Utah Mighty Five National Park Road Trip
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Visiting all five of Utah’s National Parks has become an iconic journey for many travelers over the years. The Mighty 5®, cleverly trademarked by Utah’s Office of Tourism, is an apt name for these impressive parks, and visiting some of the nation’s most beautiful places all in one trip is an certainly an amazing experience. From road trippers and RV’ers to National Park lovers such as ourselves, it’s a feast for the eyes and the soul.

We’ve wanted to visit the parks in Utah for a while now, and we finally decided to put it together and hit the road. For our trip, we traveled 10 days over spring break to see how much ground we could cover, and it was awesome! Our journey took us to six states and nearly 4,000 miles, and while there are quicker ways to do it, it’s a trip we’ll never forget.

Visiting the Utah Mighty 5 – Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park.

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Utah National Parks Map

Visiting five National Parks over the course of a week is a pretty big undertaking. On this trip, we actually visited seven National Parks in 10 days because we’re lunatics that way, but that’s outside the scope of this post. 😉 In order to pull this off, you’ll definitely have to prioritize some activities. If you have longer than a week, you’ll obviously be able to spend more time in the parks exploring, and that’s always a good thing! We’ve included 1-day suggestions as well as other activities if you have more time.

We began our Utah itinerary driving from the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona, so our first park was Zion National Park in the southwest corner of Utah, working our way east from there to Moab. You can also work your way in the opposite direction depending on where you want to start. Popular starting points are Las Vegas from the west, Salt Lake City from the north, or Denver from the east.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park UtahZion National Park is one of the most scenic places anywhere. Thanks to the tireless work of the Virgin River, Zion Canyon is an incredible place to explore and enjoy nature. Zion isn’t a large park (only 242 square miles), but the scenery is legendary and is one of the most picturesque canyons in Utah.

One of Zion’s most famous hikes is up to Angel’s Landing, overlooking the canyon below. This challenging hike takes you over narrow ridges and steep inclines on your way to the top. We weren’t quite up for that challenge during this visit, but if we return, I think we’ll give it a go.

Utah Mighty 5 - Zion National ParkOther famous spots in the park are the Watchman, the Sentinel, Weeping Rock, and the Temple of Sinawava. If you aren’t afraid of a little cold water, consider renting a wet suit and taking a hike up the canyon through the Narrows. Spring snow melt can prevent access, but at other times, you can hike right up the river for a glimpse of the canyon walls carved out over thousands of years.

Zion National Park - Big 5 Utah
Lower Emerald Pools at Zion National Park.

Some of the easier hikes for families include Emerald Pools Trails and the Riverside Walk that leads up to the Narrows. Zion National Park has something for everyone – even horseback riding if you like.

During late spring and summer and into fall, plan on parking in the nearby town of Springdale. With over 2 million visitors annually and limited parking, the Park Service is trying to keep traffic in the park to a minimum. During spring when we visited, parking is available at the visitor center parking lot at the front of the park. From there, catch a park shuttle for the rest of your journey. Traffic is not allowed at all past a certain point along the main road.

We were able to spend one full day at Zion National Park, and it’s one that we all felt we’d like to visit again. It’s such a spectacular place with so much to see and do, we couldn’t help but want to explore more of it.Visiting Zion National Park

Entrance Fees for Zion National Park

$35 per private vehicle which is good for seven days.

Iconic Hikes and Features

The most famous of the Zion National Park hikes is up to Angel’s Landing, and the Narrows is very popular as well. Hiking the Narrows involves traversing up the river in water over slick rocks. Consider renting a wet suit in the winter months or if you just can’t handle the chilly water. Plan on spending a half day for Angel’s Landing and a full day for the Narrows.

For easier hikes with kids, consider hiking to Emerald Pools or hiking along the river up to the horse stables near Zion Lodge. Easy to view features along the shuttle route are The Watchman, The Sentinel, and Weeping Rock.

