The eastern and southern two-thirds of Utah belong to the Colorado Plateau, a region characterized by deep river canyons; erosion has carved much of the plateau into buttes and mesas. The Rocky Mountains are represented by the Bear River, Wasatch, and Uinta ranges in the north and northeast. These ranges, rising well above 10,000 ft (3,000 m), hold the highest point in Utah—Kings Peak in the Uintas—at an altitude of 13,528 ft (4,126 m).

The arid, sparsely populated Great Basin dominates the western third of the state. Drainage in this region does not reach the sea, and streams often disappear in the dry season. To the north are the Great Salt Lake, a body of hypersaline water, and the Great Salt Lake Desert (containing the Bonneville Salt Flats), both remnants of a vast prehistoric lake that covered the region during the last Ice Age. The lowest point in Utah—2,000 ft (610 m) above sea level—occurs at Beaverdam Creek in Washington County, in the southwest corner of the state.

The western edge of the Wasatch Range, or Wasatch Front, holds most of Utah's major cities. It also attracts the greatest rainfall and snowfall, particularly in the north. Two regions rich in fossil fuels are the Kaiparowits Plateau, in southern Utah, and the Overthrust Belt, a geologic structural zone underlying the north-central part of the state.

The largest lake is the Great Salt Lake, which at the end of 1984 covered 2,250 sq mi (5,827 sq km) and was 34% larger than in 1976. In 1984, as a result of increased precipitation, the lake rose to 4,209.25 ft (1,283 m) above sea level, its highest level since 1877; the lake has been rising steadily since 1963, causing severe flooding, and its waters, diluted by runoff, have lost some salinity. Other major bodies of water are Utah Lake, Bear Lake (shared with Idaho), and Lake Powell, formed by the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River. Other important rivers include the Green, flowing into the Colorado; the Sevier, which drains central and southern Utah; and the Bear, which flows into the Great Salt Lake.