utah’s capital an instantaneous adventurous vibe. Something which locals and visitors alike love to tap into. Just 45 minutes away, you’ll find year-round activities at Wasatch Mountain State Park, ranging from hiking, biking, snowshoeing, camping, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and more! Winter lovers need to add Soldier Hollow to their bucket list. The Nordic skating venue for the 2002 Olympics is now a mecca for world-class country-skiing trails and the longest tubing tracks in the USA!
If you want to revel in outstanding views of the Wasatch Mountains during the summer months, consider lacing up your boots and trying out a hike. We suggest taking on the physically demanding Red Pine Lake and Pfeifferhorn Ridge Hike for views of White Baldy and 360-vistas along Pfeifferhorn Ridge or the extremely strenuous Box Elder Peak Hike for more incredible views of peaks lining Salt Lake City’s eye-catching backdrop. To experience Wasatch views without over-exerting yourself, give the 2.6mi Clayton Peak Hike a try. It will still get your heart going, but the intensity won’t last as long as the other two!
How to get to Wasatch Mountain State Park from Salt Lake City
By car: 45 minutes
To get to Wasatch Mountain State Park from Salt Lake City, head to I-80 E and follow this highway until exit 146. From here, you’ll continue onto US-189/US-40 E, followed by a right onto River Road. 3.0mi later, take the second exit in the roundabout to go onto 1050 N and continue onto Pine Canyon Road. After 0.1mi, take a slight left onto Cari Lane, followed by a right onto State Rte 222. You’ll then turn right onto the first cross street to remain on State Rte 222. Then, take a quick left, followed by a quick right, and you’ll reach Wasatch Mountain State Park. If you want to take on one of the hikes granting views of the Wasatch Mountains, you can follow the links above, which provide directions on getting to the different trailheads.
Little Sahara Recreation Area
Experience sand-made recreation at its finest! The Little Sahara Recreation Area is a haven for anyone seeking something a little more unusual compared to typical daily activities. The Little Sahara Recreation Area boasts 60,000 acres of sagebrush flats, sand dunes, and Juniper-speckled hills, where dirt bikers, ATV drivers cut through the dunes. Anyone from beginners to experienced drivers will fall in love with this adventure spot. And some avid walkers can’t help but take on the climb atop the 700ft Sand Mountain. Families will probably head to the 6,000-acre Rockwell Outstanding Natural Area for peace and quiet away from the storm of engines revving. Then, go fat biking or sledding or skiing down Sand Mountain. Another option is to view wildlife or take your kids to White Sands Campground for the kid-friendly places for sand play.
Be sure to look up prices before you go!
How to get to Little Sahara Recreation Area from Salt Lake City
To get to the Little Sahara Recreation Area from Salt Lake City, head to the I-15 S and take exit 244, and then go right on US-6 W/Main Street. Thirty-nine miles later, go right onto Weis Highway, followed by a left onto Sand Mount Road 4.5mi later. Little Sahara Recreation Area will be on your right!
Mirror Lake Scenic Byway
Nothing says adventure like a road trip! The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway carves through 42.0mi of unspoiled, pristine scenery. Watch mountain lakes, alpine peaks, and dense forests rolling just outside your window as you drive this incredible byway. Better yet, if you’re getting antsy, you can always stop and take on a hike, have a picnic, go fishing, and so much more. There’s the ranked-easy Mirror Lake Loop or the longer, moderate Crystal and Watson Lake Trail.
This driving route begins in Kamas and leads up into the Uinta Mountains, cresting at Bald Mountain Pass, before dipping into Hayden Peak, Kletting Peak, and Holiday Park Peak. It ends at the Wyoming border!
How to get to the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway from Salt Lake City
By car (to Kamas): 45 minutes
To get to the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway—which begins in Kamas—from Salt Lake City, head to I-80 E before taking exit 146 toward Heber/Vernal, and then continue onto US-189/US-40 E. 3.1mi later, take exit 4 UT-248 E, and shortly after turn left onto UT-248 E. After driving for 11.4mi, take a left just after you pass 7-11, which will be on your right.
Great Salt Lake
Looking for a great spot to float on a sizzling hot day? Well, there’s no need to bring a float to the Great Salt Lake as there’s enough salt to hold your body weight on the surface without treading water. Instead, locals flock to the Great Salt Lake Marina for an ideal floating spot. You’ll also find kayaking and fishing opportunities at the Great Salt Lake Marina. However, some claim that the best place to float and swim is Antelope Island State Park, where oolitic sand beaches provide the ultimate platform to launch your float. But more on Antelope Island State Park below!
How to Get to Great Salt Lake Marina from Salt Lake City
By car: 20 minutes
To get to the Great Salt Lake Marina from Salt Lake City, head to I-80 W before taking exit 104 for UT-202 toward Saltair Drive. 0.5mi later, take a right, followed by a quick left at N Temple Frontage. Drive for 1.7mi before turning left and then take a right shortly after, and you’ll reach the Great Salt Lake Marina!
Antelope Island State Park
The Great Salt Lake boasts ten islands, and Antelope Island takes top prize as the largest. Not only do people flock here to float in the water and admire the oolitic sand beaches, but Antelope Island State Park attracts hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders! Then there’s also the Fielding Garr Ranch for a rewind to pioneer times. You’ll see clear evidence of how the ranch evolved over the last 150 years—it’s pretty neat, and the whole family will appreciate this stroll through history. But that’s not all that’s great about Antelope Island State Park!
