4 Great Southern Utah Day Trips
To see everything Southern Utah has to offer, you’ll spend a lot of time behind the wheel. The area is so packed full of national parks, famed attractions, and hidden gems that it’s easy to fill a vacation itinerary (or 10) and still leave many great places out. In fact, there’s so much big fun packed into this small area that you can feel like most of your trip is spent hopping from place to place!
Some days, you just want to find a place you can park and enjoy. Luckily, there are a few places in southern Utah where you can do just that! These four great southern Utah day trips offer a full day’s worth of fun outdoor activities and scenic wilderness where you can relax, explore, and enjoy the day. Plus, they’re all close to the best attractions in the area so you don’t have to worry about logging miles in between!
Have more vacation days to fill? Request your free Southern Utah Vacation Guide for an in-depth map to the best activities in the area no matter how much time you have!
Nestled in the heart of the Dixie National Forest, Panguitch Lake rivals its national park neighbors in terms of charm and outdoor fun. With a 1,250-acre lake, a sprawling forest ripe for exploration, and a campground full of convenient amenities, you’ll want to stay all day – or even longer.
The lake itself provides endless opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and boating. Two public launches and a host of nearby outfitters make it easy to gear up and hit the waves for some fun water activities. And if you like to fish, you’re in for a real treat: aptly named “Big Fish” by the Paiute tribes that settled there, the lake is known for producing some of the state’s biggest trout year after year.
But the true majesty of Panguitch Lake lies as much around its lapping shores as in its gentle waves. It’s surrounded by a lush Ponderosa Pine forest that’s full of scenic trails for hiking, ATV adventures, horseback riding, and more. The campground also boasts a spacious picnic area, family pavilions, and plenty of waterfront space to stretch out and relax while you soak in the afternoon rays.
Just 15 minutes from the charming Duck Creek Village, Navajo Lake is a small reservoir packed full of big fun. Originally known as “Cloud Lake” by its Paiute settlers, the high-altitude lake sits atop Cedar Mountain and offers a day full of fun recreation, stunning views, and curious wildlife.
Formed by an ancient lava flow, Navajo Lake is surrounded by unique lava beds and intricate caves that are begging to be explored. Head to Mammoth Cave to plunder its hidden depths or hike to Cascade Falls, where water from under the lake flows from the limestone cliffside in a mesmerizing waterfall. If you’re up for a longer adventure, you can also hike the Virgin Rim or Navajo Lake Loop Trails, though you’ll need proper hiking gear.
When you’re done exploring the scenery, it’s time to head to the lake. Its crystal-clear waters and high elevation will have you feeling like you’re swimming through a bank of mountain clouds! You can also kayak, boat, canoe, or fish its prime waters. The lake is stocked with Rainbow, Brook, German, and Splake trout, and its low crowds make it likely you’ll catch a whopper any time of year. You can cast right from the shore or rent a boat at the nearby Navajo Lake Lodge to find your own fishing hole!
If you’re near Brian Head, Bristlecone Pond is the place to go for a fast and fun day on the water. Located in the heart of downtown, the large pond and park provide a great spot for swimming, kayaking, boating, and paddleboarding to beat the summer heat. The pond is also kept fully stocked with rainbow trout, making it an ideal place to cast a line. Kids 15 and under who catch a tagged fish can take it to Town Hall for a prize! To get your gear, contact one of the many outfitters in the area.
When it’s time to dry off, the pond is surrounded by pavilions and barbecue grills for a quick picnic lunch. There’s also a large playground and athletic courts where the kids can burn off that afternoon energy. If you’re still playing at dusk, grab a spot around one of the campfire rings for some s’mores and campfire stories!
Just three miles south of Parowan in the beautiful Yankee Meadows, the Yankee Meadow Reservoir is a hidden gem where you can fish, boat, and hike the day away. The area around the reservoir is lush with staggering beauty, from the volcanic cliffs of Sydney Peaks in the distance to the nearby Vermillion Castle with its shadowed cliffs and towering red rocks.
Explore the scenery’s many trails on foot, ATV, or horseback (maps can be found at any Dixie National Forest Service Office) as you search for unique rock formations, soak in the fall foliage, and gaze upon the horizon from the cliff peaks. When your legs need a rest, stop in at the Five-Mile Picnic Area where you can dine in a comfy pavilion surrounded by swaying scrub oak, maple, and juniper trees.
The reservoir itself is a popular spot for boating and fishing. It’s 53 acres are stocked year-round with rainbow, brook, and Bonneville cutthroat trout, guaranteeing a worthy prize for any avid angler. A convenient boat launch and strict no-wake laws keep the water primed and ready for the catch of a lifetime!
Book More than a Day Trip with Family Time Vacation Rentals
No matter which day trip you choose, our southern Utah vacation rentals are just a stone’s throw away. From private homes in downtown Brian Head to scenic cabins on Panguitch Lake and in Duck Creek Village, our rentals are the perfect home base to explore all that southern Utah has to offer. Book your stay today!