As the weather cools down, it’s a great time to head to southern Utah. But do you want to experience the magic of the “Mighty Five” without all the fees, crowds, and chaos? City Cast Salt Lake host Ali Vallarta shares her guide to the best places to get the national park experience, without stepping foot inside one.
Snow Canyon State Park
“The next time you're planning a weekend getaway, think about Snow Canyon instead of Zion. And if I could offer another tip here, getting [there] you actually get to stop at some of my favorite places in Utah. One of them is the Red Rock Pistachio Orchards in Hurricane. They are growing pistachios down there because the climate of southwestern Utah is very similar to the climate in Iran or Iraq where pistachios originate. The pistachios that grow at the Red Rock Pistachio farm are very sweet and bright green. And as it happens, fall is harvesting season.”
Pastries in a Parking Lot
“In Cedar City, which you will also drive through on your way to Snow Canyon, there’s a pastry shop that looks like a shed. You can buy the most beautiful little tarts and other pastry delights from a French chef there. It's in this parking lot right next to Centro Pizza. And if the chef isn't inside, you ring the bell and he just runs out from a nearby building.”
“If you have kids and they don't want to be doing big hikes and treks, no problem. You can pack the car and drive from Boulder to Escalante over this stretch of road called the Hogsback, that gets so narrow and fully drops off on either side of Scenic Byway 12. Everyone in the car will be screaming.
“If you want luxury, stay at the Boulder Mountain Lodge in the off-season and get a discounted rate. They have rooms that accommodate pets, which is awesome if you're bringing the dog. A lot of the areas around here are dog-friendly [which the national parks aren’t]. If you don't want to see a soul, you can hike Upper Calf Creek Falls to the top of the waterfall, where there's a swimming hole and gorgeous red rocks. While you're there, Boulder Mountain, which the town is named after, is also right there. And it's alpine, like you can also be in big, beautiful, deep green trees, hiking around.”
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
“There is a place I love to take people that visit from out of town, which is the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. [It’s] free to drive up there. It's going to be a bit of a physical activity because walking in sand dunes, as you can imagine, asks a lot of all the muscles in your legs. But these sand dunes are actually pink! And you can take your friends there and have a full 'Dune' photo shoot. They're also slidable, so you can climb up to the top of one and send your body fully down the sand dune. I mean, come on, that's so cool.”