Looking for a vacation with a difference?
So you have been to Disneyland and been to umpteen beach resorts and you want something more from a vacation. Looking no further than Utah!
Famous for its parks, skiing, lakes and Salt Lakes City’s attractions, a vacation in Utah has something for everyone and you’ll leave with brilliant memories for life.
Although Utah is ski country, the ski season only lasts from November until April, so there are plenty of non-snow sites, parks, landmarks and activities to do in the summer season.
In the summer many visitors will make their way to one, some or all of the Utah National Parks.
National Parks in Utah
People often forget just how vast the great Utah landscape is. Strictly speaking, there are five main National Parks in Utah, each with their own unique offering and attractions.
A simple guide to the national parks
1. Zion. Utah is a state with more parks than major cities! Zion is first on our list here as Utah’s first national park and also its most visited one.
The valley floor can indeed get a little crowded at times but cars are prohibited in favor of free shuttles, which eases the chaos. If you start off at Salt Lake en route to Zion, the distance is about 308 miles.
Some must-stop locations on the way include:
A. Beaver: For great tasting water, fresh cheese and a quirky service station.
B. Kolob Canyon: This is a less crowded region of the national nark of Zion, great for hiking with has some splendid scenery.
If you’re short on time during your visit to Zion, then go straight to the Canyon Overlook. The park has a road through it taking you right through to the east. Then there is parking for you to set down at.
2. Bryce Canyon. From Zion to Bryce is 84 miles. Some of the must-dos on this route are:
A. Mount Carmel Junction: Here, you can get a slice of Ho-made pie (spelled like that!) at the Thunderbird Restaurant.
B. The shop called Orderville Mine Rock: For the geologists among you, you’ll find a spectacular range of minerals, stones, and gems.
C. Red Canyon: Take a break, stretch those legs out and take a look around the hoodoos of pre-Bryce.
If you’re stuck for time at Bryce, check out Navajo Loop. This is one of Bryce’s flagship hikes. But bring a map of the park and lose yourself. Have fun!
3. Capitol Reef. Bryce to Capitol Reef is 116 miles. Some must-stop spots on this leg of the National Parks route are:
A. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park: This park is full of both petrified wood and dinosaur bones and fossils of shell.
B. Calf Creek Falls: This is a nice and refreshingly pleasant trail.
If you have time for only one thing at Capitol Reef, then visit Cassidy Arch.
Here you’ll find a towering arch, where there are rumors of gold in the ground! But don’t dig up the ground or you might land yourself in jail!
4. Canyonlands. Capitol Reef to Canyonlands is 144 miles. This is Utah’s largest national park.
You could spend decades exploring the land here between the Colorado and Green rivers but yet not reach fully into the red depths of the park.
Tour companies based in Moab do offer hiking, jeep tours, rafting & kayaking, canyoneering & rock climbing, biking, and then the more extreme activities like BASE jumping & skydiving, hang gliding and the wild extreme rope swings.
Must-sees along here are:
A. Goblin Valley: This is a fascinating ground of hoodoos.
B. Ray’s Tavern: This is simply a great burger joint on the Green River. Everybody’s gotta eat.
Those of you on a tight time frame here, go to Mesa Arch: If you are into your photography, you’ll snap some great early morning shots here.
5. Arches. Canyonlands to Arches is 26 miles. Some must-dos here are:
1. Dead Horse Point: Visit the visitor center to learn more about the area and find out the myths and facts!
You can bring tents and motorhomes to the Dead Horse Point campground and other scattered sites can be found outside the park, while hotel rooms and hostels can be found approximately 30 miles away in Moab.
You’ll also catch some epic photographs here, so make the most of the views.
2. Love Muffin Cafe: Feeling peckish? Try a panini or burrito or just go straight for dessert with a homemade muffin in Moab.
If you’re running low on time at this one, be sure to check out the Landscape Arch: This is the longest archway in the US! Get your cameras ready!
You may have heard about the Fiery Furnace, which is a complex myriad of sandstone fins. Tours are available here, they take three-hours and are led by park rangers.
These tours are offered at least once per day in the summertime. Caution: Maps and GPS are useless here so don’t attempt it on your own!
Be a Utah Saint!
As you will see, or learn in your pre-vacation research, each demonstrates the iconic grand landscape of the Colorado Plateau. Much of this is basically an ancient desert now turned to stone.
The surreal tableau of alcoves, hoodoos, arches and of course the epic canyons is so strange to see, you will probably think you’re on a different planet!
Be a Utah Saint and pack your hiking gear, camera and plenty of water!
Have you ever been to any of the destinations mentioned in this post? What did you think? What were your favorites? Share your experience with us!