The Best National Parks in Utah Guide: The Utah Mighty 5

The Best National Parks in Utah

The Best National Parks in Utah Guide: The Utah Mighty 5

Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks are bucket list destinations for not only Utah natives but for travelers across the globe. In this post, we’re going to share the essence of what makes each park special, along with practical tips to help you plan a visit that feels just right for you. 

List of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks 

The Mighty 5 National Parks in Utah are like magnets for nature lovers. These parks are not just about seeing the sights; they’re about experiencing the sheer wonder of the great outdoors. 

  1. Arches National Park 

Location: Just north of Moab in eastern Utah. The best way to get there is by flying into Canyonlands Field Airport (CNY) and then driving about 20 minutes to the park. 

Accommodations: Moab offers a range of options, from the rustic charm of Under Canvas Moab to the comfortable Moab Valley Inn. For those looking for luxury, Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa provides upscale amenities with incredible views. 

About the Park: With over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, including the famous Delicate Arch, it’s a must-visit for anyone who loves the outdoors. Each year, more than 1.5 million people come from all over the world to see the landscapes and unique rock formations that make this park so special. The park isn’t just about the arches, though. There are also incredible hikes like the Delicate Arch Trail and the Landscape Arch Trail, which offer breathtaking views of the park’s scenery. For those looking for a bit more adventure, the Fiery Furnace guided tour takes you through a maze of narrow sandstone canyons. 

The best times to visit Arches are in the spring and fall when the weather is perfect for exploring. Summers can be really hot, with temperatures often hitting over 100°F, and winters can be cold, but each season brings its own unique beauty to the park. 

Arches National Park in Utah

  1. Canyonlands National Park

Location: Also near Moab, Canyonlands is about a 40-minute drive southwest of the city. The best way to access the park is by flying into Canyonlands Field Airport and driving. 

Accommodations: Moab serves as the gateway with options like the Aarchway Inn and the Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn offering comfortable stays. For a unique experience, consider staying at the Castle Valley Inn, located about 30 minutes from the park. 

About the Park: Canyonlands National Park is divided into four distinct districts: Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the Rivers. Each area offers its own unique adventures and sights, making the park a diverse and exciting destination. Plan on at least 2 days to adequately explore all the park has to offer. 

Island in the Sky is the most accessible district, offering panoramic views from atop a mesa. Key highlights include the Mesa Arch Trail, known for its iconic stone arch framing the morning sun, and the Grand View Point Trail, offering breathtaking vistas of the canyon country below. The Needles district is famous for its colorful spires and sandstone formations, with popular hikes like the Chesler Park Loop and the challenging Druid Arch Trail. 

The Maze is a remote area known for its labyrinth of narrow canyons and towering walls, appealing to experienced adventurers. The rivers, namely the Colorado and Green Rivers, carve through the park, providing opportunities for rafting and kayaking. 

  1. Capitol Reef National Park 

Location: In south-central Utah, about a 2.5-hour drive from Moab. The closest regional airport is Richfield Municipal Airport, about an hour’s drive from the park. 

Accommodations: The town of Torrey offers options like the Capitol Reef Inn & Café and the Red Sands Hotel. For a more rustic experience, consider the Capitol Reef Resort, which offers cabins and teepees. 

About the Park: Capitol Reef National Park is a quiet, underrated gem in Utah’s lineup of national parks. It’s famous for the Waterpocket Fold, a huge wrinkle in the earth that stretches for nearly 100 miles. The park is a beautiful mix of cliffs, canyons, domes, and natural bridges, all waiting to be explored. What’s unique about Capitol Reef is its orchards, where you can actually pick and eat fruit like pioneers did back in the day. One of the park’s popular hikes is the Hickman Bridge Trail. It’s a fairly easy walk, about 1.8 miles round trip, that takes you to a massive natural arch with great views. Another favorite is the Capitol Gorge Trail, which is about 2 miles round trip. It’s an easy hike through a narrow canyon, where you’ll see ancient petroglyphs and names carved by pioneers on the rock walls. This trail ends at some natural water pockets, which are pretty cool to check out. 

Capitol Reef might not be as famous as some of the other parks in Utah, but it’s got a lot of heart and plenty of beautiful spots to discover. It’s perfect for anyone who loves a bit of adventure without the crowds. 

  1. Bryce Canyon National Park 

Location: In southwestern Utah, about a 4-hour drive from Salt Lake City. The closest airport is Cedar City Regional Airport, about a 1.5-hour drive from the park. 

Accommodations: Bryce Canyon City offers lodging options like Bryce View Lodge and the Bryce Canyon Pines. For a more immersive experience, consider staying at the Bryce Canyon Lodge inside the park.

About the Park: Bryce Canyon National Park is like stepping into another world, with its famous hoodoos – those tall, skinny spires of rock that seem to glow in the sunlight. These unique formations are the result of frost weathering and stream erosion. The park is full of natural amphitheaters that offer some of the best views, especially when the sun is rising or setting, and the colors change every minute. 

When it comes to hikes, the Navajo Loop Trail is a big hit. It’s a moderate hike that takes you down into the canyon, up close and personal with the hoodoos, and even through a slot canyon called Wall Street. Another favorite is the Fairyland Loop Trail, which is a bit longer and more challenging but offers stunning views of the hoodoos and the surrounding landscape. It’s a great way to really soak in the beauty of Bryce Canyon. 

Bryce Canyon isn’t just about the hoodoos, though. There are plenty of other trails and viewpoints to explore, each with its own unique charm.

Whether you’re looking for a short, easy walk or a longer hike, Bryce Canyon has something for everyone. 

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah

  1. Zion National Park 

Location: In southwestern Utah, about a 3-hour drive from Las Vegas. The closest airport is St. George Regional Airport, about an hour’s drive from the park. 

Accommodations: Springdale, located at the park’s entrance, offers a variety of accommodations, from the rustic Zion Lodge inside the park to the modern SpringHill Suites by Marriott. For a unique stay, consider the Under Canvas Zion glamping site. 

About the Park: Zion National Park is a true natural wonder, drawing visitors in with its towering red cliffs and stunning slot canyons. The Virgin River, which carved out this magnificent landscape, winds through the canyon, adding to the park’s beauty. Zion is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, from mule deer to bighorn sheep, making every visit an opportunity to connect with nature. 

One of the park’s most famous hikes is Angels Landing. It’s a challenging trail that takes you up a narrow ridge with sheer drops on either side, but the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the sense of accomplishment and the panoramic vistas make it all worth it. Another iconic hike is The Narrows, where you actually wade through the Virgin River, surrounded by towering canyon walls. It’s a unique experience that feels like an adventure in another world. 

Zion’s shuttle system is a big part of what makes the park so special. It helps manage traffic and reduce the environmental impact, making the park a more peaceful and enjoyable place for everyone. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a place to unwind and take in the beauty of nature, Zion National Park has something to offer. 

The Best National Parks in Utah Guide Conclusion 

Utah’s Mighty 5 are a playground for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. From breathtaking hikes to serene moments in nature, there’s something for everyone in these incredible parks. And if you’re gearing up for your next outdoor adventure, don’t forget to swing by General Army Navy Outdoor in Taylorsville or check out our online store. We’ve got all the gear you need to make your Utah parks experience unforgettable and a whole lot of fun!

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