8 Must See Utah Gems Worth the Scenic Detour

Updated: Sep 15

You've probably heard of Zion and Bryce, but can you guess these slightly less-traveled Utah destinations?

Sometimes life is about getting from point A to B which is fine, or in this case, if you're traveling south it is staying on Interstate 15. But it you're wanting to throw a little thrill into your adventure, then it's time to switch it up and get out of your comfort zone. Life's a journey, not a race.

So whether you're heading to California, Vegas or St. George, here are the best slightly off the beaten path scenic detours.

1. Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument at sunset

Cedar Breaks is like a mini Bryce Canyon, full of vivid colors and interesting hoodoos. It's only 30 minutes off I-15 as you approach Cedar City. You drive up a beautiful canyon (though recently marred by a wildfire) and through Brian Head Ski Resort on your way. Not only is it a great scenic drive but once you arrive at 10,435 feet, the views will take your breath away. During the winter, it's only accessible by snowmobile so make sure you time your drive appropriately. Consider staying for more than just a scenic detour and check out these fun things to do in Cedar City.

2. Kolob Canyon

One of the lesser known parts of Zion National Park is Kolob Canyon - because it's completely removed from the main entrance. You know, the area crowded with tourists on shuttles?

The Kolob Canyon visitor center is just off I-15 in between Cedar City and St. George. Our little family discovered it several years ago when we had just one kid and we were driving a moving van to California. You can take a quick drive up the red asphalt roads and just enjoy the scenery or you can take a short 1.1 mile hike on the Timber Creek Overlook Trail, too. Either way, it's a great way to break up your drive with the most scenic of detours.

3. Manti Temple

Manti Temple Highway 89 Scenic Detour

The Manti Temple was built in 1888 with a combo of Gothic Revival + French Renaissance Revival architecture. It sits up on a big hill overlooking the small town of Manti, Utah.

The Manti Temple was best known for the annual Mormon Miracle Pageant but even though that was discontinued in 2019, it's still worth a detour to check out the building and the temple grounds.

This requires a bigger detour as it's not just a quick stop off I-15. We recommend taking a very pleasant drive via Highway 89 through Mt. Pleasant. It only adds about an hour to the drive from Salt Lake to St. George, so while you're checking out historic religious sites, add the Spring City Chapel to your list as well.

5 More Utah Bucket List Detours

Here's a few more ideas from our Utah Bucket List (make sure you download your free copy) . We still need to visit these ones and add them to our family bucket list!

  • Nebo Loop + Devil's Kitchen - instead of driving I-15 between Payson & Nephi, take the scenic Nebo Loop Road, which is especially colorful in the fall. Stop at the Devil's Kitchen overlook for an even minier mini-Bryce Canyon.

  • Fremont Indian State Park - from I-15 take I-70 east for about 20 minutes and you're there. You can take a quick walk on a flat, paved trail to see some petroglyphs. Or you can spend several hours learning about Native American history at the museum, and take a handful of hikes to see a ton of petroglyphs.

  • Cove Fort - on the same I-70 exit but just two minutes off I-15 is the Cove Fort Historic Site. I'm haunted by this exit because Brittany's car broke down there on our way to Lake Powell when we were engaged! I guess someday I'll have to get over it and check it out to learn about some pioneer history.

  • Kanarra Falls, Kanarraville - you've probably seen pictures on Instagram of the waterfall with a log ladder to climb up next to it. It's a 6-mile hike through a slot canyon, so it's not exactly a quick stopover. You'll also need to reserve a permit a couple months in advance, so it's not a spur-of-the-moment decision either. But it's on my bucket list and the trailhead is just 8 minutes off I-15 between Cedar City and St. George, so it gets a mention on this post.

And if you're road tripping with kids, try these road trip essentials:

Safe Travels---and remember, sharing is caring.