See Southern Utah from a new, cooler perspective in the water this summer.

Southern Utah Is More Than Just Red Rocks: Water Adventures Not to Miss

Picture a trip through Southern Utah: Does it look like red rock hikes, arches, and canyons? Yes, Southern Utah is all these things. But have you ever imagined wading through waist-deep water, rafting down the Colorado, or house-boating on a warm-water lake? If not, we’ve got some suggestions. 

In the summertime, Southern Utah is hot enough to make anyone want a cool respite. So, choose to see the region from the water for a perfectly balanced adventure that leaves you refreshed with the mild temperatures and the warm sunshine. Enjoy the unique red rock experience while still feeling cooled off and comfortable.

Jet ski on lake Powell
Jet skiing on Lake Powell

Ashley Dunne

For those unfamiliar with the region, the iconic rocks in Southern Utah are red because of oxidized iron. The iron has undergone a chemical reaction due to exposure to either air or water. This leaves the rocks with a red, rusty color. The only place in the United States these beauties can be found is in the Southwest, so experience it while you can.

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You can organize a guided trip down the Colorado River, or you can go on your own and hike the Narrows in Zion National Park. Southern Utah has some of the most otherworldly views and a Mars-like landscape. While breathtakingly beautiful, it can be painstakingly hot.

We’ve rounded up all the best water activities that you should be doing this summer in Southern Utah. Book your trips after you’ve looked at our list—these activities just might be the highlight of your red rock adventures.

Hike the Narrows

Comfortable Hiking in Zion National Park, UT
The Narrows

Thomas J. Story

One of the most famous hikes in Zion National Park has an exciting spin: You’re essentially hiking through a river the entire time. It is such an unbelievable way to see the beauty of Utah and its slot canyons while staying cool and embracing an extra challenge.

Make sure to check the weather before you go—there is a possibility of flash flooding. Hiking the Narrows after a rain event is not advised. Also check to make sure the trail is open. It is subject to closure due to high water levels (likely in winter and spring). There is also a toxic cyanobacteria bloom going on in the rivers and streams of Zion—do not submerge your head or filter any water from the river.

Jet Boat in Moab

Hitch a ride on a jet boat through Moab using Moab Jett. Moab’s self-proclaimed “original New Zealand Jet Boat tour company,” they are family-owned and operated, offering scenic tours and thrill rides alike. The captains have been leading these rides for years and know the river like the back of their hands. What better way to see the Colorado? If you do a thrill ride, get ready to get absolutely drenched. Expect water to come overhead and leave you entirely soaked.

Get a Houseboat on Lake Powell

houseboat sunset red sand kayaks
House-boating on Lake Powell

Ashley Dunne

Water shortages are currently threatening Lake Powell, which is a popular travel attraction due to its warm water and red rock views. There has been little snowpack the past few years, leading to significantly lower water levels.

So, if you are planning to houseboat on Lake Powell, you should go as soon as possible before the water level may be too low for boating. You have the option to rent powerboats, jet skis, wakeboards, water skis, inner tubes, kayaks, paddleboards, kneeboards, or floating lily pads. It is highly recommended to rent a powerboat if you are going house-boating to give you and your group greater mobility while you’re anchored near shore. Plan your trip out to make sure you can rent your watercraft at the closest marina, as there are three.

Raft Along the Colorado River

Rafting the Green Rive

Courtesy of National Park Service / Dan Johnson

One last way to see the Colorado is river rafting, a classic activity. You can choose between a mellow float, some rapids, and literal waterfalls. You can go for a day or turn it into a larger trip by staying overnight with a guide. There are dozens of river rafting outfitters to choose from depending on what type of experience you want and what part of the river.

When I rafted down a part of it, we called it the “Chocolate River” because the water was opaque and brownish. But don’t be afraid! It’s just red rock sediments floating in the river.