Utah is home to some of the world’s most wonderful wilderness and scenery—see: Arches, Bears Ears, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Zion Canyon—but what if you don’t have time for an overnight trip? Here are five day trips that’ll take you out of town but where you can still make it home to enjoy the comforts of your own bed.
Covering 109 square miles and straddling the borders of Utah and Idaho, Bear Lake is known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” because of its turquoise-blue waters. Water sports are abundant, as you’d imagine, and there are boat and ski-jet rentals available. Two towns border the lake, Garden City and Laketown, both in Utah, where you can grab a burger and a raspberry shake, which the region is famous for, including its annual Raspberry Days during the first weekend of August.
And why is the water so blue? It’s the result of calcium carbonates suspended in the lake and it’s the reason that there are several fauna species that can only be found in Bear Lake.
Miles from campus; estimated travel time: 133 miles; 2 hours and 16 minutes
On the northeastern slopes of the Sevier Desert, the Little Sahara National Recreation Area could’ve been the location for the Star Wars Tatooine scenes. The recreation area covers roughly 60,000 acres, but the entire dune field encompasses 220 square miles and almost reaches the city of Delta. Little Sahara’s largest physical feature is Sand Mountain, which rises 700-800 feet (height varies based on conditions), and whose steep degree of slope presents a formidable challenge to the dune buggies that try to conquer its wall. While most visitors enjoy Little Sahara from the seat of a dirt bike or dune buggy, the area does boast the world’s largest “sand boxes,” areas fenced off to motorized vehicles and horseback riders. There is also the 9,000 acre Rockwell Natural Area, a great place to view desert plants and animals.
Miles from campus; estimated travel time: 106 miles; 2 hours and 3 minutes
Lava Hot Springs
In the southeast corner of Idaho, on the old California and Oregon trails, lies the town of Lava Hot Springs. Here, natural underground springs bubble to the surface and the hot water is laden with minerals, but has no sulfur and therefore no bad odor. Over 2.5 million gallons a day course through the hot springs and are diverted into the Portneuf River keeping the springs ever changing and clean. The water temperatures range from approximately 102 to 112 degrees. And for the extremists, an inner-tube run streams through the center of town.
Miles from campus; estimated travel time: 150 miles; 2 hours and 18 minutes
This dirt road carved out by loggers in the 1870s runs along the plateau spine of the central Wasatch Mountains. It begins off Highway 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon and runs 80 miles to I-70, where you can head east to the town of Salina and then north, either on Highway 89 or on Highway 50, which connects with I-15. There are multiple entries and ways out down the canyon and on to Interstate if you need to cut the short trip. Skyline Drive is popular with big-game hunters and ATV enthusiasts.
Miles from campus; estimated travel time: 83 miles; 1 hour and 23 minutes
The closest of the aforementioned day trips, the Uinta Mountains provide a respite to the sometimes unrelenting summer heat of the Wasatch Front. Here are five great Uinta hikes, some of which can be completed in a day, to beat the heat.
Miles from campus (to Mirror Lake); estimated travel time: 70 miles; 1 hour and 29 minutes