The Best National Parks in Utah You Have to See

andrewling

Utah's many national parks are full of beautiful and wild scenery. But with so many, it can be overwhelming and hard to choose which to see. Here are some of my personal favorites!

You've likely heard of the famous ones, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion, etc. but 75 percent of the state is dedicated for public use. Plenty of lesser known areas including slot canyons, deposits of dinosaur fossils, and untouched land remains to be explored. With so much to choose from, here is some more information!

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Photo: National Park Service

1. Zion National Park

My personal favorite. Actually, one of my favorite National Parks in the world. There's just nowhere else like it. Each year, Zion receives more than four million visitors--making it the fourth most popular US National Park. Zion was carved out by the Virgin River, forming a canyon so grand that it needed a name equally as beautiful Zion, in Hebrew means Promised Land.

The famous hike here is Angel's Landing, but it is definitely not for the faint of heart. It climbs almost straight up, needing chains for people to hold onto, in order to not fall off the cliffs thousands of feet above the ground below. However, if you are feeling adventurous, the awe-inspiring view makes it clear why it is called Angel's Landing. (As a good alternative, Observation Point is a great hike that is much safer/better for the faint of heart/those less inclined to heights).

The seasons dramatically change Zion's landscape, and during the day it can be scorching hot in the summer. However, in the winter temperatures often reach below freezing, even during the day! Fall is my favorite season, with perfectly crisp fresh air and cottonwood trees glowing gold. The ridges shine with snow in the winter, and beautiful waterfalls cascade down the canyon walls in the summer. There is really no bad time to visit Zion.

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Photo: National Park Service

2. Canyonlands National Park

Right up the canyon road from Moab, Canyonlands National Park features all the best aspects of your favorite Southwestern Parks. Here, you will find canyons carved by the Colorado River, massive red-rocks and arches, fields of hoodoos, and more.

Canyonlands is split up into four separate districts, which are not connected/accessible all together. Island in the Sky is the most popular (pictured) and most accessible. Head to Mesa Arch which is positioned perfectly for sunrise. The sun hangs up beautifull in the arch well into the morning. Be prepared for some crowds! But there is still plenty of room to get around and find solitude.

Tip: head to the right of the arch for a beautiful overlook, that you can have to yourself if you're lucky!

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Photo: National Park Service

3. Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National park is a near 100-mile wrinkle of central Utah, filled with colorful canyons, desert, and countless high red-rock arches. The scenic 25-mile drive through Capitol Reef Scenic Drive is a great start to experiencing this park. Plan for lots of extra time for stepping out of the car for photos. You'll definitely want to take the two-mile hike for views at Panorama Point.

Fun fact: Mormon pioneers farmed orchards here as early as 1880! Enjoy petroglyphs throughout the park here as well, especially along the Capitol Gorge Trail. Head another mile into a slot canyon at the end of this trail, where you'll find names of courageous settlers who traveled here in 1871, etched neatly into the rock!

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Photo: National Park Service

4. Grand Staricase--Escalante National Monument

Grand Staricase--Escalante National Monument was the final frontier of the Lower 48, the last of its kind to be named and mapped. It is truly one of the most remote areas you can find in the United States. There is lots of room for discovery and exploration here. It is a very dry, desolate wasteland, but still has active waterfalls, and lots of sculpted rock/massive 100-foot plus walls. Head to Spooky Gulch here for some amazing lesser known slot canyons.

Take a 3 mile hike to Buckskin Gulch here, a slot canyon wonderland! One that rivals Antelope Canyon, but with no guide and fewer crowds!

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