While most of my travels in recent years have been done solo, my origins as a travel addict are far from solitary. Squeezed in the back of a green minivan with my sister Emma, brother Sean, parents and sometimes even grandma, summer family road trips are what first got me hooked on travel.
From the coast of California to the red sands of the Southwest, through the golden fields of America’s heartland to the industrious cities of the Northeast and the humid small towns of the South, back and forth across the country we drove, visiting a total of 46 states by the time I turned 15.
These road trips gave me a huge appreciation and understanding of the United States, which I think has become a much underrated place to explore for travelers in my generation. Apart from my bias toward my home state of California, the greater Southwest is my favorite region. There’s so much natural beauty to be found here, and a distinct spirit of the west still thrives.
As my travels have transitioned from being family-oriented to mostly solo trips, I’ve come to learn the hard way that not all destinations are a good fit for solo travelers. There are now certain qualities I look for in a place when I’m choosing a location for my next solo trip, mainly that it has access to adventure, history and places to connect with other travelers.
In the heart of the Southwest’s stunning landscapes lies Cedar City, a small town in Southern Utah that serves as a gateway to many national parks. Salt Lake City is 250 miles to the north and Las Vegas 180 miles to the south. Not only is Cedar City, Utah located in one of my favorite parts of the United States, it also has many of the qualities that I’ve found make for a perfect solo travel destination. Here are seven reasons to make this hub of adventure your next solo travel destination!
Small Town Charms
Founded in 1851 by followers of the Mormon leader Bigham Young, Cedar City was originally coveted for its rich iron deposits. The mining industry continues to flourish here today. Abounding in history, Cedar City offers visitors the charms of small town life with a vibrant historic downtown that is home to shops, restaurants, coffee houses, Antique stores, and even an old time soda fountain. The charming city center has many places to connect with locals and fellow travelers alike.
Hands-on Historical Experiences
At Cedar City, visitors don’t just get to witness history, they also can learn about it hands-on at the Frontier Homestead State Park Museum. At this unique historical park, you immerse yourself in historical experiences from panning for gold to roping cows. There’s also an impressive collection of pioneer artifacts and horse-drawn vehicles.
Zion National Park
Utah is home to five National Parks and Cedar City is a great base to explore many of them. Zion National Park is just a 90-minute drive away. The canyon that forms Zion was first settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1860s and officially designated as a National Park in 1919. The stunning scenery found here includes waterfalls, emerald pools and sandstone cliffs that are among the highest in the world.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Another National Park that is just more than a 90-minute drive from Cedar City is Bryce Canyon. The park is named for pioneer Ebenezer Bryce who came to the valley on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to settle the area. It is marked by a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheatres eroded from the Paunsaugunt Plateau and famous for its colorful limestone and sandstone formations.
The Grand Canyon
A bit further away is the Grand Canyon, a three hour drive from Cedar City. Of all the sights I’ve seen in my travels, the Grand Canyon remains one of the most impressive. It literally took my breath away the first time I saw it when I was 14. No picture can ever do the sight of it in person justice. The North Rim, which is closest to Cedar City, provides plenty of overlooks to spot the Colorado River, the force responsible for eroding such an impressive canyon, as well as trails for hiking.
Ski & Snowboard in Winter
Utah is famous for having the “Greatest Snow on Earth.” Cedar City is nearby Brain Head Resort, home to 400 acres of uncrowded slopes for skiing or snowboarding. In addition to mounds of snow, the trails here provide sweeping scenic views of Dixie National Forest.
Soak up Sun and Music at Summer Festivals
Festivals are often a great place for solo travelers to meet like-minded new friends. With a whole host of festivals, Cedar City is known as “Festival City USA.” Festivals held here include the Tony Award Winning Utah Shakespeare Festival, Groovewest American Music Festival, Neil Simon Festival, and the Utah Midsummer Renaissance Faire.
As you can see, Cedar City makes for a great place for solo travelers to use as a charming base to explore nearby National Parks and partake on adventures. What’s your favorite reason to visit Cedar City? Let me know in the comments below!