Hotels near Zion National Park

Zion National Park camping is available, but reserve 6 months out or as early as you can. You may reserve campsites online at recreation.gov here. For something super-cool, stay in the park at Zion National Park Lodge. Again, booking as far in advance as you can is key.

Most visitors stay in nearby Springdale, UT, which is situated right next to the park and is where you will find most of the Zion National Park hotels.

We stayed at the Best Western Plus Zion Inn and Suites which is just a 2-minute drive from the park entrance.
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Zion National Park in a Day

Get up early to beat the crowds. If you sleep in, you’ll be waiting in longs lines for the shuttle from the visitor center. Pick a few stops along the way. We began our day with a hike to Lower Emerald Pools which is the Zion Lodge stop. From there we rode out to the last stop – Temple of Sinawava – to have a look around. We worked our way back down the canyon from there stopping to look at Court of the Patriarchs. We wrapped up our day with a stop at the visitors center for some souvenirs and to get our passports stamped. Find a bridge over the Virgin River near the Watchmen to enjoy sunset.

Other ways to spend a day would be a trip up the Narrows (full day), or a hike up to Angel’s Landing (half day or so).

Getting around Zion National Park

For nearly all places in the park, you will have to use the free shuttles. During busier times, it’s best to just catch the shuttle in town up to the visitor center. There are several stops in town including one right across the street from where we stayed at the Best Western.

Zion National Park Map

Related: If you love National Parks, be sure to check out our page here where we have lots of ideas and inspiration!

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park - what to see in Utah
Taking in the views at the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater.

Bryce Canyon National Park is defined by its amphitheater of eroded rock spires carved out by wind and water, called hoodoos. It’s a sight to see for sure, and during winter and spring with a little bit of snowfall, it’s pretty magical.

During our visit, Utah had experienced higher than usual snowfall, so we didn’t get a chance to drive to the farthest reaches of the park, but there is still plenty to explore here. After cruising through the visitors center for passport stamps and a map, we set out around the Rim Trail to take in the views.

From here, you can see some of Bryce’s most famous features including Thor’s Hammer and, of course, the hoodoos. The popular Navajo Trail takes you down into the canyon where you can get up close with some of these features. On this trip, winter weather kept this trail closed, unfortunately.

Utah trip to Bryce Canyon National ParkFor an easy hike, take the paved trail along the rim from Sunrise to Sunset points. It’s a mile round trip and the easiest in the park. If the weather is good, drive out to Rainbow or Yovimpa point and hike the Bristlecone Loop trail, where you might see some of the oldest trees on Earth. The scenic drive from the visitor center to the end of the park is 18 miles each direction.

Besides the Bryce Amphitheater, other popular areas of the park include Mossy Cave and Natural Bridge. If you’re short on time and it’s busy, consider using the free shuttles to get around the Amphitheater areas. Also consider visiting at night where the lack of artificial light makes stargazing a popular activity.

The Mighty Five - Bryce Canyon National Park
Hiking the Rim Trail

We spent about a half day exploring this park, but during summer when more of the roads and trails are open, I could see spending an entire day here pretty easily. We would have loved to see the bristlecone pine trees, but that will have to wait for another visit. On the other hand, I couldn’t really imagine Bryce Canyon being any more lovely than with a nice dusting of snow, blue skies, and bright sunshine. Despite the trial closures, Bryce is definitely worth visiting during the colder months.

Entrance Fees for Bryce Canyon National Park

$35 per private vehicle which is good for seven days.

Iconic Hikes and Features

Hoodoos and rock formations are what Bryce is famous for, and Bryce Amphitheater is the perfect place to explore them. Take the Navajo Trail down below the rim get up close to Thor’s Hammer and other cool formations. Sunrise to Sunset Point along the Rim Trail is also a good hike for children.

