Head to Flaming Gorge to cool down in a stunning setting.
Cool down in the heat of summer by renting a stand-up paddleboard at the Flaming Gorge National Recreational Area in Utah.
You won’t even have to worry about waves from motorized vehicles. There are actually a number of wakeless paddling trails near the dam and near Sheep Creek Overlook, so you can paddle in solitude for a couple miles in canyons that rise anywhere between 100 and 1,000 feet.
“It’s really spectacular,” says Ryan Kelly, Flaming Gorge marketing director. “It’s a great way to get that deep canyon experience without going on a commercial trip downstream.”
Below the Flaming Gorge Dam runs a mellow stretch of the Green River that's great for family river floating. Rent a raft and float seven miles downstream to Little Hole takeout where a pre-arranged shuttle can pick you up. Or rent a houseboat and spend several days exploring the 91-mile-long reservoir.
On the Utah side, every road is designated a scenic byway or scenic backway. A “backway” is a back road, not a major highway. These roads make for wonderful scenic drives, but they also are great road bike rides. A fantastic 20-mile road bike loop in Sheep Creek Canyon is 13 miles of scenic backroads and 7 miles of scenic byways. For great scenery, visit Red Canyon Overlook, the most Instagrammed spot in the area with incredible views of the reservoir as it snakes around the canyon walls.
Where are the cool hikes? The best paddling? The mountain bike trails that hardly anyone knows exists? Lean on the locals. Not every trail is marked clearly in the area, so locals are happy to share tips and specific directions.
The uncrowded trails may take you by surprise and have you planning your next trip a bit differently.
“One of the comments we’ll get often as people stop here between the parks is, 'We wish we had spent more time here,'" Kelly says. “It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s not crowded. It’s national park quality scenery like the Red Canyon Overlook, which is absolutely spectacular.”
Farther south, you'll find Red Fleet State Park where you can walk a 1.5-mile trail to 200-million-year-old dinosaur tracks. Go early in the morning or later in the afternoon as the tracks are difficult to see when the sun is directly above you.
To learn more about the ancient history of the area, head to the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum in Vernal, Utah. A giant Diplodocus stretching 90 feet from tail to tip will greet you at the door. Inside, get an engaging hands-on primer on what's been going on for the last several million years. Learn how dinosaurs roamed the area and how to tell fossils apart from pebbles. You can even visit the Fossil Lab to see how scientists work with dinosaur bones.
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Flaming Gorge Country