Beat the Summer Heat With Utah’s Coolest Outdoor Activities


As temperatures rise, look beyond your local pool for ways to beat the summer heat and have an unforgettable adventure. We’ve rounded up some of Utah’s most invigorating outdoor activities for you to try—so jump right in!


River rafting combdesolation-canyon-utah-rafting-flotillaines the thrill of splashing through whitewater with the tranquility of Utah’s remote wilderness.

“There aren’t many vacations you can take nowadays where you can really get away from your cell phone and the Internet,” says Kamron Wixom, the marketing director for Western River Expeditions. “Being on the river in the summertime is the perfect place to be.”

Outfitters primarily use the Colorado River for both day trips and extended excursions, many of which depart from Moab. Some of the most treacherous whitewater in North America can be found in Cataract Canyon, which winds through Canyonlands National Park and empties into north Lake Powell.

Offering less threatening yet still exciting rapids, the Green River through Desolation Canyon is apt for families or first-time rafters. Many rafting adventures incorporate other activities as well, such as hiking and kayaking.


escalante2The Colorado Plateau is North America’s canyoneering mecca, and few locales lend themselves to the sport as well as south-central Utah.

“Zion and Moab have some nice canyoneering and a lot of introductory canyoneering, but Escalante seems to be where people want to come for a little more of a wild experience,” says Rick Green, owner of Excursions of Escalante, the oldest local guiding service. “It allows you to access some of the most beautiful places on Earth.”

Spooky and Peek-a-Boo are narrow, dark slot canyons of moderate difficulty. Neon Canyon challenges hikers with rugged topography and lengthy swims, but the payoff of reaching the awe-inspiring Golden Cathedral is well worth the trip. Death Hollow, among the more popular summer destinations due to its high elevation and flowing spring, offers dramatic scenery and strenuous descents. Be aware that you’ll need a wetsuit for certain slot canyons, even at the height of summer heat.

There’s no better way for novices to get their feet wet than to jump right into a guided tour, Green says.

Get in touch with Excursions of Escalante at 435-826-4714. 


IMG_4710Trent Hickman capitalized on the rapidly increasing popularity of stand-up paddleboarding five years ago to launch Park City SUP. In addition to selling and renting boards, paddles, and accessories, the shop offers classes in basic and advanced paddling and paddleboard yoga, kids’ camps, and tours on the Jordanelle Reservoir and Weber River.

On June 6, Park City SUP will host “Paddle, Pedal, Paddle,” an endurance challenge in which solo competitors or teams will complete a total of 20 miles of paddling and mountain biking.

paddlesunsetThe Park City SUP Festival on June 20-21 is filled with races for paddlers of varied ages, skill levels, and board preferences. Live music, product demos, and family-friendly activities will be held on shore.

“I think stand-up paddleboarding is so popular because it’s so diverse in what it has to offer,” Hickman says. “Once you have your skill set formed and you’re comfortable, you can take your equipment and paddle on any body of water.”


Swimming holes offer a welcome respite from the heat in Utah’s mountainous and desert regions. While some are easily accessible, others require a bit of a hike to find, which makes it all the more rewarding when you get to take a dip. Our favorites span the state from one in Mona (near Provo) to southern options near Escalante and Zion.

Mona Rope Swing

The Burraston Ponds are a popular destination for fishermen, teens, and families in the town of Mona, about 35 miles south of Provo. During the summer, many visitors try their hand at jumping from rope swings tied to sturdy trees growing along the water’s edge.

The ropes are seven, 15, and 30 feet high, depending on how adventurous one wants to be, and the water is plenty deep. There are also no-fee camping spots where overnight stays are allowed.

Calf Creek Falls

Calf Creek—about 15 miles east of Escalante—offers the perfect combination of wilderness and campground amenities for a weekend getaway. Its main attraction is Lower Calf Creek Falls, a 126-foot-high waterfall that pours down a sandstone cliff into a shady pool.

Along the sandy, nearly three-mile hike in, visitors will see beaver ponds, prehistoric rock art, and the remains of storage structures built by Indians some 900 years ago. Cool off in the waterfall’s pool before hiking back out. Those looking for a challenge can pull off Highway 12 between Escalante and Boulder, then traverse a mile of tricky slickrock to reach Upper Calf Creek Falls.

Toquerville Falls 

Tucked away in the barren western outskirts of Zion National Park, Toquerville Falls looks and feels like a desert paradise. This picturesque swimming hole boasts a sizeable pond and three waterfalls fed by the LaVerkin Creek. Visitors will also glimpse the towering red sandstone cliffs of Kolob Canyons in the distance.

Toquerville Falls is a haven for locals that lies off the beaten path, though it’s only a 5.8-mile drive on a bumpy dirt road off State Route 17.


The Virgin River in St. George is Utah’s premier destination for flatland skimboarding, an increasingly popular sport among youth and younger adults due to its accessibility and relatively low cost. Skimming combines the essence of surfing with tricks derived from snowboarding and skateboarding, which often involve obstacles in competitions like the Virgin River Classic, held every July. The river’s ever-changing ecosystem sometimes makes it tricky to find solid skimming spots, but “The Waterfall” remains a favorite.

Utah Lake’s South Beach has also recently attracted interest from skimboarders. Both locales have shallow water and sandy shores, the most critical elements needed for a successful skim run.

No matter what you choose to do, be safe and stay cool!


About Author

Alexa V. Morgan has been a freelance writer in southern Utah since 2011. Her work has appeared in the Mainstreet Business Journal of Southern Utah, Utah Business Magazine, St. George News, and 15 Bytes, among other publications. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, tennis, and her adorable pets. Follow her on Twitter at @alexavmorgan.

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