Utah national parks are amongst the most popular and most scenic in the United States. From the red rock arches of Arches National Park to the green forests of Zion National Park, Utah’s national parks offer a little something for everyone. Let’s talk about their astonishing landscapes and why it should be on your travel bucket list!
1. Arches National Park
Arches National Park is characterized by its natural arches, of which it has the highest concentration in the world. This otherworldly landscape has evolved over 300 million years and over 2,000 arches have been cataloged in the park! The must-see here is Delicate Arch, the largest free-standing arch in the park standing at 46 feet (14m) high and 32 feet (9.7m) wide. Its proximity to Moab does make it a bit of a crowded park at times, and sometimes hundreds of people will be at Delicate Arch for sunset. Our travel tip is to take advantage of the early mornings! Other than seeing Delicate Arch, you can fully immerse yourself into the park. Explore the sandstone towers and tunnels, climb over rocks, and maybe camp overnight. Arches is an internationally-certified Dark Sky Park, which means it is a prime location for stargazing!
2. Bryce Canyon National Park
Water and wind over millions of years have made their mark in the endless fields of red rock pillars, called hoodoos. These rows of rock pillars look almost intentional by nature’s hand – silent, eerie, and beautiful. Take a look at Bryce Canyon and you’ll know why it is practically a destination on every national parks road trip! There are lots to explore here, such as the Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration and Bryce viewpoints. The hiking trails at Bryce Canyon are truly among the most beautiful of park trails. And because the park is at an elevation of 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700m), there is plenty of winter here. A winter visit also means fewer people and a completely different scenery, with opportunities for snowshoeing, skiing, and plenty of other winter fun!
3. Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands is one of the parks that has such breathtaking views, you can gaze upon it for days. Imagine endless canyons, towering pinnacles, cliffs, and spires formed by gravity and the currents of the Colorado river. The catch is that you’ll need a four-wheel drive to have full access to all of the unbelievable destinations within the park. Without one, you will be mostly limited to views from above, which are still well worth the visit. However you do it, do yourself a favor and don’t hurry through the park. You can also go biking, boating or horseback riding, among a range of other activities. The park is more popular in the warmer months, but winter may appeal if you’re a rugged adventurer.
4. Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is the least well-known national park in Utah, but that means lesser crowds and more views for yourself. Take in the expansiveness of the sweeping vistas, and a seemingly endless landscape of limitless sky and desert rock. Here you can imagine what the earth could’ve been like when there was nothing but earth and sky. A hidden treasure filled with cliffs, canyons, domes, and bridges, Capitol Reef is full of opportunities to explore with many places to stay the night. As a Dark Sky Park too, Capitol Reef is one of the best places in the world for stargazing and night photography.
5. Zion National Park
Follow the paths where ancient native people walked. Gaze up at massive red sandstone cliffs that soar into a beautiful blue sky. Zion National Park is always ready to quench your appetite for outdoor wonder, but we should warn you of the crowd. As one of the most popular Utah national parks, Zion continues to see record-breaking visitation numbers each year. There are still a few areas of the park that are not completely overrun, like Kolob Terrace and Kolob Canyons. Even though the park is a paradise for hikers with views out of this world, the near constant endless crowds angling for their next IG photo can get frustrating. If you are able to look past all that, then you will be able to enjoy Zion National Park!