Exploring Utah's Mighty 5 National Parks
Few wilderness areas can compete with the spectacular scenery of Utah’s “Big Five” national parks. From the ancient canyons of Zion to the soaring rock formations of Arches, these five outdoor areas are sure to impress. Here’s how to visit.
Zion National Park
Relatively small in area compared some of Utah’s other parks at 229 square miles (593 square kilometers), Zion packs a stunning range of scenery into a compact package. Visitors flock to The Narrows, a scenic gorge with walls as tall as 2,000 feet (609 meters) high, and thrill seekers love the hike to Angels Landing, a towering rock formation with dizzying views of the valley below. Zion is included in a number of multi-day tours that explore nearby hot spots such Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park derives its name from the more than 2,000 natural sandstone spans found within its borders, including the famous Delicate Arch, a favorite subject for many photographers. But there’s much more to this scenic area than just arches. The Balanced Rock, a massive boulder perched precariously on its base, is another highlight, as are the Courthouse Towers, a well-known assortment of tall stone columns. Many travelers visit arches on a multi-day excursion focusing on Utah’s main outdoor areas.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon is best known for its iconic collection of hoodoos, tall rock spires that stick out of the landscape like a stone army. The park is also known as one of the best locations in the continental US for stargazers and astronomy lovers thanks to its dark night skies. You can visit Bryce as part of any number of multi-day tours of Utah’s national parks or on a broader tour of the western US that also visits other famous parks like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
Canyonlands National Park
Situated near the mountain biking mecca of Moab, Canyonlands is a favorite national park among outdoor adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. An area known as “The Needles,” found in the park’s southeastern section, is popular with visitors due to its hiking trails and strangely shaped sandstone spires, while kayakers head to stretches of the Green River and Colorado River to enjoy some paddle-powered fun. You can visit Canyonlands during a multi-day tour of Utah’s national parks.
Capitol Reef National Park
Though it may not be as well-known as Zion or Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef has earned a growing reputation for its scenic landscape of canyons, cliffs, and rock domes. Formed partially by a geological “wrinkle” in the earth called the Waterpocket Fold, the area is loved by hikers and backpackers looking to explore the park’s unique topography. You can visit Capitol Reef on a multi-day trip focusing on Utah’s national parks.