Arches National Park

Arches National Park Utah

Arches National Park has over 2,000 arches, windows, and pinnacles - more than any other place in the world. Its most famous resident is Delicate Arch, but other favorites in the park include Courthouse Towers, Balanced Rock, Fiery Furnace, The Windows Section, and Landscape Arch, which is one of the largest anywhere and stretches out for an impressive 200 feet.

Although the Park's lands have been protected since the 1920's, it wasn't until 1971 when President Nixon signed into law the legislation changing Arches' status from a National Monument to a National Park. In 1998, President Clinton further enlarged the park to what it is today.

Arches National Park offers visitors a wide variety of activities, including horseback riding, stargazing, hiking, photography, canyoneering, camping, and backpacking among others. Other features of the park include petroglyphs and rock art from the ancient Puebloans who lived and traveled through the area.

Click here for more information on visiting Arches National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah

Bryce Canyon is part of a high desert plateau that has been carved by the elements to form rock spires called hoodoos. These unique formations have formed inside natural amphitheaters, and Bryce Canyon has more of these than anywhere else in the world. Due to its high elevation, the park is susceptible to snow storms in winter, adding to the beauty of the park.

The main road through Bryce has many stops to take in the views, and Sunrise, Sunset, Inspiration, and Bryce viewpoints are all recommended. Guests can also hike, backpack, and camp, as well as snowshoe in winter. Stargazing is also popular, and Bryce Canyon holds an astronomy festival during summer. Bryce Canyon became a National Park in 1924 and is the second National Park in Utah behind Zion.

Bryce Canyon National Park is open year-round. Visitor Center hours vary by season, but are generally 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Click here for more information on visiting Bryce Canyon National Park.

California National Historic Trail - CA, CO, ID, KS, MO, NE, NV, OR, UT, WY

The California National Historic Trail is an incredible 2,000 miles long and recounts the journey of over 250,000 people who made their way to California during the 1840's and 50's searching for gold, prosperity, and a better life. It was the greatest mass migration in American history. The trail runs roughly from Independence, MO to Sacramento, CA, and spans ten states - California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Passport sites and interpretive centers exist along the route in several states. A modern-day auto route is also available for those wanting to trace the trail by car.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park Utah

Nearly 340,000 acres of land in southwest Utah are protected at Canyonlands National Park, which officially gained National Park status in 1964. The Colorado River, along with its tributaries, has been carving through the landscape for millennia, and the results are a unique collection of buttes, spires, canyons, mesas, and arches. The park is divided into four distinct sections to be explored.

Islands in the Sky district is the most accessible and offers views and overlooks along a paved road throughout. The Needles and The Maze are more remote but are great for backpacking and those looking for more of a backcountry experience. The fourth district includes the actual rivers flowing through the park, which are great for whitewater activities and multi-day float trips. 4-wheel driving and off-roading are also popular here.

Visitor centers are located in the Islands in the Sky and Needles districts and are generally open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Needles Visitor Center is closed during winter until March, so be sure and check their hours before planning your visit.

Click here for more information on visiting Canyonlands National Park.

Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park Utah

Capital Reef National Park began its life as a National Monument in 1937, and gained National Park status in 1971 when it was signed into law by President Nixon. Geology is what defines this park, and its most defining feature is the Waterpocket Fold, essentially a warp in the earth's crust that runs 100 miles through the park. This ancient uplift of rock occurred 50-70 million years ago along an ancient fault line, and over the years erosion has exposed the ridge to what you see today.

The Park is divided into three main districts. The Fruita District is the most accessible, and guests can travel the paved road, stopping at scenic overlooks along the way. The Waterpocket District offers more of a backcountry experience. Roads are not paved here, but they offer a closer view of the Waterpocket Fold. Cathedral Valley can be explored by backpacking or 4WD vehicle.

The Visitor Center is generally open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily. The park and campgrounds are open all year.

Click here for more information on visiting Capitol Reef National Park.

