I went to Utah in September for the first time and it truly did not disappoint. I was very impressed with how beautiful the entire state of Utah is and how much there is to see! If you follow along on Instagram you know that Josh and I recently got back from a week-long road trip visiting national parks in the Southwest, spending a lot of our time in Utah where a majority of those well-known parks are. Today I will be sharing the list of the national parks Josh and I visited while in Utah, important things to know about visiting each, and more. If you have not been to the national parks in Utah, this is your sign to book a trip because you will be amazed at how beautiful these places really are!
Arches National Park (Moab, UT)
Arches National Park is located in Moab, UT (Southeast Utah) and is a very unique park with all its “arch”-like rock formations and red rocks. Something to know that may often be overlooked is that when planning on visiting Arches, you’ll want to try and get there as early as you can in the morning. I wanted to note this because with how popular national parks have been over the past couple of months and how iconic Arches National Park is, they do limit the number of visitors in the park at once. There is only one entrance to the park and the road leading up to the check-in station is only so big that once that fills up with cars, they will ask you to leave and come back later to avoid car hold-ups on the nearby highway. This is especially important to know if you are planning on visiting on a weekend in particular. We arrived at around 7:30am and only had to wait in line for about 15 minutes (and we had visited on a Sunday at a less popular time of year to travel).
While there are so many different viewpoints and arches to see at Arches National Park, you will definitely want to do the Delicate Arch hike. The Delicate Arch trail is only about a 3-mile hike roundtrip and I would probably rate it as an easy to moderate hike. There is no shade on the hike as it is all very open so if you’re going during the warmer months, make sure to bring plenty of water with you and sunscreen because it can get very hot! There is also no overlook to see the Delicate Arch and is one you will have to hike to see, but it is so worth it!
Some other viewpoints throughout the park that are worth seeing are Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers, Balanced Rock, Devils Garden, and Fiery Furnace. There are of course so much more as well!
Canyonlands National Park (Moab, UT)
Also located in Moab, UT is Canyonlands National Park which is about a 30-minute drive from Arches and is what you could consider the Grand Canyon of Utah or the “Islands in the Sky” as it is more officially known as. At this point in our vacation, we had not yet seen the Grand Canyon so this place really blew me away and was something I had just never seen anything like before. All the canyon and rock formations were absolutely incredible and you really do feel on top of the world when you’re there! While I do think the Grand Canyon is way more impressive, Canyonlands is still 100% worth seeing and just as beautiful! The views all around are just insane! You can also see the bottoms of the canyons from the top viewpoints which is pretty cool and not really something you can see from the top at the Grand Canyon.
Bryce Canyon National Park (Bryce Canyon City, UT)
Bryce Canyon National Park is located in Bryce Canyon City, UT (Southwest Utah) about an hour and a half drive from Zion National Park, and is probably one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen! Bryce Canyon is known for its red rock “hoodoos” which are spire-shaped rock formations and I’ve just never seen anything like it before. All of the red rocks throughout the entire park are so incredible and you’ll always have something to look at when driving through the park. There are a couple of hikes you can do through Bryce Canyon, however, we did not spend as much time as we probably could have here and really spent most of our time at the main viewpoints, Inspiration Point in particular, and just taking it all in. I’d personally love to come back sometime in the winter though and see it in the snow after seeing pictures of it then and do some more hikes then, just so incredible all year round!
Zion National Park (Springdale, UT)
Zion National Park is definitely a must-see when in Utah and is probably the most popular park out of all the ones listed in this post. The best way I can describe this park is like the Disneyworld of national parks if that gives you any indication of how busy it is year-round. It’s also pretty similar to Disneyworld in a sense in that Zion provides shuttle services for exploring the park. There really is not a lot of parking available at each different spot in the park which is why they offer shuttle services. They provide plenty of parking at the visitor center and then you ride the shuttles to whichever landmark in the park that you want to see.
While the whole park is absolutely beautiful, the two main parts you will want to see/do are the Angels Landing hike and The Narrows. I will say that the Angels Landing hike is not an easy one, and, if you do the entire thing, can be a bit scary at the top. Angels Landing is about a 5-mile hike roundtrip but is VERY steep and has a ton of switchbacks. It is known for its “Hogsback” which is essentially a steep and narrow stone pathway pretty much like walking on a cliffside in which you hold on to chains the whole way on the Hogsback so you don’t fall off. If you have a fear of heights, DO NOT do this portion of the hike! I have a huge fear of heights and just looking at the Hogsback freaked me out, but the good news is you can still do the Angels Landing hike and I promise you, you will not be the only one not doing the Hogsback portion of the hike when you get to the top. There is a larger open area at the top of Angels Landing where many people will sit or hang out while other people in their party hike Hogsback, and even if you don’t do Hogsback, you still get to see so many cool views on the entire Angels Landing hike. Just make sure to pack plenty of water and dress for the weather, and be prepared for a very steep and difficult hike!
The Narrows is also a very cool place in the park to see, and hike. When you get to the river portion, there is no pathway, and is a hike you do through shallow water (make sure your hiking boots are waterproof/water resistant or prepare to have wet feet when doing this hike!) The Narrows is a gorge you walk through in between 1,000ft high rock walls in the Virgin River and is, as the name states, a narrow hike. When we visited, the water had some bacteria in it so we were not actually able to do the main water portion of the hike, but we were able to see where it starts, and was still very much worth seeing. Make sure to research the hike ahead of time so you know what to expect when visiting, say if there were any other bacteria in the water, etc. that you would want to avoid.
And there you have it, your guide to Utah’s national parks! Make sure to follow along over on my YouTube channel here as well where I have made a mini-series out of our travel vlogs through the Southwest and share more on our visits to the national parks!
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Thanks for reading!