Bryce Canyon Hotels

Bryce Canyon City is only a few miles from the entrance and has some good options like the historic Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel just across the street which is a bit more modern and just as close to the park entrance.
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Bryce Canyon National Park in a Day

After a stop at the visitor center for a map, hike down from the rim along Navajo Trail. After exploring Thor’s Hammer and other features, enjoy a picnic lunch and then head out to the end of the 18-mile road to hike Bristlecone Loop. Work your way back toward the front of the park, stopping at the scenic overlooks and arriving for sunset at Sunset Point. If you have the time, stay after dark to enjoy some of the best night-sky viewing anywhere.

Getting around Bryce Canyon National Park

During the busier summer months, consider using the free shuttles to get around Bryce Amphitheater. Otherwise, use your own vehicle to travel through the park.

Bryce Canyon National Park Map

Capitol Reef National Park

Utah 5 parks - Capitol Reef National ParkKnown for its famous Waterfold Pocket that runs the length of the park, Capitol Reef National Park is full of unique features and beautiful scenery. Capitol Reef is also famous for the Mormon settlers that came through the area during the 1800s. Because Capitol Reef is long and skinny, it’s fairly easy to get around. From the main visitor center in Fruita, the scenic drive to the end is only 8 miles.

If you have a vehicle that’s capable, drive the dirt and gravel road at the end of the scenic drive out to Capitol Gorge where you can hike up through the canyon and the narrows. It’s a neat place to see some original ‘graffiti’ from the Mormon settlers and its also a good place for the kids to scramble around on the rocks. You can explore as little or as much as you’d like, and it only takes a few hours. Other hikes you may want to do are Cassidy Arch or Chimney Rock.Hiking in Capitol Reef National Park

In Fruita, check out the Gifford House to learn about Mormon pioneer history and take home a jar or two of preserves from the shop. Take a walk around the fruit tree orchards, and even pick some fruit if it’s in season. The fruit is free to sample, or if you’d like to take some with you, you can for a small fee.

Pioneer history at Capitol Reef National Park

If you’re more adventurous and have a high-clearance vehicle, you might want to visit the Waterpocket District of the park for views of the famous Waterpocket Fold. Visitors can travel all or part of the 124-mile loop – just be aware of weather conditions and have plenty of water and supplies with you just in case.

We spent about a half-day in Capitol Reef, which was enough to get a taste of the park and have some fun. We would have liked to have seen the Waterpocket Fold, but it’s tough to do on a limited schedule. Overall, it’s a great park, though, and while it may not garner the same rock star status like Zion or Arches, it’s definitely worth a visit.Utah Mighty 5 Capitol Reef National Park

Entrance Fee to Capitol Reef National Park

$20 per private vehicle.

Iconic Hikes and Features

Capitol Reef’s most famous feature is the long ridge that runs the length of the park called the Waterpocket Fold, although it’s more difficult to get to. Consider the 1.5 hour scenic drive loop, or hop out for a hike to Capitol Gorge where you’ll find historic inscriptions from Mormon settlers. When the fruit trees are in season, pick your own snack to take with you on your hike!

Hotels near Capitol Reef National Park

While there are some places to stay in nearby Torrey, if you don’t plan to stay more than a day in this park, you may want to move on. Depending on which way you’re travelling, you would probably be better off making your way to Moab to the east or Escalante or Bryce to the west. Camping is also available in the park.

Capitol Reef National Park in a Day

Grab a map at the visitor center and then drive out to Capitol Gorge for a hike through the narrows where you’ll find some cool petroglyphs and also the names of Mormon settlers. Have lunch while you’re out and then head back towards the front of the park. Explore the Gifford House to learn about the early pioneers in the area and enjoy a freshly baked fruit pie. Be sure to buy a jar or two of jam before you leave. On your way out, stop by Chimney Rock and Twin Rocks, or take the short hike to Sunset Point for sunset. Capitol Reef is also an International Dark Skies Park, so hang out afterwards for some (inter)stellar views.