Wherever you go, keep an eye out for desert animals roaming the land: free-ranging bison, bighorn sheep, mule deer, antelope (naturally), and more!
How to get to Antelope Island State Park from Salt Lake City
By car: 55 minutes
To get to Antelope Island State Park (Antelope Island Marina) from Salt Lake City, you’ll want to get on the I-15 N before taking exit 330 for Layton Parkway, keeping left at the fork to stay on Layton Parkway, and then take a right onto Main Street, followed by a left onto Gentile Street. 3.9mi later, head right onto S Bluff Road, taking the 4th exit onto W 2700 S at the traffic circle. Not too long after, turn right onto S 3000 W, and then a left onto W 1700 S. Continue onto Antelope Island Road from here before turning right on Marina Road.
Crystal Hot Springs
Feel your muscles relax in a state of bliss at the world’s biggest natural hot spring: Crystal Hot Springs. Hop between the large soaker pool, three hot tubs, and when you want to immerse in something cooler, head to the freshwater swimming pool. You could also do some front strokes in the lap pool before sliding into the soaker pool. And then there’s always the two water slides for bursts of fun!
The best thing is that the Crystal Hot Springs is open year-round, making this a great go-to winter activity near Salt Lake City.
How to Get to the Crystal Hot Springs from Salt Lake City
To get to Crystal Hot Springs from Salt Lake City, get on the I-15 N before taking exit 372 for UT-240 toward Honeyville/UT-13/Bear River, and then turn onto UT-240 E/W 6900 N, followed by a left onto UT-38 N/N 2600 W. Continue to follow UT-38 N, and your destination will be on your left!
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Tucked into the Wasatch Range sits the incredibly scenic Big Cottonwood Canyon that emulates every adventurer’s outdoorsy dreamscape: crazy peaks, layers of flora painted with different hues, and glimpses of mountains and hills stretching into the horizon. In short, the Big Cottonwood Canyon presents images washed with a magical natural wonder—photographers get ready! Like the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway, the Big Cottonwood Canyon dispenses plenty of exploration opportunities. Go hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, stop for a picnic or make your end destination either Solitude & Brighton, two ski resorts in the area.
Take a look at some adventure spots in this area:
- Hiking—try the easier Silver Lake route or, the more strenuous Desolation Lake Trail (to name two)
- Rock climbing spots—Storm Mountain or Dogwood
- Mountain biking—Wasatch Crest Trail
- Picnic destinations—Ledgemere Picnic Area or Birches Picnic Area
How to Get to Big Cottonwood Canyon from Salt Lake City
To get to Big Cottonwood Canyon from Salt Lake City, you’ll follow the I-215 belt route, going east from the 6200 South exit (6). From here, look for signs to Brighton and Solitude ski areas. Then, turn off Wasatch Boulevard, and follow the road for 14.2mi until you arrive at Brighton Ski Resort.
Snowbird Mountain Resort
We’ve included several summer-ready day trip options on this list, but it would be rude to dismiss winter altogether. The Snowbird Mountain Resort often tops lists of the best ski resorts near Salt Lake City, and for good reason, as it’s tucked into the gorgeous Little Cottonwood Canyon. With 2,500 acres of dreamy, snowy bliss, anyone from beginner to advanced will be able to find slopes that suit their skill level. Or tap into your wild side by going on a thrilling heli-skiing adventure. After carving the slopes, hit up one of the 15 eateries and restaurants dotting this resort to replenish whatever you just burned off!
Like most ski resorts, Snowbird Mountain Resort transforms into a summertime dreamworld when the snow fades and layers of green, adorned with wildflowers, emerge. Admire Little Cottonwood Canyon’s scenery via foot or singletrack cycling trails. The base also offers a ropes course, bungee trampoline, 50ft bungee jump, and climbing wall. Kids can also try out gemstone panning, bouncy houses, mini ropes course, and more!
How to Get to Snowbird Mountain Resort from Salt Lake City
By car: 40 minutes
To get to Snowbird Mountain Resort from Salt Lake City, head to the I-15 S before using the right two lanes to take exit 298 to merge onto I-215 E/Belt Route, followed by taking exit 6 for UT-190 E 5.2mi later. Almost just after taking this exit, take a right onto UT-190 E/6200 S/Big Cottonwood Road. And then you’ll continue onto Wasatch Boulevard E. After this, continue onto UT-210 S/N Little Cottonwood Road, followed by taking a right onto Snowbird Center Drive, which will take you to your destination.
Turn your drive along the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway into a memorable day trip with an extended pause in the Uintas Mountains for some hiking adventures and sightseeing fun in one of Utah’s hidden gems! Fun fact: this mountain range holds the tallest peak in Utah: Kings Peak. And while the rest of Utah is singed by desert scenery and supernatural rock formations, the Uintas Mountains brim with glistening bodies of water—over 1,000 lakes, to be more precise!
The best way to explore the Uintas Mountains is to lace up your boots and travel on foot. Other than the already-mentioned routes around Mirror Lake, some hikes in this area are the Naturalist Basin Hike, a longer day hike, and the half-day Ibantik Lake Hike.
How to Get to the Uintas Mountains from Salt Lake City
By car: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Head to Kamas from Salt Lake City before following the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (State Route 150). From here, you’ll be able to find the trailheads throughout. However, we advise looking up the directions to your specific hiking destination before going, as these will vary.
Which day trip from Salt Lake City do you want to try first?