Cedar Breaks National Monument

Sitting at an impressive 10,000 feet above sea level, Cedar Breaks can literally take your breath away. Visitors can hike along the overlook and gaze down at the Cedar Breaks Amphitheater, which is over a half-mile deep. Other popular activities include hiking, camping, and stargazing. In winter, snowshoeing and snowmobiling are also popular. In mid-summer, the park comes alive with wildflowers in bloom. Be sure to check the calendar for a guided tour during the park's annual Wildflower Festival.

The park is open every day of the year, and the information center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Dinosaur National Monument - CO, UT

In 1909, the first dinosaur fossils were found in the area, and by 1915, President Wilson had set aside 80 acres of the site as protected Dinosaur National Monument. In 1938, President Roosevelt expanded the Monument to include over 200,000 acres.

Today 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.

The Quarry Visitor Center is open from 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. during warmer months and 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. during winter. The Quarry Exhibit Hall is open at roughly the same times and is located a quarter-mile from the Visitor Center. Shuttles run every 15 minutes, or you may drive yourself.

Note that although the park spans both Colorado and Utah, there are no fossils on the Colorado side of the monument. They are all located on the Utah side. There is a Visitor Center however - the Canyon Visitor Center - that is open from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Glen Canyon National Recreational Area - AZ, UT

Just north of Grand Canyon National Park lies Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which protects an incredible 1.25 million acres of backcountry wilderness, along with the Colorado River, its tributaries, and scenic and natural areas within its borders, including Lake Powell. Located at the center of the Colorado Plateau, Glen Canyon National Recreational Area is popular for all kinds of water sports, as well as camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, and guided tours of the area. Perhaps the most recognizable feature of the park is Lake Powell, created by the construction of the impressive Glen Canyon Dam. Be sure to stop by the Carl Hayden Visitor Center at the Dam for more information on the dam's construction and some great photos.

Other national park system units, including Grand Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument, also share a boundary with the park. Glen Canyon adjoins approximately 9.3 million acres of other federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, including Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.

Other popular areas of Glen Canyon Recreation Area are the famous Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, Rainbow Bridge National Monument  - the world's largest natural bridge - Lees Ferry, and the Orange Cliffs which border Canyonlands National Park. Four Visitor Centers are scattered throughout the park and are worth visiting for information, exhibits, and current conditions. The Escalante Interagency Visitor Center in Escalante, Utah shares offices with Glen Canyon, along with the Dixie National Forest, and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and has some amazing views.

Escalante Interagency Visitor Center

Golden Spike National Historic Site

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 No. 119 steam engines met up from either direction on May 10, 1869. Visitors can see exact replicas of these two engines on a guided tour of the engine house and view a film about the railroad. They can then explore via a driving tour of the area, as well as hiking trails.

A special ceremony was held called the wedding of the rails ceremony, and 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of this historic event. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, reenactments of this ceremony take place on Saturdays and holidays. Locomotive demonstrations take place between May and October where guests can actually see the trains in action.

The Visitor Center and Park store are open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and are closed on major holidays.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and encompasses an incredible one million acres of public lands. The park has three distinct areas – the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante River.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument can be reached from points all over Utah and Arizona, including by boat via Lake Powell in Glen Canyon NRA. One particularly scenic route is via State Highway 12 over from Bryce Canyon National Park. Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, and several state parks border Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Read more about visiting Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument here.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Great Basin National Heritage Area - UT, NV

Great Basin Nevada

Designated in 2006 by Congress, the Great Basin National Heritage Area encompasses nearly 16,000 square miles of land that straddles the Utah-Nevada border. It aims to recognize and highlight the stories of the classic American West and includes old mines, farms, railroads, archeological sites, and other landmarks with historical significance.

GBNHA also includes several local, state, and National Parks - the most famous being Great Basin National Park in Nevada. If you like solitude and wide open spaces, Great Basin is for you.

Read more about visiting Great Basin National Heritage Area here.

Hovenweep National Monument - UT, CO

Hovenweep National Monument Utah

Hovenweep National Monument protects several ancient Puebloan sites dating from 1200 and 1300 A.D. The sites consist of many different kivas, or ceremonial areas, along with unique square and circular towers. At their peak, the sites were home to around 2,500 ancient Puebloans. President Harding proclaimed Hovenweep a National Park Unit in 1923.