Getting around Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef is not as busy as the other Utah National Parks, so getting around is pretty easy. Unless you plan on visiting the backcountry or Waterpocket District, your normal vehicle will work, and you’ll be able to visit the most popular areas of the park.

Capitol Reef National Park Map

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands - five National Parks in Utah
Grand View Point – Island in the Sky District – Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park earns its name from the hundreds of canyons created by the convergence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. The park is fairly large at nearly 340,000 acres and is divided into four districts – Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and The Rivers.

Island in the Sky is the most easily accessible and is the closest to Moab, which makes it a good home base for exploring both Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Here you’ll find incredible overlooks along the 12-mile scenic drive, culminating in Grand View Point Overlook. Along the way, stop off to hike out to Mesa Arch, another of this park’s most famous landmarks.

Mesa Arch at Canyonlands National Park
Mesa Arch on a foggy morning.

While Island in the Sky offers some fantastic scenery, be aware of constantly changing weather conditions, especially in spring. We encountered very heavy snow on our way up to the visitor center, and it made visibility poor enough that we couldn’t see much of anything. Fortunately, driving south to the Needles District worked out better.

The Needles District at Canyonlands National Park Utah
The Needles – Canyonlands National Park

The Needles District is named for the needle-shaped rock spires in the area, and we had a great day exploring this part of the park. We enjoyed doing some bouldering and hiking along Pothole Point Trail, and also hiking out to the waterfall at Big Spring Canyon Overlook. What started out as a disappointing (albeit snowy and adventurous) morning in the park up north, turned out to be a perfect day down south. If you have time to visit both Districts, we recommend it!

Pothole Point at Canyonlands National Park Utah
A hike through Pothole Point Trail – Needles District – Canyonlands National Park

The other two districts are really more for backcountry trips or those wanting to actually float some of the rivers and tributaries. The rivers here offer up some pretty intense whitewater experiences, so if that’s what you’re after, go for it! The Maze District has some good 4×4 and off-roading opportunities if you want to rent a Jeep in Moab and have the time in your schedule to do it. Click here to check out some tours available from Moab.

The next day, the weather was clear enough to take a quick drive back through Island in the Sky to see some of those overlooks we missed on our first try, and they didn’t disappoint. Although we always recommend getting out and doing some hikes while visiting, it is possible to enjoy Island in the Sky by driving through and stopping at several of the pull-outs and overlooks. They all offer beautiful views of this extraordinary landscape. A drive through at dusk is especially rewarding.Canyonlands NP - Utah 5

Entrance Fees for Canyonlands National Park

$30 per private vehicle which is good for 7 days.

Iconic Hikes and Features

In Island in the Sky District, hike to Mesa Arch and then drive out to Grand View Point for incredible views of the canyons. In the Needles District to the south, stop by Newspaper Rock for ancient Petroglyphs, and hike Pothole Point for views of the Needles. Drive to the end of the road and enjoy the short hike out to Big Spring Canyon Overlook.

Hotels near Canyonlands National Park

Moab is a large town with plenty of options for lodging. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn right in the heart of downtown Moab. It’s within walking distance to many shops and restaurants, and the rooms were clean and comfortable.
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Canyonlands National Park in a day

Consider driving down to the Needles District from Moab. Even though it’s about an hour and a half drive, the park is less crowded here, and we found the hikes and scenery to be awesome. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy while you’re there. Take a hike around Pothole Point and clamor around on the boulders. The kids loved it.

After playing in the Needles District, drive back up to Moab for an early dinner at Antica Forma. Their Neapolitan pizzas are excellent. After dinner, head up to Island in the Sky for a drive through the park to see the sun set over the canyons.

Getting around in Canyonlands National Park

Your car is all you’ll need for getting around most of Canyonlands. If you want to explore The Maze, you’ll need a 4×4, which is readily available to rent in Moab. If you’d rather leave the off-roading to someone else, consider booking a tour. Our partner Viator has many great options for Jeep, ATV, and even rafting tours from Moab.

