The Utah Mighty Five National Parks Road Trip
Here's Your Itinerary to Visit the National Parks of Utah
My favorite way to get to Utah's five national parks is to start in Las Vegas. You can typically get inexpensive flights to Vegas, rent a car, and hit the road!
Zion National Park
First stop, Zion National Park. Here you can follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon. Zion’s unique array of plants and animals will enchant you as you absorb the rich history of the past and enjoy the excitement of present day adventures.
The Zion Wilderness is a world-renowned destination that offers opportunities for solitude and adventure. With over 90 miles of trails, dozens of designated backpacking sites, multiple at-large camping areas, and 124,406 acres of designated wilderness, Zion National Park offers a variety of unique backcountry opportunities.
At Zion, you can hike or backpack, climb, boulder or try canyoneering, camp, fish, bicycle...and much more. But no trip to Zion is complete without hiking The Narrows!
The Narrows is the narrowest section of Zion Canyon. This gorge, with walls a thousand feet tall and the river sometimes just twenty to thirty feet wide, is one of the most popular areas in Zion National Park. You can see The Narrows by hiking along the paved, wheelchair accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you wish to see more, you will be walking in the Virgin River. This can involve wading upstream for just a few minutes or it can be an all day hike.
No matter what you decide to do, you can't go wrong in Zion National Park. With it's awe-inspiring views, water and wilderness, Zion has something for everyone!
I’ve created a poster for Zion National Park — called "The Narrows" — taken from the middle of the Virgin River.
Click here to see the Zion National Park "The Narrows" poster.
And this one, featuring a view of "The Watchman" from the banks of the Virgin River.
Click here to see the Zion National Park poster.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Next up is Bryce Canyon National Park, where you can explore the world’s largest collection of hoodoos - odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion, and "frost-wedging", which over time shatters and pries rock apart.
Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most breathtaking sites that Utah has to offer! Visitors often drive through the 20 mile long park to explore the viewpoints, but there are also ample opportunities for those wishing to explore the park further. Hiking, camping, photography, and stargazing are some of the most popular activities, but there is also fishing, mountain biking and horseback rides, making it a great place to visit with the whole family.
Here's the poster for Bryce Canyon National Park!
Click here to see the Bryce Canyon National Park poster.
Capitol Reef National Park
Our trip through Utah's “Mighty 5” national parks takes us to Capitol Reef National Park, which often gets overlooked. And that’s a shame because this national park holds many wonderful surprises. With spectacular scenic drives, hiking that rivals that of Zion National Park, remote rugged areas for 4x4 exploring, not to mention historical landmarks, this park should be on your list while visiting Utah.
Established as a national park on December 18, 1971, most people zip through Capitol Reef National Park in barely one day. But to appreciate all it has to offer, make this a three-day trip, at least. Especially if you love to leave the crowds of the more popular Utah National Parks behind.
If you have the time, make sure to visit the Fruita Historic District, the Waterpocket Fold, Cathedral Valley the various scenic overlooks, the Temple of the Sun and Moon, or hike any of the 15 hiking trails located along Highway 24.
Click here to learn more about Capitol Reef National Park.
Canyonlands National Park
As we head to the eastern part of the state, we find Canyonlands National Park where canyons carved over eons offer sheer breathtaking drop-offs. Extra-wide footpaths leading to parts less traveled. To explore Canyonlands National Park is to explore living on the edge. Often overlooked in favor of the more famous National Parks in Utah, Canyonlands holds the distinction of being the largest National Park in the state. It’s also a reason why this is the best Utah National Park for off-the-beaten-path exploration.
Canyonlands is like a gigantic red rock that has been woodcut engraved by the ancient winds and water. The Colorado and Green Rivers trisect the Colorado Plateau, dividing Canyonlands into four sections: The Needles, Island in the Sky, the Maze, and the Rivers. The latter two sections are for more adventurous travelers due to their remote locations, where Island in the Sky is the easiest section to visit, and therefore the most visited.
Click Here to See the Canyonlands National Park Poster!
Arches National Park
A visit to Arches National Park provides an opportunity to discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park protects the largest proliferation of arches in the world -- more than 2,000 natural stone arches, fins, towers, ribs, gargoyles, hoodoos, and balanced rocks. Landscape Arch, measuring 306 fragile feet, is the second-longest span in the world and it’s a sight you will never forget. And, Delicate Arch is one of the most famous geologic features anywhere on earth!
After you leave the Arches Visitor Center, you’ll drive up steep switchback roads, and the first major area of the park you'll see is Park Avenue and the Courthouse Towers. Walk among these massive monoliths and towering walls and see amazing views of the nearby La Sal Mountains. Beyond the viewpoint, the trail descends steeply into the spectacular canyon and continues one mile to Courthouse Towers.
People come from all over the world to visit Arches National Park, and visiting the most delicately chiseled arch in the entire area should put Delicate Arch on the top of your must-see list. The light opening of the arch is 46 feet high and 32 feet wide, making it the largest free-standing arch in the park. Delicate Arch has become a widely recognized symbol of the state of Utah.
I've created a poster for Arches National Park that features the iconic Delicate Arch!
Click here to see the Arches National Park poster.
You can backtrack to Vegas, or make your way to Salt Lake City or even Denver for your return home. If you haven't had your fill of national parks, click here to check out the Colorado National Parks Road Trip Itinerary!
Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who had the rare privilege of studying under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park when he was just 19 years old. Now, Rob is on a journey to explore and photograph all of America’s National Parks. He’s creating WPA-style posters to help people celebrate their own national park adventures — as well as encourage others to get out and explore!
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