Thanks to Dangerous Business for reminding us just how beautiful Utah is! If you’re looking at national parks, the U.S. definitely has plenty. But Utah! It’s just really hard to argue that, with its snowy mountains to arid desert landscape, doesn’t offer some of the most unique and breathtaking opportunities for relishing in the natural beauty the U.S. has to offer. Utah is home to not one, not two, but five – YES, five – different national parks. They are known as “The Mighty 5”, and include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches.
If considering a road trip this summer, these are some great stops to check out once they are open again. Below we’ve given highlights on each of the sites, but make sure to check out the full article for full information on The Mighty 5:
Just up from Las Vegas as you trek into Utah, you’ll find Zion National Park. Many people cite this national park (around since 1919) as their favorite. We suggest you drive the Mount Carmel Highway east from Zion to where it joins with US 89 and take in the sights. To see the rest, there’s a free shuttle service from March to October. You can park at the visitor’s center or in the nearby town of Springdale and use the shuttle to get to various trailheads and lookouts.
Continuing down US 80 from Zion, the next park is Bryce Canyon. Despite being filled with sandstone like Zion, the rock formations are distinctly different. During the summer, there is a free shuttle for visitors to access all of Bryce’s viewpoints, but it’s optional here unlike in Zion. You can self-drive through Bryce, which allows you to stop off at all the viewpoints. We suggest you go this route, but watch out for possible snow/ice since Bryce is at a much higher elevation.
Probably overlooked the most, Capitol Reef is off the beaten path some. In fact, you’ll drive through a portion starting in the town of Torrey, Utah and people may miss it. Driving yourself is the only way to get around. On your trek, you’ll be able to take in the park’s famous rock formations (for free) driving along UT-24. If you’re looking for more, there is also a beautiful scenic drive within Capitol Reef’s fee area. There, you’ll see cliffs, canyons, ancient petroglyphs, rippled rock, and so much more.
Canyonlands National Park is near the town of Moab in southeastern Utah. Canyonlands is vast with sections, including: Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze. Sporting two visitor centers (Island in the Sky; The Needles), Canyonlands is a beautiful place to get lost. We suggest driving this one. Pack lunch and stay hydrated, you’re going to want to pull over and potentially hike along the way.
Last but not least, Arches, which is close to Moab, is very different from the other four parks. This is one that’s also possibly the most accessible since it’s only about 15 minutes from Moab and is filled with short, easy walks to take in the sights. There aren’t shuttles, so we suggest packing up the car or truck to embark on the 18-mile-long scenic road through the park.
PRO-TIP: Definitely get a National Parks Pass – they’re $80 and are good for one year. They’re available online or at the first National Park site you visit. This will save you lots of money as you delve into all that Utah has to offer.
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