Hovenweep National Monument is open year round to visitors, and other popular activities include hiking, camping, and stargazing.

Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area

The Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area helps tell the story of the Mormon colonization of Utah and is the only National Heritage Area named after a specific people. It includes 400 miles of history and immense landscapes along Utah's Heritage Highway 89. Stops along the route include several state and national parks, museums, and towns with Mormon significance. The Heritage Area is split up into several districts to explore.

Read more about visiting the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area here.

Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail - IL, IA, NE, UT, WY

The Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail marks the path taken by the Mormon Pioneers led by Brigham Young on their journey from Illinois to Utah beginning in 1846. On July 24th, 1847, Brigham Young arrived in what is now Salt Lake City, Utah to begin a new life with his fellow Mormons.

The 1,300 mile route begins in Nauvoo, Illinois, and moves through the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. Modern-Day auto routes with maps are available with many sites along the way for guests to visit. The Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail was made part of the National Trails System on November 10, 1978.

Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument was officially recognized by Congress in 1908 and became Utah's first National Monument. It's 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.

Old Spanish National Historic Trail - AZ, CA, CO, NV, NM, UT

Old Spanish National Historic Trail tells the story of the people and places along the trail between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Los Angeles, California. The trail was used heavily during the early 1800's to move goods through the Southwest and made Santa Fe a center of commerce in the area. The trail was a pipeline for both Mexican and American traders over a few decades until the United States finally took control of the Southwest and opened new trade routes and wagon trails, which left the Old Spanish Trail obsolete by the 1850's.

The trail runs through six states - New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California - and there are several points for visitors to interact and learn more about its history. Here are some popular locations for Passport Stamps along the trail:

- Navajo National Monument - Shonto, AZ
- Pipe Spring National Monument - Fredonia, AZ
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - Page, AZ (Also the location of Horshoe Bend)
- El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument - Los Angeles, CA
- Mojave National Preserve Headquarters - Barstow, CA
- Colorado National Monument - Fruita, CO
- Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve - Mosca, CO
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park - Montrose, CO
- Aztec Ruins National Monument - Aztec, NM
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area - Boulder City, NV
- Arches National Park - Moab, UT
- Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument - Kanab, UT

Pony Express National Historic Trail - CA, CO, KS, MO, NE, NV, UT, WY

Before there was the telegraph, the most efficient method for getting messages across the country was the Pony Express. Riders could get a piece of mail from Saint Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California - 2,005 miles - in just ten days. As thousands of settlers traveled west along the Oregon Trail during the mid-1800's, along with the height of the Gold Rush and the Mormon migration, the need arose to get mail quickly to the West. Although the Pony Express only existed for eighteen months in 1860-1861, it became synonymous with the Old West.

Today, you can trace the Pony Express National Historic Trail at various points throughout Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. Check here for sites and points of interest in each state. The Pony Express National Historic Trail was designated by Congress in 1992.

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Rainbow Bridge is not easy to get to, but the payoff is 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.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument

Located between Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, Timpanogos Cave National Monument is an alpine cave system known for its unique colorations and helictites - hundreds of 6 to 10 inch long spiral formations. Guided tours last about an hour and are offered at the cave for small groups. Tours can be reserved online here.

Virgin Wild and Scenic River

Zion National Park Utah

The Virgin River is what has made Zion National Park so special, and in 2009 Congress designated 145 miles of this river and its tributaries within Zion as Wild and Scenic River. It protects many different things, such as prehistoric American Indian sites, fish and wildlife, and unmatched natural scenery. Read more about America's Wild and Scenic Rivers here.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is one of the most scenic places anywhere and one of our favorite National Parks. Zion isn’t a large park (only 242 square miles), but the scenery is legendary, and it is home to one of the most picturesque canyons in Utah.

Zion’s most famous spot is Angel’s Landing that overlooks the canyon, but other scenic parts of the Park include 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 Virgin River for a glimpse of the canyon walls carved out over thousands of years.

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. 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.

Zion National Park was established in 1919.

Read more about visiting Zion National Park here.

Zion National Park Utah