Canyonlands National Park Maps – Island in the Sky | Needles District

Arches National Park

The Mighty 5 Utah - Arches National Park
Landscape Arch – Arches National Park

As you might expect, Arches National Park is home to the largest concentration of natural arches on the planet. Double Arch, Landscape Arch, Window Arch – it has all the arches. If you think you may tire of them, think again! This park is full of terrific hikes and awesome things to see. If you’re on a timeline, you’ll definitely need to prioritize here.

Delicate Arch is probably the park’s most famous resident, which can be reached by challenging 1.5 mile hike. We opted to skip this one because of timing, but it’s certainly a hike we’d like to tackle at some point. Be aware that because of its popularity, it will be crowded. Don’t expect a perfect photo with no one in the background unless you visit in the cooler months very early in the day. If you do decide to visit in the summer, take plenty of water. There is no shade, and it will be hot!

Hiking in Arches National ParkWe decided instead to take the easier hike out to Landscape Arch first thing in the morning, and it was a good choice. If you’re up for it, keep hiking out into the Devil’s Garden portion of the park and find Primitive Trail. There are some challenging sections, but if you’re up for it, this trail loops back around to Double-O Arch and finally back to Landscape Arch. No matter what you choose, you’ll see some otherworldly landscapes and sweeping views.

Other areas of the park that you can explore are the short hikes out to Double Arch and The Windows – one of the most scenic areas of this park. Scramble up and find a perch with a view. (For the movie buffs, Double Arch is one of the filming locations for Indian Jones and the Last Crusade).  Park Avenue Viewpoint, the Courthouse Towers, and Balancing Rock are also other areas worth exploring. For our visit, we decided to hike the Delicate Arch viewpoints, which is a short half-mile hike to a view of Delicate Arch. We thought this was a good compromise, without having to hike all the way out to the Arch. After a week of traveling and hiking, we considered the view good enough for this trip.

Double Arch in Arches NP
Double Arch – Arches National Park

We found that spring was a great time to visit this park, and often wondered how much heat we would have put up with if we had visited in the hot summer. We spent the entire day in the park hiking and exploring, and if it were 100 degrees, I don’t think we would’ve made it, honestly.

While you can cover a lot in a day, you could easily spend several more in this park, and also in the surrounding area. Moab is full of nooks and crannies to explore, and with the help of a map or local guide, it’s yours to find. While we would have loved more time here, we just had to get back to school. We did feel that we got a good taste for the park, though, and really maximized our time here.Arches National Park - Utah Mighty 5

Entrance Fees for Arches National Park

$30 per private vehicle which is good for 7 days.

Iconic Hikes and Features

Delicate Arch is one of the park’s most famous landmarks. It’s a strenuous, 3-mile hike round trip to get there, which may not be ideal for families. You can still see the Arch from a distance by taking the short hikes to the Delicate Arch Viewpoints. Other famous spots include Double Arch, The Windows, and Landscape Arch, which are all easy to get to. With so many interesting features and family-friendly hikes, we think Arches is one of the best National Parks in Utah.

Hotels near Arches National Park

Just like Canyonlands, Moab is where you’ll want to stay for a visit to Arches. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Canyonlands Inn for both parks.
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Arches National Park in a day

Start with a hike to either Delicate Arch or Landscape Arch depending on your fitness. Families with small children will want to stick to Landscape Arch. Explore some of the area in Devil’s Garden, then have a picnic lunch before heading back to some other parts of the park.

Make your way to Double Arch and The Windows, and explore the area for a bit. There are some fantastic photo opportunities there. On your way back towards the entrance, stop and take the short hike up to the Delicate Arch Viewpoint, then make a stop to see Balancing Rock up close. Stick around for sunset and watch the reds and oranges light up all around you.

Getting around Arches National Park

There is one main road through the park with several pull-outs to get out and hike if you’d like. Consider driving all the way back to Devil’s Garden and Landscape Arch and then working your way back to the front of the park if you only have a day to visit.

