Utah is the proud home of five different national parks, all of which boast a desert climate with a lot of sunshine + sand. They’re spread out across the southern portion of the state + if you’re lucky enough to have a handful of days to explore this makes for a very worthy road trip! So let’s explore the options that come with that road trip one national park at a time.
Arches National Park
Location: Moab, Utah [GPS Coordinates]
Main Attractions: Arches National Park is aptly known of its…arches! Within the borders of this national park you’ll find over 2,000 natural stone arches. The most famous + therefore most photographed include Delicate Arch, Double Arch + the many arches within the Devil’s Garden. You’ll also find many stone towers as you drive through the park such as the Courthouse Towers, Balance Rock + the Tower of Babel.
When visiting Arches National Park you’ll have many options for how you explore. The most popular is a simple drive through, although it is highly recommended to pull over for a few short hikes to viewpoints along the way. If you’re looking for a more immersed experience in this national park backpacking is a great option [permits are required, so plan ahead]. You’ll also have the opportunity to explore via road cycling or horseback riding.
Canyonlands National Park
Location: Moab, Utah [GPS Coordinates]
Main Attractions: Within Canyonlands National Park you’ll discover a variety of canyons as well as scenic buttes with views for miles. The park is divided into districts by the Colorado River + its tributaries. These districts include Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze + the rivers themselves.
It is actually challenging to see all of Canyonlands National Park by car alone. This is partly because the rivers have carved deep canyons into the landscape, canyons that are not passable by car. The other reason just driving is not the best option is because so much of the park’s most interested areas are found along the trails leading into these canyons. It is highly recommended that you explore this national park on foot or on bike. Canyonlands National Park is one of the few national parks that allows you to take bikes of the pavement, which is a great excuse to head out for a multi-day mountain biking adventure along the White Rim Trail!
Capitol Reef National Park
Location: Fruita, Utah [GPS Coordinates]
Main Attractions: Capitol Reef National Park surrounds a unique geological formation called a monocline, which is like a wrinkle in the earth. This monocline has created nearly 100 miles of cliffs, domes, canyons + bridges for you to explore. Similar to Canyonlands National Park you’ll find that is a bit challenging, or at least time consuming, to access all areas of Capitol Reef simply because there are impassable canyons. Rather than having a road criss-cross the national park Capitol Reef National Park offers up multiple entrances. It may be best to focus on exploring one area at a time.
When you’re visiting Capitol Reef National Park hiking is the best way to really get a good look at everything the park has to offer. There are also various level of canyoneering available + all paved roads are all accessible by bicycle.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Location: Tropic, Utah [GPS Coordinates]
Main Attractions: A quick Google Image search will show you that Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its hoodoos, or pillars of rock. These rock formations are found all over the world but Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of them just waiting for you to stare in awe. The road through this national park runs parallel to the amphitheatres + bowls that have been carved into a high desert plateau. This makes it quite easy to see a lot of the park without committing to long hikes.
The easiest way to view these hoodoos is from various viewpoints throughout the park, including Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point + Sunrise Point. Hiking is also a great way to get up close + personal with the hundreds of narrow stone pillars. This park also offers a few campgrounds so you can spend even more time roaming the area.
Zion National Park
Location: Springdale, Utah [GPS Coordinates]
Main Attractions: Zion National Park is a beauty, filled with narrow canyons + sweeping desert views. The park is probably best known for two iconic hikes — Angel’s Landing + The Narrows, two very different types of stunning trails. At Angel’s Landing you’ll find high exposure along a narrow ridgeline after heaps of uphill switchbacks. The Narrows is a long hike that will allow you to squeeze through narrow canyons while you explore the park from the bottom. Both of these hikes are well-known + extremely popular so plan ahead to make the most of your time there.
Within the boundaries of Zion National Park you’ll find many opportunities to explore while hiking, biking, rock climbing, canyoneering or rafting. This national park may look small on a map but it offers up so many adventures in one area!