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14 Very Best Things To Do in Green River, UT

Green River, Utah is often overshadowed by some of Utah’s more famous attractions like Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

However, Green River is the PERFECT jumping-off point to visit several of Utah’s best adventures including the San Rafael Swell, 9 mile Canyon, Helper, UT, Horseshoe Canyon, Sego Canyon, and Goblin Valley State Park in addition to some great things to do right in town including the John Wesley Powell Museum and rafting the Green River.

I’m Cheryl and I live 4 hours away from Green River, UT, and visit often. My husband and I write travel guides for several national parks. Read on for some of our favorite things to do in Green River, Utah.

Map of Green River, Utah

1. John Wesley Powell and River Runners Hall of Fame Museum

Sign outside of JW Powell River History Museum
John Wesley Powell and River Runners Hall of Fame Museum

The John Wesley Powell and River Runners Hall of Fame Museum is a nice little spot right in town to learn about the fascinating history of this area. It discusses the Old Spanish Trail but its main focus is on John Wesley Powell’s harrowing journeys through Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon. Check out the massive map inside of things to do nearby (no entrance fee is required to check out the map).

John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River, UT

2. Swasey’s Beach

Swasey’s Beach is a beautiful spot to swim and enjoy the Green River, located about 10 miles north of town. This isn’t the ocean, but it has really nice mountain views.

3. Raft the Green River

River Rafting is one of the main draws to Green River. Most tour companies do multi-day rafting trips along the Green River, but locals like to put in 18 miles north of town and end at Swasey’s Beach.

I used to raft the Green River as a kid and remember thinking it was really pretty. My family liked to fish on it and I caught the biggest fish of my life, a brown trout!

4. Attend Melon Days

giant wooden watermelon

Green River is known for its watermelons and Melon Days are held every September. Watermelons grown in the West are delicious and definitely something to celebrate!

5. Visit the Town Park

Rocket model

Visit the town park to see the huge Watermelon Float (sometimes found next to the Powell Museum as well). While there, notice the large rocket. Green River was once a launching pad for the military.

6. Eat at the Tamarisk

Navajo Taco Salad
Navajo Taco Salad at the Tamarisk

This is the best place to eat in town and we love their Navajo Taco Salad and berry pie. But there’s a pretty large menu if you prefer burgers, sandwiches, or more traditional comfort foods.

Something special is that this restaurant sits along the edge of the Green River so you can view the river as you dine.

7. Helper, Utah.

Main street in Helper, Utah
Helper, Utah

Just an hour away from Green River is the cute mountain town of Helper, Utah. It offers entertainment, concerts, a charming Main Street, a lot of railroad and mining history, art galleries, and more.

Originally established as a coal mining town in the late 19th century, Helper got its name from the helper train engines that helped pull the train cars through the steep canyon.

This town gets into Christmas in a major way and has deemed itself “Utah’s Christmas Town” because of the Electric Christmas Parade they put on every year the first week of December.

You can go on a walking tour of this cute town and read more about it on our blog post Helper, Utah: Best Things To Do & Walking Tour.

8. Nine Mile Canyon

Nine Mile Canyon

If you like scenic drives and fun scavenger hunts, Nine Mile Canyon is a destination you don’t want to miss. It’s over 3 hours away which makes it the perfect day trip.

Nine Mile Canyon is often referred to as the “World’s Longest Art Gallery” due to its impressive concentration of rock art panels. These remarkable pictographs and petroglyphs, created by Native American cultures over thousands of years, provide a window into their lives, beliefs, and cultural practices.

Despite its name, Nine Mile Canyon is actually 46 miles long. It got its “Nine Mile” name from an early explorer and it has always been attached to the area.

There are a few guides online that will show where all these pictographs and petroglyphs are but we created a simple guide that is perfect for the average Joe wishing to see some great rock art in an afternoon.

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9. The San Rafael Swell

View of Nine Mile Canyon
Nine Mile Canyon

This hidden geological marvel is only 45 minutes away from Green River, UT. It spans over 1,500 square miles and is known for its deep canyons, jutting rock formations, and ancient rock art.

Things to do here include:

  • Hiking. Explore the numerous hiking trails that wind through the canyons and mesas of the Swell. The best-known hike is Little Wild Horse Canyon, a family-friendly slot canyon.
  • Petroglyphs. Discover the ancient rock art left by Native Americans throughout the Swell. Visit sites such as Buckhorn Wash and Rochester Panel to witness these fascinating petroglyphs.
  • Mountain Biking. Grab your bike and hit the rugged trails that traverse the Swell.
  • ATVing. Hop on an ATV and traverse the vast network of trails that crisscross the Swell.
  • Camping. Pitch your tent or set up your RV at one of the designated campgrounds or dispersed camping areas.
  • Photography. Capture the beauty of the Swell and the changing colors of the landscape through your lens.
  • Scenic Drives. Take a scenic drive through the Swell, marveling at the expansive vistas and unique geological formations along the way. The Buckhorn Draw Road and the Moore Cutoff offer scenic routes to explore.
  • Stargazing. As the sun sets and darkness envelops the Swell, the night sky comes alive with countless stars.

You can read more about it at The Perfect 3-Day Road Trip Through the San Rafael Swell & Central Utah (Helper, Goblin Valley, Price, & More!)

10. Jurassic National Monument

Outside the Dinosaur Quarry

This is the world’s largest Jurassic-aged dinosaur quarry, and due to its significance, it was made a national monument in 2019.

This is about an hour and a half away from Green River, and the last 10 miles or so are on a graded dirt road, suitable for cars.

Most of the dinosaurs here were Allosaurus, which was the T-Rex before T-Rex lived. It’s interesting to read why this site has so many bones. They have three theories: 1) it was a natural swamp predator trap, 2) the bones were washed here by a river, or 3) it was a poisoned watering hole.

11. Sego Canyon

Rock art panel in Sego Canyon in Utah
Rock Art in Sego Canyon

Just 30 miles west of Green River, Sego Canyon is kind of a secret spot here in Utah. There’s ancient rock art and an abandoned ghost town. You have to drive on a dirt road to get there but you can read more about it in our blog post, Sego Canyon In Utah: A Small Canyon With A Lot Of History.

12. Horseshoe Canyon

View through arch in Horseshoe Canyon
Horseshoe Canyon

Horseshoe Canyon is actually part of Canyonlands National Park but Green River is the best jumping-off point. It’s only 90 minutes away and requires driving on a dirt road, but it contains world-famous pictographs. Learn more in our guide to Horseshoe Canyon.

13. Goblin Valley State Park

Hoodoos in Goblin Valley State Park
Goblin Valley State Park

Goblin Valley State Park is one of the more amazing and fun places you’ll ever explore! Thousands of little hoodoos are located in a basin that you can explore on your own without any trails.

It’s less than an hour away and is one of our family’s favorite places to play “Where’s Waldo?”

14. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

View of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

We will never forget the first time we stayed in Green River. We decided to head to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks for a long weekend and it was the only place we could get a room.

We stayed at the Super 8 in town because it was affordable and perfect for our family. We found that we loved being out of the craziness of Moab, that lodging was cheaper, and it wasn’t too bad of a drive (45 minutes).

Now, Green River is our go-to when we visit Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

Green River, Utah is not only a spot to visit several of Utah’s popular (and hidden) sights, but it also is home to very cool things to do, right within town.

If you’re planning a trip to Arches and Canyonlands we can help!

Planning a vacation shouldn’t be stressful. We created a step-by-step itinerary so you can visit the best places at the right times. Stop planning and start having the vacation of your dreams!

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