Arches National Park Map

Putting it all together

Mighty Five Utah Road Trip – Sample Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Las Vegas. Drive to Springdale, UT (~2.5 hours). Head to Zion NP and find a spot along the river to enjoy sunset. Overnight in Springdale, UT.
Day 2: Explore Zion NP. Overnight in Springdale, UT
Day 3: Drive to Bryce Canyon City (~2 hours). Spend the afternoon and evening exploring Bryce Canyon NP. Overnight in Bryce Canyon City.
Day 4: Drive to Capitol Reef National Park via Highway 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (~3 hours + time for stops). Eat lunch in Boulder at Hell’s Backbone Grill. Drive on to Capitol Reef NP and spend the afternoon exploring. Then drive to Moab, UT (~2.5 hours). Overnight in Moab.
Day 5: Explore Canyonlands National Park. Overnight in Moab, UT.
Day 6: Explore Arches National Park. Overnight in Moab, UT.
Day 7: Drive to Salt Lake City (~4 hours). Fly home.

Have more time to visit?

Add 1 day in Zion to either hike The Narrows or Angel’s Landing.
Add 1 day in Bryce Canyon you explore some the of the trails at the back of the park like Bristlecone Loop or book a guided tour on horseback.
Add 1 day in Capitol Reef to drive out to the Waterpocket Fold and do some 4×4 off-roading. When fruit is in season, spend a half-day picking fresh fruit from the orchards.
Add 1 Day to Canyonlands to explore both Island in the Sky and Needles Districts. You could also float the river or rent a 4×4 and drive part of the White Rim Road.
Add 1 or 2 days to Arches to hike out to Delicate Arch, hike in Devil’s Garden along the Primitive Trail all the way around to Double-O Arch, or book a guided tour through Fiery Furnace.
Add 1 day to Moab to rent a Jeep or take a guided tour through the area.
Add 1 day to further explore Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or any of the other nearby Utah Park Service Units (see below)

Know Before You Go

Best time to visit Utah’s National Parks

Spring and fall are the best times to visit. We settled on visiting in spring because of cooler temperatures and smaller crowds, but be aware that wintry weather can still impact your visit. Several roads and trails in the parks were closed while we we there. Don’t let that deter you though. We still had a full day’s worth of adventure in every park we visited.

Much of southern Utah is desert

Make sure you take into account the arid climate and pack plenty of water wherever you go. Get yourself some Nalgene water bottles for your trip. We take them camping, and they’re light weight, indestructible, and come in every color.

There is very little shade on many of the trails, so don’t forget a hat and sunscreen also. We like Sun Bum sunscreen.

Get a National Parks Annual Pass

For a trip like this where there are multiple entry fees involved, purchase an annual pass. They cost just $80 and will pay for themselves on this trip alone, but are good for the entire year. You can purchase one at the entrance gate of your first park, and you’ll be all set for the rest of your trip!

If you have a 4th grader, be sure to sign them up for the Every Kid In A Park Pass. It’s FREE and, like the annual pass, gets the entire family into the parks for free. You can read more about this amazing deal here.

Other National Parks in Utah

If five National Parks aren’t enough for one trip, Utah has plenty of other amazing parks and National Monuments to visit. We hit a few on our trip, and there are many more we’d love to visit on our next trip.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Southern Utah ParksWhile still a National Park Service site, this National Monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and at over 1 million acres, it’s really more of a park than a monument. If you want a taste of what it has to offer, take a drive along Utah’s highway 12 from Bryce Canyon to Capitol Reef National Park and make a stop at the visitor center in Escalante. Not only will you see some incredible scenery, you’ll discover some really cool adventures to be had on your next trip to Utah. Along the way, be sure to stop for a meal at the incredible Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, UT. They’ve won tons of accolades, including being named a James Beard semi-finalist for three years. All you really need to know is that their food is amazing.

