The state of Utah is home to five National Parks and they are absolutely gorgeous. In this article, I’ll tell you all about the Utah National Parks.
Last update: June 2020.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is located all the way in the southeast corner of Utah. It’s the first National Park in Utah (since 1919) and compared to the other National Parks it is quite small. Zion is definitely a must-see when you’re planning a Southern Utah road trip.
In the park, you’ll find Zion Canyon and the Virgin River. The park is very popular among hikers, there are so many trails! From easy to strenuous, there’s a trail for everyone. The most popular trails are The Narrows, Observation Point and Angels Landing.
Zion is one of the more popular parks in Utah, and it can be very crowded because it’s so small. During peak season, some parts of the park are only accessible by shuttle buses and you might have to wait for a while to get on a bus. I would advise going into the park as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
Also check out this article: Zion National Park Travel Guide – tips for your first visit
Bryce Canyon National Park
From Zion, it’s only a 1,5-hour drive to Bryce Canyon National Park and you’ll find yourselves in a completely different world. This park for sure is a must-see when you’re on a Utah National Parks road trip. Bright red hoodoos, arches, and other rock formations. There’s one long and winding road in Bryce Canyon from which you can visit all of the viewpoints. The best thing to do is to drive the road all the way to the end and stop at the viewpoints on your way back. The viewpoints are all located on the right side of the road, so it makes it easier for you to stop.
Do you want to go for a hike? I can highly recommend doing a combination of the Queens Garden and Navajo trail. When you hike this trail, you will go down into the canyon and walk in between the hoodoos, which is fascinating to see.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park is very centrally located in Utah. It’s sort of a hidden gem because it’s not as crowded as all the other parks. In the center of the park, you’ll find Fruita Valley, a place where a group of Mormons used to live. You can still see some of the old buildings and you can also see the orchards they planted. You can pick fruit from the trees in the orchards for free (check which one is open during your stay). In Fruita Valley, you’ll also find one of the most beautiful campgrounds in Southwest USA.
The valley is surrounded by steep rock walls made from different colors. You’ll get one of the best scenic views if you hike the Fremont river trail.
Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park is the place for you to feel like you’re in the Wild Wild West. The park has four different districts and most people visit the part that’s called Islands in the sky. In this district, you can see a huge crater, have a scenic view of the canyon and the Colorado River at Grand Viewpoint, and see the famous Mesa Arch.
You can find the most accurate information about Capitol Reef National Park on the official website.
Arches National Park
Last but not least is Arches National Park. In this park, you’ll find more than 2000 (!) natural arches and bridges and many other beautiful rock formations. The most famous arch of all is the Delicate Arch, which you can also see on the license plates of Utah. Another beautiful arch is the Landscape Arch, which you will find in a gorgeous part of the park called Devils Garden. This arch has a length of 88 meters and is the longest arch in the park.
Arches National Park is quite big, so you probably won’t be able to see all of the highlights in one afternoon. Take your time and go to the visitor center for additional information. Also, check the official website for the latest updates.
When you want to visit Arches and Canyonlands National Park it’s best to stay in Moab. If you’d like to visit both parks, make sure to book at least three nights. Moab gained popularity in the last couple of years, so book ahead to get affordable accommodation.
Utah National Parks Map
Best time to visit Utah National Parks
You can visit most of the Utah National Parks all year round. But you might encounter some snow during winter months (especially in Bryce Canyon). I would recommend traveling in shoulder season: March to May or September to November. You will avoid most crowds during these months. It also can get really hot in some of during parks during summer months.
Utah road trip
To visit all the Utah National Parks you might as well go on a spectacular Utah road trip! To explore all the national parks in Utah, you need approximately two weeks. If you travel to Utah from abroad, I suggest flying into either Salt Lake City International Airport or McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Check Skyscanner for the best ticket prices.
If you want to go on a Utah road trip and you arrive by plane, you need a rental car. I usually rent cars for my USA road trips through either AutoEurope or Alamo. Make sure to rent a car from a European website when you travel to Utah from Europe, that way all necessary insurances are included.
During your Utah road trip, you’ll visit many other gorgeous sights (besides Utah National Parks). For example:
– Monument Valley.
– Scenic Byway 12 (this is the road between Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon), this is one of the most scenic highways in the United States.
– Page, from where you can visit Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell, and the gorgeous Horseshoe Bend.
– Do you have more time? You might want to visit Grand Canyon National Park drive a section of Route 66 (between Seligman and Needles) as well.
Have you ever visited the Utah National Parks? What’s your favorite National Park in Utah?
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Check out these articles if you’d like to know more about traveling in Southwest USA:
– West Coast USA road trip: a spectacular itinerary
– How much does it cost to travel in Southwest USA?
– Camping in Southwest USA – 7 beautiful campgrounds