Salt Lake City, Utah has tons of places to go on a day trip that range from quick drives out of town to all-day excursions that will show you some of the best of what Utah has to offer. You can find fun family activities or head out to some of Utah’s finest natural attractions (and there are a lot!) on one of these top day trip ideas.
Antelope Island State Park covers 42 square miles on the largest island in the Great Sale Lake. The island is home to a free-roaming bison herd, mule deer, bighorn sheep, birds, and more. Many people visit to see the bison herd, but be warned that the island is large so you might not spot them on a visit. The park is also great for all kinds of recreational pursuits, including camping, hiking, horseback riding and swimming (or floating as the water in the Salt Lake is extremely salty).
Getting There: To get to Antelope Island State Park, drive north on I-15. Take exit 332 to Antelope Drive in Layton, and then simply follow that road to the island. In the process, you’ll go over a long causeway that connects the island to the mainland. There is a fee to enter the park that you pay at a tollbooth well before you cross the causeway.
Travel Tip: If you’re particularly interested in seeing the bison, visit during the annual bison roundup that takes place in the fall.
Thanksgiving Point is a complex located in Lehi, about a half-hour south of Salt Lake City. It’s an amazing day trip for families with younger children. The complex includes five museums and attractions, all of which can easily occupy an hour or two. Depending on how long you want to stay you can make this a half-day excursion or a weekend getaway. Attractions include the Museum of Natural Curiosity, Farm Country, Ashton Gardens, Museum of Ancient Life and Butterfly Biosphere, as well as plenty of nearby restaurants, a golf club, shops, and seasonal events like Luminaria at Ashton Gardens during the holidays.
Getting There: Thanksgiving Point is an easy drive south on I-15. Take exit 284. There are signs guiding you to individual attractions.
Travel Tip: It’s tough to fit all the attractions into one day but Museum of Natural Curiosity, Farm Country, and the Butterfly Biosphere are all located with short walking distance of each other. If visiting more than one attraction, buy a combo ticket to save money.
Park City is a mountain town about a half-hour from Salt Lake City known for its skiing opportunities and the annual Sundance Film Festival but its a great destination at any time of year. Wander the quaint streets and duck into local shops, or take in a show at the Egyptian Theater. If you like to get outside, you can find fly fishing, white water rafting, biking, hiking, and other activities to get your heart pumping.
Getting There: You can get to Park City by car: take I-15 south to I-80 east. Take exit 145 to UT-224, which will take you into Park City. Alternately, there are several airport shuttles that can whisk you straight from the airport to Park City. Once you’re in town, there are free buses and trolleys so there’s no need for a car
Travel Tip: Don’t miss all the delicious food and drink in Park City. Wasatch Brewery, the first brewpub in all of Utah, is located here.
Goblin Valley is one of the most unique state parks you’ll ever visit. It’s a 3.5-hour drive from Salt Lake so leave early in the morning and plan to be out all day. The park is filled with hoodoos, spire-like rock formations formed by erosion that are said to resemble goblins. People of all ages, even small children, can enjoy walking between these amazing structures. For more of a challenge, venture deeper into the park where you can climb and scramble your way through the formations.
Getting There: Goblin Valley is located 216 miles south of SLC. Take I-15 south and US-6 E to UT-24. Take I-70 W for a short jaunt to get to Highway 24. From there, turn at Temple Mountain junction and follow signs for the next 12 miles to the park.
Travel Tip: If you visit during the summer, be prepared for very hot temperatures. If you visit and want to camp in the winter, be prepared for very cold temperatures at night. Whenever you visit, bring lots of water and snacks with you.
If you’re looking for a relaxing day trip, take a jaunt on the Heber Valley Railroad where historic trains meander through the Heber Valley. There are several tours to book, including "Star Wars" and chocolate-themed trains. You’ll likely enjoy some entertainment like maybe a masked robbery (all in good fun), someone singing Old West songs, trivia, or even a magic show, depending on which train you book.
Getting There: Take I-80 East out of Salt Lake City. Then take US-189/US-40 from exit 146 and follow until you reach Heber City. The depot is located near the intersection of W 300 S and S 600 W.
Travel Tip: Get to the depot in Heber City a half-hour early; trains leave on time.
The gorgeous Bonneville Salt Flats are all that remains of the ancient Lake Bonneville. Today, they are an expanse of white earth where you can learn about ancient history and take some spectacular photos. You may recognize the flats from Bonneville Salt Flats International Speedway or from several films (most notably, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”).
Getting There: Take I-80 West out of Salt Lake City for about an hour and a half, and you’ll see the Salt Flats from the freeway.
Travel Tip: One of the best places to view the Salt Flats is from I-80, 10 miles east of Wendover, from a rest stop.
Sometimes you just need a nice, relaxing soak in a hot spring. Just 90 minutes north of Salt Lake City is Crystal Hot Springs—the world’s largest natural hot spring (which just so happens to have a cold spring source nearby as well). The complex includes three hot tubs, a large soaking pool, a freshwater swimming pool, two water slides, and a pool for swimming laps, all filled by the two springs. Depending on the pool, water temperatures range from 65 to 134 degrees F. Nearby, there are places to hike and a carp pond where you can fish.
Getting There: Take I-15 north from Salt Lake City. Take UT-240 East from there. About a mile on 240, turn left on Highway 38. Continue for 1.7 miles and your destination will be on the west side of the highway. You’ll see signage leading the way after you get off the highway too.
Travel Tip: "The Spiral Jetty"—a famous earthwork by sculptor Robert Smithson—is about an hour away from Crystal Hot Springs and makes a fine addition to your trip.
Snowbird is a ski resort located in nearby Little Cottonwood Canyon less than an hour from downtown Salt Lake City. In the winter, the ski area is filled with all the snowy bliss you could ever want. In the summer, Snowbird has all kinds of activities including: a ropes course, trees outfitted with belay systems, a bungee trampoline, a mini-ropes course for small children, gemstone mining, a fishing pond, inflatables, a mountain coaster, an alpine slide and more. In short, there is all kinds of family fun to be had here.
Getting There: Take I-15 south to I-215 east. Take exit 6 (6200 South) and go east on 6200 South. This will take you to UT-210 and up into Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Travel Tip: Get an all-day pass to do as many activities as possible. Passes are available for 42-inch and taller rides, 42-inch and shorter rides, as well as a toddler attraction pass.
In a state filled to the brim with mountains, Mount Timpanogos stands out as possibly the most frequently hiked mountain. You can climb this 11,749-foot beast all in a day if you are up for the challenge (and for a really long day). You need to be in good physical condition, but don’t need technical skills to make the hike and the views are worth the workout. The Timpooneke Trail (7.5 miles) is a common way to get to the top. The climb has about a 4,500-foot elevation gain and it usually takes about nine to 10 hours for the full hike.
Getting There: Take I-15 south to Exit 284. Then go east on Highway 92 for 16 miles. Take a right onto Timpooneke Road. Continue past the campground entrance and turn left into the trailhead parking lot.
Travel Tip: The trails on this mountain are generally open from mid-July until the first snowstorm. This is a long hike that requires a lot of endurance so bring a good amount of water and trail snacks.