Hell's Backbone Grill - Boulder, UT
Hell’s Backbone Grill – Boulder Utah

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument Utah National Parks
Hovenweep National Monument

On our way home, we took the scenic drive out to Hovenweep National Monument in Southeast Utah. This incredible site is the location of several ancient Pueblo ruins built along a canyon hundreds of years ago. During the 1200s, it is estimated that there were 2,500 people living at this site. The workmanship of the turrets and dwellings is remarkable rivaling even those found in nearby Mesa Verde National Park. If you have the time to stop, do so. It’s pretty fascinating. Translated, Hovenweep is a Paiute/Ute word meaning “Deserted Valley.”

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Cedar Breaks National Monument lies just west of Bryce Canyon National Park and is just east of Interstate 15 and is the highest of the Utah Parks. This alpine area is nestled in the mountains at over 10,000 feet and features a forest of bristlecone pine, alpine flowers, and scenic views that look down into natural amphitheaters. Access in the winter is limited, but summer activities include bird watching, hiking, camping, and stargazing. A drive through the park is only 7.5 miles.

Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument contains over 200,000 acres of protected land, which not only includes dinosaur fossils but also large areas for recreation as well. Visitors can visit the famous Quarry Exhibit Hall, an enclosed space where you can gaze upon over 1,500 dinosaur bones encompassing several different species. Take a drive through the park to view some its impressive geologic features, or hike, camp, fish, and even whitewater raft. One-day and multi-day guided rafting tours are available down the challenging Green and Yampa Rivers.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Horshoe Bend - Glen Canyon National Recreation AreaGlen Canyon National Recreation Area is a huge area of 1.25 million acres of protected land that sits adjacent to Grand Staircase-Escalante and Canyonlands National Park. Among the sites here are Lake Powell, and the enormous hydro-electric Glen Canyon Dam, Horseshoe Bend, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and just about every other activity is fair game here. During our trip, we stopped at Glen Canyon Dam at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center to see the impressive views and have a picnic lunch. Fun fact: The Glen Canyon Dam is second in size in the U.S. only to the Hoover Dam in Nevada.

Golden Spike National Historic Park

Located north of Salt Lake City at Promontory Summit, Utah, Golden Spike NHS marks the intersection where America’s first transcontinental railroad was completed, and is the location where the Jupiter and Np. 119 steam engines met up from either direction on May 10, 1969. Visitors can see exact replicas of these two engines on a guided tour of the engine house and can also explore a driving tour of the area, as well as hiking trails and a film about the railroad.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument was officially recognized by Congress in 1908 and became Utah’s first National Monument. It is located south of Canyonlands National Park in the southeast corner of the state. The site protects three natural stone Bridges, as well as an ancient Pueblo site called Horse Collar Ruin. The largest bridge – Sipapu – spans 268 feet and is 220 feet tall.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Rainbow Bridge National Monument is not easy to get to, but the payoff is big – seeing the largest natural bridge anywhere in the world up close. Day long guided tours by boat leave from Lake Powell, or you can backpack to the monument by hiking one of two trailheads that leave near Navajo Mountain in southern Utah. If hiking, you will be required to get a permit from the Navajo to do so.

Don’t Forget These Amazing Utah State Parks!

Kodachrome Basin - Best Utah State Parks
Kodachrome Basin State Park

Utah’s incredible landscapes aren’t just limited to the National Parks. State parks like Goblin Valley and Kodachrome Basin are also worth a visit and are some of best parks in Utah. Click here for a Utah State Parks map.

Inspired Yet?

We hope our guide helps you plan an incredible Utah National Parks road trip. Be sure to tell us about it so we can follow along!

Here are a couple of our favorite guides to get you going.

100 Parks 5000 Ideas National Geographic
100 Parks 5000 Ideas

 

National Parks of America by Lonely Planet
National Parks of America

What’s your favorite Utah National Park? Let us know in the comments!

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