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The 5 Best National Parks in Utah

Check out this guest post, The 5 Best National Parks in Utah, by Zubin Panday of Going Locations. He’s a Virginia native who has traveled to many parts of the world and near his hometown.

A view of Monument Valley in Utah, showing two rock formations
Photo by Betty Subrizi on Unsplash

Utah is known for its unmatched scenery, views, and landscapes. This interesting state has several different landscapes. A more mountainous landscape surrounds Salt Lake City and much of Northern Utah, this is where Utah’s famous ski resorts including Park City, Snowbird, and Powder Mountain are located. The rest of the state is divided between the Basin and Ridge Region and the Colorado Plateau, this is where Utah’s National Parks are.

In contrast to Utah’s snowy mountains, Utah’s National Parks are dry with little vegetation, similar to much of Arizona. These national parks are known for their canyonlands, geological sites, and spectacular hikes. Another thing you’ll notice about visiting these parks is the isolation of them. Coming from the East Coast, it’s rare to see a place that’s left so untouched by humans.

Without further waiting, let’s detail the first of Utah’s five national parks, Arches National Park.

An arch overlooking Arches National Park
Photo by Ken Cheung on Unsplash

The 5 Best National Parks In Utah

In our opinion, the 5 best National Parks in Utah are as follows,

  1. Arches National Park
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park
  3. Canyonlands National Park
  4. Capitol Reef National Park
  5. Zion Nation Park
  • Arches

Arches National Park gets its name for a reason, the park has over 2,000 arches, some over 100 feet tall.

The town sits right outside the town of Moab, a perfect spot to stay the night as major cities are too far. From there, you can take a 10-minute drive to Arches Park National Road. You’ll take this road to get to all the top sites.

Delicate Arch is a must-visit if you’re willing to make the short hike. The same applies to Double Arch, where you can see a 112-foot tall and 144-foot wide arch. Balanced Rock and Sand Dune Arch are both a bit more difficult to miss, taking the Sand Dune Arch trail is worth it.

Remember that although these sites can be seen by road, the true fun is when you hike to these places.

The ampitheatre rocks of Bryce Canyon, one of the 5 best national parks in Utah
Photo by Ellis Dieperink on Unsplash
  • Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon, located in south Utah, is another archeological phenomenon, full of sites to see.

The National Park is most known for their amphitheaters, a bowl-shaped series of rocks that are unique to this park. Creating this park has been a slow process, as millions of years of erosion have slowly carved through every one of these rocks.

Inspiration Point is a must-see as you can observe the park from an elevation of over 8,000 feet. The other spot I’d recommend is Peekaboo Canyon, as you walk between the canyon walls, making for an epic hike.

The windy roads of Canyonland national park in Utah
Photo by Themis on Unsplash
  • Canyonlands

Believe it or not, Canyonlands National Park is the largest park in Utah, spanning over 300,000 acres.

The park is located under an hour’s drive from Arches National Park, so staying in Moab might be a convenient spot to see both parks.

Two rivers run through the park, the Colorado and Green Rivers. Similar to the Grand Canyon, it was these rivers that made the park what it is today.

As this park has several sides to it, it’s virtually impossible to cover it all in one day. Mesa Arch should be the first place you visit, this arch stands on the edge of a 500-foot cliff giving incredible views below. Next, take the one-mile trail to see White Rim Overlook, you’ll be able to see The La Sal Mountains, Monument Basin, and the Colorado River.

There’s so much more to see, that this place deserves a separate blog post.

A front view of one of Capitol Reef National Parks natural rock formations.
Photo by Aiden Guinnip on Unsplash
  • Capitol Reef

We’ve come to the fourth park on this list: Capitol Reef National Park.

Although this park gets 1.2 million visitors per year, it’s often less crowded than the other national parks on this list. It makes sense, the park is quite isolated from much else making it sort of a hidden gem.

Taking the road named Scenic Drive takes you past all the best sites, so just a drive around will blow you away.

Start your tour at Fruita, this is where Utah’s State Route 24 connects to campgrounds and the visitors center. You can also hike to Hickman Natural Bridge and Sunset Point from here. Next, take the Scenic Drive south to Slickrock Divide and Pleasant Creek Trail.

A view of the gorge in Zion, one of the 5 best national parks in Utah
Photo by Dave Herring on Unsplash
  • Zion

As Utah’s first national park, Zion National Park has grown to be one of the most popular national parks in the country.

The park is in southwest Utah, near Utah’s 5th largest city: St George. There are several lodges inside the park so you can settle in the park for multiple days.

Zion National Park’s history spans more than 250 million years ago, and as with many other Utah parks, carved these stunning Canyons, Plateaus, and tributaries.

During the warmer months, Zion National Park is closed to cars, meaning that the park is accessible by shuttle, bikes, and hikes. 

The Narrows is the first spot you must visit upon entrance into the park. After taking a shuttle, you can hike along the Virgin River between a narrow 2,000-foot-deep pass. From being deep below the canyons, we’re moving to a summit 5,790 feet high: Angels Landing. This hike isn’t for the faint-hearted, as some sections see rapid elevation gain.

Many sections of the hike are near steep drop-offs and have no guard, so be cautious when hiking. The views make it all worth it, as this is where you can see Zion National Park in full form.

A Conclusion To The 5 Best National Parks in Utah

There you have it, The Mighty Five as some call it in depth. Hopefully, this helped you in planning your trip or inspired you to make a trip. The most ideal time to visit these parks is in spring and fall, as summer is too hot and winter is too cold. If you visit in winter, make sure to explore the best ski resorts in Utah as this is the place to be in that season. If you visit in summer, be prepared for some hot weather in the lower elevations, but don’t let this dissuade you from visiting.

Which of these 5 National Parks in Utah would you most like to visit?

A pinterest pin for the 5 best National Parks in Utah

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Brooklyn standing in front of the pyramids of Giza

Brooklyn Murtaugh

travel blogger

Hi! I’m Brooklyn. Like many, I thought my purpose in life was to go to university, settle down and have kids. But that is not me. 

My aim is to inspire you to travel as much as you can while you can, whether that be through au pair work, or on your limited vacation days. It CAN be done. This world is incredible, let’s explore it!

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