Southern Utah: 20 Incredible Places Beyond the Mighty Five

1. MONUMENT VALLEY

If the cluster of iconic sandstone buttes in Monument Valley look familiar to you, it’s because they were used as the backdrop for early Western movies and Forrest Gump, as well as the inspiration for the Road Runner cartoons. Straddling the Utah/Arizona border, the views of the valley symbolize the Wild West. These beautiful rock formations, some rising as much as 1,000 feet above the desert floor, are mostly within the boundary of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The park, which is on Navajo land, requires an entrance fee of $20 per car.

Once in the park, after checking out the expansive gift shop selling Native American goods, you have a few options: Hike the 4-mile Wildcat Trail around West Mitten Butte; it’s the only trail you can hike without a Navajo guide. Or drive the 17-mile scenic dirt road into the park to get a closer view of the monuments. The scenic road is rough, so be patient and take your time.

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Grand Canyon’s Phantom Ranch

If you’re hoping to be a guest at one of the most unique properties in the national parks, Grand Canyon’s Phantom Ranch, you have three possible modes of transportation to get there: on a boat as part of a river rafting trip, on the back of a mule, or by the power of your own two feet. And considering this lodging is 5,000 feet and a ten-mile trek below the south rim, it’s no easy journey. But once you arrive at this rustic oasis at the bottom of the largest canyon in the world, any aches and pains accumulated along the journey will seem well worth it.

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Glacier’s Hidden Gem: The Belton Chalet

If Glacier National Park is the Crown of the Continent, its three grand hotels are its most precious jewels. Visitors from around the world book reservations far in advance to stay in these famous park lodges: Many Glacier, Glacier Park, and Lake McDonald. However, a smaller, lesser-known lodge, the Belton Chalet, was the first to welcome guests when the park opened in 1910. We think it’s a hidden gem.

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Hiking to The Wave in Coyote Buttes North

The Wave in Coyote Buttes North

Other than snapping a pic of Bigfoot, scoring a permit to hike The Wave may have been one of the toughest items to do on our bucket list. I say this in past tense because, in mid-January, we checked it off, hiking to The Wave that is. We still need a pic of Bigfoot.

Only 20 people each day get the opportunity to visit The Wave, a unique land formation in a remote location near the Utah/Arizona border. Located in an area called Coyote Buttes North, it’s a small part of the 112,500-acre Paria Canyon Vermillion Cliff Wilderness, managed by the Bureau of Land Management. And it’s a spectacular natural wonder; well worth the effort to secure a permit.

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Gateway Arch National Park

Growing up in Kansas, whenever my family’s summer vacations would take us east on I-70, it was always a thrill to spot the St. Louis Arch from the car. The tallest monument in the U.S., it stands prominently on the edge of downtown St. Louis, towering over the Mississippi River. Back then, the arch was called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, but in 2018 when it became our nation’s 60th national park, the name was changed to Gateway Arch National Park.

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